Here’s the thing – I thought I could, and would actually have to, celebrate my birthday with those of my fifteen roommates who are home. We were asked not to go back to our university cities right now unless necessary because of a major corona outbreak there, but for many that message came too late as the semester is starting up. Personally I was supposed to have a hospital appointment that could not be moved, so I would have to travel there. Turns out, when you have a possible allergic reaction to the kind of medicines I am on and an ambulance has to treat you, it’s suddenly (and thankfully) possible to postpone hospital appointments for two weeks more. I’m good enough right now that I could probably go, but I would have to be much more in and out of the hospital to take tests, and that increases the corona risk so much more than if I was in total lockdown with my friends. Well roommates, but we’re pretty much all friends. Which leads me to do all that here and instead celebrating my birthday alone, but with my lovely mom.
In a few more days I will know how badly my start of the year will look like and I’m not looking forward to it. Sometimes there’s only bad alternatives, and there’s nothing you can do except accept that. Ah, I’ve always told myself and those around me that when physics & math are my biggest problems, my life is good. I’m truly excited for that too be the case again. I had a reminder of that when someone (kindly) asked me if it wasn’t better to take a reduced course-work this year, and the pure rage I felt at having the one good thing taken away from me right now. Of course, at a point I will admit defeat, but that’s not one week in.
I was supposed to do the regular yearly 2020 TBR Update, but then I had to leave a lot of half-finished books behind for winter vacation (the downsides of switching over to physical copies again) and tbh I’ve not had enough energy to read. So I’ll extend that into 2021 and make the post whenever I feel I have caught up a bit, which is probably halfway into the year, let’s be real.
Other books I’ve been reading:
Rereading Corazón and reading Tesoro by Yesika Salgado (poetry)
Shame is an ocean I swim across by Mary Lambert (poetry)
Added to TBR:
In the event this doesn’t fall apart by Shannon Lee Barry (poetry)
Happy New Year’s! So I took my first solo-trip (right before turning twenty-one) to Edinburgh to celebrate new years/Hogmanay (the scottish new years) last year. Actually, the timing was more of a need to get myself out of my family situation, which thankfully has gotten better over the past year. So this trip was created to be alone, experience things, but mostly take a breath after a stressful time, without losing too much money as a college student. I even had people who wanted to come with, but there’s a lot of reasons I’m happy I decided from the start to go on my own. I would love to visit Edinburgh again someday with friends as well, though.
So here’s this short guide to going on a solo-trip to Edinburgh (for book lovers) –
The Real Mary King’s Close! GO! I have already recommended this to all the people I met on the trip. It’s one of the only chances to walk underneath Edinburgh, to visit the old streets that the “new” old city is built upon. It’s from the 17th century, not far underneath the real streets and the guides were awesome. Be warned that you’ll never see the narrow streets the same again when you know how many people died there during the plague, and how the streets were the only plumbing they had. WHAT; I didn’t know before now that City of Ghosts by V. E. Schwab was set in Mary King’s Close? Not that I’ve read it, but that’s interesting.
I stayed at Castle Rock Hostel and really liked it. The whole hostel is castle-themed, but the amount of space and themed rooms inside was amazing, especially as I went in with low expectations. I would have gone for a only-women’s room instead of a mixed room, as a girl travelling solo, but it was sold out. You get a lot for what you pay for and if you have any questions I’m happy to answer them, but I would say the overwhelmingly positive reviews online are correct.
I was trying to get to as many bookstores as possible, made a bit more tricky since it was holiday season and a few of the smaller ones were closed. For example, I wish I could’ve visited Lighthouse – Edinburgh’s radical bookshop. Armchair Books was truly stunning, and worth the trip. Right next to it was Peter Bell Books, which also was closed, but looked to be the same style. Most of the books I bought were from Edinburgh Books and Waterstones on Prince’s street.
Loundon’s has gluten free afternoon tea or breakfast-kind of food! In the Grassmarket area there also were great gluten-free pizza at Mamma’s American Pizza (note; I do not have celiac and can’t vouch for that). I’m happy I found it after wandering the streets, truly desperate to find gluten free dinner close to where I lived. Next time I’ll have to visit PekoeTea as well, I got a taste of their tea from Loundon’s by surprise, although I already knew of them and that they were closed during holiday time. Also I didn’t know what Nando’s was before someone introduced it to me the last day. I really wished I had known that easy-to-eat chicken before. In general, it was really hard to find food I could eat, especially as I was in the older part of the city, where it was a bit of a walk to check if one place or another had gluten-free options. I was limited because on a budget, but I think in general as well. For example, one night I was in an unfamiliar part of town and ended up eating a small piece of steak with pomegranate seeds, because there literally was nothing else on the menu of the five restaurants in that specific area. I would have done a bit more research prior, if I were to do it again.
