Sunday Sum-Up: March 5, 2023

Weird week. It started out relatively normal and productive and got progressively less productive as it went along thanks to my dealing with fatigue in the latter half of the week. The problem is being sorted out (thanks to some lab work from a routine check-up at the doctor’s), but it could be a little while before I feel normal again. Why is it that it takes so much longer to recover from something than it takes to get sick in the first place?


But at least we caught it before it became a major problem.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Had it not been for my doctor’s appointment, I would have chalked my fatigue up to this kid’s antics, as she’s been waking me up terribly early in the morning by playing with just about anything that catches her eye. I prefer it when she sleeps through the night next to me, but cats will be cats and do what they want, whenever they want because they get to nap at all times of the day.

It’s a good thing she’s so cute because I might get annoyed with her otherwise.

I’m hoping she’s realized that I’m not feeling my best and will let me sleep through the night over the next couple of weeks.

But even if she doesn’t, she’s awfully cute.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

  • Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann, audiobook narrated by Corrie James
  • Even Though I Knew the End by CL Polk
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
  • The Holy Thief (Brother Cadfael mysteries #19) by Ellis Peters
  • Brother Cadfael’s Penance (Brother Cadfael mysteries #20) by Ellis Peters, audiobook narrated by Derek Jacobi

Black Tudors provides brief biographies of ten Black people who lived and/or worked in England during the Tudor era, as well as giving a glimpse of English history and culture as they would have seen it at the time. While Kaufmann’s presentation of the information is sometimes a little dry, it’s still a fascinating account of these people’s lives. Kaufmann points out that as late as 1999, preeminent English historians were insisting that Black people were unknown in England before the mid-seventeenth century, but thanks to the digitization of things like census records and the wills of ordinary people, historians are now able to determine that, in fact, many Black people lived and died in England in the 1500s, and many of them lived very ordinary lives– like Catalina, a single Black woman who lived in a village in southern England and made a good living for herself by selling the milk, cream, and butter she made thanks to her cow. It’s always interesting to see how ordinary people lived in the past, so I’m glad I downloaded this. If you’re also interested in ordinary lives in history, I recommend this book.

Even Though I Knew the End is a fantasy novella about a Chicago augur who sold her soul to save her brother’s life. With the clock ticking down on the last days of freedom, she’s hired to find Chicago’s most notorious serial killer- the White Vampire. Though it seems like an impossible task, her new boss sweetens the deal by offering the augur her soul as payment. She can’t resist, as it’s the only way she’ll be able to grow old with the woman she loves. So she takes the job despite the impossibly short timeline. Though unexpected allies come to her aid, finding the killer in time is a nearly impossible task. I’d heard good things about this one, but I was a little disappointed. It’s hard to have good worldbuilding in a novella, given the lack of page space, and I found this to be a little shallow. I wasn’t too keen on the main character, either. It wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t think it was fantastic, either. Overall, a middle-of-the-road sort of story.

The Goblin Emperor is one of my favorite books, so it’s always a treat to go back to it. I love how Addison incorporates all the elements, whether it’s the family dynamics Maia has to deal with, the politics, or Maia’s journey from the neglected and abused boy he is at the beginning to the person he grows to be at the end. And Kyle McCarley’s narration is fantastic, too. I would have had no idea how to pronounce all the names if not for his performance. If you’re looking for a cozy, character-driven fantasy story it’s hard to beat The Goblin Emperor. I’m planning to reread the two companion novels starting next week.

The Holy Thief and Brother Cadfael’s Penance are the final two novels in Ellis Peters’ Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, which is a series of murder mysteries set in Shrewsbury near the English/Welsh border in the 1140s when Empress Matilda and King Stephen were waging a civil war over who should sit on the English throne. In The Holy Thief, several monks from a nearby abbey seek help in restoring their abbey to good order after it’s been devastated by soldiers. Upon their departure, a theft is discovered and mayhem ensues. In Brother Cadfael’s Penance, Cadfael sort of invites himself to a peace conference between Matilda and Stephen as he seeks to discover the fate of Olivier de Bretagne, a young man Cadfael favors for reasons known to only a few. To discover what’s become of Olivier, Cadfael risks destroying the life he has built at the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, but to him it’s worth the risk. I don’t know why it took me a year to finish these last two books in the series, as they were quite short and fast-paced. The Holy Fiend follows the usual pattern of the earlier installments, while Brother Cadfael’s Penance is a little different, but provides a satisfying conclusion to the series. It makes me wonder, though, if Brother Cadfael finds a bit of peace after all his investigations, or if there was still mayhem to be had in the English countryside.

