So. This has been a week. Social distancing is the name of the game to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s not every day that everyone is encouraged to stay at home and read a book. Unfortunately, my job doesn’t allow me to work from home, so I still have to go in. We’ve been cleaning and disinfecting like crazy, and I’m glad I went grocery shopping earlier in the week so I can wait out the panic-buying and go back when the shelves are re-stocked.
At this time last year, we were dealing with floods. This year, it’s a pandemic.
Spring, I’m starting to not like you.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Isn’t she adorable? Just look at her for a while. She’s cute! She’s taking your mind off the news!
Daylight Saving Time began last weekend. I adjusted quickly, but the cats did not. They have been waking me up every morning around 3:00, 6:00, and 7:00. They didn’t do this before DST. They’re doing it now. I have no idea why.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker, audiobook narrated by Arthur Morey
- Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox #3) by Julie Kagawa, ARC provided by NetGalley
The Sense of Style is a great guide to clear writing, though I think I would recommend reading a physical copy. Pinker includes many examples of good and bad grammar, and it can get tedious to listen to them. It can also be difficult to tell what’s different in the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ examples when you can’t see them. If you need a guide for creating clearer writing, this is a good guide, particularly if you’re working with non-fiction.
Night of the Dragon is the final book in the Shadow of the Fox trilogy, and what a wonderful finale it was! There is a shift in structure from the previous two books, which were largely traveling narratives where the heroine, Yumeko, slowly gathered loyal companions on her quest to deliver a fragment of a sacred scroll to a remote monastery. Now that the companions are approaching their ultimate destination, there is less travel and more conflict. The night of the dragon approaches, when the holder of the sacred scroll can summon the dragon and be granted a single wish, no matter what it is. After the events of book two, The Soul of the Sword, an evil being has taken control of the scroll and flees to the island where the dragon will reappear. Yumeko and her friends must follow and try to defeat the demons pursuing them before their enemy can make a wish.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Sagas of Icelanders by various, preface by Jane Smiley (270/820)
- A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, audiobook narrated by Jonathan Keeble (45%)
- Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo (203/465)
- The Mirror and the Light (Thomas Cromwell #3) by Hilary Mantel (41/784)
I finished ‘Vatnasdæla Saga’ this week, and then finished off a couple of the shorter sagas in the collection. Then I decided to take a break before tackling ‘Laxdæla Saga’, which is the longest in the collection. These sagas provide a fascinating look into Icelandic history, though if you read them one after the other, the characters and events can blur into each other if you’re not already familiar with the stories. That said, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the sagas in the Penguin collection. It’s been interesting seeing how the structure of certain modern fantasy novels mirrors the structure of the sagas– for good or ill, depending on the modern author’s skill.
The French Revolution is well underway in A Place of Greater Safety, and Danton and Robespierre have gone from being powerless side figures to being rising stars in the new government. Camille has also achieved fame and a measure of fortune. But the Reign of Terror is still to come, and the relatively peaceful interlude I’m in the midst of won’t last for long.
I’m happy to say that I’m enjoying Six of Crows more now than I did the first time I read it. There are fewer flashbacks than I remember, and now that I’m more familiar with the world, the Grisha, and the various cultures, I can focus less on the worldbuilding and more on the characters. Kaz and Inej are still my favorites, though Jesper and Wylan are growing on me. I still don’t care that much for Nina and Matthias, but that could change as the story progresses.
I’ve only just begun reading The Mirror and the Light, but so far it’s just as amazing as the first two books in Mantel’s masterful historical fiction trilogy. So far, it’s been longlisted for the Women’s Prize, and critics are saying that it’s a shoo-in for the Booker Prize later this year. He, Cromwell, is just as subtle in thought and as observant of detail as he always has been while he continues his rise and rise in the power structure of Henry VIII’s England. But even he has to acknowledge that he has enemies, and the political grindstone that destroyed Anne Boleyn could annihilate him, too.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan, ARC provided by NetGalley
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, Jeri Ryan
Episode 108: ‘Broken Pieces’
We got a lot of answers to a lot of questions in this episode. The origins of the Romulan secret society Zhat Vash, and why they hate synthetic life forms. Commodore Oh’s past, and why she mind-melded with Jurati. We get an insight into Rios’s painful past and how it relates to Picard’s quest. We find out why that Borg cube ended up stranded in Romulan space.
In less capable hands, there might have been too many answers going on, but the showrunners put everything together so expertly that it all flows together– especially the scene where Raffi brings all the Emergency Holographic programs (all played by Santiago Cabrera using different accents) together in one room to sort out Rios’s problem while he refuses to come out of his quarters following a PTSD event triggered by seeing Soji. Cabrera portrayed the six holograms with a perfect balance of humor and seriousness, then followed it up with a gorgeous performance as Rios coming clean about the horrendous event that cost his captain his life and ended Rios’s career.
Allison Pill as Jurati and Isa Briones shine in a scene towards the end of the episode, when Jurati comes clean about why she was on the La Sirena, and what she thinks of Soji now that Soji knows about her own origins. Jurati is one of the Federation’s foremost experts in cybernetic life, and while her view of her own work has been soiled by Commodore Oh’s actions, now that she’s met Soji she realizes that Soji is not the bad guy, that she was created with love and artistry and is a unique individual deserving of life.
There was another lovely scene over a meal between Picard and Soji, when Picard tells Soji about Data– Soji’s ‘father’– and how much he cared about Data as an individual, regardless of whether or not he was a ‘real’ person or not.
Meanwhile, back on the Borg cube, Elnor is saved at the last minute when Seven of Nine shows up. They retreat to the Queen’s chamber in the center of the cube– a place that only a Borg or former Borg can access. Seven reluctantly takes control of the remaining drones. This will effectively destroy any chance they have at regaining their individuality, and she risks not wanting to give up her power over them. Seven activates the cube and becomes a Borg Queen. Though Narissa and her Zhat Vash henchmen thwart her plans, Seven is still in control of the now-active cube. What this will mean for her, Elnor, and the cube itself is a mystery.
Overall, this was another fantastic episode and really shows this motley crew coming together to form the beginning of a found family.
Next week is the first episode of the two-part season finale, and it looks like it will be fantastic. This has been the single best first season of any Star Trek show, and while most episodes have had a few weak moments, overall it has been able to move past those weak spots and more than balance them out with excellent storytelling, nuanced characters, brilliant acting, and a sense of confidence in itself that most shows (Star Trek or not) don’t have until their second or third season.
About That Writing Thing:
I ended up doing more editing than writing last week. That was partly because I needed to do the editing in the first place, and partly because I could not figure out how to begin Part 4 of this story. As my usual Wednesday dinner with friends was canceled (due to a stomach bug, not COVID-19), I had an extra few hours available to me. I spent them editing Part 3 and the short story that’s going up on AO3 later today.
Then, after several false starts, I figured out how to begin the opening scene of Part 4, and it’s been going smoothly ever since. I’ve been both looking forward to this scene and dreading it. It’s fascinating (to me) and suspenseful (I hope), but figuring out how all the pieces come together to form the whole has been a tricky process. But I think I have it now, right down to the horse’s reaction. Because I’m staying at home and inside all day, I’ll have plenty of time to write this scene and a few more after that.
Once I finish it up, the story’s structure is straightforward, and it should be easy to get through it to the end of the story. Or at least as easy as any writing project can be.