Humouress in 2021; 2021 vision, the new normal (thread 2)

Questo è il seguito della conversazione Humouress in 2021; putting 2020 in hindsight (thread 1).

Questa conversazione è stata continuata da Humouress in 2021; third quarter (thread 3).

Conversazioni75 Books Challenge for 2021

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Humouress in 2021; 2021 vision, the new normal (thread 2)

1humouress
Modificato: Maggio 5, 6:29am

You know me; I'm Nina, currently living in Singapore with my husband, two boys and - the star of the show - Jasper their/ our dog. My sons are superboy - but, sadly, he's given up reading though he used to be keen - and firelion, who still likes to read but a year ago (end of 2019) he got his first phone for his birthday and then at the beginning of the year he got a laptop (supposedly) for schoolwork so he's getting ...er ... distracted too.

2020 was a tough year for everyone but Singapore - trading on its SARS experience - got off fairly lightly (touch wood) and the upside for me was that I had a good reading year; I met the 75 book challenge for the first time since joining it in 2010 and exceeded it, finally reading 89 books in the year. I must confess that the lockdown/ circuit breaker period was relatively painless with my husband and kids tucked safely at home even though they had to work and study from home. My husband and I even got out of the house for walks - although that faded quite fast - and we finally got our act together and (as a family) taught our youngest how to ride a bicycle. Unfortunately, whatever exercise classes I was doing were cancelled and are very slowly starting again, for the most part, so I've had more excuses not to exercise ... and you can tell :0/

My preferred reading genres are fantasy and sci-fi with a touch of golden age humour, mysteries and the occasional school story though I'll venture further afield (very) occasionally. I also have a heap of cookbooks which, really, I ought to crack open and experiment with.


Organising my bookshelves

Please be welcome. I do tend to lurk on other people's threads rather than post - I've discovered a tendency this past year to read but not comment or to just make very brief comments - though sometimes I do get a bit chatty and end up leaving an essay.

75 Book Challenge 2021 thread 1

75 Book Challenge 2020 thread 1
75 Book Challenge 2020 thread 5

Green Dragon 2019 thread

ROOTs 2021 thread
ROOTs 2020 thread

>2 ticker & covers (this thread)
>3 books (this thread; 2nd quarter) June
>4 May
>5 April
>6 books (first thread; 1st quarter)

>7 constellation
>8 icons
>9 reading inspirations

>10 currently reading
>11

2humouress
Modificato: Lug 23, 1:01am



June
46. 45. 44

43. 42. 41. 40.
May
39. 38. 37.

36, 35, 34. 33. 32.

31. 30. 29. 28.

April
27. 26. 25. 24.

23. 22. 21. 20.

3humouress
Modificato: Lug 23, 1:04am

<>DNF: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (my e-library book expired 😢)

June
Review:
recorded/ rated/ written/ read
/ / (#) / Title

  46) The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad (2019)
  45) Graevale by Lynette Noni (2018)
  44) Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (2012)
  43) Bound in Blood by P.C. Hodgell (2010)
  42) Sorcerer's Son by Phyllis Eisenstein (1990)
  41) Crazy in Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling (2018)
  40) Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots (2020)

4humouress
Modificato: Maggio 31, 5:51am

May
Review:
recorded/ rated/ written/ read
/ / (#) / Title

39) The Sorcerer in the North by John Flanagan (2006)
  38) Crystal Dragon by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (2005)
  37) Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2016)
       36) An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn (2001)
    35) The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn (2006)
    34) The Duke and I by Julia Quinn (2000)
  33) Beyond the Empire by K.B. Wagers (2017)
  32) Draekora by Lynette Noni (2017)
  31) True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling (2017)
30) Point Blanc by Anthony Horowitz (2001)
  29) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power by Ryan North & Erica Henderson (2017)
  28) Who's That Earl by Susanna Craig (2020)

5humouress
Modificato: Maggio 8, 2:56am

April
Review:
recorded/ rated/ written/ read
/ / (#) / Title

  27) Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis & Tracey Hickman (1984)
    26) Fifth Quarter by Tanya Huff (1995)
  25) After the Crown by K.B. Wagers (2016)
    24) The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling (2016)
  23) Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley (2007)
  22) Frostgilded by Stephanie Burgis (2020)
  21) The Left-handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix (2020)
  20) The Switch by Beth O'Leary (2020)

6humouress
Modificato: Lug 16, 5:01am

DNF / on hold: The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Review:
recorded/ rated/ written/ read

/ / (#) / Title
March
  19) Mister Monday by Garth Nix (2003)
18) Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz (2000)
17) One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews (2016)
  16) The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (2019)
  15) Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers (2016)
  14) The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (2020)
13) Blue Moon Rising by Simon Green (1992)
12) The Politeness of Princes and Other School Stories by P.G. Wodehouse (1912/ 2002)
  11) The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary (2019)
10) The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay (2020)
   9) In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (2020)

February

  8) Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (2015)
  7) An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan (2003)
  6) The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer (2020)

January

    5) A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
4) Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear (2006)
  3) Crystal Soldier by Sharon Lee & Miller (2004)
  2) Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews (2015)
    1) City of Brass by S. Chakraborty (2017)

7humouress
Modificato: Maggio 5, 5:34pm

The constellation:

  You have got to read this one!                           
  Really good; worth reading                                 
     Good, but without that special 'something' for me   
      Very nice, but a few issues                                    
         An enjoyable book                                                   
         Um, okay. Has some redeeming qualities                   
              Writing is hard. I appreciate the work the author did    
             (haven't met one - yet)                                              
                  Dire                                                                            
                  Rated only as a warning. Run away. Don't stop.              

Purple stars, from Robin's thread:

5.0
4.5
4.0
3.5
3.0
2.5
2.0
1.5
1.0
0.5

Robin has made coloured stars for me (happy dance) so I'm back in business. The codes are now enshrined in my profile.

8humouress
Modificato: Maggio 8, 1:32am

Reading at home :

‘Waiting for the boys to finish classes’ book :

Bedtime reading :Tashi series (yes, still), Robin Hood, Swallows & Amazons
This one tends to go more slowly every month, now that only my 12 year old will occasionally listen to my reading.

Kindle :

Downtime : Skulduggery Pleasant



Book club Six of Crows (we haven't had a chance to meet & discuss for a while)

online story

audio book

Overdrive start line & bookmarks:
 
Blood and Iron
The Time of Green Magic

The Tiger's Daughter
The Game of Kings - (the story so far)
The Flatshare
The Politeness of Princes
The Switch
The Lefthanded Booksellers of London

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet


The Glass Magician
An Assembly Such as This
Sorcerer to the Crown
In a Holidaze
Behind the Throne

After The Crown
The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts

 
A Spy in the House
Mister Monday

The Fifth Quarter
Draekora

Libraries:

   

9humouress
Modificato: Apr 11, 4:05am

Reading inspirations

Ongoing series:

The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper
Chronicles of the Cheysuli - Jennifer Roberson
Chronicles of the Kencyrath - P. C. Hodgell (group read, started January 2018; thread 2)
Tashi - Anna Fienberg
The Vorkosigan Saga - Lois McMaster Bujold (2014-2017 group read - savouring it before I run out of these glorious books)
**Farseer (group read starting March 2018)
***The Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan (relaxed group read starting January 2019)
{Tor read https://www.tor.com/2018/02/20/reading-the-wheel-of-time-eye-of-the-world-part-1...

Planning to read with the kids:
A Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snickett
Ranger's Apprentice - John Flanagan (group read starting January 2019)

Ooh, what about...

Miss Fisher mysteries
Cinder
Vatta/Honor Harrington
*Ready Player One
Earthsea book 1

Mmm - looks like I need to pick up the pace on some of these.

10humouress
Apr 2, 1:22am

10

11humouress
Apr 2, 1:22am

11

12humouress
Modificato: Apr 2, 1:48am

12 Alrighty, come on in!

13humouress
Modificato: Maggio 3, 1:14pm

20) The Switch by Beth O'Leary



 

{Stand-alone. Chicklit, romance} (2020)

Leena Cotton is the youngest ever executive at her corporate management company but now, because of her long hours, she's burned out and ordered to take a two month sabbatical by her boss. On a visit to Yorkshire to visit her grandma, Eileen Cotton (whom she's named after) she impulsively decides that they should switch places for the two months so her grandmother can have the London adventure that she missed out on when she got married.

So Eileen goes down to London and organises Leena's friends' lives while Leena moves into her grandma's house and takes over her duties. Both of them are very organised, always making and ticking off their lists but the switch gives them, and their respective friends, a different perspective on life.

And they do need to move on because, just over a year before the story begins, Leena's younger sister Carla lost her battle with cancer. Leena will have to face her mother, whom she's angry with because she didn't want Carla to try an experimental procedure that Leena felt might have helped.

This is a book about families and friendships; the three Cotton ladies, their multitude of friends and the friends of theirs who have young children. Don't get me wrong, there is romance - more than one; in fact, several. (One criticism; there were a couple of 'movie moments' where two people accidentally ended up nose to nose to create romantic suspense that didn't quite ring true.) But the focus is on family, of all generations.

I liked this even more than O'Leary's The Flatshare.

3.5-4 stars

14PaulCranswick
Apr 2, 2:43am

Happy new one, neighbour!

15humouress
Apr 2, 2:44am

>14 PaulCranswick: Thank you Paul!

16FAMeulstee
Apr 2, 6:13am

Happy new thrad, Nina!

17charl08
Apr 2, 7:41am

New thread wishes from me too Nina. Hope you are lizard free.

18foggidawn
Apr 2, 8:25am

Happy new thread!

19drneutron
Apr 2, 9:46am

Happy new one!

20MickyFine
Apr 2, 10:29am

Happy new thread, Nina!

21curioussquared
Apr 2, 12:27pm

Happy new thread, Nina! I'm glad you enjoyed The Switch; I'm looking forward to O'Leary's new book coming out this year, The Road Trip.

22humouress
Apr 3, 2:59am

>16 FAMeulstee: Thank you Anita!

23humouress
Apr 3, 3:01am

>17 charl08: Thanks Charlotte!

We seem to be monitor lizard free (the geckos never really go away, unfortunately) although my husband says that he's seen it again in the same place. I saw a small one at the golf course last week. It looked much more spry, kind of like a baby alligator and took me a while to be certain. Not that I was going to go up to it and ask, just in case.

24humouress
Apr 3, 3:01am

>18 foggidawn: Thanks foggi!

25humouress
Apr 3, 3:01am

>19 drneutron: Thank you Jim!

26humouress
Apr 3, 3:02am

>20 MickyFine: Thanks Micky!

27humouress
Apr 3, 3:03am

>21 curioussquared: Thank you Natalie!

Has she got a new one coming out already? She's quite prolific. I'll look out for that one too, thanks for the heads up.

28humouress
Apr 3, 1:24pm

So, in other news, I got my first jab yesterday and am feeling fine except that my arm is a bit sore - as expected. I'm such a wimp about injections. My second is scheduled for the end of April. My parents had theirs last week, too, in Australia.

My husband was tired in the evening after he had his first jab. I ended up having a long nap in the middle of today but I think that was more due to thunder bursting right overhead which made me decide to stop using the computer and ruled out watching TV too. I did pull out the iPad instead, but the humidity eventually had me dozing off.

Right now I'm alternating between reading The Left-Handed Booksellers of London on Overdrive and Dragonhaven from my shelves which can be slightly confusing since they're both set on alternative Earths, but (obviously) different ones in different countries and slightly different time periods.

29MickyFine
Apr 3, 2:29pm

Congrats on getting your first shot, Nina!

30curioussquared
Apr 3, 4:12pm

Hooray for shot #1!

31humouress
Apr 4, 1:38am

>29 MickyFine: >30 curioussquared: Thank you. One down, one to go. My husband had to come along and hold my hand :0)

32FAMeulstee
Apr 4, 4:39am

Congratulations on your first vaccination, Nina!

>31 humouress: My husband always comes with me. When needles are involved (drawing blood) he keeps a small book or magazine aside my head at the side of the needle, so I can't see it.

33humouress
Apr 4, 6:52am

>32 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita!

I'm resigned to drawing blood, somehow, maybe because I have to have it done more often but my last experience wasn't pleasant. The doctor sprang it on me as a suggestion and I thought I might as well get it over and done with, completely forgetting that I'd left home without finishing my usual tall tumbler of juice. At first I was happy because the first time I'd had it done in that clinic it turned out okay and this time someone came in especially but in Singapore they have a habit of slapping the skin 'to make the veins pop' which I've been told by phlebotomists in other countries is not a good thing. Plus it just annoys me when I'm already apprehensive. So I told her firmly not to slap, and (though she wasn't mean about it) to cut a long story short, it went downhill from there. I don't think you want the details :0)

34humouress
Modificato: Maggio 15, 2:37am

21) The Left-handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

 

{Stand-alone. Fantasy, urban fantasy, YA} (2020)

In the early summer of 1983 Susan Arkshaw has just turned eighteen and decides to go up to London early to earn some money before starting art school, rather than stay in the country, near Bath, with her mum. She has had another of her recurring dreams in which her father was mentioned this time and she wants to try and find him. The dream involves fae creatures warding their house with the powers given to them by her father and is always comforting.

On the night Susan arrives in London she runs into a strange young man called Merlin St Jacques (who is entirely too good-looking) and quickly discovers that there are things magical and dangerous, of the old world which lies just beyond normal sight. And, for some reason, they seem to want Susan. Merlin wears a glove on his left hand and turns out to be one of the left-handed booksellers of London who are experts in weaponry and protect our world against inimical beings of the old world. The St Jacques family are extensive and multicultural and are all involved with selling books - they own two bookshops. As well as left-handed booksellers, there are also right-handed and even-handed family members.

In other circumstances, the booksellers - who have a special arrangement with the police - would be able to make Susan forget her magical night's experience but they end up helping Susan against her attackers. The adventure takes them around London and, eventually, further north. Australian author Nix made his first trip to London in 1983 and the places do ring true (as much as I can remember, that far back).

Since this is a story about booksellers, a lot of books and authors from a range of centuries get a mention.

I enjoyed this story, although I had to keep thinking of a London when I was about thirteen years old, when things were a bit different. I wouldn't mind learning more about the left- and right-handed booksellers, though this is a complete story in itself. (In other words, more please!)

4 stars

Litsy notes

The murmuration of birds: I can imagine that it would be loud enough to sound like a roar. Every night, the birds that come back to roost along Orchard Road (Singapore) make so much noise that you can‘t hear yourself speak.

35humouress
Apr 4, 7:24am

I mentioned on Kim's thread that Jasper is being put on a special diet. He's always itching and scratching to the point where he had bare patches of skin and was starting to draw blood. Not a good look; whoever heard of a naked golden retriever? He was on medication which certainly improved things but the vet pointed out that he can't be on it forever. So we're trying the special diet route (which means that Jasper is joining Kim on the barge); we mixed what was left of his normal food and gradually weaned him onto the new one. But he's not very excited about it because there's only dry food. No canned food and no treats.

We need to work out whether it's food allergies or something else. It'll take a few months because we have to give it time for anything from the previous food to work out of his system. It doesn't stop his 'hungry puppy eyes' and, for some reason, we find him under the dining table at meal times these days.

36humouress
Apr 4, 10:04am

My parents have also had their first shots. I spoke to my mum who told me she was talking to someone and told them she’s had her first shot and they asked ‘Oh, are you 70?’

We had a good giggle because she’s 83.

37humouress
Modificato: Lug 22, 10:05am

22) Frostgilded by Stephanie Burgis

 

{Fifth of 5; Harwood Spellbook series; fantasy, short story} (2020)

This is a short story, billed as an epilogue to The Harwood Spellbook series. I was a bit disappointed that it was short; my iPad said there were 91 pages but it ended at 48 and only then I realised that somehow it was wrong - maybe changing the orientation did it.

So: this is a short story which brings together the main characters from each of the books as Cassandra’s school, Thornfell, closes for the Winter Solstice with a reminder of how the series started two years before. Cassandra has plans to celebrate that anniversary with her husband but most of the students have decided to stay on for the holidays and she’s invited her parents-in-law to stay as well. Although she keeps trying to organise something special for him, she keeps getting interrupted - which gives us another glimpse as all the main characters (and romantic pairings) get a small scene to themselves and we are also introduced to Sybil and Shivaji Wrexham. But all turns out well in the end.

I liked seeing Harwood and Wrexham together again - though I could have done with it being longer ;0) I hope Burgis decides to continue their story.

3.5 stars

38foggidawn
Apr 4, 9:04pm

>34 humouress: That’s already on my list. Glad you liked it! My only visit to London was 20 years ago, so I’ll have no issues with veracity! (Going to London again is also on my list.)

39PaulCranswick
Apr 4, 10:09pm

>36 humouress: That is an ego boost if you can surprise people you are more than a decade younger than you actually are.

40humouress
Apr 7, 12:27pm

>38 foggidawn: Yes, it had a lot of love on LT a few months ago but I had to wait for it to come in on Overdrive because it was so popular.

It's been more than 20 years since I lived in London but it's nice to be able to place the landmarks and to say 'Yes, I've been there and it sounds right.' Sometimes I read a book that's supposed to take part somewhere I know reasonably well but it could have been anywhere/ it's just a checklist of names from a map/ or (worst of all) it might work if you'd just read about the place in a guidebook but makes no sense if you've actually been there.

There was a line in The Switch about the grandmother from Yorkshire being annoyed that Monument and Bank look like one station on a tube (London underground) map but she had to walk a long distance; I used to change lines there but they're actually two stations connected by a long underground passageway and it stirs the old nostalgia to read things like that.

41humouress
Apr 7, 12:28pm

>39 PaulCranswick: I feel that I'm a couple of decades younger than I actually am, Paul, and these aches and pains and having to wear glasses is very annoying. ;0)

42humouress
Apr 7, 12:39pm

So, in other news: firelion was introduced to golf by a family friend who's a golf nut and since I had a half set of clubs given to me many years ago, I thought I might as well put them to use and join him. On Monday, our golf coach gave me a basket of golf balls to bring home with me and we had just got home when my sister called. While I was having a video chat with her, Jasper wandered over and had a good canine sniff over everything and then went out and lay down on the lawn. He seemed to be acting a bit oddly and I suddenly realised that he's snaffled a golf ball and was busy chewing it. I tried to get it off him, but no dice, so I finally gave up.

My sis and I tend to chat until our phone batteries die so we were still talking when Jasper eventually came inside. I said 'Look at him. He looks so pleased with himself,' and she replied 'No, he - oh, yes, he does look pleased with himself.' I went out and had a look. I think the only reason he stopped chewing was because he'd got the outer casing off and had chewed some of the inside but perhaps it wasn't to his liking.

But the next day (sensitive people, please avert your eyes) he deposited a shiny white poop on the lawn. He doesn't seem at all the worse for it; mind you, as a pup he teethed on my nice smooth pebbles and cracked quite a few of them.

43curioussquared
Apr 7, 1:29pm

>42 humouress: Jasper!!!

What is it with goldens and rocks? I've known at least three who love rocks (my aunt's current dog will dig them up and sneak them inside), and one who used to chew them to the point that his canines were dulled at the tips.

