October 2022 – unfamiliar authors reviewed

October colour

Highly Recommended

The Rule of Three by Kristian Parker****Enjoyable story about a threesome in a country village. I didn’t quite believe the ‘villain’ (one protagonist’s sister) but I liked the portrayal of village life. I will certainly read the rest of the trilogy. There are no truly dramatic events but the book works well as comfort reading.

Stone Wings by Jenn Burke**** Shifters, including gargoyle shifters, turf wars and a curse that must be broken. An exciting first story in this mm paranormal romance series and I will definitely read the next which is due out in January.

Ghosted by Jess Whitecroft**** I chose this for a Halloween read and thoroughly enjoyed it. Desanges is a mixed race wannabe spiritual medium from New Orleans with a lot of tricks up his sleeve. Jason is a reluctant exorcist from Wisconsin with a difficult past, living a ‘prepper’ lifestyle in the countryside. They meet when called in to use their professional skills in a haunted house. There are genuinely scary moments and almost as many hilarious ones. The plot twists and turns and had me on the edge of my seat till the very end. Actually, I finished it on November 1st over breakfast but thought it was more appropriate to review it with the rest of October’s offerings. Try it next Halloween – or any time really!

Readable

Tricks with Cats and Dogs by Mere Rain*** Quite a nice story, suitably creepy for Halloween season, but it was very short and could well have been expanded with more character development. The concept was good but it almost read like a very long blurb. Further information would inevitably be spoilers but it does involve shifters and mm romance.

Abandoned.

The Beatrix Stubbs Boxset 1 by JJ Marsh.  After lengthy flashbacks the reader knew who committed the murders (and that they  were murders, not suicides), how, where, when and probably why. The international team set up as a task force to investigate was not very interesting and the lead detective (Beatrice Stubbs) was, after a few chapters, unappealing to me.

Where the Silent Screams are Loudest by John Pye. Poorly written crime story by an ex-police officer. Sadly, I had actually bought this. Only £1.99 but still… somehow I don’t mind so much when a new author borrowed on KU doesn’t appeal. It read like a policeman’s court reporting, and there was quite a bit of less than stellar vocabulary usage. An ex detective ought to know how to use a dictionary or thesaurus. And no, they weren’t typos.

Nothing dire, though I was disappointed in the last book. I love well written crime stories by authors such as Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, even when they haven’t any romance or paranormal elements. But there’s a lot of very uninspiring work in the genre, often highly praised by people in the relevant social media groups. And of course I have to at least give it a try!

October reading 2022: familiar authors

The autumn colours have been late this year though I believe they got their act together further south.

Obviously there are no dire books in this selection. Familiar authors are trusted authors! There were no abandoned ones, either, as I am being a little more careful about reading the blurb than hitherto, and avoid themes that don’t appeal to me. Some of these books appealed more than others but that’s just my taste. They’re all worth buying or borrowing.

Excellent

Keepers of the Past by Jackson Marsh***** Excellent sequel to the first of the Larkspur Mysteries. Intriguing detail about Cornish myths and stone circles etc. albeit somewhat fictionalised for plot purposes. Fascinating look at sign language for the deaf. Dalston and Joe are safe (for now) and their romance is still slightly rocky but delightful all the same. One of those books you can’t wait to finish but at the same time wish would last forever.

Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin***** The usual brilliant writing and satisfyingly complex plot with Edinburgh as an extra character. I love the Rebus series. However, I suspect my reading has got slightly out of order…

Guilt by Association by Gregory Ashe*****Another complex and satisfying mystery (book 4) with a HFN ending for the detective pair. Gorgeous writing. I was beginning to wonder how long Ashe could keep up the UST then realised I had no room to talk as my Skilled Investigator series keeps it up for six volumes and he only takes four…

Highly recommended

Subtle Bodies by Jordan Castillo Price**** I love the whole psycops series. Victor, with his ability to see and talk to ghosts is a superb ‘hero’. Victor and Jacob have now been together through 13 novels and numerous short stories, yet their relationship continues to grow and develop. The cases they need to solve are intriguing and this was no exception. I always pre-order these books now, and will continue to do so.

Gabriel’s Storm by Sue Brown**** Exciting tale of storms, rescues and amnesia on the south coast. I also read Hairy Harry’s car seat by Sue Brown*** Pleasant and well written story about Harry’s owner grieving for his dog and gradually finding out more about his own sexuality.

