After the (virtual) insanity of March, April was almost . . . normal. I mean, I spend a lot of time at home anyway, so I just continued to do that for an extended period of time. We are in full hunker down mode. Things did start to slow down for me a bit, and the end of the semester is very welcome, but I still didn’t necessarily get a ton of reading done.
I finished five books in April. Which isn’t terrible considering, now that I look at it. I didn’t make much progress whittling down Mount TBR, though, because two of those books were reread (two Wheel of Time books) and I bought three books from my favorite local bookstore to give them a little extra support. I also picked up an ARC and two books I had been eyeing for a while (one a freebie and the other on sale).
I also didn’t get a ton of writing done: publishing just four posts at Every Day Should Be Tuesday and four at Hillbilly Highways. Which isn’t terrible considering, now that I look at it. It is more posts than I published in February or March. Most exciting is the very first installment of my Whiskey and Book Club, a new YouTube series in which I and another blogger talk about books and drink whiskey. If you are interested in doing a video, let me know. I want to get another one done this month. What I did not do is publish another Wheel of Time Reread post, and I am falling way behind. I hope to start playing catch up in May.
I picked The Dark Continent up as a comfort read. An apocalyptic novel in an apocalypse is a funny kind of comfort read, maybe, but that isn’t why I picked it up. I didn’t pick it up because it is speculative fiction; I picked it up because it is a thriller. I don’t read enough thrillers. The great thing about thrillers is that, as a genre, they tend to be extraordinarily well paced and make good use of suspense. They are the prototypical page turners. And, in a time when I haven’t been getting much reading done, I wanted a book that would encourage me to keep turning the pages.
As a comfort read, The Dark Continent succeeded, even if the subject matter is pretty dark and the book frequently grisly. It is ultimately pretty unbelievable in places and the plotting a little thin. It wound up being an enjoyable but disposable, popcorn read.
I commented when I first read Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories two and a half years ago (has it been so long?) that Beyond the Black River was one of my favorite of his stories. I also commented that it “could have been set on the Texas frontier.” I even went so far as to title my post covering the third volume from Del Rey collecting REH’s Conan stories Robert E. Howard Was the Texan Tolkien.
Many Howard fans, though, point to the American Colonial frontier in describing Beyond the Black River. I am gratified that Keith West at Adventures Fantastic hosted a three-part series by John Bullard (responsible for finalizing The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard) that definitely shows that Howard’s mind was on the Texas frontier and the Comanche rather than the Colonial frontier. Links to all three posts are below the jump.
Gregory Manchess’ artwork from the Del Rey collection
Between transitioning at work and taking care of a toddler most of the day, and the stress of watching COVID-19 chew through America, I don’t have a lot of time and energy for reading and less for writing blog posts. The solution? Avoiding the hard work of writing by recording a YouTube video instead, something that only requires talking and drinking (although the latter is not, as I understand it, strictly required).
Joining me for the inaugural episode of the Whiskey and Book Club ep. 1 is the inestimable Andrea from The Little Red Reviewer. You might know Andrea as the founder of Vintage Science Fiction Month.
How is it that I read so few books in March when it was at least five months long? March was . . . wild. No, that isn’t the right word for sitting at home on lockdown. But it certainly hasn’t been boring. We preemptively pulled no-angel out of daycare (now shutdown), all my class transitioned to online, and my wife certainly won’t be taking any business trips anytime soon. So I am spending early mornings and nights working and taking care of a toddler all day. It doesn’t leave much time for reading or writing (or ’rithmetic).
My stats look better than they are because I decided to DNF two books—Bleak House and Red State Blues—that I didn’t touch all month. At least I was good about acquiring new books, although I did order three more to support my favorite local bookstore. I just don’t have them yet.
I actually managed more blog posts—six—in March than I did in February. But one of those was my February month-in-review and one announced a temporary, quasi-hiatus at Hillbilly Highways. (I published four posts at my blog on hiatus and two posts at my blog not on hiatus ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.) Not bad, considering, I think. I do want to post more at Every Day Should Be Tuesday this month, but the blogs aren’t a priority at the moment. I do have a super special surprise cooking.
A retelling of Moby Dick set on an endless sea of clouds, featuring dragons, airships, birdmen, and enchanted spears? Sign me up! Black Leviathan is also notable for being my first German book in translation as best I can recollect. I have a couple nits, but overall I love the worldbuilding here and had tremendous fun reading this book.
I would beat myself up for writing all of four posts across two blogs over the course of an entire month and for only finishing four books, but February was in fact a fabulously productive month. I just spent it doing the stuff I get paid to do instead of blogging. Such is life. The next couple months won’t be much better, but at least I have hit the halfway point of what is surely the busiest semester of my academic career.
In which the Fellowship arrives in Baerlon, Nynaeve catches up with them, Whitecloaks and Min are introduced, the three ta’veren get their first taste of battle, a desperate choice is made to enter Shadar Logoth, Mat takes up the dagger, the Fellowship splits, the boys take a river cruise Perrin becomes a wolfbrother, Thom falls, ravens hunt, and Perrin kills.
For a series known for a gobsmacking number of POVs, Jordan eases us into things with only three POVs in The Eye of the World (not counting the prologue and the very last one). The vast majority of the chapters are from Rand’s perspective. It helps a lot, and I wish a lot more writers today would start things a little slower. But The Eye of the World really gets going when the characters split fleeing Shadar Logoth.
no-angel looks like she has theories about wolfbrothers
It was an unexpected arrival, but book mail is always welcome at la casa de martes. I started reading The Bard’s Blade in part due to comparisons to The Wheel of Time. As it happens, I had just started a reread of The Eye of the World. I am afraid The Bard’s Blade suffers in comparison. And for other reasons.
I am going to keep this very short because I did very little reading in January, and even less blogging (only seven total posts in January). I only finished one book. Although that does understate things a bit: I have been working on several heavy books I didn’t finish but made progress on.
There is one excited bit of news: I finally started a reread of The Wheel of Time and, despite any promises I made to myself when I did, I promptly wrote a post. I am sure more are to follow.