Sunday Sum-Up: June 13, 2021

So. Last week. Last week was hot. Like 95°F to 100°F throughout the week, and while it cooled off a little in the night, there was basically no wind, so my apartment did not get to take advantage of those slightly cooler temperatures. And my air conditioner couldn’t keep up, either. It finally wound down to the end of its little life on Thursday, which was, of course, the hottest day of the week at just under 100°F. No matter what I did, it did basically nothing to cool my apartment down, and by the time the sun went down, it was about 90°F in my living room. Worst night ever. I barely slept, and woke up dehydrated, and while I drank a bunch of water I had a headache all day long. I’d put in a maintenance request about the AC Thursday night, but called my landlord directly Friday morning to make sure they’d gotten the message. They had, fortunately, and when I got home that night, I had a shiny new air conditioner waiting for me! Woohoo! So I will not spend the summer in danger of suffering heat exhaustion while sitting on my couch.

The cats are quite appreciative of it, too.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

The cats spent most of the week sprawled out on the floor- mostly on the wood where it must be a little cooler than the carpet. Frankly, I wished I could join them, but responsibilities and all. I keep telling them they should lend a hand around here and help me out with the dishes or something, but they just go back to sleep. Lazy things.

Fortunately, there is no territorial drama going on this summer. Last year, there was an endless debate between the two cats as to who got have the spaces of Under the Bed or Under the Couch. Mostly, it was a problem of Mina wanting to be everywhere Sidney was, and Sidney wanting nothing to do with her. Like, ever.

Now that Mina is a little older and has mellowed out (and, honestly, has realized that she and he will never be friends), they’ve claimed their own territories. Mina gets Under the Couch, while Sidney has claimed the larger area of Under the Bed. There’s less space in Under the Couch, but as Mina also gets the shelves and On the Couch (as Sidney doesn’t jump up onto things anymore) they both consider it to be a wash. It’s far more peaceful these days.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

Thanks to the heat both outside and in, I did not do as much reading (or anything else) as I wanted to do. Hopefully that will change, thanks to the new AC unit.

  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  • The Ice Lion (The Rewilding Reports #1) by Kathleen O’Neal Gear (ARC provided by NetGalley)
  • Closer to Home (The Herald Spy #1) by Mercedes Lackey

Hamnet is a historical fiction book that is, ostensibly, about the wife of William Shakespeare (known to history as Anne Hathaway, but who is referred to as Agnes in the book, as that’s what her father called her in his will), and about the death of their eleven year-old son Hamnet. But it’s about more than that. It’s about a woman who is different from everyone in her community and how she navigates this, it’s about a marriage and how they navigate this marriage while apart as the husband is gaining fame and prestige as a playwright. It’s about family relationships, and a mother’s grief over the death of her child. It is remarkable. The prose shimmers, and once I started reading it I didn’t want to put it down. It digs deep into the mind of a woman history largely remembers as being William Shakespeare’s wife, who inherited his second best bed after his death. Something I found so interesting was that O’Farrell did not use William Shakespeare’s name once in the book. He’s the Latin Teacher, her husband, the writer, or just ‘he’. Given that history tends to forget about women, or to remember them as “Historical Figure’s Wife”, it’s fascinating to see such a thing flipped, with the English language’s greatest playwright as the one whose name is wiped away. If you enjoy historical fiction, the Elizabethan era, or anything to do with William Shakespeare, I highly recommend Hamnet.

The Ice Lion is a weird book. I’m still not sure of what I think about it, and I finished it four days ago. I mean, I understand the essentials of it: humanity tried to stop global warming and their efforts went horribly wrong, prompting profound global cooling. A thick layer of an algae-like substance called Zyme covers the oceans, while miles-thick glaciers cover vast swathes of land. Before the destruction of the world as they knew it, the remaining humans genetically engineered a variety of long-extinct animals and hominids that existed during previous Ice Ages in the hope that life would endure on Earth. A thousand years later, the descendants of these recreated animals and people (Denisovans and Homo Erectus) have formed a sort of civilization based on the legends passed down over a thousand years. Lynx and Quiller are members of the Sea Lion village who live at the edge of the ocean and below enormous glaciers. They’ve long been friends, but Lynx spurned Quiller in favor of another young woman of their village. But death stalks Lynx as he celebrates his marriage, and the tribe sends him away so he can attempt, one last time, to prove that he is a courageous man with the strength to defend his people against enemies and the beasts that stalk them. Quiller wants to follow Lynx and aide her tenderhearted friend, but circumstances may not allow for that. They face various challenges and foes and discover things about themselves and about their world. So far, so typical of a coming-of-age sort of story. But there are so many things I wanted answers to, and Gear did not provide those answers. Granted, her POV characters weren’t going to have those answers, but still. What was going on with the Ice Giants or the weird thing that Quiller saw falling from the sky? What did CRISPR (a current gene-editing technology) have to do with the recreation of all these various species? Were the mystical elements really mystical, or were they beliefs developed by the people over the thousand years? I don’t know, and while I understand the reasoning behind the lack of answers, it’s still frustrating.

