Sunday Sum-Up: January 17, 2021

On Friday, we had a blizzard. This week, it’s supposed to be in the 50s. I suppose it could be worse, weather-wise. We’ve had weeks (usually in March or May) where we got a foot of snow one day, and had 90°F highs a week later. Nebraska weather is fun.

Is anyone else anticipating Biden’s inauguration with both breathless anticipation and a sense of nervous dread? I am amazed that I haven’t already drunk the last third of that bottle of bourbon I bought at the beginning of December.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Don’t be fooled by this picture of sweetness and peace. This cute little black cat is an absolute menace at night, waking me up in the darkest hours by trying to open kitchen cabinets or knocking things off shelves or jumping onto the nightstand with such exuberance that she knocks it against the wall causing a loud bang five inches from my face.

The next day, she will curl up on the back on the couch and sleep while I am doing the quiet things of the evening and give me dirty looks if I manage to wake her up. I say that turnabout is fair play. She disagrees.

It’s a good thing she’s cute.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

Paradise Lost is now a book that I have read. Finally. My thoughts on it? Some beautiful poetry, Satanic monologues (literally, given that it’s Satan speaking), and a healthy dose of “Hey, let’s summarize multiple books of the Bible” (which reminds me of the end of The Silmarillion, in which Tolkien summarizes the entire story of The Lord of the Rings in about a page). All things considered, if I have to pick a piece of Biblical fanfiction, I think I’ll stick with Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

Murderbot! I love Murderbot. It’s particular brand of disinterest, introversion, self-consciousness, and the emotional states Murderbot deals with on a regular basis are so compelling to me. And it’s always a breath of fresh air when Murderbot or any of the other bots don’t have it in for the humans, as so many stories dealing with AI seem to have willfully murderous AI characters. That does get old after a while. But the bots in Wells’s universe aren’t angry killers of humans (not without a good reason, anyway). Because they know that they have a symbiotic relationship with the humans who do things like create the media and the regeneration pods that put broken bots back together. I’m looking forward to the fourth novella in the series, but it’ll be a bit before I get to that.

The Searcher by Tana French is about Cal, an ex-Chicago cop who moves to a tiny town in western Ireland to get away from the city and the crime he spent his life investigating. At first, the slow pace of life and open spaces are exactly what he wants, but before too long he discovers that small town life has its own complications, as feuds can go back decades and everyone knows everything about what you’re doing. Cal’s problems are compounded when a local kid, Trey, from an ill-favored family asks for help in locating an older brother, Brendan, who everyone thinks has run off to Dublin. Trey isn’t so sure and will stop at nothing to find out what happened to Brendan, including dragging Cal into the middle of feuds and politics that Cal doesn’t understand and might not survive. I loved every page of this book. It unfurls slowly with French’s signature, gorgeous prose. Her descriptions of the landscape and the rain reminded me of being in Ireland, Iceland, and my grandmother’s tiny farm in the hills of the Kansas/Nebraska border. I don’t know how she does it, but French captures the complexities of small town life and doesn’t make it all sentimental and schmaltzy. It makes me want to go back and re-read her Dublin Murder Squad series.

I read Foundation by Mercedes Lackey for for the Valdemar Readalong I’m participating in along with Jackie at Death by Tsundoku and Mel at Grab the Lapels. It’s about a young teenager, Mags, who has essentially been a slave at a mine until he is rescued by his Companion, a magical horse named Dallen. Thanks to his magical talents and good heart, he is swept off to the capitol of the kingdom, Haven, where he learns how to be a Herald, makes new friends, and has his talents recognized by some very important people. Mags is a pretty typical Lackey-ian character (she does love the Mystic Waif trope), but unlike others, Mags is not a young emo going about feeling sorry for himself. He feels pretty great about getting his own room, tasty food whenever he wants it, and a BFF in Dallen. It’s a quick read but…. nothing really happens. There’s very little plot and it feels entirely like set-up for the rest of the series. You follow Mags around while he’s doing day to day stuff, meeting people, and observing some shady goings-on which are hardly followed up on. There’s a big event at the very end which pops up out of nowhere and is dealt with a page or two later. But I like Mags, and I want to continue with the series, because Lackey’s books are like cotton candy– quick to get through and enjoyable, even if there’s very little substance.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I started exactly one of the books I intended to read last weekend. It’s the library’s fault. You see, it had been several weeks since I’d been to the library, and it knew. Not the librarians. The building itself knew I hadn’t been there for a long time, so it conspired and moved all these fascinating novellas into the perfect place to get my attention, and then– and then!– it made half of my digital holds come available within two days of each other! I had to delay checking out part of what came available, but you can bet I downloaded A Promised Land when the Libby app’s notification popped up. Because, you know, the politics of the past four years. It’s been such a nostalgic experience, even though I’m only 20% of the way through. Obama takes the reader through his early life, falling in love with Michelle, and how he got started in politics. And then came the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, when he delivered one of the great speeches of his life so far and rocketed to political stardom. Then his senate campaign and his first presidential run. I remember so much about that campaign. I remembered watching his ‘Yes We Can’ speech after the New Hampshire primary, and it brought tears to me eyes. It feels like it was a lifetime ago. But listening to Obama talk about his failures right along with his achievements has been a balm to my mind after… well, after the whole slog of 2017 until now.

