Sunday Sum-Up: September 12, 2021

You know what’s great about regularly visiting your indie bookshop? The staff really gets to know you and figures out that you’re a reliable human, so when you head downtown to the indie bookshop to order an expensive book with the really nice gift card you got a while back, and it’s not until you’ve gotten all the way downtown and parked that you realize that you left the nice gift card at home, but you go into the bookshop anyway and see if they’ll pre-order the expensive book for you and let you pay for it when it arrives, they say “Yeah! That’s fine. We know you, and we know you’re good for it”.

That’s one of the many reasons I love my local indie bookseller. I’m going to make myself a reminder to take my nice gift card in and get the pricey book paid off this week.

Now that it’s getting autumnal outside (never mind the 98°F high from yesterday), I’m lighting autumnal candles. My current favorite is a soy blend ‘Leather + Embers’ pick from Target, though I’ll be heading to my local chandler this week in search of some new scents. If I don’t love the offerings from this year’s Fall collection, that’s fine. They have some great classic scents I wouldn’t mind picking up.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Mina has been getting quite mouthy these days. She used to be very quiet. I’d hardly ever hear her little kitten-meow, but lately she meows about everything. It’s a regular chorus when I get home, and she starts begging for treats. If I go into the other room and she didn’t notice me leaving, then she starts meowing. If she wants to play and I haven’t figured it out yet, she starts to meow. It’s suddenly noisier around the apartment, but I don’t mind. She’s adorable, and so is her meowing.

In other cat news, Sidney turned seventeen this week! It’s hard to believe we’ve been roommates for so long, but I did, indeed, get him from the animal shelter when he was a little kitten. He’s not nearly as rambunctious as he used to be, and he spends most of his days napping on one or the other of his beds. At night, when I’m sitting in bed with a book, he’ll beg me to pick him up so he can sit next to me for scritchies. He doesn’t stay very long, but I love those ten minutes or so when he’s curled up next to me.

I bought him some fancy food for his birthday, but he literally turned his nose up at it. But what are you going to do? No matter their age, cats are going to cat.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

The Wolf in the Whale is one of the most vivid books I’ve read for quite some time. Every time I picked it up, I would fall right into it and want to do nothing but keep reading. I spent most of last Monday morning (Labor Day, here in the US) reading, even though I had other things I needed to do. I wanted to know what was going to happen. It’s the story of Omat, a young Inuit shaman whose family is scratching a living at the edge of the ice in the arctic. Their luck has been poor for a long time, and they’re in danger of dying out until a chance encounter takes them south where they are attacked by strange people in a strange boat. These men are tall, pale, and have hair the color of fire. A personal quest takes Omat farther south than she’d ever imagined, into an unimaginable world of forests and danger. But she is not alone, for fate has put her on the same path as a wounded Viking warrior. Together, they will walk into a future that will change their lives forever, and could destroy both of their cultures. This is a basic description, but there is so much more going on in this book– Omat, for example, has a man’s spirit and a woman’s body, and the internal conflict drives so many of her actions. The changes she undergoes, both physically and mentally, are often heartbreaking, but they never feel untrue to her character. I highly recommend this book to adult fantasy readers and historical fantasy fans.

The Raven in the Foregate follows the investigation Brother Cadfael undertakes when an unpopular, holier-than-thou priest is found dead in a pond one winter night. It was perfectly fine and entertaining, and I did not predict the ending, but overall it was a pretty average addition to the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael series.

I checked out White Nights because I wanted a quick audiobook, but I didn’t want to listen to another Cadfael book right away. And because I want to continue Ann Cleeves’s Shetland series, I decided to give it a go. In White Nights, it’s the high point of summer, when night doesn’t fall and the light puts everyone out of sorts. It’s on one of these nights, when a famous Shetland artist is hosting a gallery opening, when an unknown Englishman begins weeping at the opening. The next day, he’s found dead and Jimmy Perez must find out who the stranger is, what brought him to Sheltand, and who would want to kill him. White Nights is another of Cleeves’s quiet, low-drama mysteries set in rural locations where life is a little slower and longstanding personal histories drive the actions of everyone who lives in the area. And while it seems as though there are no secrets in an island village, Perez finds out that everyone has some sort of skeleton lurking in the closet. While this was a compelling story, I wasn’t a fan of the narrator, if only because he was English, and it seemed a bit strange to have an English narrator for a Scottish setting. None of the characters really sounded like they were from the Shetlands. I realize that this makes it easy for people to understand, but as I have a friend from the Shetlands and I’m familiar with his accent, it all sounded odd to me. I will probably get the print versions of the rest of the series.

