It’s been a quiet week around here. I baked, I cooked, I wrote, I read.
I’m quite proud of the cooking and baking. I don’t do very much of either, but I bought a cookbook written for people in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). They do medieval/early modern reenactments, and their goal is to be as historically accurate as possible. So when you have a cookbook meant for that level of accuracy, you’re not going to have recipes that need food processors or crockpots or anything modern. This means the recipes are simple and relatively cheap. They need a lot of vegetables, a few spices, and straightforward cookware. And they taste great! So far, I’ve made a few recipes I will definitely be making again, and others I want to try. Some of them– like the mulled wine– will probably be waiting until autumn.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
I was lazy last night and baked a frozen pizza for dinner. Mina jumped onto the counter, got into the pizza pan I’d left out to cool, and pulled a black olive out of the crumbs. When I went to investigate the noise, she was on the floor, staring down at the olive with this grand look of disgust on her face. I threw the olive away, and she trotted off to spend the next five minutes licking her lips and grooming her face to get rid of all traces of black olive.
Maybe she’s learned a lesson about getting into things about the counter, but I doubt it.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Lobizona (Wolves of No World #1) by Romina Garber, ARC provided by NetGalley
- King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo
- The Orphans of Raspay (Penric and Desdemona #7) by Lois McMaster Bujold
While Lobizona wasn’t to my taste, I recognize that it’s a great book. It’s a YA fantasy about an undocumented teen, Manuela, living in the US with her mother and surrogate grandmother. Manu must hide from everyone– from the authorities because of her immigration status– and from the people from her father’s past because of her magical heritage. When her surrogate grandmother is attacked and her mother arrested by ICE, Manu flees and runs straight to a magical school where she discovers that not only is she an illegal immigrant– her entire heritage is illegal. Though I’m not the biggest fan of magical school stories, I thought Garber’s take on the idea was intriguing. Usually, the magical school is a wonderful place where everything is better. But Garber posits that the magical world may come with its own strictures and expectations that can be just as bad– if not worse– than those of the real world.
I’d heard a lot of so-so reviews of King of Scars, the latest book in Bardugo’s Grisha universe. Most readers seemed to be the most interested in Zoya, mildly interested in Nikolai’s story and unenthusiastic about Nina’s story. I went into the book expecting it to be a mediocre read, but… Reader, I loved it. I found King of Scars to be a subtler look at the privileges and drawbacks of power in Nikolai’s story, a great rendition of faith vs disbelief from Zoya’s perspective, and in Nina’s parts I found the culmination of everything Bardugo has been building on in the previous Grishaverse books. Nina has learned from the war she went through in Ravka and the trials she went through while working for Kaz Brekker. It would have been easy for Bardugo to portray her villainous groups as straight-up bad, but she’s a better than author than that. She introduces subtlety into her cultures, and her best characters come to realize that the people they are opposing aren’t a monolith. They are individuals, and they act the way they do because of what their culture has done to them. Some are redeemable, and some may be too far gone to be saved. I don’t give many books five stars on Goodreads, and even fewer YA fantasies get that rating, but King of Scars received those coveted five stars.
The Orphans of Raspay is the latest novella in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona series, which is part of her World of the Five Gods books. In this outing, Penric is captured by pirates while on his way home from a far away temple where he’d been doing some work. He manages to hide his identity as a sorcerer and a priest of the Bastard, and he’s tossed into a prison cell with two little girls who have been orphaned. He takes it upon himself to care for the girls lest they be sold into slavery, and adventure ensues. This isn’t my favorite of the Pen and Des books, but it was still a fun book to read, and the outcome was not what I expected. If you’re looking for short fantasy stories that have a smaller scale than the World Ending Events fantasy usually has, check out these novellas. The series begins with Penric’s Demon.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, audiobook narrated by Jonathan Keeble (90%)
- The Warrior Moon (Their Bright Ascendancy #3) by K. Arsenault Rivera (160/656)
- Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell #1) by Hilary Mantel, audiobook narrated by Simon Slater (72%)
- The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold (11%)
Things are unraveling quickly for the main characters of A Place of Greater Safety. The French Revolution began as an optimistic movement meant to make people equal, and ended up turning into a tyranny where the smallest infraction could make you an enemy of the people and end in your execution. It also turned on its own creators who, when given power, abused that power only to have it turned back upon them. I know what happens to Camille, Danton, and Robespierre, but that doesn’t make the story less gripping. It actually makes it more suspenseful. I wonder what the tipping point is and when it’s going to happen. I will probably finish listening to this in the upcoming week. It will feel strange when I get there because I’ve been listening to it for so long.
