Reading notes, week 14

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Currently reading: Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie, because someone on my social media said it was the best Poirot. Read it years ago so it will probably be new-ish. –And yes: almost completely new, I’m not even sure I’ve read it before! Now 40% in and I’m still not sure if I like it, there’s too much Poirot being Poirot (though not with as many annoying mannerisms as in some of the others) and I don’t like any of the people except the young woman at the beginning who is now only being mentioned by the other characters. (Put aside for now because a friend sent me something to beta that’s harder to put down than Agatha Christie.)

Next up: The rest of the thing by the friend, or else some comfort rereading… If I want still more Agatha Christie it will probably be Tommy and Tuppence, perhaps all of it. Or another Diana Wynne Jones, or Dorothy Sayers. A local mystery writer put his books (also set locally) on the web for free and I grabbed those too so I might try one, and I’ve got a new Mercedes Lackey waiting for me as well. No lack of reading matter!

April 4: Some Lord Peter Wimsey fanfic, on fanfiction.net this time, which feels like betrayal. But this is a good story about Charles and Mary in which Mary does some of the detecting. (Also found one I liked that happened to be on my ereader already.)

April 3: Stone by Alter S. Reiss, the long story I grabbed from the Decameron project and converted to epub for easier reading. Glad I did because it’s slow and heavy, almost ceremonial in its language. Deeply Jewish, I think (that’s not my own culture or background so I can only suspect). I think I love it though parts of it hurt.

April 2: Some more (but not all) Decameron Project stories.

April 1: Lammas Night by Katherine Kurtz (reread). Because someone said something on a blog and I was immediately reminded of it. I’d completely forgotten that the prince is such a chain-smoker. (Other people smoke the occasional cigarette as stage business, but he smokes all the bleeping time.) Though I still like it, the same thing irks me that irked me on previous reads: I will accept the conceit of previous lives, but why have those people been All These Famous Historical Figures? If everyone has lived many times before there can’t have been enough Famous Historical Figures to go round. Argh, this may turn into a blog post yet.

March 31: The first chapter of Caroline Stevermer’s new book, The Glass Magician, also from the Decameron project. Wonderful teaser. We pre-ordered the hardback.

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12

Week 13

The Obligatory Coronavirus Quarantine Post

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Yes, I really do have to write this before my brain lets me write any other post that isn’t the ongoing reading notes.

Strictly speaking we’re not in quarantine — we’re staying in. One of us (lately mostly me because Spouse had a sniffle and didn’t want to take the risk) ventures out to the supermarket every couple of days but it’s becoming more and more exhausting. Yesterday I bought enough to last until the milk runs out, probably Saturday or Sunday. We even have a liter of long-life milk in case we really don’t want to leave the house when the milk does run out.

It’s glorious spring weather but somehow it feels dangerous to go out at all, as if it’s tainted, radioactive or something. A while ago — I hardly know what day it is, there is no time — I contemplated cycling two miles to my favourite supermarket, but instead I just zipped to the usual nearby okayish supermarket to be back home as soon as possible.

On Monday I went to the bio supermarket, dreading to encounter the “viruses don’t exist, it’s all media hype” or “see, Mother Nature is setting the world right” mindset, but instead they had a sensible “please take a cart and wipe the handle with this wiping stuff we’re providing, keep your distance, don’t dawdle and don’t buy more than you need” sign. I bought the wine of the month which we liked a lot (that’s why I went there, to get some at the on-offer price before the month ended), a bottle of really nice milk, some emergency dried yeast in case panic shoppers again buy the ordinary supermarket’s whole stock of fresh, spelt flour and 80% wheat flour which made the flour container so full that I feel as if I’ve been stockpiling unfairly but I’d probably have bought that in ordinary times too because they’re both things I like and the other supermarket doesn’t have, and other things like that. And a wonderful little bar of soap, guest soap size, smelling of spices (there’s ginger and black pepper in it) instead of flowery-sweet, and oily enough that I don’t have to rub my hands with hand cream all the time.