Other Great Attractions
Holyrood’s castle and St. Arthur’s seat; Holyrood castle was more interesting to me than Edinburgh Castle! It’s something about how it’s still transformed from tourist area to the queen’s actual residence when she is in Edinburgh, and the tour through the upkept and grand palace was so well made. It has a cute garden, and you can go straight out to the Holyrood ruins, with even more history. From there you see the St. Arthur’s seat. I have some experience hiking and was wearing good shoes. Still, the internet might say this is an easy hike (about 1 to 1.5 hours), but beware of the weather. As a norwegian, I considered this, but it wasn’t that bad when we started the hike. And at no point was it raining enough that it was dangerous, but I could see a lot of people struggling because of the mud turning slippery. It was truly the wind taking a hold of you the further up we went that tired me out. It was not an easy hike in those conditions, and there were people I went on the hike with that struggled. Just take into consideration on any type of walk uphill that it’s never too late to turn around. Still, I would absolutely not miss it!
National Gallery; I really liked the modern art part of it. It was a peaceful time walking around. And then I walked past Vanessa Hudgens and was incredibly shocked even though I remained calm. Can’t promise she’ll be there for your trip as well.
The Worse Parts
The actual visit to Edinburgh Castle was a bit of a let-down. It’s most majestic looking up at it, especially as it was the view from my hostel everytime I stepped out. It was particularly exciting visiting on the (early) morning before new year’s eve, as soldiers walked aroud taking care of the huge amounts of fireworks they were going to shoot off. I knew more than most about Edinburgh Castle going into it, and there were little new information. It was cool to see the dungeons. More interesting that it’s still an active military place, but that also meant that the truly interesting parts – the many floors underneath the actual buildings – were off-limits.
So much walking up stairs. And tiny, old alleyways, which really gave the place its atmosphere. (I might have listened to The Magnus Archives first podcast episode right after this trip, and definitely recognized that dark alleyway). Which was my fault for booking a hostel, no matter how lovely, that was so close to Edinburgh Castle. If you can afford it uber was a great thing, which I only as a norwegian used once with other people, because I didn’t spend time figuring it out. The walking also felt a bit more unsafe during the darkness of night because I was alone during the holidays, I think that if I was to be there in a less busy time of the year I would’ve been out more. Honestly I kept to myself because I wanted to, that was a part of the reason for this vacation; I needed time alone. There was plenty of opportunities in the hostel of going out with a group or stay in and be social, even if you were alone.
The first night was truly the only night I regretted the decision to go alone for very much personal reasons, because I got a terrible migraine, which is a semi-uncommon thing for me. I literally could not move, or sit up from my bed before wanting to puke, even with taken all medicines with me as a precaution. Goddamn, I can still feel the anxiety in my chest as I realized it would be one of my worst migraines.
Actual New Year’s Eve
I loved it so much and it will be a cherished memory forever. It was my first time in such a large crowd of people as the whole city of tourists and (at least some) locals joined together in this large street party. I saw mixed opinions on the actual street party that you have to buy a ticket for (we got it free through the hostel), but while I get every local doesn’t want to spend hours on hours outside with long toilet queues, it was absolutely worth it. There were concerts/shows spread out over multiple stages, so the people would spread out as well. There was a parade through the old town, with mythical creatures and lots of show. Then the fireworks over Edinburgh Castle was spectacular and afterwards everyone actually danced in the streets. I was lucky to meet a group of friends at the hostel that I spent the night with, and met a few very nice, very drunk locals as well. I surprised myself with staying pretty sober – which is not my natural state at a party, I promise you. But I just wanted to experience it all fully and remember it, which is why I only have a few photos with the group taken by nice, random strangers and a couple videos of the energy of the night.
A Year Later
This year, 2020, I’m back celebrating New Year’s in my tiny village of 620 people, which I would’ve found hilariously amusing, hadn’t it been for COVID-19 being most of the reason.
