New authors read in February

Early iris in Portugal, photoshopped a bit…

That’s authors new to me, not new authors, of course. Three highly recommended and two not!

The Apothecary’s Garden by Julie Bozza***** Totally delightful. For once, I’ve given five stars to something that is basically ‘just a romance’. It’s quite different – vast age gap, very slow burn, set against restoration of a mediaeval herb garden.

Foxes by Suki Fleet***** Eek!! Five stars for the totally brilliant writing. Death, abuse, life on the street, attempted suicide… I was so traumatised I couldn’t quite cope with the HFN ending. If you are interested in the themes, go ahead but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A Walrus and a Gentleman by Emmeline Strange **** Unusual shifter romance. The romance angle was sweet. The shifter was, yes, a walrus…

Murder at St Annes by JR Ellis*** Some poor writing and a bizarre crime in Knaresborough. I dithered about just 2 stars but the writing was sort of competent and I suppose the mystery is worth it for some readers.

Waiting for love by Sam Kraemer. Abandoned. I wasn’t keen on the main plot line which was following a weight loss camp, and the writing style wasn’t to my taste – it might appeal to others.

An upcoming sale, and February’s television

header pic courtesy of Smashwords

The annual Smashwords Read-an-e-book week starts on Saturday 6th. This time I’ve put the first volume in each of my series into the sale. That means that for a week, Growing Up Fae and The Scroll are free on Smashwords.

Growing up Fae is the first in a four volume fae saga that has plenty of mm, mf and ff romance and lots of adventure.

The Scroll is the first in a six volume fantasy series that follows a trainee detective in an elf kingdom. She has two sidekicks, her gay brother who provides the romance sub plot, and a young dragon.

Please note that all volumes in both series are full length novels. I suspect the low pricing I’ve gone for so far might have made people think they were either novellas or YA so I’ll be looking to put the prices up soon. If you’ve thought about trying them, now’s the moment! There’s more information about both series under the books and buy links tab.

I’m currently working on a new fae saga in a completely different ‘verse.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching TV quite a lot on February’s long dark evenings.

I’d recommend most of these – they should all still be available.

Death in Paradise *****(bbc iPlayer) I’m not that keen on cosy mystery books but I adore this series with its exotic location and the way it lets little known actors shine.

The Romantics and us with Simon Schama****(bbc iPlayer) Some newish information about some artists though plenty of stuff I already knew. Well presented of course. Note that Desperate Romantics***** is also currently on iPlayer and I loved that series. I had the DVD but am not sure whether it survived Portugal.

Trigger Point**** (itv hub). Some silly plot devices but Vicky McClure is awesome as always and there were times when the suspense was so great I had to cover my eyes.

Mary Beard’s Forbidden Art****(bbc iPlayer) I don’t think she always understands what causes people to dislike a piece of art or be offended by it. She speculates from her own reactions. For example I can’t cope with looking at illustrations of violence because they make me feel the subjects’ pain, not because I think they’re inappropriate subjects for art. There’s enough violence in the news without looking at it as art.

The Green Planet – David Attenborough**** (bbc iPlayer) I tend to fall asleep to the eye candy. I thought the last programme on plants in cities was the most interesting. It kept me awake, anyway.

The Impressionists: Painting and Revolution**** (bbc iPlayer). Some lovely insights into the lives (and locations) of the impressionists. I’ve visited Giverny but was hazy about some of the others.

This one wasn’t really worth the four hours I spent on it.

No Return***(itv hub). A lot of questionable plot points in this story of a family holiday gone horribly wrong (teenager arrested for rape of another boy) and the acting didn’t lift it out of the ordinary.

I’m still watching:

Dogs Behaving Very Badly Ch5

The Responder BBC

This is going to hurt.BBC

The Great Pottery Throwdown Ch4

and we’re thinking about The Promise BBC

January reading: familiar writers

Icicles in a German street one January.

Recommended:

Romance, mostly mm, and with other elements:

Memories by Ruby Moone**** Well written historical thriller with a lot of excitement. A hussar returning from Waterloo finds himself declared dead and his inheritance sold. But his memories are also missing after severe injury.

One Trick Pony by Eli Easton**** I love this author’s work and at first I thought this was just another sweet romance (I prefer her paranormal books) but it ended up quite exciting with a kidnap and rescue.

