Sunday Sum-Up: April 5, 2020

Week three of social distancing. While many people have been eating all the chips or candies or whatever, I’ve developed a craving for Diet Coke. I didn’t drink very much soda before all this started, but for some reason, fizzy beverages are hitting the spot like nothing else. At least there are no calories?

Everything around here is so much quieter. The college students are gone, so my building feels a bit vacant, even though other people are still living here. There’s less traffic and fewer people are going out for walks. When I wandered over to the (empty) college campus, I felt a little like a character in one of those movies where everyone else on Earth has disappeared except for a handful of people. I guess I’m going to keep feeling like that for the rest of April.


Obligatory Mina Photo:

04_03_2020 A7III 001 copy

Behold! The mighty hunter!

I opened the windows to let in some fresh air on Wednesday morning, and a fly came in. After buzzing around the ceiling for an hour or so, it wandered lower and lower, until it made the poor decision of coming within reach my little house panther, who had been stalking it the entire time. The fly didn’t stand a chance. Mina caught it in the window.

She was very proud of herself.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

The Golden Wolf (The Half-Drowned King #3) by Linnea Hartsuyker

The third installment of Linnea Hartsuyker’s generation-spanning trilogy deals primarily with the children of the first two books’ heroes, Ragnvald and Svanhild, and with how the decisions and mistakes of the older generations come back to haunt them and their children. This book was just as exciting as the previous two, but there are certain elements– especially the fallout from a critical battle towards the end– that feel as though they were glossed over. Hartsuyker could have expanded those scenes, given the book an extra twenty-five to fifty pages, and it would have been better for it.

DNF: The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick

This was disappointing. I was looking forward to this book, given how difficult it seems to be to find historical fiction set during Anglo-Saxon England (and yes, I know, Emma and Æthelred Unred really marked the end of the Anglo-Saxon era), and Emma is a fascinating character on her own. She was Æthelred’s queen and after his death she went on to marry the Danish conqueror, Cnut, who took the throne from Æthelred (twice. It’s a long story). Emma proved to be a brilliant politician and guided Cnut through the politics of the English court of the late 1010s and 1020s. Sadly, The Forever Queen seemed to spend all its time info-dumping information about the court, rather than immersing the reader in their world from the characters’ perspectives, as Hartsuyker did with The Half-Drowned king books. Hartskuyer doesn’t waste time explaining things like the ting, which her Norse characters already knew all about. Instead, the characters to go the ting, speak with the law-givers, and the reader figures out that the ting is a gathering where the noblemen hold trials and make new laws. While things from the past– especially the farther back you go– are strange to modern eyes, they often demand less explanation than a writer might think. A good writer will respect their audience’s intelligence and not spend all their time explaining details better left to context.


What I’m Currently Reading:

It’s incredible how a group of amoral characters can be so fascinating. In A Place of Greater Safety, we follow the doings of three key figures of the French Revolution– Maximilien Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins, and Georges-Jacques Danton. They are all awful people. They use the people around them, are willing to alter and write new laws to get rid of the people in their way, and calmly step on those who get in the way of their revolution. But they didn’t start out that way, and Mantel shows just how vile power can make people. I know how things end for the main three characters. Events are unraveling around them. I’m sure they think they can keep it under control, but it’s all going to go south in a hurry.

The Mirror and the Light is brilliance. I constantly marvel at Mantel’s ability to weave sentences into the gossamer threads of ideas that blend with base human traits to create a narrative that just sings. I find myself reading back over paragraphs, trying to figure out how she does it. And of all the portrayals of Jane Seymour I’ve ever seen, I think this is my favorite. Most of the time, Jane is shown as a bit of a lump– kind and pretty, but not too bright. Mantel’s Jane is clever, though her answers often make Cromwell wonder if she’s naive enough to take things literally and at face value, or if she’s being clever by taking his statements out of the context he put them in. I also love how Henry and Anne Boleyn’s monogram, HA, keeps showing up at key points, as though Anne is laughing at Cromwell from beyond the grave.


What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

Once again, I don’t know. I’m waiting to start Amberlough until I hear back from Jackie, who I’m meant to be buddy reading it with. I’m not sure if she’ll be able to get a copy, though, on account of her local library’s being closed.  I may start The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett, since I’ve finished a trilogy (The Half-Drowned King) and I feel like I can start another series now.

About that Writing Thing:

I’ll be posting Part 2 later today, and I’m hoping people like it as much as they’ve enjoyed Part 1. I think these are the two weakest parts of the story since I was getting my feet back under me for the series. Parts 3 and 4 are much better. I started work on Part 5 last night, and after a slow start, it’s been moving right along. With an extra day off from work, I should make short work of the first draft. The slow start was due to my not being sure of how exactly to open it. Everything else is planned out, though, so it’s off to the races from here. It’s going to be an interesting section– a much-hated bad guy is going to get what’s coming to him, but one of the good guys is going to die. So it will be both a satisfying and sad part.

It’s great to be posting on AO3 once more. I didn’t realize how much I missed interacting with readers there until the comments on the new work started coming in. It’s yet another human connection to help stay grounded while I’m stuck at home and missing seeing my friends face to face.


5 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: April 5, 2020

  1. Pingback: Solving for Tsundoku: It’s Okay Not To Read – Death by Tsundoku

  2. A Place of Great Safety sounds amazing. I read Marge Piercy’s book about the French Revolution, and came away with similar impressions to what you’ve described. I do want to read the new Cromwell book, but think I’d better wait for better times (!!) when I can handle fiction that needs my concentration. Love the Mina photo!

  3. A Place of Greater Safety is phenomenal! As long as you don’t mind the fact that it deals with some terrible people. It’s kind of amazing about how it’s all about the French Revolution, but these big events seem so every day and almost in the background at times. And yeah, I’d wait for a time when you can really focus on The Mirror and the Light. The writing is incredible, but it’s pretty dense. I’ve been taking it about 20-30 pages at a time, so I’m getting through it more slowly than I do other books.

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