I had a relaxing time of it last week, thanks in part to the Labor Day holiday last Monday here in the US and an overall quiet week both at work and home. I did have the usual problem of forgetting which day it was when I went back to work on Tuesday. This was exacerbated by the fact that I had to work on my usual day off, then a couple of my coworkers swapped their days off, and then I had Saturday off (which I don’t normally have). So Monday felt like Sunday, Tuesday felt like Monday, Wednesday felt like Thursday, and Thursday felt like Friday. Friday managed to feel like both Friday and Saturday at the same time. How that works, I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to not being confused about which day is which next week.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Mina had a pretty relaxing week, too. While listening to podcasts and a volleyball game, I crocheted her a little blanket with some wool yarn that’s been sitting in the basket for a couple of years. I forgot what I originally got the yarn for, so I used some of it to make Mina a blanket. She has a habit of napping on hard surfaces– shelves, the top of the dresser, the hardwood floors– and I don’t know why. She can sleep on the bed, the couch, the office chair, my reading chair . . . Wherever she wants to sleep. But more often than not, she chooses a hard surface. So I made the blanket and tucked it in her box. She seems to approve of it, but half the time, I still find her flopped out on the floor when I get up in the morning.
Obviously, she does nap in cushy spots, but not all the time. She could, but she doesn’t.
Cats. They make no sense.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
- Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen
- If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio, audiobook narrated by Robert Petkoff
- We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen, translated from the Dutch by Liz Jensen, Emmy Ryder, and Charlotte Barslund
What Moves the Dead is a wonderfully creepy horror novella that is T. Kingfisher’s retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’. In this story, Alex Easton is a former soldier traveling to an old friend’s house after receiving a letter from said friend about his sister’s failing health. Alex goes, of course, but finds the forest surrounding the Usher mansion is not quite right, and things only get worse when they arrive. Alex’s friends are clearly in failing health, and something uncanny is happening to Madeline Usher. In her afterword, Kingfisher discusses how she was struck by a certain element of Poe’s original story and wondered why he didn’t do more with that particular bit. I’m glad that she decided to explore more about that element because it’s a thing that I genuinely find creepy. Nature does wild things, and we’re only just starting to look at some of the weirdest things it does. If you’re looking for an unsettling, but sometimes funny little book to read this Spooky Season, I recommend What Moves the Dead.
I’d had the ebook Angela Chen’s Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex on hold for quite some time, so when it came available on Monday morning, I downloaded it and decided to just sit down and read the whole thing, as it’s rather short. I’ve heard from a lot of other bookish people– both asexuals and allosexuals– that it has opened their eyes to the way we in the West perceive sexuality, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Overall, I learned a little about how other asexual people seem themselves and how society sees asexual people, but I didn’t really gain any new insights about myself. Part of the perks of quietly going my own way since I was a teenager, and the people around me just going along with it, I guess. The chapter on aromanticism did strike a chord, however, as our society just assumes that romantic relationships are the be-all-end-all of relationships, and assumes that everyone will end up falling in romantic love with another person. As I’m also aromantic, romance is not something I do (it’s part of why I rarely read romance novels or watch romantic comedies). I’m fine with reading about romantic pairings, but they’re not specifically what I look for in books or other media. Now, give me a solid friendship where one of the characters doesn’t up and abandon their friend(s) for a love match, and I’ll be thrilled. My friendships are some of the most important relationships in my life, and I find it frustrating that our society seems to undervalue friendship so much. This also partly explains why I tend to stay at the edges of fandoms, as they seem to get wrapped up in the various ‘ships’ (romantic pairings) that exist in the media, or that the fans would like to see in said media. As I’m not generally interested in ‘shipping’ and it frustrates me when canonical friendships are turned, by fans, into romantic pairings, I just stay away from it all. It saves me a lot of irritation. But anyway. If you’re curious about asexuality and what it means to various asexual people (and we, more generally, exist in this society), give Ace a try. It’s short and has been eye-opening for a lot of people.
I added If We Were Villains to my TBR recently because I’ve been on the lookout for more dark academia-type stories since I read The Secret History by Donna Tart. Olive at A Book Olive gave it five stars, and given that her taste and mine are well-aligned, I decided to give it a shot. I downloaded the audiobook from the library and was almost immediately drawn into the story. It’s told in retrospect by Oliver, who has reached the end of a ten-year prison term he served for some crime that happened while he was in college. He attended a prestigious fine arts college and was in his fourth year with six other students. He and the other theater students were as close as family, but as their teachers push them ever harder to dig deeper into their own psyches, cracks begin to appear in the foundations of their friendships. These cracks widen as the opening night of their production of Julius Caesar approaches, until finally, tragedy strikes, and none of the friends really know what happened. I was intrigued by the story from the outset, partly because the theater students focus exclusively on Shakespeare, and I enjoy Shakespeare’s works, and partly because I liked the characters. But once the plot really started moving, I found the students’ relationships incredibly compelling, and I wanted to know what happened and if they ever figured out who did what. I listened to almost the entire second half on Monday afternoon because I had to know what happened. I was hooked right up to the last sentence, and when I finished, I still wanted to know what happened next. I will probably end up buying myself a copy of If We Were Villains because I want to reread it at some point and see how all the pieces fit together now that I know the ending.
