Sunday Sum-Up: January 5, 2020

I celebrated the New Year by ordering Chinese food, watching The Lord of the Rings movies, and making bad puns.

Really bad puns.


I was down for Ringing in the New Year.

Aside from my attempts at comedy, this past week was wonderfully relaxing. Though I didn’t get extra time off from work for the holiday, I felt like I could just sit down and breathe for the first time in about two months. It was fantastic. I read books! I watched television! I did nerdy things like start a new spreadsheet for my 2020 reading log!

I also began my Photo 366 project, and I’m already off to a pretty good start:

I suppose one of the keys to completing a Photo 366 is being able to find a subject, no matter where you are, and no matter the circumstances. The first photo is of some shrubbery in the parking lot at work; the blue tones in the background are from a car, not from water. The second photo is from my own neighborhood– a scene I walk past all the time, but often don’t give a second thought to. I’m looking forward to the rest of this project. I never know what I will find to photograph from one day to the next.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

01_01_2020 A7III 005

I bought her a toy on a string for Christmas. It has a plastic wand with a string with a crinkly toy at the end of it. Mina loves it so much, I can’t even describe it. There are six-year-olds who don’t love their toys on Christmas morning as much as Mina loves her toy on a stick. But because it has a string and can get wrapped around her neck, I put it away when I go to bed, or when I leave for the day. This upsets her. Yesterday, for example, I put it on the shelf in the bathroom, then closed the door before going to work. As I walked out the door, she was sitting next to the bathroom door, looking at me expectantly. I felt bad for denying her a favorite toy, but it was necessary to keep her safe.

As I write this, she is curled up next to my chair with the toy at her side.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

I spent a happy few hours on Sunday reading the rest of The Return of the King. I haven’t spent that much time being lost in a book for a long time, and it was great that the book I had all that time for was one of my favorites ever. It has some of the most glorious writing of the entire work, and the scenes on the Pelennor Fields and in the Sammath Naur in Orodruin get me every single time. Everything about the ending of this book is so satisfying, except maybe the part where Arwen and Elrond have a bitter parting. I almost want to sit down and re-read the whole thing all over again.

The Black God’s Drums is a fantastic novella about a teenaged girl in an alternate version of New Orleans where the Confederacy managed to cede from the United States, but the people of New Orleans rose up against the Confederacy and created their own free land. Creeper, a thirteen-year-old black girl in this New Orleans, stumbles across a secret about a kidnapped Haitian scientist. She wants to use this information to secure herself a spot on the airship of the notorious Captain Anne-Marie. But Creeper has a secret bigger than that of a missing scientist: she hosts Oya, the African orisha, who grants Creeper powers of wind and storm. But Oya has her own priorities, and they don’t always align with Creeper’s.

Silver in the Wood is another novella. It is the story of Tobias, the keeper of Greenhollow, a forest in the midst of England that is home to dryads, fae, and other dark spirits. When Greenhollow Hall is purchased, the new owner shows up at Tobias’s cottage. He is an intensely curious– and handsome– young man who has questions about Greenhollow’s past. When old, buried secrets come to life, Tobias must reckon with the darkest parts of his past.

I got Shadow and Bone from the library so I could finally read it. There is a Netflix show based on it and Six of Crows coming up, and I figured it was time that I got caught up with a trilogy that has been a mainstay of YA fantasy for the past several years. I thought it was an okay trilogy opening. The story runs right along with nary a pause for breath, and I can understand the Darkling’s appeal as a dark and treacherous figure. Alina is an interesting heroine, but I don’t understand the dislike of Mal I’ve seen from several BookTubers. He seemed like a perfectly likable character. Perhaps things change in the next two books? I guess I’ll find out. I have the next one on hold at the library.

What I’m Currently Reading:

So far, I am enjoying A Gentleman in Moscow, though not quite as much as Towles’s other book, Rules of Civility. So far, the Count is given to a lot of philosophizing about Russian literature and the state of Russian politics in the early 1920s, among other things. Still, the Count is an engaging character, and Nina is absolutely charming. I’m looking forward to seeing what becomes of these unlikely friends.

Witchmark is a lovely debut novel set in a world like Edwardian England, where magic-users are feared and used by their families if they aren’t sent to asylums. Miles fled both these outcomes, went to war, and took on a new name. Now he is a doctor working in a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital. He is engaged by an unlikely fellow to solve a murder. But what Miles doesn’t know is that the investigation will lead to deeper mysteries than he feared possible. I’m not terribly far into it, but I am loving it so far. Witchmark won the World Fantasy Award in 2019, and I can see why.

