After a week of dealing with a cold, I’m starting to both feel and sound like myself again. It’s frustrating how a minor illness can wear me out so much, because there were so many things I wanted to get done.
But I’m feeling better and have an array of things to do today, like attend the third of six beginner’s yoga classes my friend T is teaching as part of her yoga instructor training. The poses have been simple and straightforward, and while I’m (very) slightly more advanced, even these basic poses have helped my back. My tension lives between my shoulder blades and it’s hard to find stretches that help with that. But T’s class has definitely helped me out, so I’m grateful for that.
I also have to frame three prints for a small exhibition next month. There’s a beautiful hotel that recently opened downtown, and they have a space for local artists. I know someone who knows someone, and I was invited to bring some photographs to show there in February. I printed the photographs earlier this week and bought the frames last night. I have the best luck when it comes to buying frames. I went to JoAnn’s to look at frames and found three in the exact style and size that I wanted at 50% off. And the 20% off coupon from the app worked on it, too! I saved $71.00 on three nice frames, and all I need to do is re-cut the mats that came with the frames in order to fit my odd-sized prints. It won’t take me long to do that, so I’ll have my very little show printed and framed by tonight– a week and a half early. Yay!
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Mina has developed an obsession with investigating the bathroom cabinets. I have the medicine cabinet above the sink, and then I have the larger cupboards where I store towels, extra soap and whatnot, and my makeup. Mina likes jumping up onto the second shelf where the makeup lives and batting around things like nail files, dental floss, and makeup brushes. I really have to make sure these cabinets are latched before bed or when I leave because I like to be able to find my things while getting ready in the morning. I also like to know that she’s not getting into soap or cleaning supplies.
I love this cat, but she drives me nuts sometimes.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlin
- Epic Solitude: A Story of Survival and a Quest for Meaning in the Far North by Katherine Keith, ARC provided by NetGalley
- Black Powder War (Temeraire #3) by Naomi Novik, audiobook narrated by Simon Vance
Hammer Head is a lovely memoir about MacLaughlin’s decision to quit her job as a journalist and become a carpenter. She applied for a position as an apprentice carpenter, and despite having no experience she got the job and it changed her life. It’s a lovely, short book that showcases MacLaughling’s background as a journalist along with her newfound love of working with her hands.
I’ve hand Epic Solitude on my NetGalley shelf for quite some time, and because the publication date is approaching, I finally sat down with it this week. I finished it within a few days, and I’m conflicted about it. It is another memoir. Katherine Keith had always dreamed of moving to the Alaskan wilderness to live off the land. In her late teens, she started to drift, aimlessly, from job to job, place to place, religion to religion. She fell in love, got married and divorced, and struggled with mental illness. Then, having hit rock bottom, she bought an ice cream truck and drove to Alaska to begin living her dream. Ultimately, she turns her life around and devoted much of her life to extreme sports and dogsledding. The story flashes back and forth between past and present. I can see what the book wants to be– something like a cross between Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and an extreme lifestyle version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love— but Keith doesn’t quite have the writing skills to pull it off. The dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. There are anecdotes where Keith states that she doesn’t want to be dramatic, and then goes on to describe a melodramatic scene. And overall, the story feels choppy. But Keith clearly wants to explain the truth of her strange and tragic journey through life, and she does so without attempting to make herself look better than she is. So I’m conflicted about it and will need to do some more thinking before I sit down to write the review.
Black Powder War is the third book in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series and sees Laurence and Temeraire returning to Europe after their adventures in China. They’re diverted to Istanbul for an urgent mission, find danger and unexpected allies on the way there, and then land in the middle of a series of desperate battles between Napoleon’s forces and the Prussian army. And while Temeraire’s skills make him a great asset to England’s allies, a new enemy has appeared to mitigate those skills and give Napoleon a frightening new advantage. I enjoyed this story more than the previous entry, Throne of Jade, but it still wasn’t as fun as the first book. I’ve already downloaded the next audiobook in the series, Empire of Ivory, and will probably start listening to it later this afternoon.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, translated/edited by Jesse L. Byock (87/180)
- The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, audiobook narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch (13%)
- A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, audiobook narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith (64%)
On a whim, I decided to grab my copy of The Prose Edda (which I bought in Reykjavik) and read it. I’ve read it before, but it had been a long time and I remember being confused by the previous version. This translation is much clearer, and it helps that A) I have a better grounding in Nordic lore now, and B) Neil Gaiman drew many of the stories for his Norse Mythology from The Prose Edda, so they’re far more familiar to me now. I realized this week that I have more Norse books than I thought I did, whether they’re sagas, historical novels set in Scandinavia during the Viking era, or a book about the most famous Vikings. I pulled most of them an stacked them on the short bookshelf next to the front door where my current TBR and library books live. It’s quite the stack, but I’m going to make an effort to get through them because it’s all so interesting. The Elder Eddas, Njal’s Saga, The Sagas of Icelanders, Tom Shippey’s Laughing Shall I Die, the second two books in Linnea Hartsuyker’s Half-Drowned King trilogy, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun are all in that TBR pile. Some of them are rereads (the Eddas and Sigurd and Gudrun), but most are books I’ve been meaning to get to for quite some time.
