April reviews

April

TV and films

The excellent.

Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance***** Stunning animation series – homage to Jim Henson. Also watched fabulous episode about the making of the series. Available on Netflix. You don’t need to have watched the original film to make sense of this – I’m going to watch it again later. This is a prequel.

Pangolins: the World’s Most Wanted Animal*****
(BBC2) I love them and I’m so sad they are heading for extinction.

Witness***** – Harrison Ford in romantic thriller based around life in Amish community.

Vera Season2***** ITV seem to have temporarily given up treating us to the entire series, maybe because they hope we’ll pay for BritBox. (Not going to happen.)

The good.

A Monster Calls****
Rather frightening for kids and rather preachy for adults. Good animation etc.

Various SGA episodes – no stars because watched for fic I’m writing for Fandom Trumps Hate so more like work than entertainment… But overall I’d give the series 4 stars because the main characters hooked me.

Front Row Late Series 7 Ep 1 Mary B intros the Atwood puppet show ****
(See short stories) Interesting use of household props.

Twin****
Norwegian drama with Kristofer Hlvju (GoT) playing both twins. Well acted in lovely scenery.

Holst and Vaughan Williams: Making Music English**** Interesting.

The annoying.

The Truth about Traveller Crime (Dispatches)*** Raised as many questions as it pretended to answer. I was annoyed because Ch 4 are usually more politically aware.

Books

The excellent

Sporting Chance by Alexa Milne***** media problems beset a new relationship between a rugby star and a teacher in Wales.

Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire*****Vol 12 in the October Daye series. Perfect, as usual. No real spoilers but after the cliffhanger of the previous volume I was relieved to find the wedding is still going ahead.

Mysteries of the Human Brain. New Scientist Collection.*****
Some fascinating articles.

Trial by Impotence by Pierre Darmon*****Looks at ‘the legal procedures for the dissolution of marriage on grounds of impotence’, particularly in France, from the middle ages to the twentieth century. Fascinating, horrifying, hilarious and sad.

Mere Mortals by Erastes***** Sort of gothic horror thriller with mm twist – intriguing and extremely well written.

Narrow Dog To Carcassonnne by Terry Darlington.*****
What it says (with Monica, his wife and Jim, his dog). Must get sequel. Really funny and interesting.

The Making of the English Landscape by W.G. Hoskins***** fascinating and informative look at hedges, ditches, trees, etc. from pre-Roman times to just post-war Britain. Get the hardback if you can – nearly as cheap as the e-book and you’ll want to refer to the maps and study the b&w photos. Written just after WWII before motorways carved up the countryside.

Semper Fi by Keira Andrews.***** Jim and Cal – WWII then an Apple Farm in NY State. 1942-1945 interspersed with scenes from 1948 and an epilogue in 1957. Clever writing and structure.

The recommended

Nobody’s Groom by DJ Jamison**** Nice as part of the Marital Bliss series but not very memorable on its own account because the characters are less interesting once Colby has got his head round being possibly gay. Well written as usual.

The ones I didn’t enjoy much but you might.

Alice Teale is Missing by H A Linskey*** Poor editing (Penguin, so I feel entitled to complain) – very repetitive and also features a fictional town in my native county. It doesn’t really work and I kept being distracted by its unreality.

The Lost Ones by Ben Cheetham*** well written thriller/chiller (better editing than Penguin) but with an unbelievable plot and characters – another one with a strange fictional town sort of dumped in the wilds of Northumberland (my home county).

DS Billings Victorian Mysteries by Olivier Bosman*** (boxed set of three) – possibly realistic if depressing psychology but unlikely thriller plots.

New Year’s Resolutions by Crystel Greene*** an mm romance in Westminster… Weird view of British politics and especially Wales. If the queen is 100 how did Larry the Downing Street cat survive?? OK, it’s an AU but AUs need some supporting world building.

Thin Air by Lisa Gray*** (Jessica Shaw bk 1) Great concept – weird structure with flashbacks in victim pov. Didn’t like the style much though quite well written.

Short Stories

The highly recommended

Suffer a Sea Change by Seanan McGuire***** sequel and counterpoint to Night and Silence (see Books). One of the exceptions – I don’t often give a short story five stars.

The rest

Bear and Fred by Iris Argaman***
Children’s story about wartime teddy bear. Not as good as Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Maybe a younger target audience but not sure in that case that enough context is given.

Man Crush by Isobel Starling*** So short I was just getting into it when it was over.

Silken by Isobel Starling*** BDSM with too much explicit detail for me.

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe*** Read prior to watching Margaret Atwood’s puppetry interpretation. (See TV) Too short, and the preaching distanced the horror.

The White Man’s Liberation Front by Bernadine Evaristo*** Present tense put me off. Clever but very aware of its cleverness. (Published in the New Statesman Spring Special.)

Abandoned
Murder by the Minster by Helen Cox. Lost me at redwoods by the Ouse in York. (Cornus or Dogwood doesn’t work, either…)

The City of Brass by S.A.Chakraborty (Daevabad trilogy bk 1) Djinns and demons and ghouls….

Fanfic

No stories to recommend this time, but I would like to mention some poetry. Please note that originally these were in the Sherlock fandom but have wandered off into their own delightful AU.
Five Poems from the Pen of Inky Quill by okapi **** https://archiveofourown.org/works/6848800/chapters/56437762

What are you reading at the moment?

What are you reading at the moment?

This, with variations, is a common question on social media. I suppose it’s due to the extra time some people are finding they have to read, during lockdown, working at home with no commute, etc.

The trouble is, I never know quite what to say. I usually have at least three books ‘on the go’ and sometimes more.

Let’s start upstairs.

The bathroom (with toilet) is dedicated as a rule to the week’s print magazines – at least New Statesman and New Scientist, with an occasional Private Eye (not at the moment because we’re random buyers and there’s a lockdown) or National Geographic (passed on by a friend and similarly absent). If those run out I have a carefully selected book: it must be something I can dip into and out of in between magazines. Not fiction, then. Mostly, books of art, poetry, etc. or perhaps things like Culpepper’s Herbal, or Harry Potter: A History of Magic (British Museum), a Dictionary of English Place Names. I’m sure you get the picture. I just finished The Making of the English Landscape and have given it five stars.

