Reading notes, week 44

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Currently reading: Dreadnought! A Star Trek novel by Diane Carey. Interesting start. The author more or less admits that the protagonist is a Mary Sue. We’ll see.

Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie. A Poirot I half-remember like most of them. Okayish. I know how it was done but not by whom.

Next up: I’m sort of enjoying the alphabetical order, skipping anything I’ve recently read and/or know I don’t want to read right now. Likely to be another Star Trek. Or perhaps I’ll know what I’ve been assigned for Yuletide and will be rereading canon!

Earlier reading notes are here.

Reading notes, week 43

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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,

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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 the tagset 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 prompts in that case.

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.

Chronicles of Chrestomanci – Diana Wynne Jones:

Something WITH CATS! (Tacroy goes to Caprona, for instance)

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.

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.

Prompts:

  • 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. Especially 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.

DNW/general dislikes

  • Enemies-to-lovers. Rape, non-con. 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

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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

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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.

The dream engine holds a procession

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I was working in the town I live in now but in a place with a wider view than our house — it was possible to see much of a large square and, by looking to the right from the window, the intersection with a shopping street. I’d already been in the square (market?) and seen a largish crowd of people watching a procession of druids: a tiny high priestess in layers of flowing white robes, two burly guards preceding her, two white-robed priests flanking her, and various people (dressed in white or not) following. They sang something I couldn’t understand completely but the refrain was:

Goddelijke macht, goddelijke macht.

“Divine power, divine power.” Wrote this out because I woke up with it as earworm.

Later, when at a desk in the front room — I think I was doing some news-related work, with an old friend from Usenet who I sometimes still interact with online — we heard the song again, and my friend understood it as “glanzende macht” (“shining power”) (note: the friend’s native language isn’t Dutch, but that seemed to be the language of the dream, rather than Generic Dream Language) until she saw a white van standing in front of the building with “Goddelijke macht” as a slogan on the side. Apparently the priestess and her attendants had travelled and/or transported their things (guards’ armor and weapons, priests’ decorated staves) in the van. We could see the procession crossing the square, going behind buildings, then again at the intersection disappearing into the shopping street.

Then we got a telegram (a TELEGRAM!) from a reporter who’d gone to the next town to cover an event (possibly an open-air concert) to tell us that it had been cancelled because of sudden heavy rain, and I sort of suspected the druids of causing that with their procession.

Reading notes, week 40

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October 3: Neither Have I Wings by Alice Degan. Sequel to From All False Doctrine. So far it tries to be Lewis (That Hideous Strength) rather than Williams but I’m interested and I want to read on. And someone is reading Strong Poison so it’s very apt for me to read that next. — Eeek! Lots of things happen that I wasn’t expecting, turning the book into something entirely different. Like the other one, but with some reservations on my part.

For reference: Charlie and Evvie. I peeked because I couldn’t stand it. It doesn’t. *whew* Lots of other romances, though, all the people who aren’t either married already or sworn to celibacy seem to get their HEA.

September 27 – October 1: All of the Mangoverse by Shira Glassman. It’s so wholesome.

September 27: From All False Doctrine by Alice Degan. “A metaphysical mystery wrapped in a 1920s comedy of manners”, set in Canada. I think it was a recommendation in the Christian fans meetup at Worldcon. It’s a very strange book — I keep expecting it to be Gaudy Night but clearly the writer didn’t live in the 1920s, and (as Spouse said, reasonably) hasn’t read enough by people who did. Some of the language and imagery is so modern that I keep thinking it’s set somewhere around the 1980s. And then there’s the occasional real gem that keeps me reading: “I’m an Anglican clergyman– I can’t accept that anyone doesn’t need tea.” Also I like Elsa and Kit, even though they suffer from the romance affliction of Failure To Communicate. When they talk, which isn’t often enough by far, they’re saying sensible things, but not the things they should be saying.  — Update: now it tries to be Charles Williams. There’s also a scene that could be in a modern-day roleplaying adventure, people fighting in the stacks of a university library. And then, after everybody has done their best to debunk everything supernatural, something really supernatural shows up! (That is to say, it hasn’t become less strange, but it’s just become a whole lot more exciting and I WANT TO FINISH IT AND LOVE THIS BOOK FOREVER). (Leaving all my ramblings here for posterity, too. I may steal the ramblings for an actual blog post.) — Final notes: (a) wow. (b) I was right about the thing I thought at 50% (about the professor and Mrs Graves) but it ended a bit differently than I expected. Better, in fact.

Index of reading notes is here.

