Reviews for December 2017

Happy New Year (well, it’s still January).


As usual, I watched quite a lot over the holiday period.

First, the five star ones:

Flint Street Nativity***** This is my all-time favourite Christmas viewing. However often I watch it, it never fails to have me crying with laughter. My original copy went up in smoke in Portugal so a close friend bought me a new copy for Christmas.

Spiral (episodes 1 and 2 of season 6) ***** Waiting a whole week for more episodes reminds me of why I have previously waited and bought the DVD.

Secret Life of the Zoo***** – ongoing series on Channel 4 (including Christmas special). I hadn’t thought about it but the fun the keepers have giving the animals ‘presents’ let them observe family interactions.

Rango ***** Lovely animation with the main character voiced by Johnny Depp.

Dame Vera Lynn: Happy 100th Birthday.***** It was great watching her reactions, and also the reactions of viewers who were in the forces in the war and saw her at the time.

Timeshift: Bridging The Gap – How The Severn Bridge Was Built***** Fascinating. At the time the bridge was built I had relatives in that part of South Wales and was very aware of the whole project.

Then the four star, which were worth watching but not quite five star material.

League of Gentlemen**** (BBC – 3 episodes) I loved the original series and this was good too, with a lot of familiar characters. But like any show of its kind it was mixed. Some sections were brilliant and others were mediocre.

Dr Who Christmas Special **** The only thing we watch on Christmas Day (so dinner has to be timed to fit). I liked it, and am looking forward to the new Doctor, but am sad to say goodbye to Peter Capaldi.

Concorde: A Supersonic Story **** Interesting.

The Blue Planet **** (repeated on Yesterday). I enjoyed this but thought a great deal of it was eye candy – superior eye candy but still candy.

Jools Holland Hootenanny**** Well, it was reasonable watching for New Year’s Eve but I thought the offerings were very mixed.

Reindeer Family and Me.**** I was interested because I have Finnish (though not Sami) friends. Enjoyable.

And finally, the ‘also-ran’.

The Dirty Dozen (1967) *** I have probably seen this before and forgotten it. I found it very dated and was not altogether impressed by the acting.


Some excellent five star reading this month.

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett ***** This was a re-read. I have no idea yet whether my Pratchett collection survived the fire (there are boxes in the intact garage) but a friend sent me this to comfort me and I loved it all over again. Pratchett is my comfort reading – incredibly funny and at the same time really serious about the human condition.

Truth Will Out by A.D.Garrett***** A forensic scientist and a police DCI investigate a serial killer. The book was excellent – great plot and superb character development. But then I was thinking there were sequels to come and found out this was in fact book 3. Since there were lots of spoiler-type references to the earlier books I’m not sure I will read them. However, I think I’d recommend the series.

Marriage can be murder by Emma Jameson ***** The plot and the characters were great – the ‘detective’ is a country doctor at the beginning of WW2 and the romance element is delightful. But there are flaws – a lot of Americanisms and cultural errors that show the author is not British. However, I’ll forgive them and will be reading the next in the series.

Bring Me the Dead by Becky Black ***** This is archaeology in space with wonderful world (or rather worlds) building, and lots of UST in the m/m romance which underpins but never overwhelms the plot. I loved it and am looking forward to reading the sequel.

Belle Starr by Belinda McBride *****This one was werewolves in space and I was relieved to find it really well written and exciting. Both themes appeal to me enormously but are not always well developed. Another one where a sequel will be more than welcome.

Then the four star one

Better Off Wed by Laura Durham**** A ‘cosy’ mystery with poisonings investigated by a wedding planner and her friends. It was a fun read, but almost too ‘light’ to be adequately gripping. I might read the rest of the series, but only if they are cheap.

And a mediocre read.

Shit happens so get over it by Summersdale Publishing*** This is a collection of ‘wise’ sayings collected by a publishing house which didn’t even attribute it to an editor. Some of the ‘advice’ was good, or amusing. My nine-year-old grandson thought the title was hilarious.

Finally, two books I would not recommend at all.

