Happy end-of-blogging-hiatus. On today’s episode of Starbucks Name Roulette, my name is now Karelen. How fucking hard is this?

I swear I’m gonna start introducing myself as Fred. The bright side: Starbucks cinnamon dolce lattes are delicious. I don’t drink coffee, but I’m starting to think Viv is onto something.

Anyway. It’s been such a long and pleasant hiatus that I nearly forgot how I usually get started, but I’m back and ready to blog. While I cannot deny that it was lovely not having to generate content at a consistent rate, it also reminded me that blogging is a part of my life now and I don’t want to get rid of it – which was, of course, the hope when I first decided to take this blog on a break. (Have I written one word of any of my novels? No. No, I have not.)

In other news, we finally got our first real snow and at this point probably the only one we’re going to get this winter, and I am documenting it because I was starting to think I’d never see snow again in my lifetime, as I usually do at this point in the lame ass Maryland winter season. I keep moving myself north, maybe someday I’ll be able to afford to live in a place with proper winters. On the other hand, climate change.

Most importantly, I scooted out to H Mart a couple days before the snow, and, as usual, I went crazy because H Mart literally is my Disney Land yes okay I will consider getting out more.

Spotted in the fridge section. Sorry, but I refuse to support anything calling itself “Oriental Spaghetti.” The things we do to trick Americans into buying our shit. :’)

Then I came home and found out that someone had been very busy.

January Reading Stats

Books Finished:

  1. Twilight Falls – Juneau Black
  2. An Admirable Point: A Brief History of the Exclamation Mark! – Florence Hazrat
  3. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America – Erik Larson

Total Pages Read: 1,041

#ReadMyShelf2024 got off to a strong start when I finished The Devil in the White City, albeit much more slowly than I’d anticipated. (And I did end up setting myself a formal goodreads goal of 30 books to match my RMS goal, in case anybody was keeping track.) One down, 29 more to go. My favorite read of the month goes to Twilight Falls and there will be no discussion on this point, but possibly the most surprising read of the month was An Admirable Point, which does indeed delve into the history of the exclamation point.

If that sounds horrendously geeky, stereotype-reinforcing, and like something only a Carolyn would like, I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just saying don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I really like Hazrat’s style; she does a remarkable job presenting her research, and the topic is fascinating. On top of that, Hazrat is funny as hell, and all in all I’m really glad my mom gave me this for Christmas, because I’d never heard of it.

The Devil in the White City, on the other hand, had some moments of humor, but obviously was far more serious. This has been on my bookcase for years and it has survived at least two moves and several unhauls, but it’s always in danger during unhaul season, because unhaul season is right when I start to wonder how much I actually want to read it. Well, now I’ve finally read it, and, having finished it, I think it’s going to get unhauled. I don’t hate it, but I will say I was disappointed to learn that the H.H. Holmes portion of the book is fictionalized – I mean, it would have to be, given the paucity of reliable information and the fact that we can’t trust anything Holmes says in his memoir – considering Larson makes a real point of stating up front that everything in the book is true. That might be true for the direct quotes he pulls from letters and other written materials, but there is some very obvious embroidering throughout the book as well.

The thing is, I’m not sure it has any reread value. Certainly I can’t see myself pulling it off the shelf in, say, a year’s time, just for a casual revisit. While the architectural aspects of the Columbian Exposition are fascinating, they only have so much staying power. There were so many moving parts to the building of the Exposition and so many things went wrong in so many ways that after a while it got irritating to read about yet another failure, either on the part of the architects or on the part of the weather. And, while Larson’s writing is clear enough, it is impossible to grasp the true scale of the Exposition from words alone. For all the time he spends emphasizing the fact that the Exposition was a city unto itself, I needed actual photos, which Wikipedia kindly supplied. My mind was blown. It would have been nice to have had those photos in the book as a visual aid, because there are no words that would truly do the Exposition justice. I would especially have appreciated photos of the original Ferris Wheel, if such exist. I am having a hard time picturing a modern-day Ferris Wheel with 60 people and a full-scale lunch bar in every car.

As for Twilight Falls, phenomenal. Adorable. Kind-hearted. 100000000/10, highly recommend, I finally caved in and bought the mug.