The bedroom has something non fiction but that nevertheless needs longer and more concentrated reading times. I don’t often read lying in bed – I find it uncomfortable and my glasses don’t quite cope – but I’ll sit propped up or on the edge. Currently I’m reading a fairly scholarly book about myth and gender. You’ll get a brief review eventually.

Downstairs next.

In the kitchen I often have two books. One will be recipes I have already read but need to re-read, finding and noting the ones I might actually follow rather than just enjoying in the abstract. The other might be fiction or non-fiction, in paperback. Something I can pick up while I’m waiting for things to cook, or take out into the yard with a cup of coffee. It should be something that can stand being abandoned when the potatoes boil or when the phone rings and I have to rush in. At the moment I’m alternating between Jamie Oliver’s Veg and Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. Both fascinating (both Christmas presents 2019) and I mustn’t let the pans boil dry. That happened with my previous kitchen book, Narrow Dog to Carcassonne.

Then there’s the lounge book which might be the one you’re asking about… It will almost certainly be fiction and equally almost certainly on my e-reader (though last week I had a Seanan McGuire urban fantasy paperback). It will stay in the lounge unless I’m going out (not likely just now) in which case it’s easy to slip into my bag if I remember. If I remember the book I will probably remember my mobile phone, and vice versa. I tend to ring the changes in my e-books. I like fantasy, crime, sci fi, mm romance, general romance, and some historical novels. If I find something that combines two or more of these, I’m really happy. Today I’m reading You Let Me In – a chiller that I’ve borrowed from the Amazon Prime Library. It’s very well written but I haven’t got far yet. I also keep dipping into an e-book about baking, written by one of those GBBO stars. I don’t really like reference books on e-readers because I worry about finding things again. I know there are bookmarks but somehow I’m not good at those till it’s too late. I just finished Keira Andrews’ Semper Fi which was a lovely mm historical novel. And I abandoned City of Brass even though it came highly recommended. It was another Amazon Library book so I had no qualms about giving up.

So there you have my reading habits. I should also say that I keep crosswords, sudoku and logic puzzles in the kitchen, bathroom and car, just in case…

And yes, I read the ingredients on sauce bottles, cereal packets, etc. In case you wondered.

Spoof bookmarks or reviews.

Once upon a time someone linked me to a post on Tumblr (I have now lost the link) which gave spoof AO3 reviews of famous authors as though they were current fanfiction writers. The ones I’ve chosen were not included in the post I read. The reviews are couched in commonly used fanfiction Fanlore or Bookmark terms.

(The screenshot is of my AO3 bookmark page and the first bookmark is a fic I have previously reviewed here, giving it five stars.)

J.R.R.Tolkien:
Excellent world building and descriptive passages but unable to get to the point of the plot quickly. Stereotypical villains. A lack of female characters has led to some feminist rants in comments. An attempt to focus on non-fictional aspects such as timelines and alien languages has resulted in a warning for violation of the policy on non fanworks and an explanation that these must be appended to actual stories and not published as separate works.

G.R.R. Martin:
Not to be confused with other pseuds containing unnecessary Rs. Writes long WIPs and teases fans with promises that are not kept. Denigrates other fanworks as unimaginative. Works in series do not always contain adequate Archive warnings for major character death, rape/non con, incest, child abuse or graphic depictions of violence.

J.K. Rowling:
Another user who enjoys initials and has pseuds which are possibly intended to confuse her readers. Her early works were directed at younger fans and encouraged a lot of underage internet users to seek out the Archive (AO3 cannot allow under-13s to hold accounts because of data protection laws but they are welcome to read, preferably under adult supervision). Hints about the backstories of some characters have kept LGBT readers following her work. However, a lack of warnings for triggering situations regarding pets has meant the Policy and Abuse team has received a heavy volume of reports about which they can do nothing whatsoever.

Anthony Trollope:
Writes a great deal of mostly het fiction in which there is a fade-to-black as soon as sexual situations arise. His excellent detailed depictions of nineteenth century Brit society could serve to educate writers from elsewhere about the same period. Long series could be better numbered for smoother reading enjoyment.

Joanna Trollope:
Claims family links with Anthony. Similarly detailed social ‘world building’ with interesting characters but her works tend to lack plot which cannot be said of her illustrious ancestor.

Robert Jordan:
This user started a long series which lost itself in ever decreasing circles. The writer then died, but had fortunately designated a Fannish Next Of Kin who took over the account and finished the story to the relief of readers. The FNOK contribution is actually better in many respects than the last few original works by Robert.

Lewis Carroll:
A pseud under which a respected academic writes fantasy about little girls interacting with rabbits, queens, caterpillars and madmen. Much reported with allegations of paedophilia which are never sustained because of lack of evidence.

George Gordon Byron:
Sometimes known as Lord Byron due to his aristocratic breeding. Writes epic stories in verse but is frequently in violation of the Terms of Service due to wilful mistagging and rating of his work. Author of a poem which ends with a knight arriving at a dark tower, which gave rise to other works such as those of Stephen King. Frequently deserves, but does not always get, an ‘inspired by’ citation.

Stephen King:
Cleared of charges of plagiarism, King was still required to cite Byron as inspiration for his Dark Tower series, with a prominent link to the other writer’s work. (There has been recent debate as to whether citations are enforceable.) His other works are usually tagged ‘author chose not to use archive warnings’ and are not rated, because everyone knows that they have to beware when reading anything by this writer. He also writes meta, intended to encourage younger writers.

Dorothy Sayers:
A one-theme writer who relies too heavily on the college AU.

Agatha Christie:
This writer uses worn out tropes for her mysteries which involve stereotyped characters. She was forced (by her rather strident commenters) to re-title one work which was held to be racist and intended to harass or offend her audience.

March Reviews

TV and films

The highly recommended

A Very British History (series 2)***** looked at the Birmingham Irish, Bangladeshis, Vietnamese Boat People, and Chinese. Each episode is presented by a member of the community.

Vera Season 1***** Really good police series set in my native Northumberland, with a strong female lead.

The Great Pottery Throwdown***** Exciting, entertaining and educational. The final was nail-biting. I don’t usually follow reality shows but this fascinated me.

Ian Hislop’s Olden Days***** Hislop looked at the way people in UK throughout history have always looked back to, and often glorified, the past. Three episodes.

Contagion: BBC Four Pandemic***** Hannah Fry. Brilliant modelling of contagion using a mobile phone app.

