February Reading Summary

BOOM BABY it’s March and I’m currently at 30/60 books!!!

Soooooo to be totally honest 25 of those are mangas because I spent most of February blitzing through Soul Eater, which I finally did finish. On the other hand, hooray I’ve read five books that didn’t have pictures!

For anyone who might be curious, here’s a brief timeline of my relationship with Soul Eater:

2010
My high school best friend makes me watch a few episodes of the anime. I get hooked and start collecting the manga.

2011 – 2020
I collect the entire manga but stop reading after book five or six for reasons I am currently not sure of but may have something to do with my pervasive laziness and declining reading skills.

January – February 2020
I get fed up and read the entire series over the course of 1.5 months.

Overall I enjoyed the series. There were some things I didn’t like and some things that made me go WTF, but I liked the premise and loved the ending, even though I’m still salty about Arachne. The only thing about the ending that’s got me scratching my head is Gopher and his 9,000 Noahs, (1) because I’m still not sure what the point of Resurrected!Noah was and (2) I’m not really sure that Gopher actually deserved a happy ending. Still, he’s probably going to spend the rest of his life getting pushed around and verbally abused by those 9,000 Noahs, so I suppose it evens out in the end.


February Reading Stats

Books Finished:

  1. The Merry Wives of Windsor – William Shakespeare
  2. The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker
  3. Soul Eater 6 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  4. Soul Eater 7 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  5. Soul Eater 8 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  6. Soul Eater 9 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  7. Soul Eater 10 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  8. Soul Eater 11 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  9. Soul Eater 12 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  10. Soul Eater 13 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  11. Soul Eater 14 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  12. Soul Eater 15 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  13. Soul Eater 16 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  14. Soul Eater 17 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  15. Soul Eater 18 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  16. Soul Eater 19 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  17. Soul Eater 20 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  18. Soul Eater 21 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  19. Soul Eater 22 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  20. Soul Eater 23 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  21. Soul Eater 24 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  22. Soul Eater 25 – Atsushi Ohkubo
  23. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Books Abandoned:

  1. The Siberian Dilemma – Martin Cruz Smith

Total Pages Read: 5,103

About that abandoned book: I don’t plan to make a practice of abandoning books at the drop of a hat, but I really couldn’t get into The Siberian Dilemma. Maybe it would help if I had the rest of the Arkady Renko series as background – this was the first Martin Cruz Smith I’ve ever tried, so that might’ve had something to do with it. In any case the characters didn’t draw me in and the writing was very choppy and non-sequitury, and before I knew it the book was due back to the library. I tried to renew it but it for some reason was unrenewable (maybe somebody had it on hold?) and I refuse to pay fines for books I don’t like so back it went.

To be fair, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read. Maybe I’ll try reading Gorky Park and work my way back up to Siberian Dilemma if I end up liking the series, but otherwise I don’t see myself trying this again anytime soon.


Current Reads

With Soul Eater safely out of the way, I finally got to start some new books!

Eleanor Oliphant was wonderful and I will be buying the audiobook as soon as I get to work tomorrow. The only thing that pisses me off is that stupid little sticker they keep insisting on grafting onto the covers of random books. I don’t care if this book is part of Reese’s Book Club. I don’t care if it’s Oprah’s pick. Get that shit off my book cover or at least make it removable so I can take it off myself. 🤬

Also I might’ve gone a little crazy at the library after getting Soul Eater off my list, but, hey, we all do that, right?

Last Saturday we had lunch with one of my uncles, who mentioned he’s been reading a lot of Japanese books and named names. He specifically recommended The Great Passage, so I picked it up at the library.

I’m only on page 73, but Great Passage has been speaking to my soul on many different levels: it’s about a man who has dedicated his life to words and all their possible meanings; he has this really awkward apprentice who’s so deeply invested in words that he literally checks out for five minutes to analyze the difference between the words agaru and noboru (both meaning “to rise, ascend”) when the girl of his dreams asks him to go to an amusement park with her; these two men are trying to produce a new dictionary before their publishing company can shut their project down; and, possibly most importantly, they eat a lot of amazing food in between dictionary work and now I really want Japanese food.

More seriously, I’ve also made it a goal to read more books by writers of color, particularly Asian writers. I realized some time ago that, although I’ve read hundreds of books, comparatively few of those books were written by people of color. If this is something you’re struggling with too and you want some more diverse reading options, take a look at my writers of color shelf. I only have 133 books on this shelf so far and some of the authors are repeats, but I know I’ll find more. 133 may sound like a lot, but when you compare that with the 725 books I currently have on my Want to Read shelf, it’s rather sobering. Of the almost 800 books I’ve marked “Want to Read,” only 18.3% were written by people who were not white. I did okay(ish) with my reading list last year, but I just realized that if you take away the mangas and miscellaneous graphic novels, which I generally don’t count, my 2019 book diversity percentage goes down like a lead balloon. Looking back over the five books I’ve read this year that weren’t mangas, only one of them was by a writer of color. I need to get better at this. 😭

On that note, I’m really looking forward to reading my latest library haul, particularly The Dove’s Necklace. The only thing that’s kinda giving me pause about this book is that it only has 2.98 stars on goodreads, which seems strange to me, given that it won the 2011 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Hopefully the rating is just the result of angry bigotry and not actual valid objections, because the inside cover descibes the book as a “brilliant, funny, profane, and enigmatic fever dream…as gripping as classic noir, nuanced as a Nabokov novel, and labyrinthine as the alleys of Mecca itself,” and I already kind of love it even though I haven’t actually started reading it.


