Quiet week around here. Also, no snow. I’m still irked about that.
We’re nearly a week into December, and there’s no snow! What’s up with that? It gets dark so early, but there’s not cold weather to go with it, and it’s super dry– enough so that the state got Red Flag alerts into the end of November because the grasslands could just up and ignite. Because there’s been no precipitation for weeks.
Seriously. Bring me some snow, weather!
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Mina has been all play all week. She’s been running around the apartment, using the couch as a springboard, making wild leaps off the table, and nosing about the craft supplies (and Christmas gifts) I have set out on my drawing table. I don’t mind how much energy she has, except when she decides to zoom all over at 12:30 in the morning when I’m trying to sleep. At some point, though, she hops onto the bed, looks at me like she’s saying, “Mom, are you awake? Can I stay up here with you, Mom? Can I?”
Then she’ll settle down next to me, put her little head on my hand, and go to sleep. It’s the cutest thing ever. So I guess I can put up with her energy the rest of the day.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Lyndsay Faye, audiobook narrated by Simon Vance
- Matrix by Lauren Groff
- The Writing of Fiction by Edith Wharton
- Letters on Cézanne by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from the German by Joel Agee
The Whole art of Detection was a collection of “lost” Sherlock Holmes stories mostly from John Watson’s perspective, but there are a few from Holmes’s point of view. All of them were delightful, felt like they could have come from the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle, and turned in directions I did not expect. I adore Lyndsay Faye’s books– especially her mysteries– and wholeheartedly recommend this one to historical mystery fans in general, as well as to Sherlock Homes fans in particular.
Matrix is a fictional account of the life of Marie de France, who wrote a massively popular cycle of Medieval poems. We know next to nothing about her, save for her name, and that she was from France. Groff imagines Marie as a royal cousin who loved the beautiful and indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine but was sent to a nunnery at age seventeen because she was tall and unlovely, and Eleanor feared what effect her charisma and forceful character. When Marie arrives at the nunnery, it is impoverished, dirty, and the nuns are starving. She writes her poems to Eleanor in the hopes that the Queen will recognize her genius and summon her from the nunnery, but no call comes. And so Marie decides to turn her dismal nunnery into her little kingdom and pull her sisters up to her level. Groff’s writing is beautiful and tells a believable story about faith, ambition, and sisterhood in a Medieval setting. The one quibble I have is that, while it’s a mere 250 pages, Matrix has one challenge too many for Marie, which makes it feel a smidgen too long. Still, it is a fantastic book, and I see why it has been nominated for so many literary awards.
The Writing of Fiction reads like many other writing guides I’ve read and has plenty of advice that modern writers (especially many fantasy writers) could learn from. That said, Wharton pulls many examples from nineteenth-century writers like Dostoevsky and Turgenev. I’ve never read anything by Turgenev, and it’s been ages since I read Dostoevsky. She also cites Henry James, and while I have attempted James’s writing, his labyrinthine sentences drove me nuts so I put the book down and never looked back. I think I’ll stick with more contemporary writing and style guides.
Letters on Cézanne is a selection of selections from Rilke’s letters about his thoughts on the paintings of Paul Cézanne, whose work I’m not particularly fond of. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not my taste. But Rilke’s often melodramatic writing is something I’m fond of, so of course, I gave this one a try. Overall, it was interesting, but as I wasn’t terribly interested in the letters’ subject, I couldn’t get that into the letters, which didn’t have the same lyricism as his Letters to a Young Poet. So I liked the book overall, but it didn’t have the same effect on me as his poetry or the other letters of his I’ve read.
