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Reviews: June 2018

Films and TV

I seem to have spent most of the month on news and documentaries, with involuntary sports viewing whilst in the lounge. The only TV drama I have watched was the rest of the final season of The Bridge. I loved the whole series but I didn’t think this final season was quite as good as the preceding ones. The writers seemed to be too determined to bring things to some kind of conclusion, and lot of the minor characters were hard to bear in mind and identify on their random appearances. However, I liked it, and am sad that there will be no more.

Books

Here are the books that I would recommend highly.

First, three excellent books by Rhys Ford.

Down and Dirty by Rhys Ford (Cole McGinnis series5) ***** follows Cole’s brother and ex-partner in a delightful ‘side’ story to the main focus of the series. It’s a necessary diversion if the reader is to enjoy the sequel which is
Dirty Heart by Rhys Ford (Cole McGinnis 6) ***** In this volume we find out why Ben shot Cole and Rick, an event that predates the series but underlies a lot of Cole’s thoughts and actions throughout the stories. Bobby and Ichiro from Down and Dirty help to solve the mystery.
Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford***** I’m hoping to read more about ex thief Rook and his new boyfriend, cop Dante. The story was exciting and, as usual, extremely well written.

Two more excellent reads from Charlie Cochrane.

All Lessons Learned (Cambridge Fellows) by Charlie Cochrane ***** is set post WWI and deals with the psychological problems faced by soldiers during and after the war. Jonty and Orlando are able to overcome their problems and help others in the process.
Broke Deep by Charlie Cochrane ***** is set in the Porthkennack world, the fictional Cornish town that a number of authors have now used to good effect. Dominic and Morgan are affected by stories of an old wreck off the Cornish coast and must solve a mystery to rescue their new relationship from ‘the rocks’.

House of Cards by Garrett Leigh ***** is another story from Porthkennack. Calum and Brix introduce us to the work of tattoo artists, and the problems of rescuing battery hens. I didn’t know this author in advance but trusted that the Porthkennack ‘imprint’ would deliver a good story, and it did. I will look out for more of their work.

When a Scot Ties the Knot: Castles Ever After by Tessa Dare ***** This is a Regency romance with a difference, set in a Scottish castle rather than London. Maddie is a delightful heroine, Logan is an excellent hero, and there are, besides, lobsters which may or may not have a love affair.

Now for some I enjoyed but which were not, for various reasons, quite the same standard as the five star ones.

Urgent Care by DJ Jamison **** Hearts and Health 3 I was looking forward to this third volume and liked the story of Xavier and Trent, but there was too much explicit sex that did not further the plot. I know publishers (and some readers) want this, but it isn’t totally to my taste and explains why the book got downgraded to four stars. However, I will be reading further volumes in the series!

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan ****
The inheritance, which arrives in the first chapter, is a baby elephant, and Inspector Chopra, who is retiring, solves a mystery with the elephant’s help. (The elephant is loyal, and saves his life.) A quirky and pleasing concept, but the mystery was not particularly gripping and the characters, including Chopra, didn’t hold my interest. I won’t be following the series but it was well written and if you like a ‘cosy’ mystery story that gives an excellent insight into everyday life in India, give it a try.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers ****
A star ship crewed by a mixture of various humans and aliens helps to prevent universe-wide mayhem. The characters were well developed and I liked them, but the plot was slow and I really did feel, at the end, that I’d travelled a very long way with them. If you enjoy sci-fi with a hefty dose of feminism, you will probably like this.

The King’s Justice by EM Powell ****
This is an extremely gory mediaeval whodunnit. The main characters and the plot were all well developed, the writing was good and the historical research was impeccable. However, whilst I am happy to read about things like trial by ordeal, or various murder details in non-fiction, I don’t like fiction to dwell on them so gloatingly. Not to my taste at all, but well done of its kind.

Then two books that were mildly disappointing.

Devil’s Kitchen (a prequel) and Brass in Pocket by Stephen Puleston *** are the first two stories in a competent but ultimately boring Welsh cop series. I was interested because of the locations, which I know well, but found myself irritated rather than delighted. The constant references to driving up and down the A55 were annoying, and Drake, the inspector who is the focus of the books, was also an irritating rather than intriguing character. He’s supposed to be OCD but the author tells us about his quirks too often, and he does sudoku puzzles in a seriously strange way. There are a number of books in the series but I won’t be following them.

