sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

May 27, 2020

into the stacks 2020: february, part 2
posted by soe 1:48 am

Summertime is coming, which means it’s a good time to get caught up on sharing the books I read earlier in the year. At the beginning of the month, I told you about two of the novels I read back in February. Here are the other three:

The Paper Magician, by Charlie Holmberg

Ceony has just graduated top in her class at Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, with a plan to work magic in metallurgy, the most illustrious of the human-manipulated types of magic. But she was informed at the last minute that due to a critical shortage of apprentices, she was being assigned to the least glamorous type of magic — paper. And since after you’ve been bonded to your “element,” you won’t be able to perform magic in any other field, Ceony is understandably sulky. She’d dreamt of ornate metalworks and was going to be stuck enchanting legal contracts for the rest of her life.

But her new master, Magician Emery Thane, surprises her. His cottage, seemingly run-down from the street, boasts an abundance of paper flowers in the garden. His butler is an articulated skeleton made of paper. And he introduces her to the power of origami and the written word — both of which can be imbued by their crafter with powerful magic, as well we readers know.

Several months into her apprenticeship, however, an evil practitioner of the dark magics appears at their dining room table, robbing Magician Thane of something remarkably precious and life-giving, and forcing Ceony to channel all the magic she has learned to stay the damage, pursue the villain, and confront the darkness in her master’s past — and whether she can embrace her future with her whole heart — before time runs out.

The book is the first in a series, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The story bogs down a bit and can be uneven at times as the author attempts to keep up with the twists and layers of story she’s telling, but I think it works in the end. I’ll definitely seek out the second in the series, and recommend it to those who enjoy a little romance mixed into their fantasy, but don’t mind it when their story veers down a dark path for a while.

Pages: 222. Library copy.

We Met in December, by Rosie Curtis

In this cute rom-com of a book, unrepentant romantic Jess has just landed a dream job at a London publisher and is moving into one of the bedrooms in the Notting Hill brownstone her best college friend just inherited. Also sharing their house are a glamorous lawyer, a chef, and Alex, a former lawyer turned nursing student, whom Jess crushes on madly at first sight. She tries to ignore her feelings — they’d all agreed to no relationships when they’d moved in, after all — only to find them hurt when she discovers another of their housemates sneaking out of Alex’s room one night.

But Alex is mostly a nice guy, and he and Jess become friends as he invites her to get to know her new hometown by going on walks together. He finds her a fun friend, but he’s got an ex-wife and a misbegotten fling to add complication to his life.

The story, which takes place over the course of a year and which bounces between Jess’ and Alex’s narratives, has a lot going on. Jess has a beloved grandma and a kooky, neglectful mom and two childhood BFFs — a footloose actress and a more uptight friend with a fiance and a life plan. It always gives the story a new path to explore, but it also definitely makes it a less taut tale. And while it may have two narrators, it decidedly remains Jess’ story first and foremost.

If you want a fluffy will-they, won’t they story in a great setting that could very well be made into an equally sweet made-for-tv Christmas movie in a year or two, this is definitely the book for you.

Pages: 390. Library copy.

Girl with Gun, by Amy Stewart

In the first of a series of historical fiction about one of America’s first female deputy sheriffs and her family, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp find themselves on the wrong end of a car-wagon crash with the weaselly manager of the local silk mill. This leads to a cascading series of events that include threats from gangsters, a stolen baby, an undercover assignment in New York, newspaper attention, a friendship with a reform-minded local sheriff, and a court case — all in pursuit of a $50 wagon repair. Through it all Constance Kopp keeps her head and strong sense of justice and mostly manages to keep curmudgeonly Norma and dramatic Fleurette safe. But these three sisters will never again be able to remain anonymous and hidden away on their New Jersey farm.

If you like stories of women who come into their own, who find an inner strength they didn’t know they had, and who end up kicking ass and taking names and the added bonus of knowing it’s based on a real person, this is the book for you. I’m eager to track down the second book in the series once libraries are open again, and I hope that Amazon continues to develop the series/movie they optioned from it.

Pages: 408 pages. Personal copy.

February Totals

Books finished: 5
Pages read: 1372

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May 26, 2020

memorial day weekending
posted by soe 1:44 am


Ours was a quiet, but nice, weekend. There were bike rides and walks and wildlife sightings. I ate peas from the garden and waffles from my sourdough starter.

I splurged on peonies at the farmers market, as well as more predictable purchases. They made my soul sing.

We finished our Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone listen, and I will wrap up reading Chasing Vermeer after I post this.

We did laundry (we were out of masks again) and repaired a piece of furniture my grandfather built me.

I talked with my folks and with my BFF, Karen. Rudi’s friend, Rachel, dropped off some homemade lemon curd, and we chatted briefly outside — only my second in-person interaction with our friends in months.

And we were scofflaws and took our beach chairs to the traffic circle at the end of our street this evening and soaked up the sun for a little while. It’s my first time sitting outside since March (city parks are closed for lounging and I live in an apartment below ground), and it was glorious. I don’t even care how many bug bites I got. There is a possibility that D.C. will enter into Phase 1 of pandemic recovery as early as Friday, in which case I can soon return to lounging — at a distance from my neighbors — in the park without skirting the law (the traffic circle is technically federal property, and they’re a little murkier about legalities of such green spaces).