What I’m Currently Reading:

  • The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe by Valerie I.J. Flint (146/472)
  • I’m Writing You From Tehran: A Granddaughter’s Search for Her Family’s Past and Their Country’s Future by Delphine Minoui, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan, audiobook narrated by Suehlya El-Attar (6%)

I haven’t made much progress in The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe, though I have gotten through the sections about astrology and how it became a respected use of magic in Christianity (it used scientific thought for the time and inspired people to look up at the stars and ponder Heaven), as well as the section on demons (creatures of the upper air that helped define the differences between good and evil). I’m currently on the section about angels, but I’m not that far into it.

I’m only a little way into I’m Writing You From Tehran, but it’s interesting so far. The framing structure for Minoui’s memoir is an extended letter to her grandfather, who passed away unexpectedly while visiting his family in Paris. He’d lived in Tehran, Iran, for most of his life, though Minoui had mostly grown up in France. She arranged to visit Tehran in 1998 by setting up a project while finishing journalism school. She intended to stay for a week, and ended up staying for ten years, only fleeing when the government shifted yet again and grew more closed off. So far, it’s a fascinating look at life in Iran starting in 1997, when Mohammad Khatami was elected president and tried to open Iran up to western culture and allow more freedoms for the people of Iran. I can tell that Minoui is falling a little in love with Tehran at this point in the narration, so it’s going to hurt later on when she’ll be forced to flee the country.

Listening to Things:

I did, in fact, listen to Howard Shore’s score for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but I pulled up the extended soundtrack on Spotify, and ended up not making it all the way through (stupid fatigue), so I’ll write about it next week and continue this project the week after.

Other things I listened to before the fatigue got in the way:

  • Emilie Autumn, Enchanted (2001)
  • Emilie Autumn, Laced/Unlaced Double Album (2007)
  • Lindsey Stirling, Shatter Me (2014)

I’m not sure how I found Emilie Autumn’s music, but one day I stumbled across her 2006 album, Opheliac, and it was just the right sound for my little goth heart. Autumn describes her music variously as ‘fairy pop’ (which suits Enchant perfectly) and also as Victoriandustrialist (which suits most of the rest of her music). She is a classically trained violinist and harpsichordist and plays both instruments on her albums. And yes, she is the one playing these instruments. I have seen her play them live.

Enchanted feels like a first album, where Autumn is looking for a sound that defines her and hasn’t quite found it yet. She takes inspiration from fairy tales and other stories from the English canon, blending ethereal sounds with hip-hop-esque rhythms to make a sound that is very ‘fairy pop’. It’s not my favorite of her albums, though. The pop elements just don’t land for me, and while I appreciate the message of the song ‘Chambermaid’ (I am not your chambermaid/And you are not m’lord), the songs aren’t my favorite. Fortunately, Autumn found her sound between 2001 and 2007, though not without a lot of strife.

Laced/Unlaced is a double album where Autumn shows off her skill with a violin. The first disc features a collection of classical pieces by such composers as Arcangelo Corelli and Bach, among others. Autumn proves to have a light touch with these works and plays them expertly, and with plenty of feeling. It feels like any other classical album, though her choices reflect the darker sound she’s developed over time. Disc 2 features Autumn’s own compositions as played on the electric violin (as opposed to the traditional acoustic violin from Disc 1). These songs are darker and wilder, though they somehow manage to match earlier Classical works, except Autumn absolutely shreds it on this side, playing both the violin and harpsichord like there’s no tomorrow. I like this collection. It’s dark and exciting, and uses traditional instruments in distinctly modern ways, pushing the sound farther into modernism than artists like Vanessa-Mae or The East Village Opera Company.

