juniper green

science fiction, new weird, old weird, very weird - and everything else

Arshad Ahsanuddin - Insurrection

Insurrection - Arshad Ahsanuddin I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

**Spoilers for Zenith and Azimuth.**

It starts with a bang – and continues with a whimper, with not much happening for about 40% of the story.*
But when it finally delivers, it's back to Bang! again.

This is the third instalment in a series of m/m romance space opera/ time-travel stories. The first two parts have been a refreshing change to the usual m/m sci-fi fare: solid science-fiction stories with a lot of stuff happening in different time lines and a bit of romance in the background. Insurrection leaves this path and brings the romance to the front. It's the most relationship-focused instalment of the series – and has been a very mixed bag for me.

The first half I was mostly bored.
These stories have never been character-driven. This latest instalment reads like the author tried to change that (maybe due to quite a few readers asking for more romance), giving us more background information about his central characters and more human interaction. I can understand why he went there, but I doubt it was a wise choice. It just served to show what Ahsanuddin is lacking as an author: He's an author of action, not an author of feelz, good when describing what people are doing, but not so good when he tries to tackle their motivations, or the psychology behind them. And there's nothing wrong with that! A lot of space operas aren't driven by characters or emotions, relying on ragtag crews with one or two distinguishing character-traits for each member, fighting villainous villains – and it works! The attempt give the characters more depth is admirable, but didn't work here didn't. Not for me.
I mean, just take Edward as an example: The boy killed a whole world, destroyed a whole time line for mostly selfish reasons, but Ahsanuddin clearly has no idea how to translate this guilt into an emotion palpable for the reader.
The multiple romances continue to be equally devoid of real emotions; this didn't bug me as much in the previous instalments, because there the romance was kept in the background. Dragging it to the front shows the series weaknesses again: constant muttered „I love you“s are no replacement for actual feelings, and marriage proposals don't equal true love (I don't get why they are all so hung up on marrying anyway, but that might be just me). These characters are talking about their feelings a lot, but the only relationship here I can actually believe in is the one between Jacob and Thomas.

That doesn't mean there's nothing to enjoy here. Around 40%, the plot finally - finally! - makes a reappearance and the story recovers to the strength that made Azimuth such an enjoyable read. It offers many twist and turns, secrets wrapped in more secrets, and a lot of Redshirts dropping dead on the way – as well as some more important protagonists.
I still needed to suspend my disbelieve quite a bit: I've noticed before that Ahsanuddin's characters have a tendency to overreact – instead of knocking on the door, they blow up the whole house. Admiral Crazypants I and II here are no exceptions to the rule, always relying on the most extreme measures. But it makes for a fast-paced, exciting story, so I just got over my misgivings and enjoyed the ride.
The high-stake, high-octane action is where Ahsanuddin can shine. A very good editor might smooth the kinks, tease out believable, psychologically sound motivations and reactions from the characters, cut the story where it needs cutting, and add where it needs adding. The basis is there. (Apparently there was an editor in on this. Well... I still think the details need work.)

*Jaja, I hate people quoting T.S. Eliot in PA-reviews (only thing worse is PA authors quoting T.S. Eliot) , and now I'm doing it myself. So much for consistency.

The Last Days of New Paris

The Last Days of New Paris - China Miéville In Paris, you had to be ready to fight art and the Hellish – not to mention Nazis – so they labored under weapons for all eventualities.

It's another one of them alternative histories about WWII – but this time it's about Surrealist art fighting Nazis and demons in Paris. If you don't want to read that, there's probably no help for you anyway.

I felt sorry for the demons, btw.

A fucking storm, a reconfiguration, a shock wave of mad love, a burning blast of unconscious.
Paris fell, or rose, or fell, or rose, or fell.

