Reading notes, week 48


Currently reading: Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie. Poirot’s grown on me or something.

Next up: I’m still doing the alphabetical order, now at E-ish, but I may go back to C because there’s some there that piques my interest more than when I first passed C. It’s very liberating that I’ve given myself permission to skip what I’m not in the mood for; that makes it more like assembling a pile while sorting the bookcase.

November 27: Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie. Another comfort reread, Poirot with very little annoying!Poirot, and a smashing school story. Forgotten enough to be surprised by the ending.

November 26: Spock’s World by Diane Duane. Comfort reread (though it has lots of uncomfortable scenes: disaster and war and betrayal and the nasty kind of intrigue) because I needed the Spock I know.

November 24: Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. Spouse was reading it and squeeing about it, and that made me want to read it again too. I’d forgotten some of the twists, and the (happy) ending!

November 22: Enterprise: The First Adventure by Vonda N. McIntyre. It seems to have a lot of one-star reviews, the most notable one saying “a bad book by a good writer, don’t read it”. It also has 4- and 5-star reviews. –No, it wasn’t a bad book (though I skipped most of the Klingon parts: wanton anger and aggression, even when done very well, don’t appeal to me) but what looked like a “people getting used to each other and learning to work together” story suddenly turned into a strange first-contact story, and I felt like I’ve been bait-and-switched. Then it all came together and I went “oh wow” though I may not want to reread it any time soon. (Added treat: Shakespeare almost in the original Klingon!)

Index of reading notes is here.

Putting food into other food


One of my superpowers is “Make Food Into Pie” but of course that’s only a subset of Putting Food Into Other Food.

I’d been wanting to make lemper for some time (anecdote: the first time I made lemper it was almost accidental: cooked a new chicken dish and we noticed it tasted like lemper filling so that was what I used it for), and Spouse suggested doing it with leftover meat from the guinea fowl we’d had. There wasn’t much meat left, but I bought a bag of adzuki beans and made red bean paste so I could fill rice balls with it. It was only a small bag of beans, but I do now have enough bean paste to make filled rice balls for an orphanage, when I boil up some more glutinous rice.

I’m not giving a recipe, because I combined two and took some inspiration from a third and haven’t consolidated (let alone internalized) them yet. It worked, though. Note to self and whoever else is googling recipes: next time I’ll parboil the rice, then add coconut milk and salt and aromatic leaves, then steam again, instead of trying to steam both times. The first steaming came out uneven, the second time a bit overdone, but not so much that I couldn’t form it. The resulting lempers (now frozen) are very soft and I’ll have to thaw and heat them in the microwave on the plate they’re going to be eaten from, because they probably won’t hold their shape in the steamer.

I thought I’d be able to fill at most four lempers with the amount of filling I ended up with, but eventually I had eight!

(filling the seventh here: the amount of filling left in the bowl is barely enough for the eighth, so that one is a bit smaller)

The sushi rolling mat wasn’t absolutely necessary, I could have put the cling film directly on the board and indeed did the first join-the-edges roll only with the cling film, but it was nice to get the lemper into shape with.

I got 11 (and a tiny one I ate immediately) rice balls with red bean filling from the rest of the rice, and they’re in the fridge and I eat one whenever I crave one. They’re too sweet and probably too pudding-like for Spouse so we can’t share them. Next time when I plan to make sweet rice balls and not something savoury from the same batch, I’ll sweeten the rice very slightly because now the rice tastes bland by contrast, but they’re yummy anyway.

After all this rice I went on to make vegan stuffed cabbage leaves: blitzed garlic and ginger and rather a lot of brown mushrooms with turmeric, ground coriander seed, black pepper and a bit of miso, fried the lot in oil until the juice ran almost dry, then crumbled tofu into it. I’d already teased the outer leaves off a cabbage and blanched them to soften — overcompensating because usually I leave them underdone and they’re hard to roll, this time they fell apart while rolling. But I got an oven dish full of reasonable packages, covered with tomato sauce (roux made with oil and strong miso broth, a bottle of passata di pomodoro, spiced with ginger, dark soy sauce and tamarind) and gave it 40 minutes in the oven. (And we served them to friends and everybody liked them, even the person who always grumbles when there’s no meat.)

There’s some filling left that I could arguably make vegan lemper from, it’s the right structure and has a strong enough flavour, but I think I’ve done enough modelling with sticky rice for a while. I’ll probably put it in some kind of dough tomorrow.

