off the shelf: what I read – May through October [a summer to fall round-up]

I debated posting these, but I DID read a lot of books during the interim and I wanted to get back on track, so why not. These are micro reviews because it’s been months… Mostly impressions and an impromptu rating system of 🍰

Read (listed from most recent)

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters – 🍰🍰🍰

A long delayed read, but worth it. She’s creepy y’all. More so than Affinity and definitely a spooky read if that’s what you’re into.

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt – 🍰🍰🍰

My first Hoyt and likely not my last. This was fun. I think it’s her first novel, if I recall correctly, so it’s a little dated and some phrases made me giggle-snort, but fun time had by all. (The “prince” has the same name as the Boy so that made me giggle-snort 10xs more)

And then it became my summer of Sarah MacLean…

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰

Lady in pants! I love a lady in pants. I was super excited to get to this one (the big twist in the Scoundrels series), but I think I hyped myself up to hard and I felt a little meh about the heroine after seeing her character in the earlier books.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

Oh, this was a good one! More angst (gah! I love it!). Lots of groveling. A woman with a past who is skilled at knocking men out, and a man with a reputation for doing the same. Also, see adorable troupe of meddling boys.

Bombshell by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

We’ve reached the Victorians and it’s a hell of a ride. Girl gangs, secret identities, and a spot of explosives.

The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

This is the most “controversial” of Sarah MacLean’s books, but I ate it with a spoon! Complex second chance romance (because he done f*cked up) with a LOT of angst. This is my catnip.

TW: miscarriage and cheating.

A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

Ward/Guardian romance with a ward who knows her mind.

Broke Millennial Takes on Investing by Erin Lowry – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

The Broke Millennial series is great if you’re interested in upping your finance game without Business Bro speak or convoluted finance jargon. The different “tracks” make it easy to learn what you need without reading material you know.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

The book that started me on this binge… The first in the Scandal & Scoundrel series. Sophie is everything that I love in a “wallflower” heroine – takes charge and isn’t afraid to handle a man (too often, writers use the “I’m a virgin and don’t know what a man is” trope and I HATE it – this book does not do that). Runaway adventure with a touch of second chance.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

I started reading this and within days I learned that my mom and gran had covid… had to go on a hiatus until they recovered because reading about a dying mother and having a mother in peril was a little too hard.

Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – 🍰🍰🍰

One of those SEP classics that gets name-dropped on Fated Mates on a regular basis, so I finally had to read it. SEP does not shy away from weird, questionable plots. There’s some serious consent re: secret baby (and how she gets it), but it is what it is. You also get a trio of mountain women eschewing men with a firm hand (and maybe a shotgun).

Flirting with Forever by Cara Bastone – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

A sweet, sort of enemies-to-lovers because of a silly misunderstanding love story between a slightly older woman and an adorable lawyer who wants to help everyone. See also, man with cat πŸ’–

The Queen’s Triumph by Jessie Mihalik – 🍰🍰🍰

The third in the Rogue Queen series. Space opera romance FTW! Also, one of my insta-buy authors πŸ˜‰.

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

This book is bonkers in the best way. It’s older, so beware dynamics and situations that wouldn’t fly today, but it’s such a random, fun read. Broke rich girl forced to marry circus performer by her Russian royalty obsessed father (I told you it’s bonkers).

TW: It came out in the mid-90s, you’re in for some dubious consent moments.

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami – 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

Vignettes and a very slow, unexpected romance between a salary woman and her former sensei.

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

This may be my favorite in the Modern Love series. Influencer gets catfished by her celebrity crush (or does she?).

Taming Him by Kennedy Fox – 🍰🍰

This one’s on me. I wasn’t expecting a baby plot, so I kind of meh-ed on the latter half of the book. Want to read more of the series though, as cowboys are a thing I didn’t know I needed.

DNF

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin – πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ I liked the concept, but it wasn’t for me. Give me this book with adult characters and less Magisterium style churchiness and I’m in.

