Reading notes, week 25

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Currently reading: The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison. It’s here at last!

Next up: There’s more Inspector French waiting, and a couple of novel-length fanfic things. Or more Discworld now I’ve got a taste for it.

June 24: The Wimsical Adventure of the Dragon’s Tail by inamac. Lord Peter Wimsey (well, his legacy) crossover with something I don’t know (Ace of Wands, a BBC children’s series from the 1970s of which the first two seasons have sadly been destroyed, as seems to happen to almost all interesting children’s TV). Nice mystery/thriller with a good twisty conclusion! I might seek out the Ace of Wands footage that still exists and/or read more fanfic of it because I like those people.

June 23: King Kelson’s Bride by Katherine Kurtz. The one in which she gets Orthodoxy right. Blogged about it extensively in 2013. And of course I’m now finding all kinds of little things a copy editor would (or at least should) have caught in this one as well. But it’s a good comfort read nevertheless. One thing I don’t remember taking issue with before: there’s a huge dramatic thing happening at about 98%, when most readers will probably think the book is winding down to a happy ending! (But it does have a happy ending right after that’s resolved, fortunately.)

June 21: All This Land and All This Power by eilonwya10. In which soon-to-be King Cinhil Haldane gets married, but not to a frightened fifteen-year-old. Fanfiction.net doesn’t allow text download at all, not even copying from the screen, so I can’t put it on my ereader in case I want to reread it. Made an external ao3 bookmark. (Someone made a fanfiction downloader, but the Linux version doesn’t work for me.) I also found it on ao3 itself in two parts; haven’t checked if it’s completely the same, but it starts with the same paragraphs all right. The author’s name is different but people do have different nicks on different platforms.

… And another unfinished story. Except for the fact that this writer badly needed a copy-editor (“lightening” doesn’t mean the flashes you get with thunder, and people don’t usually “lay” on the forest floor unless they’re birds) the story is intriguing and I wish they’d got round to finishing it. If the next story I read is also unfinished I’ll probably give up the rest of airsid.net as a lost cause.

Kelric by Melissa. The last chapter is called “Safely Home” so I was pretty confident that this would be a finished story, and it was! Very cute, too. It’s got the right queen (Araxie), unlike some other stories on airsid.net that have a hypothetical fanon queen because they were written before King Kelson’s Bride. May download this as text (airsid.net doesn’t mind) and convert it to epub to reread later.

A Daughter’s Secret by Julianne Newberry. Dhugal’s mother and grandmother, awesome women both.

June 20: The Quest for Saint Camber by Katherine Kurtz. My brain thought it was time for Deryni, and my mind picked out one with minimal cringe though I already see some coming. (Yes, I still like the Deryni books in spite of all the cringe.) Tempted to do some tweaking in Calibre but I’ll see if the OCR glitches get worse over time. I do have the paper book as well, so I could decode “everyone else present except the dark” as “… the clark”. Having random page numbers in the middle of the text isn’t nearly as annoying as misreadings that make something make no sense. Apart from that, Katherine Kurtz badly needs a copy editor: how does one feign a blush? And “after the weekend” jars a little in a mediaevaloid setting. Also, “imprimatur” is the written permission of a bishop to publish a religious book, not written permission to do a thing in general — though the Oxford English Dictionary seems to disagree with me on that — and I’m not sure this world has anything called “Celtic”.

Found an old fanfic site again (airsid.net, STILL with SOPA blackout so probably abandoned since 2012), now reading some stories I missed last time around. Links in the King Kelson’s Bride post above. The one I read first (Uninvited Guests) had several people acting out of character, and some even as if they were impersonating others, and awkward phrasings like “her mare horse” and “the Fathers’ shoulder”, but I kept reading because I wanted to know if the out-of-character was plot or AU or the writer just plain getting it wrong. And ARGH it’s unfinished. But the out-of-character was indeed because someone was impersonating someone else.

… It’s just possible that one of the writers of these stories is the person I blocked and ghosted in 2016 because of political views that made me extremely angry. Well, it’s not as if airsid.net really exists any more, and I’m not on the Deryni forums any more either, I just get these periodic urges to read it.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 24

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June 14: Vulcan’s Glory by D.C. Fontana. Because I read a short fanfic story referring to it. A reread after decades (i.e. I remember hardly anything, and my Spock-and-generally-Vulcan headcanon is very different now after things like The Vulcan Academy Murders). (I was at one (1) Star Trek convention in my life and spent some of it literally at Fleet Admiral D.C. Fontana’s feet because all the chairs were taken. She was petite and awesome.) There are at least two books in here, and I wish they weren’t so closely interlaced (as in: 2 paragraphs of storyline A, then one paragraph of storyline B, then back to A without warning) so I could follow both better. And there’s at least one really gratuitous death on the principle of “what can I do to maximally punish my main characters”. Spoiler (select to view): T’Pris should have stayed alive so Spock could have gracefullly divorced T’Pring and married her instead.

