Sunday Sum-Up: November 6, 2022

We’ve been in a drought for quite some time around here. It hasn’t been as bad here as it is in other parts of the country, but the rivers have been running low and the ground is very dry.

So when I was woken up by a strange noise the other night, I thought at first that a mouse had managed to get into my upper-storey apartment. It was a couple of minutes before I realized that the noise was, in fact, rain pattering against my window. I soon went back to sleep and woke up at my normal time to find that it was still raining. In fact, it rained most of the day– a slow rain that soaked into the ground instead of hitting hard and quickly washing away.

We might get more rain later this week. I hope we do because we still need more of it. There have been small brush fires around town, and more rain will help prevent others.

I stopped by the lake after work on Friday night. I thought the color of the sunset had mostly faded by the time I got there, but I was treated to a last flash of red before dark:

Obligatory Mina Photo:

I put Mina’s new (handmade by me) blanket next to the radiator for her since she’d been curling up next to it in the morning. I later decided to move the blanket, since I was worried that she might push it up against the metal and potentially cause problems. The blanket is now about six inches over and under the chair, but she is still curling up on the wood floor right next to the radiator. It seems she would rather have warm than soft.

She does love her radiator time. If she could be inside them, I think she would be. Sidney was like that, too, and I had to put blankets in separate rooms so there wouldn’t be fights over the warm spots. Now that she has all the radiators to herself, she’s still mostly sitting by the one she always sat by when Sidney was around.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

I finished off another Shakespearean play last Sunday, and my response is pretty mixed to it. It’s a tough play to deal with in the modern age, given that Petruchio often treats Kate baldy (and Bianca doesn’t always fare much better), and the last scene can be quite cringey if the director doesn’t have Kate being in on the joke and bet at the end, and that was hard to pick apart in the version I listened to, which was a full cast audiobook. My verdict on this is out right now, but I’m leaning toward the side of ‘I don’t like this play’.

‘A Study in Emerald’ and ‘The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains’ are two short stories both written and narrated by Neil Gaiman. I downloaded them on Halloween to listen to them that evening, and I had a great time with them. ‘A Study in Emerald’ is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that’s crossed with Lovecraftian elements. In this story, the two main characters are investigating the murder of a royal personage, while the story uses the framework of Conan Doyle’s initial Homes story, ‘A Study in Scarlet’. It’s a fascinating story and has a twist at the end that I did not expect the first time I read it. It was just as entertaining the second time around. ‘The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains’ is a longer story– perhaps a novelette– where a man goes in search of a guide to take him to a mythical cave in the remote Scottish mountains. As the story progresses and the narrator gives more details about his story, we find that his motivations to find this particular guide are not as straightforward or as benign as he makes them out to be. It’s a story of grief, regret, and revenge, and it’s one of those stories that I’m happy to listen to over and over again, as Neil Gaiman’s narration is fantastic.

The Tombs of Atuan hits differently now that I’m a middle-aged adult than it did when I was in high school or whenever I last read it. Tenar’s journey is fascinating, but at the same time I feel like she was cheated a little when it comes to self-realization. Ultimately, it’s an older male mentor who shows her the truth of her situation, instead of Tenar taking bigger steps to change her own circumstances. Did she make the initial decisions herself? Yes, but ultimately, she was an older teenager under the wing of an older man who had his own agenda when he came to Tenar’s island. Is this still a fascinating story? Yes, and I’m glad I reread it. But it’s a product of our time, and I’m looking forward to Tehanu, where the story returns to Tenar and she deals with the life she has chosen for herself.

I had such high hopes for Ordinary Monsters. It had all sorts of elements I like: a historical fantasy set in Victorian England, strange magics, some background horror elements, and beautiful writing. But ultimately, this debut felt rather disorganized. Character introductions were often jarring in their insertion, and there were flashbacks that felt as though they didn’t really belong. Most of them could have been removed without affecting the plot or character development. There were also certain characters whose points of view were unnecessary, and could also have been removed without affecting the overall narrative. It was a little frustrating, and while I carried on in the hopes that things would improve and get smoother, that did not happen. It was an average first try, but I don’t think I’ll continue this particular series. I will keep my eyes on Miro’s other books he might come out with, as I think his writing is strong. It’s just that the editing needs some work.