Audiobooks

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – 🍰🍰

One of those canonical horror stories you have to read. Read it for the podcast, so you can hear my thoughts here

Episode 48: The Haunting of Hill House The Bluestocking Circle Podcast

In which we break down the horrors of solitude, learn that ghosts will improve most stories, and, as always, expect more murder. All this and more as the Bluestockings discuss the book The Haunting of Hill House.

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in memoriam

of a very good boy

Oreo was my pandemic cat. A sweet street cat who experienced several traumatic infections between 2019 and 2020. He was around 6 years old based on my mom’s neuter records, but we’re not sure the day he was born (his mom brought him when he was a few weeks old).

I adopted him a few months after losing Caramelo in October 2020. I wasn’t ready to adopt a cat, but I didn’t want to risk his having a third infection (they were brutal, turned into massive, hard to treat abscesses, and required surgery), so I brought him home and hoped for the best, knowing that he might be a hospice case.

After so long, I thought he was clear, but his heart was too big. He was so big-hearted, his little body couldn’t keep up. We lost him on October 30th at 3am, a year to the day I adopted him.

quiet day diaries: a catch-up

in which it all goes sideways

This month started on the wrong foot and kept hobbling along. Among the disasters were several incidents involving my job and the place where I work in general, including an active shooter threat in my building, which led to a lot of stress and anxiety as admin tried to keep it quiet to avoid panic on campus. No update yet on who wrote the note, but the threat hangs over us.

This week, I got my covid booster, and it knocked me out. Simultaneously, my tuxedo cat went into a respiratory crisis overnight. As I write this, I don’t know what will happen or what his prognosis will look like. I’m anxious and feeling a terrible sense of dread and deja vu after what happened to my last two cats.

In happier news, I made an update to the writing progress series on my channel

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quiet day diaries: week of October 4

This week got away from me. There were good days and bad days, a mild migraine that took three days to break (along with the weather), and a nagging sense of dread as I wait for a meeting that may or may not change things drastically for me at work (I’m really hoping for the not). I got a decent amount of editing done, but I think I maxed out this stage of edits and I’m ready to move on. There’s no sense in putting so much energy into individual word choices with such intensity when the draft is going to go through further iterations whether I get a trad deal or take the plunge into small business-dom and self-publish. I’ll give it another quick polish to prep it, but I’m feeling ready to query and try my luck. Once again, it feels like terrible timing with NaNo around the corner and the holidays right after, but there’s never a perfect time to start. I just have to start. First things first, I’ll prep my submission materials and made my list of agents. The rest is out of my hands.

I’m also leaning into the possibility of a NaNo project… I doubt I’ll “win,” but the real win lies in getting the darn thing out of my head and onto the page. I might be taking on too much. I need to avoid burnout, but it would be nice to try. Either way, it’s just a thought at this stage.

I’ve been making more time to take care of my physical self as well. It’s helping my mood and my migraines, but there are lot of complex feelings surrounding my current relationship with my body and my health. I would like to talk my feelings out in a video, but I’m working myself up to it.

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quiet day diaries: week of September 27

Monday

Back to the office and drama is brewing in my inbox… not looking forward to the meeting it’s tangled up in. Super tired today after a night of poor sleep. My evening was not the least bit productive, but a random conversation led to a David Bowie music video binge that took me back to my days trying to view music video clips on a dial up connection because I was so desperate for access to rare videos. Love that musical genius. Miss him always.

Tuesday

Slightly more productive at work at least. My after work writing schedule has been a bust and my goal to wrap up this stage by the end of September is not going to happen (I missed about 12 days of writing this month because of migraines and extra demands at work and home).

Wednesday

Welp. I’m caught in a situation that affects a bunch of jobs in my organization. Hoping this gets handled to everyone’s benefit and doesn’t become a dumpster πŸ”₯.