And finally, one I hated, though I have to give it three stars for the standard of the writing.

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale *** has a fascinating theme, which was why I read it. An English clergyman and two scientists set out for Tasmania, to find the original Garden of Eden and scientific specimens. Their patron unwittingly charters a vessel of Manx smugglers intent on escaping the law. The eventful voyage reaches Tasmania at the time of the genocide of the Aboriginal Tasmanian people, and the book alternates between the voyagers (crew and passengers) and the Tasmanians (English and Aboriginal). There wasn’t, however, a single character with whom I could empathise. The Tasmanians were, perhaps deliberately, distanced from the reader by the way they were written, in what I assume was an attempt to show their very different culture and mindset. I have felt more sympathy for them when reading factual accounts. The book had too many major characters and the constant to-ing and fro-ing between their points of view was wearing, especially since I didn’t care much what happened to any of them. The writer won the Whitbread award when the book was first published and I am surprised, though the technical writing standard and historical research can’t be faulted.

Fanfiction

More fics and ficlets that needed knowledge of the fandoms before they would make sense. Then I found this one:
Liminal by GloriaMundi*****
on AO3 at https://archiveofourown.org/works/45789
It’s an AU (alternate universe) story in the Stargate Atlantis fandom and starts with Elizabeth Weir founding a commune on the Essex coast just after WWII. She calls it Atlantis and welcomes all those who wish to escape the world. John, Rodney, and others turn up, and there is some m/m romance but it is not the major focus of the story. There are supposed to be ghosts on the marshes but then some kind of contact is made. Rodney does not believe in ghosts but he manages to get in touch with the spirits or aliens. The writing was beautiful and I loved the way the characters were true to canon and yet fitted so perfectly into their roles in the story. I liked, too, the way those roles, and the ending, were alternate versions of the show. If you know SGA at all, go and read this!

It’s just over 56,000 words so short novel length, and don’t forget that AO3 lets you download in ebook versions.

 

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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in reviews

 

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Trope meme

The meme said:
Offer me a trope (freeform, or tvtropes terminology — your call), and i’ll rank it on a scale of no/rather not/dunno/i guess/ sure/yes/fuck yes/oh god you don’t even know, and possibly sprout a mini-rant along with it. in response, you’re getting the same number of tropes from me, which you can either take as a prompt to do the same thing, or ignore altogether.
So I read a friend’s answers with interest and asked them for my own set. If you really really want, I can give some to you in comments.

This is what they gave me:

    1.Mathematician’s Answer

Well, since I don’t enjoy mathematics, the brief answer is no. But I love the idea of the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything being 42, and I was intrigued by Flatland which uses geometry to explore social prejudice. I also enjoy the way John and Rodney in Stargate Atlantis are both mathematicians. So I suppose the longer answer is maybe? It will depend on the context and the style…

    2.Mixing genres

Yes, definitely. I enjoy a lot of different genres but the books (and films) that really appeal to me usually contain more than one genre. I especially like historical or fantasy stories with a crime mystery or romance. Somehow, dealing with more than one genre at once seems to help authors to build seriously three-dimensional characters and well-developed worlds. My own writing combines fantasy with romance and mystery and I write, initially, for myself.

    3.Species Lost and Found

If we’re talking about sci-fi, yes, I love aliens – it doesn’t matter how sentient they are. If we’re talking about our own planet I prefer the lost or found species to be in non-fiction accounts of exploration and discovery. But that’s something I like reading about so yes to that, too.

    4.Dying Declaration of Love

This has to be a definite no! I dislike major character death in most cases. Even Romeo and Juliet is not really my ‘thing’. So dying declarations just don’t cut it, unless they’re merely a clue for detectives to follow. I’m aware, in saying I dislike major character death, that for historical novels, which I enjoy, the characters are inevitably dead at the time of reading. But I like to leave them at the end of the novel thinking they will have a normal life. I am also aware of killing off murder victims in my own work, but they are never major characters!

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2018 in personal

 

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May reviews

    Films and TV

The Bridge*****
This is still ongoing and I’m still enjoying it. I downloaded it to iPlayer and husband, who has been away, was watching an episode. I was doing something else but could hear it (and of course not see the subtitles). Anyway, I had this strange feeling that I could almost-but-not-quite understand the Swedish and Danish. This is apparently the last series, and it’s very ‘dark’ but beautifully done.

