juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
38 degrees today, bitter cold and beautiful. 28 all night.

I've had sometime with my e-reader, now; I've read a few books and some of the longer Yuletide fics. My sister is the sort of person with a Kindle app on her phone, because using a traditional screen as an e-reader is no big deal when you read occasionally; since about the start of the new year I've been doing almost nothing but reading, and my eyes love the e-ink displays. It's exactly what I need the technology to be: as easy to read as the printed page.

Physically interacting with it has taken some adjustment: It's so small (in both width and diameter) that it's hard for me to hold without some sort of hand cramp, so I've had to learn to prop it, not hold it. The touch screen isn't horribly responsive—it's functional, but on occasion I have to touch it three times to turn a page: not awesome for my wrists. Occasionally the sleep/power button also feels non-responsive. I can feel the limitations to the technology, in short: plastic case, less than perfect touch screen, I can see where it cuts corners.

Getting books on it is a learning curve and an eye-opener. On one hand, all of Gutenberg and other public domain/creative commons books are suddenly open to me; on the other, it all feels so ... ad hoc. Formatting and proofreading is a gamble, libraries have far too few e-book licences and waitlists times are horrendous, the Kobo software doesn't support third party materials of any sort. There's always this sense, these days, of living in the future—but at the same time we're still catching up with ourselves, and we don't know how to manage this wonderful technology we've created. E-book license? people read ... book? many book? get book on e-reader? money? HOW? It's what makes the Kindle and Amazon's monopoly so successful—that it's streamlined, I mean, while everyone else uses Adobe Digital Editions and, at least for the free books, downloads a few different copies from around the web until they find a epub with few typos and something remotely resembling formatting.

(Lyz, I now have all the sympathy and understanding.)

For those curious, non-Gutenberg/public domain books on my e-reader:
Creative Commons books from Small Beer Press (especially the Kelly Link)
Some books by Cory Doctorow
A few of books from the Nightshade apocalypse averted giveaway
and a few others which are more of a gamble so I'll report back on them at an indeterminate future date.

And if you see some sort of gaping hole on this list that wants to be filled with a quality free e-book, do let me know.

Goodness knows I'm one of the foremost proponents of books as texture/experience/physical object/fill a bathtub with them and jump in, but I like my little e-reader and it opens a door to me: to public domain classics I could track down elsewhere but here can find immediately, for free; to e-book giveaways or review copies; to even more obscure library loans which, when I finally can check them out, I can check out from home. And separating the reading experience from my computer screen not only saves me eyestrain, it also puts reading back in the realm of curled-on-bed-under-blankets-cuddling-pillow capital-E Experience. I use the library extensively, and the experience of a borrowed book is also different: more communal and a little quirky, someone else's typo corrections and turned-down corners, a hundred accumulated scents for Odi to sniff; it's a totally different experience from the ones I have with books in my own library, but not a worse one. This, likewise.

This thing where Dreamwidth posts entries if I hit enter while adding tags is UNWELCOME.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Published: New York: Doubleday, 2011
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 387
Total Page Count: 119,452
Text Number: 347
Read Because: personal enjoyment, borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A challenge between magicians gives rise to the most spectacular circus: clad in black and white, featuring wonders beyond imagining, and open only at night. But a place so miraculous, born of such an intense rivalry, may not survive forever. The Night Circus enraptures from the first page; I worried only that it would crumble halfway, but it's a success until the last. Reading the book is much like reading a Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab scent description writ large, so I was tickled to see the company mentioned in the acknowledgements: it's a sensual delight, emphasizing color, scent, and atmosphere so intensely that the circus comes to life, a unique and wondrous place, and the text is stylized in image rather than language (although the language itself is above average, combining readability with gentle poetry). There are three narratives: the core narrative succumbs to some clichés of character interaction, but provides a strong skeleton to support the beautiful exterior; the secondary narrative straddles the boundaries of the circus, and is easily the book's most evocative, enchanting, and emotionally fulfilling; the last is in second person, and while it sometimes gets swept away in the book's style it also provides a consummate, satisfying conclusion.

So easily could a book like this go wrong: it could be no more than an intriguing but empty aesthetic, the aesthetic could be in competition with the plot, it could all end bitterly and destroy its own dream.... The Night Circus fumbles occasionally, sometimes too in love with its own image and relying on a romance that for the most part failed to stir me, but on the whole Morgenstern knows Les Circues des Rêves as a rêveur does: intensely, in detail, in love, but with a never-ceasing fascination and sense of mystery that means the Circus always has another bit of magic in store. The book succeeds by seeings its vision through to the final letter, vibrant and evocative and emotional when it needs it most, and succeed it does. I highly recommend it.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.

Also, the framing narrative is set in autumn, rich with hot cider and scarves and spices. I thought you might want to know. (Hey. Hey. [livejournal.com profile] sisterite. Yes, you.)
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
BLUEBEARD (GC, Diabolus)
A scent swirling with dark rage, unbridled jealousy, and murderous intent. Violet, lavender, white musk and vetiver.
Review. )
Verdict: Well done, surprisingly subtle, unique, but not my style—Bluebeard doesn't capture my imagination or my heart. It was nice to try, and now it's destined for swaps.

LES FLEURS du MAL (GC, Ars Moriendi)
The scents of the blossoms of darkness, condensed into one perfume. Features a rose base, softened with lilac and wisteria.
Review. )
Verdict: Rose is one of my death notes and predominant florals aren't my style, so of course this doesn't work. The other notes keep the rose from attaining screaming levels on my skin, but this is still all rose all the time. One for the swaps.