Thursday

It was supposed to be a quiet WFH day. It turned into a busy meetings and email frenzy day. Really hoping that this situation can be resolved without it turning into a storm.

Friday

And there went my half day, which turned into an over hours day of phone calls and texts about the mess that’s been brewing. It’s been on my mind for days and will continue to linger until it gets resolved (One way or another. Hoping for the least painful option.)

Saturday – Sunday

A very productive weekend. Joined in for the Heart Breathings Double Down Sprints (it always takes me by surprise, though it’s a regular event), and managed to work through 2/3rds of the very long list of “look” phrases I’m replacing with action verbs. I’ve gone through several crutch words, but I left the most used ones for the end… look is not even the worst of the lot, but it’s too often used where a better phrase or word makes for a stronger sentence.

Had ice cream. That was a mistake, but we deal with it (cue the bloating, cramping, and skin issues).

Latest podcast for your listening pleasure

Minisode 49.5: Follow-up & First Impressions The Bluestocking Circle Podcast

Kat cannot dodge an upcoming sequel, Gricel does not forget Margaret, and Bee likes the way our next protagonist thinks. The lady nerds remain in the rabbit hole, continue an annual bluestocking tradition, and prepare for our cozy next pick.

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quiet day diaries: week of September 20

Monday

Back to the office and randomly selected for covid testing.

Tuesday

Took a half day to watch my grandmother while my mom got her flu shot. It’s become harder for my mom to get time for herself now that my grandmother is full bed-bound, so I stay with her when my mom has to go out. She took the opportunity to have a little Target shopping spree while she was at it.

I may have squeezed too much into my day because my migraine came back full force.

Wednesday

Migraine was terrible this morning. I have to host a meeting tomorrow, so I stayed home to get as much recovery time as possible. It’s likely a combination of post-period hormones and the latest front headed our way. I’ve taken all the things and tried all of my non-drug interventions to no avail; the most relief I get is a few hours between intense attacks. Really hoping this rest day brings it down to a 1 or 2 level. This morning it was a 5/6. (I have a high pain tolerance, my 5 may be another’s 8, but it means I can get around, but feel better in a dark room with little to no movement and don’t feel like driving is a smart option).

Thursday

Staying home certainly helped. Meeting went fine except for a really poorly timed power outage that seems to have messed with something in my laptop and made it sound like someone was drilling in my office. It was pretty bad and but it did resolve after the fact, so I’m hopeful that it won’t happen again (or I can fix it with a reboot).

I vlogged this day as a migraine DITL

Friday

WFH day hurray!

Saturday – Sunday

Not much writing, but there was bubble tea to end the weekend. This week’s migraine hit me hard and I had an extra hard time focusing. Still, some progress is better than none.

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quiet day diaries: week of September 13

Monday

Out of isolation now that my test results were negative. Back to the office and ready to catch up on all the work that I didn’t have the brain space for last week. It was a genuine struggle to be able to focus between the low-level migraine I was nursing and the sense of unease as I waited for my results, all while acting like everything was ok when interacting with people remotely.

My lymph nodes feel a little swollen after my flu shot, but otherwise no reaction beyond the initial arm soreness.

Tuesday

Started the day with a meeting. I cannot understand why anyone chooses to schedule meetings at 9am or 4pm (especially on a Friday). Those are terrible hours. No one wants to meet at those hours. Stop it, you’re a sadist.

Wednesday

Worked from home today because I had back to back meetings from 10 to 4:30 and I like the flexibility of being able to move around without needing to be locked in my office.

Thursday

A day off to deal with mom stuff. The cats were not pleased, but it made for a nice change of pace. Spend the morning reading, then did some tidying and finished up with a few writing sprints. It was a nice reset.

Friday

off to work, off to take another test. The cycle continues.

