Sunday Sum Up, 02/17/2019

Winter Destinations for Christmas!

It feels like it snowed all week when we really only had snow for three days out of seven. After an all-day snowfall on Friday, yesterday dawned bright and beautiful. The trees were laced with white and the sky was a perfect wintry blue. I had hoped to slip out to the park during my lunch break to photograph the lake while the weather was so agreeable, but it soon clouded over and by the time noon rolled around the sky was a dull gray.

By the time I got home after work and a trip to the bookstore, it was snowing again. Big, puffy flakes collecting at about an inch per hour. Though night had already fallen, I couldn’t help but go out for a walk. In 17°F (8°C), in the middle of a snowstorm. While I try to go through my days with a solid sense of logic, I realize that it is healthy to retain a sense of the ridiculous, and it was completely ridiculous to wander out into the cold rather than go up to my cozy apartment and curl up with my cat.

There is something both calming and delightful about being outside in the snow when no one else is around and your tracks are the only ones in fresh snow. Everything and everyone was inside, and it was quiet enough I could hear the snowflakes rattling against the tree branches.

Moments of joy need not be profound to be memorable. They can be as simple as standing among the trees while snow falls around you.

What I Read Last Week:

Last week was an odd reading week. It felt like I read very little because I only finished two books, but I actually did a lot of reading because I made significant progress in an ongoing read and began an ARC that is coming out soon.

By the Sword is another book set in the Valdemar universe, but most of it takes place in the lands outside of Valdemar. It is about Kerowyn, who at the beginning of the book is a teenager unhappy with her life and the drudgery that comes from being a young woman beholden to her brother. Her chance for freedom comes when her home is attacked during her brother’s wedding feast, and the bride is kidnapped. With no one else able to rescue the girl, Kerowyn takes up a sword and sets her feet onto a path that will take her to a life she never imagined. The events of this book occur between the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy and the Mage Winds trilogy, but it’s not necessary to read it before reading the Mage Winds books. It’s a perfectly fine entry in the Valdemar series but hits some predictable beats. Kerowyn is not my favorite of Lackey’s characters, but I found that I couldn’t put the book down once I reached the second half.

Ice is one of the strangest books I’ve read so far in 2019. It was published in 1967 and quickly became Kavan’s most successful book. It’s a science fiction tale about a man searching for an abused woman he has a strange connection to, but who is in a relationship with a dangerous authoritarian leader. While the unnamed narrator searches for the woman, a climate change disaster is unfolding around the world. The book deals with child abuse and its long term effects on survivors, totalitarianism, and with strange prescience, widespread climate change denial. It is a fever dream of a book that I’m still absorbing, at times disturbing and sometimes just strange. I have yet to rate it on Goodreads because I honestly don’t know how I feel about it, though I see why it was such a successful book in 1967.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I blame Ice and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion for slowing my reading down this week. Neither of them is very long, but they are dense books dealing with difficult topics, primarily that of the darkness of the human mind. I plan to make a concerted effort to finish The Temple of the Golden Pavilion in the next couple of days.

Etiquette and Espionage continues to be delightful. Despite being a bit of a fish out of water, Sophronia is a clever and resourceful girl who rolls with the fact that her life has quite suddenly become very strange.

I have made a lot of progress in The Queens of Innis Lear, and anticipate finishing it this week. It has sped up quite a lot and become slightly less atmospheric and brooding, but I wouldn’t say there is a lot of action, save for the scenes dealing with the famous storm King Lear walks into with his Fool and another famous scene that is one of the most brutal in all of Shakespeare’s plays. In The Queens of Innis Lear, that brutal scene is worked differently but is no less violent or effective for the changes. I am curious to see how those changes affect the flow of the story since it diverges quite a bit from King Lear.

