Reading notes, week 23

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Currently reading: Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu. (Also had a look at the other graphic novel finalists, but they’re mostly Part X of a series I don’t want to catch up on and/or not to my taste. Flipped quickly through one that was well drawn but the story was too gruesome.)

Why the Dutch are Different by Ben Coates, picked up when exchanging ebooks with Spouse. The blurb says “The first book to offer an in depth look at hidden Holland and the fascinating people that live there” but it’s not the first by far, I’ve read more of those “see how cute” books about the Netherlands. (And yes, it’s mostly about Holland; the writer says “most tourists don’t leave Amsterdam” rather dismissively but it’s clear that he’s hardly left his adopted home city Rotterdam and its environs.) It’s cringeworthy but not enough so to throw against a virtual wall, I want to finish it and see if I can write something similar as Valdyas fanfic.

Next up: Everything A lot of what I’m going to read until mid-July is likely to be Hugo voter packet stuff. (Catfishing on CatNet is in the Hugo packet! I don’t need to read that again. Well, I do, but not in order to cast a vote for it, I can reread it after July 15.) Once again I’m reminded that I DO NOT DO NETGALLEY. I do seem to have an account, and Firefox even remembers the password, but installing Adobe spyware on my ereader in order to read a Hugo nomination is a step too far, even if it is one I might vote for if I had a fair chance to read it. Now I’ll just leave everything off the ballot that I can’t access, just like the things I could perhaps access but have no interest in (like podcasts).

June 5: Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island by Nibedita Sen. I wish I hadn’t. I should have noticed that it was originally published in something called “Nightmare Magazine”. (That said, I love the format even though I hate the genre.)

June 4: The Fireside Magazine Hugo packet. A handful of stories, reminding me forcefully of why I prefer to hand-pick my short stories instead of reading whole magazines. I found myself skimming most, skipping two altogether because I appreciate content warnings, and the three or four I did read beginning-to-end included a werewolf story that wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as Away with the Wolves. (Yes, I know someone else has hand-picked these stories. But it wasn’t me, so I can’t expect they’re all what I want to read.) By the Storytelling Fire is truly excellent, though.

June 3: A Catalog of Storms by Fran Wilde. So strange. But wonderful.

DNF: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. Many good things have been said about it but it starts more dystopian than I can stand and I have no reason to think this is going to be otherwise in the rest of the book.

Skipped another story because it was even more dystopian. It may be more virtuous but sheesh, it’s so not what I need at the moment.

Away with the Wolves by Sarah Gailey. Goodness, a werewolf story I like, and a lot at that.

Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher. Because I wanted to read something from the Hugo packet that I was practically guaranteed to like. (I know all speculative fiction is political, and if something isn’t it should be! I hear you (generic-you) if you think it’s more virtuous to read and write dystopian fiction to match the state of the world! But I’m in Tolkien’s camp in this.) And I did like it!

June 1: The Archronology of Love by Caroline M. Yoachim. Read about a third and skimmed the rest because I wanted to know what happened and how it ended (somewhat happy, fortunately). SF rather than fantasy, and perhaps too complex for my brain.

And Now His Lordship Is Laughing by Shiv Ramdas. Made me look up history I didn’t know (the Bengal famine of 1943). I don’t like it and never want to read it again but it’s good.

May 31: InCryptid stories by Seanan McGuire: The Flower of Arizona and One Hell of a Ride. Interesting but not so much that I want to read a lot//the lot. Glad I’ve got them, though, I may want one occasionally. Two stories were enough to know that the series is good enough for a vote.

LaGuardia by Nnedi Okorafor and Tana Ford. I almost stopped reading because it was more political than I thought I could deal with right now, but ooh! the story! and the pictures! and the politics weren’t tacked on, but intrinsic to the story, and it ends so very, very well.

Index of reading notes is here.