Getting Married at Crofton Hall by Rebecca Cohen**** I enjoyed this volume in the series about modern Crofton Hall even though it lacked the drama of most of the stories. I don’t recall planning a wedding being so fraught but that perhaps just shows my age. I had read the book where Ben and Ashley first get together so was not confused by the main relationships but must admit I have been reading these books out of order, and also getting ‘spoilers’ from blurbs… I must make a real effort to read in sequence.

Point of No Return by NR Walker**** Exciting cop drama with a satisfying romance. I shall be getting the sequel. I also read Imago Series Collection by NR Walker.*** I liked Lawson and Jack, and I was fascinated to learn more about Australian wildlife in general and butterflies in particular. However, the collection, which comprised three short novels and a short story, seemed to alternate between almost sugary romance and too much sex which furthered neither plot nor character development. Maybe I shouldn’t have read the set straight through. Ms Walker is a good writer but this is not one of my favourites in her works. The author’s notes sent me in search of a trilogy by Julie Bozza (another trusted author) which I have bought and will review in due course.

Lucky by Garrett Leigh**** I loved the way the relationship was held back by the secrets the protagonists kept. A beautifully written modern romance set in London.

Spell Cat by Tara Lain**** I shall definitely be reading more of the Aloysius Tales. Loved the characters (most of them witches) and the situations, and particularly loved the cat.

Readable

A Reason to Stay by RJ Scott*** I found the thoughts and emotions of the two protagonists in this rather repetitive. Although the thriller element was exciting I felt the story would have been better as a novella than as a full length novel. I like this author’s style but have favourites among her work and this wasn’t one of them.

The Altered 2 by Annabelle Jacobs*** I like the concept of the series (military experiments result in ‘altered’ teens who have shifter abilities) but there is quite a lot of head hopping which at times makes it hard to follow. Like the first volume, this was a nice story but doesn’t lead me to rush off to find the next.

Ruby Fire by Adam J Ridley*** Well written story in the series about the cursed brothers. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two. I found the constant switching between worlds/realities somewhat distancing; I have to admit I prefer paranormal fantasy to take place firmly within one world, ours or an imagined one. I also thought it was too convenient that the main protagonists fell neatly in love with virtually no UST and very little to explain their mutual attraction. The ending was satisfactory though there were hints that there’s another story to come. I shall read it, but for the community at large and the concept rather than the romance.

Fanfic

When Shall We Three Meet Again by Small_Hobbit. **** I laughed out loud at this modern take on the three witches. Suitably light hearted reading (and only 326 words) for Halloween. https://archiveofourown.org/works/41905317 Also Tigger Holmes and the case of the Midnight slipper **** by the same author which is part of the Tigger Holmes series, a light hearted fusion of Winnie the Pooh and Sherlock Holmes. Only 714 words. Give it a try!! https://archiveofourown.org/works/42573489

Viewing in October 2022

Hoping against hope that crumbs will fall from a birthday feast.

Karen Pirie**** (ITV Hub or Amazon Prime) I knew I would probably like this thriller set in Scotland with a female lead detective. It’s based on a series by Val McDermid whose writing I love, and whose screen adaptations are usually good. I’m not sure whether she’s involved in them.

Red Light**** (All4 – Walter Presents) Belgian crime drama with three female leads. A detective, an opera singer and a prostitute all have dysfunctional families and their lives are increasingly intertwined. Well made, well acted, and an intriguing plot. Set in Antwerp.

Politics live***** (Various channels.) The rest of the month was basically the ongoing soap opera of the Tory party trying to sell itself in various types of packaging to a disbelieving public. Naturally, it was still bought by its tiny core membership. Things began to settle with the advent of Rishi, but only because he’s such a relief after Boris and Liz. I watch a lot of political programmes. I’m really sad that BBC have axed Dateline London, but ITV still offer Peston and of course there’s always the news… My favourite is Channel 4 at 7.00pm. I always tune in to PMQs and quite often I have BBC Parliament on as background TV, and then get hooked by interesting debates. Actually, I’m more frequently hooked by the proceedings of various select committees.

Familiar authors read in September 2022

The same beck after a violent rainstorm.

Recommended

The Alpha’s Warlock by Eliot Grayson**** I hesitated over the four stars. I like the author’s style and enjoyed the action packed story with diverse paranormals. I didn’t even, for once, skim the explicit sex, because it was so entangled with the magic. And I liked Nate and Ian. Then I found out it was the first of at least 8 in an interconnected series and for some reason my heart sank. I will eventually read at least some of the rest but actually, the blurbs were probably sufficient to keep me informed and I won’t be in a hurry to continue. I think I preferred Deven and the Dragon which was a one-off.

