Fall and winter are popular times for baking. And sometimes people are passionate about getting just the right ingredients. Do you know how I know that? Because when I went grocery shopping the other day, I needed to pick up buttermilk for the Irish soda bread I plan to make later today. I wandered to the dairy section, and there was this guy standing there, looking at the varieties of heavy whipping cream available. Figuring that it wouldn’t take long for him to pick a container, I stopped on the other side of the aisle and waited. And waited.
And then waited some more.
Mind you, there were maybe three brands of heavy whipping cream, and about two sizes to choose from, so this guy wasn’t suffering from the paradox of choice. He was just intent on getting The Right thing of heavy whipping cream. I eventually had to interrupt his pondering and ask if he’d step aside for a few seconds so I could grab a carton of buttermilk. Once I had, he went back to contemplating the heavy whipping cream.
For all I know, he’s still there.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
When rearranging your bookshelves to make room for an upcoming reading project, be sure that your cat does not jump onto the shelves and claim the newly opened territory for her own. You will have a difficult time removing her.
With that being said, it is next to impossible to keep the cat from jumping onto the shelf. If this happens to you, good luck.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Curse of Chalion (The World of the Five Gods #1, publication order) by Lois McMaster Bujold, audiobook narrated by Lloyd James
- A Dead Djinn in Cairo (Fatma el-Sha’arawi #1) by P. Djèlí Clark, audiobook narrated by Suehyla El-Attar
- The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien
I started listening to the second half of The Curse of Chalion while doing housework on Sunday morning. Then I went for a walk and listened to it, and when I got home I did some baking and other things– still listening to the audiobook. Even though I’ve read this book several times now, it always sucks me in and I have to see what comes next, even though I already know what comes next. Such is the brilliance of Lois McMaster Bujold’s writing. This story of politics, free will vs. fate, and loyalty beyond death is criminally underrated in the book community, and I will once again recommend it to anyone who reads books. Cazaril is a memorable, fully rounded character you root for from page one, and his loyalty to Iselle feels well-founded and realistic. The villains, too, feel like Bujold pulled them out of the pages of history. And I will maintain that The Curse of Chalion provides a master class in world building, as you understand the kingdom of Chalion without Bujold stopping the narrative cold in order to infodump all over the place. Seriously. Read The Curse of Chalion. You won’t regret it.
A Dead Djinn in Cairo is the first of Clark’s stories set in an alternate, early twentiety-century Cairo, Egypt, where a magical revolution has turned Cairo into one of the world’s premier cities and put it in the forefront of technological and magical development. In just forty-one pages, Clark builds a complex narrative based on Islamic lore and Egyptian mythology, includes a diverse and well-rounded cast of characters (I’d happily follow Fatima through an epic series of books), and presents an intriguing story that will hook you from page one.
What else can I possibly say about The Fellowship of the Ring that I haven’t said before? Aside from the fact that I’m so happy to be revisiting Middle-earth, especially with the knowledge I’ve gleaned from The Prancing Pony Podcast and The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull. I was really struck this time by Haldir’s (rather racist) reaction to Gimli and how he said he was upholding the letter of the law (by requiring Gimli to be blindfolded while they were walking through Lothlórien), vs. Éomer’s response to the three hunters later on in Rohan. Had Éomer followed the letter of the law, he would not have aided Aragorn and the others and would have frog-marched them to Edoras to explain themselves. But Éomer trusted his own judgment and understood that, in some instances, you need to put aside your prejudice and follow the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of it. In other words, Haldir may have had legal justification for being a jerk to Gimli, but he was using the laws as a shield for his own prejudices. The prat. Otherwise, it’s so comforting to read The Lord of the Rings again. Even if some very bad things happen in it.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price 180/624)
- The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien (35/352)
- The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (312/894)
No progress in Children of Ash and Elm due to The Lord of the Rings. Will report back next week.
I am barely into The Two Towers, due in no small part to endless interruptions during the two lunch hours where I was trying to read it at work. And it’s not like anyone was walking in and saying, “Hey, Kim…”. It was just that people were walking through the room, slamming doors, and the phone was ringing off the hook. Such things do not allow for the concentration required for reading. But I plan to do a good bit of reading today, so that will help. I’ve reached the part where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli have spotted the Riders of Rohan, and Legolas is showcasing his Elven snark by being all, “Yeah, I see them. There are 105 of them, and they have great hair, and their leader is tall. Also, he spilled coffee on his shirt this morning. They’re only fifteen miles away, what’s your problem?”. Because, you know. Legolas and his Elf eyes.
I’ve been trying to keep up with reading Hammond and Scull’s notes in A Reader’s Companion, but whenever I can lose myself in The Lord of the Rings, I just keep reading. So now I’m five chapters behind in A Reader’s Companion, with 50-60 pages of notes to read to get caught up again. But that’s okay. I’m perfectly find with reading all these notes about the text, word origins, notes about the histories of the characters and Middle-earth itself, emendations for the 2004 edition (which make me want to find a post-2004 edition), and whatever else Hammond and Scull saw fit to include. It’s pretty much the ultimate in Tolkien-based nerdery, and I am here for it.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings #3) by J.R.R. Tolkien
This is the only book I plan to start. However, there is a box waiting for me by the television stand. It is a package from my sister, and she gave me strict instructions to not open it until Christmas (because we are not getting together as we usually do, thanks to Covid). There is a label on it that says it’s from my local indie bookstore, so there may be a title or two that I won’t be able to resist tackling once I’ve finished The Return of the King…
What I’ve Been Watching:
The Mandalorian (Seasons 1 and 2)
Created by John Favreau
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito
I finally started watching The Mandalorian for three reasons: 1) Star Wars, 2) it’s been universally praised, 3) I have a friend who works on the crew for seasons two and three. I only have a few episodes left, sadly, because this show is brilliant! It’s perfectly cast, beautifully shot, and plays with the themes and tropes of the Samurai and Western films it’s based on. It also plays with the Star Wars tropes that have come to be part of the franchise (like the StormTroopers who can’t hit anything with a blaster). I love the relationship that Mando, a fearless bounty hunter, has developed with little Grogu (aka baby Yoda). And I can’t get over how cute that little puppet is. I’ll be sad when I’m finished with season two, because the next season isn’t due out until next December.
I guess it just means I’ll have to watch the first two seasons again.
About that Writing Thing:
I’ve been making steady progress on my current story this week, thanks to the daily word count goal I’ve put in place. It’s actually making things much easier, as it’s an entirely achievable goal (1,000 words each day), even on those days when I hardly have time to write. I’m hoping to get through a significant portion of the rest of the story by the end of the year, and then hopefully finish off the first draft by the end of January or so. We’ll see how that goes, given that I’m about 35,000 words in, and am about a third of the way through the story.
So. Much. Writing to do…
But! I reached a point that I was excited to write– just a little scene of our traveling heroes having reached a field haunted by the ghosts of the past and by the fae. It’s a creepy little scene, and while I’m rarely emotionally affected by my own writing, this scene has actually managed to send a shiver down my spine. I’m hoping that, if it elicits that sort of reaction from me, it will freak my readers out.
Because I am a mean author.