Reading notes, week 11

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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

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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

Quotes:

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.

Reading notes, week 10

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Doesn’t look like I read a lot! (But I did write a lot, and even committed fanfic which promptly acquired a very nice comment.)

March 6: Clocktaur War by T. Kingfisher (Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine). Here’s a post.

March 1: a bunch more fanfic, nothing really memorable enough to write about. Mostly to see what other people have done because I want to write a Lord Peter Wimsey/Young Wizards crossover in which Harriet finds out that at least some of Peter’s diplomatic work is wizardly work, and Miss Climpson’s manual comes as index cards. It doesn’t seem to exist yet. Lord Peter Wimsey/Harry Potter crossover does exist: Hilary Thorpe goes to Hogwarts!

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

Week 9

 

 

Reading notes, week 9

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February 29: Gaudeamus Igitur, Maturae Dum Sumus, Lord Peter Wimsey fanfic (though he hardly figures in it: most of his role is taken by his nephew). This time I skipped all the explicit Jerry/Bunter parts and read only the sweet but somewhat fraught Miss Lydgate/Miss Climpson parts. Still, it’s a rehash of Gaudy Night as if someone’s cut out a lot of little bits from it and pasted them on a piece of paper. Very much a curate’s egg, and an underdone one at that.

Inquiry and Retrieval, a very good Young Wizards/Harry Potter crossover (though now I’m confused which of the two worlds they gated between is “our” world, if any).

Fire on the Mountain, a long (11 chapters) Pern/Young Wizards story that I wanted to finish to see things resolved (also some younger characters who came in later were really good) but I’m not sure if I’m going to keep it on the Kobo. I know where it is, after all. CW: a cat dies (but deliberately and willingly).

February 28: An Unwilling Heart (Young Wizards fanfic). It was marked as a crossover but it doesn’t seem to be a crossover with anything, at least not with anything I recognise (or is even mentioned explicitly). Anyway, wow. Carl Romeo and Tom Swale are the young wizards here (it’s one of the versions of how they meet).

February 27: These Are The Voyages, Young Wizards/Star Trek crossover fanfic. And more of the same though most isn’t very memorable (this one is, though: young Nyota Uhura finding her wings). I don’t usually read crossovers unless I know both fandoms well enough, but these qualify. Not that I can believe that the whole crew of the Enterprise consists of wizards, as some of the stories seem to imply.

February 27: Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers, umpteenth reread. There are more cringeworthy scenes than I remembered, not only the horrible but crucial-for-the-plot scene towards the end that (since its last reading) will always come with a memory of the station of Twello in slight rain in autumn, but also at least two discussions of women’s place and calling. Elegant HEA makes up for a lot.

February 26: A bunch of Goblin Emperor fanfic by the author of two of my favourite Goblin Emperor stories (Gifts Not Wasted and Oh, the Wind and Rain). I think those two, which I’ve already got on my ereader, are the best of that lot. Earrings is cute too.

Earlier reading notes:

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

 

 

Reading notes, week 8

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February 20: The Second Mango again, sort of, because I was missing the conversion-fixing when Prydain was done. I offered the cleaned-up epub to the author.

February 19: The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie. Read it in the 2014 Miss Marple binge but forgot it enough that it was almost a new book. (Note to self: Self, don’t read Agatha Christie with the expectation that it’s Dorothy Sayers. Christie’s people are less complex and usually more petty.)

February 18: The High King by Lloyd Alexander, last of the Prydain conversion-fixes. Hands down the darkest of the series, and if it wasn’t impossible to edit without reading I should perhaps have edited it first before tackling all the shattering (but mostly heroic) deaths. It’s a good handling of “the magic goes away” for a change.

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, because of this Guardian article. The current BBC adaptation changes the story and its ending and makes the protagonist a bad guy (in the book he’s okayish though for my taste a bit too inclined to mock everything), and I don’t think I want to see it. I don’t like the look of the protagonist actor, either; in the pictures he looks like a creep, and that’s before I knew about the changes to the character.

February 17: Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander, in conversion-fixing mode. I thought I remembered it better than any of the others in the series but there were whole chapters I didn’t remember at all. I thought it was much more of a “road movie” story but some ACTUAL PLOT showed up about halfway through. And there are only three crafts he’s apprenticed in, not the half-dozen or so I expected!

Earlier reading notes: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7

 

Reading notes, week 7

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Added a “Next up” section. I won’t list DNFs unless it’s a spectacular DNF with a reason, not just books I abandon because I feel more like reading something else. This is intended to make me persevere with the reading notes without thinking it means I have to either finish or justify not finishing everything I’m reading. Reading isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, a performance.

February 15: Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers. (Yes, it took me almost all week; it’s a long slow book and I was deep in a bout of editing as well.) Reread, because I read a couple of lines to spouse and friend after the essay about drinking glasses: ‘These must be the Baker Street Irregulars; the chief thing is that they all have a hole in the top. I am told that Mr Woolworth sells a very good selection of glassware. In the meantime, Miss Twitterton, will you take sherry as a present from Margate or toss off your Haig in a tankard?’ This is, I think, the only Peter/Harriet book in which there’s not a single P/H scene that makes me cringe, if only a little. (Must put Gaudy Night on the virtual pile.) I did cringe at a scene between two secondary characters but one is a villain and the other a fool, so that’s par for the course.