Paternity Case (Hazard and Somerset 3) by Gregory Ashe**** Some great descriptive writing – I’m in awe! These mysteries are well crafted and intriguing; the reader and the detectives have to work hard to solve them. The ongoing unresolved sexual tension between Hazard and Somerset adds another layer of interest and makes it essential to find the next book in the series.

The Soldier and the Bodyguard by RJ Scott**** Exciting story with thriller elements, set in the Ellery Mountain series with a cross over with the Sanctuary series. I like the way the author researches medical and psychological problems then uses them in her fiction and I was soon concerned for JC and Adrian. The ‘baddies’ of this particular story were almost unbelievably wicked and cruel and gave us some nail-biting moments

Dating Mr Right by Sue Brown**** Trilogy of mm romances all set round the same bar in NY. I love the way this author creates whole communities and gives us glimpses of everyone’s life. I also read her Snow Twink **** I’m not usually into ‘Daddy’ stories but I trust the author and have a novella of my own based on Snow White so was intrigued to see what she would do with it. Well written and interesting. Probably worth reading if you like twists on fairy tales, and definitely if you like ‘Daddy’ themes.

Ghost of Deceit by Alice Winters**** Third in the Medium Trouble series. As usual, a fascinating mystery for Hiro and Max to solve, and some amusing banter, especially between Hiro and the ghosts, but sometimes, too much banter!

Code Red by NR Walker**** Exciting story about a boy band and their lead singer. Romance eventually helps him deal with chronic anxiety but only after some nail-biting moments. Very well written (as usual) and I was both surprised and relieved by the HEA ending. The portrayal of the back stage life of the band and their support teams is brilliantly researched and presented.

Tending his heart by Vin George**** Second in the series. Matt and Zeke are living their HEA but have to contend with the pandemic, Matt’s son, and Zeke’s brother and father, all of which create various types of chaos for the pair.

Readable

Witch Dust by Marilyn Messik*** Disappointing. I like the writer’s style but unlike Stella, the heroine of the Strange series who fights crime using her paranormal powers, Sandra, in this new venture, just grapples with family issues and inter-family rivalry. Nowhere near as intriguing or exciting despite the inherited powers and the shock value of some of the situations.

Where there’s a witch there’s a way by E Broom*** Another nice story in the Cadenbury Tales series but the MCs, all in their 20s and 30s, don’t come across as very grown up, and the proof reading continues to be poor.

Femme by Marshall Thornton*** A pleasant romance but I’m surprised it got such general accolades. I suppose it did a lot to explain different ways of being gay. The plot was fine but I kept expecting something to happen. Since this was basically a rom-com, with character studies, nothing much did.

Give and take by Clare London*** Very short story in Clare’s newsletter. Nicely written but too short to gain extra stars.

The Case of the Sexy Shakespearean by Tara Lain*** A nice story, well written, but full of unlikely events and outcomes. A sort of thriller, but not quite thrilling enough. A sort of romance, but not quite romantic enough. And the Shakespeare controversy underlying the plot was never adequately discussed.

New authors found in September 2022

Lake District beck from our writers’ retreat

Recommended

The Southern Boys Trilogy by KC Wells**** Another series with a huge cast of interesting characters and a community that seems familiar after a few chapters of the first volume. I enjoyed all the books in the trilogy though I think the first will remain my favourite. Yet again, an author to trust!

Readable

The Cat Returns to Adderley by Sam Burns*** Nicely written retelling of Puss in Boots. The main appeal for me was in the fairy tale element. and there was some interesting magic.

Death at Rainbow Cottage by Jo Allen*** Well written crime story set around Penrith and some of the local gay community with a cast of diverse detectives. Fairly gripping, with a serial killer element, but I wasn’t altogether convinced by the ending.

Secrets in Blood by Jack Cartwright*** Competent police procedural but I never got very interested in the detectives, the suspects or the victims. I was totally unconvinced by the ending, and I found it odd that the lead detective hadn’t been at least temporarily removed from her post – her bosses were clearly unobservant about her mental health to the point of negligence.

Readable fanfic

What we don’t say by museaway ***  http://archiveofourown.org/works/978486  Star Trek. Jim and Spock get married.

Poor

A Husband for Hartwell by JA Rock and Lisa Henry** Once you can accept that same sex marriage was legalised in the eighteenth century the story can unfold. But it was rushed and confusing, possibly due to poor collaborative writing and I didn’t really believe in any of the emotions. I won’t look for these authors again.

Murder on the Old Bog Road by David Pearson** Boring police procedural that reads like a policeman’s notebook. Set in Eire so it’s guardai, not police, but the basics are the same.