Reading notes, week 47


November 17-21: Assorted fanfic to clear out my Marked For Later list. It turned out that I’d already read most of that and even bookmarked it but it was nice to revisit.

November 17: The Cloak of Night and Daggers by Rosemary Edghill. #2 didn’t end, so now had to read #3, and that didn’t end either, becoming more and more convoluted until it did so. But at least nobody died. Yet, perhaps.

November 16: The Cup of Morning Shadows by Rosemary Edghill. It’s got at least one likeable character from #1, but now there’s a man being men-know-best-anyway annoying at her and alternate chapters have convoluted Elfland politics, so I don’t know how much of a chance I’m going to give it (currently skimming the politics chapters). And I wish she wouldn’t spell “elphen” and “Elphame”: almost cause for virtual-book-against-virtual-wall by itself. — Whee! This book has just got 100% more interesting. The most unlikeable character from #1 turns out to be the villain now. I was already wondering how the villain could know so much about the human world.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 46


November 13: The Sword of Maiden’s Tears by Rosemary Edghill. I actually have it as three-volumes-in-one, the only three that appeared out of a projected 12-book series, and I have it on good authority (waves to friend from afar, you know who you are) that the first book is awesome, the second is okay and the third is meh. –Perhaps not awesome but slightly more than okay; I like this particular kind of urban fantasy, Type C from this post, but the parts actually in Elfland tend not to interest me as much. Major Character Death, and I liked that character enough that not only the other characters grieved but the reader as well. It was heroic, though, and under the circumstances sort of unavoidable.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 45


Read a couple of Yuletide canon books which I’m not listing (until later, probably). This state of affairs may last a couple of weeks as I write treats.

November 5: Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie. A Poirot that starts with Ariadne Oliver, and I never know if I love her or hate her when I start a book that features her so prominently. I’ll see.

November 2: Elementary by Mercedes Lackey and others. One of the very early Elemental Masters story collections, all set in Victorian England. Some are really good.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 44


Not reading much because I’m writing, and some of what I am reading is background material for my Yuletide story.

October 30: Elementals: Water by Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley. Mostly good, some very strange. The last story is basically Damar fanfic by Robin McKinley herself, nice!

October 27: Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie. A Poirot I half-remember like most of them. Okayish. I knew early on how it was done but not by whom, and it was unsurprising and a little disappointing.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 43


October 23: Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley. It’s… strange. About halfway through I got interested enough to continue but I don’t think it will ever be a favourite. It should be “USA as a fantasy world” but the fact that it isn’t a fantasy world gets in the way, and (I think, not being USan or Native American) there’s some cultural appropriation of Native Americans. There seems to be an ending (happy, too!) at 72% but it doesn’t end here, at 77% the happy-ending-aftermath is still going on and I’m waiting with bated breath for it all to Go Spectacularly Wrong. — Which wasn’t necessary, it was the happy ending, at least the first of a total of about three happy endings: the epilogue is a whopping 15% of the book. The final ending was so happy that it brought tears to my eyes, but $DEITY it took a long time to get there.

October 22: Nothing Special fantasy webcomic, on recommendation, starting at chapter 1. It’s cute, and tells good stories, but I’m a bit disconcerted by the characters being normal proportions most of the time and then suddenly with a small body and a large head. Spouse says this is a convention, and I’ve seen (and disliked) it before, but I don’t know what it’s for or what it’s called (edit: it’s called “chibi” and it’s for making characters look cute. I still dislike it.) I’ve now reached the end of what’s there and subscribed to the RSS feed for new episodes.

October 19: If on a winter’s night a Queen of Narnia by Syrena_of_the_lake. Wonderful, except that its 7 chapters are out of chronological order, very disconcerting. But a good take on Susan post- (and partly pre-)canon. Spoiler: she dies of old age, among (unexpected) friends.

October 18: Dragonsearch by Edonohana. Example of why I prefer most Pern fanfic to most Pern canon. Much less sexist and heteronormative, for one.

The Dragon Tamers by E. Nesbit. Nice little story with a few things that irked me but that I can’t quite put my finger on. (Perhaps that all children want to eat only sweets? And that cats should be fed bread and milk?)

Doctor’s Orders by Diane Duane. One of her Star Trek novels that I’m less familiar with than with the Rihannsu ones. Excellent. Badly converted but it’s too much work to fix.

