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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.

   

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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…

Books
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.

Fanfic
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 https://archiveofourown.org/works/7825753#main
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 http://archiveofourown.org/works/12442674
Back in my March reviews I recommended the writings of Small_Hobbit. You can find her work on AO3 at http://archiveofourown.org/users/Small_Hobbit/pseuds/Small_Hobbit 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

 

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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. **

Books.

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.

Fanfiction.

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.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2017 in reviews

 

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Reviews for July and August 2017

Where to start? First of all with an apology. We were in Portugal with internet woes. By the time we worked out that to get any service at all we needed to buy a 4G hub we were knee deep in visitors and I had simply no online time at all. At least I’ve managed this post before September has quite finished, and I didn’t altogether expect to!

So, reviews for July and August!!

Films and TV.

I watched Skyfall for the second time and liked it all over again.

I watched the finale to this year’s Dr Who and whilst I didn’t dislike it I decided I only watch Dr Who because the family do and that it’s one of those shows that I can take or leave… I do think Peter Capaldi is a good actor and I am sorry we are losing him.

I then watched Season 5 of Game of Thrones and still adore it. It brings the books to life and I appreciate the author’s involvement in the screenplay. I am hoping for Season 6 for my birthday and yes, I am ‘behind’ but since I am up to date on the books I am unlikely to read anything that is a serious spoiler.

I watched something called The Book of Life and appear to have given it four stars but can’t remember the first thing about it…

Books

Five star:

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. I love the writing and this middle book of the trilogy did not disappoint but the final part, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, only got four stars because I felt the ending was rushed.

The Course of Honour by Avoliohttp://archiveofourown.org/works/9720611#main. Yes, this is from the AO3 Archive but it’s an original work. The Archive hosts works that are derived from fandom tropes. This one dealt with arranged m/m marriage in an SF storyline and was both exciting and romantic. (You can download it for free in various formats.)

Lessons in Seduction and Lessons in Trust by Charlie Cochrane. I really love this series and intend to keep following the detective adventures of Orlando and Jonty.

Heat Trap by L Merrow. Another series I really love. This was the fourth story and I must investigate to see if there are any more!

All The Countries We’ve Ever Invaded (And The Few We Never Got Round To) by Stuart Laycock. This is a semi-humorous but ultimately serious account of British, or rather, English history with a focus on invasion of other places. Amazing. Some of it was not news to me; in fact I knew a lot of what the author presented, but to have it all in one place was fascinating. It also helped to set various invasions in context.

The Persistence of Memory by Jordan Castillo Price. This is an intriguing start to what I hope will be a series. It’s sci-fi and the hero designs and sells or implants mnemes or memories, to order.

The Bones of our Fathers by Elin Gregory. A museum curator and a construction worker join forces to protect an archaeological find in South Wales. To say any more would be to spoil the story but be aware that m/m romance ensues, complete with a fair degree of misunderstandings and angst. Lovely!

Four star:

The Laini Taylor book mentioned above.

The High King’s Golden Tongue by Megan Derr. This was a pleasant m/m romance in a fantasy setting but whilst the writing was good I didn’t feel desperate to hear more about the characters, so only four stars.

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min. I had already (rather a long time ago) read the biography of the last empress of China (by Pearl Buck) and this added some welcome detail about her early experiences. It wasn’t exactly hard to read but it took me a long time and I somehow failed to enter the ‘world’ of the empress, which was disappointing because books about China and Japan usually draw me into the different cultures.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This is the story of one of the early anti-racist campaigners in America who was also a staunch feminist. She is a historical figure but the other ‘heroine’ of the novel is a slave who is semi-fictional and in fact died in childhood. I perhaps unfairly compared the novel to Tracy Chevalier’s The Last Runaway and it suffered in the comparison. I don’t think the fusion of fact and fiction worked well but the story was interesting and well written.

Damocles by SG Redling. This is an interesting sci fi novel about language and culture but I stopped reading when I realised I had read it fairly recently and could remember most, if not all of the story.

