Reading notes, week 33

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August 19: Changes by Mercedes Lackey. Starts with a really long and detailed sportsball game that almost got me interested (in the sportsball; I’m already interested in the rest). Now dealing with people so distressed by their family that it’s a good thing for the protagonist that he doesn’t have any. This is the book in which Mags starts really being a spy! (Also it’s the book in which almost all the really exciting action happens in the last 10%. Someone gets kidnapped at 91% ffs!)

August 15: Jolene by Mercedes Lackey, newish Elemental Masters book. A very good one, and refreshing after all the Sherlock Holmes fanfic. My only objection is that it has even more annoying eye dialect (more of it AND more annoying) than the Collegium Chronicles. No rampant nastiness. The main antagonist isn’t evil (just not human) and can be dealt with. (One evil person, two evil corporations. At least the evil person is dealt with too, summarily.)

Index of reading notes is here.

CrossingsCon

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I was so looking forward to CrossingsCon — what’s not to like about a primarily Young Wizards-focused virtual con!

Well, for one thing the timezone. I got up for the fanfic meetup at 2:30am my time, but for the other thing two days later I thought “well, if I wake on my own I’ll get up” and slept through it. Some things were my-evening but there was only one that I stayed up for, 23:00 to midnight, and abandoned halfway through because it turned out not to live up to my expectations.

Also, the interface. I’ve heard several people praising it because it was “so much like a real con”, but I’ve never felt this uneasy at a real con. I felt like everybody was watching me all the time, not only the people who happened to be next to me seeing me arrive or leave, or the people in the hallway seeing me pass. To make things worse, I couldn’t find an avatar that felt like “me”.

That was the closest it got. There was one avatar with glasses but it’s impossible to change the style and color of an avatar’s hair and clothes separately, the edit-character button just gives you a cycle-through-all-avatars function. It’s not even that it wasn’t realistic enough — in one of my favourite games I’m just an @ sign and that feels like “me” — but if I must have a person-like avatar instead of a symbol I’d prefer to have one I can somewhat identify with.

And the environment reminded me most of early 2000s Habbo Hotel, which we once forbade our then-tweens to play because (a) they were too young for it, (b) there was a lot of abuse/grooming going on, and (c) it had insidious payment traps. Okay, Habbo Hotel was isomorphic and Gather is 2D, and now I see that Gather is even more pixelly and 1990s-style.

CrossingsCon library in the Gather interface

Click the picture to enlarge

This is the library; there were a couple of nice Easter eggs, like books you could actually read (on Gutenberg), the virtual fire (left side where my poor little avatar is sitting, pressing ‘x’ got you the fire on YouTube full screen), the cat (next to the flowerpot on the table right of center, went to different livestreams of cats during the week), and in the “garden” a livestream of ducklings. Also, live games but I never saw anybody play one.

I appreciated the existence of “Text Only” corners, but never used even those because I was shy of strangers. I felt like I was in a group of people who all knew each other already, and for all I know it was that way because CrossingsCon is a thing that’s been around for a while. The only interaction I had was a couple of text exchanges in the chat tab.

I’ve been to two in-person Worldcons and I’ve had my share of shyness (check out my Helsinki and Dublin tags) but having this extra layer made that very much worse. Perhaps especially because I found the interface annoyingly ugly and unwieldy, and it was very disconcerting to see a voice/video connection trying to open every time I bumped into someone or even passed them at close quarters. I kept trying to run away, of course bumping into other people. I don’t do voice and video, unless it’s filking or a tabletop game or a Kaffeeklatsch or something else that really requires it!

If the fanfic meetup had been in meatspace, or even a Zoom-style “everybody in their own little screen space” meetup like the Christian-fans meetup at CoNZealand, I’d probably have talked about writing Young Wizards/Lord Peter Wimsey crossover, and that my first published fanfic was Young Wizards, but being a small ugly avatar in a bunch of other small ugly avatars (some of them conversing as if they were just continuing from last week) wasn’t conducive to actually opening my mouth. Also, it was nearly 3am.

