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.

November Reviews

Films and TV

Dublin Murders*****
I really enjoyed this, with the flawed detectives (well acted), the Dublin background and the story which reached a satisfactory ending but still left it open to the viewer to accept a paranormal explanation for some aspects of the events. One review I saw criticised the fact that the lead detective should not/would not have been involved because of his previous history but his eagerness to take the case and deceive his superiors was explored in great detail. I was disappointed to learn that much of the location filming was actually in or around Belfast…

Spiral Season 7*****
What can I say? My all-time favourite cop show. Season 7 didn’t disappoint. I love the ensemble cast, the views of lesser known parts of Paris, and the interesting exploration of the French police, judiciary and legal system.

Carnival Row Season 1*****
Gorgeous show. Fae and steampunk meet in an AU Victorian London. There’s a gripping plot with lots of nods to current issues such as immigration and racism, fabulous special effects, and, amazingly, Orlando Bloom can act. But then he was one of the people involved in making the film so perhaps he was better directed than usual? I really hope Season 2 doesn’t take for ever to arrive. I watched this on Amazon Prime, and sort of spread it out because I didn’t want it to end.

Wild China*****
Lovely series with a focus on wildlife but plenty of information about the various Chinese regions. Eye candy, yes, but intelligent eye candy that educates as well as entertaining.

Great Australian Railway Journeys*****
Michael Portillo, being his usual flamboyant self, introduces the viewer to Australia and links the various places and aspects of life via train journeys. He has done the same in UK and parts of Europe. If you liked those programmes you’d like these. And it’s a great way to learn more about Australia; I think even a lot of Australians would enjoy it, not just for the scenic rides but for the interesting interviews with Australians.

House of the Year (Grand Designs) ****
I mostly agreed with the judges, with one exception, the eventual winner. I found that house boring! I much preferred the ones that were completely eco-friendly or that merged into their surroundings.

The Accident****
Brit drama set in South Wales, where a combination of company greed, local council desperation and kids behaving recklessly lead to loss of life and an interesting (and grim) court case. Some excellent acting.

Cold Call****
Another Brit drama, where the wronged victim inches gradually into crime to retrieve her money. Good acting. And chilling information about how scams can work.

Gold Digger****
Yet another Brit drama, this time looking at an older woman who finds a young boyfriend to the shock and horror of her family. Good acting and interesting character development. However, it was quite slow, and I accidentally missed an episode but didn’t notice or find myself at all confused!

Goldstone***
An Australian film about a Native Australian detective. Some good acting and photography, and it was interesting to see David Wenham as a baddie. However, I gather it was a spin off from a series aired about ten years ago. I didn’t see that and I kept feeling I was missing fairly vital information. The immediate plot was fine, but there were mysterious references to the detective’s past, and his private life.

Books

The excellent and the highly recommended:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco*****
A re-read, to go with the TV series. I will post a longer critique when the series is finished.

Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost by Z.A. Maxfield*****
A pianist finds himself falling for his used-to-be step brother. However, although this is a contemporary mm romance the most interesting characters are the ghosts who help the plot along and have an mm romantic (and possibly tragic) past themselves.

Skin After Skin by Jordan Castillo Price*****
This is a novel in the Psycops series. I’ve read all the rest but hadn’t come across the story of Crash, who is a minor character in the other novels. The book explores his past and gives the reader another view of Jacob and Victor, the main protagonists in the main series.

Tallowwood by NR Walker *****
A really thrilling detective mm novel where a Sydney detective is thrown together with an Indigenous Australian cop in a small town. Beautiful writing, too. I am now looking for other books by this author and have so far bought one. More will follow, I think.

A Litter of Bones by JD Kirk*****
A new series set in the Scottish Highlands. It’s a police thriller with lots of excitement as well as an interesting location. I might follow this detective.

Twice Shy by Sally Malcolm****
Pleasant contemporary mm romance in which teacher meets single dad. One of the protagonists has believable children which is always a plus.

Five Bloody Hearts by Joy Ellis****
The first volume in a new police procedural set in the north east fens. A gripping story and an interesting lead detective.

The Arrangement by Alex Jane****
A really heartwarming story in which friends push Gabriel and Nathaniel together. It loses a star because of poor proof reading.

The Replacement Husband by Eliot Grayson****
I really enjoyed the arranged marriage between Owen and Arthur, but found the world building less than stellar. I do think that if the main character is ‘Goddess Blessed’ and this affects their life and their future, the reader might be given an explanation.

The readable:

Silver Scars by Posy Roberts.***
A nice mm romance between two people with physical injuries and PTSD. However, although it was novel length, I found the writing rather repetitive and ‘padded’, and might have enjoyed it better if it hadn’t been written in present tense.

Bring Them Home by DS Butler***
This is another new police procedural set in Lincolnshire. The story was gripping enough but there was too much focus on procedure and the team seemed somewhat disjointed. I don’t think I’ll follow the series.

Survivor by TM Smith***
I enjoyed this story but thought it had poor structure. The author never seemed to make up their mind whether they were writing a thriller or an mm romance. Yes, you can cross genres to great effect, but there needs to be a main focus and that was missing here.

The Greater Freedom by Alya Mooro***

A book about feminism written from the perspective of an Arab woman. I’ll look at it in greater depth in a later post.