The Hollow Places was, by far, my favorite new-to-me book of the past several weeks. It’s set in the American South and is about a newly-divorced woman named Kara who, in a bit of desperation, moves in with her aging uncle to help him run the museum of curiosities that he owns in a little town in North Carolina. Within a few weeks, he has to leave for a while to recover from surgery, and so Kara stays there to run the museum. After she finds a strange hole punched in the museum’s wall, Kara and her new friend Simon (who runs the coffee shop next door) go through the hole and find a bizarre and terrifying world. Suddenly, they find themselves struggling to survive and find a way home in a strange land where things like, ‘Pray They Are Hungry’ are scrawled on the walls. This is the third book of Kingfisher’s I’ve read this year, and I can’t decide which one I like more: The Hollow Places or What Moves the Dead. Either way, I’m definitely a fan of her horror novels, and I’m looking forward to reading her other horror offerings.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I’ve arrived in Fangorn Forest in my reread of The Lord of the Rings. I’m trying to get through a chapter a day, but the annotation process slows me down quite a bit, and so sometimes I only make it through half a chapter. But that’s okay. It forces me to slow down and pay attention to the details that I often glance right past. And there are so many descriptions that I just love when I see them, and sometimes I miss them when I’m reading at my normal speed. I’ll probably listen to Andy Serkis’s narration of the book whenever I finish this current read-through.

I’m a whole 6% of the way into The Farthest Shore, so I don’t have much of an opinion so far. According to StoryGraph, I have read this book before, but it must have been when I was in junior high or high school, because I remember basically nothing about it.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

These are three novellas I’ve recently picked up. O Caledonia and 84, Charing Cross Road are both from Barnes and Noble (they were on a ‘buy one, get one 50% off’ table. O Caledonia looked so interesting, and I figured I might as well get 84, Charing Cross Road because I loved it so much the first time I read it. I bought Time Was at the used bookstore last week, and I’m looking forward to starting this little time travel novella. I assume I’ll be able to get through all of these pretty quickly, as they’re not that long and if the stories are as engaging as I hope they are, I’ll read each of them in one sitting.

13 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: November 6, 2022

  1. Personally, I think it’s best to experience Shakespeare (or any other play) in the theatre or at least spoken. Just reading it, I tend to overlook the nuance. I read The Tempest and Macbeth because I’m familiar with them, but the others I don’t know so well, I’ll find spoken versions of.

  2. Completely agree. I don’t always pick up on the inflection or tone when reading. I just read something that you should always listen to authors like Austen because she used to read her stories a loud, so it’s different/better experience

  3. Hooray for audiobooks! I do enjoy hearing Austen’s novels read aloud. Her dialogue feels so much snappier when someone is actually saying it. Though now I’m wondering if any of the Icelandic sagas are available on audio, because they would have been read aloud, too.

  4. I always enjoy those sunsets with clouds overhead but enough of a break near the horizon to let the setting sun set fire to the underside of the clouds.

    I’d like to slowly listen to more of Shakespeare’s plays in audiobook form, especially with a full cast. I’ve yet to try Taming of the Shrew, and I don’t believe it’s one I’ve ever read, either. Sorry to hear it wasn’t a great one. Perhaps I’ll put it down low on my list and try it later rather than sooner.

    And speaking of audiobooks, I love Neil Gaiman’s voice so I always enjoy finding a story he narrates. My brother once received free tickets to an evening with Gaiman at Wolftrap, which is a beautiful outdoor venue with a covered stage and some seats as well as open lawn for viewing. He was such a delight to watch and listen to as the sun went down, such great stories and bits of narration of some of his works.

  5. Taming of the Shrew is definitely a 16th-century work…..

    I’m so jealous that you got to see Neil Gaiman live, and that it was such a beautiful venue and evening! That must be a top-tier memory for you. I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve read of his, and seeing him live would be fantastic. Alas, that his shows are always so far away.

  6. Beautiful photos! I love your novella selections — I read Time Was a while back and remember thinking it was great, and I have a copy of 84 Charing Cross Road that I really do need to get to! I’m so glad you enjoyed The Hollow Places. I thought it was so weird and spooky and wonderful! Wishing you a great week.

  7. 84, Charing Cross road is so good! Move it up on your TBR!

    I’m completely hooked on O Caledonia. The writing is so unexpected and so perfect for it. I finally got Elder Race from the library, so I’ll probably start that one next and then do Time Was.

    You have a great week, too!

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