Archive of ‘bookish’ category

Forty Two Books (+ 25)

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Well and so! Every year over on Goodreads I pledge to read a certain number of books; last year, for example, I shot past my goal of 75–with a total of 91 books read! This year I was lazy and just went for 50.

I’m at 43 books read now, so I thought I’d make a mini goal (I’m sort of thinking about it like a side quest…like maybe stopping in at the Gold Saucer in FF7). At any rate, my mini goal, if you’re interested–or, if you’d like to join me– is old school summer reading, like they gave you in high school. Over the next three months, that is to say, what’s left of June, July, and August, I shall read twenty five books! And FYI, graphic novels and small books of poetry totally count.

Of the titles I’ve read so far, I’ll share several favorites with you; I loved these books so much, in fact, that I am having a hard time coming up with a few words to say about them. It’s funny, if I hated them I’d be at no loss for scathing thoughts and unkind things to share (which is  kind of shitty and I am trying to be better about such this.) But with something I truly love? Language fails me and I can’t even give you the slightest detail.  But I will tell you that there are thrilling tales of terror and adventures, and people who look like monsters and monsters who look like people, and romantic love and self love, and sadness and shame and fury, and loads to think about.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters // Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay // Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman // Borne by Jeff Vandermeer // My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris // Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples // Bird Box by Josh Malerman // and a graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred by Damian Duffy

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But now…off to bet on the chocobos in Chocobo Square! Er, I mean…off to read some of my side-quest books, a few of which are pictured above. I am especially looking forward to Gilded Needles (which Kate and Jack will be talking about soon on Bad Books For Bad People), as well as Black Hole.

What are your reading goals this year, if you have any? Were there any titles you particularly enjoyed? Do you have any summer reading planned? I want a full report!

Curious about my reading challenge in previous years? 2016 // 2015

From Bibliophile To Bookbinder: An Interview With Nate McCall

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Sturdy spines enveloping stories and secrets yet untold,  gilt-embellished covers, glimmering and hinting at undiscovered worlds, the rasp of papery promises as one by one the pages turn and the tale unfolds! No one, I think, has a better understanding of how to create the perfect vessel for these mysteries and adventures, than Nate McCall of McCall Company.

In case you missed it last month, and of interest to bibliophiles, bookbinders, and lovers of beautiful things: my recent interview with Nate McCall of McCall Company from Haute Macabre.

How To Wear: Your Favorite Books & Stories

Weird

I have been stricken by a sudden sickness; a miserable spring cold that arrived out of nowhere and has rendered me scratchy-throated, fuzzy-brained, and with a wretched, wracking cough. All I want to do is put on some fuzzy socks, curl up under the covers and prop myself up on a fluffy pillow, sip a lemony hot toddy, and lose myself in the restorative properties of good book. And if I’m not cured by the last page, well, at the very least, I’d like to think that from these beloved books and treasured tales, I will have been inspired in some small way.

Sometimes my mind wanders as I am reading, and I find myself wondering all kinds of ridiculous things. But things which certainly require answers, I am sure you will agree! What sorts of clothes were the tenants from the grotty apartment building wearing, in that thoroughly unsettling tale? What sort of fabulous frocks might the witches from that mystical manifesto caper and cavort in? Did that invisible wind-based demon who tormented lonely travelers wear a sweater to keep warm?

See below for the culmination of these feverish thoughts involving sartorial suggestions for selected sick-bed stories. Some of them, because my nonsense cannot be contained, even have accompanying soundtracks!

As, always, click the image for a detailed listing of the items used, and links to books and texts and music have been provided as well.