And the poor:

Dragonslayer by Resa Nelson**
I read the whole story and found it interesting and gripping enough, but won’t be following this series about Astrid, a smith, and her lover DiStephan in this AU mediaeval world. There were a lot of plot holes and I didn’t think the world building was adequate.

I can see you by Michael Leese**
How on earth can someone write a boring serial killer/spy story? This author managed it. I think the main problem was the way the story was structured so that the reader had too much knowledge before the protagonists did.

Short stories

The recommended:

Vlarian Oath by MistressKat***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/21288197
I reviewed this in an earlier post. Gorgeous sci fi with an ff romance at its heart. An original story written for a story challenge that spanned original work and fanfic.

Trolling for Cupcakes by JL Merrow****
Short sweet ff ‘take’ on the tale of Three Billy Goats Gruff. Too short to get five stars. (I don’t mean that really short stories can’t get five stars, but that this one was too short for me.)

The readable:

A World Apart by Mel Gough***
Ben, a cop meets Donnie when the latter is wrongly arrested. Quite a nice story but for my taste there was too much focus on injury and medical care.

And the forgettable:

Cops, Cakes and Coffee by Sara York**
Fortunately short story. Drake is a cop and Adam is a baker, hence the title. It’s PWP (plot what plot in case you don’t know the genre) and has too much sex for too little reason.

Fanfiction

I read more Professionals Big Bang fic but there was nothing further I’d recommend to readers who are not already part of the fandom.

I also read more contributions to the Lewis FrightFest Challenge. I’d like to recommend:
In the forests of the night by greenapricot***** It isn’t actually frightening at all but is a lovely look at legends about shapeshifters and is set in Northumberland. https://archiveofourown.org/works/21281798

In other fandoms:

The Monster Next Door by Brumeier***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/21245204
This is a great short story written for a Halloween MonsterFest. I now want the author to write the story from the point of view of the cat…
It’s ostensibly a crossover between SGA and Labyrinth but takes off in a direction all its own.

I also found some beautiful poetry by silverr, based on folk tales, legends and art:
Wild of Branch and Root***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/14570421
The Black House***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/1088288

October Reviews

As promised or threatened (take your pick), I have reviewed two items in more depth and will post those soon, possibly tomorrow. I chose three star ones. Four and five star films and books don’t need lengthy critiques, just recommendations, and one and two star things don’t deserve the time I would have to spend.

Films and TV

The excellent:

The Fifth Element***** watched and loved for the umpteenth time.

Ian Hislop’s Fake News: A True Story***** Excellent and timely history of fake news.

A Confession**** Gripping drama series based on a true story of a serial killer and a detective who broke the rules to get evidence. I also watched and enjoyed the one hour programme which followed the series and had interviews with the actual detectives and lawyers involved.

The Post**** Interesting and well-acted film that is effectively a prequel to Deep Throat, since it deals with the newspaper’s fight for freedom of the press which led in turn to Watergate.

The watchable:

La La Land*** Reviewed in more depth in my next post.

Books

The excellent:

Honeymoon for One by Keira Andrews***** A well written about an American who meets an Australian when he is jilted and takes what should have been his honeymoon by himself. Nice slow build up of romance between Ethan and Clay.
Ends of the Earth by Keira Andrews*****Exciting romance between Ben and Jason, with a thriller element when Jason’s daughter is abducted.

The Power of Zero and Two Divided by Zero by Jackie Keswick***** Rio, a computer expert for the secret services, rescues Jack, an abandoned teenager with serious problems. In the second book Jack has grown up, entered and then left the army, and seems likely to join Rio in their attempt to protect and serve the people. Beautifully written with well developed characters.

The Wolf and the Pear by Alex Jane***** Gorgeous twisted fairy tale with echoes of all the wolf stories out there. Lev and his wolf have a happy ending, and so does the village once the wicked witch is defeated. I must look out for this author.

Pricks and Pragmatism by JL Merrow****
Entertaining story of Russell and Luke in the Southampton Stories series. Their friends try to steer them together but it all almost ends in failure.
Hard Tail by JL Merrow**** Second in the Southampton Stories series. Set in a bike shop which Tim is looking after for his brother. Matt is the assistant. Again, amusing and heart-warming.

Witch is When it All Began by Adele Abbott**** First of the Witch P.I mysteries. Well written and amusing. The focus is more on witches than detective work and I may well buy the sequel.

The readable:

The King’s Honour by JL Merrow*** Nice twisted fairy tale based on the dancing princesses but much too short for more than three stars, for me.

Snowflakes over Holly Cove by Lucy Coleman*** Boring het romance between a journalist and her landlord.

The Flame and the Arrow by Emigh Cannaday*** Reviewed in more depth in my next post.

A Village Affair by Julie Houston***
Boring romance between a teacher and a businessman (het). It was meant to be amusing but I merely smiled and then only at some of the school events…

Broadland by David Blake*** Boring then melodramatic police procedural.

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole by Allan Ropper*** Stories about strange neurological disorders and diagnoses. I hoped it would be as good as Oliver Sachs book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, but it wasn’t as well done. Poor structure and too little detail about some cases.

