What's New

What’s New – Fresh Start in 2021

Happy New Year, readers! I hope everyone has had a healthy and restful transition into the new year 2021. Obviously last year was, for most people, pretty terrible. And this past week, in the United States, we have faced difficult days. I won’t get into politics here, but I do want to wish everyone a little peace during these challenging times. Here’s hoping that 2021 improves from here.

As for me, I had two weeks of winter break, during which I read lots of books and played lots of video games. It was lovely to have time off from my college classes and student teaching, with nothing to do and nowhere to be. Although I couldn’t see my family in person due to COVID-19, we still had fun catching up on Zoom, having gift-opening parties, and being able to relax in our own homes with the food that we like. (Does anyone else have differing ideas for what is the best food to eat on the holidays?)

I also had some health problems at the end of last year, so it was perfect timing for me to get some extra rest. Now that the new year is here, I feel I’ve benefited from the days of recovery, my energy restored and a new perspective on my own life. Basically, I’m trying to practice gratitude. I don’t take my health for granted anymore; my husband and I also got an indoor bike recently, which I love. (If anyone uses the Peloton app, let me know!) Right now, I feel lucky to have a roof over my head, health, and a family with whom I can get through anything.

How is everyone else doing? I’d love to hear how things are going for you, either seriously or in terms of the nerdy entertainment we aways discuss here! Now, I’ll share what I’ve been reading, watching, writing, and playing lately…

Games

Cyberpunk 2077 screenshot of V on a motorcycle approaching the Red Dirt bar

The video game that essentially took over my life during winter break was Cyberpunk 2077. While many people struggled to play CD Projekt’s new game due to a host of bugs — some that cause the game to crash on such a regular basis it’s almost impossible to play — I got lucky. Aside from a handful of crashes during my 45 hours with the game on PS4, I only experienced a few silly bugs that were far from game-breaking. I was immersed in Night City, playing as my somewhat sarcastic female V with a little Keanu Reeves in my head the whole time. (If you haven’t played the game yet, you’ll see what I mean.)

In the coming days, I’ll review the game in snapshots of different features or questlines that I enjoyed. Expect some spoilers along the way, but I would love to hear what you think of the game if you’ve played it!

Another game I’ve been playing lately has been the Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle game, which my sister got me for Christmas. It’s a deck-building game with seven rounds, each increasingly difficult. What makes it fun — besides the Harry Potter theme — is that it’s cooperative. My husband and I have been teaming up to protect Hogwarts and take down all the familiar villains of the series, from dementors to Voldemort himself.

Books

While sheltering in place during the pandemic last year, I doubled down on my reading habit. (Is that the right phrase?) Although I’ve always enjoyed reading as a hobby, 10 or 12 books a year has been the norm for me for awhile. But not last year. Last year, I read 39 books, plus a few textbooks for school, and this year my goal is to read 50 books.

Over winter break, my family started a new Christmas Eve tradition to gift each other books, which we could then read that evening as we wait to go to sleep, wait for Santa, and wake up to open other presents and enjoy a meal together (or, as was the case in 2020, on Zoom). This Christmas Eve book exchange idea comes from Iceland’s Yule Book Flood, known as jólabókaflóð. You can read more about the tradition over at Read it Forward. My mom was the one who found it and decided it would be a cerebral replacement of her old tradition of gifting the kids pajamas on Christmas Eve. The book I received was Diana Gabaldon’s Drums of Autumn, the fourth book in the Outlander series. I love sweeping historical fiction books with romance, so I’m excited to dive back into this series that I previous read in earnest in 2018.

One Giant Leap book cover

Since this is a geek blog, one of my nerdier reads of late is One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman. I don’t talk about it much here at Robo❤beat, but I’m mildly obsessed with the missions to the moon. I can’t tell you how many documentaries I’ve watched about the Gemini and Apollo missions in particular. In college, I even downloaded the audio files of all the missions, which are now forever in my iTunes where they occasionally play at random when I turn on my car. (They are weird enough to require an awkward explanation when a new person is riding in the car with me, like my old boss once was.) Yet despite my fascination with the missions, I haven’t read many books about them. So I recently picked up One Giant Leap from the library, which focuses on the people behind the scenes who made America’s missions to the moon possible. The writing style is incredibly entertaining, and so far the book is filled with fun facts that I didn’t know.

On a side note, I watched my husband play some of The Last of Us Part 2 over winter break and loved learning more about Ellie’s obsession with the missions to the moon. I won’t give away more than that, but it was a special moment in the game for sure.

Writing

After completing NaNoWriMo in November, I’ve continued to work on my new project. While I was previously writing a sci-fi novel for several years — a project I plan to return to — I felt I needed something fresh last year. I was burning out on my old project, stuck with the plot, and simply not feeling it anymore. A part of me feels guilty for abandoning the book in the middle, but I simply wasn’t making progress anymore. I need to return to it with a fresh perspective. And so I decided to take a break and follow my heart, which led me right into historical romance.

Remember how I said I received the historical romance Drums of Autumn for Christmas Eve? Well, in November and December I read another huge historical romance called Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati, which I loved. (It’s similar to Outlander in style, if you’re interested.) And given that I’ve been absorbed in American history lately — particularly the American Revolution after watching Hamilton on repeat all summer and reading some great YA books set during that time period — I started writing a historical fiction story of my own set in 1770s Boston. I’m excited to continue working on it in the coming weeks (or months). Progress has been pretty quick, because it was just the fresh project I needed!

TV Shows

As for TV, I haven’t watched a lot of fantasy or science fiction lately, other than slowly working my way through The Mandalorian. But my husband started watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with me; I’ve been watching Mrs. America with my sister during Zoom parties; and I’m attempting to improve my Spanish as I watch the show Monarca on Netflix (which I highly recommend if you liked Succession, by the way). I also watched Queen’s Gambit and The Crown at the end of last year, both of which were fantastic.

Now, I’m ready for some new shows, particularly sci-fi and fantasy that I miss. I’ve tried a few over the past few months that I just couldn’t get into.

On a side note, last year my husband and I watched Apple TV’s Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, a comedy series set in a video game company. As someone who used to work in the gaming industry and with a lot of programmers, I had so much fun with how much this show took me back. The writing is fresh and hilarious. I may have to rewatch it soon. =)

Mythic Quest TV show poster

What has everyone else been up to lately? Again, I hope you are all doing well, and I wish you a happy new year.

Ashley

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