 

Reading notes, week 22

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May 30: A Stitch in Time by Penelope Lively. Wonderful! On a par with The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, which I’ve loved since my teens. I read the protagonist as not completely neurotypical but perhaps she’s only shy and imaginative and being brought up by very straitlaced parents.

Satanic, Versus by Mercedes Lackey. My first reaction was “meh, I’ve read better Diana Tregarde” but then it became hilarious. It almost reads like crack fanfic, as if ML isn’t taking her own worldbuilding seriously.

May 29: A Tales of Valdemar collection (Moving Targets) that happened to be next in the recent-unread list. Mixed bag as always. Skimmed two, skipped one, read the rest. This is earlier than some that I’ve read and there were earlier stories with the same protagonists, which was occasionally interesting.

May 27: Nine Goblins by T. Kingfisher. Just discovered I had it. Must have bought it in the same whee-I-have-a-gift-card shopping spree as Karen Memory. It starts slowly and a bit confusingly but once it gets going it’s as good as The Raven and the Reindeer.

May 25: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. It’s in two genres I’m not at all conversant with: western and steampunk, and I may miss a lot because of that but I like it regardless. I was going to say that EB is clearly a better writer than Mercedes Lackey, but being as prolific as ML is of course a skill in itself! It does feel more thought-out, and fortunately lacks ‘eye dialect’ – there are things like “ain’t” and “knowed” but no ‘uneducated’ spellings that come down to an ordinary word spelt phonetically. Great adventure story! And ends well (except for the villains; and with some realistic-for-the-setting damage for the heroes). I’ll probably buy the sequel, it’s only 3,99 in my go-to store.

Index of reading notes is here.

 

Reading notes, week 21

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May 22: Harvest Moon, three separate fantasy novellas all having to do with the (full) moon. The first is by Mercedes Lackey, a story about (among others) Leopold and his bride from The Sleeping Beauty having a run-in with the Greek Olympic gods. Second, by Michelle Sagara, in a world I didn’t know yet. Hard to get into but once I’d got all the different species of people straight it was exciting and I’ve found out it’s the prequel to an ongoing series of (now) 15 books, hard-boiled police procedural with magic. The third, by Cameron Haley, is even weirder: it took me until 21% in to realise that the beginning was a flashback and this magic-using gangster who drives an old Lincoln and smokes Camels and has a fridge full of beer in their apartment isn’t 12 years old any more.

May 21: Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey. Peeked at the ending to see if it’s enemies-to-lovers, in which case I’d have virtually thrown it against the wall (spoiler: it isn’t). Very good Beauty and the Beast adaptation, as good as The Fire Rose (very different, a lot less brutal for one). This is the last Five Hundred Kingdoms book, worse luck.

May 19: The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey. Also full of nice subversions. Perhaps it’s a little bit thickly laid on who will eventually turn out to be the villain but he was portrayed so deftly that I immediately saw Douglas Fairbanks playing him. (Has Douglas Fairbanks ever played any villains? I can only remember good guys, like Zorro.)

May 18: The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey. The original isn’t my favourite fairy tale by far, but it was delightfully subverted. Reminds a lot of The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher (which is of course another Snow Queen adaptation). Middle-aged women! Girls with agency! Wonderful bears! Villains redeemed!

May 17: Fortune’s Fool by Mercedes Lackey. The next Five Hundred Kingdoms book. The Little Mermaid crossed with Russian folk tales and Arabian Nights. Wholesome, teary-emotional at the end. HEA for all (possibly even for the villain, in another few thousand years). Nice that the dragon champions are the dragon and the former knight-now-dragon from One Good Knight.

Index of reading notes is here.

 

Reading notes, week 20

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May 16: The Case of the Spellbound Child by Mercedes Lackey. It took me a while to realise it’s Hansel and Gretel, probably because there are two other subplots first, eventually irrelevant for the main plot. But it was satisfying, with only the villain turning out to be unlikeable (though some other people were a bit uncouth). Pet peeve: spelling out dialect on the page, even worse than in the Valdemar stories in Week 17. And ML (or a character) accidentally (or deliberately) misgendered and deadnamed a trans man a couple of times. Interesting way of being trans, though: take over a body of the appropriate gender when the spirit it belongs to vacates it.

