Sunday Sum-Up: October 4, 2020

Hello, October!

Photo by Pixabay on
  • The weather has been positively lovely. Now it just needs to NOT end up being in the 80+F range at the end of the week, and I’ll be thrilled. It also needs to rain.
  • Because it was beautiful on my day off, I headed downtown and wandered around outside for a while. I actually sat down to drink my coffee at the coffee shop (outdoors, on their patio), and I walked into the candle shop and bought an autumnal candle that smells like everything that is Fall.
  • I don’t know why YouTube suggested the first one, but I’ve gotten hooked on ambience videos of campfires in Norway. The video of the fire makes me feel all toasty warm, and the sound of the wind, crackling flames, and river in the background are a perfect blend. I get so much done when they’re playing. I’ll probably search around for similar videos, but set in Iceland.

Obligatory Mina Photo

Now that the nights are cooling off (we’ve had a few frost advisories this week), the cats are assuming their wintry sleeping spots on the bed. Sidney sleeps at the foot of the bed, while Mina sleeps at the head of the bed. I think she thinks she’s being sneaky, because she’s always back in the chair by the time the alarm goes off in the morning, but I usually wake up a time or two in the dark hours, and she’s always there, curled up next to the pillows.

I think it’s super sweet and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Also, here’s a picture of Sidney:

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

Black Sun is the first book in a new trilogy by Rebecca Roanhorse. It serves as a world building volume and an introduction to the characters. While it is an interesting story, there isn’t a lot of plot to go along with it as it’s part traveling tale that gets two of the characters to a certain place, and part political tale while the narrative is in Tova. On the whole, I enjoyed it though I wasn’t particularly fond of the politics. That said, I’m intrigued enough to read the next one, whenever it comes out.

The Ravenmaster is Christopher Skaife’s memoir of his life as the Ravenmaster of The Tower of London. He lives on the Tower grounds, and his sole job is to take care of the ravens that permanently live at the Tower. He also does tours and looks after the old castle, but the ravens are his primary charge. He’s quite clear that he is not an ornithologist. What he has learned about ravens comes from reading all sorts of books about them and from dealing with them almost every single day of his life for years. It’s an often hilarious story– especially when he details times when the ravens (clever birds in their own right) have outsmarted him and made him look foolish. But there are some poignant moments, too. As someone who is interested in corvids, I thought this book was great.

Why Fish Don’t Exist is a complicated book. Part biography of David Starr Jordan, part memoir, part natural history, part twentieth century American history. Lulu Miller began this story when her life began to unravel– she had cheated on her partner, who ended up leaving her and then she left her job for a future unknown. Long haunted by suicidal thoughts, she became obsessed with the writing of David Starr Jordan, a naturalist who 1) was the first to document nearly 20% of the fish species we know of, 2) was the first president of Stanford University, 3) was obsessed with decoding the hierarchy of nature, 4) believed that eugenics was the way forward for humanity and pushed for the forced sterilization of “unwanted” people, like the poor, the mentally ill, immigrants, and people of color. Miller began reading Jordan’s work in the hopes that his quest for order would help her find meaning in her own life, but the conclusion she comes to ends up being quite different from what she thought it would be. While I see the structure of the podcasts Miller has worked on (Radiolab and Invisibilia), seeing that structure does not take away from the profound and moving story Miller tells of her own life and that of Jordan- no matter how ugly his ideas grew to be. I highly recommend this to anyone who reads books.

Carmilla is a story that inspired Bram Stoker when he was writing Dracula, and you can tell. It’s fairly short– only about 100 pages– and tells the story of a lesbian vampire who ends up in the remote household of a well-to-do family with a beautiful, teenaged girl. While young women in the area start mysteriously dying, the young woman begins suffering mysterious symptoms. No one seems to connect the deaths with the arrival of the charismatic Carmilla. This was an interesting book if you’re interested in the roots of Dracula or in Victorian horror stories. But if J. Sheridan Le Fanu did it first, Bram Stoker did it better.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I’m buddy reading Dune with Jackie at Death by Tsundoku, and it’s been great so far! It’s her first time reading it, and my twelfth or so. I’ve been enjoying going back to Arrakis, and it’s so fun to see Jackie’s reactions to what’s happened in the story so far. We’re not that far into it, and we’re planning to take it slowly to better absorb everything. We’re both looking forward to getting deeper into it!