 

Reading notes, week 39

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Put on hold because I’m really not in the mood for either and I don’t want them to stare me in the face all the time until I either finish them or decide to abandon them. They’re so alike that I’ll wait until I want both so I can do a proper paired reading:

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng. It’s too intricate to be light reading, and a spoiler review says there’s a twist of a kind I generally don’t like (but can bear if done well enough, and I’m glad of the warning) (which is now about to happen, at least there’s been enough foreshadowing). Grimdark Magazine says it’s grimdark but I haven’t seen the distinguishing features yet that make it so (yes, it’s bleakish. If it becomes real grimdark I might yet give up.)

Sofia and the Utopia Machine by Judith Huang. Near-future sort-of-dystopian (current social inequalities in Singapore much magnified) fantasy with very believable characters. I like it and want to finish it but I find it difficult and I keep wanting to read other things in between. Under the Pendulum Sun pushes many of the same buttons but in a setting I’m much more comfortable with.

Next up: Might reread Earthsea if the paperbacks aren’t too yellowed/too small type for my eyes now. (And we don’t seem to have Tehanu at all; got that from the library when it was newish, remember I found it too preachy.) Also, I think I’m craving Mangoverse. (And putting books on Spouse’s new ereader from my calibre library made me notice a lot of books for my virtual to-read pile.)

September 26: Games Wizards Play by Diane Duane. On previous readings the resolution seemed tacked on, but this time I saw early signs of it. Several people got happy endings, but I still hope this isn’t the last in the series (though the author seems to be doing other things now).

September 21: Wizard on Call by kerithwyn. Rather good Young Wizards fanfic. Makes me want to reread Games Wizards Play (because the story is set during the book).

The Assassin’s Eye by Morgan Díaz, which I probably got in a giveaway because it’s not something I’m likely to have bought or even looked for deliberately. Starts interestingly enough. It’s too new to have amassed reviews so I can’t see if other people have hung out red flags. (ETA: interesting, yes. Could have done with a good copy editor.) The premise is interesting too: guy gets to be an NPC in a MMORPG for rehabilitation after a stint of house arrest. He’s not a gamer, so he’s reluctant and baffled, but gets the hang of it after a while. — It’s really a teaser, and perhaps I’ll even want to buy the real thing.

September 20: Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones. An old favourite but SO much fat shaming.

Index of reading notes is here.

That music meme from all over

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Got it from oursin. Mine are all folk or folk-adjacent. I recommend every one of these (and I’ve linked to my favourite versions if I could find them).

A Place: Sandy Denny – Lowlands of Holland. Anything Sandy Denny sings gets coated in squee.
A Food: Kirsty McColl – Chip Shop
A Drink: The Dubliners – Whiskey in the Jar
An Animal: Young Tradition – Daddy Fox. You can so sing Tolkien’s Troll Sat Alone to it (I did this, at a virtual-Worldcon filk circle; here’s sheet music of my version)
A Number: Linda McRae – Four and Twenty Blackbirds (I’ve cut the full minute of banter the video starts with)
A Colour:  Fairport Convention – Bonny Black Hare
A Boy’s Name: Steeleye Span – My Johnny Was A Shoemaker
A Girl’s Name: Shira Kammen – Faithless Nancy Dawson (Er, a “maid”.) Longest version I’ve ever heard with Lots of Extra Verses. And only in the last verse does she turn out faithless.
A Profession: Planxty – The Blacksmith. Actually imprinted on the Steeleye Span version but I didn’t want to have the same artist in the list twice.
A Vehicle: Y Mellt – Siarabang. It’s the thing in the picture.

I don’t tag people but if you do it please tell me because I want to see yours!

 

Reading notes, week 38

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September 19: The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie. I remembered it rather well but it was nice to read anyway, one of the better ones.

September 18: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie. A rara avis: a Poirot I’d never read before. Intriguing; I thought I knew the twist, but it was more intricate than that.

September 17: Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie. Read it a loooooong time ago, and honestly didn’t remember whodunnit. (Fortunately it wasn’t one of the nice people, or the helpless and/or clueless people.)

September 16: Demonology and the Tri-Phasic Model of Trauma: An Integrative Approach by Nnm. Novel-length Good Omens fanfic, very repetitive (which I think would work much better for a shorter story). It made me go for Good Omens itself before finishing it. I did finish it eventually, though I skimmed bits of the later chapters. I’m glad I did (finish, not skim) because the ending is perfect. Judging by the author’s end-of-work comments I’m probably not the target audience for it.

September 15: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It was about time for a reread: I’d forgotten exactly enough. It’s SO GOOD.

September 13: Monsieur Pamplemousse Investigates. #6, in which Monsieur Pamplemousse wrangles the company computer. — Like worrying at a broken tooth, I can’t stop reading these. Parts are really funny, parts are very cringeworthy.

Next up: 

Index of reading notes is here.