The Beauty Within by HL Day **** A historical twist on Beauty and the Beast and The Frog Prince. I found myself suspending disbelief and reading avidly.

Painting with Fire by Lissa Kasey**** A lovely story involving abuse survival, doll painting, and fire fighting. Slightly marred by some careless proof reading e.g. at times it was clear the story had initially been written in first person and then changed.

His Shield by Sue Brown**** The writer ratchets up the tension to an almost unbearable degree and yet when the attacks come they arrive with a sense of shock. I loved all the three dimensional minor characters and will definitely read the sequel.

Moon’s Place by Blake Allwood**** Novella that is lifted from the ‘just a sweet romance’ level by the three dimensionality of the minor characters and the place itself. Obviously a shorter work can’t contain the same amount of excitement and mystery as, for example, the Big Bend series, but the story is well told and satisfying. I now want to visit the orange grove and the shop. Short stories and novellas definitely need exceptional writing to raise them to the four star level!

Life in the Land by Rebecca Cohen.**** Short, quirky romance with unusual magic. A family has hereditary abilities to interact magically with plants. Another beautifully written story.

Crime:

Still Life by Val McDermid**** Good thriller, well written as usual, but I guessed both crime scenarios before the detectives got there.

Readable but not special:

A Soldier’s Wish by N R Walker*** So over-sweet it made my teeth ache.

Cowboys don’t come out by Tara Lain*** Very pleasant and well written romance but in the end that’s all it was.

Pickup Men by LC Chase*** Another pleasant and well written cowboy romance with well developed characters but there’s no added element of mystery or drama.

Careful What You Wish For by Helena Stone*** Identical twins, one dead and one alive…

Fated Hearts by Garrett Leigh*** The story was adequately gripping but although I like shifters, war stories don’t really appeal to me and that’s what this was. Also, although it was set in UK the details of the locations were sadly hazy. The war, I should add, was a shifter one, not a human affair. Part of the Shadow Bound series which I won’t be reading despite the fact that Leigh is an excellent writer.

Not recommended:

Raising Kaine by Lissa Kasey** This novella is intended as an introduction to a series but manages to be totally confusing because the world building and character development don’t keep pace with the plot. The magic was interesting but lacked any explanation or back story. Seiran, apparently an avatar of the Green Man, helps to prevent a pipeline from going through Reservation lands, with the help of a powerful Fae. Topical, but weird. I usually like this author so I was disappointed.

Broken Wings by EM Lindsey (Book 3 of Broken Chains) This was advertised as a stand-alone but I was mystified and abandoned it. Also, I disliked the main characters so can’t be bothered to read previous volumes to clarify the plot.

The Pool Boy by Rachel Ember. It’s perhaps unfair to class this as not recommended. I downloaded it as free short story but didn’t read it once I’d read the blurb. I have no idea whether it’s good but the subject matter wasn’t for me. (Explicit d/s with rope.) However, she’s a good writer so if that’s your jam, try it!

Fanfic

Mouselet saves the day by Small_Hobbit***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/35920900 Only 573 words but a treasured gift fic for me, set in this writer’s Sherlock AU with talking animals. I also enjoyed John’s New Pet**** which was very short but very clever. https://archiveofourown.org/works/36383947

My gift was part of Twelve Additional Days of Christmas which covers various fandoms and can be found at

https://archiveofourown.org/series/2646262

The Christmas Cat by fledge ***** A verse rendering (based on The Night before Christmas) of a story for Supernatural fandom. So far, it’s only on the challenge LJ but I think it should be viewable. I’m not an SPN fan but the author happens to be my daughter! She also writes on AO3 as Fledhyris, so I hope she’ll upload this there. https://spn-bigpretzel.livejournal.com/1499453.html

Colorblind by blackchaps*** AU SGA where everybody wears a different coloured collar to show their sexual status. From the author’s notes I gather this was an early fic. https://archiveofourown.org/works/14993054

The Sweep of Easy Wind by blackchaps*** Semi au SGA/SG1 – military use Go’uald tech on military prisoners. John/Rodney. Probably needs full familiarity with both shows to make sense. https://archiveofourown.org/works/785073

Pros Big Bang (October 2021)

Eight stories, of varying quality, but even the ones I enjoyed needed total familiarity with canon to be understood properly so I won’t go into details. For those of you who are familiar with Pros, you can find the collection, both stories and art, on

https://archiveofourown.org/collections/Pros_Big_Bang_2021

What I watched in January 2022

The picture shows Plitvice National Park from a Croatian holiday website. It’s in the Monty Don programmes.

