Reading notes, week 19

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Currently reading: 

Next up: More Fearless Fairwells, I think. Or more Inspector French. Or some more new (at least new-to-me) fanfic. Or another partial Young Wizards reread, because I promised to write a Dairine story (already wrote another Dairine story but that’s so specific that not many people will get it. The ones who do like it a lot, though).

May 14: The Manor House School by Angela Brazil, who turns out to be real, not invented by Diana Wynne Jones for the Chrestomanci books! Somewhat harder to get invested in the characters as it is in the Enid Blyton boarding-school books, but there was a nice mystery, which twelve-year-old me would have been delighted to read and even 63-year-old me enjoyed.

May 13: A Corned Beef Tin’s Got Corned Beef In by El Staplador. Narnia fix-it fanfic, fixing specifically (part of) the Problem of Susan.

Inspector French’s Greatest Case by Freeman Wills Crofts. Now I’m reading them in order. The title is strange because it’s the very first Inspector French book, and the story is strange as well, with the inspector traipsing all through Europe on an investigation that’s barely more than “did this person change two ten-pound notes in your hotel?”, a journey that would be a complete holiday for us with all the trains and hotels and restaurants! Paris! Chamonix! Barcelona! Doesn’t Scotland Yard have a very tight budget? (Well, Charles Parker went to Paris on an investigation, too.) The thing that most brings it home that this was written about a hundred years ago is that people know the serial numbers of bank notes.

May 11: Inspector French and the Cheyne Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts. I should perhaps read these in order but I’ve been recommended this one especially. It doesn’t disappoint, though there seem to be more unlikely occurrences than average. Ends well (except for the villains) too.

May 10: Minoes by Annie M.G. Schmidt. Because we saw the movie. Which is okayish (suffers from jerkass male protagonist and from Dutch Actor Syndrome) but the book is much better. (Strangely, the Goodreads listing is in Bahasa Indonesia, but most of the comments are in English)

Banned from Argo by Leslie Fish. Star Trek fanfic, novelization of her own filksong.

May 9: Weekend at Wilvercombe by Delancey654. Because more Dowager Duchess is a good thing.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 18

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May 9: A Good Kiss is Hard to Find by Augustine Lang. Reread, but I’d forgotten most of the real meat of the story. I like these people! And it’s a kind of romance I can actually read without cringing, with very little failure-to-communicate.

May 6: A Fairwell Friendship by Augustine Lang. Romance is not usually my genre (I love the people! But I wish they were in a different story!) but these are delightful, and I’m rereading the others now we’ve got them all.

Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy by Freeman Wills Crofts. (My copy is called “Inspector French and the Starvel Hollow Tragedy” but it’s the same thing.) I think I’ll read all Inspector Frenches eventually; this one didn’t disappoint (wonderful twist at the end, and I love a full exposition of how everything was perpetrated) though I wish Inspector French wasn’t so obsessed with his possible promotion.

May 5: Chaos on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer. Easily as good as Catfishing on Catnet. Which was already apparent from the reading at CoNZealand. May deserve a blog post of its own. (Strangely, Catfishing on Catnet had very much Catnet in it but very little catfishing; Chaos on Catnet has plenty of chaos but very little Catnet. Doesn’t make it any less exciting or enjoyable.

May 2: Terms & Conditions: Life in Girls’ Boarding-Schools 1939-1979 by Ysenda Maxtone Graham. Wow, this is amazing. I’ll never read a school story with quite the same eyes again. (Also it has as hard-to-search-for title as my own Terms of Service, though the subtitle and the author’s name make that a lot better.) In later chapters it becomes a bit repetitive, as books of this kind tend to be, but still compelling. At the end I briefly thought “why am I not one of these women?” but I’d probably have been thoroughly unhappy in boarding school, bullied and outcast. It’s not easy being green neurodivergent, even in the weird progressive high school I was in.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 17

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April 27: The Cask by Freeman Wills Crofts. I can hardly imagine that this book is a hundred years old! (A hundred and one in fact: it was first published in 1920 though the epub I have of it is of a 1921 edition.) It’s long and convoluted, and I somewhat agree with one review that said that there are three different people investigating, all with the same skillset, so it’s hard to tell them apart; but I do like it, and I must applaud the marvellous howdunnit exposition at the end.

April 26: Het Grote Beestenfeest by Kees Stip. Short nonsense verse about animals. Read it in small snatches, two or three poems at a time in between wrangling church music and reader notes.

April 25: Polly’s Senior Year at Boarding School by Dorothy Whitehill. Gutenberg has only the first and this, the third, of a 13-volume series. (Perhaps all for the better because I think two books of this is enough, at least for now.)

