Quiet week around here. Sunny. Warm. Productive. Birthday-like.
While it wasn’t on the exact day of my birthday, I went downtown on my day off. I had two missions: go to the chandler to check out their new oatmeal stout candle, and then visit the adorable bakery in that neighborhood to buy myself a piece of cake. Mission accomplished. I bought two candles– the oatmeal stout one (which smells more like cookies than beer, and that’s fine) and a locally-inspired candle based on the beloved homemade ice cream shop and local coffee chain (this one smells like coffee and waffle cones). At the bakery I bought a piece of chocolate cookie-and-cream cake, and it was wonderful. I topped off the trip downtown with a stop at the used bookshop, where I chatted with the manager (who I’ve known for years and years) and bought four books. All in all, a pretty good day.
On my actual birthday, I did have to work but it was a pretty laid back day and a friend brought me a chocolate mini-bundt cake, which was delicious. So I got cake and a quick visit with my friend (he could only stay for a few minutes), and a quiet day with more beautiful weather. No complaints here.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
I was doing a quick book photo session earlier in the week, and Mina decided to investigate the proceedings. Fortunately, I got the photo I needed before she hopped onto the table, because once she was up there, she didn’t want to leave.
She also hasn’t wanted to leave the windowsills. Because it’s been so lovely outside, I’ve been opening the windows. Mina enjoys sitting in the windows, soaking in the sunlight and the fresh air. It doesn’t hurt that the birds are singing wildly while they do whatever it is that birds do when it’s suddenly warm outside, but not really spring yet.
Mina also enjoys sitting on the towels on the shelf in the bathroom. Once in a while she’ll disappear, and then I’ll go into the bathroom to wash my hands or whatever, and there she is, blending in with the towels and giving me bleary-eyed glares because I interrupted her nap.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Changes (The Collegium Chronicles #3) by Mercedes Lackey
- Fatal Enquiry (Barker and Llewellyn #6) by Will Thomas, audiobook narrated by Antony Ferguson
- Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi, translated from the French by Chris Andrews
Changes was such a step up from the previous books in the Collegium Chronicles. It was full of plot! Kirball ended up having a purpose! Less teen angst! But seriously, Changes had all the sorts of things that I love best in Lackey’s Valdemar books, wrapped up its story while leaving some threads for the next books, and left me wanting to read the next one right away. I am going to make myself wait, though, or else I am going to end up being months ahead in the Valdemar Readalong.
I picked up Fatal Enquiry, the sixth book in the Barker and Llewellyn series (my favoorite mystery series) because the events in this book relate directly to the events of the upcoming volume, Dance With Death. As with any book that you revisit after a long time, the characters’ conversations and actions take on a new significance. And now I am wondering if Will Thomas planned everything out in advance, or if he looked back on previous events and thought, “I could do this thing, thanks to what happened back in that book…”. I’d say it’s even odds.
Our Riches was a lovely little book about books. It features the Algerian bookstore Les Vraies Richesses, which was founded in the 1930s by Edmond Charlot, who is credited as the person who discovered Albert Camus. Partly fiction and partly based on real events, this slim book deals with the founding of the shop, Charlot’s struggles to keep the shop open and continue publishing books through World War II and the aftermath of French oppression in Algeria. It jumps back and forth through time between the mid-twentieth century and 2017, when a young man named Ayad is hired to clean out the shop and repaint the walls so the new owners can turn it into a beignet shop (this part, fortunately, was fictional). Ayad does not appreciate books the way the people of the neighborhood do, but thanks to the help of a former bookshop employee, Ayad comes to appreciate the books themselves and what they do for the community, even if he does not become a reader. I want to revisit the second half of Our Riches some time, as I had been sleeping rather poorly over the days I read it, and so I didn’t absorb it as much as I wanted to.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-earth #3) by J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien (259/393)
- Melmoth by Sarah Perry (81/245)
- Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien (37/192)
I’m still in the midst of The Lays of Beleriand. I haven’t had as much evening read time as I would have liked this week, so I haven’t finished this one. But I will! I am in the middle of the section about Beren and Lúthien. It’s always interesting to see how the story developed over time. In some early versions Sauron is known as Tevildo the King of Cats. In this version, he is mostly referred to as Thû, another of Tolkien’s early names for the character. This collection of drafts feels much more complete than the ones that appear in The Book of Lost Tales, Parts One and Two, and in many places are very similar to what Christopher Tolkien finalized in The Silmarillion. I don’t have all that much left because the index is quite long, and I don’t need to read that (how does one read an index, anyway?). I am hoping to finish it tonight or so.
