I ordered three things from Target online, as I couldn’t get them in-store. They shipped all three items individually. Why, I don’t know. It’s a mystery.
What else is a mystery about this order? Why one of the items, according to the tracking information, wandered around Minnesota for a few days before making it to my city, where instead of showing up at my mailbox it decided to do an about-face and head for Wisconsin before it took a quick trip to Illinois. It’s supposed to show up today, but as we all know, there’s not post on Sundays. So I don’t know where my package is, or when it will arrive.
The other two packages had their acts together, with one arriving yesterday, while the other is (supposedly) going to show up on Monday.
I really do wonder why I have all these weird shipping issues in which my packages almost make it here, but then turn around at the last second. This is not the first time that has happened.
On the brighter side, yesterday was a beautiful day, so I went for a walk after I got home from work. There were flowers aplenty!
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Now that it’s fully Spring and the weather is warming up, the birds and squirrels are out in force, meaning that Mina wants nothing more than to spend the day sitting in the window watching them come and go. She doesn’t chirp at them the way some cats do, but her tail does some amazing twitching- especially when a squirrel hurries across the window ledge on its way from one place to another.
I do wonder what she thinks when, in the middle of the night, a fox starts screeching about something or other. The last time that happened, I woke up and she was in the window again, staring out like there was nothing else she’d rather be watching than that fox.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley, ARC provided by NetGalley
- A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein
- The Return of the Shadow (The History of Middle-earth #6) by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
The Kingdoms began so well, but I’m sorry to say that I was incredibly disappointed by it in the end. By about the 50-55% mark, I was fed up with the constant mystery of Joe’s true identity, because it was clear that Kite and Agatha knew all about it, and were just refusing to say anything because….. reasons, I guess. And there were flashbacks. So many flashbacks. Why? To explain a not-so random aspect of Kite’s past that was meant to explain all sorts of things, but was just aggravating overall because the flashbacks interrupted some very tense scenes with other scenes of… shopping and parties and other events that had zero tension and just felt like pointless interludes. The Kingdoms is an ambitious book, but it fell completely flat for me.
A Tip for the Hangman, I’m happy to report, was the exact opposite. Do you ever have those books where you know from the very first sentence that you’re going to have a great time reading it? That was my experience with A Tip for the Hangman, which features Kit Marlowe– poet, playwright, and spy. Allison Epstein’s debut novel takes on the mystery of Christopher Marlowe’s mysterious “service to the crown” by making him a spy under the command of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I’s spymaster. As a scholar of great intellect and dubious morality, Kit is just the man needs to spy on the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots, who Walsingham suspects of conspiring with people in England and without to overthrow the Protestant Queen Elizabeth, and place the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne. Kit fulfills his duty to queen and country, but the fallout from this service affects the rest of his life. While the story does not completely adhere to history (Epstein states what liberties she took in the Afterword), it is close enough that it feels like something that could have happened, and Kit’s reactions to everything felt perfectly real and human– as did the reactions of the people around, both friend and foe.
I will admit to being confused about one thing: The synopsis states that Epstein “pairs modern language with period detail”, as though other historical novelists have their characters constantly spouting dialogue worthy of Shakespeare. I’ve read plenty of historical novels, and I can’t name one where the characters do that. Even letters written by people of the Tudor era don’t sound like Shakespeare. I’d be willing to bet that when he wasn’t onstage, Shakespeare didn’t talk like Shakespeare. Can we stop with this whole, “the author of the historical novel uses modern language! What a revelation!” shtick, because all the authors of historical novels are using modern language.
