Sunday Sum-Up: August 28, 2022

The heat of summer made a bit of a return this week, though it wasn’t as bad as it has been. The nights have been cooler and I’ve been able to open the windows at night. It’s nice to be able to turn the air conditioner off and get some fresh air in here. We also, finally, got some much-needed rain last night. It’s been so dry that places in the ground were starting to form large cracks and some trees were starting to get yellow leaves. Hopefully, this bit of rain will help things out.

This time of year also marks the beginning of the school year, as well as the start of Fall sports. I’ve been looking forward to the volleyball season, as my college alma mater has a highly-rated team, and it’s always exciting to listen to their matches on the radio.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Both Mina and I are feeling a lot better this week. Mina has been more playful and less clingy– she’s gone from sleeping right next to me all night to getting up around 5:30AM and going off to play or look out a window. When I wake up, she’ll be sitting on my computer desk or the dresser, waiting for me to feed her. She’s also back to demanding treats whenever I come back, whether I’ve just gotten home from work or gone downstairs to check the mailbox. She thinks she deserves treats every time I come through the front door. She does not get treats every time I come through the front door.

I picked up Sidney’s memorial from the veterinarian earlier in the week. It’s a little clay tablet with his pawprints and a photo of him. I haven’t figured out yet how to display it, but I’m not in a hurry as I already have a framed photo of him set up with my family photos. Sometimes I still expect to see him sprawled out in the kitchen, and am surprised when he’s not there. Getting used to his being gone is a process.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

I’m conflicted about this book. On one hand, it provides a wealth of information about what we currently know about the First Americans, the possible timeline of their arrival in North America, and what DNA analysis of samples from these First Americans have told us about possible migration paths and possibly what groups of people lived where and when, and who their descendants are. The breakthroughs in DNA analysis from the past few years are helping to revolutionize our theories about the First Americans, and potentially disproving earlier ideas that were often developed without input (or permission, in the case of analysis of ancestral remains) from modern Native Americans. Raff also details the sorts of bigoted ‘theories’ that white scientists and anthropologists developed in the 17th-20th centuries.

On the other hand, I wasn’t really a fan of how part of the book was organized. There would be page-long sidebars that interrupted the main topic and made it hard for me to return my focus back to said main topic. Raff also included a lengthy explanation of the procedures one has to observe to even enter a lab where ancient DNA analysis is taking place. It was helpful, but it really could have been shortened, and more explanation of the actual analysis provided, as well as explaining more of the connections that recent analysis has allowed scientists to make. I understand that Raff was walking a fine line between explaining what all the results tell us, and what information the various Native American groups want to give out to the public (thanks to a long history of scientists lying to them or misusing samples in the past), but the second half of the book left me feeling like the bulk of the information had gone to something that wasn’t quite on topic.

Still, it’s an enlightening book and has helped me reshape what I thought I knew about the early history of people in the Americas.

What I’m Currently Reading:

  • The Falcon’s Eyes by Francesca Stanfill (685/832)
  • We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen, translated from the Dutch by Liz Jensen, Emmy Ryder, and Charlotte Barslund; audiobook narrated by Simon Vance (30%)
  • Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott (71/336)

The Falcon’s Eyes is proving to be a different kind of book from what I thought it would be. First off, while it says “a novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine” on the front cover, let’s just say that it really isn’t a novel of or about Eleanor, who, at least in the first 685 pages, is a minor character at best. Secondly, while the synopsis seems to indicate that the climax of the novel is Isabelle’s bold decision regarding her controlling husband that will affect the rest of her life, this is not the case, either. Does that make this a bad book? Not at all. I’m loving this book so far, but I’ve found that the synopsis is not really doing the whole book justice. Let’s just say that Isabelle, a spirited young woman, is married off to a wealthy but controlling nobleman who makes Isabelle more and more afraid the longer they’re married. She makes a series of decisions that will change the course of her life and take her to places like Fontevraud Abbey and from there to England, where she encounters the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, the queen Isabelle has admired her entire life. The Falcon’s Eyes is less a story of a particular season of one woman’s life, and more the story of her life as a whole, as well as the community she builds as she moves from one place in time and space to another. If you’re looking for a historical tale to sink into, I definitely recommend this book.

We, the Drowned is another long historical novel, though this one is about men rather than women. It’s a little strange, as follows members of a nineteenth-century Danish community whose men, for the most part, become sailors. Most of them stay in the Baltic Sea, but some venture around the world. The point of view has been shifting from one character’s story, which is denoted by the narrator referring to himself as “I”, and then back to more of a community perspective where the narrator says “we”. It’s sometimes a brutal story of men encountering horrible leaders or European colonizers with awful plans for the peaceful Pacific islands they land on, and sometimes the characters have great fortitude or hope for their future. I only listen to this for a little while each day, so I don’t know if I’ll finish the audiobook before it goes back to the library. That’s okay, though, as I’ve had a physical copy for the past few years so I can finish it that way, if necessary.

So far, Dark Earth is an odd little story of two sisters, Isla and Blue, in sixth-century England seeking safety after their father’s unexpected death. Thanks to their own oddities and their family history, the people meant to protect them will enslave them if given the chance, so Isla and Blue must escape from the men who would harm them and find a community of women in the ghost city that was once a bustling Roman city. I’m not terribly far into this one, so I don’t know how Isla and Blue will escape their circumstances, but I’m intrigued by Stott’s storytelling style, which feels rather impressionistic. I will definitely report back when I know more about it.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

The Art of Prophecy is a fantasy novel about a prince who is meant to be the hero of prophecy. Unfortunately, he is a spoiled young man and when a celebrated warrior arrives to observe the prince’s fitness to fulfill the prophecy, she finds that he is woefully unprepared, so she sets out to whip him into shape so he actually has a chance to become the leader his people need him to be. I’ve been curious about this one for a while, so I was happy to see my library hold come in earlier this week. I’ll probably start it tonight, just as soon as a finish The Falcon’s Eyes.

Killers of a Certain Age is about a group of women who were secret agents and assassins in their prime. But they’re sixty-something-year-old women now, and their skills are considered out of date and out of touch. But women like them don’t just retire, and when they’re sent on vacation together, they’re targeted by one of their own. To make it out alive, they must rely on their ‘out of date’ skills and turn on the organization they’ve been part of for so long. I wasn’t paying attention to the release date on this. I thought it was due out later in September, but nope. It’s out on the sixth. So I need to get to it as soon as possible and get a review out. If it’s anything like Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell books, this will be a lot of fun, and also a quick read.

7 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: August 28, 2022

  1. I saw Killers of a Certain Age turn up at some point and was immediately interested, so I look forward to reading your thoughts. I’m completely unfamiliar with the author. I’m also curious about The Art of Prophecy, though reading the description had me wondering if there were any books where the expert finds the person of prophecy wanting and instead of training them they abandon them and find someone else. I suppose that might go against prophecy, but who says prophecy has to be written in stone, and even if it is stone can always be worn away by flowing water (or someone deciding to snub prophecy).

  2. I’m curious to see what Chu will do with the ‘chosen one’ trope. It’s not my favorite, but if an author does something interesting or unexpected with it, it could make for an interesting story. I’m also curious to see how Chu deals with the prophecy he’s built up. I guess I’ll find out soon. I haven’t started it yet, but I finished The Falcon’s Eyes, so I’ll start reading The Art of Prophecy later today.

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