Hidden Assets ***** All4. Irish/Flemish thriller. The Irish and Belgians have clearly been watching Scandi Noir and decided to join in. I’m really hoping for another season.

Monty Don’s Adriatic Gardens**** BBC iPlayer. Lovely gardens and plants, and some fascinating details about hidden aspects of places like Venice.

The Bay Season 3 **** ITVhub. The Morecambe based police show seems to have got well into its stride despite some new faces. Another interesting mystery.

Death of Andy Warhol- Autopsy: The Last Hours of Andy Warhol BBC4****. Interesting look a the death of someone famous through the eyes of pathologists.

Maya Angelou on Robert Burns**** BBC4 (1996) A lovely watch for Burns Night. Maya visited Scotland and interacted/performed with some native Burns fans.

Race and Medical Experiments: What’s the Truth **** All4. Seyi Rhodes looks at the history of US and UK problem experiments which have contributed to vaccine hesitancy.

I also half watched the following, but kept falling asleep so can’t give adequate reviews:

Martin Clunes: Islands of the Pacific. ITV Hub – beautiful look at French Polynesia in ep 1

Tyrant. Amazon. Very violent as well as interesting but I kept closing my eyes, which was fatal

The Dark Woods. More4. German Noir. I lost track of events and characters.

I’m continuing to watch the following:

The Green Planet BBC1

The Great Pottery Throwdown Ch4

Dogs behaving very badly Ch5

The Impressionists BBC4

Death in Paradise BBC1

Vera ITV

Peston ITV

PMQs BBC Parliament

And, when husband gets home from an extended trip:

The Responder BBC1

Trigger Point BBC1

Happy New Year – and my December reviews!

This is the same tree that appears in my snowy post and in my social media icons. But, obviously, without snow. It’s the sycamore at the bottom of our garden. I watch it changing its seasonal attire all year round and also watch the magpies who live in it.

This is my last review post of 2021. I’m considering trying a new format for my reviews in 2022 but haven’t quite settled on anything yet. It might look something like ‘the very best of’ actually reviewed then the rest just listed with stars or no stars. Or I might do film reviews less often. Or…

Anyway, here are my December reviews – film, booksm short stories and fanfic.

TV and film.

Wheel of Time Season 1***** (Amazon Prime) Fabulous retelling of the long series by Robert Jordan, finished after Jordan’s death by Brad Sanderson who is consulting editor for the show. There are changes, yes, but I think they tighten and improve the narrative. The casting and acting is great, the locations, real and created. are superb and the filming is high quality. Now we have to wait for Season 2 but they’ve almost finished filming.

Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby ***** (Channel 4). Nicely done animated version of a Pterry short story. A slightly overdone Christmas message but saved by the actors voicing the characters. Granny (Julie Walters) is superb.

Hot Fuzz***** However often I watch it, I love every moment.

The Christmas Lectures**** BBC4. Jonathan Van Tam takes teenagers through various science and maths aspects of the pandemic. Very well presented and I liked the way he split the hour long lectures into shorter sections with different experts. That’s a good way to keep both his live and his viewing audience interested. Recommended viewing for anyone who wants the science/maths unpacked or for anyone who has teenagers.

Death in Paradise Christmas Special**** BBC1 I’m not sure this usually delightful series can stand the expansion to an hour and a half but the case had a great ending and there were some highly amusing moments in the tropical storm.

The Witcher (abandoned) Pales into insignificance beside Wheel of Time. Pretty actors but that’s about all I can say. I’ll be posting more about my tastes in fantasy, books and films, in 2022.

Books

The excellent. (No five stars this month but these were very good.)

Boy Banned by RJ Scott**** Great story about a song contest and a romance with one of the main characters on the autistic spectrum, beautifully depicted. (RJ knows exactly what she’s talking about from family experience.) I have now read novels based on various competitions: baking, property refurbishment, magician skills, and singing. I think it has become one of my favourite tropes!

