September things

According to LibraryThing, September was my best reading month this year — five books! It feels like an accomplishment, when in my reading heyday I read five books or more a week.  Still, it’s an improvement.


I spent the last two weeks in Toronto, visiting museums, walking all over, and watching All the Hockey.  Literally, I attended sixteen World Cup of Hockey games in 13 days.  Twelve of those games were crammed into six days.  Some of them are a blur, but for some really specific plays, like Nathan MacKinnon’s OT goal; Crosby’s highway robbery of Kucherov and backhand goal; a shift by Malkin behind the net in which he seemed to have the puck on a string; McDavid to Eichel to Matthews; etc.

Non-hockey highlights:

  • the Chihuly exhibit at ROM – I could have happily plopped myself down on one of the beanbag things and stared at ‘Persians’ for hours
  • steamed pork buns at Mashion Bakery, which I found by chance, lured in by the amazing smell despite the sort of sketchy block and very plain exterior
  • people-watching at the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday morning (I chatted with a lovely lady visiting from New Jersey with her church group)
  • Stonemill Bakery’s double almond croissant
  • the Seville orange marzipan pinch at Soma Chocolate
  • my charming seat mates, the family from Woodstock and the dudes in from Banff, and the usher whose predictions were seldom accurate but always entertaining
  • everything about the Bata Shoe Museum and the Gardiner Museum (ceramics)
  • the display of antique snuff bottles at AGO


Other observations:  The building going on downtown is striking — there’s so much of it and it’s so beautiful.  I stayed in the St. Lawrence/Distillery neighborhood and walked pretty much everywhere, as far as Spadina and Little Italy.  Lots of green spaces, friendly people.  I noticed a lot of smokers everywhere, almost as much as in Paris, which surprised me.  And the odor of pot was especially prevalent around ACC.

And my streak continues.  Once again in a foreign country (or in any city I’m visiting, even in the US), I was asked for directions.  On multiple occasions.  I do not understand it.  I mean, I was able to answer because they were asking for a specific landmark or street that I knew, but what about my face or posture says, “Hey, she knows where you need to go?”  Because, seriously, I have a horrendous sense of direction.

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Last beach read

Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox is the last of my beach reads. It was fine as a beach read, but I don’t feel a particular urge to read the second book of the duology. I liked the idea of the plot, but the world building felt kind of weak: a sort of England/European world but clearly not…until there were pop culture references (music) that jarred me out of the fantasy world.


As part of my partial season ticket plan (5 games), I received tickets to the two pre-tournament World Cup of Hockey games played in DC:  USA-FIN today and EUR-SWE tomorrow.  I can’t do back to back games during the work week, so I picked EUR-SWE and gave tonight’s tickets to a friend, who is having a great time.  I picked tomorrow in part because there are more Penguins on SWE than are on USA and FIN in total (only Olli Maatta, who needs umlauts on those As), but also because I am not impressed with Team USA’s roster, its head coach, his team/game philosophy, or his stance on the anthem.  (Which, lbr, is a non-issue in hockey, the whitest sport on Earth.)  I’m not sure who I’m going to cheer for; the choices are RUS (Malkin), SWE (Hagelin, Hornqvist), North America (Murray) or FIN (Maatta).

Also on a cranky note:  why, Apple?  I want to come back to you, but I’m not giving up a universal, wired earbud jack for airpods or accepting the crappy work-around Apple has planned.  First, I lose earbuds all the time; and I buy cheap ones for this reason.  No wires means it will be easy to lose the airpods.  Also, wired earbuds are a defense mechanism for me (and for many, many women); I’m not giving them up because Apple  wants to sell more proprietary peripherals.  Did Apple test these with women?  Or just ignore the opinions of half the audience in their usual arrogance?  Yeah, no, I’m not giving up my wired earbuds and if that means I’m not going back to iPhone, so be it.

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Second beach read

I’ve had Our Kind of Traitor to be read since the beginning of summer.  I meant to read it in time to see the movie, but I missed the movie in theaters and have only just finished reading the book.