The Bone Witch by Ivy Asher** I was going to give this three stars – it seemed to be a perfectly readable m/f romantic paranormal thriller though some of the magic was rather confusing. Then it ended on a cliff-hanger, presumably to make me buy the next book in the series. That isn’t going to happen. I resent cliff-hangers at the end of books – even in a series I want things to draw to a satisfactory conclusion ‘for now’ unless it’s billed as a trilogy.

Abandoned

Spoken Bones by NC Lewis.  Crime story set on Cumbrian coast. So many thoroughly unpleasant people in the first few chapters that I gave up.

September viewing 2022

Coniston Water from the grounds of the Writers’ Retreat.

A strange month. I had Covid, which left me with a lot of viewing time at one point, and then I went to a Retreat which gave me two films to review. Add the fact that there was a great deal of political upheaval and remember I watch politics avidly but don’t review it. (I should perhaps say I have a preference for Channel 4 News and just hope the coming sell-off doesn’t wreck it.) There was also, of course, the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. I didn’t see any of the coverage as I was driving to the Lake District. The drive was accompanied by very sombre radio music with no ads.

In non-political viewing:

Shetland**** I enjoyed Douglas Henshall’s last season as Jimmy Perez and found the ending satisfying but can’t imagine where the directors intend to go next. As is increasingly usual in cop shows, there was a little too much of officers investigating without backup – ‘sighs’ –  but other than that the story was nicely complex and interesting.

Gosford Park*** This was a rewatch chosen at the writers’ retreat I attended. It was slightly better on the big screen at our rental cottage than it was on my laptop where I first saw it. But it was never going to be a favourite for me, though it’s well scripted and acted.

Ridley ep 2  I haven’t given this any stars. We didn’t exactly abandon it but were interrupted by itv’s poor streaming, and by the time we got the programme back we couldn’t remember what it was about…

Better Call Saul. No stars for this, either. Husband was binge watching so I caught most of it and was not thoroughly interested.

Couples’ Retreat. Abandoned. This was another writers’ retreat choice. It’s an American romcom and those are never something I enjoy so I went to bed early.

All my August reviews at once

August colour in a local park

This month has so far been totally rubbish and I have not managed any posts. I went to a Writers’ Meet in Southampton the first weekend and promptly caught Covid despite my best efforts. Well, you can’t wear a mask at a dinner while eating… I am only just recovering, and on Saturday I am setting out for the Lake District for a writers’ retreat which should prove both beneficial and productive! Please, everybody, cross your fingers, send good vibes, or whatever. I have simply put all my August reviews in this one post. Despite being part of a panel at the meet on links between fanfiction and original writing, I did not read any fanfiction in August.

TV

Stranger Things Season 4***** NetflixThe trouble is we now have to wait till possibly autumn 23 or even early 24 for the next season… This ‘retro horror thriller’ with loads of brilliant teenage actors is totally gripping and I feel as if I actually know these people!!

Paul Simon: Under African Skies***** Excellent film exploring the making of the Graceland album and then the backlash from UN and ANC over sanction breaking and the eventual ‘rehabilitation’ by Nelson Mandela. Followed by the Simon and Garfunkel Concert in Central Park. All on Sky Arts so I have no idea whether they are still available – they aren’t to me because I don’t subscribe to Sky. (Sky Arts is on Freeview.)

Midnight Mass **** Netflix A horror story based around religious beliefs. Starts gently and ends up seriously gruesome. Any other comments would risk spoilers. There are 7 episodes and after each I spent ages wondering what was going to happen and who would survive which is a sign of some good writing and direction.

Red Rose**** BBC 1. Horror set not far from where I live. Teenagers are drawn into a weird scenario via mobile phone apps. Eventually their entire families are involved. Good, with excellent acting, but we found the ending rather rushed and could have done with one further episode to clarify a few things.

Sean of the Dead (rewatch)*** (Can’t remember which channel.) Husband loves it. I like it least of this ‘cornetto’ set of films. It’s well done and clever but I keep getting distracted (every time) and multi-tasking e.g. reading or emails so clearly, unlike Hot Fuzz (my favourite) and The World’s End, it doesn’t completely hook me.

The Sandman Netflix. Abandoned. I prefer my main characters to be mortal and we weren’t keen on the film direction either.

Hide and Seek Channel 4. Abandoned. We tried this Ukrainian thriller but it was made using a lot of dark backgrounds so was hard to watch, and the detective who was meant to be something like Saga in The Bridge was a pale copy.