Other books read:

A Country of Refuge – edited by Lucy Popescu. This is a selection of writings, both fact and fiction (and some poetry) dealing with the experiences of refugees. I subscribed to it on Unbound and was happy to have done so since it’s a ’cause’ I support, but the quality of the pieces was very mixed, and to read it straight through was, inevitably, depressing.

Try: A Short Story by Ava Thorpe.

Pure Adrenaline by Nikki Prince

Especially at Christmas byYolande Kleinn

Fairly short stories, all m/m romance. Pleasant but not memorable.

Fanfiction – only one worth mentioning

to change the course of the future by authoressjean available at http://archiveofourown.org/works/700097

The story begins after The Battle of Five Armies, the final film of the Hobbit trilogy. The author tweaks canon dramatically. Thorin and his nephews survive the battle. Bilbo realises that his ring is Sauron’s one ring and decides to take it to Mordor by himself. The story therefore effectively replaces The Lord of the Rings and is a fascinating exploration of ‘what if?’ It does what good fanfiction should always do, which is to transform the canon and present it in a new guise with new questions and answers.

 

So there we have it – my summer reviews. Almost time for the September ones!!

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in reviews

 

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Calibre and Kindle

I get a lot of the books I read via author newsletters. I sign up to these via freebie offers and then try a free book. If the author’s style appeals then I’m likely to buy more and I let the newsletters keep coming. Some of my favourite authors, particularly in the romance, fantasy and crime genres, reach me that way.

So far, so good.

The only strange thing is the way their publishers or distributors don’t seem to have caught up with the way a lot of people actually handle e-books – downloading, transfer to e-reader, etc.

They go into long, convoluted explanations of what they consider is the best way to get the book. This often seems to rely on my willingness to order the book by typing on the keyboard on my Kindle Fire.

I would only do that if there was absolutely no chance of getting the book any other way!!

Then they warn me that the mobi version they are sending me might not download straight to my Kindle. Duh!! Then there’s another long and equally convoluted explanation of what to do.

What I actually do is to get the mobi version downloaded to my hard drive. Or an epub version. Or almost anything, really. Then I load it to my Calibre. Calibre is free (though they do ask for donations and I have occasionally donated because they do such a superb job). I then make sure Calibre either has the mobi version or has converted whatever it was to mobi. This takes about three seconds and the information shows nicely in the sidebar. I connect my Kindle to the computer and tell Calibre to upload to the Kindle main drive. Hey presto!

There are lots of plus factors here. I have a copy on my hard drive and can even save it to disc. I am not totally tied to Amazon. I have the glory of my Calibre library which shows me the covers and metadata and is much more easily organised than the Kindle for PC library (though I use that for books I have bought directly from Amazon). I can then add notes, reviews, star ratings and even cover pictures for the books that start without one.

I also use Calibre to check that my own books look right in various versions. There are dire warnings (again) on all kinds of helpful sites and blogs, about how they might not look exactly right. Well, I check against the way they look on friends’ computers once they’re actually published, and there has never been a problem of any kind. I don’t use embedded graphics or even many odds and ends like italics or accents so maybe I just don’t need to worry? And whilst Smashwords and Amazon are at daggers drawn over the best way to insert an active table of contents, it isn’t really a big deal for a fiction book that starts at the beginning and moves smoothly through the middle to the end. For me, Calibre does a superb job.

I first found Calibre when I got my first Kindle. You might have gathered that as well as published books I read a lot of fanfiction. Nowadays, I get most of it ready converted to mobi by AO3 and then just upload it the same way I upload mobi versions of published books. But I used to access a lot of it via social media and had to rely on Calibre to convert it for me so that I could take it anywhere on my Kindle.

About the only glitch I have found with Calibre is that when you switch to a new laptop and transfer your information you must never ever ever alter the path to the file/folder by renaming things or putting them in umbrella folders or it all disappears. I have no idea where it goes but go it does. Fortunately, I have never been in the position of having a crashed laptop and no means of retrieving it. And I do have some IT experts in the family.

So – Calibre makes life easy and Kindle makes carting my ‘library’ around even easier. But publishers and distributors don’t seem to have understood yet!