While The Last Days of New Paris was definitely a ride on the weird side, riding S-Blast instead of S-Gerät, it was not as wild or nightmarish as it could have been, a bit too tame, too little sex and drugs and Rock'n'Roll for my personal taste. But my main problems are personal ones and not concerned with any technical issues: for one, novellas always give me a bit of a hard time; I need more time and space to care about a story. And (just like with every novella I've ever read) the plot here seemed a bit thin, a flat canvas, invoking just the pretence of depth. For two, I simply don't like Naziploitation, and this here wasn't an exception from the rule.

It is beautifully written, though.
Maybe even a bit too beautiful, with too much care on a sentence to sentence level. And maybe I read it a bit too fast: I liked the prose, but I also felt like overindulging on caramel chocolate from time to time. Being who I am, someone who frequently overindulges on caramel chocolate, that didn't stop me from reading this one too fast – so there.

”Something doesn't make sense,” Thibaut says.
“Really?” Sam says. “Just one thing?”

Very helpful resource

This is also one of these stories where Google wikipedia a bit of knowledge about WWII, especially French history, and Surrealism proves to be really helpful. I have the former, I lack the latter. My response to fine art is similar to my response to poetry: I can appreciate the effort, but it leaves me ultimately indifferent. Surrealist art, though, is a constant deja-vu, every work a picture already seen, the familiarity of forgotten dreams. Miéville sends the reader on a treasure-hunt for manifs – there's a extensive appendix, and Goodreads readers, always so incredibly helpful, have already provided a lot in their status updates, but it was fun to search for the different works of art and learn a bit about their history.
Just a pity I can't speak French.

Return to Neveryon

Return to Neveryon - Samuel R. Delany And thus, our story from the brink of civilisation, from brutal and barbaric times, from strange and terrible lands, about Liberators and Child Empresses, oppression and desire, dragons and dreamers, plagues and carnivals, signs and mirrors, tales and tale tellers, comes to an end.

We've heard about lovers fighting slavery; young girls riding dragons; bandits, merchants, Masters, and Vizerines going about their business; warrior women with double-bladed swords making their way through fabled and terrifying lands; tale tellers weaving their tales; famous men and not so famous women inventing very useful things.

We've learned that our memory deceives us, that tales develop, and that signs change their meaning. That's how legends are born.

The circles closed now. Let the legends live on.

(And now I have to thing about some curses combining terms for women's genitals, men's excreta, and cooking implements.
And did anybody find out what those blasted rubber balls were about?)

Pirate Utopia

Pirate Utopia - Bruce Sterling, John Coulthart ...and because I seem to be on a roll with such things...

Half A Crown (Small Change)

Half A Crown (Small Change) - Jo Walton This is a book I want to say too much about. I'll try to restrain myself as good as I can.

Where [b:Farthing|183740|Farthing (Small Change, #1)|Jo Walton||1884104] was an WWII AU dressed as a cozy mystery, and [b:Ha'penny|433716|Ha'penny (Small Change, #2)|Jo Walton||422656] an attempt at suspense, Half a Crown is a full-blown political thriller – one where the personal stakes for our heroes run very high. Of course, all of them are also cautionary tales.
The trilogy grows considerably bleaker from book to book, and part #3 is by far the most unpleasant one to read. It's also my favourite of the three.

Walton sticks to her proven structure, once again alternating between a female first person narrator - Carmichael's ward Elvira this time - and Carmichael's third person POV.
More than ten years after the events in Ha'penny, the political situation in Britain has turned even more dire. Britain's building her own concentration camps, and everyone lives under the watchful eyes of... well, the Watch, a Gestapo-like secret police. Carmichael himself has been forced to become Watch Commander, betraying the very justice he so fiercely wants to believe in. He accepted to save his loved ones – and to try to do a little good at least, to save at least some innocents. The essentially good man being forced to do essentially bad things is one of my favourite character tropes, and Walton certainly knows how to play it.

Then there's Elvira. From all of Walton's not-so-very-likeable female narrators, she's the most unlikeable one. It's not entirely her fault: she's an 18-year-old snobby deb, risen far beyond her working-class status and hyper-aware of it; she's also the very picture of a generation raised by fascism. Educated to be a mostly apolitical trophy-wife, she's trained not to question fascism, and to rat on anybody who might be up to anything “seditious and criminal”. Her chapters were hard to read for me, exactly because Walton pinned such a believable character here.

