So. Last week was much quieter than I thought it would be going into it. Hooray! I still celebrated the end of the week, because why not? Also, there were Things To Celebrate because I received my second Covid vaccination shot, and Netflix’s Shadow and Bone premiered. Hooray!
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Okay. Let me tell you something about this kid’s musical preferences, because even though she is a cat, she has preferences.
See, I have tinnitus and so when it’s very quiet I have a hard time falling asleep because I have a constant buzzing in my ears. So I follow a few different Spotify playlists for sleep and ASMR. Cue Mina’s musical preferences: she doesn’t like atmospheric electronica. How do I know this? Because she’s been making all sorts of racket at night when I turn it on and refuses to sleep on the bed when it’s playing.
But when I turned on a “Rain Sounds” playlist, she stopped being noisy at night, curled up beside me on the bed, and stayed there half the night.
It doesn’t bother me to play the “Rain Sounds” playlist instead of the atmospheric electronica, but really? Who knew my cat would dislike electronica. I figured she’d be opposed to the medieval metal I occasionally pull up, but nope. That’s fine. But atmospheric electronica is right out.
Cats are weird.
As a bonus photo, here is Sidney sitting in a sunbeam. He doesn’t care what kind of music I listen to. He has much broader tastes than Mina does.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Redoubt (The Collegium Chronicles #4) by Mercedes Lackey
- Monk’s Hood (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #3) by Ellis Peters
- ‘Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory‘ (Murderbot Diaries #4.5) by Martha Wells
Redoubt is the fourth book of Mercedes Lackey’s Collegium Chronicles, which follows the adventures of Mags, an orphaned boy who was enslaved before being Chosen by the Companion Dallen, and whisked off to the Heraldic Collegium where he met some ambiguously aged young people with major family issues who spent three books madly complaining about their family issues before up and solving them in the fourth book like it was no big thing. Meanwhile, Mags plays a bunch of Kirball and does a bit of sneaking around as a spy in the greater metropolitan area. And that’s the first half of the book, because who wants to get around to the point of the whole book (or the whole series, for that matter), when Mags could be going on and on about Kirball or how impressed he is with his fancy new clothes? *sighs* By the time the actual plot rolled around I was ready to smack all of the characters upside the head and tell them to get on with things. Because the plot was interesting, but you have to wade through a bunch of irritating fluff to get to it. This book largely feels like Lackey was phoning it in. It’s a good thing she writes interesting characters (and that they’re super quick reads), or else I would likely not want to finish up this particular series. On completely side note: I have a strange desire for a CSI: Haven now, thanks to the crime scene investigation team that showed up in an earlier book, and now the declaration that occasionally, you’ll have a Herald with the Gift of being a Medium that allows them to talk to ghosts. Can we have a match-up of the CSI team and a Medium and get some spooky investigations going on? I’d be up for that.
After finishing up my last audiobook, I wanted to download another so I downloaded the next installment of the Brother Cadfael series and finished it in a day or so. Yet another charming, compelling mystery and while it has the same basic structure as the previous two (the murder happens, the obvious suspect flees into the countryside or face hanging, Cadfael realizes that the obvious suspect didn’t do it, and sets out to figure out the real culprit while helping the obvious suspect stay hidden), Cadfael and the other characters are so interesting and fun to read about that I don’t care. I just want to find out what happens next.
