I don’t have a reading update. November sucked like a black hole in more ways than one and I have been in a major reading slump for the last four weeks, so pretty much since I tried to make myself love Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Susanna Clarke). I have read 372 pages this month and finished one book, which was Spy x Family 10, and I DNF’d Strange & Norrell on Thursday after struggling to get to page 74, so fuck it, I’m canceling this month’s reading summary because there is literally nothing to summarize. Instead this post is going to be about the worst November I’ve had in years, and that’s including last year’s cancer scare.
First of all: my big TV, the nice shiny new smart TV that was last December’s Christmas gift to me, broke unexpectedly not too long after Circe arrived. This obviously is not the end of the world and it is in fact a bit shallow compared to what’s coming later, but I’m honestly kinda pissed so into the post it goes. I have spent the last three weeks staring at it and waiting for it to miraculously fix itself, and, since that approach still hasn’t worked, I now have an in-home maintenance appointment scheduled for this coming Thursday. Fixing the TV has been on my to-do list for almost the whole month. I have kept pushing it back and pushing it back, and the result is that the flickering black screen is as low-grade stressful as having something stuck between my teeth. In conclusion: if your TV breaks before its time, don’t be like me. Look up the repair people immediately. I hate not having my TV in working order. I don’t even watch that much TV, it’s just that I want it now that I don’t have it.
I don’t know why my project schedule always explodes right before an extended holiday. Long story short, work was busy for most of the month, except for the wonderfully mellow three days before the Thanksgiving holiday. More of that, please. I am so tired.
My publication schedule fell apart over the holiday, chiefly because of my (in retrospect) ill-advised decision to skip the post I had planned for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This happened to be the review that I still have not finished for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, which I have now watched twice because I left it too long after the first viewing and had to fact-check myself. This in turn fucked up the rest of my schedule: there are only so many days left in the year, and I absolutely refuse to post back-to-back Redwall reviews, which makes rescheduling somewhat difficult. In the end I decided to publish today and tomorrow, and after tomorrow we will be going back to our regular Wednesday and Saturday posts.
And now for the reason I was too tired to pull my Songbirds & Snakes review out of thin air: On the Monday of Thanksgiving week, we said goodbye to Zuri.
I knew we were living on borrowed time, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I really was hoping she would have one more Thanksgiving so we could load her up with turkey and potatoes, although, as one of my brothers rightly said, it might not have mattered anyway because by the end she was too sick to eat anything at all. It’s been a rough time, because so much of Zuri’s final months was spent worrying about her zigzagging health. Mid-November she began to have seizures caused by a suspected brain tumor, until we finally hit that awful Monday where we knew she was done. And I hate that she’s gone, but I do feel very slightly better knowing that she is no longer in pain.
I am not in the habit of listing out my thanks, because Thanksgiving for me means four straight days of self-indulgent overeating. But this year, I am thankful that Zuri was not alone at the end. I am thankful that all of us were in a place where we could drop what we were doing and rush home to comfort her as she walked across the rainbow bridge. I am thankful that we were able to hold her one last time. I am thankful that we had enough warning to know to spend extra time with her. I am thankful that we had far more time than we thought we would, and I am so thankful that we got to know her at all. So even though I am filing a class-action lawsuit against the general concept of doggie deaths because doggies should never be allowed to die, I have some peace in knowing that she was the happiest little hellhound for ten years. She had the best life, and I am forever grateful that she dropped onto our laps. I hope she is in a happy place with a happy family, in a world where doggies never die.
We love you for always and always, sweet baby girl. Thank you for everything. You were the best snuggler and the fiercest pint-sized killer we could possibly have asked for. Go have a happy afterlife; we’ll catch up with you in a bit.
Also, this decade sucks.
The minute I got home from saying goodbye to Zuri, I told the cat she is not allowed to ever even think about getting sick. She was not impressed.