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 16

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April 23: Polly’s First Year at Boarding School by Dorothy Whitehill. It took me a while to realise that this is a boarding-school book set in the United States. The usual boarding-school things happen but there doesn’t seem to be a plot, everybody likes the protagonist, and the only antagonist until now is the Latin teacher. A nice comfy read. I have another of these, if it stays this unproblematic I might try to find the rest: there are 13! (One little strangeness: it breaches the fourth wall at the beginning of Chapter 3 with “… during the month which elapsed between then and the opening of this chapter”. And a similar thing once more.)

April 22: The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie. I found A Pocket Full of Rye next in the unread list on the ereader and didn’t feel like that so I sought out a Miss Marple that I know I like. It’s slow-paced, but all resolves perfectly, almost like a Freeman Wills Crofts book.

April 20: Inspector French and the Sea Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts. As good as the other one. I liked the “show your work” aspects of the investigation, though that made it very complicated especially near the end. Nice resolution!

Kennut zijn dat ik u kan? en Taaltje wel, taaltje niet by Bert Japin (no links, because searching only gets me second-hand book sites). Collected essays/columns from the 1960s about various language idiosyncrasies, anecdotes, hilarious mistakes. Some rather dated but most still entertaining. It turns out to be from Taaltje wel, taaltje niet that I know that “Leyden” means “On the Two Streams”!

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 15

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April 17: (Inspector French and) the Box Office Murders (both titles exist) by Freeman Wills Crofts. I’d forgotten the existence of Inspector French completely, and this is one I hadn’t read before! Very slight period-true cringe moments but the inspector is a decent, respectful human being, who listens to his wife when she has something sensible to say. And there’s a self-rescuing princess damsel in distress. Refreshing. Here is a very good review of it.

April 16: Five Things Tom and Carl Did in College (In the First Semester Alone) by Gray Shadows. Of course Tom and Carl go to Blackstock! But I thought it was just a tongue-in-cheek insert until the fifth section when the crossover with Tam Lin became apparent. It was inevitable, I think. I like it that a good crossover story makes the worlds seamlessly become one, and this one is very good. (I wonder if I’m supposed to know which of the Blackstock girls Tanaquil is, though.)

April 15: The Wizard of Karres by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer. It’s the sequel to The Witches of Karres and starts right from the end of that, in the same scene even, though it does have small “this is what happened in the previous book” infodumps later. Nicely written, though the small reminder infodumps jar a little. Perhaps that isn’t a problem for people who don’t read the two back-to-back. I thought I wouldn’t like all the circus stuff, but it was well done, I suppose by Mercedes Lackey (because I like her vaudeville Elemental Masters stories too). Strangely, there seemed to be an ending at about 60% and then a whole new story arc emerged — no problem eventually, but a bit disconcerting. That final story arc had a twist at the end that wasn’t what I expected (that Hulik do Eldel would turn out to have been the Empress in disguise all along; they were different people after all) but satisfying nevertheless. I want this to be a trilogy!

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 14

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April 9: The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz, which I read in Dutch translation as a teenager (from my parents’ bookcase) and I think I read the original too, more than 25 years ago. I remember bits, and often go “oh yes! that!” before discovering that it’s different than I remembered. Fun. I like hilarious space opera, in judicious doses.

April 7: Second Form at St Clare’s, which is actually #4 in the series but I can’t get hold of #2 or #3. Don’t know where I got these two, either, possibly from a site in some country where they’re already in the public domain. — Okay, more things happen than in #1, and if I can get some of the others I’ll probably want to read those too, but on the whole I like Malory Towers better.

April 5: The Twins at St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton. Interesting to read from the POV of the kind of girls who would have started out as Darrel Rivers’ enemies. The first half is significantly more interesting than the second half, when it becomes Yet Another Boarding School Story.

April 4: Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk, a rather prolific author that I’d never heard of.  Bought it on recommendation from someone (several someones, in fact) on the fanfic discord. I didn’t realise until after I’d started that it’s not just urban fantasy set in the 1890s, but also a M/M romance, and my creeping suspicion that there would be sex scenes was confirmed by a judicious search. I’ve now read through most of the sex scenes, and they weren’t as bad as I expected (no hate sex for one; enthusiastic consent all the time). Also, it ends okay. But I don’t think I’ll read this again, or seek out its sequels.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 13

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March 31: The Hollow by Agatha Christie. Another late Poirot. I’ve read it before but have forgotten enough for it to make it a “real” mystery, and there are three women and a man in it who I actually like, very unusual for Agatha Christie. (Oh, and I also like the police inspector, which is less unusual.) It ends almost right, and the right people get each other after a small bout of Failure To Communicate.

March 30: Monsieur Pamplemousse and the French Solution by Michael Bond. Out of inertia, really, because it came right after the other one. It’s significantly better than the other one, too! No more Pamplemousse for now, though. Especially as the next one is Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Carbon Footprint which seems to be disappointing.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 12

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March 27: Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Militant Midwives by Michael Bond. Meh, but it’s easy to read and there are some nice moments and I love Pommes Frites (the bloodhound). There was no mention of midwives until the very end, and then it was only a mention, they didn’t contribute anything to the plot.