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in publishing

 

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June reviews

I know, I know, I’ve been absent again. Well, this time it was due to iffy internet in Portugal. The guy at the PhoneHouse where we pay for our service said it would have been better if we’d bought the 4G hub instead of the 3G one but as there was no 4G when we bought it…

Anyway, access was erratic and actually trying to load anything anywhere was a step too far. Sorry! Have some reviews, and I have other posts ready to load over the next week or two.

Films and TV

I intended to watch various things but ended up spending the evenings outdoors. Absolutely nothing to report this month except that the moon was beautiful!

Books

The five star ones first – all highly recommended:

Lessons in Power/Charlie Cochrane*****

Lessons in Temptation/Charlie Cochrane*****

I am still working my way through the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries and loving each one in turn. There is a wonderful mix of period detail, m/m romance and intriguing crime. The characters (including some of the minor ones like the College Master’s sister, and Jonty’s father) develop more with each story which adds to the pleasure of these books.

Pressure Head/JL Merrow*****

Relief Valve/JL Merrow*****

Heat Trap/JL Merrow*****

This is the Plumber’s Mate series, set in St. Albans (though I suspect from poring over a map that some of the other locations are fictitious). Tom, a gay plumber. is a psychic who can find things (including corpses and leaks). Think Rivers of London style mixed with m/m romance and lots of humour. I’m thoroughly enjoying the series and am sad that there is only one more to go, so far as I know.

Nor Iron Bars A Cage/Kaje Harper*****

Excellent fantasy romance. Good magic and well developed main characters. Tobin (ex soldier and now royal messenger) takes Lyon, a sorcerer with a nightmare past, to help stop an invasion. (A freebie from Goodreads but apparently the author has other books which I must investigate.)

My Highland Cowboy/Alexa Milne*****

Duncan has a ranch in the highlands and Drew is a fashion designer in London. They bond over Drew’s sister’s wedding and then have to see if there’s any future for them. Whilst I don’t often give five stars to romance that doesn’t have something else going for it (crime, history, fantasy…) I was really gripped by the central concerns of this book and found all the characters, including the minor ones, intriguing.

An Unnatural Vice/KJ Charles*****

This is the second volume in the Sins of the City series and it was good to see some of the characters from the first story again and find out what was happening about the inheritance that formed the plot (and the crime/mystery) of the first. Victorian London is really well depicted. Another series that has crime and historical interest added to the m/m romance.

 

Then the four star books that were good but won’t have me rushing to find the next in the series.

Lars:Witches of London/ Aleksandr Voinov****

A well written romance with a lot of angst about illness and healing. Too much pagan religion for my taste though the details were interesting.

Bodyguard to a Sex God/RJ Scott****

Fanfic writers blur fic and reality and turn stalker. Good, though I guessed whodunnit before the end.

Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary 1)/RJ Scott****

Nice bodyguard story – too short for my taste and I won’t buy the rest of the series but would read if they were free.

The Cowboy and the Pencil Pusher/S.C.Wynne****

A banker helps to save a ranch (and its owners). Nicely done.

Regeneration/Louise Lyons****

Competent space romance including artificially enhanced humans, alien planets, space ships, etc. Nice concept and good writing but I wasn’t personally hooked by the main characters.

Sollicito/Charlie Cochrane****

Weresloth shifter story. Amusing and unusual.

Diversion/Eden Winters****

Competent ‘cop buddy’ tale with two guys who are in effect foxes set to guard the henhouse re drug diversion by big pharmaceuticals, but I wasn’t hooked by either character and I was a bit disappointed because I like this author’s style.

A Twist and Two Balls/Clare London****

Pleasant story about a ‘resting’ actor and his lawyer/cabbie boyfriend plus their friends who run an ice cream shop.

 

Three star. Well enough written but I had to try very hard to remember what it was about.

Nothing Special/A.E.Via***

Competent cop buddy story that initially hooked me but had too much sex that did nothing to further plot or character. God and Day were nice enough characters. Apparently a series…

 

Two star. Less than stellar, though some people might enjoy it.