May 13: A Very Grumbly Day: Winnie the Pooh/Star Wars. Stormtroopers attack the Hundred Acre Wood.

Verity: very good fairy-tale rewrite (a bit of Rapunzel, a bit of everything).

The Tough Guide to Yuletide: What it says on the tin. Makes me more confident that I want to join in at the end of this year.

Unconventional Weapons: Monstrous Regiment. Very true to type for everybody, even now-Major Blouse.

An Unquiet Beast: Goblin Emperor. Hesero Nelaran, oh my.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow: The Dark is Rising, post-canon episodes from the life of Will Stanton.

toast and tea, sunshine and shadow: Sleeping Beauty with a touch of Rumpelstiltskin. Explains why Maleficent cursed Aurora.

The Time Traveller’s Guide: Important Additional Information. Fanfic of this, which I didn’t know but now want. I thought it was a crossover with the Tough Guide to Fantasyland but it seems not to be, though it’s very much in that mode.

There Will Be No Survivors (Except for the Survivors Behind the Curtain, But Pay No Attention to Them): The Princess Bride. How Inigo Montoya learns to be the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Third-Person Present Tense: Lord Peter Wimsey. How Lady Winifred becomes a writer.

Terminus: Young Wizards. At about 70% it becomes clear why it’s “Carl meets Tom” and “Nita and Kit are about to go to college” interspersed instead of one of each. At least both parts are relevant and readable so it’s not as disconcerting as the thing with Miss Lydgate and Miss Climpson.

May 12: Springtime in Ihistan: Damar, about Harry (Angharad, not Potter)’s great-grandmother the Hillswoman.

so many colours it nearly broke my heart: Harry Potter, Parvati and Padma. Atmosphere, hardly any plot but that’s okay.

Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie. The last Tommy and Tuppence on my ereader, but I found our paper copy of Partners in Crime (the short story collection). My inner copy editor bristles at someone’s wife Millie from the previous book suddenly being called Amy (she’s since died off-screen) and the same person being introduced twice, first as gardener and then as the man who can do everything including gardening. (I thought at first that there were two old men, both called Isaac, until the “second” Isaac started talking about planting vegetables.) By the way, if your mother’s the widow of someone’s son, isn’t the someone your grandfather, not your uncle? And how did I miss the three pages of Tommy mansplaining to Tuppence, all the times I read it before? They’ve been investigating together for FORTY YEARS ffs, he shouldn’t be telling her condescendingly “there is also this way to get information, you know”. If this was my first reading I’d probably abandon it now but I’ll plough on and roll my eyes at men doing things the Manly Way. It ends a bit haphazardly, making me think “where’s the plot anyway?” Not the best one by far. I think I’m done with Agatha Christie for now though I’ll remember where I leave Partners in Crime.

Our Shadows, When They Meet: The Great Mouse Detective fanfic. Soft gay mousies!

May 10: By The Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie. Third Tommy and Tuppence book. Real comfort reading after 3 days with the difficult (but enjoyable!) queer fantasy mystery.

SMOF, in which my Galaxy Quest headcanon (Brandon and his friends are on the crew of the sequel spaceship) is actually true.

Index of reading notes is here.

 

Reading notes, week 19

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May 9: N or M? by Agatha Christie. The second Tommy and Tuppence book. I briefly considered Endless Night but that’s another “eerie” book with a “twist” ending. Nope.

