So… a few years ago when I started getting really interested in North Korea and how it became North Korea, I also started a little pet project: writing a sci-fi graphic novel set in the unspecified near future that paralleled life in the hermit kingdom to life in the increasingly corrupt and dangerous United States.
I would like to now take the time to apologize to the universe and say I WAS NOT MAKING A WISH, but if there was some confusion, I take responsibility and would now like to use my other two wishes to reverse this horror I have brought upon the world.
In light of these troubling events, I’m going to start working on my graphic novel Hermit Kingdom again, and generally keeping track of the development of fascism in America. If you’d like to follow along, click on over to this link!
If you’d like to troll me about some fat rapist piss-baby that YOU think should be president, click on over to this link!
Here’s part two (Books 16-30) of “All the Books I’ve Read in Korea,” a thrilling series that only one person in the entire world cares about (me.) Enjoy!
16. The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket. I suddenly got the urge to read the first Series of Unfortunate Events book, because despite knowing the stories well I don’t remember ever reading them as a child. Also because I realized at this point that I was behind on my book count for my reading challenge, and children’s books are always the way to go for quick catchups. I think I read this in one sitting, and it was the same sort of feeling I got from not reading it in childhood: the idea is totally for me, but the book itself isn’t.
17. Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay. I listened to this while getting my classroom ready before school started, I think? I have memories of climbing onto the cabinets to take some truly horrendous paper vines down off the bulletin board at the same time as Gay is talking about Green Girl and the need for truly feminist media. It was empowering, but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. Mostly, I think, because it was too long in parts.
18. Why Not Me – Mindy Kaling. Oh. This book. This book may have very well saved my life. Well, or my sanity. Definitely one of those, maybe both. So let me tell you a story. This is a story about a girl who, despite being naturally fairly durable with quick reflexes, does not like to exercise. Or go outside. Or, you know, be active in general. This girl thought it would be fun to go on a light hiking trip to one of the most beautiful places in Facebook photos, Seoraksan, a very tall mountain in Korea. This girl thought that, for the trip to be open to the public and publicized as a casual hike with some options for more experienced hikers, the way would be, if a bit sweaty, still doable. This girl then went hiking with a group of people who were obviously masochistic psychopaths parading as casual hikers, including her trip-buddy, a military trained outdoors hiker from Finland who decided to do the 12-hour hike up to the very highest peak of the mountain “just because.” That girl, if you didn’t already know, was a pitiable Past Weatherly, who had no idea that Korea is the Land of the Morning Calm, the Country of Kimchi, and the Nation of the Worst Mountains in the History of Mountains Seriously Who the Fuck Decided to Make This Torture a Pastime?
Basically, I separated myself from the group of crazies, turned on my Mindy Kaling audiobook, and took frequent stone naps, starting at 3am and progressing to 4pm. It was a learning experience wherein the thing I learned was that I refuse to ever experience that again.
The book was hilarious, though.
18. Carry On – Rainbow Rowell. I’m a big fan of Rowell’s other work (see Fangirl, my comfort read to end all comfort reads), but this one was just ok. It felt like a novelty. I mean, it was sort of a novelty, but the best novelties feel important, at least in the moment. I guess that made it a novel novelty. heh.
19. Devil in the White City – Erik Larson. Because nothing says “relax into a cozy chilly November” than reading about serial killers. What, that doesn’t work for you? huh.
20. Tampa – Alissa Nutting. To be perfectly honest, reading about a teacher who sleeps with her young students while being a teacher constantly surrounded by young students was one of the most disturbing reading experiences of my life. This book was super difficult to read (I think it took me four months in total, actually), and the comparisons to Lolita stop at the pedophilia– the writing isn’t anything gorgeous. It’s straightforward, though, and it definitely does its job in crafting a truly horrifying villain in the main character. So… good job? I guess? *Rushes to take 1,000 showers*
21. Julie & Julia – Julie Powell. This is another comfort read for me, and I read it more as a motivational book than a memoir. The idea of doing something every single day for a year and documenting it is something I’m SUPER INTO, though of course you’d never know it by my complete lack of blog… Whenever I read this book, I also get the completely unfounded notion that I might be a culinary genius. This high lasts for about as long as it takes me to fail at baking a potato, or burn a grilled cheese that I have put expensive cheese on, for the flavor palate.
22. Blue is the Warmest Color – Julie Maroh. This broke my heart into a thousand pieces. I read this as a substitute for watching the movie, which I am self aware enough to realize will deliver an emotional blow from which I will never recover.
23. Flora and the Flamingo – Molly Idle. Look, I was behind on my book count so I read a children’s book alright? Sue me.