Anyway, it was very nice to see Diane Duane’s and Ursula Vernon’s faces and hear their voices (also Megan Whalen Turner, whose books I’ll probably want to read now because she’s a wonderful person). Not that I was eager to enter a raffle for a private meet-and-greet with either of them; I didn’t have any actual things I wanted to talk about and it would have been random fangirling which they’ve probably had quite enough of.

 

Reading notes, week 32

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August 13: Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey. More eye dialect, and polo is invented, and there’s some cringeworthy fat-shaming, but I still want to read this. Catastrophic Failure-To-Communicate (between friends, not lovers) near the end but it’s none of the friends’ fault and it comes right eventually.

August 11: Foundation by Mercedes Lackey. There’s a lot of cringe in it but I want to reread the whole Collegium Chronicles arc (unless I get tired of it) before I get back to The Herald Spy. (Cringe turned out to be bearable. Eye dialect is much worse.)

August 9: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Because it was time for a reread. Ah, my older reading notes just reminded me that the conversion isn’t perfect, but fixing Mangoverse books is now a priority. –Wow, this is perfect, and though the ending is as rushed as in any DWJ novel that’s perfect too. This time I’ll resist reading Castle in the Air as well, even though I see clouds that could be that particular castle almost every day.

August 8: Harry Potter and the Natural 20. Recommendation from someone at CrossingsCon. Weird but fun. (I may blog separately about CrossingsCon, which is weird and not much fun but that’s the fault of the interface rather than the people.) There are two more volumes but those are for later.

Reading notes, week 31

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August 7: The Olive Conspiracy by Shira Glassman. Eek! I’d forgotten that it had the whole story of Princess Carolina’s cruelty (or perhaps most of it is cultural cruelty. But still). It’s also got Tales from Perach in the back, except the hilarious one in which Aviva gets kidnapped by aliens (I’ll read that from the separate book which I’ve also got).

August 2: A Harvest of Ripe Figs by Shira Glassman. Yes, this is a complete Mangoverse reread. This may be the one I like best because Esther is awesome, I never liked the villain even when they seemed to be an okay person, and the trans boy is wonderful. (He gets his bodily transition by magic!) (And apparently I fixed that epub already.)

August 1: Climbing the Date Palm by Shira Glassman. The epub is so badly formatted that I’ve been marking every place where lines need to be joined and I’ll fix it in calibre when I get round to it, but that doesn’t detract from the story.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 30

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July 29: The Second Mango by Shira Glassman. Re-reread, of course, likely to lead to a reread of the whole Mangoverse.

July 27: Inspector French and Sir John Magill’s Last Journey by Freeman Wills Crofts. Trying to read all the Inspector Frenches I haven’t read yet in publication order (and fill up the gaps). Strange about this one: all the Irish people who have a patronymic surname, and most of the Scottish people, have it prefixed M’ rather than Mc or Mac. I thought that was specifically (Northern) Irish until I noticed the Scots having it too. Convoluted ending but everything fits. I do wish Inspector French wouldn’t obsess so about becoming Chief Inspector but it’s probably a running gag of the series.

July 25: The Ponson Case by Freeman Wills Crofts. A very early one that I hadn’t read before. I like Inspector Tanner! Perhaps even better than Inspector French. And there are TWO women with agency in the book, which was written exactly a hundred years ago! BTW I love the Faded Page disclaimer: “You may do whatever you like with this book, but mostly we hope you will read it.”

the magic we knew by kitsunerei88. Fire and Hemlock/Harry Potter crossover. Polly and Tom’s daughter gets her Hogwarts letter.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 29

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July 24: Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. Comfort reading with guaranteed no steamy sex scenes. (I have a very old copy that I bought in Canada in 1998, and changed the cover of my ebook to a photo of the cover of that copy, because it’s SO much better than the current cover)

Unbreakable Alibi by Freeman Wills Crofts. Clever short story.

