- Another heat wave is upon us. Fortunately, the humidity is dying down and instead of hovering around 90°F at night, the temperature actually falls, making it more comfortable by night. So that’s a plus. On a downside, though: smoke from the wildfires in Colorado and California has been drifting across the state, making the skies very hazy. I can’t smell the smoke yet, but it may just be a matter of time.
- Thanks to a mayoral mask mandate in my city, the number of new COVID-19 cases has been dropping. The mandate is set to expire at the end of the month, but it seems like that the mayor will extend the mandate into September, which makes me doubly glad I ordered a couple of custom-made masks from a friend (who is a costumer in Hollywood. You’ve seen shows she’s worked on is all I’ll say…). I’ve already received one, and it’s far more comfortable than the store-bought ones I already had. Yay for comfort!
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Because neither of the cats goes outside, I don’t make them wear collars unless they’re going to the vet. So when I bought a new blue collar for Mina to replace the ugly and ill-fitting neon green collar I bought when she was a kitten (I was in a hurry, it was the only color the store had) and put it on her to make sure it fit, she didn’t know what to do. She shook her head at first, then tried to swipe at the bell and tags. When she couldn’t reach them, she squirmed around on her back and tried to bit them, and ended the collar-wearing incident by running around the living room, leaping onto the couch, leaping off the couch, and running into the kitchen, then back into the living room to start the circuit over again.
I took pity on her a bit later and removed the collar. We’ll try again another day so she can get more used to it, since she’ll be going to the vet soon for annual vaccinations.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle
- Jade War (The Green Bone Saga #2) by Fonda Lee
- African Samurai: The True Story of a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard, audiobook narrated by Gary Furlong
- The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg, ARC provided by NetGalley
Stranger Planet is billed as a sequel to Pyle’s first book, Strange Planet, but as it’s a comic strip with no real story across the book, I don’t think it’s really a sequel. It’s another book filled with the hilarious little aliens who live the same kinds of life that we do, but describe it in such dry terms that it’s hard not to look at ordinary things a little differently. This book made me laugh out loud several times, which is no mean feat. I definitely recommend it if you need some levity in your life.
Jade War is the second book in Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga, and it’s even better than the first book, Jade City, which won a World Fantasy Award. It’s the story of the Kauls, one of the crime families who rules the island nation of Kekon, which is the only place in the world where the mystical jade is found. For people who are sensitive to jade, it grants them superhuman powers which the clans use to rule their territories. But the rest of the world wants in on jade abilities, and now that there is a synthetic drug that allows outsiders to use jade, the Kekonese find that they must deal with a world that is encroaching upon theirs. Meanwhile, the Kauls of the No Peak clan are fighting a cold war against their bitter enemies, the Mountain Clan. Lee does amazing work with her characters– all their actions were believable, even the terrible ones– and the politics at work all around were fascinating. I’m looking forward to the third book, Jade Legacy, which is due out later this year.
African Samurai is ostensibly a biography of Yasuke, an African warrior and bodyguard who was taken into the service of Oda Nobunaga in about 1581 and made a Samurai– the only African man ever to attain the rank. There seems to be little information about Yasuke’s life, though, so the book mostly discusses the cultures Yasuke lived among– Portuguese missionaries to Japan, the court of Nobunaga, and the various paths Yasuke might have taken in life, as he disappears from the historical record in late 1582, after Nobunaga’s death. While the authors have had to make a lot of assumptions, this is a fascinating account of Yasuke’s life and the culture and history of feudal Japan in the late 1500s.
The Four Profound Weaves is a beautifully written novella about a world where, in certain cultures, the ability of people to change gender is assumed and the transformation is a celebrated part of life, if one so chooses. But there are cultures that do not accept these changes, which makes life difficult– if not impossible– for those who wish to change. It’s also a story about love and family, and the sacrifices we must make in order to make the world a better place.
The Voyage of ‘The Dawn Treader’ (The Chronicles of Narnia #3) by C.S. Lewis
I gave up about halfway through this book because I just didn’t care. None of the characters appealed to me, I didn’t like the twee writing, and Lewis’s story did not appeal to me any more than the first two did. Thus ends my attempt to finally read all of the Chronicles of Narnia. At least I gave them a shot.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1) by Renée Ahdieh, audiobook narrated by Lauren Ezzo (57%)
- The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (short stories) by Hilary Mantel (169/244)
- The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (75/422)
After finishing my last audiobook, I was checking in on the titles I’d tagged though my Libby app, and because The Beautiful was available and I’d been hearing it talked up of late, I decided to give it a shot. I am mostly enjoying it, though my main issue with with the narrator, Lauren Ezzo. She is superb when it comes to the French accents, but her Yorkshire is a little shaky, and I kind of hate the way she narrates the male voices. Also, there are interludes between certain chapters written from the perspective of an unknown enemy, and I definitely hate the way Ezzo narrates those– she slows waaaay down and ends up sounding like she’s trying to mimic Bela Lugosi in the 1931 version of Dracula. I have to speed those passages up to 1.75x speed or faster to keep from being so annoyed by them that I stop listening. If those interludes continue into book two, I will probably just read the physical book instead of listening to the audiobook.
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is a collection of short stories by Hilary Mantel. They are impeccably written and often disturbing– but not in a way that you can pinpoint (usually). There is just a sense of low-lying unease or dread behind the stories, save for one, which reads like a vampire story written by an oblivious secretary who has no idea what’s going on around her. I only have a few of these left, so I should finish the book up in the next day or two.
The Essex Serpent is, so far, a beautifully written book about characters who don’t know what to expect of each other and so assume the worst– usually. Also, there seems to be a mythical river monster haunting the waters of Essex, but most people think it’s just a rumor. Cora Seaborne, our protagonist, is a newly widowed mother who is finally going off to achieve her dream of scientific exploration by following in the footsteps of Mary Anning, a female fossil hunter who discovered all sorts of dinosaurs, and in so doing helped to revolutionize the field of paleontology. I haven’t gotten too far into the book, but so far I’m enjoying it. Now if only I could get to it a little earlier in the evening so I don’t fall asleep while reading it…
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- Amnesty (The Amberlough Dossier #3) by Lara Elena Donnelly
- Giving up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel
- Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis
Jackie at Death by Tsundoku and I have been buddy reading Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough Dossier trilogy all summer, and we’re ready to start the final book, Amnesty. We can’t wait to find out what happens to these amazing characters and see how the whole political situation is resolved. I’ll probably finish this one in a couple of days, which is what happened with the first two books.
I’m not really looking forward to the story of Giving up the Ghost, which is Mantel’s memoir of a childhood spent in poverty and how she spent years dealing with an undiagnosed chronic illness that doctors kept prescribing the wrong treatments for, eventually wrecking her health and rendering her infertile. Then she began writing. One novel followed another, and the rest is history. I’m certain this will be a moving story that is just as exquisitely written as the rest of her books.
I may or may not start Axiom’s End this week. It depends on how the rest of the reading (and writing and everything else goes), but I’m looking forward to this tale of first contact with aliens, set during the presidency of George W. Bush.
About That Writing Thing:
Yeah, that didn’t happen last week. All my writing time was taken up with blogging. Oops. Better luck this week.