Sunday Sum-Up: April 9, 2023

There must be some rule that says medical offices and their waiting rooms will have temperatures that are either too warm or just too cold for comfort. I spent most of the morning of my day off in two of those offices- the dentist for a biannual check-up, and then at the clinic for some lab work. Both offices were a little too cold for comfort, so I spent that morning being cold and jabbed with small, sharp instruments. It wasn’t the most pleasant of ways to start the day, so when that was all done I went over to Barnes and Noble, got some coffee at the cafe, and wandered around the store looking at books. I found a copy of the Penguin Classics edition of The Letters of Vincent van Gogh and bought it with part of a gift card I got for my birthday, then headed home. The rest of the day was far more pleasant, with less being jabbed by sharp things and more reading on my couch.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

I swear, there are no cat toys under the couch. There are boxes and picture frames, but no cat toys.

You would think that All The Toys were under there, though, given how often Mina sits there and stares at the stuff that is there. I have no idea what she sees there. I’ve taken all the stuff out, swept it as well as I can, and dusted the boxes and frames, so there shouldn’t be anything that catches her eye.

But she still stares under the couch for at least a little while each day.

Does she remember how she used to climb up in the liner underneath when she was a kitten, forcing me to cut the liner out? Does she remember how, once the liner was gone, she would climb up into the couch’s structural supports, forcing me to put the boxes and frames under there so she didn’t get hurt or stuck?

Does she miss going where she wasn’t supposed to, and wishes she could go there again? Or is she just convinced that one of her toys rolled under the couch, and I’ve been a mean person who won’t retrieve it for her?

I have no idea. This is one of those times when I wish Mina could talk so I knew what was on her mind.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

  • Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee, ebook provided by NetGalley
  • Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
  • A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention: A Memoir of Coming Home to My Neurodivergent Mind by Rebecca Schiller

I was surprised to be approved for an ARC of Untethered Sky, and happy, too. I loved Fonda Lee’s Greenbone Saga, so I was looking forward to reading whatever else she decided to write. Untethered Sky is a fantasy novella about Ester, who saw a manticore kill her mother and little brother, and who wanted nothing more than to become a roc handler so she might hunt the monster that tore her family apart. She ends up in the Royal Mews where she is paired with a fledgling roc named Zahra. Though Ester immediately loves the giant bird and is willing to sacrifice everything for her, even trained rocs are wild creatures that will never return that love. When a sharp rise in manticore attacks prompts a prince to host a massive hunt, Ester and Zahra’s bond will be tested to its limits.

Novellas are tricky things, and when they involve an entirely new world that must be explained, on top of all the characters and relationships that must always be explained, it can be easy to gloss over things for the sake of brevity. In the case of Untethered Sky, Ester’s relationship with one of her friends was the element that wasn’t fleshed out enough, and while there is enough there to ensure that the story makes sense, there wasn’t quite enough to give events toward the end of the book the weight they needed to make the impact they felt like they should have. Another ten or so pages to flesh out said relationships would have done the story good, as the fallout from those terrible events would have hit much harder. An extra few pages would also have helped make the story feel like one that was drily being related to me, and more like one I was experiencing along with Ester. Still, I did find it interesting on the whole, and the ending was satisfying so if you’re looking for a story involving mythical animals that aren’t dragons or unicorns, Untethered Sky is a good one to try.

Six of Crows was just as entertaining the third time around. There was so much that I had forgotten in the three years since the last time I’d read it, and while so many of those plot twists seem so unlikely, I didn’t even care. I was just having fun watching the Crows figure out how to work together (or not) to try to achieve their goal of taking a person out of a Fjerdan prison and then escaping back to Ketterdam with him. This is such a popcorn book full of interesting characters who never quite respond to a situation like you’d expect them to, especially Kaz who has an unlikely amount of foresight (except at one critical point, after which he realizes that he was a complete idiot). Is the Netflix show like the book? No. The show is a different thing, and it’s a lot of fun, too. I enjoy each of them for what they are. I haven’t started Crooked Kingdom yet, but it’s sitting out on the shelf in my living room just waiting for me to finish another book I’m currently reading.

A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention is Rebecca Schiller’s memoir of hitting a breaking point with her mental health and then ending up on the path to finding a diagnosis for what had been quietly troubling her for her entire life: severe ADHD. This is a strange narrative- often disjointed and making you wonder what’s going on while the narrative jumps around from seemingly disparate topics or into imaginary conversations with people who died hundreds of years ago. But Schiller states that she wanted to give neurotypical readers a glimpse into the workings of her neurodivergent mind, and I think she achieves this. So while I spent the first twenty or thirty pages wondering what was going on and pondered DNFing the book, Schiller eventually settles into a narrative that grows more coherent, if a bit frenetic from time to time. I reached the halfway point midweek and ended up spending most of the afternoon of my day off devouring the rest of it, finishing it days before I thought I would. My final verdict? This is one of the more oddly structured memoirs I’ve read, but I think it provides an enlightening (if sometimes exhausting) look into how this one neurodivergent mind works, which I think can help neurotypical readers begin to understand how different minds work so we might all find ways to better understand each other, no matter how our brains are wired.