A Place to Call Their Own/Dean Frech**

Two veterans of the civil war set out to claim a homestead together. Despite the excitement of Indians, tornadoes and fires, the book is boring – reads like a how-to manual on setting up a farm.

 

And this month, four I abandoned because they simply didn’t interest me after the first few pages. Remember, this doesn’t mean they’re bad books, just that they don’t appeal to me. If I think a book is actually bad (and sometimes I do) I’ll say so!

Aqua Follies/Liv Rancourt

A lifeguard to a synchronised swimming troupe falls for a musician from another act at the festival.

Breathe and Release/Katherine Hayton

A woman with amnesia and another imprisoned without any idea or where or why. There didn’t seem to be anything actually happening and the characters were not particularly appealing.

Helping Hand/Jay Northcote

A college story about friends becoming lovers.

Promises Kept: The Story of Number Two/Giacomo Giammatteo

A cop story about a woman who has faked an identity to enter the police force.

 

Fanfiction

Just one highly recommended story this month. Most of the others I read were very short ficlets and drabbles.

Rivers of Ankh-Morpork/melannen ***** http://archiveofourown.org/bookmarks/167187597

Rivers of London/Discworld. Gen. (No romance of any kind.) 6,380 words.

A brilliant crossover story in which Peter, from Rivers of London, is accidentally (or maybe on purpose) catapulted into the Discworld and has to find his way home with help from Vimes and others.

 

And yes, I read quite a lot. That happens when the internet is less than accessible!

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2017 in reviews

 

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May Reviews

I must apologise for my absence in May. We came to Portugal and although we have internet we have had very erratic bandwidth. WordPress in particular has been reluctant to open at all. So I had some posts ready but have utterly failed to bring them to you. Hopefully, June will be easier.

Films and TV

I didn’t actually watch any films in May. We followed the latest episodes of Dr Who – I still like Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and I quite like Bill as his companion. We also watched various documentaries about science, philosophy, history, etc. and they were enjoyable but there is nothing I feel impelled to recommend. Other viewing was mainly news and politics.

Books

Nothing dire but only four ‘highly recommended’.

A Worthy Man by Jaime Rees***** I love this Men of Halfway House series. This once deals in depth with car design, and as usual, explores miscarriages of justice and brings in the other characters from the previous books. I think that’s what makes the series so appealing; we follow the characters after their own ‘story’ is over. The romance can occasionally be a little too sweet and repetitive but the books are a good read.

Lessons in Discovery by Charlie Cochrane***** Another lovely episode in the Cambridge Fellows mystery series. This one sees the pair investigating a mediaeval murder on college premises using old manuscripts and dragging other members of the family into the case. There is also the angst associated with illness for both the main characters, and their private misfortunes are as gripping as the detective work. If you like mysteries with period detail and m/m romance, this series is for you.

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles***** This is a new series by a favourite author, set in Victorian London. The mysterious blackmail uncovered by the protagonists is interesting, and the two main characters are delightful. One, socially inept but good at his job, keeps a lodging house, and the other, who lives there, is a ‘preserver’ who works with dead animals, creating lifelike ‘stuffed’ birds, dogs, etc. As usual, there is meticulous research and some excellent writing. I understand the ‘heroes’ might feature as minor characters in later books in the series and I will definitely be buying more! I can recommend all this author’s work.

Once upon a time in the Weird West by multiple authors***** This anthology is uniformly excellent. I would give every story in it five stars. The theme is Westerns with sci fi or steampunk differences, and an m/m twist. All the tales are brilliantly written and full of surprises. A collection I can highly recommend and will be re-reading.

And the rest – mostly good but not five star for me.

Good Morning My Angel by Sue Brown**** An online boyfriend turns out to be the boss, and they are caught up in fighting criminals together. Well written but fairly predictable. Enjoyable but not something I’d re-read.

