My main reading goal this year was to have finished five books that gave me trouble over the last few years. Meaning, I started the book, and then put it down, and then never got to the end. Whether the story was boring, or the content seemed too daunting, or perhaps I wasn’t in the right headspace to tackle the thoughts or the writing at the time–whatever the reason, the goal was to finish five such titles before the year’s end.
I finished exactly one of those books: The King of Elfland’s Daughter.Which was a sort of excruciating read and if you ask me, there wasn’t nearly enough of the titular daughter in it! No matter. It is done and finished and I need never look at it again. As for the other four books, well. That just didn’t happen.* But I did supplement with at least 70 other books that I wasn’t even supposed to be reading!
*I think I will try to work at least one of each in over the next few years.
In previous years I’d gotten quite a bit more reading done, but this year I was actually writing a book…and so for a good chunk of the year, the writing took precedence over the reading–reading for pleasure, anyway. There was a lot of reading for research, which just isn’t as fun. Even when the research-reading is something that you are interested in and have a passion for! Whatever “It” is, if you’re obligated to be doing It, It’s never as fun as the stuff you’re not doing. That’s just how it works!
Anyway, that project, while not completely finished, is a good 75% done, and after working on it in late spring-all summer–early fall, I felt it was finally safe to start reserving books at the library again. I’m afraid that for a few weeks there, I might have gone a little nuts.
With regard to my 2019 reads*, reviews, and resulting recommendations? Well, I’ve probably reviewed them already at Haute Macabre or will be doing so shortly, but feel free to peek over there under the “stacked” tag if you are curious about my thoughts of any of these.
However, if you want to skip all of that and get straight to my favorites, I will recommend the following because they were fantastic and might even warrant a second read some year in the far-flung future.
*read by me in 2019, though not necessarily published in 2019
Can I even read this book? Well…no. But I just received an autobiography on my beloved Maria Germanova all the way from Russia and I’m not gonna let a bunch of Cyrillic alphabets stand in my way!
To be perfectly honest, I had despaired of ever receiving this package. I don’t typically order many things from that part of the world and wasn’t sure how long it might take to arrive (and it seemed like it was taking forever! Although maybe I had only ordered it three weeks ago. Hm. I should better manage my expectations.)
In a prescient missive heralding things to come, I received the below image link via instagram yesterday from a friend. This is a great re-enactment of Maria Germanova’s Blue Bird costume–don’t the Laughing Cow cheese container disks just totally make it?! Brava to the creator! And as it happened, the book arrived not an hour later.
I cannot possibly say enough good and wonderful things about Pam Grossman’s Waking The Witch…but I do give it a try over on Haute Macabre today! Be sure to stop by for my review, give a heartfelt congratulations to Pam for putting such a fantastic piece of magic and witchery out into the world, and leave a comment on the blog for the opportunity to win a signed copy!
By my broom,” said she, “I give you no spell against magic.”
It’s taken me three years, but I have finally finished reading Lord Dunsany’s The King Of Elfland’s Daughter. It was a bit of a slog, but I’ll confess: this enchanting passage kicks off the point at which the story begins to redeem itself for me (20 pages from the end, oh well.) The ageless, enigmatic Ziroonderel is the star of the show as far as I’m concerned. “As though magic were not the spice and essence of life, its ornament and its splendor.” Quite right! Send that parliament of old fools packing, you wise, wonderful old thing!
This title marks the first of my five goal books read in 2019, though it is book 25 of the total read so far this year. Next up: The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies by Clark Ashton Smith, which I began in late summer of 2017 and was actually enjoying very much, but I became distracted by other books, set it aside, and it was soon buried and forgotten.
For the winter holidays this past year I suggested to my baby sister that if she wanted to get me something in addition to the planner that you’ve all heard so much about recently, why not one of her very favorite books? The sort of comfort read that she might return to year after year, savor time and time again. She presented me with Rosamunde Pilcher’s Coming Home.
