Reading notes, week 21


Well, not quite one book this week. Two full novels and also a bunch of fanfic, which I’m not listing except the one that stood out by a mile.

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers. Concluding this round of Harriet Vane rereads because I was reading canon for my intoabar story, and I don’t much feel like Thrones, Dominations or any of the pure Jill Paton Walsh fanfic. (I like A Presumption of Death and dislike The Attenbury Emeralds, and have no opinion about The Late Scholar, which I read only once and it was instantly forgettable.) Almost as slow going as Gaudy Night this time, though it’s a shorter book so it didn’t take as long to read even at the slow pace. I should perhaps be annoyed at the ingrained bigotry (sexist, racist and classist patterns) but they’re all period-typical and sometimes subverted a bit, like Harriet and Peter being equal partners, or the classism put in context: “In London, anybody, at any moment, might do or become anything. But in a village—no matter what village—they were all immutable themselves: parson, organist, sweep, duke’s son and doctor’s daughter moving like chessmen upon their allotted squares.”

Against a Sure Winter by Gammarad. How Cala becomes Edrehasivar VII’s nohecharis. Much maza worldbuilding!

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree. Unfailingly cozy fantasy. People get their just deserts. (And desserts, as well. I want to make thimblets! There actually is a recipe somewhere, they’re spicy biscotti.)


Reading notes, week 20


Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. (If that link throws up a paywall, clearing cookies and refreshing the page is likely to fix it.) Part of the Harriet Vane reread. Goodness, I’m reading a different book yet again. If I’d read only Gaudy Night in my life, and none of the other Harriet Vane novels, I wouldn’t even be tempted to think that Peter’s persistence is nasty stalking behaviour (which I intermittently think I ought to be thinking, and I almost lost a friend over it years ago because we couldn’t agree to disagree). He wants her for who she is, and for what she does. Miss De Vine and some of the other dons make that abundantly clear. I still cringe at the Poltergeist showdown scene, because it’s written so well that I’d almost believe it.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 19


Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers. Part of my Harriet Vane reread. It contains both the best (searching on the beach, solving the cypher) and the worst (row about gratitude, cringingly antisemitic encounter with theatre agent) scenes in all of Dorothy Sayers’ works. The puzzle is exquisite, though. (And the TV adaptation is also okay.)

De reis om de wereld in 80 dagen by Jules Verne. Translation (1950; we have the 35th impression dated MCMLXXXI and I didn’t believe that so I was glad Goodreads gave me a more plausible date) of Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours. Lots of period-typical bigotry, even against Americans (i.e. white people from the USA, I’m not even touching the way the book treats Sioux) and lashings of orientalism. But oh! the ADVENTURE! And the characters, for that matter, though only the male main characters: Aouda, however educated and good-natured, is mostly window dressing. We got it from the bookcase for some reason and Spouse read the first chapter aloud, then I picked it up and couldn’t put it down (stayed up until after midnight to finish it). I’d only ever seen the Jackie Chan film, which is an excellent but not very faithful adaptation of the book. One of those cases in which both are equally valid, like Matilda and Howl’s Moving Castle.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 18


All of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. Now I’m fixing the atrocious epub conversion so I can give them to Spouse without cringing. I think my favourite is , Searching for Dragons.

Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers. Canon review, in fact, because I offered Harriet Vane for the a ficathon goes into a bar fest. (Link is to rules post, perhaps the most enlightening.) Realized belatedly that it should have been Miss Climpson, but I can always save her for next year. (This will also prevent getting assigned Lord Peter Wimsey as bar-partner again, like in 2021 and 2022.)

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 17


A slew of Enchanted Forest fanfic (GET THE NAMES RIGHT DAMMIT, you can check that they’re called Cimorene, Mendanbar and Kazul, not Cimorine, Mendenbarr and Kuzul), which makes me want to reread the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Oh, and ignore all the things tagged “vore” that the search above yields unless you happen to be into that, I have no way to exclude it from the search and I am definitely not reading it.

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery. I liked this even more than Anne of Green Gables! Lots of F/F fanfic possibility, though canon has that just as “friendship” and “kindred spirits”.

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. Rather more conventional, and the great happening at the end sort of falls flat because it’s only alluded to first and talked about afterwards, it doesn’t actually happen on the page. (I got more Avonlea books from various out-of-copyright sources, The Faded Page (Canada) has most of them, but I’ve had enough for a bit.)

Index of reading notes is here.

The dream engine scares and confuses me


First, a nightmare that scared me so much that I sat up and said “so scary! so scary” as I’d said in the dream itself, though in the dream it didn’t happen to me or even when I was present, but only to a random guy in an instructional film! It was a promo film for some kind of training program, with very fit-looking twentyish people doing things that would be done in the training (like dancing and martial arts) and at the end a voice-over said “and if you don’t have enough water of your own, there’s The Descending” and the film showed a young man being lowered prone into a water-filled basin two by two meters square and about six meters deep. It was brightly lit from the bottom and the sides, and I think he was on a rope so he could be hoisted out at any moment, but it still scared me stiff and woke me up shaking.