Swords against Darkness edited by Robert E.Howard ** I was really disappointed. Whilst swords’n’sorcery is not my ultimate favourite sci fi or fantasy sub genre I usually enjoy it. These stories were by well known authors but were, to my mind, tired and stale. The excitement of the editor perhaps reflected his own lack of reading outside his immediate ‘circle’.

A Woman’s Shed by Gill Heriz (photography by Nicolette Hallett)** As a coffee table book, to dip into, this worked and contained some interesting storage ideas, but the photography, whilst excellent, seemed chosen for effect rather than elucidation of the subject and text, and the premise of the book mystified me. Yes, women, as well as men, have sheds, but bringing together such disparate items as luxury studios and run-down garden storage seemed to be grasping at straws to build a book. As a side note, I couldn’t quite work out why every time the author used the word ‘garden’ she had to add ‘(yard)’ in case her American readers might be puzzled, and almost as often had to add ‘(caravan)’ each time she used ‘trailer’.

I also read a number of short stories from various Advent calendars. Whilst I enjoyed most of them I didn’t actually keep track and nothing really stands out, though I loved some glimpses into the worlds I already knew by favourite authors such as Charlie Cochrane and Elin Gregory.


This was Advent calendar territory, too, and I read a number of bits and pieces including some lovely ficlets by Small_Hobbit whose work I have mentioned previously.

The only long piece I read and enjoyed was:

Code Black by starboydjh ***** which you can find at The story is RPF which is ‘real person fiction’ where real actors, musicians, celebrities etc. are inserted into stories as the main characters. The plots of these RPF stories are totally fictional but the reader can imagine the actor/whatever in the role which enables the writer to use both the looks and the public persona of their chosen ‘real person’ to underpin the story. In this one, a couple of YouTube presenters are used as the main characters in a story about a London hospital with a nod to the American show (called Code Black) about an American hospital. There is a mild m/m element to the plot but there is no explicit sex. I thoroughly enjoyed the detailed account of hospital work, and the slow build-up of the romance.


Posted by on January 14, 2018 in reviews



November reviews

Film and Television.

Maybe I should point out that I only review the things that are worth talking about. I watch a lot of news and documentaries, and some DVDs. I rarely watch drama series as they air.

Harry Potter: A History Of Magic**** was on BBC2 and was highly recommended (I watched it on iPlayer) but I was mildly disappointed. There was a lot of fascinating information about the history of magic in general but I did think we could have done with more shots of the artefacts and documents and fewer of JKR admiring them. The programme was made to coincide with the opening of the exhibition of the same name at the British Library. However, I’m not going to London… There’s a tie-in book with the same name but it’s expensive and I’m not sure, after seeing the programme, that it would necessarily be worth the money. I might look out for a ‘used and new’ copy. I was interested to hear that JKR has no fewer than four copies of Culpeper’s Complete Herbal and clearly refers to it often. I had a copy, also as a reference book for my fantasy work, but it has gone up in smoke in our recent disaster (the Portuguese fires for any reader who doesn’t know already). That’s something I must replace. An online version is not nearly as usable ven though it promises an interactive digital experience. (The thing is, I know I will want to use it as a reference book, not a single one way journey or for dipping into!) If the programme is still available on iPlayer, it’s worth watching.

Little Ashes***** This is a drama based on Salvador Dali’s memoirs, only shared in his final years, detailing his unconsummated love affair with the poet Lorca. Obviously, given the subject matter, it’s dark and tragic and the knowledge of Lorca’s death at the hands of Franco’s thugs hangs over the early part of the film, giving it a curiously sad quality even when the characters are enjoying themselves. The film is well structured and scripted, and quite beautifully shot. The acting is superb and I was amazed to realise that Robert Pattinson, the beloved of the Twilight fans, is a seriously good actor. His portrayal of Dali, a complex character if ever there was one, is brilliant. Beside him, the Spanish actor, Javier Beltrán, who plays Lorca was competent enough and very good looking but seemed almost wooden beside Pattinson, who shone. The only flaw in the film was the sound quality – something that seems more and more frequent in the last decade. Highly recommended viewing.

