Sunday Sum-Up: July 19, 2020

When my friends’ child was about three years old, she would look at any new food and declare, “I don’t like it!”. She used an identical cadence every time she said it, and I heard it so often that I can recall it perfectly, even though she is now seven and hasn’t said it for years.

I bring this up because that phrase, “I don’t like it!” has been circling my mind this week. I tried the things first instead of pre-emptively deciding they were awful. So what was awful this week:

  1. Summer. I definitely don’t like it. Friday gave us a heat index of 105°F (40.5ºC), and Saturday gave us a heat index of 106ºF (41ºC) thanks to a heatwave and high humidity. There’s been next to no wind, so no breezes to help cool things off at night. It’s like sitting in a sauna. I hate sitting in a sauna.
  2. Commercial radio. I don’t like it. My car’s CD player (yes, I drive an old car) seems to have bitten the dust, so I’ve been listening to the radio. For a couple of days, I tried an old rock station I listened to in college. I graduated in 2005. The station’s playlist hasn’t changed since then. I realize that a lot of the music I listened to then was terrible. I’ve tuned back to NPR.
  3. I didn’t like a book set in a time period I’m fascinated by.
  4. I didn’t like television show set in a mythical time period I’m fascinated by. More on both of these last two later.

But! It wasn’t completely terrible! After a few evenings of going comet hunting, only to be disappointed by cloud cover, I finally saw Comet C/2020 F3, or NEOWISE, as it’s being called. I went to the salt marsh north of town where you can get a dark northern sky, and the clouds were all to the south. It took a while to find the comet, since it was just a faint and fuzzy blur in the sky, but once I got my camera set up, I saw it clearly through the lens.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you can see NEOWISE for the next couple of weeks or so. Bring a pair of binoculars (or a camera with a long lens!), and find a place where you have a dark northern sky that’s clear of cloud cover. NEOWISE is visible in the northwest after dusk and in the northeast before dawn. Find the constellation of the Big Dipper (Ursa Major), and then look below the two stars on the outer edge of the dipper. NEOWISE will appear as a tiny, faint star with a blur behind it. Check out this article from for more information.

07_15_2020 A7III 024 copy


Obligatory Mina Photo:

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For all that the cats will happily curl up next the radiator all winter, they seem to hate the summer heat as much as I do. They’ve both spent the evenings sprawled out on the floor, waiting for a cool breeze to come in through the windows and cool the place off. Seeing them flopped out like that would be far more adorable if it wasn’t so hot everywhere.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

Armistice was fantastic! There’s a time jump of three years from the first book in the trilogy, Amberlough, and Donnelly does a fantastic job of showing how the characters have changed in those three years. Aristide and Cordelia seem exhausted by the effort they’ve put into their lives, and they’re far more jaded. We’re also introduced to Cyril’s sister Lillian, who is tough and knows exactly how to play the cutthroat political game she’s immersed in. The politics and complicated relationships between all the characters are note-perfect, and it was fascinating to see how the greater world events affected everyone. I am looking forward to reading and discussing the third book, Amnesty, with Jackie at Death by Tsundoku.

Need I saw more about Hilary Mantel’s magisterial trilogy about Thomas Cromwell? It’s brilliant. If you enjoy historical fiction, give it a try. Especially the audiobooks. You’ll fall under their spell within minutes.

I saw Invisible Kingdom at the library at the beginning of the week, and after seeing a five-star review from a reviewer I trust, I decided to give it a shot. It’s lovely! Ward’s art is gorgeous and gives a solid sense of the strange worlds the characters live in, and G. Willow Wilson’s story gives the reader a complex set of alien worlds and cultures in the span of relatively few pages. My only complaint is that the main part of the plot flies by a little too quickly– we discover that while the megacorporation Lux and the major religion, the Renunciation are publicly at odds, they are secretly in league with each other to maintain control of the planetary system they influence. A young religious initiate and a Lux delivery pilot must work together to bring the conspiracy to light. I’m looking forward to the rest of the story. I have no idea when the next volume will be available, though.


The Red Queen  (Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #3) by Philippa Gregory, audiobook read by Bianca Amato (10%)

Why, you ask, did I attempt yet another Philippa Gregory novel? I’m asking myself the same thing. But I’m planning to do a Tudor history project for the blog, and I figured I would take a crack at the most popular pop-culture entry into the Tudor era. As far as I can tell, that is Gregory’s novels, though why that is I don’t know. The Red Queen is the fourth Gregory novel I’ve tried and failed to finish. Her “heroines” either stodgy and sanctimonious or straight-up stupid, and they look down upon other women who aren’t quite as good as they are because they aren’t constantly praying or flirt with men. I don’t know how you turn a nine-year-old girl into a smug and pious prig, but Gregory managed it with her take on Margaret Beaufort. I could handle all of 10% of it before I gave up and sent the audiobook back. I once threw The Other Boleyn Girl at the wall. I didn’t want my phone to suffer the same fate.