Index of reading notes is here.

Dear Yuletide Writer,


Hi, I’m sinkauli on ao3. I don’t know who you are (yet, at least), and you probably only know me from my bookmarks and my one story (or two if I’ve managed to finish the space meerkat one) and what you can read on this blog (please do; almost everything I’ve written this year is about what I’m reading and what I like and dislike about it).

Fandom specifics and prompts

For ALL fandoms: I don’t need all the characters in my signup to be in the story. I don’t need only characters in the tagset to be in the story.

Young Wizards – Diane Duane:

Goodness, I’ve read so much YW fanfic lately that I’m not sure any more what’s canon and what’s headcanon! I love autistic!Dairine, though.

Rather more specific prompts:

  • fixing something that’s wrong in the world while being respectful of whether/how it wants to be fixed
  • Irina Mladen taking any or all of Dairine, Darryl, Ronan and Carmela by the metaphorical scruff of the metaphorical neck and giving them a good shake

Please use the New Millennium edition for canon! (Especially if post-canon Darryl happens to make an appearance)

Lord Peter Wimsey – Dorothy Sayers:

  • Hilary at Oxford with some of the dons, perhaps mentored unofficially by Harriet, after all Hilary wants to be a writer and Harriet knows how.
  • Silly Peter/Harriet fluff, domesticness, the sort of things that make Busman’s Honeymoon so much fun.
  • Oxford dons F/F (sex not mandatory; friendship and perhaps some gentle romance)

If someone can write me a Young Wizards/Lord Peter Wimsey crossover I’ll love them forever! Never mind my single-fandom prompts in that case. Specific crossover prompts:

  • Peter’s diplomatic work is actually errantry (and he tells Harriet the morning after their wedding night or at least not much later, in the timeframe of Busman’s Honeymoon)
  • If anyone is an Advisory it’s Miss Climpson! Her Manual is a drawer full of index cards.

The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison

Something about Vedero and her friends.

Prompt: “He got her to talk more, in bits and pieces, about her friends and the work they were doing. One of her friends was translating the Barizheise poet Amu Carcethlened, who had written fabulous adventure tales about the voyages of the steamship Lion of Orpezhkhahar. Another friend was writing a treatise on the principles of inheritance as observed from her family’s millennium-worth of horsebreeding records. Another had started an unofficial school for girls with mazeise talents.”

Especially the school for girls with mazeise talents! I dare say Kiru Athmaza can do some teaching there, too, and serve as a role model.

Chronicles of Chrestomanci – Diana Wynne Jones:

Something WITH CATS! (Tacroy goes to Caprona, for instance, and learns that Benvenuto will talk to him)

College of Magics – Caroline Stevermer:

There’s not enough of the school story! Please give me more school story! (With Jane, if possible.) Travel is also good. Please no on-screen Menary, I hate her guts enough as it is.

Judge Dee Mysteries – Robert van Gulik:

What I like most about this is the culture and interaction between characters, not the mystery/puzzle as such. I can’t say I approve of all aspects of the culture (the misogyny, brr!) and if you can fix that without gross distortion of the setting I’ll be pleased but it’s not necessary. Sex isn’t necessary either, and might distract too much.


  • small mystery with a cute kid (in the vein of “Murder on New Year’s Eve” in the Judge Dee at Work collection)
  • implied F/F between women who are already friends (but not behind their husbands’ backs, please; let them be widows or courtesans or unmarried bluestockings)
  • the judge and/or his assistants going undercover

General likes

  • Happy ending, or open(ish) ending with possibility for happiness. Lots of bonus points for other happy endings than “people getting together as a couple”.
  • Unexpected, uncomplicated friendship. Complicated friendship will do too, I like any story with friendship better than one with only antagonism, but I’m a sucker for people becoming friends when they’re doing something together or turn out to have something in common which neither of them would have planned for. Friends-to-lovers is okay but it’s a pity if that’s the whole point of the story.
  • Autistic characters (canon or headcanon) who either come to terms with being autistic in the story, or have already figured it out and can handle it. Bonus points if they use their autistic traits to get things done (case in point: Dairine Callahan).
  • Kidfic, either canon characters’ kids or canon characters when they were kids.
  • Discovery, detection. Characters finding out things about themselves when they do something they didn’t know they could do. Learning, mentoring.
  • Magic in a setting that doesn’t canonically have it. (Possibility for crossovers here, but it can also just be the setting with added magic.)