It was also quite interesting to see Carmichael through the eyes of this little wannabe fascist. He isn't without fault, either. He can't help being a child of his time, with his deeply ingrained misogyny and homophobia, although being queer himself. There's a particular unpleasant scene at an underground gay nightclub, and Carmichael's resentment towards other gay men, especially effeminate men, was almost unreadable for me. I could just marvel at his partner Jack; I don't know how Jack put up with it all, with Carmichael's work, his hours, with basically being his kept man. It must have been love, I guess.
Some of Carmichael's decisions - well, a lot of his decisions come back to bite. His efforts to keep Elvira innocent and ignorant follow best intentions, but set events in motion that will break havoc on both their lives. After reading Ha'penny, I complained about a lack of tension and emotional investment. Well, I got enough of that here to last me till the end of the year (yeah, be careful what you wish for).

Some reviewers have complained about the ending being too rushed, too hopeful, too improbable. I'm inclined to agree; it is kind of a Hollywood ending. After all the bleakness, all the grief, it seems a bit unlikely, too convenient. But not everything gets resolved, not all questions are answered. There are a few lose ends left, just like in real life. The end offers a tentative silver-lining, and I was grateful for it. Call me naïve, but I just refuse to believe that we can't change this world for the better.
Last but not least, it's so rare for a book to engage me emotionally, to get me really invested in the characters; every author who manages has my utmost respect and admiration. And a book like this deserves five stars.


Ha'penny - Jo Walton Something's rotten in the state of England.

Ha'penny starts about two weeks after the Farthing case in part #1. And once again Walton alternates between a female first person narrator – Viola Lark, ex-Larkin, peer's daughter gone actress – and Carmichael's third person limited POV. When a bomb tears a famous actress to pieces, Carmichael finds himself with a new case. Soon he has to face another conspiracy, one that Viola herself is being swept away with. But this time, the conspirators aim for the Bad Ones.

Somehow, this one didn't grab me like [b:Farthing|183740|Farthing (Small Change, #1)|Jo Walton||1884104] did.
The plot isn't all that original, and neither is the execution. Walton tackles the old questions: How far are you willing to go fighting for what you believe in? And how far if you don't believe at all, but are forced to act?
Both Viola and Carmichael find themselves caught up in circumstances where third parties force their hands. Both are made to do things they don't believe in. This could make for a riveting plot, but I didn't feel as emotionally involved, as ethically challenged as when, let's say, reading [b:First Against the Wall|7937238|First Against the Wall (The Administration, #6)|Manna Francis||11343375] (the comparison is a bit unfair; not only has FatW a completely different plot and is set in The Future(TM), it also has five books of built-up. Plenty of time to choose sides, to choose people to like and people to hate).
Maybe it was just due to the heatwave during the last few days that I couldn't be arsed to feel invested in anything else than ice-cream. The stakes certainly are high here, but it never really felt that way. First of all, there was little to no suspense. I didn't know what was going to happen exactly, but I did know Viola would live long enough to tell the tale. And there's a part #3, so... no real suspense. Not until the last 50 pages, at least, where all the cozy went very bleak very fast and culminated in bitter irony. That I could appreciate.
The second reason I already mentioned above: while the characters face ethical challenges, I didn't. By all means, lets kill Hitler? Not necessarily a good idea, I did read [b:Making History|317457|Making History|Stephen Fry||1384] after all. But that's exactly the thing, Ha'penny is alternative history - it never happened, never will. Yes, I can see how it relates to today, I can see this very well (we have an election coming up this weekend, and people's recent fears will influence it not for the better, that much's for certain). But I just couldn't bring myself to care if that damned bomb detonated or not.
The third and last reason is Viola's own lack of emotional involvement. The only thing she's even remotely passionate about is acting. (Oh, and ice-cream. We have that in common, at least.) Everything else she treats with the same enthusiasm: none at all. Which makes her infatuation with Devlin all the more curious; when telling her story she seems completely blasé about it. Somehow that rubbed off on me.