‘Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory’ is a short story set in Wells’s Murderbot Diaries series, right after the fourth novella, Exit Strategy. It was free for those who pre-ordered the novel Network Effect last year, and it’s finally available for free on Tor.com’s website. The story is told through Dr. Mensah’s perspective, and while there aren’t any earth-shattering developments, it’s nice to see Murderbot through another’s eyes. If you’re a fan of Murderbot (and who isn’t?) definitely check out this little story. It’s only about fifteen pages long, but it’s nice to get a glimpse of that world from another point of view.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- Njal’s Saga by Anonymous, translated from the Icelandic by Robert Cook (252/384)
- Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper, audiobook narrated by the author (45%)
- Axiom’s End (Noumena #1) by Lindsay Ellis (94/384)
One of the wonderful things about Icelandic sagas is how very human they are. You have these people engaging in bloody feuds and calling curses down upon their enemies, but then you’ll have these moments of beauty or dark humor, and it makes you realize that no matter how wild these people’s lives were, they were (probably) actual people. For example, after a series of killings, Gunnar is outlawed. He and his friend Njal decide that if Gunnar is going to survive his outlawry (which means that, because he is not protected by the law, his enemies can kill him without consequence) he needs to leave Iceland. So Gunnar agrees to go to Norway for three years, but while he is riding to the coast to board the boat that will take him away, he looks around, sees the golden sunlight on the green hills and says, ‘You know what? It’s too beautiful here. I can’t leave this. If I die, then I die. But I don’t want to leave’. And honestly, I get it. I mean, look at this:
Yeah, Iceland just casually being gorgeous. I wouldn’t want to leave it, either, if it meant being subject to some king I didn’t like like in a crowded place full of strangers.
So Gunnar stays in Iceland, and though he tries to hide, his enemies catch wind of this and go to kill him. They find the house where he is staying and surround it, though they’re not sure if he’s there or not. Inside the house, Gunnar is being sneaky, but decides to attack one of his enemies with his halberd through a window. He deals the enemy a mortal blow, but before he dies the enemy tells his compatriots, “I don’t know if Gunnar is at home, but his halberd is!”
Dark humor. Reader, I cackled.
Also, I giggle every time I see the phrase ‘Kari and the Njalssons’, because it sounds like they should be a Scandinavian prog-rock band.
The Secret Life of Dictionaries is as funny and as informative as I’d hoped it would be. I’ve had my eye on it for a while, but after a sparking recommendation from Olive at A Book Olive, I went ahead and downloaded the audiobook from my library. So far, it’s a fascinating look at what most people would find a very boring subject: lexicography and the making of dictionaries– which is a far more complicated process than I thought it would be. It also helps to put the rest the notion that the dictionary’s purpose is to somehow enshrine and preserve the English language. It’s not. The dictionary is a thing that documents a living language as words and their usage evolve over time, hence why ‘irregardless’ and ‘hella’ show up in the dictionary (and why people get angry when they show up in the dictionary). This is far from a boring book, and Stamper is incredibly candid about the process, and about her own adventures in lexicography.
Axiom’s End is video essayist Lindsay Ellis’s debut novel. It’s set in an alternate version of 2007, where a young woman named Cora Sabino is just trying to get through the days with no money and a broken-down car when evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial life comes to light– courtesy of her estranged father, who is seen as something of an oracle among the hacker community. Cora’s tense relationship with her father puts her in the crosshairs of government agents, and possibly those of an alien lifeform’s, too. I’m about a quarter of the way into the book. It’s interesting and decently written, but it’s not knocking my socks off or anything. We’ll see how I feel once I get farther into it.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Lost Road and Other Writings (The History of Middle-earth #4) by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
I’m running a little behind on my History of Middle-earth reading project, but that’s okay. It has taken a long time to get through Njal’s Saga, and I don’t think it will take quite so long to get through The Lost Road.
About That Writing Thing:
I’ve officially reached a particular point in my current work in progress. It’s a point I always hit in any story I write– about two-thirds of the way through, I stop and think back on the story and suddenly wonder if any of it makes any sense at all, or if I’m scribbling away like a crazy person on some nonsensical bit of surrealistic writing that’s only logical in my strange little head.
Of course the story always end up making sense (at least, I haven’t had any comments outright say, “this doesn’t make any sense”, so I’m assuming it does), but I always hit this point, and I always have to just power through it and think to myself, “Kim, there’s this thing called editing where you go through and made all the crazy bits makes sense. Just keep writing”.
It doesn’t help that I’m at a long-awaited part of the story where the main character is in a sacred space underground where he is encountering supernatural beings, and the whole scene is a bit hallucinatory and philosophical, so I’m going to have to do extra work in the editing process to make sure that isn’t completely out of the blue. But it doesn’t help me sustain the notion that the story is logical in its elements and progression, and that just because I’ve hit this point in both the process and the story, it doesn’t automatically follow that the whole thing is a nonsensical mess.