July 21: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade. A “delightfully fun romantic comedy set in the world of fanfiction” according to the blurb. It took me a couple of pages to stop thinking it was Elemental Masters, and I’m not good at plain romance (Straight romance. Whatever.), and the first-chapter protagonist semeed a bit too conceited for my taste (spoiler: it’s a pose) but now I’m past those bumps it’s indeed fun. Sex scenes in the offing, I’ve been told, but if I don’t like those I can always skim or skip. — The first all-out sex scene at about halfway through the book, and it was actually sexy, if they’re all like that I can live with it unless they take up so much story real estate that they drown out the rest (er, they do, a bit, so I’m glad parts of the story need to have other people around so they can’t bang all the time). Some Failure To Communicate (including a REALLY bad case of it), always the bane of romance novels. Some cringes, mostly resolved. The ending — not the HEA but the epilogue — was somewhat unbelievable and didn’t contribute much. I may do an actual blog post.

July 19: The Wizard of London by Mercedes Lackey. Because it seemed to be time for Elemental Masters and I wanted Isabelle Harton rather than anything else. Last read it in mid-2014. Yes, it was due for a reread. The horrific elements didn’t disturb me as much as the first couple of times I read it and the non-plot stuff (people and atmosphere) seemed stronger. Only I still can’t stand eye dialect.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 28

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July 17: The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie. Can’t stop reading Agatha Christie for some reason (perhaps slight brain-fog from vaccination) but didn’t want either Poirot or Miss Marple now. One strange thing: someone leaves 1/4 of his money to his sister, and 1/4 each to the children of his deceased other sister; but he might have left 1/5 each to the sisters and the niblings if the other sister had still been alive. (Well, whodunnit wasn’t any of his family *whew*, but the romance didn’t turn out the way I’d have liked. Why do mystery novels have to have romance anyway?)

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie. Late-ish Poirot, and I have read it before but long enough ago that I don’t remember whodunnit (and whydunnit, and howdunnit). Slightly annoyed that there’s spy stuff butting in but eh, that’s what she does, I suppose. (I thought it was a red herring at first, and it was, sort of, but it was still relevant at the end.)

July 16: The Murder on the Links, a really early Poirot. Got on my nerves a bit at the end of Chapter 1 but that’s just one of my pet peeves, “But little did I think when and how I should see [character] again!” My mother and I used to call that a “little-did-she-know book”. This was actually new to me in spite of it being such an early one! Perhaps I thought I’d read it because of that so kept skipping it. Mostly okay, though there was some muddle at the end, introducing characters we’d never heard of before.

July 14: Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie. Put Appointment with Death aside because I couldn’t stand the fat-shaming (even though the shamed person is disgusting for other reasons). This one had some period-true racism, but on the whole it was okay, and the most creepy person had done it. Also it was really new to me.

July 12: Confessions in a Punt by Eigon. Aziraphale and Crowley re-enact a scene from Gaudy Night. Cute!

Not In My Back Yard by rain_sleet_snow. Grown-up Pepper is still War in a way. Excellent.

Lady Petra in the Great War by Eigon. Genderswapped Lord Peter (also with Myrtle Bunter, all the rest are their original gender as far as I can see). There’s more where this came from but unfortunately the writer didn’t make it a series so it’s hard to keep track (or alert people I know are thirsting for genderswapped favourites).

Lady Petra Drives Forth by Eigon. Whose Body missing scene in which Lady Petra undergoes some more healing from her war trauma.

Lady Petra Visits Corsica by Eigon. Post-Whose Body missing scene with a holiday romance for Myrtle Bunter.

Lady Petra Falls in Love by Eigon. Strong Poison in a nutshell, with added complications because Petra didn’t expect to fall for a woman and Harriet didn’t expect a woman falling for her.

An Unconventional Relationship: Lady Petra Wimsey in Oxford by Eigon. Gaudy Night in a nutshell. All the little details are right, like Petra being at Oxford too early to get a degree.

Time Is, Time Was by rain_sleet_snow. Disconcerting (in a good way) little Discworld/Lord of the Rings crossover.

Thomas the Rhymer by kali. Tam Lin (Pamela Dean, must specify) fanfic. Could be a Thomas Lane companion piece to my Robin Armin story.

The Youngest Girl in the School by Evelyn Sharp. Yet another boarding school book but this time the protagonist girl is actually interesting. And the principal, Miss Finlayson (“Finny”) is wonderful.