Even as someone who’s very introverted I hope it won’t be too long until it’s safe to again get to share the energy of concerts, of massive gatherings and of people doing nice things out of happiness and creating moments together.
None, because exams coming up. Ah, scratch that, I read the short Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh (m/m, fantasy with myhtology & fairytale vibes).
Added to TBR:
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (mystery, thriller, dark academia): a group of old Oxford uni friends (or frenemies), a cabin in the Scottish Highlands & murder
The Truants by Kate Weinberg (mystery, thriller, dark academia): untrustworthy characters, manipulation, a mysterious star professor
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (fantasy, sci-fi, lgbt)
Dearly by Margaret Atwood (poetry); it’s a new release and I didn’t realize as suddenly I saw pieces of her poetry all over
Maurice by E. M. Forster (classics, lgbt; m/m)
Harleen by Stjepan Šejić (graphic novel): found it as one of the goodreads award nominees
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (fantays, magical realism, greek mythology): found it as one of the goodreads award nominees
Three things on my mind:
I might have woken up one thursday morning, opened my eyes and thought “I want to take the seven hour train and bus ride back home, in the middle of studying for exams, and exchange this tiny room in a flat of fifteen to be in the house alone” then did so the next day, but I did not expect the immediate return of stress-baking as a coping mechanism. Or my suitcase-wheels breaking off, meaning I had to drag it throughthe snow in soaking wet, cold sneakers. Then, on the train I learned my tiny village of 940 people is having it’s first outbreak of corona virus (don’t know how bad yet) and also all the snow made the power go out in the whole village, meaning my dinner was one nice, cold pita with nothing on. Still, I don’t regret the decision one bit (yet), even though my poor body is hurting all over because my joints wasn’t well to begin with because of the newly discovered ~rheumatism~.
I’ve started procrastinating by watching chess again. I don’t really like to play regular chess myself, only to make the calculations while in-game or just watch the play if it’s rapid or blitz chess as it’s mesmerizing how fast it goes, as well as very apparent when a player realizes they’re in deep trouble. I mean, as a norwegian, of course I have to follow Magnus Carlsen’s play, but he truly is interesting to watch more so because he seem to understand the next move so quickly, no matter the pace of the chess.
This fake-deep correlation struck me; I’ve started to think of this past semester as a blind chess game, constantly trying to remember all the moves of the people around me for the past ten days and then do the calculation of whether I’m safe enough around them as someone in the corona risk-group.
Let’s end with some positives; I got the power back in time to play among us for the first time ever, with friends. It was terrifying as a non-gamer. This house has a bathtub that I’m spending too much time in already, procrastinating and trying to return some heat to my body surrounded by this snow. My local store is bringing food to everyone’s door both because of how the elderly shouldn’t have to wander in the heavy snow and because of the corona outbreak, so I used this on the slight chance I could’ve brought corona from the city and I’m so happy they’re making it easier for everyone to isolate themselves. And also enabling the stress-baking. Cheers from me, the wine bottle I left last summer and the bread in the oven. I’m also so excited to hug my mom when she arrives.
1. What is your favourite “academia” or “dark” book + movie?
I truly have yet to watch a dark academia movie I like (at least as I can remember right now)
2. What dead poet would you like to have a drink with?
I would say Mary Oliver, who rather recently died. But she does not seem like a person who would spill her secrets or innermost thoughts in one meeting. It would still be nice though. I could ask life advice in general, hahhha. Her life seemed calm and filled with love as she got into old age.
3. What is your favourite painting and/or sculpture?
As a norwegian I think I was over-exposed to “Skrik”/ Scream (1910) by Edvard Munch, but then I slowly also fell in love with it and the expressions through the colours and the motive.
4. What is your favourite architectural marvel?
The pyramids of Giza. I mean, they were built in 2550 to 2490 B.C. and that has always fascinated me, as everyone else. I think ancient egyptian civilization as a whole takes up a certian part of my brain just for being mindblowing and existential about how long humans have been very intelligent.
5. What Shakespeare play would you want to be the lead in?
I know too little of Shakespeare, but obviously Hamlet.