It’s fine. It’s all fine. Editing is a wonderful thing that fixes a world of problems.
And things do make sense. I just have to keep telling myself that.
What I’ve Been Watching:
I bought a bottle of wine and cake for this:
Shadow and Bone
Starring: Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, Ben Barnes, Freddy Carter, Kit Young, Amita Suman, Danielle Galligan, Callahan Skogman
When this project was first announced a couple of years ago, I was skeptical. I mean, sure, I like Bardugo’s books and all, and the stories are straightforward enough for a good adaptation, and the characters are wonderful, but… Let’s just say that Hollywood hasn’t been good about doing justice to fantasy novels. They usually manage to screw something up. It’s usually the tone of the thing, because they take themselves way too seriously and try to make an Epic Story on a shoestring budget or with a cast that’s there because they’re pretty, not because they’re good actors. Or they try to make things so relatable that you have a twenty-somethings with swords and magic who sound like they belong in a coffee shop in Portland, Oregon, in 2019. Or it ends up being all about the relationship drama with no subtlety whatsoever, because the studios don’t trust the audience to understand things if they don’t beat us over the head with it.
So I was hopeful about this adaptation, but I wasn’t going to raise those hopes too high.
But then pictures and trailers started coming out, and it looked pretty darn solid.
And then the show premiered on Friday….
Reader, I love it.
As of this writing, I’m six episodes into the eight-episode season, and they’ve pretty much nailed everything. The tone, the cast, the costuming, the cinematography, the effects… There are plot twists I didn’t catch, flashbacks that don’t feel unnecessary or intrusive (and are actually necessary to the story), character meetings I never knew I wanted, and just…
Hollywood, take note of this as a zillion fantastical properties go into live-action development for adaptations. You can have diverse casts, subtle storytelling, interlaced plots, longstanding character relationships, and complex histories appear in a show without whacking us over the head with things like we’re stupid, because we are, in fact, capable of picking up on little details.
With that gushing aside, what specifics do I enjoy?
- Alina being more proactive in the series than she was in the books. She goes out and makes things happen, even in small ways, rather than just letting things happen to her. Because, wow! Female agency is actually a thing in the world!
- Alina and Mal’s relationship being more of a two-way street since we’re not just in Alina’s perspective. The Shadow and Bone books are first-person perspective, and always in Alina’s head, so her relationship with Mal is often a bit fraught since we can’t tell what Mal’s thinking or doing when he’s not in her line of sight. In the show, we get to see what Mal’s been doing while Alina is away doing her thing, and it’s lovely. I appreciate Mal much more now.
- Episode 5: “Are you sure about this?” (if you’ve seen it, you know)
- Kit Young is perfect as Jesper. He has charisma to spare and looks like he’s having the time of his life every second he’s on screen. I knew he was a fantastic actor after seeing him in the Bridge Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented by the National Theatre, but he is perfect in this.
- Inej and Kaz’s relationship– they care deeply about each other, and you know it from their actions because they’re too afraid to just up and tell each other, just like in the books. But seeing it play out just makes it even better.
- The Crows- just them, being them, to perfection.
- Whenever I see one of the cast members in the behind-the-scenes stuff, in regular clothes, I think, “Oh, hey. There’s Kit Young, looking snazzy”. But when I see Freddy Carter behind the scenes, I wonder why Kaz Brekker is wearing jeans. Has there ever been a role where someone just looks like they stepped out of the book instead of being selected by a casting director?
- I could keep on going about this show and how fantastic it is, but I’m going to stop now, because I want to watch the final two episodes. And then I will probably go back and watch the whole thing again. I imagine it will be on a steady repeat, the way that Penny Dreadful is, because that’s the sort of quality level we’re looking at.
Readers, I have a new favorite show.
Have you watched Shadow and Bone? No? What are you waiting for? Go and watch it!