October reading

A very photoshopped version of a photo of the big window arch in Bolton Abbey.

The highly recommended:

The Scarlet Dress by Louise Douglas***** An elegant mystery set on the Severn Estuary. Beautifully told and beautifully resolved. Old bones are found under a funfair that is being demolished. Not a police procedural but as the evidence unfolds the reader feels like a detective.
 
Stalked by Shadows, Marked by Shadows, Conventional Shadows (newsletter novella) and Possessed by Shadows by Lissa Kasey***** An exciting paranormal mm romance series set in New Orleans. The characters (including the minor ones) are beautifully realised and the ghosts and/or demons are interesting and chilling. I bought the first volume then signed up to the newsletter and read the other two novels on KU. I’m so glad somebody (forgotten who) recommended the first! This was my pre-Halloween reading and it was truly memorable.

The recommended:

The I Hate To Housekeep Book by Peg Bracken**** A re-read. This time around (I’ve read it at about 10 yearly intervals) I was struck by the quaintness of some of the things – hat wearing, using canned soup in dinner party recipes, husbands who are not involved in housekeeping, etc. But there are still some good ideas!  

Love’s Heirloom by Blake Allwood**** A great sequel to Love’s Legacy – it was good to see more of the same characters. There was a spooky element too so it was perfect reading for Halloween. This author writes beautifully but like all of us has the occasional typo – I blame our word processor spell checks which don’t quite grasp homonyms. Anyway, I hope Blake won’t correct this one because it had me smiling all day: ‘Desolate planes interrupted by the occasional mountain.’ I’m delighted to see there’s a further volume in the Big Bend series.

Monster in the Maze by Fiona Glass**** is a delightful short story featuring a grand country mansion with extensive gardens (echoes of December Roses), a lord of the manor, a reliable gardener, and of course, a monster.  

A Spell for Master Vervain by Lee Welch**** Another good short story. I almost wanted it to turn into a novel or at least a novella. A student with a crush on his tutor uses a spell to summon an incubus. What could possibly go wrong?

Island Detective by Sue Brown**** Sixth in the Isle of Wight series. Nice sense of place and an interesting cast of characters who form a group of families and friends. An interesting first case for Olaf’s new venture as a PI.

Fathers of the Bride by Marshall Thornton**** Funny and romantic story about a divorced gay couple planning their daughter’s wedding. I’m not usually ‘into’ humour as the focus of romance novels but this had me both laughing and hooked.

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/view/grumpygreenwitch/665812784231202816 ****A lovely short fantasy fic with no title! I understand the monster is based on one from D&D.  

The readable:

Torn by Louisa Mae*** Paranormal Halloween romance novella. Intriguing story but the constant tense switching made it hard for me to read. .  

The Flat Tyre by Stella Shaw (Tom’s Tricks #1)*** Quite a nice introduction to a new rent boy series – a short story which didn’t really go far enough in character development. I might read more to see what happens. Well written and constructed.

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu*** The first couple of stories in this well written sci fi collection were impressive but gradually all the tales seemed to merge into a long rant about modern society, extrapolating from current trends. One, at least, was more of a political debate disguised as a story rather than a story with an underlying political point to make. I like my sci fi to have a message but it shouldn’t overwhelm the fiction aspect.  

Abandoned:
 
 Her Perfect Family by Teresa Driscoll. If I don’t care who, why, how, etc. by p 36 I’m not going to. I think it was going to be supposed to be a thriller.

Fanfic

I got three birthday gift fics in October – all of them delightful!

The Mouse that Soared by Small_Hobbit https://archiveofourown.org/works/34675825 1k words (Sherlock Holms AU)
Pull My Corners Gently Through by MistressKat https://archiveofourown.org/works/34692130 674 words (Harry Potter)
Cake!!! by pushkin666 https://archiveofourown.org/works/34692757 A drabble and a half. (The Hobbit)
 
Also read:

Doin’ Okay (But Not Very Well) by Brumeier**** https://archiveofourown.org/works/34142959  8720 words. SGA – Evan sees a murder. Probably sufficiently AU for the uninformed reader to enjoy though the cameo roles for other characters add to the interest.