We’re fortunate that we haven’t had to change our lifestyle radically — Spouse already works on Krita from home and manages a completely remote team from home, and I already do writing and volunteer work at the dining table. We’re used to being around each other a lot, it’s not like we’re suddenly together all day every day and get on each other’s nerves. The world gets on our joint nerves, that’s all. I miss swimming. I even miss the social interaction while swimming which was sometimes nice, sometimes a burden when it happened. Both of us miss nipping out to a shop to get one little thing we forgot or suddenly need because we’re cooking something unplanned. We miss going to museums, taking a city trip on short notice just because we can and want to. We’re going to miss the Lamb of God exhibition in Ghent that we managed to get some of the last timeslot tickets for.

I miss church, and choir, and the volunteer work I’d otherwise be doing for the church and the choir. It turns out that I really need to be part of the community, or perhaps of the structure, to do something with my faith. I haven’t actually lost my faith, but I don’t cope well with not having a framework to express it in: not only singing in the services but also baking prosphora, making reader notes, working on the church webpage, posting notices on Twitter is the way I pray. Martha rather than Mary, though I don’t judge people for being Mary (on the contrary, I feel like I should pray more and read spiritual literature and follow other churches’ livestreams because ours isn’t large enough to have one, but I can’t bring myself to do it, it feels wrong). We stopped observing Lent when the church stopped having services, because that took energy we don’t have — it’s the services we get energy from in Lent — and I think that’s the cause I’m not reading uplifting books either: lack of brainspace. I’m sure Christ will rise without us being there to tell each other, and I’ll definitely put the yearly “Christ is risen” notice on Twitter, but it’s all very strange indeed.

I miss being able to write. I got hold of a cover artist for A Voice from the North, thinking that would be an incentive to finish it already, but I can’t even look at the text without disgust now. And I’m stuck about 1000 words into the space meerkat story which I think wants to be 3000-3500. Why is this thing that I have no power over and doesn’t even impact me much personally (except restricting my movements) taking up so much of my mental CPU? It’s not as if I had much of an in-the-flesh social life before, except church. — Oh right, it’s because I have no power over it.

(Now a voice that might be the Infernal Editor or one of its cousins is telling me “what are you whining about, there are so many people who have it worse”; I bop it on the head with a virtual fish.)

I had an argument with a choirmate years ago, who said (because I was music-geeking with another choirmate) “How can you find that so important while the world is burning?” Someone wiser than that person, and much wiser than me, once told me to stretch out my arms and know that this is my reach and all I can do is to make that as good as it can be, I don’t need to fix the whole world, only try my best for the little piece of world that’s mine to fix. (And if I can’t, I can’t; there’s no penalty for being unable to do everything or something or even anything at all.) The world needn’t be all bleak and utilitarian: having fun keeps us human. But I still feel bad for not feeling worse than I do, and then I feel bad for feeling bad for that. I don’t think it’s grief as such (as some people have written), but it’s definitely cognitive dissonance.

I’m not bored. I’m just getting nothing done, and trying not to feel guilty for playing games and reading silly stories when I could (should!) be writing stories! helping others! getting things done! CLEANING THE HOUSE! Good grief, I’m glad I can still cook, and do dishes when necessary, and go to the supermarket every couple of days even if that wipes me out for at least an hour after I get home. I don’t know whether to be envious of people who suddenly do get a lot of things done, and have started baking (and buying all the flour and yeast from under the nose of the already-habitual-bakers), and make livestreams so other people won’t have to miss all of church, and have wonderfully clean houses and tidy gardens now. Perhaps their cognitive dissonance is as bad as mine and they’ve just found a different way to cope.

The church we can see the tower of from our windows, and other churches in town, and I think other churches in the country, are ringing their bells each Wednesday evening. It was disconcerting the first time around even though we read about it in the news, because ringing bells when there’s no service means ALARM!!! in my mind, and it’s annoying now because I expect it but I parse it as saying THERE’S A PLAGUE! rather than the comforting “we’re still here and we’re all in this together” message they’re intending to give.

We’re reading Anna Karenina this afternoon, on Skype. And then we’ll perhaps eat something we haven’t cooked ourselves, because some of our favourite restaurants are doing delivery now.

Reading notes, week 13

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March 28: A bunch of random Young Wizards and Lord Peter Wimsey fanfic (er, some of each, there don’t seem to be crossovers; planning to write one but, well, you know). Nothing memorable enough to link to, though I downloaded one to read on the ereader later.