What Is A Witch by Pam Grossman and Tin Can Forest

what is a witch
Salt Is For Curing by Sonya Vatomsky
saltisforcuring
“Near Zennor” by Elizabeth Hand (in the collection Strange Errantry)
Near Zennor playlist on 8tracks
NearZennor
The Tenant by Roland Torpor
The consistency of empty space playlist on 8tracks
The Tenant
Revenants by Daniel Mills
Don’t you recognize your own daughter? playlist on 8tracks
Revenant
The Sea Priestess by Dion Fortune
The tides of all men’s souls belong to me playlist on 8tracks
Sea Priestess
“The Carrion Gods in their Heavens” by Laird Barron (in The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All.)
In a voice rusty and rugged playlist on 8tracks
Carrion
“The Birds” by Daphne du Maurier A madness seized them playlist on 8tracks
The Birds
The House On The Borderland by William Hope Hodgson
That fragment of ruin playlist on 8tracks
House on the Borderland
“Into The Woods” by Robert Aickman (in the collection The Wine Dark Sea)
It is something I have long known playlist on 8tracks
Aickman
“The Wendigo” by Algernon Blackwood
The merciless spirit of desolation playlist on 8tracks
The Wendigo

 

Wanna see some more ridiculous ensembles? Go nuts!

👁‍🗨 How To Wear: A Winter Getaway
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: Your Favorite Horror Film
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: The Arts
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: The Spring Equinox
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: The Winter Solstice
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: The Autumn Equinox
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: A Jean Rollin Film
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: A Gothic Romance Novel
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: Your Favorite Tarot Deck
👁‍🗨 What To Wear Upon Greeting Death
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: A Melancholic Holiday
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: A Date With A Monster
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: Dramatic Jewelry
👁‍🗨 How To Wear: A Tee Shirt

Monsters and Other Scary Shit: A Monster Anthology

MONSTERCOVER-RGB-small-768x566I don’t know how spooky I was as a small child. Not very, I guess. My cousin’s KISS posters scared me so badly that she would have to shut her bedroom door so that I couldn’t see her walls when I was in the house; the monsters of the week on Scooby Doo gave me nightmares (even though they were usually, like, old man McGillicuddy under a mask or something), and I had actually a fit of hysterics after a particularly upsetting episode of Benson with a dream sequence murder. Scary things and monsters were not my bag until all of a sudden they were. And then, hoo boy. It was vampires and werewolves and zombies and elder gods and Lovecraftian horrors 24/7. And I still haven’t grown out of it.

Russel Nohelty, publisher of Wannabe Press (a small press that makes “weird books for weird people”) has a similar fierce love for the monster in all of its myriad forms. You might even say he’s a bit obsessed with them — psychological monsters, horrific monsters, religious monsters, mythological monsters, fantastical monsters, and everything in between. He’s never met a monster he didn’t like.”What if,” he thought, “I went to my favorite creators, ones that I knew loved monsters as much as me, and put together an amazing monster anthology where all of us could tell our favorite monster stories? It would be a love letter to monsters.”

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Created by monster-lovers for monster-lovers, Monsters and Other Scary Shit celebrates everything awesome about monsters. And when else to present to the world your glorious ode to the things you love best in life? Valentines Day, of course!  Monsters and Other Scary Shit was launched via Kickstarter on February 14th, Valentine’s Day 2017. (The campaign has reached its goal, but runs until April 7th–so there’s still time to grab a copy for yourself, and to fill that monster-shaped hole in your own heart.)

The 224-page monster anthology is organized and edited by Russell himself, is printed on high quality, glossy art paper and bound in beautiful hardcover, with cover art by Aaron Alexovich, indie comic creator and artist for Invader Zim. The comics are “…written and illustrated by one of the thirty different professional teams who have credits ranging from Marvel, DC, Vertigo, Oni, and Image, to brands like Star Wars, The Simpsons, Transformers, Invader Zim, and more. ” As well as an entry from Unquiet Things favorite, Christie Shinn!

Even though monsters are in every form of storytelling on the planet, they are often lumped into the horror genre. But monsters are so much more than horror. They are sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, drama, and everything in between. Notes Russell, “I love monsters because they can represent ANYTHING. They can represent people, places, things, or ideas. You can use them to tell a deep story or a fun one. I love Monsters Inc as much as I love Hellraiser, and I wanted to curate and anthology that showed my love of all types of monsters.”