Did Not Finish:

There are a few of you out there who will be quite proud of me for this. It’s the first time it’s happened since I joined NetGalley.

I DNF’d an ARC I hated.

I know. It’s wild. But I couldn’t do it to myself anymore. Sadly, while Traitors of the Black Crown by Cate Pearce has an interesting premise, it was 568 pages of the worst writing I have ever encountered– and I’m including fanfiction by high school students tagged “it’s my first fic don’t roast me”.

Truly. Those are better. At least those high school kids knew the definitions of the words they used. Traitors of the Black Crown felt like a very rough first draft that had, at the very least, been spell-checked. It needed significant editing, and probably to be completely re-written. The descriptions were awful, the dialogue was beyond awkward, and the worldbuilding was some of the clunkiest I have ever encountered. I stopped reading at the 40% mark. This was around 200 pages into the book, and basically nothing had happened.

So I cannot recommend Traitors of the Black Crown to anyone. Truly. It was terrible.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I’ve reached the chapter of ‘Minas Tirith’ in The War of the Ring. It’s remarkable how much progress Tolkien made in getting the fellowship from Rivendell to Helm’s Deep and Cirith Ungol (or Kirith Ungol as it originally was), but his progress all but halted for about a year while he figured out how to resolve some timing issues. He was adamant that he would have everything synced up with moon phases, he needed to do this in part because everything had to sync of exactly to get Frodo and Sam to Orodruin when Aragorn and Co. reached the Black Gate, and in part, I’m sure, because it would have bothered him if it wasn’t quite right. It would have bothered me. But now that Tolkien has gotten most things sorted out as far as the timeline goes, the story is continuing on. At this point in history, it’s 1946, so the books won’t be published for another several years. Which means there are a lot of changes still to be made.

I picked up The King of Infinite Space a couple of hours after DNF’ing Traitors of the Black Crown, and the change in writing ability was night and day. I adore Lyndsay Faye’s writing. It’s beautiful without being over the top, and she just nails her characters, making them rounded individuals who feel like they’re real people you could meet while walking down the street. The King of Infinite Space is a Hamlet retelling. In this story, Ben (Hamlet) is the son of a Texan oil baron whose greatest desire was to build up the theatrical scene in New York. When the book opens, Jackson Dane (Ben’s father) has recently died of either an accidental overdose or suicide. Ben sends a frantic text to his friend Horatio Patel, who immediately flies back from London to be with Ben, who he sees as the love of his life. Ben suffers from various mental disorders, and while he is brilliant, charismatic, and generous to a fault, he has self-destructive tendencies and disordered thoughts, which are depicted by the use of alternate typefaces and typesettings. Ben’s ex-fiancee, Lia, meanwhile, is an artist with mental disorders of her own. She’s trying to rebuild her life without Ben, with the help of three strange sisters from New Orleans who run a unique floral shop, where magic might be going on. So far, I am loving this book. Faye’s characterizations are spot on again, and I can see why both Horatio and Lia would be attracted to Ben, and how things will probably go tragically wrong for them. So far, I don’t think you would need to be familiar with the Shakespearean play to see what’s going on, as Faye follows all the beats of the play, but sets everything in such a modern way that it feels organic to the twenty-first century.

I’m not quite sure how I ended up downloading the audiobook of Abaddon’s Gate, except that when I was looking through my TBR tag on the Libby app, it was available and I’ve been wanting to work on catching up with the various series I’ve been reading before I start on a bunch more. I’m not very far into it, but I’ve caught up with Holden and the crew of the Rocinante, and have been introduced to a couple of new characters. So far, a bit of intrigue has begun, and I’m wondering what the proto-molecule is doing with the big ring out past Uranus’s orbit. Should be interesting.

What I’ve Been Listening To:

  • The Dune Sketchbook (Music from the Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer

I’m not sure if this music is going to be on the final soundtrack for sure, or if this is a collection of ideas that Zimmer worked with in the long process of getting Denis Villeneuve’s Dune to theaters, but I’ve been loving it. A couple of tracks had premiered on Spotify a month or two ago, and I was initially unimpressed. The music felt like it could belong to any other movie set in a desert. But now that I’ve heard it in the context of a much broader range of Zimmer’s Dune music, I’ve come to appreciate it much more. I especially like ‘Song of the Sisters’, which is an eerie conglomeration of voices, synthesized sounds, and instrumentals. My next favorite track is ‘House Atreides’. Did I know I wanted bagpipes in the score of a science fiction film? No, I did not know that until I listened to this for the first time. But now I want bagpipes in more science fiction scores. It works. It’s fantastic.