Closer to Home is the first book in Mercedes Lackey’s Herald Spy Trilogy, which follows a year or so after her Collegium Chronicles series. As the story opens, Mags, Amily, Jakyr, and Lita are returning to Haven after a year on the road. Mags has, in that year, become a full Herald. He and Amily are settled into their relationship and are talking about getting married. Amily is trying to determine what her role will be now that they’re home. Fortunately, she’d been doing work in the archives, and the archivist is perfectly happy to let her continue her work. But a horrible accident sets everyone’s plans awry, and suddenly Mags and Amily have to take up roles far ahead of what they had expected to have at this point in their lives. Their difficulties are compounded when two feuding noble families arrive in Haven to celebrate the Midwinter Festival, wherein noble youths are trotted out at various parties while their parents scheme to get the best possible marriage for their children. Everyone is doing their best to keep the families apart, but some of the hotheaded younger family members just can’t let a generations’ old insult go, and so they go out of their way to cause conflict. Things come to a head when the naive youngest daughter of one of the families falls head over heels in love with the only son of the opposing family. Mayhem ensues, and Amily and Mags go to their wits’ end to prevent the violence from spreading. This was a fun book that was more tightly edited than any of the Collegium books. Despite the three points of view, the story did not feel bloated with shopping trips over long explanations of how everyday things happened. There were twists and turns- some I anticipated, some I didn’t, but they were all entertaining and suited the story. It seems like Lackey has a much better focus when her characters are adults rather than teenagers because the Collegium Chronicles never quite seemed to know what they wanted to be, while Closer to Home had a much better understanding of itself.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I didn’t make very much progress in either of these two books. Metamorphoses continues to be wonderful in its interpretation of Greek mythology. I just haven’t had the energy to pick it up at the end of the day when I usually read my big books. I’m going to make an effort to finish it this week, though.

The Uncrowned King has been fine so far, but it’s not really going anywhere fast. Valedan has been preparing for an upcoming challenge for 200 pages, while Jewel has been brooding over basically the same things for 200 pages, and we haven’t gotten to the actual challenge, and neither Jewel nor anyone else has come to any sort of conclusion (though I’m hoping the Terafin will finally make a decision in the next few chapters because come on already!

About That Writing Thing:

It’s been a minute since I updated this section because it’s been a minute since I updated my current Work in Progress. That’s partly due to the heat of this week, partly due to the Shelf Space Discord server’s month-long reathadon, and partly due to a lack of desire to write on my part. But I’ve been wanting to write over the past few days, so I opened the current chapter’s document and got a little bit done. I had intended to write a bunch on Friday night, but my day-long headache hindered any progress on anything, so my plan is to do a bunch of writing this afternoon when it gets too hot to do anything outside. I want to get this thing finished for a few reasons:

  1. I’ve been working on it for nearly a year, and it really shouldn’t have taken this long
  2. I received a comment this week from a long-time reader who just wanted to reiterate that they love this fanfic series I’ve been writing all these years and that they always look forward to updates. So I have readers who are waiting for the next story, and I’m not getting it done! I kind of feel bad about that. Which means I need to finish the current story.
  3. I’ve had an idea for a science fiction fanfic (from a completely different IP) budding in my head over the past week, and it seems like something that could be relatively low-stress and a lot of fun to do. But it’s not one of those stories I can just sit down and write in a week (because I haven’t written a truly short story for ages), and I can’t have two gigantic stories going at once. I don’t have time for that. So I need to finish the current WIP before I start on a new one.

So. Motivation. I want to get the current WIP finished this summer so I can start posting it. During the interim before I start work on the penultimate story in the fantasy series, I’ll start writing the first entries in the science fiction story. That will be one long, ongoing thing (assuming I don’t end up losing interest in it while working on the fantasy), so no need to work out multi-story plotlines (woohoo!)

Basically, I have writing plans for the rest of the year. Assuming I don’t completely melt in the summer heat, I’ll be doing a lot of fun writing. And a lot of reading. So it’s going to be a very literate second half of 2021.

13 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: June 13, 2021

  1. It’s funny with Hamnet…I liked the second half of the book, but the first half I was iffy about. But everyone in my book club agreed with what you said. And the heat….bleh….

  2. The heat is awful…. But at least I’m less likely to get sick because of it now. At least while I’m inside.

    Hamnet was not was I expected, and so the first part of the book threw me for a bit. Everything I’d heard about it was saying “study of grief after the loss of a child”, and that doesn’t happen until much later in the book. But after I got used to it I just tore through it. That writing!

  3. The prose was gorgeous!! The beginning of the book did confuse me a bit. I thought the concept was great though…

  4. Mina looks about how I would feel in that kind of heat! I’m glad to read your thoughts on Hamnet. It’s been on my to-read list for a while now, and it looks like it’ll end up being on of my book group’s picks for next year.

  5. Hamnet was a little different from what I thought, since I’d heard that it was more of an explanation of grief- but it wasn’t really that, or at least it wasn’t all that. But really, it was lovely. I hope you enjoy it!

    Mina and Sidney were both unimpressed by the heat. They’re both loving the new AC. I’m loving it, too.

  6. Lol cat drama.
    Sorry you had to deal with such heat! I love warm weather but these days I can’t handle it when it’s stiflingly hot.

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