Reading notes, week 11


Alfred’s gedragboekje by Tine van Berken. “Alfred’s Little Behavior Book”. Pff. Boy runs away because he’s in trouble at school, gets into more trouble (cold, hungry, sells his coat for food, comes home with tail between his legs) and has then suddenly become a model student. 1913. Hasn’t aged well.

Joop ter Heul’s problemen, Joop van Dil-ter Heul, Joop en haar jongen and De dochter van Joop ter Heul, all by Cissy van Marxveldt. Haven’t aged well either; I couldn’t not read them, and couldn’t read them except as social history documents in which learned women promptly turn into housewives the moment they get married or even engaged (poor Bertie and Bea!). The last one, written decades later, starts marginally better but ends in a muddle without even a “protagonist gets engaged/married” resolution, only “completely unknown man turns out to be interested when he sees the protagonist dance in a ballet show and sends flowers, probably meaning more”.

Het fluitketeltje en andere versjes and De spin Sebastiaan by Annie M.G. Schmidt. Children’s verse (and in De spin Sebastiaan also some short stories). Half of it I still know by heart; some of it (even some of what I know by heart) is somewhat cringey. The stories, especially, tend to be cheesy and to end too suddenly, as if the writer was bored or hurried, or (most likely) she needed to cut the story short to fit in a newspaper column.

Alleen op de wereld (translation of Sans Famille) by Hector Malot. First read that (in an only slightly more modern translation) when I was nine or so, and cried; this time I cried again. I missed several scenes I remembered, perhaps a whole subplot, and checked another translation and found out that I’d actually been reading an abridged version! (But at least my memory wasn’t faulty. I’ll get the other translation as well, or perhaps even try to find an original though I don’t trust my French.)

Uit den kostschooltijd van Jan van Beek by J.B. Schuil. A boy makes himself impossible at his high school and is sent to a strict boarding school, where it’s several abusive teachers who make themselves (and everything) impossible. Just at the moment that Jan and two friends are about to be expelled because they’ve managed to escape from detention, a beloved teacher takes over as the new headmaster and everything becomes much better. I’d love to read a whole book about the school under the new management! But all there is is the final two chapters in another book by this author (who also wrote some much better known books, De Katjangs and De A.F.C.-ers, which I didn’t read as a kid because they’re all about boys playing football) in which the two protagonists from the football books go to this school. (Also a very racist book, De Artapappa’s, which I’ve never read either.)

Vier maal J en Janus by Hans Andreus. Very well written, but there’s some “period-appropriate” (1963) sexism (“this girl is just as good as a boy”) and mild fat-shaming.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. Childhood favourite; the first part is wonderful as before, but now I see the rampant racism in the latter part. Also, Africa as a country (though it does have different kingdoms). Grrr.

(now I want to read something without any cringe, so probably written in the 21st century by someone I trust)

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 10


Seven Sisters by Celia Lake. Seventh and last of Mysterious Charm. So much mythology! Such wonderful deception! Such a cute lesbian couple! Best of the lot, and now I also want to read Lake’s other series (starting with Pastiche, for which there is a teaser at the back of this book; I’ve become interested in the magical community with its weird stilted customs).

Expedition to Ashas, my own novel-length compilation of writeups of a roleplaying campaign. It wouldn’t need much editing to actually be a novel; this time I caught a handful of typos, some minor inconsistencies, and a couple of annoying repeats. Sedi was a fun character to play, and she’s also a fun character to read about, an ace priestess growing into what I can only call a bishop.

De blauwe boekanier by Tonke Dragt. One of the haul of remembered-as-favourite children’s books from the Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren (Digital Library of Dutch Literature). Fun, and I’d forgotten so much that it was practically a new book.

De blikken fluit by Daan Zonderland. Source: ditto. Nonsense poetry, mostly cheesy and/or cringey now (the Dutch N-word occurs) but some of the poems make me smile (and one even laugh out loud).

De feesten van Josien by Jeanne van Schaik-Willing. Another dbnl book. The publisher labeled it “age 10-15” in 1953 but I’d say 8-11 myself, it reads far too young for teenagers both in language and in subject matter. This is one I remember parts of, mostly the parts I perceived as somewhat supernatural when I was a kid (they weren’t, though not completely realistic either). Many years later, I read Paul Biegel’s Het spiegelkasteel, which has echoes of this, though the story in that is supernatural. I didn’t remember the mundane story (little kid makes both kid and adult friends while collecting the toys St Nicholas hid in the apartment building and they all have a party together) at all! I did sort of remember the ending in which the kid, a couple of years later when she is 7 or 8, gives all the beloved toys to her baby brother. It’s probably meant as wonderful and inspirational but both then and now it made/makes me sad.