Miscellaneous Reading News

I’m only in one book club on goodreads. I used to be in three, but I left the other two at the beginning of the year because I hadn’t been participating in them and I wanted to focus on the Coffee Break book club, which I’ve been actively participating in since joining. I’m not really sure what’s so different about this group because the other two were perfectly nice, but for some reason this one really lit a fire under my tail, possibly because it was the first group I’d seen that did monthly reading trackers and my OCD had spent its entire life waiting for this chance. This was the group that got me to sign up for my first-ever buddy reads, and I’m actually starting to consider the possibilities of the Book of the Month threads. I’ve never done a Book of the Month read but this month they’re all reading The Girl in Red, which happens to be on my Want to Read shelf and looks fascinating.

Actually fuck it I just checked the library catalog and found out there are seven available copies so now it’s on hold and I’m doing a Book of the Month read!!! Wish me luck!!! 😍😍😍

Life Goes On

Welcome to adulthood. You get excited now when you use your day off to buy a new keyboard and go to the Korean market.

That keyboard was not cheap!!! 😭💔 Unfortunately I really needed a keyboard with a number pad, which makes life a lot more pleasant, and even more unfortunately my new computer did not come with one because Apple really knows how to soak you for every penny. Of course the real tragedy here is that I decided that I needed an expanded keyboard and immediately ran off to buy one but we won’t get into that ORZZZZZZ

Anyway, the reason I ended up at the Korean market was that I’d stumbled across a recipe for ganjang guksu (Korean soy sauce noodles) and wished to try it immediately but did not have somyeon noodles. My brother was moving home from Atlanta that weekend and our parents had driven down to help him move and I had the run of the kitchen, which is a polite way of saying I should probably never be left on my own ever because shit like this happens:

It was really good.

I was also left alone with Her Imperial Majesty Empress Zuri, who was Very Displeased with the snow that showed up around the same time as her late-night walk. It was only a few flakes, but she has spindly legs and almost no fur and overall it wasn’t a good experience for her.

On the bright side (for me), I caught her using the sleeping bag I bought her for Christmas! I’m not actually sure she knows what it is or how to use it – it took her a while to get used to it when I first put it out for her, but after a couple of hours she curled up inside it and we couldn’t get her out. Since then I haven’t really seen her use it, but suspect that she uses it as a substitute for a human lap when no human laps are available (i.e., when we’re all out of the house). Since that was its intended purpose, I suppose it’s worked out.

In this case she had to resort to the sleeping bag because I ran off for a few hours in the middle of the day and didn’t return until almost dinnertime. Everything always seems to stack up on the same damn days, and on this particular weekend Heather and I had already made plans to visit Historic Savage Mills, doggie or no doggie. I was mildly concerned that I might come back to find little doggie gifts on the floor, but luckily that didn’t happen and we still managed to see a lot of fun stuff.

This trip was a definite improvement over the last time I visited Savage Mills, (1) because I had company and (2) because we saw a lot more and also got food.

If you offer me a hot sandwich with ham and melted cheese, the answer will always be yes. :3 My favorite store (after the bookstore, of course) was probably the one with these rubber stamps, which took me straight back to the 90s:

I really wanted to buy stuff at this store but I’ve always been terrible at traditional media so there wasn’t much point. We also saw this hysterical sign outside a bridal consignment shop:

and of course it wouldn’t be a shopping trip if I didn’t pick up at least a couple of new books 😬


Reading Corner

YOU GUYS I FINALLY FINISHED A BOOK FROM MY TSUNDOKU SHELF OMG /flails

To be totally honest, I love reading, but I really, really love being able to obsessively track every page online and set actually realistic goals. On Saturday I finished Memory of Fire: Genesis, and today I remembered to remove it from the tsundoku shelf. I mean I’ve already added at least five other books to the tsundoku shelf, but still. PROGRESS.

Genesis was already discussed and extensively quoted in my last reading update and doesn’t need to be reanalyzed here, but it was really, really good. I highly recommend this book, both to people living in America and people with an interest in pre-Columbian history and mythology. (And, uh, maybe don’t read it while you’re in a good mood cus it’s gonna bring you waaaaaay down.)

On a slightly less progressive note, I have now read 23 of the 60 books I’m planning to read this year. Four of them were regular adult books without pictures. The other nineteen were mangas. This is mildly embarrassing because, even though mangas are books, the long-term plan is to be able to hit my reading goal without needing to include mangas. That’s in the future, though, and in the meantime I’ve had 25 Soul Eaters sitting on my bookcase for years and years and years. I think I must’ve gotten up to book five or six before I stopped reading them, but now I’m up to nineteen and am almost done with the series. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to look back on the series to date and say What the fuck?