I didn’t make much progress in The Warrior Moon, thanks to King of Scars and The Orphans of Raspay.
Cromwell has begun his meteoric rise in the court of Henry VIII, and while Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn is barely a year old, the seeds of its destruction are already being sown. In my second time through Wolf Hall, I’m once again struck by how immediate everything feels, and how the people are just living their lives, unaware of just how monumental the events they’re living through are. They don’t realize they’re making history that will be remembered five hundred years later. They’re just trying to make it through the day.
The Hallowed Hunt is a standalone novel in Bujold’s World of the Five Gods series. It happens a couple of hundred years after the Penric and Desdemona novels, and about one hundred fifty years before The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls. I think I’ve read this book, but I don’t remember for sure. In this story, the mad Prince Boleso is killed by the noblewoman, Injada, who he tried to defile. Ingrey is tasked with bringing the prince’s body home for burial, and his killer back to face justice. But Boleso’s intentions were not what they seemed, and now both Ingrey and Injada share a frightening similarity that could lead them both to madness and damnation.
What I’ve Been Watching:
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels
Creator: John Logan
Starring: Natalie Dormer, Daniel Zovatto, Adriana Barraza, Nathan Lane, Rory Kinnear
This spinoff series to the Gothic masterpiece, Penny Dreadful, is set in 1938 in sun-bleached Los Angeles. Racial tensions are running high as the city prepares to demolish a Mexican-American neighborhood to built a motorway. Meanwhile, Tiago Vega (Zovatto) is facing his first days as LA’s first Mexican-American detective– and his first case involves the murders of four young white people, who are decked out in Día de Muertos makeup. Running alongside these tensions, a faction of the German Nazi party is spreading its propaganda in area neighborhoods and seeks to influence local politics. And above this, the shape-changing demon Magda (Dormer) seeks to prove to her sister, Santa Muerte, that mankind is evil to the core, and they only thing they need to act upon their darkest natures is to be told that they can. That’s a lot for a series to take on, but I’m confident that the show will maintain all these threads throughout the series. It’s definitely a different look from the original show, which was set in Victorian London. The sets and cinematography for the original series was extremely dark, but you can’t get away with that much darkness in Los Angeles. Instead, the sets are soaked with color, though they never get quite to full white, no matter the location. I’ve been looking forward to this series since it was announced a year or two ago. The first episode is currently available for free in a slightly edited version. The full series airs Sunday nights on Showtime beginning April 26.
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Simon Godwin
National Theatre at Home (YouTube)
Starring: Oliver Chris, Tamara Lawrence, Adam Best, Phoebe Fox, Tamsin Greig, Daniel Ezra
The UK’s National Theatre is presenting certain plays for free on YouTube through June to provide theatrical experiences while people are stuck at home during lock-downs. These plays are available for one week beginning each Thursday. Because I’ve loved every Shakespearean play I’ve seen from the National Theatre, I set aside time to watch Twelfth Night. I was not disappointed. The production was lively and hilarious, bringing modern twists and bending gender, and playing with the same ideas of gender and identity (and possibly homosexuality) that Shakespeare was dealing with in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Regardless of the old-fashioned language, the play feels fresh and modern. It’s worth taking the two and a half hours or so to sit down and get lost in this comedy.
About that Writing Thing:
I met my goal of both finishing and editing Part 5 of my current story, and finishing the epilogue. I’ve decided to go ahead and post the epilogue along with Part 5, as the epilogue is only a few pages. It seems silly to wait a week to post a such a short chapter (only a few pages) after posting chapters that are 30-35 pages in length. The whole work is around 73,000 words, which I guess makes it a novel rather than a novella. So I’ve written a book in the past six months. That’s cool. That wasn’t something I planned to do when New Year’s Day rolled around, but there we go. I had a lot to do in this story, as it’s pivoting from a storyline that deals with local events and politics to a story that deals with events on a broader scale. I finished up one major plotline, began two more, killed two characters, completed one character arc, and began another two new arcs. I’m a little worried that I’ve rushed events in the final chapter, but that may just be because A) it’s something I’ve been planning for so long that it feels weird to finally have it down on paper (as it were), or B) I read fast, so even though these scenes at least a few pages each, it feels to me like they pass quickly.
I know there are flaws in the story. Who doesn’t have them in the things they write? But overall, I’m happy with what I’ve written, and I’m looking foward to diving into the next story. After I’ve taken a bit of a break. I’ll probably start writing it next week.