The Secret Life of the Zoo Season 4***** I love this series and was glad to see its return this autumn. I have only seen two episodes so far but will be sure to watch all the rest either as they are aired or on CatchUp (Channel 4 for UK viewers – no idea if it’s available elsewhere.)


This was a bit of a non-fiction month, with a focus on two of the books recommended here plus various copies of New Scientist, Private Eye, National Geographic and recipe magazines.

First of all, the five star brigade, with only one work of complete fiction this time.

Wake Up Call by JL Merrow (Porthkennack)*****
This is part of the Porthkennack series where a number of authors get to play in the same fictional Cornish town and give us interesting and well written m/m romances.. I love Merrow’s style of writing which seems superficially casual but in fact is layered with a deep knowledge of regional micro-cultures, speech patterns and little known facts. Devan, a motor mechanic of mixed race, adopted then orphaned, is seeking his birth family, and in the process meets Kyle, a barrister diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy. It’s a fascinating story with great minor characters too. Highly recommended.

The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen*****
The science chapters which alternate with a Discworld story ( a novella rather than a novel) are almost as fascinating as the discussions held by the wizards of Unseen University. I struggled with the astronomy sections – this is a subject well outside my comfort zone – but the evolution and paleontology parts were fine so I have to assume the science contributors know what they’re talking about when it comes to the cosmos, and I did learn something about the universe even if I might not remember it all or be able to recount what I read. The wizards, you see, have a project on the go, which involves creating a world and indeed a universe, and watching it develop. I will be requesting the later books in the same mini-series as future gifts. This one was a birthday present and I am truly grateful for it. Highly recommended.

Academia Obscura by Glen Wright*****
This is a book to dip into rather than read in a linear fashion. It’s a wonderfully funny and informative account of academic publishing. I subscribed to it on Unbound and am pleased with the book. Though I think I’ve said in the past that I am not going to use Unbound again – it’s anyone’s guess as to when you get your copy (or a copy you want to give someone else) and the touted access to the writer’s thoughts as they complete their work is not particularly interesting. This was the last of the books I’d subscribed to in a rush of enthusiasm. Worth reading and now available on Amazon at a reasonable price so it would make a good Christmas gift for any academics in your life.

Somehow, I bypassed any good-but-not-outstanding books this month and ended up with three three star ones:

Hex in the City edited by Kerrie Hughes (In the Fiction River series)***
This book was meant to be the cutting edge of urban fantasy, a theme that appeals to me. But the collection of stories was not brilliant. I have read much better examples elsewhere, even by some of the writers ‘showcased’ here (e.g. Seanan McGuire). There was nothing dire, but equally nothing special. I bought this as part of a Women in Fantasy story bundle and I hope the other books in the set are better than this one. The only story that has really stayed with me is Somebody Else’s Problem by Annie Bellet and I might look for this author again. Bellet introduces the idea of ‘a future/ alternate Detroit where magic is only somewhat legal and rats are used to sniff out the illegal magic.’ The only other story worth mentioning is The Scottish Play by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who helped edit the collection and gave us her own version of magic in theatreland. The proofreading (on all the contents) could have used some work. Worth reading if you find it at the library but not worth paying for.

Colorado Connection by Sara York(Colorado Heart 6)***
This story of a guy who lost his lover in Afghanistan and was recruited into some kind of black ops group on his return didn’t really appeal to me, partly because I don’t totally approve of black ops and therefore felt disinclined to empathise with the main characters – but also because I think a lot of the story would have made more sense if I’d read the earlier books in the series first. However, I won’t be reading them. The writing was competent and the characters were well developed. The criticism is personal and should not deter readers who might like the theme.

A Stranger in Skoria and A Slave in Skoria by John Tristan***
Two novellas that I have lumped together because they are quite short. I believe there’s a further story (at least) in the offing but I won’t be buying it. The idea of aliens and slaves fascinates me, but in this case the situation was just an excuse for some very explicit m/m sex writing with very little in the way of character development, and some rather banal world building. Technically, the writing was quite good but I found the overall effect disappointing.

…and one that scraped two stars by the skin of its teeth.

