Sunday Sum-Up

Another week has come and gone, and once again I’m wondering where all that time went. I really need to get that temporal vortex out of my closet. I know some of the time was spent in finally watching Stranger Things on Netflix, and a little bit was spent watching Will. As for the rest of it? I dunno. Not nearly enough of it was spent sleeping.

*sighs*

DSC01749I only finished one of the books I started the week with, and that was Sarah J. Maas’s Crown of Midnight, the second book in the Throne of Glass series. I’ll have a longer write-up later this week, but for now I’ll just say that, while Maas’s writing has improved somewhat, I’m still not a fan. It was fun to do the buddy read with Danielle from Books, Vertigo & Tea, though, and I’m hoping she’ll want to do it again.

 

The other book I’ve been reading is Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion, which is one of my all-time favorite books. If you want a master class in world building and political intrigue in a fantasy setting, then this is the book for you. The characters are beautifully written and utterly believable, and even the villains have logical reasons for what they do. And while the world of the five gods has more books, The Curse of Chalion can act as a standalone novel if you’re not in the mood to embark on yet another lengthy series. I’ll have a further review when I finish it.

In other news, I picked up a couple more books this week, because why not? One was a ‘blind date with a classic’ from one of the indie bookstores downtown. My last experience with a ‘blind date’ book was dreadful, as I ended up with Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, which remains the only book I’ve ever thrown at a wall. This one sounded more interesting, though, and given that it was in the classics section I figured another Philippa Gregory incident would be unlikely.

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So what did I get?

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It looks fascinating. I’m debating taking it to Iceland with me to read on the plane. We shall see.

I bought two books in all last night. Passing because of the intrigue factor of the ‘blind date with a classic’, and The Ramayana, because I want to develop a better understanding of more literature from around the world.

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What’s up for this week? Lots of preparation. I leave for Iceland on August eighth, and while I’m prepared as far as reservations, passports, and currency, I will need to do laundry and give my apartment a good cleaning so I don’t have to do that when I get home and am exhausted and jet-lagged. I’ll also need to figure out how to pack my camera gear, since I’m taking most of it with me and security restrictions regarding electronics are higher these days. C’est la vie.

As for books, I’ll read what I can. I should finish up The Curse of Chalion in the next day or so, and then it’ll be on to Ann Cleeves’s Raven Black, a mystery series set in the Shetland Islands off the northern Scottish coast. I have a friend who grew up in the Shetlands, so I’m interested in where he’s from. Also, there’s a great TV series based on the books, Shetland. I think there are only about eight episodes, but it’s fantastic. It’s available on Netflix streaming, though you’ll probably want to turn on the subtitles as their accents are quick thick.

I started listening to a new-to-me podcast today. It’s called Writing Excuses, and features four writers who discuss various elements of writing and how to do things like world building and pointing out that descriptions of a thing can change drastically based on a character’s point of view. It’s entertaining and three episodes in (they’re all about 15-20 minutes long), the hosts have given me a lot to think about regarding my own writing and in the books I’d reading.

Sunday Sum-Up

I am pleased to report that I did not melt this week after dealing with heat indexes approaching 108°F (42°C), and actual temperatures that didn’t drop below 90°F until after 10:00pm. I felt like I swam to work yesterday morning through 90% humidity. But thanks to several coffee shops and bookstores with their wonderful air conditioning, I survived the heat wave. This morning is much cooler, and without my window unit rattling away, I’ve been able to properly listen to my podcasts, in particular, LeVar Burton Reads. The newest episode is, ‘Graham Greene’ by Percival Everett. It’s an intriguing story set in Wyoming, about a man contacted by a 102 year-old woman who wants him to find her son.

6260576It felt like I didn’t read very much this week, and part of that is due to the heat and the humidity frying my brain and making it difficult to sleep. I started and finished Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s My Soul To Take, which was fine. I didn’t find it to be particularly creepy, as the reviews say it is. But then, my reaction to creepy stuff has always been rather blase. I doubt I’ll read any more of this particular series. I didn’t object to the writing, translation, or the pacing, but the MC, Thora, just didn’t interest me very much.