I had intended to take a friend out to dinner for his birthday last night, but some of his family unexpectedly came to town. I went out to dinner anyway. Because I didn’t want to get my book messy, I pulled up one of my upcoming ARCs from NetGalley, The Borgia Confessions, on my phone and set to reading. It’s an interesting story so far, but I’m glad I have a grounding in the history of Alexander VI and the rest of the Borgia family during the 1490s and opening years of the 1500s. Palombo explains all the goings-on, but they feel a little abbreviated. Still, I’m only a quarter of the way through, so perhaps things will change.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

What I’ve Been Watching:

The Witcher
Starring Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, Freya Allan

I finally watched the second half of season one, and it was ridiculous fun. The problem that a lot of fantasy television shows can have is that they are inherently ridiculous, but they try to be incredibly serious– like Game of Thrones serious, but they’re dealing with wacky creatures or bizarre situations that are decidedly un-serious. That was the failure with Shannara Chronicles or Legend of the Seeker (though really, there’s no help for anything based on a Terry Goodkind novel). A lot of these shows collapse under the weight of their own ridiculousness. Not so for The Witcher, which takes itself just seriously enough to make a compelling story, but isn’t afraid to laugh at itself. I will admit that the jumps in time can be incredibly confusing, and could have been handled better, but it gets less disorienting as the show progresses. I was so wrapped up in the last episode that I didn’t want it to end, and I’m looking forward to the next season, whenever it premiers. I may even give the books another shot.

The Crown (Season 3)
Starring Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter, Josh O’Connor

I finally (finally!) finished season three of The Crown last night! I definitely miss Claire Foy’s version of Elizabeth II, but Olivia Colman definitely grew on me throughout the season. I’m actually glad to be done with Matt Smith’s version of Prince Philip. I don’t know which version of Princess Margaret I prefer more– Vanessa Kirby’s or Helena Bonham Carter’s. Princess Anne is fantastic, and for once I feel sorry for Prince Charles. Having grown up in the 1990s with the zeal for Princess Diana and the negative press coverage of Prince Charles’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, I’ve always seen him in a vaguely negative light. I think it was the showrunner’s intent to show the young Prince Charles as a lonelier, more sympathetic figure than he’s normally seen as. Also, there are ridiculous hats. No one does ridiculous hats better than the English monarchy.

13 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: January 5, 2020

  1. Oh Mina. Lol! So sweet how much she loves her toy.
    I plan to read Hammer Head too sometime this year. I’ve been curious about the book because it’s quite a career change the author took.
    Glad you liked the Witcher and totally agree that it’s a nice balance between serious and ridiculous. I started rewatching it, which was helpful because the switches in timeline started to make more sense. I got the impression that the creators want us to watch it twice. Once you see the last episode and then go back to the first, things start to click better.

  2. It is super cute how much she loves that toy!

    I read the first two short story collections and the first full Witcher novel, so I figured out the time change fairly quickly. I do plan to go back and rewatch it, but I have some other shows I want to get through first.

  3. I have been meaning to read A Gentlemen in Moscow for about a year or so. Rules of Civility was just OK, but I think many said it had that Gatsby like vibe. Since I haven’t read Gatsby maybe that’s why I couldn’t love it as much as everyone else.

  4. It does have kind of a Gatsby vibe, but I don’t like The Great Gatsby very much. I liked how Towles made even the wealthy characters into fully-fleshes people instead of charicatures. I was expecting a sort of diatribe against the wealthy characters, but even the awful ones also had their virtues.

  5. I also was ringing in the new year with The Lord of the Rings, but I was watching the films with my husband. It’s been almost 15 years since I’ve last read The Lord of the Rings? How embarrassing. I had best re-read them soon. I wonder how adult Jackie will enjoy them?

    How on earth do you read so much in a single week? I’m so impressed. I also have Shadow and Bone waiting for me, well, the whole trilogy really. I read Six of Crows duology a few years ago and fell in love with the characters. I’m hesitant to pick up Grisha as I feel it won’t be as good yet… but debuts should be given some credit, right? Perhaps I’ll crack the spine soon.

  6. You should definitely give The Lord of the Rings another read! It will probably be quite a bit different to adult you…

    I read fast. I always have. Plus, not much goes on in January, so I can curl up with a book and lose myself in it..

  7. Oh, I’m sure I’ll see a lot more in The Lord of the Rings as an adult. I wonder if there is a good audiobook version? That might be a fun change.

    Lately, my problem has been focus. I just cannot seem to get my brain to jump into a book. It’s like I have a book slump, only it wasn’t caused by a book. Does that even make sense?

  8. There is, to my knowledge, only one unabridged audiobook version of The Lord of the Rings, and that’s by Rob Inglis. It’s fantastic!

    Have you ever read 84, Charing Cross Road? It’s a collection of letters Helene Hanff wrote to London bookseller for about 20 years starting in the 1940s or 1950s. It’s a short, utterly charming book about books. Might help you get past the book slump.

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