The Secret Life of the Zoo*****
There were only a few episodes this year, unless they are going to show more later. I love the programme.

Mr Holmes****
Brilliant acting and direction. However, I wasn’t convinced that this was how Holmes would have been in old age and I was never quite ‘hooked’ by the plot. It’s based on a novel of the same name by Mitch Cullin and I suppose it’s a kind of fanfiction.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel****
Again, beautifully made and acted. However, although I enjoyed it, I do think there was a desperate attempt to cash in on the first film and make another. I would have been quite happy if they’d left it as it was…

    Books

Starting with the five star, which means highly recommended.

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer *****
This was a re-read, chosen partly because I can always re-read Heyer’s novels but also because it filled a square on my book bingo (which I still need to post about). I love the whole premise of this novel, the initial setting in France, the move to England, the foreshadowing of the revolution and the setting up of the fictional families that will feature in later novels. I love, too, the way the heroine is initially disguised as a boy but later becomes a very fashionable young lady.

Judgement Day (Science of Discworld IV) by Pratchett, Cohen and Stewart *****
This was the final book in the Science of Discworld series and just as good as the others. I found some of the science, particularly the physics and astronomy, hard to grasp or at least hard to recall, because it was superbly well explained. Other sections, on genetics and evolution, were easier. As before, the factual chapters by Cohen and Stewart were interspersed with chapters of a delightful novella by Pratchett in which all the old favourite characters in Ankh-Morpork appear, and the day is saved for our earth by Marjorie Dawe, a brave and interesting librarian.

Lock Nut by JL Merrow *****
Number 5 in the Plumber’s Mate series. Just as full of humour, mystery and danger as the others, and perhaps particularly delightful for Brit readers with the local dialects, the locations, etc. This volume ends at the wedding of Phil and Tom and I just hope that isn’t the last we see of them. When you realise you seriously need to know all about the extended families of the most minor characters, you know the author is doing something right!

Spun by JL Merrow *****
This is a further instalment of the Shamwell series. Rory, the postman, meets David (Mark’s ex-PA from ‘Out’) when he takes him as a lodger. The settings and cast are as delightful as ever. Rory’s children probably steal the limelight. It’s a gentle romance, with Rory not quite sure whether he’s gay or bi, and David looking for stability. The difference in their ages and in their previous lifestyles threatens to separate them but as we can expect from this series, all is well.

One Under by JL Merrow *****
This is part of the Porthkennack series in which different authors get to ‘play’ in the fictional town of Porthkennack in Cornwall, initially created by Alex Beacroft. We meet some of the same characters who were in Wake Up Call, also by JL Merrow, and again, I enjoy getting to know the people. Mal, staying in Cornwall to recover from a traumatic work experience in London, meets Jory Roscarrock, from the family that upset his friend in the earlier book. Jory has to prove that he is not like his relatives before any kind of relationship can develop. An excellent story.

And yes – I seem to have had a JL Merrow month!

Then the good. Recommended but some of them are too short for my taste. I like either long novels or very short stories better than novellas, though I’ve been known to write a novella myself…

All China by various authors ed. Passport Books ****
This was slightly outdated – I think my father-in-law bought it when he went to China just after tourism opened up there. We have been talking about a possible trip so I wanted to read something that would tell me about the tourist angle rather than just the country in general. Very thorough and very interesting, but I think some of the holiday aspects will have changed quite a lot.

Bedside Manner by DJ Jamison ****
This second in the Hearts and Health series dealt with a slightly older doctor, just coming out of the closet, and a younger man who had been badly treated by his family because of being gay. It was a nice story and well told. The characters were minor ones in the first book in the series and I assume the later books will also deal with known characters. I like getting to know people and seeing them in the context of a series. The couple from book 1 figured in this novel, giving help and advice.

If it Ain’t Love by Tamara Allen ****
A short novel set in the Depression era in America. The anxiety and struggle are well described, and the main characters, a journalist and the son of a rich businessman who has committed suicide, are heavily involved in the community of job-seekers. Very well written, but as usual, I’d have liked something slightly longer on the same theme.

The Lonely Merman by Kay Berrisford ****
Ben works for the council and finds a man he thinks is a squatter in an old tower in a park. It turns out that Lyle is a merman, cursed to remain in the tower until his true love turns up. This is a beautifully twisted version of Sleeping Beauty, and my only complaint is that I wanted to know more about their later lives. There are, however, sequels, so maybe I can find out! It’s a fairly short story, but very well told.