Fisherman’s Friends***** Delightful story, based on true events, centred around a band of Cornish fishermen who are now well known folk singers.

Zoo***** The story of Buster the baby elephant, saved from a cull at Belfast Zoo during the war.

The good

Five Films For Freedom (British Council)**** Interesting mixture of short films. A girl comes out of closet; a boy’s parents accept his wish both to be a girl and to excel at dance; a rural town in Norway has its first Pride Parade which attracts not the expected 100 but 4000 participants and spectators; a boy discovers his dad is gay; a co-operative (predominantly but not exclusively run by people of colour) create an alternative nightclub, Pxssy Palace. Really interesting films but I caught them on their last night on YouTube and was annoyed I couldn’t recommend them to others. The short public showing is why they lost a star. YouTube is still showing interviews with the various directors, with clips of the films.

Dog with an IQ of 102**** 17 dogs and a raccoon competing for title of UK’s brightest pet. The raccoon came second…

The mediocre

The Girl on the Train*** half watched because it was on – nasty but interesting thriller.

Books

The excellent.

Blood and Milk by NR Walker***** Heath/Damu. Set among the Maasai. Heath goes to Africa to immerse himself in another culture. He doesn’t expect to fall in love.

Fault Lines by Shane Morton***** LA stereotypes are turned into really interesting people in this story about a small community.

Salt Magic Skin Magic by Lee Welch***** Soren is a selkie and John is a magician. I loved the mix of legend and magic with well developed characters. Soren has been trapped on a Yorkshire estate by his father and John needs to break the curse.

The Two Faces of Religion by N.S.Xavier, M.D. ***** A psychiatrist’s view exploring the spectrum of healthy spirituality and sick religiosity. Fascinating and well written.

Dark Waters by Chris Quinton***** Flein and Donnchadh find each other in this dramatic retelling of the water horse legend. The story is a murder mystery which the protagonists must solve if the Highland villagers are not to blame the water horse. Beautiful writing, world building, and characterisation.

Bitter Pill by Jordan Castillo Price***** (Psycops 11). Vic and Jacob are fighting Kick, a new psyactive drug. Excellent writing, as usual, and it is interesting that even this far on in the series there is always something more to learn about Vic and Jacob.

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni***** This was a re-read and deals with the plague in 17th century Milan. I will review it in more depth in my next post.

Distorted Images by Anne Borrowdale***** (Christian attitudes to Women, Men and Sex.) The author was a Diocesan Social Responsibility Officer writing in 1991. However, her analysis of the attitudes she explores is relevant to all, not just Christians, and is still interesting and immediate today.

The Ghost Slept Over by Marshall Thornton***** Just what I needed immediately after reading The Plague (see below)! A love story with humour, a ghost who’s a stalker, and a happy ending for all (including the ghost). Cal is a struggling actor who meets Dewey, a lawyer, when he unexpectedly inherits an estate. Things keep going pear-shaped then getting back on track with bumps in the night and bumps in the road of romance.

The readable

In the absence of light by Adrienne Wilder *** Grant and Morgan are the subjects of a convoluted FBI investigation. The author has a weird view of autism which she seems to equate with Tourette’s syndrome. The proof reading is less than stellar. Having said that, the story is gripping and the couple are interesting personalities.

Last Day by Luanne Rice*** A murder mystery with a lot of recounting and flashbacks then a weird ending with the dead victim narrating. Also, the world building is poor; street names do not make the reader see a town unless the reader is also a native.

The Plague by Albert Camus***Dr Bernard Rieux works in Oran during an outbreak of plague. I will review this in greater depth alongside The Betrothed in my next post.

The poor

Death in the Lakes by Graham Smith** Beth Young investigates. And hands out advice to her superiors. And nearly gets killed. This all happens with a great deal of repetition, some odd grammar, some very gory descriptions that seem to glamourise nastiness and a not very credible serial killing. It is also set in Cumbria, rather than in the Lake District. Whilst the Lakes are in Cumbria, the story is not set among the Lakes…

Abandoned

The Last Dance (Near Earth Mysteries) by Martin L Shoemaker. Investigation in space (to justify a court martial) where by 20% way through the female investigator was still being told about the subject of the investigation by the captain’s colleagues. Boring.

The Visionary by Charli Coty. A paranormal investigation/romance (mm) which should have appealed but I didn’t like the style.

The Pinch of the Game by Charlie Descoteaux.
This started with a long explicit sex scene between strangers so I closed it.

The Wanderer by Dahlia Donovan (The Sin Bin Book 1). Graham and Boyce were intensely boring and I really didn’t care whether they ever got together. Also, do people ever really say ‘Judas Priest’ to themselves rather than ‘Jesus Christ’?

Short Stories

The very good

As usual with me, no five star recommendations for short stories but the following were all well written and worth reading.

Cookies by Clare London**** Parker, Otis and a computer. Pleasant and well written fluff. I’m not sure if this is published or just for her newsletter readers.

In the Doghouse by Chris Quinton****Mike and Jerry have to rescue a greyhound called Spot from the racing ‘mafia’.

Persistence Pays by Mara Ismine**** Asa, Tan and Asa’s parents (who steal the show)

Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A McKilip**** An anthology of sci fi and fantasy stories. Some excellent, some impenetrable.

The poor

Strangers in the Night by LouisaMae** Dale and Kieron need to spice up their sex life. There was far too much sex for the length of the work. I found it very derivative – from a The West Wing fanfiction I read years ago, and I wondered whether the author wrote that and changed it to make an original piece, or whether she read the original when I did and felt inspired.

Fanfiction

I read fanfic from SGA, Shetland, Bandom and Hansel and Gretel but all the fics, though good, with some extremely clever writing, needed either a good knowledge of canon or an enthusiasm for the original to make sense or hold the reader’s interest. So – no recommendations this month.

February Reviews

    Films and TV

A lot to enjoy and recommend this month – some are available on catch-up or on other sites.

The really really good:

Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State***** Thought provoking and timely

Scotland and the Klan with Neil Oliver
***** Interesting look at Scottish emigrants to US and their involvement in the politics of Southern states and especially the rise of the KKK.

Songs of the South with Reginald Hunter***** This was a re-watch and complemented the Neil Oliver programme. I loved the series, not least because I finally got a real idea of the southern USA landscape.