Fanfic

I’ve been reading through the contributions to this years Professionals Big Bang (based on the 70s TV show). Most of the entries require too much knowledge of canon to appreciate but I must recommend Buen Camino, Bodie by Sharon Ray. https://archiveofourown.org/works/20842268
After a life spent together, when Ray dies, Bodie sets out on a pilgrimage – the route to Santiago de Compostela that Ray had wanted to take. The journey through Spain is beautifully evoked and Bodie gradually discovers things about himself, his erstwhile partner and the world in general. A lovely and moving story. I know northern Spain well and was transported there by the descriptions. There is no romance in the story other than reference to the past life, but the whole thing simply throbs with love, not merely between two people but for everyone. It is, I gather, a kind of companion piece to the same author’s My Time. https://archiveofourown.org/works/8878033
This is an account of Ray’s sojourn in prison for an offence he did not commit. There is a similar attention to detail and an ability to get to the heart of a character. Also highly recommended.

The Lewis Frightfest started on 31st October but in fact I read one of the stories earlier since I did the beta and proofreading for it: Prey, by Fictionwriter https://archiveofourown.org/works/21246140 The author evokes a suitably creepy Victorian atmosphere in an Oxford lit by lamplight and the monster is genuinely scary without ever doing any lasting harm. Another member of the same fandom posted a story I read on Halloween evening: Angel in the Meadow by asparagusmama https://archiveofourown.org/works/21260744 The author hadn’t, last time I looked, added it to the Frightfest collection and I’m not sure why. It’s now after Halloween but if you want some short spooky reads for November evenings, try these two!

I’ve also been following the annual October Monster Fest in one of the social media communities I belong to and that got me plenty of ficlets to read plus some recs for longer pieces.

September reviews

Late again, but this time with a cast iron excuse. I was ill for a week at the beginning of October and only managed to keep switching on the TV and falling asleep to it.

From next month I’m intending to do at least a couple of more in-depth reviews/critiques, probably as separate posts.

Films and TV

Politics, politics, politics. I think most of UK has been glued to the News…

Darkness: Those Who Kill**** Danish police procedural – gripping even though we knew the identity of the criminal quite early. But I was startled to see a European cop series with the sort of glossy look (sets and actors) normally associated with American output.

Jamie Oliver vegetarian cookery series**** I must get the book. We aren’t veggie but our daughter is, and we like some veggie dishes anyway.

Long series about the Vietnam War**** I can’t remember the exact title. It was about eight episodes and was very interesting. I think our news at the time was quite curtailed in some ways, since we weren’t directly involved.

Books

The good:

Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch***** The state and future of English in the age of the internet. Fascinating research and commentary.

Gentleman Wolf by Joanna Chambers***** Werewolves and mm romance in Edinburgh – plus there’s a sequel on the way!

Lessons in Playing a Murderous Tune by Charlie Cochrane***** Cambridge Fellows mystery, set back when Jonty’s parents were alive. This long novella was really interesting.

Today by RJ Scott (Single Dads #2)**** A lovely story and well written. However, I wouldn’t re-read it because of the focus on the work of a firefighter. Fire tends to ‘trigger’ me since our loss in Portugal, and although I can read about it I’d rather not.

Lovers’ Leap by JL Merrow**** Nice romance story with plenty of humour set on the Isle of Wight.

Deep Magic by Gillian St Kevern**** Set in North Wales, using local legend about mermen, water horses, etc. I never quite suspended disbelief but enjoyed the tale anyway.

The Altered by Annabelle Jacobs**** Gripping thriller about werewolves, created when a medical/military research experiment went wrong. I loved the story but there was some less than stellar writing.

Going Home by Kris Ripper**** A clever exploration of the similarities and differences concerning slavery and BDSM in an alternative future. I got tired of the plot and the characters but finished it.

Scorched Haven by Amy Lane**** Urban fantasy with werewolves, fae, etc. I might buy series (Little Goddess), which sounds interesting. Well written, as usual. This was too short to merit five stars.

Not Every Time by Alexa Milne**** Shortish mm romance. Nicely written best friends to lovers story.

Flashbulb by Clare London**** PSTD after an air crash, explored through the characters of this mm romance.

The mediocre:

Nellie by Cynthia Woolf*** (Brides of San Francisco series.) I suppose the research about mail order brides in the nineteenth century was interesting but there was too much explicit sex and Nellie was a surprisingly modern heroine for the period.

Sweeter than Honey by CM Valencourt*** Pleasant enough short story about a beekeeper and a vegan.

And the poor:

Thunderpoint by Michelle Scott** A melodramatic ghost story with added mm romance and a whodunnit element. Not very well written.

Incognito by L.A.Watson** Tech industry spy/thriller but not well written. I felt there were plot holes, and the characters never really came to life.

The Clockwork Monk by Liv Rancourt** Steampunk thriller with a spy and his sister who is masquerading as a nun. Poor world building. The characters changed their names frequently which left this reader faintly confused. I’ve just bought a novel by the same author and am annoyed with myself.

Twins by Kevin L Nielsen** Nicely written but extremely short sci fi story. Winged twins save each other from death. That’s all…

And finally the dire:

The Woman without a face by Kendall Hanson* Police procedural but very short indeed with an unsatisfactory ending. There’s the threat or promise of a series but no suggestion this story will be finished properly.

