Late update today for two reasons:
- I went over to my friends’ house last night for one reason, and eded up staying over for another reason– to watch the NCAA Division I volleyball tournament, because Nebraska was playing Texas in the Elite Eight. The game didn’t start until 9:00, and while I usually just listen to the games online (I prefer the radio commentators to the television ones), my friend S made her fantastic hot cocoa, and their living room was so cozy with the Christmas tree, their couch is super comfortable, and I was having a great time chatting with J and S while we watched the game.
- The next thing that happened was that their eight year-old daughter fell alseep on me, and I wasn’t about to move. Too cozy, too sweet.
After the third set, though it was getting pretty late, the daughter was taken off to bed, and I drove home to listen to the last part of the fourth set online.
And Nebraska won!
The Final Four games are played on Thursday. I can’t wait!
The rest of the week wasn’t as fun, as I got my covid booster on Tuesday afternoon, and it knocked me out for most of Wednesday and left me feeling pretty blah still on Thursday. But I’ve been boosted, and I’m feeling fine now, so it was worth a bit of discomfort for the extra protection.
Aaaand… We finally got some snow! It was only an inch or so, but for a couple of hours on Friday night, we had a gentle snowstorm with big, fluffy snowflakes and it was quiet and beautiful, and it made me happy.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Mina has been dashing all over the apartment and jumping up onto everything again this week. I really don’t know where she gets all of her energy, but I wish she would share. I have a lot of things I’d like to get done, but I get tired at night and want to sleep instead. But after I go to bed, Mina is still running around, pouncing on her toys, jumping off the couch, leaping onto her window seat, and otherwise being a fractious young cat.
But around 3:00AM, I will wake up, and she’ll be curled up on the bed next to me, fast asleep and completely adorable.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Bronzed Beasts (The Gilded Wolves #3) by Roshani Chokshi
- Knot of Shadows (Penric and Desdemona #11) by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams
- An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten, translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy
- The Rose Rent (The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #13) by Ellis Peters, audiobook narrated by Patrick Tull
The Bronzed Beasts is the third book in Roshani Chokshi’s Gilded Wolves trilogy. In this installment, Severin has lost his friends’ trust thanks to a ruse intended to save their lives. This puts a damper on Severin’s grand plan to achieve godhood and set to rights everything that’s gone wrong since the beginning of the series. The setting in this book is Venice, which was an expected change from the ice of imperial Russia in book two, and decadent Paris in book one. Overall, I enjoyed this book the least of the three, as it somehow felt like the stakes were lower and that things fell into place a little too easily. Also, the ending was actually not the most satisfying, as it felt that several characters’ stories were abruptly cut off. Did I hate this story? No. It was fine. But definitely not among my favorites of the year, or even the month.
I bought the ebook of Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest Penric & Desdemona novella a few weeks ago, and as always happens with ebooks (which is why I don’t buy them), I forgot all about it. But I remembered it this week, so on my day off (when I was feeling really crappy), I made myself a cup of tea and settled down with it. The story begins oddly enough: Penric is happily relaxing with his family in his cozy home when he is summoned to investigate a strange occurrence. A body was fished out of the harbor, and the next morning it seemed to be alive again. With Desdemona’s help, Penric begins to unravel a series of tragic tales that are interwoven by unhappy chance. This was as beautifully written as Bujold’s other Pen and Des stories but has a far sadder ending. It reminds me of her exquisite but heartbreaking Vorkosigan Saga short story, ‘The Mountains of Mourning’. And it makes me a bit frustrated, once again, to know that Bujold is not more widely read in bookish circles because her stories are so heartfelt and full of fully realized and achingly human characters. And her depiction of religion is as complicated as any real-world religion is. Lois McMaster Bujold is a treasure, and I will never not recommend her books.
It’s a good idea, now and then, to visit with the masters of your particular art/craft/skill/hobby/whatever, because there’s always something to learn about the process. In Examples, Ansel Adams explains various aspects of the making of some of his most iconic photographs, like ‘Moonrise’ or ‘Clearing Winter Storm’. He includes a fair amount of technical information, such as what camera, lens, or filters he used, or what the developing technique was, but that’s not his primary concern. Adams’ philosophy of photography was that one’s creative vision was more important than the tools used and that it is better to capture the emotion of a scene than to perfectly record the aperture and shutter speed, or even the year the photograph was taken. This is a philosophy I believe in whole-heartedly, even though I often need to be able to report my photograph’s technical details when teaching or submitting something for in-company publications at work. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the tools of the trade– especially now, when there are a hundred video reviews for every little thing, and there are strong opinions about every little thing. But I look at it like this: you could spend weeks or months researching the perfect Thing, or you could do a few days’ worth of researching, get a few opinions, and then buy what seems like the best fit. And then get out there and create, because there is no such thing as a perfect tool. You’re never going to find the One Perfect Thing that will solve all your problems, but you will find the Next Best Thing that will allow you to go and Do The Things, which is way more fun than obsessing over charts and comparing eleventy-million reviews. So to sum up, I enjoyed Examples, and I recommend it to anyone interested in photography. It also inspired me to revisit and re-edit a couple of photos that stand out in my mind from my 2015 trip to Scotland:
I think I first heard about Helene Tursten’s short story collection And Elderly Lady is up to No Good from Mel at Grab the Lapels. She gave it a great review, and when I looked more into it, it sounded like something I’d enjoy. But I never got around to it, despite its being rather short. But I finally picked it up at the library, and wow was this a fun- if dark- book. Maud is the elderly lady of the title, and she lives a quiet existence in her apartment in a beautiful building. But there are people who try to disrupt Maud’s life, such as a celebrity neighbor who is trying to take Maud’s apartment, or a nosy antiques dealer who wants to swindle Maud out of her collection of antique silver. So Maud deals with them in quite a final way that no one expects because she’s a little old lady who occasionally uses a walker. Maud is perfectly aware of people’s prejudices about the elderly, and she uses that to her advantage. An Elderly Lady is up to No Good is a great little book, and it’s hard to not like Maud in spite of the terrible things she does, and I’ve already put a library hold on the Tursten’s next collection about Maud, An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed.