March 26: Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones. I rarely read Howl’s Moving Castle without it. Epub conversion is even worse but this is too long to tackle too. Some nasty fat shaming in early chapters but that’s subverted at the end. Hard to get into for some reason, but it became better and better. (Looks like it took three days to read this, but I’ve also been reading oodles of webpages, and even wrote three whole paragraphs of the space meerkat story even though the real world has been messing with my brain a lot).

March 23: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. That there’s a Lettie in it (more than one Lettie at some point) when I’ve just finished a book with a Letty threw me a bit! It’s somewhat more chaotic at the end than I remembered, and I sort of skimmed the wizards’ duel this time, and the conversion isn’t perfect so some things that should be in italics aren’t, which obscures at least one plot point. It’s too long to fix the conversion, though, unless I get really bored.

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12

 

Reading notes, week 12

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March 21: Wet Nails by Shira Glassman. Bought the pdf, converted it to epub, converted the epub to mobi, sent the epub and the mobi back to Shira so she can put those up with the pdf. Sweet story that starts fluffy and fangirly and turns explicit quite suddenly. Technically it’s a ghost story but it’s not the slightest bit scary.

March 21: A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie. Another Miss Marple I like, and now I’ve read both it and The Body in the Library close together I’m not sure which I like best. The Pip and Emma plot could perhaps have done with some more work but that wouldn’t have left room for other things the story needed. Now I really want to watch the Joan Hickson film (which doesn’t have the Pip and Emma plot at all as far as I know) but I don’t know if we have it and I’m too lazy to look for the DVD and the DVD player.

March 19: Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher. I love the Temple of the White Rat, and Bishop Beartongue is a splendid woman, but I think I’d have thrown the book against the wall (metaphorically; I’m not going to break my new Kobo), even though I like most the people and it’s well written and there’s a lot of typically-Kingfisher humor in it, if I hadn’t read all three of the other books in that universe first. I can’t stand all the “ooh I did something wrong and now he/she won’t like me” failure-to-communicate stuff, I wish they’d get on with the adventure! It’s my usual problem with books that are primarily romance (and I never read plain non-fantasy romance for that reason): all the miscommunication is relevant for the romance but gets in the way of the story. I might go and give it four stars on Goodreads because it deserves it, but I don’t know if I’ll read it again soon. (The one explicit and one and a half not very explicit sex scenes were excellent, I’ll say that.)

March 17: Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones. First that came up in my DWJ collection. Haven’t read it for long enough for it to be almost a new book (and much more complex than I remember!)

March 15: The IDIC Epidemic, a Star Trek novel by Jean Lorrah, for real-world significance/antidote. It may be about a virus epidemic but it’s not dark or dystopian or postapocalyptic or full of despair: people doing their best and helping each other in a hard situation. It’s got happy endings and resolution of problems for several people. Sequel to The Vulcan Academy Murders but I think it can stand alone (nice if it doesn’t have to though).

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9, Week 10, Week 11

 

Reading notes, week 11

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March 14: The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah. Gearing up for The IDIC Epidemic. Eee! T’Mir and Daniel! Right up there with Éowyn and Faramir.

March 13: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher. When Spouse was reading it he kept chuckling to himself so I knew I was in for a treat, and I was right! I don’t mind the romance because that’s what the book is about, basically. Have marked some passages, may blog (but things are taking up mental bandwidth at the moment so I’m not sure I can).

March 10: The Body in the Library, which I didn’t finish in the Miss Marple binge. Shouldn’t really read Agatha Christie right after Dorothy Sayers (yes, I know, I made that mistake before) because I tend to hold it to the same standards, but this Dorothy Sayers was diluted anyway and The Body in the Library is one of the better Miss Marples, perhaps the best.

March 8: Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh. I wish Dorothy Sayers had finished it so I wouldn’t be guessing all the time which parts were by whom. It does read like a real Dorothy Sayers, mostly. All the well-known characters are true to type and I love Hope Fanshaw.