Abandoned (mostly freebies):
The Society of Imaginary Friends by Kristen Pham. Valerie sees spirits which make her life difficult.
The Nuremberg Puzzle by Laurence O’Bryan. Thriller with so many characters in first chapters I lost track.
The Council by Kayla Kranz. This seemed to be a magic college story. It was boring and was told in present tense.
The Murder Diaries: Seven Times Over by David Carter. Serial killer? I couldn’t get into it.
Warrior by HJP. Confusing sci fi with too many characters somehow taking tech to the stars…

Fanfic

As usual, I’ve read odds and ends in various series, all too tied to canon to recommend to people not in the fandoms concerned. However, I’ve been watching the chaos caused by AO3’s Hugo Award. There are various stories and poems based on what happened but this was one of the first and, I think, sums it all up beautifully.
https://archiveofourown.org/works/20670977 Stanley Cup – What it Means by anonymous.

BBC’s 100 books list

A number of my friends on social media have been posting this as a meme so I wanted to join in.

The theory is that the BBC estimates that most people will only read/have read 6 books out of the 100 listed. People are told to reblog the list bolding the titles they have read.

The BBC never said anything of the kind. I watched the original series of programmes that introduced the list, which generated a lot of interest and comment at the time. The ‘six books’ thing was someone’s unofficial throwaway comment intended to provoke discussion. It certainly did!

I did a bit of research before finding the definitive original list in a format that could be downloaded and edited. It didn’t contain the later additions of Jacqueline Wilson’s books for young teens, and there are one or two other titles ‘missing’ which I have seen on other lists. So far as I can tell, this is the 2003 version but is unranked. There were originally 200 books and that might explain the gaps. There were also versions where people added or subtracted books at will…

As requested, I’ve bolded the ones I’ve read, and have also added my own star ratings in line with my normal monthly reviews. It appears I’ve read 86 of the original 100 and a few of the ones I’ve missed were missed deliberately. I’ve put my five star reads in red.

I apologise for some of the extra line breaks. WordPress wouldn’t let me remove them.

1.The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon***** (made special because I read it in Barcelona where it is set)
2.Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis de Bernieres****
3. Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden*****

4.One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Marquez****
5.The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
6. Watership Down, by Richard Adams*****

7.The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
8.The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold***
9.Atonement, by Ian Mcewan
10.Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons. (I know it – was there a TV series?)
11.Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini****
12.The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins****
13. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams*****

14. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen*****

15. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien***** This came top of the nation’s list, and mine too!
16.Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë**** I went to the school in this.
17.Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling**** I prefer the films.
18.To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee*****

19.The Bible*** Yes, I’ve read all of it and really, you’d need stars or otherwise for the various sections.
20.Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë*** Too melodramatic for me.
21.1984, by George Orwell****
22.His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman****
23.Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens****
24.Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott***
25.Tess of the D’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy**** I ‘did’ this for A level.
26.Catch-22, by Joseph Heller***
27. The complete works of Shakespeare*****  All read but I really do prefer the stage versions.
28.Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier***
29. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien*****

30.Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks***
31.The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger***
32.The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger***
33. Middlemarch, by George Eliot*****

34.Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell***
35.The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald – started and abandoned twice
36.Bleak House, by Charles Dickens****
37.War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy***
38.Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh****
39.Crime and Punishment, by Fydor Dostoevsky***
40.The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck****
41.Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll****
42. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame*****

43.Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy***
44.David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens****
45. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis*****

46. Emma, by Jane Austen***** My favourite of Austen’s books.
47. Persuasion, by Jane Austen*****

48. Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne*****

49. Animal Farm, by George Orwell*****

50.The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown**
51.A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – I don’t like Irving but have read other books by him
52. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery***** I read all the sequels, too.
53.Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy****
54.The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood****
55.Lord of the Flies, by William Golding****
56.Life of Pi, by Yann Martel**
57.Dune, by Frank Herbert***
58. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen*****

59. A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth***** Vies with LotR for top spot in my personal pantheon.
60.A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens****
61.Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley****
62.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon*****

63. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Marquez*****

64. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck*****

65.Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov***
66.The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas – I think I only know the film version but I might have read the book when at school.
67.On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
68.Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy****
69.Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding***
70. Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie*****

71.Moby Dick, Herman Melville*** ( I confess to skimming this)
72.Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens****
73.Dracula, by Bram Stoker***
74. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett*****

75. Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson***** It seems odd me that this reached the list, along with the bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. They’re the only ‘non-fiction’. And yes, I know the plots of Shakespeare are fiction but they’re usually shelved as plays, not fiction.
76.Ulysses, by James Joyce – started and abandoned twice
77.The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
78.Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome***
79.Germinal, by Emile Zola
80.Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray***
81. Possession, by A.S. Byatt*****

82.A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens****
83.Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell***
84.The Color Purple, by Alice Walker***

85.The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro**
86.Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert***
87.A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry
88.Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White****
89.The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom
90.Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle****

91.The Faraway Tree Collection, by Enid Blyton****
92.Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad***
93. The Little Prince, by Antoine de St.-Exupery*****

94.The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks****
95.A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
96.A Town Like Alice, by Nevil Shute****
97.The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas***
98.A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess***
99.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl***
100. Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo*****

 

Somebody remind me not to do this kind of list again. Getting the formatting right for WordPress was a nightmare!

August reviews

Films and TV

Good Omens*** I confess to being disappointed. It stuck to the book but took too much time reaching some of the more exciting parts and skimmed over some aspects too quickly. Good acting, and I loved the introduction and final illustrations.

The Whaley Bridge dam disaster…. As I’ve already pointed out, in the post before this one, we spent the first half of the month glued to the local news.