Death in Paradise: Season 9 ***** I really enjoy this series of ‘cosy’ police mysteries set in the Caribbean, though I do agree with some reviewers that it’s time to put either a woman or someone local in charge (and no, the Commissioner doesn’t quite count). They could promote Madeleine and bring in an outsider constable – that would deliver interesting dynamics.

Grandest Designs with Kevin McCloud***** Kevin went back over some of his favourites from past seasons. Delightful, especially his interactions with the people whose houses he features.

Rough Guide to the Future with Kevin McCloud***** Yes, I like this presenter, and I preferred his three episode look at the future to Click, which tends to be frenetic.

Vera***** Most of Season 10 though episode 3 was unaccountably missing from itvHub, plus Season 1 ep 1 and I believe there are more to come. Why had I never come across this? It’s set in ‘my’ part of the world where I was born and brought up, and I like the major character being a middle aged woman with no hints of glamour or sex – just competence.

And the merely good:

Britain’s Pompeii: A Village Lost in Time**** Interesting look at excavations in Cambridgeshire. Available on YouTube. Whilst the subject was intriguing, the presentation was less than stellar and I found my attention wandering.

Baby Chimp Rescue**** Gripping programme about chimp rescue in Liberia. I would have liked some kind of update information at the end.

Spy in the Wild**** (second series) I’m fascinated by the animal robo-cams used to film in the wild but must admit that by now the series is beginning to look a bit formulaic.

Mary Beard’s Shock of the Nude**** Well presented look at the nude in art through the ages. Some reviewers suggest the presenter should hog less of the limelight but I thought her style would attract more people than that of traditional art critics.

STHLM Requiem**** A new Scandinavian drama which was good in many respects but I never quite empathised with any of the main cast.

Followed by the ones I abandoned, which might save you making the same mistake of watching them in the first place.

Baghdad Central – abandoned because I couldn’t read the subtitles against the backgrounds. They knew they were going to use both English and Arabic – couldn’t they have put the subtitles on a plain background band? Husband didn’t seem to mind and was glued to it.

Dr Who – abandoned because I got tired of being preached at every Sunday on subjects I already agreed about. I gather from some of my friends that the finale justified my decision.

Hidden – abandoned because I both know and like Wales and thought this police thriller was far too dark, depressing and predictable

    Books

The excellent:

Herculine Barbin intr. Michel Foucault*****(Being the recently discovered memoirs of a nineteenth century French hermaphrodite, with a dossier of the medical evidence plus a novella, A Scandal in the Convent by Oscar Panizza, based on the story). Fascinating. Now being lent out for reading far and wide.

The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire***** I adore the October Daye series (urban fantasy) and am looking forward to the next book, which I have, and the one that’s soon to be published.

Culpepper’s Complete Herbal by Nicolas Culpepper ***** This was a re-read or rather a re-skim though this copy, bought to replace the one I lost in the fire, had an addition with some modern herbs and their uses. (Presumably ones that had not reached England when Culpepper was writing.) I used the book for research when writing my fae saga and was interested to hear JK Rowling, in a BBC interview, say she had three different copies.

Truth and Lies by Caroline Mitchell ***** (DI Amy Winter Thriller Book 1). Excellent thriller by an ex-policewoman. I will buy sequels.

Amateur Sugar Maker by Noel Perrin***** fascinating account of building a sugar house in modern Vermont, trying to spend as little as possible, in accordance with principles adopted by Thoreau.

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields***** (DI Luc Callanach book 1) Great thriller set in Edinburgh. Another one with sequels to buy.

Magic Mansion by Jordan Castillo Price
***** Stage magicians vie for top place in a TV reality show. Fascinating and gripping. The mm romance was almost an afterthought for me but was equally delightful! It was, actually, the device on which the plot hinged, but I was quickly distracted into wondering who would get voted out after each event. I don’t usually enjoy reality TV but this book was wonderful!

Caregiver by Rick Reed***** Dan becomes a ‘buddy’ to Adam who is dying of AIDS. Wonderful look at how AIDS impacted the gay community at the height of the ‘epidemic’.

The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May***** Lovely romance (Rosa and Josh) with a mystery to solve – who left Rosa the shop in a Devon village?

The good (I probably won’t re-read, though I may buy the sequels)

Puzzle Me This by Eli Easton**** nice mm romance involving a crossword setter who is in a wheelchair and a video game developer.

Promise by RJ Scott**** (Single dads 3) I will be buying the sequel because I now love the whole community/extended family.

A different light by Morningstar Ashley**** A property repairer meets a geek scientist and they teach each other to look at things differently.

Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford **** Excellent and well written fantasy with fabulous world building but too violent for my tastes.

Thief River Falls by Brian Freeman**** gripping thriller with a strange twist.

Dying to Tell by Keri Beevis **** another gripping thriller but the ending was too violent for me.

The readable:

Strange Gospels by Ruth Tucker*** An interesting summary of the main offshoot sects of Christianity in America. I realised about half way through that the author was coming from the perspective of a mainstream committed Christian which at times made for some odd points of view involving a distinct lack of impartiality.

What You Did by Claire McGowan*** Murder and mystery involving six friends who had met at Oxford. Some had later married each other. Good thriller writing but I disliked all the characters.

And the poor:

Innocent Man by Louisa Mae* I was intrigued by the concept but irritated by the way the prologue told me part of the story then relied on flashbacks and retellings to deal with the rest. The ‘villain’ was predictable and so was the ending.

And three I abandoned, in each case because I couldn’t get on with the writing style. I have no idea whether the plots might appeal to people!

Ghosts of Timeless Cottage by TK Geering
Stephanie Steele: a futuristic sci fi thriller by Gary Moore
Quid Est Veritas: the Tynemouth Werewolves by Martin Clephane

    Short stories

Most of you will know by now that short stories almost never hit five stars for me.

Belling the Cat and other stories by JL Merrow**** Varied and quirky ff shorts.

Nothing Else Matters by Rhys Ford**** I was always going to read about Cole’s wedding to Jae but was seriously irritated by the way it appeared not only in daily instalments but in varied locations in a blog hop, so that I had to dive around all over the place to download and read it all in one piece. Nice story; annoying format. Altogether too reminiscent of a WIP on AO3 and although I trusted Rhys to finish the story I hated the way it was presented.

