- I had to take Sidney in for his vaccinations on Wednesday. He gets extremely stressed out when he goes to the veterinarian (read: angry and striking out at everything and everyone), so he has to be sedated. This means I drop him off early and pick him up a couple of hours later, after he’s woken up. So I got up a little earlier than normal and was out the door with Sidney in his carrier just before 7:30. I got down to the car in the pre-dawn gloom, put Sidney in the backseat and glanced down at the tires to discover that one was extremely low. I took a detour to the mechanic about a mile from where I live and where I always go for tire stuff, and by the time I reached it, the tire was completely flat.
So there I was, at the tire place in the gloom with a cat crying in the backseat and a flat tire. Great start to the morning.
Fortunately, they put the spare tire on in a few minutes and got a new ([stupid] specialty) tire ordered, and I was on my way. So that was the start of my day off.
- I live near a college, and they have been doing various landscaping work, which involves loud machines running promptly, every morning, at 7:30. Because who doesn’t love waking up to the sound of giant lawn mowers mowing a postage-stamp sized spot of grass or leaf blowers being used on a windy day?
Obligatory Mina Photo:
As mentioned above, I had to take Sidney to the vet for his check-up and vaccinations. He couldn’t eat after 10:00 the night before, which meant I had to put away the food for both cats. Mina, who likes to have a midnight snack and a 5:00AM snack was not happy about that.
Once Sidney got home, he wandered around the apartment, sniffing and growling at everything, which frightened Mina. She stayed as far away from him as possible, eyes wide and jumping at everything.
So I spent a few hours of my days off trying to comfort two stressed out cats who did not want to be comforted. Fun times.
But they did calm down after a while, so all’s well.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, audiobook narrated by Simon Prebble and Rosalyn Landor
- The Fabric of Civilzation: How Textiles Made the World by Virginia Postrel, ARC provided by NetGalley
- The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
- Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys of the Avian World by Candace Savage
The Turn of the Screw is a classic ghost story where a young governess travels to Bly Manor to care for a young girl named Flora. Later, the boy, Miles, is sent home from his boarding school for reasons unknown. The governess starts to see people, and she determines they are the ghosts of Miss Jessel, the previous governess, and Peter Quint. As time passes, she comes to believe that the children, who are too beautiful and too sweet, are in league with the ghosts and she takes steps to save the children. This is a classic horror story, and you never quite know if the governess is imagining everything, or if Bly Manor really is haunted. The Netflix show, The Haunting of Bly Manor is based on this story.
The Fabric of Civilization is an overview of the history of cloth, dyeing, the cloth trade, and the future of fabric as we know it. I learned so much about fabric and how integral it has been to human history (people would go to war over new fabrics, and sumptuary laws were enacted [and usually flouted] to keep different social classes in their places). There were also gender-based issues that were new to me– for example, Italian silk-making maestres, women who were expert silk-spinners, were paid far more than men and were often the bread-winnders of the household in the Renaissance, while women spinners and weavers elsewhere were recognized as being vital to their country’s economies. If some women were paid less for their work (linen spinners, for example) it was not because they were women. It was because spinning produced far less material per hour than something like weaving did. The technology of fabric is amazing, and the future of fabrics is fascinating all by itself. I did find the last chapter to be a bit dry, but on the whole, The Fabric of Civilization was fascinating.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is a fast-paced urban fantasy set in 1983, with the aging hippies, young Punks, and New Romantics of England that go along with the early 1980s. It’s the story of Susan who, right after she turns 18, heads to London to find her father. While there, she runs afoul of a supernatural creature and meets a young man named Merlin, who is a Bookseller– one of the action-oriented left-handed ones– who tries to protect Susan from the strange mythical creatures that start coming after her. There are so many Celtic, Welsh, Arthurian, and Norse legends packed into the story (and plenty of fantasy novels) that it’s hard to keep up with all of them, even if you already know (as I do) what most of the magical beasties are. But it’s okay if you don’t know what the beasties are, because this book is a thrill ride the whole way through and everything ties up quite neatly in the end. I don’t know if this is the first in a series or if it will be a standalone, but if there is a sequel I will definitely read it.
Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys of the Animal World is an overview to research into crow intelligence. It also has brief stories about real-world crows and mythical crows from world legends. Savage breezes through several studies that have been trying to figure out how smart crows are, their family structures, and if they have a definitive language or not. Crows, as it turns out, are problem-solvers as clever as chimpanzees, and are hard to study because they’re smart enough to outsmart the humans who would like to catch and tag them. Like the other Savage books I’ve read this month, it’s not the deepest story, but it was quick and provided a good overview. I had to take the Bernd Heinrich book about ravens (which provides a deep dive into ravens and their intelligence) back to the library. I’ll be getting back to that sometime soon, I hope.