September Book Reviews

A bird chose to plant a sunflower in our gutter… and yes, that is dead ivy, killed prior to getting rid of it!

The superb

Hidden Wolves by Kaje Harper (series)*****   Unacceptable Risk (volume one) introduces a really well developed werewolf world. Bought the sequel Unexpected demands as soon as I finished and found it  just as good. Thrilled to find there were a further four to go!!  Unwanted Appeal is a novella, Unjustified Claims, Unsafe Exposure, Undeniable Bonds are all full novels. All five star. There’s a coda due some time in October!!

The good

Fourth Point of Contact by AJ Sherwood**** A lovely mm romance with plenty of danger and excitement set in a fantasy world. But – there were some vocabulary choices that made me cringe (e.g. Clydesdales in another world when carthorses would have been fine) including the naming systems, and there could have been more rigorous editing. I might buy the sequel because I liked the main characters.

True (Tales of the Circle Bk 1) by Timothy Warren.**** Rural cabin trope but well told.

Harvest of the Cold Months by Elizabeth David**** Subtitle: A social history of ice and ices. Says it all. Fascinating but occasionally heavy going with all that detail.

May you be the mother of a hundred sons by Elisabeth Bulmiller.**** A journey among the women of India. Danish American journalist writing in 1990. Fresh and perceptive look at Indian society which still has a lot to tell the rest of us today.

Love in a Time of Coronavirus #17  by Dev Bentham (flashfic in her newletter)****

The readable.

The Weight of it all by NR Walker*** A nice mm romance and well written but I didn’t enjoy all the detail about diet and exercise. Although the point of the story was that we shouldn’t judge people by their appearance it still felt a bit like preaching! (Especially since I should follow the advice.)

The guilty man by Helen Durrant*** Police procedural set in a fictional West Yorkshire town. The back story of one of the detectives threatens to take over the plot but is never resolved. There is a sequel but I won’t be reading it because the case was boring and I didn’t get a cop story to read about the cop’s past even though I like well-developed detective characters.

Home again by Ana Ashley*** Sweet romance set in Portugal but it read a bit like a travelogue.

Some Kind of Magic by R Cooper*** (Beings in love series). Werewolves and fairies and more. Some poor world building and character development.

Under Color of Law by Aaron Philip Clark*** Can’t really rec this depressing though worthy.  account of a black cop in LA fighting racism and police brutality. I didn’t like the frequent changes of tense though I understood the literary intention. The book raises questions of whether the end justifies the means.

Angel Maker by Morgan Greene*** Supposed to be Scandi Noir but the heroine was boring (a possible Mary Sue??) and the plot moved slowly.

One Lost Soul by JM Dalgliesh*** Boring thriller set in Norfolk. Doctor’s daughter found dead in the woods. (I must post about boring thrillers…)

Buried by Jeffrey Deaver (novella)*** Quite an interesting premise but I didn’t really engage with any of the characters. I enjoy the Lincoln Rhyme/Amelia Sachs series but the author’s other writing is not so appealing. I couldn’t get really invested in the detective.

Gsbriel Baker’s Guide to Never Falling in Love by EM Lindsey (novella)*** The guide, which the protagonist ignores, is just, really, an excuse for sex. Boring.

Abandoned

Summer in Andalucia by Lucy Coleman. By p 36 I still had zero interest in any of the characters, plus it was in present tense for no apparent reason. A journalist follows a chef to Andalucia for a cookery retreat.

No fanfic  this month

September television and films

Vigil BBC1 and iPlayer***** Quoting from a review in The Guardian: Vigil has been a rich and sometimes sickly meal. Just one of its anxiety-inducing scenarios would be enough for most dramas, but this had international conflict, political intrigue, claustrophobic horror, psychological trauma, murder, cops, romance and nerve agents thrown in and set to various clock-ticking countdowns. I loved it but was a bit sorry they chose such a low key ending with the last few moments taken up by a press conference rather than the further activities of various characters.  

