We had a little snowstorm last Sunday, and you can bet I went for a walk in the middle of it. It was so quiet and beautiful that I spent about an hour and a half wandering about. Definitely worth the cold fingers.
Once I got home, I stayed home where it was warm and cozy, and I just had to look out for wandering cat toys. They end up in all sorts of places, including on my reading chair.
The rest of the week was pretty great, too. Some little problems popped up at work and I got them all solved quickly. The weather was much warmer, I slept well, received some great things in the mail, and did a lot of great reading. And there was a gentle little thunderstorm last night. All in all, I have zero complaints about last week. Let’s hope the first week of March is just as great!
Obligatory Mina Photo:
She looks so skeptical.
Now that the weather has warmed up (relatively speaking. It’s been in the 40s F this week, rather than being -20), she’s been lolling about on the windowsills, soaking in the bit of sunlight we get in the morning. And if I’m slow in raising the blinds she gives me judgy looks and paws at said blinds until I figure out that she needs her windows open so she can look out over the plebians down below.
She loves to lord it over them, even though they can’t see her from street level. It gives her a grand sense of superiority.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
- Intrigues (The Collegium Chronicles #2) by Mercedes Lackey
- The Orphans of Raspay (Penric and Desdemona #7) by Lois McMaster Bujold, audiobook narrated by Grover Gardner
- Dance With Death (Barker and Llewellyn #12) by Will Thomas, ARC provided by NetGalley
The Luminaries was a wonderfully complex book about a collection of people who end up in a little town in New Zealand thanks to the gold rush of 1866. They are brought together thanks to an unexpected death, an unexpected fortune, and a prostitute who seems to have attempted suicide. There are a series of mysteries that are strangely interconnected, and just when you think one story has found its ending, it ends up opening a new set of problems for the characters because they can’t stop being flawed human beings. This book reads like a Victorian novel that might have been written in the 1870s, and is surprisingly fast-paced. While I don’t envision reading it again anytime soon, I am looking forward to watching the Starz series based on it. It stars Eva Green. How can I refuse?
Intrigues is book two in Mercedes Lackey’s Collegium Chronicles series, and picks up pretty much right where the first book, Foundation, left off. Because Mags doesn’t need to be introduced to the world of the Heralds and where things are in Haven this time around, we can get to the plot– in a roundabout fashion, because Lackey loves her diversions. And making up sports. Have having long diversions devoted to her made-up sports. So we get a lot of a game called Kirball, which you can skim if you’re not interested in made-up sports, because (at least for now) it has nothing to do with the rest of the plot, which involves those pesky foreigners with their dubious intentions who showed up in the first book. I flew through Intrigues and couldn’t resist picking up the third book in the series, Changes.
I don’t know why, but I was thinking of the ending of The Orphans of Raspay earlier in the week, so I decided to check out the audiobook via the Hoopla app, and listened to it over a couple of days (it’s a novella, so the audiobook is about five hours long). It’s just as good as I remember, and I couldn’t help but laugh as Pen and Des descend into their usual chaos while they try to rescue two young sisters from the pirates who have kidnapped all of them. I always enjoy rereading these novellas, and I’m considering listening to and earlier entry in the series, The Prisoner of Limnos soon, because it’s been a while since I last read it.
Because I have a lot of ARCs coming up in the new few months, I figured I would get a head start by reading Dance With Death, the newest entry in my favorite mystery series, the Barker and Llewellyn novels. The series is set in late Victorian London, and is about the many adventures of Cyrus Barker, a cypher of a Scottish private enquiry agent, and his Welsh assistant, Thomas Llewellyn. The books are told through Llewellyn’s point of view, and he is wonderfully snarky. In this book, Barker and Llewellyn are tasked with protecting a foreign prince who has arrived for an upcoming royal wedding. The prince is headstrong and doesn’t want to be protected, while his flightly prima ballerina mistress is intent on causing trouble of her own. I always fly through these books and enjoy them immensely, but the last ten percent really ratcheted up the tension and completely shifted the paradigm of the series for the next books. Every time I think about that ending, my brain just goes “Ahhhhh!! What’s going to happen next? What’s he going to do about it? Does he realize the ramifications of what happened to him?” And now I simply have to go back and read one of the earlier books, because it matters quite a lot to what will probably be happening in the next books in the series. I will have a more in-depth review later on in March.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-earth #3) by J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien (104/393)
- Fatal Enquiry (Barker and Llewellyn #6) by Will Thomas, audiobook narrated by Antony Ferguson (10%)
- Changes (The Collegium Chronicles #3) by Mercedes Lackey
I’m not getting through The Lays of Beleriand quite as quickly as I thought I would, but that stems mostly from the fact that it opens with a series of poems and drafts about Túrin Turambar, and I always have a hard time getting through stuff about Túrin. His tale, based on the Finnish Kalevala, is a sad story full of mistaken identity, family tragedy, and fatal flaws. I think I have about thirty pages or so of Túrin’s tale left, and then I get to start back with stories of Beren and Lúthien.