Love’s Bequest by Blake Allwood**** A great finale to the Big Bend series. Ghosts, villains, angst, archaeology, and a lovely re-visit to much loved characters from previous volumes. One tiny niggle: the family trees were ‘pictures’ so wouldn’t enlarge on my Kindle and were too small to read.

Transposition by Gregory Ashe**** Hazard and Somerset Bk 2. Fascinating case where detectives are marooned with killer and victims. Brilliant descriptions of snow and storm. Some slightly confusing head-hopping but I love these guys anyway and must get the rest of the series.

Changing Worlds by Cari Z**** Great culture clash and alien planet sci fi. Lost a star because once Jason and Ferran were married I couldn’t see the point of the erotic interludes.

In this bed of snowflakes we lie by Sophia Soames.**** Touching romance between two rather awkward students. Rescued from college romance trope by the setting (Oslo in winter) and the age of the students (not teens). I loved the protagonists and the all-encompassing snow, exquisitely described.

Thicker than Water by Becca Seymour**** I think this was a re-read but I couldn’t find any evidence… It’s quite an exciting story with shifters, drug crime and mm romance all set in and around Sydney, but since I kept getting those ‘read this, knew that’ vibes, I wasn’t as engrossed as I probably was first time round. I nearly downgraded it to three stars but then thought that would be unfair and anyway, I could recommend it.

The readable (and some of you might rate them higher)

Charles: Learning to love by Con Riley*** A pleasant and well written romance but it lacked the ‘extra’ elements of mystery or outside drama that I’ve come to want in the genre.

Cinder and Ashes Bk 1 by X Aratare*** Ends on cliffhanger so presumably you have to read Bk 2***. I did and guess what? Another cliffhanger. I may continue because they’re on KU but I wouldn’t pay to own them. It’s an mm retelling of Cinderella that threatens to continue for an entire series. Still, it’s an interesting twist on the original.

Double Trouble by Barbara Elsborg*** First in the Lost and Found series. The ‘trouble’ was that I didn’t like the characters, either the ‘heroes’ or the villains. Exciting story with shifters, fae, vampires, etc. but not really for me. I won’t be reading the sequel.

Lacuna by NR Walker*** I normally adore this author’s writing but this was a fantasy (unusual for her) and I found the style slightly jarring. There were moments of almost archaic formality in the dialogue then we got things like marmalade (where previous descriptions had fruit pastes) and ‘dick’. Plus, I wasn’t really invested in any of the main characters. If you like high fantasy, this could work for you and if you’ll read anything by her, go ahead. I was vaguely disappointed.

The Key to his Heart for Christmas by Rebecca James*** A novella. Quite well written and a pleasant story (fire fighter picks up a homeless man on the way home) but the romance is a bit too sudden and there is too much explicit sex for my taste.

The poor This is the point at which I tell you not to bother.

Ghost Hunted by BL Maxwell** There was far too much ghost activity for the story to be creepy! And the writing was very repetitive.

Three Nights with the Manny by AJ Truman** OK, it was a sort of prequel novella to The Single Dads’ Club but I didn’t find it at all likely. Instant lust, yes; instant love – in this case, no. There was no character development to underpin the reactions, and most of this short story was explicit sex.

And the abandoned but this is my taste, not necessarily yours.

Rock, Paper, Scissors by Alice Feeney. The reviewers who praised this ‘thriller’ said they were hooked from the start. At the 15% mark (on my Kindle) I was still bored rigid so I gave up. For all I know it might have brilliant twists, as mentioned in reviews, but as I didn’t care what happened to Amelia or Adam I wasn’t wading through the book to find out.

Scintilla by Elizabeth Noble. The story starts with BDSM in a club – I’ve discovered I can’t cope with too much erotica of any kind but especially BDSM without some initial character development.

Pity the Dead by Rylan Cavell. Ghosts plus humour but I didn’t get to grips with the characters living or dead, or the humour, so gave up.

Short stories

Recommended

Christmas Roses by Fiona Glass***** Gorgeous brief sequel to December Roses, free in Fiona’s newsletter and hopefully later available elsewhere. A really beautiful story that questions all kinds of aspects of time travel, ghosts, etc. but manages to be very sweet and both sad and happy.

Five Gold Blings by Clare London**** Sweet and gentle story of a delivery driver who ends up with a vlogger and a partnership – both personal and business.