The Return of the Shadow is the sixth volume in The History of Middle-earth series, and it was by far the most fun I’ve had with this reading project so far. It features the first three phases of the development of The Fellowship of the Ring, from the very first page of the very first draft, to the point where the Fellowship first makes it to Moria. Given the vast number of changes to names, places, and events, it’s amazing to see how many conversations and other details made it from the first draft to the final published version. But there are so many differences, too– particularly in the question of who is in the Fellowship. By the end of The Return of the Shadow, Bingo has finally been renamed Frodo, Odo Took is gone for good (replaced by Folco or Faramond, depending on the draft), Sam and Meriadoc are both there (but not as we know them), and the mysterious hobbit known as Trotter is revealed to be Peregrin, a hobbit who listened too much to old Bilbo’s stories and disappeared into the wild blue yonder. He has wooden shoes. Or maybe wooden feet. And on this outing, Glorfindel ends up accompanying them all because there is no Legolas. The strange Elf from Mirkwood is named Galdor (who later becomes Galdor of the Havens, who was at the Council of Elrond). Boromir is there, but he’s from the Land of Ond (not from Gondor), and it’s Burin son of Balin who is the dwarf who accompanies them, not Gimli son of Gloin. And Gandalf is there, too. I’m curious to find out when Trotter the hobbit turns into Aragorn the Ranger, because there’s a whole lot of backstory to Aragorn, and basically none of it exists up to the third phase. So I’m looking forward to seeing the development of Aragorn and his kin in the next volume, The Treason of Isengard.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Broken Crown (The Sun Sword #1) by Michelle West (519/764)
- The Tangleroot Palace: Stories by Marjorie Liu (ARC provided by NetGalley) (10%)
- Bastion (The Collegium Chronicles #5) by Mercedes Lackey (109/342)
Pieces are really starting to come together in The Broken Crown, and there is still plenty of mystery. Now that the narrative has moved outside the wretched patriarchy of the Dominion into other parts of the world that are far more egalitarian, I’m growing ever more intrigued by what’s on the horizon for these characters. I immediately took a liking to Valedan and Jewel, and I’m so interested in finding out how Kiriel and Diora are going to react to the situations they’re in. Will Diora be the political mastermind that her aunt is? Will Kiriel be able to fit in with these people who are so vastly different from her? Will Valedan mature into being the awful sort of patriarchal figure that his culture has primed him to be, or will the years he’s spent outside his homeland be a good influence on him? I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out. I’ve spent a long time shying away from epic political fantasy (because so much of it is written by white men, and I often find the female characters to be infuriatingly written), but The Sun Sword series may just put me back on track to start loving it again. It’s amazing what happens when female characters aren’t written with the male gaze in mind.
I’ve only read the first story in The Tangleroot Palace, but it was eerie and well-written, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this collection. More news next week.
Bastion is the last of the inaptly-named Collegium Chronicles (which has really very little to do with the Heraldic Collegium itself, as the main character Mags spends so much of his time doing stuff outside of school, like running around the rooftops of Haven, washing dishes, spying on criminals, and being kidnapped and dragged into neighboring countries). Fortunately, it features (so far) 97.3% less Kirball than previous books! Huzzah! But it does feature a long stretch of time spent at a carnival/faire/market where the kids are doing things like buying perfume, and then a bunch of time with Mags and Amily giving fighting lessons (because Amily, it turns out, is a crack shot because she’s spent a lot of time playing darts, and obviously darts are the exact same thing as a bow and arrow). But now that we’re a third of the way through the book, a plot has appeared! And it sounds like it could be pretty interesting, so now that we’re past the fluff (that I often enjoy in Lackey’s books, but don’t in this series for some reason), we’re getting to the fun, adventurous part of the story. At least, I hope it’s going to be fun and adventurous.
About That Writing Thing:
I’ve officially made it past the emotionally harrowing Chapter Ten, and am about halfway through Chapter Eleven, which features several POVs and is more about moving characters into place for the big battle at the end. It’s been faster going, as I’m not struggling to make weird religious stuff flow from one story to another as logically as a fantasy religion gets. It’s also a touch more lighthearted (a touch. My stories don’t get particularly fluffy…), which makes the drafting go more smoothly. But there are a lot of edits I need to make, and a scene I need to insert between the current first and second chapters as they stand now. As the scene I’m going to be inserting is from the perspective of one of the main characters, though (and because I’m so familiar with his mindset by now), it’s not going to be difficult to write that at all.
I’m hoping to finish up Chapter Eleven in the next few days, and then get at least a few thousand words into Chapter 12 by the end of the week. The battle is within sight, and from that climactic moment, the end is in sight. At last!
There is still a lot of work to be done before it’s ready to go up. But hey, the end is kind of in sight!