44charl08
Apr 7, 2:36pm

>42 humouress: Yikes! Things like this make me think it's probably a good job I don't have a dog.

45SandDune
Apr 8, 3:58am

Just going back to the conversation about monitor lizards:

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.independent.co.uk/asia/southeast-asia/lizard-...

46humouress
Apr 11, 3:25am

>43 curioussquared: Oh no! Does that mean it's hardwired in and I can look forward to even more rock-chewing incidences?

If I sit down to play with Jasper, he loves it but he has an unfortunate habit of showing it by trying to chew me. We've taught him to be gentle with people but his teeth are still pointy enough to leave marks. If I manage to dissuade him from gnawing me, he switches his attention to the furniture or the (expensive) carpet.

47humouress
Apr 11, 3:26am

>44 charl08: Having a dog is wonderful - as long as you don't have a deep attachment to golf balls.

48humouress
Apr 11, 3:29am

>45 SandDune: Ulp. Thankfully, ours haven't been that big.

49humouress
Modificato: Maggio 15, 2:04am

23) Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley



{Stand-alone. Urban fantasy} (2007)

I'm still hoping that we'll see more books in McKinley's Damar series and although I've picked up some of her other books for my shelves, I admit I've been a bit tentative about reading them. But it's been a while since I've re-read a Damar book so I thought I'd give Dragonhaven a go.

This is set on an alternative Earth in a similar timeline to ours so, while dragons (and griffins and Loch Ness monsters and so on) exist, so do computers and the internet. The premise is that dragons were discovered in Australia about two hundred and fifty years ago (Cook landed in Botany Bay in 1770, for reference) and some were taken over to zoos in America and eventually Smokehill National Park was established for them to live in, about ninety years before the story starts, where they then kept very much to themselves. They are an endangered species and many groups want the land for development or mining or want the dragons destroyed or to poach them for the 'medicinal' value of their organs or are worried that dragons might fly out and so there is a protective fence around the park which has the side effect of nullifying a lot of modern technology inside its boundaries. The story is narrated by eighteen year old Jake Mendoza who is writing a book about events that started five years previously (and the epilogue is written five years after that although the narrative style doesn’t change).

Fourteen year old Jake was the son of the Director of the Institute at Smokehill which studied dragons (he's very insistent that Draco australiensis is the only true dragon) and had recently lost his mother. While on his first solo hiking trip in the park, he discovered a mother dragon who had been killed with only one just-born baby dragon surviving. Being used to animals at the small zoo and orphanage at the Institute, Jake rescued the baby and took her home to raise. But, of course, no one knew anything about dragons, much less baby dragons; Lois (as he named her) had imprinted on him and wouldn't let anyone else carry her; and because of the laws surrounding dragons, nobody else could know about her so she had to be raised in secret from the rest of the world; and she could start breathing fire at any moment.
I was sure Lois would be brokenhearted if she woke up one morning and discovered she'd fried me in her sleep ... but what if she did?
This is the story of Jake raising Lois; the overwhelming responsibility for a fourteen year old subsumed in rescuing a wild creature that no one knew much about and then the adventure that followed when she grew older and he needed to find dragons to reintroduce her to her species.

The writing style takes a while to get used to; it's very chatty (hah - imagine my seventeen year old son being chatty; but then again, you can't stop my twelve year old son talking) to the extent it's like my sister and I talking to each other, with lots of asides (in fact, we sometimes have to ask the other person to get to the point) and it took the first fifty or so pages (a chapter and a half out of eleven) before anything happened (Jake discovering the mother and baby dragons) and the story finally took off. It took me a bit longer than that to really get used to the chatty style, though (please see preceding sentence).
You don't go near a dying dragon. They can fry you after they're dead. The reflex that makes chickens run around after their heads are cut off makes dragons cough fire. Quite a few people have died this way, including one zoo-keeper. I suppose I wasn't thinking about that. I was thinking about the fact that she was dying, and that her babies were going to die because they had no mother, and that she'd know that. I boomeranged into thinking about my own mother again. They wanted to tell us, when they found her, that she must have died instantly. Seems to me, if she really did fall down that cliff, she'd've had time to think about it that Dad and I were going to be really miserable without her.

How do I know what a mother dragon thinks or doesn't think? But it was just so sad. I couldn't bear it. I went up to her. Went up to her head, which was likely nearly as big as a Ranger's cabin. She watched me coming. She watched me. I had to walk up most of the length of her body, so I had to walk past her babies, these little blobs that were baby dragons. They were born and everything. But they were already dead. So she was dying knowing her babies were already dead. I started to cry and I didn't even know it.

The story is information dense along the way (although it’s possible - and occasionally obvious - that some information is exaggerated by the ‘teenaged’ narrator); though my book came to 338 pages I feel that the print was smaller than usual so it took longer than I had anticipated to finish this book but I did like the story. For Lewis Carrol fans, there are a few Alice in Wonderland and Jabberwock references scattered about and are the origin of Lois's name.

The premise and the putative science behind it (a lot of which is worked out as the story develops, since this is the first baby dragon to be raised - or even seen - by humans) work. It's similar to learning to raise pandas: I recently caught part of a documentary observing baby pandas in the wild demonstrating behaviours that people hadn't realised are normal - like climbing high into a tree and staying there for a week while mama panda went foraging. They discovered that the black and white colouring is surprisingly effective against the light sky when the baby is sitting high in the branches of a tree bare of leaves. So now they're going to incorporate that into the way they raise captive pandas.

Well worth sticking with this book.

4 stars

Litsy notes

Just at the beginning of this one (partway through ch1); a bit confusing. Told in 1 person POV by a boy recalling events 4 years ago. His mum seems to have died before that time. At some point he was 12 and his sister? friend? is/ was 7.
Set on a parallel Earth where computers and dragons coexist. Very much not Damar (I suspect).

Ch 1 is a bit of a slog, getting the background in. It‘s supposed to be from the 1st person POV of a 14 yo boy but he fills in details like I do when I‘m nattering on to my sis when we‘re catching up (on our different continents). Useful maybe, interesting even but TMI for the first chapter. Possibly would have worked better as a flashback.

... though I have learned that Draco australiensis is the only true dragon species - and heading for extinction - while all the others are actually lizards.

It‘s a parallel Earth but I‘m not sure what time frame; there are computers but also faxes (no internet in evidence so far). Publish date 2007 ETA: found it - there‘s online gaming.

Finally gets going at page 50, about halfway through chapter 2. Took a while to get here!

There‘s a lot of Louis Carrol (Alice inWonderland, Jabberwocky) threaded through this book.

'I was sure Lois would be brokenhearted if she woke up one morning and discovered she‘d fried me in her sleep ... but what if she did?'

The science parts work. I recently caught part of a documentary observing baby pandas in the wild demonstrating behaviours that people hadn't realised are normal - like climbing high into a tree and staying there for a week while mama panda went foraging. They discovered that the black and white colouring is surprisingly effective against the light sky when the baby is sitting high in the branches of a tree bare of leaves.

50humouress
Modificato: Maggio 3, 9:01am

24) The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling

 

{First of 4 Lonely Hearts Bookshop series. Romance, London, chick lit} (2016)

Posy is the unofficial adopted daughter of Lavinia who owned 'Bookends', a bookshop that she had inherited from her mother and when she died she passed it on to Posy. But Bookends hadn't been doing well for a while and Posy needed to revamp it on very little budget so she plans to turn it into a bookshop dealing exclusively in romance and call it 'Happy Ever After'. Unfortunately, Sebastian Thorndyke had inherited the rest of the mews, where Bookends was situated, from his grandmother and he has conflicting but well-meaning plans for it.

Posy's parents had worked in the bookshop for Lavinia since she was very small and they had lived in the flat above the shop which Lavinia let the then twenty one year old Posy and fifteen year old Sam continue to live in rent free after their parents died. She has known Sebastian all that time but he has been her arch nemesis since the time he locked her in the coal cellar when they were small.

Posy works off her frustrations about Sebastian by writing chapters of a lurid Regency romance where he seduces her - but she keeps their real names in it ... and you can imagine what happens. I read the 'Ravished by a Rake' chapters with a sense of impending doom.

Needless to say, after all the trials and tribulations, everyone gets their deserved 'Happy Ever After' and the whole story is fun. I must say that I found the hero's character a bit baffling, though; his flaws seemed to disappear and reappear but were never really redeemed.

I found this story light and fluffy. For people who love books and bookshops there are names and quotes and references sprinkled throughout the book.

3 stars

51humouress
Apr 13, 6:43am

And in other news, we've just found out that the bookshelf I bought - so that I could move my cookbooks downstairs so they're more accessible from the kitchen - more than likely has wood termites and the recommended course of action is to get rid of it. It's a nice solid wood cabinet so I'm quite disappointed. Ah, the joys of tropical living.

52charl08
Apr 13, 8:24am

>50 humouress: Sounds like a good one to have on the kindle. I have downloaded.

>51 humouress: Oh no!

53MickyFine
Apr 13, 12:01pm

>50 humouress: I will say I enjoyed the second book in the series more than this first one. Glad it was a decent fluffy read for you.

>51 humouress: Sadness.

54humouress
Apr 13, 1:45pm

>53 MickyFine: Well, I've had a look at the reviews and I'm tempted to continue with the series. I think it was probably your fault ;0) that I read the first one.

Empathy appreciated.

55curioussquared
Apr 13, 1:50pm

>51 humouress: Oh no! Sorry about the bookshelf :(

56humouress
Apr 13, 2:09pm

>53 MickyFine: >55 curioussquared: *sigh* Thanks. They say there are a couple of treatments they can try but no guarantees. And if it doesn't work, there's the risk it could spread to other furniture (we do have a lot of wood in the house). We bought it just before the lockdown and then I had dehumidifiers and glass doors added so I'm not a happy bunny.

Maybe I'll meander over to the 'First World problems' thread and post it on there ;0)

57MickyFine
Apr 13, 3:27pm

>54 humouress: Yup, I'm pretty sure my review for book two in the series was a BB for a few people including you. So you're in good company. :)

58humouress
Apr 15, 12:41am

>57 MickyFine: Ah, the scattershot effect.

59humouress
Modificato: Maggio 3, 6:31am

25) After the Crown by K.B. Wagers

 

{Second in the Indranan Wars trilogy; sci-fi, political sci-fi}(2016)

This is the sequel to Behind the Throne (where the character calling herself 'Cressen Stone' was recalled to the Indranan planetary empire to take her place as Hailimi Jaya Bristol, the sole remaining heir to her ailing empress mother after her sisters were assassinated). Having now ascended the throne, Hail has to try to stop the threat of invasion by the Saxon empire while contending with civil unrest and with the factions at home who have been decimating her family. To this end, she goes off-planet to negotiate with King Trace of the Saxons and finds herself fighting a space war. Caught at a disadvantage, she turns to her gunrunning contacts and utilises assets that she had been forced to abandon when she returned home.

I found this fun with the action flowing thick and fast but it felt somehow lighter than my usual sci-fi reading. It could be me - although I read the first book several weeks ago, I didn't immediately recall the tertiary characters. Part of the problem for me was that there were so many tertiary characters. Even while reading this book, I found it hard to keep track of who was who and even, since a lot of names are made up, who was male or female. Granted, as a matriarchal society, most of the senior personnel are female but there are some men. My favourite character is still Portis, her long time partner and lover who died in the opening scene of the first book.

I think the fast pace, with Hail moving quickly from one situation to the next as she tried to save her empire and her people, didn't help my focus. And there were too many instances of her sticking her tongue out at people and her being given 'the Look' (no, I'm not quite sure what it is, either). I did find it easier to think of her closer to her age of 38 (although not all the way) than in her mid twenties, which is how old she felt in the first book.

Fun. I intend to move on to the third book soon (while I can still remember who is who).

3.5 stars

60figsfromthistle
Apr 17, 7:42am

Happy weekend, Nina!

>51 humouress: Sorry other about the bookcase.

61humouress
Apr 18, 7:01am

>60 figsfromthistle: Thanks Anita. We're still prevaricating over what we're going to do with it.

62humouress
Apr 18, 7:17am

It's getting towards sunset which, unfortunately, means it's time to close the windows and doors but there's (at last) a cool gentle breeze wafting through. Although Singapore is densely built up, we're lucky enough to be able to see a sliver of jungle behind the houses across from us. There's a mist rising amongst the trees and just now a cacophony had me looking across where I caught sight of agitation down several layers of branches - I think the monkeys were having an argument. I can still see disturbances which must mean that they're dropping down through the branches but I don't get more than a glimpse of a tail. Must be trying to oust each other from the best sleeping spot.

63humouress
Modificato: Apr 21, 1:21am

I've been trying to do some exercise (because it's beyond time, now) and join my younger son when he takes Jasper out for walks (my teenager 'wants to be alone' on his walk days) and try to do some basic training with Jasper, like getting him to stop for crossings; most of the dips in the pavements at junctions in our immediate area have the tiles for the hard of seeing with raised dots, so I try to get him to stop when his paws are on them. When he actually meanders that way. And we tried a light (very light, on my part) jog so that he can go at more than the usual slow trot that he's restrained to by his humans' pace.

I've discovered this week that Jasper's picked up a new habit we're going to have to break him of - he's started peeing at our neighbour's gate, probably because Rusty the collie lives there. Not very neighbourly of us, I'm afraid.

64humouress
Modificato: Maggio 3, 3:40am

26) Fifth Quarter by Tanya Huff

 

{Second in Quarters series; fantasy} (1995)

In the land of Shkoder, Bards can Sing to the kigh (elemental spirits) of four quarters (air, water, earth, fire). This story takes place in the neighbouring Havakeen Empire where siblings Vree and Bannon are assassins in the sixth army. When the story starts, the sixth army is beseiging the rebel town of Ghoti and decides to assassinate Aralt, the governor, to shorten the battle. But when Bannon finds him, the old man has taken poison so that Gyhard, the person actually inhabiting the governor's body, can jump to Bannon's body. When his sister comes across the dying governor, now inhabited by Bannon, the only way she can save her brother is to allow his spirit to share her body while they desert the army to chase his body.

“Haul your ass out of cover, Bannon, and let’s get going. This isn’t funny.”

Her whisper pierced the shadowed corners, pierced the shroud that dying had wrapped around the governor.

He opened his eyes. Unfamiliar features twisted into a familiar expression. “Vree …”

She stared, not believing.

“Vree …” Cold fingers clutched at her wrist and pressed out a pattern only her brother knew.

In the meantime, there is a mad old man wandering the Empire who can Sing the hitherto unknown fifth quarter which forces the spirits of the recently dead back into their bodies as he seeks to create a family who love him. Unfortunately, he has to keep replacing them as their bodies decay. These two stories are linked and are destined to clash again.

Karlene is a Bard in the Imperial Palace in the Capital of the Empire where she is helping to establish the Bardic profession. And where she has to politely dissuade the love-struck Prince Otavas, youngest son of the Emperor. They are also part of the story since both the mad man and Gyhard have designs on the Prince.

Huff does create awkward relationships, although this is only a background to the story. For instance, Vree has secretly desired her brother (although he seems to be the only one who doesn't realise), despite having had to act as his parents since their soldier mother was killed when she was seven and he was six years old and they have never known who their father was. But then, she's also attracted to Gyhard and to Karlene, who ends up travelling with them as they race across the country to try to rescue the Prince.

The story was alright; I could put it down and come back to it much later (although I never considered abandoning it). I felt that the ending was a bit inconclusive. It didn't fully resolve the issues although it didn't end on a cliff hanger, but it still left things open to continuation.

3-3.5 stars

65curioussquared
Apr 21, 12:47pm

>64 humouress: I know I read these books, but I think it must have been like 15 years ago? Probably in middle school around the same time I was obsessed with Mercedes Lackey. I know these books have the same cover artist as Lackey's Valdemar books and that's probably why I picked them up in the first place. I remember exactly nothing about them, except that I think I liked the first one best and didn't end up getting to the fourth one.

66humouress
Apr 22, 1:04am

>65 curioussquared: I know I've read the first of these. And you're right, I bought it partly because I was attracted to the cover, too. I don't remember much about the first one, either, except that I was misled by the blurb on the back into thinking that it was about a forbidden romance but it turned out not to be. I'll have to re-read it sometime.

67curioussquared
Apr 22, 12:48pm

>66 humouress: I do still own the first three, so I liked them enough that I kept them around! :D I'll put them on the "reread someday" pile as well.

68humouress
Modificato: Apr 24, 12:56am

I’ve just come back from the driving range because I pushed my lesson to 11:30 so the sun wasn’t beating into the ... what’s it called? Tees? and at around midday the coaches were bringing each other lunch. There was a monkey that was very interested in us; there was only one, which is unusual, because they usually move in a family group. I was a bit wary (put me off me game, it did), remembering a monkey in Gibraltar which snatched a flower out of the outside pocket of my handbag when I was a teen and now I’d left my current one out on the table (and then I realised that both handbags were similar in design, size and colour - which didn't help) but the coach they only go after food or plastic. Fortunately for me there were quite a few people around or I would have found a (wild) monkey in such close proximity (2 or 3 metres) extremely unnerving.

And apparently they can read because not any old plastic bottle will do; they ignore water bottles in favour of 100 Plus (a clear, colourless sports drink) but if someone’s re-used a 100 Plus bottle for water and they grab it, the monkey will throw it away once they’ve tasted it. The coach told me they even unscrew the bottle tops (if it's already unsealed) but they don't drink directly from the bottles; they have to pour out the contents and lap it up.

And in other animal related news, I was watching Jasper sleep yesterday (omigosh, I'm getting soppy; I used to watch my kids sleep like that) and he seemed to be dreaming about chasing something. His snout twitched and one forefoot was pawing, then I saw his sides bellow the way they do when he barks, so he must have been dreaming that he was barking - although he didn’t actually make any sound.

69PaulCranswick
Apr 24, 8:43am

>68 humouress: I am a bit nervous around the local monkeys too, Nina, because - being totally wild animals - they are hugely unpredictable.

I would need much less excuse to criticise my own golf game. The Koreans don't bother to ask me along anymore!

70fairywings
Apr 24, 10:26pm

Happy newish thread Nina.

I really enjoyed The Flatshare too, so you got me at >13 humouress: with The Switch

>34 humouress: Another BB

71humouress
Apr 25, 3:01am

>70 fairywings: Woohoo! I mean, I'm so glad.

I enjoyed them both (but I'm guessing that you got that impression.)

72humouress
Apr 25, 3:10am

>69 PaulCranswick: Well, the coach barely paid the monkey any attention, so I just kept playing. If I'd been by myself, I'd have slowly and cautiously got out of there!

I've only been on a course twice. The first time was with my husband and his brother and father and they got nervous because it was getting dark and I was holding up the flight behind us, so I only played the first half. The second time was a few weeks ago with my son at the 9 hole course next to the range. But it was a coaching round and I didn't bother to keep count of my score.

I did, however, catch sight of a couple of interesting birds while we were going around. One was some kind of hunting bird - I'd guess a garuda (fish eagle) or a relative, since the course is next to a reservoir - and the other was a flash of bright turquoise, so obviously one of the kingfishers. But one was too far away and the other too fast to identify better. No one else even notice - I think my son was busy being embarrassed at playing golf with his mum.