While you see a chance by Alexa Milne**** This is a story set in Wales about two men who were in love as teenagers but never admitted their feelings and meet again when they are nearing sixty. It was beautifully written and I was pleased to read about older people in love. The story was pleasant but insufficiently gripping for my taste. Recommended if you want romance with no thriller elements.

A Certain Persuasion edited by Julie Bozza.**** I won this in a ‘giveaway’ and was delighted because I had read good reviews, but was then disappointed. The short stories are all based around Jane Austen’s novels, with an LGBT twist. However, unlike Jane’s lighthearted romances with humour and happy endings, more than half of these were either melancholy or even tragic. They were all very well written but I wouldn’t really recommend the collection. If you’re a keen Austen fan you might enjoy seeing what the writers have done with the theme.

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar**** This took me half the month. It came highly recommended and indeed contains a great deal of information about Hadrian and Rome. However, as a novel, I thought it failed. It purports to be a letter to Hadrian’s heir; I think he would have stopped reading after the first few pages. It took me a while to realise what was wrong. The memoir is, naturally, told in the first person, but there are no breaks in the text – no accounts of actual dialogue or any other changes of pace for the reader. As there are no chapter breaks, only half a dozen very long sections, this leads to ploughing through what is actually a history book with a nod to the mindset of the narrator. It was also very depressing, partly because of the way he is writing as he is dying, and partly because of events in his life. I was disappointed not to learn more about his wall; it is mentioned, but as I grew up in its shadow I had hoped for more detail.

Reeve of Veils (Inheritance 4) by Amelia Faulkner*** I’ve enjoyed the Inheritance series which are a well written paranormal m/m romance story but felt cheated by this volume. It looks at the events of the previous three novels through the eyes of a different character. Whilst he was interesting and his own romance was intriguing, I felt annoyed that the plot had not been carried forward, and I don’t think I will risk any more in the series.

Equality by Helena Stone*** An m/m romance set in Eire, during the run up to the 2015 marriage equality referendum. A little more about the politics might have made the book more interesting. As it was, this was a romance with very little in the way of angst. The writer was clearly not Irish as there were a number of Americanisms in the writing. Pleasant but forgettable.

And two abandoned, but they might be fine for others!

The Fall of Arcadia by M.H.Soars: abandoned. This was a sci fi/fantasy that seemed to be in the middle of a series.

Run by Cait Forester: abandoned. It seemed to be about a threesome between some criminals or ex criminals and I couldn’t get into it at all.

Fanfic

Breaker of Horses by sineala***** http://archiveofourown.org/works/4018945 (47,943k words) This was an AU (alternate universe) story in a fandom I don’t know, but I know the writer’s other work and the alternate universe for the characters involved is ancient Rome. I read it as a kind of counterbalance to Memoirs of Hadrian, and it takes place during the period covered in the first part of Yourcenar’s book. The main characters are a centaur, somehow ‘created’ by Caesar, and a slave gladiator who was originally brought up in Rome as a hostage. The story was fascinating as was the research about the games. Since there was already a glaring inaccuracy in the person of the centaur a few inconsistent details about how the slave became a gladiator could be forgiven. A lovely story, followed on the Archive by a short epilogue in which the centaur and the slave discover how they can be together. Highly recommended. (This and the Memoirs led me to use a picture of a ruined amphitheatre, in Portugal, as my photo for this post.)

Hurtfew Abbey or ‘Should a Magician Marry?’ by Nothingshire***** http://archiveofourown.org/works/5941174 (52,038k words) This is set in the world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and follows an Austen-style romance between Norrell and Childermass. Strange does not appear in the story other than as a throwaway mention. The writer has managed to fuse the worlds of Susanna Clarke and Pride and Prejudice and the result is clever and delightful. Recommended.

A Night on the Tiles by merrymoll***** http://archiveofourown.org/works/191602/chapters/282185 (10,878 k words) An absolutely lovely account of a night spent climbing over the roofs of Ankh Morpork. The main characers are Lord Havelock and a maid from the palace who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time but appeals to his lordship’s sense of chivalry. If you like Pratchett’s Discworld, this is an excellent addition to the universe he created!

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in reviews

 

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