The second half has been taken up with UK politics (ongoing…!!!)

Neither of these is something for which stars would be appropriate!

I have also watched quite a few natural history programmes but have forgotten their titles. An octopus in the home and the discovery of a frozen woolly mammoth were highlights.

Books

The excellent:

The Cracked Slipper by Stephanie Alexander*****
A delighful and intelligent exploration of the marriage of Cinderella and her Prince Charming, who turns out to have a lot of flaws. Well written (though better proof reading would have been good) and with echoes of Arthurian legend with Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. I loved this book. It was one of the free novels I got either from the Smashwords sale or from Prolific Works, and was a really good find!

The Lodestar of Ys by Amy Rae Durreson***** Another freebie that was excellent. The mm romance in the royal arranged marriage between Celyn and Sjurd was intriguing but the major delight was the world building. The hanging islands became a character in their own right and I am hoping to read more stories set in them. I hadn’t realised, because the author name on the Smashwords blurb was not the same, that this was by an author I already liked. However, the cover showed the correct author name.

I would highly recommend the above two books.

Also very good:

Love in Every Season by Charlie Cochrane**** Four short stories. I liked the first – Horns and Halos – best. It centred on the work and training of people on school governing bodies and I appreciated the details since I’ve experienced that myself. I also enjoyed a further free short story by Charlie: Once we won matches****. This is set in the Cambridge Fellows series and was re-issued in honour of the cricket season.

One Night by RJ Scott**** A nicely written romance between a winery owner and a rich lawyer, set during a conference on the West Coast of America. What Lies Beneath**** is a mystery story with an nderlying mm romance by the same author. It was an enjoyable read but left a lot of loose ends. I’m assuming these will be addressed in the rest of the Lancaster Falls trilogy which I shall buy! I liked the world of the small town near the dam and reservoir, and was perhaps more intrigued than usual because of our Whaley Bridge connections.

Pluck and Play by Clare London**** A lovely story about an American rancher and a British courier set in the London ‘world’ of the author’s invented ice cream business With a Kick. I also enjoyed Freeman****, by the same writer, which was very well written. However, the mystery of the main character (Freeman of the title) was too drawn out and I never really managed to empathise with him.

Eagle Man and Mr Hawk by Dawn Sister****. A really enjoyable romance about an animal trainer; the animal crew was delightful. See you smile**** by the same writer was an exciting story featuring an author who meets a much younger guy who is deaf, and who is having problems with a possible stalker.

Perfect Love by A.M. Burns**** Ethan and Dusty are paranormal PIs. I loved the story though the book has poor editing and lacks tense control. The plot and the relationship were sufficiently amusing and exciting to keep my interest.

The mediocre

Critical Mass by Sara Paretsky*** Flashbacks to wartime Vienna again, and an unlikely plot. I was disappointed, since I usually enjoy this author.

Till Death do us Part by Addison Albright*** Sam thinks Henry is dead in an air crash and agrees to marry Nash. Meanwhile Henry survives on an island. The story had a strange structure and a lot of the focus was on the survival techniques. I found it quite interesting but then realised I was doing a lot of skimming.

Blue Fire by Z.A. Maxfield*** A pleasant novella about a firefighter who falls for the man he rescues.

Shifting Sands by Kiernan Kelly *** I realised this was a re-read and I liked the concept of the shifter ranch all over again, but the story has too much explicit sex and I won’t be reading any others in the series. Well written.

Making it by Christine D’Abo*** Devan’s husband Eli, a boxer, leaves him but comes back to find baby Matthew. I got bored and won’t be following the series but the writing was of a good standard.

Passing on Faith by A.M Leibowitz*** This was quite an exciting novel with a family mystery as well as romance. However, it was too religious for my tastes, perhaps because the churches concerned were very American and outside my real understanding.

Risky Behaviour by L.A Witt and Cari Z***. A competent thriller with a newly partnered pair set against what seems like the entire police force and local government. However, it was basically forgettable so the character development was clearly not stellar.

Synchronicity by Keira Andrews*** A nicely written short story about divers at the Olympics.

It happened in Vegas by various. An anthology *** Mixed – all the stories had happy endings but I was worried that some of the stories would turn out to be ‘dark’ which rather spoilt the experience.

And the rest…

Long Shadows by Kate Sherwood** A thriller with hints of romance between the (female) sheriff and a local criminal, with added ‘interest’ in the shape of a cop from LA. There were plotholes galore.

Hidden Talents by Claire Cray – abandoned. This set out to be a trilogy about psychics. It was very dark, which is not to my personal taste, but the main criticism was poor characterisation.

I also started and abandoned a number of ‘freebies’ because they turned out to be things I didn’t really want to read. I won’t bother listing them but can say I am relieved to have made inroads into my to-be-read list!

Fanfic

Nothing to recommend this month. What I read was mixed, but all needed a knowledge of canon.

July reviews

Another month gone and I haven’t posted since my last reviews… Must do better! Anyway, here are July’s offerings.

Films and TV
Either I didn’t watch much this month or I forgot to record my viewing which means it was forgettable anyway. I think most of my TV time was taken up with politics… UK politics in July veered between horror and farce and was definitely the only thing to watch! I did apparently see:

The Lawyer.*** I’m giving this three stars. I can’t remember a single thing about it but I evidently found it worth noting.

