Sunday Sum-Up: May 21, 2023

Stressful week. Things were forgotten. Fortunately, no mistakes were made. Or if there were, they were minor mistakes.

Will next week be less stressful? It had better be! A couple of things will be resolved on Monday, so there’s that.

Also fortunately: the forgotten things were definitely not critical- there were two blog-related things I forgot to do, namely my planned “Am I Traveling Like….?” post and my “Listening to the Oscars” entry. It wasn’t until Friday night that I realized that I hadn’t listened to the 2012 winner The Life of Pi, written by Mychael Danna. Next week! For both forgotten things.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Mina has been super playful this week, though she mostly ignored her once-favorite GoCat toy in favor of the ribbon toy I bought her when she was a kitten. I’ll sit on the floor and pull the ribbons along the floor around myself, and she will dart out from wherever she’s been “hiding” and pounce on the ribbons. She makes this cute little meeping sound when she leaps out from around the couch or whatever and it makes me laugh, so I’m perfectly happy to pull the ribbons around until she decides she’s done and goes to sit in the window and watch the birds.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

  • Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval
  • The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill, audiobook narrated by Katherine Littrell
  • Tehanu (The Books of Earthsea #4) by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Nature of Middle-earth by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Carl F. Hostetter

I actually finished Accidentally Wes Anderson the week before last, but I forgot to talk about it. So here goes. Accidentally Wes Anderson is a collection of photographs and stories of buildings from around the world that are photographed in a style reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s films. The photographs are very symmetrical, carefully lined up, and very colorful. The story of the building or place accompanies the picture, providing insight into the history of the place. It’s a fun book filled with beautiful photographs, but I have a complaint: most of the photographs from places like South America feature architecture built or inspired by Western ideas and architects. And I know that European ideas have had a lot of influence in South America and Asia, but I would have loved to have seen more local architecture that didn’t look like it was transplanted directly from Germany. Also, there were a mere handful of photographs from Africa. Was this a matter of there being a dearth of photographers from Africa that were involved in the project? I don’t know. Maybe. But I think this book missed an opportunity to introduce Western readers to the beautiful and quirky local traditions of the rest of the world, instead of being fed more “Germanic in spirit, but located in Argentina”.

The Woman in the Library is a mystery about a writer who meets three people in the Boston Public Library one morning. They hear a woman scream and are asked to stay where they are until security can figure out what’s going on. What follows is a blossoming friendship that turns into a murder mystery as they try to figure out what happened to the screaming woman who was later found dead in the library. As the writer digs deeper into the pasts of her new friends, she comes to realize that one of her new friends is a murderer. Another narrative is woven around the main story, and over time develops a mystery of its own. I was sold on this story for the first half or so, but the second half started to get a little angsty and a bit tedious as the writer tries to figure out whose perspective is true. I was interested enough to find out if my guess as to whodunnit was correct (it was), but the premise behind the killer’s reasons seemed pretty far-fetched to me. I mostly had a good time listening to this, but overall it was pretty average.

Tehanu is the fourth book in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Books of Earthsea series. She wrote it about twenty years after The Farthest Shore, and it tells a very different story from the other Earthsea books. It is centered on Tenar, who we met as a girl in The Tombs of Atuan which took place about twenty-five years before Tehanu. Tenar was raised to be a priestess of a death god but was rescued by Ged. He offered to bring her to Roke and teach her magic, but she refused and went off to live her own life. She decided to get married and have a family. Now that her husband is dead and her children are grown, Tenar is at loose ends until he adopts a little girl who was horrendously abused and left for dead. She thinks her life will continue as before and that she will raise this scarred child as she raised her own children, but her life takes a turn when Ged returns. He is sick and grieving his own loss thanks to the events of The Farthest Shore, and is convinced that his life is basically over. The appearances of a vengeful wizard and a young king ensure that Tenar’s life will not continue on the quiet track she had assumed it always would, and she must face the consequences of decisions she made decades earlier. This was another beautiful book from Le Guin. It deals with the notion that it is no bad thing to choose a simple life, rather than going out and seeking power for its own sake. It also deals specifically with women’s issues and women’s lives and does so with such wisdom. The different women live very different lives, and Le Guin doesn’t condemn any of them for their choices. It’s a breath of fresh air, given that too many fantasy novels like to sneer at women who choose to do “womanly things” like weave or tend to domestic affairs, or focus on children.

When I first got The Nature of Middle-earth and read the forward, I wasn’t sure why Christopher Tolkien had chosen a NASA computer scientist to edit this collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s notes. Once I got into the book, I discovered why Christopher had chosen a math guy for this project: there are whole chapters devoted to the varying length of Valian Years and Years of the Trees and generations of Elves and how the Elvish population multiplied and how many Elves there were in certain parts of the First Age. There was so much math! I didn’t retain a lot of that, but the other parts of the books that contained notes about things like Elvish reincarnation were a lot more accessible for someone as un-mathematical as me. This is not a book for the casual Tolkien fan, though, and you’ll want to have a decent amount of familiarity with The History of Middle-earth before you tackle it.

