Sunday Sum-Up: August 29, 2021

Pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks. Does this mean that Fall is here? Please tell me Fall is here. I am tired of all this 95°F weather (with the subsequent 108°F heat indices). Bring me Sweater Weather! And some rain. We need some rain.


As mentioned above, pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks. I don’t like PSLs, but I’d heard that they had apple crisp macchiatos, so I figured I’d give them a try. And they are. . . Meh. The cinnamon and other spices go well with coffee. The apple flavoring, not so much. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, and I probably won’t get another one.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

This kid.

This kid.

This kid decided, at the beginning of the week, that the two scratching pads she has were simply not good enough for her. So she decided to start sharpening her claws on my couch! She knows better. She knows she is not supposed to use the couch (or any of the furniture) for scratching, but she decided to be a complete brat this week. I had to cover the couch in blankets to keep her off of it, and then I bought her a little cardboard tunnel that is meant for cats to use as a whole scratching experience. So far, she seems to enjoy it and will happily use it, and then “hide” in the tunnel part.

I don’t think she realizes that it’s easy to see her in the tunnel. It’s not that big. But she’s having fun (which makes her happy) and no longer scratching the couch (which makes me happy). Wins all around.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

Sorcerer to the Crown is a historical fantasy novel set in Regency England. The sorcerers of England– all of them upper-class men, and white save for Zacharias Whythe, a young Black man who unexpectedly gained the title of Sorcerer to the Crown– have noticed for years that English magic is dwindling, but no one knows why. It doesn’t help that they are all incredibly classist, racist, and misogynistic, and so can’t imagine anyone being able to become a sorcerer except white, upper-class men. This in in spite of the clear evidence that plenty of people from all walks of life use magic on a daily basis. And so, in addition to the problems of a bunch of white men being clueless (and wasteful) when it comes to the magic surrounding them, Zacharias has to figure out why magic has been dwindling, deal with an unexpected political conundrum caused by a visiting dignitary, and maintain his position as Sorcerer to the Crown, while most of the sorcerers in England blame him for all their problems and seek to strip him of his powers. Add in the sudden appearance of the intelligent, free-spirited Prunella Gentleman, a gifted witch with great magical ability and obvious foreign parentage, and you have a magical comedy of manners with plenty of political machinations and faerie shenanigans thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed this book all the way through, and while the ending had a bit of a deus ex machina feeling to it, I was fine with that. The characters were fantastic and worth the convenient ending.

The Fellowship of the Ring is, as longtime readers will know, the first part of my favorite book ever. Rob Inglis’s narration is charming (I love his interpretation of Sam), and I always find something new, whether it’s a tiny detail I’ve overlooked, or some other element that I’ve seen in a new light thanks to podcasts, other Middle-earth books, or new perspectives I’ve picked up from other Tolkien fans. I have The Two Towers on hold for me through Libby, but it will be weeks before it’s available. In the meantime, I’ll have the new audiobook narration by Andy Serkis to look forward to in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait!

The Heron’s Cry is the second book in Ann Cleeves’s new mystery series. It’s set in North Devon in England, and features DI Matthew Venn and his team who are investigating the murder of Dr. Nigel Yeo, who has been stabbed to death in his glassblower daughter’s studio– with a piece of glass from one of her works. As Matthew digs deeper into the details surrounding the case, he finds a web of lies at the core of his community. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and Cleeves’s writing, while sparse, gets to the heart of its characters. They feel like real people with real lives and families whose drama isn’t over the top, but could happen to anyone. I found out last week that the first book of the series, The Long Call, has been made into a four-episode television series set to premiere in the UK later this year, and in the US sometime after that. I can’t wait for it, or for the next book in the series. I’ll have a more in-depth review later this week.

What I’m Currently Reading:

  • The Long Call (Two Rivers #1) by Ann Cleeves (33%)
  • The War of the Ring (The History of Middle-earth #8) by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien (61/476)
  • An Excellent Mystery (The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #11) by Ellis Peters, audiobook narrated by Patrick Tull (66%)
  • Big Machine by Victor LaValle (34/370)

I enjoyed The Heron’s Cry so much that I wanted to read more about Matthew Venn and his life in North Devon, so I downloaded The Long Call via Libby and have been reading it on my phone here and there. I’m enjoying it just as much as I did the first time through, especially because I don’t remember the culprit, or how the story unwinds. It’s also interesting to see how the characters have changed from the beginning of the first book to the end of the second one. In The Long Call, Matthew Venn is on the outside looking in at his father’s funeral, a ceremony held by the conservative religious group he left– and who subsequently cast him out– after he declared his lack of belief at nineteen. As he’s leaving the funeral, he gets a call that a man has been found murdered on the beach. Matthew is anxious and on edge, but he must face his past to find the answers he needs before more people are hurt or worse. One of the things I really like about the Two Rivers books is that Matthew’s sexuality– he’s a happily married gay man– is just part of his life, and the people around him don’t really comment on it. There’s no, “oh, he’s gay! This is awkward! How do I behave around his husband?!” business going on. The people Matthew works with and encounters on a daily basis are just fine with it, and that’s great. We need more depictions of LGBTQIA people going about their normal lives, getting coffee, going to work, solving murders. That sort of thing.