Saturday – Sunday

Back to writing and a bout of intense dusting. I even wiped down the walls (an easy task I put off for way too long). Next week, I deep clean the bathroom…

Test came back negative, but the boy has been going through something that may or may not be the panini (I heard someone call it this and I love it). Waiting on his test, but he’s doing ok so far. He helped me deal with some of the cat drama on Thursday, but it was a limited exposure so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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quiet day diaries: week of September 6

Monday

I’m starting to think that what I’m struggling with is the lack of change re: editing. At this stage in the process, I would normally be writing in public spaces (libraries, coffee shops, etc.) to give my brain a sense of space that I can associate with work, but every day is the same and every draft has been written inside the same four walls for the last year and a half. Maybe that’s why I’m struggling. It feels like I’m not making any progress because nothing changes. Rationally, I know that’s not trueβ€”I’m definitely making progressβ€”but coming to this stage of the draft, where so much of the work is in the minutiae, it feels like it’s dragging along.

I might try music. This is not quiet sprint work.

Test came back negative but my anxious brain won’t let me stop wondering what if I tested too early. 😣

Tuesday

Test done. Hoping my results come in faster than the last time. My throat tightness feels better, but I’m not willing to chance it when I can wait for results. We’re too small of a department and too open to the public.

Wednesday

The place where I work has this absurd cybersecurity training program that happens every year. Well, this year the IT department made such a crap effort at sending out the initial message that I missed it. And so did everyone else in my department. Because it looked like a freakin spam message! Good job newsletter writer who buried the lead and did not even include a link to the training site(!). FFS. It’s due this week and I have a million other things to finish and no time for an hours-long training program that repeats the same information I had to learn last year.

Thursday

Test finally arrived late at night. Negative! Yes! Two scares in as many weeks is two too many. Also, I’ve gotten somewhat used to working on certain types of projects in my office again and this week has dragged.

Friday

Reported my results so I can return to the office next week. As I write, my neighbor is pace-stomping across the other side of my bedroom and I want to hit something. He does this for HOURS and it drives me bonkers. I swear he’s wearing work boots while he does it because it’s beyond loud. This is the guy who also thinks it’s okay to deadlift and slam his weights down in a second story apartment, so I wouldn’t put it past him. (I often wonder at the state of their floors. While my place has terrible carpet, theirs has the original wood floors.)

Saturday – Sunday

A super productive weekend! It was a working weekend, which pushed me to make the most of the non-work hours. It’s like the pressure before a deadline, I often find my focus when time is limited. Not a procrastination thing, just a pack as much as I can thing… not sure which is worse TBH.

Anyhow, I cleaned my car and got it washed (after spending πŸ’Έ on maintenance work), got my flu shot, and started going through crutch words I’m culling out of the draft. All in all, a good weekend for life projects.

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quiet day diaries: week of August 30

Monday

Back at the office, feeling like I didn’t get any time off because of my weekend shift (because I didn’t). I planned poorly and should’ve cleared my schedule this week, but no rest and all that. I’m taking a little extra time off during my WFH day this week to make up for it (and to rest my brain because, let’s face it, my work is purely cerebral).

Tuesday

Stormy day with a persistent migraine in my cervical neck area. Sigh. I’m definitely susceptible to the weather. Also, driving stress. It’s been an achy start to the week and I’m extra puffy from water retention because of the advil and the migraine itself. I hate it.

Wednesday

Mom’s test came back negative! πŸ₯³

Thursday

Worked from home today, which was the right choice because I did not feel well during my afternoon meeting. Hurray for Zoom. And the mute button.

Everything feels so unsettled at the moment; it’s getting harder to focus when so much of the future is in question. Honestly, at this point, I’m just waiting for the day I get covid because so little is in my control with our current political situation. And don’t get me started on the latest wave of attacks to women’s rights. Every headline is a real-life nightmare.

Friday

Did I spend most of my day in traffic? Yes. It was one of those days. Just lots of driving. And another covid test. 😞

Saturday – Sunday

Am I avoiding my latest look at the draft? Maybe. Or am I just burned out? Likely, both.