Then I had to read a few pages to put my mind off it, and when I went back to sleep what I dreamed didn’t make much more sense though it was a lot less scary.

Spouse and I were going to take recycling stuff to the recycling station, wheeling our bikes (in waking life only I have a bike) because the load was too big/awkward to actually cycle with it. We came to the normal entrance, but behind that there wasn’t the recycling station[1] but a mud path between fields, very wet and squelchy. We plodded on for at least a couple of kilometers. There were goats in the fields on either side, including some very cute baby goats. One black baby goat had completely covered itself in mud. Finally we came to a round raised area that turned out to be at the seaside, and it felt like we’d been going there deliberately all the time. It didn’t look possible to leave the area at first, but we found an exit, and ended up in a somewhat generic seaside town where Spouse changed phone providers on the fly in a phone shop because she couldn’t get a signal from the old provider, which had been a problem for ages. “Are you done with KPN?” I asked (note: her current waking-life provider isn’t KPN). There was some community/church stuff which I don’t remember; I do remember noticing that my left hand was partly dyed light purple as if I’d briefly dipped it in a vat of diluted purple dye, and my right hand left dark purple stains on things because there was powdered purple dye on it. “It’s months since I’ve dyed something purple!” I said[2], but there was a cupboard in which we’d thrown bags of stuff from old projects and one of those was apparently the dyeing-things-purple project and I’d taken the bag off the shelf to look what was in it.

[1] The recycling station has in fact moved from where it used to be (the old location was the one I dreamed). I haven’t been there since it did, and I’m not completely sure where it is now. But it’s certainly not just a few kilometers from the seaside, we live much too far inland for that!

[2] Years, in fact. The purple dye left in the washing machine was the nemesis of several articles of clothing, including the NEW buff linen dress Spouse bought because I’d dyed the old one purple when there was an indelible purple nail-polish stain on it. Also, a pair of pajama pants which are still lilac with forest design.


Reading notes, week 16


Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie. I didn’t remember (and neither was it clear from my previous post) how absolutely weird it is. Goodness, I’d have tossed it aside because I had no patience with (mostly) old (mostly) white men discussing world domination if it hadn’t been for Aunt Matilda. Oh, and the protagonist Stafford Nye himself, and Renata or whatever her name is. Too many Nazis in the book, though. I don’t think I’ll reread it again. Two and a bit (the bit is for Aunt Matilda) stars if I was giving stars.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Found out in a discord conversation that I’d never actually read this, so set out to remedy it. It’s cute. Gutenberg has it, and I also downloaded its sequel Anne of Avonlea but haven’t started that yet because Anne of Green Gables made me want to reread…

Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. Which is more fun because it’s less moralizing, though it does have (what I call when I write fanfic) “period-typical bigotry”. There’s a sanitized fan version but I don’t think I want to read that because I just read the original and roll my eyes at the bigotry, I don’t want to be guessing and/or comparing all the time. I did read rather lot of fanfic of it, though, notably Excerpts From the Letters of Sarah McBride Anderson, 1904-1908 by Beatrice_Otter, a short retelling from another POV. (Probably for logged-in AO3 users only.)

Dear Enemy by Jean Webster. Wavering beween liking it better than Daddy Long-Legs because it’s got more about the orphans in it, or liking it less because it’s got the romance on the surface instead of buried deep down in the letters.

Theobroma by Diane Duane. Young Wizards short story (which I got for free in a promotion that no longer exists, but it’s also in Uptown Local and Other Interventions). Sweet! And not only because it’s about chocolate; also the slice-of-life of working adult wizards.

Index of reading notes is here.

Vespers of Easter


Service: 9 of 9  Time: 0:30  Total: 4:00  Grand total: 17:22

Crew: Altar: Fr T and two acolytes (the young man who has now served All The Services, and my godson’s brother).  Choir: SSSSSAAT, so I asked Ukrainian Soprano to sing the alto part because she can, though it doesn’t really suit her voice.

Congregation: anything between 20 and 30, including Emerita Choirmistress’ son-in-law and small granddaughters (her daughter is away to Copenhagen for work).

Oops! Nothing to oops about!

For Future Me: Add Slavonic versions of the litanies. We can sing “Gospodi pomiluy” on demand but it’s so much better to be able to point at it.

We sang the Romanian Easter troparion at the end because Romanian Woman was there (and anyway it’s fun to sing), didn’t have any opportunity to sing the Greek one as well but I’m keeping the page with both Greek and Romanian on the music stand so we can sing them whenever we like.

I wanted to talk to so many people! But on the other hand I was completely done with people for a while so I fled upstairs where there was only my own familiar wife (and a nice snack and drink).

Christ is risen!


Service: 8 of 9  Time: 3:30  Total: 3:30  Grand total: 16:52

Crew: Altar: Fr T, Hypodiakon and five acolytes (two young men, an older man, two boys aged about 12).  Choir: SSSSAATB (Baritone had volunteered to help out the Serbians in his hometown who appeared to otherwise have no singers at all, but we had Very Young Soprano, T’s daughter, who is a real asset and I negotiated with her mother about rehearsals so we can keep her). Other Ukrainian Soprano, who hadn’t been to any rehearsals and frankly not in church a lot lately, clearly expected to sing and I didn’t want to antagonize her so I hedged a bit, but I think (Regular) Ukrainian Soprano persuaded her to stay away.