February 9: Moontangled by Stephanie Burgis. New! Shiny! Full of splendid women! Just when I thought it was perhaps a bit more romance and a bit less fantasy than I like, magic started happening. Still the “people don’t communicate” thing that I don’t like about romance but the magic more than makes up for it.

Earlier reading notes: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6

 

The dream engine sends me back to school

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For the third time in as many months, and I was again late. Though not as late as the teacher. I was the first in the classroom for a religion class in the first period on Wednesday, knowing I was late; then a woman appeared who I thought must be the teacher, but the actual teacher who turned up even later was a small, slight priest (don’t know which denomination, might even have been Orthodox) in a black cassock. I thought I could go for a quick call-of-nature break before the rest arrived, but I got delayed by locks not working because the whole toilet block was being renovated. Then I ended up in an empty classroom where there was a shelf of childhood-favourite books in English translation (among others Turfje of de eerlijke dief, which I’ve got in Dutch and never saw in the original German; apparently the English translation was from the Dutch version because all the names were as I know them from my copy, and the word for boys was ‘jongens’) and sequels to other favourite books written by people I know IRL (hi Emmet!) who aren’t, as far as I know, children’s writers.

When I got back to the classroom at last, the teacher was leaving and telling the class (5 students by now, all adults: two middle-aged women including me, and three young people of indeterminate gender) that one of the other students would be taking over. This was a person in their twenties, wearing clothes in shrieking shades of red and magenta, who I’d seen around the school before and didn’t like much for some reason.

The school had 3 literal levels: all first-year classes on the first floor, all second-year classes on the second, all third-year classes including the one I should have been in on the third. Classrooms were smaller on higher levels; the one I should have been in had room for 10 students at most. [Spouse, when I told him that: “I wonder what happened to the rest of the students, did they go on to other schools or did they get eaten?”]

I also read the new book by Shira Glassman, called Pink Constantinople. Note that this is purely a creation of the dream engine, because I don’t think there’s a Constantinople in the Mangoverse and this was definitely a Perach book, with Queen Shulamit and her friends having adventures in caves.

And there were cats! Two black toms and a white queen, who were going to star in a new film that was “[famous film I don’t remember the title of], but with cats”. When I was petting the adult cats I heard high-pitched mewing and noticed a whole crowd of black kittens in the climb-everything age, 4 weeks or so, behind a sofa. One battled my hand when I put it out, and I knew this was the right kitten for the role of [kid in film].

Cycling home, or at least away from the school, I found myself on unfamiliar roads in twilight and mist (probably early morning rather than evening) and knew, when I got to a seashore, that I was on one of the Wadden Islands. There were no street lights, and I didn’t want to go any further before I could orient myself, so I asked someone walking their dog “excuse me, where am I?” I was too embarrassed to ask which island it was but from the answer I could infer that it was Vlieland. (Complicated by the fact that they said “in clear weather you can see Hannover from here, that’s a very big city”. I know that Hannover is a very big city, but I’m pretty sure you can’t see it even from the German Wadden Islands!)

 

Reading notes, week 6

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See the new layout! There’s a nonfiction section now, expecting that at any time I’ll have a number of books I’m dipping into but will not read from beginning to end in one go like fiction. I won’t tag ongoing nonfiction books, though I will tag currently-reading books (and untag them when they spill over the weekend). It’s becoming second nature to make a new post every Sunday morning while the prosphora bake, and pin it to my mastodon and twitter profiles.

February 8: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. Reread, sort of randomly selected from what was on the ereader. Now thinking I should probably have started The Hero and the Crown first (gah prequels published later) but I’m into this now and it turns out very different than I remember. Better, in fact! It miraculously escaped all the “colonial fantasy” and “white savior” tropes.

February 6: A wonderful essay about (drinking) glasses by J.W.F. Werumeus Buning, read aloud by Spouse when we had a friend over. Antidote to our shared anger (at two separate people, incidentally with the same first name, which was confusing; about different things though).

February 5: The Redundant Man Who Was Redundant by Alexandra Erin. DNF because I saw where it was going. Fun buildup but I could have done without the horror element.

February 4: Crucible, All-New Tales of Valdemar, edited by Mercedes Lackey. Official author-approved fanfic, basically. Very mixed bag. I read some of the stories before, either because they’re in a different collection or because I was only reading stories that immediately interested me the first time around (that would explain why I skipped some stories about non-human inhabitants of Valdemar, but not why I skipped the story about the bard).