The Price is Right by Clare London**** Jez and Roman at the ice cream shop. Pleasant but too short. The ice cream shop is a ‘character’ in a number of her stories. A whole volume might be an idea.

    Fanfic

Unstealable (you’ve got the key) by dishonestdreams***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/22527235
I confess to doing the beta/proof read for this (because the author is a RL friend) and I loved it! It’s a Bandom AU where Ryan and Spencer, two of the Bandom musicians, are placed in a world of petty crime. The descriptions of the cars are wonderful, as are the subtle but ‘hot’ references to leather. I think this story shows the value of writing rpf (real person fiction) – any knowledge about the carefully cultivated media personae/looks of the musicians adds immeasurably to the pleasure of the story. The plot is quite brief and apparently simple but has so many references that it involves a huge back story to make up for the lack of length. Needless to say, nobody is accusing any of the musicians (others have minor roles) of any of the behaviour in the tale, either criminal or erotic, just stealing or borrowing their looks and names for an excellent story.

Crime series – some longer reviews

Crime is one of my favourite genres and I tend to like series, both on the screen and in books, because they give me a chance to get to know the detectives and their world.

I’m always impressed by good world building that takes me to the place where the story happens and lets me see, hear, smell and almost touch the surroundings. Some crime writers manage that with flair. Others fail.

I enjoy getting to know characters who develop over the course of a series, giving the reader or viewer fascinating glimpses into their personality and their private life.

I’m also interested in justice – how it’s achieved, whether it’s achieved, etc.

I like mysteries approached in the order in which they are tackled by the detectives, with as few flashbacks as possible, and preferably nothing told from the criminal’s point of view.

I think the very best series, for me, are those in which the main character is perfectly suited to their location and while both develop slowly, each episode or book can focus on an appropriate plot. So: an overarching story of the investigators, and each crime with a beginning, middle and end. I want some depth to the characters, and am not fond of ‘cosy mysteries’ in which crimes fall into the laps of amateur sleuths who have no personality to speak of.

I want to say more, in this post, about some of the series and books I mentioned briefly in my January reviews. There will be spoilers here so if you’re intending to watch or read a series later, skim over the relevant paragraphs!

I watched Bancroft, and wished I hadn’t. On the surface, this was a police procedural but once it was clear that the main character was in fact a villain I lost interest. The story line took on a dull predictability and I didn’t much care what happened to the protagonist provided they were apprehended. I don’t like crime stories told from the point of view of the criminal and this series, with its focus on a rogue cop, was not to my taste. There was some good acting and direction but I didn’t enjoy the series. I rated it as three star and watchable but would not personally recommend it.

I also watched Wisting. I tend to make at least a start on any Scandinavian crime drama. I’m not sure why they are so appealing – or even whether they are. Maybe I was just so impressed by The Bridge that I keep hoping for more. Wisting is set in Norway and aspects of Norwegian life were interesting but the entire story line took place in winter and I came to the conclusion that Norway in winter was not a place that appealed to me. Given that I am told summer is full of biting insects, I have now crossed Norway off my list of places to visit – ever. Wisting is a cop and very good at his job. He is both helped and hindered by his journalist daughter. The crimes were those of a serial killer and the mix of police procedural and journalistic focus on headlines made for an interesting approach. However, I got annoyed with Wisting and daughter for their personal interactions and that, plus the instant dislike of the location lost a star for the series.

I fell in love with Happy Valley and hope season three will not be too long in making an appearance. Catherine is an excellent policewoman with personal flaws and an interesting family. The crimes she investigates centre round the drug trade in West Yorkshire, in an area I know quite well. I was, of course, fascinated to spot places I knew. The entire community came alive and I would almost expect to see some of the characters in those small towns if I visited. The entire thing seemed very real and yet at the same time satisfyingly full of stories with beginnings, middles and ends. For me, this was perfect television crime.

Deadwater Fell was a disappointment. David Tennant is an excellent actor, as is Cush Jumbo and the supporting cast did a valiant job. However, the story unfolded so slowly, with such predictability, and with no excitements after the first episode, that I was, frankly, bored. I think more could have been made of the Scottish location; this could have been anytown, anywhere. So much of the story was told in flashbacks that I got irritated. I dislike flashbacks as a story device unless they are absolutely essential. Perhaps this story could have been told in a different way, raising our hopes and fears. As it stood, it did neither.

I read The Picture on the Fridge by Ian W Sainsbury and was annoyed by the opening, which I felt was unnecessary. It foreshadowed an exciting bit of the story, and as such could have been left to its proper place. I think any sense of ‘thrill’ would have been built better for me if the threat had emerged gradually. The plot centres on the idea of mental communication between twins or people who share DNA and as such is interesting but not entirely believable. I certainly wouldn’t re-read it now that I know not only what happened but why. However, the writing was good, and I think a lot of people would find it really enjoyable.

In The Dark by Loreth Anne White was initially startling because I realised it was a kind of homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None but set in present day Canada. However, the characters within the story acknowledged the inspiration, and the work of uncovering the person pulling the strings was clever and at times very gripping. The book alternated between the victims trapped in a remote lodge and their would-be rescuers, a detective and a woman who led a search and rescue team. Both characters were well drawn and interesting and in fact I would like to read more about them, but the structure of the book meant that some of the claustrophobia and tension of the Christie novel were lost. Recommended.

Their Missing Daughters by Joy Ellis is set in Lincolnshire with very competent (but not very interesting) police detectives trying to find currently missing girls and at the same time investigate cold cases that might be linked. The fens are brought to life and the story is interesting so I enjoyed the book but would not feel inspired to go out looking for anything else featuring Jackman and Marie because I only cared about the case and not about them.

He Is Watching You by Charlie Gallagher suffers in much the same way. Maddie Ives goes to work in a fictional southern county where she teams up with DI Blaker. This is another story where missing women are at the heart of the mystery. The case was gripping, but the detectives were basically boring, and the fact that the county doesn’t exist (though Canterbury does…) was an irritation. I couldn’t think why the author was unwilling to name a real county in England.