It was…kind of a drudge.  I mean, it wasn’t badly written, in terms of language and narrative.  It was just dour in the way that Le Carre is.  He’s got a particular world view that is present in all of his work as far as I can tell.  (Or maybe just the few books I’ve tried?)  And I find it to be less than engaging; it seems (to me) replete with casual misogyny, classism/racism, and a sort of Cold War remnant worldview.  All of the characters in this book were cliches or stereotypes.  There was an arc of sorts but little or no resolution.  I need to remember in future that he’s not to my taste.


Apprentice in Death by JD Robb

Why can’t I quit this series?  The story lines are stale or recycled.  The editing is sloppy.  Meh.


Today’s beach events have me wondering if social scientists have looked at beach etiquette.  There are square miles of empty beach; why drop your umbrella two feet away from a stranger’s umbrella?  Cell phones mean you can have that conversation anywhere; but should you have a conversation about what sounds like confidential work stuff while screaming over the waves and gulls on a beach full of strangers? What is the psychology or sociology that has people do this kind of stuff?  Or smoke on the beach, or track sand on someone else’s blankets/towels, or play a radio without earbuds, etc?

One of my beachy neighbors failed to secure their umbrella today.  As the wind picked up, the umbrella took off, whacking me in the throat with the pointy end hard enough to knock me down (I was standing and didn’t see it coming until the last moment).  The underside of my chin has a huge welt, along with my cheek and the side of my neck, despite icing.  I’ve got a weird throat/ear ache and it kind of hurts to swallow.  If it still hurts in the morning, I may try to get a doctor’s appointment and head home early😦


ETA: I’ve finished listening to the first of five sections of Middle March.  The sections are based on size/time, not by chapter or book section.  But it’s still further than I’ve ever managed to get when attempting to read it in paper or ebook.  I like the reader’s voice, but I don’t really care about any of the characters so far.



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First beach read

Subtropical Storm Hermine largely missed Delmarva, but you’d never guess that based on how empty the beach has been.  Very high wind and rough surf are keeping the people who didn’t leave early off the beach.  I spent most of this morning sitting on the beach, wrapped in a hoodie and beach towel, reading the first of my beach books.

I’m sure I’ve read reviews of Barbara Pym before, or at least I recognized her name and associated it with English, post-war novels.  No Fond Return of Love, originally published in 1961 and reprinted in 2014, has a colorful cover that caught my eye at the UBS.

Dulcie Mainwaring is always helping others, but never looks out for herself — especially in the realm of love. Her friend Viola is besotted by the alluring Dr Aylwin Forbes, so surely it isn’t prying if Dulcie helps things along? Aylwin, however, is smitten with Dulcie’s pretty young niece. And perhaps Dulcie herself, however ridiculous it might be, is falling, just a little, for Aylwin.  Once life’s little humiliations are played out, maybe love will be returned, and fondly after all . . .

The blurb is both technically accurate and not quite right.  And it’s hugely spoilerish.

The narration head hops A LOT.

On one hand, I enjoyed the window into post-WWII suburban London; in some ways the book is sort of Austen-ish in its observation of the lives of Dulcie, Viola, and everyone in their social orbit.  On the other hand, Dulcie and Viola seemed kind of creepy and stalkerish, looking up Aylwin’s brother and estranged wife and mother.  I’m not sure how to take the ending; it felt kind of backhanded and second-best. Meh.

Beyond that, a single line in the book made me really uncomfortable because it is blatantly racist and insulting.  One character is thinking about an imaginary dog named Ni**er or Rover.  The sentence brought me to a halt reading.  Then I had to Google that as a dog’s name (there was a famous black dog by that name, apparently).  Still makes me cringe.  I’m a little surprised it wasn’t edited in the new releases/versions.

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The Princess Bride is everywhere

When a federal district court judge opens his order denying a motion to dismiss with a movie quote (footnoted), I feel like it is safe to say something has achieved a pretty solid level of pop culture saturation.