About That Writing Thing:

The revising process is going well. I’m halfway through chapter three, and so far the word count has remained roughly the same. I thought it would have gone down– especially after I cut and rewrote the last three pages of chapter one. I completely restructured that part of the story, tightened things up, and closed up a plothole, so I thought I would have made it a bit shorter. But no, the word count is basically the same.

But that’s okay. I’m not on a quest to make the story shorter just for the sake of making it shorter. If it remains a story of 110,000 words, then that’s fine. I think think my readers will mind much, given how long I’ve made them wait for the next installment. I just hope the later chapters go as smoothly, as they’re the ones that need the most work.

In the meantime, I’ve established a posting schedule that begins toward the end of September. I’ll post the first two chapters on that first Sunday, and then one chapter will go up each Sunday through the end of December. I’m looking forward to it, and to being that much closer to finishing this series at last.

21 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: September 12, 2021

  1. My dogs birthday is October 1 and my daughter asked what I’m buying Betty…but no. It made me think of going to a restaurant recently with my father in law. It’s a local place so we “know” the staff, and my father in law wanted my husband to use his “pull” about something and my husband hates that…

  2. It’s great to see your thoughts on The Wolf in the Whale, such a great book. I hope to read more from the author. I think there was one set in NY that also factored in mythology of some kind. And I also love Hans Zimmer’s work, so talented at creating emotion and energy through sound. I’m often very skeptical of iconic books being brought to the big screen, but I’m also looking forward to seeing this one.

  3. I love the bond you built with the owner of the local bookshop! Is the book you wanted to pre-order that massive collection of TLOR lore set or were you referring to another super cool edition of something you’ve been dying to read that you haven’t yet shared with us? 😀

  4. I got the big, 3-volume set of The History of Middle-earth last year from the same bookshop (partly why they’re cool with me not paying for the pre-order right away). The book I ordered last week is the new edition of LotR with illustrations by Tolkien himself. All three volumes in one book with full color illustrations. I’m really glad I have my gift card for it!

  5. I loved it! So glad I finally picked it up. It’s been on my shelf since I got it for Christmas last year. It will probably be on my ‘Best of….’ list in January.

    I’m so looking forward to Dune. The previous film versions have been various degrees of either good or terrible, but Villeneuve has such an eye for mood, tone, theme, and visuals. Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 were brilliant. Sicario was excellent, too, but not as visually appealing to me.

  6. Oh gosh. That sounds absolutely gorgeous! I received the Folio Society edition of The Hobbit for Christmas last year myself but what you speak sound as good as the Folio edition of LotR! Look forward to when you get to set them up on your shelves! 😀

  7. Lol love your insistence on ringing in autumn despite summer’s attempts to extend itself.
    Wolf in the Whale is one I’d like to read too. I’ve only heard great things about it.

  8. I love indie bookstores! I haven’t really gone to any of my local faves since pre-COVID, but I need to start getting out and doing actual book shopping rather than just ordering online. I miss the feel of wandering the shelves and finding random and exciting new reads! I’m glad you’re enjoying Abaddon’s Gate! I need to get back to the series — I’ve read up through #5 so far, and love the series. Have a great week!

  9. Happy birthday to Sidney! He looks like such a handsome, sweet boy. ❤ My cats have also gotten much mouthier lately, and they just yell at me all day long. Maybe something in the air?

  10. I love that your indie bookstore is so accommodating! Customer service like that would definitely have me going back. And thanks for the cat photos. I needed those today!
    I think it’s really cool, too, that you are reading The History of Middle-Earth. For me, that’s one of those series that I keep meaning to get around to, but I never seem to. Maybe the sheer size is intimidating me.

  11. I have a long history with my local indie booksellers so that helps. 😃 but it’s definitely helpful for me that they were willing to place the order for me! Glad I could help with the cat photos! I hope things start going better.

    The History of Middle-earth is definitely informative, but it’s work to read it. Especially the first few volumes, which are mostly different drafts of Beren and Lothian, Túrin, and the other main legends. So many drafts….. It moves much faster once you get to the LotR parts, but that’s about the fifth volume or so.

  12. I went back to my local shops as soon as I was able to. I missed browsing when everything was closed. Especially at the used bookshop, where I’m friends with the owner and manager. I’ve been going there since before I moved here, so not being able to wander in on my days off was so sad. But they’re back, and all is well in my book-browsing world.

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