By the pricking of my robotic thumbs by Mary Robinette Kowal**** Interesting sci fi story exclusive to New Scientist (Christmas Special Issue).

Readable

Stardust Wake by Si Clarke *** An introduction to the characters from The Left Hand of Dog (mentioned in November reviews). Interesting if you have read or intend to read that, but not really a stand-alone.

Christmas with the Lumberjack by Daniel de Lorne*** Competent short story about loggers in Australia.

I also read numerous really short stories and ficlets in newsletters and FB posts. Too many to mention individually but they have kept me well entertained.

Fanfiction

I was still mostly reading in the Stargate Atlantis fandom. My own contribution, among others, to the Secret Santa went ‘live’ with authors revealed, on Christmas Day. (See my dashboard – https://archiveofourown.org/users/moth2fic – if you’re interested.)

Nevertheless, he persisted by mific***** Written for me in the SGA Secret Santa gift exchange. John, Rodney, Ronon and Radek get stuck on a planetary outpost during a routine inspection. Really gripping. 11k, https://archiveofourown.org/works/35838310

Not What It Seems by blackchaps**** SGA – an AU where scientists are slaves. 88k https://archiveofourown.org/works/743701 (and no, I hadn’t read this before I wrote my Secret Santa)

No Rest at all in freedom by Telesilla*** SGA. John ends up with wings when aliens see him as some kind of saviour. Although I like wingfic, these wings weren’t particularly appealing. 27k. https://archiveofourown.org/works/430985

And there is other fanfic out there…

A Bright, GuiltyWorld by Brumeier**** Trixie Belden mysteries but here Trixie is grown up with a new boyfriend and the mysteries are paranormal. I don’t know the original canon but I enjoyed the story and would like more! https://archiveofourown.org/works/34267990

Noah and the amazing multi-coloured dreamboat by Small_Hobbit**** Amusing Christmas ‘musical’ mash-up in this writer’s Sherlock Holmes AU with talking animals. 2739 words. https://archiveofourown.org/works/35070046

November Fanfiction

My current membership icon resized for WordPress

Just a reminder that all the fanfic I read is on AO3 which stands for Archive Of Our Own. This is a project of OTW which stands for Organisation for Transformative Works. I used to be a volunteer admin and their views and policies are still very dear to my heart. If anyone wants to read my own fanfic contributions you can find them on https://archiveofourown.org/users/moth2fic – a hotch potch of multi-fandom stuff, short and long!

I have read some long (think short novel length) and absorbing fics this month. All highly recommended and you don’t really need to know much about SGA other than that it is sci fi involving colonising an alien city on an alien planet and the central team are John, Rodney, Teyla and Ronon (who replaces Aiden Ford after Season 1).

Turn into something beautiful by blackchaps***** SGA – not only is John a were-cougar, all feline shifters have the gene and will go to Atlantis… https://archiveofourown.org/works/626440

Turn the Tide by Brumeier***** SGA John is a merman and Rodney is tasked with trying to communicate. This was a re-read from ages ago but just as good second time around. https://archiveofourown.org/works/13785420

Checkmate ‘Verse by Bead***** SGA. John is turned into a cat for a month by an ancient artefact. Rodney looks after him. The story is told in short chapters a bit like sections of episodes. Some are from a feline pov… The whole story gave me warm fuzzy feelings and I liked the HEA for John and Rodney in the final chapter. https://archiveofourown.org/works/221898

Where the Brave Dare Not Go by Telesilla***** SGA – an AU so far from canon you could read it as an original work. John is a were-cougar (as in the story by blackchaps). Rodney is a biochemist researching ways to make were cycles easier. http://archiveofourown.org/works/26467

I was supposed to be reading through the Pros big bang stories but had signed up for SGA Secret Santa so was immersing myself in SGA fic instead. My gift fic is now finished and will appear on my site, linked above, when it’s posted on 23rd December) so I will revert to my normal random reading and might even get to the Pros fics – I do have them all downloaded. I can’t give teasers about my fic because it’s meant to be a secret, but as it’s an SGA Secret Santa it will clearly be SGA… And I’ve just realised there will be all the other Secret Santa fics to read…

I also read Small_Hobbit’s ficlets as they appear in my inbox (yes, I subscribe). The human and animal inhabitants of her inimitable version of Sherlock Holmes are producing a pantomime this year based on Noah… Hilarious. https://archiveofourown.org/works/35070046 For those of you who don’t yet know her work, there are voles and mice and ferrets and so on who interact with the humans… No sex, no violence, just lots of fun.

