So as it turns out, when I have shortened hours at work, am stuck at home, and am not working on a 70,000-word story, I have a lot of free time. So I read. A lot. I did other things, too, but reading was the bulk of my week.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
The windows have been open every day, so Mina has practically been living on the window sills and watching the birds and squirrels outside. It’s hard to get her away from the windows, except for that time when the street cleaner drove by. It was super loud, and it scared her so much she ran away and hid. Once it had gone away, though, she was back in the window.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell trilogy #1) by Hilary Mantel
- Penric’s Demon (Penric and Desdemona #1) by Lois McMaster Bujold, audiobook narrated by Grover Gardner
- All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
- The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Verlyn Flieger
- Penric and the Shaman (Penric and Desdemona #2) by Lois McMaster Bujold, audiobook narrated by Grover Gardner
- There Would Always Be a Fairy-Tale: Essays on Tolkien’s Middle-earth by Verlyn Flieger
- The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold
- A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, audiobook narrated by Jonathan Keeble
Wolf Hall was just as brilliant the second time around. I had forgotten there was so much about Mary Boleyn in it, and even though there is next to nothing recorded about Anne Boleyn’s older sister, she is a well-rounded and believable character. It makes me wish we knew more about her, given how poor a reputation history has given her. Cromwell is, as ever, nuanced and complex. He’s a character you grow to like, even though you know he’s responsible for some terrible things (but he’s responsible for some great things, too).
Reading The Orphans of Raspay last week prompted me to go back to the beginning of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona series, so I listened to the audiobooks of the first two- Penric’s Demon and Penric and the Shaman, which deal with Penric’s education after Desdemona comes into his life. They’re just as wonderful the second time around. The Hallowed Hunt takes place much later in Bujold’s World of the Five Gods series, and deals with the wars between the Weald and Darthaca and the fallout and redevelopment of the Wealdan kingdom. In typical Bujold fashion, you think it’s going to go in one direction, and it goes somewhere completely different, and to a more satisfying conclusion. While I enjoyed The Hallowed Hunt, I still prefer The Curse of Chalion for the standalones in this series.
I’ve been meaning to reread Martha Wells’s Murderbot Diaries novella series before I read the upcoming novel, Network Effect, so I sat down with the first one, All Systems Red. Again, it’s just as good as I remembered. For having a simple purpose and simple wants, Murderbot has a complicated inner life.
I read The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun when I first bought it, but it went a bit over my head at the time because I was less familiar with medieval poetry. Now that I’ve read more of it, as well as several Icelandic sagas, I absorbed a lot more of the story. And wow, is it a sad tale. The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun is about a noble lord and lady who are childless. The lord desperately wants children, so he goes to a fairy woman (the Corrigan) for a fertility potion. The lord and lady end up having twins, but the Corrigan, demands the lord stay with her in payment, and he, being a good Christian and a loyal husband, refuses, so the Corrigan takes her revenge.
Reading The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun prompted me to read Verlyn Flieger’s collection of Tolkien essays, There Would Always be a Fairy-Tale. Among the topics Flieger discusses are the nuances of morality (to counter critics who say that the good guys are too good), the ingrained prejudices of various cultures within Middle-earth, the nature of Faërie within Middle-earth, and the appearance of Faërie women within Tolkien’s works (ie, the Corrigan in The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, Guinever in The Fall of Arthur, and Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings). Flieger is a longtime and well-regarded Tolkien scholar, so it’s always great to read her insights into Tolkien’s work, which are clear and concise and pull examples straight from the text (which Tolkien’s critics often fail to do). Reading these two books has made me want to read more Tolkien, so I plan to do that in May.
And at long last, I’ve finished A Place of Greater Safety. It almost feels like I was listening to it for as long as the French Revolution took to happen. It’s an exhausting book full of characters who are, overall, awful people. They have mostly noble intentions when the Revolution begins, but their own desire for power and influence drives them to do awful things, and when the Terror begins, they end up blithely condemning thousands of people to death for such crimes as disagreeing with them or criticizing the Revolutionary government. When it comes to dictatorships like this, though, it turns in on itself and begins to devour its own. The final pages of the book are chilling.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Warrior Moon (Their Bright Ascendancy #3) by K. Arsenault Rivera (367/656)
- The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, audiobook narrated by David Horovitch (8%)
I’m a little over halfway through The Warrior Moon. It’s become a far more complicated story than I anticipated, which I really should have guessed would happen given that the previous two books in the trilogy have had complex stories. I really want to finish this up in the next few days. I might sit down with it for a couple of hours this afternoon to see how far I get.
I borrowed the audiobook of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant after Bookstagrammer Simon Haisell named it one of his top four reads for the first quarter of 2020. I’m not far enough along to have any thoughts on it, though.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) by Martha Wells
- Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells
- Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4) by Martha Wells
- The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
Other Things from the Week:
I haven’t really been watching anything or listening to anything in particular, but there are a couple of things that have made me happy this week:
A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry is a blog by Bret Devereaux, a military historian who, among other things, goes into detail about combat in historical and fantasy film and television. His dissection of the terrible tactics of the battles in Game of Thrones‘s eighth season is particularly fun. This week, Devereaux began a new series about the Battle of Helm’s Deep, where he goes into depth about that battle in both the book and the film, The Two Towers. It’s always lovely to see someone showing how accurate Tolkien’s storytelling is when it comes to real-world parallels, and I appreciate that, even though Peter Jackson’s military strategies in the films were terrible and greatly diverge from the books, Devereaux points out that Jackson’s changes make sense from a cinematic standpoint. This blog has been helpful for me when writing my medieval-based fanfic, especially when it comes to planning combat and the logistics of it (as well confirming that I got stuff from earlier stories mostly right). I have some battles coming up in future stories, so this will help me plan medieval combat in those stories.
And once again, I’m talking up The Prancing Pony Podcast. I’m planning to reread The Silmarillion in May, so I’m going back to the beginning of the podcast where they discuss those stories in detail.
In other newsy-type things, I’ve been seeing several bloggers do bookshelf tours. I’m tossing around the idea of doing one, but I won’t if you think it will be boring. So here’s a poll:
About that Writing Thing:
I posted Part 5 and the epilogue of my previous fanfic story last Sunday, and the reception has been great, which just makes me want to continue with the series all the more. I have finished plotting the next story (and changed the title!). Assuming my estimations are accurate, it’s going to be about half as long as the last story, or about 30,000 words. The A plot is focused on two main characters, with a B plot beginning for a couple of the secondary characters, which will come into play for the story after this. I picked the perfect time to read Verlyn Flieger’s There Would Always Be a Fairy-Tale, because her essay on the realm of Faërie helped me figure out the fate of one of the characters involved in the current story.
Assuming I write an average of 1,000 words each day in May, I should be able to complete the editing process and have the story ready to post in mid-June. Granted, I’m already behind, but I have plenty of time to work on it today, so I’ll get caught up. The opening scene has some mad interesting baddies doing dastardly deeds. It’s going to be fun.