The War of the Ring is the next installment of The History of Middle-earth, and picks up as the Ents are preparing to storm Isengard and Théoden is preparing to face Saruman’s army as a place that’s not quite named, at a time that hasn’t quite been sorted out. Also, no one’s quite sure what that walking forest is called, where they’re from, or what they’re up to. There’s just a lot of very shady business going on where those weird trees are concerned. But the basic plot of The Two Towers doesn’t change very much through the drafts. Place names and timing are primarily what Tolkien had to work through at this point, but the drafts are remarkably similar to the final story. I haven’t gotten very far into this, but as I pick it up at bedtime, I unintentionally fall asleep while reading. I guess I’ll keep chipping away at it. I’ve given up finishing the entire History this year, but I’m okay with that. If it takes me a little way into 2022 to finish reading it, that’s just fine with me. I’ll be reading plenty of Tolkien’s other works for the rest of this year, and deeper into 2022.

I downloaded An Excellent Mystery through the Hoopla app after finishing my previous two audiobooks. I’ve been listening to this one in long chunks of time– while sewing or doing housework– so I’ve made quite a lot of progress and hope to finish it later today. In this book, the monks of Shrewsbury welcome two Benedictine monks who bring news of the strife between King Stephen and Empress Maude. After them comes the news of the ravaging of Winchester and the destruction of its priory– news that strikes at the heart of one of the monks seeking shelter: Brother Humilis, whose health is failing. As Brother Cadfael and the others search for answers to ease Brother Humilis’s mind, Cadfael discovers a secret that could unravel lives and an entire holy order. I’m fairly certain I know what the secret is, but I’m looking forward to finding out if I’m right or not. This particular installment of the Brother Cadfael books hasn’t been my favorite, but I’m still enjoying it. An average Cadfael book is still quite a lot of fun to listen to.

Big Machine has been on my shelf for more than a year, and I’ve been meaning to get to it for most of this year. I finally just grabbed it and put it in my bag to read during my lunch hour. That wasn’t until the end of the week, though, so I’m not very far into it and don’t have much of an opinion so far. But the story follows Ricky Rice, a Black man/former junkie/survivor of a suicide cult who receives a strange letter that causes him to walk away from his job and head into the woods of Vermonth. There, he meets a group of Black people who have also had troubled lives. The mysterious figure who has brought them together intends to make of them a band of fighters hunting for paranomal creatures and other monsters. This books has received fantastic critical praise, and as I’ve loved the other two books I’ve read by Victor LaValle, Big Machine should prove to be just as good as The Ballad of Black Tom and The Changeling.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

I already have plenty to read this week. I shouldn’t be starting anything else. But my library hold for Becky Chambers’s A Psalm for the Wild-Built came in for me, so I need to get back to it soon, as I can’t renew it (because other people have it on hold, too). I’ve heard good things about this novella, so it should be good.

About That Writing Thing:

I’d been hoping that I would be able to report this week that I had finally finished my current Work in Progress, but alas no. I did not finish it. I have a scene and a half still to write, and the final scene is going to be a long one. An easy to write one, as it’s been laid out with imagery, conversation, and all for quite some time. But as I prefer to write an entire story in order, I have to get through the much shorter penultimate scene first. Then I can get to the more interesting (to me) final scene.

And then it’s on to the editing.

Part of the reason I didn’t finish the final chapter last week is because my brain decided it wanted to get a head start on editing, so there was a night where I sat down during my writing time and tackled the first chapter. Now, I certainly need to get the thing edited (it’s about three pages longer than I would like it to be, and I need to adjust a conversation between two characters), but not yet! I need to get the entire story finished first.

So. This time next week, I will have a completed story. I will. It will be done.

15 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: August 29, 2021

  1. Ann Cleeves’s mysteries are great. I have read part of her Shetland series, but none of the Vera Stanhope books. I should give them a try. The TV show based on the Shetland books is excellent. I am current waiting for season 5 to come in for me at the library.

  2. Lol Mina. Our cat also uses the couch as a scratch pad although he knows not to. I think he does it intentionally since he only uses it when someone is sitting there and then he stares at the person as he sharpens his claws on the couch, lol.
    I’d like to try Sorcerer to the Crown again. I didn’t give it much chance at first and gave up after a few pages in.

  3. Rob Inglis’s version is unabridged, so it should he the same as the text, though if you read a post-2004 edition, there will be some minor differences between it and Inglis’s narration, as Hammond and Scull worked with Christopher Tolkien to correct some errors that had gone unnoticed since the last edition.

  4. My aunt purchased a cat condo for cat friend. I often get videos of the cat climbs,leaping and hanging off it. It gets a lot of use. I haven’t read anything but Ann Cleeves, I will see if my library has any of her books.

  5. I’ve read LotR several times and listened to the audiobook a couple times, so I was thinking for my next read I might try reading the text while also listening to the audiobook. I’m curious what differences there might be in the versions used. Have you ever compared them?

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