I read an article about the rising popularity of audiobooks a couple of weeks ago (from The Guardian or something like that), and it mentioned how many celebrities are narrating audiobooks (to varying degrees of success). The article mentioned that some celebrities will even narrate nonfiction, as in the case of Carlo Rovelli’s slim book, The Order of Time. Naturally, the combination of physics and Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice piqued my interest, so I put the audiobook on hold via the Libby app. It automatically downloaded to my phone the other day, and I started listening to it on Friday night. So far, it’s fantastic. Rovelli is an Italian physicist who is able to effectively communicate complicated scientific ideas without talking down to his audience. So far, I’ve learned that, in all the basic formulas that help describe the fundamental laws of physics, there is only one that shows time flowing forward (which boggled my mind for a bit). Rovelli also pointed out something I’d never thought of, although I am familiar with the concept of Relativity: that there is no base value for time. Time is always relative and dependant upon the observer. Someone standing on a mountain experiences the flow of time different from someone standing on a beach, but neither is experiencing “correct” time. Weird, huh? Physics is great. Confusing at times, but great. I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of this.
I am still enjoying A Gentleman in Moscow. I think it’s a mark of the kinds of books that I usually read that when something starts building in the story, I expect some traumatic thing to happen. And then that traumatic thing does not happen. This is not a bad thing. It’s a more realistic thing, and something I’m growing to appreciate with Towles’s writing. He writes beautifully about smaller domestic matters happening within greater stories– imperial Russia’s transformation into the totalitarian USSR, or New York City as it was climbing out of the Great Depression– and he makes those smaller stories reflect those changing times and their culture as a whole.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings by Tom Shippey
- Empire of Ivory (Temeraire #4) by Naomi Novik
- Master of Sorrows (The Silent Gods #1) by Justin T. Call, ARC Provided by NetGalley
What I’ve Been Watching:
Absolutely nothing. I intended to start watching the sixth and final season of Ripper Street, but that didn’t happen. I want to get through those final six episodes before I finish watching Peaky Blinders. I had watched the first episode of the second season, enjoyed it, and then didn’t continue. Why? I have no idea. Who doesn’t like Cillian Murphy, Helen McRory, and Sam Neil?
What About that Writing Project?
Oh, yeah! That fanfic project I’ve been chipping away at since September. Well, before I went to Iceland I got all enthusiastic about finishing up the series I’d set aside in 2016. I initially wrote 10,000 words, then realized that literally none of those words were useful, tossed them all out, and started over. My pace after that was a bit slower, and once the holiday season struck, I was barely working on it at all. But I’ve picked up the pace again.
Part 1 of the current story has 30,000 words so far. It’s in the editing stages, and I plan to post it and shorter companion story in time for my birthday in March. I want to have a large chunk of the second part written before I do that, though, so I need to get in gear and finish up the editing. Fortunately, I solved the riddle of the scene that had been bugging me the most. I rewrote it (again), and now I think I have it the way I want it. What remains now is to hammer out some linking scenes and make sure I have all the characters where they’re supposed to be for the next part. I know where the story is going from here, so writing out the main body of Part 2 shouldn’t be a huge problem. It’s just a matter of sitting down and typing. It’s the editing that drives me nuts.
It’s great to be excited about this project again. I’d been working on it for a couple of years, but it wore me out by the time I put it down. I tried several times to re-start it, but I would quickly lose interest in it again. It’s taken all this time (and a few hundred books in the meantime) for me to figure out what my problem was: I wasn’t happy with my plan for the rest of the story. Because I didn’t realize that the story itself was the problem, I couldn’t solve it.
Once I figured out that my story-as-planned was the problem, though, I realized that all I had to do with change a few key plot points, and then it was off to the races (so to speak). While it’s been slower going than I’d hoped, I’m happy to be working on this project again.
What makes it even more fun is that, when I checked on my AO3 account yesterday, several more people had bookmarked the series over the past month or so. Why there’s a sudden interest in a story that’s been on hiatus since 2016, I don’t know, but I’m glad there will be even a small audience for the stories. They might not be great literature, but I’ve enjoyed working on them and hopefully, my readers will find them entertaining. That’s all you can ask for in the end.
7 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up- January 19, 2020”
Glad you’re feeling better. I feel the same way about Towles…it’s such an almost micro look, but it’s so delicately done. Those are the books that I gravitate to, and I like movies like that as well.
I like, too, that Towles doesn’t try to pack in horrible events to add drama. His stories don’t need them, and it annoys me when fiction authors have horrific things happen, just to add a little drama.
I know! I like slice of life stories, especially with beautiful language and descriptions
That’s so cool! I’m happy for you that you’re going to show your photos! 😀
And all the best on your writing project.
Mina is adorable! And I’m glad you’re feeling a bit better!
I really want to read The Prose Edda sometime. Just so much to read….
Thanks! The cough will stick around for a long time, I’m sure.
The Prose Edda is great, but so weird. It’s partially a collection of Norse myths, and partially a handbook of how to tell the stories– but still interesting. I recommend the Penguin Classic with the translation by Jesse Byock.