Sunday Sum-Up: August 30, 2020

  • The National Weather Service is considering adjusting the system of warnings, watches, advisories, and statements it uses on the weather map on its website. I hope the go through with this because when you’re checking the weather (which I do often, because Nebraska weather changes every ten minutes) and you see an orange advisory for South Dakota and northern Nebraska, look at the key below the map, and initially think that the NWS has somehow issued a Special Marine Advisory for the Upper Midwest, you’ll be extremely confused until you see that they used the same or similar shade of orange for a Heat Advisory.
  • The heat wave finally broke on Friday night. If you think that as soon as the temperature dropped below 80F, I made soup, lit my caramel latte scented candle, and made a proper cup of tea for the first time in months, you would be correct.
  • I often forget that the Nook app allows you to download a free sample of the books you’re considering. I finally remembered that fact and took advantage of it to look at a novella and a novel I was interested in. The novella was awful (when the fact check part of my brain goes off twice on the first page, it’s a bad sign), but the novel is intriguing. I’m hoping my library gets a copy of the novel. The novella can take a hike.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Mina has been chasing… something this week. I assume she’s seeing tiny flying insects buzzing around, but as I can’t see them from across the room, I don’t know if she’s chasing down insects or ghosts. I completely understand if she’s chasing insects. I don’t think there are ghosts.

Maybe she’s chasing after fuzz floating around. There’s enough of that to amuse a thousand cats, thanks to the fine fluff she constantly sheds. It fills my vacuum on a weekly basis, and drifts around the floor when I try to sweep it up.

So she’s chasing tiny flying insects or cat fluff. Or ghosts.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is a collection of short stories Mantel wrote for various magazines and other publications. They are all odd stories you’ll fall right into, and they are all strange in their own ways. The title story, ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ is a darkly humorous– and fictional– account of a woman going through a day that goes from normal to surreal when an assassin shows up at her door.

The Beautiful is the story of Celine, a young Frenchwoman who flees to New Orleans in 1872 and becomes entwined with the Cours de Lion, a strange bunch of aristocratic people who rule the social scene in the city. There are also vampires, but not until the end. It’s a bit melodramatic for my taste, and the audiobook (which I started out with) is especially so because the narrator gets really excited by both action scenes and carnival decorations. She also seems to want to channel Bela Lugosi at points. I had a much better time with this book when I checked out the physical copy from the library- enough so that I’ve already grabbed the second book, The Damned, from the library

As I look back at Celine now that a few days have passed, I’m wondering why she was so intent on being a ‘proper woman’, given that she was working in one of the most prestigious ateliers in Paris. High fashion is an artform that is inherently transgressive. It pushes the boundaries of taste and culture, and that’s what makes it fascinating. Think of the Oscars- half the reason we watch them is to see what the glitterati are wearing that night, and if you’re like me, you’ll have two questions in mind: ‘Did Jennifer Lawrence fall down again?’ and ‘What’s Billy Porter wearing this year?’ Billy Porter’s outfit is really the only one I care about, just so I can see people’s reactions to his outlandish gowns.

High fashion is transgressive, and the designers who make it can’t be terribly interested in toeing old cultural lines. So why is Celine so intent on being a proper lady through so much of The Beautiful?

What I’m Currently Reading:

  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (118/422)
  • Amnesty (The Amberlough Dossier #3) by Lara Elena Donnelly (253/384)
  • The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves #2) by Roshani Chokshi, ARC provided by NetGalley (33%)
  • Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard, audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell

I haven’t made much progress on The Essex Serpent, if only because I’ve been reading the other books first. It’s beautifully written and I love the characters, but it’s lower on the list of priorities because it’s a) not a library book and b) not an ARC. As soon as I finish up one or two of my other current reads, I’ll get back to this one.