The monstrosities that stalk these pages range from over the hill Sesame Street type monsters to demonic robot overlords to world-swallowing beasts; humorous and unsettling and sometimes creepy as hell, there is literally something in here for everyone. In reading through the tales, there are quite a few that I would have liked to continue reading, there was a definitely feel that there was more story to be explored; some that felt just exactly right, and of course, as in all anthologies, there’s always a few that left me scratching my head, or simply ambivalent. On the whole, though, I am reminded of two other somewhat monstrous anthologies that I’ve read in the past few years and found myself enjoying–The Sleep of Reason and The Other Side: An Anthology of Queer Romance …so, if either of those titles appealed to you, you’ll probably dig Monsters And Other Scary Shit, as well!

See below for a handful of images from the book, and get on over to the Kickstarter page for more details and a closer look!
28The-Mirror-dare-and-smith-4 mbellamyhorror1 Ghoul page 2v204A-Screen-To-Kill-For-dare-tanner-smith-6 23frozen-scream-ostlie 03Download-Possession-Ramos-1

 

 

 

Elsewhere: Stacked & Aural Fixation

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Stacked

 : Over at Haute Macabre you can peek to see what Samantha, Erin, Maika, Sonya and I have been reading over the past 28 days! While I thrilled to every word of one of the books I read, the other piqued my ire frequently. Curious as to my thoughts? Visit Haute Macabre to read more! And be sure to tell me what you’ve been reading, in the comments.
{image: Bill Crisafi for BloodMilk Exquisite Corpse “The Comfort of Dust”.}

AuralFixation

…and also, while we’re at it, Haute Macabre rolled out my favorite new feature this evening, in which we all blather on about the sounds we currently have on heavy rotation:

 Aural Fixation.

{art provided by Becky Munich}

Susan Hill’s Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home

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{In which I am pleased to introduce a new monthy (ish) feature wherein my sister writes about a book we have read for our “sister book club”. Full disclosure: I just got this book from the library today. Don’t laugh! I’ll be better prepared next month. In this month’s discussion we are featuring Susan Hill’s Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home. We hope you will join along!}

In less than a month, I will be moving to a new place, and so will be packing up about 20 boxes of books. As I do, I know I will come across several titles that I think, “Why haven’t I read that yet?” or “Why am I still hanging on to this?” And then I’ll toss the books into their respective boxes and dutifully lug them to my new home, unpack them, and completely forget about them for another year or so.

I’m not the only one guilty of this–talented and successful author Susan Hill (whom you may know as the author of The Woman in Black, which was then made into the movie starring Harry Potter) went on a hunt through her house one day, attempting to locate one book, and came across several others, long forgotten, instead. Then and there, she promised herself to only read what books she already had, for one year. No shopping, no libraries, nothing new. Just pillaging from the previously-purchased piles. And thusly was born the premise for Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am a voracious acquirer of books. Fortunately for my wallet, I work at the Library, so I check out most of the books. Yet for every one book I check out and read, there are two more that I check out and don’t read–my eyes are bigger than my stomach (or perhaps, my brain) so back to the library those unread books go. However, from time to time, I still do purchase, or am gifted, a book. And I KNOW Eldest buys far more books than she has the opportunity to read. Ergo, we can relate to Susan Hill’s situation. Excitedly, I texted Eldest, and before long, we had hatched a plan (bringing Middle into it, of course) to read it together and discuss it. You know, like a long-distance book discussion group on Skype. With wine, of course.

book pile

I cannot place too fine a point on this: I love books. I love reading. There may, in fact, be little else in the world I love to do more than read. Unless it’s wandering around in Half-Priced Books, my library (or any library, really), or Barnes and Noble. Or talking about books. Or meeting a favorite author. Do you see a theme emerging? So to read a book about books and reading…and then to talk about it with my sisters? WITH WINE, OF COURSE. Holy cow.

And what a book this is! Susan Hill is a damned fine writer, particularly if you are a reader who enjoys descriptive writing. Consider the line from page 11:

“Now on a golden day in late September, I took two books out to a deckchair in the garden, The first apples were thumping down. The last swallows were dipping and soaring, dipping and soaring over the pond. A dragonfly hovered, its electric-blue back catching the sunlight.”

It’s not all fun and games and a bucolic English idyll, no fears on that count…

“Outside my window, the trees are bare. It is early dark but a silver paring of moon is bright in the sky, with a thousand frosty stars. The air smells of cold. A fox barks from the field.
Dickens for winter.
Throw another log on the fire.”