I don’t know if other Soul Eater fans feel the same way, but one thing I’m noticing is that the conflicts don’t last very long, and it’s kinda starting to bug me. There are extended story arcs and side villains and Medusa is definitely still fucking around with her black blood experiments, but most (if not all) of the arcs so far seem to have been resolved very quickly and easily. The bad guy turnover rate is ridiculous. At the beginning of the series, there are a few minor antagonists who either get defeated quickly or turn out to be DWMA teachers in charge of remedial lessons. Medusa is introduced as main villain and puppet master, but is seemingly killed during the first major battle. She and her team manage to release Asura, who seems like he’s all set to become the next main villain, but he quickly fucks off to god knows where and hasn’t come back so far. Medusa later comes back by stealing a little girl’s body, which she inhabits while we are introduced to her sister Arachne, who also seems like a good candidate for main villain. Then Arachne dies a few books later and it turns out she was only a side villain and the other major villain is in fact Noah, only then Noah dies too and now I don’t know what the fuck’s going on.

This is what I’m talking about when I say all their problems get solved way too easily, because Arachne and Noah were presented as powerful antagonists but in the end went down with hardly any fight. The battle scenes were extremely short. I loved the idea of using Soul’s music to turn Arachne’s own web against her, but Maka should not have been able to defeat her as quickly as she did. It makes slightly more sense for Noah to be defeated fairly quickly because he was up against a handful of powerful Meisters and didn’t seem to have any fighting abilities of his own, but Arachne’s defeat was incredibly anti-climactic and disappointing. It was one of those defeats that had me going “I bet she’s got some other trick it couldn’t be that easy,” but she had no other tricks and it really was that easy. I suppose I can’t really count Noah out just yet since Medusa came back and all and Noah did have access to a lot of demon stuff, but now Gopher’s run off with the Book of Eibon and I wouldn’t put it past Ohkubo to make Gopher the new villain even though he couldn’t villain his way out of a paper bag.

I feel like I should clarify here that I actually have been enjoying Soul Eater and have also been rewatching the anime, but I’m not a fan of the villain situation and I wish Arachne had had more of a role because I really liked her and all she did was wait around and work on her magic before Maka chopped her head off. It’s also not really clear to me why everyone and their mom wants to absorb Asura, or what they hope to get out of it if they succeed. What is the long-term goal here? I’ll admit I’ve been reading these really quickly because, like I said, there’s 25 of them, so it’s possible I’ve missed things, but I wouldn’t mind some more clarity with the general plot.

P.S. Justin is pissing me off and he needs to go. 🤬

February Reading Update

If anyone is keeping track, I now have a bookshelf named tsundoku. This is specifically for books that I’ve either bought or received but haven’t read. In the spirit of Fulfilling New Year’s Resolutions, I borrowed two more books from the library, which I also so far have not read.

On the bright side, I finally organized my bookmarks. #headdesk

Before

After

Anyway…….

General Reading Update

My 2020 goal of reading 60 books got off to a rocky start when I failed to finish any books for most of the month of January, with the sole exception of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which I started reading last October and finally finished on January 2. I have literally nothing to say for myself except that it’s a fucking long-ass book and I got hit hard by the Harry Potter doldrums halfway through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. If you’ve already read these books and you’re trying to marathon them as an adult for old times’ sake, all I can say is don’t.

Owing to the Harry Potter Fatigue (YES THAT’S A THING) and the general reading slump I’ve been in since last year, I fell about three books behind over the course of January and then quickly shot up to three books ahead by reading the first five volumes of Soul Eater in four days. I knew I’d have to pad out my reading goal with mangas, but I didn’t think I’d have to resort to them that fast. 😭

Currently Reading

I thought I’d start a New Thing here, which I’m naming Karo Reads It All. This tag will be for the posts discussing my current reads*, so please do come back if you’re a dork like me and you like to stalk other people’s reading lists! KRIA is the result of a thought I literally just had like a second ago, which is that I should make a specific tag for myself because I really love talking about what I’m reading to keep myself accountable and on track.

* Note: I will not be tracking mangas because I typically read those in one sitting, and I’m more concerned about my ability to finish books that don’t have pictures.


Memory of Fire: Genesis

The tsundoku quest got off to a strong start with Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire: Genesis, which I started reading on the train on January 18 while on my way to see a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor (which, by the way, was excellent).

I spotted this completely by chance at my favorite secondhand bookstore and immediately knew that it had to come home with me because it’s quoted in the epigraphs in Cat’s Eye which is one of my most favoritest books EVERRRRRRRR yeah okay I’m a nerd but you knew that

When the Tukunas cut off her head, the old woman collected her own blood in her hands and blew it toward the sun.

“My soul enters you, too!” she shouted.

Since then anyone who kills receives in his body, without wanting or knowing it, the soul of his victim.

The quote came out pretty early in the book. I was excited. 🤩

Anyway, to be completely honest: I’ve been reading this book in stages because it is gorgeous, riveting, and absolutely inFUUUUUUUUUURiating. Never read this book if you’re in a bad mood because it’ll put you in a worse one and you’ll end up hoping in your heart of hearts that Columbus and Cortés and all the rest are upside down and inside out and burning somewhere in the deepest pits of hell.

I’m not saying don’t read it at all. I think this is a book that every American needs to read at some point. I can’t speak for its historical accuracy, especially as it is set during a confusing and poorly documented period of history (and even more especially as the author describes himself in the preface as “a wretched history student” and then goes on to say that he is a writer rather than a historian), but it still needs to be read because it offers a Latin American perspective on the creation of the New World. It also goes back through the history and mythology of some of the Native American tribes whose worlds were destroyed the minute Columbus set foot on American soil. Not gonna lie, some of these stories actually aren’t that nice. There seems to be a lot of kidnapping, murder, and theft. 🤣 This one is my favorite so far:

Resurrection

After five days it was the custom for the dead to return to Peru. They drank a glass of chicha and said, “Now I’m eternal.”

There were too many people in the world. Crops were sown at the bottom of precipices and on the edge of abysses, but even so, the food wouldn’t go around.

Then a man died in Huarochirí.

The whole community gathered on the fifth day to receive him. They waited for him from morning till well after nightfall. The hot dishes got cold, and sleep began closing eyelids. The dead man didn’t come.

He came the next day. Everyone was furious. The one who boiled most with indignation was his wife, who yelled, “You good-for-nothing! Always the same good-for-nothing! All the dead are punctual except you!”

The resurrected one stammered some excuse, but the woman threw a corncob at his head and left him stretched out on the floor. Then the soul left the body and flew off, a quick, buzzing insect, never to return.

Since that time no dead person has come back to mix with the living and compete for their food.

Some more quotes that stood out to me:

Sacrilege

The six are burning as a punishment and as a lesson: They have buried the images of Christ and the Virgin that Fray Ramón Pané left with them for protection and consolation. Fray Ramón taught them to pray on their knees, to say the Ave Maria and Paternoster and to invoke the name of Jesus in the face of temptation, injury, and death.

No one has asked them why they buried the images. They were hoping that the new gods would fertilize their fields of corn, cassava, boniato, and beans.

Moctezuma

Moctezuma has sent great offerings of gold to the god Quetzalcóatl, helmets filled with gold dust, golden ducks, golden dogs, golden tigers, golden necklaces, and wands and bows and arrows, but the more gold the god eats, the more he wants; and he is advancing toward Tenochtitlán, dissatisfied. He marches between the great volcanos, and behind him come other bearded gods. The hands of the invaders send forth thunder that stuns and fire that kills.

The Capital of the Aztecs

Emperor Moctezuma, who opens the gates of Tenochtitlán, will soon be finished. In a short while he will be called woman of the Spaniards, and his own people will stone him to death. Young Cuauhtémoc will take his place. He will fight.

“People Very Generous with What They Have…”

The Spaniards imagine that the Indians will cut them into pieces and throw them in the stewpot, but in the village they continue sharing with them the little food they have. As Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca will tell it, the Indians are horrified and hot with anger when they learn that, while on the beach, five Christians ate one another until only one remained, who being alone had no one to eat him.

Atahualpa

Before the iron tourniquet breaks his neck, [Atahualpa] weeps, kisses the cross, and accepts baptism with another name. Giving his name as Francisco, which is his conqueror’s name, he beats on the doors of the Paradise of the Europeans, where no place is reserved for him.

Don’t Try to Convert Me

This is one of the many, many things that’ve been making me mad while I’ve been reading Genesis, because I’ve never been down with the idea of going to another country and telling the people who live there that their religions suck and yours is the right one. While I support freedom of expression for every religion that doesn’t actively endorse harming other people, I draw the line at people who start trying to push their religion onto everyone else. It’s one thing to offer to teach someone who specifically expresses interest in your religious beliefs, but it’s another thing entirely to forcibly convert entire populations. Even just talking about it is making my headache worse so I guess this is as good a place as any to wrap up.


The Merry Wives of Windsor

As an antidote to the rage and gloom, I also started reading The Merry Wives of Windsor!

I started with the library’s copy but quickly found I didn’t care for that particular edition, which gave more room to the explanatory footnotes than it did to the play itself, so I ended up buying a different edition when I went to see the stage show.

I have to be honest: I’ve never been an avid Shakespeare scholar. It’s gotten easier to understand him as I’ve grown older, but a lot of his language and references still leave me in the dark, even if I’m able to follow the general gist of what the characters are saying. Case in point: I really struggled with the beginning of Merry Wives and wasn’t able to finish the play before I saw the show, but I’m actually really glad it worked out that way because the play is a lot easier to understand now that I have the context provided by the show. (Of course, I’m also having trouble motivating myself to finish this one because Reading Slump. Go figure.)

Buddy Reads

I tried out a handful of buddy reads for the first time last year. I’ve never tried them before and am not sure I’ll continue because one of them was successful, one of them was partially successful but later fell apart, and the rest of them turned into me reading the book/series and discussing my thoughts on the forum while everyone else read part of the book/series and then spent the rest of the time discussing the reasons they hadn’t finished it. The only buddy read I haven’t finished yet is my Harry Potter buddy read, which started with a group of us rereading the Harry Potter series and then slowly devolved to one of us reading the books and two of us offering excuses. To be clear, I am not that one because I read the entire series growing up and they’re pretty much lodged in my head. This is why it was a bad idea for me to join: I know the books too well, I’ve developed Adult Opinions about them, and I’ve found that I have a lot of problems with them, which may be a subject for a later post because I currently don’t have the energy for an in-depth analysis.

Also, to be very very clear, I still love this gorram series SO much. It formed a huge part of my childhood/teenage/young adult reading list, I know every story by heart (except maybe Order of the Phoenix cus that one was definitely my least favorite), and I find it shocking when I run across people who either haven’t read or don’t remember the series like what do you mean you haven’t memorized Goblet of Fire how do you even live with yourself 🤣

Final Thoughts

That’s all from my reading world. What’s on your nightstand?

I Went Out and Didn’t Die

恭喜發財!!!

It’s the year of the rat, and with any luck we can treat this as the official start of the year instead of January 1, because my year began well enough and then started sloping gently downhill after the first week. 2020 hasn’t been particularly convincing so far, but the year of the rat got off to a solid start with the help of one of my favorite cooking blogs. If you don’t follow them already, gtfo my blog and go take a look at them because they’re seriously amazing.

In case anyone is wondering, this was the crispy scallion ginger salmon I was planning to cook for New Year’s dinner for the better part of two weeks:

And this was the I-Really-Really-REALLY-Want-Fried-Noodles-So-I’ll-Make-Those-Too-Because-This-Is-My-Dinner-Goddammit gai see chow mein that got added to the menu at about 11 a.m. yesterday morning because I make good life decisions:

Look, I can’t help it. They were delicious. They wanted to be made. My mom loves these noodles so much that she was stealing them by the handful and eating them straight off the platter before I’d even put the sauce on them. I have a jar of homemade chili oil in the fridge that goes really well with fried noodles and needs to be eaten. I’m Cantonese. I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY FOR MYSELF.

Anyway.

I was going to call this post 2019 Social Round-Up, but I Went Out and Didn’t Die seemed like a much more appropriate title. Picspam and my 2019 social calendar are  behind the cut.

Continue reading

Planning for the Apocalypse

I am, as I’ve said, an incompetent resolution-keeper, but I’ve made a big 2020 resolution that I hope I can keep: to write on this poor lonely blog once a week, or at the very least twice a month. I’m trying not to make promises I can’t keep (e.g., “use LA Fitness membership”), so I figured I’d better not commit to a weekly posting schedule when my department is currently bracing itself for the usual springtime projectpocalypse.

Anyway. I was going to have a whole post on New Year’s day about my new 2020 planners because I’m gross but then I went off on a boondoggle about books and ended up writing too much, so the planners got pushed back. Today, though, I’m home early from work because of the first snow of the season (and also hoping that the lame Maryland weather can keep its shit together long enough to stay properly cold for the next couple of months) and I don’t have anything else to do, so here we go!

Planners of Christmas Present

BN’s stupid stickers aside, LOOK AT THESE PRECIOUS BABIES OMG (I told you I was gross 😬) The big one lives at work, but the little one gets carried around in whatever bag I happen to be using. Last year the planners all went on sale before the new year, so this year I stalked BN’s planner shelves for the better part of the last week of December and discovered that the dated planners were 50% off when I caved and went to buy the little one and it rang up at the sale price. Then I went back to the shelf and found out that the big planner I’d been keeping an eye on hadn’t been sold out like I thought; it was merely hiding behind another planner. When I went back through the line I ended up plaguing the same cashier with my dumb planner stories, because life can occasionally be cute. 🤣

idk why llamas are suddenly in vogue but I hope they stay that way because these planners are literally everything I ever needed. I’m a nut so I waited till literally New Year’s day to finally peel off the stickers BUT IT WAS SO SATISFYING. The only thing that kinda makes me sad is that my last two work planners had a nice little chart in the back that I could color-code according to how good or bad my days were and my current work planner doesn’t have that, so the studio must have discontinued it, but I suppose you can’t have everything. On the other hand it was kind of a pain to color in a little box every day (I know, I know, I’m embarrassing) and I often forgot and had to try to guess how I was feeling for several days in a row, but now I don’t have to worry about that!

Planners of Christmas Past

I arrived way late to the planner party because even though I’m a stationery geek and I loved the idea of having a planner (because I love notebooks and never seem to have enough of them), I never actually bought one until January 12, 2018. For anyone impressed with my super specific memory, I should probably mention here that I actually thought I bought it in August 2018 and literally the only reason I know that I bought it in January is that I wrote it down.

Because apparently I somehow knew – and I actually do remember this part – that I would want to know exactly when I got on the planner bandwagon. Of course, having bought the planner, I then proceeded to leave it at home the following day. As for why I finally hopped on the Organized People train, I was working at Papyrus, the planners were right across the aisle from the registers so they were literally staring me in the face, they were all 50% off, I really wanted a cute little booky thing to carry around, and the one that I picked was SO FUCKING CUTE.

I mean okay one of my friends said it looked like a Bible but even so it was absolutely perfect 😭 On a slightly less shallow note, I actually did have a good reason that I’m pretty sure I came up with after I bought the planner, which was that I was using Google Calendar to keep track of everything and it occurred to me that I was very much not okay with Google having my entire social calendar and work schedule in the palm of its algorithms. Then at the end of January 2018 I started my current job and realized I was going to need some way of keeping all my work projects straight, and gleefully trotted over to the BN next door to buy a work planner. The rest, as they say, is history.

2020 Personal Planner Goals

I will:

  • Use the planner to keep track of appointments and social events.
  • Use the planner to track my reading.

I will not:

  • Forget to use the planner and then turn it into a retroactive diary.
  • Leave the planner at home.
  • Wonder why I need a planner and give up.

358 days stand between me and the end of the year. LET’S DO THIS THING!!!

A Year of Books

I am terrible at keeping resolutions. I made an extensive list at the beginning of last year in a fit of very enthusiastic insanity, but I’m not sure why I bothered writing things like “use LA Fitness membership,” “learn gouache painting,” and “catch up on watchlist” because I didn’t do any of these things. One thing I did do, however, was finish my 2019 reading challenge, which stipulated that I would read 48 books over the course of the year. I started losing my ability to read around the same time I got an iPhone and it’s been a long hard road getting it back, but if you’re in a similar situation goodreads really works even though I’m pretty salty rn about the UI fails they seem to have introduced within the last week. I got sucked into GR in 2017 by a friend with a book list, and have participated in the reading challenge every year since I signed up.

Challenge Stats

2017
26 books read // 25 books pledged

2018
54 books read // 36 books pledged

2019
51 books read // 48 books pledged

okay so admittedly I flamed out a bit at the end of 2019 but in my defense I hit a string of really dull books and I don’t really know how I managed to do that but it’s possible okay 😖

2019 Book List

There’s no flex like a book flex, so here’s a comprehensive list of everything I read this year that fit between two covers. This does not include the couple of children’s books I reread on a whim, because I for some reason decided those didn’t count and in retrospect I’m not really sure why.

I was planning to write extensive reviews for most of these immediately after I read them but I’m lazy and my plans usually don’t jive too well with my actual internal resources so we’re going with retroactive reviews that I will write as the muse dictates (read: depending on my level of adoration or outrage). Reviewed titles will be updated with post links as the reviews are written.

Asterisk Key

*          recommended
**       highly recommended
***     my love for this book knows no bounds and YOU WILL READ IT

Assume that all the mangas are recommended, cus I haven’t bothered asterisking them.

  1. The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. Princess Jellyfish 1 – Akiko Higashimura
  3. Princess Jellyfish 2 – Akiko Higashimura
  4. Princess Jellyfish 3 – Akiko Higashimura
  5. Princess Jellyfish 4 – Akiko Higashimura
  6. Black Butler 26 – Yana Toboso
  7. Princess Jellyfish 5 – Akiko Higashimura
  8. Princess Jellyfish 6 – Akiko Higashimura
  9. Princess Jellyfish 7 – Akiko Higashimura
  10. Princess Jellyfish 8 – Akiko Higashimura
  11. Princess Jellyfish 9 – Akiko Higashimura
  12. The Black Count* – Tom Reiss
  13. The Professor and the Madman* – Simon Winchester
  14. Catch-22** – Joseph Heller
  15. Johannes Cabal the Necromancer** – Jonathan L. Howard
  16. The Ghost Bride** – Yangsze Choo
    THIS HITS NETFLIX IN 22 DAYS OMFG HOW COOL IS THAT I’M LOSING MY GORRAM MIND
  17. Book Love*** – Debbie Tung
  18. Quiet Girl in a Noisy World** – Debbie Tung
  19. The Count of Monte Cristo* – Alexandre Dumas; translated by Robin Buss
  20. Cat’s Eye*** – Margaret Atwood
  21. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings* – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  22. The Night Tiger** – Yangsze Choo
    if they want to make this one into a show too you sure as fuck won’t see me complaining
  23. The Wonder – Emma Donoghue
  24. The Hidden Power of F*cking Up* – The Try Guys
  25. The Song of Achilles*** – Madeline Miller
  26. Mortal Engines* – Philip Reeve
  27. Strange the Dreamer** – Laini Taylor
  28. Macbeth** – Jo Nesbø
  29. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone* – J.K. Rowling
  30. Muse of Nightmares** – Laini Taylor
  31. Predator’s Gold* – Philip Reeve
  32. Bartholomew and the Oobleck* – Dr. Seuss
  33. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles*** – Patricia C. Wrede
  34. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets* – J.K. Rowling
  35. Infernal Devices* – Philip Reeve
  36. The Testaments** – Margaret Atwood
  37. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban* – J.K. Rowling
  38. The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander
  39. A Darkling Plain* – Philip Reeve
  40. The Black Cauldron – Lloyd Alexander
  41. The Castle of Llyr – Lloyd Alexander
  42. Taran Wanderer – Lloyd Alexander
  43. The High King – Lloyd Alexander
  44. The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book* – Neil Gaiman
  45. The Golden Compass* – Philip Pullman
  46. Neverwhere*** – Neil Gaiman
  47. Black Butler 27 – Yana Toboso
  48. The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman
  49. The October Man – Ben Aaronovitch
  50. The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman
  51. Woman World*** – Aminder Dhaliwal

2020

The goal for this year is 60 books, and if I’m successful I’ll bump it up to 65 for next year cus I really don’t feel up to reading 72 books in one year. Of those 60 books, over a third will probably be mangas. A year may come when I don’t need to pad out my list with mangas, but it probably won’t be this year. I also suffer from a particularly severe case of tsundoku, so I’m making it a personal goal to read every book I buy, such as these.

For those not in the know (i.e., People Who Do Not Have This Problem), tsundoku is a Meiji portmanteau of tsunde-oku (piling things up for later and then leaving them there) and dokusho (reading books), and refers to the practice of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up without actually reading them. Japanese may be, as my mother says, a very strange people, but we sure are good at coming up with super specific words, and we’ve apparently been having trouble reading our books since about 1868.

Final Thoughts

Sixty books stand between me and the biggest reading goal I’ve ever made. Wish me luck! 😀

Shame On My Ancestors (PSYCH Not Really)

A couple weeks ago I said the rubber trim on Hector’s door was coming off and I was going to get it fixed within the week or bring shame on my ancestors.

WELP I may be a little bit late in updating but I actually got him fixed last Saturday so YAAAAAAYYYYYY NO SHAME 😀 😀 😀

Saturday was also the day I found out that bread actually does come in a can. For context, I started writing a story about six years ago in which I stated that bread in a can is not A Thing:

“Is there any bread around? Does that come in a can too?”

“No, I haven’t seen canned bread before, but there’s some in the fridge,” Fire Shadow said, nudging the fridge with his foot.

WELL APPARENTLY I WAS WRONG BECAUSE I WALKED INTO SAFEWAY AND THERE IT WAS SITTING ON A SHELF LAUGHING AT ME and if you’re wondering why the dude is called Fire Shadow it’s because there were four dudes named Shadow running around and I needed some way to tell them apart and the girl he’s talking to is asking about canned bread because she comes from a world that has not yet invented canned foods or refrigerators. It’s a weird story.

and then I was on my way out the door and the Safeway got the last laugh like literally why is this my life 😂😭

Karo Dreams of Noodles

It’s been a bizarre couple of weeks. First there was the week before last, which produced the worst Wednesday I’ve ever had. Then there was last week, which was generally all right but contained an unpleasant surprise. Then there was this week, which actually was fairly normal but also made me dream about two equally delicious bowls of noodle soup with two different kinds of noodles sitting right in front of me omg why did I have to wake up from that WHYYYYY WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY 😭😭😭

Also I was sitting at my desk this afternoon completely minding my own business when I was suddenly ambushed by the realization that I don’t always remember to draw my tail? Like I thought about it for like five seconds and then completely forgot about it in the pic right above this paragraph? I have literally no idea what’s wrong with my brain sometimes #headdesk (On a brighter note, I’ve been reading about a mythical thing called a Milk Tray for years because it pops up every few months in Bridget Jones’s Diary and today I finally got to actually try a Milk Tray because my boss brought one to work to share with the design team and I am now a fan because chocolate is LIFE. And also I think I might’ve just definitively outed myself as an American, in case that wasn’t obvious already.)

Anyway. I could dwell all day on the many many dream noodle soup bowls I haven’t been allowed to eat but I don’t want to talk about it, so I thought I’d do a quick(ish) post on something happier:

I got a new car! (Translation: I am leasing a new car because I can’t buy one outright.) About three months ago I drove my ailing first car to Williamsburg instead of asking one of my friends to drive because, I don’t know, I’m crazy. She started smelling like gas on the way down, she smelled like gas while we were putt-putting around Williamsburg, and she smelled like gas the whole way back. She spent some time with my mechanic when we finally got home, and after about a week he told me I was looking at a bill of at least $1,500 – $1,800 to fix everything that was wrong with her, and that she was so old that it wasn’t worth the cost of repairing her. In the end he made her drivable again for a much lower cost and warned me not to take her on the highway, and she limped along for another month before I finally got over the whole I WILL NEVER ABANDON MY PRECIOUS BABY thing and realized I didn’t actually feel safe driving her.

Rest in peace, Veloce. You were the best little car I could ever have asked for. You stuck with me through two years of college, three years of grad school, four apartments, fourteen jobs, and a lot of violin lessons, and ferried me and my friends to all kinds of places both in and out of Maryland. I don’t know what Honda has done with you, but I’d like to think they fixed you up and placed you with a nice owner who’ll be less demanding than I was. I knew I couldn’t keep you forever, but I still miss you. 💔

On that note, it wasn’t exactly a straight path to the new car, (1) because I historically don’t do well with big changes, (2) because Veloce was the first car and quite frankly the only one I ever wanted to drive, and (3) because I was 99.99999999% convinced that I didn’t have the money to get another car. It also didn’t help that I was so accustomed to Veloce that there always seemed to be something wrong with the other cars I’ve driven over the years: The pedals were too loose. The cars felt too heavy. (Yes, that is literally A Thing with me.) The dashboard bulked weirdly behind the steering wheel and blocked my view. (That one felt slightly more legit. I am not a large person.) Between the time I took my little car to the mechanic and the time I finally said goodbye to her forever, there was a brief adventure with a rented Hyundai named Samwise, who was heavy but worked well, and about a month of window-shopping, procrastination, and denial. During the window-shopping phase I visited CarMax and FitzMall and drove a few of their cars around, but balked at both the expense and the strangeness of the different cars and ended up ghosting the sales reps because me and my little car were going to be together forever and ever and EVER. By the time I finally stumbled into the Honda dealership at the end of August, I knew I was never going to find another car I liked and I was going to be driving Veloce until her floor dropped out and she turned into a four-wheel land raft.

Then the salesman brought out Hector.

I was looking for either a Civic or a Fit, so we test drove both. In the end the Civic won because it was small enough to suit me (albeit not as small as Veloce, but nobody’s perfect) but still more powerful than the Fit, which felt like a golf cart. For anybody wondering why he’s named Hector, it’s because of this handsome SOB:

Full disclosure: I asked for a blue car because I was already thinking I wanted a blue Civic so I could name him Hector the Honda and I already knew the color was called Aegean Blue and Eric Bana is, like, the perfect Hector and the car matches the blue dresses the Trojans wear in the movie and it seemed like fate so yeah I’ve been driving Prince Hector of Troy around for almost two months now and oh gawd I know you’re judging me.

Even fuller disclosure: I usually call him Hector. Or Heck. He only gets the full title when he’s doing something naughty, like letting the rubber lining on his back passenger door flap loose. Ahem, Prince Hector.

I somehow got paired with an incredibly patient salesman, which was very lucky because I’m pretty sure I came across as borderline neurotic (read: basket case). I wasn’t originally planning to lease a car that day, given that I was still pretty stuck on my old car, but they kept lowering the price so after a few rounds I caved, handed over Veloce, and drove home with Hector. The only thing is that the change from Veloce to Hector was very abrupt, and I wish I could’ve had more time to process everything and say goodbye. If I’d known that the trip to the Honda dealer was going to be the last time I’d ever drive Veloce, I would’ve paid more attention. I was about five seconds away from becoming that weirdo who hugs their car in a public parking lot.

Some good things about Prince Hector because I’m still not sure that I did the right thing:

  • He’s goooooorgeous. I’m used to a very neutral-colored car, but I looooove the Aegean Blue. He also has little white racing stripes, which are pretty cute.
  • He has four doors!!! This is actually huge because I’m the self-proclaimed designated driver in my group, and, while I haven’t taken full advantage of these yet, it’ll be lovely to drive my friends around without having to stuff them into the backseat through the passenger’s door.
  • He’s got a huge trunk. I kinda wanna go on another road trip.
  • He doesn’t smell like gas. I’m also not constantly wondering if his bottom is going to drop out or if I should turn off his AC before he, you know, explodes or something.
  • HE HAS A STRAIGHT-UP USB PORT. I CAN LITERALLY PLUG MY IPOD STRAIGHT INTO HIM AND HE’LL CHARGE IT FOR ME WHILE PLAYING LOVELY MUSIC.
  • His parking brake is funny. I’m actually not sure how I feel about this one because his parking brake is this little switch instead of a lever but I’ve gotten used to it, so I guess we’re good?

The Not-So-Good Things

I wasn’t joking about that passenger door rubber liner thing and I’m going to have to take him back to the Honda dealer TRAGEDYYYYYYYY but I keep forgetting to set up an appointment 🙁 If I don’t come back in a week with photographic evidence that I’ve gotten my door fixed, leave me a comment telling me I’m bringing shame on my ancestors.

Karo is a Peasant

It all started with Getty Images. I was shopping through Colonial Williamsburg stock photos for a work project and completely minding my own business when I started to think, These are really nice photos. Never mind that the last time I went to Williamsburg I was in fifth grade and Completely UninterestedTM in American history. I hope the Williamsburg marketing team is happy, because their photos work. Fast-forward a few minutes and These are really nice photos turned into I want to go to Williamsburg, which turned into I bet I can drag my friends to Williamsburg. Four months later, I packed my friends and their suitcases into my little car and drove us down to Williamsburg during a weekend so hot that the weather people were literally telling everyone to barricade themselves in their houses. This turned out to be the last straw for my poor little car, which had been ailing for some time and started smelling like gas on the way down. That’s what I get for dragging a 17-year-old car on a road trip in 115° weather I’m sorry babyyyyyyy 😭

Anyway, my friends have better sense than I do, so instead of the two-day Williamsburg tour we’d planned we spent most of our time at our resort. Full disclosure: until July, I’d never set foot in a resort and in fact kind of assumed that resorts were built for snooty people who hung around pools all day and could afford to pay $10000000 per night and oh gawd I was wrong it was delightful and I have literally no idea what I’ve been doing with my life and also I probably drank way more pink lemonade than was good for me 😬

Yes, I really did buy one of those pretty straw hats. Picspam and full(ish) itinerary behind the cut, because I do have some decency.

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