After getting excited upon hearing that they were going to be releasing a series of comics based on the Showtime series, Penny Dreadful, I sort of forgot about it until something reminded me of it the other day. I did a quick search through my Hoopla app, and there they were! Volume 1 is a prequel to the series and does a good job of fleshing out certain questions I had regarding the first season, namely, ‘What happened to Jonathan Harker and the others who were in Dracula?’ and ‘What brought Malcom and Sembene together?’ and ‘Why is Malcolm not phased by this supernatural lunacy going on around him?’ The art is fine, though it doesn’t approach the brilliance of Sana Takeda’s work in the Monstress series.

The second set of comics deals with the aftermath of the series. While the show ended they way I always thought it would, it felt a bit abrupt. So it’s good to see that they’re continuing the story (and not pulling any punches). Once again, the art is fine, and while the dialogue is true to the Victorian nature of the show, the pacing leaves out much of the poetry and the quiet scenes many of the characters shared. I’ll be curious to see if future issues flesh out those quiet moments more than the current ones have.

 

Because Danielle over at Books, Vertigo & Tea and I have been planning to do a buddy read of Sarah J. Maas’s second Throne of Glass book, Crown of Midnight, I bought a digital copy, since I didn’t want to have to wait for a library hold to come through. I’ve written before about how disappointed I was in the first book in the series, so I’m hoping that the second book takes a big leap forward quality-wise, as I have yet to see why so many people say that Maas is ‘one of the best fantasy writers out there’.

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I had to go downtown on my day off to run some errands. I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t have made some pit stops at the two independent book stores there. They offered me free iced tea when I walked in the door at Francie & Finch, and Indigo Bridge Books has always had a great little cafe with both hot and cold drinks. I bought an iced coffee and spent about an hour wandering around looking at all the books. I picked a book at each shop- Ann Patchett’s The Magician’s Assistant and volume 2 of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s graphic novel series, Monstress. They go along with the copy of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man I bought at Barnes and Noble the night before. The heat may make it hard to sleep, but at least I have some new books to read while I’m lying awake at night!

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I intended to do a lot of things when I got home last night, but it was so hot and gross, and I was so tired after a week of lousy sleep that I ended up not doing much of anything. What I mainly did was discover that the entire current season of The Great British Baking Show is available through Nebraska’s PBS streaming service. I have an NPR membership, which gives me free access to the service (yay NPR!) I had been watching an episode every Friday night, thinking that they were premiering on the streaming service when the episodes were playing on TV. But they weren’t! The whole season was available right from the start! So I binge-watched the remaining few last night, and was thrilled to see that my favorite baker won the whole thing!

I have not caught up on TNT’s Will. I meant to last week, but it didn’t happen. I blame the heat and general fatigue for that. It’s hard to get excited about anything when, outside of work, you feel like you’re trying to breathe soup. This week? A little cooler! I might have some energy!

New Acquisition

It was a horridly stressful day at work yesterday, so I dropped by the bookstore afterward to relax. Of course I looked at the photography section and found this little gem:

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This is a collection of photographs by award-winning National Geographic photographers. The book starts with photographs taken in the morning, progresses to into the afternoon, and ends with photographs taken in the evening. It’s not a very big book, perhaps 5″x 8″, but the photographs are full color and cover full pages, with plenty of two-page spreads.

New Acquisition and a Short Review

I haven’t been up to too much these days. I’ve started and stopped a couple of books that I didn’t care for and I’m working my way through The Two Towers. I’ve just gotten back to Frodo and Sam’s journey after traveling through Rohan to Helm’s Deep and Orthanc once again.

I did buy a new book, though. I got a gift card for my birthday, so I decided to get one I’ve been wanting since I saw the film Arrival.

 

DSC08924Ted Chiang’s short story collection contains the work that Arrival was based on, and because I loved that movie so much I wanted to read the story it came from. It’s going to be one of my five books on my April To Read list.

March’s To Read list isn’t faring so well. I started and quickly stopped reading Arthur’s Britain by Leslie Alcock, as it’s far drier and more academic than I want to delve into. I also stopped reading The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. It’s less of a book about books and learning and more about how to learn and the histories of the various disciplines such as history and literary criticism. It’s a very helpful book if your education was a bit lacking, but my hometown’s public school system was wonderful, so The Well-Educated Mind wasn’t so helpful for me.

I attempted another Philippa Gregory book. That was a mistake. I thought I’d give her another try, since it’s been a few years since I threw The Other Boleyn Girl at the wall. I mean, she’s a popular writer. Her books can’t all be as terrible as that one, right?

