I thought it would take about a thousand years to get through April, but it’s moving right along. Which is fine. It’s starting to look like there might be a faint point of light waaaaaay down at the end of this stay-at-home tunnel…
Obligatory Mina Photo:
On Wednesday afternoon, I was brewing some tea. It’s a kind I add milk to, so I steep it longer than usual and just leave it in the kitchen. I heard Mina sniffing around in the kitchen and didn’t think anything of it. Then I heard her jump to the floor, and suddenly she bolted through the living room and toward the bedroom, dropping something halfway there.
The something turned out to be the teabag. She must have seen the tag dangling from the cup and thought it would be a nifty toy, then panicked when she realized it was hot. She hid in the bedroom for a few minutes before poking her head out so I could check on her (she was fine, if a bit wet).
Then I washed the cup and made some new tea.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Mirror and the Light (Thomas Cromwell #3) by Hilary Mantel
- A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins
- We Hunt the Flame (The Sands of Arawiya #1) by Hafsah Faizal
I finished The Mirror and the Light. I sat down to read a couple of chapters last Sunday, and five hours later I looked up to realize that I was not, in fact, in sixteenth-century England. This book wrecked me. I didn’t even know it was going to do so, because I already knew the ending, but when Crumb packed up his books and told Cristophe to sweep up, I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to finish the last few pages. Oh, Dame Hilary, how do you do it? I’m still thinking of how to possibly write a review that encompasses this book and the whole trilogy. If it doesn’t win the Booker Prize this fall, it will have been because the judges were drunk and trying to read it upside down.
A Secret Vice is a collection of essays and notes Tolkien wrote about invented languages in general, and about the origins of his own invented languages, specifically Quenya and Sindarin, the primary Elven languages of Middle-earth. A lot of this went over my head, but Tolkien’s characteristic humor is embedded within the text, so it was worth it to read the book solely for that. I’m sure if I read it again, I would understand more, just because I’d be more familiar with it.
We Hunt the Flame is a YA fantasy novel I bought on a whim when the hardback was on deep discount at Barnes and Noble on New Year’s Eve last year. The plot and world were well done, but the characters edged toward getting on my nerves a few times. Plus, there was a major event that happened which, when the culprit reflected back on it later, felt like it had been retconned. I don’t know why Faizal chose to do that, but to me, it rang a false note, as though Faizal didn’t want that character to look like the bad guy. The chapters were very short, flipping back and forth from one main POV to the other, which made for a choppy reading experience. I never got to really settle into one character’s story before it swapped to the other perspective. While it was a quick, entertaining book overall, I wasn’t invested enough in the characters to want to continue.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, audiobook narrated by Jonathan Keeble (84%)
- Lobizona (Wolves of No World #1) by Romina Garber (57%) ARC provided by NetGalley
- The Warrior Moon (Their Bright Ascendancy #3) by K. Arsenault Rivera
- Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell #1) by Hilary Mantel, audiobook narrated by Simon Slater
You hear about the ‘banality of evil’ when it comes to the clerks who casually wrote up the orders that sent so many to their deaths during the Holocaust. I’m seeing that it’s the same case here in this final twenty percent of A Place of Greater Safety. It’s right in the middle of the Reign of Terror when thousands were executed as ‘enemies of the state’ or ‘threats to public safety’. No matter how many people die by their orders, the main characters don’t seem to be moved– except perhaps for Camille, who was caught up in the revolutionary fervor and is only now realizing the cost. I don’t think he has the mental fortitude to stand up to the system in any way, though. Not when everyone he knows is pushing against him. Danton is too in love with his own image and his power to even care about the consequences of his actions, and Robespierre is obsessed with creating his great republic and ridding it of its ‘enemies’. While he believes his religious schooling was trying to make him something more than human, his actions have made him become something much less than human.
I’m a little over halfway through Lobizona. I’d wanted to be done with it by now, but I had the misfortune of stopping while the main character, Manuela, was at a magical school and watching them play the magical game the magical people play. Now, I like Harry Potter (probably not as much as the next guy, but I like it), but I don’t love it when characters spend a lot of time at their magical school (or any fictional school, really). It’s necessary for both Manuela and the reader to understand this magical underworld and its rules, but I just don’t love magical schools. But I’ve been pushing through, and while I think Manuela’s friends haven’t known her nearly long enough to put everything on the line for her, the school scenes are not, on the whole, as cringe-worthy as others I’ve read. I’m hoping to finish this in the next couple of days.
I’m a little sad to be embarking into the unknown with O-Shizuka and Shefali for the last time. They’ve grown so much as people across the previous books. O-Shizuka, for example, has learned to subsume her pride and ask for help when she needs it. The arrogant princess from The Tiger’s Daughter would never have done that. The writing is just as beautiful as it was in the first two books, but as the two women are no longer telling each other their stories, it has all been written in the third person, rather than in the second person, like the majority of the first two books were. I’m not very far into it, but I can already feel the tension building as Shefali and O-Shizuka head toward their destiny.
I just finished the third book in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, so the obvious answer is to start the whole thing over again. Right? Right. Wolf Hall is historical fiction done flawlessly, from the descriptions of 1520s London to the things people wear to the characterizations we see from Cromwell’s perspective. I generally don’t like stream of consciousness stories, but Mantel makes the world come to life and ensures that each non sequiter weaves itself into the overall story at some point, rather than being there for the sake of explaining some historical detail better left alone.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
Mostly, I’m planning to finish reading what I’ve already started.
What I’ve Been Listening To:
I haven’t been watching anything aside from my usual BookTube channels, but I’ve been listening to some interesting music.
I loved Netflix’s series, Marco Polo for the three seasons they gave it (I didn’t love the cliffhanger the series ended on, however). I decided to pull up the musical score while reading The Warrior Moon since the Mongolian and Chinese music the score is based upon mirrors a lot of the settings in the book.
I remember when Fiona Apple first splashed into the music scene with her debut album, Tidal. While I didn’t follow her career very closely after her second album, When the Pawn…, I’ve listened to the successive albums at least a few times each. I should listen to them more often because they’re just so good! Her newest album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, hasn’t been out for long, but it’s one I’ll be listening to a lot over the next few weeks. It has that hard-edged, Blues-tinged, angrily ecstatic sound I’ve only heard from Fiona Apple.
I adore everything about the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, and I have listened to the musical score so many times… It disappeared from Spotify for a long time (though the second and third seasons’ scores were available), but it’s back now, and I couldn’t be happier. It doesn’t matter what time of year or day it is, or whether it’s sunny or gloomy out. It’s always the perfect time to listen to this unabashedly Gothic music.
About that Writing Thing:
I finished Part 5 of my fanfic novella on Wednesday. Now all I need to do is edit it. There are primarily two sections I’m not happy with, and they’ll have first dibs on my attention. The plan is to get through the editing today, then do the line edits on Tuesday, and write the epilogue on Wednesday. The epilogue won’t be long when compared to the main chapters, which have been 25-40 pages each. The epilogue will probably only be about five pages. After that, I’ll pat myself on the back for finishing this story and making it make sense (I’m pretty sure it makes sense. No one has complained yet that it doesn’t), and then take a bit of a break from writing this series to A) work on yet another writing project and B) make sure I have my plot in order for the next story in the fanfic series.
It never ends!