Of course it's still a very good book, not only a filler, even though it's not as smoothly written as Farthing. I enjoyed the bits about the cross-casted Hamlet, I enjoyed to see a more private side of Carmichael as well as his interactions with Royston; their work-relationship is a bit strained after the Farthing case, but their dialogues are a delight. And, because I'm just that kind of person, I liked this terrible, terrible end – because it sets the scene for part #3 so nicely.


Protection - T. Baggins Pretty stereotypical drama-llama.
It started of well enough, but turned into a tooth-ache inducing sap-fest along the way.
A well written one, admittedly.
(And of course nothing here was much of a surprise, because one reviewer found it wise to blurt out the ending. Good job, morron. But why am I even reading reviews before I read a book? Stupid me.)

I skipped the Coda, btw. There's just so much sap I can take.

Something Different

Something Different - S.A. Reid, T. Baggins One of the most realistic romances I've read so far. Even if it's a rentboy story that enters fairy land at the end. And although it could use a few more pages to sufficiently tackle all the conflicts, and to delve deeper into character development; a lot of blanks here have to be filled by the reader.
(I admit, it certainly helps my enjoyment that S.A. Reid and I apparently share a taste in men.)
But I never felt that S.A. Reid was aiming for drama for drama's sake and the characters felt real. Michael's a prick, a cheat, and a liar; he's also a man trapped in a marriage that's unsatisfying for both partners. It excuses nothing, but explains a lot. I just wish Reid had spent a bit more time on showing how Michael grew from totally repressed to confident. James has his insercurities and fears too, and it takes the men some time to grow together.

A Lie about My Father

A Lie about My Father - John Burnside This is a review. This is my opinion. I don't mean to provoke, and I don't mean to offend any Burnside fans. Just to make that abundantly clear.

I'm actually too lazy to translate my review into English right now. The gist of it is that this is one of this cases where I wonder what - in the minds of critics, in the minds of readers - constitutes great literature and "good writing". Burnside is an award-winning poet, a highly praised author, and a lot of people seem to love his style (maybe not so many here on GR. But definitely in German literary circles).
And I can't see why.
What I see is how much effort Burnside puts into poetic phrasings. So much effort that, for me, it became painful to read. I also see clumsily used literary devices like foreshadowing (oh so much foreshadowing), random slips into present tense, and similes which seem not poetic, but unintentionally funny to me. And don't get me started on the obnoxious use of comas. Which may be supposed to be poetical, idk. I've quoted a few particularly outrageous examples in my review; I could have quoted a lot more. But a lot of readers seem to dig that shit. I'm baffled.

Some people tell me "someone like me" simply can't get Burnside's genius. "Someone like me" meaning people who mostly read erotica and pulp, which for some readers apparently equals trash. Which leads me back to my initial question: Why are many things I like considered trash - smoothly written erotica, ass kicking hard-boiled, space operas, fantasy = entertainment, in one word - and this here is supposed to be great literature? Also: Don't those people know a lot of today's classics started as pulp? Which is a matter of publishing, not a matter of quality.

Some might also remark I started this book with a negative attitude, that I've been critical from the beginning.
Yes, it's true. I sometimes read books although I suspect I won't like them very much. Partly because I believe I have to leave my comfort zone once in a while, partly because I would miss a lot of gems if I'd stick to my particular likes and dislikes (erm... that might actually be just one reason.).
And sometimes it works. [b:Gravity's Rainbow|415|Gravity's Rainbow|Thomas Pynchon||866393], Delany's Neveryona series ([b:Tales of Nevèrÿon|85866|Tales of Nevèrÿon (Return to Nevèrÿon, #1)|Samuel R. Delany||82862]), Jo Walton's [b:Farthing|183740|Farthing (Small Change, #1)|Jo Walton||1884104], to name just a few resent ones - all books I was convinced I wouldn't like. And I did like them very much indeed, in the end. Books and authors who can do that, who can sway my opinion that much, have a good chance to become instant favorites.
However, sometimes it doesn't work. Here, it didn't work.
(And as far as books about the sad life of drug addicts in Scotland go, [a:Irvine Welsh|5687|Irvine Welsh|] is a much better read.)