73richardderus
Apr 26, 6:46pm

Have we ever discussed Leigh Bardugo and her Grishaverse books? If not, and your local iteration of Netflix will allow it, watch Shadow and Bone. She's got seven books in the series, a Russian-inflected majgicqk-works-iverse; even I like a few of them, and the TV show's quite well done.

74humouress
Modificato: Apr 26, 11:26pm

>73 richardderus: No, we haven't had a discussion although I've read the Six of Crows duology. I did, almost accidentally, catch the first episode. But thanks for the heads-up.

75humouress
Apr 28, 11:31pm

Second jab in a few hours. I'm such a wimp, I'm taking my husband along to hold my hand. :0)

My reading mojo is on go slow at the moment, but I have books on standby for the weekend, just in case I have to spend it in bed. Or we have a family shopping trip planned for Saturday.

76jnwelch
Apr 29, 7:43am

Happy Newiah thread, Nina. How are you doing after the second jab? Congrats on getting it. we've felt great mental relief; I hope you do, too.Thank you to you and RIchard for the tip on Shadow and Bone.

77humouress
Apr 30, 1:51am

Hey, Joe! So nice to see you up and about ;0)

It's now about 22 hours after the second jab. My arm feels a bit sore (and I'm making sure I keep a good distance from furniture and walls so I don't bump it) but otherwise I'm fine so far. Looks like the shopping trip is on! We have a one-time discount at a sports shop. We'll take the kids with us - they always say they hate shopping, but the first thing my youngest does whenever we enter a shop - even those dedicated to ladies' fashion - is to ask what he can buy. Or at least he used to when he was younger; he might follow his brother's lead and declare he hates it too. However, I suspect they might make an exception for sports shopping.

You're welcome re the Shadow and Bone tip. The whole series seems to be up on Netflix here now. I think I might go ahead and watch it without reading the books; I found the Six of Crows duology a bit grim when I read it.

78charl08
Apr 30, 2:05am

Hope the sports shopping is successful. New trainers all round?

I am enjoying the Netflix Rust and Bone. Although now tempted to add the books to my wishlist.

79humouress
Modificato: Apr 30, 6:18am

>78 charl08: Hmm; well let me watch a few more episodes and then I might add the books too.

ETA: Six of Crows was recommended to my bookclub by someone who loves the Grishaverse but we're trying to go for stand-alone books so we don't have to invest in series since we all have varied tastes. I assumed that, though it referred to the war, the characters were unique to the duology (trilogy?) since it takes place in Ketterdam. Watching the first episode and looking at the synopsis of the rest of the series, it looks like it revolves around some of the same characters. But I didn't feel that I had lost out by not reading the preceding series.

80humouress
Modificato: Maggio 3, 10:31am

27) Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

 

{First published of 190+ Dragonlance Chronicles. Fantasy, D&D, sword & sorcery} (1984)

This book was written in 1984 to accompany the Dungeons and Dragons game franchise that Laura and Tracy Hickman created for TSR. When the initial draft was unsatisfactory, Tracy Hickman and Weis wrote the book themselves. The novel is divided into Book 1, where the heroes leave Solace on a new quest and Book 2, where they return to Solace but leave again, having gained some new comrades.

The story begins on the continent of Ansalon on the world of Krynn with six friends (Tanis - a half-elf, Flint - a dwarf, Tas - a kender and three humans, Raistlin - a mage, Caramon (his twin brother) - a warrior and Sturm - a Knight of Solamnia) returning to their home village of Solace, as agreed, after five years when they went out to explore the post Cataclysmic world. We aren't told much about the Cataclysm but it seems to have been caused by humans denying the old gods. The friends discover that Solace, which is a village built up in the trees (I love the idea) has now been taken over by Seekers, who are looking for new gods and, due to the interference of a strange old man, end up antagonising the militia in charge and have to escape from Solace, along with two Plains-people, Goldmoon and Riverwind, before even having a chance to return to their homes.
The eight are given the power to save the world.

The heroes discover that the Queen of Darkness has returned to Krynn, bringing red dragons of legend back with her and draconians, the winged, reptilian-like beings that serve them.

I saw the second two novels in my library around the time they were first published but not the first one so I never read them at the time but the series stayed in my awareness as I noticed further books in the series were published. The very beginning seems a bit clichéd (even I wrote half a chapter of an adventure starting in an inn) and it doesn‘t expand on why the friends went on the journeys they are returning from, what they found or what they planned to do about it - we just get thrown straight into the adventure which they (and we) know nothing about, going in. (I suspect it could have initially been intended to set up the story, which then went in a different direction.)

The novel is a bit unpolished but I think it has to be taken in context of when (and why) it was written. It does seem to show its gaming roots at times (directions are always given in terms of one of the cardinal compass points and one of the quests is to recover some platinum Discs) though I've never played a D&D game. There are moments of romance but those felt a bit awkward to me. And I thought that a bit more girl-power would have been a good thing. However, since there are around 190 novels in the series (in English, never mind other languages) and they are still being written more than 37 years later (there's supposedly a trilogy due out later in 2021), I think the flaws must have been ironed out :0)

As an aside, Flint, the dwarf, seems to be the prototype for the portrayal of Gimli in the LOTR films; he's grumpy, gruff and kind-hearted, pretends to bicker with his friends and seems to be there to provide comic relief (including the scene where he falls head-first into the bottom of the boat).

I found the story a little slow but I'm willing to continue with the series because of its pedigree. I thought the writing and humour improved with Book 2 and there were even some laugh out loud moments.
Raistlin stood. “Know this!” the mage said, his golden eyes staring around the common room. “I have cast a spell upon our belongings. Anyone who touches them will be slowly devoured by the great worm, Catyrpelius, who will rise from the Abyss and suck the blood from your veins until you are nothing more than a dried husk.”

“The great worm Catyrpelius!” breathed Tasslehoff, his eyes shining. “That’s incredible. I’ve never heard of—”

Tanis clapped his hand over the kender’s mouth.


3.5 stars

Litsy notes:
This is the first book which was written in 1984 to accompany the D&D game. A little unpolished, beginning is a bit clichéd (understandably) but fun so far (ch 7. Must have been good since the series runs to 40+ books!

Looks like the dragons are the bad guys in this one ...

Flint, the dwarf seems to be the prototype for the portrayal of Gimli in the LOTR films. Grumpy, gruff, kind-hearted and always mock-bickering with his friends, especially Tasslehoff, the kender.

There are quite a few compass directions. Maybe showing it‘s origins as a D&D game companion? 😊

... and now they have to find platinum Discs. Hmm ...

The story sets up with 6 friends meeting up in their home village, as agreed, after 5 years when they went out into the post Cataclysmic world. But it doesn‘t expand on why, what they found or what they planned to do about it - just throws them straight into the adventure which they (and we) know nothing about, going in.
I suspect it was to set up the story which then went in a different direction. Just musing out loud, as it were.

There are 2 books in this novel. Book 1 starts in Solace from where the heroes leave on their quest. Book 2 (just starting it) takes us back to the people living in Solace. I love the idea of the village built up in the trees.

This is a debut novel, of sorts, and could be more polished. Book 2 seems better written and introduces some humour. There are some laugh-out-loud moments.

Raistlin stood. “Know this!” the mage said. “I have cast a spell upon our belongings. Anyone who touches them will be slowly devoured by the great worm, Catyrpelius, who will rise from the Abyss and suck the blood from your veins until you are nothing more than a dried husk.”
“The great worm Catyrpelius!” breathed Tasslehoff, his eyes shining. “That‘s incredible. I‘ve never heard of—”
Tanis clapped his hand over the kender‘s mouth.

81humouress
Modificato: Maggio 15, 2:38am

28) Who's that Earl? by Susanna Craig

 

{First of 2? Love and Let Spy series. Regency romance, adult} (2020)

Thomas Sutherland, a lieutenant in the British Army, is recalled from his mission to Dominica, where he was spying on Napoleon's troops' movements, by General Scott, his commanding officer, because he has unexpectedly come into an earldom through his mother's family. He is told to determine the condition of his lands before returning to duty.

Jane Higginbotham, at twenty four years old and unwed, is too young to be living independently so she pretends to be a widow. She also pretends to be an amanuensis to the sensational gothic author, Robin Ratcliff, although that is the pen name she uses and under whose name she has leased the castle of Dunnock near the village of Balisaig, which is the earl's family seat. And Higgingbotham is not her real identity.

Seven years before the start of the story, Thomas and Jane shared a brief kiss before he was suddenly sent to Dominica but the attraction is still there and, of course, flares again.

I liked the beginning of this novel more than most that I've read so far in this genre because the background seemed more detailed and serious and less flippant than usual. The hero is not some spoilt heir, bitter at the world and frittering away his inheritance but a working soldier. I found the setting believable (though I'm no expert on either Dominica or Scotland); usually I can tell that an author of a Regency romance is American (or, at least, not British) because some detail jars (having said which, I do wonder if the pub would really have been open on Sundays in those times).

While both protagonists have their secrets the tension doesn't hinge on non-communication but on the other hand, there were some questionable plot twists and I thought Jane made several odd decisions. But if you don't think about it too much, this is a nice, light read. I appreciated the fact that while Jane thought she was plain and hadn’t seemed to have any (other) suitors, Thomas found her attractive.

I liked the epilogue:
With a smile that even a stranger would recognize as self-satisfied, Scott picked up the letter again and tucked it into a file in a drawer no one but he ever opened. A good agent, even when he resigned his commission, was never really lost to His Majesty’s service. Thanks to a little strategic maneuvering—what civilians called matchmaking—he had spies in places no one would suspect.
Now including Balisaig.


3.25 stars

Litsy notes

Liking this so far. The hero is not some spoilt heir, bitter at the world & frittering away his inheritance but a working soldier. The background details are more serious, less flippant. The protagonists nearly became engaged 7 years prior & the attraction is still there. He has just inherited an earldom he didn‘t know he was in line for. She is a gothic novelist pretending to be secretary to a male author and, coincidentally, tenant to the earl..

(Hmm. Not entirely sure that the pub would have been open on Sundays)

Pub opening hours aside, I found the setting believable (though I'm no expert on Dominica or Scotland) although the author is American.

There were some plot twists towards the end that didn't quite make sense and just seemed to be unexplained decisions by the character to draw out the ending.

Liking the pop song reference.

82humouress
Modificato: Maggio 2, 4:12am

We ended up not going shopping - my eldest had a migraine - but I wasn't really in the mood for it, especially since it would probably have entailed trying on sports shirts (I can get very enthusiastic about acquiring the wardrobe; it's just getting out there to actually play the sport). My arm is still a bit sore tonight (as in, I can feel the pressure of my sleeve on it) and yesterday I felt like I was running a slight temperature and felt a headache coming on. So I asked my husband for a panadol; he thinks medicine solves everything, I think he over-medicates but, since he took Friday off to look after me (in case), I could make a sacrifice.

Although then, of course, I had to refuse a whole list of medications he offered me :0)

I think the guy who gave me the shot was trying to be helpful because I told him I'm not a fan of needles and he gave it quite slowly which ended up hurting more. I barely felt it the first time. Well, my lymph glands seem to be in overdrive on that side, so I'm sure something good is happening.

It looks like Singapore is going to tighten up restrictions a bit because they've identified a covid cluster. So my husband will be back to 2 weeks in office and 2 weeks WFH, having just recently started 3 days in office and 2 days WFH.

83richardderus
Maggio 1, 8:23pm

>80 humouress: *looms in*

The first ever?! Good lawsy me. I thought that series simply...mushroomed up somehow one dark and stormy night. 190 of them!! Good gad.

>82 humouress: I'm so sorry for the migraine. It's wretched, I know. And now more enforced togetherness! Yikes.

84humouress
Modificato: Maggio 2, 3:12am

>83 richardderus: *eek!*

The image of mushrooms that calls up somehow seems appropriate for that series. It seems to have proliferated madly and still sprouts new books when you’re not looking.

My husband was especially annoyed because, while our son doesn’t seem to have a specific trigger, there do seem to be common factors like late nights, too much screen time, being out in the hot son, sometimes thunderstorms. Naturally our teenager went out for a run in the middle of the day after staying up late watching TV (probably in the dark, knowing him). I suppose I should be grateful he didn’t go out in the middle of a thunderstorm. 🙄🤗

85humouress
Modificato: Maggio 2, 4:14am

>83 richardderus: And, by the way, there’ll be no looming on my thread, thank you. This is a place where civilised, normally proportioned people hold sway. Kindly seat yourself.

86FAMeulstee
Maggio 2, 5:26am

>82 humouress: I hope your arm is better by now, Nina, and no more panadol is needed.
Anyway I am glad you had your vaccination.

87humouress
Maggio 2, 6:00am

>86 FAMeulstee: It's definitely improved, thanks Anita, although not fully back to normal yet. I haven't needed panadol after that one time. (I'm sure my husband is disappointed.)

88humouress
Modificato: Maggio 15, 2:39am

29) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North (words) & Erica Henderson (art)

 

{First of 12 trade omnibus The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series. Superhero, GN, comic} (2017)

Issues 1-4 plus issue 8 of Marvel Super-Heroes (1991)

Fun. And funny.

Squirrel Girl (a mutant superhero) is going to college, so she moves out of the Avengers' attic and onto Empire State University's campus - where she has to keep her secret identity under wraps (including her tail). Unfortunately, her job of fighting villains keeps getting in the way of her getting to classes on time. Fortunately, she has a great roommate - who happens to work out her secret identity via her sidekick, Tippy-Toe the squirrel. And she also has an army of squirrel friends who are willing to help her fight the villains.

From a story point of view, this is a cheerful superhero battling villains while starting college and making (human) friends. Although Squirrel Girl won't back down from a fight if she has to fight I like the way she tries to (and even occasionally succeeds in) talk her opponents round. And I like her self-confidence as Doreen Green (her alter ego)

From a GN point of view, I like all the 'extras' that are spread around the artwork. There are footnotes on almost every page which break the fourth wall since they're (apparently) written by one of the characters on the page - most often Squirrel Girl but sometimes the villain and occasionally by Nancy, her roommate. I like the way Squirrel Girl pulls out Deadpool's trading cards to check up on villains or their accessories - and, of course, those have Deadpool's trademark snark. And the pages of 'text messages' (again from Nancy, the villain of the moment or even Iron Man) were amusing. The last few pages of messages from fans and replies from North and Henderson I skipped because the e format on my desktop screen wasn't the most conducive to reading them but would have been fun to read if I had been reading a paper copy.

This omnibus included at the end Squirrel Girl's first appearance as a fifteen year old girl in the original (I assume) issue 8 of Marvel Super-Heroes from 1991 (which explains the code she gave to Iron Man's suit) - although I didn't like the way her face was depicted there, especially her eyes. Fortunately, it was very different from the way Henderson drew her which I liked a lot more.

Reading this omnibus left me with a big smile on my face.

4 stars

Litsy notes

Love the little footnote asides (at the moment, about other Marvel heroes) which look like they were written by Squirrel Girl.

... and Deadpool's 'Guide to ...' cards (with his snarky asides)

... and the pages of 'text messages'

Interesting addition at the end, which looks like the original first ever Squirrel Girl story (though I'm not a fan of her depiction there)

89MickyFine
Maggio 3, 12:50pm

>88 humouress: Yay! I'm glad you liked it. And I fully admit to skipping that final comic in the collection with her original appearance because it was not my jam.

90humouress
Maggio 3, 12:50pm

For those monitoring reactions to vaccinations, I thought I'd post an update. My arm is still a tiny bit sore. I happen to have been wearing sleeves but the day before, I noticed that there was a round pink patch about 7cm diameter and my arm may be a bit swollen still (it's a bit hard to tell because of all the ... erm ... muscles). That's fading and receding but my shoulder itches and it's. Driving. Me. BATTY. Of course, I'm not going to itch it (did I mention I'm a wimp about taking injections? This is one of the reasons) but I'm getting frustrated/ annoyed. (Can you tell?)

91richardderus
Maggio 3, 12:54pm

>90 humouress: That's actually a perfectly normal reaction to this vaccine, that our CDC has named "COVID arm" because it's so prevalent it needs a name.

If you weren't a hyperresponder, I'd say take Benadryl and sleep the rest of the day itchlessly.

92humouress
Maggio 3, 12:56pm

>89 MickyFine: Well, I was curious as to how Squirrel Girl became part of the Marvel family. I read the bit by the authors (at the beginning?) about how they had been approached to refresh the character so it was interesting to see her first appearance. I thought her tail in the original depiction was more realistic, but I wonder why they chose to draw her face like that.

93humouress
Maggio 3, 12:58pm

>91 richardderus: Thanks. Since it's past midnight in this part of the world, I just might take your advice.

94humouress
Modificato: Maggio 17, 11:00am

30) Point Blanc by Anthony Horowitz



{Second of 12 in the Alex Rider series; children's/ YA, action-adventure, spy} (2001)
This seems to be the book that the TV series is based on.

It is spring in England and just weeks after his first adventure, while he's still trying to catch up with his schoolwork due to his absence, fourteen year old Alex Rider is given another mission. This time, it's to a finishing school run by Dr. Grief for troubled, rich teenage boys high in the French Alps, called Point Blanc (en français: White Point). There is something sinister happening to the boys who go there but two of their wealthy fathers who evinced some unease have ... been disposed of and MI6 are concerned. Alex is the perfect person to be sent in as an undercover agent.

But the school is a long way from the nearest town and isolated by the snow, with the only method of transport being a helicopter piloted by Dr. Grief's henchwoman, Mrs. Stellenbosch, who is also a world champion body builder. He discovers, when he gets there, that there are thirty armed guards patrolling the premises where only six other boys live. Alex will have to save the world by himself when he discovers Dr. Grief's dastardly plot.

This series is a bit like James Bond (à la Roger Moore) for tweens. Although there is plenty of action some of the details felt a bit 'lite', at least at the beginning. Horowitz does add lots of details regarding equipment, like the specific model of a gun or an aeroplane.

Poor old Alex, despite his black belt in karate, does get beaten up a lot more in this story than in the first. And I thought Alan Blunt was rather callous about Alex and the situations he sends him into; (Horowitz's) MI6 takes advantage of the fact that Alex is an orphan to put him into dangerous positions.
‘It’s rather odd,’ he said. ‘Most schoolboys dream of being spies. With Alex, we have a spy who dreams of being a schoolboy.’

‘Will you really use him again?’ Mrs Jones asked.

‘Of course.’
Although it resolves the question ‘why aren't his parents worried that he's out late and going to strange places' that often niggles at me when reading about kids' adventures (as a parent/ older reader), it‘s sad that he doesn‘t seem to have family or friends - but this might not be an issue for the target audience.

4.5 stars (for its age range)/ 3.5 stars

Litsy notes

2nd in the series; seems to be the one the TV series is based on. Horowitz is kind of mean to his 14 year old hero; (his) MI6 takes advantage of the fact that Alex is an orphan to put him into dangerous positions. Although it resolves the question ‘why aren‘t his parents worried that he‘s out late and going to strange places‘ that often niggles at me when reading about kids‘ adventures, it‘s sad that he doesn‘t seem to have family or friends.