MILK CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM (LE, Lupercalia 2009: Box of Chocolates)
Gift from [livejournal.com profile] sisterite.
Review. )
Verdict: I hate milk chocolate and dislike frosting, so even at its best it's unlikely that Milk Chocolate Buttercream would have worked for me. Post-drydown, the scent is pretty accurate—but personal taste aside, it doesn't quite have the luscious indulgent quality I'd expect; the chocolate leans powdery, the butter can be stale, I have no idea where the cherry comes from, but most of all it doesn't have a handmade, high-quality buttercream feel. This is a one for the swaps, in the hope that it'll work better on someone else.

THE DEATH OF AUTUMN (LE, Halloween 2007)
Dark amber, dead leaves, khus, saffron, bitter clove, chrysanthemum, camellia, galangal, and a drop of oud.
Review. )
Verdict: The Death of Autumn goes on as a thing of beauty, a dark walk in an autumn forest, resinous and organic, smoky and spicy—but it loses itself along the way. The golden heat it develops is lovely, but not as dark and bold as its earlier stages; the resinous sweetness it has near the end is pretty traditional BPAL, dark and palatable, but familiar. Its not a bad scent on the whole, but I'm sad to see it morph. Still I think I'll keep it, and try to adjust my expectations to enjoy the bulk of the scent rather than mourning the loss of its drydown.

Pale golden musk, honeycomb, amber, parma violet, hawthorne bark, aspen leaf, forest lily, life everlasting, white moss, and a hint of wild berry.
A fairy giveaway from [livejournal.com profile] crystal_star_ss.
Review. )
Verdict: My skin loves berry a little too much, and that may be what sours Elf for me. It's too vibrant, too red, overshadowing the other notes and deviating from the inspiration. Regardless, this scent isn't my style. I'll pass along my imp.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I don't do this every year, but I should—even if it sounds like an acceptance speech. I don't care about Thanksgiving food other than pumpkin pie, but I hold giving thanks quite dear. The last year in particular has been good to me, and so I have too much gratitude to give and the need to give it all.

To Portland, and for Dee making it possible to live here. This city sets me free.

To friends, in particular to those that I now also know offline—Dee, Lyz, Express, Sarah, even Rachel and Danielle and Tiffany—not because real-world friendships are necessarily more meaningful, but because this has been a year of making them and that's meaningful to me.

To family. My sister is off studying in Italy, and she amazes me. My parents have shown me incredible understanding in the last year, and to be seen, known, and loved by them is something I don't quite have the words to describe.

To Devon, who has made Portland and a semi-mostly-long distance relationship possible again, and is my favorite person in the entire world, and loves me.

To stupid fuzzy animals—but mostly to August. She is my dream come true, and I still haven't gotten past the shock of that. I love her enough to break my heart.

And to books and perfumes that smell like carnation and drinks that taste like pumpkin, and relative health and wellness, and relative financial stability. I am a diehard malcontent and will go back to feeling miserable at the drop of a hat, but the truth is that every one of the last few years has been better than the last, I am healthier and more sane, I am surrounded by love and I usually have a cat on my lap, and I am so, so thankful.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
SERAPHIM (GC, Sin & Salvation)
A perfume sacred to the highest of the angelic hosts: calla lily, wisteria, white sandalwood, Damascus rose and frankincense.
Review. )
Verdict: Seraphim isn't to my taste to begin with, but it would never work on me given my skin's enormous ability to amp rose notes. I washed this off and obviously don't need it.

THE TWISTED OAK TREE (LE, Halloweenies: The Haunted House 2007)
Blackened, rotted oak wood blanketed in moss and choked by a cloak of grasping ivy.
A gift from [livejournal.com profile] sisterite.
Review. )
Verdict: For better or worse I get nothing black or rotting here, but that doesn't mean that The Twisted Oak Tree completely abandons its dark inspiration. I wonder if it should, though. The moss-heavy, golden woods final stage of this blend is often gorgeous and comforting while maintaining adhering to its wild, organic origins, but the bitterness that haunts the edges never quite settles out and, frankly, it's disconcerting. An interesting scent, and one I'm glad to have tried; I'll test it again to see if my opinions change, but for now I think this errs just on the wrong side of unwearable. Certainly an intriguing blend, though.

FRENCH LOVE (GC, Bewitching Brews: The Conjure Bag)
A warm, soft, sexual blend. Sweet and alluring. Used to entice new lovers and add an aura of temptation and carnal sin to your environment.
Review. )
Verdict: French Love does just about nothing for me, but then out of the vial I don't get any of the dragon's blood, etc. as reported by others. Nor am I particularly attached to this scent's intended purpose. I washed it off, and won't keep my imp.

DANCE OF DEATH (GC, Ars Moriendi)
A gloriously elegant representation of Lady Death. Dry, bone-white orris, black musk, serpentine patchouli and our murkiest myrrh.
A gift from [livejournal.com profile] sisterite.
Review. )
Verdict: I'm not sure what magic makes Dance of Death so beautiful in the midst of its intense harshness—this isn't an innocuousness, palatable scent, but it is striking, proud, and intensely lovely. It's a disappointment then that it has such a short wear-length, but the fact that the scent is so stable—with a straightforward drydown and no real morphing—may be its saving grace, because it could easily be reapplied. I still prefer scents with more staying power, so I may not reach for this often. But I will keep it around.

Their scent is a mishmash of snow, dirt, Icelandic moss, marsh felwort, and the smushed petals of buttercups and moorland spotted orchids, with the barest hint of the scent of pilfered Christmas pastries.
Won from [livejournal.com profile] crystal_star_ss
Review. )
Verdict: On one hand, pine is one of my death notes and, while others get it, it doesn't show up on my skin—a welcome reprieve. On the other, all I really get from Jólasveinar is florals. Occasionally they're wintery outdoor florals, and their lean towards masculine/neutral is refreshing, but for the most part they're not particularly interesting or unique, and there's not enough of the other notes—dirt and moss would be particularly welcome—to balance them out. This is a scent for the swap pile.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
It is 70 degrees Fahrenheit outside and the sun is still setting. Perhaps this shouldn't feel like a minor miracle, but it does, and I'll take it.

