Sunday Sum-Up: March 20, 2022

Busy week! I went out and. . . did stuff. I haven’t done stuff for a long time.

Tuesday night, I went out for drinks with a couple of coworkers. We ended up going to two different places because of the first place’s early closing time. We had a good time, and we barely talked about work.

Wednesday night, I had dinner with friends and we finally watched the second half of The Fellowship of the Ring, which we started back in December in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary, and then never finished up for Reasons. That was another good time.

And then on Friday, my sister and I went to see a comedy show together which was, again, a good time. It was the first time we had seen any kind of show together since September 2019, when we saw a touring production of The Phantom of the Opera.

Going out and doing things is still strange, but I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity. I’m such an introvert that being alone most of the time doesn’t bother me, but I always enjoy doing things with good company, and over the past couple of years I’ve rarely had the chance to do so.

I went out again on Saturday night, but that was to the park by myself to photograph birds. I didn’t stay as long as I planned to, as there were so many people that the birds stayed far from the shore. It was also extremely bright, and someone was playing loud, awful music that I could hear no matter where I went. But I did get a few solid photographs of a couple of birds, so it was a win in the end.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Thank you for all the well-wishes for Mina this past week! She has been feeling much better lately and is back to her usual early morning shenanigans that wake me up at 5:00AM. I don’t mind too much, as it’s great to see that her energy levels are back to normal. She has been leaping off the couch after her GoCat toy, dashing through the apartment at top speed, and begging me to open the shower door (when it’s not in use) so she can hang out in the bathtub.

In other words, Mina is back to normal, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

The Summer of the Danes was not the most mysterious of the Brother Cadfael mysteries. Yes, someone was murdered, but the investigation took a back seat to the political machinations between two brothers, as well as the doings of the young woman, Heledd. Cadfael and Mark were captured by the Danish army hired by one of the Welsh noblemen at the heart of the book’s conflict (this never goes well. If you find yourself in the Medieval era, don’t hire Danish mercenaries). I thought the ending was satisfying enough, but the mystery aspect was underwhelming, as so much of the plot was given over to the noble Welsh brothers, who I’d never seen before, and would likely never see again. It’s hard to get invested in a set of characters you have little reason to care about.

Heartstone did not go the way I thought it would– at all. But it was a fascinating turn of events for the A Plot. The B Plot, wherein Shardlake investigates a mystery set up in the previous book, Revelation, was less interesting to me, as it mostly showcased his inability to let things go. I was as frustrated as Barak by Shardlake’s insistence on ferreting out a truth that had been buried twenty years earlier. So while I mostly enjoyed the book, I was also irritated by it. I wish Sansom had pared it down or focused on one mystery instead of investigating two entirely different cases. The last two books in the series are even longer than Heartstone (which was 634 pages). The final book, Tombland, clocks in at 866 pages. I’m questioning whether or not I want to continue such long mysteries. I prefer my mystery novels to be in the neighborhood of 300-400 pages, otherwise, it feels like the plot starts to get bogged down by unnecessary turns and red herrings. I may just let the rest of this series go unfinished. We’ll see.

Did Not Finish:

I decided to give up on this one around the 34% mark. It has an intriguing setup, wherein a young woman, Annie, arrives on a mysterious island to put her recently deceased father’s estate in order and claim her inheritance. She is drawn to her mysterious neighbor, who is known for her wild parties and for flaunting the strict laws forbidding magic. She’s wealthy, after all, and the law works differently for rich people. But after Annie sees a fraught encounter between her best friend and her neighbor, she is drawn into a web of secrets and magic that could easily end in death.

In the end, this book seemed to lack focus for me. There are two POVs, which is fine, but they were telling drastically different stories. The two parts I read began with short chapters devoted to two different, mysterious characters whose identities were not revealed, and there were a series of flashbacks meant to reveal the reason between Annies best friend and the neighbor. This all added up to a book that felt like it couldn’t decide what to focus on.

I also had some issues with the descriptions: the color of everything was listed, which meant that none of it ended up being important. It all ended up blurring into the background. Also, the worldbuilding around the illegality of magic was a little wonky, too. The book makes it clear that magic was outlawed within the past ten years or so, because it had been used to turn men into killing machines in the war. But the war was analogous to WWI. Presumably, there had been wars before and in a world where magic is common, surely it would have been used to make soldiers into supercharged killing machines before. Why wait for several centuries to outlaw it?

Wild and Wicked Things is Francesca May’s debut novel, so I won’t rule out reading more of her books in the future when she’s had a chance to hone her craft and tighten up her stories.