Horowitz is obviously anti-hunting. (I fully agree with him)

I feel this is James Bond (à la Roger Moore) for kids (but maybe a bit lite on details).

95souloftherose
Maggio 7, 5:29am

Congrats on getting fully vaccinated Nina! I hope the soreness and itchiness go away quickly.

So pleased you enjoyed Squirrel Girl :-) I loved the breaking the fourth wall footnotes too.

And intrigued by your review of Dragonhaven which is a McKinley I hadn't really heard of before. I'm doing a bit of a Damar reread at the moment and then I may see if I can get hold of a copy of Dragonhaven to try.

96humouress
Modificato: Maggio 8, 3:12am

>95 souloftherose: Thanks, Heather! I'm pretty much back to normal now (one week and a couple of days after the second injection) except that the area is slightly sensitive if I put pressure on it, like pulling a shirt over my arm.

I've posted my review of Dragonhaven and added another quote; it's very different both in ambiance and writing style from the Damar books and it took me a while to get into but it's worht sticking with it.

Speaking of rescuing babies, firelion was alerted to a nestling in our garden by Jasper nosing around it so he moved it before I got home. Unfortunately, we seem to have done everything wrong since then and I doubt it's going to survive. 😢

We moved the nestling again yesterday to the balcony outside my study since that's closer to where it fell but out of Jasper's reach (he's not supposed to come upstairs and is currently sitting on the top step - even though the stair gate is open - singing, because there's thunder in the air). However, though I usually spend a fair section of my day shooing birds away from the balcony, today they seem to be avoiding it altogether.

97humouress
Modificato: Lug 5, 4:05am

31) True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling

 

{Second of 4 Lonely Hearts Bookshop series. Romance, London, chick lit, low steam} (2017)

This is the second story about the staff at the ‘Happy Ever After' bookshop in Bloomsbury and picks up Verity Love’s story a few weeks after the end of The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts. Verity, who is such an introvert that she has to physically decompress for half an hour after work, has an imaginary boyfriend that she's concocted with sister, Merry. He is, supposedly, an oceanographer and his work keeps him conveniently absent so that Very has an excuse for not taking him to events or not going at all - but now she is wondering whether to get rid of him.
Whichever way you looked at it, Peter Hardy was a prime catch, a paragon of boyfriendly virtue, and Verity Love, though she was a vicar’s daughter and meant to lead by example, was going to have to kill him off at the first opportunity.
Then she runs into Johnny True in an awkward situation at her favourite restaurant and they decide to be each other's plus-one for the summer season of parties and weddings so as to get well meaning friends and inquisitive relatives off their backs especially since Very's eldest sister will be getting married at the end of the summer.

But then ...
(yes, of course they fall in love. It says so in the title.)

I liked this one better than the first. It was nice to see some of the man's life rather than seeing all the events happening in the lady's space. The bedroom scenes are mainly off screen which, I feel, makes the romance sweeter. In both books, though, the female protagonist doesn’t see the attraction and then clicks a bit suddenly - even though we can see them falling in love.

I thought I was a serious introvert but Very, the middle girl of five sisters, has it much worse than I do so it affects her physically and she has coping mechanisms. She is a huge Pride and Prejudice fan, often asking herself 'What would Elizabeth Bennet do in this situation?' and each chapter is headed by a Pride and Prejudice quote with even more sprinkled through the chapters, since Very has memorised the book. I'm happy to say I could place them all.

I loved the Love family (Our Vicar, Our Vicar's Wife and their brood of five-plus-everyone-else. And pets.); I wouldn’t mind seeing them get their own series! *hint to author*

3.5 stars

Litsy notes

Following almost straight on from the first book, this time about Verity. Each chapter is headed by a 'Pride & Prejudice' quote with more sprinkled through the chapters, since Very has memorised the book. Happy to say I can identify them all. 😄

https://youtu.be/EI45qyPQJqA In case you've forgotten the words to 'Agadoo'

Do the villages ‘Lambton‘ and ‘Lower Meryton‘ ring any bells for P&P aficionados?

98MickyFine
Maggio 9, 10:57am

>97 humouress: Glad to see this was a solid read for you, Nina.

99humouress
Modificato: Maggio 19, 6:58am

32) Draekora by Lynette Noni

 

{Third of 5 of Medoran Chronicles; fantasy, YA, adventure} (2017)

In the first book, Akarnae Alexandra Jennings answered the Call and jumped to Medora from our Earth (known there as Freya) and was Chosen. She spent a year in boarding school there and returned again in Raelia where she rediscovered an immortal elf-like race known as Meyarins and also discovered that one of them was bent on the destruction of humans. In Draekora Alex rediscovers dragons - sorry, draekons - who are extinct in the present day when she is pulled back in time while running a Meyarin endurance race.

She goes back thousands of years to when her Meyarin friends seem her age rather than a few years older, to before Aven Dalmarta turned against humans, and discovers that people who are friends in her present don't like each other in the past and present enemies are not yet enemies, which gives her the opportunity to make friends with them - despite initial deep misgivings - to maybe discover how to deal with them when she returns to the present. She has some help from a Tia Auran (a race who are to Meyarins as Meyarins are to humans) to ensure that her friends do not remember her in the present.

I found the first part of this story a little slow so I kept taking breaks but once Alex went back to the past, the pace picked up and I wanted to keep reading. The time loop paradoxes are there although Noni has dealt with some of them - but I decided to let the whole 'if she hadn't done that in the past then ...' concept ride. A lot of threads from the previous book are pulled together in this one and the plot was well thought out, so I feel that the paradoxes may be resolved in the later books. And if they're not, the story is still fun.

I thought the banter, while fun, was a bit too flippant. I appreciate that I'm being a snob - my elves should speak high elven and my dragons should not be saying things like 'Bite me' - and that it's one thing that many readers of this series align with but, at the same time, it's phrases like this that date the series. However, that's a minor quibble; I'm sure it works for its target audience.

I thought the friendship with Aven had potential and though it was a shame she felt unable to return his feelings - with reason - I suppose that would go towards explaining his extreme reaction towards humans. Otherwise, his attitude was a rather abrupt about-face.

3.5-4 stars

100humouress
Maggio 11, 12:21am

Huh; looks like I read Raelia, which is book 2 in the Medoran chronicles but I didn’t add it to my list in December even though I added it to my catalogue. So I actually read 90 books last year :0)

101humouress
Maggio 11, 2:00am

>98 MickyFine: Thanks Micky. I'll be looking for the next in the series soon.

102humouress
Maggio 13, 12:22am

I had a lovely dream last night. I dreamed I found a bookshop/ library (a bookshop where you can buy new books or borrow old books) and rediscovered some old favourites.

It could have been due to the fact I had two books on my bed but I fell asleep before I could decide between them and before I could finish the Overdrive book I was in the middle of. But I don't care - I enjoyed the dream.

103humouress
Modificato: Maggio 15, 2:40am

33) Beyond the Empire by K.B. Wagers

 

{Third in the Indranan Wars trilogy; sci-fi, action-adventure}

This is the concluding book of how Hail Bristol succeeded to the multi-solar system empire of Indrana on the death of the rest of her family and her vengeance against a shadowy figure called Wilson who had engineered their assassinations and then plunged the empire into war. In this instalment the Indranan empire is on the brink of war with the Saxon empire as well as facing insurrection, conducted by Wilson, on the home front which encompasses space stations, fleets and planets. Victory will not be achieved without fatalities.

The action is fast and furious and the story is engaging. However, the villains' motives seemed rather petty for causing wholesale destruction across two empires, and I felt Hail could have deployed her resources better for her endgame.

The same minor flaws from the previous books continued into this one, namely that it was a bit light on details. I could have used a glossary of characters; although I read the whole trilogy within two months, I couldn't keep track of who was who and it didn't help when new names popped up with no background given. Or, when first names were suddenly used instead of surnames (or vice versa), it was hard to make the association when we hadn't been given the whole name before and it sometimes suddenly changed from one sentence to the next. And Hail, as a middle-aged empress/ hardened ex-gunrunner didn't really act her given age; she tended to get emotional quite a lot and to stick out her tongue if she didn't have a comeback quip. I missed Portis, who didn't feature as much in this episode

But these were minor quibbles. Overall, I enjoyed the story.

3.25 stars

Litsy notes

This series really needs a glossary of characters; I‘ve read both preceding books within the last 2 months but I can‘t keep track of who‘s who.
It doesn‘t help when new names pop up with no background or suddenly first names are used instead of surnames (or vice versa)

I had an idea, 6 chapters in, about who the villain is. 5 chapters later they‘re starting to catch up. I suspect I‘ll have to wait until the end of the book to find out.

There‘s less of The Look and sticking out tongues than in the previous books but it‘s still not behaviour you expect from a middle-aged multi-solar system empress even if she is an ex-gunrunner. (Yes, I‘m being ageist - but she‘s younger than me 😉). Hail also gets very emotional.

2/3 of the way through. I know authors are supposed to ‘show don‘t tell‘ but that‘s the 2nd time she‘s as good as told us but left her characters in the dark.
(Okay, I got it wrong - this time. But I think my idea was better 😉 )

I am enjoying the book 😊; these are just small quibbles I‘m noting as I go along.

104MickyFine
Maggio 13, 11:18am

>102 humouress: My dreams have all been on the odd side lately so I'm glad the Sandman is dropping off good ones somewhere, Nina. ;)

105charl08
Maggio 13, 11:27am

>102 humouress:.That does sound lovely. I trust there were no masks? I've been having dreams involving forgetting to put it on in the shop, and getting terribly hot and bothered!

106humouress
Maggio 13, 12:26pm

>104 MickyFine: Thanks, Micky :0)

>105 charl08: No, masks haven't invaded my dreams yet, thank goodness.

Although the other day I was trying on clothes in a shop (in RL) and a shop assistant walked up to me to remind me to wear my mask - and only then did I realise I had left it in the changing room with all my other stuff when I popped out quickly to look at something else on the rack.

107humouress
Modificato: Maggio 13, 12:36pm

And in other news, there was an unexpected increase in covid numbers (I think a cluster of 6) at a hospital last week so gatherings here were reduced back down to five people from the previous eight (ie the number of people who can visit someone else's home or the total number of people at a table if they're eating out).

But my husband mentioned that today there were 24 new cases which, in a small, densely populated island, is worrying.

108richardderus
Maggio 14, 8:03pm

>103 humouress: So, on to There Before the Chaos now?

I hope you're enjoying your weekend's reads!

109humouress
Maggio 14, 11:26pm

>108 richardderus: I think I’ll take a break from this series now, thanks.

My recent books seem to have been middle of the road for me; it could be my choices or it could be my mood. I think I’ve caught up with my library books so I’ll hunt through my shelves for something that will hopefully pick things up.

110humouress
Modificato: Maggio 15, 1:38am

So, things have tightened up again; allowed visitors will drop to two, from five, as of Sunday and restaurants will not be allowed to have dine-in customers. My younger son takes after his father and said, on hearing the news, that he wanted to go out for a nice restaurant meal (which, anyway, we had planned to do after postponing it from last weekend) whereas my older son (who takes more after me (in this case)) said everyone should just stay at home for two weeks and eradicate this thing. Most companies will be back to work-from-home although schools (except those that decide on their own to switch to home learning) will remain open.

Yesterday was a bonanza in terms of spotting wildlife. I started golf lessons in the past year (hashtag 'pandemic hobby') - which is now about the only exercise I do - and the driving range and course lie on one side of one of the reservoirs (with the zoos across towards the other side) so there is a fair amount of wildlife around. I got my clearest view of a kingfisher there yesterday and then, as I was on the range, I saw a monkey walking very comfortably along the wire that holds up the tall safety nets that surround the range. And when I collected my son from school I was surprised - and very excited - to see a toucan sitting in one of the trees there. I took quick pictures of the birds; I'll see if I have anything decent that I can post, later.

111humouress
Modificato: Maggio 19, 12:38am

Bridgerton Collection volume 1 by Julia Quinn

 

{First 3 of 8 Bridgertons series; Regency romance, steam} (2020)

34) The Duke and I

(2000)

Romance, transposed into 'Regency' times of balls and matchmaking mammas. Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest Bridgerton daughter with three older brothers, wants to get married but all the eligible bachelors think of her as a good friend and not marriage material. The Duke of Hastings, having had a horrible father who only wanted an heir to continue the Hastings line, has sworn never to marry and to never have children in revenge but, as the most eligible bachelor in London, he will have to fend off the determined mammas looking for the best match for their daughters. So they come up with a plan, since he is best friends with her oldest brother, to fake an attraction. This should have the effect of making her suddenly desirable as a potential wife and, conversely, making him less desirable as a potential husband. The plan works until they realise that they feel a mutual desire for each other. Cue lots of passion.

I put in a request on Overdrive for this months ago when the TV series came out but it said it I would be on the hold list for about 9 weeks and by the time it did come through, I wasn't really in the mood for a steamy romance. It seemed fairly standard for the genre (anachronisms, Americanisms and all) with more than the usual number of steamy scenes.

3 stars

35) The Viscount who Loved Me

(2006)

Kate Sheffield is not as pretty as her younger half-sister, Edwina. The Sheffield's can only afford one season in London and Edwina is the more likely to find a suitable, rich husband so Kate appoints herself her protector. She wouldn't want Edwina to have her heart broken by a rake such as Lord Bridgerton. Unfortunately, as Edwina is the toast of the season, Lord Bridgerton sets his sights on her when he decides that he will marry this year. Naturally he clashes with Kate and, despite their mutual apathy, discovers that he desires her.
He had no business lusting after this woman. He didn’t even like her.
Quinn seems to have no clue as to the social mores of the period; there are several scenes, for example, when people confuse the two Misses Sheffield when they are talking about them when any good Austenite knows that they should be Miss Sheffield and Miss Edwina Sheffield. The five Bennet sisters were never confused when referred to.

More fluff and less fun than the first instalment.

2.5 stars

36) An offer from a gentleman

(2001)

This is a Cinderella story complete with wicked stepmother, one night at a ball, slippers and a cast off glove and fairytale 'love at first sight' (or just before first sight).

As the illegitimate daughter of the earl of Penwood Sophie has an aristocratic upbringing but her lot in life changes after her father dies. When she goes to a masquerade ball she meets her prince charming - Benedict, the second of the Bridgerton brothers - and they fall in love as soon as they sense each other across the room. As a consequence of going to the ball, Sophie is thrown out of the house so she leaves London to find work as a housemaid. Despite being mesmerised by his mysterious woman in silver, Benedict doesn't recognise her when they meet again but feels the attraction. He cannot marry a servant but he can make an ungentlemanly offer. She will not let any child of hers suffer the same kind of childhood she did. But a Bridgerton doesn't take no for an answer.
if her experience had been sufficiently wretched so that she refused to risk bearing a bastard herself—well, then, he should have respected that.
If he respected her, then he had to respect her beliefs.
Not my favourite instalment (I think you gather that).

2 stars

NB: I’m not sure why, whenever she describes any of her characters as plump, Quinn implies it’s not a good thing. Up until the 20th century being well endowed was desirable as it indicated wealth and health.

Despite the book titles, these are all written in the third person.

Averaging out: 2.5 stars

112humouress
Maggio 17, 1:44pm

Well, it's not being called a lockdown or circuit breaker (I suppose we're not strictly being confined to quarters) but from today my husband is working from home, the kids will be on home based learning in a couple of days, sports will be reduced to one-on-one basis so no team sports and restaurants are not allowed dine-in customers. There's been a rise in the number of cases suddenly - so here we go again.

113richardderus
Maggio 17, 2:34pm

>112 humouress: That's not happy news, sorry to hear it. I expect the current relaxation of masking rules to lead us back to where you are by August/early September.

Ugh.

114humouress
Maggio 19, 12:43am

>113 richardderus: Thanks Richard.

I was also dismayed by the statement on masks. I hope Biden isn't trying to follow his predecessor and go just for the popularity vote. The masks are a nuisance to wear, I grant you. But they save lives.

115humouress
Modificato: Maggio 26, 3:55am

37) Born a Crime by Trevor Noah



{Stand-alone, non-fiction, auto-biography} (2016)

So my kids are now on home-based-learning for at least the next couple of weeks and I spotted this book, which is my Year 12’s set text for English. Since we like Trevor Noah on ‘The Daily Show’ and my husband occasionally shows us hilarious clips from Noah’s stand-up gigs, I asked to read it but I galloped through it in one night, since he needs it for online classes tomorrow.

This is Noah’s account of growing up as the mixed-race kid of a single (by her choice) black mother in post-apartheid South Africa (whew, that’s a mouthful of labels in one sentence) when the country was being wracked by the changes (not necessarily for the better in the short term) that the end of apartheid brought. His mother, spare daughter/ middle child, always pushing against the boundaries of what black South Africans were allowed under apartheid, wanted a child of her own to love. His father, Swiss/ German Caucasian and thus unconcerned about apartheid laws and older than her, was not interested in marriage but (eventually) agreed to help her have that child, even though it was illegal at that time for a white and a black person to become a couple. And so Trevor was born a crime (or, rather, the evidence of a crime).

Under apartheid the family could not risk Trevor calling his father ‘daddy’ and even when it ended when he was around six, he did not really fit in to black, white or coloured (by South African definition) society as a mixed-race child. This is the story of his childhood in various neighbourhoods of Johannesburg and in its different sectors of its society. This is also a tribute to his deeply religious mother who was his champion, opening new and untested avenues for him in the new South Africa.
She taught me to challenge authority and question the system. The only way it backfired on her was that I constantly challenged and questioned her.

Each chapter has a preface which puts the following chapter in context. The first few chapters explain the history of apartheid in South Africa but from chapter six there are more anecdotes from his early childhood and the book starts to get more interesting. The timeline is not completely linear though it generally moves forward.

It was interesting to discover that ‘black’ South Africans are divided into many different tribes which are kept apart by their language and culture. By virtue of not really belonging to any one society (though his mother is Xhosa), Noah learned a little bit of many different languages including Afrikaans (the language of coloureds and whites) and, of course, English (which, as the language of business, automatically boosted him to the top of heap) which enabled him to blend in with different groups and tribes and even translate between them.

I suspect that the book is partially ghost-written because although Noah’s trademark humour does show through occasionally there are a lot of American idioms, words (‘bring’ instead of ‘take’ although ‘take’ is also correctly used on occasion) and translations for an American audience.
My favourite thing to eat as a kid, and still my favourite dessert of all time, was custard and jelly, what Americans would call Jell-O.

Not that I have a particular objection (although it did give me something of the feeling of being 'an insider on the outside' as Noah puts it) but it was noticeable, especially for a book written by and about someone from a Commonwealth country, and made me feel that it is squarely aimed at American readers.

I probably would have benefited from reading this over a longer time period. Interesting and amusing but not as much as I was expecting (probably unfairly) based on what I’ve seen of him on tv.

3-3.5 stars

NB: I notice that many other reviewers listened to the audio book. I suspect that hearing Trevor Noah tell his own story must have been an amazing experience and that I would have given this book a higher rating if I had listened to it too rather than reading it.