Books

The very good and the good:

I binged on the Mad Creek series by Eli Easton. Dog shifters and humans in a remote town. Lots of humour and lots of thrills. Highly recommended and I hope she writes more!
Mad Creek*****
How to Howl at the Moon / How to Walk like a Man / How to Wish upon a Star / How to save a life and How to run with the wolves.

All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot***** I used to live in the Yorkshire Dales so there was a nostalgia element, but another pleasure was the information about pre-WW2 veterinary methods. You don’t need to have seen the TV series to enjoy the book.

Hot Summer Nights **** This was a charity anthology of mm stories by various authors including JL Merrow. As usual with any anthology the standard varied but I enjoyed the book, and her contribution in particular.

Love, Jamie by AKM Miles**** A pleasant mm romance involving thriller elements with a stalker.

Frank at Heart by Pat Henshaw **** Another pleasant mm story in the Foothills Pride series. Well written and I might read more if I ever get far down my tbr list.

Cutie and the Beast by EJ Russell**** A nice urban magic mm twist on Beauty and the Beast – I may well try more of this Fae Out of Water series if only because urban magic appeals to me (it’s the genre I mostly write in).

Total Recall by Sara Paretsky**** VI Warshawski, the Chicago PI, investigates a case that necessitates long flashbacks to WW2 Germany and England by one of the principal (present-day) characters. I could see the point of them but for me they detracted from the pleasure of the novel.

The acceptable. All well written but not particularly recommended.

Burning Fall by EJ Smyth*** Short mm story set in Frankfurt, seen through the eyes of an American who is one of the main characters. Ultimately unmemorable. I won’t be reading any more of the series (Volume 1 of Frankfurt Hot Seasons)

Fire Thief by Jordan Castillo Price*** An unusual short story but I was left vaguely dissatisfied. Clever but perhaps too much focus on the ‘twist’ and not enough on the characters. It was a ‘freebie’ and as I read most of what she writes, I read this. If you do, go ahead and read it. If not, it isn’t the best introduction to her work.

Loathing Leo by Ash Penn *** An mm ‘romance’ centred on an abduction supposed to be for the good of the relationship. I got very irritated with all the main characters and frankly disliked the story.

Imperfect by Cassidy Ryan***
Another short with the main focus on trying to please parents who held erroneous beliefs.

Fleeting Moments by Nic Starr*** A sweet short story about a couple and the mother of one of them. The mother has dementia.

A Blind Eye by Jane Gorman*** An ultimately boring thriller (yes, honestly) set in Poland where a Polish-American police officer is on some kind of diplomatic mission which seemed unlikely, and gets involved with old family problems. (Volume 1 of the Kaminski mysteries which I shall not be following.)

And the abandoned. None of these were well enough written to hook my interest.

Child of the Theatre by Caleb. Some sort of Regency mm – boring because it was too erotic even before we had any idea of the characters.

Castro Jack by Mark Cartwright. Experiences of a gay Brit in 70s San Francisco. Simply boring.

Tear Down and Die by Joanna Campbell Slan. A boring cozy mystery. The author claims to write ‘clean’ books with no explicit sex or bad language. Pity they also lack character and plot.

Off Broadway by Sarah Kay Moll. This was written in a strange style and I couldn’t get into it at all.

Hero in a Halfling by William Tyler Davis. A derivative and boring lotr style epic.

Crude Magic by Michael D Young. Magical, maybe, but it didn’t grab me and was too hard to get into.

Fanfic

As so often, the fanfic I read depended on a reasonably knowledge of the canon (the original shows or books). In fact I abandoned a long fic by astolat, whose work I would normally adore, for this very reason. I enjoyed some of what I read and left kudos on AO3 but would not review the works here for general readers. The only one I would like to mention is
Written by the Victors by Speranza***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/15 It’s an SGA fic and does require knowledge of the show but if you have seen that, then this is worth reading. It is clever and interesting, purportedly written many years later with all kinds of references. It consists of various articles etc. which pinpoint the way history can be skewed by the perceptions of writers. The articles are interspersed with apparent slices of ‘what really happened’. Whilst the idea and execution are brilliant, it won’t be accessible to anyone who doesn’t know the original story.

June reviews

For once I had them ready on 1st, but had too much else to post!

Films and TV

Johnny English Reborn***** Hilarious spoof spy story – provided you like Rowan Atkinson.

War on Plastic**** Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall doing his bit for, or rather, against pollution. Some interesting information emerged, especially on how local authorities deal with waste, and how changes in packaging affect supermarket prices. I ended up feeling the ordinary person couldn’t do much, if they were already aware of pollution, recycling, etc. And if they weren’t, I doubt if they’d watch the three programmes.

Years and Years*** Russell T Davies looks at the near future. Well produced and acted, but I found it very depressing as it just confirmed all my fears about the way the world (and UK in particular) is going. Also, whilst it was interesting to have the drama focus on a single extended family, it was rather surprising and unlikely to find one with so many pertinent ‘problems’.

Montalbano*** I used to love this series but I was disappointed. There wasn’t nearly enough Sicilian countryside, and the detectives seemed determined to sit in their office waiting for witnesses to come and report to them. I watched the first two part story then gave up.

My Gay Dog and Other Animals*** I agreed with one reviewer of this who said that even though it was animals the watcher could end up feeling like a voyeur. And although there was some discussion of the reasons for the observed behaviour there was very little science.

