This past week was quite a lovely one weather-wise, though I didn’t get to go out and enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. There were a few long walks, a trip to my neighborhood coffee shop, and dinner with friends, but not so much with the outside goings-on.
Unfortunately, another predicted heatwave means that I will be spending the majority of next week indoors, as it is supposed to be gross and humid. That’s par for the course for the first part of August, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Thanks to the arrival of my Blackwells order, Mina got a box!
She was obsessed with it from the moment that I brought the package in and set it on the couch. She jumped up and immediately began sniffing it and would not stay away long enough to let me open it and set it aside so she could have it. It took far longer than usual to cut the tape and unpack the box, but once I finally did, went in, curled up, and barely left it for the rest of the evening. Since then, she has been taking long naps in the box and otherwise hanging out in her box.
I can’t blame her. It’s a perfectly-sized box for her. If I had a perfectly-sized box for me, I would probably nap in it, too.
In other cat news, poor Sidney had to take a trip to the veterinarian. Being a nearly eighteen-year-old cat, he has a range of minor health issues I wanted them to check on. So I dropped him off on Friday morning, and they did a full check-up on him. The result? For being a nearly eighteen-year-old cat, he is quite healthy though they removed a couple of cysts, gave him antibiotics to address a mild internal infection, and an ointment for an ear infection. They had to sedate him to remove the cysts, so he spent Friday evening dazedly wandering around the apartment. He’s back to his normal grumpy self, though, so I can tell he’s already feeling better overall.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Atlas Six (Atlas #1) by Olivie Blake
I had thought this would be a quick read. I had thought it would be an average read. It was neither of these things. The Atlas Six turned out to be the worst book I have read this year thanks to six characters I loathed, bad writing that could have been significantly improved had it only been run through Grammarly, plot conveniences that made the so-called intelligent characters look like a flock of idiots, and a plot twist at the end whose build-up was about as subtle as a brick to the face.
I will grudgingly admit that Blake managed to tie up some loose ends, but as I did not enjoy the reading experience at all, I felt no particular delight in seeing the pieces come together. Perhaps if Blake had spent more time laying out an actual framework for her worldbuilding, rather than just saying “it’s like Instagram, but ~*magical*~”, or crafting characters with major flaws who were also sympathetic instead of yanking the story back and forth between pseudo-intellectual discussions and something that felt like a version of The Real Housewives of …, I might have found some enjoyment. As it was, the various issues made it difficult for me to make it through more than about twenty pages a day until I finally hunkered down with it and powered through the second half.
It barely improved. You could make a drinking game in which you take a drink every time a character says “Libby Rhodes” (it feels like Blake was terrified that the reader would forget the character’s full name), though you would probably poison yourself by the halfway point.
Can you tell I rather hated this book? I did. I’m going to stop ranting now.
If you can’t tell, I do not recommend this book.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- Girl in a Green Gown: The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait by Carola Hicks (63/258)
- Babel by R.F. Kuang, ARC provided by NetGalley (11%)
- Paladin’s Grace (Saints of Steel #1) by T. Kingfisher, audiobook narrated by Joel Richards (60%)
Girl in a Green Gown is a history of Jan van Eyck’s 1434 masterpiece The Arnolfini Portrait, which currently hangs in the National Gallery in London. In alternating chapters, Hicks discusses the elements found within the painting– such as the material wealth displayed in the couple’s lavish clothing, or the meaning of the furniture in the room with them– and the history of the painting itself as it changed hands through the centuries. The narrative can be a bit dry, but it’s incredibly informative if you enjoy art history, which I do. I admit that reading this book stirs up a bit of aggravation. You see, I’ve twice been to the National Gallery in London, and neither time did I get to see the Arnolfini Portrait or most of the other Renaissance masterpieces housed within, as each time that I went, most of the Renaissance wing was closed. When I was there in 2014, it was closed for renovations. When I was there in 2015, I had a single afternoon to visit, and they had decided to close the majority of the Renaissance wing for no particular reason. I did get to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks, which is one of my favorite paintings ever, but still. I didn’t get to see much of anything else that I’d spent years studying at university, and it still irks me.
I was a little hesitant to start my ARC of R.F. Kuang’s Babel. I haven’t read Kuang’s Poppy War trilogy, so I’m unfamiliar with her writing, and given how much Babel has been hyped up by the book community, I worried that it wouldn’t live up to said hype. Sadly, I rarely find hyped books to be as good as the hype would have me believe. I’ve also recently finished Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and I was blown away by how good it was. Given that Kuang herself has declared Babel to be a “thematic response to The Secret History“, I was doubtful that Babel could live up to Kuang’s own hype when compared so directly to The Secret History. My thoughts so far? I’m only 11% of the way through, but so far so good. It doesn’t have the lyrical quality of Tartt’s prose or the wry humor of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (which Kuang has also compared her book to), but it has the potential to do a lot of interesting things with the ideas of translation and otherness, and I’m curious to continue. More insights to come.
Paladin’s Grace is a book I hadn’t anticipated picking up this week, but I was heading out for a long walk around the neighborhood on my day off so I picked a relatively short (and available) title on the TBR of my Libby app, and this was it. I thoroughly enjoyed T. Kingfisher’s novel Nettle and Bone earlier this year, so I figured I would enjoy this one, too. And yes, I do, though there is more romance in the story than I thought there would be. Paladin’s Grace is the story of Steven, a paladin whose god has died leaving him and his dwindling order bereft and nearly purposeless. He and the other remaining paladins have taken refuge with another order, and do things like guard people when they’re going to dodgy parts of the city. It’s on his way home from one such guard duty that Steven meets Grace, a perfumer with a past she’s trying to escape from. They wind up in the midst of political intrigue and a murder investigation, and though neither one of them will really admit it to themselves, they’re falling hard for each other. While I don’t normally go in for romance novels, this one has a certain charm to it thanks to Kingfisher’s wit and the fact that the characters are both a little older and are both trying to start their lives over again. Richards’ narration is solid, and it’s funny to hear his quite serious voice make the sounds of Grace’s little pet weasel-cat. Also, Steven knits socks. It’s hard not to like a brawny paladin who unashamedly knits socks.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad #2) by Tana French, audiobook narrated by Heather O’Neill
It looks like most of my reading time this week will be taken up by Girl in a Green Gown and Babel this week, but audiobook time is a different thing. As I’ll likely finish Paladin’s Grace in the next few days, I’ll be starting The Likeness right after that. I’m on a dark academia kick, and this is another of those sorts of titles that I’ve read and enjoyed, though it’s been six years so there are plenty of things that I’ve forgotten. But I do love Tana French’s writing, and her characters are so well-rounded and interesting that I’m drawn into their stories, regardless of how unlikeable most of her lead characters are.