The Crimson Rivers ***** Excellent French cop show, first watched while husband was away and now rewatched with him on All4. There’s at least one episode that wasn’t previously shown or that I missed.  

Wild Swimming with Alice Roberts**** BBC4. Her enthusiasm is almost infectious and the photography is lovely, but it made me cold even to watch it!  

Vera***** Season 11 Eps 1 and 2 on ITV (and itv hub) The rest of the season is delayed and I gather they had problems with both filming and scheduling due to the pandemic. Good as usual.  

Help***** (Ch4) Superb acting by Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham in a chilling tale of a care home at the height of the pandemic. The ending is strange but again, very well acted.

9/11: Life under Attack (ITV).**** Chilling reconstruction with lots of video footage I hadn’t seen. Obviously shown to remember the twentieth anniversary of the date. Plus 9/11: Inside the President’s War Room (BBC) **** Similar programme but from the p.o.v. of Bush and his staff.  
 
Death on the common**** Ch4 The Rachel Nickell murder from the point of view of her boyfriend and her son (the toddler left clutching her body). They recently returned to UK and talk about their experience. A good addition to the Deceit series I watched last month.  

Gunda: Mother, Pig**** (BBC4) 90 minutes of black and white photography with no sound track other than the animal noises.  In comparatively slow motion we watched a mother pig, some chickens (one with one leg) and some cattle. Strange but compelling. I might watch it again, just as a moving background.  

The Hunt for a Killer – abandoned. (BBC iPlayer) Scandi noir based on a true story. They could have watched the Scandi dramas for direction and acting, and the Brit reconstructions for script and continuity hints. Billed as nail-biting… My nails were intact.

August novels: reviews

The photo shows the front of our house in August.

I read a lot of novels in August – mostly in the back garden over extended lunches under our parasol. Apparently, I didn’t read any short stories or fanfiction. That shouldn’t surprise me, really, because having reached the end of my long tbr list I haven’t (yet) started downloading like a maniac again!

It occurs to me that I ought to explore in more depth what makes books truly memorable (or not) for me and that will probably be my next post. Meanwhile, here are August’s recs and non-recs.

Two superb:

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull***** A gorgeous urban fantasy written in 1987 and considered seminal in the genre. Exciting, beautiful and romantic (m/f).

Subtle Blood by KJ Charles***** A totally gripping end to the Will Darling mm inter-war spy trilogy. The story would make a good film. I won’t give any spoilers here. I also read the short interlude To Trust a Man on his Oath, sent as a pdf in her newsletter and that was a lovely prequel to this novel.

Seven extremely good:

Jared by RJ Scott**** (Boyfriend for hire Book 4) An endearing story about a young boy trying to rent a boyfriend for his widowed father.

Winter Cowboy by RJ Scott****Daniel and Micah and a lot of angst.

Summer Drifter by RJ Scott**** Continues the story of Micah and his sister but adds Quinn and Levi for another angsty romance – with horses on the ranch. I make no apologies for the number of RJ Scott books here – this author can be trusted to deliver an interesting and exciting story, beautifully told.

A deal with the elf king by Elise Kova**** Luella is chosen as the new human queen and must come to terms with her elvish husband and the problems of both their lands. Nice magic and well developed characters. There’s a series, but the book is adequately standalone.

Stranger at the Dower House by Mary Kingswood**** Murder and fraud (not associated with each other) wrapped up in Regency romance. A good read if you have no Heyers to re-read. Some echoes of Austen, but faint.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen**** (re-read). The satire seems a bit heavy handed on a second or third reading. Not sure if that’s my tastes changing or whether satire (and other humour) works best when completely fresh. Take note, writers in this group of reviews, that I’m comparing you with Austen…

Love’s Legacy by Blake Allwood**** Two young men inherit, respectively, a motel and a ranch. There are family problems to grapple with and some violence, as well as their growing attraction to each other. A nicely rounded story with excellent minor characters and some good world building.