Untouchable by Sibel Hodge was both exciting and interesting. The basic plot was built around a fictionalised version of Operation Midland, assuming, for the sake of story, that the fabrications of Carl Beech or rather, the accusations of the story’s characters, were true. In the same month, I watched Exposed: The Church’s Darkest Secret which explored cover-ups of abuse at the highest levels so the novel resonated with my viewing. However, I found a lot to criticise in the writing or rather, the research. The author had a limited grasp of the work of a coroner, the rules pertaining to church funerals, and the way caller ID works. I also felt annoyed by the constant switch to flashbacks which admittedly gave the accusations strength but made the novel’s structure clumsy, and detracted from the thrill of the ‘chase’. We know, now, that there was a great deal of abuse of children in the period covered by the story, and that there were both cover-ups and poor policing decisions. The timeliness of the story added an extra star despite the flaws.

I also wanted to mention The truth dressed up (in lies) by nagi_schwarz which can be found on AO3. This is SGA fanfic but it’s an AU where all the cast of SGA are placed in an earth based detective setting with no sci-fi elements at all. It’s an interesting way to write a completely new story about well known characters. Their ‘voices’ and basic characteristics must be maintained while the author does a great deal of world building to make us believe that Elizabeth Weir is running a police precinct rather than a space colony.

January reviews

Before I begin, I’m revamping this site so if you find glitches, oddities, etc. it’s not you, it’s not the internet, it’s me (or WordPress).

Films and TV

The wonderful

Terry Pratchett: Back in Black***** Excellent mini-biography of the much-loved author
Happy Valley Seasons 1 and 2***** more please!!!

The Good

Wisting**** Norwegian crime – quite good but remind me never to visit Norway.
Responsible Child**** Looked at the age of criminal responsibility and the way UK courts work in a fictionalised version of a real case.
Exposed: The Church’s Darkest Secret**** fascinating and worrying account of an abuse cover-up by the CoE
Terror in the Jungle**** The story of the Jonestown massacre.Chilling and gave me nightmares.

The acceptable

Deadwater Fell*** With David Tennant. Slow, and lacked any twists and turns, but well acted.
Bancroft*** Predictable because we knew who the villain was.

The poor

Panorama: How to Save the High Street** Didn’t really address the root of the problems or do much lateral thinking.

Books

The excellent

Escape (Rebellion Bk 1) by Anabelle Jacobs***** Shifters and politics plus mm romance. I want to read Bk2 soon!
Flash Rip by Keira Andrews***** An Australian surfer group and an mm romance. Nice cameo for the characters from Honeymoon for One
Reindeer Games by NR Walker*****Romance between an artist and a millionaire.

The good

Lost and Found by Liv Rancourt**** Benjamin is looking for Elias but finds Louis in Paris. There’s a flaw in the plot– homosexuality was not illegal in France at the period in which the story is set so the characters only needed to fear disapproval, not arrest.
The Picture on the Fridge by Ian W Sainsbury**** Thriller with mental contact between twins.
In The Dark by Loreth Anne White**** Homage to Christie’s And Then There Were None but set in Canada.
Untouchable by Sibel Hodge****Thriller based around the premises of Operation Midland.
Wrangling a Groom by DJ Jamison****Diego from the first book in the series goes back to his childhood ranch home and reconnects with Wyatt

Readable

Buck Baxter, Love Detective by Geoffrey Knight*** Detectives and mm romance in the 1920s with a lot of rather forced humour.
A Child Called “It” by David Pelzer*** The story of severe child abuse from the child’s point of view. Raised far more questions than it answered.
Their Missing Daughters by Joy Ellis*** Competent crime story set in Lincolnshire
Origins of the French Revolution by William Doyle*** I was recommended this as a new look at the subject but it could have been the text book for my A level course many many years ago. I suspect my teacher (who had just left Oxford) studied with or under this author.
He Is Watching You by Charlie Gallagher*** A strong female character is the detective in a fictional southern county

Nothing dire, though I did abandon a couple of free downloads without reading more than a couple of paragrapsh (or recording their titles)

Shorts

The excellent

Wild Bells by Charlie Cochrane***** Two gorgeous novellas. I think I preferred The Shade on a Fine Day in which a curate and local landowner fall in love. The Angel in the Window recounts the romance between two naval officers and is beautifully written but Age of Sail stories are not my favourites.
The Bayleaf Mediaeval Farmstead – Weald Downland Open Air Museum***** A short illustrated museum book that looked at the structure of farmhouses and outbuildings and also the furnishings and tools. Fascinating.

The readable

Swept Away by Keira Andrews***A Flash Rip spin-off story which I found too short to be really interesting.

Fanfiction

I read a lot of SGA fanfic, most of it written for the SGA Secret Santa challenge (which started posting in December). Much of it was very good but all of it required a knowledge of canon so there are no recommendations. I have to assume that if you are a keen SGA fan you already read whatever is posted!

I was lucky enough to receive a gift fic for Christmas:
Formal Arrangements by Small_Hobbit***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/21904924 is in The Hobbit fandom and includes Lady Dis which was an extra treat. Readers unaware of the fandom conventions might find it confusing (everybody lives and nobody dies) but I loved it.

My next post (unless I totally destroy my site whilst refurbishing it) will be a more in-depth look at some of the crime series and books mentioned above.

December Reviews

Not to be confused with my top picks of the year!

Films and TV

The excellent:

Vienna Blood***** Reviewed in more depth last month when I pleaded with people to watch it and persuade BBC to make more.
The Nightmare before Christmas***** (re-watch) I adore Tim Burton.
Elizabeth is Missing (Glenda Jackson)***** Glenda’s acting is superb but so is the work of whoever conceived and wrote the script – a woman’s descent into dementia.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children***** I already said I adore Tim Burton. I think he makes all his films specially for me.
Game of Thrones Season 8***** I managed to avoid spoilers till my DVD (pre-ordered) arrived… Now I just hope Martin gets on with the final book!!

The good:

War of the Worlds**** I kept trying to spot landmarks in Weybridge because my in-laws live near there… I liked all the period detail and the Wells references.
The Sinner Season 2**** Run of the mill American thriller. Quite good but I wasn’t keen on the main actor.
The Name of the Rose (TV series)**** Look out for an in depth review later this month
David Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur**** Fascinating. I think it was a re-watch.

And the mediocre:

Beauty and the Beast (2017)*** I kept falling asleep. Gorgeous lush sets and costumes but otherwise ordinary and I didn’t find any of the songs memorable.