24. Under the Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer. Being completely non-religious myself, I find great joy in learning about religious practices leading to a violent, crazed end. Plus, you know, Mormons. I can’t get enough of Mormons.
25. One More Thing – BJ Novak. This was a reread, and is one of my favorite short story collections of all time. My dad hates it because when we listened to the audiobook in the car, the first two minutes had the word ‘fuck’ maybe 16 times. It’s an acquired taste, I guess.
26. Pixies – Sean Patrick O’Reilly. Pass.
27. Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak. So I read several children’s books. SUE ME AGAIN, THEN. MY LAWYER’S NUMBER CAN BE FOUND ON A BILLBOARD IN LOWER ALABAMA.
28. Powerpuff Girls, Various– Troy Little.I mean. It’s the Powerpuff Girls. (Whenever a series of comics comes up, I’m just going to count them as one, because I probably have no idea which individual book is which anyways, and you probably don’t care. It’s a win-win, if by “win” I meant “arbitrary decision.”
29.Adventure Time, Various. I mean. It’s Adventure Time. (Actually, no, these weren’t my favorite, I read them to catch on my lagging book count, and because they was free on Scribd. I really like the TV series, but I find the comics to be a little dull, except for the ones about Marceline x PB, and the ones about Fionna and Cake.)
30. Conversation #1 – James Kochalka. This is a conversation about philosophy and what art means and other deep stuff, that takes place between two artists in the medium of art. It’s pretty neat.
The next 15 contain a lot of chick books and a lot of comic books. What joy.
One of my habits when I start a new physical book is to make a note in the front of when I start reading it and where I am at that moment. This past year I’ve had the (honestly too intense) pleasure of being able to write “Started in Korea” on a lot of inside covers, hopefully to be found sometime in the future, when my future self will be amazed that that object was once in a foreign country, and the body holding it was there with it.
Then again, maybe I’ll continue my well-established habit, and never ever pick up any of these books again. *Shrug* whatevskies. Here are the books I read in Korea (part 1.)
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair – Nina Sankovitch. This one, to be fair was started in the US and finished, I think, either at the airport or on the plane. Still, I’ll count it for nostalgia’s sake.)
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro. I read this book in the week when I had no wifi in my house, and was pretty sure I’d just made the biggest mistake of my life moving to a random country on the opposite side of the globe. I felt completely cut off from everyone I knew, from everyone I didn’t know, from life in general. I cried a lot. I loved this book.
The Bees – Laline Paull. I have distinct memories of listening to this audiobook in the very, very long taxi ride from my first hotel to my school (before every seeing my apartment.) I remember feeling equal parts incredibly calm (oh look, a bridge over a body of water! Where I’m from, there’s also a bridge over a body of water! I’m practically in Alabama!) and incredibly panicky (why did my recruiter not pick me up? Why am I going to the school already? Am I going to have to teach? If I run away now and somehow hitch a ride back to America would it be possible to fake being in Korea for a year to hide my shame?) It probably goes without saying, but I probably would have enjoyed this book if I could have found any room in my head at all to give an iota of a shit about bees.
Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan. See The Bees-era freak out. I honestly don’t even remember reading this book.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet – Felicia Day. This is the book that both brought me down from a panic attack (s. Multiple. Maybe a week’s worth…) and also motivated me to get out of my house to find the elusive “PC Bang” down the street. I would have walked for an entire day listening to this audiobook, for five minutes of uninterrupted wifi. Thankfully, it’s about a mile away, and the man took pity on me/possibly had never seen a white girl in his entire life, and gave me wifi for free. Ahh, Felicia Day. This book is why I love you so so much.
Forever – Judy Blume. This was when I started getting my bearings just a *bit* more (though possibly still in the WifiLess Week Hellscape of 2015, hard to say), and I thought I should probably read some Judy Blume, because I’d somehow managed to go through prepubescence as a girl and not done so. This was alright. I think I missed the right age for Judy Blume. By a decade and a half.
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell. This was pure comfort reading, and I loved it. I read this anytime my brain needs a break, it works similarly to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, minus having to encounter all of those characters who are now dead.
Mishka and the Sea Devil – Xenia Pamfil. Pass.
The Woods Volume 1, The Arrow – James Tynion IV. Pass.
All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven. Literally one of the top 5 worst books I’ve ever read, including every math textbook since 9th grade.
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott. I liked a lot of this, especially some of the things she had to say about writing. I don’t like that she has white lady dreadlocks. That throws me off a lot.
Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins. Another comfort read. You can see I’m trying to adjust myself to Korea by reading things that make me feel happy, rather than things that challenge me in any way. I’m pretty proud of myself for going this route of self-comfort, rather than screaming in emotional agony in public or jumping in front of public transport. You read all the YA romance you want, Past Weatherly, you’re doing fine.