Six readable but not specifically recommended:

The House in the Woods by Mark Dawson *** Combined police procedural and PI investigation. Rather long winded and I never really took to any of the characters. First in the Atticus Priest series but I won’t be looking for the sequel.

The First Time Ever by L M Krier*** Police procedural (book 1 of a series) which has a gay detective and some nice local detail (set in Stockport) but the dramatic highpoints are muted and there is too much fairly mundane police station stuff.

Her Missing Daughter *** by DS Butler. Some poor writing and proofing. In the final all-action scenes there’s a sudden switch from 1st person to 3rd. We don’t know the dog’s breed till the epilogue. The plot hinges on the villain being insane. I read to the end because I wanted to know who dunnit but then wished I hadn’t bothered. This author comes highly recommended by the UK Crime Book Club but I don’t really know why.

A quiet place to kill by NR Davis*** Set on a WWII airbase. Another one with a mad villain. . A series is promised/threatened

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black*** Great world building, but I disliked all the characters intensely, so I won’t be reading the second volume (The Wicked King) of The Folk of the Air. Scrapes into Urban Fantasy by a whisker, but mostly set in a modern fairyland.

Serial by Casey Hill*** Forensic investigation that is mostly boring and occasionally unrealistically exciting. .

Two abandoned, but not because the books themselves deserve criticism:

Turning Point by Jeffrey Deaver. The story follows the criminal rather than the investigators so doesn’t appeal to me.

More than this by Alexa Milne. The book starts with sex (f/f) between largely unknown protagonists so I put it down. I need to know the characters before I can read explicit scenes.

I know perfectly well that both these books will appeal to a lot of people and both authors are good writers. It was just that in these instances, their work was not for me.

August Viewing

Japanese anemones. sometimes called windflowers. They grow easily and accept all sorts of conditions. Palest of pale pink, tall, and beautiful! I love the way they’ve spread in our garden.

Nothing very special in August – not surprising, really, because they don’t put new exciting things on here in summer.

Deceit. (Ch 4) **** A dramatic reconstruction of the entrapment of the wrong man, Colin Stagg, over the Rachel Nikell murder. Quite an interesting series with a focus on the policewoman who went undercover. Available on All4 (UK)

The Railway Killers (Ch 5) *** Another reconstruction of the hunt for the railway killers. This stuck more closely to the memories of the police involved. Available on My5 (UK)

Pretty Woman*** A disappointing rewatch of a film I used to love. The story still appealed but I found the characters too ‘glossy’ and the direction somewhat laboured. So some favourites are for ever and others aren’t…

Sweet tooth. (Netflix) Abandoned. New Scientist praised this sci fi series and made me want to see it. A plague results in human/animal hybrids and the story follows an antlered boy’s journey through life and survival. We watched two episodes then gave up and I’m not really sure why. Husband said he couldn’t be bothered with it, and I meant to watch on my own then found myself postponing it till it became something in the past. I suppose I didn’t connect adequately with the characters.

Fanfic recs for July

Needless to say, I access fanfic via AO3, the fic ‘arm’ of OTW.

All SGA this month and all AUs. All recommended.

Unexpected Discoveries by Brumeier***** The start of the series as a TV show AU. Part 1 of As Seen On TV. https://archiveofourown.org/works/2145420 I’ve read a number of short fics in this series and they are invariably entertaining. SGA team in an AU where they investigate paranormal rumours for TV.

Fashion Victim by Lamardeuse*****https://archiveofourown.org/works/85219 16k. Rodney is in a coma and John goes into the virtual environment to rescue him. Echoes of lock it away (keep my heart at your place) by nagi_schwarz – I’m not sure which came first and in any case they aren’t the same, just both using the coma trope.