On Saturday, Dee and I drove into downtown Portland to meet [livejournal.com profile] sisterite/Lyz and a whole flock of others—Lyz's boyfriend, their roommate, the roomate's friend, a friend, and the friend's boyfriend, if I'm remembering it all correctly. They were visiting Powell's because, well, wouldn't you? And then we all went to Deschutes Brewery for lunch, which was surprisingly nice (not that I had my doubts)—I had the spinach flatbread (garlic cream sauce, sun dried tomatoes, whole milk mozzarella, chanterelle mushrooms, fresh local spinach, finished with garlic parmesan aioli) which was pretty much a sauceless pizza, rich and savory but, without sauce, not too heavy, with a wonderful kick from the aioli. When Lyz and her gang left—we only had about two hours with them, but, given that they were driving a round trip through Washington, that's understandable—Dee and I dropped back into Powell's. We browsed a bit, and in the last room as we were thinking of leaving we found the $1 "literature" section where I picked up a book about dog people (thus the sarcasm quotes) and another random fantasy of manners-esque find. Then we went across the corner to a roomy, all-amenities Starbucks, and I had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season. I hate it when these go away each year, but the blessing of their seasonal nature may be that the first is the best you will have all year: creamy and golden and spiced and just ask Dee, I would not shut up about how delicious my coffee was.

Lyz should be coming back through town this weekend, and we hope to grab her for a little longer if we can. One day we may even kidnap her and keep her overnight in the living room, with its delux pull-out couch—but shhhh, don't tell her that. The short visit was nice, and the day in downtown was quietly spectacular (and escaping into air conditioning was quite the added bonus), but I like a visit I can dig my teeth into, with less noise and fewer people and longer conversations, and a BPAL smellathon might be nice too.

Today we woke up to overcast skies and fresh cool air. The max temperature today was ten degrees cooler than yesterday, and it's looking to do so again tomorrow, and then so help us we may actually have low 70s for the rest of the month and see the actual advent of autumn. That's a cause for celebration, here. Dee dropped me off at Starbucks while she ran all number of shopping errands, because cooking food becomes more appealing when the house isn't already cooking you. I had a conversation about the book I was reading and OryCon with one not particularly socially adept middle-aged male, and then a 20-some indie artsy female thing brought in a large bag containing a small and mewling cat so that she could feed it about a cup of whipped cream. Something tells me that the average Portland Starbucks is a mite bit stranger than your average Corvallis Starbucks. I convinced (well, asked) the barista to take a slightly-expired free birthday drink card (because the hot weather has not been conducive to coffee drinking, either) and had a second pumpkin spice latte which so help me was just as good. I wrote a review, and figured out that my back is still not recovered from these last few days of pain, and when I left it was still a reasonable temperature outside.

I could get used to this, you guys. My eyes are peeled for turning leaves. My pumpkin necklace should be in the mail. We have the energy to do things again, energy that these long days have summer have been draining out of us. Today we had stir fry. Not burritos! And now the sun has set, and there's a cool breeze. Dee brought Spike out of prison and downstairs, and August is trying so desperately to get him to chase her around the house. And I'm happy.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
MACHU PICCHU (GC, Wanderlust)
Sweet tropical fruits burst through deep, wet rainforest boughs, enormous steamy blossoms, over thin mountaintop breezes, mingled with the soft, rich golden scent of Peruvian amber.
Review. )
Verdict: To my great surprise, I rather like this. Tropicals aren't my style, but this one is—well, not exactly toned down, but smooth, round, shaded. It's a very full scent without being overpowering, its sweetness makes it palatable, and its dark tropics have great individuality. I still don't think it's a scent I would wear, in the end, because however lovely it's still not my style. But it's an interesting one to try. (On the other hand, I also tried this many years ago, as a frimp to my first BPAL order, but didn't review it at the time. If I remember correctly, it was brighter and more generic tropical fruity floral to my untrained nose, and I had no particular love for it.)

Mania, Roman Goddess of the Dead, Matron of Madness, Governess of the Ancestral Spirits, Bestower of Divine Frenzy. Her scent swirls with a high-pitched tumult of laurel, stargazer lily, splintered woods, peony, mandarin and white musk, and is spiked with pale pepper.
Review. )
Verdict: Grandmother of Ghosts is much better than I expected—I'm not a fan of most florals, but the other notes keep the lily dry rather than oppressive, and the scent's pale whiteness is elusive but gently intriguing. Nonetheless, this is far from my style and I find the scent's overall inaccessability (a more more than subtle, a little too ghostly) somewhat offputting. I'll trade this away.

BLOCK BUSTER (GC, Bewitching Brews: Conjure Bag)
Used to open up options in your life, overcome obstacles, and create opportunities. This blend increases your potential for success, inspires creativity and quick thinking, and helps you to be more flexible, adaptable and open to change.
Review. )
Verdict: I didn't have particularly high hopes, but the dry spices in the middle of Block Buster were almost perfect, rich and dry and hot and potent, at its best absolutely divine. I'd be won over, but for the fact that the fruit eventually reemerges—and while cinnamon apple is pleasant, it's too much a change from the pure spices and a little too seasonal; it might work better as a room scent, and I don't particularly want it on my skin. As a result, Block Buster was ultimately a personal disappointment (although it makes me eager for a pure spice blend). But for whatever it's worth, I got a lot of work done the day I tested the scent—more along the lines of overcoming internal procrastination than working around external obstacles, but still a powerful blend for a productive day.