Sorry, that was a lot of ranting, but I had to get that off my chest.


Vorhang auf für ein kleines bisschen Nabelschau...

Burnside ist sichtlich bemüht, seiner Kindheit eine Atmosphäre irgendwo zwischen Magie und düsterem Schrecken zu verleihen. Leider gelingt ihm das nicht wirklich – nicht so, wie es zum Beispiel Neil Gaiman mit [b:The Ocean at the End of the Lane|15783514|The Ocean at the End of the Lane|Neil Gaiman||21500681] gelungen ist, einem meiner Lieblingsbücher des vergangenen Jahres. Oder wie es King immer wieder mal gelang.
Der Vergleich ist natürlich nicht ganz fair; Gaiman und King schreiben Fiktion, darüber hinaus im fantastischen Bereich, Burnside hier eine Art Memoiren, oder zumindest seine Version der Wahrheit. Aber Gaiman und King schaffen in ihren Erzählungen eine Unmittelbarkeit, die Burnsides Bemühungen fehlt. Seine Geschichte liest sich angestrengt: zu angestrengt um wohlklingende Formulierungen ringend, zu offensichtlich mit literarischen Kinkerlitzchen beschäftigt, wie dem Vorgreifen auf kommende Ereignisse, das hier immer wieder auftaucht, auf sehr aufdringliche und geradezu plump erscheinende Weise. Ich konnte hier immer den Schriftsteller bei der Arbeit sehen, manchmal auch den Dichter, und das möchte ich nicht, wenn ich lese (wenige Ausnahmen bestätigen die Regel).

Insbesondere im Prolog sowie gegen Ende hin liest sich das zudem recht pathetisch und verkünstelt.
My childhood dream of a father had been just that conservative seeming type: a man who willingly accepted his self-imposed silence, his easy invisibility, and lived inside himself, in a self-validating world that had gradually become richer and quieter, like a pond in the woods that goes undisturbed for years, filling with leaves and spores, becoming a dark continuum of frog life and the slow chemistry of generation and decay.

Manche nennen's poetisch, ich finde derartige Vergleiche unfreiwillig komisch. Ebenso wie folgende Konstruktion
Forty years later I remember it all and dream the same dreams. Night after night I populate the dark.

Leider ist sich Burnside auch nicht zu schade für Klischees auf Frauenzeitschriften-Niveau:
you learn to love yourself by loving the world around you. Because what we love in ourselves is ourselves loving.

Nein, so eine Sprache zu lesen macht mir keinen Spaß.

Dabei nehme ich es Burnside durchaus ab, dass er ehrlich an einer Auseinandersetzung mit seinem verstorbenen Vater interessiert ist, dass er durch seine Spurensuche in seiner Kindheit der eigenen Geschichte näher kommen will. Das Buch ist keine billige Abrechnung, keine Schuldzuweisung. Sondern vielmehr ein authentischer, persönlicher Versuch, diese Figur des Vaters zu greifen, zu begreifen.
Der Autor hat mir nur bis zum Schluss nicht erklären können, warum das mich als Leser eigentlich interessieren soll. Und das liegt zum großen Teil daran, dass mir der Schriftsteller Burnside im Weg stand und den Blick auf den Sohn Burnside versperrt hat.

The Houseboy - Part 2

The Houseboy - Part 2 - Ariana Paige Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first part. I still like Karen and Mark's dynamics, but the conflict with Shelly and Kyle seemed too contrived and something about the way Karen handled the incident with Kyle rubbed me the wrong way.
I would probably still read another story in this series, and follow Karen's way into dominance.