She also now has her own Instagram. I genuinely have no idea why it took me so long to set one up. I’m hoping it’ll encourage me to start playing around with reels. I need to learn video editing.
I bought a special basket and organized my kitty provisions on top of the fridge because I am a psychopath. Yes, I am looking into therapy.
The one bright spot in this shitshow of a month is that Circe has been settling into her new home quite nicely. It’s hard to believe that I’ve already had her for a month, but November has been so strange and so sad that time has not been behaving as it usually does. While we are still getting used to each other and our mutual lifestyle change, life has been good. Every milestone is so major when it’s the first cat. A couple weeks ago she let me kiss her on the head for the first time, and it felt like such a victory. I don’t know how I lived by myself for two years without a kitty to cuddle in bed and lean my books against. Every day I become more convinced that I made the right choice in adopting her. She has been both comfort and distraction while I have been processing Zuri’s death, and I can’t imagine life without her. Even though she’s only been here a few weeks, I’ve gotten so used to her sweetness and her fabulously soft, warm fur that I miss her so terribly when I’m away from the apartment all day. If this cat does not live to be at least 25, I will be very seriously upset. I don’t care if the average lifespan is 12-14 years. My Circe will be the first cat in history to see 50.
November wasn’t completely grim, I actually found the motivation to haul my ass to the movie theater for the opening weekend of The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. I was really craving diner food, so Michaella and I went to Silver Diner first, where I indulged my drooling idiot fangirl lizard brain by ordering hash and bread pudding. IYKYK.
As for the movie itself: I liked it. There were many, many places where I wished it had followed the book more precisely, but it is a solid adaptation with strong performances and some excellent music. I have been listening to the soundtrack off and on this week, and it never fails to get stuck in my head. Even better, it introduced me to Olivia Rodrigo. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her music, but I love her voice and the song she wrote for the movie, and I suspect I am well on my way to becoming a stan.
Also: Barnes & Noble now has shopping baskets. I don’t know when this started, but A++++++++ customer care. Even if I only bought three books (and a bookmark, and a Hunger Games magazine, lol) and therefore did not need a basket, it’s good to know that I have the option.
Circe’s First Thanksgiving
I’ve been a bad kitty mumma, because I keep running off and leaving Circe by herself in the apartment. What with Zuri’s health issues, family get-togethers, and assorted other happenings, Circe’s first month with me has not been stable at all, and I’ve been feeling really bad about that. On the other hand, if she handled other cats better, I would’ve been able to take her with me. Next year I’m making it a goal to sign her up for some kind of socialization class. I want to ease her into the idea of being around other cats so she doesn’t have to spend her holidays locked in my room at my parents’ house while Archie and Hato wander with impunity. She is 100% the problem in this case, and I really hope we can fix that. I want her to know her cousins.
The original plan was to leave her home for Thanksgiving because her first trip to my parents’ house did not go particularly well, but then Zuri passed and I wanted to spend more time at home, and it was just sad to think about her sitting alone in an empty apartment on a holiday. In the end she came home with me and we stayed for the weekend, which was just a little bit too long for her. She was so stressed away from our home and our normal routine, but then she saw me getting ready for bed the first night and it was like something clicked for her. Bedtime is a routine that she knows, and I think it soothed her a little bit because she knew what to do even though we were in a strange place. Another night she spent some time lying on the kitchen floor watching my mom wash the dishes, I think because she’s used to me cleaning up the kitchen at a similar time and it felt normal.
Archie was also there for the whole weekend, but my brother and I ended up rotating our kitties in and out of our rooms so that both Archie and Circe could have a chance to wander around the house. It worked pretty well; Circe got a little more used to the house and the people in it, and Archie didn’t get attacked. They even got to play with each other’s toys, in the moments when Archie was not Super Hidden. He thought he was being so smooth.
I spent the last day of our visit shut in my room with Circe after she threw up. The last day might have been the worst for her because by that point we’d been away from our routine for several days, and she just wanted to go home. She seemed to calm down while I was playing Animal Crossing, which is a part of our routine and hopefully made her feel somewhat more normal. At the very least she hasn’t thrown up again, so I’m assuming it was just stress.