Wolves of the Northern Rift by Jon Messenger (Magic and Machinery 1)**
I certainly won’t be buying book 2! I really enjoy steampunk and looked forward to this, especially as it also featured werewolves. But although the writing was technically competent with reasonable grammar etc., the plot was clumsy, the world building was poor, and the further addition of demons did nothing to recommend the story to me. It was as if a computer had been asked to write something that included everything currently popular in the fantasy genre. Maybe that’s what actually happened here? Not recommended.


Despite being fanfic, neither of this month’s recs are ‘slash’ (m/m) or het (f/m) love stories. They are what is known as ‘gen’ with no real romance elements whatsoever.

I finished reading the stories contributed to The Professionals Big Bang 2017. You can see the whole collection at if you’re a fan of the show but most of the fics are probably not very accessible to a wider readership. I do want to recommend Nice-Orno Ltd by Fiorenza_a***** which is at
It’s fairly true to canon despite being tongue-in-cheek. It has a delighful humour to it and a great twist at the end that makes it a suitable story to amuse you at Christmas. And at just over 33,000 words it’s a satisfyingly long read.

I’ve also been wandering through the Stargate Atlantis reverse big bang, where the art is what inspires the story rather than the other way around. I’ve also been reading contributions to the annual Monsterfest at a LiveJournal/Dreamwidth writing community. I’m usually active in this, though not this year. However the upshot is that I must recommend the writings of one of my online friends. ‘Brumeier’ writes both fanfic and original fiction and her work appears in both the collections mentioned. I want you all to go and read the three stories already posted in After the Eclipse***** at There are only just over six thousand words altogether so it won’t take you long to enjoy this quirky small town fantasy. Think Pratchett meets Dr Who with a helping of Welcome to the Night Vale. Superb!

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Posted by on December 4, 2017 in reviews



Piracy – or not?

140 piracy

I should start by saying I know a lot of you are going to disagree with this post. But please, read it and think about it.

I really really don’t understand the way piracy, theft and sharing are conflated and confused both by the ‘big’ publishers and the authors who feel shock/horror every time someone reads one of their books without buying it.

Yes, piracy is wrong, very wrong, if we mean the taking of content and reselling without giving the profits to the original writer/artist/publisher. Yes, anyone downloading from pirate sites is committing theft because they are depriving the original producers of profit. They are also aiding and abetting the crime of piracy. No arguments from me, there.

However, I do think that some of the mega media moguls must share a little of the blame; they have been so arrogant about release dates, pricing, etc. that people have, in a world where news spreads instantly, felt tempted to obtain the offered goods in whatever way seemed most convenient. For example, sometimes my fellow writers recommend a book that turns out not to be available on UK sites. I’m not condoning the illegal downloads, just pointing out that it’s sometimes understandable, more often in the case of films than of books or music, but people do tend to repeat behaviour that works for them.

Then there’s sharing.

Publishers would have us think (and have convinced some authors) that sharing is piracy/theft. Their argument seems to centre on the fact that whilst if you lend a paperback book you don’t have access to it while your friend reads it, if you send them a digital version you retain your own copy. (Although with the paperback you still retain ownership. The only occasion when theft enters the picture is when the reader does not return the printed book to the owner. )

Nobody mentions the fact that sharing is probably the very best advertising an author or any artist can get. When people were asked by Neil Gaiman, at a lecture in London, how they found their favourite authors, the vast majority said that they found them through loans from friends, second hand book shops, charity shops, and libraries. Nobody mentioned browsing either in shops or online. Nor, perhaps more surprisingly, did they mention recommendations from friends. Once found, a favourite author is one the reader will buy again and again and will recommend to their entire social circle.

None of the above ways of finding books gives any immediate profit to the author or publisher. Neither does it prevent a sale because the new reader would probably never have found the book in the first place. What it does do is to ensure that at least some of the new readers will become customers for further books by that author, and maybe for their own copy of the one they ‘borrowed’.

