Sunday Sum-Up: May 10, 2020

It’s already May 10th. Wow. May’s flying by in a way that not even April managed. We’re going to blink, and it will be June. I wonder what sort of madness 2020 has in store for us then?


Obligatory Mina Photo:

05_07_2020 A7III 128

I have to close the bathroom door when I leave for work these days. Mina likes to hop up onto the shelf and steal the makeup brush I use every day. Just that brush. She ignores almost everything else except that brush. She knows what she likes to play with, and homes in on those things with precision. Especially when she knows she’s not supposed to have those things.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

The Warrior Moon is the final book in K. Arsenault Rivera’s Asian-inspired fantasy trilogy about two warrior women in love– one is a Qorin, a warrior of the steppes who never misses with her bow; the other is the spoiled heir to the Hokkaran empire who has never been defeated with her blade. Though the trials of their lives often keep them apart, they are destined to face the demons invading both their homelands. In this final book, Shefali and O-Shizuka face their greatest trials and deal with the consequences of their great destiny. It is not a happily ever after. This is too complicated a world for that. But it was a satisfying end that felt true in every aspect. Arsenault’s grasp of character, worldbuilding, and prose is a wonder. I will happily read whatever else Arsenault writes in the future.

Smith of Wootton Major has a background typical of Tolkien. He was asked to write an introduction to George McDonald’s story, The Golden Key, and then halfway through that essay, he broke off and ended up writing a story about a young man blessed with a star that allows him to travel to Faerie and see marvelous things. Though it’s often overlooked, Smith of Wootton Major has a depth and charm that makes it a favorite among Tolkien’s ‘lesser’ works.

Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy are the second, third, and fourth novellas in Martha Wells’s Murderbot Diaries series. I wanted to reread them before my copy of the new novel, Network Effect arrived. They were just as much fun the second time around, and Wells has a fantastic insight into what artificial intelligence could become– not hating humans (who else would make the media?), but caring about them to one degree or another, having emotions, and a culture of their own. I picked up Network Effect on Thursday night, and I’m looking forward to diving in.

The Buried Giant is a strange little tale by Man Booker and Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro. It is the story of Axl and Beatrice, an elderly Briton couple who embark on a journey to their son’s village, a few days’ journey away. But the land is afflicted by a strange spell of forgetfulness that causes parents to forget their children and husbands to forget their wives. Along their journey, Axl and Beatrice encounter a warrior on a secret mission, a strange young boy, and a knight on a quest. Ishiguro’s prose is elegant and spare, and the story is deeper than it seems at first glance. It seems like a simple story about an aging couple at first but turns into a story of how men turn against each other, and how important it is to remember the past, no matter how much it might hurt.


What I’m Currently Reading:

I found the J.R.R. Tolkien Audio CD Collection on BookOutlet a couple of months ago and was just waiting to get through A Place of Greater Safety before I started listening. As far as morning commutes go, it’s hard to beat one that involves a sunny spring day with the Professor himself reading ‘Riddles in the Dark’ to you. He also recites several poems from The Lord of the Rings, speaks Sindarin elvish, and sings Galadriel’s song, Namárië (which reminds me most of medieval plainchant– not surprising given that Tolkien was a medievalist and devout Catholic). Christopher Tolkien narrates the tale of Beren and Luthien among other things. It’s amazing. I am going to listen to it again once I finish.

The Game of Kings was recommended to me by a couple of historical fiction fans in an Instagram chat group I’m part of. They love Dunnett’s books, and when my local used bookstore informed me they had the first books in both The Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolo series, I bought them both. Dunnett’s writing is dense and is difficult to follow if you’re not paying attention. But it is subtly humorous and full of action and character. I’ve been reading it 10-20 or so pages at a time and am enjoying it so far.

This is the…. many-th time I’ve read The Silmarillion. It’s another book you want to take slowly, as Tolkien will pack hundreds– or thousands– of years of history into a couple of paragraphs. So far, I’ve only read the Ainulandalë and Valaquenta, but Melkor is already proving his evil nature. Iluvatar refused to give him dominion over all of Arda (the world), so Melkor responded by trying to ruin or destroy everything the other Valar built or made. What a jerk.