The Rose Rent is the thirteenth book in the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael murder mystery series. I always enjoy the historical setting, and Cadfael and his friends are wonderful characters that I love to read about. This installment, though, was not my favorite just because the structure honestly a little strange, and it felt like a third of the mystery was just brushed aside. And I know why– it was for legitimate character reasons– but it still felt strange overall. That said I enjoyed the story overall, and I will definitely be continuing. I have seven books left in the series, and I plan to finish it in 2022.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver (69/175)
- The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling, audiobook narrated by Mandy Weston (3%)
Mary Oliver was a poet known for her poems about nature, and Upstream is a collection of lyrical, nonfiction essays about nature. So far, these poems have all the beauty and lyricism I would expect of a renowned poet, but instead of being elegaic about the losses, Oliver has focused on the beauty that remains. I’m not terribly far into this book, and I think the second part may shift into writing about writing, but I’m enjoying the lyrical tilt and the unexpected subject matter.
I’m also not very far into The Death of Jane Lawrence, as I started listening after work yesterday, while I was closing things up, which took me all of about fifteen minutes. Then my evening was full of friends and volleyball, and I didn’t give it a second thought. But I liked what I’ve heard so far, so I have high hopes for this little Gothic tale about a woman who marries a doctor out of sheer convenience, even though she is forbidden from going with him to his family’s old manor house.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Book of Tea by Kakuzō Okakura
- Alaric the Goth: An Outsider’s History of the Fall of Rome by Douglas Boin
- The Lord of the Rings (illustrated by the author) by J.R.R. Tolkien
I found a beautiful copy of The Book of Tea (slipcase and all!) at my local used bookstore, so I grabbed it. I love tea, but I’m not always mindful about how I make it. Perhaps this will guide toward being more mindful about tea and everyday life.
I always love a good history book, and this one looks like it will be both an informative and humorous take on a different perspective of the fall of Rome.
Have I read The Lord of the Rings once this year, thanks to Andy Serkis’ new narration? Yes. Am I going to read it again in 2021? Also yes, because it’s what I do every December. I’m going to use the beautiful illustrated edition I got in November, because I want to enjoy the artwork and the maps,
What I’ve Been Watching:
When I was feeling sick on Wednesday, there came a point in the evening when I didn’t have the energy to do anything but lie on the couch and watch TV, so I pulled up QI and watched several episodes. Sandi Toksvig has been the host for the past several seasons, having replaced Stephen Fry, and she is delightful and hilarious, and I love it when she is either baffled by some bit of slang from the younger panelists, or completely shuts down a male panelist for going a little too far. It gave me the laugh I needed when I wasn’t feeling well.
The Wheel of Time:
I’m actually starting to warm up to this show, in part because it doesn’t adhere to the books. Events are necessarily being compressed, and we don’t get the lengthy descriptions of Every. Single. Thing. that everyone and their dog sees, and we don’t get the repetition that Jordan subjects the reader to at every turn. I’m mostly happy with the characters (the Two Rivers kids still feel a little bland- especially Rand), and I’m liking how things are developing between Lan and Nynaeve. I appreciate the sex positivity (same sex and polyamorous relationships are just accepted, no big deal) I’m still not a fan of the visuals, as pretty as they are, and the music is still a little blah for me, but the show overall is entertaining. I;m going to watch episode six tonight. I’ve heard conflicting things about it, but the opinions I trust have enjoyed it, so I think I will, too.
About That Writing Thing:
I’ve been working on my latest story, all 115,000 words of it, since September 2020, and I think I’m… done?
That’s so weird to say. I finished up the short scene I was adding into the final chapter on Thursday night, and now I just need to do a last read through of the last two chapters this week, but I think it’s done. That’s so weird to say. I’ve been living with this thing for more than a year, and now I can put it in the “completed” folder. And that’s just weird. And happy-making at the same time, because as many authors have said, “Writing is awful. Having written is wonderful”.
The online word-to-page calculators conflict with each other, so I have no real idea of how long this thing is. I’ve been given totals of anywhere from 210 to 320 pages. But the basic end result is the same. I’ve written yet another novel. Word-count-wise, I think my total stands at six novel-length works, and multiple novellas and short stories.
Wow. When I put it like that, I’ve written a LOT in the past ten years.
But there are two more stories left in the series I’m writing, so I’ll take this week to savor having completed something, and then get started on the next big thing.