Sunday Sum-Up: August 2, 2020

Another week has gone, and I’m bidding it good riddance. Mostly. Work was crazy busy again, but the weather was great. It has cooled off far more than I expected it to, and we’re expecting lows in the 50ºF (10ºC) range. That’s practically autumnal! It’s been great to shut off the air conditioner, have the windows wide open, and just lay on the bed with the breeze on me while I read. You can’t ask for much better than that.

 

Obligatory Mina Photo:

07_28_2020 A7III 001

A territory dispute has arisen.

Last spring, I removed the liner from under the couch so Mina couldn’t get up into the couch, use the liner as a hammock, and potentially get hurt. Once the liner was gone, she decided that Under the Couch was a great place to hang out and nap. It gave her a good view of everything that was going on while providing her with the perfect ‘hiding’ spot.

Things were great until last week when Sidney realized how wonderful Under the Couch was, and decided to start napping in Mina’s coveted spot. Of course, she is accustomed to her place there and wants to nap there, too. But Sidney, being the much older and bigger brother, doesn’t see why he should have to share. And so even though there is plenty of room for both cats in that lovely space Under the Couch, Sidney hisses and swats at Mina whenever she pokes her head in while he’s there.

Fortunately for everyone, Mina is a peaceable cat who doesn’t realize that she, too, has claws. But I have a feeling she’ll keep poking her head in Under the Couch to see if her big brother will finally let her nap next to him.

 

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

The Fifth Season won All the Awards after it came out in 2015, and for good reason. The world and its magic are so far different from anything I’ve ever seen before that it defies comparison. In this world, massive earthquakes and supervolcanoes threaten to destroy the world every few hundred years or so. These cataclysms are averted– to a degree- by those few people capable of manipulating the Earth’s surface and tectonic plates. These Orogenes are necessary to humanity’s survival, but they are treated as monsters by the majority of the people who live in the land known as the Stillness. After the latest cataclysm, one Orogene (or Ragga, as they are insultingly called by most people), Essun, sets out to search for her daughter, who was taken far away by Essun’s husband after he killed their son. Essun is left to follow him across the landscape of a crumbling civilization as the ash falls around her. The story is told through three different perspectives (mostly), and while I guessed early on how they were connected, it didn’t make it less satisfying when I came to the parts that proved me right. I am eager to continue this story and immediately placed a hold on the next audiobook, The Obelisk Gate. It should be available through my library in six weeks or so.

I’d never thought of reading a biography of Richard III until I found an inexpensive copy of Skidmore’s book. It was published after 2012, and so it can address the fact that Richard III’s skeleton was discovered in a Leicester car park, which allowed a lot of historical mysteries to be solved. For example, Richard’s skeleton showed that he dealt with severe scoliosis, which twisted his back and would have made one shoulder slightly higher than the other, but he was definitely not the hunchback of Shakespearean lore. Though it can be a bit dry, this biography is fascinating because it details Richard’s military successes during the reign of his brother, Edward IV. Scoliosis did not prevent him from being a capable military leader, and Richard successfully held the north against the Scots. After Edward’s death, though, Richard’s nephew (also named Edward) was supposed to take the English throne. But his mother’s family, the Woodvilles, did everything they could to secure power for themselves, setting off a deadly conflict between Richard’s allies and the loathed Woodvilles. For a while, I thought Richard’s taking of the throne from his nephew (by declaring Edward IV’s children bastards due to a long-overlooked pre-contract between Edward and Lady Eleanor Boteler) was meant to check the Woodville’s power, but nope. Ultimately, it was about the Duke of Buckingham playing kingmaker and urging Richard to claim the throne for himself. And while Skidmore doesn’t outright accuse Richard of arranging for the murder of his nephews (Edward V and his little brother Richard), he makes it clear that Richard is the most likely suspect.

I appreciate it when an author takes such a balanced approach to polarizing historical figures. Skidmore is sympathetic to Richard’s frustrations and ambitions, but he doesn’t try to prove that the man was some sort of saint. Though he is remembered as an evil man thanks to Shakespeare and the accusations made by the Tudors, Richard III was no better or worse than the kings and kingmakers who came before him. He was guided by the expectations of his culture, which called for battle and a ruthlessness that would shock us today.