6. How many languages do you speak and which language would you most like to learn?
First language norwegian, fluent english, very much not fluent in spanish as I took it at school for five years, but truly only two somewhat-productive ones at that. I would like to learn spanish better at some point. At one point in my life I want to learn Northern Sami because my grandmother, who started her life as a sea-sami, spoke it. Mainly to learn more about that culture from sources in their own language, because that’s a barricade I’ve met researching even a small bit sometimes. Other than that, I don’t take to languages easily and while it would be really cool to know russian or something with a completely different alphabet than mine, it just won’t happen anytime soon.
7. What is your favourite quote (from poetry, prose, plays, etc.)?
Lately it’s been –
You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen
to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.
And anyway it’s the same old story –
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
for a simple reason.
Quote from Dogfish by Mary Oliver
8. Which fictional character’s death is your ideal way to go?
Immortality, of course.
9. What university/college would you most like to attend?
I am at university, so this feels like cheating. But then again my university has handled corona badly this autumn, so I don’t feel that bad. I truly considered Edinburgh university for a while, pre-corona, as exchange or further into my degree. But it was definitely more for the city than the university.
Where I truly would want to go is Bennington College back in 1982 which Esquire described as “Among the druggies, rebels, heirs, and posers: future Gen X literary stars Donna Tartt (The Secret History), Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) and Jonathan Lethem.” The article is fascinating, if kind of unbelievable. It’s not got the same reputation for eccentricity today, unfortunately. Or fortunately?? I think if that image was real, places like that make or break people; a few truly achieves a potential, a lot end up with drug problems and similar things.
10. What is your murder weapon or murder method of choice?
Poison is a classic
11. What mythology would you most like to apart of?
I’m guessing we’re thinking as if a god in this “universe” type of scenario; Norse, because of Loke and the shit he’s up to. I just want to see the reactions of that family as they realize.
12. If you had to do a PhD what would you choose to do it on?
I’m in physics, so hopefully physics?
13. Which fictional character would you die for?
No. Something the characters of the books I read have in common is that they often make choices that leads them to uncertain situations, and it’s most likely their fault? And they’re fictional.
Rapid-Fire: Pick One
1. Leather bound or cloth bound books
Cloth – no ethical things to research.
2. Dog-earing pages or highlighting pages
3. Sculptures or paintings
4. Piano or violin
Piano – I claim to be able to play it, but none I live with have yet to hear it because I’m so out of practice.
5. Films or theatre
6. Poetry or prose
7. Museums or bookshops
8. Smell of books or smell of coffee/tea
Smell of tea
9. Fountain pen or typewriter
Fountain pen – I own one
10. New or used books
Used has extra charm, but I don’t have easy access to good used book stores.
I did this last time about a year ago, but I do aquire more books that find themselves on the “maybe” shelf I’ve created on goodreads. So let’s clean it out again? There’s currently twenty books to decide on, so I’ll pick out some of the more interesting ones.
The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes
we’re starting off with one of last year’s contenders …
Positives: historical lesbians, but with major caveats (!!!)
Negatives: Goodreads reviews strikes again! I thought the rating were below average bc of homophobia, but turns out it’s the author who might’ve written it transphobic. And bad sources. Several reviews explain the problematic aspects, but I quite liked this one from a goodreads user called Juan.
Never read. You don’t write queer gender study books and not know what you’re doing if focusing so much on genitalia so define categories.
Positives: About Ancient Egypt & Nefertiti, of course
Negatives: It seems most of the criticism is that it’s not detailed enough and very much a beach-read. So even if it had good ratings, when I dive into ancient egypt again I want to truly get as much out of reading as possible. Or the story better be told in a damn brilliant way.
I won’t read it, unless someone wholeheartedly supports it. I’ll look for another more detailed book on Nefertiti, I think.
Positives: YA fantasy book where the protagonist is a healer who can’t heal herself, which might be interesting
Negatives: The number of YA fantasy on my bookshelves is alarming considering I’ve dramatically stepped away from reading heaps of it. And I haven’t heard anything special about this book, from 2017, which always makes it a coin toss of good/bad quality writing.
I’ll give it a try, under doubt. Just because I want to read more books about magical healers, for some writing-of-my-own reasons.
Positives: It’s only got 55 ratings on goodreads?? Ohhh, that’s interesting. Something feels promising still as it’s about vigilantes and moral questions is brought in. Debut novel. Also queer with genderfluid and aromantic-asexual character (ownvoices).