What I’m Currently Reading:

  • The Last Heir to Blackwood Library by Hester Fox, audiobook narrated by Ell Potter (51%)
  • Tales from Earthsea (The Books of Earthsea #5) by Ursula K. Le Guin (20%)

The Last Heir to Blackwood Library is a gothic mystery about a young woman named Ivy who discovers that she is the last heir to an old estate in Yorkshire. This pulls her out of the poverty she’s been living in post-World War I London and whisks her off to a new life where she is extremely out of place. She feels incredibly lonely until she finds the old monastic library in the old abbey that was turned into a mansion in the mid-1500s. After that, Ivy wants nothing more than to explore her new library and make it more accessible to the people of the village. She also meets two men- the estate’s chauffeur, Ralph, and a dashing nobleman named Arthur who sweeps her off her feet but is also strangely obsessed with the old library. But there is more in the library than there seems, and the estate’s staff is reluctant to tell Ivy the history of the land. They would rather she left the library alone or left altogether. I’ve been enjoying this one so far. The setup feels pretty typical for a gothic novel– ingenue arrives at a strange house where history isn’t content to stay in the past. There is a charming man who may not have her best interest in mind, a household staff who seems hostile, and a mystery that the ingenue isn’t content to leave alone. A plot point has come up that I’m not a big fan of, given how it’s being used so far. Basically, Ivy suffers from migraines when she spends time in the library, and it has been affecting her memory and causing her to forget certain conversations and events. She’s also being gaslit by certain people around her, so it’s hard to tell what is real and what is a story she’s being fed. I can see how this increases the tension in the story because neither Ivy nor the reader knows what’s really going on, I feel like the author might have overplayed her hand in this. Halfway through the story, Ivy has been at Blackwood for a matter of weeks so it feels like her memory issues (and other things) have popped up overnight. If Fox had let things play out over a longer timeline, it wouldn’t have felt like she’d flipped a switch in Ivy’s head to make the story do what it’s doing.

Tales from Earthsea is a collection of short stories and a novella set in Earthsea. I’m partway through the first story, which is about a young man named Otter who lived an ordinary life in his village. He had magical abilities, and the local wizard managed to teach him a little. But then Otter made a bad choice that was meant to do good, and his life collapsed from there. I’m going to have to go back and review what I’ve already read because it’s been a few days since I read this, and I don’t want to dive back into it, because I think I’ve forgotten some key points.

About That Writing Thing:

I’m getting so close to the end of my current long fanfic, and I’ve been writing up a storm lately, and it’s been fantastic. I’ve gone from working on a couple of chapters where I struggled to write 300 words per day to writing an easy 1,000-1,500 words per day, and it’s been fantastic. I have about a chapter and a half left to write, as well as a prologue that shows what the bad guys are up to, and then it’s on to editing this thing. I have about 55,000 words written so far and have about 10-15,000 words left to write on this draft. I’m not sure if the editing will add to that total or subtract from it, as I know there are things I will remove, but there are descriptions that I will need to add. I will not be surprised if I end up with another 70,000-word story.

I’m aiming for a date of July 2 to start posting this. I usually post the prologue and the first chapter on that first week, and then post a chapter a week until the story is all up. There are ten chapters at this point, so unless something drastically changes, it will all be up by the end of August. After that, I have a relatively brief series epilogue to write, and then it’s done! After ten years of working on this (let’s not talk about the three-year break that ended up happening) I can’t wait to be finished with it, if only so it won’t be lurking in the back of my mind. And it will be great for my very patient subscribers who have stuck with me through all the delays because they will finally have a conclusion to this whole story. Huzzah!

So wish me good writing luck over this next month and a half while I go on a NaNoWriMo-esque writing and editing spree.

8 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: May 21, 2023

  1. I recall when I first saw The Nature of Middle-earth I was very curious and interested, and I’m still both but I think I’d like to read some other books before I venture into that one. Glad to hear your writing has been going well and picking up. I hope that continues.

  2. Best of luck with your writing. I shall look forward to reading it. I was in a stationer the other day buying printer paper when I came across the first three books of LOTR plus The Silmarillion. Couldn’t resist, even though I already own them in several other editions. Have started re-reading these and am thinking of putting them on my 10 books of summer list.

  3. Mina has been all about the ribbons all this week, too. It’s adorable. And thank you! The writing thing has been going very well, and I’m happy with where I am on it. It’s going to feel so great to finish it.

  4. Thanks! I won’t actually be posting the writing thing here. It’ll be over on AO3, and my handle there is between me and the deep blue sea…. It’s hard to resist a beautiful edition of LotR! I have several of them, too, but I still look at other editions whenever I’m at a bookshop. Good luck with the reread!

  5. I would definitely recommend reading other books before trying The Nature of Middle-earth. It’s mostly a collection of notes that didn’t have a place in The History of Middle-earth or were too short, so there are a lot of random bits and incredibly technical information about generations and generational gaps and whatnot. It’s for the diehard fans who want to know every last bit of minutia about Middle-earth.

  6. It’s been a long time since I read it, but I remember Tehanu was my favorite of the Earthsea series. Glad you enjoyed it! Also thanks for the update on Mina’s antics!

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