Sunday Sum Up: December 29, 2019

After the busy madness in the lead-up to Christmas, I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and relax on Christmas Eve. I had an easy drive to my sister’s house where I hung out with her family and our parents until the last of us went to bed around midnight. Christmas morning was gloomy outside, but festive inside as the adults woke up before the kids. I can give the kids a break, though. The older two are teenagers who need their sleep, and the youngest just likes to sleep. I have to admit that it was nice to wake up on my own and enjoy coffee and cinnamon rolls with my mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law without the kids chattering about opening gifts.

We had a great morning, and everyone got what they wanted although, strangely, the hit gift was the Roomba my sister received. It was quickly named Bill, and once the battery was charged, it went out on its first vacuuming mission. It was oddly hilarious. Bill kept bumping into furniture and sometimes seemed to be deliberately chasing the dogs.

We lazed about the house all afternoon reading and playing board games, and then enjoyed a Christmas day showing of The Empire Strikes Back on television. After far as Christmases go, this one was pretty stellar.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

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One of her favorite places to sleep is on the back of the couch, which curves downward in the middle, making it the perfect perch for a sleepy cat.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

It was definitely a Tolkien week. Letters from Father Christmas is a charming collection of the letters “Father Christmas” wrote to Tolkien’s children when they were little. They detail the adventures of Father Christmas, the Great North Polar Bear, and their friends as they prepare for Christmas every year. They are all illustrated to some degree, and my edition contains reproductions of both the letters and the illustrations– all done by Tolkien himself. The Father Christmas stories are charming to read, and though they only came around once a year, Tolkien did a wonderful job of keeping a narrative going across the years. He also did a wonderful job of explaining– during the Great Depression and World War II– why the toys might not have been as numerous during certain years, and how other children were suffering from war and poverty. One of Tolkien’s great strengths as a storyteller was that he never talked down to his audience, and children are no exception.

While the whole collection of The Lord of the Rings is well over a thousand pages, I am amazed by how quickly it passes whenever I read it. I’ll start The Two Towers, and suddenly we’re in Rohan, and then Helm’s Deep, and soon enough Faramir appears in Ithilien, as though we’re jumping through time. The more I read this story, the more baffled I am by how other people complain that it’s slow. In a little over 1,000 pages, Tolkien accomplishes what most current fantasy authors would spend 5,000 or more pages doing. How is this a slow story?

And once again, I am struck by the melancholy underlying the books. The characters know they are heirs to a world that is declining, and that the greater eras have long since passed and will never come again. This is the most obvious in the chapters set in Rohan, and especially with Theoden. He’s an aging king who has lost his only son, and he is watching the powers of evil rising while knowing that his kingdom does not have the power to defeat them. And yet, once Gandalf arrives to provide a ray of hope, Theoden rides out– in spite of his despair– and is determined to fight evil, even if he dies doing so. It’s the same sort of hope that Frodo clings to during his journey to Mordor. He, too, has little hope of defeating Sauron, but he keeps going all the same. Their reaction is a marked contrast to Denethor, who gives in to despair and nearly drags his son down along with him in The Return of the King. I’ve already begun reading The Return of the King, and I hope to finish it today.

I realized earlier this month that I had not read the latest volume of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s brilliant Monstress series, volume 4, The Chosen. The third volume ended on a pair of cliffhangers, and while the immediate fates of the characters involved were resolved, there are long-term repercussions that will undoubtedly unfold in future volumes. I want to re-read this series, as the art is beautiful and the story is unique. We’ll see if I get around to it in 2020 or not.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I’ve just finished the chapter ‘The Siege of Minas Tirith’, and some of my favorite parts of the entire Lord of the Rings are coming up: ‘The Battle of the Pelennor Fields’, which features Eowyn being a badass, one of my favorite lines in the entire thing, and Sam rising to every occasion and saving Mister Frodo so Frodo can go about trying to save the world. I have no plans for today, and bad weather is giving me a reason to stay home and read. I hope to finish this one today.


What I Plan to Read This Week:

I bought The Black God’s Drums during Book Outlet’s Black Friday sale, and I received Silver in the Wood for Christmas. I want to begin 2020 with a clean book slate– no books in progress– but I also want to see if I can finish 170 books in 2019 which, in addition to being a nice round number, would be the most books I’ve ever read. These are novellas and so are quite short, but from everything I’ve heard about them, they are not lacking in story.

What I’ve Been Listening to This Week:

Aside from BookTube and the first half of The Empire Strikes Back, I haven’t watched anything this week. But I have been listening to music on Spotify. I don’t really listen to Christmas music, but Zoe Keating‘s album, Snowmelt, the Icelandic group Samaris and the Celtic/Viking/Slavic (Folk) playlist gave me all the wintry vibes I was looking for. These will be on repeat during January, too.

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