DNW/general dislikes

  • Enemies-to-lovers. Rape, non-con. Casual sex without friendship. Seduction for any other reason than that one person is in love with the other and is trying to get it across to them elegantly. Adultery, infidelity (polyamory is okay but I don’t really prefer it). Incest. PWP (sex, even explicit, is okay but it needs to fit into the narrative; on the whole I much prefer gen, apart from the occasional fun smut story).
  • Bigotry of any kind, unless fighting against it is a plot point. That includes homophobia, TERFness, sexism, racism, ableism, ageism and anything I’ve forgotten.
  • Pathological/medical view of autism or other neurodivergence, portraying it as something that needs to be fixed rather than as a characteristic of the person.
  • Discussions of disordered eating or weight (it’s completely okay if someone’s body type is part of the description, like mentioning that the person has dark skin or blue eyes or wears glasses or uses a wheelchair, but no fat-shaming or other judgmental language about weight please).
  • Pranks, practical jokes, humiliating characters for the sake of it.
  • Unhappy endings, unresolved tragedy.
  • Gore, body horror, mutilation, monstrous pregnancy, cannibalism et cetera.
  • Mpreg: THIS WILL MAKE ME THROW THE PHYSICAL EREADER AGAINST THE PHYSICAL WALL and you’ll owe me a new one, so don’t do it, okay?


Reading notes, week 42


October 17: Dial-a-Ghost by Eva Ibbotson. Yet another one I thought I’d read and hadn’t! I’m so glad I decided to go through the whole “My Books” list on the ereader and read whatever takes my fancy, as if I’ve moved house and see the bookshelves in a new light. Funny enough to not be horror even if it’s full of ghosts and some of the ghosts are actually horrible.

October 16: Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie. One of the strange thrillers she wrote. I keep confusing it with Passenger to Frankfurt but it makes even less sense, or perhaps that’s because of my lack of familiarity with thrillers. Read it before but don’t remember much, either because it’s a long time ago and not my usual genre or because it’s really not memorable. Also it ends very suddenly without some of the action I’d have liked in a thriller.

October 14: Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. #4 of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Now I want to read fanfic about the 16 years that passed between the third and fourth books. (Or I could write some!) Plays interestingly with fairy-tale tropes.

October 13: Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. #3 of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Soooo many cats! And a cliffhanger to end on (with the expectation that the poor person will hang off the cliff, or rather be hidden somewhere in their own palace, for about sixteen years).

Some Enchanted Forest fanfic: Resources and Rescues (nice Cinderella subversion), Swine and Forests (Enchanted Forest/Howl crossover), Interrogating the Text from the Wrong Perspective (snarky flash fic), it’s not the years, it’s the mileage (friends to lovers, good enough but not what I’m in the mood for), A Better Plan (princess doing the rescuing). I’ve marked a 4-chapter story and something that’s set after all the canon Save For Later.

October 12: Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. Second in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I love it as much as the first one, though many Goodreads reviewers think it’s worse. (And GET THE NAMES RIGHT DAMMIT!) Now why didn’t I read these earlier? Anyway, thank you, past me, for keeping this wonderful treat for later. — I suspect the princess may be a queen by the end of the book, because she and the king are getting on marvellously, but this time I won’t mind friends-to-lovers, it’s a fairy tale after all.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 41


October 10: Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. I’ve had it for a long time but hadn’t read it before. Wonderful self-rescuing princess!

October 9: The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker. A mistake, because it’s more of a horror story than I can handle. (So well written though; if you like mild horror I recommend it.)

The Beasts of Clawstone Castle by Eva Ibbotson. I thought I’d read it but I hadn’t! Every bit as good as The Great Ghost Rescue, which I have read efore (though not recently so I may reread it).

October 8: Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers. It’s got some of the best Peter and Harriet scenes (in which they’re doing something together, like search the beach or solve a cypher) and some of the cringiest. Started Gaudy Night when I’d finished it but I didn’t feel like it and put it aside.

October 4: Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers. Someone in Neither Have I Wings was reading it and I was feeling like a bit of Dorothy Sayers rereading anyway. Someone once said that Peter is in fact stalking Harriet, but when she eventually says yes to him it’s not because he’s worn her resistance down by insisting, but because he was patient enough to let her come to the same conclusion at the end of their strange courtship that he did at the beginning of it.

Index of reading notes is here.