To Brumeier and Small_Hobbit who are friends on Dreamwidth where I crosspost this, a huge thank you for the hours of pleasure you have given me over the year!

What I read in November

Apples, possibly crabapples, spotted locally in November

The excellent.

I should perhaps point out that five stars usually go to things I would read again if I ever have time. That means crime stories and mysteries rarely figure at higher than four.

Unplanned Coda by Kaje Harper***** A lovely ending to the Hidden Wolves series. I’m sad to leave these guys and would happily read more adventures in the same ‘verse.

Dances Long Forgotten by Ruby Moone***** A gorgeous mm twist on a Heyer Regency trope with a 21st century romance framing the story with the hearing of the ghost music that pervades it.

The Lost Ship of the Tucker Rebellion by Marie Sexton***** Brilliant sci fi that ticked all my boxes. The focus is on identical twins Denver and Laramie who have a semi-telepathic connection. There is some romance (mm and mf), lots of world building, and a bit of space opera but not enough to overwhelm the story.

Wed to the Barbarian and The Barbarian’s Vow by Keira Andrews***** High fantasy romance in two volumes. Really gripping and I couldn’t stop reading. This has all the usual ‘tropes’ – huge rough strangers, pampered princes, arranged marriage, plots galore and some really exciting drama but it also manages to smile wryly at itself and ends up explaining that life is not a fairy tale and that people are complicated.

Fragile Magic by Sharon Ashwood***** A rare (for me) five star short story. Selena (half fey) rescues a gargoyle and then of course she needs a vet (enter werewolf Jake). Romance that sparkles and some terrific world building in a short piece. Will definitely look out for this author.

Unwrapping his heart by Vin George.**** At first I thought it was just a sweet and well written story of friends to lovers then the totally believable various family dramas lifted it into the four star class. Lovely.

Jack O’Lantern by Fiona Glass**** Suitably creepy Halloween story but I read it on Nov. 1st over coffee! Will bear re-reading next October!

The Left Hand of Dog by Si Clarke**** (also Dare vs the Doll) I wasn’t wild about the short but tried the novel and got hooked. Humour of the Pratchett/Adams kind and fascinating friendships with aliens. Plus, of course, the dog… I have since read the prequel, Stardust Wake, and that deserves four stars too. If you like quirky sci fi, these are for you.

Wolfy by Tia Fielding**** Delightful book about a shifter/human relationship. I wanted more. More about the other wolves and their partners, and how they met, etc. Meanwhile, it filled the gap left by Hidden Wolves.

Romantic Rescue by Blake Allwood**** Blake is an author who can always be trusted to provide three dimensional characters (including the minor ones) and locations. I thought at first that this was going to be merely a sweet romance but there was mystery and danger in plenty before the end. Exciting and satisfying.

Fox and Wolf by Julia Talbot**** (Apex Investigations 1) A group of varied shifters as a detective agency. A gorgeous quote that I have to share: What did you do when you shot a mean tiger and all the bears had crocodile goo on them? That about sums up the plot, too.

The very readable but not special.

The Dragon Next Door by Holly Day*** Sweet story about a guy who wants to get to know his new neighbour. Nicely written but I find I want more than romance from romance stories.

Every witch way by Dakota Chase*** Well written tale of a young witch forced into using her multiple powers. High school settings are not my thing, and even though Diva goes off to Salem to do research there is still a high school vibe. This is not a criticism of the book. It’s just my taste! I suspect older teens would really love it.

Innate Magic by Shannon Fay*** Well written and the magic was interesting, but there was a lot of gratuitous violence and the core romance between Paul and Tonya wasn’t particularly gripping.

Ship Whisperer by Valerie J Mikles*** Competent sci fi and recommended for anyone who likes space opera and lots of future tech. The main character was fascinating. You’ll note from my four and five star recommendations that I like sci fi but I prefer it to focus on people and places rather than battles.

Rewriting History by Alex Jane*** A pleasant story in the new Podlington Village Romance series in which various authors get to play in the Podlington sandpit. Well written but not terribly memorable though I will probably read others in the series. I was curious about the references to Ashington because I grew up just outside a town of that name but got the impression this was not it. Another example of romance that is just romance. Nothing wrong with that, but I want more.