Crooked House by Agatha Christie. DNF, because I looked up if the nice people would have a happy ending (can’t stand unhappy endings right now) and found out whodunnit and why. I’m very glad I didn’t read the whole book to find that out. Wonderful, wonderful spoilers. (partial disclosure: I can’t stand evil children right now, either)

Sing for the Coming of the Longest Night by Katherine Fabian and Iona Datt Sharma. I don’t know how I got it (probably bought it on a whim) but it was in between the fanfic and I started it and found it intriguing. After I got used to the very explicit queerness — sometimes too much as if the authors felt they had to make a point rather than just writing these people because, well, people exist — I got into the fun of the magical scavenger hunt. Still don’t know why this person (human, more or less accidentally born in Fairyland) led his two lovers, who didn’t like each other to start with, on the magical scavenger hunt; to get them to become friends? Enemies-to-allies-to-friends is a welcome change from enemies-to-lovers, anyway.

May 6: Remaking: Young Wizards. Tom getting Carl back from very deep.

The Sceptre at the Feast: Lord Peter Wimsey. Tragedy with an appropriate ghost.

Self-Reliance: Valdemar, Kethry and Varma story with rather more layers than I was prepared for (but eventually worth the effort).

red as redcurrants, gold as a lion’s mane: Goblin Emperor post-canon with Maia and Csethiro’s children and a foreign queen so wonderful that the empress and the emperor both want to run away with her. Some name typos but that doesn’t throw me out of the story.

Reading Against/Reading With: Mastering the Oppositional Discourse in Textual Healing: WTF, intentionally so. Explicit (and humorous) Star Trek.

Poor Hardworkin’ Pleeshman: Lord Peter Wimsey and Charles Parker start working together. Meh (I should have been alarmed when Lord Peter was called “diminutive” in the first paragraph; he’s not among the world’s giants but only a little shorter and slighter than average). Had to read it on the site because there’s a glitch in the epub that makes my ereader think I’ve finished the story after 40% at best when I make the font almost too small to read, otherwise it’s 20% or so.

Queen of Berries: charming Smith of Wootton Major story.

The Pirate Bachelorette: Ines Montoya of Princess Bride fame trains women pirates. Nice! Gender swap usually isn’t my thing but this works.

May 5: Peter and the Power of Suggestion: somewhat strange Peter & Harriet, but good characterization (of Miss Climpson, too).

Peace & Purring: Goblin Emperor fluff. With a cat!

Or Worse, Expelled: Peak Hermione.

No Second Coming: long The Dark is Rising fanfic. A bit hard to get into, and I was fighting against “no not more reluctant Will-and-Bran” but at 21% it became irresistible. — Er, perhaps I shouldn’t have read the blurb because I thought Simon’s fiancee was only called Elaine. Deeper layers than I thought when I started.

Majesty: Minerva McGonagall meets Queen Elizabeth! Found it while searching for the link to the other Majesty. (Now I want Minerva McGonagall to meet the Dowager Duchess.) (Pff, there’s this. Different universe, different Dowager Duchess.)

After All These Years: Harry Potter/Lord Peter Wimsey crossover — sort of — which I found when searching for Dowager Duchesses of Denver at Hogwarts.

Another Year: Yes! Honoria is a wizard. Five birthdays: Honoria, Lord Peter, Bredon, Mervyn Bunter and Harriet Wimsey née Vane. Worth the search even though the Potterverse is only touched on very lightly.

Like the dew I begot you: Lord Peter Wimsey and Albus Dumbledore meet at an auction. If this is the same corner of the multiverse as Another Year, Honoria and her brother are both wizards!

Come Again, That I May Cease to Mourn: Harry Potter/Lord Peter Wimsey crossover: Bunter and Teddy Lupin. Okayish, slightly touching. Pity that Ron Weasley and others are portrayed as jerks.

Vamping the History Department, Right and Left: Harry Potter/Lord Peter Wimsey (Gaudy Night) crossover. Very subtle. (But, dear writer, it’s “Miss Layton”; women weren’t “Ms” in the nineteen-thirties.)

The Dowager Duchess and the Detective: Charming Lord Peter Wimsey-in-absentia story in letters. Only I’m a bit irked that the Dowager Duchess is called “Duchess”, something Miss Climpson would never do.