Books

Familiar authors

The highly recommended:

Fang’d by Vin George***** I really loved this. I don’t always enjoy vampire stories but I trusted the writer so… And then – there was that wonderful world of various paranormals interacting and explaining themselves to each other. I’m looking forward to the next in the series, with more worldbuilding and further adventures for some of the other characters.

Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper**** Interesting and occasionally exciting mm romance following two men from the start of WWII in the US navy through to old age. Superb depiction of war at sea, then well researched references to the various stages in their lives as gay couples gradually won acceptance. It will either be a celebration, or, in the current political climate, a historical document…

Emerald Earth by Adam J Ridley**** An unfamiliar pen name for an author familiar in another guise (not sure if I’m supposed to say who…). A very exciting foray into full blooded paranormal romance by this author whose work never fails to please! I liked the magic, particularly the way the Wiccan ways and the native American ones interacted. The series should be good – I assume the other curse victims are to be helped find their HEA and I look forward to further exploration of the entire community and its beliefs. Diamond Air by Adam J Ridley**** I enjoyed this second visit to the pagan community, and the exciting storyline. I did think Lance and Drew would have to work harder than Crea and Eli to make their relationship work (they weren’t such an obvious pairing) but I wanted them to succeed and look forward to reading about what will happen with Kyle, the other one of the witch brothers.

Melody of the Heart by Blake Allwood**** A sweet romance saved from sentimentality by some drama that comes from outsiders rather than any introspection. As a pianist (not a very good one) I could really empathise with the work Jonas and Orlando had to put in to succeed in the world of music.

Range of Emotion by Lissa Kasey**** (book 3 of Survivors find Love) Another interesting read in this series. Nice to meet some of the previous characters, both major and minor, too. Just enough suspense and action to keep the plot going nicely. Well written, as usual.

Much Ado about Lady Macbeth by Rebecca Cohen**** Absolutely lovely mm romance set in the Tudor period. The author must have done mountains of research to recreate the atmosphere of The Globe and its actors. I liked the way the book linked to the Crofton Hall series but was a stand-alone. Just missed five stars because of some iffy proof reading. Saving Crofton Hall by Rebecca Cohen**** (Modern Crofton 1) An interesting mm romance which fascinated me because it took place during the conversion of Crofton Hall (from the historical series) into a conference and wedding venue with possible tours. As I worked as a tour guide in a stately home when I was a student, this really ‘spoke’ to me and I enjoyed it immensely. As usual, the author’s research is impeccable.

Finding Finlay by Ruby Moone**** A lovely story with some nail-biting moments. I really like this series with the security firm set in my home city and was delighted to see characters from the first book again. Ruby’s characters, location, plot and style are great but I do wish she’d get a better proof reader.

The Readable:

Ghost of Truth by Alice Winters *** (Book 2 of Medium Trouble) Nicely written and quite exciting story about a guy who talks to ghosts and falls in love with the detective he is consultant to. However, although the ghost banter is amusing it gets to be a bit too much, and the characters in general are not as well developed as those in Jordan Castillo Price’s Psycops series which starts from the same premise (talking to ghosts). I might read book 3 if it’s in KU whereas I pre-order JCP and pay!

The Prince’s Frog by Eden Winters*** Quite a pleasant mm retelling of The Princess and the Frog but for me personally there was too much slightly heavy handed humour.

Heavy Petting by Kiernan Kelly*** A nice story about a hippo shifter but it was too short and I wanted more detail about the characters and location. I think it’s part of a much longer series about the magical rodeo they join so maybe the details appear at random. Meanwhile, on its own, this is readable but not memorable.

Authors new to me:

Nothing highly recommended this month but the following are readable:

The Past We Run From by Meg Jolly*** Competent but ultimately unmemorable police procedural set in Yorkshire. I wasn’t keen on any of the police characters so won’t be following the series.

The Prince of Gremalden by Anne Brooke*** I was intrigued because the theme (arranged mm royal marriage) is one I’ve written myself and it’s always good to see how other writers approach something. However, although the political twists were good the characterisation and world building were less than stellar, and I didn’t actually find myself believing in the romance.

Distant Gardens ed by JS Field*** This anthology of ff sci fi stories is mixed in quality, as is often the case with collections of stories by multiple authors. The romances are sweet enough but the sci fi is too weird and wonderful – I like my sci fi to have some kind of reality and to have elements that encourage the reader to compare and contrast their own physical or social world. Here, the authors seemed to be competing to create strange plants and fungi.

Winter Kills by JP Bowie*** The plot of this mm thriller was quite interesting but underdeveloped, as were the characters, and I felt it was really just a vehicle for the sex scenes. Strippers in New York are being murdered and it’s up to Tom Holt, the main detective, to find out why and stop the carnage.