A memoir of books and reading books. A book about books. (I think this is where I insert a sentence with the word “meta” in it, but let’s just skip that part, okay? Oh, wait…) Some of the books that Hill reads, she has actually read before, and so she plunges headfirst into her recollections of them, and so it is that we are immersed in the literary world of London in the 1960s, and what a world it is. With a vague sense of giddy voyeurism, I found myself immersed in a London library, nodding somberly to E.M. Forester and C. Day Lewis as Hill runs into them in the stacks.

Towards the end of the book, my attention started to lag, perhaps due to my anxiety that the book was overdue. (Hehehe, the irony, had I purchased this book!) And it seemed like this was a book that was less about the year Hill spent reading and more about the role books and authors have played in her life. You come away asking yourself questions like: What are the 40 books YOU could not live without? If you had to write up your life story, framed by books that you read at various times in your life, what would the books be, and how do they relate to your life at that time?

Ultimately, I found this to be a thoughtful, descriptive meditation on the reading life–a memoir of a life in books.

Elsewhere: A Macabre Cookbook Collection

Creepy-cookbooks1

Grim Gastronomy, Creepy Cuisine: A Macabre Cookbook Collection

At Haute Macabre this week, I talk about some very important things: my cookbook collection. Let no one say that I don’t have my priorities straight!

TL;DR The cookbooks listed in this article are: Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s CookbookDamn Fine Cherry Pie: And Other Recipes from TV’s Twin PeaksDeath Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs from Around the WorldThe Decadent Cookbook: Recipes of Obsession and ExcessDeath & Co. Classic Modern CocktailsChas Addams Half-Baked CookbookThe Dark Shadows CookbookSon of the Martini Cookbook

Currently, Part Two (February 2017)

spirit
Currently I am having a rough go of it. I find myself shuffling from one end of the house to the other, without thought or purpose or even memory of doing so. I cannot focus or concentrate, so work is all but impossible, and yet I haven’t taken any time off, either. I find it difficult to justify time off when I already work from home, you know? So I’ve just been sitting at my desk, dazed, thoughts both a million miles away and no where, and desperately hoping that the phone does not ring.  Inevitably it does.  And so, a week has passed since we lost our Mawga.

“A readjustment of reality, ” is how a friend summed up some of what I am feeling.  I spent so many years worrying and fretting over my grandmother, paying her bills, keeping up with her house, handling all the what-ifs and emergencies as they arose, paying her a visit after work every day…now that I no longer have these things to do (these things that sometimes I was honestly quite bitter and resentful of) I am feeling unmoored, adrift, purposeless. Instead of having to sneak my knitting or reading into spare pockets of time, stolen and emptied from other portions of my life, I now am at leisure to do these things as I please. But for the moment (and I do know it is a momentary, passing thing) …I just …can’t.

But I do feel the compelling, compulsive need, as I do every month, do vaguely document the things I have been doing–and so to keep to a routine and regain a sense of normalcy, here is some photographic evidence that there was life and liveliness over the past month. And I suppose, even though it doesn’t feel like it now, there will be again.

vegantreats

A fantastic box of Vegan Treats morbid chocolates from my beau. This has become our Valentine’s Day tradition. Somehow we manage to make these delectable morsels last a month or more; I think three years in, we have managed to become pros at it.

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Also honor of Valentines madness and treating myself, I took a break from the No-Buy to grab the Fire Walk With Me soundtrack from Mondo and this gorgeous antique print of The Young Widow by Henry Hutt.

seeds

A few weekends ago we sat in the afternoon sun and planted all kinds of seeds–marigolds, morning glories, carrots, radishes, squash. It will be a miracle if any of them make it. I also planted a few little succulents in the hollowed dome of this cranial planter, an osteological-inspired marvel sculpted by the phenomenal Kermit Tesoro.

bangs

Last Saturday I got my got my bangs cut. My hair has been all one-length for the past twenty years, so this is a weird adjustment. And I probably won’t keep it this way forever (sweaty humid bangs on my forehead in July? Ugh) but for now, I think I really dig it. It’s got a sort of Stevie Nicks or Ann & Nancy Wilson vibe. And it’s certainly an improvement on this, a photo which was taken a day or so before the big chop.