Now for the mediocre. I read to the end but can’t honestly recommend these.

Wife Number Seven by Melissa Brown***
This was the story of a young woman married within a polygamous cult, who later chose to leave. It was reasonably interesting but I have read better accounts of cult life. Another book bingo choice!

Sultana’s Dream by Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain ***
I chose this for the book bingo as a translated novel (which the wikipedia page said it was…) but found that in fact the author wrote it initially in English so had to choose again. The blurb waxed lyrical about the science fiction aspect of the book and the feminist theme. I think it was probably fairly surprising for its time, but it was very short, and not particularly exciting, except as a curious though dated piece.

Jeannot Lapin by Beatrix Potter***
This was the eventual translation choice, which I read in French… It is, of course, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny and has the original illustrations. Yes, it’s a book for the very young, but reading in another language adds a further dimension to the work, and in any case, Potter’s works are delightful. However, this is not a recommended book unless you have (or teach) small children.

Seth and Casey by RJ Scott ***
I like this author and the writing was up to standard but the book was a novella so too short both for my taste and for the author to explore fully the themes she chose, centred round PTSD and the problems inherent in losing the ability to do a much loved job. It deals with an injured firefighter who has been refusing to share his stress and concerns with his teacher husband. He then has to rescue the husband and some pupils in a storm. I believe the storm was based on an actual event and was interestingly portrayed.

Starting from Scratch by Jay Northcote***
Housemates series book 5. I found the story interesting because it dealt with a young trans character and very few novels explore that issue. However, I do find the entire series (or at least the volumes I’ve read so far) contain far too much explicit sex attached to very slight plots. This was no exception and I don’t think I’ll bother with any more. The books are well written, with the characters mostly students at Plymouth University.

Holes by Louis Sachar***
Famous, so I thought I’d read it. Very well written, but I didn’t enjoy it much. Stanley is sent to a correctional facility after a miscarriage of justice, and one of the things the inmates have to do is to dig holes. To say any more would be to spoil the surprises in the plot. I found it too full of coincidences, and I didn’t really empathise with any of the main characters.

And finally, one I really disliked.

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman**
This came with rave reviews but I didn’t like it. I know it has been made into a blockbuster film but I imagine the main focus is on the locations. Italy is lovingly and lushly described. I got intensely irritated with the young man who fell in love (or lust) with an academic summer guest (I disliked him, too) and with their ‘affair’ which was not terribly interesting and not even redeemed by tragedy.

    Fanfiction

I read quite a lot of fanfic this month. Well, I seem to have read a lot in general! As usual, much of what I read needs love and knowledge of the particular fandom to make a lot of sense, but there is one story I want to recommend.

On the Road to Come What May by rhymer23*****
This is in the Stargate Atlantis fandom and all you really need to know is that John, Rodney, Teyla and Ronon are a team who explore other planets. Everything else is explained within the story which is told from the perspective of Jasper and Kit, natives of one of these other planets. The basic plot is a quest, trying to get the team back to a stargate so that they can return to Atlantis. The world building is incredible and the character development of the two ‘aliens’ is rich and detailed. The team are presented just as they appear in canon. There is no romance; this is what’s known in fandom as a ‘gen’ fic where the adventure is paramount. You can find it at https://archiveofourown.org/works/2262621 and it’s both long (almost 102,000 words) and very satisfying for anyone who enjoys the sci-fi genre.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2018 in reviews

 

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Would you rather…?

Seen on a friend’s blog and stolen because it fascinated me and I desperately need to post something. We’ve been really busy with family problems and social media has had to take a back seat for the last few weeks.

Anyway: would you rather…

1. Download music // buy a CD

Download.

I lost all my CDs in the Portuguese fire so I’m now creating playlists on Spotify to fill the most urgent of the gaps. I don’t think I’ll buy too many more CDs because I use either the radio or my laptop. But there are one or two favourites that don’t seem to be available on Spotify so I might buy those again.

2. Use MP3 player // Use CD Player

Use MP3 player.

My CD player went in the fire, too. There’s one in the car but I forget to take CDs out with me unless it’s a really long journey so I usually listen to the radio. I use the laptop in the house at the moment. I’m not sure about the future but may buy new devices.