Books

Recommended:

The Heights by Amy Aislin F***** This was a free e-book and I was surprised and impressed. A child is abducted and then found as an adult. The writer makes the various reactions of family members extremely interesting and of course the mm romance has the ‘found’ adult as one of the protagonists and it is rewarding to see how he copes.

Fallout and Body Work by Sara Paretsky***** I bought Fallout from the sale trolley at my local library, and remembered enjoying the V.I.Warshawski series so bought more for my Kindle. The female detective was one of the ones that inspired my own writing and the stories are still fresh and gripping. Vic is a fascinating heroine.

Seeing Red by Alex Beecroft***** I gave a whole post to advertising this latest novel in the Trowchester series, and the book itself was just as good as I expected. The ‘bad’ boy’s motives are interesting and well-explained, and the owner of the threatened tea shop is a delightful character. I love these series where we gradually get to know a whole community and meet major characters from other books as minor ones in the current story. The same applies to the next two recommendations here.

Resonance, Resistance and Renaissance by Lilian Francis***** Another mm series with a well developed village community in Slopy Bottom. I enjoyed the third book even more than the first two, since getting to know so many of the minor characters.

Choosing Home, Returning Home, and Staying Home by Alexa Milne***** Again, an entire community is brought to life on the north east coast of Scotland. The first book deals with the ex-footballer owner of a local hotel where people from the next volumes stay, eat and marry. The second book introduces a local policeman and his love for a man badly injured by a city gang, and in a wheelchair. The gang kill the husband of one of the minor characters, who becomes the ‘lead’ in the third story, which also features a Church of Scotland minister and his inevitable angst over coming out as gay. The author tackles each theme with great sensitivity and gives an illuminating look at current problems faced by gay men as well as developing the location in loving detail.

Single by RJ Scott*****After a breakup, Asher decided to keep the baby born to a surrogate mother. So as a single dad, his social life seems restricted but a trio of guys, policeman, firefighter and doctor, move in next door and his life changes for the better. Heartwarming and romantic.

Heat by RJ Scott and Chris Quinton***** Interesting romance with a touch of mystery set in a restaurant in Salisbury. I’m hoping to hear more about Lewis and Devon and their families and friends. This is a collaborative work and both authors are good – it’s impossible to tell who wrote what, though I suspect Quinton was at least responsible for the locations.

And the rest:

Creative Interior Design (Ward Lock)***Worth keeping as a work of reference. I must have skimmed through it when I first bought it years ago but to be honest it seems a little dated now. Some interesting information about various periods and styles. As is often the case in this type of glossy ‘coffee table’ book I wonder whether the photographer always reads the text. I’m also not sure about the title: Interior Design, yes, but Creative?

Broken Guns by teromain*** An original novel published on AO3 (which accepts original works with some connection to fanworks e.g. common fanfic tropes). Competent writing and I found the story, set in a steampunk au, fairly gripping but I’m not usually a fan of romance between minor criminals, however much the author differentiates between those who choose a life of crime and those who are catapulted into it, so won’t be seeking any more of their work.

Fanfic

I read some long (novel length) and excellent fics this month, in Sherlock, SGA and H5O, including one where Steve from H5O is a vampire who wants to become human, but basically, everything required too much prior knowledge of canon to recommend to the casual reader.

May Reviews

TV and film

In case anybody wonders, most of my TV viewing consists of news, in-depth politics, interviews, etc. I really enjoy BBC Parliament, for example, but am not about to highlight specific debates here! This section is for programmes I would recommend if they are still availabe.

The excellent:

Line of Duty season 5***** I adore this show and although season 5 wasn’t quite as good as the early seasons, it still gets 5 stars from me and I’m looking forward to season 6.

Wellington: The Iron Duke Unmasked (BBC4)***** Lots of interesting material about Wellington’s later life and his marriage. I’m a huge ‘fan’ of the Napoleonic war period – fiction and non-fiction alike – so I enjoyed this.

Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure ***** Vicky is, of course, one of the main actors in Line of Duty but here she showed her amazing skills as a presenter. She watched her grandmother suffer from Alzheimer’s so jumped at the chance to help with a scientific experiment to see how music affects people with the condition.

The good:

Adele: In her own Words**** I didn’t really know Adele’s music before I watched this – wrong generation, I suppose! Anyway, I now have some of her songs on my Spotify list and was fascinated by this exploration of her personality and work.

The Hunt for Jihadi John**** This was grim viewing. I knew about his ISIS actions, of course, but not much about the man himself. This programme corrected that ignorance.

Botany: A Blooming History**** An intriguing look at plants. As well as the inevitable eye candy we got, in three programmes, a history of botany and botanists ranging from early agricultural experiments to today’s genetic modification techniques.

The merely watchable:

Our Kind of Traitor (Ewan McGregor)*** Forgettable spy film but McGregor was, of course, watchable.

Killing Eve*** I didn’t mean to watch this, and didn’t like it much, but husband was hooked so… Brilliant acting, and I think all of them deserved Baftas, but the concept – assassins and so on – didn’t appeal to me.

Cowboys and Aliens*** I think I’ve seen this before but if so had forgotten a lot of the story. Mediocre plot, acting and direction.

Books

The excellent and the good:

Healing Glass by Jackie Keswick ***** I had an advance review copy. See my separate review during May.

Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews***** A fascinating novel about the women who were forced into being ‘comfort’ workers for Japanese troops during WW2. It’s told from the point of view of a grandaughter of one of them, brought up in America.