Saturday started with a lost dog adventure courtesy of the boy and ended with a semi-planned jaunt across county lines to buy black sugar milk tea mix at my favorite Korean market. It was a worthy effort to procrastinate. Tomorrow, I will face the damn draft once again.

On the bright side, it’s been cool enough to open the windows for the first time in months. At least there’s a silver lining to the very wet weather we’ve had this week.

Sunday. Still waiting. It’s highly unlikely that my results will be available until after the holiday, so I’ve been put on the quarantine list at work. My throat feels tight and has for a few days, which is how my mom’s infection started and my coworker’s too. I’m hoping I’m wrong, but this may be th one.

No writing yet. Taking care of housework and trying not to fixate on possible symptoms.

Meanwhile, I’m catching up on the vlog.

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quiet day diaries: week of August 23

Monday

I work in education and classes have started once again. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious about the influx of students on campus, though it is nice to see students get excited about our welcome back freebies. Even our ugly water bottles have been a hit. (They’re hideous. The person who designed them should never be allowed to design merch.)

Mom got tested today. 🀞 hoping she tests negative. The aide who infected her and my gran might also be offer her infection, so my mom might be able to get some help again (the agency, understandably, would not send an aide while they were infected… though, yes, it was an aide who infected them. It’s the crazy state we’re in).

Tuesday

One of the people in my unit is sick. We don’t know if it’s covid yet, but it’s not like it’s impossible. Luckily, everyone in my unit is vaccinated, so I feel some relief knowing that. Went to get myself tested and advised the others who were in contact with this person to get as well. I’m defying policy by doing that, but I care more about our collective health than some stupid policy.

Anyhow, it was a long morning, made longer by the fact that there was a poorly timed change to our library system a week ago, so the volume of phone calls, chats, and zooms has been bananas.

I saw an article in the NYT about folks complaining about being required to go back into their “isolation bubble” and all I can say is the grass is always greener. I wish I was in an isolation bubble instead of exposed to thousands of people every day, but that’s Florida for you.

Wednesday

Disaster. Mom’s test was invalid because the sample was bad. For reasons it’s really hard for her to get tested and now she has to do it again. I got her an at home test in the meantime.

Thursday

Got a negative covid test! πŸ₯³An hour later, I get a notice telling me I need to test because there’s a confirmed case in my department and my timing might’ve been off. Deep sigh.

On the plus side, moms at home test is negative. She wants a PCR to be certain but I’m pretty sure she’s in the clear.

My life is a reflection of the sad state I’m in at the moment. Trying to stay positive.

Friday

Gran’s test came back and she’s still testing positive, 20 days after the first sign of infection (which was a mild fever). We can’t tell if she’s feeling anything because of her Alzheimer’s (she can no longer communicate) but she is showing no visible symptoms.

Still waiting for my test results to verify or negate my earlier test.

Saturday – Sunday

The weekend kind of got away from me. Worked on Saturday and it was non-stop busy. I felt drained after my shift and didn’t want to do much of anything, which led to a bit of unplanned restaurant spending. It’s a long story, but I’ve been trying to reduce my non-essential spending and the weekend definitely took me over my planned budget for the week. Sunday wasn’t much better, but it led to some nice moments, which I don’t regret. Memories are all we have sometimes.

Second test came back negative 😊. Hoping we don’t have another scare in my department.

In my exhaustion (cough depression), I failed to share the last few episodes. These were extra fun to record and brought some lightness to my days.

Minisode 49.5: Follow-up & First Impressions The Bluestocking Circle Podcast

Kat cannot dodge an upcoming sequel, Gricel does not forget Margaret, and Bee likes the way our next protagonist thinks. The lady nerds remain in the rabbit hole, continue an annual bluestocking tradition, and prepare for our cozy next pick.
  1. Minisode 49.5: Follow-up & First Impressions
  2. Episode 49: The Matrix Re-Examined
  3. Minisode 48.5: Follow-up & First Impressions

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