Judge Wright of the Central District in California opens his order with, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”  He’s talking about TJMaxx’s use of “compare at”, which is an estimate only and not an actual price comparison according to the fine print on the company website and a sign in the store.  Is that deceptive, an unfair business practice or false advertising?  The court says the plaintiffs have sufficiently pled and that there are questions of law and fact, so the motion to dismiss is denied.  But not before working in “inconceivable” and a mention of the elusive six-fingered man.

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Reading for July

In addition to the books I mentioned in the last post, I managed to also read Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent.  It is the first of four books (at present) set in a fantasy world that is rather like our Earth in the 19th century but with a different date system, slightly different religion, and with dragons.  The social norms, along with geopolitics and industry, seem to be more or less lifted from Georgian to Victorian England.  On one hand, it was sort of an interesting conceit; other the other hand, it read like the diary of a privileged English woman who was an ignorant and ugly tourist, casually disregarding and stomping on other people’s beliefs, cultures, and ways of life in pursuit of her personal interests.  I finished the first book, but the beginning of the second book irritated me so much that it hit the wall.  The narrator came off as a selfish, self-indulgent twit.  Nope.

On to the next library book, a translation of Patrick Modiano’s In the Cafe of Lost Youth.


Stopped at Poupon today for lunch and they had an amazing special.  I’m not sure if they would call it a tart or cake or what; it was a single layer cake with amarena cherries baked in and candied orange peel and slivered almonds on top.  It was amazing.  And it seemed simple enough that I could probably make it without ruining it.

They were also preparing for one of the DC farmer’s markets, beautiful puff pastry rectangles that were going to be filled with spinach and asparagus and pesto.  They looked good enough that I regretted not being able to have one for lunch…but not enough for me to schlep into DC on a day off.


Late to the party, as usual, but I finally saw Ghostbusters.  Look, I vaguely remember seeing the first Ghostbusters as a kid with memories of nothing but the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man; rewatched as an adult, it is Just Bad.  Is this new one going to win Best Screenplay?  Nope, but it made me laugh, and I loved the ladies.  I loved that they relied on each other and defended each other and didn’t expect men to rescue them or solve their problems.  I loved that in their big fight scene, they wore fight-appropriate clothing that wasn’t gratuitously torn or slashed to show skin.  While I appreciated the flipping of the dumb blonde trope to a dumb blond, I just didn’t care about Kevin…mostly because I can never remember which Chris is which and don’t find any of them to be particularly attractive.

In terms of the Chris thing, I have a similar problem with the new Star Trek series.  I just don’t care about Kirk or Spock – I think they are both acted in a terribly wooden fashion and the Vulcan’s bowl cut does him no favors.  Give me more Uhura, more Sulu, more Bones, more of the newly introduced Jaylah, or the curiously missing Carol Marcus.

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Checking in

Well, I have failed at reading Middlemarch.  Again.  But I’ve started listening to the audio book, narrated by Juliet Stevenson (whose Persuasion I enjoyed), so maybe I’ll get through it in that medium.

A couple of other books from the library have been slightly more successful.  About A Girl by Lindsey Kelk read as fluffy chick lit, a lighter version of early Marian Keyes.  It was fine; I probably would have really enjoyed it 10 years ago and gone looking for the sequel, but now it reads as pretty derivative to me.  Olivia de Havilland’s memoir, Every Frenchman Has One, was charming.  It was dated, of course, and narrated a lifestyle that seems as alien and distant to me as medieval England or China under the Han dynasty.

I ran across an interview with Lois McMaster-Bujold in which she talked about self-publishing her work as electronic rights became/become available, along with a Penric short story.  The story, Penric and the Shaman, was a lovely little adventure; it went over much better for me than her last full book.

Currently I’m reading one of Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries, and I’ve got a Le Carre novel up next; the one that has been turned into a movie recently (out this summer), its title escapes me at the moment.  There are a couple of library books sitting on the table, as well.  After that, who knows.  It’ll be time to pick out some beach reads by the time I finish all that up…assuming I manage to finish them.

Saw Love & Friendship, which was quite funny; I’d recommend it not only for the costumes and set decoration but for the acting and writing of the screenplay.


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