Alewijn, de lijfeigene by E. Molt. “Historical tale from the 12th century” published in 1901. The view of the Middle Ages is indeed very 1901 — there’s this knight who is so fond of warfare that he goes to conquer someone else’s castle, at great expense (of money and human lives) because he rode the other man’s horse and it threw him. Ends very suddenly, too (but a happyish ending, I’ll grant it that).

De H.B.S.-tijd van Joop ter Heul by Cissy van Marxveldt. 1919, and remarkably modern for that (though I’m now reading the sequel and that story has aged much less gracefully, “get the man and he’ll be strict with you but that’s what you need”, and I may abandon it). I read the whole series as a teenager, and again later, but I suspect I’ve “forgotten” the sequels for that reason.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 8


My Enemy, My Ally by Diane Duane. I was looking for a specific scene that I realised when about 10% in is in a different Star Trek novel by Diane Duane, but I was already hooked by that time and continued. I like those Rihannsu! (Well, not all the Rihannsu obviously but Ael, Khiy, Eriufv, Nniol, N’alae and *swoon* Aidoann in particular.)

this done, day comes up new by nnozomi. Ael t’Rllaillieu and some of the women she has loved. Reread, because the book reminded me of it.

The Wounded Sky by Diane Duane. This one didn’t have the scene I was looking for either, and I know why now: it’s not in a book by Diane Duane, but in The Entropy Effect by Vonda McIntyre. Which I possess, I think, and will reread the next time I’m on a Star Trek roll. Goodness, this one is so weird (but wonderful).

The Romulan Way by Diane Duane, because the Rihannsu bug had bitten me. I think this is the best Rihannsu book, mostly because it gives a LOT of culture (and a lot of Naraht!). One thing I especially like is that after Arrhae ascends to Senator, her old boss promotes himself “to honorary uncle, father figure, and, for all Arrhae knew, representative agent” — a lesser writer might have him executed or otherwise getting killed in the chaos. But one thing, dear Diane: Basque and Spanish do not have the same ancestor.

The other Rihannsu books I remember as less impressive (and less well edited) but may keep them on the reread pile.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 7


Goblin Fruit by Celia Lake. Mysterious Charm #2. Reread, aged well. Same objection to the sex scene as in the next two, the scene itself is unobjectionable but whyyyy?

Magician’s Hoard and Wards of the Roses by Celia Lake. Mysterious Charm #3 and #4. Taking these together because I read them in one day (in various trains and waiting rooms) and they run sort of parallel: man and woman get thrown together by circumstances and/or superiors to do a job of work, they’re wary of each other initially but develop a friendship while collaborating (I love this trope), get the work or at least most of it done, THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN JUMP INTO BED AND HAVE HOT STEAMY SEX. I don’t mind these sex scenes, they’re okay as het sex scenes go, but I don’t think they’re needed either.

In the Cards by Celia Lake. Mysterious Charm #5. This one is slightly different as most of it is a murder mystery (spoiler: good riddance, both the victim and the perp) with the love story twined around it. And the protagonist got the right one, not the slightly wrong (good, but wrong) one. A slightly less sudden but equally uncalled-for sex scene at 91%, on the late side, they usually come in the 80%s (Argh. No pun intended but now it’s there I’ll leave it in.) Het sex isn’t my catnip, but I know to expect it now, and there’s enough in the books that is my catnip that I want to read them anyway. I like it that the conflict mostly stems from external things in the world rather than Failure-To-Communicate, and that most of the characters are real people, not all equally nice, sometimes trapped in obsolete cultural structures, different enough to be interesting.

Then I was all NOW I’M GOING TO READ SOMETHING WITHOUT ANY SEX so I reread the These Are The Voyages series by Chanter, Young Wizards/Star Trek TOS crossover. Six wonderful stories in which (most? all?) officers of U.S.S. Enterprice and U.S.S. Excelsior are wizards. My current favourite is New Life about Yeoman Mears’ communicator/manual.

The Kangaroo Story by Deborah Fitchett, a sort-of-nearly-finished NaNoWriMo story that happened to be on my ereader. Hilarious! The witch can’t turn the people-turned-horses back into people because they’re already people and you can’t turn people into people. Also, one pair of twins get separated before birth and another pair of twins exchanged with each other. The prince has been cursed with blindness and the princess with deafness and a marsupial pouch (also not reversible, but they cope, and invent Braille while they’re at it).