“Against the backdrop of an elegant Cornwall mansion before World War II and a vast continent-spanning canvas during the turbulent war years, this involving story tells of an extraordinary young woman’s coming of age, coming to grips with love and sadness, and in every sense of the term, coming home…”
I hadn’t yet started the book, but I learned that Rosamunde Pilcher passed away yesterday, so I thought I’d begin reading it this very afternoon in honor of both the author and the story that so captivated my sister. And in honor of the one who so thoughtfully gave me a tiny piece of her history to cherish, I thought I would dine on what I imagine one of her favorite snacks used to be at the time she discovered her love for this specific book: a generous helping of bright orange Cheezits. To sip, a serving of delicious diet chemicals, which I do not believe she ever developed a taste for.
And you? If you were to gift a loved one with your most beloved, returned-to-time-and-time-again story, what would it be? Do you recall where you were in your life’s path when that book became so vital to you? And of course, it’s always helpful to pair a special snack with your comfort reading–what would you recommend your loved one to pair with your book?
Early last week I was in the heady throes of the honeymoon stage with my new planner…I was riding the high of having written down a thing AND done it, AND I went on to do the next thing, as well. And the next!
It was, as I said, I very heady feeling, and dare I say…empowering. I found myself taking care of something I had put off for six months (it involved a phone call…and not just an easy, 5 minute phone call, but the kind where they’d probably put you on hold and transfer you to six different departments, to which you would have to explain your problem six times over, and then they’d try to talk you out of whatever you want, or they’d have to get a manager…and then more hold time…you get the idea. I did not want to make this phone call.)
Last week I:
-called the bank to initiate a thing
-ordered new eyeglasses
-scheduled an eye doctor appointment
-scheduled a dentist appointment (it has literally been 20+ years)
-scheduled an appointment with the dermatologist
-scheduled a appointment with a new therapist (gonna give it another try!)
-canceled three services (I had to make phone calls for all three!)
-wrote a handful of things
-went to see my nail tech and got my claws removed
-participated in a monthly call for creative women
-went to Post Office (twice)
-went to library (twice)
-cleaned out closet and all clothing drawers, all without having watched or read Marie Kondo
If I am being honest, all this is probably more than I get around to doing in a year! I am basically the PLANNINATOR, crushing all goals!
So, you may be wondering, what brought about this flurry of productivity, is it sustainable and can we really chalk it up to the the acquisition of a new planner?
To backtrack just a little, this new planner was a gift from my youngest sister (see previous planner post from her, to give you an idea as to her dedication to planners and planning.) I had her asked if she thought that she was up to the task of picking out a planner for me and perhaps some fun accessories, as a holiday gift. As I expected, she was super excited about the possibilities! I think nothing would make her happier than to have all her sisters in the same room together, gleefully ignoring each other as they plot and plan and scheme their days away in their respective planners.
With a few guidelines from me, that this new planner be:
1. undated, but with time slots, and
2. it’s gotta be black!, and
3. hard bound (as opposed to ringed)
…she said that with all of my restrictions, I didn’t leave her a lot to work with and she ended up going with a Passion Planner. Here’s what they have to say about themselves:
“Passion Planner is the one place for all your thoughts. It’s more than just a planner—it’s a tool that helps you break down your short and long-term goals and incorporate them into your daily life. It has been designed to encourage you to plan for the future, reflect on the past, but most importantly, act on the present. Think of it as a paper life coach — ready 24/7 to challenge you to focus on what is most important, accept your thoughts and ideas without judgment, and prompt you to reflect on your everyday life. We hope that it becomes a place where you can declutter your mind, allowing you to focus on the present moment.”
I also asked her to feel free to include lots of fun accessories…even though I don’t really know how they work or what I am supposed to do with them and I’m actually convinced I don’t even know what “fun” is, or how it works. But it seemed important to include stickers! And washi tape! I mean but also what are you supposed to do with washi tape? I don’t know!