books

Currently reading Something In The Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker. I was so excited to read about the author of my very favorite novel, but I am finding that while it is not dry reading, exactly, it is certainly dense and packed with information and taking me a rather long time to muddle through. Much more than just a biography, it immerses the reader in the culture and the history of the Victorian era, encountering various celebrities and characters along the way. It’s enjoyable, it really is…but there’s just so much of it. I broke up the monotony of it with Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, which is something I’d been meaning to read for awhile as I loved all of her other books, but for whatever reason, I’d never gotten to it. After reading a few chapters I was sorely lamenting watching Chan Wook Parks film adaptation of it, The Handmaiden, just last year. It was exactly the same story (but you know, London, instead of Korea) and I knew what to expect! I was disappointed that I already knew the twists and turns before they could surprise me. Ahhh, but not so. I read on and after a while I was glad of having seen the film first. And I ended up adoring the book as much as the film. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Make them both priorities on your to-watch/to-read lists.

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One word movie reviews!

Absentia–maybe (on amazon prime)
Trouble Every Day–perhaps (on amazon prime)
Blair Witch–skip
The Love Witch–Yes
The Editor–YES
The Village–ugh
VHS–probably (on netflix)
The OA–absolutely (on netflix)

Currently {1.16.17}

spiritsSomehow the last month, give or take a few days, feels several decades long. I suspect that has much to do with the upheaval of the holidays; we hosted my beau’s family for Christmas this year, so I believe there were at least two weeks alone which were lost to the commotion of getting our slovenly butts in gear to make the place look presentable and figure out how to cook a dang prime rib. (If you’re curious, we served prime rib with roasted asparagus, garlic-parmesan mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach, and if I don’t have to do that again for another year, that will be fine with me.)

Also, I have never had a holiday thing/event/whatever in my own home, so I was freaking out. Quite honestly, I had volunteered responsibility for the holiday dinners because I was tired of feeling awkward and out of place/in the way at someone else’s house. If I’m going to feel uncomfortable, I’d rather it be in the comfort of my own home, you know?

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cookies

Houses were lit, skeletons and bats were fitted with Santa hats, and a thousand star cookies were born, only to die bravely in several gulps. I can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that I made the world’s most amazing gingersnap cookies and that may never happen again because I don’t remember which recipe I used. At Jack’s suggestion, though, I under-baked them, which did away with the menace of the tooth-breaking “snap” and produced a cookie that was intensely chewy and full of delectable spices. I suspect under-baking any gingersnap recipe will yield a far superior result.

Bloodmilk

Cemetery

Buzzer

This past weekend was a bit of a whirlwind.  On Friday night I ventured into Orlando for dinner at Dandelion Cafe with some like-minded lady friends (whom I both met through Death Cafe!) and a jaunt to Etoile Boutique in the Milk District for the bloodmilk trunk show. It was so nice to meet the incredibly lovely Jess, whom I’ve known online for years now, as well as her whirling dervish, effervescent right-hand gal, Jen. And of course it was pretty spectacular to see glittering stacks of bloodmilk talismans and amulets on display. I may have purchased a thing. Okay…maybe two!

The next day I tagged along with my brother-in-law on some errands, during which we took a quick drive through Greenwood Cemetery which is utterly gorgeous, and which I had somehow never visited. Afterward we visited South Seminole Farm and Nursery and I poked along, haunting the herb shelves and spying on all the blooms and blossoms, while he checked out the boring stuff, like native ground cover.

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On Sunday we went to Disney World. Though I am a FL resident now and have been for the better part of 30 years, I can count on one finger the times I have been to this theme park. When I was much younger, I was obsessed with it, and of course, with the various Disney princesses, but as I grew older I came to really resent it. Full disclosure: that was because I was a scumbag who was dating an even more horrible person who was married (with kids) and I grew to detest anything that smacked of Disney or children’s fantasy.

