Another week has gone swiftly by. We’re slowly going back to our regular hours at work, which is strange to get used to again after a month of four-day workweeks. What else is weird is getting used to wearing masks most of the day. The ones I use like to slide upward while I talk, and end up getting into my eyes. I can’t really fault the things, since they’re made for people who are bigger than I am, and given that I’m all of 5’1″ tall, basically everyone is bigger than I am. Still, a slidey mask is better than no mask at all.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Mina tore a hole in the liner underneath my couch, crawled through the hole, and basically treated the rest of the liner as a hammock. I don’t know why she decided she needed a hiding place like that, but as I didn’t want her to completely destroy the underside of the couch, I blocked it off and bought her an itty bitty house. It has soft sides and a fluffy cushion inside. She enjoys her new hiding spot (she blends in with the black interior), and it provides a warm and comfy place for naps. I’m a little jealous.
In Other News:
Irises are blooming all over town.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke, ARC provided by NetGalley
- J.R.R. Tolkien Audio CD Collection narrated by J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien
- Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth by John Garth, audiobook narrated by the author
Of Silver and Shadow started out decently enough, but the more I read the less I enjoyed it. The writing was bad, with many paragraphs and sentences that I had to stop and re-read because they made no sense. The atmosphere and world-building were almost non-existent. The main character was yet another badass girl with snazzy magic and/or weapons who spent the entire book trying to prove how little she cared about anything. The rest of the characters were one-note caricatures, and Gruenke used descriptions of clothing in place of character development. It’s getting to the point that I’m considering no longer requesting YA fantasy from NetGalley. I have disliked so many of them, and because I feel an obligation to finish ARCs, I don’t DNF them the way I would do if I’d gotten the book from the library.
Although, it has made me think about the YA fantasies I’ve read and enjoyed in the past couple of years, most of which have been by POC authors. Books like Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand, Nafizah Azad’s The Candle and the Flame, Isabel Ibañez’s Woven in Moonlight, and Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani’s Seven Deadly Shadows are all excellent YA fantasies featuring strong young women, interesting side characters, solid writing, and great stories. So I have to wonder… in the American publishing market, do POC authors of YA have to start with a superior manuscript to even be considered for publication, while white authors can turn in any old draft and get a book deal? It really makes me wonder, because Woven in Moonlight and The Candle and the Flame read like polished works, while Of Silver and Shadow read like a hastily-written rough draft.
Just a thought…….
The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection was stellar, as expected. The first two discs feature J.R.R. Tolkien himself, reading excerpts from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as poems from various works. For a Tolkien fan, is there anything better than listening to Tolkien himself reading to you in Elvish? The audio quality isn’t the best, as I think the recordings were made in Tolkien’s home and not in a recording studio. But I don’t mind. It’s Tolkien reading his own work. It’s fantastic. The second two discs feature Christopher Tolkien reading passages from The Silmarillion, namely most of ‘Of Beren and Luthien’ and ‘Of the Darkening of Valinor’. These are newer recordings made in a proper studio, so they’re wonderfully clear. Christopher Tolkien’s reading provides answers to many pronunciation questions, and listening to his rendition of the tale of Beren and Luthien is phenomenal.
I downloaded the audiobook of John Garth’s Tolkien and the Great War after listening to Shawn and Alan’s interview with Garth on last week’s episode of The Prancing Pony Podcast. This is a keyhole biography of Tolkien focusing on Tolkien and his friends in the TCBS in the years leading up to World War I, the war itself (where a few of the members of the club were killed), and a few years after the war. All throughout, Garth details Tolkien’s close friendships with the TCBS members, how the deaths in the club affected both him and the survivors, and the development of the early legends and turned into the great stories of Middle-earth. It’s a wonderful book if you’re fascinated by Tolkien and his work (though Garth’s literary analysis at the end is a bit dry), but non-Tolkien fans might find it uninteresting.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (188/365)
- Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life by Diarmaid MacCulloch (90/752)
- The Game of Kings (The Lymond Chronicles #1) by Dorothy Dunnett (75/543)
The first half of The Silmarillion could be subtitled “Melkor and Fëanor are why we can’t have nice things”. Melkor (who Fëanor renames Morgoth) is a figure of darkest evil who seeks to claim dominion over anything and everything. He loves wanton destruction, took Elves captive and twisted and tortured them until they became the first Orcs, and sowed suspicion between the various Elven clans. He desired the Silmarils– the most beautiful gems ever created (by Fëanor, no less)– and so plotted with the evil Ungoliant to attack the two great trees of Valinor while the Elves celebrated with the Valar, and then move on to Formenos, where Fëanor kept the Silmarils. After their theft, Fëanor caused many of his people to rebel against the Valar and go back to Middle-earth. And with did Fëanor do after that? Slaughtered many of his own kin when they refused to do what he said, abandoned his own people to the grinding ice of the Helcaraxë, and bid his sons take a horrendous oath that would cause them to commit more horrid acts for years afterward. Melkor: a megalomaniacal tyrant. Fëanor: a narcissistic and paranoid git. They’re why we can’t have nice things. But their stories are followed by the Tale of Beren and Luthien, which is one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking stories in all of Tolkien’s legendarium. Beren and Luthien encounter many terrible trials before they can truly be together, and ultimately Luthien gives up her immortality to be with Beren, a mortal Man.
The Silmarillion. Dense and filled with high and epic language, but so worth the effort.
Speaking of dense tomes: Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life is Diarmaid MacColluch’s incredibly detailed biography of (surprise!) Thomas Cromwell, the low-born polymath who rose to be Henry VIII’s right-hand man, who spearheaded the dissolution of the monasteries, and whose legal legacy shaped English law into the Victorian era and beyond. MacCulloch’s biography is not the standard sort of narrative that begins with the earliest records of Cromwell and continues on, in chronological order, to his death. I haven’t cracked the code of the book yet, but I’m not very far into it. I’ve only been able to read about 10-20 pages at a time, thanks to the information density. But it is fascinating so far, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it.
I didn’t pick up The Game of Kings at all last week, so I made no progress.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- Network Effect (The Murderboth Diaries #5) by Martha Wells
- The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant, ARC provided by NetGalley
What I’ve Been Listening To:
In 1981, the BBC presented a radio production of The Lord of the Rings. My school library had a copy of the entire trilogy, and I don’t know how many times I checked it out and listened to it. I own it on CD, but my current public library has a version that combines the 26-half-hour installments into three parts with new introductions by Ian Holm (who played Frodo in this version) for each part of the trilogy. While the music and sound effects are super cheesy, I still enjoy listening to this production. Especially without the breaks between each episode.
I’ve also been listening to Howard Shore’s score to the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring on Spotify. Is everything to do with The Lord of the Rings around here? Yes. Does this make me happy? Yes. Very.
In Other News:
CBS has announced that they have greenlit a new Star Trek series, Strange New Worlds, starring Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn who will reprise their roles as Captain Christopher Pike, Spock, and Number One, as seen on season two of Star Trek: Discovery. Am I thrilled about this? Yes. Yes I am.