- Dune by Frank Herbert (449/661)
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, audiobook narrated by Alex Jennings and Jenny Agutter (83%)
Jackie finished before me on our buddy read for Frank Herbert’s Dune, which is fine because I’ve read it several times before and we can still talk about everything that’s happened in the story. I’m so happy that she’s loving the story and has so many questions, because I don’t have anyone to geek out about over this book. I’ve just reached Part 3, with (in my edition) encompasses the final 150 or so pages of the story. There is so much that happens in this part, both action-wise and culture-wise with the Fremen, and it’s all packed into a short section. Jackie and I were talking about Herbert’s storytelling efficiency and how he managed to pack a huge amount of information into comparatively few words. I think current writers are allowed to indulge themselves overmuch, and then you end up with these 10+ book series with installments that are 800+ pages and you don’t care about half the characters and a third of the plot seems unnecessary and there’s so much repetition… Dune is packed full of worldbuilding and character development, but if your attention wanders you could miss some important information that is not repeated. But that’s fine with me. I like it when an author assumes that I’m intelligent enough to follow along and doesn’t give me the same information a dozen times. I’ll probably finish this up later today, as Part 3 is fast paced and fascinating.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall ended up going back to the library, and I finally got around to checking it back out and listening to it. It’s such a strange book when compared to the other Brontë books I’ve read. It feels incredibly modern at times, especially when Helen describes someone’s descent into alcoholism and the mental abuse she endures. Other times, it definitely feels like the Romantic-era story that it is. I’m about 80% of the way through, and I recently hit a part where Helen knows what she wants and that it will make her happy, but because of society’s constraints upon her, she is denying herself that happiness. I understand it, but at the same time my response is “No, Helen, just let yourself be happy at last!”. But there is still a chunk left, so things can (and probably will) change.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
- Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand
- Masquerade in Lodi (Penric and Desdemona #9) by Lois McMaster Bujold
- The Women I Think About at Night: Traveling the Paths of My Heroes by Mia Kankimäki, translated from the Finnish by Douglas Robinson, ARC provided by NetGalley
Lots to read this week! I’ve been on the library’s hold list for Piranesi since it came out, and it finally arrived for me yesterday, so I’ll get started on it tonight or tomorrow. Wylding Hall is available as an audiobook through Hoopla (which I have access to via my public library). It’s a novella, so I should get through it pretty quickly. Masquerade in Lodi is a new Pen and Des novella, which is one of my favorite series. It just came out last week or so, and deals with a slightly younger Penric at an unsettling time in his life, so I’m really looking forward to this one. The Women I Think About at Night is coming out fairly soon, and because it’s a long book I need to get cracking on it.
I’m looking forward to all of these.
A Stitch in Time:
Have I started crocheting the Frode Shawl I’ve been wanting to start for the last couple of weeks? Nope. Did I finish two children’s hats and begin another hat for me? Yes. I ran into trouble on the hat for me, though. I had crocheted enough rows to make it the proper height, but when I tried it on the hat was way too big, so I had to unravel most of it and start over. My mistake was that, at some point, I miscounted my stitches and made too many, and when I realized it I tried to compensate on the next rows instead of just unraveling it there. So I made a lot more work for myself than I needed to. Oops.
But. I will finish the hat today (assuming I don’t need to go out and buy one more skein for it), and when that’s done I’ll start on the Frode Shawl next.
About That Writing Thing:
I finally– finally!– solved a problem that was holding me back on my current work in progress! I don’t know what it was about that particular section, but it was proving to be a major stumbling block and has kept me from making any real progress on the story for the past couple of weeks. But Wednesday night I had a free hour where I could sit down and start typing, and I blew through the problem in no time. Hooray! So I’m hoping this means I will be able to start making some real progress again. And just in time for National Novel Writing Month in November (which I’m not officially taking part in, since I’ve already started writing this story and am about 20,000 words in). But I will be taking the good writing vibes I’ll encounter next month and use them as a springboard for getting as far as possible into this story. It’s going to be so long by the time I finish, because the more I think about it, the more scenes get fleshed out with small details that should help tie everything in this sprawling story together.
I’m hoping to have this next part finished by November 1, which means I’ll need to have about 20 pages written this week. Which I can do if I sit down and focus.
And because the weather outside is cold and snowy this week, and because I’ve been sleeping well I have plenty of focus these days.
I do love the colder parts of the year.