Aunt Jane: how “Miss Marple” became “Aunt Jane” for Inspector Dermot Craddock between one book and another. Found it while searching for the Murder at the Fête link.

The Next Great Adventure: Kate and Cecelia, and wtf? In this story it’s Cecy marrying Thomas, and there’s hardly any mention of James. Without that being a plot point or anything. Perhaps the writer only got the names mixed up but I’m not interested enough to investigate. Short enough to finish but now deleted from ereader.

The Mystery of Johnny Elkins: Poirot/Hastings (though it only transpires at the end that they’re a couple). Another nice little mystery.

May 4: Murder at the Fête: Nice little Miss Marple mystery.

Majesty: Narnia, after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when the kings and queens are children again. Characters done well.

Kitty: How Miss Climpson became Lord Peter’s Miss Climpson. Full of infodump that so belongs in fanfic because editors think readers don’t want it and some readers (me, for one) do.

Invisible Banquets: A Tasting Menu: Invisible Cities with food. Strange, intriguing, sometimes borderline disgusting. (Yoon Ha Lee wrote it so I’m not surprised.)

May 3: The Tough Guide to Fantasy Cities: Tough Guide to Fantasyland supplement. Meh. Perhaps because I like epic fantasy better than urban fantasy.

How Horses Came To The Desert: Tough Guide to Fantasyland silliness.

Four Things that Weren’t Adequately Covered in Mulan’s R.A. Training: Disney princesses go to (U.S.) college. Splendid, even though I don’t have all the context (my eternal problem with college stories, but on the other hand that makes it enticingly exotic like I used to read boarding school stories as a kid). Everybody brings her unique voice and background. Naomi Kritzer wrote it. I like it when established authors write fanfic too!

In Which Worlds Collide, and Eeyore Investigates a Terrible Crime: Gentle pleasant Winnie-the-Pooh/Discworld crossover.

Also one DNF, a crossover of Goblin Emperor and something I don’t know and probably don’t want to read.

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. The first Tommy and Tuppence mystery. Most of it has stood the ravages of time except the politics, oh my. And the casual racism and sexism, though the latter is less bad than in books without a Strong Female Protagonist. I don’t know if it’s just me but it seems to get weaker towards the end, plot and characterization both (though I like Jane/Annette! And Julius is a darling).

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12, Week 13, Week 14, Week 15, Week 16

Week 17, Week 18

 

Reading notes, week 18

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May 2: So You Want to Be a Wizard, because I already had it open and noticed it while I was looking for some fanfic to read while cooling down from One Good Knight. Young Wizards is always a nice comfort read, and it might give me enough circumstance to finish the space meerkat story. (People actually want the space meerkat story!)

One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey. Recommendation from Spouse when I told him what kind of thing I want to read now (“safe”, either well-known or guaranteed non-threatening). Wow, did it deliver. Some Goodreads reviewers hate it because the romance isn’t in the foreground but that’s one of the things I like most about it. If I was an artist I’d draw the princess leaning against the dragon, noses in the same book (and that would be a much better cover than it has now). I wish the fox had had the last word at the wedding, though!

May 1:

cover of The Glass Magician by Caroline StevermerThe Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer. Wonderful. Spouse has it now but when he’s finished I’ll reread it and blog.

April 28: Knew you at all: novel-length Young Wizards/Labyrinth crossover. Rather messy but I wanted to keep reading to the end anyway even though it was ultimately unsatisfying.

Quiet Conversations: Damar. Aerin visits Harry in her (Harry’s) dreams. Makes me want to read The Hero and the Crown again — I reread The Blue Sword fairly recently but against my habits not both.

Eleven Echoes: Chrestomanci (Lives of Christopher Chant), a deep look into the life and motivations of Tacroy/Mordecai Roberts.

April 27: Baker, Beekeeper, Sergeant, Spy: very good Terry Pratchett (Monstrous Regiment) fanfic. “No more wars,” Polly whispers.

