As I write this, neither my city nor state is under official quarantine. The state’s number of COVID-19 cases is less than fifty, with no deaths, and few hospitalizations. Obviously, I hope that number stays low. In the meantime, schools have switched over to distance-learning; restaurants have switched to drive-thru, take-out, and delivery only, and small business have switched to internet only or reduced hours. Gatherings are limited to ten people or less, and if you go to a store, employees are constantly disinfecting things.
I can’t work from home, sadly, so I’ve been going into work. Business hours are shorter and people are taking turns staying home on certain days so we can have fewer people there at a time. It sucks, but it’s helping to keep everyone safe, so we’ll just have to deal with it.
In the meantime, I’ve been putting my extra hours at home to good use. My apartment is super clean, all the laundry is done, I’ve been cooking more, and started a crochet project that’s been waiting for me to have some free time, and finished a Netflix series I started watching months ago. So hooray for that!
Obligatory Mina Photo:
The cats have traded the ‘wake Kim up three times every night’ for sleeping right next to me all night, which is warm and wonderful, and I’m perfectly happy to let them do so. But I wish Mina wouldn’t say good-night by sitting next to my head, staring at me, and putting her little paw on my nose before she settles down. I mean, it’s cute and all, but getting a paw on your nose when you’re half-asleep is startling.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
- The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan, ARC provided by NetGalley
- Ladyhawke by Joan D. Vinge
- Dragons and Unicorns: A Natural History by Paul A. Johnsgard and Karin Johnsgard
I enjoyed my reread of Six of Crows a lot more than the first time around. This duology is a definite improvement on the Grisha trilogy, in terms of structure, writing, and character work. It’s also a lot of fun. Kaz is such an engaging character, and it’s so interesting to see how his mind works– especially when he’s caught off-guard or has made a mistake. All his carefully laid out plans get thrown out and he has to make up new ones on the fly, and the rest of the gang has to roll with it. Their reactions are priceless. I’m looking forward to rereading Crooked Kingdom.
The Age of Witches is about a family of witches in Gilded Age New York. There are two lines of the family- one good, one evil. Those two lines clash over Annis, the youngest member of the family who has some very modern ideas about what she wants to do with her life. But her step-mother Frances wants to marry Annis off to a man in England, and she’ll do whatever she can to get her way. Great-aunt Harriet, on the other hand, is trying to keep Annis safe while teaching her the basics of witchcraft. This book had a lot of promise, but the execution was not well done. The writing was workmanlike, the characters flat, the structure poorly done, and there were some factual errors for spice. At least it was a quick read.
Ladyhawke is a 1985 fantasy film starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Except for the atrocious synth soundtrack, it’s a fun movie about a knight, Etienne de Navarre (Hauer) and his love, Isabeau d’Anjou (Pfeiffer) who were cursed by the Bishop of Aquila. By night, Navarre is a wolf, and by day Isabeau is a hawk. Navarre has been looking for a way to break the curse, and when he crosses paths with a young thief named Phillipe (Broderick), he hopes his fortune has changed. Philippe is wonderfully snarky, and there is a gorgeous Frisian stallion named Goliath that almost steals the show. Vinge’s book is a novelization of the film I came across a few years ago. I’d forgotten about it where it was stacked among my mass-market paperbacks, so I gave it a go on Friday night. It doesn’t add anything to the story, but it was fun to revisit it.
I know Paul Johnsgard. He’s a brilliant ornithologist who helped Nebraskans fall in love with the hundreds of thousands of cranes that stop on the Platte River during their yearly migration. The vast majority of his books are about North American birds, but when I saw he and his daughter had written a ‘natural history’ about dragons and unicorns, I had to have it. He even signed it for me. It reads like an early twentieth-century field guide, and Paul’s knowledge of bird evolution helps add an extra level of realism when he discusses the evolution of his fantastical subjects. There is also some political commentary buried within, which is still relevant even though the book was written about forty years ago.