Oh, and despite what Philippa Gregory would have you believe, Richard was not lusting after his niece, Elizabeth of York. Nor was she in love with him. To squelch the rumors that Richard was planning to marry his own niece, he made a very public declaration to the contrary. He had, in fact, sent an ambassador to Portugal to negotiate a marriage between himself and the Portuguese Princess Joanna. So there.

 

What I’m Currently Reading:

  • The Mabinogion by Anonymous, translated from the Welsh by Sioned Davies, audiobook narrated by James Cameron Stewart
  • Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles, ARC provided by NetGalley

Goodreads things I’ve read The Mabinogion before. I don’t think I have. Or at least it wasn’t such an approachable translation. Sioned Davies’s work is some of the latest I could find, and I chose it over the others in part because she made an effort to incorporate the elements of the oral tradition that The Mabinogion was initially made from. These stories provide the earliest tales of King Arthur and his knights, along with other fantastical tales that are like few others I’ve read. The benefit of the audiobook is that James Cameron Stewart pronounces the Welsh names well (as far as I can tell), so I haven’t been left guessing as to the various pronunciations. Like the pronunciation of Breuddwyd Rhonabwy. I don’t speak Welsh. I would trip over that name every time.

Where Dreams Descend. Oh, dear. Where Dreams Descend…. Where do I start with this one. It has the makings of being an intriguing book, but there are two things holding it back. 1) It’s terribly overwritten, in the way that young writers overwrite things. People can’t just smile. Their lips pull upward at the corners while their eyes sparkle, brimming with mystery. It makes the book far longer than it needs to be (seriously. It took a page and a half for one of the main characters to run down a flight of stairs). 2) Kallia, who is one of the viewpoint characters. She’s a talented magician, but is also young and thinks she knows everything there is to know about everything, and rather than take a breath and listen to the people around her, she goes off half-cocked and is always impulsively impulsive. And she’s always pissed off at everything around her. Both these elements make for tiresome padding on the bones of a story that, again, has the makings of being really good. It just needs a lot more editing.

 

What I Plant to Start Reading This Week:

I have an ambitious TBR for August, but I have made plans to tackle all of it. Or at least most of it. We’ll see how it goes.

I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time when I was a sophomore in college. I did not enjoy it. Something about the didactic Christian allegory… But I’m going to give the Chronicles of Narnia another shot, and my plan is to read a book each week until I’m done. They’re about 200 pages each, so it’s doable.

Her Smoke Rose up Forever is a collection of short stories by James Tiptree, Jr. which was one of the pen names of Alice B. Sheldon, who wrote some of science fictions greatest short stories, with everyone believing that she was a man who just didn’t like to go out and meet people. The revelation that James Tiptree, Jr. was, in fact, a woman ruffled the feathers of many old school SFF writers and showed just how good a female writer could be in the “manly” genre of science fiction. There are eighteen stories in this collection, and I plan to read one each night. I read the first one, ‘The Last Flight of Doctor Ain’, last night. It’s a very short story, being a handful of pages long, but it builds a whole world in those few pages, and the ending is stunning.

I’ve already borrowed Winter King via the Hoopla app. I just want to finish The Mabinogion before I  start it.

Jade War is my selection for the next round of Tome Topple, hosted by Sam at Thoughts on Tomes. This round runs from August 8-21. All you have to do to participate is to read a book of more than 500 pages. That’s it. I’ve been meaning to get to Jade War for a couple of months now, so here’s my chance to dive into it. I’ve already tabbed the pages I’ll need to reach each to finish on time, and it’s honestly not that much. About 40-50 pages each day. Shouldn’t be a problem, especially since it starts next Saturday, so I’ll have a mostly free Sunday to read, read, read.

What I’ve Been Watching:

Cursed
Fantasy
TV-MA
Netflix

So last week, I was all “I’m really enjoying this show, I’m going to try to finish it up this week”.

Ha. Yeah, no. That didn’t happen. I watched a single episode all week. That said, it was a solid one, despite the wrapping up of a couple of plot points from the previous episode or two that felt like they should have lasted longer. Oh well. I’m liking the direction Arthur’s character is taking, and there’s a new villain in town who went from being extremely annoying to (so far) fascinating. And there are Vikings. Because why not? I’m down with Vikings showing up.