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9, Week 10

Clocktaur War

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Cover of Clockwork Boys Cover of The Wonder EngineT. Kingfisher, Clocktaur War

That is to say: Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine. Two parts of one book really, though the second one starts with a recap that jars a little when reading back-to-back, and there are tiny inconsistencies like calling someone Jenny in the second book who was Molly in the first (but she’s dead before the story starts so it doesn’t matter).

I wouldn’t have chosen it if I hadn’t read enough T. Kingfisher, books and twitter feed, to know I can trust her. Like some of her other books, parts of it are just on the “safe” side of horror. (I’m so not going to read The Twisted Ones, which she says is horror and personally warned me to skip.) And a small part of it is so far beyond my usual boundaries that it would have been a DNF if it had been in chapter 2 of part 1 rather than in chapter 44 of part 2, when I wanted to know how it ended, confound it.

The whole thing reads like a really fun roleplaying campaign. Note: not like a campain writeup, those ramble more; like the campaign itself. I’d have liked to play in it, horror and all. Adventure! Carnivorous tattoos! Travel griping! A band of ruffians! (Well, always excepting Learned Edmund, who starts off as a clueless jerk but he gets a lot better.) I’m very tempted to steal the Shadow Market for one of my own campaigns.

A thing I liked a lot: the gnoles, their society, the way they live alongside humans and deal with them on their own terms. Their language idiosyncrasies: the way Grimehug uses “a gnole” as a first-person pronoun, the “gendered” third-person pronouns that actually go by caste.

A thing I didn’t like: the sexual tension between two of the protagonists first becomes a running joke, then it gets stale — before it gets resolved and things go pear-shaped almost immediately. Then it gets resolved again, somewhat elegantly (she says, grudgingly). Honestly I could have done without the romance and the sex, though the actual sex scenes are tasteful. It gets in the way a lot, except at the end when it’s instrumental for the closure of the story. I concede that that couldn’t have happened without all the buildup, but it still annoyed me. Other running jokes didn’t get stale, so it was probably my pervasive dislike of Inevitable Romantic Subplots and not something about the book itself.

This person read the same books I read: Part 1Part 2

Quotes:

Some days I don’t know if we’re even on our side.

Slate considered herself enlightened, but there were still times when she wanted to throw her hands in the air and scream, “Men!” and then stomp off and kick something.

… there are few things in life as steadying as someone you have to be brave for.

(which is absolutely true, I know from experience)

“… My heart was pure. Demons trembled at my name.”
He didn’t say it like he was boasting. He didn’t say it sarcastically. He said it like it was true.

If I was giving stars, and I yet may if/when I make a Goodreads review out of this rambling, I’d dock one star for the horror and another for the romance and sex, and immediately add one back for the gnoles, arriving at a solid four stars. I don’t like to rate, partly because I’m always conflicted when giving stars: should I rate how good it is by some sort-of-objective measure, or how much I liked it? I think the latter, but always feel it should be the former.

Reading notes, week 10

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Doesn’t look like I read a lot! (But I did write a lot, and even committed fanfic which promptly acquired a very nice comment.)

March 6: Clocktaur War by T. Kingfisher (Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine). Here’s a post.

March 1: a bunch more fanfic, nothing really memorable enough to write about. Mostly to see what other people have done because I want to write a Lord Peter Wimsey/Young Wizards crossover in which Harriet finds out that at least some of Peter’s diplomatic work is wizardly work, and Miss Climpson’s manual comes as index cards. It doesn’t seem to exist yet. Lord Peter Wimsey/Harry Potter crossover does exist: Hilary Thorpe goes to Hogwarts!

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9

 

 

Reading notes, week 9

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February 29: Gaudeamus Igitur, Maturae Dum Sumus, Lord Peter Wimsey fanfic (though he hardly figures in it: most of his role is taken by his nephew). This time I skipped all the explicit Jerry/Bunter parts and read only the sweet but somewhat fraught Miss Lydgate/Miss Climpson parts. Still, it’s a rehash of Gaudy Night as if someone’s cut out a lot of little bits from it and pasted them on a piece of paper. Very much a curate’s egg, and an underdone one at that.

Inquiry and Retrieval, a very good Young Wizards/Harry Potter crossover (though now I’m confused which of the two worlds they gated between is “our” world, if any).