A Merciful Silence by Kendra Eliott***** I didn’t realise I’d bought this fourth thriller featuring Mercy and Truman. It was as enjoyable as the first three but the series is becoming a little formulaic and I may not continue, especially now that Mercy and Truman seem to be engaged to be married.

Murder House (Psycop 10) by Jordan Castillo Price*****
I love the Psycop series. In this one, Vic is undercover, away from Jacob, investigating a house where someone died.
Hue Tint and Shade by Jordan Castillo Price***** A long short story, one of the Bittersweet Candy Kisses collection featuring the magical chocolatier Chance as well as Nathan and Tommy, the couple for whom he arranges romance. I love the whole series, including stories by other authors.

Montana Sky by RJ Scott (Montana 6)*****This is the last of the Montana series and I shall be sorry to leave Crooked Tree Ranch. I still think that statistics suggest there are too many gay men in the immediate area but I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Martin, Tyler, and the geology of the region.

Moonstruck by Aleksandr Voinov ***** I loved the fact that the author really understands fan fiction, and brings Anthony and Samir through Samir’s work in the ‘world’ of Anthony’s published series. The fact that the series involves werewolves made me want to read it though I am sadly aware that it is a plot device and not an actual set of novels.

Rewind by Marshall Thornton (Pinx 4)***** I’ve been enjoying this series of ‘cozy’ murders investigated by an intrepid group of gay men in Los Angeles during the worst years of the AIDs epidemic. In this volume, Noah wakes up next to a dead body but although the victim did have HIV that wasn’t the cause of death.

Surprise Groom (Marital Bliss 1) by DJ Jamison ***** I shall be following the author’s new series. Her writing is excellent and I think she is at her best when exploring themes with mild thriller elements. Caleb, Julien and an island dedicated to providing an exclusive marriage venue form an interesting story.
Special Nights by DJ Jamison **** This loses a star because there is less to grip the reader in this pleasant romance. Sam has insomnia and meets Hunter, a barista. It’s a short novel or a long short story and is well written.

Bone to Pick (Digging up Bones 1) by TA Moore**** This is a story of a police dog handler and an FBI agent. The thriller element, with the missing child, was well presented and the writing was good. However, my favourite character was the dog, Bourneville, and I don’t think I’ll be following the series.

Kip’s Monster by Harper Fox **** As with all Harper’s books, this was beautifully written, but loses a star because I found it thoroughly depressing despite the upbeat ending. I was glad Kip and Oz got together, and I appreciated the Loch Ness scenes, but I couldn’t stop wondering what life was going to bring for Oz’s grandmother and Kip’s mother. Nothing good, I suspect.

A Few Good Fish by Amy Lane (vol 3)**** I enjoyed this finale to the story of Jackson and Ellery and their battle against maverick military experiments. The main pleasures of the book lie in the explosions, and the romance, and the author points out that anyone wanting facts about the police or army should avoid it. It loses a star because, just like the middle volume in the series, some extra sections from the beginning and middle of the story which originally appeared in the author’s blog are tacked on at the end, just when the tale had reached a satisfactory conclusion. Poor structuring.

The reasonable:

Say You’re Sorry (Sacramento 1) by Karen Rose*** I’ve always enjoyed Rose’s books even though they’re formulaic (police or FBI agent meets woman investigator/witness/pathologist/lawyer etc. and romance ensues while the thriller continues). However, I was less than keen on this one. About half the book was told from the point of view of the serial killer. I can see why: it was necessary, to avoid too much telling instead of showing at the end. But I’m simply not a fan of criminal point of view. I won’t be following the series.

The ones I wouldn’t recommend:

Less by Andrew Sean Greer ** This was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and to be honest I wondered whether it was because a minor character gets a Pulitzer, which gives rise to a conversation about how to pronounce it… Arthur Less is a mediocre writer of gay fiction, who travels to avoid the wedding of an ex-lover. Most of the book reads like a travelogue with a lot of purple prose more suited to brochures. Arthur himself is not a particularly endearing character. The narrator seems too intrusive though the reason for this becomes clear at the end. I was mostly bored but persisted because I’d paid for the book and also wanted to know why the critics liked it. I still have no answer to that.

A Fistful of Emmett by Jambrea Jo Jones** Emmett and Kit are two-dimensional characters and the story had little to grip the reader. It followed the basic ‘gay for you’ trope but I was bored and only finished it because it was short. The writing was less than stellar, with lots of repetition.

No Brief Affair by Ryan Taylor. Abandoned. The story switches point of view between Liam and John, repeating the same events from a different perspective. There is also too much explicit sex. I got bored very quickly and didn’t care what happened to the characters.

Fanfic

Another month with a lot of reading that relied on canon familiarity, including the Lewis Spring Challenge, and a new Supernatural series my daughter is writing.

I’ll recommend the following:

Running on Air by eleventy7
https://archiveofourown.org/works/3171550
Harry Potter fandom. Draco is missing and the case is given to Harry as an auror. Very slow burn mm romance with no sex during the story. Beautifully written.

To Steal a Kiss From Borrowed Lipe by corruptedkid**** https://archiveofourown.org/works/16958304
Bandom AU. I’m always interested in how other writers handle magic. Gerard and Frank accidentally exchange bodies when a magic user tries to ‘help’ their relationship.