What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

I’m reading Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life for this round of Tome Topple. I need to read Of Silver and Shadow because it’s publication date is coming up, and I’m going to read Network Effect because Murderbot is awesome.


What I’ve Been Listening To:

I used to watch a strange little show called Da Vinci’s Demons, which was about a mystical journey a thirty-something Leonardo Da Vinci is sent on to keep a precious book of supernatural knowledge from falling into the hands of those who would use it for evil. I didn’t see the third season, and now I want to track it down. The soundtrack is fantastic and is great when you want music to read/study/write by.

I wanted something dark and electronic to listen to while reading the Murderbot novellas, so I pulled up Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s eerie soundtrack to the movie Gone Girl.

The Silmarillion opens with music, so I wanted to listen to something worthy of its grand opening. The answer was ‘Spem in Alium’, a glorious choral piece by the sixteenth-century English composer, Thomas Tallis.


About that Writing Thing:

I’m behind in my writing goals for the current story, but I’m not too troubled by that. The first section ended up being longer than I intended, partly because I had to introduce four new bad guys and have them complete a coup d’etat. I’ve also realized that it’s a good thing that I’m planning to at least start reading The Elder Edda this month because I need to know more about some of the mythical figures spoken of in the poems.

I’ll catch up. I’m not worried about it.


10 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: May 10, 2020

  1. Amazing the things cats decide are there “own” if I open something that has a plastic tab, penny senses it and rCes to get it before I can recycle it…she’s obsessed

  2. I’m looking forward to Network Effect! Can’t wait to hear what you think. I’ve never read the Silmarillion… and maybe I should?

  3. I haven’t started Network Effect yet. It’s there on the shelf, taunting me, waiting for me to finish one of the other books I’m in the middle of….

    The Silmarillion is great, but it’s way different from The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. If you want a lot of background information about Middle-earth, it provides amazing history and heartbreaking stories, bit it is dense and can take a few readings for things to sink in. There is great audiobook, but the narrator, Martin Shaw, does pronounce certain names wrong. I recommend The Prancing Pony podcast if you’re looking for insight into the stories of The Silmarillion.

  4. Ahahaha, I love when Tolkien does that–is supposed to be doing something scholarly for someone else, and then just gives up and starts writing for himself instead. And Melkor, yesss! He’s my favorite part of every Middle-earth story, haha.

  5. So. Much. Tolkien! I feel like I have a lot to learn when it comes to Tolkien.I read (and greatly enjoyed) the Tolkien biography you recommended to me earlier this year. I already knew that fact about Smith of Wootton Major! I feel so smart. But I’ve read no Tolkien as an adult. It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve read The Hobbit last and almost 30 since I read Lord of the Rings. No other Tolkien has ever passed my lap. Hm. What should I read first?!

    Do you find it challenging to understand the Professor at all? I recall from Humphrey’s biography he shared that Professor Tolkien spoke quickly and often mumbled.

  6. All the Tolkien!

    Aside from rereading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings? I’m recommend Roverandom, which is a story he wrote about a dog enchanted by an evil wizard. The spell is broken, and the dog has wonderful adventures. Tolkien wrote it for his children. Smoth of Wootton Major is lovely and short. The Father Christmas Letters are delightful– they’re a series of letters that Tolkien, pretending to be Father Christmas, wrote to his children every year for Christmas. You’d want to find an edition with Tolkien’s illustrations.

    In the audio collection, the main challenge is the fact that the recordings of the Professor are old, a bit scratchy, and have a lot of background noise. The narration itself is fairly clear, I think because he was narrating, and so was sure to be a little clearer than normal. Christopher’s narration is nice and clean, and must have been done in a studio.

  7. I mean, I could also re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. My husband and I originally had quite a few roadtrips planned this year (three weddings, Florida, Thanksgiving, Christmas) and had hoped to listen to all 4 of these books together in audiobook format over the course of the year. Alas, now we shall have to wait. I think I’ll wait, at least. There are lots of other books to read. He also wants me to read The Silmarillion, but I don’t think I’m ready yet. I need to get back into the mythos a bit more before I am ready for something so heady.

  8. Roadtrips would have been a perfect time to listen to the audiobooks (which are fantastic, by the way). And you’ll definitely want to finish rereading The Hobbit and LotR before delving into The Silmarillion. It’s beautiful, but dense. And so many names!

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