Betrothal Negotiations: Goblin Emperor fanfic in which Csethiro gets her way (with a sword!)

A Brief History of the Patronage of Beatie Wilson: post-Gaudy Night resolution fic, nice! More Beatie Wilson: A Superior Dog, with picture.

can’t fight against the youth: Goblin Emperor, Prince Archduke Idra growing up. (Four stories with that title on Archive of our Own. It seems to be a song I’ve never heard of.)

Chenelo’s Treasures: Goblin Emperor, a collection of vignettes that turn out to have an overarching theme.

Catching the Snitch: Harry Potter, non-canonical pairings but the one we see (as opposed to just hear of) is excellent. (There are seven stories with that title, and a few more with a variant of it, on AO3! But most of the others don’t look like things I want to read.)

Catnip: You’re Welcome: post-Cat Pictures Please; I wish it was longer.

Christmas at Duke’s Denver: Lord Peter Wimsey fluff with a small delightful surprise.

Clever Rosebriar: wonderful fairy tale!

Ducenti Quinquaginta: a collection of Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane drabbles, nice but rather disjointed.

Discipulae: post-canon A Little Princess. Delightful! Friendship across a huge social distance that really works. (Also good, though covert, Jewish representation. Naomi Kritzer wrote it so I’m not surprised.)

Dear Sirs or Mesdames: hilarious Tough Guide to Fantasyland spinoff.

A Conundrum of Charms: Cecelia and Kate with letters from not only them but also their maids. Good voices, very true to canon.

The First Year After: Peter, Harriet and Charles Parker. Meh. Well enough written and ringing true, but not much plot, angsty, and confusing development. (First in this handful of stories that I’ll probably delete from my ereader and library.)

Get Me To The Church On Time: nice bit of Young Wizards fluff about Carl and Tom’s wedding. “an ordination from an actual religion that exists on this planet” — it’s the Archangel Michael officiating! That’s three actual religions at least, depending on how you’re counting.

Hello Operator, Please Give Me Number Nine: Dark (but not too dark) Calvin and Hobbes, or rather Susie and Hobbes.

Good Fellowship: The dons of Gaudy Night. Okayish, a bit predictable.

Heart’s Ease: Goblin Emperor recipes. Fun.

The Hero’s Road: Damar, the end of Aerin’s mortal life.

April 26: A Jolly Kind of Detective Game, plain Lord Peter Wimsey fanfic by the same author as last week’s crossover, which explains the similar name of Hilary’s friend. Hilary and Jerry doing exciting things together and falling in love at the same time. Winifred has a role but not nearly as large as she merits: she’s as Ravenclaw as in the crossover. Happyish (though non-canonical) ending.

An Afternoon’s Adventure, in which the Dowager Duchess of Denver Honoria Lucasta and Miss Jane Marple turn out to be old friends.

Ladies who Lunch, in which the Dowager Duchess and Miss Marple become friends. By the same author but not the same timeline.

A Winter’s Afternoon. Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane. Tagged “domestic fluff”. Yes. (I wish that writer had a less unfortunate nickname, though)

Like As The Hart, another domestic mostly-Harriet Vane story.

And Smite The Sleeping World Awake, beautiful dreamy Sleeping Beauty story with a twisty ending.

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12, Week 13, Week 14, Week 15, Week 16

Week 17

 

Risen indeed

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When I was thirteen I was the only person in my family who liked church. My parents were lapsed Lutherans and I was in Lutheran catechism class, having been evicted from the children’s choir a year earlier because I turned alto. (So did my friend, and she and I were the mainstay of the children’s section of the choir so without us they had to abolish the whole thing.)

Easter came along. I’d been reading about celebrating Easter in Greece — it must have been in fiction, but clear enough that I knew that that was more about the Resurrection than what we got in a Protestant church. The Lutheran church in the Netherlands was at the time (early 1970s) throwing away all kinds of liturgical pomp-and-circumstance to stay in tune with the times or something, and I Did Not Like That.