3. Watch a movie at a theatre // Rent a video

Rent a video.

I lost all my DVDs too. I’m now a member of Amazon Prime so I can watch some things on that. I have bought one or two DVDs and borrowed some as well. I’m not wild about the cinema – the sound is almost always too loud, and recently we went to a showing where the heating failed and I froze. I quite like big screens for special effects but films with those are few and far between for me. We had a DVD projector and screen and those went, too.

4. Amusement park for the day // Picnic in a park for a day

Picnic.

I am willing to go to an Amusement park for other people but I hate the rides myself – and really always have done, even as a child. Places like Alton Towers are OK because there are the gardens to enjoy, though the entry price puts me off! I enjoy picnics though a whole day sounds excessive… We usually picnic to break a journey and I quite enjoy planning the contents of the picnic basket!

5. Read a magazine // Dollage with a magazine

Read a magazine.

Actually, I have no idea what Dollage is and Google was singularly unhelpful. I don’t read many magazines – mostly New Scientist, Private Eye, and National Geographic – and not every issue of those but I do enjoy them. I will flick through something in a waiting room – usually go for the glossy ones about house furnishings. I used to subscribe to a couple of writing magazines but found they got a bit repetitive.

So – that’s May dealt with… Hopefully June will see a return to normality around here. The photograph for this post was a sort of cheat – I took it a couple of years ago (at this date) but the pool was in an indoor ‘water park’.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in personal

 

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April Reviews

I had these ready to post at the beginning of the month then got sidetracked by other posts and forgot…

    Films and television

I thoroughly enjoyed my viewing this month.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? *****
A friend recced this and I ordered it because it was cheap on Amazon. It was really good. Depp and Di Caprio in their early days show their terrific promise in this story about a guy who seems to be stuck looking after his brother and his mother. There’s a romance, but the main focus is on the family.

Made in Dagenham. *****
This is as topical now as it was when it was made. It’s the story of how the women who worked for Ford demanded, and got equal pay for equal work, despite the unions being mostly unhelpful and Ford being horrified. It’s based on the true story and is inspiring. It also has plenty to say about the issues of gender equality in the workplace. Excellent – with a stellar cast.

Shadowlands. *****
I only watched this because I’d heard of it and it was on the same disc as Made in Dagenham… But I was hooked by the story of CS Lewis and his love for an American woman whose death from cancer left him devastated. Beautifully acted, with lovely Oxford settings.
And… Secret Life of the Zoo***** is back – by popular demand! I’m enjoying it as usual!

    Books

I have been doing a book bingo with some colleagues – I will post about it more detail at some point but for now, it explains some of my reading.

The excellent.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertali *****
I had no idea what to expect but I loved this book. The voice of the ‘hero’ is fresh and funny as he fights against society and finds out who his secret penpal is. It’s an mm romance of sorts but it keeps the reader guessing till the last minute. I will probably want to see the film.

Charmed and Dangerous edited by Astrid Amara *****

This is an anthology which unlike most anthologies is uniformly excellent. I knew most of the authors already, so I pretty well knew I’d enjoy it. The premise of each story is that one, at least, of the main characters is supernatural. There’s some mm romance but most of it is action thriller type tales and they’re all both exciting and well written.

Aprons and Silver Spoons by Mollie Moran *****
This was an excellent autobiography with a focus on the author’s early years in domestic service. It’s set in the 1930s and I was intrigued because her experiences were so very different from those of my mother and her friends who grew up during the same period. It was interesting, and well written. I did, however, hate the cover, which showed a couple of servants, but in nineteenth century garb, which made me wonder if the publishers and editors had even read the text!

Darwin’s Watch (The Science of Discworld III) by Pratchett, Cohen and Stewart *****
Another in the series that bases a great deal of scientific and philosophic discussion around a short story set in Discworld. I thought this one might be easier, since I know more about both biology and palaeontology than I do about chemistry or physics. However, I still struggled at times. I reached the end feeling better educated and I enjoyed the story too!

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey *****
I recalled reading this author’s mysteries with pleasure, and this was no exception. However, I noticed various details that were obviously from the period when the author was writing but which would today be considered politically incorrect. I didn’t guess the outcome and was both surprised and yet not surprised to find out who the ‘villain’ was. An excellent novel which gripped me throughout.