I didn’t listen to all of Opheliac, only a couple of songs, but I know the whole thing quite well because I listened to it all the time in my twenties and early thirties. It’s a dark and angry collection of songs that developed during Autumn’s struggles with her mental health and a healthcare system that failed to take care of her properly. She deals with this while weaving Shakespearean themes and characters into the album and, like Bjork, is not afraid to let her voice be ugly now and then, even though she can sing with a pure tone. That’s one of the things I enjoy about Autumn’s music– not just the disparate sounds the pulls together, but the fact that she’s willing to let her voice not be pretty in order to make her point. I plan to listen to Opheliac all the way through again, along with another album or two this week.

I also listened to one of Lindsey Stirling’s albums, just to give her another shot. Several of my friends think she’s just fantastic and have enthusiastically shown me YouTube videos featuring her playing along to music from, like, The Phantom of the Opera while dancing around in costume. I thought the videos were fine. I thought her playing was fine, but I didn’t get what the fuss was about. So I listened to her album Shatter Me, hoping that I would then see what people saw in her, and… I still don’t. The violin music was fine; it sounds complex and difficult on the surface, but most of it sounded like the same riffs repeated over and over again with slightly more lyrical bridges connecting them. The accompanying instrumentation was strangely mixed in, too. The percussion was loud enough that it often drowned out the violin, and the background strings sounded like they were there to make the whole thing seem more complex than it was. From one song to the next, the violin tracks felt very repetitive and were played at the same tempo and volume, and without much emotion. I see why Stirling is popular– the melodies are catchy enough, but unless someone tells me that there’s a significant improvement in melody, sound mixing, and emotion, then I’m not really interested in listening to more of her music. I’ll stick with Emile Autumn, Vanessa-Mae, The East Village Opera Company, Bond, or Emma Shapplin.

9 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: March 5, 2023

  1. Thanks! I took the day off yesterday and have today off, too. So the rest combined with the supplements mean that I’m already feeling better. This morning, anyway. Hopefully I stay this way all day and beyond

  2. I moved The Goblin Emperor a little higher on my list. One day! 🙂

    I enjoy some of Lindsey Stirling’s music and some of it doesn’t do much for me. My favorite song of hers so far is Shatter Me, but it’s the live version at SiriusXM with just her, Lzzy Hale, a keyboard and a box drum. A little simpler and more focused than the original version. I think the song for me is more about Lzzy Hale’s vocals, who I also loved in The Hu’s Song of Women, a song perhaps worth trying if you haven’t heard it. They are a Mongolian band that mixes rock and traditional and uses a fair bit of throat singing. Not sure if it’ll work for you.

    I hope your recovery goes well. Very glad to hear you caught it sooner than later. I suspect just having Mina around will help even if she is a bit too loud and rambunctious.

  3. I’ve heard The Hu, as they popped up on one of my Spotify playlists. I liked them! I haven’t heard their song with Lizzy Hale, though.

    I’m feeling a little better today. It helps that Mina let me sleep in this morning. She was sleeping in, too, curled up next to me on the bed. She’s been so cute all day long.

  4. I hope you’re feeling better! I had to laugh about your comment about Mina being lucky she’s so cute, or you’d be annoyed. I used to say the same thing (tongue in cheek, obviously) about my kids when they were really little. Oh, we love these annoying little creatures so much!!

    I’m actually jealous that you re-read The Goblin Emperor this week! I’ve read it twice so far (once via audio, which I agree is fabulous — I could listen just for the sound of the words!), but any time someone mentions the book, I automatically want to read it again.

  5. I’m starting to feel better, though I know it’ll be a slow process.

    We do love the annoying creatures, no matter what they do I wouldn’t give her up for anything.

    I always encourage reading or rereading Goblin Emperor. Mais is wonderful!

  6. I hope this week will be less heavy on your mental and physical state. Rest up and enjoy as many of the good things in life as you can! I like the cover of The Goblin Emperor you got there. I have it on my shelves and have been meaning to get around to it for years now. I really look forward to finally diving into it.

  7. Thanks, Lashaan. I’m already starting to feel better. I definitely have more energy this week than last. Read The Goblin Emperor! It’s such a lovely character study, and I’m constantly recommending it to people looking for a cozier fantasy. The audiobook is fantastic, and I recommend starting with that, as Addison has a chunk of conlang in these books. I’d have been lost if I hadn’t gone with the audiobook first. Plus, Kyle McCarley’s narration is excellent.

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