Sunday Sum-Up, September 4, 2022

That was a week. It sure was. Things happened. I did stuff. Do I really remember what all I did aside from going to see some friends and being baffled by sports? Not really. It was an unremarkable week overall, except for Thursday night when The Rings of Power premiered (spoiler alert: I enjoyed it!). And while I didn’t do a lot outside of work, I’m definitely ready for the holiday weekend ahead. It’s always nice to have an extra day off from work.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

She’s ready for her close-up.

This kid has been all about playing this week. She’ll drag her wand toy into the bedroom and meow pathetically at 1:00AM. Or she’ll walk into the room when I’m working on something, meow pathetically, and stare at me until I scratch her ears or chin, or grab the wand toy and play with her. She has also been running around like crazy, dashing from room to room and bouncing off the couch like it’s her personal trampoline. I don’t know where she’s getting her energy, but I wish she’d share a little with me.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

I don’t have much to add about The Falcon’s Eyes above what I talked about last week, except that I finished and enjoyed it all, and that it really shouldn’t be labeled as ‘a novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine’, because it’s a story about Isabelle, a spirited young woman who looks up to Eleanor and ultimately ends up in Eleanor’s circle, but Eleanor is far from being the protagonist. That honor goes to Isabelle, who goes from being a somewhat naive teenager going off to marry a man she’s initially attracted to, but whose behavior ultimately leads her to loathe him. As their relationship deteriorates, Isabelle makes a decision that will affect the rest of her life (and sets the stage for the second half of the book). This is not a story about political machinations or anything like that. It’s more of an extended slice-of-live narrative where feminine relationships are the most important part. It’s a book to sink into before bed, and gives the reader a sense of what it might have been like to live in the 1100s in France and England. I thoroughly enjoyed it and ultimately didn’t mind that it was more than 800 pages long. If Stanfill writes another book starring Isabelle, I would certainly read it.

The Art of Prophecy is a fast-paced fantasy novel that takes well-worn tropes– the chosen one, the mentor– turns them around a few times, pulls them inside out, and shakes them out until all the coins fall out of their pockets. It’s the story of Wen Jian, a boy long prophesied to be the one who will kill the Eternal Khan who rules the neighboring kingdom. Celebrated before he’s won any victories and spoiled from birth, Jian is far from the hero he needs to be. Taishi is a living legend who has been invited to watch Jian’s training, but when she sees how poor his training really has been, she appoints herself as Jian’s new master. But world events catch up to them, and Jian’s prophesied destiny seems to vanish altogether. Now, pursued by assassins, Jian and Taishi must find a way to survive and find out what happened and why their lives have been turned upside down. I mostly enjoyed this book, though the writing was sometimes clumsy, and there is a chaotic assassin character whose point of view irritated me every time they showed up. Other readers have found that character terribly interesting, though. If you’re looking for a fun, action-packed fantasy adventure, definitely give The Art of Prophecy a try.

Killers of a Certain Age is a mystery/thriller starring a group of four women who are longtime friends and also assassins who work for the Museum, an extra-governmental agency whose goal is to make the world a little bit safer by taking out people who need to die– crimelords, human traffickers, dictators, etc. Now in their sixties, the women have spent their lives working for the Museum, and are looking forward to their retirement. To celebrate, the Museum directors have sent them on an all-expenses-paid vacation. Thanks to a chance observation, though, they discover that the Museum has targeted them for assassination. If they want to live to see retirement, they must find a way out of their situation, find out why they’re being targeted, and who is behind it. As a fan of Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell books, I expected a lot from Killers of a Certain Age, and I was not disappointed. It was by turns hilarious and tense and shows that you shouldn’t underestimate a woman just because she’s not twenty-five. I’ll have a more in-depth review out later this week.

The House of Drought is an odd little novella about a haunted house in a Sri Lankan forest. There is a spirit that dwells in the forest that appears to children, and while she, the Sap Wife, seems benign to the children, there is a dangerous side to her as well– especially after a white colonist insists on building a mansion in the middle of the forest to show his dominance over the land and its people. But the mansion is ultimately abandoned, and it becomes clear to the people who watch over the house that something inside is going terribly wrong. The house seems to be changing around them and altering their perceptions. And then people start to disappear. There is a constant sense of unease in this book, but the narrative jumps around in time and is just disjointed enough to feel like it hasn’t been properly assembled, rather than showing the uncanny nature of the house. Perhaps a second reading of the book would help, as it took most of this short little book for me to orient myself in space and time within the story. Mostly, I was confused about when things were happening, and who they were happening to.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I’ve made a little progress on We, the Drowned, but not that much. I’m enjoying it when I pick it up, now that Albert has returned to Marstal. A few decades have passed since his adventures in the Pacific, and things are rapidly changing for the town. WWI broke out, and though the war initially didn’t affect them very much and actually brought them a lot of wealth, as it drags on, more of the town’s young men are being pulled into it and never coming home. Meanwhile, Albert feels like his life has lost meaning since he is in his sixties and feels like the world has passed him by. Now that an acquaintance has brought a little boy into his life, though, Albert’s spirits are starting to perk up. I’m looking forward to seeing what the post-war world has in store for Albert and Marstal. My audiobook is due back in a few days, but I think I’ll be able to renew it if I want to. I may not, though, as I have the physical book and could set that aside as the book I read before bed. I’ve got a few days to decide on it.