Edge of Passion by Brumeier****https://archiveofourown.org/works/29887014 John and Rodney as actors in a nice AU. 4k

Life in a Bubble by Elayna**** https://archiveofourown.org/works/29882850 16k. AU in which John and Rodney meet during the pandemic. Interesting use of lockdown rules, etc.

Within You by Brumeier**** In a crossover/fusion with Labyrinth. Rodney needs to save Jeannie (his sister). http://archiveofourown.org/works/1278607

An ‘anthology’ read in July

Molewort: a garden invader, strange but welcome. The flowers are unremarkable but those seedheads!!

As some of you know I spent a lot of July trying to get through my tbr list. I had uploaded a lot of short stories and novellas, most of them free or very cheap, to my Kindle. I think it was a kind of insurance when we were travelling frequently and I was afraid of running out of reading matter!.I’d had most of them all ages and no longer had any idea why some had appealed to me in the first place. Others were by favourite authors but had somehow sunk down my list. Anyway, I read them to the exclusion of almost anything else other than newspapers and journals whilst enjoying the garden during our spell of nice weather.

I won’t (mostly) go into great detail but will give you a list, with the usual stars. Some were surprisingly good – I say surprisingly because on the whole I prefer novels. Not because there’s anything wrong with short stories – I’ve written some myself and stories are as long as they want to be – but because I like being able to ‘lose’ myself in a long novel whereas short stories bring me back to earth rather too quickly. The four star ones I would recommend. The three star are pleasant enough but not very memorable. The two and one star were not for me. This was at least partly because some of the plots were thin and seemed to be an excuse to write very explicit sex, something I only enjoy if I’m already invested in the characters and the story. I treated the list as an anthology though nobody apart from me had deliberately put them together.

So – my July anthology!

Recommended:

Foxy Heart: Blade and Dust by Rhys Lawless**** Rhys Lawless is another pen name for Rhys Everly. I loved this short story with magic and mayhem and might even try the series to which it’s the prequel. (This is obviously why authors provide freebies.) A fox shifter finds his soul mate but they are instantly on the run from witch hunters. Loses a star because it needs to go further. And yes, I assume the next book will do that, but I would have liked slightly more in this one.

My Rainy Valentine by Ruby Moone***** Excellent very short story set in my local city. An example of really good storytelling art. The people standing by at a tram stop get involved in a Valentine’s day apology and relationship development,which is both hilarious and romantic.

The Christmas Curse also by Ruby Moone**** Nice shifter story with echoes of The Princess and the Frog.

The Case of the forgetful genius by Charlie Cochrane.**** Not sure if I’d read/reviewed this before. It rang bells but maybe just because of being about her actor amateur detectives, Alasdair and Toby. Worth a re-read if that’s what it was!

A Flirty Dozen by JL Merrow**** An interesting collection. Some appealed to me more than others (even this very good writer can’t make me care about ghouls) but all were intelligent and well written stories. These were mm with some romance and some sex. I have also got A Feminine Flirty Dozen**** (ff stories) I enjoyed it just as much, especially the ones with paranormal elements or that referenced fairy tales.

Two flash fics from newsletters:

Ewe’s Stocking by Charlie Cochrane****Clever spy story set in WW2

Perfect Picture by Clare London****Sweet very brief story featuring an artist and his lover.

Not particularly recommended but well written and readable.

The Machine Stops by EM Forster*** A sci fi curiosity, I suppose. Published in 1909 it’s a kind of echo or pre-echo (?) of Brave New World and 1984, and is surprisingly ‘modern’, relating well to things like our internet usage and the pandemic lockdowns. However, I found the style very stiff, and never really empathised with the characters. I was surprised to find typos but perhaps that’s because it was transcribed from the original magazine publication.

Total Fabrication by Saxon James*** A TV competition story (it’s quite a common trope – they meet, they compete, etc.) which was nicely done but could have been expanded and given greater detail. One of those short stories that reads like a summary of a novel.