What I’m Currently Reading:

  • The Rot (Ravneringene #2) by Siri Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Sian Mackie and Paul Russell Garrett

I’ve made very little progress in The Rot, as I spent most of my reading time last week getting through the historical mysteries I was trying to finish up, and the rest of it was spent not enjoying Wild and Wicked Things. So hopefully I will be able to finish up The Rot this week, as the third book in the trilogy is due out very soon.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

I have just two books left in the Chronicles of Brother Cadfael series. I’m especially looking forward to the last one, as it features the return of one of my favorite characters. But I have to read The Holy Thief first. Hopefully, it will be more mysterious and less political than The Summer of the Danes.

Fierce Poison is the next installment of my favorite mystery series, and I can’t wait to read it. I’ve already dipped into it (it was on my phone, and I was stressed out while waiting at the vet clinic a couple of Sundays ago, so I’ve read the first chapter or so), and it’s been great so far. Already a good deal of suspense and clever quips from my favorite private enquiry agents.

I bought All the Horses of Iceland from my local indie bookshop as part of my birthday book shopping. I haven’t started it yet, but it’s been sitting on the shelf waiting for me to pick it up. I’ve been looking forward to this since I first heard about it last year. It’s quite short– only 112 pages– so I should get through it quickly.

About That Writing Thing:

Though I’ve been out doing things this past week, and so haven’t had as much writing time as usual, I’ve still been making quite a lot of progress in my main fanfic story. I’d have gotten even farther along in it, except that my brain caught on an idea for another, much shorter fic in another fandom, so I had to sit down and work on that until I had it most of the way done. There will be another page or so to write in it, and then I’ll get to the editing, which is far quicker (and more fun) to do with a story that is about ten pages long than with a story that runs about 200 pages.

I’ve been reading through articles about the craft of writing on a couple of literary websites I visit, as well as revisiting Ursula K. Le Guin’s wonderful Steering the Craft, which is basically a graduate-level writing class in book form. I’ve picked up a few tips from these sources, but I feel as though I have tapped out the advice I can glean from writing books. Most of them feel rather redundant at this point (I’ve read a lot of them over the years), so it might be time to focus more on articles and books about editing. I’ve improved my editing skills over the past few years (my blogging typos notwithstanding), but there are certainly more things I could learn about this particular craft. The next question, then, is “where do I find quality books about editing?”.

7 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: March 20, 2022

  1. Glad to hear you’re getting out and enjoying it. I’ve still not done much of that beyond hiking with my father. At some point I probably should. And I love seeing your photographs of birds. I’ve not done much bird photography latest and really miss it. Gulls can be such great subjects, and if nothing else they’re great practice subjects for birds in flight.

    Glad to hear about Mina being back to normal, too!

    Sorry to hear about Wild and Wicked Things, but it’s good you were able to stop. I recently finished one I likely should have stopped, Riceymay Steps by Arnold Bennett, which I was reading for Around the World in 80 Books. It just wasn’t working for me, but I kept on, hoping. I could already be halfway through a much more entertianing book if I’d forced myself to put it aside and move on. Oh well, maybe next time.

    Sounds like your writing is going well. I love that you had to put one project aside to quickly start on another idea. Like you, I’ve read many writing books over the years, and purchased many I’ve yet to read, not that I’m doing much in the way of creative writing these days. I don’t think I progressed as far as you did, where you’re ready to focus more on editing. Not sure I ever bought or read anything on that subject. I hope you’re able to find some helpful sources.

  2. That’s great she’s back to her shenanigans.

    And I agree on going out these days. Also seems that what I consider to be my personal space has increased so it’s taking some time getting used to being in an area with many people.

  3. I need to get back outside today. Aside from some wind, it’s beautiful. We’re supposed to get some rain over the next few days (yay!), so unless I want to get wet, I need to be doing my outdoors stuff today.

    I’m getting better about DNF’ing ARCs I’m not enjoying. Wild and Wicked Things was just more story than the story needed. It would have been a lot better if the author had just focused on one of the stories, instead of trying to cram everything in. The next ARC will be much, much better.

    I plan to do some searching for editing books today or tomorrow. I’m hoping my library has some that I can check out. I don’t need to be buying more books!

  4. Oh, yay, so glad that Mina is back to her old energetic self! Beautiful photos. I laughed when you mentioned the music — I’ve noticed that more people are playing loud music in outdoor spots lately, and it bugs me so much! Even people out riding bikes with a speaker attached to their handlebars — so annoyingl, especially when it’s a pretty setting and I just want to enjoy the sights and sounds. Anyway… I hope you enjoy your reading this week. The horse of Iceland book looks great from the cover! Can’t wait to hear more about it.

  5. The music was so annoying! Ugh! There are so many great headphone options these days, and people just blast their music for everyone to hear (and be annoyed by).

    I read All the Horses of Iceland yesterday afternoon, and it was lovely! It felt like an Icelandic saga, but easier to follow since it was written by a modern author, not a Medieval one.

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