SCARECROW (GC, Bewitching Brews)
An agricultural gargoyle. Though he is the Guardian of the Crops and Keeper of the Fields, his visage is stll the stuff of nightmares. The scent of a hot wind blowing through desolate, scorched, barren fields.
A gift from [livejournal.com profile] sisterite.
Review )
Verdict: I don't get the harshness that others get, and thank goodness for that. I'm not overly fond of the scent's various similarities to commercial perfume, but I do like it's late, toned-down stage. This is one to test again (and in large quantities) to finalize my impression. So far I'm intrigued but not quite satisfied, in part because of the similarities to commercial perfume, in part because I wish the scent had the punch of its description—instead it's faint, if more palatable.

Heavy incense notes waft lazily through a mix of carnation, jasmine, bergamot, and neroli over a lush bed of dark mosses, iris blossom, deep patchouli and indolent vetiver.
A gift from [livejournal.com profile] sisterite.
Review. )
Verdict: It's hard to say. Each of the facets works well on my skin, with the occasional exception of the jasmine (as florals aren't my style, and this one goes a little grandma's soap on me). Some, like the carnation, are quite good—carnation likes to get swallowed by other notes on my skin, but here its a rich spicy-sweetness and absolutely fantastic. I'm fond of the heart notes, and they combine well —they're less headshoppy on me than they seem to be on others, and also remarkably smooth and calm despite their tendency towards potency. But I like to know what I'm getting out of a scent, and The Caterpillar never does decide. Its rotation of notes is unusual and surprisingly successful, but I don't know if I'd be able to wear it with any regularity. I'll hang onto my imp and test again.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Leaving in a few minutes for my parents's so that we can all drive up to the airport and get started on this cruise trip thing. I may not be bright eyed and bushy tailed, and I'm hardly eager to go, but we're packed and ready. Dev and I are bringing a PSP, Zune, two seasons of Dragonball Z, all of Reboot, two books, and a couple of films between us. On the last cruise we made a bit of an effort to get out and about, but we've done that dance now and anyway I hear this cruise line (Holland America) and this ship in particular leave a little something to be desired, so we have given ourselves full freedom to lock ourselves away and geek out in social isolation.

So, yes. We're flying on Christmas—which by the way is today, and merry Christmas to those that celebrate it—and aw fuck, we haven't ordered [livejournal.com profile] sisterite's gift yet, that may be late hun!—and the holidays are obviously all fucked up, and I don't want to go, and I started this morning by stepping in cat pee, but you know: fuck it.

I send my love to you all. What is it that they say? I'll see you on the flip side.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Skeleton Crew
Author: Stephen King
Published: New York: Signet, 1986 (1985)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 573
Total Page Count: 95,397
Text Number: 274
Read Because: interest in King's short fiction, sent to me by [livejournal.com profile] sisterite
Review: I approached Skeleton Crew in the hope that I might like King's work better in short form, where his intriguing stories wouldn't be deadened by the weight of a doorstop novel. And there are intriguing stories to be had, here. Unlike most single-author collections, Skeleton Crew doesn't suffer from repetition. King's imagination is vast and in plot, theme, and occasionally style his stories are varied, keeping this collection fresh to the end. "The Mist"'s shrouded monsters, the world's hidden corners in "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" (which reminds me of Caitlín R. Kiernan's work), the brutal violence of "The Raft," and the particularly gruesome premise of "Survivor Type" make each story stand out as unique and compelling.

But while I did enjoy those selections, and while I find I prefer King in short form, King is almost never short and it does his work few favors. King mentions in the notes (568), "this disease I have—literary elephantiasis," and it pervades his work. Sometimes it destroys the story's realism, as in "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" where in an oral story drags on for unrealistic hours; more often, it just weakens the storytelling itself. Sometimes King uses his excess length to build exceptional tension, as in "Gramma," but his penchant for shock and violence tends to shatter that carefully created atmosphere. Frequently, the excess length leads to repetition. "Nona" begins by contrasting intense violence against raw humanity, an effective combination—but thirty pages later, King has told his protagonist's entire backstory and hammered his themes into the ground and "Nona" has lost all of its magic.

I've often taken issue with King's fiction—sometimes for these reasons, sometimes for others, but often it boils down to his excessive length. I love long novels, but I rarely find that King uses his wordcount well. Skeleton Crew was an above-average personal foray into King's oeuvre: there are stories here that I authentically enjoy, and I think that a short form does benefit his work. Perhaps I should stick with King's short fiction in the future—but perhaps I should finally learn to avoid him altogether. This is, after all, a reoccurring problem: I want to enjoy King's work, but rarely do. Still, I enjoyed this collection more than usual and give it a moderate recommendation—and readers who appreciate King's style may enjoy it even more.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Seeing this meme on my flist has tempted me to do it—so I will, why not. I don't promise consecutive days, because I'm lazy and because I have that cruise upcoming and all, but to begin...

Day One: Ten things you want to say to ten different people right now.

That these normally get written to anonymous recipients annoys me—it lends itself too well to passive aggression, and makes for a guessing game on the reader's end: Is that about me? Of course it's not—she doesn't care about me enough to write that. Of course it is! there's plenty of reasons for people to think bad things about me. You know, that sort of thing. So I'll be more explicit.

Amy: I have various types of online relationships. I have passing acquaintances—we share online space and some interests, but we aren't friends. I have casual friends who I care about and learn from, but we aren't bosom buddies—and that's fine. Intimate relationships are effortful, and not every friendship need become one. And I have intimate friends, heart-friends, people I love even if I mostly met, know, and keep in touch with them online. In my eyes you've gone from fellow fangirl to a startlingly intelligent, thoughtful, beautiful person, and it makes me glad to have met you. It also makes me want to know you a little better. I don't mean that in a creepy, demanding way! I value the relationship we have now, as friends but not best friends, and if it stays that way I'd be happy. But if you want to talk more (I exchange letters and emails with a few people, and sometimes use IM), I would welcome it.