It took me several years to get over that. I’m still not super rah-rah jazzed about all things Disney, but I genuinely did have a wonderful time staying at the Polynesian resort, drinking all of the tiki drinks, watching spectacular night time fireworks across the water, and spending the next day eating too much sugar and going on all the rides with my Viking. I guess it all depends on who you spend your time with, right? And I have been spending time with this particularly excellent human for five years now (as of this Friday the 13th!) and that’s sort of what this trip was all about. I even got the sequined Minnie ears to commemorate the occasion! Although he’ll tell you it’s because he wanted to see robot-Obama speak before the Hall of Presidents is closed down for the next six months, but I know what’s what.

Blue Dahlia

BooksCurrently knitting: the German doily inspired Blue Dahlia shawl. I’ve been coasting on socks and mitts for the past six months, so I thought I would start of the year with something a little more challenging and infinitely more fiddly. So far so good!

Currently reading: all of the library books! There’s this problem with borrowing library books, though. You can’t really read them at your leisure, so you either race through them, trying to finish them before the due date that you’ve already extended two or three times already, or you just let them pile up because you get involved in other things and then you must return them unfinished.  There’s always one or two from my stacks that remains sadly unread and most likely not revisited.

I just finished The Magicians, which despite wanting to punch the main character in the face, I totally adored. There’s something about the magic of ordinary folks being transplanted into unfamiliar worlds that makes for some of my favorite storytelling. Unspeakable Things, though intensely edifying, is a bit of a slog, so I’ve been breaking it up with the equally feminist How To Be A Woman (which, while hilarious, it’s the sort of humor that might grate on one’s nerves after a while.) I also checked out every Carrie Fisher book that my local branch had to offer but so far I have only finished Wishful Drinking, which was a quick and wonderfully witty read. Note to self: still need to see her stand up version of this.

mermaid

And of course, some one word film reviews. I am not sure how I got in so much in the way of movie watching since the 13th of December, but somehow there are 20+ titles on this list!

Beyond the Gates Yes (but mostly for Barbara Crampton)
Krampus Maybe
The Greasy Strangler DearGodNo (I didn’t even finish it)
Antibirth Yes!
The Magnificent Seven Maybe
Ghostbusters Maybe (don’t kill me, I didn’t love it)
SiREN Skip
The Autopsy of Jane Doe YES
The Handmaiden OMGYES
Fury Road HELLYES
Gone Girl meh
The Girl On the Train Maybe
The Good Neighbor Probably (it’s on netflix)
I Am Not A Serial Killer Definitely! (it’s on netflix)
The Fearless Vampire Killers Wheee!
Rusalochka Pretty! (it’s on youtube, in six parts)
Train to Busan Intense!
The Skeleton Twins yesyesyes
The Happening meh
Zootopia yes!
Tangled um (if you have mother issues, this is a little triggering)
Goosebumps hrm

16 Things I Loved In 2016

loveLet’s face it. There was not much to love about 2016. We watched as our beautiful, beloved dreams died one, by one. Whether it was our star men, our poet-bards, our very first motorcycle-riding, purple velvet wearing crushes, our hopes for a magnificent female president, or at least president who isn’t completely bat-shit bonkers, and as of when I began writing this– the loss of my beloved rebel princess, my very first role model–2016 was devastating in so many ways, and saw the end of so many wonderful things.

And so I look to the little things. The sweetness that lightened the burden. The small discoveries that made life easier, or little luxuries that eased a horrible day, a terrible month, or a no good, very bad year.

In no particular order, and for these reasons, here are 16 things I loved in 2016.
(Curious about my picks for previous years? Here’s 2015 & 2014)

nail

Christian Louboutin Nail Polish. Now someone will say to me, “Really, Sarah?”  A $50 nail polish?” And yes, I will agree, that’s pretty ridiculous. But the bottle is gorgeous, and the wand is the perfect petite height for my small hands (the stiletto lid is deceiving) and this is absolutely high quality lacquer, very long wearing. I mean, I guess it is. I knit and wash dishes and read books and type and use my hands a lot, and 2 coats lasts me a week without chipping. That’s pretty great, right? I wear it almost exclusively.

Oud Wood

Tom Ford Oud Wood Shower Gel. Yeah, so…if you weren’t keen on the thought of a $50 nail polish, you are probably not going to get on board with a $67 bottle of body wash. But this one smells like woods and incense and secret forest temples and is an utter treat. It is my secret weapon in the constant battle of “ugggghh…do I really have to shower today?”

baies

Diptyque Baies candle. I first sniffed this stunningly gorgeous candle whilst shopping at Uncommon Objects in Austin. They had it burning on a counter top near the entrance and I was so enthralled with the fragrant wafts drifting throughout the store that I had actually ordered the candle on my phone on amazon before I made a purchase from the shop I was actually in. Rude! I’m sorry, but I really had to have it. I was so surprised when I read the description for Baies: “a luscious blend of black-currant leaves and Bulgarian roses”. Usually these are not smells that I want anything to do with! But somehow this combines for a strikingly elegant scented object, a sort of woody-musky-green fragrance, that I never ever want to be without.

owl moon
Owl Moon bloodmilk X Black Phoenix Alchemy collabroative fragrance. From chapter one of bloodmilk’s sister shop, Exquisite Corpse, this is an exquisite, unique scent experience that literally sets my teeth on edge, but sometimes I need that very sort of fearsome inspiration and motivation. With notes described as “dark, rooty, sweet patchouli swirled with honey,” Owl Moon opens with the blackest, earthiest patchouli (before learning of the notes, I actually thought it was vetiver!) and calls to mind cool, moist soil at the base of a pine tree through which all of the busy little night creatures slither and crawl, the pale, ghostly light of the moon glinting off their scales and wings. A yellow-eyed owl, perched overhead, meditates briefly before silently embarking on his nightly hunt; the sour, screechy scent of his nest, littered with rodent bones and pellets, serves as a warning nearby.  This is the fragrance of potent night magics, rich and ripe with darkness and feral mysticism. The sharpness of the patchouli streaked with high-pitched honey combine to form an aura that is both graceful and grotesque, sacred and profane. If all of that reads familiar to you, this is exactly what I have written about Owl Moon before, elsewhere, but it’s not plagiarizing if it’s your own words, right?

hurraw

Hurraw lip balms. Several people mentioned these lip balms in passing this year, but I pooh-poohed them because I thought the name was dumb. Well, turns out I am an idiot. These are amazing. Vegan, organic, fair trade, all of the buzzwords that are bandied about, yes all of those things, but they are also smooth, and not at all draggy or grainy or melty or overly smelly, AND they have options that are not mint or fruit. Also, they are about $15 less than my previous favorite lipbalm, so Hurraw, despite the stupid name, is a win.

zenmed
Zenmed Anti-Redness Rosacea Treatment. I self-diagnosed myself with rosacea earlier this month, after noticing and freaking out over the course of the year fluctuations and flare-ups of redness and stinging on my face. Based on some suggestions from friends I tried this particular set of products from Zenmed and my face cleared up overnight. That is not an exaggeration or embellishment. It literally cleared up over night. (I also stopped drinking coffee and started taking omega-3s, but I really do think it was this thing in particular that did the trick.) I cannot recommend it highly enough.

And speaking of coffee. I would be remiss in not mentioning cold brew coffee on my list. Any kind, but especially the pre-made stuff in the bottle that you buy at the store. It was a lifesaver this summer when it was too hot to drink hot coffee, and I was too sweaty and lazy to go through the process of brewing the cold stuff. I’m not really drinking coffee anymore, but it certainly made this past May-August ever so much more bearable!

gardein

I think Gardein Breakfast Pockets may be my favorite discovery this year. I’m not one of those people who can eat as soon as I get out of bed in the morning; I need to take my time, sip a hot beverage (now that I’m not drinking coffee, the current beverage of choice is turmeric-ginger tea) and just go about my early hours ver-r-rrry slowly. It’s not that I am not a morning person–I am totally a morning person!– but it really does have to be at my own pace. I try to eat a little something right before my work day starts, and these hand-held little pockets are really delicious. I am also a person who absolutely cannot do sweet things in the morning, so to find a convenience food that isn’t a waffle or a poptart or a cloying breakfast bar is pretty awesome. It’s vegan, but I am under no illusions that it’s “healthy”. With no animal products and at only 200 calories though, it’s good enough for me. (Note: I am not vegan. Not even vegetarian.)