I had forgotten that, weeks ago, I’d requested the audiobook of The Goblin Emperor until my Libby app beeped at me the other night to let me know it was available. Of course I downloaded it and started listening to it right away. I loved this story when I first read it last year, and the second time through has been even better, since I’m more familiar with the names. Every time I start listening again, I don’t want to stop listening. I love Maia’s journey from being a neglected and abused boy that no one expects will amount to anything, to being the emperor of the Elf-lands. It’s not the easiest journey, and Maia has much to learn about his court, himself, and how to break the cycle of abuse he was subjected to.

I’m only a little way into Machine, but it’s been great so far. I love that Elizabeth Bear is so clear on the science, and so capable of putting it in there. Most science fiction stories deal with near-lightspeed travel, or faster than light travel, but few delves into the reality of relativistic physics, and how that affects the people traveling at those incredibly high speeds (note: the closer you get to the speed of light, the more slowly time moves for you in relation to the rest of the universe. This has been observed, thanks to ultra-precise cesium clocks taken up to the ISS, where the astronauts are moving far faster than those of us on the surface of Earth). I’m enjoying the story and the characters so far, and if it’s anything like the first book in the series, Ancestral Night, it’ll be a fun ride.

Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite is a look into monsters of myth and the scientefic roots of where they might have sprung from. Legendary boars and lions, for example, were probably regular or somewhat larger than normal predators glimpsed at night, or exaggerated by hunters eager to seem bolder than they really were. I’m not very far into it, but so far the narrative is insightful, with notes of wry humor interspersed into it.

What I Plan to Start Reading Next Week:

I had to take some of the library books back, because there was no way I was going to be able to read them before they were due. So I noted them and will try again later. Still, several library books to get to:

About That Writing Thing:

Thanks to work and everything else I have to do around the house everyday (I keep telling the cats they need to help me out with the housework, and they keep ignoring me), I don’t get as much writing time as I would like (unless I were to give up reading, which… No), and so I have to make do with writing fifteen minutes here and twenty minutes there, and occasionally an hour now and then. But if you keep working at it, even those little bits of time add up, and eventually all those sentences and paragraphs you’ve been pecking away at turn into twenty pages of text that you can build on and build on until you’re into the most interesting parts of the story, and then the words start to flow more easily. And then it doesn’t matter if you have half an hour at the beginning of the day and a half an hour at the end, because you’re writing at all and the story is unfolding in front of you, and it’s an amazing feeling when you get to that point.

I’m not terribly far into my current work in progress, but the fun parts are just down the road. I can see them coming, and I can’t wait to get there.

Photo by Lukas Hartmann on

8 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: October 4, 2020

  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed The Ravenmaster, it sounds like a book I might enjoy. Ornithologist or not, spending that much time with an animal you’re sure to learn something interesting about it. I really enjoyed Carmilla but agree with you that Dracula was a better story. Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite sounds like it could be fascinating, I’d be curious to read that one. And I keep wanting to give Elizabeth Bear’s work a try (her and many other authors). One day… 🙂

  2. My cats have started slowly inching toward each other at night. They spend most of the warmer months sleeping separately–one on the bed, one on the tower–but as it’s dipping into the high 40s at night now, they’re on either side of the bed and slowlyyyyyy creeping closer every night. They were only one human leg apart last night! I can’t wait until I start finding Lily half on top of Grace while Grace just glares death at everyone, hahaha.

  3. I’ve been thinking about re-reading Dune, and need to get serious about it before the movie comes out. Glad you’re enjoying your re-read! Just hearing that you’re listening to the Goblin Emperor audiobook makes me happy — I loved that book so much, and I plan to listen to the audio one of these days too. Great Mina and Sidney photos!

  4. I love every re-read I do of Dune! You’ll have plenty of time now to get to it again, as the movie has apparently been pushed back to October 2021 Alas! It was literally the only movie I wanted to see this year! But oh well. There’s not much we can do about it from here but wait. And read.

  5. *lol* I love it when cats curl up together like that. I sometimes wonder if the one getting squashed minds it that much, but then I realize that, if a cat is truly unhappy about something, they’ll do their level best to get out of the situation. Mina has slowly been creeping towards Sidney, who prefers to be left alone. Mina wants to cuddle with him, but he’s such a grumpy old man! But I think, when it starts getting truly cold, she’ll win him over and be able to cuddle just the way she wants to.

  6. Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite sounds interesting. I’ll add it to my TBR.
    I really enjoyed reading Goblin Emperor and I look forward to rereading it because I was so confused on the names.

  7. Medusa’s Gaze is pretty interesting so far, thought it’s primarily conjecture so far. The author is mostly talking about Greek myths at this point.

    I so love The Goblin Emperor! Maia’s journey is fantastic, and I love reading about the byzantine court of the elves.

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