So thirteen-year-old me stayed up until midnight on (what I didn’t know then was) Holy Saturday,  said “Christos anesti” to myself, read a Resurrection Gospel, probably not the right one, and ate a chocolate egg that I’d painstakingly saved for the occasion.

This year it was a bit like that.

Spouse and I stayed up until midnight on Holy Saturday, said “Christ is risen”, held each other, drank a glass of wine and cried.

Strangest Easter ever, at least the strangest Easter since we started to celebrate it in the Orthodox church. Even stranger than the year that Spouse’s mother died on Holy Thursday and the only thing that kept me functioning was the reliable, predictable framework of the services. This time we didn’t even have that: there was only Hours and Typica every day of Holy Week, and there will be Hours and Typica every day of Bright Week. Even today, Easter Sunday itself, there was no more than that. Two people and Fr T in the church, maximum. There’s a signup list, which I put up (I had the relevant skill; same for editing and formatting the Hours for people to read), but I haven’t signed up for any of the days because it’s so much not the same thing.

I need the framework of the services. I know it’s possible to do all the important things at home but it’s the community, celebrating together, working together in the liturgical context, that’s the essence of being Orthodox for me, even though I don’t usually like to do things in a group. Some other parishes have livestreams, and I have a nagging feeling that I should watch those, but it’s not our community (if it was, I’d probably be singing at least some of the time) and I’d feel like I’m eavesdropping, outside-looking-in. For both of us, church is something we do. We serve, me in the choir and Spouse as hypodiakon in the altar. And being Orthodox makes it easy for us to serve instead of only listening.

On Holy Saturday Fr T asked me to help him dress the church in white for Easter: he the altar and I the rest. I couldn’t resist singing “Arise, O God, and judge Thou the earth” while doing that, just like we do every Holy Saturday, though I’m usually reading the verses while everybody else makes the church white around me. This is the moment of the resurrection for me, in normal years too, but much more this time. (Liturgy says I’m right: the Gospel read immediately after that is already a Resurrection Gospel.)

“Christ will rise without us telling each other” I wrote to a friend a while ago, and yes, so He did.

 

Reading notes, week 17

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April 23: Novel-length Harry Potter/Lord Peter Wimsey crossover fanfic. Jerry, Winifred and Hilary go to Hogwarts, Professor (Harriet) Vane is the Potions master, I don’t know what Lord Peter is doing here (except woo Harriet), but he must be something high-up in the Ministry of Magic because he’s “Mr Wimsey” not “Professor Wimsey”. Violet Cattermole is in Slytherin, Reggie Pomfret in Hufflepuff! Surprisingly readable, the smut is very good smut too. It does make me want to write the Lord Peter Wimsey/Young Wizards fanfic that I’d write if my brain let me, because Lord Peter is much better suited for the other kind of wizard. Harry Potter/Young Wizards works too, as in the story with Hermione ending up in the Young Wizards universe which I read on February 29. Eventually, the story left me shattered and I could only comment with “Wonderful”.

April 22: Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch. Impulse buy: it’s been on various wishlists forever but now I was reading the transcript of a podcast and suddenly needed it. Very nice to read, but not as much new information in it as I expected (that may be because I already know about linguistics, and the internet, and things like that). She deliberately put exact dates in it, “2010s” rather than “now”, because (she explains) she expects it to age and become a historical document. At about 50% there was suddenly a chapter that read like a final chapter and it was, because all the rest of the book was notes!

Yet another Valdemar anthology, the latest, Choices. I didn’t exactly pick it, it was next up on my Kobo, but I got sucked into the first story just as I was going “meh, I’ll read this some other time when I’m really starved for Valdemar”. That first story is excellent, and a few others are nice as well, but most of the rest is either part X of a series I wasn’t reading anyway, or set in a period or demographic I’m not interested in, or just plain meh. The last story, by Mercedes Lackey herself, is also good except that a trans woman persistently gets misgendered until she actually transitions physically (by magic). One thing I really don’t like, even in the pleasant stories: trying to convey dialect by spelling. Makes it harder to read, and reading it aloud usually just produces ordinary English!