Did Not Finish:
- For the Love of Music: A Conductor’s Guide to the Art of Listening by John Mauceri
- Absynthe by Brendan Bellecourt, ARC provided by NetGalley
I quit reading For the Love of Music for a few reasons. First, Mauceri talks about how the Moravians brought Western classical music to early colonial American, taught it to their African ‘servants’, and then to the Irish and Scots immigrants. I looked it up. The Moravians kept slaves, so why didn’t Mauceri just say so? Was he trying to portray the Moravians in a brighter light? They were slaveholders. Don’t try to sugarcoat it. Second, the Irish and Scots immigrants were not ignorant people who lacked music. They had a rich tradition of music that has lasted into the modern age and affected American music in some pretty profound ways, all by themselves. Also, Mauceri waxes poetical about how he feels that Western classical music is basically the pinnacle of human achievement, and he talks about how many Western-style orchestras there are in Japan, and how people in China love Western classical music. I can’t argue with that, but the fact that people in Asia like classical music does not mean that it’s a superior art form. And lastly, Mauceri didn’t seem very interested in explaining how to listen to classical music to get the most out of the experience. It was more like he wanted to show off his expertise and describe the technical intricacies of his favorite pieces. This is fine, but perhaps the book should have a different title and a better synopsis.
I decided to put Absynthe down because I was simply not interested in it. After putting it down, I would often forget that I was reading it at all, and when I was reading, I was a little bored by the events. I also felt that the writing was clunky and I kept mentally editing sentences and reworking paragraphs. These two factors combined to make a reading experience that was not enjoyable, so I put it aside for good and told NetGalley that I wasn’t going to submit feedback for this title. This is the third time that I’ve DNF’d an ARC this year. It feels a little weird to do so, as I’d finished all my previous ARC (for better or worse), but I feel less stressed out now that I don’t have to finish a book I was not enjoying.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Rose Rent (The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #13) by Ellis Peters, audiobook narrated by Patrick Tull (24%)
In this installment of the Brother Cadfael Chronicles, the mystery revolves around a wealthy young woman who inherited quite a lot of property. She rents a house and the grounds around it to the monastery, with the rent being a single rose from a particular bush. Things are peaceful for the woman and her property, until the morning that the yearly rent comes due. The property’s tenant arrives to collect the rose rent and finds that the bush has been destroyed, a monk is dead, and the woman has disappeared. Once again, it’s up to Cadfael to get to the bottom of the mystery and find the missing woman before it’s too late. I’m not terribly far into this one- the tenant has just found the destroyed rose bush, and the action of the plot is about to take off.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams
- Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver
- Driftwood by Marie Brennan
- An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten, translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy
I’ve been looking forward to all of these, and I need to get them finished up, as they are library books that I can’t keep forever.
I started working on a new little drawstring bag. What’s it for? My headphones, maybe? I’m not sure, but I wanted to make something to get back into sewing, and as I rather like the last bag I made (and I use it all the time), I wanted to see about making another one. I’ve completed the running backstitch that will keep the whole thing together, and now I just need to finish off the seams with a felling stitch and then figure out how to fold over the top to make the case for the drawstring. It seemed so easy last time, but when I started pinning the new one, I messed it all up. So I’ll get that figured out later today, and maybe get the bag finished this week.
About That Writing Thing:
I’ve been posting a chapter a week of my current work in progress, and while I haven’t been getting that much feedback lately, I’m still carrying on. I imagine I’ll get more comments once the whole thing is up. I have a few readers who will patiently wait for the entire story to be available before they start reading. I have to applaud that kind of patience. This story is fifteen chapters long. I couldn’t wait for months, seeing the chapters going up one by one in a favorite series, and not read it.
I have one last chapter to edit, and then I can put this story to bed. Huzzah! Then it’s a matter of plotting and writing the next one, a process that I hope will go more smoothly than it did last time. I did not anticipate it taking a year to write that story.
Once the structure of the next story is settled, I have a plan to get it all written within a few months by aiming for 750 words/day. There will be parts that I know I’ll fly through, but there are other parts that I know will drag out (there are action sequences. I don’t enjoy writing those). 750 words/day is an achievable goal for my schedule and will keep me on track to complete this story in a more reasonable period of time. I’m anxious to get to it, as I’ve been working on this series for years. The next installment is the penultimate tale, and will be quite long- probably another 100,000 words. The final story will be far shorter, and much easier to write so once I get there, it’ll be a breeze to get to the series’ end.
I’m looking forward to it. I’ve known how it’s going to end since I started planning the overall storyline way back when. Now that the end is in sight, I’m looking forward to it. I already feel like I’ve accomplished so much with this story and my writing skills. I can’t imagine how it’s going to feel to finally write “The End”.