Hmm…

I tried The Taming of the Queen. It’s about Henry VII’s last wife, Kateryn Parr, who was in love with another when she received the king’s offer of marriage, which she couldn’t pass up. Literally.

Now, the book’s synopsis talks about how well educated Kateryn Parr was, but that wasn’t evident in the text. Gregory turns Kateryn into a somewhat ditzy country woman from the north of England who is out of touch with courtly manners and gossip and has to be told the consequences of her actions by her sister, Nan, whose sole function is to explain everything to Kateryn and the reader. It makes for wearisome explanations between sections of purple prose and a couple of ill-advised sex scenes. Again, literally ill-advised. Henry VIII makes the offer of marriage to Kateryn, who promptly goes off to have sex with the man she really loves,  Thomas Seymour. For a soon-t0-be queen to do this was tantamount to treason at the time, and a woman as intelligent as Kateryn would have known this. Two of Henry’s queens were executed for having affairs or merely being rumored to have affairs, so it baffles me that Kateryn would have gone off and slept with Thomas Seymour, regardless of how much she loved him.

Gregory’s anti-Tudor bias is evident, as well, in the way that she describes nine-year old Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I), and she constantly refers to poor Katherine Howard as ‘that little slut’ or ‘the whore’. I would think that a writer who calls herself a ‘feminist historian’ would be less prone to slut-shaming a seventeen year old girl (as Katherine Howard was when she became queen) and more likely to chick her own bias when it comes to writing about historical figures.

So that ended up being longer than I anticipated. At least I didn’t throw this book across the room. A good thing, since it was on my e-reader.

Suffice it to say that I won’t be reading any more of Philippa Gregory’s books. I am 0/2 on them. Luckily, there are plenty of other writers of historical fiction who don’t suck, so I’ll be able to find plenty of novels set in the medieval and Renaissance eras.

 

 

New Acquisitions

I spent my day off doing a not-fun thing followed by a very fun thing. In the morning, I filed my taxes. That was a two hour hassle in which my internet connection- normally a stable one- decided to go out twice. Never for long, but when you’re in the middle of doing something important it’s infuriating.

The very fun thing happened after that, when I went downtown to go to my favorite used bookstore.

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I’ve heard nothing but good things about Sharon Kay Penman, and while I’ve primarily heard about her book, Legacy, which is about Elizabeth I, I decided to give Falls the Shadow set during the reign of Henry III.

The Well Educated Mind is one of the books about books that keeps popping up when I do searches for such books, so into the cart it went. The British History Podcast has reignited my interest in early English writing, so finding Anglo-Saxon Poetry made me happy (and who wouldn’t like an illustration like the one on its cover?). And Yosemite– well, Ansel Adams’s work speaks for itself. I’m just surprised someone else hadn’t already snatched up this gorgeous little book.

New Acquisitions and October TBR

I got another coupon to the used bookstore downtown, so I wandered over there on my day off. They had a display for banned books week, but I ended up just getting a couple of books of photography by Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. They are gorgeous.

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I’ve picked my books for October. When I put them together in one big stack, it looks like a pretty daunting challenge. That said, I’ve read two of them before, so getting through them won’t be difficult. The other two? We’ll see. I’m still working on The Time Traveler’s Wife, and I’m not quite halfway through it yet, and a library request finally came in for me, so I’m also in the midst of Wild by Nature by Sarah Marquis.

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That’s quite the stack of pages..

Now that I think about it, I’ll be heading out of state to visit friends for a few days in a couple of weeks, so that will make it tougher to finish.

But it’s supposed to be a challenge, right?

New Acquisitions

What’s a girl do to do when she’s finished her public library’s summer reading program and earned a coupon at her favorite used bookshop? She goes and buys books, of course! Especially on Cookie Day at said bookshop. Homemade cookies and lemonade, cats, and discussions about books and travel amidst someone else’s air conditioning? Yes, please!

I spent a good hour perusing the shelves and picked a handful of book that looked noteworthy:

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I started reading Winter’s Tale some time ago, but it was a library book and was due back long before I could finish it. I enjoyed what I’d read, but haven’t picked it up since for some odd reason. There’s a lot of magic realism here, as I tend to prefer it to ‘traditional’ fantasy these days.

My ‘To Read’ list is getting terribly long. I am still okay with this fact.