Reading notes, week 17


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put exact dates in it, “2010s” rather than “now”, because (she explains) she expects it to age and become a historical document.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


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


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

Reading notes, week 15


April 11: Sun in Glory, another Valdemar anthology. The story by Michelle West was very disturbing and ended somewhat inconclusively (but happily, I think). Another story made me think COMPANIONS DON’T DO THAT! (deceive their prospective Chosen to set them an arbitrary and somewhat dangerous test), I skimmed two more, and now I’m on one I might actually like. Mixed bag as usual.

April 8: Sword of Ice, collection of stories which are basically author-approved Mercedes Lackey (Valdemar) fanfic. Mixed bag like all of those collections are. Some are exquisite, some are skippable (the very military one, for instance), a few are bewildering.

April 7: Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie, because someone on my social media said it was the best Poirot. Read it years ago so it will probably be new-ish. –And yes: almost completely new, I’m not even sure I’ve read it before! I’m not sure if I like it, there’s too much Poirot being Poirot (though not with as many annoying mannerisms as in some of the others) and I don’t like any of the people except the young woman at the beginning (and the end) who is mostly only being mentioned by the other characters, the old governess, and the archeologist half-sister.

April 5: Eye Spy by Mercedes Lackey. Exactly the kind of fluff I wanted. (The Goodreads blurb is strange: “set in the bestselling world of Valdemar”.) I was waiting with bated breath for the moment that it all goes horribly wrong as per Mercedes Lackey’s trademark, but it didn’t, at least not as spectacularly as in some of the Elemental Masters and other Valdemar books. Somehow it read like a mashup of a couple of novellas: episodic, with at least three distinct story arcs and no overarching plot. There was an overarching villain, disconcertingly with the same last name as mine minus the final letter, who started as a mere bully and ended as a wannabe throne usurper. This character is a much too thinly veiled dig at a well-known real-world personage, and while it’s nice to see him get his comeuppance and I don’t mind politics in fantasy, I don’t like this-world politics intruding on other-world fantasy. There’s no romance (a breath of fresh air) and no sex to speak of (though one Goodreads reviewer spends a thousand words on pointing out that this book is boring and pointless and it’s all about sex) and the main character turns out to be matter-of-fact asexual (a huge breath of fresh air!) in the “<shrug> no? why should I?” way. Also refreshing: the protagonist doesn’t get Chosen at the end, which spoiled By the Sword a bit for 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

The Obligatory Coronavirus Quarantine Post


Yes, I really do have to write this before my brain lets me write any other post that isn’t the ongoing reading notes.

Strictly speaking we’re not in quarantine — we’re staying in. One of us (lately mostly me because Spouse had a sniffle and didn’t want to take the risk) ventures out to the supermarket every couple of days but it’s becoming more and more exhausting. Yesterday I bought enough to last until the milk runs out, probably Saturday or Sunday. We even have a liter of long-life milk in case we really don’t want to leave the house when the milk does run out.

It’s glorious spring weather but somehow it feels dangerous to go out at all, as if it’s tainted, radioactive or something. A while ago — I hardly know what day it is, there is no time — I contemplated cycling two miles to my favourite supermarket, but instead I just zipped to the usual nearby okayish supermarket to be back home as soon as possible.

On Monday I went to the bio supermarket, dreading to encounter the “viruses don’t exist, it’s all media hype” or “see, Mother Nature is setting the world right” mindset, but instead they had a sensible “please take a cart and wipe the handle with this wiping stuff we’re providing, keep your distance, don’t dawdle and don’t buy more than you need” sign. I bought the wine of the month which we liked a lot (that’s why I went there, to get some at the on-offer price before the month ended), a bottle of really nice milk, some emergency dried yeast in case panic shoppers again buy the ordinary supermarket’s whole stock of fresh, spelt flour and 80% wheat flour which made the flour container so full that I feel as if I’ve been stockpiling unfairly but I’d probably have bought that in ordinary times too because they’re both things I like and the other supermarket doesn’t have, and other things like that. And a wonderful little bar of soap, guest soap size, smelling of spices (there’s ginger and black pepper in it) instead of flowery-sweet, and oily enough that I don’t have to rub my hands with hand cream all the time.