* My apologies if the use of the words ‘black’, ‘white’ or ‘coloured’ offends anyone but those are the words and the way that they are used in this book.

116humouress
Modificato: Maggio 27, 1:04am

The Crystal Variation



38) Crystal Dragon by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

{Second in chronology/ twenty fourth of 45(?) in publication order of Liaden series; sci-fi, space opera} (2005)

It’s been a few months since I read Crystal Soldier where a soldier in the long-running galactic war against the sheriekas, M. Jela Granthor’s Guard, and his psychic sapling inadvertently involved the pilot Cantra yos’Phelium in his mission to find out why portions of the galaxy have disappeared, or decrystallised, thought to be caused by the sheriekas and where they met two very mysterious strangers.

It becomes apparent that decrystallisation cannot be halted or avoided; it may only be possible to escape it - at the instant of its occurrence - into a parallel universe. But the only scholar who has calculated the possible equations is locked away in a Tower on a distant world so Jela and Cantra must infiltrate it to try and hack into the Tower’s jealously guarded ‘brain’ to save the galaxy.

Crystal Dragon starts at the point where Crystal Soldier ends. However, the prologue goes back to the origins of the two mysterious strangers, the way they are trained to manipulate possibilities and how they became involved in the fight against the sheriekas or, as they know them, the Iloheen. I felt a bit lost until I worked out that in this universe, apart from the psychic tree, its co-species the extinct dragons and the zaliata that the sheriekas trap in constructed human bodies, there do not seem to be any aliens; all species seem to be derived or engineered from humans.

The story proper begins by introducing us to Tor An yos’Galan, a young Trader pilot on his way home, who discovers that the portion of the galaxy that contains his home planet no longer exists. When he tries to find an explanation for this, he too is pulled into the dance of fate.

Meanwhile, Jela and Cantra are working on the problem assigned to them by the mysterious strangers, namely to acquire those equations. Fortunately - when it comes to mathematical equations - Jela, as a generalist soldier, is very good at them and has been working on them as part of his ongoing mission. However, to access Liad dea’Syl’s work there is no alternative to going into Osabei Tower on Landomist, an Inner world of the galaxy where his genetic makeup would stand out and prevent his access to the Towers. Luckily, Cantra fits the bill perfectly and she is a trained aelantaza - someone who can take on a character and personality so thoroughly that she believes the false memories she uses to create that character. But working Jela and the tree into her disguise - that’s the trick.

Some characters from Crystal Soldier return in this book to lend a hand against the sheriekas's last push as they prepare to eliminate all other life in the spiral arm galaxy. And when it comes down to that final battle, the likelihood of escape rests on the slimmest of chances - if all the fates align - but, luckily, the mysterious strangers are on their side and they have allies. It might work, in the end.

I enjoyed this story and I liked the characters, especially Jela:
The citations and reprimands, the write-ups for offences that earned him detention wove a kind of narrative, as if the Jela in the file was a character in a story who touched some points with the man ... but was otherwise wholly imaginary. Not that she couldn’t perfectly well imagine Jela taking on an entire squad of soldiers - and winning the fight! - but the smile and the sheer joy coming off him while he courted and committed mayhem - that didn’t come through the reports. For Jela, she thought, had been bred, born and trained to fight and destroy - and he’d been happy in his work. He’d been bred for that, too.

and the sussdriad (doesn't name that just make you think of the susurration of leaves in a wind sweeping across the treetops of a great forest?), who communicates in images of its home planet which convert people into dragons:
A series of pictures flared inside his head, hard enough to hurt, strong enough to obscure the sight of the ships and the port around him: The golden dragon, voice faint, calling against the fall of night. From the darkening sky, the black dragon swooped, behind and beneath her, bearing her up, moving them both toward a distant cliff-edge and the tree growing there, the scent of seed-pods clear and enticing on the wind ...
‘M. Jela, are you well?’ the old scholar asked sharply.
He shook the pictures out of his head, and blinked the port back into existence.
‘Disagreement among the troop,’ he muttered, and took a hard breath.


I like the tip of the hat to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern towards the end. And don’t worry - despite all the maths flying around, there’s not a single actual equation in evidence :0)

Despite the purists' encouragement to read this series in publication order, I found this (currently the first two books in chronological order and the origin story) a good introduction to the Liaden Universe and I'm happy to explore it further.

4-4.5 stars

117Berly
Maggio 22, 4:40pm

>13 humouress: I loved The Flatshare, so you got me with this one. Added to my WL. : )

Tell Jasper I feel his pain!!

>51 humouress: Blech on wood termites!

>111 humouress: I read the first and second in the series and watched season number 1. Fun and light stuff..

>112 humouress: Sorry about the lockdown again. And I am not happy about the CDC lifting mask recommendations! Dang it! I think it will make those not inclined to get the vaccine feel vindicated and we will never get to herd immunity. Sigh.

>115 humouress: Definitely better listening to Trevor tell his own story. Loved it on audio!

Phew! Caught up again. We'll see how long that lasts! LOL

118humouress
Maggio 23, 5:36am

>117 Berly: Hi Kim! It's nice to see you over here. How's the empty nesting going now?

I think you'll like The Switch.

By Jasper's pain, I assume you're referring to his diet? Don't worry, his appetite is as good as ever and he still haunts the kitchen door. (He's not allowed inside but it doesn't stop him hoping/ trying.)

I saw your review of Born a Crime and I think it would make it a richer experience on audio. I think rushing through it in one night also didn't help; although it's more or less a progression along his life, I would probably have got more out of it by reading it in one-to-three chapter bites.

I'll look out for you over here ... soon! ;0)

119PaulCranswick
Maggio 23, 6:04am

>118 humouress: I got a few chapters into Born a Crime and it wasn't really floating my boat, Nina. I will go back to it another time when I am more in the mood for it.

120humouress
Maggio 23, 6:44am



Do you think Jasper is looking a) guilty b) coy or c) reproachful?

Nah, I think you’re right. It’s probably his I-cannot-be-bothered-to-move-anything-but-my-eyes look.

121humouress
Maggio 23, 6:47am

>119 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul! I think you’re right; you do have to be in the mood for it but it’s still very readable nonetheless. Have you watched Trevor Noah? You might do better with the audiobook.

122FAMeulstee
Maggio 23, 7:20am

>120 humouress: Jasper just looks sweet :-)

123humouress
Maggio 23, 7:22am

>122 FAMeulstee: Ahh; he got you with b)
;0)

124FAMeulstee
Maggio 23, 7:24am

>123 humouress: I had to look up b) in the dictionary.

125humouress
Modificato: Maggio 24, 3:14am

>124 FAMeulstee: So now you know. And he demonstrated it to you :0) He's a bit flirty that way.

ETA: actually, with him it's more of an all-out assault than a mere flirtation because he absolutely loves attention.

126richardderus
Maggio 23, 4:31pm

>120 humouress: *baaawww* such a smoochie-poochie schmoozle-ears!

127humouress
Modificato: Maggio 24, 3:15am

>126 richardderus: Isn't he?

*sigh* So I suppose we're all going with b).

128foggidawn
Maggio 24, 9:11am

>127 humouress: He is awfully cute, but I'm going with d) I-cannot-be-bothered-to-move-anything-but-my-eyes.

129humouress
Maggio 24, 12:35pm

>128 foggidawn: Ah, you know dogs :0)

(I'm surprised Anita fell for him.)

130charl08
Maggio 24, 3:26pm

Aw he's lovely. No idea what he's thinking though.

131humouress
Maggio 26, 12:16am

>130 charl08: Thanks :0)

When he was younger, Jasper would come running up to me from wherever he was when I went downstairs in the mornings. Then, this past year, I've been lucky to get a few tail thumps until, at this point, he doesn't even bother to register my presence unless - occasionally - he tracks me with his eyes. My husband, as alpha male, gets the whole obeisance-howl thing and my eldest (as master) gets Jasper's full and complete attention if he so much as hears his voice, even if he's two floors away. Hmph.

132humouress
Maggio 29, 12:53am

I bought a dog bed for Jasper, which is a kind of net platform on legs so it can help him keep cool, which arrived yesterday. I'd already bought one before but I went for the large size for him and then discovered that it's a bit too large to fit comfortably inside the house without us tripping over it so it's been banished outdoors to where Jasper's water bowl lives. He does seem to like it so I ordered a smaller one for indoors.

I'm sure they spray dog toys and other items with something that makes them irresistible to dogs because Jasper was quite excited about the bed as soon as it came out of the box. Unfortunately, we did have to assemble it first but he insisted on climbing all over it while we tried to work it out. I started putting it together and then, when my son came downstairs to take Jasper out for his walk, he pitched in to help too. It was a fairly simple job but easier with two people - especially with a very interested retriever supervising. He couldn't stop sniffing the mat and I even saw him drool a couple of times. Then he climbed on and lay down very comfortably on the mat - except that we were trying to assemble the legs which connect inside the mat at that point.

We finally got it set up despite Jasper's help and he seems very happy with it. I'll have to take a picture of him reclining royally on his new couch.

133FAMeulstee
Maggio 29, 5:37am

Yes, a picture please, Nina!
Good you found a comfortable and fitting dog bed for Jasper. Funny how eager he was to get on it.

134foggidawn
Maggio 29, 11:38am

>132 humouress: Lottie had a Bark Box subscription for a year, and now she's Very Interested in anything that comes to the house in a box. Unfortunately for her, the boxes that are coming now are mostly books.

135humouress
Maggio 31, 12:11am

>133 FAMeulstee: I got my son to take a photo for me - but I'm still waiting for him to send it to me :0)

136humouress
Maggio 31, 12:13am

>134 foggidawn: Ah, yes; the Very Interested attitude.

Don't let her too near the books; you know the old 'dog ate my homework' story? It was literally true for us once.

137humouress
Modificato: Giu 6, 2:20am

39) The Sorcerer in the North by John Flanagan



{Fifth published/ sixth chronologically of 11 (or 12); Ranger’s Apprentice series. Fantasy, children’s, YA} (2006)
Group read.

This is labelled book 5 in the series but the story follows on from events in book 7 (Erak's Ransom), when Will graduated from Ranger's Apprentice to fully fledged Ranger. Now aged around twenty, Will gets his first Ranger's posting, the fief of Seacliff in the west and along the way rescues a dog. The well-meaning lord and his Battle master try to assert their authority but Will knows that Rangers answer to the crown. Despite carrying out his duties, he is called back on a secret mission - there is apparently a sorcerer in the north, near the castle of Macindaw in Norgate fief which guards Araluen's boundary with the land of Picta, home of the Scotti.

But, apart from the superstitious, people in this world don't believe in magic and the Rangers need to investigate what is happening in this crucial defensive fief. However, there is a Ranger already in the fief but - since Rangers themselves cultivate a superstitious mystique about themselves and are regarded with awe - he cannot investigate so another Ranger has to go in undercover. Cue Will the jongleur, playing his mandola. It's not a lute because a lute has ten strings whereas a mandola has eight which are ... never mind.

His old friend Alyss, who is a Courier/ a member of the Diplomatic Service, is also brought into play undercover as his contact agent but then they both find themselves in danger.

I will admit that in the second half of the book I kept glancing ahead (something I deplore - but I managed to resist turning the page too early) because I was on tenterhooks and I was hoping at the character 'don't do that, don't do that'.

As always, I like Flanagan's writing. He keeps it clean and not too simple, his characters show intelligence and he doesn't talk down to his audience.
The long grass shivered once more. It was only a faint movement but there was no wind to cause it - as the hanging clouds of steam from the horses‘ breath clearly showed.
Will is growing up - although I felt, at times, that he nearly gave in to anger which was uncharacteristic of him. There is still some of the banter from previous books but the general tone is slightly more serious.
But, along with the other skills of a Ranger, he had learned patience. As he sat and waited for his superiors to broach the subject, he felt Halt‘s approving eye on him from time to time as his former teacher assessed this new-found quality. Will looked up once, caught Halt's eyes on him and allowed a grin to touch his features. He was pleased that he was able to demonstrate his forbearance.
Finally, Halt shifted his seat on the hard ground and said in an exasperated tone, 'Oh, all right, Crowley! Let's get on with it, for God's sake!'
The Corps Commandant smiled delightedly at his friend. 'I thought we were testing Will's patience here, not yours,' he said. Halt made an annoyed gesture.
'Well, consider his patience tested.'
There is a little bit of mild cursing (but, I'm embarrassed to admit, my kids use stronger language).

I've always liked Tug, Will's small Ranger horse, and I like the addition of the dog - Araluen's equivalent of a border collie. He's trained her well in the short time that he's had her and I hope she sticks around - although he still hasn't named her by the end of the book and there are signs that she's falling in love with another human.

I think the message behind this story is 'don't judge a book by its cover'.
'Look at them,' he said. 'Are they human?' ...
One at least was huge - he must have been two and a half metres tall and massive across the chest and shoulders. ...
The pallid-skinned giant had begun to advance across the clearing towards them, one ponderous step at a time. ...
The frown disappeared from the huge creature's face and he went down on one knee, one massive hand out to the dog. ...
'You know, I think he's quite harmless. Thank God you didn't shoot him.'

Be warned; have book 6 (The Siege of Macindaw) to hand because this book ends on a cliff-hanger (almost literally)!
He tugged on his gloves and seized the tied-off end of the rope with his left hand about half a metre above his head, using his right to belay the loose end against his hip.
Alyss's stomach heaved as Will let himself fall backwards into space, controlling his fall with the loop of rope running around his body, fending off from the wall with his feet.


4.5 stars

Litsy notes

-Will‘s first posting as a Ranger. This is book 5 but follows after events in book 7 when he got his silver badge to symbolise his graduating from Ranger‘s Apprentice.

-‘The long grass shivered once more. It was only a faint movement but there was no wind to cause it - as the hanging clouds of steam from the horses‘ breath clearly showed.‘

This is why I think Flanagan is such a good YA author. His characters show intelligence and he doesn‘t talk down to his audience.

-Will has matured as a Ranger:
But, along with the other skills of a Ranger, he had learned patience. As he sat and waited for his superiors to broach the subject, he felt Halt‘s approving eye on him from time to time as his former teacher assessed this new-found quality. Will looked up once, caught Halt's eyes on him and allowed a grin to touch his features. He was pleased that he was able to demonstrate his forbearance.
Finally, Halt shifted his seat on the hard ground and said in an exasperated tone, 'Oh, all right, Crowley! Let's get on with it, for God's sake!'
The Corps Commandant smiled delightedly at his friend. 'I thought we were testing Will's patience here, not yours,' he said. Halt made an annoyed gesture.
'Well, consider his patience tested.'

-Cliff-hanger, almost literally. Have ‘The Siege of Macindaw‘ ready to go ...
He tugged on his gloves and seized the tied-off end of the rope with his left hand about half a metre above his head, using his right to belay the loose end against his hip.
Alyss's stomach heaved as Will let himself fall backwards into space, controlling his fall with the loop of rope running around his body, fending off from the wall with his feet.

138FAMeulstee
Maggio 31, 2:25am

>137 humouress: Glad to see you enjoyed the next Ranger's Apprentice book, Nina. Now on to the next I suppose.

139humouress
Modificato: Maggio 31, 4:29am

Thanks Anita. Even if it’s not my next book, I plan to read it very soon. I suppose you're still waiting for the next book after The Missing Prince?

140curioussquared
Giu 1, 1:58pm

We have one of those raised net platform beds for the dogs that I bought to keep outside on the deck. They do like it... but I think they're too skinny and bony to love it, so they mostly use it when I put a blanket on it for them for additional padding. Luckily the spot we keep it in on the deck is totally covered, so I can leave an old blanket out there without it getting soaked and ruined in our inevitable rain. I imagine Jasper is a little cushier with all of his fur!

141humouress
Giu 4, 6:44am

>140 curioussquared: Jasper is a lot cushier! Especially now that we've managed to get him to scratch less and his fur has built back up (but I do have to order him out of the house when I catch him trying to scratch, so then he either stops, sneaks off to another rug - he seems to need something soft under his bum at those times - or, very rarely, goes outside).

But he's used to the larger bed I bought initially and when he gets onto this one, he steps inwards a bit so he's a bit forwards and his head is on the frame when he lies down. I do try to reposition him but he makes his objection known to that. He'll stay on it for a bit, though, so I do think he sort of likes it; he just has to offset the discomfort of lying over the edge.

142humouress
Modificato: Giu 4, 7:28am

Eeugh! Today has been so hot!! Right now at twilight (18.30ish) it's 30ºC but feels like 37ºc, according to the Weather website. I confess, I had to go into my room earlier and turn on the air-conditioning to cool down because I was literally dripping, just sitting still. (Don't tell my kids, because I'm always yelling at them for not thinking green.)

And I can't wear a sleeveless top because there's a !%$£^$& mosquito hiding out in my study that's been dining on me for the past couple of days.

143richardderus
Giu 4, 2:39pm

UGH to 37C
*OUTRAGE* at that damnèd mother-beast eating your blood to bring her brood of evil-doers into being
*smooch* for a happy weekend anyway

144humouress
Modificato: Giu 6, 2:20am

40) Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

 

{Stand alone? Urban fantasy, superheroes, contemporary} (2020)

What if superheroing were run like a business and so, therefore, would supervillaining also be. And, to help them in their dastardly deeds, what if supervillains and other calibres of villains, employed people - known as henches (supplying brain power) or Meat (likewise for brawn) in their companies? Our heroine ... er ... villainess, Anna, is one such hench.
“Anna Tromedlov,” I croaked.
“Am I speaking with . . . the Palindrome?”
(Her surname is always being mangled and, yes, her dating life fails to launch. Don’t expect romance here - though she fancies a few people - but there are some good friendships.)

Initially she survives from temp job to job analysing data and working remotely but when she takes her first step to working in the office of a minor villain, she ends up being caught in the crossfire, so to speak, when a team of superheroes (including Supercollider, the most famous hero) foils one of his schemes. While recuperating, she idly starts calculating the cost of the damage of that incident which she then extends to other superhero rescues and starts a blog which brings her to the attention of Leviathan, The supervillain, who offers her a permanent job. Then she can really bring her talents to bear against superheroes.

I must say, the incidental damage that occurs in superhero films always makes me wince, imagining what that kind of destruction would cause and cost in a normal person's life.
A budding restaurateur whose business was physically demolished by an errant eye laser. A makeup artist blinded by psionics. A parade of mortified flesh: burned, crushed, frozen, liquified. Buildings people saved years or decades to afford reduced to rubble by a hero blundering through. The endless reams of psychological damage. A litany of heroes leaving trauma blossoming in their wake.
Walschots expands that idea to henches - people who may be on the bad guys' team but are only there to earn a living and who are considered expendable by the villains they work for and by the heroes who disregard them as collateral damage.
'My point is just, if we're willing to tolerate that, who is going to care about a temp worker's spiral fracture?'
Or a photographer's spinal injury. I let that unspoken sentence hang. The journalist's experience had been similar to mine; Supercollider had learned so much of his manner and affect and approach from his old hero. Proton was vaguely apologetic, but once he was satisfied that the young photographer he had catastrophically injured wasn't a threat (with no aspirations to villainy), the hero forgot about McKinnon entirely.
She also casts a pejorative eye at the bureaucracy, in her world (where everyone is tested in school for superpowers and heroes, villains, sidekicks and henches may be cybernetically enhanced), that creates and supports superheroes.
Supercollider had a great deal in common with a diamond: aesthetically tacky; value artificially ascribed by corporate greed; cultural significance vastly overinflated; and incredibly hard to damage.
(um - she really doesn't like Supercollider, who caused her lifelong injuries)

Granted this story is told from the point of support staff to villains, so you do have to suspend your moral judgment (I assume you have one?); having done which, there are some very amusing moments. (The one that startled me into laughing out loud is too spoilerish to quote here, unfortunately.) I did find some moments a little bit ... squicky, especially towards the end (so a quarter star off for overenthusiastic vindictiveness. Even if it is 'for the greater good').