Guernica by Dave Boling *****
This was a Christmas present which I’d requested via my wish list. It’s a family saga set around the bombing of Guernica in 1930s Spain. The book is extremely well written. The author is Canadian but his wife is Basque so he draws on family memories and accounts to create a wonderful picture of life on the Basque coast in that time though his main focus is a fictional family which amalgamates various features of the people he knows. It’s an area I know quite well as a visitor and the descriptions are perfect. There is a lot of detail about daily life and social life that adds to the interest of the story. The anguish of the bombing and the aftermath are sensitively portrayed. This is the perfect novel to read as a counterpoint to histories of the period, since it deals with the effects on individuals rather than on communities in general. Highly recommended either for anyone already interested in the time and place, or for readers who know nothing of either but would like to learn more.

The good.

Mary Anning of Lyme Regis by Crispin Tickell ****
I have been reading about the fossil discoveries in the south of England, and this is a short biography of Mary, bought by my husband when he went to the Charmouth museum on a recent business trip. I have read other works featuring this inspiring fossil hunter but it was good to have a book that had her as the sole focus. It was too short, which is why it only merits four stars. I suppose the museum thought a longer account might not sell. I will be referring to it again in a post I intend to do about the books on dinosaurs, fossils, etc. that I’ve been reading.

Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill ****
Another bingo square, and one I really enjoyed. But it’s a children’s book and I passed it on to my grandson after making sure it would suit his tastes. Even as an adult, I developed real empathy with Jenny, the little cat in New York who is gradually accepted into local cat society.

Catching Kit by Kay Berrisford ****
This ticked all my boxes – fairies interacting with humans, police work, a London setting. But it was too short and I would like a sequel.

Flatland by Edward A Abbott ****
I’d heard of this book but only read it because of the book bingo. I enjoyed it. It’s a curious mixture. It was written in the nineteenth century and uses maths and a kind of sci-fi basis to parody Victorian society, especially attitudes to women. I found the mathematical figures that illustrated the work a bit hard to follow but really, that says more about me than the author.

The Lonely Drop by Vanessa North ****
The title is the name of the restaurant owned by Nick, who gets a second chance with Kevin, the friend he turned down at college. The story is competent but unmemorable. I read it because it filled a bingo square!

A Taste of Copper by Elin Gregory ****
Beautifully written, like everything by this author, and the historical research is impeccable as usual, but somehow I never quite empathised with the main characters. A quasi-Arthurian story of knights, squires, vows and courtly honour.

The mediocre – or maybe just not to my taste.

The Wordsworth Golden Treasury of Verse edited by Antonia Till ***
I bought this in a charity shop when I thought (wrongly as it turns out) that I had lost all my poetry books in the Portuguese fires. The title suggests it is based on Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, and it does try to provide a similar collection. However, whilst some of my favourites were there, there was a preponderance of the kind of poetry that tends to bore me – the really long ‘classic’ poems that are not even stories. I won’t be looking at it again; there was nothing I like that I don’t have in other collections.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel ***
This filled a bingo square and if it hadn’t, I would have abandoned it. I haven’t seen the film and now don’t want to. My daughter recced the book and doesn’t recall the parts I hated, which were the extremely (to me) gruesome accounts of the killings and the preparation of e.g. fish and turtles for food. It was almost enough to turn me into a vegetarian. Actually, I’m not particularly squeamish, but I didn’t like the mixture of gruesome/fantasy. The book was well written, but it wasn’t for me.

The poor

Raining Men and Corpses by Anne R Tan *
I didn’t enjoy this at all and only finished it for one of my bingo squares. It was badly written. It was grammatical and there were no plot holes but somehow it was hard to follow or to know who was doing what. The style, full of artificial metaphors, really grated and I couldn’t bring myself to care about the main character who was stupid, and lucky. The hairs on her arms and neck did a lot of standing up. There were hints of back story, insufficiently developed. The book had, for me, a weird dissonance because it turns out the ‘heroine’ is American Chinese but is referred to as Asian and the only Raina I know is Ugandan Asian. US/UK cultural divide strikes again! There are six sequels but I will not be reading them. The idea of Raina getting involved with yet more murder mysteries fills me with dread.

And the unreadable

Cowabunga Christmas (Cosario Cove Cozy Mystery series) by Anna Celeste Burke
I abandoned this. It purported to be a mystery and the couple solving it were on their honeymoon in the hotel where the murder took place. After a while I found I had absolutely no interest in the detective couple or in the victim, and was vaguely irritated by the police. So I gave up.