Congregation: Didn’t manage to count; somewhat fewer than last year at the procession (couldn’t see the tail-end from the next corner) but more staying for the Liturgy. The little devil on my shoulder says this might be because Fr T had promised to bless people’s Easter baskets after the Liturgy; the little angel on my other shoulder pokes it with a stick. Made for lengthy Communion. I had to tell Young Soprano to jump the queue as I had done, because I saw her waiting with a frustrated expression while people pushed past her.

Oops! When we sang the Romanian Easter troparion in the Canon (instead of the usual Dutch-Slavonic-Dutch), I thought during the litany following it “oops, the troparion should be after the litany” (which is not the case) and did the Greek troparion after the litany. I think hardly anyone noticed and many people were pleased. The Romanian woman at our table at the feast complimented us, and several of the Greeks sang along.

Fr T started St John Chrysostom’s catechetical sermon right after the Easter stichera instead of the free-for-all greeting, and I thought “wise of him!” but then people started greeting each other anyway and it turned out he’d done it by mistake, probably because his wife (who is usually the first person he greets) was home sick. I was cautious and greeted only choirmates and a few favourite people rather than any and all random strangers like before 2020, but I’ll do a covid test in a couple of days just in case.

For Future Me: I realised when making up the book, on Saturday afternoon, that I didn’t know the exact ending of the Liturgy and it wasn’t written anywhere either (not in the overview Emerita Choirmistress made decades ago, not in the calendar, not in the Pascha book which referred to the Liturgikon, not in the Liturgikon; I have no other resources handy) so I made something up and thought it would fall into place by itself. It almost did, too.

Some pages are still usable but need new versions (story of this week). Nice little chore for Monday and/or Tuesday.

We had St. John’s Gospel in Dutch, Romanian, Ge’ez, and four Slavic languages (Russian, Macedonian, Ukrainian and Belarusian) and the Slavic languages were all so different! But still recognizably kin.

The Ukrainian women who sing at the monthly old-calendar Slavonic services sang during the clergy Communion. Someone had told me that they’d expected to get to sing part of the actual service (but that would have been logistically very difficult and broken the flow, so I’d vetoed that) and would go to Amsterdam instead (whether as a consequence of my veto the person didn’t say, perhaps didn’t know) but they were here after all. Ukrainian Soprano, who directs that choir, asked me whether they should sing and of course I said “yes! please! that makes me so happy!” It was beautiful and touching and I cried during their version of the Exapostilarion. I did get twinges of “goodness they’re so much better than us” but later someone said we’d been just as good, which of course I hadn’t been able to hear. (It was T’s wife, which makes it even more plausible that she was not just humoring me because T sings in both choirs.) Some of them are professional musicians, and they have an alto with a voice that makes me green with envy.

In the community room after the Liturgy, Fr T blessed the Easter baskets and the buffet table in one go, in Slavonic, and though there were perhaps sixty people in the room[1] I seemed to be the only person who knew the responses and had the presence of mind to sing the Easter troparion. I said to Hypodiakon “this is a Russian get-together” and he concurred but shrugged because he was as uncomfortable as I was and couldn’t do much either at that point. There were already people in the section we usually grab for the altar and the choir, and I didn’t want to oust them but wanted much less to crowd in with all the other people, but a choirmate and Hypodiakon explained –it does help to be a large bearded man in a sticharion– and they went away without protesting. (Then, of course, non-crew people also ended up at the table because they’d come in talking with one of us, but that did feel different.)

[1] About twenty-five more than fit in comfortably.

There was beer, and yummy food, and relative quiet, and nice people. People complimenting the choir, which made me realize that what has made it go so well was that we were together all the time, whether there were only three of us or the full complement, without apparent effort. Last year I still felt that it was me holding it together, somewhat like commanding a regiment of grasshoppers (also, that I had to prove myself, which I’ve obviously already done this time, just ask the metropolite).

I got home by 4.15, had some chocolate eggs and a glass of vodka, and then wanted to sleep so much but could only doze and was up again at 7.15. Now in that strangely liminal Easter morning state with only Vespers to go.


Reading notes, week 15


I thought I hadn’t been reading anything (except, very slowly, my current book) because of Holy Week but I’ve actually got something to write up! Both rereads, one because of a fediverse conversation and the other because I had a craving for Ariadne Oliver.

Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie. One of the better Poirots (which seems to correlate with a smaller dose of Poirot in favour of other characters). It’s got some really nice people; in fact the only obnoxious person is the person intended to be obnoxious, and she gets her comeuppance.

(By the way, Goodreads, I do not like thy new design.)

Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie. One of those strange thrillers Christie wrote, especially late in life. Didn’t remember the small but numerous instances of racism and sexism but it’s still sort of exciting to read.

Index of reading notes is here.