Speaking of my uncontrollable Shady Hollow obsession, anyone remember this old thing? :’D

I resurrected my Kindle from the drawer in which it has been living for easily the last two years, specifically because the two Shady Hollow short stories are only available electronically. And after four years of neglect, this thing still had a 23% charge. I am seriously impressed. I really need to start using my Kindle again: not only were those two short stories completely free because of some credits I didn’t know I had, it could not have been easier to transfer them from my Amazon account to the actual device. More importantly, that weird smell that came with the case is completely gone (I mean, after four years, I should bloody well hope so), so that won’t act as a deterrent anymore. If I can persuade myself to use the Kindle more often, I might try reading the Green Bone saga electronically, because those books are expensive, hard to find in hardcover, and huge.

Currently Reading

The Bear and the Nightingale
Katherine Arden
This book is a consistent member of the “I keep meaning to read that one” TBR, and it’s been on my case for so long that I could’ve sworn it was a hardcover until I finally took it off the shelf. It is not a hardcover, and I don’t know why I ever thought it was. I’m not too far into the book yet, but I’m liking it so far, though I’m low-key hoping I don’t like it so much that I have to read the sequel.

The Widow Queen
Elżbieta Cherezińska
I have to admit I had some doubts about this one, mostly because of its length. So far I have no super strong feelings, apart from a horrendous narrative-induced paranoia because the book keeps making it sound like Bolesław is on the verge of assassination. (I did Wiki the characters, who are actual historical figures, and it doesn’t look like he gets assassinated as a teenager, but I’m still on edge.) Other than that, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read. I like Świętosława’s attitude, though I am less pleased about her stepmother tricking her and Bolesław into watching her (the stepmother) have sex with their father. That’s some fucked-up GoT shit.

The only thing is that I wish there were a character name glossary so I could have some idea of how to pronounce everybody’s names. Sorry, but I don’t speak Polish and am not familiar with its alphabet. Here is my little reading tutor explaining to me for the fiftieth time that Świętosława is read “Sventoschwava” instead of “Sweetoslawa.” (The book does provide an inline pronunciation guide for Świętosława’s name, for which I am duly grateful.)

Jade City
Fonda Lee
This book has been on my list for years, and it finally occurred to me to see if the library had it. I got so hooked that I read six chapters in the first sitting instead of the planned three. I honestly have no idea where the story is going, but it’s been doing a good job getting me into the world and the characters. And I kinda hate to admit it, but Hilo is very attractive and I can’t explain why when he’s not the greatest person.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I admit it. I broke my book-buying ban to order this book, though I did order it off of Bookshop rather than Amazon, mostly to make me feel better about myself. Currently 15 pages deep in A Study in Scarlet. I read three of the four novels in I think middle school but I’ve never read any of the short stories, so I’m looking forward to reading the entire Holmes series. I’ve been rewatching the show recently and reading other Victorian-themed books, and somehow both of these things piqued my interest in the books again.

Blogkeeping Notes

One of my goals this year was to shut down the WyrdGurls site and migrate the last of my content to this blog. This is the content that got skipped when I first moved my book posts to bookycnidaria, because my original thought was to use bookycnidaria for books and WyrdGurls for lifestyle. Over time, though, bookycnidaria became my default blog, and WyrdGurls fell by the wayside. My two wyrd sisters agreed that we didn’t have to keep paying for a blog none of us ever used, so I finally moved the outstanding content over, let the domain name expire, and deleted the website. I fully get why I didn’t include my Awesome Con or Williamsburg posts in the first migration. That was, for lack of a better word, a giant fucking pain in the ass.

I don’t know which part of the move was worse: resizing and rewatermarking all of my WyrdGurls photos with that horrendous glowing pink stamp I used to use, going through each post and replacing the old photos, or having to go through my computer looking for the original photos in the first place. This is the only benefit to being a packrat: I couldn’t find all of the photos from my old posts in my photo library, and I had to go digging through the older folders on my computer. All I can say is thank god I never throw anything away. I always tell myself it could be useful later, and this is one of the few instances in which I’ve actually been right.