July 11: A Haldane in Winter by phoenixgal. Novella-length Deryni fanfic, set more than a century after King Kelson’s time. Well-written and interesting but not easy to read because the protagonist is a difficult person in a difficult situation. I thought the story would fix some of the canon’s homophobia but it didn’t, and it also completely ignored the amiable coexistence of Muslims and Christians that was apparent in King Kelson’s Bride, making the stake of the war “to defend the whole of the Christian world from infidels”. Pity.

the most ill-regulated memory by rain_sleet_snow, crossover of Lord Peter Wimsey with something I don’t know at all (Primeval). Intriguing, but I don’t know if I’ll actually want to see the TV series. The modern-day Wimseys are very well done, though. rain_sleet_snow is a new writer to me, writes well and does effective crossovers.

Provenance by rain_sleet_snow. Éowyn in Polly Perks’ regiment. Wow.

Tales of Calopa: The Falworth Papers by Xero Reynolds. A short steampunk thing, teaser for a series, which I think I got in some book package or other. ETA: Eh, at 48% it’s both steampunk and military and I’m still not sure if I like it but it’s so short that I’ll probably finish it. I like the format (letters and transcripts). What irks me most is the title “Acamadecian” which I keep reading as a misspelling of “Academician” (and it does indeed mean “someone having tenure at a university” so why call a spade a smeerp?) — Skimmed from 61% because I lost patience with it but did want to know what was going on. Final verdict: meh. For some reason it reads as if it’s set in the world of Unquenchable Fire, but perhaps that’s just the baroque names and the unreliable narrator.

merry and yet honest too by rain_sleet_snow. Miss Fisher fanfic. The de facto protagonist is Jack Robinson’s ex and though I admit she gets short shrift in the series I’m not particularly interested in her.

And Be My Friend by rain_sleet_snow. Tiny cute story about Hercule Poirot calling on Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey just before their marriage.

Okay, a bit out of season: Deck The Halls by rain_sleet_snow. Harriet Vane’s friends help her decorate for Christmas. She realises she has more friends than she thought.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 27

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July 10: All of the Butterflies!Verse and some other fanfic, going into rabbit holes by looking up what people wrote who commented or bookmarked or left kudos on mine. (One person consistently likes everything I write, and it turns out that I like nothing they write, because it’s both very dark and very smutty.)

July 9: Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett. Because of this series on tor.com. I finished the book before I read the last installment of the series, and it confirmed most of my thoughts. I should perhaps have read it on paper because the epub conversion is suboptimal and makes an already confusing narrative (quick-change POV jumps) even worse. I did get the reversed King Kong scene, a giant woman picking up an ape, but probably not a lot of the other famous-movie references because I just plain don’t know those famous movies.

July 7: Green Ice by Adina, and its sequel Armistice. Very good Bertie Wooster/Lord Peter Wimsey crossover.

July 6: We the Damned, Tailor Paul and Piffling Peter and Amidst a Tumultuous Sea, all Lord Peter Wimsey fanfic by Adina.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 26

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It looks like I’ve been reading hardly at all this week, but I read two whole books and parts of several others as canon review for an exchange. Will disclose on reveal. I had to read half of one book on paper because I fatally mislaid my ereader (I’m sure I handed it to Spouse but she doesn’t remember ever seeing it; we looked in all plausible places three times and in all implausible places twice, and then gave up and ordered a new one, the old one was getting weary of life anyway). Possibly I left it outside and some neighbour “rescued” it when it started to rain, but the roof terrace is virtually inaccessible and why did we never see evidence of people having been there before?

July 3: A Knot About Your Heart by pendrecarc, a fantasy novella with very good worldbuilding and wonderful magic (in stitches and knots).

Reading notes, week 25

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June 25: The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison. … Wow. It’s a low-key mystery novel, and the background is so rich and intricate, even more than The Goblin Emperor because we see much more of the world. And full of genuinely good people (and some bad people too but they get their just deserts). It makes me want to continue A Partial Glossary of the Ethuvereise Language, with Further Etymological Speculations by stardreamer (I didn’t dream it after all, it was on my ereader and in my calibre library all the time, it just had a title I didn’t remember). And here is also some vocabulary and general principles.

