What’s New — July 2018

This seems like a fitting day to write my What’s New post, since it’s my blog’s 6th birthday. It’s ready for first grade, guys. This blog has been such a great outlet for me to write about all of my geeky interests and meet people online who share them, so I am really happy that it’s still going strong.

world cup.jpgJust in the past few weeks, I’ve been obsessed with soccer and the World Cup. I’m watching as many games as I can, rooting for England, and having a blast watching soccer documentaries in between games to learn more about the sport. My fiancé is a big fan, so it’s been fun to get into it with him. =)

I’m also getting married in the fall, so wedding planning has definitely been ramping up as we finalize a lot of the last details. It’s been a fun ride, but also incredibly time consuming. Seriously, planning a wedding on your own is like being a project manager. Lots of e-mails, deadlines, meetings, and contracts. To keep track of everything, I have a bunch of budget spreadsheets, day planner schedules, notes for things like color schemes and my wedding vows… It’s fun, just a big energy investment.

That’s why I haven’t been blogging as often as I used to. There was a time when I had a schedule of at least three posts per week, but now I’m lucky to get in one or two per month. That’s probably how it will be for the rest of this year. But I love blogging and will always do it on some level. It’s a huge stress reliever for me, as a diversion and a source of joy.

You know when you have a really hectic week and you’re so busy taking action that you don’t have time to reflect on your life or who you are? For me, blogging is a way to be in the moment, savoring time to myself and celebrating my interests which make me who I am.

That’s a long-winded way of saying sorry I haven’t been around here as much, but I’m not going anywhere. =)

So, here’s what I’ve been up to lately. I’d love to hear what you all have been doing lately too!

Reading

I finally finished the novel Kushiel’s Dart this month. It’s a beautiful fantasy novel by Jacqueline Carey, but my feelings about it are mixed. As much as I loved the world that she created, the book gets really long-winded about halfway through. What starts out as a character story becomes a political one, and I had trouble keeping track of all of the different names and alliances going on. I only really cared about the protagonist, Phedre, and her circle of friends, allies, and enemies. For that reason, when the politics take over in the second half of the story, I lost interest. I made myself finish the book, but even the romance is lackluster for me because Phedre spends so much time in love with or sleeping with other people beforehand. I’d still recommend the book just for the world-building, but I don’t plan to continue reading the rest of the series.

grace kelly wedding dress.jpg
Grace Kelly’s bridal look

I also listened to an audiobook called Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. It was inspired by the royal wedding last month, and seeing pictures of Grace Kelly’s wedding dress which was gorgeous. And with all the wedding planning, I guess I just thought it would be fun to read about a real-life romance and wedding. The book details some of the struggles Grace faced in her acting career and marriage, but is overall pretty light and fluffy. A lot of the reviews liken it to a really long Vanity Fair article, which seems just right.

Now I’m listening to the audiobook of the second Outlander novel by Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber. I just finished watching the Starz series and re-reading the first book, so I’m excited to get into this one, which follows Claire and Jamie after they move from Scotland to France. If you haven’t read the books or watched the show, it’s part historical fiction, a little bit of magic, and a lot of steamy romance. If any of those appeal to you, check it out. I’d recommend the show for most people, just because it’s the cleanest telling of the story. But Gabaldon’s novels are so beautifully-written, I love sinking into them. The only challenge is that they are extremely long. The audiobooks, narrated with perfect enthusiasm by Davina Porter, are over 30 hours long — so to really enjoy them, you have to let yourself lose track of time and savor the details. I think it’s actually therapeutic for me!

Writing

It’s another NaNoWriMo for me! If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll probably know that I’m obsessed with National Novel Writing Month, which is when you are prompted to write a 50,000 word book all during the month of November. But the organization also offers writing “camps” in April and July, when you make your own writing goal. Sometimes I make a goal of writing every single day of the month, even if only for five minutes. This time, I want to write two chapters of my book per week — eight chapters total. For me, that will be great progress and get me deep into the novel so I can finish it this year.

Gaming

I’ve been all over the place with my games lately, but I finished Detroit: Become Human last month and have now jumped into another narrative-driven game, Vampyr. It’s the latest release by Dontnod, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite developers.

