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Monthly reviews

09 Mar


Since I’ve been subjecting my social media friends on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal to reviews which have sparked interesting conversations, I thought I’d post them here too. Of course, I’m now running to catch up because the end of January and even the end of February are well behind us, but by the end of this month I’ll be in sync with my other blogs. Providing them with reviews was a commitment to a new year’s resolution.

Let’s see how long I can keep it up…

I’ll list the books I’ve read each month but will only review in depth the ones I either adored or think are important. I’ll include long fanfic that I think deserves to be read. I’ll also mention films, plays and TV series but only when they’re over, and again, only the things that mattered to me.

Reading first.

The excellent:

The Folklore of Discworld/Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Simpson
A fantastic look at the Discworld myths, legends and superstitions, comparing them with their earth counterparts. Quite informative about earth and very funny about Discworld. The co-author is a folklore specialist. Lots of explanation as to where Pterry found some of his inspiration and a great deal of tongue-in-cheek research about cross-cultural fertilisation between here and there.

Hexbreaker/Jordan L.Hawk
I quite liked her Widdershins books and expected to be mildly entertained – and then was blown away. She creates an early twentieth century alternative New York with shape shifters and witches as ‘normal’ elements in the population and puts them in an m/m crime story. Lovely writing and I really hope that there’s going to be a series, which is her usual m.o. I desperately want to leave a review somewhere but know I didn’t buy it on Amazon. I can’t work out where I did get it but strongly suspect somewhere like All Romance which of course is now scattered to the winds. Any advice?

Brexit: What the hell happens now?/Ian Dunt
Useful book which doesn’t so much bemoan leaving as explore what could happen next. Pulls together all the threads we’ve been getting in the news and presents them along with credible alternative scenarios stretching years ahead. Frightening and serious but contains advice both for politicians and protesters.

Pwning Tomorrow/ed EFF
25 stories – speculative fiction based around modern technology and where it might lead. Like most anthologies, this is mixed but I think everyone would find at least some stories that would appeal. I got it as a freebie because I’m a member of Electronic Frontier Foundation but they ask people to spread the word so if you want to give it a try, donate at https://supporters.eff.org/donate/pwning-tomorrow

Monks and Wine/Desmond Seward
We got this very cheaply and it’s out of print but there are some sensible offers on Amazon. I would recommend it highly. The book traces the influence of monasteries on viticulture and along the way describes the various areas, buildings, etc. and gives the non-Catholic reader (like me) a useful amount of information about things like the differences between monks, friars, etc. and their history. It was published in 1979 so the final chapter: ‘Monks and wine today’ is perhaps less inspiring than the rest because obviously a lot will have happened since then!

My Lady Dis/ChibiMethos
Gorgeous fanfic (http://archiveofourown.org/works/1401862). The story is now in my head canon and bridges the gap between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Dain invites Dis to join the rest of the family (what’s left) in Erebor and on the way she has to pass through Mirkwood. Thranduil comes himself to escort her and brings Tauriel who had a baby by Kili (so film canon, not book) and therefore considers herself a widow. The women bond, the baby is wonderful, and Thranduil ends up in love with Dis. All perfectly believable and romantic without being over sweet. Beautifully written and a lovely long story (51,426) that unfolds slowly with lots of diversions and extras. I suppose it’s het romance, which doesn’t always appeal to me, but the culture clash of elves and dwarves made it instantly intriguing.

The reasonable:

The Modern Natural Dyer/Kristine Vejar
Interesting and useful.

Dead in L.A./Lou Harper
M/m crime. Quite well done and readable.

The Best of Friends/Joanna Trollope
I like her writing, her world building and her characterisation but deplore her plots.

Needing A Little Christmas/Silvia Violet
Pleasant and nicely written m/m Christmas romance.

Fractured Hymns/A.M.Arthur
Competent exploration of PTSD in an m/m romance context.

Neurocomic/Farinella and Ros
Beautifully drawn and produced ‘comic’ exploring the brain.

And two to avoid:

Incognito/L.A.Watson
Rather confusing and badly put together m/m crime story. I am still not sure who anybody worked for or what happened.

A Matter of Scale/Jonathon Burgess
The cover and blurb of this freebie were delightful – a wizard takes on a litter of baby dragons. Very short, badly formatted, and not terribly well written. Plus, he only really takes them on at the end.

So – 13 published books and about the same number of fanfics though only one is mentioned here.

Screen and stage.

We went to The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time.

The National Theatre production finally left London (well, no, it’s still in London till summer but the tour started) and came on tour, starting in Salford at The Lowry. Simon Stephens, who adapted Mark Haddon’s book for the stage, came from Stockport so is a ‘local lad’. The Lowry was a great venue to start the tour. Local/regional TV made the most of it! Bruce McGregor, one of the (new) touring cast, is a close friend and near neighbour of ours – he had been regaling us throughout rehearsal time (which was in London) with dire tales of ‘bootcamp’ and various injuries. The performance is amazing – lots of exciting sound and light to show us neurotypicals how Christopher experiences the world, and lots of strenuous work by the actors who literally throw and carry Christopher around. I had already watched a programme about the adaptation and staging and was fascinated by the end result.

Highly recommended if it comes to a theatre near you. The only downside was the cost. After paying for three of us (husband, daughter and me), plus car parking, plus programme, plus pre-show drinks (beer and ginger beer so nothing spectacular) we felt we might need to take out a mortgage. And we didn’t go for the expensive seats – Bruce had warned us that you actually get a better view of all the movement from high above.

Then we went to Alice In Wonderland at Hyde Festival Theatre.

This was adapted for the stage by a couple of local writers/producers/directors and performed by a cast drawn from a local amateur theatre group working with a local children’s drama academy. The adaptation was excellent. The show was full of music and clever lighting, with some stunning choreography, dance sequences and costumes. I just wish whoever taught the children to move so well had taken the time to train them to speak a little more slowly and facing the audience. One or two were ‘naturals’ but the majority were inaudible. However, the story was carried bravely by the adult actors and the whole evening was very enjoyable. The entire event, including a programme, only cost two of us the price of one seat at The Lowry (and parking was free).

We went with some friends, one of whom is a pianist who works closely with the local theatre group. His wife was, like me, a teacher, and remembers teaching one of the writers/producers at primary school. She said that in those days he was hopeless and nobody thought he’d ever amount to anything. How wrong can schools be??!!

I’ve already posted about my reactions to To Walk Invisible, the BBC film about the Brontë Sisters. It was one of my TV highlights for January.

The series that had me hooked all January was Class, the Doctor Who spin-off which was totally gripping. It was broadcast two hour-long episodes at a time, starting at 10.30 on a Monday night and given very little publicity. I have not seen it mentioned once online and am wondering if I was the only one to see it? (And adore it.) If it’s still on iPlayer or if it’s repeated and you get the chance… It’s all set in Coal Hill Academy where Clara taught, and a group of sixth formers have to battle aliens. One of them is, in fact, an alien and he is in love with another of the group, a Polish boy. One of the teachers is an alien, too and then there’s the new headmistress. The Doctor did try to rescue things at the start but then went off in his Tardis and left them to it. There is to be another season but it won’t make much sense unless you saw this one.

I watched The Real Marigold Hotel On Tour (in USA and Japan) and The Real Marigold Hotel (in India) and was fascinated both by the cultures they explored and by the celebrity pensioners themselves. They (and their needs and beliefs) seemed about as alien to me as the places they visited did to them. It was all worthwhile for the in depth look at ordinary life in Japan and India.

I’ll be posting my February reviews in a day or two.

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Posted by on March 9, 2017 in reviews

 

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