I hope you all had a pleasant weekend, too, or as pleasant as possible. Stay safe and stay apart!

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May 25, 2020

discovered at dusk: no ducklings, but deer
posted by soe 1:20 am

I went for a bike ride this evening in Georgetown. I had meant to go to the pond at Constitution Garden to visit some water fowl, but instead decided at the last minute to see what the Potomac River and C&O Canal had to offer.

They are several years into construction on some of the locks closer to the mouth of the canal, which means that several miles of the canal upstream from downtown Georgetown have been allowed to grow fenny. I knew they’d become overgrown, but hadn’t understood exactly how solid the ground now was until I saw deer walking in the canal itself.

First I saw this young buck on the far side:

Young Buck

I had a hard time getting the camera to focus on how very velvety his horns looked.

Maybe half a mile down the towpath, I spotted a doe’s head poking up from below the bank on my side of the canal. I hopped off my bike and walked back, speaking quietly to her, because clearly she’d seen and heard me already.

Doe in the Canal

While she kept an eye on me, she just seemed more wary than worried. In fact, she started walking even closer. (These shots are not zoomed in at all.)


Sometimes, you just have to scratch that itch on your head, no matter who’s watching, right?

After that, I headed home. No duckling sightings today, but up-close deer are just as good.

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May 24, 2020

yes, please
posted by soe 1:18 am

Wear a Mask. Save Lives.

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May 23, 2020

long weekend planning
posted by soe 1:41 am

Who's Winning?

I’ve spent the past forty-five minutes musing about the temerity of time in introduction after deleted introduction. It seems about right for the place in which we find ourselves as we head into this traditional start to the summer season. In the end, none of it matters while all of it matters, and I add it to the tally of things I have let go over the past three months. With a sign of resignation, instead I’ll turn to face forward again and consider how I’ll spend this long weekend:

  • Reading. I’ve got a couple audiobooks that are likely to wrap up, as well as Chasing Vermeer.
  • Knitting on the shawl that never ends. If I wrap it up, that means there’s hope for the rest of this, right?
  • Baking. I want cookies or bars or something. And scones. And bread. And waffles. (Apparently, my supper has worn off. Regardless, I’m hoping to make something tasty.)
  • Talking to loved ones. Karen and I have agreed we should phone. The details will sort themselves out, history has shown.
  • Going for a bike ride. Rudi tells me baby wildlife is out and about and that if I can get myself down to the waterways I can ogle baby ducks at the very least.
  • Putting away winter. It’s strewn about the apartment, with winter coats draped on the coat rack and sweaters still in my drawer. The spring has been cool, and I love having the window open, which means it’s been chilly in the Burrow, but this week’s forecast suggests weather got the memo that we’re heading into summer, and it’s time to have tshirts and tank tops more accessible.
  • Tending to the garden. Rudi picked up stakes and twine at the hardware store this morning and I was able to spend some time this evening getting the peas upright again. We invited many of our garden slugs out for a final happy hour in a capful of beer, and the word of mouth spread like we were holding a kegger on the beach in a teen movie. We’ll only slightly apologetically refill the beer tomorrow. (I’m not really heartless enough to be a successful gardener, but the slugs are out of control with all the rain we’ve had this spring.)
  • Painting my nails. While my toes are still fully covered, my spring manicure is down to a glittery dot of varying size on each finger. It’s time to wipe off this polish and decide on some new colors to adorn the digits.
  • Carefully breaking some rules. There is an abandoned gas station a couple blocks away that spent last summer as a paid parking lot. They have some rose bushes along their sidewalks, and I think that as long as I cut a few blossoms from the station side, as opposed to the side that faces the apartment building across the street, that no one is being hurt. Similarly, I may consider taking a lawn chair to the circle that I walk around or maybe the 19th-century cemetery nearby and sit outside for a little while if it seems like not too many people are about. My local park is too crowded and even the large park by the garden tends to attract a lot of people. If there were a way for me to get a little sun, without the stress of being near people who still can’t be bothered to wear masks, I think this subterranean dweller would feel so much better about things.
  • Write some mail. Because if I can’t give hugs in real life, at least I can send some paper ones.

How about you? What are you hoping this weekend holds?

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May 22, 2020

spring harvest, artwork, and breakfast
posted by soe 1:23 am

Dupont Love

Three beautiful things from my past week:

1. The first strawberry and peas from my garden (as well as more greens).

2. Rudi is friends with his fifth-grade teacher on Facebook. (If you know Rudi IRL this will surprise you not a bit.) Anyway, she paints and she was giving away some of her prints, and she sent this one to Rudi, which arrived on his birthday eve:

Green Door Art

3. I had spent my last cash on quarters more than a week ago, which meant while we had clean underwear, we haven’t been able to buy bagels. I stopped by the atm yesterday and Rudi ran out first thing this morning to the bagel shop to buy two bags of day-olds and two fresh-from-the-oven everything bagels that I got to wake up to the aroma of.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world lately?

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