Fire on the Mountain, a long (11 chapters) Pern/Young Wizards story that I wanted to finish to see things resolved (also some younger characters who came in later were really good) but I’m not sure if I’m going to keep it on the Kobo. I know where it is, after all. CW: a cat dies (but deliberately and willingly).

February 28: An Unwilling Heart (Young Wizards fanfic). It was marked as a crossover but it doesn’t seem to be a crossover with anything, at least not with anything I recognise (or is even mentioned explicitly). Anyway, wow. Carl Romeo and Tom Swale are the young wizards here (it’s one of the versions of how they meet).

February 27: These Are The Voyages, Young Wizards/Star Trek crossover fanfic. And more of the same though most isn’t very memorable (this one is, though: young Nyota Uhura finding her wings). I don’t usually read crossovers unless I know both fandoms well enough, but these qualify. Not that I can believe that the whole crew of the Enterprise consists of wizards, as some of the stories seem to imply.

February 27: Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers, umpteenth reread. There are more cringeworthy scenes than I remembered, not only the horrible but crucial-for-the-plot scene towards the end that (since its last reading) will always come with a memory of the station of Twello in slight rain in autumn, but also at least two discussions of women’s place and calling. Elegant HEA makes up for a lot.

February 26: A bunch of Goblin Emperor fanfic by the author of two of my favourite Goblin Emperor stories (Gifts Not Wasted and Oh, the Wind and Rain). I think those two, which I’ve already got on my ereader, are the best of that lot. Earrings is cute too.

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

 

 

Reading notes, week 8

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February 20: The Second Mango again, sort of, because I was missing the conversion-fixing when Prydain was done. I offered the cleaned-up epub to the author.

February 19: The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie. Read it in the 2014 Miss Marple binge but forgot it enough that it was almost a new book. (Note to self: Self, don’t read Agatha Christie with the expectation that it’s Dorothy Sayers. Christie’s people are less complex and usually more petty.)

February 18: The High King by Lloyd Alexander, last of the Prydain conversion-fixes. Hands down the darkest of the series, and if it wasn’t impossible to edit without reading I should perhaps have edited it first before tackling all the shattering (but mostly heroic) deaths. It’s a good handling of “the magic goes away” for a change.

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, because of this Guardian article. The current BBC adaptation changes the story and its ending and makes the protagonist a bad guy (in the book he’s okayish though for my taste a bit too inclined to mock everything), and I don’t think I want to see it. I don’t like the look of the protagonist actor, either; in the pictures he looks like a creep, and that’s before I knew about the changes to the character.

February 17: Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander, in conversion-fixing mode. I thought I remembered it better than any of the others in the series but there were whole chapters I didn’t remember at all. I thought it was much more of a “road movie” story but some ACTUAL PLOT showed up about halfway through. And there are only three crafts he’s apprenticed in, not the half-dozen or so I expected!

Earlier reading notes: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7

 

Reading notes, week 7

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Added a “Next up” section. I won’t list DNFs unless it’s a spectacular DNF with a reason, not just books I abandon because I feel more like reading something else. This is intended to make me persevere with the reading notes without thinking it means I have to either finish or justify not finishing everything I’m reading. Reading isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, a performance.

February 15: Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers. (Yes, it took me almost all week; it’s a long slow book and I was deep in a bout of editing as well.) Reread, because I read a couple of lines to spouse and friend after the essay about drinking glasses: ‘These must be the Baker Street Irregulars; the chief thing is that they all have a hole in the top. I am told that Mr Woolworth sells a very good selection of glassware. In the meantime, Miss Twitterton, will you take sherry as a present from Margate or toss off your Haig in a tankard?’ This is, I think, the only Peter/Harriet book in which there’s not a single P/H scene that makes me cringe, if only a little. (Must put Gaudy Night on the virtual pile.) I did cringe at a scene between two secondary characters but one is a villain and the other a fool, so that’s par for the course.

February 9: Moontangled by Stephanie Burgis. New! Shiny! Full of splendid women! Just when I thought it was perhaps a bit more romance and a bit less fantasy than I like, magic started happening. Still the “people don’t communicate” thing that I don’t like about romance but the magic more than makes up for it.

Earlier reading notes: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6