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 (52%)
- The Mirror and the Light (Thomas Cromwell #3) by Hilary Mantel (76/784)
- Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision by David duChemin (16/304)
No progress on The Sagas of Icelanders. I’m hoping to start reading ‘Laxdæla Saga’ later today or tomorrow. I’ll have the time since I don’t work again until Tuesday.
Still making progress on A Place of Greater Safety, but I haven’t been driving as much (no place to go, after all), so it’s been slow progress. Fortunately, the public library extended everyone’s check-outs until May 1, so I’ll have some extra time to listen to the last dozen CDs or so.
Slow progress through The Mirror and the Light, too. I want to take my time to really soak in Mantel’s glorious prose, but I would be a little farther along if Mina would stop trying to get the chalk from the little chalkboard in the kitchen. She only does it at night while I’m reading, but when she is after the chalk she is obssessed with it! I’ve put the chalk away where she can’t get it, so I’m hoping that will keep her from scrabbling around the chalkboard. I’d really like to be able to get lost in the Tudor court again.
Within the Frame is a book about photography. Not the mechanics of aperture and shutter speed, or what camera is best, but the philosophy behind the art of photography. duChemin doesn’t talk about gear. He talks about vision and its place in photography, and how you have to really pay attention to the scene to see what’s really there, instead of what you think is there. Once you’ve sorted out aperture and shutter speed, figuring out what should and should not be in the frame is the next– arguably biggest– step.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
No idea. I might try to finish up The Sagas of Icelanders. I might start one of the ARCs I have due in May. We’ll see. I’ll have plenty of free time this week.
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 109: ‘Et in Arcadia Ego, pt. 1’
Kudos to the writing team for using a phrase right out of art history. ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’ means ‘I, too, am in Arcadia’. That is, Death also shows up in paradise. It’s a phrase found in a lot of Renaissance and Baroque art, and is there to remind you that you’re mortal, and even if life is great, someday you’re going to die.
So think of the state of your soul, and have a nice day.
Picard and the crew of La Sirena find their way to Soji’s homeworld. Unbeknownst to them, Narek’s scout ship has followed them. Seven of Nine has followed La Sirena, too, and thanks to the organic landing system that couldn’t handle the sheer mass of her Borg cube, the cube has crashed. Luckily, Seven, Elnor, and many of the ex-Borg drones survived. I’m sure they’ll come in handy later on.
Picard, Soji, and the crew head to the settlement and find a large community of synths living there. It’s beautiful and peaceful, but there’s trouble in paradise. A ‘sister’ of Soji– one with metallic bronze skin and yellow eyes (like Data’s) is suspicious of Picard’s intentions. When she (somehow?) mind-melds with Jurati, she discovers that the Admonition that drives the Zhat Vash to hunt down synths is not a warning against synthetic life. It’s a message TO synthetic life from synthetic life: “Call to us, and we will aid you”. Unfortunately for all organic life, that means annihilation. The episode ends with 218 Romulan ships on their way to destroy the planet, while Soji’s sister is preparing to contact the other synths to destroy all life in the galaxy.
This was a pretty good episode overall, though there were some predictable plot points- namely the evil AI, which so many science fiction stories have dealt with. Still, it’s the first part of a two-part episode, so the plotline could change pretty quickly.
This week’s episode is also the season finale, so that’s going to be a little bittersweet. I’ve loved this show, and it’s going to be a long time before season two rolls around.
About That Writing Thing:
I’ve gotten a lot done on Part 4 of my fanfic, and I’m mostly happy with what I’ve written. I’m a teeny bit stuck right now, but part of that’s coming from not being fully focused on my writing the last time I was working on it, so that’s my own fault. With a couple of free days ahead of me, I’m going to focus more and see if I can wrap up Part 4. Then I can start on Part 5. This is ending up longer than I thought it would be! But that’s okay. The first stories in this series were altogether too short. I skipped things I shouldn’t have because I just didn’t know what I was doing at the time. I’ve grown a lot as a writer in the past few years, though, so I’m a lot more comfortable with taking my time with the narrative.