It was apple week around here. Not Apple the computer company. Apple the fruit.
On Sunday morning, my book club headed out to a local orchard to pick apples. It was the perfect day for it- cloudy and just cool enough to be comfortable and keep the bugs at bay. We wandered the rows of apple trees, admired the many flowers in the garden, ate apple cider donuts, and R definitely did not climb a tree. Once we’d picked our share of apples, we paid for them, and I also bought a gallon of fresh apple cider (non-alcoholic) and a jar of elderberry jelly. That afternoon, I made apple crisp with some of the apples I brought home. It tasted wonderful.
Later in the week, I found caramel apple cider (alcoholic, this time) from a nearby brewery. Because I was buying a six-pack of their regular cider anyway, I switched out the regular cider for the caramel apple variety. It tastes great! Just enough caramel to add flavor without making it too sweet.
I also bought a copy of Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran’s book, Snow, Glass, Apples on Friday night. No actual apples involved. But it is a gorgeous hardcover graphic novel, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I will probably do that this week, if not later today.
In other news, Mina finally managed to knock over the floor lamp next to my couch. She has been trying to get onto the individual shades since she could get onto the couch, and Monday night she made it. For about two seconds. Then the whole thing fell over with her on it. She was fine, but one of the light bulbs shattered. And so on Monday night around 11:30, I found myself fishing a little black cat out of a pool of broken glass in a dark room. She is fine, I am fine, and the lamp is fine. On the bright side, she no longer tries to get onto the lamp.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield, audiobook narrated by Jack Davenport
- The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains written and narrated by Neil Gaiman
- Jade City (The Green Bone Saga #1) by Fonda Lee
- The Dark is Rising (The Dark is Rising sequence #2) by Susan Cooper
- The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
While it is not as beautifully written or as compelling as The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield’s novel Bellman & Black is still a wonderful, eerie story about William Bellman’s successes and tragedies after he commits the boyhood transgression of killing a rook with a stone. I recommend the audiobook, as Jack Davenport’s narration is done so very well.
After recommending it to a BookTuber I regularly watch, I wanted to listen to Neil Gaiman narrate his story, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains. Fortunately, it was available from my library via the Overdrive app. This version included music by FourPlay, which added to the eeriness of the story. If you’re interested in hearing Gaiman’s narration without background music, you can hear it in his short story collection, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances.
I finally finished Jade City! I made a concerted effort to finish it this week, and despite Mina’s attempts to derail my reading time (like by breaking the lamp), I got through the last 200 pages. It was complicated and unexpected, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy, Jade War.
The Dark is Rising is the second book in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence, which is a middle-grade fantasy series set in Britain in the 1960s-1970s. While the first book features the adventures of three siblings– Simon, Jane, and Barney– as they follow the directions on an ancient map, The Dark is Rising tells a very different and more frightening story. On Will Stanton’s eleventh birthday, he discovers that he is the youngest and last of the Old Ones, immortals tasked with keeping the forces of darkness at bay. With the help of Merriman Lyon (who we met in the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone), Will travels through the centuries to reclaim the six signs that will help the Old Ones defeat the Dark if they can find them in time. The imagery in this book is often dreamlike and haunting, and given how many fantasy books written for younger audiences turn the heroes into young warriors, it’s wonderful to see a hero who fights his battles with knowledge and wisdom.
The Rules of Magic is a prequel novel to Alice Hoffman’s hit novel, Practical Magic. In this book, we discover the history of the Aunts who raised Jillian and Sally: Franny and Jet. While I prefer Practical Magic, this book is almost as beautifully written, and its story is more heartbreaking. If you read and loved Practical Magic but have not read this one, definitely give it a try.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (32/359
- Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger, audiobook narrated by Moira Quirk (7%)
I started listening to The Hazel Wood on audiobook, but I am not fond of the narrator’s voice, which is a bit too nasally for my taste. I will try to finish my physical copy. So far, I’m not terribly impressed, as it has all been clumsily delivered backstory. If I can get through that, I assume the story will pick up its pace.
I decided to get another audiobook so I’d have something to listen to while doing household chores, so I downloaded Prudence. Have I read the last few books in The Parasol Protectorate series which comes before The Custard Protocol? Nope. Do I care that I haven’t read them? Nope. Especially since Moira Quirk narrates Prudence. I adored the way she narrated the Finishing School books, and I’m pleased with the way she’s done the narration for Prudence, though I’m not very far into it.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
What I’ve Been Watching:
- The Others
- Vikings, season 5 volume 1
In the fifth season of Vikings, we see the rise of the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, and the long-standing divisions between the brothers will have consequences for united Norway that Harald Finehair seeks to create. It does not all take place in Scandinavia, though. A few of the characters sail south to explore the Mediterannean and find more than they bargain for, and Floki sails westward and discovers Iceland (not entirely historically accurate, but a man named Floki was one of the first Vikings to arrive in Iceland. I loved how they filmed the first scenes of Floki’s arrival on the Icelandic shores (aside from seeing familiar places like Skogafoss). Gustaf Skarsgård portrays Floki as thinking that he has reached Asgard, the home of his gods (which I could definitely get behind. Iceland is that gorgeous), and Floki’s prayers to the Odin were especially lovely.
Of all the characters in this season, though, Alex Høgh Andersen stands out as Ivar the Boneless. He is particularly intense and often eerie with his strange movements and how he shows his moods with his eyes. History does not record why Ivar was called ‘Boneless’, so dramatists have imagined all sorts of reasons. Michael Hirst, the series’ writer, decided that his version of Ivar would have a brittle bone disorder, which left him unable to walk. Because Ivar crawls a lot, it radically changes the camera angles, blocking, and perspective. But Alex Høgh Andersen hasn’t made Ivar a stationary character. Ivar often moves more than his brothers in certain scenes, and his crawling has a serpentine element. Thanks to his intensity, you can see why a Viking army would end up following a crippled young man.
One last thing that I appreciated in this season is how women are portrayed. Judith wields her political acumen in England as readily as Lagertha wields a sword, and Astrid refuses to be pushed off to one side when the call to battle comes. Other women have major roles that don’t involve standing around like furniture. And it seems as though the Viking women like Lagertha, Astrid, and Torvi get dressed up the most when they’re preparing for war.
- Penny Dreadful, season 1
I don’t know how many times I have watched Penny Dreadful, but I find it just as compelling each time. Every detail is perfectly rendered, and because all the actors commit to their performance, the flowery Victorian script feels natural, as though everyone would obviously have spoken so poetically. This show is perfect for the Halloween season, as it combines some of the finest elements of Victorian horror and Gothic novels like Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Gray. It is definitely for mature audiences, however, so be cautious if you decide to watch it with children in the house.