Cursed

Vintage ChezLindsay
Film/Pop Culture Criticism
YouTube

I’ve been watching Lindsay Ellis’s main channel for about a year, and I love her critiques of film, moviemaking, and movies in the broader culture. She’s a film school graduate, and it’s clear that she knows what she’s talking about. It’s also clear that she has a lot of fun doing it (plus, she’s really good at it! Her trilogy about the making of The Hobbit films and what made them so bad earned her a Hugo Nomination in 2019). So I was thrilled to see that she has a smaller channel of her previous, shorter critiques from about ten years ago. She skewers the female superhero movies of the time, discusses what makes You’ve Got Mail a lousy RomCom while Kate & Leopold is also bad, but way more fun. And she has a four-part series about The Lord of the Rings movies, where she critiques them, but also points out why she loves them. If you want to learn about cinema and the criticism of it, give either of Linday’s channels a try.

What I’ve Been Listening To:

Thanks to one of Lindsay Ellis’s videos about her favorite 1990s music videos, I ended up listening to a bunch of 90s music, like The Smashing Pumpkins’ albums Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Adore, and Machina: The Machines of God.

And thanks to one of Sam at Thoughts on Tomes’ live streams, I’m developing an interest in ‘cottagecore’, which builds an aesthetic around witchy things, forest things, faerie things, and autumnal things. I’m down for all of those, so I’ve been listening to the album Tales of the Night Forest by Black Hill, Silent Island. Thanks to the weather and the relaxed, acoustic vibes, I am longing for October, sweaters, and hot beverages.

 

I’m also putting together a Spotify playlist of various songs that I enjoy, ranging from Emilie Autumn’s Victoriandustrialism, to Björk, Iron & Wine, PJ Harvey, and Florence + The Machine. Anyone interested in listening to it? Let me know in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: August 2, 2020

  1. Ahoy there! I absolutely love this week’s Mina photo and cat story. My one fuzzball has figured out how to climb into the arm of the couch and so sometimes ye can sit down and have a cat butt lump to rest an arm on. I am going to have to look into the Richard III book. That Shakespeare play was assigned to me in grad school and I had so much fun reading about the differences between the two portrayals. I also thought it was crazy that there is a Richard III Society that is all about clearing his defamation. At that time the body wasn’t found yet. I remember when it was announced that it had been found and how ridiculously excited I got. So Richard III became one of the few historical figures I am rather fascinated by. The other two are the Medici family and Sally Hemings. I have read awesome biographies about those so now I should finish the trifecta. Thanks for letting me know about the book. Arrr!
    x The Captain

  2. I can just picture your cat being in the arm of the couch and creating a secondary arm rest… It’s so weird where cats will get into, and what they think is comfortable.

    You’re welcome for the Richard III recommendation! The Richard III Society strikes me as such a strange thing. Sure, he wasn’t the evil hunchback the Tudors painted him as, but he certainly wasn’t a saint, either. As long as they’re sticking with the historical record, I suppose they can praise the guy if they want, but there was a lot of fishiness going on with the Princes in the Tower… I hope you enjoy the biography!

  3. Lol at the cat drama. Our cat really loves digging into the house plants. I don’t know if that’s typical of cats or if he just wants to annoy us, but he loves digging out the dirt. I guess he likes the scent or wants to see the roots. He’s a very curious kitten.
    Also lol on the Phillipa Gregory mention. I appreciate the clarification there.
    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is one of my childhood favorites and I still enjoy reading it. I think it wasn’t until I got to college that I noticed the Christian references in it

  4. The cat drama never ends… Neither of my cats has really bothered my plants. I’m great at killing my plants all by myself…

    Yeah, Gregory likes to use “sources” that wrote 40-200 years after her subjects lived. And because people are all, “Philippa Gregory is historically accurate because she says so”, they end up believing that, say, Anne Boleyn actually did sleep with her brother George, or that Elizabeth of York was totally in love with her power-hungry uncle Richard. Ugh.