Aside from my barfing kitty, Thanksgiving was great. It was basically four straight days of eating, sleeping, and bingeing GBBO, and I will never say no to any of those things. Turkey is always such a treat: I usually only eat it once a year, and it is 100% worth the calories.
Meanwhile, here’s Madame Unfriendly enjoying her Thanksgiving dinner alone in my room. Before you feel sorry for her, she got one of her favorite salmon dinners with a Fancy Feast poured on top. I have learned that she really loves the wet food with the meaty bits more than she loves the wet food pates, and it’s even better if it’s swimming in gravy.
And more indulgent food shots from the rest of the weekend, because we cooked a lot. I have been making this pork curry for months, but I usually make it with pork butt because that’s what I keep in the freezer. This go-round our dog was dead and we were eating our feelings, and we spent the whole weekend making the full-fat version of everything, which is why I made the curry with the pork belly recommended by the recipe. And now, having finally made it the right way, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to pork butt.
From the same night as the curry, miso itame, which was so delicious I got the recipe. I’m not a peppers fan, but I want to try making it with carrots and celery.
On the last day I finally got an excuse to try a recipe for potatoes roasted in duck fat, which I’ve had on my Pinterest board for years, and it was so good that my family kept sneaking into the oven to steal potatoes while we were waiting for the chicken to finish roasting. I can hear you opening the oven door, you greedy sneak thieves. There were absolutely no leftovers. The potatoes are so good that we literally are planning to build our entire Christmas menu around them. Next time I will be making a double recipe.
I have been craving my mom’s candied sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce all week, and looking at the pictures again is making it worse. I really need to get those recipes from her. There were, alas, no leftovers for me to steal, though I did make off with a container of extra-good lentil soup made with turkey broth.
Because even though I canceled this month’s reading summary, this is still a book blog, goddammit, and I’m still a reader, even if I’ve been a slumpy one recently. I always seem to hit the mother of all reading slumps around November. This year my reading motivation got done in by a lethal combination of Zuri’s health and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. To be clear, I don’t hate this book, and I don’t think it’s bad. But paragraphs-long footnotes have a way of strangling my reading ambitions, and, though I did really enjoy the dry English irony, the book is too long and too dense. My main motivation in picking up Strange & Norrell was to gain a bit of context for R.F. Kuang’s Babel, which was written as a rebuttal to Strange & Norrell, but I struggled so much with this book that at this point I don’t think I’ll get anything out of it. I might try again later if Babel really pushes me to find out what was so wrong with Strange & Norrell that Kuang felt like she had to write a 544-page rebuttal; at this time, however, Strange & Norrell is permanently DNF’d, and I will be unhauling it. This is a real relief: I’m out of space on my bookcases, and I’ve bought a stack of new books that have been cluttering up my desk for lack of any better place to put them.
Bookshops & Bonedust
Current rating: 5 stars. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH. It’s embarrassing that I picked it up a couple weeks ago and still haven’t finished it, but in a way I’m glad because I need all the comfort right now and this book is delivering in spades. I was originally worried that I wouldn’t love it as much as Legends & Lattes, which is also comforting in all the right ways. I should not have been. Even if it doesn’t have the cozy coffee shop that made me fall in love with its sequel, I love that it marks the beginning of Viv’s love of books, which is only barely mentioned in Legends & Lattes. I also now know what a rattkin looks like, which is important. Right now Viv and Gallina have cautiously begun to befriend each other, mostly because they both hate the gray-shrouded traveler who I really thought was Fennus when he first showed up because he just seemed like such a shit.
Too early for a projected rating (I’m only on page 19), but this is another one I need to get back into. I liked Shady Hollow well enough to pick up the other three books in the series, and, though they’ve only just found the moose bones, I’m interested to see where this one goes.