It’s been a rather gloomy week around here, with cold temperatures, rain, and a bit of snow. I was happy to see the snow, even if there was too little of it and too much wind for it to actually collect. But it was a reminder that winter is on its way, and that makes me happy.
Yes, I like winter. Yes, I know that’s weird.
Anyway. I did finally have to go and buy myself a new winter coat. All the little bits of mending I completed on the old coat lasted all of a few weeks with normal wearing. I think it was a mix of my amateur mending capabilities mixed with aging fabric, as I’ve had the old coat for some sixteen years now, and wore it often through the fall, winter, and spring. It’s not surprising that it was showing so much wear or that the buttons were coming off. I’m just a little sad because I’d had it for so long and was so used to it. Now I have to get used to the pockets and buttons of the new coat, and even though it is a warm and comfortable coat, it’s going to take a while to get accustomed to it. But if having to do away with an old winter coat is the worst thing that happens to me this month, I’m doing well.
In other news, it was a super busy week at work, and I’m glad to be done with it. I can relax for a bit before the holiday season really kicks in. I’m looking forward to an easy week this time around.
Also, I tried the new Sugar Cookie Almond Milk latte at Starbucks. A friend told me they taste the way a sugar cookie candle smells, and she’s quite right. There was nothing particularly wrong with the latte, but it didn’t wow me. My overall rating for it is “meh”.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
After being fractious and running all over the place at all hours of the night two weeks ago, Mina was surprisingly chill last week. I assume that was due to the rainy days and windy nights. This cat does not enjoy wintry weather, although it gives her many reasons to curl up on her bed next to the radiator and take a long nap. I wish I could curl up next to the radiator and take a long nap, too, but alas, I must be the responsible one who works and cleans the apartment.
Don’t listen to her complaints. She has the better end of this deal, as her primary responsibility is to be extremely cute. She does this very well.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien’s Mythology by Verlyn Flieger
- The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine, audiobook narrated by Justine Eyre
Interrupted Music is a collection of Verlyn Flieger’s essays about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the background history and philosophy. I wouldn’t recommend it for any but the most ardent of Tolkien fans, as it is very academic and demands the reader’s attention (as well as requiring a thorough knowledge of The Lord of the Rings). But for those fans willing to brave the dense text in order to find out more about Tolkien and his work, it’s hard to beat Flieger’s essays.
The House Between Tides was, overall, fine. It’s a dual-timeline story that takes place in 2010 and in 1910. In 2010, Hetty heads to the Hebrides off the coast of Scotland to see about the manor house she inherited after her grandmother’s death. She has vague plans to restore it and turn it into a hotel to attract tourists to the island. But she quickly runs into problems, as the locals aren’t thrilled with her plans, and a skeleton is found along the house’s foundations. Almost against her will, Hetty is drawn to the house’s history, and the more she looks into it, the more complicated things get between her, her London-based boyfriend, and the people she meets on the island. Meanwhile, back in 1910, Beatrice is the young bride of renowned artist Theo Blake, who has brought Beatrice to his beautiful island home in the hopes that he’ll find new inspiration to liven up his work, which he thinks has been growing stale. But instead of renewing his life, the island brings back painful memories, and the longer he and Beatrice stay, the more tattered their marriage grows. I was with this story right up until about the 85% mark, when all the story threads started getting tied off. As I kept listening, though, the less payoff there seemed to be, as tensions that had been building throughout the story were resolved (or at least answered) too quickly and without the drama they seemed to call for. My final reaction to the story’s end was less “Wow!” and more “Huh”.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- Around the World in 80 Books by David Damrosch, eARC provided by NetGalley (65%)
- Dracula by Bram Stoker, audiobook narrated by Alan Cumming, Simon Vance, Tim Curry, et. al. (60%)
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, audiobook narrated by Andy Serkis
So far, I am enjoying Around the World in 80 Books, though I have added significantly to my TBR pile on StoryGraph. Every new chapter brings me to another collection of world literature that sounds fascinating, and I invariably find a couple of books I want to look into reading. I don’t know if my library has half of them, but if they don’t, I can see about getting them via inter-library loan or through online sellers. Damrosch’s approach to talking about the books varies based on the book itself– if it’s a historical classic he describes the books context in in the history of the place and how that context affects the books structure or its place in history. If it’s a modern book, he will also detail the context, but is more likely to discuss the current political goings-on (or the political events of the time if the book was written in, say, the 1960s or 1990s). I love a good book about books, and this one is expanding my reading horizons just by opening my eyes to an array of new titles and authors I’d never heard of before.
One of the people on one of the Discords I’m on decided to listen to the audiobook of Dracula this week, and pointed out that there is a full-cast recording of the book. Of course I had to look it up and give it a try, and I fell for the narrators right away (Simon Vance narrates Jonathan Harker’s entries, so I was predisposed to liking it). There’s really nothing new here for me, but it’s fun to hear this book narrated by a stellar cast like this. I still want to slap the male characters silly for being complete dolts, but they were Victorian dolts, so it’s to be expected. Mina is still the most intelligent person in the whole thing, and while I’m fully aware that vampire lore has “moved on” since 1897, it’s just fun to revisit a novel like this, with all its Gothic, melodramatic vibes.
And of course I am enjoying Andy Serkis’s narration of The Hobbit. How could I not? How could you listen to the chapter ‘Riddles in the Dark’ narrated by Gollum himself and not enjoy the heck out of it? As of now, Bilbo and the dwarves have just reached Beorn’s house and are slowly being introduced to him. It’s been a while since I read The Hobbit, but now that I am I am falling in love with it all over again.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
If all goes as planned, I’ll finish up Around the World in 80 Books tonight, and be able to start some shorter titles this week.
- Observations by Gaslight by Lyndsay Faye, ARC provided by NetGalley
- Winter Pasture: One Woman’s Journey with China’s Kazakh Herders by Li Juan, translated from the Chinese by Jack Hargreaves and Yan Yan
- Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
Observations by Gaslight is a collection of short stories and observations from the perspective of secondary and tertiary characters in the Sherlock Holmes canon. I’ve read several of Faye’s books, along with her Sherlock Holmes pastiche novel, and I’m looking forward to diving into this one. Winter Pasture is a memoir about Li Juan’s time with the Kazakh herders in China. Olive Fellows at A Book Olive mentioned this as one she was looking forward to at the beginning of the year, and while she doesn’t seem to have read it, I’ve been curious about it.
Lastly, I saw a review of Tanya Tagaq’s strange memoir/novel a while back (I can’t remember who wrote it), and that made me want to read it. So when I saw it on the table of the library’s suggestions for books for Native American History Month, I immediately grabbed it.
None of these three books is terribly long (the longest is 320 pages), so I should be able to get through at least a good chunk of each of them.
What I’ve Been Watching:
I’m still working my way through QI on BritBox, though I have discovered that they have the Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett that ran from 1984 to 1994. I remember watching this show when I was growing up, and I’m looking forward to seeing it, as I enjoyed it and I’ve only seen one or two episodes in the past twenty years.
Series six of Shetland is also premiering on BritBox, with one new episode per week. I want to watch it, as series five left off with a bit of a cliff-hanger when it came to a couple of the lead characters, and I want to find out what happened to them. But as the whole series won’t be available for a while, I’m not in a rush to watch. I found some other shows and movies to add to my watchlist, but if it’s like the queues on my other streaming services, it will be a while before I even start them.