June 13: The Brain Thief by hollimichelle. Novella-length Discworld fanfic about young Sam Vimes following in his father’s footsteps (and several other offspring of people we know well, either following in their parents’ footsteps or not). Strongly recommended.

Index of reading notes is here.

Dear Crossworks writer,

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Thank you for writing for me! I’ll do my best to make it easier, but please feel free to ignore my prompts if you have a different fun idea. FYI I’m sinkauli on ao3.

1. Lord Peter Wimsey/Blandings Castle/Miss Marple
  • This almost asks for a detective story at Blandings Castle! But anything else is fair game too.

DNW for this crossover: any shipping or sex at all. And please see the general likes and DNWs as well.

2. Chronicles of Narnia/The Great Mouse Detective/The Rescuers

ALL THE ADVENTUROUS MICE!

  • When Reepicheep sailed to the utter East, did he find a portal to our world, or at least the world where Basil of Baker Street and/or Bernard-and-Bianca exist?
  • Do Bernard and Bianca know about Basil and Dawson and perhaps ask them for advice or assistance? Casefic is good, or just hanging out as friends talking about their adventures.

Some Bernard/Bianca, Basil/Dawson and/or Reepicheep/Original Any Gender Mouse Character romance is okay, but no smut please.

3. Discworld (Witches Series)/The Goblin Emperor/Enchanted Forest Chronicles/Valdemar Series – Mercedes Lackey
  • Anything with one or more witches finding themselves in one of the other worlds and dealing with the local magic/headology/Gifts would be awesome! (And any other nifty combination of the above would also be awesome)
4. Kate and Cecelia/Enchanted Forest Chronicles/Howl Series/Derkholm Series
  • Much scope for enchantresses getting together, each bringing her own competence and expertise.
  • What if Elda ends up in the Enchanted Forest somehow and meets dragons or Morwen’s cats?
5. Young Wizards/Miss Marple/Matilda
  • Anyone can be a wizard, right? Why not Miss Marple or someone from her circle? Or Matilda or Miss Honey or both?
  • There’s this tiny little girl on Miss Marple’s doorstep, asking intelligent questions…

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. In general, disabled characters who work around or with their disability.
  • Kidfic: canon characters’ kids, canon characters when they were kids, original canon-compliant child characters.
  • Discovery, detection. Characters finding out things about themselves when they do something they didn’t know they could do. Learning, mentoring.

General DNWs:

  • 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). Contradicting, ignoring or breaking up canonical pairings for a ship. Incest. PWP. For this exchange no smut please, on the whole I’d much rather have gen anyway.
  • Bigotry of any kind, unless fighting against it is a plot point. That includes homophobia, TERFness and other transphobia, 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.
  • Plague, pandemic, climate catastrophe, postapocalyptic anything.
  • Disability as punishment, teaching-a-lesson or inspiration porn. Just let disabled people be people!
  • 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.)

Reading notes, week 23

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June 12: Under the Vale and other tales of Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey and others. Another mixed bag, and I think I missed it in the first round. Two of the stories were in series I don’t care for, but most were better than the average Valdemar-collection stuff. This is so fanfic, for all it purports to be edited by Mercedes Lackey herself.

June 8: Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey and others. (Also tales of Karse. And Rethwellan.) I read this almost exactly a year ago (Week 22, 2020) but skimmed and skipped more than I’m doing now.

June 7: Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie. Didn’t remember this one much either except that it had a (rather nice) first-person narrator. –Grr! Period-true racism, “be sure and shout it. Arabs don’t understand anything said in an ordinary ‘English’ voice.”
Lots of period-true racism. I’m glad I read the other one first, now I could read this one as documentation.

June 6: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, to finish off my Colonel Race mini-binge (he’s jus appeared, almost halfway in). I must have read it at some time but didn’t remember much. Peak Poirot! What I remembered was in fact Murder in Mesopotamia so that one’s next.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 22

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June 4: A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher. Even better than the previous time. (Bread isn’t meant to fly. But it makes pretty good watershoes as long as it’s stale enough.) Perhaps not such a good idea to read it right now because it makes me want to bake and we don’t have an oven dammit. AND IT WON A NEBULA!