Pünktchen und Anton by Erich Kästner. Not as much fun as the other two because of sexism, probably “product of its time” but no less annoying for that. Kästner also doesn’t seem to like adult women who aren’t devoted mothers, servants or teachers. And disapproves of peeking at the ending of a book because he thinks it spoils the fun. (I agree with his mother: it’s much better to read a book, especially of suspense, if you don’t need to worry about the ending.) Almost put it aside because the small annoyances were piling up, not the least all the moralising near the end. Definitely hasn’t aged well.

The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander, fixing conversion errors as I go. Slightly fewer errors than The Black Cauldron, which was really excruciatingly bad (but I had an easy workflow after a while). I’m a bit fed up with the style, but not with the story, and I intend to finish the series this way.

February 3: The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander. Fixing the text alerts me to a ‘trick’ the author uses in long stretches of dialogue: not only typographical (ending a paragraph without quotes and beginning the next paragraph with quotes, which irks me more and more) but also stylistic, having a character resume and mentioning their name or name-substitute again. (“This,” the annoyed blogger continued, “is what I mean.”) I wouldn’t mind if he did it occasionally but he does it ALL THE TIME.

Little Things, written by someone who liked Carpetbaggers and wanted more Narnia stories too. The author tags it “dystopia” — their idea of dystopia must be very far from mine! It’s hopeful and touching.

The Last Defense of Cair Paravel, Carpetbaggers #3. A tragedy (as you might suspect by the title) but ending on a hopeful note.

The Cave in Deerfield, another Carpetbaggers story. CW: implied off-screen character death and strongly implied TPK.

Carpetbaggers (Narnia fanfic): what happened after the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I thought I’d read it already but apparently not [ETA: that was the Deerfield story], I would have remembered all the grit! (Not nasty grit, though some of it is painful.) Excellent characterization of the Pevensies, perhaps better than Lewis himself, and some very good new characters. When I was finding the link I noticed that there are two more in the series and downloaded those too.

Earlier reading notes: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5

 

Reading notes, week 5

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February 1: The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, because of this post on Tor.com. I had my very badly converted epub open in calibre’s edit mode and fixed each chapter while/before reading. Now I want to read the others as well but I might wait a couple of days if they need fixing too.

January 31: Das fliegende Klassenzimmer by Erich Kästner. I should have read that a month ago, because it’s so much a Christmas story. I cried a bit at appropriate moments.

January 28: Liar’s Dice by Jeannie Lin. This is a novella, offered cheap as a sample for a whole series, but I don’t think I need to read the rest: historical romance, even with mystery mixed in, isn’t my favourite genre. Some romance duly happened (meh, why does it need to be that person? Oh, because they were the only one available, the others were the protag’s siblings/servants/already married to each other), fortunately much less cringeworthy than it looked at first. I liked the historical background and the way the characters’ motivations got revealed. Final verdict: excellent, just happens not to be my catnip.

January 27: Das doppelte Lottchen by Erich Kästner. From a Twitter conversation. The new English translation is, sadly, called The Parent Trap to tie in with a movie that has only the basic premise in common with it. People, especially children, who want to read the book because they loved the movie might be disappointed (and vice versa).

Earlier reading notes: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

 

Reading notes, week 4

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January 25: Tales from Perach (reread) by Shira Glassman, because something that happened in A Harvest of Ripe Figs made something in one of the stories much clearer.

January 25: A Harvest of Ripe Figs by Shira Glassman. I bought the two Mangoverse books I didn’t have yet and don’t want to stop after The Second Mango. I like it when queens do their own detective work!

January 25: The Second Mango by Shira Glassman, as unicorn[1] chaser for Artists in Crime. It’s the first, and that shows, it doesn’t have the easy swing of the others yet, but full of nice people (and a couple of nasty people who are Dealt With). I’m reading it as a prequel but that works perfectly because it’s got large flashbacks itself.

[1] No unicorn though, only a big not-quite-a-mare that can turn into a green dragon.

January 23: Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh. Seems to be one of the less irritating ones. Finished it, though it was hard going. I remember now why I stopped reading Ngaio Marsh: pretty much all the characters are annoying unpleasant people. And they smoke so much! I wish I’d counted from the beginning because I don’t want to go through it again to mark every time someone lights a cigarette. Long enough since previous reading that I didn’t remember whodunnit. It’s foreshadowed rather cunningly, though (never said she was a bad writer, just that her characters are unlikeable).

January 19: Mio, min Mio by Astrid Lindgren (in translation). Childhood favourite, still gives me all the feels (but I didn’t remember the genie at the beginning!).

January 19: Het spiegelkasteel by Paul Biegel (exists in English as The Looking-Glass Castle). Somewhat more symbolic and less plotty than I remembered, a magical mystery tour rather than a magical journey.

January 19: The third Shakespeare and Smythe, Much Ado About Murder. More of the same but hard to stop. I can’t read on in #4 though: Kobo has never heard of it, only of Simon Hawke’s Star Trek novels (the one I’ve got is rather military and that’s not what I want to read right now). Shakespeare and Smythe did get ever more splainy as I read on, and retreading the earlier books, so perhaps it’s all for the best.

Earlier reading notes: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3