Fatal Enquiry is the sixth book in the Barker and Llewellyn series. As noted above, its storyline and characters are going to be quite relevant to what happens in future novels. I don’t know why I haven’t reread it since it came out in 2015, but it’s obviously high time I did. It deals with an old enemy of Barker’s that we met way back in the first book– a conscienceless dilettante named Sebastian Nightwine, who has returned to London after fleeing to India a few years earlier. Nightwine is determined to restart his criminal activities, while Barker is determined to stop him. The only problems? Nightwine managed to finagle diplomatic immunity for himself. There’s also a clever killer dogging their steps, threatening to put an end to Barker and Llewellyn for good.
Changes is the third book in Mercedes Lackey’s Collegium Chronicles. I couldn’t resist picking it up from the library the other night, even though the next post for the 2021 Reading Valdemar project isn’t due until the end of March. But I’m enjoying Mags’s story, and he’s growing up as a character. There is also more of a plot this time around, as Mags and Herald Nikolas are still investigating the band of strange foreigners who first appeared in Foundation. Even though Changes opened with a Kirball game, it quickly left the sports coverage behind and turned into a tale of crime and intrigue in the streets of Valdemar’s capitol city of Haven. I always enjoy it when we get to see the grittier side of Valdemar.
What I Plant to Start Reading This Week:
- Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi, translated from the French by Chris Andrews
Roverandom is a story Tolkien wrote for one of his young sons when, after a day at the beach, the boy lost his favorite toy dog. Though Tolkien went back and searched for the toy, he couldn’t find it. The boy was inconsolable, so Tolkien did what he does best: he told a story. In this story, the toy dog was actually a real dog that had been cursed to become a toy. But one day, the curse was broken and the dog went off to have a series of adventures. This is my favorite of Tolkien’s non-Legendarium books, and I am going to be writing a review of it for the blog, Pages Unbound, which hosts an annual Tolkien event every March.
The independent bookshop downtown always has a selection of works in translation, and because I want to read more of that, I always look over what’s on offer. I found a slim book by Algerian author Kaouther Adimi. It’s about a famous Algerian bookshop, Our Riches, and is about two of the shop’s managers who are generations apart and the struggles they face to keep the shop open in the face of colonialism and extremism. It looks fascinating.
Work continues on the fluffy blanket. Whenever I have a spare fifteen minutes or so when I’m just sitting around listening to a podcast or watching a YouTube video, I pull it out and get a few rows in. It’s gotten big enough that I can’t store it on top of the bookshelf to keep it away from Mina. She would love to bat the crochet hook around and knock it under the refrigerator or something. Or roll the ball of yarn around until it has unraveled completely. So I’ve had to get sneaky and put it on the drawing table in the studio with the witch hat covering the yarn ball and the crochet hook. So far, Mina has been fooled by the disguise and has left the project alone.
In other crafty news, I’ve been seeking out more recipes so I can make things I use around the house, like an orange-vinegar cleaning spray (you use distilled white vinegar, orange peels, and water. Combine and let the mixture steep for a couple of weeks, then strain the orange peels out. And voila! You have a citrus-scented cleaning spray. We’ll see how it works. In a couple of weeks). I also found a recipe for dry shampoo for my hair. I last got my hair cut in August 2019, and by now it is nearly back to hip-length. Because it’s so long, and because I brush it twice daily, I only need to wash it once a week. But to keep it from getting oilier than I’m comfortable with in the last couple of days before washing, I’ve been looking into dry shampoos. I found a straightforward recipe last week and gave it a shot, and I quite like the results. While my hair didn’t feel freshly washed or anything, it didn’t feel oily at all. Just a bit more textured than usual, and once I put it up in my now-usual updo, it looked and felt just fine. So I’ll definitely be using it in the future.
At-Home Dry Shampoo:
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup corn starch
Mix in a small jar (that has a lid). For best results, use a wide paintbrush to dust a small amount into hair (I use an old watercolor brush from my art school days) and brush through. Style as usual.
(Am I a beauty guru now? Probably not. I can’t do a proper cat-eye with eyeliner).
If you’re interested in the sort of up-do I put my hair up into, it’s something like Bernadette Banner’s Everyday Victorian Updo, just a little less puffy than hers is:
So that’s been my week. A bit snowy, cozy overall, and quite productive on most fronts. I’m hoping it remains that way as we head into March, as it’s my birth month and who doesn’t want to have a happy birth month?