Tag Archives: Kushiel’s Dart

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.

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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.

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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

What’s New — June 2018

It’s officially summer! May flew by for me, as I got some more wedding plans in order (including cake tasting!) and started weightlifting for the first time. I feel like the month was very focused on my overall health — especially creating good habits for a well-rounded lifestyle.

Now that June is here, it’s time for me to reengage with video games thanks to E3! I took a breather from gaming this past month — not intentionally, but I got so busy with other things that gaming took a backseat. The one game that I did play pretty consistently all month was Destiny 2, as I jumped back into the story with my fiancé. I’ve also been enjoying Iron Banner, the 6v6 weekend-long event, whenever it comes around.

This month I’d like to dive back into the single-player games I was playing earlier this year, and also try Detroit: Become Human which looks incredible. Any narrative-driven, decision-based game — I’m sold. The fact that Detroit is also about an android revolution makes it even more appealing to me. I’m a sci-fi nerd for life.

Aside from gaming, my big project this month is fixing up my apartment. I don’t know if everybody is like this, but when I’ve lived in a place long enough, I get a little complacent about it and stop caring about what it looks like. Decor gets shabby, junk piles up on end tables, and I put off taking the recycling out of the kitchen “until tomorrow” for a week — so it’s just sitting there, being an eyesore, for days on end. Despite regular cleaning and tidying up, it’s rare that I walk in and think, This place looks goooood.

But lately I’ve been daydreaming about getting a house someday, while binge-watching home renovation shows. Since I won’t be moving anytime soon, I decided the best thing I can do right now is perform a thorough spring cleaning of my apartment, reorganize everything to reduce clutter, and then polish everything off with a little new decor. Nothing too crazy or expensive — but some new throw pillows and a few statement pieces will be nice. Yesterday I bought a vase that was on sale and reminded me of something an archaeologist would have in their home, so that’s a start.

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The Expanse

Other than that, I’ve been trying to get into the TV show The Expanse. I loved Leviathan Wakes when I read it years ago, so the show can’t be that different, right? I finished watching Outlander until its next season airs in the fall, and in the meantime I’m reading the book series. I’m watching Westworld but honestly have no idea what’s going on in that show this season — the storytelling, for me, isn’t nearly as tight and engaging as it was in the first season. (I still love Maeve, though.)

I’m also reading the novel Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey, which is an incredible show of world-building. It’s a fantasy world that feels like an older version of France, and in this world there is the Night Court, which consists of several houses of courtesans who are trained for years in the art of lovemaking. They are also revered as followers of their god. “Love as thou wilt” is their religious motto, and the protagonist Phedre is raised in this tradition with the purpose of becoming a spy, to learn the political schemes of her clients. The book has gone places I didn’t expect, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together in the end.

What’s everybody else up to this month? I’d love to hear what you’re reading, watching, and playing in June. =)

— Ashley

What’s New — May 2018

Happy May, everybody!

Last month I made it my mission to focus on my writing and my health, and that’s what I did. To the point of not really blogging all month. Sorry I’ve been so absent! It was helpful to have a brief hiatus from blogging just because sometimes when I sit down to write my novel, I’ll end up blogging instead. That’s still writing, right? But I needed to not have that as an option, and it worked out well. I’ve made tons of progress on my novel this month and am really enjoying the story as it unfolds (even though it’s still a total mess of a first draft). But now it’s May, and I’ve missed this blog, and I have a lot to say so expect some posts soon. =)

In other news, last month I ran every weekend and prepared for a 10K at the end of the month. It’s one of my favorite runs, as it takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. While I just barely made it — I didn’t actually run the full 6-mile distance until the day of the race — I am really happy that I finished the thing and made a decent time, too. I’ll be continuing to run every weekend this summer to prepare for another 10K later in the year, when I want to beat my time.

April was also the month of the God of War launch, which was a big deal at work as well as in my household! I’ve been playing it since (almost two weeks now?), and while I feel I’ve made a lot of progress, from what I hear from others who raced through the game or are just devoting more time to it, I still have quite a ways to go. This is going to be a long, heavy game, which is great. If you haven’t played it, the storytelling, the dynamics between Kratos and his son, and the graphics are incredible. I’m really curious to see more of these mythical realms, and explore the Norse mythology that’s woven into every setting.

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My character eating a sandwich.

I also started playing a mobile game that I’m obsessed with now, called Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Check out how cool it is! You can create your own character, attend Hogwarts starting in your first year, go to classes, talk to professors, make friends… It’s awesome. I actually read a review of it on Polygon a week or so ago, which is what piqued my interest — and now I’m seeing it everywhere. If you like RPGs and Harry Potter, I highly recommend.

Now that May is here, I’ll be continuing God of War, running, and writing my book. I started reading Jacqueline Carey’s fantasy novel Kushiel’s Dart, which is perfection as an audiobook. This month is also Mother’s Day, so I’ll be celebrating that with my mom. And of course the following weekend is the royal wedding. My family are Anglophiles, and I used to live in London, so at some point we became obsessed interested in the Windsors and are now extremely excited to pull an all-nighter watching the wedding together!

In other news, I get to taste wedding cakes this month. =)

I’d love to hear what everybody else is up to in May!

— Ashley