Sunday Sum-Up: January 10, 2020

Nine more days until Biden’s inauguration. They can’t pass quickly enough.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

My day off started quietly enough. I slept in a little, ran a couple of errands, and was ironing some laundry when there was a resounding crash from the bathroom. I unplugged the iron, then went to see what had happened.

It turns out that Mina had gotten onto the bathroom shelf where the iron is normally stored and was nosing around the glass jars of various bathroom things that live in front of the iron. She ended up nudging the jar of cotton balls right off the edge of the shelf and onto the floor, where it shattered into a thousand pieces. Surprised by the crash, she ran away. Before I could get to the bathroom, though, she turned around to investigate, and because I didn’t want her to cut her little feet, I yelled at her to get out of there.

She ran and hid.

So I cleaned up the glass and the cotton balls, put the ironing stuff away, and was doing some other minor task when Mina poked her head out from behind the closet door. She was shivering like a leaf from all the commotion, and of course I felt terrible for having yelled at her, so we snuggled on the couch for a while until she calmed down and decided she had better things to do than cuddle.

She has not jumped onto the bathroom shelves since.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

As one of my plans for 2021 is to follow Nike’s advice and “just do it”, I’m actually picking up books I’ve been meaning to read and just reading them already. Short books, so far, anyway. One of those books is Jericho Brown’s The Tradition, which has been on my bookish radar since I heard an interview with Brown on NPR on day. The Tradition won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The poems are about his relationship with his abusive father, being Black and gay in America, and religion. They are beautiful and jarring and hard to read at times, but never cease to be powerful. I recommend reading a physical version of this collection, though, as the digital formatting was odd and messed up the spacing between the poems. I’m sure this wouldn’t be an issue on paper.

Windwitch turned out to not be what I expected of it, which was great! Vivia turned out not to be the two-dimensional character I initially took her for, and Merik learned a lot about himself– and about his sister. Safiya grew even more, and is much changed from the eyeroll-inducing Strong Female Character from the beginning of the first book. She’s growing into someone who will actually think about what she’s doing, and doesn’t act from a place of selfishness. I’m interested to see what she’ll do in the next book, and I’m looking forward to seeing if my prediction about a certain character is correct. I’m also looking forward to finding what happens to Iseult and Aeduan.

Hotel Silence is an odd little book I came across while looking through my public library’s collection of Icelandic fiction. It was short and the synopsis was intriguing, so I checked it out the next time I was there. It’s about a middle-aged Icelandic man who is profoundly unhappy with his life now that he is divorced and his daughter has grown up. He decides to up and travel to a country that has only recently ended a bloody civil war, and makes a weeklong reservation at a once-beautiful little hotel called Hotel Silence. Once there, though, he winds up making little repairs to doors, pipes, electrics, and getting to know the people who live in the neighborhood. The more he talks to them, the more perspective he finds. It’s one of those works of literary fiction that I wasn’t eager to pick up again, but when I did I wanted to keep reading.

The Monster of Elendhaven is another novella I had been meaning to get to for some time, so I finally downloaded the audiobook via Hoopla and listened to it. It is a sort of Gothic horror story about a monstrous man from a monstrous city. The monster, Johann, is a murderous man who seemingly cannot die. One day, he crosses paths with a fragile sorcerer who brings Johann home and winds him into the vengeful web he has been weaving against the people of Elendhaven and beyond. This is an intriguing, atmospheric story about what makes a monster. The only element I didn’t really care for was the male/male romance aspect, which felt weirdly one-sided, even though I know it wasn’t. It was just oddly done, and threw the book a bit off-kilter for me.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I have two more books left in Paradise Lost. I get the appeal of it. The fall of Satan, Satan philosophizing, the Fall of Man. Epic poetry. An immortal story. But sometimes it really feels like Milton is just there, flexing his knowledge of geography, mythology, and the Apocrypha. I get it, John. You’re well-read. I would probably understand more of the political commentary if I knew more about England in the 1600s, but my knowledge of English history pretty much ends in 1603 before picking back up in the 1860s.

