It happened at last. After weeks and weeks of me complaining about the lack of snow or rain and how the dry weather was contributing to a spate of brushfires across the state, the things that seemed impossible finally happened: It rained.
Friday night, after a day of increasing cloudiness, we had a brief rain shower that was soon followed by a minor thunderstorm. No high winds or hail or anything, just a little lightning and thunder, and a gentle rainfall that lasted for a couple of hours. I was not the only one who stopped what they were doing and turned down the music to open the window and listen to the rain. It was wonderful.
Before all that, though, we had another abnormally warm day, which happened to be my day off. I went downtown for a bit of shopping and to grab a cup of coffee and sat down on a bench in the main plaza. I was just looking around, enjoying the day and my coffee, and I saw a couple of scenes I just had to photograph:
Obligatory Mina Photo:
For a long time, Mina would jump onto the bed while I was making it and tunnel under the blankets or sprawl out on the rumpled bedding that I was trying to straighten. Sometimes I would have to stop altogether and go do something else until she decided she was bored and left the bedroom. Then I could go back in and finish up. After a while, though, she decided that blankets were for nerds and stopped hopping onto the bed.
Now that there is a new mattress with a springy pillowtop, she likes getting on the bed again and will make a complete nuisance of herself while I’m trying to make the bed.
But she is an adorable nuisance, so I don’t mind too much.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Thick as Thieves (The Queen’s Thief #5) by Megan Whalen Turner, audiobook narrated by Steve West
- Photography: The Definitive Visual History by Tom Ang
- The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir
- Alphonse Mucha: Masterworks by Rosalind Ormiston
- The Potter’s Field (The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #17) by Ellis Peters
Thick as Thieves does not begin in Attolia or Eddis, and the series’ main character, Eugenides, is hardly in the story at all. The story begins in the Empire of Mede, where Kamet, a man enslaved by the former ambassador to Attolia, is going about his daily routine and looking forward to the day when he’ll be given as a gift to another man whose political star is rising. Once that happens, Kamet will have the kind of administrative power that most men in Mede can only dream of. But his dreams are shattered when he gets word that his master has been murdered. Because slaves are usually killed when their masters die, Kamet is terrified and runs away– almost straight into the arms of an Attolian soldier who fully intends to take Kamet back to Attolia with him. What follows is a series of often-desperate adventures as the two of them evade Imperial guards and slavers, and find aid in the unlikeliest of places. I quite enjoyed this story and the friendship that develops between Kamet and the Attolian, as well as the realizations that Kamet makes about himself and his place in the world. It was interesting to see Kamet’s perspective, as it was entirely different from anything else that has been in this series before. What I didn’t like what the lack of synopsis in either Goodreads or StoryGraph, where the multi-paragraph description is mostly devoted to lavishly praising the series as a whole, and giving a spare few sentences to what happens in the book. I’m not a reader who is happy to go into a story while knowing nothing about it. I want to know what to expect, and that synopsis was garbage. The book was great. But publishers, please give us synopses. I don’t care what The Evening Standard says about a book, I want to know what it’s about.
Photography: The Definitive Visual History is such an informative book about photography! I recommend it to anyone interested in the field because there is so much information stuffed into it about all kinds of cameras, photographers, schools of photography, and individual images. There was a lovely article about Frans Lanting, a highly respected landscape photographer, and it happened to mention some of the Nikon cameras he was using while the book was being written. One of them was the Nikon D7000, which was a mid-range camera that came out in 2010. I had a couple of those cameras, and I used them for all sorts of things, including sports photography and weddings. I loved those cameras, and I was a little sad to part with them when I finally decided to upgrade, several years later. But I often hear from photographers that mid-level cameras are simply not good enough to produce the image quality that they’re looking for, and blah blah blah. I feel vindicated in knowing that one of the world’s finest landscape photographers thought a mid-level camera was good enough for him.
