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February and March reads

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley – This is an older/earlier book, and it shows in the development of the plot, such as it is.  The ending of the baby mystery was out of nowhere and didn’t really fit with the tone of the rest of the piece.  It felt sort of wedged in, as if the author had written herself into a corner with the paranormal bit and then – voila! – came up with a practical/real solution that hadn’t been signaled in any way earlier in the book.

Echoes in Death by J.D Robb – Meh. Guessed whodunnit as soon as the character was introduced and the “twist” earlier on (during the post mortem).

The Chemist  by Stephenie Meyer  – Really trope-y heroine. Dreamy and not really believable hero. Split with twin to get all skills. Author had a couple of faux pas re: DC, especially re the Metro (there are no ladies rooms in Metro stops).

Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs – Glad this was a library loaner, because paying for it would have irritated me.  Miscellaneous sloppy typos missed in copy edits (the for then, ambitions for ambitious, etc.).  Disjointed narration. If you have to tell me at the outset of each chapter the setting, then you are doing something wrong, too much telling. More everyone loves Mercy. More power pulled out of nowhere to serve the plot. Meh.

Mira’s Last Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold – The writing was fine, but this novella felt kind of purposeless to me.  Penric’s situation wasn’t really advanced from the end of the last story, on the run with a potential ladylove and her refugee brother.  They are in a slightly safer locale, but the conflict isn’t resolved or even moved forward at all.  It was vaguely interesting to get a different personality of Desdemona has a role, but absent actual progression, I felt like the novella was a disappointment; I wouldn’t call in a money-grab, exactly, but it felt purposeless and like fluff or filler.

Currently reading Empires of Light (nonfiction) and a biography of Ida Tarbell.

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January reading

I finished three books in January!  There was a time when three books read in a week would have been a slow week, but at this point of my multi-year reading slump, I’m thrilled by three in a month.

  1.  The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles.
  2. Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman – really interesting look at some of the more popular spices of American cooking, which aren’t all exactly what I was expecting.
  3. City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong – new mystery series, female detective as narrator, found on the new books rack at the library.  I like the premise of the book and series, but the whodunit was given pretty short shrift in the end, all TELL TELL TELL rather than show.  It was disappointing, given all of the set up, but maybe a function of being the first in a new series.  I’d be willing to try the next book in the series.

Non-book consumer-y things lately:

  1. Graze – tried it after hearing an add on Gastropod (I think).  I like the ability to select flavors or block ingredients.  The weekly box is too much, but maybe every other week.  Or just buying certain snacks.  So far, my favorite snack is the cocoa orange bites, which come with green tea.
  2. Third Love – bras.  Not cheap, but really comfortable and well-fitting.  Also, they ship and you have 30 days to try and return, which is not something you can generally do with bras
  3. MeUndies – Xmas gift!  Love these, so comfortable.  Most of the patterns aren’t really me, but they are comfortable enough that I don’t care.

 

 

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The Hanging Tree

This was better than the last book.  Primarily because it was set in London and was centered around the Faceless Man.

But there were still some irritating things.  First, the complete absence of direct address commas.  Where have they all gone, editors?  Second, references to events that occurred in the graphic novels.  Aaronovitch has spent a lot of time and creative energy on them, I get it, but they are a completely different media that not everyone enjoys, and it is irritating as hell to see something, and making a reference to them as canon is a way to alienate some readers. Third, a lot of the characters and events of this book felt like they’d retconned by Aaronovitch to me in some ways.  Tyburn suddenly likes Peter on a personal level?  And other stuff that would be serious spoilers.  But some of it felt really inconsistent with the world as previously established.  Unless, of course, Peter as narrator is even more unreliable that I thought.

Eh.

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A little bit of reading

Someone mentioned on social media that they had the new Bujold to read, which made me go see what she has new out.  A Penric novella!  Nice.  It was a quick read, but good, a peek into Penric and Desdemona several years down the road from the last novella.  Bujold does well in a shorter format, I think.

Other than that, the only things I’ve read lately are a re-read and the third book in K.A. Mitchell’s Ready or Not series.  Eh, not the best book of the series.  I didn’t believe either character had any real growth and didn’t believe the HEA at all.

The re-read was of the most recent Kate Daniels book.  Reading it, I’m frustrated because I like Andrews’ voice but find the world-building and character-building to be inconsistent and wobbly.  Also, there are a lot of inconsistencies if you read carefully, and it isn’t clear if it is planned and a function of tight POV via Kate or retconning.  I’d like to think it was a POV function but there are enough sloppy errors or blips in the series that assuming that seems risky.  (Ex: Doolittle has two different first names depending on which book you read; Derek will never howl again we are told, only to have him howl repeatedly; changes in the capacity for post-Shift technology; basic math and time/date/counting errors; etc.)

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I’ve watched the first two episodes of The Crown on Netflix.  Wow, so good.

Also watching Pitch, usually on demand.  Love Ginny and Amelia and the whole cast, really.

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Project-wise, the throw blanket I am working on as a gift is probably not going to be finished in time for Christmas.  I’m not sure if I’ll just give it as an other/odd day gift or wrap a couple of sections of it as a promise to be finished.

But I did finish a scarf to match my awesome new hat, and am about 40% finished with a copy of it for a colleague who admired it and asked if I could make them one.  It’s pretty easy to knock one out, easier than the throw blanket sections, which are less portable and thus less able to be worked on during my commute.

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I went to the Pens-Caps game on Wednesday.  It was a mess.  I decided after attending the San Jose game the week before that I would not be renewing my partial season ticket plan next year, and this game reinforced that decision. I hate the forced patriotism and rampant military hero worship encouraged or forced on and by the crowd.  I find the crowd to be pretty ugly in general, and it’s worse when the Penguins come to town.  Two women behind me spent the whole game saying that wanted Crosby, Malkin, Letang, et al. to be boarded or hit or knocked out of the game, often when none of them were on the ice.  (Note: these were Trump supporters who compared Crosby talking to refs during the disaster of a game with 9 penalties to “protesters” who should “shut up and go back to work”.)

I’m pretty sure they could tell how uncomfortable they were making me, because they asked which Caps player I felt similarly about, a player I hate.  It’s like they wanted me to justify their ugliness.  Here’s the thing: I don’t dislike any Caps player enough to want them to be hospitalized or their career ended by a hit the way they described.  I don’t care* enough about any Capitals player to bother.  There are players I refuse to watch play, for whom I would feel no pity if their stats fell off a cliff and they were waived or were cut (not Capitals players), but but hating professional athletes is as big a waste of time as hating a particular actor or musician.  Just change the channel.  The Capitals’ roster is only relevant to me when they are playing a team I like, which is usually only 9 or 10 times per season between the Penguins, Predators, and Sharks.

*There are players I think are overrated or overpaid or overhyped.  For example, I think Ovechkin is the best pure goal scorer of his generation, but he’s an inveterate diver and lays a lot of late hits that don’t get called.  Orpik hits like a truck but is way overpaid for being the 4th or 5th dman.  Oshie and Tom Wilson remind me (in a not flattering way) of the douchiest frat bros I knew in college.  But do I hate them?  Nah, it’s not worth the emotional energy.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 😦

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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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