Femme - Marshall Thornton Resembles a typical high school comedy, just with twenty-something characters. You get the whole set-up: the outsider girl (or femme boy in this case), the slightly dense jock, the bully, his apparently devoted following, the mouthy best friend, the awkward but ultimately loving family.
While I'm not too font of high school rom-coms, Femme had enough depth to keep me going. And femme guys are such a rarity in m/m (and I think even in gay romance/fiction) that I have to give Thornton some credit simply for writing this story.
It could have used another round in proofreading, however.

Carried Away

Carried Away - David  Stein I'm on page 222 - and I think it's time to call it quits. Maybe I will come back at a later time, but I doubt it.

Master/slave relationships are a tad outside my comfort zone. Which is why I wanted to read this book. And david stein suceeded at least a bit in giving me a realistic-feeling glimpse into the dynamics, into the heads of people who are into these kind of things.
It's just so awfully, awfully boring. And much too wordy. For the last 150 pages or so, Matt's thoughts are running in circles, there's no progress whatsoever, and I've completely lost my patience. Books exclusively focusing on relationship dynamics are not for me. I need some story apart from that. The frequent - very, very frequent - S/M scenes didn't help. Leather S/M is not my kink (very much not my kink, with me being vegan and all), and I was bored out of my mind.
Worse still, this book is preachy as hell. I can even get behind a lot of the things said here. Especially behind this "equal partners in an adventure of inequality" thing. Other stuff was irritating, like Terry's bullshit about "using a safeword shows you don't trust me, if you do it, you can go". Which serves well to show why the Master/slave dynamic is out of my comfort zone: It can so very easily turn abusive.
But most of all I don't want to be preached at when reading, no matter if I can agree to the sermon's content or not. I want the author to show his points in the characters' actions, in the story's progress. I don't want the characters having contrived, never-ending, lecturing conversations. I don't like to read books that don't tell a story, but simply serve to push the author's agenda.

The Houseboy: Part 1

The Houseboy: Part 1 - Ariana Paige Cute, sweet, fun, smoothly written - and hot, of course.
Karen goes from reluctant to full-blown domme rather fast, but it's an erotic short story, I wasn't exactly looking for in-depth character development here. I liked how the author showed the caring, emotional side of the power-exchange. Looking forward to part #2.

Some typos (yeah, nitpicky nitpick, and I know my English spelling sucks. But looking for errors is my job, okay ;) )


Noah - Cara Dee This is the story of Hollywood B-lister Noah Collins – who identifies as straight, but has some experience with men - falling in love with his closeted gay step-nephew Julian, 17 years his junior, after both have lost almost their whole family. And it's not the most pleasant reading experience.

Not because of all the grief or the pseudy-incest; I couldn't care less about step-somethings getting it on. Nor was it due to the timejumps, which I didn't mind. But Noah's one of the most irritating character's I've ever encountered in officially published m/m romance. I have absolutely no patience with 40 year old men showing all the mental maturity of a 4-year-old. Yes, I know, juvenile men of that age exist, which is bad enough; I don't especially like reading about them. And spending a whole book in their head is quite annoying.
At least, Cara Dee has Noah's annoying voice down pat, and his immature behavior is somewhat acknowledged. I can give her kudos for that. I mean it: she aced his characterization. I just don't know if it was her intention to make him this irritating. Aren't readers supposed to root for romance heroes, isn't that how it works? Well, I didn't root for Noah, I loathed spending time in his thoughts.

Because I only saw him through Noah's eyes, I never really got a grasp on Julian's character. He's depressed, secretive, grieving, and sexy – that's basically all I know about him. He reads very young, insecure, and vulnerable, but I never had the feeling I was actually getting close to him.

Now, I have a soft spot for Cara Dee, because her [b:Aftermath|25454650|Aftermath (Aftermath, #1)|Cara Dee||25601003] was the first m/m romance I ever read. I'd read tons of gay fiction, gay porn and slash fiction before, but I'm not really a romance reader, so I turned to the genre quite late in the game. Although Aftermath isn't my favorite m/m story, I liked Cara Dee's characters and her way to write sex. Her erotic scenes just work for me. The scenes between Noah and Julian were no exception. But the situation leading to their first encounter was more than a bit fishy and anything else but sexy.

