Reading notes, week 3

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By now we all know it’s 2020, don’t we?

January 18: Simon Hawke, The Slaying of the Shrew. I was on the train and quickly wanted something to read without a lot of scrolling through the list and the burden of choice. It’s got the same advantages and disadvantages as #1: not spectacularly good but a lot of fun, with nice main characters and secondary characters who are mostly caricatures, but good ones. The first 5% was rehashing the first book in its entirety, which might be useful for people who don’t go straight from one to the other. There are 5; I have 3 (and a Star Trek novel by the same author). I like it that fully three-quarters of the book happens before there’s an actual murder, and all the stuff that does happen moves the plot forward and/or is entertaining.

January 17: De schilders van Dongen, catalog of the exhibition we went to. Paintings by a number of 19th-century artists, all of the same village and especially one woman in that village who had the looks to pose as a witch.

January 17: A Mystery of Errors by Simon Hawke, #1 of Shakespeare and Smythe, which happened to be the first thing in my ereader’s “unread” list that I felt like reading. Didn’t make a vow to avoid reading books by cis white men in 2020, after all (I don’t know if he’s straight, and I made sure he wasn’t the Simon at Worldcon whose books I will avoid). Pleasant historical mystery, not completely historically accurate but fun. It does suffer a bit from “mention all the local colour at once” syndrome, especially when the protagonists enter London. Some annoyingly splainy bits; I like exposition, and even (relevant) infodump at times, but I don’t need to have everything explained to me.

January 15: Gifts of Spring by Shira Glassman. I forgot I’d pre-ordered it from Gumroad so the announcement fell into my mailbox as a wonderful surprise! (note: “wonderful surprise” is usually an oxymoron for me but this really was one) Slightly disconcerting that the protagonist is called Rosamund so my brain half-expects another Beauty and the Beast story, but I got into the story before I could go and read something else first. Sweet! (And I wish some of the magic in it could work for some of my friends!)

January 15: The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey. It has issues. Apart from the large issues, there’s the tiny but annoying issue of calling women ‘females’ (and men ‘males’, granted).

Chapter 1 is full of suicidal ideation.

First fat shaming at 6%, second at 16%, both of the “I’d get so fat if I ate that all the time/didn’t exercise when eating that” sort. Third instance of fat shaming at 54%, “I would need my corset pulled tight just to get into my dresses after a few of those!” and fourth at 56%, when protag takes energy-giving herb tea she’ll need to eat a lot “without fear of gaining weight”. Fifth at 84%: “I take my walks so that I don’t turn into a fat little Milwaukee bratwurst-frau” – now you go take your rides, or I fear you will do the same!” Finally, at 93% Enrico Caruso (yes, the opera singer) is called ‘fat’ and ‘pudgy’ (but perhaps that’s only descriptive…) and the villain’s “figure suggested that he might be allowing good living to overcome the athletic physique of his youth” (while the love interest, even in partial werewolf form, has “a waist that was becomingly narrow”).

Argh, and she thinks she’s not good enough ALL. THE. BLEEPING. TIME. So does he, come to think of it. Mercedes Lackey’s signature plot point: they don’t communicate.

I used to love that book; what happened? Did I catch SJW cooties?

January 12: Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher. Another Beauty and the Beast, inspired by Robin McKinley. Much more creepy than I remembered (only barely not too creepy). Perhaps it’s the pervasive humour that makes the horror-adjacent stuff not get to me so badly.

Week 1 and week 2 reading notes are here.

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