We’re fortunate that we haven’t had to change our lifestyle radically — Spouse already works on Krita from home and manages a completely remote team from home, and I already do writing and volunteer work at the dining table. We’re used to being around each other a lot, it’s not like we’re suddenly together all day every day and get on each other’s nerves. The world gets on our joint nerves, that’s all. I miss swimming. I even miss the social interaction while swimming which was sometimes nice, sometimes a burden when it happened. Both of us miss nipping out to a shop to get one little thing we forgot or suddenly need because we’re cooking something unplanned. We miss going to museums, taking a city trip on short notice just because we can and want to. We’re going to miss the Lamb of God exhibition in Ghent that we managed to get some of the last timeslot tickets for.

I miss church, and choir, and the volunteer work I’d otherwise be doing for the church and the choir. It turns out that I really need to be part of the community, or perhaps of the structure, to do something with my faith. I haven’t actually lost my faith, but I don’t cope well with not having a framework to express it in: not only singing in the services but also baking prosphora, making reader notes, working on the church webpage, posting notices on Twitter is the way I pray. Martha rather than Mary, though I don’t judge people for being Mary (on the contrary, I feel like I should pray more and read spiritual literature and follow other churches’ livestreams because ours isn’t large enough to have one, but I can’t bring myself to do it, it feels wrong). We stopped observing Lent when the church stopped having services, because that took energy we don’t have — it’s the services we get energy from in Lent — and I think that’s the cause I’m not reading uplifting books either: lack of brainspace. I’m sure Christ will rise without us being there to tell each other, and I’ll definitely put the yearly “Christ is risen” notice on Twitter, but it’s all very strange indeed.

I miss being able to write. I got hold of a cover artist for A Voice from the North, thinking that would be an incentive to finish it already, but I can’t even look at the text without disgust now. And I’m stuck about 1000 words into the space meerkat story which I think wants to be 3000-3500. Why is this thing that I have no power over and doesn’t even impact me much personally (except restricting my movements) taking up so much of my mental CPU? It’s not as if I had much of an in-the-flesh social life before, except church. — Oh right, it’s because I have no power over it.

(Now a voice that might be the Infernal Editor or one of its cousins is telling me “what are you whining about, there are so many people who have it worse”; I bop it on the head with a virtual fish.)

I had an argument with a choirmate years ago, who said (because I was music-geeking with another choirmate) “How can you find that so important while the world is burning?” Someone wiser than that person, and much wiser than me, once told me to stretch out my arms and know that this is my reach and all I can do is to make that as good as it can be, I don’t need to fix the whole world, only try my best for the little piece of world that’s mine to fix. (And if I can’t, I can’t; there’s no penalty for being unable to do everything or something or even anything at all.) The world needn’t be all bleak and utilitarian: having fun keeps us human. But I still feel bad for not feeling worse than I do, and then I feel bad for feeling bad for that. I don’t think it’s grief as such (as some people have written), but it’s definitely cognitive dissonance.

I’m not bored. I’m just getting nothing done, and trying not to feel guilty for playing games and reading silly stories when I could (should!) be writing stories! helping others! getting things done! CLEANING THE HOUSE! Good grief, I’m glad I can still cook, and do dishes when necessary, and go to the supermarket every couple of days even if that wipes me out for at least an hour after I get home. I don’t know whether to be envious of people who suddenly do get a lot of things done, and have started baking (and buying all the flour and yeast from under the nose of the already-habitual-bakers), and make livestreams so other people won’t have to miss all of church, and have wonderfully clean houses and tidy gardens now. Perhaps their cognitive dissonance is as bad as mine and they’ve just found a different way to cope.

The church we can see the tower of from our windows, and other churches in town, and I think other churches in the country, are ringing their bells each Wednesday evening. It was disconcerting the first time around even though we read about it in the news, because ringing bells when there’s no service means ALARM!!! in my mind, and it’s annoying now because I expect it but I parse it as saying THERE’S A PLAGUE! rather than the comforting “we’re still here and we’re all in this together” message they’re intending to give.

We’re reading Anna Karenina this afternoon, on Skype. And then we’ll perhaps eat something we haven’t cooked ourselves, because some of our favourite restaurants are doing delivery now.