Finally, I wish the author had done some research on the German education system. Julian's supposed academic career isn't completely impossible, but very unlikely.


Farthing - Jo Walton Hypocrisy in action! My reading this book, I mean.

It's one of those truisms in entertainment: If you want to attract attention, put some Nazis in your work. Therefore, I'm wary when it comes to fiction about WWII that has been written decades after the war. Most of the the time it's either fetishizing (sexually or otherwise) or sickly-sweet, bile-inducing holocaust kitsch (copyright for this expression goes to Maxim Biller, I think). I'm especially wary of AUs using WWII as a background – because are Nazis really necessary to tell your story? Do you really, really have to appropriate the Holocaust to produce entertainment? Even if it's supposed to be a cautionary tale?
But even I can't always resist the lure of Naziploitation. And I have this terrible thing for British murder mysteries with a paranormal, AU, or dystopian twist. Even more so if they star queer characters.

So I'm happy to report that all my apprehension didn't prevent Farthing from being a bloody spectacular book. And it's not exactly Naziploitation, either.
Walton uses an English country-house mystery to show a country's slow slide into fascism. Prejudices against Jews and homosexuals are already present in British society, and after Britain has forged the „Peace of Honour“ with Hitler in 1941, it doesn't take much to make them run rampant. The book's greatest feat is Walton's narrow concentration on the murder mystery, while fascist views and the situation on the European continent are simmering in the background, seeping in through the edges, making the reader feel more and more uncomfortable.
Walton's use of characters is excellent here: Lucy's rambling squirrel narration is at greats odds with the horrors and the war raging on the continent; I caught myself being amused and at the same time feeling that I really, really shouldn't be. Society's prejudices become most distinct through characters like Royston, the Joe Average of this tale: smart, capable at his job, sympathetic – anti-semitic and a homophobe. No one is without prejudice here, because, well, no one is without prejudice.

Farthing is also extremely well written. There's a slight excess of adverbs, but that fits the English country-house atmosphere the book sets in the first half, before it becomes something exceedingly darker. It's a jarring transition from cosy murder mystery to political... not exactly thriller, but something more political all right. It isn't supposed to be easy. The ending finally earns some extra-kudos from me.

So, is the WWII background really necessary here? Is this the only way the story could be told?
I'd say no. I'd say there is an abundance of other ways to tell the exactly same thing – I've read them, too.
But I might be wrong.

Walton opens her story with the words:
This novel is for everyone who has ever studied any monstrosity of history, with the serene satisfaction of being horrified while knowing exactly what was going to happen, rather like studying a dragon anatomized upon a table, and then turning around to find the dragon's present-day relations standing close by, alive and ready to bite.

Looking around me right here, right now, I already feel a bit bitten...

Now, where's the BBC adaptation of the Small Change series?

Fifteen Shades of Gay (For Pay)

Fifteen Shades of Gay (For Pay) - T. Baggins While this book isn't exactly as stupid as the title makes you believe, it's a close call.

Now, I like the way T. Baggins writes. She gets a lot of things right others do wrong, I especially like the way she writes sex, and her author bio almost makes me want to add a star. This story here also had a slight Fassavoy vibe running through it (intentional or was it just my imagination running rampant?), which I should have loved. But even that couldn't save this trainwreck of a story.

Old, tired tropes plus characters behaving in completely unbelievable ways multiplied by annoying editing issues topped with tearjerker moments didn't make me a very happy reader.
I can suspend my disbelief just this far, and here everything was just too far-fetched. So: Nope. Nope, this didn't work for me.


On a different, but related note I'm once again happy to live in a society where the general public couldn't care less about politicians' private lives (as long everything's legal, and there not wasting tax payer's money, that is. And of course that's also due to us having a completely different political system, but... anyway.)

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