Reading notes, week 16


Currently reading: 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.

Foolish Hope by Augustine Lang. I love these people! I just wish they were in a different story because romance is so much not my genre.

Next up: I’ll seek out more Inspector French because he’s awesome, and the books should be out of copyright (from the nineteen-twenties, mostly). Also I have some interesting-looking nonfiction (a book about girls’ boarding schools, for one). Or anything else that comes within reach and looks appealing, perhaps rereading Elemental Masters or something like that.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

Reading notes, week 9


March 6: Neither Have I Wings by Alice Degan. I wanted to just skim it to see what exactly became of Kit and Elsa for the story, but got interested. Also I love Evvie, and it’s refreshing to read about her without having to wonder if the friendship between her and Charlie will threaten to turn to romance. (The romance lands where it belongs. Which is definitely not in Evvie’s ballpark. Thank you, author.)

February 3: Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett (ill. Helen Stone). Cute little book that I’ve had forever but don’t remember I ever read before.

February 2: From All False Doctrine by Alice Degan (because I’m doing Be The First; there’s literally no fanfic of it yet). See Week 40. Liked it even better the second time round.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 8


DNF: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I joined a slap-up IRC book club that’s reading it for February. I tried! And tried! I thought it only needed perseverance but it became more and more of a chore. Is this what reading is like for people who feel that reading is virtuous so they should do it, but don’t really like it?

February 24: 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie. I thought we had it on paper but couldn’t find it, but it seems to have come into the public domain so it was easily downloadable. There’s also a Joan Hickson film of it; I’ll see if it’s in the Joan Hickson Miss Marple collection we’ve got. I wish Agatha Christie had written a whole series about Lucy Eyelesbarrow! She’s better than Miss Marple.

February 22: The Lacquer Screen by Robert van Gulik. I started The Willow Pattern first but it’s set in an epidemic and that wasn’t what I wanted. It scratched my Judge Dee itch (no idea why I had it) but it’s not one of the most memorable.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 7


February 21: Louise Petibouchon, part 2 (but in Dutch). I read Part 1 (3 stories) of this graphic novel about a young police inspector in (I think) 2019 and the second volume (2 stories) is just as good. Very French, great fun.

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers. Read it in December in the great Lord Peter Wimsey reread but we saw the BBC adaptation and I wanted to read it again. On the whole I like the BBC adaptations, even those with Ian Carmichael (who is far too old for the role, and they’re without Harriet Vane) but this time we noticed that Ann Dorland was so miscast: too old, too fluffy, too nasty. The book Ann Dorland isn’t exactly nice but she’s strong and intelligent and has character.

February 19: Lucky Luke – Het beloofde land by Achdé and Pennac. Yes, it’s full of Jewish stereotype! But the writer must have had Jewish consultants for that because it never descends into antisemitism and stays a loving send-up. I laughed A LOT.

February 18: A whole bunch of fanfic that can’t disclose because I’ve got a story under embargo in that fandom. One was almost novel-length and I kept reading it expecting a specific thing that wasn’t in it though the summary promised it, grrr.

Index of reading notes is here.