Dee: I can't wait to see you. I want to talk Persona! I just started reading one of the books that I brought back from your place. There's plenty of little things that I could say to you—but on Wednesday, I'll have the chance to tell them to you in person. I'm thankful for that. But always, every day, I send my love.

Devon: I tell you that I love you a dozen times a day, but I don't tell you how thankful I am near often enough. But I am. I am so thankful.

Express: I am so proud of you. I don't want to keep saying that, because I don't want to blow things out of proportion or burden them them with praise and expectation or be at all condescending—but I am so proud of you, and so happy for you.

Grandpa: I say it in the most respectful way that I can, but: I really do not want to go on this cruise.

Janet and Doug: There is a bit of a story behind the pendant that you gave me for Christmas. I haven't told it to you because it's a little froofy, if you know what I mean; it has its gaze set somewhere between my navel and the stars, and I doubt that's quite your style. But that's why the gift moved me the way it did. Thank you.

Lyz: I had wanted to tell you that I was nervous about how our meeting went, and hoping that you didn't mind quiet little me—but we've talked since then, and now I'm not worried anymore! It does take a couple of meetings for me to relax, but I look forward to having those meetings with you. Instead, all I have to say now is that I promise to send a holiday gift your way before I head out for the cruise. When you get an unexpected package, chances are it will be from me.

Margeaux: I finally picked up The Secret History. I'm not sure when I'll read it—but it'll happen, sometime. I'll think of you.

Twila: I don't know how quite to communicate with you. You're the only person I know who has hearing problems, and I have such a quiet voice—I have no practice or experience speaking up and speaking clearly. I'm not very good at reaching out, and I probably will never come over on my own. But that you have invited me means the world to me. I do feel "always welcome" in your home. You make me feel loved and wanted. You are delightful. I'm hardly the ideal grandchild-(not)-in-law, but I am blessed to have you as family. Thank you.

Day Two: Nine things about yourself.
Day Three: Eight ways to win your heart.
Day Four: Seven things that cross your mind a lot.
Day Five: Six things you wish you’d never done.
Day Six: Five people who mean a lot (in no order whatsoever)
Day Seven: Four turn offs.
Day Eight: Three turn ons.
Day Nine: Two images that describe your life right now, and why.
Day Ten: One confession.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I've never approved of the message "it gets better" as a way of surviving suffering. It's well-intentioned, but it teaches that suffering must be borne rather than changed, that everything depends on the hope of miraculous salvation. It's a toxic message—and I say that because for a long time, things didn't get better for me. The more that I depended on the promise that they would, the more I suffered: from the mental health issues that surfaced at the end of high school but oh, don't worry, it gets better when you graduate—through the first two years of hell at college but oh, it'll be better at a different school—collapsing utterly when I transferred, and reaching the lowest and most dangerous period of my life. It destroyed my hope, to be constantly promised a brighter future and always denied it. And as powerful as hope is, its absence is stronger.

I don't believe in promising that it will get better, if you just live through this, last until then, and wait for everything to change. I believe in supporting people in the now. I believe in not waiting out suffering, but trying to combat it.

Which is all well to say, but the truth is that I spent so long hurting, depressed, and hopeless that not only did I no longer believe that it could get better, I was afraid that it would. The higher I was, the further that I had to fall. For years people told me that I was afraid to be happy, and the truth is that they were right—because if even hope could hurt me, then imagine the harm that happiness could do.

I'm happy now, and it scares the everloving shit out of me.

I just spent a long weekend visiting Dee ([livejournal.com profile] century_eyes) up north. I met her family; I stayed in her house. I met Lyz ([livejournal.com profile] sisterite) on Saturday, for the first time since we became friends six years ago.

Each time that something like this happens, I'm certain that I'll fuck it up. I'll be quiet and boring, or desperate and self-conscious, and I'll definitely forget to say things and fail to be the engaging, intelligent individual that I purport to be. I'll be boring and boorish and awkward, and there will be no spark after all. There's such anticipation surrounding these things, you know—and there's always a fear, my fear, that it will turn out so mundane, with no magic at its heart.

And maybe that's precisely how it goes.

But I also gave Dee Persona 3, and I watched her play the first few hours, and we both loved it. I squeed to see familiar faces again (there are so many in those first few days, hiding in the background!) and she called me adorable. It's hard to give a gift of something that you really love, hard not to demand that the recipient love it too, hard not to fear they won't—but I think she can and will, and she's certainly enjoying it so far, and that's awesome.

Dee's mother is personable and kind and, even to misfit-me, comfortable to be around. Her brother cooks food to make the house smell like heaven, and baked chocolate lava muffins which were as good as promised—warm and delicious, crunchy outside and smooth inside, deep dark chocolate. Their cats are adorably strange, as cats will be; Casey the dog loves you, loves loves loves you from the moment you get to the door, and it is impossible not to feel wanted in the face of that love. Dee's mother's house is a gem, like something from a painting—everything so small and sweet, neat and precise, a triangle of light against the winter dark.

Lyz is beautiful in person—so vibrant, gorgeous coloring and fresh red hair, a rich voice and good sense of humor, a beautiful bohemian look and her umbrella had ruffles on it. I'd underestimated how lovely she would be—which is saying something! We ate remarkable flourless chocolate torte at Wild Ginger, which is saying something too because my tastes in that field are practiced and refined: chewy and dense with a hint of crunch at the crust, served with whipped cream (Chantilly cream, by the way, is just sweetened, sometimes flavored, whipped cream), and topped with crushed almond praline which to my surprise was the perfect delicate, crumbly, sweet counterpoint to the dense cake. (A+, would eat again.)

