It was my birthday week! I had a lovely, relaxing day that involved book shopping, dinner with friends, and cake. A lot of cake. I won’t say there was too much cake, but there was definitely a lot of it.
It was a great week for photos, too, with sunny days and clear skies, except for two days that were super windy.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
I finally found a cat food bin that would fit the available space and the amount of food I normally buy. Mina immediately knew what the bin was for and started investigating right away. She sniffed the sides and the lid, hopped on top of it to sniff some more, and tried to chew on the lower corners. When she realized she couldn’t get into the bin by herself, she flopped on the floor and gave me the most plaintive look possible like a little kid saying, “But Moooom, I’m soooo hungry!”
I had just given her her daily moist food, and she still had kibble in her bowl. Needless to say, I did not let her into the bin. She pouted for a couple of minutes, then wandered off to play.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1) by Jenn Lyons
- Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani
I read The Ruin of Kings as a buddy read with Jackie at Death by Tsundoku. We finished it up yesterday, and we weren’t thrilled with it. There are so many names and lineages thrown at you that it’s hard to keep track of who’s who. The similarity of the names and the fact that they don’t have any real-world or historical roots makes keeping track of who comes from where difficult at best. And there were multiple instances of, “You thought I was Person A, but I’m really Person B”, which got on my nerves, as well as infodumps about family lineages that made my eyes glaze over. It was not a fun read.
Seven Deadly Shadows, on the other hand, was a lot of fun. It’s about a young woman named Kira who is just trying to get by at the prestigious high school she attends, despite the bullying she faces. Her only peace comes from the ancestral shrine she tends with her grandfather. But when the shrine is attacked, Kira and her friend, a kitsune named Shiro, must either gather seven shinigami or the shards of a sacred sword in order to fight the demon, Shuten-doji. The unlikely band of heroes must figure out how to work together, or else Shuten-doji will plunge the world into darkness. This was a solid YA fantasy story that reads like a fantastic anime set in the modern world.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Sagas of Icelanders by various, preface by Jane Smiley (189/820)
- A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, audiobook read by Jonathan Keeble (34%)
- The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker, audiobook narrated by Arthur Morey (37%)
No progress in The Sagas of Icelanders. My reading time at home was sucked up by the cats’ messes and The Ruin of Kings.
The story has reached Bastille Day and beyond in A Place of Greater Safety. The characters, particularly Camille Desmoulins, have found their purpose within the revolution, and the story is rolling right along. Max Robespierre has not come into his own yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
I follow Simon Haisell on Instagram, and he highly recommended Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style, which I downloaded on my Libby app. As it turns out, I read this book back in 2015 and had forgotten all about it. But it’s a good book to come back to, as it explains why certain writing can get so confusing, and how to correct it. Pinker’s advice is geared toward nonfiction and academic papers, but his suggestions work for fiction, too. I have already applied some of his advice to the fanfic short story I’ve been working on this week. I have a strange love of writing style guides, so even though The Sense of Style can veer towards the exceedingly dry (especially when Pinker describes parts of speech), it is also extremely helpful.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox #3) by Julie Kagawa, ARC provided by NetGalley
- The Mirror and the Light (Thomas Cromwell #3) by Hilary Mantel
I’m part of an Instagram discussion group for The Mirror and the Light, and most of the other members are from the UK. They already have their copies, as the book came out last Thursday in the UK. It doesn’t come out until Tuesday (March 10) in the US. I pre-ordered my copy back in January, but I doubt it will ship until Tuesday. I am hoping it will arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. The more I think about the previous books in Mantel’s masterful trilogy, the more I love them, and the more I look forward to getting my copy of The Mirror and the Light.
What I’ve Been Watching:
Star Trek: Picard
CBS All Access
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Isa Briones, Harry Treadaway, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Evan Evagora, Jonathan Del Arco
Episode 107: ‘Nepenthe’
Nepenthe is a drug in Homer’s Odyssey that has the ability to banish pain and grief from a person’s mind, and this episode of Picard had that effect. The characters’ pain is not washed away completely, but they find a respite where they can begin to heal.
Picard and Soji escaped to the planet Nepenthe, where Picard’s former crewmates, Commander Riker and Counselor Troi– married now for twenty years– have built their home, along with their teenaged daughter, Kestra. They left active duty and moved to Nepenthe because of their son Thad’s illness, which was rendered incurable after the Federation’s ban on synthetic life. The boy died, and the pain of his passing still affects the entire Riker-Troi household.
After Narek betrayed and tried to kill her, Soji refuses to believe anything she encounters. All the friendliness she encounters from Troi seems fake to her. Plus, she’s having a hard time accepting that she is an android, not the real human being she always thought she was. Picard makes a poorly-timed comment that doesn’t help matters, and Troi reprimands him for it.
Riker also puts Picard in his place– the benefit of thirty years of friendship– when Picard initially refuses to tell him about Soji and the reason for their arrival. I loved this scene because it’s such a cliche that the Hero will reach out to friends for sanctuary but then makes a big deal about not telling them the secret because it could put them in danger. Riker bluntly states that not knowing Soji’s secret won’t protect his family from the Tal’Shiar if the Romulans find her and Picard. Heroes need more friends like Riker, who greeted Picard with genuine warmth and love but wasn’t afraid to tell him when he was being an arrogant ass.
And can we see more of Kestra and the Wild Girls of Viveen? Kestra is one of the best portrayals of a child or teen in the history of Star Trek, which tends to paint children as geniuses who are also very naive. Kids aren’t like that. Kestra (Lulu Wilson) is a smart and clever teen who is snarky and curious, and exactly the sort of kid you would expect from parents like Riker and Troi. She, too, feels the pain of her older brother’s death, and keeps his memory alive by speaking the languages he made up and pretending to be one of the Wild Girls of Viveen that Thad made up. Can we see more of Kestra’s adventures, please? I’d watch a show about the Wild Girls of Viveen.
Meanwhile back on La Sirena, Rios, Jurati, and Raffi are trying to escape from the Borg cube’s tractor beam. We discovered in the opening flashback that Jurati and Admiral Oh mind-melded so Oh could show Jurati why she is so opposed to synthetic lifeforms. Jurati promptly had a near-panic attack and ingested the tracking device Oh gave her. But now that she’s in the middle of danger and has come to like her crewmates, she freaks out and wants to go home. When Rios begins to suspect that someone has ulterior motives, Jurati takes drastic measures to keep her crewmates safe.
Overall, ‘Nepenthe’ was one of the best of Trek’s nostalgia episodes, where we get to see old crewmates reunite in a beautifully written episode that hits every note nearly perfectly. Next week, though, we’re flung back into danger…
About that Writing Thing:
Did I mention that the cats were being as messy as possible and that it took way too much of my free time to clean up after them? Yeah. It cut into my writing time, so I didn’t get nearly as much writing done as I wanted to. But I’ve completed the short story I want to publish first, and I’ve put together a schedule that gets the main story out on a timeline that won’t completely stress me out.
I’ve decided to split Parts 1 and 2 up into four chapters of 30-35 pages each and post them to AO3 (Archive of Our Own) once a week. The chapter I will be working on this week is set for publication at the end of April, so I have plenty of time to get it finished up.
Assuming the cats don’t make huge messes that take a long time to clean up, I should have more time for writing this week.