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 6


Starfleet Academy by Diane Carey and Bill Maxwell. Meh. Almost DNF’ed it but around halfway I came to care enough about some of the characters that I wanted to know what happened. The military academy setting seems so plausible that I think perhaps at least one of the authors went there themself, or at least did their research extremely well. I usually like school settings and training montages, but this was too much American boys being American boys, I suppose. It’s telling that the protagonist “suddenly” seemed to have been at the Academy for two years when I thought he was still in his first weeks — either the writing was sloppy or I wasn’t interested enough to pay attention (or perhaps both).

Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher. What I said in March 2020 still stands: the story is okay, the people are wonderful, I love the White Rat and all his servants, but oh my, the halting romance is so annoying. All the constant “I’m not good enough for him/her” — well, he/she wants you, and you want him/her, and neither of you comes from a culture with objections to sex with a willing partner, so why not do it? (spoiler: they do. But not without misgivings before and after.)

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie. One of the better Miss Marples. Knew whodunnit and why, but had forgotten exactly how, and there were some more twisty bits at the end. Ends a bit abruptly but not without full closure.

Index of reading notes is here.

Choir inventory


The current state of our choir:

  • a good young soprano who needs occasional reining in to keep her from being both too fast and too loud from sheer enthusiasm
  • a shy soprano with a soft but sweet and clear voice, needs encouragement but does very well when she’s confident
  • a strong mezzo-soprano who prefers her high register but can sing alto parts when necessary; her vowels are sometimes off because she’s Ukrainian and still learning Dutch
  • a very experienced mezzo-soprano (my predecessor and mentor; we go back thirty years) who is losing some of her skill and range from age and vascular dementia (and knows it, that’s why she handed it over to me)
  • an experienced, versatile alto (me) who can also take on tenor and mezzo parts as needed, or stay put as the local Immovable Object
  • a solid alto with an awkward work schedule that makes her miss most rehearsals and some services, but when she’s there she’s my right-hand woman and stand-in (not for direction, but to sing my part if/when I have to drop out for any reason). I gave her a long-overdue compliment last Sunday.
  • a tenor with a good range, good memory and great musical talent but no sight-reading skills, also a similarly awkward work schedule (they’re both doctors in different institutions)
  • a baritone who usually sings bass parts but the occasional tenor part, can sight-read and knows a lot of music but doesn’t always pay attention
  • a bass with a splendidly deep voice who is slow in learning new things (from age, a minor stroke, and inability to sight-read) but once he knows something he’s unshakeable.

There’s another Ukrainian woman but she hasn’t been in church for a while, possibly because she’s on tour with her orchestra (she’s a professional violist).

ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE CAN ACTUALLY SING IN TUNE. This seems a prerequisite for being in a choir in the first place, but we sing everything a cappella and don’t have an organ or anything to keep us on track, which makes it a lot harder. In the past, even in the fairly recent past, we had to work on this much more than we do now. What we work on at the moment, apart from the new music I transcribed and brought in, is clarity, understandability, and F***ING LISTENING TO EACH OTHER.

  • 7 people can read Psalms and short texts in services
  • 4 can read the Epistle (and a fifth is learning but doesn’t dare do it in the Liturgy yet)
  • 3 can read verses between stichera; it usually falls to me because though the other two can, neither of them likes it and I do
  • 2 can read the Canon troparia (climbing to 6 when they’re written out and in the binder between the irmoi instead of the reader having to juggle the book) and 2 more are interested in learning when we all have the opportunity.

We have an ordained reader in the parish, but he only got ordained as a reader because that’s what happens before you’re ordained hypodiakon, not to read verses and things. I taught him to read for his ordination and it turned out that he likes it and is fairly good at it, so he reads the Six Psalms and the First Hour in the Vigil, but in the Liturgy he has hypodiakon duties. (Apropos of nothing, it’s so awesome to teach something to someone and it turns out that they CAN THEN DO IT.)

Since I’ve been kicked upstairs to choirmistress, almost a year ago now, more people have come to rehearsals and more people have come to sing in services. Last night in the Vigil we had 3 sopranos, 2 altos, a tenor and a bass, which is a lot for an ordinary Saturday night.

I must be doing something right. I have a letter from the bishop, who was in our parish in early September, saying that I am indeed doing things right — he was impressed because we were singing our ordinary things as well as we could instead of going all-out on extra-festive and challenging pieces because we had A Bishop Visiting, as many other parishes do — but I’ve been learning more since then, and I intend to go on learning.