  5. I hope the kitties manage to resolve their differences before the claws come out! I enjoyed your commentary on Where Dreams Descend. Not that I was planning to read it, but you capture some major complaints of mine when it comes to some YA fiction. Have a great week!

  6. It’s mostly just hissing with the cats. Sidney hisses and maybe swipes, and Mina backs off with this look of “but what did I do?” on her little face. I feel so bad for her when that happens…

    I notice that the overblown prose especially happens with younger writers, as though they conflate lyrical writing with purple prose. Older writers like Leigh Bardugo are better about maintaining the balance between being straightforward and lyrical.

  7. 🤣 lol on the plants
    And now I know Anne did not sleep with her bro. I wondered how much of the Other Boleyn Girl is true. I always wonder that when reading historical fiction.

  8. Loving those cat tales. Sometimes I wonder myself what kind of thoughts go through these fellas and what it would be like to swap places with them for a day! 😮

    Really glad to hear those thoughts on the Fifth Season. It’s definitely high on my TBR and hopefully, I’ll be able to get around to it and love it as much as everyone seems to.

    Hope your August kicked off properly and that you’ll be able to do everything you want to do!

  9. I’ve yet to read anything by N.K. Jemisin, though I’ve had several of her books on my shelves for a while now. I need to try her work soon. I remember enjoying The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when younger, but I think I was too young at the time to catch any of the Christian allegory, or at least I don’t recall it now. I’m not sure if that’s a series I’ll one day reread but I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it the second time around.

  10. Definitely give Jemisin a shot! I’ve only read the one book by her, but it was amazing! She actually won another Hugo award last week. I think it’s her fourth now.

    I finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe yesterday, and I can definitely tell I don’t have nostalgia glasses when it comes to that book. I found it just as irritating, just as twee, and a little condescending. It has this constant feeling of “I won’t talk about that, little children, because you’re too young and fragile to handle that”, and I’ve read a lot of other children’s literature that doesn’t flinch from hard things. Maybe the rest of the series isn’t so… annoying. I guess we’ll see. So far, I don’t understand the love for this series…

  11. I’d be down with trading places with my cats for a day! Nap, nap, nap, eat breakfast, have another nap. Go snack. Play for a while. Run around like crazy. Have another nap. Have a snack. Go to bed. Sounds like a good day to me!

  12. Historians have, for the most part, decided that Anne was innocent of the charges against her. There are records that show that the men accused of adultery with her were in entirely different places on the days they were accused of sleeping with her. Basically, Anne hadn’t borne the son that she promised, kept having miscarriages, and wasn’t the sweet and docile wife that Henry wanted. It’s unknown as to whether Henry ordered Cromwell to get rid of Anne, or if Cromwell was like, “well, Henry has his eye on Jane Seymour, so we need to get rid of Anne in the most decisive way possible”. I couldn’t get all the way through The Other Boleyn Girl, but Anne (most likely) did not commit adultery or incest, and she didn’t practice witchcraft.

    Also– and I don’t know what book it was, I’ve only heard about it secondhand– Gregory apparently wrote about when Anne’s daughter Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I) was living with her stepmother, Katherine Parr, who had married Thomas Seymour after Henry VIII’s death. Seymour basically molested Elizabeth while she was living with them, and Gregory wrote about the incidents as though Elizabeth was the instigator. At the time all this happened, she was 14. So that’s gross.

    Gregory seems to have these weird hangups with incest and teenagers falling in love with their abusers, and it frustrates me to no end that she’s the historical fiction author who gets all the praise and attention. I’ve tried four of her books, and I haven’t been able to finish a single one.

  13. I did not know any of that. I’ve only skimmed through the bit of history about Henry VIII and his wives but have never come across a mention that the scandalous bits about Anne might not be true; they always just prefer to focus on the scandals.

    And, oh my gosh, that is gross.

  14. Yeah, the scandals get everyone’s attention, and the reality is far more complicated than most people realize.

    Gregory has a lot of weird hangups. That’s why I have never been able to get through any of her books.

    If you’re interested in Tudor history, Claire Ridgway has a great channel called The Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society. She’s a big fan of Anne Boleyn, so tends to be a cheerleader for her, but she talks about all sorts of other Tudor history. Also, Dr. Kat from Reading the Past.

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