My Fake Billionaire by Ana Ashley and Rhys Everly*** A Braxton Boys series short story. A pleasant tale of a billionaire who finds his heart’s desire tending the library on the island he is buying. I gather the series follows a number of ‘old boys’ of the school.

Kilts and Lies by KA Belle*** A typical ‘fake boyfriend’ story that ends up – of course – with real romance. Another one that could have been longer with more detail. The families, all minor characters, were interesting.

Treehouse Whispers by Elouise East***Pleasant but unmemorable story about two guys who have shared a treehouse since childhood.

Faking Familiar by Abigail Kade*** Witches and familiars in a prequel to a series but none of the characters were particularly interesting and I won’t be following it.

Five Fake Dates by DJ Jamison*** Quite a sweet story – friends to lovers.

Ante Up by Charlie Cochet*** A Four Kings Security Short. Dancer gets together with bar manager.

The Second Act by HI Day*** Actor renews relationship.

The Artist’s Model by ZA Maxfield.*** Well written story but I do wish this author would stick to novels or at least novellas – I usually enjoy those but am invariably disappointed by the shorts.

Keep paddling by Charlie Descoteaux*** Two slightly older men with mild physical handicaps. Pleasant but not very memorable.

Just Say When by EM Lindsey*** Blind vlogger Tristian challenges chef Enzo to a blindfold cookery session with predictable results.

Coffee, tea or me? by Elizabeth Silver*** Fairly boring but competent short story about busy bookseller meeting barista.

Not recommended

Boyfriend Emergency by Rheland Richmond** Unlikely fake boyfriend story that seemed to be just an excuse to write sex.

Overnight Stay by Lynn Michaels** Another excuse for explicit sex with no real story.

Anh Sang by Barry Brennessel** Depressing account of doomed mm romance during the French departure from Vietnam. Written a bit like a travelogue.

Definitely not recommended

The Naked Cleaner by Sophia Soames* I hated this, mostly because of the unnecessary amount of foul language used by both the main characters. Weird story about a naturist who goes out cleaning and has an arranged meeting with a hermit-like IT expert. Unlikely and unsatisfying.

Books I read in July

The buddleia has almost taken over our front garden and I would like it pruned but in July the flowers are spectacular.

Quite a few books last month. I finally got my tbr list under control – yes, there are still some fairly ‘heavy’ books in waiting, but I allowed myself to buy a few by favourite authors, download some freebies and also borrow some titles from the Amazon Prime library.

There were more excellent titles than usual, partly because I was buying favourites, but the Prime library had some winners this time too. The five star books are all highly recommended.

And the mountains echoed by Khaled Hosseini***** Sweeping story of Afghan diaspora which is gripping but huge cast makes it hard to identify with any particular characters, even the brother and sister forcibly parted in the first section. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first two in the series, but it was still a great read and I was glad I’d requested it as a Christmas present.

The Bridge on the River Wye by Adam Fitzroy***** Exciting mystery romance with plenty of police and amateur investigation as Rupert tries to help Jake with his organic farm. Great minor characters. Example of a freebie that will send me looking for more by this author.

Taking Stock by A.L. Lester***** Growing relationship between a man forced out of a London company and a farmer who has had a stroke and is recovering. I loved the details, the farming community, the minor characters, and the way the sex was left right to the end.

The Gilded Scarab by Anna Butler***** Steampunk AU London 1900. Boer war with planes. British Museum. Fabulous!

Plain Jane Wanted by Rose Amberly***** Perfect beach/holiday read. (Sunny garden in my case.) An mf romance set in the Channel Isles. (Prime Library.)

The Bone Jar by SW Kane***** Outwardly a police procedural that starts intriguingly and ends with a great deal of excitement. First in a series featuring DI Kirby and I might read others because it was well written, but I won’t seek them out because the detective was the least interesting of the characters. (Prime Library.)

Stop Cock by JL Merrow***** Another great addition to the Plumber’s Mate series. Tom and Phil are on their honeymoon in Sorento but of course crime comes along to upset their plans. First buy after dealing with my tbr list. I’d had it on my to buy list for ages!