Walschots pokes fun at several superhero tropes such as superhero/ villain speeches
'Have you ever met him, Quantum?'
She looked utterly startled. 'Of course! We've fought -'
'No. Like when you were not trying to kill each other. Has he ever actually exchanged words with you.' She opened her mouth to speak. 'Delivering a monologue in the third person does not count, nor do general threats.'
'Oh. No.' She pressed her lips together and frowned, furrowing her brow and trying to think. 'We've never - no. I don't think so.'
or Quantum Entanglement, the Maori superhero Anna admires the most (or, even, at all) having to relocate to the USA from New Zealand. Because all superheroes live and work in the USA.

I did like the way ladies are portrayed and one, especially 'whom he'd kept under his thumb for the better part of twelve years', really finds her feet.

Despite the story being about supervillains/ superheroes, I can't see it appealing to kids given that it centres around working in an office, running spreadsheets and, to some extent, office culture. And (my parent-mode is going down still fighting) there is a lot of casual swearing.

This was an unusual idea (for me, anyway), grippingly told. This felt like this told Anna's story and is complete in itself ... but I do wonder which of her options she's going to choose to explore next. There was a really good idea mentioned near the end and I'd be interested in that story.

4.75 stars

just noting some quotes, before my Overdrive book expires:

She raised a perfect, threaded eyebrow. The Meat eating the sandwich unconsciously let his arm waver, and a tomato slid out from between the bread and hit the floor. Shirtless grabbed a tea towel and tried to hide his naked chest behind it.
I cleared my throat. It seemed to snap them out of their shock enough to hustle out, Shirtless still demurely trying to hide behind the tiny square of cotton towel.

145humouress
Giu 4, 3:29pm

>143 richardderus: Ah, Richard, you're so sweet. I missed you there initially because I was so keen on putting down my ideas about Hench.

146richardderus
Giu 4, 4:02pm

>145 humouress: ...like I wouldn't butter up a supervillainess...

>144 humouress: Oh YAY!! I'm so pleased you enjoyed it as much as I did. I think Author Walschots is a dark horse, one to watch as she gets more mileage under her feet. This is her debut, if you can even imagine!

147humouress
Giu 5, 10:53pm

>146 richardderus: Keep buttering. Got any toast?

It is a very assured debut - but I see she has been in the writing business for a while.

148humouress
Modificato: Lug 5, 4:03am

41) Crazy in Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling

 

{Third of 4 Lonely Hearts Bookshop series. Romance, London, chick lit, low steam} (2018)

This is the third book about the three ladies at the 'Happy Ever After' exclusively-romance-bookshop (which used to be 'Bookends') and follows on a few months after True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop; Posy is married, Very has a boyfriend and Nina - tattoo and piercing covered, size 14 (UK), dressed in '50s vintage and the expert on dating - is never without someone (she goes for the 'bad boy' type) to go out with. But she's nearly thirty and still hasn't found The One, her perfect man, her Heathcliff; Nina's touchstone book being Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Each chapter has a quote which, I assume, come from the book; I didn't recognise most of them (despite having read it two or three times, I haven't read it since I was at school and - to be honest - it wasn't one of my favourites).

Nina is perpetually late to work (despite the fact that she now lives in the flat above the bookshop) and one day is startled to find Noah in her workspace. Noah is one of Sebastian Thorndyke's best friends and is doing an efficiency study on 'Happy Ever After' to help the business improve its cashflow. But, obviously, he can't be her wild, passionate Heathcliff - he's quiet and earnest and wears navy blue suits. And Nina has a nagging sense that she's met him before.

When he asks her out to dinner it can't be a date because they sort of work together and he's not her type so Nina doesn't flirt the way she usually does on dates and acts, I think, more genuinely as a consequence. But then they go out on another date and ...

Maybe Nina doesn’t need a Heathcliff after all.

Despite being my namesake, Nina is very different to me, on the suface; she's confident and she knows what she wants. Doesn't she? But maybe wild and passionate doesn't make for a lifetime relationship. She knows she wants something different from her mum - who seems to disapprove of everything Nina does - and her grandmother and great grandmother who were all married by twenty with a baby on the way and who all still live in Worcester Park (a suburb of London).
She was going to play it cool.
Then Noah looked up, caught sight of Nina hovering uncertainly in the no-man’s-land between shop and counter and he smiled broadly and brilliantly as if just the sight of her was enough to make everything right in his world.
I'm half in love with Noah myself; he's kind and thoughtful and has hidden depths and strengths.

I liked the laser tag party (and, yeah, kids in London speak like that) and I liked the visit to Haworth. I've not been there myself but I have once, in recent years, crossed the Yorkshire Moors and they are breathtaking, literally.

Light and fun but not too fluffy.

3.5-4 stars

149humouress
Giu 6, 8:47am

>142 humouress: That’s it! I have covered up as much skin as I can bear to in this climate but my ankles have still been eaten alive. I am now in full retreat and holed up in my bedroom. I have no alternative but to declare full chemical warfare.

150PaulCranswick
Giu 6, 9:26am

>149 humouress: My blood seems thankfully unpalatable to the mozzies most of the time, Nina and I am rarely trouble by the normal rashes and need to scratch. Didn't stop me contracting dengue fever a few years ago though.

151humouress
Giu 6, 10:05am

>150 PaulCranswick: My blood tends to have high sugar content (I have a sweet tooth) and mozzies seem to love it.

Dengue *shudder*.

152FAMeulstee
Giu 6, 2:42pm

>151 humouress: A perfect reason to ditch sugar, Nina ;-)

153MickyFine
Giu 6, 7:46pm

>148 humouress: I haven't read this one yet but I'm pleased to see you enjoyed it.

154vikzen
Giu 7, 12:15am

Passing through to say hi Nina! Hope you are well. Loving your reads so far this year

155humouress
Giu 7, 12:36am

>152 FAMeulstee: Umm ...

(But I've known this for a long time and it still hasn't worked.)

156humouress
Modificato: Giu 7, 1:22am

>153 MickyFine: I like the way Annie Darling's focus is on falling in love. I've downloaded the last of the four (so far - but it looks like it ties up the 'loose ends') in the series - but I'm behind on my self-appointed ROOTs quota so I should wait until I've read more of my own books before I pick it up.

157humouress
Modificato: Giu 7, 1:21am

>154 vikzen: Hi Vic! All well here, thankfully.

I seem to be keeping up with the reading pace I built last year - let's see how long it lasts.

158foggidawn
Giu 7, 2:03pm

>148 humouress: That series is on my radar for next year's reading, for sure!

159richardderus
Giu 7, 6:43pm

>155 humouress:, >152 FAMeulstee: "ditch sugar"


Nina, go to my thread and ogle the giftie-books my YGC sent me!

160richardderus
Modificato: Giu 7, 6:45pm

duplicate post! they're so rare these days

161humouress
Giu 9, 2:12am

>159 richardderus: Duly ogled, thank you.

162humouress
Modificato: Giu 9, 2:14am

>158 foggidawn: The Lonely Hearts Bookshop series is a lot of fun.

163humouress
Giu 9, 3:32am

I'm just listening to my London radio station and am horrified to hear that the Kings Heath branch of Acorns children's hospice charity was broken into. They bank every evening so no cash was lost (except from the donations tin) but vandals caused thousands of pounds of damage. It's not nice to imagine that anyone would do something like this to a charity which helps sick children and their families. I know that when one of my cousins lost her little girl a few years ago (although not in England), organisations like this helped and still help her and her family.

164SandDune
Modificato: Giu 9, 7:10am

>144 humouress: Hench sounds fun.

>149 humouress: I am always the one who is eaten alive by mosquitoes as well. I have heard that they don’t like marmite and avoid marmite eating bodies. Unfortunately, I can’t stand marmite.

165humouress
Giu 9, 10:15am

>164 SandDune: Marmite, hmm? It's not my favourite flavour but I could give it a go.

Do you think Vegemite would be an acceptable (or, rather, unacceptable) substitute? My younger son loves the stuff, so I'm pretty sure we have some in the house.

166richardderus
Giu 9, 10:46am

>165 humouress: I've always thought there was really no functional difference between the two things except branding. Is that not so?

167humouress
Giu 9, 11:00am

>166 richardderus: I thought one was meat based and one vegetable based - but Googling indicates that they're both produced from yeast so it looks like you're right. They look pretty similar.

168humouress
Modificato: Giu 12, 1:40am

And speaking of yeast; Jasper went to the vet for his usual injections and so on (which, apparently, he never even notices) but they told us he's a bit yeasty. Poor dog does suffer from the heat. After that, I noticed he does smell a bit biscuity, which is not something I usually associate with dogs - unless they've been on a kitchen raid. Well, they've given us a spray for him.

The diet might be working (although the food is more expensive than normal dog food) so we'll continue that for a bit. His fur is a lot more lush and he's been scratching less. If I see him scratching I'll stop him (because he does get into that mode where you just can't stop by yourself until you do yourself an injury) or chase him out of the house. However, he seems to be taking revenge - we've found damp patches with saliva under my chair at the dining table for the past couple of days.

I've also bought a skin for my keyboard which makes it look pretty while protecting it although, while it's fine if I'm touch-typing, it gets a bit confusing when I switch to hunt-and-peck style typing. But it's pretty. And it's protecting my keyboard.
And it will probably improve my touch-typing and memory skills.

169FAMeulstee
Giu 12, 7:01am

>168 humouress: Food can make a big difference for dogs, Nina.

About the patches of saliva: that sound like Jasper really has trouble with the heat. Dogs can't sweat, so the only way to cool down is through their tongue. Is there any way you can keep him in a cooler part of the house?

170Berly
Giu 13, 2:11am

Hi there! Best wishes to your yeasty-smiling dog. And I hope he spares your chair in the future. I also hope you enjoy your keyboard skin. Which can be confusing for typing but is pretty. And protective. LOL. Mosquitoes don't like me much and if I stand next to my sister, I am guaranteed that they will pass me by for her. : )

171humouress
Giu 13, 5:29am

>169 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita. We're still seeing whether the food makes a difference - but, of course, Jasper is still a canine vacuum cleaner, so it's not foolproof. I think, given his coats of fur, the heat is a more likely explanation. I feel a bit guilty because the boys wanted a dog but I seem to be allergic to short-haired breeds and though I always felt really bad for huskies and cold-weather dogs that I've seen in Singapore so I would never get one of those, we did get a golden retriever.

His fur is more lush now but he's started scratching and licking more again. I think he's been coughing up fur balls under my chair (usually it's my sister's dog who exhibits cat-like behaviour while I suspect that Jasper was a horse in his last life).

We keep the fans running downstairs and the floor is tiled with limestone so he'll spread out in one place and then move to another when that warms up (I can tell where he's been lying if I walk around with bare feet). He has the cooling dog beds but he rarely gets up on them by himself (yet) though if I coax him up, he'll stay there for a while.

172humouress
Giu 13, 5:32am

>170 Berly: Hi Kim! I know you have a soft spot for Jasper. I'm getting used to the keyboard skin.

I'm sure your sister is thrilled by your mosquito-avoiding tactics. Well, I'd threaten not to stand next to you but mozzies will still aim for me even if I'm on the other side of the room so it'd make no difference, anyway :0)

173humouress
Modificato: Lug 20, 7:24am

42) Sorcerer's Son by Phyllis Eisenstein



{First of 3 in Book of Elementals series; fantasy} (1990)

It's been a bit longer than usual since I last posted a book read because this book, while it's one of the first I bought for my own, single shelf with funds eked out of my pocket money and one I keep coming back to, took a while to read. Not that it is hard to read; quite the contrary - it is gentle but rich. Eisenstein didn't write much but I did borrow most of her books from the library in the '90s when she published most of her work. There is one published sequel to this book and one unpublished because, although it was completed, Meisha Merlin folded before it could do so (according to Wikipedia). Sadly, Eisenstein passed away last year after an illness and with covid complications.

When Delivev Ormoru rejected Smada Rezhyk's proposal of marriage, he immediately suspected her of wanting to destroy him. Both Delivev and Rezhyk are sorcerers from sorcerous families but while she deals in more gentle arts of spinning with control over animals like spiders and snakes as well as plants like ivy, climbing roses and other creepers, he has enclosed himself in Castle Ringforge where he smelts metals into rings and sculpts and fires clay into shapes to enslave demons to do his bidding. His longest serving and most trusted demon, Gildrum (whose most commonly used earthly form Rezhyk has sculpted as a young girl), suggested a spell which would combine both provinces as protection for Rezhyk against Delivev's powers. However, Rezhyk felt that he would still be vulnerable for the month or so it would take to craft the spell and then the demon pointed out that if she were to conceive, her powers would be limited for that time. And so, in the form of a handsome young knight, the demon went to Delivev and then returned to the command of its master.
The storm drove from beyond the fortress, and so there was a respite from both wind and wet in its lee. Almost at the arch of the gate, the animal stopped and bent to drink from a puddle and to crop a bit of soaked grass; its rider fell then, slid silently off its back and dropped to the mud in an awkward heap.

Inside, warm and dry and surrounded by the things she loved, was Delivev Ormoru, mistress of Castle Spinweb. She expected no visitors, neither on a stormy night nor a clear one; no one had knocked at the gates of Castle Spinweb in many years, and she was pleased with that state of affairs. But when the ivy curled in her bedroom window, when a small brown spider scurried across its tendrils to report a stranger outside, she was curious. The stranger had not requested entry, had not pounded on the heavy wooden gate or shouted or beat sword upon shield to attract attention through the noise of the storm, yet why would he be there but to enter? She looked out of her window, but the outer wall was too high for her to see anything close beneath it. She could have spun a web to view there, but walking would take no greater time, so she went.
But Delivev and Gildrum both fell in love. And, against Rezhyk's and Gildrum's expectations, Delivev kept the baby and raised him by herself in Castle Spinweb while Gildrum secretly watched, longing to end his servitude and return to them. Cray, though, always wanted to find out what happened to his father, that handsome young knight whom his mother loved and who rode away promising to return after his mission for his lord was completed and who never came back. And so, at the age of fourteen, he rides away from Spinweb, determined to find his father and become a knight like him although his mother urges him to stay and learn sorcery from her instead. Fortunately he is as generous and open-hearted as Rezhyk is closed-in and cold and he makes friends easily, such as Feldar Sepwin, another boy, who shares some of his adventures.

But, of course, his quest is doomed to failure and Cray has many adventures, not least when Rezhyk finally discovers his existence and throws more obstacles in his path, suspecting further mischief from Delivev.

This was a gentle but rich story, as much about a mother's love for her son (with a touch of poignancy for me now that my eldest is 17 and threatening to fly the nest) as about the adventures that Cray has once he leaves the protection of Spinweb to learn to be a knight. Eisenstein shows us demons as being alien from humans, but not necessarily menacing, with a few visits to their elemental world.

4.5 stars

174humouress
Giu 13, 8:12am

So; we've set up the system to watch the Euros (football cup which was delayed from last year) which is a bit of a pain since Singapore isn't big on sports (except for the one F1 race that takes place here) and my husband had to get it onto our TV via an app on his phone and then buy the Euro package. There was high drama last night while we were watching the Denmark / Finland match live. Finland - much like Iceland, who put England out of the last Euros - have qualified for the first time in something like nine decades of trying. Denmark has some players whom even I've heard of but then, just before half time, their star player collapsed on the field and we had about half an hour of tense waiting to hear that he was awake and aware.

In the meantime, the boys are waiting for England to play their first match. We all have our England shirts ready to wear for the occasion.

175Berly
Giu 13, 1:55pm

Good luck to England in the Euros!! And Sorcerer's Son sounds great, despite the fact that they live in Spinweb. :P

176richardderus
Giu 13, 2:02pm

I hope England doesn't humiliate itself in this peculiar kick-about y'all get so exercised over.

177humouress
Giu 13, 2:09pm

>175 Berly: I thought you'd appreciate it ;0)

178humouress
Modificato: Giu 13, 2:12pm

>176 richardderus: >175 Berly: Thank you.

Well, we won 1-0 against Croatia (who put us out of the 2018 World Cup in the semi-final). It's the first time we've won our opening game, apparently.

179Berly
Giu 13, 2:23pm

180SandDune
Giu 13, 3:26pm

>178 humouress: who put us out of the 2018 World Cup in the semi-final Oh I remember that (somewhat surprisingly - we watched it in Estonian when we were in Tallinn). At least Alan & Jacob watched it and I looked up occasionally.

181humouress
Modificato: Giu 14, 12:29am

>180 SandDune: My football fan sons (and even my husband, who supports Germany) keep me appraised of things like this.

182humouress
Modificato: Giu 14, 7:54am

We found out yesterday that my kids' school e-mail account passwords had been changed which led to finding out that there was an IT outage at school. This of course means that home based learning cannot go ahead and both kids had a day off school; although my Year 12 has been allowed back on campus for the last couple of weeks since this is his final IB year (most other years are on HBL for now). They are locked out of their e-mail, their classroom meetings and any work they have on the servers - which, for my Year 12, means the last few assessments that he's working on which have to be handed in this week and which count towards his final IB mark. Apparently it's not just their school which has been hacked but all the Cognita schools. At least he doesn't have exams in this part of the year.

I am not a happy mamma.

183richardderus
Giu 14, 6:35pm

>182 humouress: I'd be livid. And if it affects his IB chances, I'd be incandescent.

Sighing in outrage for you.

184humouress
Giu 15, 3:29am

Thank you Richard. Your outrage is appreciated (although it does adversely impact on my supervillainy plans).

I'm sure the school is doing all it can to solve the issue and it's not really their fault. My 12 year old is fine although he was initially scheduled for home based learning and so today he had no form of schooling. However, the powers that be have agreed that students can go back on campus (local schools should be on holiday now) so he will be in school on alternate days this week. Next week they have school holidays, so the pressure will be off. My Year 12 is on campus anyway, although I hear that there's no wifi there. Hopefully they've managed to have a productive day nonetheless.

185humouress
Giu 15, 11:10am

>179 Berly: Thank you for celebrating with us :0)

Are you following the Euros? And, if so, which team do you support?