Negatives: Debut novel might be one? The synopsis is pretty generic fantasy and nothing memorable.
Positives: Set in remote Turkish town, translated from Turkish. Winner of 2006 Nobel prize. Has a lot of elements like journalism, political violence, protests, questions of what is true. Highlights the challenges towards democracy.
Negatives: I thought it seemed a bit boring before I started reading up on it.
I will definitely be reading this sometime. I think I need to go into it ready for politics and existential societal questions, and with the american election around the corner – it’s going to be a while.
Positives: Truly cool cover! Promises of moral grayness – which I’m very much looking for recently. Debut novel.
Negatives: A 500 pages YA fantasy and beginning of trilogy better be good, because that’s a lot of time investment. Debut novel. Goodreads friends has disliked it – oh shit, looking further into it there’s a lot written about a controversy pre-publishing where “some readers argued that Zhao’s depiction of slavery was racially insensitive”. Here’s my problem; cancel culture is turning into a truly bad thing, but that’s separate from a piece of work actually having problematic/racist elements. And she hasn’t changed anything, just halted publishing a couple months.
Still a maybe, but with a leaning towards no unless I come across some truly good arguments/explanation otherwise.
Positives: A protagonist on a mission to save her kidnapped sister, and out for revenge in an enemy kingdom. Infiltration of the royal family. Possibility for enemies-to-lovers prince & princess romance.
Negatives: More YA fantasy with an unoriginal synopsis and heavy on the romance.
Interested enough that I’ll keep it as a cozy, light read.
Six book kept on my TBR. Five books removed. A good enough percentage, I think.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel A. van der Kolk (non-fiction, metal health)
When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll (queer graphic novel)
A great, short book in norwegian about magic/shamans in sami culture and especially the “witch trials” in the north of Norway. It’s strange the darker parts we learn of other countries’ history in school, but not so much our own.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic, author is familiar with Navajo culture through her husband & the protagonist is Navajo)
Added to TBR:
Beneath the Dead Oak Tree by Emily Carroll because I read & liked her other graphic novels “When I Arrived at the Castle” and “Through the Woods”
Peace Breaks Out by John Knowles because I read & liked Knowles’ other, much more well-known novel “A Separate Peace” and both are set at the same boarding school, so I expect all of the classic & dark academia vibes, maybe even more homosexual undertones. I’m going to enjoy writing my queer take of a review on A Separate Peace, because although the author has denied it, there’s some definite “I’m in love with my bestfriend” moments there. As I mentioned on tumblr as I read this book in one night; “I’m 47 pages in, and had to google it to make sure since the main character is once again remarking on very specific things, like how much this athletic boy’s skin radiates, like you know – boys being boys often do ??”
The Magus by John Fowles (classics, mystery) because why not. And the intriguing promise of “a young Englishman who accepts a teaching position on a remote Greek island, where he befriends a local millionaire. The friendship soon evolves into a deadly game, in which reality and fantasy are deliberately manipulated, and Nicholas finds that he must fight not only for his sanity but for his very survival.”
Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter) by Thomas Harris (horror, psychological thriller) – yeah, two weeks ago I wondered whether “rewatching two seasons of Hannibal in two days are not what you should do when you’ve been sick” before having to reconnect with society and actual people. I did survive going into society, if barely – like truly, corona made its upswing again where I lived just as I stepped my foot out that door. But now that I’m stuck with myself again, why not read Hannibal as well.
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is a mystery/thriller I’m sceptical if I’m going to like, I’ve seen reviews that leads me to believe it’s a very hit or miss type of book. But many of them describe it as ‘devilish’ because everyone is unreliable, which I see as a positive and what I’m looking for right now.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin because I always say I need to read more of her work, which are classics of the fantasy/science fiction genre, but I never seem to get around to it.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (fantasy) because while it was released last year, it’s gotten so many good reviews (goodreads average 4.20!!!) and I’m definitely here for the queer necromancers.
A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos (YA fantasy, dark academia), recommended to me by a friend.
Posts I’ve loved by other bloggers:
I started reading through more blog posts from others again prior to the hospital visit, but it did give me time to spend and I found some enjoyment through posts like these –
ONLINE BOOKSHOPS TO SHOP AT INSTEAD OF AMAZON: BREAKING UP WITH AMAZON (PART I) by arub unwritten: I rarely buy books now and they’re mostly from norwegian bookstores. But I have also automatically bough books from bookdepository for the convenience, before I started to feel bad about that. Then I found this post which gives a pretty neat introduction, especially to other stores to look into. And it includes which places the stores ship too! Should be a requirement, jeez. Hive was pretty empty (for me at least) considering the corona-struggle of shipment, but I’ll definitely check in with them in the future again.
Ink-Stained Forest’s Literature Journeywhere they talk about exactly that, but it was a familiar & beautifully written type of journey, an example of what place and function literature can have in your life, and how it can vary over time. It also made me want to sit down and truly look at if I also have these almost episodic changes to what type of book or genre I read and the function that fills. Even if I switch between reading both for reflection and enjoyment, without always going into a book knowing which one I’ll most likely get more of.
Fall Reads by your reading needs byforgot second breakfast (which is a unique & impressive name): a good, short list of fall reads that gives you spooky, adventure, athmosphere & romance and reminds me I want to get to Gideon the Ninth soon.
Mathematical science fiction books from Book Riot: I’ve been looking for lists like these for so long! I cannot tell you accurately enough the struggle to find these types of books (or fantasy), then separate the bad mathematics from the badly promoted mathematics, but the part it plays in the book is good enough. I’m not talking about brilliant even, just good enough!! I can vouch for Zero Sum Game being good (I haven’t sat down researching all the math topics mentioned, but it seems legit and has a fun kind-of-supernatural part), although you might have different problems with that one if you’re not ready for a lot of bloodshed and morally gray characters.
Favorite Villains by Mary Drover: I’ve been too into villains this autumn and here was a few new ones I’ve yet to put on the never-ending TBR list of them, hahha.
Three things on my mind:
I had to start this week off by going to the emergency room at 5 am for major stomach pain, then I was at the hospital for five days. I’ve just been released, but they did not find out what happened even with a lot of tests. So I’ve yet to eat proper food without throwing up, meaning I was let go with a “come back if you don’t get better”. I have crohn’s disease already, which can affect your entire intestine, as well as a gallbladder diagnosis, and lung trouble that we don’t yet know the cause of – so it could be basically anything is what I’m saying. I wrote a mini-post about it just now, surprisingly it’s very reflective on illness, empathy & friendship. If there’s something I’ve done this week it’s spending a lot of time thinking, staring out into nothing. And while very original thoughts doesn’t appear right then, I’ve found it does start up this process and suddenly you find yourself with new insights, ideas and opinions.
An extremely specific hospital-college crossover pro-tip; if going to the hospital for closer to a week, send a message to the people you live with or, if you’re like me and extremely drugged on pain killers & pain, have one of them message the others explaining the situation. Because if not you end up with my scenario where one of the people you talk most to just happens to have a strange week where he doesn’t see the others that much and suddenly it’s been three days and he’s like “where are you?” and oops, you realize the mistake. It’s already a funny mistake, but jeez, I feel bad for both of us in this scenario… It took three whole days!
My friend & roommate is reading Harry Potter for the first time and discovering book fandoms. Mainly draco tiktok, which my slytherin self had to realize how many good content creators was behind it. So she is talking about wanting to write fanfics. I have to admit I’ve never written fanfiction, but I don’t know how to tell her I genuinely put a lot of effort into writing through high school. I sent the message “what do you think the chance is that I’ve ever written 50k words on a project?” and got “you? never” instantly in reply. For reference my WIP is about four times that (and needs to be cut down considerably to be useful for anything). Mostly because, looking back, you can truly see the quality of my writing progress through which parts are written first and years later, because I write weird (that’s for another time). But oh, how much this made me rethink how much of a book-nerd I seem in real life; even with the amount of books I own, apparently not a big enough one. We’re mostly all nerds here at my uni, but I am truly a book nerd as well and it’s going to be a more difficult time proving it than I thought.
Have I scoured etsy for christmas gifts for my nerdy friends? And other literature-related ones for me? Of course, so why not make a lists of them. I’ve gotten so many good-spirited, but ultimately useless book gifts over the years – reading lights are on top of that list as “seems practical, but so many bad designs”.
Fighting invisible battles pin from fairycakes (also available as a charm) for the chronically ill or those otherwise fighting invisible battles. I want this so badly. There’s a similar one with the text “coping admirably” for a cute, heart-warming gift as well. They also have a very cute “feminist killjoy” heart-shaped charm and several trans rights and rainbow ones.
This I just bought! It’s space rainbows from ProudScience, and they’re just as lovely as the photo. Great as a physics/stem student, but also if you simply are a space-loving queer person. They also have a very popular rainbow chemistry glass set.
College / university
And finally what’s on top of my wishlist of practical book gifts; a book support for heavy textbooks (and other books of course). Also honestly, if you’re looking for a gift for a college/uni student in particular, I would cry for a gift card for a medium-fancy grocery store at this point, we’re poor and think way to much on how to limit food budget.
Also a reusable flask or thermo cup is likely the most used school item of mine that sometimes need to be switched out. I didn’t think about how much I drank the free coffee at school either, before I had to buy coffee myself, and currently I’m at least thinking about buying a better coffee-setup than my one-cup aeropress (no matter how practical it is to bring with me places), so I think many coffee-lovers would be interested in some kind of gift card there as well; either for equipment for coffee or the actual coffee.
When I come to think of it, with home-office, I suspect many students have pretty shitty setups for working, so if a family member is currently sitting on a non-office chair, that’s the gift to begin with. Even if it’s used, it’s so worth getting an office chair if you spend any time working from home as a college student.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (classics, short story, horror)
Pedagogy of the oppressed by Paulo Freire (nonfiction, pedagogy, politics)
Chilling adventures of Sabrina vol. 1 by Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack (graphic novel)
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt: not that excited by this book synopsis or the lack of knowledge I’ve got of it even while being a big Tartt reader, but still – I got to give it a try
Lanny by Max Porter (magical realism, small-town)
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis: because my deep down on him, Donna Tartt and their time at Bennington College has interested me enough to actually read his book even though I do believe he’s a high grade idiot at his older days from the clips I’ve seen.
Three things on my mind:
I always know I’m going to be offline when starting a new semester, but this time a lot was thrown at me in a row. Do you ever get the feeling that if you knew beforehand how much you would have to go through in a short amount of time – you would just not be able to? I’m not so sure I want to be able to tell the future, is what I’m saying. Anyway, I’m leaving those two massive physics exams, then writing a majorly important letter of complaint bc of misdiagnosis (in hopes of an apology or at least that the doctor not make that mistake again) the last possible day before it would be out-dated like its own “statue of limitation” kind of thing. It was then followed by a week filled with every major hospital appointment at once (bc everything was postponed until now that corona is less of a problem here) and an abrupt total worsening of my autoimmune disease. Also during those three weeks I had signed up to welcome new students, so I went to a couple social gatherings, which made me even more tired, but also might have brought the break of normalcy to save my brain a little (well, a lot).
Ahh, a book blog this was supposed to be. Well, there’s been a lack of book blog posts, but it’s coming. Until then I would highly recommend writing some of Mary Oliver poetry on a sheet and hang it on the wall, reciting each one as many times you want until you feel comforted enough to sleep. My favourites recently has been “Wild Geese”, “I go down to the shore”, “An old story” and “Dogfish” (link here!).
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY WEAPONS! Why hadn’t I heard of this fanedit of the first hp movie that turns every wand into a gun along with more clever & fun additions to scenes? I had doubts, thinking it would be overwhelmingly much, but it’s just far enough between the altered scene that it’s just easter-egg kind of surprises to a movie you (hopefully) already love. (I realize after some research that I didn’t know about it until now because it came out a month ago … in which I was as mentioned prev. very offline.) Here’s more info.
I made a part one talking mainly about fantasy and young adult pet peeves, around plot. This one is more the actual physical books and the format.
Book covers changing look mid-series. Or SIZE! It could so easily just be an alternate version, please why.
‘Misuse’ of foot-notes. I know footnotes in general is a touchy subject. But I’ve just decided on this personal policy ranking use of footnotes on that you shouldn’t have to read the footnotes for the plot to make sense, it should either be additional info for those interested or for example funny remarks or any other remarks that add to the story, but isn’t cruicial. I often say fuck Nevernight by Jay Kristoff for other reasons, but the footnotes … well, it’s saying something how I found that to be such a small problem compared with the rest because those footnotes are a mess.
Here’s a couple bad ones in quick succession; movie-edition covers.the trend of normal paperbacks being way too tall and large so they don’t fit on any regular shelf. I totally get it if it’s illustrations or more nonfiction with photos. Stickers on books! Like just why?
Ugly hardback dustcovers. Well, honestly I think most dust covers are annoying at best and have come to terms with that so that I can throw them away immediately (unless extremely pretty, but then the actual book underneath usually is as well). I’ve just now started to not feel guilty for it as well.
Those small reading lights. I always got them as gifts or bought them myself thinking that this model might work, but then realizing they all got some kind of feature that makes them extremely annoying. Like too narrow a lightbeam so constantly have to adjust or clipping them on a book and struggling to turn pages because it’s in the way. I would have just used a head light, but I often fall asleep reading and that doesn’t seem comfortable. Ended up just buying a kindle and haven’t looked back to be honest. I might even read a book on the kindle during the night or, back when I commuted for three years, in the darkness of the bus in the morning and then read a completely other book in physical copy during the day.
I didn’t think I had book pet peeves, like I don’t care if books have dog-ears for the most part, but I’ve certainly collected some related to book plots over a period of time. Here’s that collection and I’m warning you that they are mostly personal, as in I know they’re not the most popular ones out there and people will disagree.
Fictional fandoms. I don’t know why this bother me so much, I think it’s something about there, in best case, being this entire subculture readers either don’t get access to and just have to live with imagining existing or have to wade through what I find to be unecessary amounts of facts for something that isn’t real. A good example of this is “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell, that spun this whole Simon Snow trilogy out of the fantasy series the main character is a part of the fandom of. Had I read the Simon Snow series before Fangirl, I might’ve thought different about it (not that it was published yet), but hence all details included in the book felt like a waste of time in a strange, unlogical way. It’s truly a weird pet peeve, I think, and I totally admit so. But it makes me dislike books I don’t think I normally would. The only exception I can think of is “I was born for this” by Alice Oseman, but I suspect that’s because the fandom there is based around a boyband that is a huge part of the story (and also very recognizable from the ‘real world’) and so the fandom and their culture is also very based in something and understandable without much background info.
Here’s a kind of specific and small one; what the magic is called in a fantasy/magical realism world. Most often I just hate the magic of the worldbeing called something similiar like Magik, but the author/character insisting it’s not the same as magic, like they haven’t just changed the language. I’ve seen so many cases of this. But sure, do that if you’re creating magic with a couple conditions/limits, that’s just smart.
Fairytale retellings that doesn’t either make the story their own OR stay true to the feeling of the original material. Same problem with stories from mythologies. With making it their own, I mean things like a genderbent version, a modernized one or maybe a queer one. Like truly reworking the material, but with clear inspirations. I think my other critera, staying true to the ~vibe~ so to say, has more to do with my next point. But if you retell a fairytale, without changing much of the plot or characters, maybe just setting them in another setting, how are you going to tell a better story than the one honed through mouth-to-mouth retelling for far far longer than you’re working on it? Like what do the author even add, far too often? I’m all for an author daydreaming in this fairytale realm that’s already built up, but then have the basis of the fairytale realm and create your own story in there instead, which would’ve kept the feeling (maybe even keep short format) that brings the magic to the story, and have higher chance of telling a good one. Truth is, I’ve read my fair share of queer fairytale retellings where there’s a good romance, but everything else is boring/predictable still (side-eye at Ash by Malinda Lo). I would’ve just cut them out completely, but as with Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, any Riordan series or Circe by Madeline Miller it might be some of my favourite books as well.
Mythological creatures included in stories completely separated from any of the other parts of the mythology. Just to have a ‘cool’ lesser-known creature, without really taking into consideration what makes it cool or unique. Of course, at worst it could be some type of cultural appropriation, but that’s not really what I’m talking about as a ‘pet peeve’.
Including politics, but not really. As in not actually going into the politics or even spending time thinking about how a political system would work in their fictional world. Typical is (what I would call) YA book with princesses or kids of high-level politicians/diplomats, but I’ve also seen non-YA versions of this. “Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuinston did it well in that the author kept its focus on certain topics and didn’t go too heavy into how policies was changed or what their parents did politically, but the limits and system was still set (even if very similiar to present day America) and you saw that in the story. I would’ve still wanted there to be more going into the politics, like I usually do, but it was a choice made rather than an obvious dodge. Like why even write a book around politics if you’re scared to interact with any part of it or do any research??