A Dangerous Collaboration is the fourth entry in Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell mysteries. Veronica, a not-so-proper lady in late Victorian England, is a lepidopterist by trade but has taken up detective work alongside the brooding but handsome Stoker Templeton-Vane, a fellow natural historian. In A Dangerous Collaboration, Stoker’s brother Tiberius convinces Veronica to pose as his fiancee to accompany him to his friend Lord Malcolm Romilly’s estate on a tiny island off the coast of Cornwall. Veronica quickly finds herself in the midst of a mystery: that of the disappearance of Romilly’s bride on their wedding day three years earlier. I was thrilled to receive an ARC of A Dangerous Collaboration through NetGalley, as it is one of my favorite mystery series. Although the first couple of chapters seem a little off, the rest of the book so far is as fun as the previous three books in the series. I will try to finish it up today and have a review for it closer to the publication date.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

I didn’t really watch anything last week except for one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery, episode 205, ‘Angels of Imperfection’. In this episode it seems like the Discovery is going to catch up to Spock’s shuttle at last, only to discover that the ex-Terran empress, now Starfleet black ops agent Georgiou is the only person aboard. It’s a bad sign that she’s hunting Spock, but then the episode takes a turn for the weird when Stamets realizes that Ensign Tilley was not killed by the alien from the Mycelial Network, she was merely transported there by the alien they called Mae. Stamets convinces Captain Pike to mount a rescue mission, and he and Burnham enter the extra-dimensional space of the Mycelial network, where they discover that Mae took Tilley to help her destroy the monster that is slowly destroying them. In true Star Trek fashion, though, they find out that the monster is not at all what it seems to be. ‘Angels of Imperfection’ features a long-awaited return, and I am looking forward to what that will mean for the rest of the characters.

We’ve reached The Return of the King in my Lord of the Rings Reread project, and the action is starting to ramp up. Gandalf and Pippin arrive in Minas Tirith barely a day before Sauron’s forces begin to descend upon the city, while Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas take a perilous road to summon an army of the dead in ‘On the Move‘.

In other news, I’m starting to come up with a couple of ideas/plans for possible future reading projects. The one that is foremost in my mind was spurred on by a couple of comments I came across on BookTube last week. In the first, a commenter during a live stream remarked that Terry Brooks was the ‘founder of American fantasy’, which is patently untrue as there was plenty of American fantasy written before Brooks’s debut, The Sword of Shannara came out in 1977; and in a recent video, another YouTuber went on a spiel about Millennials not wanting to read about the stodgy sexuality and gender norms of current adult science fiction and fantasy. That struck me as extremely ignorant of her, as sexuality and the fluidity of gender have been part of literature since literature was a thing. Quite apart from eroticism of the Indian Kama Sutra or the Metamorphoses by the Roman poet, Ovid (along with many, many others), and the genderfluidity in stories like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, SFF has featured many characters who are not white and cis-gendered.

So. Bearing those two things in mind, I am thinking of tracking down the following:

  • American fantasy novels from before 1977
  • SFF novels from before 2000 that feature non-heterosexual and/or gender non-binary characters.

What will I do with the ensuing lists? I have no idea yet. I already have so many reading plans to keep me busy that it doesn’t seem practical to add another list to it, so I guess I’ll see what’s going on when I finishing compiling the lists. Perhaps it will be a reading project to pursue in 2020.

5 thoughts on “Sunday Sum Up, 02/17/2019

  1. When I was in college I took a science fiction & fantasy class. We were assigned a few novels: The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown, Frankenstein, and Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein. We were also assigned this anthology, which I remember reading eagerly:

    There is at least one novella in there, but it’s mostly these fantastic shorts stories from the last 100 years. You may wish to check it or its table of contents out for inspiration for your SFF project.

    Question: if By the Sword comes after Heralds of Valdemar, where does the Vows & Honor trilogy fit in?

  2. Thanks! I’ll have to look at that list. I checked Wikipedia for American Fantasy Authors, and have come up with three pages of pre-1977 authors already- and some of them are pretty major names going back to 1895.

    I can’t remember if I read Vows and Honor or not, but one of the main characters, Kethry, is Kerowyn’s grandmother, so it happens well before Arrows of the Queen. I’m guessing it establishes information about magic in the world of Valdemar, and talks about the Dhorisha plains, which are important in later books.

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