Books

The excellent:

Submerge by Eleanor Musgrove***** An undercover cop gets involved with the members of an LGBT club. Superb minor characters (and I read a Christmas short about two of them).
HE’S BEHIND YOU by Clare London (Rainbow)***** Pantomime mayhem in the village hall and a budding romance or two.
The Christmas Deal by Keira Andrews***** Fake boyfriends to lovers with a Christmas focus. Heartwarming and beautifully written.
The Taitaja by silverr***** Original work on AO3. FF story set in a fantasy world. https://archiveofourown.org/works/12197871
Angels Sing by Eli Easton***** Jamie and Stanton produce a school Christmas performance, save a bookshop, raise Mia and fall in love. Delightful.
The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish***** Corbin and Alex bond over baking. A magical Chanukah story of love and acceptance.
Shutter Angel by Dawn Sister*****Wonderful story in which a churchwarden finds love unexpectedly.
A Box of Wishes by Jackie Keswick***** A cat helps along romance between a cop and a cafe owner with a magical box.
Shooting Star by Kaje Harper***** Plenty of excitement (and romance) when a doctor is accidentally drawn into the affairs of an undercover cop.

The good:

The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith****It’s witches who make the wine in France (and the beer in Germany) so wonderful. An exciting (and romantic) story about a witch who returns from a curse to find a new owner of ‘her’ vineyard.
A Christmas Chance by Louisa Masters**** Paul and Jacob in Paris. I got the impression I should have read other books in the series first.
Yours for the Holiday by DJ Jamison**** It can be difficult when you fall for your best friend’s little brother who is now all grown up. Especially when you’re spending Christmas at their family cabin.

The readable:

The Greenway by Jane Adams*** A thriller set in Norfolk. Interesting but I didn’t feel a need for any more about either the police or the victims.
Crossroads (Book 1) by Riley Hart*** Neighbours fall in love even though one thought he was straight.

This was a wonderful month, with nothing poor or dire!

Then there were numerous short stories, mostly offered free via advent calendars on social media or via author newsletters. I won’t give you the entire list – they were all individually worth reading but at times I felt as if I was drowning in sugar and the tales tended to blur. Of course, I offered one myself… I’ll just list the seriously good reads which were either by authors I already know or tempted me to explore their works and add to my tbr list.

How a ghost cat saves Christmas by Terry Poole***** I loved the ghost cat and his interactions with his humans.
The Choice by Barbara Elsborg*****A paranormal romance with twists and turns.
A Very English Christmas by Keira Andrews***** Isaac and David from the author’s Amish trilogy (which I love) spend their first Christmas in what they call the English community.
The Doll Maker by Hannah Henry***** An intriguing story about a dollmaker whose dolls are more than they seem.
Merry and Bright by Joanna Chambers***** Three stories with a Christmas theme in one volume.

In case you missed it, my ff Christmas story False Starts is still free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/997047 I meant to put it on Amazon this week and start charging but there are some formatting problems so I’ll leave it alone for a week or two!

Fanfic

I can’t resist mentioning Sloth’s Christmas Miscellany by Small_Hobbit**** https://archiveofourown.org/works/21672616 A mixed bag of short pieces, all quite delightful. No single entry is quite worth five stars but the whole collection is wonderful and when the latest offering arrives in my inbox it makes my day!

I’ve been steadily making my way through the SGA Secret Santa collection and haven’t finished yet.
Everything he needs by respoftw***** was written for me and is superb https://archiveofourown.org/bookmarks/426121294
(I gifted someone else with: Why it would never have worked (a tongue in cheek take on the sex pollen trope) in case you’re interested. https://archiveofourown.org/works/21759241)

Last but not by any means least I did the beta for my daughter’s Supernatural challenge and absolutely loved her story which is a mediaeval AU with Dean as a dragon and Sam as a warrior. It isn’t even my fandom, but I adore dragons and her writing has always been excellent!
Dragonwilde by Fledhyris***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/21685843

HAPPY NEW YEAR – and the best of 2019

I’ve been reflecting on the year in my viewing and reading so of course I had to make a list. I chose three in each category and for most categories the choice was extremely difficult. I was strict with myself about no re-reads or re-watches. Most of these have been mentioned in the course of my monthly reviews but one or two are December discoveries.

VIEWING

Films: I didn’t go to the cinema in 2019. These were all watched on the TV screen.

I, Daniel Blake (scathing indictment of UK social security system)
Fantastic Beasts (magical creatures in the Harry Potter universe but earlier than the main story)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (a Tim Burton fantasy adventure with gifted children living outside time)

TV general series: They had to be series I’d finished watching.

Desperate Romantics (a fictional account of the lives of the pre-Raphaelite painters)
Carnival Row (fae refugees from war find problems in a steampunk London AU)
Game of Thrones (sex, violence and dragons – I adore the books, too)

TV crime/police/thriller series: Again series I’d finished watching although with all these we’re hoping for more seasons.

The Crimson Rivers (French detectives; every case seems to involve the supernatural but turns out to be mundane)
Spiral (French detectives and lawyers in Paris; each season has a focus on a serious modern problem e.g. sex trafficking)
Line of Duty (UK series with ongoing high level corruption underlying each season’s highlighted crime)

Documentaries: There were some good single programme documentaries but I prefer series with more opportunity to immerse myself in whatever it is.

Wild China (the main focus was animals and plants in the various regions but there was plenty about the people and their homes too)
Treasures of the Indus (following the river route and showing both the history and the present day)
Great Railway Journeys: Australia (Michael Portillo doing one of his inimitable travelogues with railways linking the programmes)

READING
No re-reads and each author could only appear once in the entire list. If you know I enjoyed your book – gave it five stars, even – and it isn’t in the list, all I can say is that the competition was intense!

Books – stand-alones

General

Tallowwood by NR Walker (Detective novel set in Australia. MM romance plus gory crime plus focus on Native Australian issues.)
Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck (MF romance set in Portugal when a young woman in a fishing village finds love with a visitor from America while they solve a mystery)
The Heights by Amy Aislin (MM romance in which a child is kidnapped and discovers his real background as an adult)

Twisted Fairy Tales

The Cracked Slipper by Stephanie Alexander (What happened to Cinderella and the prince after the wedding)
The Wolf and the Pear by Alex Jane (A terrorised village, a wicked witch and a werewolf who falls in love with a village boy)
Cutie and the Beast by EJ Russell (Beauty and the Beast retold for an mm audience)

Sci Fi, Fantasy and Paranormal I love this genre but despite some wide reading only found one story worthy of inclusion in my end of year list.