I was eager to read the latest Tana French novel, as I have loved all her other books (though, weirdly, I have yet to finish the previous novel, The Witch Elm). I got on the library’s wait last a few months ago– I was 78th– and it showed up for me earlier this week. I was surprised. I thought I wouldn’t get it for a while yet. I’m not that far into it, just long enough to get the main character Cal’s background as an aging Chicago cop who bought ten acres and a run-down house in western Ireland and moved there to get away from everything. What he didn’t realize is that small towns are a tangled web of relationships and old grudges that can go back decades and hinge upon things that seem utterly inconsequential. He will be looking into the disappearance of a teenager (so the synopsis says), but I haven’t gotten there yet. French’s prose is, as ever, lush and lyrical, and really makes you feel like you’re standing on an Irish hillside, watching as the misty rain rolls in.

Have I read All Systems Red twice before? Yes I have. Have I listened to the audiobooks before? No, I haven’t. But the first four books were available on audio through Hoopla, so you can bet I am going to listen to them all this month. I love Murderbot. I love Wells’s take on artificial intelligence, and how it might affect the cyborg who, once created, was turned into a complete slave before it managed to hack its governer module to attain a modicum of freedom, but now has to be extremely careful that it isn’t caught and deactivated by the company that owns it. Murderbot may be a grumpy AI that just wants to be left alone to watch soap operas, but the study of its mental health and how it learns to appreciate the humans around it is fascinating. And often hilarious.

What I’m Planning to Start Reading This Week:

I stopped by the library on Saturday night to pick up Foundation for the Valdemar Readalong I’m participating in along with Jackie at Death by Tsundoku and Mel at Grab the Lapels. And because I can’t help but look at the New Arrivals shelves when I go in, I ended up picking up a few other books. The Daughters of Ys is a graphic novel basted on a Breton folktale, and Burning Roses is a novella about middle-aged female archers who want to go and retire, but are called back to fight for their lands. Foundation goes back in time in the world of Valdemar, to the period when the Collegium was founded because the old ways of teaching young Heralds was no longer working. I don’t know why. I guess we’ll find out.

8 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: January 10, 2020

  1. Over the past couple years I’ve been learning how much enjoyment I can get out of listening to the audio version of books I’ve read and enjoyed in the past, so I totally understand the pull of listening to Murderbot. And what a fantastic set of stories. I’ll be reading Network Effect early this year. I’ve not read Paradise Lost yet, but I have been trying to set aside time to read some of the classics I never got around to. Like you I’ve found them a mixed bag. Some I thoroughly enjoy and others are a little more of a chore. But I enjoy giving them a try.

  2. I’ve really come to love audiobooks in the past couple of years, too. I think my first experiences with them was with dry, almost monotone narrators. Current audiobooks have a lot of great narrators who really bring the works to life. I hope you enjoy Network Effect! I thought it was a great entry to the series. Part of my ‘long books’ project involves getting me through a bunch of classics that have been languishing on my shelves. I thought I’d have a better time with Paradise Lost, but oh well. At least I gave it a shot. I’m hoping to finish it up today, and then I can move on to something else I’ll like more.

  3. Listening to the Murderbot books sounds like a lot of fun! I’ve read the four novellas, but haven’t gotten to Network Effect yet. Poor Mina! That sounds scary for both of you — glad you got some good cuddling in afterward.

  4. The Murderbot audiobooks have been great so far. I listened to Artificial Condition yesterday.

    I still feel bad for Mina! I’ve never seen her shake like that before! Bit she calmed down and everything has been fine for her since.

  5. Poor silly kitten! Glad she didn’t hurt herself. I like yer “Just do it” theme. One of mine is the “year of Now.” When I don’t want to do boring things like put away laundry or balance the books, I shout “Now. Now. Now. Now!” like Veruca Salt. Then begrudgingly do the thing. Hmmm maybe we both have identical themes that are expressed differently.
    x The Captain

  6. My cats always used to try to knock over my plants on a higher shelf until they actually did one day, and I was using a self-watering planter, so it was just chaos of shattered ceramic, mud, water, dirt, and plant everywhere. They were still babies, so they were closed in my room (our dog was too big and excitable at the time not to squish them), and they were just trembling under the bed in horror, trapped by their mess. Suffice to say, they’ve never once even gone near a plant since.

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