June 24: The Wimsical Adventure of the Dragon’s Tail by inamac. Lord Peter Wimsey (well, his legacy) crossover with something I don’t know (Ace of Wands, a BBC children’s series from the 1970s of which the first two seasons have sadly been destroyed, as seems to happen to almost all interesting children’s TV). Nice mystery/thriller with a good twisty conclusion! I might seek out the Ace of Wands footage that still exists and/or read more fanfic of it because I like those people.

June 23: King Kelson’s Bride by Katherine Kurtz. The one in which she gets Orthodoxy right. Blogged about it extensively in 2013. And of course I’m now finding all kinds of little things a copy editor would (or at least should) have caught in this one as well. But it’s a good comfort read nevertheless. One thing I don’t remember taking issue with before: there’s a huge dramatic thing happening at about 98%, when most readers will probably think the book is winding down to a happy ending! (But it does have a happy ending right after that’s resolved, fortunately.)

June 21: All This Land and All This Power by eilonwya10. In which soon-to-be King Cinhil Haldane gets married, but not to a frightened fifteen-year-old. Fanfiction.net doesn’t allow text download at all, not even copying from the screen, so I can’t put it on my ereader in case I want to reread it. Made an external ao3 bookmark. (Someone made a fanfiction downloader, but the Linux version doesn’t work for me.) I also found it on ao3 itself in two parts; haven’t checked if it’s completely the same, but it starts with the same paragraphs all right. The author’s name is different but people do have different nicks on different platforms.

… And another unfinished story. Except for the fact that this writer badly needed a copy-editor (“lightening” doesn’t mean the flashes you get with thunder, and people don’t usually “lay” on the forest floor unless they’re birds) the story is intriguing and I wish they’d got round to finishing it. If the next story I read is also unfinished I’ll probably give up the rest of airsid.net as a lost cause.

Kelric by Melissa. The last chapter is called “Safely Home” so I was pretty confident that this would be a finished story, and it was! Very cute, too. It’s got the right queen (Araxie), unlike some other stories on airsid.net that have a hypothetical fanon queen because they were written before King Kelson’s Bride. May download this as text (airsid.net doesn’t mind) and convert it to epub to reread later.

A Daughter’s Secret by Julianne Newberry. Dhugal’s mother and grandmother, awesome women both.

June 20: The Quest for Saint Camber by Katherine Kurtz. My brain thought it was time for Deryni, and my mind picked out one with minimal cringe though I already see some coming. (Yes, I still like the Deryni books in spite of all the cringe.) Tempted to do some tweaking in Calibre but I’ll see if the OCR glitches get worse over time. I do have the paper book as well, so I could decode “everyone else present except the dark” as “… the clark”. Having random page numbers in the middle of the text isn’t nearly as annoying as misreadings that make something make no sense. Apart from that, Katherine Kurtz badly needs a copy editor: how does one feign a blush? And “after the weekend” jars a little in a mediaevaloid setting. Also, “imprimatur” is the written permission of a bishop to publish a religious book, not written permission to do a thing in general — though the Oxford English Dictionary seems to disagree with me on that — and I’m not sure this world has anything called “Celtic”.

Found an old fanfic site again (airsid.net, STILL with SOPA blackout so probably abandoned since 2012), now reading some stories I missed last time around. Links in the King Kelson’s Bride post above. The one I read first (Uninvited Guests) had several people acting out of character, and some even as if they were impersonating others, and awkward phrasings like “her mare horse” and “the Fathers’ shoulder”, but I kept reading because I wanted to know if the out-of-character was plot or AU or the writer just plain getting it wrong. And ARGH it’s unfinished. But the out-of-character was indeed because someone was impersonating someone else. … It’s just possible that one of the writers of these stories is the person I blocked and ghosted in 2016 because of political views that made me extremely angry. Well, it’s not as if airsid.net really exists any more, and I’m not on the Deryni forums any more either, I just get these periodic urges to read it.

Index of reading notes is here.