Traditionally, the fame of books has spread by recommendation, either by critics or by friends. I know I’m more likely to read something a friend lends me, if only because they’re going to ask me what I thought of it. Reading is a social activity as well as a solitary one. We share opinions on books, we buy them as gifts, we leave them in guest rooms, we compile lists of favourites and lists of things to avoid. We read bits out to each other, sometimes to the annoyance of all concerned. We listen to books read on the radio together. We form book clubs. When we read reviews we ask around to see if anyone we know has read the book concerned.

I have two Kindles. (This was almost accidental but there you are.) So if I buy an e-book I can read it and pass it across to my daughter or my husband or someone else in my family who might be interested and they read it too. I haven’t lost it. It’s still in my library ‘cloud’. And they haven’t gained it. They’re using my Kindle, after all. But this constrains me artificially. I used to share books with two or three friends. Now that most of my books are e-books I no longer do this. (Even with two Kindles I’m unlikely to let one out of the house.) But I am so tempted to share my favourites with them. And who knows? I might gain a new customer for that author.

Recently I subscribed to a book via Unbound. As well as the hardback version they sent me a download link. I don’t need two copies (although it’s a good book) and I am very tempted to give the download link to a friend. After all, I paid (quite highly) for it and I need a Christmas present for her.

I also have a ‘wishlist’ that includes a lot of books. My nearest and dearest can’t buy them for me because they know I would prefer the e-book versions (otherwise the wish list would have more bookcases at the top). I gather that things like Amazon tokens are not considered to be quite the same. And yes, some of the indie sites allow gifting, but not all of them do, and Amazon certainly doesn’t.

Television companies have dealt with the problem. They ‘lend’ us their programmes for a number of days or weeks, accessed via catch-up sites. Although Amazon has some kind of lending feature, many e-books don’t fall into its net, and I’m sure we don’t particularly want to force everyone in the world to have an Amazon account in order to borrow books. I would have thought it should be possible to provide lending copies, time limited, with books. Since that hasn’t happened, is anyone truly surprised that people share their books? I should perhaps add that it has happened, for libraries, but not for individuals unless you have close family members who share your account details.

I dislike my desire to share being compared with theft. It diminishes my relationship with books (and fellow readers) and is an aspect of e-books I thoroughly object to. When we can’t share, because of the nature of e-books, we lose something very important about reading and about our culture. And I am totally convinced that we, as writers, lose customers.

I also dislike, intensely, the criminalisation of an activity that has been the ‘norm’ in literate societies, one of the things that help culture to grow and solidify, and the way it has been compared, unfairly in my opinion, with the very real crimes of theft and piracy.


Posted by on November 29, 2017 in copyright reform, protest, publishing


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Snippets: to read/post or not to read/post?


I rarely read snippets. If I’m glancing at an unknown author’s work in a bookshop or online I might look at a few random paragraphs to see whether the grammar and style are to my taste. (For example, I personally don’t enjoy long books written in the present tense.) But snippets that appear in my inbox or on social media are something I avoid. I only see them if I already know the author and am following their work, so presumably these are writers whose style already appeals to me. So that reason for reading an extract vanishes. I also like books that have some kind of mystery, preferably though not necessarily crime, and some sort of developing relationship and that means I really really don’t want spoilers. Nor do I want to recognise a passage when I read a book for the first time. I like my first reading to be ‘fresh’!

So if I see a snippet or extract I move rapidly past, averting my eyes!!

But so many authors do put snippets out there and I’m wondering whether it’s a good marketing ploy or not. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean other readers won’t. Recently I actually chose an extract to put on a review blog a friend publishes. It took us ages to choose the sections she used. I don’t think the post garnered any sales at all but it might have made my name known. Here it is!

GROWING UP FAE – Extract from the novel by Jay Mountney

What do you think? Worth the effort or not?

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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in publishing



Something to remember

I should have posted this yesterday but real life has been overwhelming this last week. It’s a ficlet I wrote a couple of years ago for a picture prompt but I’ve chosen to go with a view of artificial poppies rather than the original.

Something to remember.

