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Category: reading

LFH: Day 8

I finally set up my home office yesterday. I’d been dragging my heels, I think because if I didn’t do it I could more easily pretend (at least sometimes) that things hadn’t changed. I was still perching at my workspace to do things rather than fully committing to the face that I can’t go to my office anymore. It’s certainly not that I can’t work from home, I’ve done it my whole life and I live with a restricted workspace all summer. Anyway, I hauled everything out of the bags they’d been in and set up the monitor, dock, and work laptop on my desk. It all fit better than I expected.

The chair I use is not ideal, or rather it is not ideal given the height of the desk and the depth of the drawer space, but I put a pillow at the back and that gets me higher relative to the keyboard (I have a mechanical keyboard which is much more comfortable to type on than any of my laptop or portable keyboards). And I cleaned off the bed next to the desk and added yet another pillow so I can read or work on a lapdesk there when I’m tired of sitting at the desk.

It will be fine. Fine.

Workspace settled, I dealt with email and small work chores and then went for a walk in the afternoon. I went to the park, which was probably a mistake. I really wanted to get out and walk for a while, and it was a cold but (finally) sunny day. I knew I was risking more people going out in mid-afternoon on a Saturday, but I went anyway. It was fine for a while but there were quite a few people out walking and jogging (hardly any bicyclists, unlike last time), and by the time I was on the part of the circuit that took me toward home, there were enough people that maintaining social distance was hard. I managed it most of the time, but groups of three and four people taking up the whole sidewalk did not help. I was glad to get out of the park and back onto the street to my neighborhood. I’m not sure I’ll be doing that again. We have a treadmill and a rower in the basement, and if I want fresh air I can walk around the streets of my neighborhood.

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Carry on

Waiting to board the flight to LHR. The puffy is not as pink as the photo suggests, more of a subdued raspberry. But hey, it’s not black or grey! The waist pack goes into the Lowe when we’re on the path and the gaiters and rain gear come out.

I decided to leave the e-reader at home. It’s weird! But I have Smiley’s People in paperback.

More when we land on the other side.

SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for February: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

I’ve decided to take advantage of the flexibility of the TBR Challenge and read books that aren’t necessarily romances. I’m still sticking to the prompts, though, and this month’s theme is “friends.” As I said in my last Weeknotes post, I’ve somehow never read any Tolkien and this seemed like the perfect time to rectify that gaping hole in my reading, especially since we have the print copy on our bookshelf and every library I belong to has an ebook version. And if there’s one message in the Lord of the Rings trilogy that carries through the film adaptations, it’s that friendship is necessary to human flourishing.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

How can you not love a story that begins with these sentences? I don’t know what I was expecting: probably something with lots of almost-too-precious depictions of Greene Olde England and elves everywhere. But what I got was so much more and better than that. This is very much a book that children can read and love, but it’s also a book that adults can appreciate and enjoy (and even love). I’m not a Young Adult reader at all in terms of contemporary literature, but this is classic for-all-ages literature and that is something I do like. The voice is charming and doesn’t talk down to the reader at all.

On to the story. Bilbo Baggins is a young hobbit of fifty or thereabouts, who lives in a very nice home at Bag End. Thanks to the machinations of family friend Gandalf the Wizard, he finds himself hosting a party of 14 dwarves for an impromptu and unconventional tea party. He is persuaded to join them on their journey to defeat the terrifying dragon, Smaug, who destroyed their home and dwarf community and took all their treasures. Smaug lives far away, past the Lonely Mountain, and to get there the dwarves and Bilbo will have to overcome many dangers. Bilbo is reluctant, but the non-Baggins part of him (which comes from the Took side of the family) decides to take the chance and accompany Thorin, Balin, Kili, Fili, and the rest of the rhyming crew.

As you have undoubtedly realized, this is a quest/coming-of-age story. Bilbo learns a great deal about himself and the world beyond Hobbiton and The Shire. They encounter elves, trolls, goblins, more elves, eagles, and other non-human beings on their way to confront Smaug, and Bilbo discovers unknown reserves of courage and resourcefulness that help his friends on their journey. He also finds a ring, courtesy of a goblin battle and the carelessness of Gollum, which renders him invisible and able to get everyone out of some very tight spots.

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Book de-stashing

“De-stashing” is a yarn-hobby term for when you get rid of yarn, either by selling, trading, or giving away. I have a bunch of mass market paperbacks in reasonably decent to good condition that I’m finally letting go. I’ve been doing this for years and it’s time to say goodbye to another batch.

These are all romance novels, mostly historical. A lot of them have been digitized, but not all, and some you may not have heard of. I got rid of a couple dozen Marion Chesney Regency Trads quite a while back, but I held on to one series and to her books written under the Jennie Tremaine label:

The Tremaine books are mostly Edwardian-set, which is unusual in the historical romance/trad genre, and they are often hilarious.

I also reluctantly decided to let go of my Georgette Heyer paperbacks. Some are in dire shape and they’re going in recycling, but these are all OK and certainly readable:

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SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for January: Big Trouble in Old Shanghai by Jeannie Lin

Argh, I’m a day late. But the “short shorts” prompt for January is my friend. I meant to read all of Jeannie Lin’s newest release for this month but I ran out of time and only had time for the first story. Even this brief return was enough to remind me why I like Jeannie’s work so much.

“Big Trouble in Old Shanghai” is the first in a 3-story collection set in her Gunpowder Alchemy world, and the connection is made in the title of the collection: Tales From the Gunpowder Chronicles. I read the previous two novels and one of the short stories when they came out and really enjoyed them. They’re not straight romance, rather they are wuxia-inspired adventure tales with romantic elements, but they are written with the same careful attention to the historical context of all her stories.

I was halfway through the story before I realized that the title was a riff on Big Trouble in Little China, the 1986 adventure film directed by John Carpenter starring Kurt Russell as Jack Burton. Lin says in her author’s note that the American main character here, Dean Burton, is a tip of the hat more than a recreation of the movie Burton. The narrator and main protagonist is Ming-fen, a young woman who works in the Western concession zone of Shanghai. She has only her elder brother, Ren, after her parents were exiled as traitors by the Manchu Dynasty. Shanghai is roiling with rebels plotting to overthrow the Manchu, and Ren turns out to be smack in the middle of it. Ming-fen has no love for the Manchu rulers, but she doesn’t want to get caught up in rebellions that are bound to leave hundreds if not thousands of innocent people caught in the middle.

But when rebels stark attacking, she’s forced into running for her life. Ren has armed her with a red sash, which signals that she is sympathetic to them, and she is slowly trying to make her way back to her home and hopefully safety when she falls in with Dean Burton, an American businessman she knows from the Dragon’s Den bar where she works. She becomes embroiled in Dean’s furtive activities in ways I won’t detail because the story is best read without spoilers.

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