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art was another digital library hold that showed up unexpectedly. It’s about the science of breathing, which is a nascent science because we’ve taken breathing for granted. But ancient writings detail the importance of good breathing practices, and modern science is just beginning to investigate how breathing affects things like respiratory health, cranio-facial development, snoring, stress hormones, blood pressure, and anxiety. I’m 11% of the way in, and Nestor is talking about how he participated in a breathing study where he was forced to breathe through his mouth for ten days. Halfway in, he is miserable. While I do find some of the claims Nestor makes about the power of good breathing a little dubious, I’m willing to look at his evidence. It certainly can’t hurt, and if improving my own breathing can make me feel even a little better on a day to day basis, I’m good with that.

Oathbringer has been on my shelf for the past couple of years, ever since I found a hardback copy at the used bookstore. I haven’t read any of the Stormlight Archive books since 2015, but I’m not going to go back and reread the first two books to get caught back up. Who has time for that? I remember enough to get by, and in the first forty pages, enough has come back that I’m not feeling at all lost. But I’m forty-three pages into a gigantic book, so we’ll see if that changes. I’m not super invested in Sanderson’s books, but the people on the Shelf Space Bookclub’s Discord server are so enthusiastic about the Stormlight Archive that it’s hard to resist picking it up again.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

I still want to read The Daughters of Ys and Burning Roses. I just didn’t get to them. See the non-renewable digital checkouts above. But I can renew my checkouts on these two, so I’m set.

I need to get started on The History of Middle-earth books, as my plan was to read the first two parts (The Book of Lost Tales, Pt. 1 and The Book of Lost Tales, Pt. 2) this month. Fortunately, they’re not long, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

The Craft:

I started working on the blanket I bought all the fluffy yarn for. So far, I’m loving the color combination, but there is a problem. The yarn. It’s fluffy. So fluffy that it’s really hard to keep track of the stitches. I ended up having to pull out seven rows because I’d been adding a bunch of stitches to each successive row without realizing it (even thought I’d been counting. Math is obviously not my strong suit), and so it was going off the rails in a hurry. So I will be a lot more careful going forward, because pulling out all those rows was incredibly annoying.

About That Writing Thing:

In December, my plan was to write 1,000 words per day on my current work in progress. In January, I just want to make progress. It’s been slow-going, which is so different from this time last year, when I was writing up a storm. I blame the massive amount of reading I’ve been doing, as the books so far have been so interesting. But I have a lot of readers who have been waiting very patiently for this next story, so I should see about getting it finished for them. And for me, because there are so many upcoming parts that I’m excited to write.

So it’s back to the keyboard for me.

10 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: January 17, 2021

  1. Murderbot has to be one of my favorite characters in quite some time. Just can’t get enough. And Mercedes Lackey is one of those authors whose books I always see around so I assume I’ve read some but each time I check it appears I haven’t. I did find Take a Thief on my shelves from when a local used book store was selling off all their stock and going out of business. I miss that store…

  2. The inauguration is truly just making me want to do anything else but think of it. I’m so eager to finally have him in-office, but also so terrified of what might happen in the days leading up and on the day of, so it’s this awful mix of excitement and utter dread, like you’re feeling. I don’t even have that “I can sleep when it’s over” feeling because I think it’s still going to be taut with tension even then? Silver lining, I guess, is that Colbert is going live, so at least we’ve got him to freak out with?

  3. 🤣🤣 Mina
    Same here on the “breathless anticipation and a sense of nervous dread,” esp since I’m very close to DC and sometimes need to go into the city. I’ve been avoiding it and will continue to do so until some time after inauguration. There are so many blocked areas that it’s a hassle to go areas I usually frequent (I’ve heard). Despite all that has happened, though, I do hope the transition on that day goes smoothly.

  4. Yikes. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be to live in the DC area right now. I really hope it all goes peacefully, too. We’ve had enough strife in the past year. We don’t need a bunch of crazies making things ever worse for everyone.

  5. Lackey is just ubiquitous. I constantly see her books at the used bookstore downtown, and it seems like they’re always different from the last time. And her books are so formulaic and fluffy that I sometimes wonder how she keeps getting published, but she’s always got something new coming out, so she must be a reliable seller. I enjoy her books, anyway, despite their flaws. Though I usually get them from the library.

  6. I totally get the the dread of the post-inauguration times. I feel like we’re back to 2017 after the inauguration, when waking up every morning felt like being Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise and shouting “damage report!” I’m not worried about what Biden’s going to do, I’m worried about what the crazies are going to do. Heavens bless Colbert for helping to keep us all sane through this….

  7. One difference from other Heralds that I noticed in Foundation is I finally feel like I know this character. Jackie was saying she felt like the book dragged, but I’m getting a good sense of the abuse this kid faced, his lingering fear and hesitation, etc. By comparison, when we meet Talia we’re told she’s having a hard time, but then within a few pages she’s off to Haven. I’m not done yet (about 50%), but the slower pace has made me feel more connection to Mags than other Heralds I can easily confuse. For me, this is good, as the entire year will have either Mags or his family.

  8. I do like Mags, and I think he’ll be a good character to follow through multiple books, but I really wish there had been more plot. Jackie wa telling me how she thought the title was fitting- foundation, in that it’s all set up. I’m happy to read more about Mags, but I hope we get more plot out of the next books.

  9. I definitely see what you two mean. I wonder if part of it is that we’re not used to a character study from Lackey. Typically, we get about ten pages of sadness and then a Companion whisks in and throws our character into action!

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