Hamish had worshipped Donald since they were bairns at the local school together. He had never said anything, of course. His friends found it hard enough to express their feelings for lasses. There was no way of articulating his desire for another boy. He had talked to Jock when Jock had started courting Mary, but had got nowhere in his search for words and phrases.


Och,” Jock said, “she’s canny enough and she kens I’m not averse. But I wouldnae tell her so out loud. Doesnae do to turn their heads, ye see?” Hamish saw. He’d have loved to have turned Donald’s head, especially in his direction, but there didn’t seem to be a way.


They joined the regiment together after Highers. It was that or the fishing boats or university and neither felt cut out for the sea of fish or the sea of knowledge. So they went through basic training and felt proud of their uniform and the history they were taught to see as their own.


The wreath-laying ceremony was such an honour. The minister wrote from home to stress how proud the village would be if their boys were to appear on the small screen. Each of them secretly hoped to be the one to carry the wreath of poppies and lay it on the memorial. Hamish could hardly contain his excitement when he was chosen.


The wind whipped around their faces and he was glad he’d had the forethought to borrow a hat pin from his gran. He never thought of his kilt, even when he stepped up in front of them all and stood respectfully after he’d laid the wreath. The gust of spiteful air whisked the heavy folds sideways and up. He hoped his face as he turned to walk back to the line was not displaying his embarrassment. He must on no account show anything, give any sign that he knew there had been anything wrong. He must not give a signal that would allow the crowds to laugh or give the journalists a chance to bay at his heels. He knew his sergeant wouldn’t blame him for the display, but he might well blame him if he wasn’t dignified about it.


And yet, he thought, as they stood singing about Christian soldiers or those in peril on the sea or whatever… And yet, it could have been worse. He could have been wearing underpants and that would have been something his fellow soldiers would never have allowed him to live down. Sometimes he put a pair on when the cold got too much for him, but on this day of pride he hadn’t dared. He was glad.


Donald approached him later, crossing the training square. No-one had said anything and he’d begun to hope there’d be no comments – and no pictures in the papers. But Donald fell into step beside him and grinned and he knew. Donald was not going to let it pass. He shuddered inwardly. All his dreams and shy admiration and now he was a figure of fun to his idol. But Donald was speaking.


Ye’ve a fine pair o’ cheeks there, Hamish. I always thought ye might have. And I’ve always wanted to know if I was right. The wind was my friend today, wasnae it?”


It wasnae mine!”


Nonsense – ye’re the pride of the regiment. And I’m proud to call you my friend. I’d be proud to call you more than that, Hamish. If…” He stopped, blushing the red of the threads in his tartan and started to move away, every motion betraying anxiety and speed, a running away from what he’d said. But Hamish grabbed his arm and whirled him round.


Ye’ll no get away that easily, Donald,” he said softly, a steel determination underlying the words. “Ye can call me anything ye like, d’ye see?”


And Donald did see, and they walked back to the barracks together, knowing the future could be sweet.



Posted by on November 12, 2017 in ficlets, writing


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October Reviews

So I’m on time this month. I can’t really claim full credit. I had no internet for a week so had plenty of time to organise lists etc.

Films etc.
Other than news and political commentary I’ve only really watched Star Trek Discovery episodes 1 – 5. I liked the new concept, with good special effects, strong female characters and a very multiracial/multi species crew. But once the main characters were introduced, the plots were, I thought, tired, and I got bored. Three stars, and I would watch more if someone else was switching it on…