Trench Warfare by Fiona Glass***** Great mm thriller with paranormal elements set on (in?) an archaeological dig. Gripping and entertaining. I wanted it to be longer and would love to read another dig/mystery with these characters. The archaeology details were fascinating.

Then there were the very good.

Family Unit by ZA Maxfield**** An mm romance/thriller featuring the attempted abduction of a child by it’s biological parent. A good story that lost a star because there was too much explicit sex when it furthered neither plot nor character development.

In the Shadow of the Wolf by RJ Scott and Diane Adams**** Three interlinked shortish novels dealing with cops and conspiracies in a wolf/human society.Shattered Secrets/Broken Memories/Splintered Lies. Satisfying and engrossing but since it was just, in the end, the one ‘case’ I wanted more which won’t happen because Rob, the human ‘alpha’ of the mixed team, is no longer a cop. I liked the world building and the exploration of the psychology of the wolves, through an examination of their romances, mm and mf.

Muscling Through by JL Merrow**** Interesting relationship between a handsome academic and a sinister looking working guy. Perhaps not quite long enough to make five stars.

Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe**** An interesting historical read – rumours, quacks, angels and ghosts, arguments about methods of isolation, attempts to escape lockdown, etc. So different from our modern world and yet nothing ever changes! (Available free online.)

Isle of Where by Sue Brown**** A nice (and well written) mm romance rather spoilt by too much explicit sex that furthered neither character development nor plot. Setting it on the Isle of Wight made it sort of Brit but exotic…A freebie to introduce her series but as she clearly caters to the ‘more sex please’ market I probably won’t read more.

Don’t Lie to Me by Willow Rose**** Competent thriller set in Florida. I enjoyed it but not to the extent of seeking out the rest of the Eva Rae Thomas mysteries. (Prime library.)

And finally there were a couple of readable but probably forgettable ones.

Catastrophe by Deirdre O’Dare*** A shifter story centred on a zoo threatened by animal rights activists. Some less than stellar writing and the minor characters were almost wallpaper but the plot was exciting enough to keep me reading.

A Poison Tree by JE Mayhew*** Intriguing plot – pity about the characters and the world building. Set on the Wirral and because that’s almost ‘local’ I was interested. This police procedural is book 1 in a series but I won’t bother with it. (Prime Library.)

Nothing poor or dire this month and nothing abandoned.

What I watched in July

Season of ripe grass and violent hay fever…

There were some interesting things to watch in July

Black Space***** Israeli cop drama centred round a high school shooting. Excellent acting and direction. On Netflix in 8 episodes and hopefully there will be another season. Thoroughly deserves the good reviews. (May be Blackspace – I’m never sure how to search correctly as I’ve seen both versions in reviews.)

Black Spot Seasons 1 and 2 ***** (Netflix.) The ending wasn’t a cliff hanger but we could really do with another season to answer some questions and get some of the characters into a more satisfactory place. Think Twin Peaks but in the eastern forested mountains of France. For those who don’t like subtitles there is an English language version. Disturbing and gripping with paranormal elements, violence and occasional humour. Each episode has a solved crime, but the paranormal stuff is in the over-arc plot. The original title is Zone Blanche; the area has poor phone signals which is part of the problem faced by the police.

Katla **** (Netflix again) Icelandic noir (aka horror) watched out of the corner of my eye because husband had it on. In a town destroyed by a volcanic erruption, people start to reappear… I suppose it deserves at least four stars for acting, direction, etc. but it wasn’t quite my scene! I went to bed before the end of the last episode but my husband updated me on the plot resolution.

Nordic Murders Season 2 *** (More 4.) I loved season 1 of this police drama set on the island of Usedom in northern Germany on the Polish border. But in season 2 the lead detective has been written out (in the first episode) and this means we are left with a new and less convincing lead, and a gap in the intriguing family dynamics that underpinned the first season. As a result, I started to get bored and regard it as being mainly about the scenery. I don’t grudge the actress if she needed to leave – if she didn’t, I think the writers made a mistake.