186humouress
Modificato: Lug 20, 7:57am

43) Bound in Blood by P.C. Hodgell



{Fifth of 9+5 Chronicles of the Kencyrath series; fantasy, high fantasy}(2010)

Continuing on with the Chronicles of the Kencyrath; I do think you have to read these in order and you shouldn't leave it too long between books or you start to lose track of events and names. Though Hodgell does repeat key phrases from previous books - and even earlier in this book - so it jogs your memory if you have left it too long (although it can get repetitive if you haven't). I like the way she takes something and twists it just enough for me to smile at it - and then wonder whether it actually happens in our world, for example the ironwood trees that burn from inside to provide heat for years. This leads to some Rathillien-specific double entendre-type puns, like the wandering willow (which, unfortunately, has taken root in Gorbel's foot).
Gorbel's foot was tightly laced about with fine, white, willow rootlets. As they sensed the water's warmth, they began to untwine and spread into a fibrous mass that filled most of the tub. Longer fringe root reached out to tap the ceramic walls of their prison, probing for any crack or flaw.
This book covers more of Jame's year and duties as the Earth Wife's Favourite and fills in some of the more recent history of the Knorth (pronounced K-north) while giving us details of Jame's life and classes as a first year cadet at the randon college at Tentir as well as her discovery of some of the duties of the Kencyr, the highborn and their house high lords.
'Tori has to remember the names of everyone bound to his - that is, to our - house and so far he's forgotten at least one of them. I've memorised all I've been able to learn. Frankly, though, I don't know what's going to happen to me in the hills. We need a third list-keeper. You.'
'Trinity. First Index's shed and now this. Haven't you written them down?'
Jame was taken aback. 'That never occurred to me. They say that memory is safest.'
'Not if some overenthusiastic hillman is waiting to flatten your skull. As far as I can make out, people have been lining up to do that for years. No, we'll have a paper and quill, if you please.'
While it doesn't advance the overall story arc hugely, it is still lots of fun following Jame's adventures, and it may be/ may have been meant as a look at life and cultures on Rathillien since Hodgell lapses into the present tense occasionally, such as when describing the preparations for a hunt.

Although the Kencyrath arrived on Rathillien over three millennia ago in their retreat down the Chain of Creation to protect it against Perimal Darkling, the houses have forgotten their higher purpose and have devolved into petty squabbling between each other, especially in a quest for power during the hiatus when it looked like the Knorths were extinct. Having not grown up in the Riverlands among the Kencyr, Jame continues to build bridges and friendships across political divisions although the ghosts of the past come back (literally) to foster those divisions. I like the way she can analyse people who are hostile towards her and still find their best qualities (not that she's volunteering to be their friend, though).

Of course, the rathorn colt plays a large part in this book - as does Jorin, her blind royal ounce and I liked the way that the cadets in the Falconer's class, who are similarly bound to different types of animals, have an understanding between themselves even though they may come from 'enemy' houses.

We also discover that there are more Shanir (Kencyr with powers) than the highborn are willing to admit and so Jame is not as alone in that as she had assumed, given Ganth's (her father) and Torisen's (her brother) prejudices against them.

Fun and intense although (thankfully) not as dark and nail-bitingly suspenseful as previous books.

4.5-5 stars

Litsy notes

I love this series. But it‘s intense; you can‘t leave it too long between books or you start to lose track of events and names.

I like the way Hodgell takes something and twists it just enough for me to smile at it - and then wonder whether it actually happens in our world. Like ironwood trees that burn from inside for years.

187richardderus
Giu 15, 1:53pm

>186 humouress: The series failed to grab me, but it's surely a rich and deeply imagined world...you really can find great things in it, La Overkill.

Speaking of...it's time to have a come-to-Jesus with your PR department! Surely you should've been profiled already!

188humouress
Giu 16, 12:42am

>187 richardderus: Hmmm; I'm thinking that they're not the PR department for me. Thank you *peers suspiciously at Richard*

189humouress
Giu 16, 2:08am

>187 richardderus: Did you not visit Tai-Tastigon and fall in love with it, then? If you haven't been yet, you should.

I suppose this story is a little bit 'more of the same but expanded' - but since I'm loving 'the same', I lapped it up.

190humouress
Modificato: Giu 18, 6:08am

And so; the boys are now home for the holidays.

My husband tells me that in spite of the tighter measures, numbers of cases are going up in Singapore so the measures will not be eased off so quickly. There was no in-restaurant dining, which was to be changed to 2 people per table and then 5 so he had a table booked for next week. However, the powers that be are keeping it at 2 for now so the four of us can't sit at a table together. Apparently, we could get adjacent tables if we're from the same family but we'll just wait until we can all sit at the same table.

191humouress
Modificato: Lug 23, 1:48am

44) Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

 

{First of 3 in Goredd series; fantasy, YA, dragons} (2012)

Re-read but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Seraphina has a secret so dangerous that even she did not know it at first. Sixteen year old Seraphina, whose mother died when she was born and whose father is a lawyer for the royal court representing saarantras, has been working at the palace, known as Castle Orison, in Lavondaville (capital of Goredd) as Music Mistress for two weeks (even though her father doesn't like her playing music). She is the assistant to Viridius, the Court composer who is in charge of musical entertainment for the upcoming celebration of the 40th anniversary of the truce between humans and dragons and she also teaches Princess Glisselda, who is a year younger than her, to play the harpsichord - or spinnet, if you're reading the UK edition.
“Forty years,” interrupted Eskar. “We‘ve had forty years of peace. You weren‘t even born when Comonot‘s Treaty was signed. Your own mother—”
“Rest she on Heaven‘s hearthstone,” I mumbled, as if it were my job to make up for the social inadequacies of dragons everywhere. The prince flashed me a grateful glance.
“—was but a speck in the queen‘s womb,” continued Eskar placidly, as if I hadn‘t spoken.
Seraphina has inherited secrets from her mother along with physical impairments which she keeps hidden and visions which she controls by maintaining a dream garden full of grotesques. But her closest family acquaintance is the saarantras Orma who has taught her about dragons.
He taught me not just music but everything he thought I should know about dragonkind: history, philosophy, physiology, higher mathematics (as close as they came to a religion). He answered even my most impudent questions. Yes, dragons could smell colors under the right conditions. Yes, it was a terrible idea to transform into a saarantras right after eating an aurochs.
Dragons and humans co-exist very uneasily and those dragons which take human forms and live as saarantras amongst humans are regarded with suspicion and superstition and are required to wear bells to distinguish them. For their parts, dragons find human emotions uncomfortable and hard to understand although some saarantras do try.
Only then did I notice the dragon waiting for me on the cathedral steps, flashing me his best facsimile of a proper human smile. No one in the world could have found Orma‘s strained expression heartwarming but me.
and
“I‘m sorry about your mother. I believe I am.” He gestured toward his stomach. “There, yes? That‘s where one feels it?”
The dragon Ardmagar, Comonot, will be coming to Lavondaville for the anniversary and while the royal family and those at the palace want everything to go well, the general human population is uncomfortable with the idea of more dragons in their city - and the Sons of St. Ogdo are especially disapproving - so relations are a bit tense.
An aged monk led me to the infirmary. “He‘s got the place to himself. Once the other invalids learned there was a dragon coming, they miraculously got well! The lame could walk and the blind decided they didn‘t really need to see. He‘s a panacea.”
Suddenly Prince Rupert, only son of the queen, is assassinated and the obvious suspect is dragon-kind. Since his head was missing, a dragon must have killed him. Mustn‘t it? The story opens with Prince Rufus‘s funeral.

Seraphina, with her unique perspective on dragons, finds herself trying to foil a plot against the Ardmagar and the peace treaty, trying to prevent an inter-species war, battling the prejudices of humans against dragons as well as the prejudices of dragons against humans and against other dragons whom they perceive as getting too close to humans and protecting her secrets while inadvertently making friends with members of the royal family. And then, to top it off, she starts meeting the grotesques from her garden in real life.

This was a very nice story, set in a medieval-type world (as evidenced by phrases like ‘A recent scandal over the dissection of human cadavers hadn‘t helped matters.' and medieval-sounding saints), well told with flashes of humour - which I always appreciate - and which lightened the mood and kept the story flowing. I love the wonderfully irreverent cast list at the beginning - don‘t skip over it!
Orma moved a pile of books off a stool for me but seated himself directly on another stack. This habit of his never ceased to amuse me. Dragons no longer hoarded gold; Comonot‘s reforms had outlawed it. For Orma and his generation, knowledge was treasure. As dragons through the ages had done, he gathered it, and then he sat on it.
Since most of the story takes place around the palace, we barely see any of Serphina’s home life - just enough to know that her father loves her and her stepmother is kind, but her secrets keep interactions awkward. It is nice to see a royal family who care about each other rather than being distant and it is obvious, although we never get to meet Prince Rupert, that he was a good man who benefitted his country and who will be deeply missed by his family.

I liked this story a lot. Hartman uses language well and in unanticipated ways. She has filled Seraphina's world with medieval clothes and instruments; which, because I was reading this book through Overdrive, I could look up quickly on the web.

houppelande or houpelande: an outer garment with a long, full body and flaring sleeves and sometimes lined with fur, that was worn by both men and women in Europe in the late Middle Ages. The garment was later worn by professional classes and has remained as the familiar academic and legal robes of today.

aurochs: species of cattle, now extinct in our world

wimple: headdress worn by women over the head and around the neck, cheeks, and chin.

oud (Arabic): a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped, fretless stringed instrument

4.5-5 stars

Litsy notes

16 year old Seraphina, whose mother died when she was born, is now assistant to the
Court composer, who is in charge of musical entertainment for the upcoming celebration of the 40th anniversary of the truce between humans and dragons. The story opens with Prince Rufus‘s funeral. Since his head was missing, a dragon must have killed him. Mustn‘t it?

It‘s been 2 weeks since she moved to Castle Orison (the palace) and she also teaches 15yo Princess Glisselda music. Seraphina has inherited secrets from her mother among which is a dream garden full of grotesques. And then she starts meeting them in real life.

I love the wonderfully irreverent cast list at the beginning - don‘t skip over it!

I like the way Hartmann uses language and her unusual descriptions.

Well written and fun. Now, though, there‘s a bit of mystery and a hint of darkness.

Quotes & definitions:

Only then did I notice the dragon waiting for me on the cathedral steps, flashing me his best facsimile of a proper human smile. No one in the world could have found Orma‘s strained expression heartwarming but me.

“Forty years,” interrupted Eskar. “We‘ve had forty years of peace. You weren‘t even born when Comonot‘s Treaty was signed. Your own mother—”
“Rest she on Heaven‘s hearthstone,” I mumbled, as if it were my job to make up for the social inadequacies of dragons everywhere. The prince flashed me a grateful glance.
“—was but a speck in the queen‘s womb,” continued Eskar placidly, as if I hadn‘t spoken.

He taught me not just music but everything he thought I should know about dragonkind: history, philosophy, physiology, higher mathematics (as close as they came to a religion). He answered even my most impudent questions. Yes, dragons could smell colors under the right conditions. Yes, it was a terrible idea to transform into a saarantras right after eating an aurochs.

“It‘s such a relief after all these years to learn that you recovered from your fright,” he said in a low voice, giving my hand a squeeze, “and that you grew up so pretty!”
“Were you worried?” I asked, touched.
“Yes. What were you, eleven? Twelve? At that age we‘re all gawky, and the outcome is always in doubt.” He winked,

Love the bits where dragons (in saarantras form) try to comprehend human emotions: “I‘m sorry about your mother. I believe I am.” He gestured toward his stomach. “There, yes? That‘s where one feels it?”

Orma moved a pile of books off a stool for me but seated himself directly on another stack. This habit of his never ceased to amuse me. Dragons no longer hoarded gold; Comonot‘s reforms had outlawed it. For Orma and his generation, knowledge was treasure. As dragons through the ages had done, he gathered it, and then he sat on it.

An aged monk led me to the infirmary. “He‘s got the place to himself. Once the other invalids learned there was a dragon coming, they miraculously got well! The lame could walk and the blind decided they didn‘t really need to see. He‘s a panacea.”

{A houppelande or houpelande is an outer garment, with a long, full body and flaring sleeves, that was worn by both men and women in Europe in the late Middle Ages. Sometimes the houppelande was lined with fur. The garment was later worn by professional classes, and has remained in Western civilization as the familiar academic and legal robes of today. {Sorry - not quote but important info.}} See illustration (edited)

(A saarantras being a dragon‘s human form. Aurochs - species of cattle, now extinct in our world.)

From Encyclopaedia Britannica: Wimple, headdress worn by women over the head and around the neck, cheeks, and chin.

Wikipedia: The oud (Arabic) is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped, fretless stringed instrument

Evidence of medieval setting : ‘A recent scandal over the dissection of human cadavers hadn‘t helped matters.'

My half written review from last year

Seraphina has a secret so dangerous that even she did not know it at first. Her mother died when she was born so she lives in Lavondaville, the capital of Goredd, with her father who is a lawyer for the royal court and represents those dragons who choose to live as humans, called sarrantras. The twenty year truce between humans and dragons is about to be celebrated but suddenly Prince Rupert is assassinated and the obvious suspect is dragon-kind.

Although her father doesnt like to hear her play music, Seraphina has learned and now has a position at court as assistant to the music master. While helping him make arrangements for the concerts and teaching the princess to play the spinet, Seraphina - because of her sympathy for dragons - finds herself helping to unravel the mystery behind Prince Rupert's death before an interspecies war can erupt.

Hartman uses language well and in unanticipated ways. She has filled Seraphina's world with medieval clothes and instruments; which, because I was reading this book through Overdrive, I could look up quickly on the web. Though I did know a lot of them already, so there.

4.5*****

ETA: I notice that last time I read the UK edition and Glisselda was learning the spinet,

192PaulCranswick
Giu 18, 7:36am

Just catching up, neighbour but without wimple and wishing you a great weekend.

193humouress
Giu 18, 8:43am

>191 humouress: Thanks Paul. I assume you'll be wearing the wimple when we eventually meet?

194PaulCranswick
Giu 18, 8:45am

>193 humouress: I was sucking on a Werther's Original when I read your post and almost choked on the bloody thing!

195humouress
Giu 18, 9:30am

>193 humouress: *sigh* I suppose you're going to blame me for that now, are you? Sorry :0)

196PaulCranswick
Giu 18, 9:40am

>195 humouress: Maybe not, Nina, but are fully responsible for the smile currently on my face. xx

197humouress
Modificato: Giu 18, 10:15am

>196 PaulCranswick: Humble apologies ;0)

Will you be watching the football tonight? The boys are already laying in plans.

198humouress
Modificato: Giu 18, 10:15am

>196 PaulCranswick: I'm carrying on a conversation with you and another WhatsApp conversation with my SIL in the States while trying to write a review; my head is buzzing with things I want to say but I need to get it down coherently. And all while my 12 year old keeps running in and out to tell me the weirdest things. Honestly, I think that boy must be on a sugar rush or got hold of some alcohol today. Or it could be the first day of holidays...

199humouress
Modificato: Giu 20, 6:59am

Oh darn; I only got 2/3rds of the way through The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet before my Overdrive loan expired and now I'm 102nd in line for one of 17 copies and only one of my libraries deigns to carry it.

It's fun and thoughtful with non-stereotypical aliens and well thought out science (on the level I can understand it - don't ask me about black holes or wormhole tunnelling) and even alien food (so, mainly biological). Plus commentary on the policies of Humans who, by this point, have migrated to Mars and the stars beyond, having killed poor old Earth or at least made her uninhabitable.

Rosemary Harper is about to join a wormhole tunnelling spaceship as the story opens and although there are four other Humans on the crew (although not as we know them, captain) there are also three (or four, depending on how you count) aliens.

At this point, 4-4.5*****

200richardderus
Giu 20, 10:48am

>199 humouress: I'd say you've got the spirit of the exercise, so no matter the contents of that last third you're highly unlikely to reduce your rating significantly. I'm sorry I can Kindlelend you my copy but it's a tree book.

201curioussquared
Giu 20, 11:58am

>199 humouress: Curses! I hope the line moves quickly. I enjoyed that one and need to continue with the series.

202charl08
Giu 20, 12:09pm

>199 humouress: I did like this one, and have just finished the last one. Tempted to buy them all as I suspect I will want to reread them.i like the way she writes about people's relationships.

203humouress
Giu 21, 2:12am

>200 richardderus: Thank you Richard. That's sweet of you to offer.

>201 curioussquared: Thanks Natalie; I appreciate you venting on my behalf :0) Fingers crossed that I get it back before I lose the threads of it. There are 17 copies, so hopefully ...

>202 charl08: I liked it a lot, too, Charlotte (as far as I've got) so now it's a toss up between getting it (which would necessitate making shelf space for three more books - at least) or waiting.

204humouress
Giu 21, 3:47am

... but I suppose it’s my fault, really. Now I’ve still got three books to read in eight days. But these should be easier to renew.

205humouress
Giu 22, 12:09am

Huh; as an aside, I notice that stars on posted reviews have changed. They're now grey instead of green and show all five stars but with the specific number coloured in.

206FAMeulstee
Modificato: Giu 22, 6:57pm

>205 humouress: I noticed, Nina, and was in doubt to post it in the Bug Collectors group.

ETA I see someone already did post it there

207humouress
Giu 23, 2:37am

>206 FAMeulstee: Oh; I assumed it was intentional and part of the continuing site development. I'll go and look for the report.

208humouress
Modificato: Giu 30, 12:11am

45) Graevale by Lynette Noni

 

{Fourth of 5 of Medoran Chronicles; fantasy, YA, adventure} (2018)

A light YA fantasy which, despite its flaws, keeps me reading. Alexandra Jennings has been called from our Earth (known as Freya) to Medora which is a magical/ technologically advanced world and has rediscovered Meyarins, elf-like immortal beings, one of whom wants to destroy all the mortal sentient races. After visions of what could happen, Alex knows that she has to persuade the other races to ally with humans and the remaining Meyarins against Aven and his Claimed Meyarins to prevent the destruction of Medora. But that is easier said than done.

Aven finally takes his war to to mortal races of Medora - but with war, necessarily, comes death and suffering.

So; this book was fun and Alex gets to beat up/ get beaten up by different humanoid races (although they all have different coloured blood) - although, to be honest, violence isn't my thing but I can see my kids lapping it up. But the story arc progresses well - and my e-book finally had a map. I find myself looking back at book 3 with nostalgia; I liked that story line.

On the minus side for me, there are a few 'teen romance' moments although I suspect the target audience wouldn't mind them. I also found Sir Camden's Olde English speech so hard to get through (fingernails on blackboard) because his grammar is horrendous (thankfully, there's only one scene). And it may be that age is taking its toll on my memory as well as my eyes because I'm starting to lose track of the 'extras' characters whom we don't see so often. Oddly, the bad guy (Aven) had more dimension in book 3 than Alex‘s friends do in this book/ series. They're nice and supportive and all but we're told how Alex sees them rather than seeing them for ourselves whereas (in the previous book) Aven had flaws and reacted to events and evolved into the character we know.

I also thought the acquisition of a Shadow Wolf was a bit glossed over and incidental (and yet another addition to Alex's exclusive tool belt indicating her Chosen One status). Wouldn't you like a puppy that was full grown in a week, toilet trained and fed itself and took itself for walks? I'm pretty sure our dog is a lot more effort even now. I'm not sure why she was introduced because she doesn't do much in this book; maybe she has a role in the last one.