The Princes in the Tower is Alison Weir’s study of the case of the Princes in the Tower, the two boys– Edward V of England and his younger brother Richard– who were kept prisoner by their uncle, Richard of Gloucester who had himself crowned King of England in Edward V’s stead. Ostensibly, this was because Edward was a boy of twelve and was declared a bastard (by Richard of Gloucester, oddly enough). Within months of their father’s death, Edward (the rightful king) and his little brother were dead. Historians have debated who was responsible for their disappearance ever since, and while most people think that Richard III was the culprit (he had the most to gain, after all), others think that figures like Margaret Beaufort or Henry VII were to blame. Weir digs deep into the available records, and while her argument is sound, it really feels like she was merely setting out to prove that it was, indeed, Richard III who gave the order to have the boys killed. The book was published in 1992, long before Richard III’s skeleton was discovered under a parking lot in Leicester, England, so there is evidence about the man himself we have now that Weir didn’t have access to then. But her conclusion would still stand. The main thing I take issue with is Weir’s treatment of the dodgy ‘relationship’ between Richard III and his niece, Elizabeth of York. As his wife, Anne, was dying, Richard’s eye fell on his beautiful young niece in part because she was beautiful, and partly because she had royal connections he needed (Henry VII would later use these connections when he married Elizabeth and took the throne). Weir imagines that Elizabeth returned Richard III’s affections whole-heartedly and that she turned on him out of spite when he announced that he wouldn’t marry her after all. But. Elizabeth was a teenager occupying a precarious position in Richard III’s court. One false move could have her branded a traitor and get her and/or other members of her family executed. There’s also the problem of power dynamics: once a king’s eye fell on a woman, there was very little she could do to resist his advances, so I think that Elizabeth of York, being young and terribly vulnerable while gaining her royal uncle’s favor, was probably just playing along because that was all she really could do. Once Richard III declared that he would not marry her, she had more freedom to work on her family’s behalf– against Richard. So overall, this was a fairly informative book, but the discussion was very one-sided and it shows its age in its view of the so-called relationship between Richard III and Elizabeth of York.
Alphonse Mucha: Masterworks is one of those art books that are mostly pictures of the artist’s work. Ormiston provides a light biography of Mucha in the first half and then provides brief discussions of many of his major works in the second half. I learned quite a lot about Mucha, though, as I’d never really studied the artist himself, in spite of being in love with his work. But now I know that, while he was primarily an illustrator and graphic designer (which, for some reason, are not considered “fine art” by many), he longed to be a fine artist and not have to rely on commercial work. But it was his commercial work that people loved, and it’s what made his career so he had to stick with it. ‘Le Style Mucha’ was all the rage of the Belle Epoque, but it marked the high point of Art Nouveau and started falling off in popularity as the turn of the twentieth century progressed into the 1910s, and artistic styles started changing rapidly and radically. If you’re looking for a nice coffee table book about Mucha and his style, this is a nice one to get. I found it on one of Barnes & Noble’s bargain shelves a few years ago, and never bothered to actually read it until now.
The Potter’s Field, the seventeenth Brother Cadfael book, tells the story of a humble field where a woman’s skeletonized body is discovered while the brothers of the monastery are plowing. As there is little but a skeleton and long, dark hair left, it seems that it will be impossible to figure out who the woman was and what happened to her. But circumstances throw clues in Cadfael’s direction, and as he is unwilling to let a mystery– or a possible injustice– lie, he’s determined to discover the woman’s story. I really enjoyed this installment of the series, as Peters provided many false leads, and while I thought I knew what happened by the last quarter of the book, it wasn’t until the final pages that I found out what really happened. I have just three books left in this series, and I’m already starting to miss it. Cadfael’s humor and patience with humanity’s foibles make him a character that I enjoy reading about, and knowing that I only have a few more new-to-me stories is a little bittersweet.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- Return of the Thief (The Queen’s Thief #6) by Megan Whalen Turner, audiobook narrated by Steve West (41%)
Return of the Thief is the final outing in Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, and once again it features a narrator we haven’t seen before. In this case, it’s the unwanted son of a treacherous baron, who has been sent to the Attolian court to both insult Eugenides and to try to thwart his plans to defang said baron. But no one guesses that the ‘little monster’ is not a witless fool, and he listens to the gossip and the plans around him. And what he knows about the court could tear the country in two. I started listening to this early in the week, and I realized that if I picked it up again, I wouldn’t stop listening. So I haven’t because I haven’t had time this week to listen to an audiobook for hours on end. I will be finishing it up today, though, because I want to know if the prophecy from Eddis’ dream comes to fruition or not. and find out what happens to Eugenides and everyone else.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Rot (Ravneringene #2) by Siri Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Sian Mackie and Paul Ruseell Garrett
- Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake #5) by C.J. Sansom, audiobook narrated by Steven Crossley
I’m continuing with my quest to finish up some series in the first part of the year. I’m halfway through C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake mysteries. The previous book, Revelation was super dark, so I decided to take a bit of time off from them. But I’m ready to get back to them, and Heartstone is already downloaded to my phone via the Hoopla app.
The Rot is the second book in Siri Pettersen’s Ravneringene (Raven Rings) trilogy. The third book, The Might, is due out at the end of the month, so I want to get to the second book now so I can find out what happens to Hirka, Rime, and the others before too much time passes. Given what I’ve seen about The Rot, I am intrigued about where the story is going.