Downtown Seattle shined with rain and Christmas lights, and Dee and I shared an umbrella. (Washington flooded over the weekend from all that rain.) Pike Place was a new scent on the air each time the wind changed direction. Closer to home, Dee took me to a local used bookstore where the floor creeks and books are shoved into every cranny, where the paperbacks are a little warped and everything is refreshingly cheap. Driving out of town on Monday the landscape was still swathes of dim water, bare trees and yellow brush, and a shroud of creeping mist—and while it disturbed the train service, it was as beautiful as something in the best gothic novel.

And yes: I'm still nervous, and I will always be quiet and strange, and I forget to say things. I make poor eye contact. It takes a long time for me to get comfortable. I am mundane after all. These trips, these meetings, are too: just a few folk, in a place, together.

And outside of these incredible trips and meetings, my life is nothing special. I do nothing and contribute less. My mind's a mess, and it may always be.

But there is so much, these days, which is right.

Despite being awkward and normal and quiet, people still love me. Despite a strange and busy December, I can still have a beautiful holiday season. Despite it all, amazing things happens. Despite it all, they promise to happen again. Despite it all—

Despite being normal, imperfect, and scared out of my skin—

I want them to.

I went through long years when I wasn't able to be happy. I went through years when I thought it was impossible, when I was afraid of the very idea. But when happiness hits you this damn hard and unforgiving—when it hits me, like a bullet in the head—no matter how terrifying (and it is terrifying), it's undeniable too.

I love almost every Florence + The Machine song, and I sing them loud and find them so affecting, but every now and then I hear one of those songs—songs which I know by heart—as if I'm hearing them for the first time. I hear it deep down, and finally understand what it means—what it means to me. I listened to Dog Days Are Over on the ride up to Washington, and found it to be true.

This comes like a bullet, like a train, it hits so hard and scares me so much. I don't mean to exaggerate—I'm still normal, my life is still imperfect, and even this wonderful weekend was just a little trip up north. But even for a normal little girl there are apocalypses and revelations. These are mine. They are large and strong, and terrifying.

These days, I'm happy.

(And I never wanted anything from you, except all that you had and what was left after that too.)
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Oh dear sweet world, and the wonderful people in it—

Today I opened the mail to find my tickets for the train ride to visit [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes (why Amtrack mails you physical printed tickets I don't know, but who cares—they're here! and hardly a moment too soon) and a box of black-on-black Tachi Ears which I will admit I have already opened and cooed over. Whoever sent the latter, speak up that I may properly heap praise upon you! For they are glorious, and I love them, and shall commence finding many ways to wear them. You have made this kitten very happy.

In a few minutes I'll finish getting ready and then go visit my parents to light candles on the last night of Hanukkah*. I think we're opening presents then too (look at me, scrambling last minutes for dates), but whenever it is there will be dark skies and candles, there will be gifts. This year I find myself quietly content with what I've gotten everyone—I hope they will be too.

And then after candles, after gifts, (and after another day has passed because wow has my schedule gone screwy!) I wake up early and set off towards [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes, and perhaps [livejournal.com profile] sisterite as well (and even if not, I shall wave in her general direction from not-so-afar), and to meet other good folks while I'm there.

When I get back we celebrate my father's birthday. And then, of course, the cruise from hell—but never mind that.

Because usually, for so many reasons, the spirit of this season has to be forced upon me, by myself or others, coming late and only begrudgingly. This year, my darlings, I feel it. It doesn't matter the hows or whys or even the timing. I'm happy, and cheerful, and warm, against the long nights and constant creeping rain. I love it. I love all of you.

* Dear Hanukkah— Why is your time so difficult to figure out,even after all these years? Love anyway, me.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Tonight was the first night of Hanukkah. (Well, that was yesterday evening at this point, but precision is overrated.) With the cruise cutting my holidays short, I find myself in more of a holiday spirit than I am most years—preemptively making up for lost time, perhaps, or just trying to prove that I can enjoy myself despite the best efforts of fate to ruin the season. But everything is in disarray. Allie may not make it home until after Hanukkah, so we may have to light the menorah without her and reschedule gift opening to the 9th. Everything is foreshortened and hasty—most of my family doesn't even have wish lists, yet—and at the whim of schedules outside our control.

But I went home to light the first candle with my family. We haven't bought a new set of candles yet (another thing in disarray), so we scrounged through the remnants of old sets. These first candles were light blue—and beautiful with the brass menorah, bright flame, and deep blue night.

And it was a wonderful evening.

Jamie spent her day at the vet, getting some benign fatty lumps removed. Papa and I picked her up before lighting the menorah, and the vet tech warned us she would probably be dazed and disoriented, and maybe not even hungry—and Papa and I broke out laughing, and we were right, because when they brought her out from the back Jamie broke into dancing and wiggles to see her people, and then she hurried home to eat the food that had been denied her all day long. She was a little whiny and clingy, sure; she's in a bit of pain, and she will be for the next few days. But this is our Jamie. She's had two major surgeries and a few minor lump removals at the vet, and she's still happy to go there (the tech remembered her because "she really loves our cookies!"). She's overjoyed when she's returned to her pack, and even when she lies down for some pain-dazed rest she still wants you to hold her paw and look into her eyes.

This is family.

We're not big on the winter holidays. We celebrate so many of them that it spreads out and mixes into something mild and amorphous: gathering, a few symbols, some gifts, and everything pausing midway for my father's winter birthday. We don't couple our celebrations religion, and so there is no greater purpose than the gathering and the gifts. We rarely decorate the house for any occasion, and this year it doesn't even make sense to have a Christmas tree. Our schedule is all messed up, and we're all left a bit mixed up as a result.

That doesn't matter, really. We still come home to the most beautiful and loving dog (even if we have to go pick her and her sutures up from the vet), we light a beautiful menorah against the night, we spend some time as a family, we rearrange schedules to carve out more time. We gather. We give.