I finally finished We, the Drowned. Upon doing so, I texted my friend who recommended it to me. She is a sailor who has done things like pilot sailing ships across the Pacific Ocean, and she found this book to be both accurate in its depiction of sailing and interesting as a story. What I asked her when I was done was, “If the depiction of sailing in this is accurate, why do you continue sailing??” She kind of laughed in response, and basically said, “that shows the rough part of being on the sea and not the amazing parts”. Also, the abuse heaped upon low-ranked crewmembers is not a thing these days. We, the Drowned is a generational saga that provides a fictional account of the rise and fall of the Danish seaside town of Marstal, whose men almost always go to sea. Many of them are then lost at sea or otherwise disappear, yet this does not deter younger generations of boys from signing onto ships as soon as they can. I’m glad I stuck with this book to the end, but I can’t really say that I enjoyed it. The characters that Jensen focused on, like Albert or Erik Knud, were interesting, but the story veered so harshly at times that it was hard to read. Suffice it to say that this isn’t quite to my taste when it comes to historical fiction.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad, audiobook narrated by Homer Todiwala and Nina Wadia (24%)
- The Tigress of Forlì: Renaissance Italy’s Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici by Elizabeth Lev (66/316)
I downloaded The Return of Faraz Ali on Monday evening and started listening to it when I went for a walk. It’s about a police official in Lahore, Pakistan, whose emotionally distant father has assigned him to investigate the death of a young girl. By ‘investigate’, Faraz knows that his father means, ‘sweep this under the rug so everyone forgets about it, because the culprit is probably some high-ranking member of the police or government, and in Lahore in the late 1960s corruption is rampant and justice is often just a word people pay lip service to. But there’s something about the case that Faraz just can’t let go of, so he quietly begins to investigate. I’ve only just reached the part where he’s decided he wants to find out what really happened to the girl, so I have no idea who the culprit might be. I have a few suspicions, but those will probably prove to be wrong.
The Tigress of Forli was the book I intended to read over my lunch hours at work, but my lunch hours proved to be not conducive to reading for one reason or another and so I haven’t made much progress. At this point in the narrative, Caterina is starting to get into politics and learning about the people and forces that drove Renaissance Italy. She hasn’t yet done any of the big things that history remembers her for.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden
- The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox
After I finished We, the Drowned and talked to my sailor friend about it, she recommended The Nautical Chart for the sailing parts, and also for the fact that we both like Arturo Perez-Reverte’s books, and we should read more of them.
I’ve had The Absolute Book on my shelf for at least a year, and because I’ve heard great things about it, I should go ahead and get to it already.
What I’ve Been Watching:
The Rings of Power
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.
I’m still loving The Rings of Power. I watched the first two episodes again before the third episode premiered, and I like them even more than I did when I watched them the first time. Between the visuals and the “okay, who is that and where are we?” aspects of my first viewing, I wasn’t able to focus quite so much on subtle character dynamics and details, which were more obvious the second time around. The third episode brings us to Numenor, and while I wasn’t as interested in Galadriel’s storyline in this one, everyone else’s stories are building beautifully. I especially like how Ismael Cruz-Cordova brings the Silvan elf, Arondir, to life. He’s a little rough around the edges, but strong and graceful and as stoic as you would expect an Elf to be, without being the sort of ethereal “we’re leaving Middle-earth behind” Elves that you get in the Peter Jackson films, where basically all the Elves are departing for Valinor. Things are rougher and less worn out in the Second Age, and I think Arondir shows that.
I’m also interested to see where Halbrand’s story ends up, thanks to the information we now have about part of his background. How will he fit with Elendil and Isildur, now that they have entered the story?
Numenor as a setting is gorgeous and everything I expected of it. I’m curious as to how Queen Miriel’s storyline will progress, given what I know happens to her and to her advisor, Ar-Pharazon (who has also made an appearance as the queen’s advisor).
I’ll probably be watching the third episode another time or two this week so I can pick up on those details that I missed the first time through.