Flower of the Day: English Bouquet

Back in Oxford! What a feeling. She arrived from East London and realized she hadn’t bothered to make a note of Lucy’s house number (She did know the street) because she thought she’d recognize the house at first sight. She ended up walking back and forth, back and forth, for half an hour. Conveniently, her Android told her “There is no wi-fi connection.” This is why she pays Verizon $239/month for the International Plan. So she can be stuck with luggage on a street in Oxford, with no wi-fi connection. Her laptop was completely out of battery, so no help there.

Tugging her luggage behind her, she started asking the neighbors: “Do you know Lucy?” She figured, Oxford is a small town, this is a small street. Everyone must know Lucy. Guess what: NO ONE KNEW LUCY.

Finally, she heard her name being called, and there was Lucy! Lucy had seen self pass in front of her house, trundling luggage. Probably wondered why self didn’t stop, since the front door was wide open.

Anyhoo, she’s arrived! Same room and everything! There was even the sweetest little arrangement of wildflowers on her writing desk!

Posting a picture for Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Dean Chong Liu Chong of the CPC

While many of the foreign professors dressed like students and probably wanted to be students, if not sleep with them, I occasionally wore silk vests and tie clips. Every night I polished the incessant Beijing dust off my shoes. Perhaps I was overcompensating for my thin frame and boyish face. That afternoon, lowering my haunches to the blue couch, I felt like a freshman in big trouble.

“We are terminating your contract,” he said. “Your resident status will be revoked. You have one week to leave the country.”

I said nothing.

Why did I have such a hard egg in my throat? I had nothing to lose. This was not my country. I sometimes hated the place, I missed my sister and my mother, my best friend Mac, and yet I didn’t want to leave China.

K: A Novel, p.38

Professor K Ruminates

Sorry, dear blog readers. If you are interested in reading K: A Novel, you might as well know that self is reading at a snail’s pace because she keeps posting quotes (There is something she wants to quote on almost every page). She’s also reading Book # 4 in the Ruth Galloway mystery series, and she alternates between reading about Ruth Galloway or about Professor K.

When K: A Novel opens, Professor K is already in Kun Chong Prison. No idea how long he’s been there, but it’s long enough for him to have an established routine.

He thinks back to the months leading up to his imprisonment:

When did I cross the line?

In my fourth year I started sending students online news articles that were blocked in mainland China, say, a story about peasants in Anhui province getting bumped off their land with paltry compensation, while a Party official received a fat kickback from developers. Nothing new there. Some of my students were curious about international perspectives, so I’d send them an article or two, and they’d reply, “This is so inspiring. Thank you for the articles! I definitely will take it into account.

There is something very droll about the way Professor K recalls his interactions with his students, and it’s clear he was such a naif, so American. Wonder who reported him. Could it have been one of his students? One of those who thanked him for his lectures by saying, “This is so inspiring”?

Stay tuned.

Self’s Third Ruth Galloway

Self loves these books. She brought the first two with her to Northern Ireland (from a stack she’d ordered during the pandemic and never had the time to read). She bought two more when she got to Belfast. Now she’s reading The House at Sea’s End.

Ruth Galloway is now a mother. Her daughter, Kate, is a few months old. She is still juggling work (as a forensic archaeologist and university professor) and motherhood, not to mention fending off the fawning Baby Daddy. This scene is very droll. An acquaintance, Tatjana, drops by unexpectedly for a two-week stay:

. . . the baby, not content to remain snoozing picturesquely in the background, is making a bid for centre stage, cooing and emitting high-pitched yelps like a miniature cheerleader. Ruth thinks she is being rather sweet but she is scared to take her attention off Tatjana for too long. So she sits on the floor with Kate, who is propped up by cushions, occasionally handing her a brightly coloured toy which Kate ignores in favour of chewing the TV remote control. Tatjana has, so far, not looked in Kate’s direction once.

Nelson had stayed only a few minutes, long enough for Tatjana to pronounce him ‘interesting,’ which, Ruth discovers, is her highest term of praise.

“How come you are entertaining a policeman in the afternoon, she asked, raising her eyebrows slightly.

The House at the End of the Sea, p. 137

The Magician King, p. 306

Closing in on the end! Self has been reading this book for the past two weeks!

Finally, Quentin Coldwater does get to bang! This is definitely not Harry Potter, LOL

Spoiler-ish. Only if you shipped Quentin/Julia (which self kinda did, because she loved what Julia brought to this, that hint of darkness. Consolation: Julia does get to be a Hedge-Witch)

He turned to Poppy. “Are you in on this? Or do you still want to go back to the real world?”

“Are you kidding?” She grinned and pressed herself against him. “Fuck reality, baby. Let’s go save the universe.”