As for the content itself, there’s been some changes. These changes are not huge and mostly involve taking out emojis that don’t display properly anymore, but also I ended up editing my old posts a little bit just because my own narrative voice from five years ago was annoying the shit out of me. I’ve come a long way as a blogger and as a writer in general, and in a way it’s good that I had a reason to go back and look at my old writing. Still, those old posts are mega cringe, and they’re not even the worst things I’ve ever written.

And after all that blood, sweat, and cringe, I promptly ran into a problem when my homepage started doing this.

To be clear, it’s supposed to look like this.

I am documenting this here in case you are a dumb-dumb like me and are running into a similar issue. WordPress support was predictably unhelpful, so I was very much on my own with this shipwreck, but eventually I realized that the WyrdGurls .xml file had imported the WyrdGurls website settings along with my posts. This effectively broke the homepage because, while WyrdGurls had a dedicated homepage and a separate blog page, bookycnidaria’s blog page doubles as the homepage. I was trying to tell bookycnidaria to display the post list on both the homepage and the blog page, and I hate how long it took me to figure out that all I had to do was set the blog to display on the homepage and delete the setting for the posts page because the posts page literally is the homepage.

My brain, she is gone.

2024 Resolution Progress

I broke my January book-buying ban in a couple of ways – obviously there was Sherlock, and I also preordered a couple of books, among them the next Shady Hollow book – but I actually did remarkably well with this ban, in that I only went to BN once (to buy a work planner) and did not get sidetracked into book-shopping while I was there. The problem is that I still spent more money this month than I should have, because the money that I might have spent on books instead got spent on bags and food. I have three great addictions – books, bags, and food, in no particular order – and can’t seem to stop myself from buying food and compulsively ordering cute bags. I’ve really gotta go through my collection again and find some that I’m willing to sell, because this is ridiculous. (It’s not drugs, I tell myself as I order a new tote. It could always be drugs.)

In general it’s been an unusually spendy month, but I’m not sorry. Mid-January I finally got fed up with the cables all over the floor under my desk, and I started looking for organization solutions. Fast-forward to last weekend, when I cleaned the apartment and finally cleaned up the mess under the desk. I also ordered a monitor stand, which apparently came with a fuzzy little supervisor, and my setup is so much better now. I still have some straightening up to do, but I’m just so happy I’m won’t be vacuuming up my cables every time I clean the bedroom. I got a cable box for the bedside surge protector too, and I can’t wait till that gets tidied up.

It has been less than a week. I am already going to have to take everything off the monitor stand because its fuzzy feet got knocked off when I was pushing the stand around the desktop, and they’re driving me crazy.

And here is the built-in fuzzy supervisor micromanaging the shit out of me.

As for the food, I took my family to lunch last Sunday and regret NOTHING. Those potstickers came home with me and I am so sad that I ate the last of them last night. I am making myself hungry again and I literally just had lunch a couple hours ago. T_T

I have got to learn to make this noodle soup. I fucking love pickled mustard greens, and I need to learn to cook with them.

Circe’s Corner

The other major hole in my tidy little save-more-money plan is, of course, this pile of fuzz, seen here first self-indulgently wriggling around on the floor and then wondering why she was not being served any tuna pasta bake, and then being very puzzled by her new toy, which is technically a dog toy I bought at the Dunkin register in a fit of guilt because I am sometimes a bad, neglectful kitty mommy.

She is worth every penny. All the same, I would very much like to not get blindsided with surprise medical bills, so the cat now has her own bank account and insurance policy. I never thought I’d say those words in that order, but hear me out, because it’s not as insane as it sounds. I won’t get into the disorganized chaos of actually deciding what kind of account I wanted. All I’ll say is that I made the right choice, even if unwittingly. The idea is to set aside a little money every paycheck and bank it all in a separate account, which will then be used to pay for Circe’s expenses. She’s still relatively young, and as far as I can tell she’s pretty healthy. With any luck I won’t need this money for anything other than kitty food, litter, and the occasional vet visit for at least the next couple of years, and I’ll be able to build it up in case anything does happen. (As far as the litter goes, I’ve realized I can use DoorDash to order someone else to bring me two 40 lb. boxes of litter at a time, and I feel like a genius.)

This post got a lot longer than I expected, so here is one final shot of the new calico sticker in my planner. In a way I should’ve known I’d latch onto the whole catmom identity.

Happy almost-Year of the Dragon. We’re so close to a new year.