Amnesty is the last book in the Amberlough Dossier trilogy that Jackie at Death by Tsundoku and I have been buddy reading all summer. We’re both loving it. There is a five year time jump between book two, Amnesty, and this one. While I wish we’d been able to see at least a little of what Aristide and Cordelia were doing during those years of war, I do understand that Donnelly’s story is about the characters, not the war. Things are not looking good for anyone, and I can’t wait to find out how (or if) they get out of the trouble they’re in.

I’ve had the ARC of The Silvered Serpents since last September or so. I remember reading the first book, The Gilded Wolves, in airports and on planes on my way to Iceland last fall. I still remembering thinking how much I ended up enjoying it, and thought I almost immediately started reading The Silvered Serpents on my long flight, I didn’t finish it. And suddenly, the publication date moved from January or February of 2020 to September. I have no idea why. Because I have so many long ARCs to get to in September, I decided to re-start The Silvered Serpents. I am enjoying this one a lot, too, thanks to Chokshi’s decisions not to follow the trendy YA tropes that drive me nuts. She’s made a diverse cast of characters whose diverse backgrounds don’t feel like they’re just checking boxes of a diversity list. They are capable in their fields without being wonderful at everything, they have believable flaws that aren’t merely ‘klutzy’, and their inner conflicts are present without turning into endless brooding. So far, I’m enjoying The Silvered Serpants, and I’m willing to overlook the fact that I don’t think that one of the maguffins would have been able to give them exact latitude and longitude coordinates in 1889. Having those coordinates is common to us today, but navigation was a bit different in the late Victorian era, especially since the system of longitude that we know and love today wasn’t finalized until 1884. But hey, there’s magic, so it works as is.

After hearing Sam at Thoughts on Tomes rave about the friendships in Susan Dennard’s Witchlands series, I decided to give it a try. Truthwitch was available through my Libby app, so I checked it out and started listening to it. I’m really enjoying it so far, and I love the friendships. YA is (in my opinion) too often obsessed with romance. There aren’t enough friendships. I wish there were more if only because I– as an aro-ace person– consider friendships to be some of the most important relationships in my life, and when I see book friendships be completely cast aside in favor of a badly-written romance or love triangle, it’s really frustrating. So I’m happy to see Dennard treat these many friendships as important and just as life-changing as a romance.

What I’ve Been Watching:

Directed by Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris

The temperature started dropping on Friday night, and I had an inexplicable urge to watch this, my favorite version of Macbeth. It was filmed on location in Scotland, features an eerie soundtrack, and gorgeous cinematography.

In this production, Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth is a man haunted by war, who grows evermore traumatized as the commits more and more acts of evil as he seeks to secure his position as king of Scotland. Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth is a more realistic character than others I’ve seen. She is ambitious and she pushes Macbeth beyond what he thought was his limit, but she has a subtlety I’ve never seen before, and her regret and horror at Macbeth’s later actions is palpable.

It also has my favorite version of the witches, who are usually shown as cackling old crones hunched over a bubbling cauldron. Is that the way it is in the play? Sure. Does it always need to be that way? Nope.

These witches are younger women who appear out of the mist, have their effect, and disappear again. They’re not cackling– they seem almost mournful– and they have dignity, like they’re spirits of the land.

Of the Shakespearean films I’ve seen, Kurtzel’s Macbeth is one of my favorites, and it’s one I’ll undoubtedly come back to another time or two this fall.

About That Writing Thing:

I’ve started writing the first scene! Yay! The writing’s going more slowly than I had hoped (thanks, heat wave), but I’ve finally started, and I’m looking forward to getting deeper into it. There will come a point in this tale when I get to a weird and mystical few scenes, and I can’t wait to get to them.

I was glancing back through the earlier stories in my series to make some minor edits and double check some details, I realized that at some point I forgot all about a side character who, in the grand scheme of the politics I’ve cooked up, is actually pretty important even though he’s never spoken a word. I don’t know how I managed to do that, but I had a dilemma in front of me. Do I go in and make some changes to account for Side Character’s disappearance, or do I have one of my good guy characters mention his death as an aside?