A couple I thought were poor:

Storm Born by Christine Pope. ** I started reading this m/f  paranormal romance/thriller (and enjoying it) then it ended on a cliffhanger and I realised that the ‘bundle’ of novels it came in were actually all by different authors, Obviously a marketing ploy and I must have realised at some point but it’s ages since I got them… So basically, I was very disappointed and won’t be following the story. I checked and there are about six so far in the series and none of them are cheap or in KU. Only recommended if you feel like buying a series. Well written.  (It didn’t help that my Kindle kept playing up – I don’t think it liked the formatting because it’s fine for everything else.) I may not read the others in the ‘bundle’ either so as a marketing ploy it’s counterproductive.

The Anglesey Murders: Unholy Island by Conrad Jones ** I really didn’t enjoy this. The location was not well described (I’m familiar with it) and the mingling of a huge drug dealing racket (boring in the extreme) with a totally unrelated serial killer spree (unlikely and nasty) was confusing to the reader as well as the detectives. Police procedural but with a lot of wandering off into other points of view.

Finally, the ones I abandoned:

Deadly Motive by Liam Hanson. I didn’t like the style or the police characters in this thriller set in South Wales, then I found we knew who the villain was and just needed to explore the motive and have them caught. Not for me.

Candy Kings by NW Steel  An mm romance set in UK but full of Americanisms and I didn’t like the style. Just – not for me.

The Prodigal Rake by William Hickey ed. Peter Quennell  I thought this autobiography of a Regency ‘rake’ sounded intriguing (it was a charity shop find) but after a few chapters I realised I disliked the narrator so much I couldn’t cope with the idea of a long book about his romantic and sexual exploits. Interesting if you’re looking for period information but not otherwise.

Bodies in the Water by AJ Aberford. Thriller set in Malta with emphasis on people trafficking from Africa. I found the story disjointed and the location poorly described. I also  disliked the lead detective intensely. Since he’s the one who features in the entire series I didn’t think it was worth continuing.

Sealfinger by Heide Goody and Iain Grant. Heavy handed humour and a very slow start to this thriller set on the east coast of UK. I got bored.

Names for the Dawn by CL Beaumont The premise was intriguing. Will, who is trans, works as a ranger in Alaska. He meets a man who is a British Indian ecologist. Can they ever get together or stay together? Sadly, I didn’t care. I couldn’t really empathise sufficiently with either of the characters. The prose was lyrical and I’m sure Alaska is a wonderful third person in the story.

Familiar authors read in July 2022

The excellent/recommended:

Choke back the tears by Mark Richards***** This detective series just gets better and better. In the words of one reviewer it’s like Rankin’s Rebus books but set in Whitby.

Sell the pig by Tottie Limejuice**** Travel tale with a twist by a FB writer friend under a pseudonym. I enjoyed reading about problems with care homes and problems moving abroad. I have experienced both, and was planning to write a faintly similar book except that our Portuguese home went up in 2017’s wildfire flames and I had to give up the idea.

Hair Balls by Tara Lain**** ‘Just’ an mm romance but the characters are so real and even the very minor ones are interesting. Rick needs a hair, clothes and apartment makeover for his sister’s wedding…

Island Doctor by Sue Brown**** Another of the lovely mm romances set on the Isle of Wight. Yes, just a romance, but the real hero is the island community. The location is lovingly presented and the various extended families are delightful.

An arresting ride by Lissa Kasey**** An exciting sequel to Painting with Fire (which I also loved). Bastian and Charlie are comparatively minor characters in this story of a burnt-out police officer and a horse trainer with a damaged past, but Charlie’s fire fighting is centre stage again.

Code Blue by NR Walker**** Very satisfying and exciting story about a pop star menaced by both stalkers and his own health. In the course of dealing with both problems he falls in love with his security guard. I didn’t want it to end.

Dante by Stella Shaw**** First in the Love at the Haven series and I’ll look for the rest. The rent-boy trope is made more interesting by Dante’s background and the other characters are good too. I did wonder why a collapsing ceiling on the second floor of a three storey building would result in snow on the bed but other than that… (The author also writes as Clare London).

Listen by RJ Scott**** An mm romance that is built around a man’s love for his adopted daughter who is profoundly deaf. Interesting and unusual characters. Well written, as always.