I’ve slowed down on the audiobook for We, the Drowned because I finally got the audiobook for M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains, which I’d been waiting on for about six weeks. It’s the story of a group of fourth-year theatre students at a prestigious arts college that focuses exclusively on Shakespeare. For the first three years, the seven students were as close as any college students could be, but then something changes in their final year. Tension begins to build between them, and things finally come to a head. I think I’m almost to that part, and I have no idea what will happen. It’s a compelling story, though I’m not in love with the fact that every now and then, Rio goes from presenting dialogue with the normal “quotation marks”, but every once in a while will present the dialogue like it’s part of a script:

Narrator: says some dialogue here

It’s a little jarring in audiobook form. I wonder if it would be different if I were reading a physical copy. Probably. But I do like the narrator, so I’ll keep on with this version.

I’m not very far into What Moves the Dead, so I don’t have much of an opinion of it. It’s a retelling of Poe’s short story ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, but I don’t know what spin Kingfisher will put on the story. Thus far, the narrator, Alex, has just reached the aging and decaying mansion of their old friends and is trying to figure out what’s going on. The atmosphere thus far is eerie, and something is obviously very wrong with the house and its occupants. I’m hoping to finish this little book this weekend.

I’ve long been interested in Caterina Sforza, the woman who defended her city of Forli against the likes of Cesare Borgia. Though she was smart and fierce, she has long been vilified for being a sex-obsessed virago (because history doesn’t think well of Renaissance women who are smart and fierce and lead armies). Lev’s biography seeks to set the record straight and present the life of a woman who could go toe-to-toe with some of the great names of the Italian Renaissance. I’m not very far into it, but so far I’m enjoying it.

What I’ve Been Watching:

The Rings of Power
Amazon Prime

Showrunners: Patrick McKay and John D. Payne
Starring: Morfydd Clark, Nazanin Boniadi, Robert Aramayo, Benjamin Walker, Lenny Henry, Owain Arthur, Markella Kavanaugh, Sophia Nomvete, Maxim Baldry, Charlie Vicker, et. al.

(potential spoilers for the first two episodes of The Rings of Power ahead)

Of course I watched this. Was there any doubt? And yes, I enjoyed the heck out of it.

I turned it on as soon as it was available, and it wasn’t long before I lost track of time because I was so focused on what was going on. It’s beautiful to look at both the landscapes and production design, and I’m already in love with Nori and her inquisitive nature. I’m also curious to find out just who the Stranger is and what his appearance means for Middle-earth, and how long it will take for the Elves to figure out that no, Sauron has not been defeated for all time. The days of peace are numbered.

Are there some things I’m not thrilled about? Sure. If you know Galadriel’s story, you know why she can’t go back to Valinor so I’m curious to know why showrunners McKay and Payne put that particular plotline into place. But that’s really my biggest complaint, and while my mind was initially going “but, but!”, I reminded myself that A) McKay and Payne don’t have access to the material in The Silmarillion and that B) this is an adaptation, and all adaptations veer away from the source material at some point, and that all adaptations are also a form of fanfiction. So I got over myself and decided to just enjoy the spectacle. Whether or not this show adheres strictly to the ‘spirit of Tolkien’ (which I think, ultimately, it will), I’m finding it to be a solid fantasy series that knows when to take itself seriously and when to take a step back and laugh at itself. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series progresses.

6 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up, September 4, 2022

  1. I look forward to hearing more about Killers of a Certain Age. I’m glad you enjoyed that one. I had a certain image of what it might be and what you’ve said so far seems to fit that, which is a good thing, it’s what led to believe I might enjoy it. Also glad to see you enjoyed what you’ve seen of The Rings of Power. The closer we got to it being release the more I started hearing criticism, which isn’t too surprising. But it’s nice to see a balanced opinion that acknowledges where some of the criticism comes from while also showing that one can still enjoy it despite all that.

  2. All the bad-faith criticism of Rings of Power has been so frustrating because you get the “it’s from Amazon and they’re bad, so the show will be bad, too” side, and the “there shouldn’t be People of Color in a Tolkien story because medieval England!” (which is wrong on all counts) side, and they have such loud voices that it almost feels like there’s no one who went into with an open mind and ended up enjoying it (like I did). No adaptation is going to be perfectly faithful to the original material, so there’s no sense it hating it because of that. I’ve had to unfollow a bunch of people on social media because their close-minded criticism (before it had even premiered) was poisoning my excited anticipation. I hope you have a chance to see it sometime soon, because it’s a beautiful show on so many fronts.

  3. I love Mina’s pose in this one. It’s a cat pose that I often find so majestic.
    I’m glad to hear your quite positive thoughts on Rings of Power. It’s frustrating to hear others just insulting the whole creation for the sake of hating. You can pretty much tell that some didn’t even watch it too! Hope you have a lovely week. 😀

  4. Mina is such a cat!
    I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve seen about Rings of Power! I’ve had the music in my head for the past few days, and I’m not bothered by it. I hope more people will give it a chance, because even though it can’t be the Silmarillion, I think there’s a lot of room for it to explore some amazing stories in Middle-earth.

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