And yes, I wish I were staying here through the holidays, and how I wanted to follow [livejournal.com profile] sisterite's example and listen to The Nightmare Before Christmas while decorating the tree, and I begrudge the disruption. But it doesn't really matter. We gather, we give, anyway.

On the 10th, I'm taking the train up to visit [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes—she's been down to see me before, but this is my first time coming up to see her. Initially I was planning to make this trip in January, but Devon thought to change the schedule—and we was absolutely right. She'll open her doors to me and we'll gather, we'll give.

There are things I wish I could change, but there are some—a dog, a menorah, a friend—which I would not have any other way.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
In contrast to the last I read, the book I'm reading now is a pleasure to hold. It's a 350 page mass market paperback from Roc, small but moderately stout; it's gently worn, enough to smooth the edges and crease the spine, enough that the book feels soft in the hands and opens easily. That it's also a much better book also improves my reading experience, but there's something also to be said for the quality and experience of the physical object itself: barely-rounded edges, velvet soft pages, a smooth cover, the gentle sound and feel of so many pages stacking and bound and ready to part. It's comforting and comfortable and smells lovely.

What's best about reading this book, though, is that it was a gift—a gift sent along with a brief little letter on a notecard just small enough to slip into the book. It's got an adorable snail on the back, it's a ready and perfectly sized bookmark (and I am always in need of a bookmark), and each time I shuffle it to a new place I remember where the book came from.

That reminder is as wonderful experience as reading the book itself. So: thank you, [livejournal.com profile] sisterite.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
From [livejournal.com profile] sisterite, a meme:

In response to this post, ask me about the first time I did something. It can be anything—the first time I used chopsticks, the first time someone I knew died, the first time I left the country, the first time someone of the opposite sex saw me naked. I'll answer in the thread. Then (if you like) put it on your journal and I'll ask you a question.

Call me strange, but half the reason I'm carrying this forward is because I like the way it's worded.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Title: Gerald's Game
Author: Stephen King
Published: New York: Signet, 1993 (1992)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 415
Total Page Count: 89,325
Text Number: 256
Read Because: recommended and given to me by [livejournal.com profile] sisterite
Review: After her husband dies of a heart attack in the middle of a sex game, Jessie is left handcuffed to their bed, abandoned in an off-season summer home, with only his corpse for company. Without hope of rescue, she must free herself to survive—an effort which takes her back through her traumatic childhood memories. Gerald's Game is in many ways a deviation from King's usual novels. There's no sprawling, here: the bulk of the story is the events of a single character in a single location over a single day; the journeys into her memory also hold to a limited scope. As a result, the novel is comparably short—a mere 400 pages. Furthermore, Jessie's story is more personal than supernatural, with some exceptions (including the questionable inclusion of voices in her head, which repopulate the book with characters and dialog but feel more cliché than convincing, and the specter that haunts—and weakens—the conclusion). The local, personal, realistic story has the potential to do what many King novels do not: provide a tense, tight, and authentically frightening story. If King doesn't usually work for you (he doesn't for me), consider giving Gerald's Game a try.

That said, while Gerald's Game is a successful exception to King's usual style, it never becomes an exceptional book in its own right. Jessie's physical predicament is claustrophobic and convincing, which makes the book authentically frightening but also makes it uncomfortable, if not painful, to read. The many frustrations and flashbacks on her way towards escape slow the book's pacing, so it doesn't have the unputdownable suspense of a thriller. In short, there are moments when the reader wonders: Why exactly am I reading this? Perhaps more importantly—not to the process of reading, but to the reader's judgement upon conclusion—is that Jessie's struggles tie together a little too well. The neat knit of current quandary, past trauma, and the psychology bridging them creates a story of suffering and survival that, even though it avoids a cheap and easy conclusion, never feels entirely real. I often take issue with King's wordiness, huge casts, and excessive length, so Gerald's Game is for me a refreshing, and concurrently much more effective, change of pace. But at the same time, the book never quite satisfied me. It's authentically frightening, but fails to be authentically meaningful, and so I can give it only a halfhearted recommendation.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
A quick status update, for the sake of one:

I am well! Actually quite well: I've been doing much better this last ... week, let's say? than I had been for a couple months. I've been going to the library twice a week (locals wondering if I ever leave the house: I can usually be found somewhere between the downtown Starbucks and the public library Tuesday and Thursday, around 1p-5p give or take an hour or two), reading contentedly, writing a lot of book reviews (which need typing up) and taking a scattering of notes—I've been chewing through the pages of my Moleskine lately and it feels great. There's something so joyous in the tactile sensation of writing longhand, to say nothing of simply being away from the computer. In short I have been where I love it best: nestled in a cave of books.

Meanwhile, Devon and I are also playing Little Big Planet together (having borrowed it from a friend), and it is certainly making the poor neglected PS3 play its dues, let me tell you. And this weekend, I meet [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes for the first time. (Commencing freakout ... like three days ago.) I am social. And active. And happy as I ever am, and my back hates me for it all, but for a week at least I've been doing better and this is a good thing.

The side effect of all this, of mostly being able to brain again and of turning most all that renewed power to books, of getting out of the house and playing video games or reading when I'm here, is that I am a dozen types of busy and few of those types are centered around a computer. If I'm slow at getting back to you, that's why. I know there's always a reason why for my absences and lateness—seems silly still to make them—but ah, there you go.

I hope you are all as well.

[livejournal.com profile] sisterite! The stationary arrived today. It is glorious and beautiful (there's two lovely Hello Kitty pages, the transparent ones, that make me smile—to say nothing of the various bits of Engrish) and shall be put to use soon, I hope. Thank you, thank you!

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Yesterday evening after taking a friend out to run errands, Devon and I fell asleep together. Just a nap, but a rare occurrence nonetheless because our sleep cycles don't mesh these days and I always have problems sharing a bed (and when I say "I" have problems, I mean: my back). But this time I was lying away from him, tucked under his arm and sharing a blanket, my back curled warm against his side, my legs around my body pillow as is necessary, and it didn't hurt. We drifted in and out of sleep together for an hour and a half, warm and drowsy and comfortable, and it was lovely.