Reading notes, week 5


Unexplored Territory by Celia Lake. Novelette set during On the Bias and I think I’ll have to read that again (also Goblin Fruit, which is next up on my TBR list anyway) to know who exactly those people are and why they do what they’re doing. But the magic and the social machinations are interesting enough.

And One Go Alone by Sage. Post-canon The Dark Is Rising fic, somewhat timeshifted AU to put it in the (our) very near future. Jane gets to be PM, and a kickass one at that! And happy endings for all, after some tribulation.

Magic at Lyme, or, The Midnight Company by emily_grant. Eleven-year-old Kate being very Kate, and Aunt Elizabeth (I love Aunt Elizabeth so much!) being very magical.

Outcrossing by Celia Lake (Mysterious Charm #1) Rereading the Mysterious Charm books but I didn’t know I had this one (good thing they can be read in any order). I love these people. Also I commend Celia Lake for making her sex scenes actually sexy, though I could very well do without any.

Witchcraft and Dragons by Blurble. How Morwen arrived at the Enchanted Forest. Lots of wonderful worldbuilding! And cats!

Five Places the Dav Wasn’t Supposed to Sleep by celebros. Goblin Emperor fic. Also lots of wonderful worldbuilding, found family, but sadly no cats.

Out of the Frying Pan by hidden_variable. Very effective Derkholm/Howl crossover. With cats, even invisible ones.

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones. Long-overdue reread. It’s better than I remembered, and I already remembered it being really good. Cat and Marianne are so going to be an item (but that needs fanfic, DWJ can’t write it herself any more though she set it up perfectly).

Sixth Form at St. Clare’s by NaomiK. Better than Enid Blyton, with some real historical savvy.

Across the Universe by George Zebrowski & Pamela Sargent. Okayish Star Trek novel, in which Uhura, Spock and Sulu get to shine and some really good original characters appear.

(and some more random fanfic that I can’t be hedgehogged to track down, all rereads)

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 4


Eye Spy by Mercedes Lackey. #2 of Family Spies. I love the kickass ace engineer protagonist! I like the clueless-but-good masters she goes on a journey with! I like the down-to-earth woman mercenary captain! But the real-world politics references are a bit much, Dudley Remp (almost typed my own last name which is only one letter more) who has uncommonly small hands and thinks the whole world belongs to him, and a sensible (but unfortunately male) old judge called Bader Genberg.

Spy, Spy Again by Mercedes Lackey. #3 of Family Spies, and this ends the story arc that started with Foundation. Gah, demons. And the co-protagonist gets Chosen at the end which feels like a cop-out, especially since his brother, his sister and his best friend all ended up doing something else than being a Herald.

Now I’m going to read different authors for a while.

A Spoonful of Gold by AnonEhouse. Novella-length Encanto/Mary Poppins crossover. I like the “Mirabel summons Mary Poppins” beginning better than the “Bruno comes back and they kick Abuela’s ass” ending.

Forged in Combat by Celia Lake. I haven’t yet started reading the series it’s a prequel to (Celia Lake has written so many delicious things!) but it’s a very good teaser. People falling in love while working together, and any Failure-to-Communicate only because each of them is too polite to push. CW: near the end there’s a VERY explicit (but also very consensual and joyful) sex scene, which in the light of what came before I didn’t see coming until the very last moment.

Index of reading notes is here.

Dear Worldbuilding writer,


Hi, I’m sinkauli on ao3. Here you can see my works and my bookmarks, and this blog here is full of my reading notes. I’m reposting last year’s worldbuildingex letter with some fandom-specific changes and additions.

Please assume “any or no characters” and “original character(s)” for all fandoms so I don’t need to repeat that every time. Not all characters who are listed need to appear. I’d like my gift to be in words (so not art) but I’m equally happy with in-universe meta or fiction.

Whatever you do, you’ll probably make me happy anyway đŸ™‚

Elemental Masters – Mercedes Lackey

Characters: Maya Witherspoon, Peter Scott

WB: magic outside of England’s colonies

  • Would Peter and Maya travel? Or anyone else for that matter, there are of course Elemental Masters everywhere. Central or Eastern Europe would be cool, or another place that you-the-writer know enough about to get the culture right. (Australian Aboriginal, even though that’s technically inside of England’s colonies? Japan? Some Pacific island nation?)
The Chronicles of Chrestomanci – Diana Wynne Jones

Characters: Mordecai Roberts | Tacroy, Millie, Asheth

WB: Series Eleven; Relations and/or diplomacy between worlds; Hierarchy and differences between magic users; Gods and goddesses and their avatars

  • Anything about Tacroy growing up and learning to use his magic. Is it different from Series 12 magic?
  • Are there other people than Millie in any world who used to be (avatars of) gods or goddesses? How do they cope?
  • There must be a huge inter-world bureaucracy. Some inside dope, please! (This may be a case for in-universe meta, unless Mordecai or Millie takes a hand)
Alpennia Series – Heather Rose Jones

Characters: Barbara Lumbeirt, Akezze Mainus, Antuniet Chazillen, Anna Monterrez, Tavit

WB: Trans and non-gender-conforming people in Alpennia; The Jewish community in Rotenek; Non-Catholic religion as a source of miracles; Alchemy

  • Barbara and Tavit explore masculinity and femininity; she crossdresses for utility, he is a trans man, how do they handle the dynamics individually and/or together?
  • Anna’s background and family, the way she and her family handle living in a predominantly Catholic town
  • Antuniet and Anna doing alchemy, hands-on.
  • Are there specifically Jewish miracles? Protestant (Lutheran) miracles? Or are the miracles a specifically Catholic thing and do other religions or denominations have different expressions of the supernatural?
Mary Poppins (Movies)

Characters: Mary Poppins, Winifred Banks, Michael Banks, Jane Banks, Annabel Banks

WB: Training of magical nannies; Mary Poppins’ first assignment; Another magical nanny’s assignment; How magic works in this universe; The international society of magical nannies

  • What it says on the tin in the tags. Note that I wrote a short series about the international society of magical nannies, including recruitment and training, and please don’t hesitate to use those as a source and expand on them! Any character(s), whether on the list or original, can do the job. (Would Annabel be recruited as a magical nanny eventually? We know from the second movie that Jane isn’t.)
The Saint of Steel – T. Kingfisher

Characters: Earstripe, Bishop Beartongue, Zale

WB: History and legends of the gnoles; Becoming a member of the Order of the White Rat; Other notable religious order

  • Do people just drift to the Order of the White Rat and stay, do they choose it and apply, or are they recruited deliberately?
  • Anything to do with gnoles, if a gnole obliges.
Young Wizards – Diane Duane

Characters: The Man in the Crossings Bar, Darryl McAllister, Dairine Callahan, Nita Callahan, The Lone Power

WB: Neurodivergent wizards; Backstory of the man in the Crossings bar; Animal wizards; Do all sentient species have wizards? Original wizard species

  • Does being non-neurotypical make one more likely to be suited to wizardry? What advantages and disadvantages does a neurodivergent wizard have?
  • I want to know EVERYTHING about the man in the Crossings bar. Where did he come from originally? Where is he going? Is he (an avatar of) one of the Powers? A freelance wizard? Where is he when he’s not pushing fledgling wizards into alien spawning cubicles?
  • Fiction about a mouse, donkey, bird (any species) or elephant wizard.
Labyrinth (1986)

Characters: Sarah Williams, Original Labyrinth Runner

WB: The land outside the Labyrinth; Lasting effects of the Labyrinth on humans; Magic words / Wishes and incantations; Fae society

  • I’d like to see the Labyrinth when Sarah isn’t there, through someone else’s eyes. Either a denizen of the Labyrinth itself or someone else who is trying to beat the clock.
Magids Series – Diana Wynne Jones

Characters: Any or all of Will Venables’ daughters, Will Venables, Carina Venables, Zinka Fearon, Dakros, Alexandra

WB: Will and Carina Venables’ farm; Nudging Earth Ayewards; How Magids’ magic works; Magid training; Magid work in Ayewards worlds; Fixing the Koryfonic Empire post-Deep Secret

  • It would be so nice for Dakros and Alexandra to have a holiday or even their honeymoon on the farm! Perhaps a busman’s holiday…

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.
  • 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.

Worldbuilding-specific likes

  • Language everything. Don’t hesitate to become technical if you can and are so inspired, it’s likely that I can make sense of it.
  • In-universe meta: how things work, how something is structured. Travel guides, gazetteers, FAQs.

DNW/general dislikes

(Sex DNWs are probably not relevant for worldbuilding but I’m leaving them in just in case)

  • 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).
  • 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, which is a species of body horror in my book. (Ordinary pregnancy and childbirth is okay.)
  • Real-world politics and current events. (Fantasy politics in an invented world is okay.)

Worldbuilding-specific DNWs

  • Plague, pandemic.
  • Climate or environment catastrophe, (imminent/unavoidable) destruction of a whole world or a significant part of it.
  • Extra information about a setting that makes it less pleasant (“… but you didn’t know these sordid details”).

Here is an even more extensive likes and dislikes post.