Reading notes, week 14


April 4: Some Lord Peter Wimsey fanfic, on this time, which feels like betrayal. But this is a good story about Charles and Mary in which Mary does some of the detecting. (Also found one I liked that happened to be on my ereader already.)

April 3: Stone by Alter S. Reiss, the long story I grabbed from the Decameron project and converted to epub for easier reading. Glad I did because it’s slow and heavy, almost ceremonial in its language. Deeply Jewish, I think (that’s not my own culture or background so I can only suspect). I think I love it though parts of it hurt.

April 2: Some more (but not all) Decameron Project stories.

April 1: Lammas Night by Katherine Kurtz (reread). Because someone said something on a blog and I was immediately reminded of it. I’d completely forgotten that the prince is such a chain-smoker. (Other people smoke the occasional cigarette as stage business, but he smokes all the bleeping time.) Though I still like it, the same thing irks me that irked me on previous reads: I will accept the conceit of previous lives, but why have those people been All These Famous Historical Figures? If everyone has lived many times before there can’t have been enough Famous Historical Figures to go round.

March 31: The first chapter of Caroline Stevermer’s new book, The Glass Magician, also from the Decameron project. Wonderful teaser. We pre-ordered the hardback.

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

Reading notes, week 13


March 28: A bunch of random Young Wizards and Lord Peter Wimsey fanfic (er, some of each, there don’t seem to be crossovers; planning to write one but, well, you know). Nothing memorable enough to link to, though I downloaded one to read on the ereader later.

March 26: Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones. I rarely read Howl’s Moving Castle without it. Epub conversion is even worse but this is too long to tackle too. Some nasty fat shaming in early chapters but that’s subverted at the end. Hard to get into for some reason, but it became better and better. (Looks like it took three days to read this, but I’ve also been reading oodles of webpages, and even wrote three whole paragraphs of the space meerkat story even though the real world has been messing with my brain a lot).

March 23: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. That there’s a Lettie in it (more than one Lettie at some point) when I’ve just finished a book with a Letty threw me a bit! It’s somewhat more chaotic at the end than I remembered, and I sort of skimmed the wizards’ duel this time, and the conversion isn’t perfect so some things that should be in italics aren’t, which obscures at least one plot point. It’s too long to fix the conversion, though, unless I get really bored.

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


Reading notes, week 12


March 21: Wet Nails by Shira Glassman. Bought the pdf, converted it to epub, converted the epub to mobi, sent the epub and the mobi back to Shira so she can put those up with the pdf. Sweet story that starts fluffy and fangirly and turns explicit quite suddenly. Technically it’s a ghost story but it’s not the slightest bit scary.

March 21: A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie. Another Miss Marple I like, and now I’ve read both it and The Body in the Library close together I’m not sure which I like best. The Pip and Emma plot could perhaps have done with some more work but that wouldn’t have left room for other things the story needed. Now I really want to watch the Joan Hickson film (which doesn’t have the Pip and Emma plot at all as far as I know) but I don’t know if we have it and I’m too lazy to look for the DVD and the DVD player.

March 19: Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher. I love the Temple of the White Rat, and Bishop Beartongue is a splendid woman, but I think I’d have thrown the book against the wall (metaphorically; I’m not going to break my new Kobo), even though I like most the people and it’s well written and there’s a lot of typically-Kingfisher humor in it, if I hadn’t read all three of the other books in that universe first. I can’t stand all the “ooh I did something wrong and now he/she won’t like me” failure-to-communicate stuff, I wish they’d get on with the adventure! It’s my usual problem with books that are primarily romance (and I never read plain non-fantasy romance for that reason): all the miscommunication is relevant for the romance but gets in the way of the story. I might go and give it four stars on Goodreads because it deserves it, but I don’t know if I’ll read it again soon. (The one explicit and one and a half not very explicit sex scenes were excellent, I’ll say that.)

March 17: Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones. First that came up in my DWJ collection. Haven’t read it for long enough for it to be almost a new book (and much more complex than I remember!)

March 15: The IDIC Epidemic, a Star Trek novel by Jean Lorrah, for real-world significance/antidote. It may be about a virus epidemic but it’s not dark or dystopian or postapocalyptic or full of despair: people doing their best and helping each other in a hard situation. It’s got happy endings and resolution of problems for several people. Sequel to The Vulcan Academy Murders but I think it can stand alone (nice if it doesn’t have to though).

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


Reading notes, week 11


March 14: The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah. Gearing up for The IDIC Epidemic. Eee! T’Mir and Daniel! Right up there with Éowyn and Faramir.

March 13: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher. When Spouse was reading it he kept chuckling to himself so I knew I was in for a treat, and I was right! I don’t mind the romance because that’s what the book is about, basically. Have marked some passages, may blog (but things are taking up mental bandwidth at the moment so I’m not sure I can).

March 10: The Body in the Library, which I didn’t finish in the Miss Marple binge. Shouldn’t really read Agatha Christie right after Dorothy Sayers (yes, I know, I made that mistake before) because I tend to hold it to the same standards, but this Dorothy Sayers was diluted anyway and The Body in the Library is one of the better Miss Marples, perhaps the best.

March 8: Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh. I wish Dorothy Sayers had finished it so I wouldn’t be guessing all the time which parts were by whom. It does read like a real Dorothy Sayers, mostly. All the well-known characters are true to type and I love Hope Fanshaw.

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9, Week 10

Clocktaur War


Cover of Clockwork Boys Cover of The Wonder EngineT. Kingfisher, Clocktaur War

That is to say: Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine. Two parts of one book really, though the second one starts with a recap that jars a little when reading back-to-back, and there are tiny inconsistencies like calling someone Jenny in the second book who was Molly in the first (but she’s dead before the story starts so it doesn’t matter).

I wouldn’t have chosen it if I hadn’t read enough T. Kingfisher, books and twitter feed, to know I can trust her. Like some of her other books, parts of it are just on the “safe” side of horror. (I’m so not going to read The Twisted Ones, which she says is horror and personally warned me to skip.) And a small part of it is so far beyond my usual boundaries that it would have been a DNF if it had been in chapter 2 of part 1 rather than in chapter 44 of part 2, when I wanted to know how it ended, confound it.

The whole thing reads like a really fun roleplaying campaign. Note: not like a campain writeup, those ramble more; like the campaign itself. I’d have liked to play in it, horror and all. Adventure! Carnivorous tattoos! Travel griping! A band of ruffians! (Well, always excepting Learned Edmund, who starts off as a clueless jerk but he gets a lot better.) I’m very tempted to steal the Shadow Market for one of my own campaigns.

A thing I liked a lot: the gnoles, their society, the way they live alongside humans and deal with them on their own terms. Their language idiosyncrasies: the way Grimehug uses “a gnole” as a first-person pronoun, the “gendered” third-person pronouns that actually go by caste.

A thing I didn’t like: the sexual tension between two of the protagonists first becomes a running joke, then it gets stale — before it gets resolved and things go pear-shaped almost immediately. Then it gets resolved again, somewhat elegantly (she says, grudgingly). Honestly I could have done without the romance and the sex, though the actual sex scenes are tasteful. It gets in the way a lot, except at the end when it’s instrumental for the closure of the story. I concede that that couldn’t have happened without all the buildup, but it still annoyed me. Other running jokes didn’t get stale, so it was probably my pervasive dislike of Inevitable Romantic Subplots and not something about the book itself.

This person read the same books I read: Part 1Part 2


Some days I don’t know if we’re even on our side.

Slate considered herself enlightened, but there were still times when she wanted to throw her hands in the air and scream, “Men!” and then stomp off and kick something.

… there are few things in life as steadying as someone you have to be brave for.

(which is absolutely true, I know from experience)

“… My heart was pure. Demons trembled at my name.”
He didn’t say it like he was boasting. He didn’t say it sarcastically. He said it like it was true.

If I was giving stars, and I yet may if/when I make a Goodreads review out of this rambling, I’d dock one star for the horror and another for the romance and sex, and immediately add one back for the gnoles, arriving at a solid four stars. I don’t like to rate, partly because I’m always conflicted when giving stars: should I rate how good it is by some sort-of-objective measure, or how much I liked it? I think the latter, but always feel it should be the former.