    Fanfiction

Because of the book bingo, I didn’t read much fanfic this month! I embarked on a long and well written saga set around a fictional ice hockey team, which is in a sense fanfic of hockey players. I haven’t finished it yet. I also read a series of stories set in the post-book/film world of The Hobbit but they were difficult to understand unless you’d already read a lot in that genre. There have been additions to Small_Hobbit’s works related to the various Sherlock Holmes versions, but you already know how I view those, and can easily find the series in my previous reviews. So, nothing new to recommend this month.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2018 in reviews

 

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Two guest appearances…

I should have shared these a while ago but for some reason my laptop didn’t like the way I was trying to load them. Huge thanks are due to Jackie for spreading the word about my books!

First, she interviewed me re my Skilled Investigators series.
https://www.jackiekeswick.co.uk/author-chat-jay-mountney/

Then she invited me to return to talk about my fae saga Living Fae.
https://www.jackiekeswick.co.uk/growing-up-fae-jay-mountney/

 

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I have issues with advertising…

I have no objection to companies like Google advertising to me. If that’s their model for providing a free email service and all the rest of it, fine. I don’t need to click on the adverts. Ever so occasionally, I do, and have even been known to buy something. Similarly, I don’t mind seeing ads on friends’ posts and hope they don’t mind seeing them on mine. My LiveJournal is a permanent account which is ad-free. My Dreamwidth account is ad-free anyway. My WordPress account is free and may have advertising. I really don’t care. Facebook doesn’t bother me, either; I just scroll on by. I don’t mind having to wait till the end of an ad to access YouTube content.

However, I do have some serious issues with online advertising. My main problems occur on sites where I have paid for my content, like my daily online copy of The Guardian. I accept that to provide me with good journalism, sites like The Guardian need more than my annual subscription. In printed newspapers I am used to seeing adverts and as with social media I can choose whether or not to read or take any notice.

But…

I have some slight visual problems. I have a ‘frozen’ eye that gives me two somewhat irritating issues. My pupil doesn’t contract, and I find it impossible to re-focus quickly, so I am badly affected by both bright lights and flickering and rapid scrolling. As a result, some adverts are a nightmare and actually prevent me from reading the page I am visiting. The use of these ads strikes me as discriminatory. I object quite strongly. The ones I object to most are the ones that are at the side of an article, and cannot therefore be ignored. They have changing images – scrolling or flickering. They are almost painful, and I feel intense resentment towards the advertisers. . I have written to The Guardian stating my feelings. I did not get a reply.

The very worst online ads, for me, are the ones that open a video, with sound, as I scroll down the page. This happens more often on American media sites where friends have linked me to articles of interest – it can be for goods that are not available in UK or it can be linked articles or new video. I use my laptop in our lounge, where other family members might be watching TV, listening to music, or simply talking. I might be alone, but then I will probably have music playing. Unexpected and unwanted sound is, for me, a total invasion of privacy and usually results in closing down the page altogether in a knee-jerk reaction. Even when I manage to see that there is a small discreet close button and I just get the ad/vid switched off, I still feel offended.

I also have a sense of annoyance at the ads that interrupt Spotify. I listen to radio programmes (especially in the car) which have the inevitable ads before the news, and I just sigh and ignore most of them (except when they include a sound like a car horn or other car sound, which is to my mind dangerous). Just occasionally they are interesting and I will Google the company when I get home. I accept that Spotify, like the radio programmes, needs advertising to fund the service. Not a problem. But sometimes the ads interrupt a track, or interrupt me while I am trying to save something. That annoys me big time and is quite counterproductive because whatever the ad is for, I can guarantee I will not follow it up.

Another set of adverts I hate are those on DVDs. Invariably, they are for films I have already seen or do not wish to see. They try to tell me something is ‘coming soon’ when actually, it came a few years ago. I would almost prefer cinema-type ads for luxury goods and services. At least I could just ignore those and not get so irritated.
Note that all the above applies whatever the ads are for. In fact, I’m usually so affronted I don’t even notice what they’re trying to sell me. Indeed, all these are likely to be a turn off. So why do they do it??

You’d think advertising would be designed to attract the reader…

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2018 in personal

 

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