Run for the roses by Elizabeth Noble*** Well written story set in the world of horse racing with a convoluted murder mystery at the centre of the plot. First in the Circles series and another couple look interesting.

Just like cats and dogs by BA Tortuga*** A lot of head hopping, sometimes mid-paragraph, had me confused. Nice concept (cat and dog shifters find romance) and an exciting story.

Elven Duty by Rhys Lawless*** Nice story – not sure whether to get sequel or not but as it’s on KU I probably will. (I also liked their Foxy Heart.)

And lastly, the definitely not recommended

Shift by Heather MacKinnon* I was furious because this was introduced as the first novel in a series but turned out to be just the first three chapters. Just as it was getting interesting (a young woman is mauled by a wolf on a hiking trail then rescued by a brother and sister who talk about their ‘pack’) it stopped and there was a suggestion about clicking to buy the next volume. Even if the volumes were free or in KU I would not be impressed and definitely won’t be following the series on principle. I don’t object to ‘tasters’ but the author/publisher should be upfront about what’s on offer.

Bump in the night by Meredith Spies * Book One of Medium at Large. Confusing and confused paranormal detective story. The characters are insufficiently differentiated so it’s hard to tell who’s narrating each chapter, and the crime that underpins the plot is not well explained. There is some poor writing, including overlong paragraphs with a spoken sentence at the end meaning the reader hasn’t a clue who’s talking or why. I won’t be reading any more and would suggest you don’t, either.

That’s enough for now and I’ll leave fanfic to a later post.

My November viewing

Autumn colours arrived late this year, were glorious for a short time then disappeared rapidly.

Midway through December and I have failed to keep any blog promises so far… I meant to provide a playlist of last year’s December music – family emergencies and family celebrations have conspired to prevent anything from happening. I also intended to provide some Christmas cooking advice and that may yet happen. Meanwhile, I have, later in the month, a holiday story ready and waiting, and will also link to my Secret Santa fanfic once it is posted.

For now, have some reviews of what I watched in November.

Shetland***** (BBC1/iPlayer) Case satisfactorily resolved. Plenty of personal angst for next season.

Keith Jarrett: The Art of Improvisation*****. (BBC4/iPlayer) Repeat of a film I missed first time around. Nice long interviews with Keith and other musicians. I kept thinking how wonderful it would have been to have similar footage on composers like Mozart (Keith’s favourite).

Wheel of Time***** (Amazon Prime) I was excited to see this – I read all the books then gave them to a friend. She has now started a discussion comm (reading/viewing) on Dreamwidth. There are flaws (as there are in the books) but I shall continue. This is Amazon but is a weekly programme. I ended up writing a very angry letter to The New Statesman re a review of episode 1 by a journalist who clearly had no idea about the fantasy genre. I do not usually write to editors…

City Homicide.*** (Amazon Prime). An Australian cop show set in Melbourne. I was hoping for something like Mystery Road. I watched one ep and only carried on to the second because it was a two ep case. Adequate mystery and solution but the detective team was boring.

The Harder They Fall (Netflix) No stars. This is an alternative Western and sounded interesting. I stopped watching and read while husband got to the end. Brilliant acting and direction and fascinating to see black actors in all the leading roles, but the plot was very thin and there was almost non-stop violence so not a film for me. A friend recced it and I will be wary of her recs in future.

Joanna Lumley and the Human Swan (itv hub) Joanna followed the journey of a woman paragliding round Great Britain. No stars. I sat through this (doing other things) because husband is a keen paraglider. I am frequently irritated by Joanna Lumley and on top of her style of presentation we had some fairly stupid commentary about climate change. Yes, cliffs are collapsing but they must always have done so or why would they be there? Worthy but could benefit from some serious editing. I admit I was already a bit upset at the notion of a programme featuring a guy who died in an accident whilst they were filming; we knew from the outset that it was dedicated to him and again, worthy but not something I was happy to watch.

October reading

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

The highly recommended:

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

The recommended:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The readable:

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

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

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

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

Fanfic

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

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

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

September Book Reviews

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

The superb

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

The good

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

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

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

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

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

The readable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abandoned

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

No fanfic  this month