Things with Dev have been wonderful, lately. We're years past any glimpse of a honeymoon period, the two of us—we just had our seventh anniversary a few days ago. But it feels like (have I said this before? not on LJ, I don't think) that we've finally repaired all the damage that my depression did to our relationship, back when it was at its worst and I was literally falling to pieces. Devon has been my biggest champion through all of my problems, but they were still a huge burden and harm. But I'm in a better place now, time has passed, and we're back to who we were, as a couple; we're back to who we should be. We're not perfect—but then I wouldn't want that. What I want is what I have: we love, we enjoy each other, we often talk for hours, we want to please each other, we find each other pleasing, we make love and bicker and hang out; we are love, together.

Early today I was woken by a knock at the bedroom door and a package from Lyz ([livejournal.com profile] sisterite) waiting outside it: a copy of Genesis by Bernard Beckett (which I've read but never reviewed), The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan (which I have anticipated eagerly, and which shall be the next book I read), and a wonderful jar of paper stars—like these guys which I've been known to make, only smaller and pastel and just adorable. Thank you, Lyz! And I shall reply to the letter soon, via real mail or email or whatever. I think it's a crazy coincidence that I've already read Genesis, but it's a quick and unique little book, so in the very least I can reread and actually review it this time. But oh, my fingers are already itching for The Red Tree. You are amazing.

(For a late approximation of the holidays, I sent Lyz a copy of my beloved Maledicte by Lane Robins and pretty much my entire BPAL reject pile—about 50 imps, a few sniffies, and a bottle—enough to keep her in smellies for a while, methinks. I certainly wasn't expecting a return gift so quickly, but I am thrilled to receive it because I mean, seriously: books.)

Today after the whole house was asleep, I took my current book (The Burning Girl by Holly Phillips, which is a lovely reread) out into the living room for cool air and breathing space and privacy. Both cats were out there, so I dolled out a few cuddles before lying back onto the couch right beside the table where Madison was sleeping. After a few minutes, Maddy stepped delicately onto my lap, walked up to my chest/shoulder, and laid herself down. For my whole reading time—nearly two hours—Madison stayed with me kneading and suckling my blanket while I pet her with one hand and held my book with the other. There are fewer things better than a comfortable seat, a good book, and a cat as cute as this combined into one moment. Sometimes I could feel the rumble of her purr travel all the way down to my belly.

Love, my friends, is beautiful.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: The Moon Opera
Author: Bi Feiyu
Translators: Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin
Published: Boston: Houghton Mifflins Harcourt, 2009 (2007)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 117
Total Page Count: 68,768
Text Number: 198
Read For: Winter holiday gift from Lyz / [livejournal.com profile] sisterite (thank you!)
Short review: Twenty years after her shameful exit from the stage and the closing of the opera, Xiao Yanqiu is given a fresh chance to play the lead role in The Moon Opera. She is incredibly talented, but her late journey back to stardom will be fraught with difficulty and doubt. As short and delicate and the protragonist's life is wild and long, The Moon Opera can be difficult to connect to but still offers a deep story and a fascinating protragonist. I recommend it.

Long review. )

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I went by my parents's house yesterday—Papa and my sister are away in New York, checking out schools and watching the Yankees, so I thought I'd take the dog out from under Mum's feet for a while. Jamie and I went on a walk in the woods, she got brushed, and I watered the garden; it was beautiful out, overcast with a soft breeze, and the trail was littered with the first few fallen leaves. Autumn is upon us, and thank goodness. I also saw my mother, who was working on a large wall hanging, and two episodes of Law & Order—I swear, I'd almost forgotten what a television was.Crumb Bear by Skybell Arts

When I was there, I also picked up packages and presents—you know, for my long distant birthday. [livejournal.com profile] sisterite, your package arrived! She sent smellies, most importantly an imp of Ivanushka (yay), and a copy of Sharp Teeth, that verse novel about werewolves which I loved and wanted to own and reread. Thank you, lovely! I'm waiting for the imps to settle out after shipping, and then I'll test and write reviews. I much look forward to checking out the sniffie of Candy Butcher, because I've been curious about that scent for a long time.

I also picked up the package of Hod and October—I am so looking forward to Hod, but I'm giving the oils a chance to settle first. It's a long, hard wait.

And I picked up my mother's birthday gift—Crumb Bear, that quilt over to the left. You should certainly click through and see it in greater detail. Mum is a fabric artist; she started Crumb Bear when she was cleaning out her huge stash of fabric and fabric scraps. I fell in love with it because of the color and the bear imagery.* There's some progress shots and more information over at her arts blog: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

I think it turned out beautifully, and it looks wonderful hung on the wall. I have a couple of my mum's pieces—a triskele runner and an entirely handstiched, handquilted piece which I love—but this is my new favorite. Thank you, mum. So, yes. All in all a successful day and a successful visit.

* On bear imagery: I attended a Montessori school from preschool through sixth grade; on three occasions during that time, most notably on my graduation from school, I was given the bear as a totem animal. (I've since narrowed it down to the black bear, which is native to where I live.) To me, the bear is nature, solitariness, hibernation, wisdom, vegetarianism (although bears eat insects, fish, and some carrion), and protection. The bear rises up to protect me; the bear is a silent companion, content to stand at a distance but willing also to lead me to knowledge. I don't work with my bear totem as often as I should, but its presence comforts me nonetheless. I still have the stone bears that were given me on those occasions as well as a few other necklaces, and I was drawn to this piece of the same bear imagery.


juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)

September 2017

345 6789
1011 12 13141516
1718192021 2223


RSS Atom


Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags