Directionally impaired

I pulled The Viscount Who Loved Me off the shelf to reread in light of the Bridgerton series. I’m not sure it will age well.

But I’m also not sure I’ll get past little things. Early on Anthony is thinking (or the narrator maybe) as an aside “…since he’d left Oxford and headed west to London…”. No. London is east of Oxford. What?

I get that the family is from Kent, so if he was going from Kent to London, he would head west. But that’s not how the sentence reads. It yanked me right out of the story.

Is it pedantic of me? Yes. But I am who I am. And maps were a thing, even in 2000 when this was published. Be accurate about basics (or be precise in your language) or I’m done. Sorry not sorry.

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Bridgerton – what to think? – SPOILERS

I read Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me years and years ago, and loved it. Then I went back and read The Duke and I and despised it. Like rip the book apart at the seams and set it on fire hated it. I hated the marital rape – that’s what it was and flipping gender didn’t change that. I hated the whole true love changes people’s minds about wanting children. Hated it. I think I read a couple of the other Bridgerton books that followed but couldn’t say for sure – this all happened before I started using LibraryThing to track my reading, and I can’t find anything on my old LiveJournal (which is imported here to WordPress and dates back to 2005 o_o).

So I’m maybe not the target audience for Shondaland’s Bridgerton on Netflix. I was iffy about it based on the first 5-10 minutes, but a couple of people in Romancelandia Twitter were saying good things, so…

It works as historical fantasy, emphasis on the fantasy. The costuming and sets and all are…not really accurate but are lovely. The actors playing Daphne and Simon have amazing chemistry, and Simon (played by Rege-Jean Page) is smoking hot, with amazing waistcoats and a voice and a gaze to die for. Lady Danbury’s casting is A+. A bunch of things were added or changed in ways that presumably aid in the visual nature of television storytelling, but which were kind of ~meh~ otherwise. [I’m looking at the change in Anthony’s character, and the added Featherington family subplots.] The director clearly watched earlier Austen adaptations with all the restraint and unresolved sexual tension, and decided to resolve it here. Repeatedly. And leave NOTHING on the cutting room floor.

And I was enjoying the series. Until episode 6. With all of the other things that were changed, why was the marital rape not changed? With an added layer of grossness due to a white character ignoring a stated lack of consent by a Black character. It’s just…ugly. I have mixed feelings about Daphne generally, and about the ignorance she went into marriage with, and the way Simon took advantage of that – he knew she had no idea what he was doing. And his wordplay – cannot have children is not the same as will not – is disingenuous and deceptive at best. But she clearly did what she did intentionally, and didn’t bother to understand why until after the fact.

Part of me wants to go re-read the book, to see if the aftermath is handled better there. Because watching the remainder of episodes, all I could think was that if they were a modern couple they would need so much therapy and to actually talk to each other, but my expectation for an HEA for a historical couple was low. I didn’t really buy Simon’s jump from no children ever to happy to be a dad without some kind of exposition about how he and Daphne talked to each other about how abusive his father was and the damage it did to him as a child. But I don’t have the book and am not inclined to buy a copy since I wanted to set it on fire the first time around.

ETA: one of the added subplots involves a very sympathetic WoC who is wedged into an ugly, semi-villainous position. I felt sorry for her, and thought she deserved better from *everyone* around her, and completely understood the choices she made. I don’t really know what to say about it and defer to readers and watchers of color.

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Radio silence

You’d think that working from home and limiting travel and movement and socializing would make me more likely to blog. I’m spending time online, mostly doom-scrolling, and haven’t had the attention span to read much or to write anything other than gibberish. Or even just gibberish.

On the reading front, I managed to finish two books and one novella. One of the books was a sort of hate read, which is weird but there you go.

The Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. This reads as the wrap up of the series, and does a pretty good job of showing Eugenides as Attolis and annux, but also still the embodiment of the god of thieves when needed.

Masquerade in Lodi by Lois McMaster Bujold. Another entry in the Penric series, but this one earlier in the timeline. Enjoyable, but now that I’ve noticed how very Miles-like Penric’s adventures and personality are, it seems derivative despite the very different setting.

Shadows in Death by JD Robb. This was the hate read. Robb’s style flows well and the world building is familiar. I’m just disgusted by the disregard for civil rights and criminal procedure. Frankly, the excusing of Roarke’s criminal past seems less and less acceptable the longer the series stretches on, though not necessarily out of place with the idea of him being a billionaire. Restrains self from a written rant about how billionaires become billionaires in generally unsavory ways. Why do I keep borrowing these from the library? Also, I have Thoughts about the fictional NYPSD as successor to current day NYPD, with its terrible warts and union, but this is not the place for them. [Wow, apparently this series makes me want to say a lot about social issues and economics, which is maybe not what the author would have expected. ]

I’m currently reading Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back, which is very readable and speaks to me as a fan with qualms about the health effects and inequality I see in my favorite sports. Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is waiting for me via library hold, and a copy of the first volume of Barack Obama’s memoirs is sitting on my coffee table, waiting its turn.

I haven’t managed to watch much new other than the new series of the Great British Bake Off and Trust (FX). Oh, wait, I finally watched Schitt’s Creek. I…did not love it as much as other people seem to. I never really got rid of the feeling that the Rose family felt better than the locals, who seemed to never grow past being cliches mostly. And the character of Moira Rose, with her affectations, grated on my nerves terribly. I did appreciate the growth of Alexis, and that Stevie got to try new things outside of the town. I don’t know. I could see the character arcs and themes, I just didn’t really care for the Roses getting their HEAs or their storylines wrapped up.

I’m keeping up with the Portuguese lessons on Duolingo and via the children’s language workbooks I found online. Someday I’ll be able to visit Portugal again, and I want to be slightly less useless when I do.

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Summer into fall

Went to Cape Cod last month. It was a relief to be away for a little bit. Work has continued to be a challenge for a variety of reasons. Family is mostly fine.

The passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg following John Lewis earlier this sumer has left me feeling disheartened and sad.

~~~

The Two-Date Rule by Tawna Fesky. This was an impulse purchase when I was in Target a month or so ago. I read it while at the beach. It was fine as a beach read, ultimately average, I guess, although I was not particularly sold on the HEA. An HFN ending probably would have been more believable, given how much therapy and/or growth both the h/h needed.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow. Picked this up in July when I visited Turn the Page bookstore on my western MD roadtrip. It’s YA fantasy in which Black girls and women are sirens and other mythological creatures. I thought it was well done and would recommend it, with the caveat that it kept making me do metaphorical double takes. It was published in 2020 but presumably was written earlier, possibly in 2019 or earlier, but it is very on point to what is going on in the US right now. It is set in Portland, and at one point the narrator and her friends go downtown for a protest, and during the scene with the White moms strategizing/planning for what to do if the protest gets out of control, all I could think of was the current Portland protests and violence. At one point the narrator muses about what it would take to get the country to care about the death/disappearance of a young Black woman, and all I could think of was Breonna Taylor’s death.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. This was a library borrow; it came up as a recommendation on my library’s site based on my borrowing history. I did not particularly care for it and am glad it was not a book I bought. The main character/narrator is…not particularly sympathetic or even likeable. It’s not really clear to me as a reader what his redeeming qualities were, other than that he loved his mother. The love interest was shallowly perfect, the conflict was predictable, and the background characters were caricatures of British Types that seemed to have been pulled directly from Notting Hill or Four Weddings and a Funeral. Was the author going for a farce? I don’t know, but I wish I had the time I spent reading this book back. I kept waiting for it to improve and it just didn’t. More fool me for not putting it down, I guess.

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty. End of the Daevabad trilogy. Liked it well enough, glad to have finished the trilogy, but it felt like it could easily have been half the length it was. And the ending felt a little series-bait-ish.

Recently watched The Old Guard. Really enjoyed it, although I have a lot of questions about the world building established in the graphic novels it is based on. Don’t love the art of the graphic novels, but have liked other work by Rucka. There’s a lot of really good meta about both the movie and the graphic novels on AO3, which I would recommend. And there is a huge amount of fan fiction and fan art on AO3 and tumblr. Fair warning though, I’ve clicked back out of A LOT of it, because the history and other things are Just Plain Wrong. WARNING RANT AHEAD. Ex: character reading French, Spanish and Italian books in a private collection in 1100. Aside from the idea that a non-wealthy or non-aristocratic person would just casually have a library/collection of books in the early 12th century, which seems unlikely, the languages listed are wrong. Linguistic history is not my strong suit, but I don’t think there was a singular, uniform language in those territories at that time. Spanish, which most people use to mean Castilian, was a language spoken on the Iberian peninsula then but by no means was it dominant at that point – it coexisted with Galician, Catalan, and other languages including Andalusi Romance and Andalusi Arabic. It would not have been called Spanish then, and I don’t think it was written at all until the next century, nor did it supplant Andalusi Romance until at least the next century, with Andalusi Arabic diminishing post-1492 (thanks, Nebrija). I assume similar for the French and Italian languages and their historical spread. The casual reference just makes me cringe, because it unthinkingly wraps up 1,000 years of cultural and linguistic imperialism (including 20th century minority language oppression), without any examination, which is sloppy and inconsistent with the other historical detail that the author clearly researched.

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dusts off blog

Not much going on in terms of reading published work lately. Read the Aaronovitch Waterstone’s short story compilation, Tales from the Folly, but not much else. I keep starting and stopping, and lack an attention span.

I’ve watched a fair amount of hockey the last few weeks. My team lost early, so I’m not invested in the teams remaining (other than my Western conference backup) and mostly cheering against teams – there are a couple of match-ups right now where I’d like for there to be some way for both teams to lose 😛

Watched The Old Guard a week or so after it came out, and have since consumed an excessive amount of AO3 material. There’s a crazy amount of analysis of the canon compared to history, as well as fiction. I haven’t picked up the source material (graphic novels) despite liking Rucka’s writing (Queen and Country!), because I really don’t care for the style of the art. Also, it feels like Rucka did not do a great deal of research or at least hasn’t written the comics to reflect it, and I’d rather not break my brain on bad/inaccurate history.

The B&N nearest me has announced that it is closing at the end of next week. I am not hugely surprised. They were *very* dependent on summer/tourist foot traffic, which is way, way down, and the space is huge and difficult to maintain. I’ll be sorry to see it go, but not really impacted. Maybe ten years ago, I visited on a weekly basis, but as it shifted more to games and novelties and gifts, and the fiction sections (other than YA) shrank and were moved around, I had less reason to visit to the point that I haven’t been since December. They almost never had anything I wanted in stock – I could order online for pickup there in a week, which sort of defeated the purpose, because if I could order it online, why wouldn’t I just have it delivered to my home?

Work has been exhausting in a way that it never has been before. I’m going to the beach in a couple of weeks, and cannot wait.

Also, since we are now teleworking until at least December, I now have magenta highlights/streaks in my hair. Because why not?

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Weekend travels

I hit the road on Friday for a couple of days Not At Home. It was pretty nice. Drove to Sharpsburg/Antietam; despite living in Maryland for the vast majority of my life, I’d never visited, not even on a field trip in grade school. Hopped off I-70 in Frederick and took the rural route. Lot of beautiful vistas, occasionally marred by political candidate signs. Just outside of town, but still on park land, there was a police cordon with a bunch of police cars: I caught a glimpse as I drove by, the statue on horseback had been graffiti’d – BLM and YOU LOST were among the things painted on it. When I drove by on my way home Sunday it had been completely draped in black and fenced off. Turns out it is a statue of Robert E. Lee…erected on private land in 2003 but now a part of the park.

The park itself is quite large with several different trails. On a less blazingly hot day, I would have spent more than 3 hours. Anyway, more walking on Saturday, but with more shade on the C&O trail out of Williamsport.

Stayed at a lovely farm/vineyard/B&B, hosted by a charming couple. The farm house, or the original part of it, is rather old and is decorated to match.

Visited Boonesboro on my wanderings around Washington County. I’ve never seen so many NR/JDR books in one place before. Their other selections were eclectic. Main street reminded me of my hometown as a teenager, maybe slightly better preserved.

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Recently read

Borrowed the new Nora Roberts novel, Hideaway, from the library. If I was a new NR reader, I probably would have found it engaging and original. But I’m not, having read most of her backlist and most of her romantic suspense. The plot and various elements felt repetitive of earlier books like The Search or Angels Fall or other books. I probably could have let that go – there’s comfort in knowing an author can deliver predictable enjoyment – but one scene early on soured the book for me. The local police (good guy! surfer dude!) violated the constitutional rights of the Bad Guy. Yes, he’s a Bad Guy. But that’s the whole point of constitutional rights: everyone is entitled to them, even when they’ve done bad shit. I get it: he’s not sympathetic, so I shouldn’t mind. No. That’s not okay. I do mind, and reading that casual disregard for rights and implicit approval of abuse by the police makes me side eye NR’s work more than I already do (see my previously expressed – either here or on other social media – about Eve Dallas’s casual disregard for criminal procedure).

Read NR Walker’s Throwing Hearts as well. It was kind of ~meh~. I liked the background romance of the older couple more than that of the narrators, whose conflict/issue felt really forced and unnecessary.

Signed up for Disney+ to get Hamilton; planning on canceling at the end of the month. It was worth the $6.99 for that plus The Mandalorian and some other material. Enjoyed it, particularly the staging, which of course was not evident from the soundtrack. Thought some of the editing choices were odd at times; focusing on single singers sometimes made sense and sometimes cut off the background activity that seemed relevant.

~~~~~

Despite promises at the gardening store that air plants are practically unkillable, I have killed an air plant. Even though I followed the care instructions faithfully. 😦

~~~~~

In theory, sports are returning to North America. Given the spikes due to premature reopening, this seems like a bad idea. One quote from an NHL player essentially said that they feel comfortable with the risks because the science says they’ll be okay since they are young, healthy athletes. Um, what science is he talking about? We have 6 months worth of data on recovery, and nothing about longer term impacts on health. The expectation that they won’t get sick because they are in good shape seems deluded to me. As a fan, I’d love for sports to be back, but as a human I want athletes to be able to live healthy lives today and well into the future, and I’m not sure the bubbles and protocols will be enough.

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It’s the little things

My local public library has a fairly good selection of ebooks and other electronic materials, so reading material was not exactly lacking during the shutdown of the city. But I tend to browse the stacks for books rather than borrow ebooks, unless there’s a new release or a book is unavailable in print locally. So I was thrilled when the library reopened for curbside service this week. One book I’d put on hold had arrived, so I arranged an appointment for the pick up Friday afternoon.

Bars and restaurants have opened with limited capacity, but I’m still not ready to eat out anywhere. Sticking to carry-out once a week as a treat.

Stepdad is improving, although more slowly than he would like. Mom is going back to the office next week part time; she’s pretty happy because the workspace has been reconfigured, so she’ll have a door that she can control, so people can’t come in at their convenience rather than hers. I’m worried about The Biochemist in Houston, because Texas’s cases are skyrocketing. I’m okay and my work is…fine? We will be teleworking until Labor Day at least now.

I read an article on Friday about the cost per person to return employees to big firms in NYC – as much as $18,000/person depending on remediation efforts. NYC prices are out of whack generally, but even if it is half that here, that’s a budget killer. We have singles; shared offices with two or three people; work spaces with anywhere from 6-15 people; carrels in open areas; etc. I can’t even begin to imagine how to reallocate space. Office space is already a hugely touchy issue that is mediated by the union and the collective bargaining agreement, plus GSA standards. Add in the kitchens/lunch spaces – ugh – the one in my space is among the nicest in the building, and people who work nowhere nearby congregate there for lunch and to watch sports occasionally – how does it get used now? Are people comfortable using the common area fridge? Mini fridges violate our lease (and the building manager affirmatively looks for them), so then what? What about the common area microwaves? Or the communal coffeepot and Keurig and toaster, all donated by various staff.

One colleague is buggering off to the beach, where her inlaws have a house. She’ll work part time. Another is planning on going to the Outer Banks for a couple of weeks, and working part time from there. A third is going also to the Outer Banks (a different town) and planning on NOT WORKING AT ALL. I was looking at the calendar and doing the math: I have more than 3 weeks of leave to use or lose so I need to start thinking about how to use them. Most of the places I want to go would require flying or at least two days of driving. I need to sit down with some back issues of AAA to look at day trips in the mid Atlantic.

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Bouncing among books

I picked up Color of Law again because it seems timely. Put down Lafayette in the Somewhat United States: Vowell’s style just doesn’t work for me. Enjoyed Bujold’s novella, The Physicians of Vilnoc, a Penric and Desdemona story that suits today in some ways; I can’t decide if the resolution works because it is so simple and pat within the story itself or if it just frustrates me given that is not a realistic expectation for our current parallel. I pulled Zinn’s History off the shelf, but I’m not going to re-read it until I’ve finished CoL. At some point I want to resume reading Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton – I set it down a few years ago about 1/3 in and haven’t gone back; after listening to the Hamilton soundtrack last week and noticing all of the liberties taken relative to that 1/3, I’m curious about the rest. And I kinda of wonder if fans of the musical realize *how* AU it is.

The Maryland primary election was held on 6/2, but the results for many of the Baltimore races – where the primary is effectively the general – weren’t finalized until 6/9 due to logistical issues involved in the mailing. [Which was NOTHING nearly as bad as Georgia’s election mess from this past week.] Anyway, the new mayor-to-be was trailing significantly before the mailed votes were finalized, and the then-leader was the former mayor who had resigned in 2010 and was charged with theft/corruption and perjury. I…really don’t understand that on a fundamental level.

Work has been as usual for the most part. The conference/training we were planning for August has been canceled and we’ll try to reschedule for next fiscal year; I just don’t think anyone will be willing or able to travel in August or even September. We have not been told anything about plans for after 7/15, when in theory we would go back to the office. But I don’t think it will happen. People have been asking about reimbursement for computer equipment at home since March and have been told no consistently, but that changed this week. Now a small amount is reimbursable as income, which makes me think they are preparing to tell us we should expect to be working from home for a while longer and people will need to improve their work at home setups.

Random thought brought to you by nice weather and my open windows: why do motorcyclists bother with radios? It’s been really noticeable lately, motorcyclists blasting music loud enough for the rider(s) to hear it, meaning loud enough to drown out the engine and to be heard for blocks around. That volume seems like it cannot possibly be healthy for the riders themselves long term.

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Week whatever of working from home: now with protests

Today’s Chomsky-esque translation exercise in Duolingo.

In other news, my neighborhood has been relatively quiet for the last week, given its proximity to staging for marches on Saturday and Monday. Lot of helicopters Monday. Woke at 3am this morning to a fire alarm: not my smoke detector but the piercing, building-wide wail that I’ve only heard during tests before. Unknown people set the recycling and trash on the curb on fire. Fire department was on scene before everyone was out of the building, and there’s no damage to the building, but it’s disturbing in retrospect. Went for a walk south this evening, after walking north and west the last couple of days. A bunch of small businesses have boarded up but have signs that they are open still. Not all have. I think most of the boarded businesses were damaged in 2015 and did it as a precaution this time around.

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