It’s been a blustery week around here with the kind of wind that makes it difficult to open doors, keep hats on, and otherwise go about one’s business outside. So I stayed inside on the windy days and took advantage of the less windy afternoon on my day off to do a bit of Christmas shopping. I am fortunate in that I know several small business owners personally, so it makes it easy to stop by their shops to pick up something for a friend or relative and know that if they’re out of stock of something, they will let me know when it’s back in or set it aside for me to pick up next time I’m downtown. And because I was already downtown I dropped by the used bookshop to see what they had on the new arrivals shelf. I don’t tend to buy used books as gifts for other people, but I’m not above doing a bit of Christmas shopping for myself there. I found a lovely hardback copy of Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, which is my favorite of her books.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Look at her. Just look at what she’s sitting on: a collection of library books, instead of the lovely little cat bed I bought her.
I stopped by the pet store mid-week to pick up cat litter and a couple of other things, including a new bed to put down in my studio next to the radiator so she has somewhere soft to lie down, instead of laying on the floor. But once I got it home, she sniffed the bed for a little while and promptly refused to use it. I would pick her up and set her in it, and she would immediately hop out. I set it next to the radiator where she likes to nap, but when I came into the room a little while later, she was just sitting next to the bed and staring up at me like I’d done her a great wrong.
So it seems that I will be returning the cat bed, and Mina will just lay on the floor for now.
Cats. There is no making sense of them.
What I’ve Read in the Past Two Weeks:
- The World We Make (Great Cities #2) by N.K Jemisin
- The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke: Bilingual Edition by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell
- Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
I’d been looking forward to reading The World We Make since I read its predecessor, The City We Became, last spring. I got a copy from the library and promptly devoured the book. It and The City We Became were both books I just wanted to stay home and read, but alas that I had to go to work. I enjoyed or was on the edge of my seat throughout The World We Make, which details the further adventures of the embodiments of New York City as they learn to better use their powers to help their respective boroughs, keep their own lives from spiraling out of control, prevent a fascist from being elected mayor and stop an otherworldly being from destroying the world. It’s a tall order, and the spirits of New York can’t do it alone. If the other great cities would lend a hand, it would help matters, but change is hard for cities that are hundreds or thousands of years old, and they’re not always happy to aid a little upstart like New York. While the ending of this book was a little too pat and neatly wrapped up for my taste, I’m also not sure that I would have enjoyed a more drawn-out conflict. For the most part, though, I loved this book–especially the embodiment of London– and voted for it in the first round of the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fantasy. I was disappointed but not surprised that it didn’t make it to the final round.
I had already read many of the poems in The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, as there were selections from his Book of Hours and Book of Images, as well as all of the Duino Elegies, and several of his Sonnets to Orpheus. But I hadn’t read Mitchell’s translations of the Elegies, so it was interesting to see a different version from A. Poulin Jr.’s translations. On the whole, I think I prefer A. Poulin Jr.’s translations. I think they may be slightly less accurate than Mitchell’s, but they feel earthier on one end and more feral on the other.
Ex Libris was a reread. I wanted a quick, light read before the end of November, and Fadiman’s book about books hit the spot. It is a collection of essays Fadiman wrote over the course of six years or so, detailing the various aspects of her reading life– how she and her husband merged their respective libraries, how her family was obsessed with grammar and enjoyed finding typos and grammatical errors that turned otherwise serious sentences into ridiculous statements. These essays are, generally, light-hearted and humorous, though they sometimes turn toward the nostalgic or bittersweet. If you enjoy books about books, Ex Libris is not to be missed.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (683/1216)
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (12/112)
- Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (30%)
- The Crystal Cave (The Arthurian Saga #1) by Mary Stewart, audiobook narrated by Derek Perkins (22%)
- The Last Kingdom (The Last Kingdom #1) by Bernard Cornwell (15/351)
Frodo, Sam, and I have reached Henneth Annun with Faramir, Captain of Gondor, and we had a nice, long conversation about the goings-on in Gondor, Boromir and his tragic flaw, and the effects that history has on the presence. On each reread, I find Faramir to be an even better person than I already thought he was, though this time I noticed how he praises the bold people of Rohan. Seems like he’s already primed to fall head over heels for a certain white lady of Rohan. Gollum seems even sketchier this time around, too. There’s something about reading a familiar book slowly that makes lesser-known passages develop new meaning or more significance than they had the first few times around, when you were just breezing through things. In just one more chapter, Frodo and Sam will be saying farewell to Faramir and the relative safety they enjoyed with the rangers of Ithilien, and then they’re off for the wastelands below the Ephel Duath, and then the land of Mordor beyond.
Thanks to Dracula Daily, I’ve become rather enamored of the various substacks that allow you to subscribe to have parts of a novel sent to your inbox on a set schedule so you can read it, bit by bit, over a longer period of time. Since Dracula Daily ended on November 7, I’ve subscribed to a couple more of these emailed readalongs: Jekyll and Hyde Weekly and A Dickens December. With the Jekyll and Hyde substack, we’ve been getting about ten percent of the novel each week, while A Dickens December sends out a few pages of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol every day from December 1-26. Like reading The Lord of the Rings slowly, reading these classics slowly is showing me that not only are there plenty of things that I’ve forgotten about these books I read for school, but that they’re also a lot more nuanced and often funnier than I remember. Not that my teachers and professors were focused on the humor. They were more interested in the social commentary the books provided. But thanks to Tumblr, I’ve seen both the commentary and the jokes more clearly, and am developing a greater appreciation for these old classics. I’m not very far into either of them, so look forward to more of my remarks at a later date.
I wanted an audiobook to listen to while finishing up paperwork and whatnot at work, so I downloaded an old favorite: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. I’ve read this book several times, mostly via audiobook, as Derek Perkins’ narration is fantastic and suits Stewart’s gorgeous writing to a T. The Crystal Cave tells the story of Merlin as a boy– how he managed to avoid the dangers of his childhood, find the mentor who set him on a path to greatness, and how he joined up with the men who would father legends. I always enjoy young Merlin’s wit and pluck as he dodges relatives who would rather he were dead and puts his trust in the gods he can almost hear in the wind and stars. I don’t know if I’ll listen to the entire trilogy, or if I’ll stop with the first or second one. We’ll see how the rest of the holiday season goes, as I have a lot of books I want to read in December.
According to The StoryGraph, I read The Last Kingdom in 2017. I must have read it about the time that the show based on this books series was first coming out, but I really don’t remember it. Now that I have the entire series on my shelf, I figured I would start reading it. I’m only about fifteen pages in, though, so I don’t have much of an opinion yet save that Cornwell does a good job of establishing a time and place in short order. I will probably have to put this one on pause for a bit, as I have an ARC to read this week, since I forgot that that book comes out on Tuesday.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- Into the West (The Founding of Valdemar #2) by Mercedes Lackey, ARC provided by DAW Books and NetGalley
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a representative at DAW Books, asking if I would like an eGalley of Mercedes Lackey’s latest book, Into the West. As I enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, I said yes. I knew the publication date was fast approaching, but it doesn’t take me very long to get through a Mercedes Lackey book, so I put off reading it, thinking it was due out next week. Nope. It’s out on Tuesday. So now I’m a bit behind, and my review for Into the West will probably be out toward the end of theweek.