November reading wrap-up

Four books finished in November:

  • Caliban’s War by James S A Corey
  • The Next Together by Lauren James
  • The Masnavi, Book One by Rumi (translated by Jawid Mojaddedi)
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Caliban’s War by James S A Corey

The second book in The Expanse series. I enjoyed this very much, but it won’t make much sense if you haven’t read the first book, Leviathan Wakes. Basically: humanity has colonised the solar system, and tensions between Earth, Mars and the outer planets are high. A lot of things are going on! The technology is believable, the cultural and physical shifts that happened as humans spread out into space are intriguing, and the characters are mostly likeable. And that’s just the first book.

I like the new characters that were introduced here (Avasarala! Bobbie! Prax! Okay, so I like all the POV characters) and the story is still fast-paced and exciting, building on what happened in Leviathan Wakes

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take this with a pinch of salt

‘No editor worth his salt would’ve made that mistake,’ I said, idly twirling my fork in my noodles as we waited for the rest of our order. I was still annoyed by the poor work in the first edition of one of the books I had to evaluate for revision.

Jenna raised her eyebrows, looking up from where she was fiddling with the condiment stand on our table. ‘What?’ 

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checks and balances

The phrase ‘checks and balances’ is always treated as a plural noun. The mistake that I usually see is that it’s used as if both of the elements in the phrase are singular: 

There must always be a check and balance. ❌

I tend to reword the sentence and ask the authors to see if they actually mean something like this:

There must always be a system of checks and balances. ✅

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be a responsible writer

It often amazes me that people (who sometimes call themselves ‘authors’) don’t think anyone would catch them when they plagiarise stuff. (Yes, this is a direct response to this issue here.) It’s something I’ve come across pretty often as an editor, though nothing quite as egregious as in the book in the link.

Usually it’s a paragraph or two or three, sneakily inserted in the middle of a chapter. Sometimes writers get away with it, sure. Most of the time the editors notice. There’s always a change in tone, or the style of writing, or even in vocabulary and word choice when you copy something directly instead of rewriting it in your own words. There were times I got suspicious simply because the word order and emphasis were a little off. Other times it was because the language suddenly became perfectly correct when earlier there were always some grammar mistakes here and there. 

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classics: not my cup of tea

‘I was trying to get through this book my sister had, something by Henry James, but it had so many long-winded sentences,’ said Mei while we were waiting for take-out. Pizza, this time, for someone’s farewell party. We could have had them delivered, but there were extra discounts for self-pickups. ‘What was it called … I’ve forgotten.’

The Domino’s outlet we went to was cold and mostly empty. It didn’t have WiFi. One wall had quotes written all over it and one of the more rambling quotes had reminded Mei of the book. ‘The Wings of the Dove?’ I suggested, keying in James’s name into Goodreads on my phone to see what I could find. Mei didn’t even have a smartphone. I usually held back from using mine when I was out with her.

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look up your loanwords

I was editing a passage about a young woman who enjoyed baking, and her interest in making cute cakes came from her grandmother, who baked every weekend for her guests who came for high tea. Thus: ‘She vowed that she would become a patisserie.’

It startled me into laughter. Aspiring to become a French bakery wasn’t a terrible career choice, all in all. 

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online dictionaries with simplified definitions

A tip: If the definition of a word in your usual dictionary (or Google) is a bit difficult to understand, try looking it up at the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries website. The definitions there are simplified and friendlier to students, and there are example sentences showing word usage. 

I used to have a physical copy of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary sitting on my desk at my last job. I don’t think I ever opened it, though. It’s easier to look things up online.

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Happy Fountain Pen Day!

Okay, so Fountain Pen Day is on the first Friday of November, so this is a bit late.

I like fountain pens! Well, to be completely honest, I like the inks. I love that there are so many colour options. I’ve always used blue inks ever since I had to use pens in school. Not that those were fountain pens—using fountain pens in schools has never been a requirement here (I understand some European countries insist on this?), as far as I can remember. All the other pens, though: the standard Kilometrico ballpoint pen everyone had, or the more expensive rollerball pens, and those felt-tip pens that were the rage for some reason when I was in secondary school. (Pen dakwat basah, I think we called them. Those pens were terrible for people with chicken-scratch handwriting like mine.) But yeah, for me those pens had to have blue ink. Even now I have a number of the Zebra Sarasa Clip gel pens, possibly in all the shades of blue the brand carries, but I remember complaining to my best friend that the blues were too blue and not dark enough. I think she was rather bemused by the whole thing.

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Dune, and books on loan

I don’t mind lending books to friends, really. Mostly because we have lots of books. Also, while some of the books end up being reread, a lot of them don’t, so it’s not like they’re terribly missed while they’re out on loan.

Sometimes, though, I scan through the bookshelves and notice a book is missing. Usually that’s because it’s part of a series, or by the same author. I was just poking through the shelves today because I was feeling restless and couldn’t find anything I wanted to read (crazy, really—I have way too many unread books but this happens every time I finish a book), and noticed that the first Dune book was missing. I think we had a copy. If it’s with you, that’s fine, just keep it until you’ve finished reading it.

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