March 25: The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie. The protagonist is a woman of infinite resource and sagacity agency, runs into sexism at every step and goes along with it. The story becomes more and more unbelievable as it progresses, too. All about colonialist Englishmen in Africa and diamonds and conspiracies. The protagonist and her love/hate interest end up “alone” in a paradisical place at one point, and I’ll quote the offending part: ‘We were cut off from the world, alone together as Adam and Eve might have been — but with what a difference! Old Batani (a native woman who the love/hate interest cured of a fever, IR) hovered around, counting no more than a dog might have done.” Pff. Lots of implied “period-appropriate” sexism, too. I finished it because otherwise I’d ahve kept wondering which of the protagonist’s supposed friends were really her enemies (it turned out not to be the only really nice one, whew), but otherwise,

March 22: The Big Four by Agatha Christie. Not much patience with it this time (I read it before, but forgot most of it and wanted to know what happened.) Too much over the top with the world-domination-conspiracy stuff, gtting worse as as the book progresses. This review is spot on.

Also a bunch of fanfic by a new favourite writer who seems to write exactly what I want to read. Why didn’t I know this person existed? But at least now I do, after they left kudos on most of my own fics.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 11

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March 20: Wizard’s Holiday (Summer Edition) by NightsMistress. Nice friendship fic.

March 19: The Clocks by Agatha Christie. I expected more of the comfort reread, but I seem never to have read it before! Good story, but rather too many “I wonder if…” “What?” “No, never mind” moments. (Also, one such that wasn’t “never mind” but “aaarrghhh!” *dies*) That doesn’t elicit suspense or interest in me, just annoyance. There’s a spy subplot that seemed to be completely superfluous but the story itself is nifty.

March 18: Promises, Promises: a romp with plenty of dykes, a unicorn, an ogre, an oracle, a quest, a princess, and true love with a happily ever after by L.-J. Baker. Spouse had just read it and found it hilarious, and I know I read it in the distant past (and found it hilarious) so I wanted to refresh my memory. And yes, it was a very fun romp! Everyone who deserved each other actually got each other. It even had a “what happened after” section at the end, which I adore. I know I missed at least half the literary, film, pop-culture and fairy tale references, but I don’t mind.

March 15: After the Funeral by Agatha Christie. Another Poirot, a very late one (in Poirot’s life, too) and he’s not as prominent as in some other books. (My favourite Poirot is still Cat Among The Pigeons which has lots of wonderful characters who are not Poirot.) I have read it before, and now remember it suffers badly from No Nice Characters, but I want to know if I’m right about whodunnit and how it plays out. Didn’t expect the second murder until much later, though, I thought the victim had a larger role in the story. Also had completely forgotten the ending. To be honest I thought it was Timothy! (select to see spoiler)

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 10

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Put aside: The Element of Fire by Martha Wells (of Murderbot fame, which I’m not sure I want to read). It’s interesting to read fantasy with such a Baroque (as in “the eighteenth century”, not “extravagant and bizarre”, though it’s got a bit of the latter too) flavour. It’s a slow and fussy book, and I don’t know if I’ll want to read the other Ile-Rien books after it (or even if I want to finish it).

At Amberleaf Fair by Phyllis Ann Karr. Just started so I can’t say much yet but it starts interestingly enough and I have it on good authority that it’s very gentle and low-conflict. At 5%: (a) fairly hard to read because of the medias-resness of the setting, as if we’re supposed to know all the social background; and (b) from reviews I gather that it’s actually postapocalyptic, set in the far future of our own world. If either (a) or (b) turns out to annoy me I may just stop trying.

March 12: The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. Wanted something easy and familiar. It’s a very Poirotful Poirot and I almost chose something else, but I’m glad I persisted because it’s crafted wonderfully well.

March 11: although you know the snow will follow by greenlily. Novelette-length Magids fanfic. I do like this version of Roddy Hyde!

Canon review for an exchange. Will disclose later.

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard. Started out “oh this promises to be good”, then I lost patience with the middle (no head for politics at the moment), until supernatural things started happening and the protagonist got AGENCY and everything was just wow.

March 8: Carpe Demon (Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom #1) by Julie Kenner. Recommendation I picked up somewhere, it was only 99 cents, and it’s a lot of fun, though with its cringeworthy (gender-roley) moments. Perhaps I wouldn’t have bought it if I’d realised the writer is a romance writer in the first place, and indeed, the happily married protagonist and her husband suffer from severe Failure To Communicate. In some respects it reminds me of The Interior Life, though this protagonist isn’t quite so afraid to do things wrong and the supernatural comes to her instead of vice versa. I think I’ll pass on the rest of the series — no ebooks to be got of those for one (unless it’s Kindle-only and I refuse to buy from Amazon), and if I can believe the Goodreads reviews there will be more things that I don’t like and fewer that I do.

Index of reading notes is here.