And then I realized something: this series is a fantasy with a lot of magic, and one of the new bad guy sorcerers affects minds and memory, and has been affecting the mind of one of my main characters for the past two stories. So! I can seamlessly write forgotten Side Character back into the next story, and put him back into his proper place thanks to the plot work I’ve already done. I just needed to adjust the opening scene a little to bring Side Character back into the story. How fortuitous for me! None of my readers have picked up on the fact that he’s missing, and my hope is that, when all is said and done, when people go back and read the whole thing again (as the ardent readers are wont to do once or twice a year), they’ll think Side Character’s disappearance and reappearance was planned all along.

That’s my hope anyway.

It makes me wonder how often a plot twists are planned, and how often they are the result of the author having to go back and fix a mistake.

12 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: August 30, 2020

  1. I wonder if cats get floaters in their eyes like we do, and if they maybe try to chase those around sometimes. 🙂 Just added Macbeth to my queue, thanks for the recommendation.

  2. That version of Macbeth sounds amazing. I need to see it! I’m thinking it’s ghosts after all for Mina. Cats are sensitive, you know. Maybe she really can see what we mere humans can’t.

  3. Today it rained for the first time in three weeks. The humidity and the heat might actually be breaking! David danced in the yard in the rain he was so happy. So, we can relate. 🙂

    I vote that Mina is chasing ghosts. Cute, Casper-style ghosts. Or whips of some variety. Not the maleficent kind. The sort that brings you joy and luck and all that.

    I’ve had Truthwitch on my TBR for a long while; good to know about the friendships! I agree with you – a lot of YA is too focused on romance. I want more friendships! Sometimes, I’m sad when a great friendship in a novel turns into a romance under me. Friends are the best.

    Congrats on being able to turn a forgotten character into a plot twist! I love it. I bet there are a lot of moments of circumstance like this with writing. I’ve read authors talk about how the stories take on lives of their own and make decisions for the author. I wonder if this is one such moment for you?

  4. I always think this about plot twists! I had this same thing happen to me today, and I said to my friend, “Well, I actually already wrote the plot to work out this way, so? Not a whole lot I have to change?” But it’ll still be a bit of a twist, and it makes me wonder how many “plot twists” just magically happen through the writing process like this.

  5. We might be getting a bit of rain this week, but I’m not holding my breath. Barring any weird storms showing up in September, we’ll still be in drought conditions until the rains (hopefully) come in October.

    Friends are the best! Give Truthwitch a shot! I’m about halfway through, and it’s great!

    This story overall has often taken on a life of its own, though I generally stay on track with the overall plan. I don’t think the forgotten character is going to make the thing go off on its own, but it is going to make politicking easier later on.

  6. We had about 10 minutes of rain last night and it was amazing. Still not enough to break the drought, but I’ll take it. Anything is better than nothing. Though, we are starting to worry a bit about some of the blueberry bushes. A few are looking quite dead. We hope they are just going dormant early… Yikes.

    Wow. Kim! How do you READ SO MUCH?! I mean, I’m just constantly blown away. Keep up the awesome. Once the 5th book has a publication date, I’ll pick this up. Right now it’s “2022” on Goodreads. Patience, Jackie. Patience.

    And, for what it’s worth, I hear the novella Sightwitch, between books 2 and 3, is fairly important to the storyline. So, don’t forget to read that if you continue the series!

  7. We have some trees that are starting to drop their leaves because it’s been so dry these last couple of months, and then the temperature dropped into the 50s overnight…

    I read fast! I always have! It’s often helpful, sometimes a detriment. But it’s how I get through a lot. Also, I set aside time for reading, and I don’t watch very much television. So there’s that.

    Thanks for the heads up on Sightwitch! I don’t know if my library has it, so I’ll track down an ebook version of it.

  8. I don’t watch television much either. In fact, the only reason I own a television is because my in-laws bought one for us! XD They don’t like sleeping in a room without the TV on. I think it’s madness, but, that’s just fine. They can do whatever they want. So the TV is in the guest room.

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