Novels read in June

It’s a pity peonies are so fragile and short-lived. Still, they’re glorious while they last.

June was a good month for novels, a lot of them read in the garden, near the peony!

Highly recommended:

Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré*****

This is le Carré’s last book, published or at least ready for publication shortly before his death last year. The title is slightly puzzling till you realise it should read something like ‘agent-running: in the field’. It’s an absorbing novel about spies and spying rather than about a specific incident, though there’s a very specific new agent in view. Excellent writing and an exciting conclusion. Recommended. (This was a requested Christmas present though it took me ages to get round to reading it.)

Cinder by Marie Sexton*****

A really lovely mm version of Cinderella. If you like alternative fairy tales this is one to treasure.

Job Hunt by Jackie Keswick*****

The first of the Power of Zero books to take place once Jack is grown up. This is the one that begins Jack’s relationship with Gareth and tells how they found Nico and Dan. The whole series, based around a found family theme, is full of intriguing characters with amazing back stories. I had read the books about Jack’s teenage years and was delighted (though not really surprised) to find this one just as good.

Recommended:

Spencer Cohen by NR Walker**** (Spencer Cohen series 1)

A lovely start to a new series by a really good author. I shall be following this series about Spencer, who plays ‘new lover’ to help finalise decisions about relationships.

The bucket list by RJ Scott****

A slightly too sweet story about Jason coming to terms with his brother’s death, helped by his blossoming relationship with Mark. Did Andrew mean them to get together? I enjoy RJ Scott’s writing.

The Gardener and the Marine by RJ Scott.****

Possibly a novella rather than a novel, first published as a serial in her weekly newsletter. A nice look at PTSD and memory loss. I looked forward to the weekly updates and I think she is going to publish it as a ‘whole’.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen**** (re-read).

Not my favourite Austen. I hadn’t re-read it for years and wondered why; I couldn’t quite remember the plot. The social commentary is as sharp as ever and the details are fascinating, but I don’t empathise with the heroine who is too good (and prudish) to be true and I don’t like the way the final romance is told rather than shown, in haste in the final chapter.

Marked by death by Kaje Harper****

An excellent story about magic users Darien and Silas. Misses five stars simply because of the focus on demons which don’t really appeal to my reading tastes – for anyone who likes them, go for this!

Accused by Leona Windwalker****

Space, aliens, mpreg, slavery etc. etc. However, I was so curious to know what happened to Matty and Duane that I also read Judged, the sequel. Lots of space opera and I think the series is ongoing but I got tired of the eventually saccharine alien/human relationships and decided the ending of book 2 was sufficiently satisfactory.

Chance to be King by Sue Brown****

A good mm romance story with thriller elements. I must say I always like romance novels to have something else as well. Well written.

Readable:

Lost and found by Rick R Reed***

A sweet story about a dog that is lost and found; in the process he brings Flynn and Mac together despite a rocky start. Barley (a.k.a Hamburger) steals the show.

Wild Retaliation by Ethan Stone***

A shifter cop thriller which is something that I usually enjoy but this was a bit too short so that we didn’t really get to know the characters. The case was interesting but there were not nearly enough clues for the reader to follow.

I didn’t read anything dire in June but I did give up on a few books, not because of the way they were written but because the contents didn’t appeal to me.

Abandoned:

Hunger makes the wolf by Alex Wells.

Sci fi but still an army/mercenary story. Not for me and I gave up fairly quickly. I think I’d expected a shifter story…

A Magical Team by Edward Kendrick.

A police team of magic users dedicated to catching criminals who evade normal capture. Boring and slightly distasteful – they seemed about as bad as the villains.

The Intersect by Brad Graber.

A novel about the way lives intersect. It’s a theme that can be fantastic (e.g. Girl, Woman, Other) but I found all the characters in this totally boring and abandoned them.