A Dragon in Venice’s Grand Canal

Quentin is about to jump into the canal to retrieve a magic button that he and Julia need desperately: it’s the only thing that will get them back to Fillory.

Witnessing the deed is a dragon expert, a fetching young woman from Australia named Poppy.

“They hardly ever eat people,” Poppy said. “I mean like twice a century. That we know of.”

The Magician King, p. 174

You’ll notice self’s reading pace has picked up. She really loves Quentin and Julia’s backstory. Today, despite watching a bit of the Belfast Marathon, and going to the Botanic Gardens, she managed to spend a good bit of time reading.

Stay tuned.

When The Magician King is Like a Game Show

Look in the bowl! Look in the bowl! says a high, disembodied voice in a Venezian palazzo (HOW did Quentin and Julia get to a Venetian palazzo? Weren’t they just in RICHMOND, VIRGINIA? And is there ANY sordid wizard Julia won’t, as a frustrated Quentin puts it, bang? This is another thing self appreciates about Lev Grossman: his characters DO bang, and they talk like young people.)


“I refuse to look in the bowl!” says our valiant Quentin, grabbing catatonic Julia by the hand (She’s only catatonic when she’s with Quentin. Ergo, this is NOT a ship!)

Quentin slaps the bowl off the table, it shatters against a wall, out floats a piece of paper, and what does Quentin do? WHAT DO YOU THINK HE DOES? He reads the slip of paper. And it says:


The Magician King: Quentin’s Horse, Dauntless

Did self mention that she thinks Dauntless is such a cool name for a horse? She has written a fable in which the name of the horse is Baucent. If only she had thought of a cool name for her horse, something like Unfazed. Or Hero. Or maybe even just Horse.

Anyhoo, Dauntless has other qualities, which self discovers on p. 16, when Quentin & Company run into Jollyby (She can’t stop thinking of the Philippine hamburger chain, JOLLIBEE), Master of the Hunt:

In one huge, leather-gloved fist Jollyby held up a large, madly kicking hare by its ears.

“Son of a bitch,” Dauntless said. “He caught it.”

Dauntless was a talking horse. She just didn’t talk much.

“He sure did,” Quentin said.

The Magician King, p. 16

Self is cracking up!

About that hare: “How do you sneak up on an animal that can see the future? Maybe it saw other people’s but not its own. The hare’s eyes rolled wildly in their sockets.”

The Janus Stone: Spoiler Alert!

This book is every bit as good as The Crossing Places. No, it’s actually better. So much funnier! Though the parts told from the murderer’s point of view (thankfully, brief) are gut-churning. Do not read any further if you do not want to know the identity of the murderer! The dialogue is A++.

Ruth screams, so loudly that it startles both of them. Roderick stops and looks at her quizzically.

“Why are you frightened?” he asks.

“What do you think?” shouts Ruth. “I’m stuck here on a boat with a madman. A madman with a knife.”

Roderick looks quite hurt. “I’m not mad,” he says. “I’ve got a first in classics from Cambridge.”

From what Ruth has seen of Oxbridge graduates, the two are not mutually exclusive.

The Janus Stone, p. 287

This conversation follows immediately after a scene where we see DCI Harry Nelson running around like a chicken without a head. Eventually, he figures out (through the timely appearance of Cathbad) that he’s been worried about the wrong daughter. Self wanted to pull her hair out.

Stay tuned.

The Janus Stone: Tanya

Going at a snail’s pace through Book 2 of the Ruth Galloway series, self is enjoying it so much. The last book series she was into was The Expanse (nine books and a TV series), and that was two years ago.

Anyhoo, she is within closing distance of the end, and there’s an annoying policewoman named Tanya who is everything Dr. Ruth Galloway isn’t — young, fit, eager, callow — and she might be having a wee crush on her boss, DCI Harry Nelson, who also happens to be the object of Ruth Galloway’s (unrequited) affection. This series does have angst. Of course, Ruth Galloway doesn’t see her as a threat, and DCI Nelson is too obtuse to recognize Tanya as flirting.


Tanya’s head appears around his office door. He tries to discourage the rest of her from joining it.

“What is it?”

“I’ve found Annabelle Spens’ dental records.”

This is different. His tiredness vanishes and he rearranges his face into something more welcoming.

“Good work, Tanya. Show me.”

Praise makes Tanya expansive. “Well, it was really you saying about there being some fancy dental work done. I thought, maybe they didn’t get it done locally. So I contacted the London School of Dentistry. They’ve been around since 1911, used to be at the London Hospital but it’s now part of St. Bartholomew’s. Anyway, they had her records. They faxed them over a few minutes ago.”

The Janus Stone, pp. 259 – 260

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