Vlarian Oath by MistressKat (An ff romance set in space. Available free on AO3 where it was published as part of a mixed fanfic/original challenge)

Books – series: (a good series is a chance to get to know a world and its inhabitants in depth – I may well have started each of these before 2019 but have read more during the course of the year)

General series

The Power of Zero and Two Divided by Zero by Jackie Keswick (I’m looking forward to the rest of this series with its focus on a young man rescued from a life sleeping rough and trained to combat crime via computer. MM)
Resonance, Resistance and Renaissance by Lilian Francis (Delightful slices of village life interspersed with mm romance)
Choosing Home, Returning Home and Staying Home by Alexa Milne (mm romance set in the Scottish Highlands)

Fantasy and paranormal series:

Psycops by Jordan Castillo Price (Victor can see and talk to ghosts; this helps in his detective career with Jacob, his partner in both work and love)
How to Howl at the Moon by Eli Easton – plus sequels. (The people of Mad Creek are a mixed bunch: some are dog shifters. Romance, both mm and mf, and some crime.)
Apple Boy by Isobel Starling (first in a series of fantasy adventures with some excellent world building – looking forward to more!)

Sci fi series: Another of my favourite genres but I only found one series for this list.

Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee (a trilogy set in the far future with space opera, interplanetary politics and gender fluidity at its core)

Detective series:

Cambridge Fellows by Charlie Cochrane (Cambridge dons as amateur sleuths. Wonderful period detail. Mild mm romance)
Pinx Videos by Marshall Thornton (set in LA at the height of the Aids epidemic. Funny, exciting, and poignant by turn. No romance – yet)
Bitter Legacy and Object of Desire by Dal McClean (exciting thrillers with mm romance set in present day London )

Short stories:

The Holly Groweth Green by Amy Rae Durreson (wonderful paranormal Christmas mm romance)
He’s Behind You by Clare London (Pantomime mayhem in the village hall plus a helping of mm romance)
Taitaja by silverr (ff fantasy story published on AO3 alongside the writer’s other work which is worth checking, especially her poetry)

Non fiction:

Harry Potter: A History of Magic – various authors (the book of the British Library exhibition)
The Broken Circle by Enjeela Ahmadi Miller (engrossing story of a family’s escape from Afghanistan)
Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch (looks at the changes in language brought about by social media)

Fanfic: available on AO3

Buen Camino, Bodie by Sharon Ray (a story in the Professionals fandom that charts a pilgrimage Bodie makes after Ray’s death)
In the forests of the night by greenapricot (a story in the Lewis fandom that uses Northumbrian legend for a satisfying Halloween read)
Dragonwilde by Fledhyrys ( an AU story in the Supernatural fandom. Dean is a dragon and Sam is a mediaeval warrior – the author is my daughter and this is not one of my fandoms but I fell in love with the story anyway!)

I will return to my normal monthly reviews in a day or two!

Two detailed reviews and a plea.

I started watching Vienna Blood, a series of three 90 minute films by BBC, not sure what to expect. (I gave it 5 stars.)

At first, I was doubtful about the concept. But the sets and the acting won me over and I watched all three. By the end, I was totally hooked.

That’s where the plea in the title of this post comes in. BBC are waiting till they see what kind of reception the series gets before they commission a second series… And I need more! So please, please, if you have access to BBC iPlayer, download and watch, or pretend to watch! All three films are available for 11 months.

Think Sherlock Holmes (the original, not the modern Sherlock), think The Third Man, think Freud, think foreshadowing of serious antisemitism in Austria. Put all that into criminal investigations that can be quite leisurely because of the 90 minute format. Add the fact that the stories, from the Liebermann novels by Frank Tallis, are adapted for television by Steve Thompson, the screenwriter responsible for Sherlock (the modern one).

The cases are fascinating, with a wonderful period flavour, Vienna is lovingly portrayed, and the chemistry between the two detectives, Oskar (police) and Max (neurologist) is intense and full of both angst and humour. We also get intriguing details about the family and love life of both men, and about the police force and the hospital where Max works.

The programmes give the viewer plenty of crime (some of it very gruesome), plenty of banter, plenty of romance. It also leaves this viewer quite desperate to know what happens next in the lives of this pair of detectives, as well, of course, as what cases they will find themselves investigating next. Why BBC felt it should only show it on a Monday rather than at the weekend for higher viewing figures, I can’t imagine. They clearly spent a lot on the production, and everyone concerned deserves a second season. I believe there are more books, but even if those are exhausted, I think Max and Oskar would be a satisfying addition to our ongoing detective genre.

And now for something completely different…

The Greater Freedom by Alya Mooro (I gave this 3 stars)

This is one of those worthy books. By about half way through you know pretty well what the author has to say and just wish they would hurry up saying it. Mooro has written a book that delves into various aspects of modern feminism. She admits that many of the problems she identifies are shared by women world-wide. She then goes on to make a ‘special’ case for the suffering of Arab women. I wasn’t altogether convinced by her arguments about this but can see what she’s getting at. (She ignores, for example, the experience of Afghan women.)

I would have liked more statistics and more in-text references to her sources. I am not sure that the polls she conducted via Instagram are anything other than anecdotal. I should also perhaps say that whilst I do have numerous Muslim friends, I don’t know many Arabs. I had Arab students in the past but don’t think they would be able to speak for today’s Arab women.

Mooro does mention the restrictions imposed on women in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere) but seems to be saying that most restrictions are cultural and are self-imposed as a result of social censure. This is interesting, but again, not perhaps deeply enough researched and is something many writers have already discussed.

However, I was actually shocked by the amount of freedom she enjoyed as a teenager. Far, far more than I experienced as a British teenager (in a UK Christian household) in the fifties, and quite a lot more than my daughter had in Britain in the eighties. It’s possible that today’s teenagers all have the kind of social life Mooro describes herself and her friends as having in both London and Cairo but I honestly think their behaviour/lifestyle is limited to those capital cities and perhaps to the liberal middle classes to which the author so obviously belongs.

I got bored. I skimmed, towards the end. I don’t think the writer gives us any completely new insights, and I didn’t altogether agree with all her conclusions. However, for someone who knows very little about the lives of Muslim women (and men for that matter) this might be quite an interesting read and an ‘easy’ introduction to the issues.