Melmoth is an odd little Gothic novel wherein a series of people throughout history are haunted– or think they are being haunted– by a cursed figure from biblical lore. Melmoth the Witness, in this tale, is said to have been one of the women who went to Jesus’s tomb after the crucifixion and saw that the stone had been rolled aside– a sign that Jesus had risen from death. While the other women reported truly what they had seen, Melmoth denied it and so was cursed to wander the Earth until Judgment Day. Once in a while, she comes across someone with a secret sin and claims them. The main character of the story, Helen, is a woman living in self-imposed exile thanks to a decades-old transgression. She has just two friends, and one of them, Karel, has given Helen a collection of accounts of sightings of Melmoth before he disappears. So far, the mood is eerie and full of suspense, and while I’m pretty sure I know what is going to happen to Helen, that doesn’t lessen the suspense.
I barely had a chance to read over my lunch hours at work (seeing as how they were rather cut short over the last few days of the week), so I’ve only read the introduction to Roverandom. But it’s a short tale that began as a quick little story meant to cheer Tolkien’s children up after the loss of a favorite toy. As with all of Tolkien’s stories, though, the tale grew in the telling.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Bridal Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter #1) by Sigrid Undset, translated from the Norwegian by Charles Archer and J.S. Scott
Sigrid Undset’s story of Kristin Lavransdatter, a young woman in fourteenth century Norway, hasn’t been out of print since it was first published in 1927, and is agreed to be Undset’s masterpiece. As Undset won the Nobel Prize for Literature, it stands to reason that this makes the Lavransdatter stories particularly excellent. I have the entire trilogy on my shelves, so if I love the first book I can quickly continue the trilogy.
When I started working on my fluffy blanket back in…. January? December? I figured it would take me several months to complete it, and that I meant end up putting it away for a while during the summer, because who wants to work on a warm blanket when it’s 100°F outside? I certainly don’t. But as I was working on the blanket this week, I held it up to see how long it was, and it was already longer than I am tall. Granted, that’s not saying a whole lot, but I hadn’t planned for it to be much taller than me. So I guess I’m almost done with it?
I’m going to use one more skein to make sure it will wrap securely around me after I’ve washed and blocked it, but I’ll still have three skeins left. I guess I’m bad at calculating how much yarn I’ll need for a project. I’m going to give what’s left to a friend who does a lot of knitting. Maybe she’ll make a sweater or a cat bed out of it. I would have kept it, but I don’t need anymore scarves, and it’s super-textured nature makes it difficult to count stitches, so I have a feeling I would have bad luck if I tried to make a hat with it.
So that’s one big project down! I already have the materials for the next project– pillowcases for the three pillows on my bed. I’ve been sighing over the linen pillowcases at Target, but at $50 each, they’re a bit rich for my blood. I can’t just drop $150 on three pillowcases. But I can buy a few yards of quality linen from Burnley & Trowbridge, along with the linen threat to match, and make them myself for a fraction of the pre-made price. Sure, this will take more time, but I’ll get a lot of practice for my hand-stitching, and I’ll have something that I made for myself with the sorts of materials (and colors) that I prefer to have in my home.
The linen fabric arrived yesterday, so I pre-washed and dried it (which involved a lot of basting, since I bought three yards), and today I will pull the basting stitches out, iron it all, and start cutting out the necessary pieces. Assuming all goes well, this is a project that will go by fairly quickly, as it’s just a matter of sewing a bunch of straight seams.
This assumes, of course, that I won’t screw some basic thing up. You never know. I might. But that’s the point of simple projects like this– to get better at the basic things.
About That Writing Thing:
I ended up not having a lot of time to write, thanks to other things popping up and eating away at my time. But when I did have a chance to sit down at the keyboard, the writing process went quickly and smoothly. I have one more chapter to finish until I can return to the series’s primary point of view character, and after that it should go even faster. I’m more familiar with this character’s state of mind, after all, and with the way that he thinks and describes the world. I’m really looking forward to it, because his thoughts– and therefore the writing– are a lot more lyrical than the straightforward and often blunt warrior-characters around him. Hooray!