Years ago Dontnod released a fun beat-em-up game called Remember Me, which had amazing puzzles involving rewinding other characters’ memories and changing small details to affect what happened. For instance, if you wanted to recruit someone to your cause, you might rewind one of their memories and make one of their loved ones pass away; even though it didn’t really happen, the character would then “remember” that death and side with your cause out of revenge, as just one example. With their episodic series Life is Strange, they took that memory-remixing to the next level and based the entire game around that type of puzzle, instead of the combat. It worked really well, and let them focus more on storytelling which is where they really shine.

vampyrr.jpg
A Victorian vampire

Vampyr seems to be drawing on those strengths. Set in Victorian London, you play a doctor who has just become a vampire and is trying to figure out who made him this way, and why. He’s struggling to come to terms with his new thirst — especially since his career is devoted to saving lives, not taking them. I thought the game would be more combat-focused, but so far it’s very much a narrative game where you spend a lot of time interrogating people for clues, following blood trails through the streets of London, and deciding whether or not to take someone’s life when you drain their blood. I’m still in the early hours, but I can’t wait to see what happens next.

What’s everybody else reading and playing this month? I’d love to catch up in the comments. =)

— Ashley

5 thoughts on “What’s New — July 2018”

  1. I still think it’s funny your blog has the same birthday as me.

    I guess my biggest news is that I’ve finished book three of Soulcleaver. I’d been working on that forever, so it’s a big relief to move on. I’m currently working on plotting out book four. While I have a broad view of what this book is meant to accomplish, it’s the one I’d done the least planning ahead on. This will be the darkest book of the series, so my challenge is to find a way to make 60,000 words of failure and misery still be fun to read.

    I’m feeling a bit adrift on gaming lately. I’ve been playing ESO’s new Summerset expansion, but to be honest, I’m a little disappointed. The new environments are incredibly, ridiculously beautiful, but they really phoned it in on the story. There’s so much interesting stuff they could have done with the politics of the region and Maormer and the Sload… and instead it’s just “Daedric cultists are trying to blow up the world again.” Which is basically the story of 90% of the game’s other zones.

    I’ve been saying this for years without getting around to it, so take it with a grain of salt, but I’ve been thinking of doing another playthrough of Inquisition to romance Solas. If I do, I think I’ll try playing a warrior, which is something I’ve never done in Dragon Age before.

    For TV, I finally got around to trying Sense8, since so many of my friends were raving about it. It’s… a very strange show. I find the premise intensely fascinating, but the execution is often ponderous. I find it oddly exhausting, and I can’t watch it every night. On off nights I’ve been rewatching Trailer Park Boys to relax. I forgot how much I like that show. It’s interesting how it’s so incredibly crude and lowbrow, and yet in its own strange way very wholesome.

    1. Happy (belated) birthday! I hope you had a lovely day. And congrats on finishing the book, that’s a huge achievement. I personally love reading about failure and misery sometimes so your next book sounds great. I read a lot of Russian literature which is my favorite for misery that’s interesting and even cathartic.

      Let me know how your Dragon Age playthrough goes if you do it. I started off with a Solas romance originally, but then who can resist Sera in the end?!

      I tried to watch Sense8 before but felt pretty much like you do. I stopped watching it after a few episodes!

      1. Thanks. My birthday celebrations are actually dragging out over several days. I had my father over to visit for a while, and tomorrow I’m going to be seeing some friends. Gonna watch my DVD of the Warcraft movie, and then they’re gonna make me dinner.

        When I first played Inquisition, I had a really hard time choosing between Solas, Dorian, and Sera, but as you say, Sera tends to win out in the end. It’s nice to see someone else who appreciates her; she seems to be a fairly unpopular character in my experience.

        I’m in season two of Sense8 now, and I imagine I’ll finish it eventually. It’s interesting enough to make me overlook its flaws, but yeah, I can understand not having the patience for it.

        1. That sounds like a really nice birthday. And I agree about Sera. I didn’t realize she was so unpopular though! Also, I would love to do a playthrough and romance Dorian. So many great characters. Good luck with the rest of Sense8 as well!

          1. It was a great birthday. One of the best I’ve ever had.

            I actually found Dorian’s romance a little underwhelming, to be honest. It’s not bad per se, but it’s kind of by the numbers. Doesn’t offer a lot of insight into his character or do anything else to set itself apart from the pack. Sera’s is a lot more memorable, though a lot more turbulent.

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