And I know I’m hard to shop for, I want “sort of, you know, “goth”, but not like, Victorian goth, or cutesy goth, or Halloween-y goth, or like 1992-era Spencer’s Gifts, goth.”
I guess what I am saying that I don’t want anything too cheesy or too “on the nose.” So… that pretty much rules out everything on Etsy, because Etsy tends to be all of those things. So instead she went with something far easier to pin down–cats and Sailor Moon!
…and a darling pouch for all of my accoutrements!
If you’re curious as to where she picked up the stickers, the tape, and the pouch, these are the three shops that she shared with me:
The Passion Planner is much larger than the one I was previously using, seen here for comparison. But honestly, I like both sizes! I’m really digging the larger version right now, but that could be due to me being the kind of person who adapts pretty easily and I generally reach the conclusion that what I am doing now is better than what I was doing before. I like that I can really sprawl and ramble with my thoughts and ideas, but I do see how this larger one might be a little bit more challenging to travel with, but my planner stays at my desk all the time, so that’s not really a concern.
If you’re interested, I was previously using the undated planner from Ink + Volt, and I thought it was pretty great. I didn’t use it consistently, and it wasn’t exactly for planning and scheduling purposes (more like for ideas and brainstorming and lists) and because it’s undated, I think I have probably been using it for two years now. Highly recommended!
ALSO: because my sister is a marvel and she knows me pretty well, she DID find me some “goth but not really” stickers, and they are perfect. As an aside, I gotta find another word to sum up my “goth but not really” aesthetic. But the best I’ve been able to come up with, that doesn’t sound too long-winded, self-important, or cheesy, is “cats and darkness”. I don’t know that it’s an important distinction, I mean I know what I mean and I know it when I see it. And the more I belabor the point, the more it sounds like I’m putting down the stuff that doesn’t fall into my narrow criteria–which I don’t mean to do! If you like it, it’s very good! As the sample lady once told our other sister, when she was sampling some sheet cake or bagel bites or whatever at Costco on a Saturday afternoon. “If you like it, it’s very good!”
SO THEN. Week One of using my planner was a spectacular success! I wrote a lot of stuff down, and I crossed a lot of stuff off my list. Or I put a checkmark next to it. (Are you a crosser or a checker? What’s the difference, anyway?) This week I’m…well, let’s say I’m a tad less enthusiastic.I actually might have overdone it last week, and maybe made myself a little manic about it (I mean, I seriously did feel a little crazed) and I’m still recovering, heh heh. I mean to the point that, even after writing almost 1200 words about the thing and having taken a whole mess of photos of it today, I don’t think I have actually written a single thing in it..
Well, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow! Which, I don’t think Macbeth was talking about his planner when he said :
“.To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time;”
…but then again if Macbeth had all these stickers and washi tapes at his disposal, he might have been a PLANNINATOR too. Also if you look up #pashfam on instagram, you won’t see a lot of Shakespeare but you might find some layout ideas and different tips and tricks and suggestions for how other users put their Passion Planner to work. I am passing that tidbit on not having looked at it myself, because I’m stubborn and I am pretty sure I don’t need to see how other people do things, but wow, that sounds really bad when I see it in black and white like that. Maybe I’ll just take a peek.
On the Haute Macabre blog today, Needful Things is back (it’s a regular-ish feature now, wheee!) and the staff writers dish on the stuff & things–both fancy and fundamental– that we’ve been enamored with this past summer. Have a peek! You may find your own next needful thing here.
Also this week we dust off our Aural Fixation feature to discuss some of our favorite podcasts. Admittedly, this is a bit of a ploy to get you guys to chime in with some of your own, so that we can expand our libraries 😉
And lastly, you can take a gander at August’s gathering of late summer reads! See what books the Haute Macabre writers loved, the books we loathed, and the books we’d swan about in a posh library looking gorgeous with, like Madonna here.