What I’m Currently Reading:

  • Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, audiobook narrated by Simon Vance (29%)
  • The Quicksilver Court by Melissa Caruso (52/480)

I was in a bit of an audiobook slump at the beginning of the week, as I decided to DNF the one I’d been listening to (The Binding by Bridget Collins), but nothing on my list sounded appealing. Finally, I looked up Bring up the Bodies, because I’m always in the mood for Crumb’s trilogy. Surprisingly, it was available! So I downloaded it via the Libby app and fell into the story right away. This book covers a fairly brief period of time- autumn of 1535 to May 19, 1536. But so much happened in those eight months or so. Henry VIII is getting tired of Anne Boleyn’s antics (he liked her sharpness and charisma when she was his mistress, but he prefers quiet wives who don’t antagonize him) and turns his eye to Jane Seymour. Meanwhile, Katherin of Aragon is languishing in the fens, growing ever sicker as she constantly asks to see her daughter, Lady Mary. And Thomas Cromwell is rising ever higher in the king’s favor. England’s religious landscape is tilting farther away from Rome and ever close to the dissolution of the monasteries, which will signal a massive change in English life and culture. And I’ve only just reached 1536 in the narrative. As ever, I’m blown away by the brilliance of Mantel’s writing. As I read more of her earlier works, it almost feels like her style was building up to this trilogy, which is, in my opinion, her magnum opus. I will likely finish Bring up the Bodies in the next few days, but I’ll have to pause before I can move into The Mirror and the Light, as one of my anticipated audiobooks came available the other day, and I need to listen to it before I go on to the third book in this trilogy.

In The Obsidian Tower, Ryxander and her new friends from the organization known as the Rooks were trying to figure out the secrets of the ancient black tower at the center of Ryx’s family’s castle. The family was charged with guarding the tower generations ago and everyone was sworn to keep the great doors from ever being opened. But when a guest from a neighboring kingdom trespasses into the tower, Ryx must unravel the tower’s secrets and prevent open war between her family’s realm and a bloodthirsty neighbor. In the second book, The Quicksilver Court, Ryx and the Rooks are tasked with finding a stolen weapon that could annihilate all life an in any one of the kingdoms, and they must also find the evil beings that escaped from the tower. I’m not terribly far into this one, only about fifty pages, but I’m already having fun with it, and it seemed Caruso was, too, when she was writing it. An early incident finds Ryx and a couple of her friends hiding among mops and buckets in a broom closet, where they discover that they are bad at spycraft. I’m happy to see these lighthearted moments, as Caruso could easily have fallen into the trap of “because of this major threat of death and destruction, everything in the story must be dark and serious”, but she chose to have some lighter moments to balance things out, and I appreciate her for that.

What I’ve Been Listening To:

  • Babel, original motion picture score by Gustavo Santaolalla
  • Pan’s Labyrinth, original motion picture score by Javier Navarrete

I was going to write a separate post about my experience listening to the score for Babel, but I just didn’t have enough to say about it. It was fine. It still wasn’t the bulk of the music of the full soundtrack, but there is more original music for Babel than there was for Brokeback Mountain (18/36 songs from the double-disc album, for a total of 36min 43sec of original music). And again, it was fine. If it popped up on a Spotify playlist, I wouldn’t skip the track, but there was nothing there I found memorable, except maybe for the drum tracks, which featured a beat that was repeated over and over and over again for the entirety of the track. That got on my nerves, as I’m finding that repetition that seems to have no purpose except to lengthen a song is something that grates on me faster than anything.

But it was fine.

Do I think it was Oscar-worthy? Not really. But then, I’m biased toward Javier Navarret’s score for Pan’s Labyrinth because I love everything about that film and am quite familiar with the music, which features a beautiful lullaby that opens the film. It starts with a single woman’s voice humming Ofelia’s primary leitmotif (the lullaby) and then builds upon that as Ofelia goes on her adventures. As the film reaches its climax, the music is stripped back down to that simple lullaby. I think this soundtrack is so effective and beautiful, and I’m left wondering if Navarette was snubbed because Pan’s Labyrinth is a fantasy story, while Babel was the kind of gritty, realistic film that the Academy tends to prefer.

There was another playlist I listened to this week, but it doesn’t have a particular name, as it was one of those lists that Spotify builds based on the things that you’ve been listening to. It’s a Dark Academia playlist that’s pulled music from Penny Dreadful, Pan’s Labyrinth, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Shadow and Bone, as well as including things like Max Richter’s ‘On the Nature of Daylight’, which is a modernist piece of classical music that I love. I’ve been enjoying this playlist, but aside from the ‘Dark Academia’ theme, it doesn’t really have a specific through-line or anything of the sort.

Next week for my Listening to the Oscars project, I’ll be listening to a score I already know I like: Dario Marianelli’s excellent score for Atonement.

4 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: April 9, 2023

  1. Lol! I think Mina is just trying figure out how to get up under the couch again 🤣
    Love that photo of her. She actually looks as if she’s posing. I don’t know how you manage to get such great pics of her.
    The Jinster enjoys climbing up in the lining under one of the beds at my parents’ house. My bro recently got him neutered (I think that’s the term) because he was spraying all over the house. I felt so bad for him. My mom said he climbed up under the bed when he got home and wouldn’t come out. 😢

  2. I think she wants to be up under the couch again, too. She’s always been fascinated by being under things. I had to cut the lining out from both the couch and the bed so she couldn’t get herself up there and potentially get hurt or stuck.

    Jinster will be fine after a bit, never fear! He was probably just mad about having to go to the vet and being poked a bunch. Sidney was always mad at me whenever he got home from the vet, even though he was always sedated when we went and slept through it all. It was that pesky disruption to his napping routine that put him out of sorts

  3. I loved absolutely everything about Pan’s Labyrinth. I thought it was such a well told and compelling story. I loved the fantastical elements, and the musical score seemed just as perfect a fit as every other element. Certainly a movie I plan to rewatch yet again. It’s been long enough I think there’d be a fresh feel to it.

  4. It’s such a beautiful story! And there isn’t a single element I have a problem with. Guillermo del Toro just knows how to do horror and fantasy, and when the studios let him just work, he makes magic.

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