A good crop of five star reads this month.
Foxglove Copse by Alex Beecroft*****
This was my introduction to Porthkennack, a fictional Cornish world which was the creation, I think, of Alex, but has been invaded by a number of my favourite authors. I have bought the next five books and am really looking forward to them. The stories are all standalones but set in the same town. This one was exciting and interesting, a well plotted thriller with an m/m sub plot. Sam, who is escaping his London family and job, joins Ruan, a local, to investigate an internet troll who is also responsible for nasty ‘curses’ in the form of sacrificed animals, intended to force Sam’s farmer landlord to sell. Recommended.
The Best Corpse for the Job by Charlie Cochrane*****
The introduction to another series by Charlie Cochrane who never disappoints. This is the start of the Lindenshaw mysteries, set in a small village with a teacher at the local school helping a local police inspector investigate a murder. Plenty of red herrings, a lot of realistic school detail, and some nicely developed characters. Again, I’m looking forward to the sequels. Recommended.
The Last Dragonlord by Joanne Bertin*****
A very competent fantasy novel with some lovely dragons and a lot of very well drawn characters and some great world building. The story was exciting and when the hero and heroine finally got together I heaved a sigh of relief. I bought the book, with its sequel, in a charity shop, and am looking forward to reading Dragon and Phoenix. Recommended.
An Unsuitable Heir by J.K. Charles*****
This was the final story in the Sins of the Cities series which has been consistently good. I love the depiction of Victorian London and society high and low. By the time this novel starts the heir to the earldom has been found, but turns out to be reluctant to take his place. He is someone with gender issues which are sensitively portrayed, as are his problems in denying the chance of a fortune to his twin sister, who luckily meets the man of her dreams. Well worth reading but it won’t make sense unless you’ve read the earlier books, An Unseen Attraction, and An Unnatural Vice. I recommend the trilogy.
Dating Ryan Alback by J.E.Birk*****
This was a fluffy contemporary m/m romance, but it was excellent fluff. Jason wins a date with a movie star, Ryan, in a talk show contest. The awkwardness is endearing and realistic, there is plenty of angst, the minor characters are well drawn, and although the ending is happy that is never a certainty. Recommended.
Dead Ringer by Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler*****
Brandon turns escort/sex worker to pay the bills on a house inherited from his grandparents. Grandfather was a movie star and Brandon meets Percy, an avid fan of James Ringer (who I think is loosely modelled on James Dean). Percy is a partial invalid. The ensuing problems are engrossing and the detail on the escort business is fascinating. A great read and I will be looking for more work by these authors. Highly recommended.

Incidentally, I only found Dead Ringer and Dating Ryan Alback (see above) because they were part of Riptide’s Anniversary Sale. That shows that sales are an important way to get books, and their authors, known!

Then there were some good reads in the four star category.
The Heart of Texas by RJ Scott****
The son of an oil billionaire arranges a same sex marriage for himself in order to retain his inheritance but there are plenty of twists and turns in the story before the hero can breathe easily. As with a lot of this author’s work, the writing is excellent and the characters attractive, but the plot is slightly unrealistic.
Dirty Laundry by Heidi Cullinan****
I understand this was expanded from a short story and to be honest, I thought it would have worked better in a shorter form. Adam is ‘rescued’ by Denver when he is being bullied in a laundromat. Both men have problems and secrets that need to be sorted out before they can move on. Nicely written but for me, it has too much explicit sex which tends to get boring.
Back to You by Chris Scully****
Alex goes back to his old home town when his father is dying, and is reunited with his childhood friend Ben. However, the old mystery of Ben’s missing sister threatens them both when Alex, a journalist, investigates. Quite gripping but there is some unrealistic behaviour on everyone’s part, past and present.
The Law of Attraction by Jay Northcote****
Alec, a lawyer, finds that his one-night-stand Ed is his new temporary assistant. Competent writing but far too much explicit sex.

And one disappointment.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie***
After reading Half of a Yellow Sun, which is a wonderful novel exploring the Nigerian civil war, I was really looking forward to this. But the story of Ifemelu, who returns to Nigeria as an Americanah and is reunited with her high school/uni boyfriend, Obinze (who is married) meanders through their past and present with no surprises or excitement. The writing is beautiful, as one would expect from this author, but I kept waiting for the main story to start and it never did. The book explores American concepts of race from the point of view of an outsider, and is of interest in that respect (speaking as another outside who finds American ideas about race quite hard to understand) but I think I would have preferred the ‘blog’ that Ifemelu wrote which gave her her ‘living’ in America. The excerpts in the story, from the fictional blog, were perhaps the best bits! I found it hard to empathise with either of the main characters, both of whom were deeply flawed and at the same time less than interesting. I know Adichie is highly thought of, and that people are currently saying she should be on our university reading lists, but I think this example of her work is just ‘litfic’ with much less depth than I had hoped for.

I have been concentrating on the stories for the Big Bang for the Professionals fandom. For those of you who have never heard of Big Bangs, this is a fanfic tradition in which long(ish) stories are accompanied by art – paintings, photoshopped montages, videos – made by artist fans. The collaboration of the writers and artists together with encouragement from ‘cheerleaders’ once the contribution list is announced, and the beta/editing services of other fans give the whole concept great appeal. I am not recommending any of the works I have read, because unless you are in the fandom they would not be altogether appealing. Most of them are what are called AUs or alternative universe stories (I and a co-writer contributed one of these). The pleasure in the reading comes largely from seeing how the canon characters behave in entirely different circumstances.
However, a solid diet of Professionals gets to be indigestible, even for a fan, and I do have two recommendations for the month from other reading.
Of Witch I Am Familiar by Brumeier***** which you can find at
This is also an AU, this time with characters from Stargate Atlantis transformed into a witch’s animal familiars. The story is endearing if you like magic, cats, and ravens, even if you have no idea about the original show. 3,411 words.
An Extra Cup by Small_Hobbit*****: you can find it at
Back in my March reviews I recommended the writings of Small_Hobbit. You can find her work on AO3 at and dip in almost anywhere. Some of her offerings are newspaper items or diary entries couched in the style of the original Holmes stories and the newspapers they appeared in. Some are pure fantasy, with Mouselet, a mouse who lives in the wainscot at Baker Street and is in love with Inspector Hopkins. It was my birthday in October and the writer (who I know quite well in real life as well as online) wrote me a birthday ficlet because she knows I love Mouselet. Only 252 words so do go and read it! Despite the fandom connection, it should be accessible to everyone who has ever heard of Sherlock Holmes!

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Posted by on November 1, 2017 in reviews



September reviews

Reviews for September. Late, but not as late as the last lot!! I don’t seem to have had a brilliant month in any category.

Films etc.

Nothing pleased me. I watched:

Heartbreak Ridge – with Clint Eastwood as an unlikely army sergeant. **

Kill Bill Two – I missed the beginning and was mystified throughout. I expect it didn’t help that I hadn’t seen the first Kill Bill film. **

Black Lake (ep 1) – I don’t find Scandinavian noir appealing (though I love their police shows) so I didn’t watch any more episodes. **


Nothing gained five stars this month though there was quite a lot of solid and pleasurable reading in the four star list.

The Montana series by RJ Scott ****

1.Crooked Tree Ranch

2.The Rancher’s Son

3.A Cowboy’s Home

These were enjoyable but increasingly improbable. Three families own a ranch and the series follows various family members. Of seven sons, how likely is it that four are gay? There is a sequel relating to the sheriff but I have a severe case of disbelief.

Dragon Prince/Star Scroll/Sunrunner’s Fire by Melanie Rawn****

I was enthusiastic at first – interesting magic, and lovely dragons (who didn’t appear often enough) but by the end of the third book I was frustrated because every time the characters solved a problem another worse one arose, and the huge cast and timeline meant some of my favourite characters were gone. When I gathered that it wasn’t a trilogy but would have further volumes I gave up.

Awfully Glad by Charlie Cochrane****

An enjoyable short novel set just after World War 1. This author is really good at period detail and I liked the way the m/m romance was set against the background of very real fears of being ‘outed’. Well written but personally I prefer her longer series.

And then there was the three star book that took me almost as much time as the others put together…

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton***

This had so much hype with lots of awards. I’m sure the author’s depiction of the New Zealand gold fields of the nineteenth century was authentic and well researched but I could have read a history book. There wasn’t a single character I cared about, and the mystery was less than enthralling. The structure of the novel, using different points of view, led to a great deal of tedious repetition. Not worth the effort it took to plough through its considerable length.


Nothing to recommend in fanfiction, either. I spent quite a lot of time reading the contributions to the Lewis Summer Challenge and there was some good writing but unless you’re a fan of both the show and the fanfiction, nothing to bring to you.


Posted by on October 15, 2017 in reviews