April 21: An unmemorable “after the end of Fire and Hemlock” story that read as if someone wrote it with All The Smut and then cut the smut out, leaving an insipid framework of … well, nothing much? Won’t link to it.

April 20: Exile’s Valor, because I don’t like to leave a story arc unfinished (unless it’s DNF anyway of course). I don’t like it as much as Exile’s Honor, though there are excellent parts in it –Myste disguised as herself!– because Mercedes Lackey drags in everything, from Romeo and Juliet to the invention of ice hockey (or is it hurley?) … that last is actually useful at the end. Also, fat shaming (2 instances that I marked). Very fast-paced ending that still doesn’t read as rushed, though it has only partial closure. Nice low-key romance (and I don’t mean the queen and her prince).

Quote, which seems to be particularly apt as that’s what I would have been doing in the early hours of Sunday morning at the feast after the Easter Liturgy with select friends: “We are going to get drunk,” he announced. “We are going to get genteelly drunk, pleasantly drunk, and we will remain in that state with careful application of food as well as drink. We will not drink ourselves sick, we will not drink ourselves stupid, or maudlin, or unconscious, and I will make personally sure that when we finally seek our beds, we will do so in a state that will permit us to sleep and wake without hangovers. Are you with me?”

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12, Week 13, Week 14, Week 15, Week 16

Following writers

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When I was going through my Twitter following/followers list it seemed that I follow A LOT OF writers, so I made a list and found that it’s true: almost a third, 111 people. They have published books, call themselves “writer” or something similar in their bio, and/or I know from conversations that they write. I was going to sort and classify them but it’s simply too many and too diverse! I’ll give a rough overview instead.

Nearly four-fifths are women: mostly cis women, at least 2 women who I know are trans. The rest are all sorts: cis and trans men, non-binary people, genderqueer people, people who prefer not to say. There’s probably a larger proportion of LGBTIA+ people in my following list than in the general population, either because more of those are writers or because people in the same demographic know each other and when I’m in a conversation with one person I already know I also get into conversation with their friends and sometimes follow them too. (Or both.) Slightly more than half follow me back.

About half are published writers, some even well-known. Some I follow because we’re friends or talking buddies, not necessarily from a writing context. I’ve known several for decades and sometimes stood at the cradle of their first book like a virtual fairy godmother. Some I started following because I liked their books and they turned out to be decent people (and some of those follow me back, I must be a decent person too). A couple I already followed before they even started writing or at least started saying in public that they wrote. One followed me before I realised they were on Twitter at all, and I promptly followed them back because I’m a huge fan (you know who you are, and thank you!).

I follow several writers who I like as people (sometimes a lot!) but their books are not for me: they’re hard/military SF or horror –one writer even warned me “don’t read my latest book”– or dystopian/postapocalyptic or pure romance or nonfiction about something I’m not interested in, or just not in a style that I can read. Sometimes I feel uneasy about not wanting to read their books but, well, de gustibus.

 

Reading notes, week 16

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April 16: Wat doe je? O niks (Portrait of a mother) by Harriët Freezer. 1965, and it shows. I recognise some things from when I had offspring at home but mostly it’s very, very dated. Well written though, and at times really funny. Read this mostly while waiting for Skype to do our bidding (which it didn’t, so the Thursday read-aloud ended halfway through and I finished the book). I just wrote the very first review of it on Goodreads (“Dated, but still funny”).

April 15: Exile’s Honor, because the last story in Sun in Glory made that necessary. Did that really take 4 days to read? It’s one of the best Valdemar books, anyway. The scenes I remembered didn’t seem to be the important parts of the book now, and the things that looked important this time felt new. Which is a good thing! I wonder if Exile’s Valor will have the same effect.

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12, Week 13, Week 14, Week 15