June 2: Spending “Koala-tea” Time Together by atypicalowl. Young Wizards awkward teenage romance, never gets sappy.

Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie. I didn’t remember this at all but I must have read it ages ago. Everybody seemed to have a motive, nobody seemed to have opportunity. Colonel Race is, in the words of a clever Goodreads reviewer, “Poirot without the ego”. Nice! This would have sparked a little Colonel Race reread binge if I hadn’t read #1, The Man in the Brown Suit, in March and given it a nopetopus. Strangely, a writer I trust implicitly when she writes something gives it five stars. I might try Death on the Nile, though, which is #3 (also a Poirot, as is #2, Cards on the Table which I probably know by heart).

A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones. Randomly chose a book from the DWJ list. Not precisely what I wanted but nice to reread anyway.

June 1: Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett. With the immortal lines “he wasn’t having any of that from a mouse with wings on” and “Vampires have risen from the dead, the grave and the crypt, but have never managed it from the cat.”

Some fanfic stories that I already had on my ereader (and had already read) while trying to decide on a book.

May 30: The Twins in the South by Dorothy Whitehill. This is #4, Gutenberg doesn’t have #3 either. It is a boarding-school story this time, though. Very wholesome, want to read more.

Reading notes, week 21

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May 28: A School Story by El Staplador. Miss Marple/Miss Silver vignette with a guest appearance by Miss Climpson. (I didn’t recognise Ada Doom though I did recognise her line.)

Phyllis, a Twin by Dorothy Whitehill. Nice school (not boarding school) story with an actual adventure in it. It’s #2 of something Gutenberg doesn’t have #1 of but that’s no problem, though I would like to read #1 sometime.

May 27: Death on the Way by Freeman Wills Crofts. Definitely on an Inspector French binge. This is a strange one, all about railway engineering (the author worked as a railway engineer for a while), with disconcerting jumping-about POV and secondary characters I have a hard time telling apart, even the person who eventually turns out to have dunnit.

May 26: Pictures in the Pavement and Magic in the Rain by El Staplador. Really good Mary Poppins fanfic. Makes me confident that I got mine right.

Death at Buckland Grange by El Staplador. Novella-length Miss Marple fanfic. It’s pre-canon, with Jane Marple as a young woman already showing the beginning of her later skills.

May 25: The 12:30 from Croydon by Freeman Wills Crofts. It’s an Inspector French book but the good inspector doesn’t appear until halfway through. Well, I’ve read Poirots like that. Most of the book is from the POV of the murderer, but we get to understand and even somewhat sympathise with him. Reviewers complain about the roundup postscript, but that’s precisely the kind of thing I like, and French finally gets to be Chief Inspector in the end! Don’t understand the title at all, though, unless it refers to the plane in the first chapter.

May 24: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, which a friend sent me after we discussed it. I thought it might not be a book for me (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell wasn’t) but it started out captivating (and see Pete’s comment below). After getting confirmation from the giver that it wasn’t stealth postapocalyptic, because it had some signs of that, like it was the British Museum or something like that after global warming had flooded London, I continued reading it and it’s made explicit on page 89 (of 245, so fairly late) that it is, rather, a sort of magic realism instead. It get less strange instead of more strange, which is a pity in a way, but there’s a tentative good ending.

May 23: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett, after we saw the animated film (which I liked more than this reviewer did). Reread after more than 20 years, I think, and it’s almost a completely new book. Perhaps I should go for some other early ones when I feel like Pratchett.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 20

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May 20: Foolish Hope by Augustine Lang. And that concludes the Fearless Fairwells series. (It’s also about my capacity for romance for now, so it’s not a bad thing.) I may have read it before because I vaguely remember it, or perhaps only the first (few) chapter(s) in the back of another book. It starts slow and a bit uncouth and seems to have an ending at about 65% — not HEA but convincing enough — but then it suddenly acquires Adventure! And HEA after all.

May 18: The Forgotten Fiance by Augustine Lang. So good that these two get each other, too! There was nothing wrong with Percy, he just wasn’t the right person for Kitty.

High Wizardry by Diane Duane, a quick half-skim reread because I was writing a Dairine Callahan story (Young Wizards/Lord Peter Wimsey crossover, in fact).

May 17: My Heart Did Fly by Augustine Lang. At 60%: GET MARRIED ALREADY YOU TWO BECAUSE YOU SUIT EACH OTHER EXACTLY. (And they did, of course.)

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 19

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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.