Those were the minor gripes. Overall, though, still fun. Let's see what happens in book 5 and how it all comes together though I will miss my favourite character.

3.5 stars

Litsy notes

On to the 4th book in the series.
Yay! A map - finally (though I‘m finding it hard to read, even with glasses).

Hmm; is Niyx reminiscent of Tirandys?
Sir Camden‘s Olde English grammar is pretty horrendous and hard to understand
Teen romance moments kicking in
Oddly, the bad guy (Aven) had more dimension in book 3 than Alex‘s friends do in this book/ series. They‘re nice and supportive and all but we‘re told how Alex sees them whereas (in the previous book) Aven had flaws and reacted to events and evolved into the character we know.
Aven finally takes his war to to mortal races of Medora - but with war, necessarily, comes death and suffering.

209humouress
Giu 27, 5:25am

I’m enjoying the weather today; greyed-over skies, a light misting of rain and a cool breeze wafting through. (It’s only fair to give credit since I usually complain about the weather.)

210richardderus
Giu 27, 3:26pm

>209 humouress: Wow...a *positive*summer*weather*report* is a unicorn around here! And by "here" I mean "Planet Earth".

Enjoy it while you can.

211Berly
Giu 27, 4:11pm

>209 humouress: >210 richardderus: Nope. No unicorns here. My turn to complain about the weather. It is sooooo hot here! 109 yesterday, 111 today and 115 tomorrow!! Ugh.

>191 humouress: And I see I am not the only one enjoying fantasy creatures -- you and the dragons are getting along well!! : )

Sorry about the computer issues at the kids' school. Sigh.

212humouress
Modificato: Giu 27, 11:47pm

>210 richardderus: Thank you, I did. Today looks like resumption of normal service - according to the Weather Channel, it's currently 28ºC but feels like 32ºC with humidity at 82% (which, it tells me, is 82F, feels like 89F)

Of course.

213humouress
Giu 27, 11:52pm

>211 Berly: Uggh! Okay, now I've looked at the conversion, I won't complain. I do hope your a/c has been fixed.

Well, getting along with dragons fairly well. Hartmann conveys their alien-ness very well.

As for the computer issues, they've managed to get the system back on its feet and the kids got a four day extension on their assessments so we wrestled with the last one that was immediately due over the last week. There are still a couple more but they're not due until next month. The school is still investigating the cause and how wide the fallout was/ is / will be.

214humouress
Giu 28, 2:04pm

Oh dear. I may have just gone on a Waterstones splurge; for no other reason than I wanted the UK editions of Seraphina ... and then I checked my wishlist there because, you know, why not? ... and then, there I was, halfway down the rabbit hole.

215richardderus
Giu 28, 5:02pm

>212 humouress: Ugh

>214 humouress: YAY!!

here endeth the lesson

217humouress
Modificato: Giu 30, 12:17am

46) The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

 

{stand-alone. YA, fantasy, Eastern fantasy, djinn} (2019)

The prologue opens with Ghazala, an ifrit (a djinni of fire who can take human form), mourning the loss of her small daughter and consequently sacrificing herself to save a human child by giving her her fire.

Part one paints the city of Noor for us fourteen years later where Fatima, the girl who was saved, now lives with her adopted older sister, Sunaina, after they and an elderly lady were the only survivors after the Shayateen (another race of djinn) attacked the city five years previously. Since then, other refugees from other lands have moved into the city and life goes on.

We also see the rulers of Noor; the human maharaja and his family as well as the ifrit Emir and Wazir. When the Shayateen attacked, the then maharaja called in a favour from the ifrit to protect the city. Unfortunately, the call came too late and the maharaja died. The ifrit, who seek to bring order to chaos, stayed on to protect the city and the current maharaja honours the deal that his father made. However, there are other humans who resent the presence of the ifrit in their city (and in other cities, which we don't visit).

Fatima and her sister live and work in the poorer part of the city and have managed to afford an apartment so they no longer live on the streets. Fatima works as a messenger, delivering letters and packages to different parts of the city. Her favourite place to go is Firdaus's bookshop (although he never seems to sell any books) where she often delivers books to him.
The books on the shelves of the mahal library all belong to the Name Giver, who, in Zulfikar‘s private opinion, has gone out of control where his book buying is concerned.*
He treats her like family, although he is actually an ifrit in human shape, and teaches her languages and other subjects. But one day, something happens which triggers the hidden fire in Fatima to surface and she becomes Fatima Ghazala, someone who is neither Fatima nor Ghazala but a combination of both.

In part two, we see that the person Fatima Ghazala has become is, while outside their previous experience, someone with powers that the ifrit need for them to continue living on earth. They also need her powers rather urgently for their Raees, the leader of the ifrit, to be able to cross to earth from Al-Naar, the plane of the djinn.
Suddenly, her vision darkens, and the two soldiers standing before her fade into shadowy outlines. Each of them has a golden name embedded in the skin above their hearts. Each name has a different meaning, a different shape. The soldier on the right, his name is Qais; firm, lonely, and loyal. The qualities that compose this Ifrit are in his name. The soldier on the left is Masrur: happy and carefree, content to let life lead him where it chooses. The names glint, and upon a closer look, Fatima realizes that hundreds of gold tensile strings extend from the names and appear to shape the Ifrit who are no longer shadowy outlines but man-shaped smokeless fire.

Meanwhile Zulfikar, the Emir, has to deal with defending the city from surprise attacks by Shayateen and Ghul djinn while the well-meaning maharaja Aarush, the oldest surviving son of the previous maharaja, runs the city peaceably though he is starting to run up against rich landowners who live away from Noor agitating for the treaty with the ifrit to be nullified and the ifrit to be removed from the city.

I enjoyed this story although it got off to a bit of a slow start. Even though I live in Asia I found the welter of unfamiliar words (from Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu etc) a bit hard to wade through. There is a glossary at the back but it's a bit awkward to use with an e-book; with a physical book, it would be easier to flip between pages to look up words. Don't get me wrong, though; I did appreciate the way Azad has blended cultures and easy acceptance of other races and religions in this fictional Silk Road city. In fact, although it is not specifically stated, it looks as though Fatima's adoptive family was Hindu (Sunaina, at least, seems to be) but raised her as a Muslim. And there is lots of food and colourful clothing.

I found that, because it is written in the present tense, I had to make a bit of a mental adjustment coming back to the book after break. I also felt that, somehow, this served to keep the characters at a distance as we watched what happens to them rather than feeling it, if it had been reported in the past tense and, consequently, I didn't feel fully invested in them.

One of the strengths of this story is the women in it. The women from the poorer part of the city have had their mettle tested and are strong because they have to be. The elder royal ladies are strong because they are in positions of power, both as the ruling family and as elders within their family. The younger ones come into their own in the course of the story and learn to stand up for what is right despite what others may think. (However, I felt that that the rajkumari's change of character, while plausible, could have been made more convincing.) Some characters realise that getting married because they are expected to is not an answer for them while others realise that marriage can work for them even though they hadn't been looking for someone else to share their lives. There is a romance, which is fairly sweet and innocent, and possibly a commentary on arranged marriages that they can work under the right circumstances.

Unlike the culture of the humans in the story, which is male-dominated, we are told that ifrits are a matriarchal society. However, there are few ifrit women on earth because they are too important to their culture and families to cross over (and so, unfortunately, we don't get to see it).

I liked the Alif sisters (so called because all their names start with A) and their relationship with each other; I would have liked to have seen more of that between Fatima Ghazala and Sunaina because they are, or were, obviously close (when they weren't squabbling).
“Let me hear the tune first,” she says clearly.
There is a pause, and then from the other side of the purdah comes the sound of the oud. The three witnesses from the men’s side try to maintain straight faces, but the Alif sisters do not even bother. Azizah is snickering while Adila has buried her face in her hands, though her shaking shoulders give away her mirth. Amirah has stuck her fingers into her ears. The Emir’s oud playing is that atrocious. Fatima Ghazala, however, looks delighted.
Thankfully, the piece the Emir is butchering is a short one and over fairly quickly.

Fortunately for me, the cast list is restrained so I can keep track of everyone; however, this does lead to coincidences, for example, Sunaina happens to make cosmetics for her employer one day which come to the attention of the rajkumari when she (unusually) attends a party and this ends up involving Sunaina in Aftab (palace) life. But that's just something that snagged my attention in passing and doesn't detract from the story.

I recently read City of Brass which has a similar premise and is also populated the djinn-like beings and I found The Candle and the Flame less confusing. The world-building in this book could certainly stand a sequel or at least another story set in this world and I would love to read it.

{* Just as an aside: there is no such thing as too many books. I suspect many LibraryThingers will agree with me.}

4 stars

Litsy notes

At around the 10% mark; it‘s interesting but a bit slow - not helped by the welter of non-English language words (Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi etc). There is a glossary but it‘d be easier to hold 2 pages open to flip between with a physical book than with the e-book.
There‘re also a corresponding heap of religions.

At around the 20% mark it morphed into a page-turner (at least, so far)
It‘s written in the present tense, so I have to make a mental adjustment every time I come back to reading it.
Although I‘m interested in the story and want to find out what happens, I‘m not truly invested in the characters. I think the unknown words and the present tense serve to keep them at a distance as we watch what happens to them - rather than feeling it, if it had been reported in the past tense.
The spoiled princess turning into a savvy politician was plausible but could have been more convincing with more/ earlier groundwork.

Litsy quotes

“The books on the shelves of the mahal library all belong to the Name Giver, who, in Zulfikar‘s private opinion, has gone out of control where his book buying is concerned.”

Suddenly...the two soldiers standing before her fade into shadowy outlines. Each of them has a golden name embedded in the skin above their hearts. Each name has a different meaning, a different shape...The qualities that compose this Ifrit are in his name...The names glint...Fatima realizes that hundreds of gold tensile strings extend from the names and appear to shape the Ifrit who are no longer shadowy outlines but man-shaped smokeless fire.

“Let me hear the tune first,” she says.
There is a pause and then comes the sound of the oud. The three witnesses...maintain straight faces, but the Alif sisters do not even bother. Azizah is snickering while Adila has buried her face in her hands though her shaking shoulders give away her mirth. Amirah has stuck her fingers into her ears. The Emir‘s oud playing is that atrocious.
Thankfully the piece the Emir is butchering is a short one.

218humouress
Modificato: Giu 30, 12:09am

Barnes & Nobles have a lot of interesting looking ticketed talks over Zoom with authors. Unfortunately for me, they only seem to be open to US residents.

The link is https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/virtual-events-for-all-ages-with-barnes-nobl...

This month's virtual talks are with:
Rainbow Rowell
CC Sabathia (baseball)
Jasmine Guillory
Zakiya Dalila Harris
Daniel Silva
Richard Marx (musician)
Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Karin Slaughter

219humouress
Modificato: Giu 30, 1:52am

So there's this starling that was sitting on my balcony railing a minute ago. I've seen it there before because (like many other birds, unfortunately) it seems to be nesting in my roof and it looks like it's cleaning out its nest periodically. I suspect this because there is a growing line of ... leavings (bird equivalent of rubbish bags) ... along the railing *unimpressed sigh*

220humouress
Modificato: Lug 3, 11:45am

47) Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief by Maurice Leblanc

{Short story collection, Arsène Lupin series. Crime, golden age detective.} (2007)

An English 'best of' selection of stories taken from several anthologies about a gentleman-thief, later turned detective, translated from French. Like the Sherlock Holmes stories these were modelled on, these were short stories first printed in newspapers.

This edition is annotated with footnotes printed at the end of the book. I would recommend you read them after the episode to prevent spoilers.

i) The Arrest of Arsène Lupin (1905)

Our narrator tells of the time he was traveling by ship from France to America and trying to win the affections of Miss Nellie Underdown when a telegraph was received to the effect that Arsène Lupin was on board.
Arsène Lupin in our midst! The mysterious housebreaker whose exploits had been related in all the newspapers for months! The baffling individual with whom old Ganimard, our greatest detective, had entered upon that duel to the death of which the details were being unfolded in so picturesque a fashion! Arsène Lupin, the fastidious gentleman who confines his operations to country-houses and fashionable drawing-rooms, and who one night, after breaking in at Baron Schormann’s had gone away empty-handed, leaving his visiting-card:

ARSÈNE LUPIN
Gentleman-Burglar

with these words added in pencil:
“Will return when your things are genuine.”

3.5****

ii) Arsène Lupin In Prison (1905)

Having been arrested in the first story, Lupin carries out an audacious burglary from an impregnable chateau in the middle of the Seine while awaiting the Government of France’s pleasure under lock and key.
It was just after mid-day when Ganimard was shown into Arsène Lupin’s cell. Lupin, who was lying on his bed, raised his head, and uttered an exclamation of delight.
“Well, this is a surprise! Dear old Ganimard here!”
“Himself.”
“I have hoped for many things in this retreat of my own choosing, but for none more eagerly than the pleasure of welcoming you here.”
“You are too good.”
“Not at all, not at all. I have the liveliest feelings of esteem for you.”
“I am proud to hear it.”
“I have said so a thousand times: Ganimard is our greatest detective. He’s almost—see how frank I am—almost as good as Sherlock Holmes. But, really, I’m awfully sorry to have nothing better than this stool to offer you. And not a drink of any kind! Not so much as a glass of beer! Do forgive me: I am only passing through!”

3.25***

iii) The Escape of Arsène Lupin (1906)

Arsène Lupin has declared that he has decided that he will not be attending his trial and will escape before that. The officers of the law go to great lengths to prevent it; will he manage to outwit them?
And when, in the course of this private interrogatory, which appeared at full length in the columns of the Écho de France, the magistrate resumed his cross-examination, Lupin exclaimed, with a weary air:
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! What is the use of going on? All these questions have no importance whatever.”
‘How do you mean, no importance?”
“Of course not, seeing that I shall not attend my trial.”
“You will not attend? …”
“No, it’s a fixed idea of mine, an irrevocable decision. Nothing will induce me to depart from it.”
This assurance, combined with the inexplicable indiscretions committed day after day, ended by enervating and disconcerting the officers of the law.

Through the preliminary hearings we learn of how he prepared for his extraordinary life of crime.
It seems probable that the so-called Rostat, who, eight years ago, was acting as assistant to Dickson, the conjurer, was none other than Arsène Lupin. It seems probable that the Russian student who, six years ago, used to attend Dr. Altier’s laboratory at St. Louis’ Hospital, and who often astonished the master by the ingenious character of his hypotheses on bacteriology and by the boldness of his experiments in the diseases of the skin—it seems probable that he too was none other than Arsène Lupin. So was the professor of Japanese wrestling, who established himself in Paris long before jiu-jitsu had been heard of. So, we believe, was the racing cyclist who won the great prize at the Exhibition, took his ten thousand francs, and has never been seen since. So, perhaps, was the man who saved so many people from burning at the Charity Bazaar, helping them through the little dormer window … and robbing them of their belongings.”

4****

iv) The Mysterious Railway Passenger (1906)

Set in Leblanc’s native Rouen.

Our narrator takes a train for Rouen and shares a carriage with a nervous lady who has heard that Arsène Lupin is on their train.
As for myself, I opened my newspapers and read the reports of Arsène Lupin’s trial. They contained nothing that was not already known, and they interested me but slightly. Moreover, I was tired, I had had a poor night, I felt my eyelids growing heavy, and my head began to nod.
“But surely, sir, you are not going to sleep?”
The lady snatched my paper from my hands, and looked at me with indignation.
“Certainly not,” I replied. “I have no wish to.”
“It would be most imprudent,” she said.
“Most,” I repeated.
And I struggled hard, fixing my eyes on the landscape, on the clouds that streaked the sky. And soon all this became confused in space, the image of the excited lady and the drowsy man was obliterated in my mind, and I was filled with the great, deep silence of sleep.

4****

v) The Queen’s Necklace (1906)

Concerning the (second) theft of Queen Marie Antoinette’s diamond necklace. We learn a little more history.
This was really the famous necklace, the historic necklace, which Böhmer and Bassenge, the crown jewellers, had designed for the Du Barry, which the Cardinal de Rohan-Soubise believed himself to be presenting to Queen Marie-Antoinette, and which Jeanne de Valois, Comtesse de La Motte, the adventuress, took to pieces, one evening in February, 1785, with the assistance of her husband and their accomplice, Rétaux de Villette.

3.75***

vi) Sherlock Holmes Arrives too Late (1906)

Arsène Lupin meets Sherlock Holmes.
“Yes, he’s a man, and a man on whose shoulder I shall have great pleasure in laying this hand with which I now grasp yours, Monsieur Devanne. And I have an idea, mark you, that Arsène Lupin and Sherlock Holmes will meet again some day …. Yes, the world is too small for them not to meet …. And, when they do! …”

4****

vii) Flashes of Sunlight (1911)

Lupin sees a way to benefit from someone else's crime and solves a case.
4.5*****

viii) The Wedding Ring (1911)

Lupin does another good deed.
4.25*****

ix) The Red Silk Scarf (1911)

In a fit of altruism, Lupin hands Ganimard a case.
4.25****

x) Edith Swan-neck (1913)

Ganimard gets the better of Lupin.

'Edith Swan-neck' refers to Harold II of England's wife, represented on one of a set of tapestries which Lupin has declared that he will steal.
4.5*****

xi) On the Top of the Tower (1922)

Prince Serge Rénine, an alias of Lupin's, solves an old crime with the help of a new friend, Hortense Daniel, after promising her adventure.
4.5****

xii) Thérèse and Germaine (1922)

Rénine and Hortense move to prevent a murder.
4.5*****

xiii) At the Sign of Mercury (1923)

Rénine proposed eight adventures to Hortense to enliven her boredom and for the last one, she requested that he help her find her mother's clasp, lost years ago. And if he should succeed, the reward he requests is to embark on that greatest adventure together.

3.75****

Lupin is a thief but he is not malicious and often employs his intelligence to help people (although he's not always completely altruistic and might not neglect to help himself to some ill-gotten gains along the way). Lupin is young and cheerful. He has established his success by constantly changing his appearance so that he can't be identified and by outwitting the opposition by doing what they least expect, sometimes hiding evidence in plain sight. And although he usually outwits his nemesis, detective Ganimard, the two have a grudging respect for each other, if not an actual friendship (unlike the uncomfortable alliance between Holmes and Lestrade) and they have a similar level of intelligence.

I admit that the impetus for me borrowing this book was watching the Netflix series 'Lupin' in which the protagonist, Assane Diop, admires the stories and a policeman recognises aspects of Arsène Lupin's stories in the crimes that Diop commits so we often catch glimpses of the books. I read this quickly as my Overdrive library e-book was about to expire with at least a two week wait before I can get hold of it again, so I didn't have time to immerse myself in the atmosphere of the stories as I usually like to do; you may have noticed that my comments on the later episodes were more brief. Nevertheless, I enjoyed these stories; they are light and feel-good (once you acclimatise yourself to the 'hero' operating on the wrong side of the law) and although on occasion I had to suspend disbelief for a few moments, I didn't mind going along with it for the sake of the story.

Light and fun.

Averaging out: 4 stars ****
Questa conversazione è stata continuata da Humouress in 2021; third quarter (thread 3).