That was an unplanned hiatus.
Nothing terrible happened, I just got busy with a bunch of things. I did a photoshoot for a family member last Sunday evening, so I’ve spent an hour so each evening doing photo editing for that. I’ve been doing sewing stuff and catching up on podcasts and going to the library and things like that. I wasn’t thinking about writing for the blog, so I didn’t. And here’s Sunday again.
So last week was fine- obviously busy but not stressful and I got a lot of things accomplished, though reading wasn’t really one of those things. And that’s fine. I have a few days off ahead of me, and because there will be a lot of sewing and hiding from the heat, there will be lot of audiobooking.
I did finally get to go to the used bookstore downtown for the first time in almost two months! They’d closed temporarily to do some renovations and install a new inventory system. It took them a little longer than they anticipated, so they didn’t re-open until two weeks ago. I couldn’t get over there then, so I made an effort go in last week. It was great. I chatted with the manager for a while and spent a very pleasant hour and more browsing the books. It was fantastic.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
There has been significantly less drama in this household over the last week. Mina has settled down quite a bit and no longer seems like she’s trying to be a CW drama queen, and I’m grateful for that. She’s been hanging out in the windows, just watching the world go by below.
Something she has started to do this week is to scratch the couch. This makes me unhappy, as I have quite a nice couch that isn’t that old, and she has a big scratching pad and she knows what it is (and what it’s for). So we’re having a bit of a battle as to what she can scratch.
I will win this battle. She is not going to wreck my couch.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Eyes of the Queen (Agents of the Crown #1) by Oliver Clements
- The Treason of Isengard (The History of Middle-earth #7) by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
The Eyes of the Queen is a fast-paced historical thriller set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Sir Francis Walshingham raced through the streets of Paris during a massacre to collect a set of papers vital to England’s security. Thanks to a moment of treachery, the papers are lost and so Walsingham reluctantly asks Doctor John Dee, an eccentric scholar, to head to France to find the papers and decrypt them. In the meantime, Walsingham pits himself against the treacherous Mary, Queen of Scots, who is a prisoner in England and is secretly plotting with Catholic agents at home and abroad to overthrow Elizabeth and take the throne for herself. There were some odd moments that didn’t quite fit and a few brief pacing issues, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed The Eyes of the Queen, and I’m looking forward to the next book, which comes out this winter.
The Treason of Isengard shows how Tolkien developed the characters and story of The Lord of the Rings as it goes from Bree to Rohan. Tolkien wasn’t sure how the story would unfold, or who would meet the Ents (or even if anyone would), or what Lothlorien would be like. He discovered it all as he was writing, and you can really see that development happening as The Treason of Isengard goes on from one chapter to the next. It’s so interesting to see how names came into being (Galadriel, for example, was Galdrien for a while, then Galadrien, then Galadriel, while Aragorn son of Celegorn briefly became Ingold before becoming Aragorn son of Arathorn). The later chapters of this book are much shorter than the first chapters, as Tolkien was briefly noting and questioning what he planned to do with the story, and who would go where and when, where Gollum would meet up with Frodo and Sam, or what Boromir’s eventual fate would be. I don’t know that there’s a lot of insight into the tale of The Lord of the Rings itself, but if you like to see how an author builds a story from initial notes to final drafts, this is an interesting book to look into.
Did Not Finish:
- The Shining Court (The Sun Sword #3) by Michelle West
There was nothing wrong with this book per se, but it was starting to suffer from the same sorts of things that have driven me away from other chunky epic fantasy series like The Stormlight Archive: the world gets super huge, random new characters are introduced, the core characters get less screen time, and the whole thing starts feeling like it’s ballooning into something that lacks focus. A lot of people enjoy ginormous series that keep adding and adding to the world, but I don’t like that as much. I prefer a series to keep its focus on a core set of characters and for the narrative to mostly stay with those characters. I think Diora and Jewel are wonderful characters, but do I love them enough to read another 2400 pages across three more chunky books? No, I really don’t. So I decided to DNF The Shining Court and donate the rest of the series.