What I’m Currently Reading:

The audiobooks I’ve been waiting for haven’t arrived yet, so I browsed my library’s collection and found that Dan Jones’s overview of England’s Plantagenet Dynasty was available, so I gave it a try. The book covers a few hundred years of history, so it glosses over a lot of subjects and doesn’t deal as much with the queens as the title might suggest but if you’re looking for a basic history of Plantagenet England, it’s a good place to start.

Thanks to the sudden death of my car’s CD player, I didn’t get as far as I wanted to in The Little Stranger. Fortunately, the audiobook was available through the Libby app, so I downloaded it and have listened to a little bit more of the story. I’m looking forward to getting deeper into the last half. I sense things building, but I’m not to the darkest part yet.

Thanks to a few super busy days at work, my lunch hour reading time was non-existent, so I didn’t get to finish Uncrowned Queen like I’d hoped. I need to finish it this week, as the book is being published soon. So far, it’s an interesting account of Margaret Beaufort’s life, though it goes into the weeds of her ancestry, so it’s helpful to have a grounding in English history of the mid-1400s.


What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

Amnesty (The Amberlough Dossier #3) by Lara Elena Donnelly


What I’ve Been Watching:

Vikings season 5, volume 2
History Channel

I happened to see this at the library, so I grabbed it to start catching up with what the Sons of Ragnar got up to in Britain, Kattegat, and beyond. The politics are fascinating– if completely inaccurate– and there were plenty of amazing fighting scenes that showcase the prowess of the Vikings. I think my favorite new character is Gunnhild, as her no-nonsense attitude toward everything is refreshing, given how dramatic all the other characters can get. Ivar the Boneless continues to be fascinating, no matter how completely terrible he is as a human being.

I enjoy the heck out of this show, but it’s a good idea to take it with a grain of salt. For example, King Alfred did not become a king while his brother Æthelred was still alive. Alfred was the youngest son and didn’t become king until his three elder brothers died. He also wasn’t the king of England. He was king of Wessex. England as a political entity didn’t exist until the reign of Alfred’s grandson, Æthelstan. Those are just a couple of the historical inaccuracies, and they’re some of the minor ones. So when you approach historical fiction in any medium, just remember that it’s often not accurate.



Camelot, season 1

I found this at the library, too, and because I enjoy a good King Arthur story, I figured I’d give it a try. Unfortunately, this is not a good King Arthur story. The cinematography and opening credits make it look like one of those B-movie grade TV shows from the 1990s (like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or Xena: Warrior Princess) but without the knowing campiness and the sense of humor those shows made great use of. Eva Green, Jamie Campbell Bowers, and Joseph Fiennes are all good actors, but when they have a terrible script and lazy directing working against them, even they can’t save something. It seems as though Green and Fiennes were told to maintain half-amused expressions, and Jame Campbell Bowers was told to pretend to constantly be clueless. Add in several pointless sex scenes, a woman randomly walking about in the nude (for effect, I guess?), and special effects straight out of 1995, and you have a show I abandoned after the first episode. I’d always heard that Camelot was lousy, but I didn’t realize how bad it was. Now I know.  It’s weird because Michael Hirst was the showrunner for both Camelot and Vikings, so you’d think I’d like them both. Sadly, it’s not the case here.



About That Writing Thing:

I’ve completed the revisions for my current work in progress. Now it’s just a matter of tidying things up and finishing the line edits. There are a couple of minor things to add to make sure certain offscreen characters are in the right spot, but those will only take a few minutes to complete. I’m already considering what needs to go into the next story (answer: a lot of research), as well as scenes and a timeline. I think I’ve figured out what the title will be (the titles always seem to come before most other things), and what the overall mood will be (pretty darned dark, because this is me). It’s going to be a long story, as there are a lot of moving parts and plotlines going on, so it’s not going to be ready for quite some time. I have another work in the same fandom that I started a few years ago, then set aside. I might dust that off and finish it up while doing the research for the next series story. We’ll see. I might dive right into the next story right after I post the current one, which will happen next weekend.





2 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: July 19, 2020

  1. Lol on your Philippa Gregory rant there. I really liked The Other Boleyn Girl and consider it a favorite, but I tried another book by her (the Boleyn Inheritance, I think) and didn’t like it. I’d love to see your Tudor project when you post it. Sounds interesting 🙂
    I also have an old car with a CD player, so I feel you on suffering through commercial radio. They play the same songs over and over again to the point where I end up loving and hating a new song in a day or even a few hours. I stick to NPR as well, but I bought an adapter thing that I can hook up via the cassette player so I can play songs from the apps on my phone. It was only $14, I think.

  2. I really wish I could like Gregory’s work, but it just annoys me so much!

    I don’t think the station plays the same playlist over and over through the day, it’s just that they haven’t bothered to find new artists. They were still playing Metallica, Pearl Jam, and the same Green Day song that they played repeatedly back then. I know rock and alt rock aren’t the super popular genres that they used to be, but surely there are new artists and songs out there. And women. There are female rock artists and groups out there, and they didn’t play them at all. I don’t have a cassette player, so I can’t get one of those little adapters. I may end up having to get a new stereo altogether, since the stations keep getting static interference when they shouldn’t.

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