southern-reach-paperback-covers

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer left me speechless. I was certain nothing could ever measure up again, and I was very nearly afraid to start reading something else afterward! The books tell of the mysterious, dangerous wilderness of Area X and the humans exploring it: several decades ago, an inexplicable environmental change occurred and a large swath of land and sea was sealed behind an invisible and largely impenetrable barrier. “Inside it, nature shifted. It grew wild and pristine, dense and fertile—improbably pure, as though nature had said “Enough!” and reclaimed itself.”  It’s an uncanny, and genuinely surprising read that haunted me for days and probably will continue to do so for many years to come. With this series The New Yorker refers to Vandermeer as The Weird Thoreau, and …yep. Totally apt.

salt Salt Is For Curing by Sonya Vatomsky. I make myself very sad thinking about missed connections. What would life be like if perhaps I’d never gotten to know certain people, if I had carelessly just let those opportunities slip past? Sonya is one of these people. We connected via social media before I even knew they were a writer and I sometimes think…what if I’d totally ignored this weird person who started following me on twitter? What if I wasn’t a nosy so-n-so and took no notice of the fact that they were also a poet?  In my reading of Sonya’s book, Salt Is For Curing, it took all that I had not to devour this small book of spooky delights in one greedy instant. I feared that to do so, to ingest all of these potent magics at once, would give me a terribly heartsick sort of heartburn and yet leave me with the very worst sort of emptiness, knowing there is no more to be had. I drew it out for as long as I could stand. It is now in its fourth printing, which I think is basically unheard of for small press stuff, so, congrats my darling Soyna! Even if this is my fourth time saying so.

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What Is A Witch by Tin Can Forest and Pam Grossman is equal parts storybook, grimoire, comic book, and illuminated manuscript, What Is A Witch explores the many guises and archetypes of the witch–that ultimate icon of feminine power. The book’s lyrical language of night-song and half-rhymes, when given voice (and it absolutely must be read aloud), becomes a wild, witty, wondrous invocation, threaded throughout with fanciful visions, whimsical allegory, and magical truths. I engaged with its mesmerizing imagery and the poetic spell it cast, and immediately it awoke something within me. I felt it rise within myself, something fierce and surprising and nearly frightening in its power. If you feel yourself similarly compelled, don’t fight it. Go where this book takes you. See what you draw forth from yourself. Don’t be alarmed. Let it change you. This is magic, after all, and we are witches.

full-circle-packshot

It’s not spooky or eerie in the least, so it may surprise you to know that HÆLOS’ Full Circle is my favorite album this year. I know it’s not supposed to work this way, but I made my decision back in February and I’ve heard nothing that even comes close to changing my mind since that time. A sweeping, meditative album, comprised of down-tempo, melancholic dissonance, lustrous synth, and cinematic, kaleidoscopic strings; reminiscent of 90s atmospheric trip-hop, and reverberating with narcotic, late night poignancy, this is the sonic equivalent of the steady, gorgeous thrum and throbbing heartbeat of a hand in your own.

demonhandmaid

Two of my favorite movies this year would have to be Demon, incorporating Jewish folklore and demonic possession into a tragic tale that’s not quite horror and not quite comedy, but works quite well as precisely what it is not, and The Handmaiden, a gorgeous, deliciously twisted film, by Chan Wook Park.

coffins

My marvelous coffin-shaped jewelry and pin display boards from LifeAfterDeathDesign, which I have written more about previously here.

And numbers 14-16 are a cheat, but maybe more important than anything listed: I loved collaborating with my brilliant, talented, visionary friends on our various projects–we created not just one, but TWO wildly successful Occult Activity Books this year! That’s amazing!

I loved (is loved the right word?) that I knew when a relationship with a particular outlet was no longer working for me and was lucky enough to move on immediately to something not only better, but which also felt tremendously more right for me. Life is too short to be in an uncomfortable situation that makes you unhappy! Also, boo to bullies and blowhards, what ever form they take. I love that I finally knew when to move on, I guess is what I am saying.

And what about you? What did you take comfort in this year? What are some awesome discoveries you made? What are some of your favorites? Tell me all about it in the comments!

*featured heart garland image is, I think, from etsy seller Kirrakai

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