I am officially declaring war on the mosquitoes of Virginia. Maryland has normal mosquitoes, but Virginia appears to have nuclear mosquitoes that leave giant bites that – in this case – drove me insane for five days straight. On the same day as the nuclear mosquitoes, and also the same day that I went to the MVA to make myself the official owner, my car popped his rear passenger tire because, I don’t know, I guess he was just that excited not to be a lease anymore? In any case, the MVA business cost $110 and the new tire was a surprise $180 at a time when I have been desperately trying to save up for the trip I’m taking in a week, and I am not amused. The average tire delivery time is 5-10 business days, and I’m hoping it gets here sooner than later. Luckily, though, my mom let me borrow her van to drive home, so I’m not without options.

In more positive news, I went to a friend’s housewarming party! This was my first potluck in over a year, and the results were delicious.

Clockwise from the top we have pork lo mein, stir-fried vegetables, curried bubble and squeak, lap cheong fried rice (made by me), honey garlic chicken stir-fry, and pork and celery dumplings (also made by me). I was very pleased with how my dishes turned out, particularly considering half of the dumplings were thicker than the other half because I bought two different dumpling wrapper styles. Moral of the story: pay attention to what you’re grabbing out of the freezer case. Both dumplings and rice were a hit, however, so overall I can’t complain. We also had banana chocolate chip cookies, which were delicious, and then we went to a local ice cream stand, where we all ordered the black raspberry vanilla swirl and I got the shit bitten out of my legs by the aforementioned nuclear mosquitoes.

Unrelated, but I also wish to document my new favorite mug, sent to me by my beloved Merbear (and coincidentally shipped to my parents’ house while I happened to be staying in it). I will finally be meeting Merbear in less than a week, and I can’t wait.

Closing out this life update with the Queen of Shameless Begging, who has been going up and down since my last update.

August Reading Stats

Books Finished:

  1. Senlin Ascends – Josiah Bancroft
  2. When Women Were Dragons – Kelly Barnhill
  3. Light from Uncommon Stars – Ryka Aoki
  4. Ariadne – Jennifer Saint

Total Pages Read: 1,623

I have finished reviews for all of these books, and it feels so good to be able to say that.

July and August were the months I discovered the bizarre delight that is the Books of Babel series. I don’t know what made me finally pick it up when I’ve known about it for at least a year, but better late than never. I borrowed the first book from the library, and, though it took me a month to finish it (because I kept running off and reading other things), by the end I was so smitten that I made a prompt circuit of my local BNs and found out that both of them are closing what the hell. In total fairness, they’re not closing closing – they are, in fact, downsizing – but I walked into two last-chance sales in a row and was thoroughly surprised by both of them. (On the other hand, I will never say no to discounted books.) Thus, I managed to get the first three Babel books for less than I was expecting, which I do appreciate. I also now have The Fall of Babel, which sadly I had to order online. There is something so satisfying about going to a physical bookstore and finding exactly what you’re looking for, and online shopping is never going to scratch that itch, no matter how convenient it might be.

Besides Senlin, most of what I read this month was delightful, with the stark exception of Ariadne. I’ve been disappointed by a lot of books this year, but Ariadne was the biggest letdown because I was expecting Circe (Madeline Miller) but got something completely devoid of emotion, originality, and everything that made Circe shine. The only noteworthy thing was the author’s stubborn adherence to the original mythology. This is one case where I feel like it wouldn’t have been the worst thing if she’d played around with the story a bit, but that’s just me. As things stand, however, I am somewhat regretting my hasty decision to buy Elektra.

As a more general note, I have begun to realize that I probably won’t make my reading goal this year, and I’m okay with that. It’s not the end of the world. 2020 was a phenomenal reading year, in that I read 107 books and blew my goal of 60 out of the water, but it also set a precedent and a level of expectation that I haven’t been able to match over the last two years. In 2020, I would have been boiled in oil before I flunked a reading challenge. But how many of those books do I actually remember? Did I really let myself enjoy them, or did I just read them for the sake of reading one more, always one more? How much time did I lose on this trophy hunt? More than I care to admit. Then the next year arrived, and I flunked my reading challenge for the first time since I joined goodreads in 2017. This happened for a variety of reasons, including my rekindled interest in writing my own books and my move to Baltimore, my application to and acceptance of a senior-level position, and – even later that same year – an all-consuming preoccupation with moving to a better apartment. As I think about it more, however, I find that I probably could have made time for reading if I’d really wanted to. The problem was that I spent 2021 in a persistent slump after burning out my will to read in the blaze of short-lived glory that was 2020, and I still haven’t entirely gotten it back.

So if I don’t read 72 books this year, that’s fine. A reading challenge is supposed to be just that: a challenge. It’s not supposed to be easy. If I pull myself together and finish this year’s challenge, that’s fine too. I just don’t want it to become my reason for waking.

Currently Reading

Fire & Blood
George R.R. Martin
Current rating: 3.5-4 stars. The book is fine. I’ve only made it through the first chapter because it’s just as dense as the ASOIAF books, which I also have yet to finish. Other than the irritating writing style (too many pauses for dramatic effect), I don’t have much to say about this yet. I started reading it literally because of House of the Dragon, and, while it’s filled in some of the background information included in the show, I have forgotten all of it.

Breaking My Book Fast

I was doing so well not visiting bookstores and not buying books, and then I found out that my two BNs were temporarily closing and all trip-saving resolutions went out the window.

This is 100% the reason I did an aggressive unhaul, because I didn’t have room on my shelves for all of these. This meant that after years of pretending I was going to read absolutely everything I’ve been hanging onto, I finally went through my three bookcases and filled up a box with the ones I don’t see myself reading at all. Basically, if it’s been on my shelf for over a year and/or I feel any reluctance to pick it up, it went into the box. I did briefly try You, but that didn’t end well.

The box isn’t quite full yet, so I’m keeping it on one of my dining chairs until I’ve filled it up a bit more. Now that I’ve started, no doubt I’ll find some other books I don’t need. (Ariadne might end up being one of them.) Even better, I now have space for all the books I’m planning to buy on my trip, because if there’s one thing you can be sure of it’s that I don’t never learn. :’D