- The Viking Heart: How Scandanavians Conquered the World by Arthur Herman, ARC provided by NetGalley
This will be the first time I’ve decided not to finish an ARC. I should mark it on my calendar. I thought it would be a history of the Viking age and talk about the Norse cultures from that late 700s the mid-1000s, and while some of it will cover that, there’s a large chunk of the book that is meant to cover the “Viking spirit” through the late-Medieval era until now. It really felt like it was meant to be a hagiographic history of an ineffable thing (the Viking Spirit), and I’m not interested in that. While the author is trying to point out that white supremacists have tried to hijack Norse history for their own awful purposes, what I read of the book just feels weird. So I’m going to opt out of it and deal with the (minor) hit to my feedback ratio.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Sanctuary Sparrow (The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #7) by Ellis Peters, audiobook read by Patrick Tull
In this installment of the Brother Cadfael mysteries, the long hard winter is finally behind the monastery. But one night, in the middle of a service, a mob chases a young man into the abbey’s sanctuary while baying for his blood. The leader of the mob has accused the young man of murdering his father and stealing the wedding gifts from the father’s lockbox. The Abbot grants the young man sanctuary and quiets the mob, and Cadfael decides he’s going to get to the bottom of this mystery. The clock is (slowly) ticking, as the young man has forty days to prove his innocence before he will be turned over to the law. I’m about 20% of the way through, and the mystery is, so far, opaque. I have no guesses as to what is going to happen, as the story has already taken a couple of unexpected turns.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- Closer to the Heart (The Herald Spy #2) by Mercedes Lackey
- The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore by Anonymous, translated from the Icelandic by Andy Orchard
This month’s selection for the ongoing Reading Valdemar project Mel and Jackie and I are doing has snuck up on me. Fortunately, I fly through Lackey’s books so I should be able to finish it up in a day or two. The Elder Edda is my July selection for my big books project for 2021, and this is the latest in the months that I have started any of them. Fortunately, it’s not nearly as long as it looks, as a chunk of the last part is devoted to notes, so the actual text is only about 261 pages. So that shouldn’t be a problem to get through it before August rolls around.
I placed an order for two different colors of linen, some linen cords, and linen from Burnley and Trowbridge, which is a fabric shop in Williamsburg, Virginia. I placed the order on Wednesday morning around 10:30, and received it Friday morning at 9:15. It traveled halfway across the country (with no special shipping) in under 48 hours! That’s so far removed my from other adventures in shipping that I almost don’t know how to react when I get a package several days early rather than several days late.
So thanks to Burnley and Trowbridge and some cheap linen remnants I found at the fabric store, I now have a bunch of linen I need to pre-wash (and baste the edges so they don’t unravel) and then press before I can start making things. What do I plan to make? Nothing fancy. Some drawstring bags for random things around the house, two more pillowcases, some dish towels, a pin cushion, and a pair of slippers. Useful things! I looked through a dozen or so sewing books from the library to find projects that I could conceivably do (and that would be useful for me to have).
I still love the linen pillowcases that I made for myself last winter, but I want to have a couple more, so I found a lovely indigo linen with thin white stripes from Burnley and Trowbridge and ordered a couple of yards. Then I saw patterns for linen dish towels in a couple of the sewing books and I remembered how much I liked the linen towels in the kitchens at the guest house I stayed at in Reykjavik. So I decided I wanted to make some for myself to replace the worn-out gray towels currently in my kitchen. And because drawstring bags are always useful (especially when I want to cut down on the amount of plastic comes into my home), I’m using the fabric remnants to make a couple of those.
I’m most looking forward to making the slippers I found a pattern for in one of the sewing books. They’re made with a couple of layers of linen and a few layers of wool fabric (I have plenty of both). The examples in the book are cute and look cozy, and because Fall is on the horizon (hooray!), I want a pair of slippers to keep my feet warm on those cold winter days when I don’t want to walk around barefoot (and while I currently have a pair of slippers, they’re starting to wear out).
So over the next few days (and weeks), I will be doing plenty of sewing on simple little projects that will be super handy and will make me that much happier when I use them, since I have fallen head over heels for linen and love it when I can use things that I have made myself.
In the process of flipping through more than a dozen “basic sewing projects you can do in an afternoon!” books, I’ve noticed a few trends. These books will always have the same starting projects:
- A two-panel dress (that will look great if you’re built like Keira Knightley, and will make you look like you’re wearing a flour sack if you’re not built like Keira Knightley)
- Hot water bottle covers (I’ve never used a hot water bottle. No one I know has ever used a hot water bottle. Is this a coastal thing we’re missing out on here in the Midwest?)
- Tea kettle/French press cozies (Is there something wrong with people’s tea kettles or French presses that they want to cover them up with homemade felt flowers?)
- Log carriers (for your aspirational self who lives out in the country and builds a fire over which to make s’mores to share with your cutsey-folksy family. Otherwise, you’d just have to carry the wood inside in your arms like I had to do when I was a kid, and you’ll get wood chips and bark all over your coat, instead of the cute little log carrier you made)
And in one final note, I learned (again) the value of using a thimble while you’re sewing. I spent a couple of hours basting the edges of fabric so I could prewash it all without it fraying all to heck in the wash. I didn’t use a thimble because I figured, “it’s just a layer of linen, and I’m just basting it quickly, I don’t need to use a thimble”.
Wow, was that a mistake. I ended up splitting my fingertip open where the back of the needle poked into it. Sewing was suddenly painful! Because putting band-aids on fingertips never goes well for me, I grabbed some glue and just glued the split shut so I could keep working. With a thimble.
Lesson learned: Wear a thimble when you’re sewing. It will save your fingers.