The readable:

The Glamourist by Luanne G Smith*** This is an exciting sequel to The Vine Witch (which I loved) but although I wanted to know what happened I was actually quite disappointed in the story. There was some magic in the first book but in this, all kinds of different magic systems and associated creatures were introduced. They were never integrated into a coherent magical world and I got irritated. I missed the vineyards that were so lovingly portrayed in the first book, and found the depiction of Paris less than stellar. I would, I think, have preferred Elena and Jean-Paul to have their HEA at the end of the first volume and I don’t think I’ll read the next in the series. It also makes me wonder whether the next one in the Raven Song series will be worth my time. There were, too, some annoying Americanisms which could easily have been edited out, and a few instances of shaky vocabulary use.

His Grandfather’s Watch by NR Walker*** Very sweet tale about Callum researching his inherited watch and finding romance in the process, Long short story or short novella – not sure. Well written and will appeal to anyone wanting a fluffy mm romance.

Heir to a Curse by Lissa Kasey*** Beautifully written story with a lot of interesting information about aspects of Asian culture. Zach is an appealing character but I wasn’t so keen on Xiang and might have preferred the plot to go in a different direction. Paranormal elements feature throughout.

Rain Shadow by LA Witt*** Pleasant mm romance set on the north west coast of US. Most of the drama arose from the characters’ personal histories rather than anything exciting happening.

Heartscape by Garrett Leigh*** A well written mm romance set in rural Vermont. Unmemorable apart from an exciting rockfall that was a pivotal plot point.

No fanfiction reviews this month though I’ve downloaded quite a lot of long stories.

Authors new to me: July 2022

The recommended:

The Man who tasted Words by Prof. Guy Leschziner**** An interesting non-fiction read, written by a doctor but one who manages to explain things to the layman. It looks at the inside world of our senses and recounts stories of when things go wrong as well as how they should work and how we may all perceive the world somewhat differently.

Leap of Faith by CF White**** An interesting mm romance with a focus on a circus and the acts. There was a slight mystery (most readers would probably, like me, solve it well before the characters did) and there was plenty of angst.

The readable:

Hexxed by Shannon West*** I didn’t really enjoy this but some people might. It’s well written but it’s too ‘busy’ if that makes sense. It’s a shortish novel that manages to pack in witches, voodoo, bdsm, monsters, murder, theft, cursed diamonds, active grimoires, kidnapping, ECT and lobotomy, haunted cemetaries, paranormal fire, and a dysfunctional families. I felt somewhat overwhelmed. The mm romance wasn’t very believable despite the flashbacks in lieu of explanations, since we never really saw the build up or the personalities of the characters outside the wild events of the novel. I won’t be following the series.

Dawn’s Desire by VC Locey*** I wasn’t quite sure how many stars to give this. I was seriously disappointed. I was really hooked by a well written story set in Wyoming, which is beautifully described, with the main focus being a dinosaur dig on a ranch. The romance is between the ranch manager and the professor. The characters, location and main plot were interesting. There was the added excitement of people poaching the dinosaur bones, and injuring some of the university team. Then – well, the book just ended. The romance was still not fully explored and there was no real clue as to who the villains were. I then found it’s part of a trilogy rather than a series, and thought maybe the second book would help but read the blurb and saw the new focus was a different romance. So, as I said, real disappointment and I don’t think I’ll carry on.

My Fallen Dragon by CG Rayne*** Quite a nice (and well written) story featuring a dragon shifter and the teacher who helps him recover from a fall, etc. If I’d read this first instead of the TJ Nichols series I might have like it. But the world building was comparatively poor as was the character development. There is a shared element of the shifter world merging with our own which is an interesting concept.

Loving the Marquess by Suzanna Medeiros*** A regency romantic thriller – worth reading to the end but nowhere near as good as e.g. Heyer. The melodrama is constant with no light relief. I worked out what was happening long before the protagonists did, and although Louisa could be forgiven for not realising, Nicholas showed less than average intelligence. I won’t bother with the sequel as it’s quite obvious Louisa’s sister will ‘get’ her earl.

Sea Change by Jessica Marting*** Nicely written romance story of a mermaid meeting a human man in a steampunk world. I found the location odd, perhaps because it was meant to be near where I live and was written by a Canadian who had clearly merely consulted maps and perhaps Wikipedia. I expected some kind of twist on The Little Mermaid but the plot didn’t echo the fairy tale at all.

The Library of the Dead by TL Huchu*** Paranormal mystery set in a post-apocalypse Edinburgh. The magic was random and poorly explained. The characters were fun but insufficiently developed. I enjoyed the plot but won’t be reading the sequel.

The Woman on the Island by Ann Cleeves*** Quite a pleasant short story but since it’s about Vera (I love the TV series) I was expecting a crime story/mystery and didn’t get it. Despite knowing the TV series (Vera, Shetland, The Long Call) I have put this under new authors as I’ve never read any of the novels the series are based on.

Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan***. A seriously dark gruesome crime story that gave me nightmares. I hesitated about the stars because I hated it, but the BBC raved about it and I suppose the writing was literary and good. Sixteen horses are found killed but the plot goes on to cover more (and all too detailed) animal deaths as well as human ones. Told from the viewpoint of a forensic vet working with the police. Needless to say, she is traumatised. Be warned – not for the faint hearted.

Poor:

Dragon Mated by Eliza Doyle** Quite well written but what started as an intriguing shifter romance (MF) degenerated into too much sex and too little explanation of the shifter world. The last couple of chapters were clearly a prequel for the next book in the series which I won’t be reading.

Lethal Resuscitation by Mairi Chong ** Mystery with a doctor as the main detective. Poor, rather stilted writing, uninteresting characters and a very artificial plot.

And then… a whole slew of abandoned books. Remember, these just simply aren’t for me and in most cases I didn’t read enough to comment on the writing.

Daring Duplicity by Edale Lane. Supposed to be a story of lesbian detectives in Victorian London. It read like something awkwardly transported from America and I couldn’t be bothered with it.

A Governess of Great Talents by Emily Murdoch. The first few chapters had a focus on an election that would have been an impossibility in nineteenth century Britain. (Or now, for that matter.) Dukes do not stand for election to the House of Commons. An untrustworthy author!

House of Bastiion by KI Kolarich. There were rave reviews about this fantasy series but after wading through pages of very dry history I lost interest. It might be good but it isn’t for me.

Cleopatra’s Dagger by Carole Lawrence. Abandoned. I just couldn’t get into this mystery set in New York about 1900.

Rebel without a Claus by Zara Keane. I thought a female PI in Ireland sounded intriguing but I was quickly bored.

Dreams of Chimera by Samantha Gardner. Really poor writing and proof reading. (Yes, I abandoned this one because I thought it was dire.) I think the heroine was about to enter the world of fairies etc. and find them less lovable than she hoped. However, I had no desire to find out.

My Not So Funny Valentine by Ellie Pond. Although it belongs in a series, this was supposed to be a stand-alone. However, I didn’t understand a lot of the references and gave up. Actually, this was a good thing as it encouraged me to remove a lot of books from my Kindle. Some freebies sound good until you realise they are parts of series, and not the first parts!

I also culled my tbr pile on my Kindle by removing a number of books I’d downloaded in various sales. It’s easy to get carried away when titles are free and then realise once you read the blurb properly that you are unlikely to enjoy the book. Most of them are available in KU if I ever get that far in their assorted series.

What I watched in July 22

Stranger Things Seasons 2 and 3 ***** (Netflix) Worth watching for the acting abilities of the teens, the zany ideas, the 80s ambience etc. even if you find the small town horror story hard to swallow. Hooked.

Needless to say: politics! This month in UK the political programmes (which we watch anyway) have been more exciting than thrillers… Once the final two contenders to be next PM were chosen the interest died down.

An Undeclared War**** (All4). Very intelligent drama. Well acted. Centred round GCHQ. Yes, some of the plot was far fetched, but it was drama, after all, not docu-drama!

Paula Rego: Secrets and Stories **** (BBC4) Fascinating long look at the life of the acclaimed Portuguese artist who died recently in London. Really worth watching, for the insights into her life and art. I don’t personally ‘like’ her art but can admire it.

Imagine**** (BBC4) Alan Yentob explored the art of Cornelia Parker, a British artist.

A History of Art in Three Colours**** (BBC 4 so on iPlayer) We watched episode 2 out of 3 and I must find the others. James Fox explored the origins of the blue paint created from lapis lazuli. Really interesting programme.

Unvaccinated**** (iPlayer) Hannah Fry attempts to debate with anti-vaxxers who have a variety of reasons for distrusting the Covid vaccine. Interesting to hear their stories, and to follow her explanations.

Murder in the Alps*** (All4) Exploration of the still ongoing investigation into the murder of a British family in France about 10 years ago. The only (tentative) conclusions are incompetence or a possible cover up.

Rig 45: Murder at Sea.(All4) Abandoned. Somebody in Sweden clearly watched Vigil and thought something similar with Norwegian oil rigs and a Brit investigator might work. It didn’t. It was all in English which was jarring and was apparently because the lead actor only spoke English. With a change of lead for season 2 this changed but the subtitles were not clear. As one reviewer said, this didn’t matter much as most people had stopped watching. We only gave it one episode of season 1 before switching off so I only know about the lead change from reviews.