The Hours – Michael Cunningham. I suddenly became self-aware enough to realize all I was reading was comfort books and picked this up at What the Book, the English language bookstore in Seoul. I started reading it while eating by myself at Vatos Tacos in Itaewon, where I ended up talking to a girl from -I think- Australia who’d gone to the DMZ the day before, and was traveling around Asia by herself for a while before going back down under. Suddenly had the realization that I am better at socializing with people than I was when I left for Korea. Must be all of the forced talking I have to do at my job. Don’t remember much about this book, except that the language was so beautiful that I underlined everything, and the story so unmemorable that I can only think of typing “someone had AIDS and someone was Virginia Woolf.” Riveting.
Locke & Key series – Joe Hill. I think this might be the first time I realized how awesome Scribd was, and started using it regularly. I read this whole series over the course of maybe three weeks, and it was awesome. I finished the last one while at work and only just managed to refrain from crying like a baby.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – Caitlin Doughty. This sparked in me an insane interest in cremation and burial traditions that lasted about a week and, (I think?) lead me to one of my still-favorite Youtubers, Catguts. It also made me 100% convinced that being buried in a casket is the dumbest thing you can do while already dead.
So those are the first 15 books I read while in Korea, I’m going to keep wrapping up all of the books I’ve read here in these little blurbs because my blog my rules. This is a nice trip down memory lane (for me.) It totally makes up for being a shit blogger for an entire year, right? RIGHT?
So. Here we are. July. Arguably the worst month of the year, as an adult (arguably because I assume there are other people in the world with less grumpy outlooks on being hot and sweaty and having to go to work despite being trained for the first 18 years of life that July is Summer Vacation and is not good for anything other than eating popsicles, pretending to read the summer reading list while actually watching Law and Order, and wishing you were back at school.
I have 24 days left of being in Korea. 24. It’s freaking me out a little, I’ll be totally honest. It’s strange, on one hand, because I still have a week and half of classes left, and often I feel like every day is a tiny infinity of children screaming Ooedehrree! (the Korean pronunciation of Weatherly) that I have to get through before coming home to the quiet of my apartment to try and do as much nothing as possible before falling asleep and doing it all over again.
It’s strange on the other hand because holy shit, 24 days left of living in this country and then I’ll go back to America?!? I’ve already been here a year?!? I can clearly remember the day I left, every detail, including being upset I had to leave my ukulele at home and not being able to sleep the night before, thinking I was going to cry at the airport when leaving my family but not actually doing so, feeling like I was actually only leaving for a weekend holiday and therefore being completely calm, reading Tank Girl at the airport in New York and thinking this was going to be a breeze, and then getting through half of the 12 hour plane ride before falling into an unimaginable sense of panic that would last for, oh, the next two months.
And now I am leaving. Very very soon, actually. I don’t have a job that I’m going back to, and I don’t have solid plans for the future, I don’t really understand what I’ve learned (if anything) in the space of a year, except a smattering of Korean and how to properly roast broccoli. I’m actually scared that I’ll go back and it will be too familiar, that I won’t have been gone long enough for everything to seem different and special and strange. I’m scared that I won’t experience the reverse culture shock that everyone warns about, that I’m actually excited about. I’m truly, horribly, down-to-my-bones scared that I will end up in massive debt and without a job and regretting the decision to both move back to America and of moving away from it in the first place.
And I’m scared that I’ll never get to come back. Or go anywhere else. That this was my one chance to explore.
On my way back from Everyday Mooonday I was famished. My original plan was to go to Little Pie, which I heard about on A Fat Girl’s Food Guide, but after going to Everyday Mooonday on an empty stomach I was exhausted and it was FREEZING OUTSIDE, and I just wasn’t in the mood to go all the way across town back to Itaewon for a chicken pot pie, as heavenly as they sounded. Walking back to the subway station, I saw the Greasy House, and since the name promised something filling and the roof promised a refuge from the land of ice outside, I checked it out.
The inside of Greasy House is set up like an English Pub, and seats about 18 people in extremely close quarters. It’s very warm, and very cozy with maroon wallpaper, wood panelling, dimmed lights, vintage pictures on the wall, and the absolutely incredible smell of the food. When I went, it was playing jazzy Christmas music and was basically just about the cheeriest little spot ever.
I got the hamburger, mostly because I’m not the biggest fan of barbecue, which seemed to be their main pull. Afterwards, I saw other customers with Skillets, which had eggs, meats, and veggies, and I have to say– they looked way better.
The hamburger: Good. I liked it, and it definitely filled me up. It was HUGE (!!) and the cheese and fried egg were both superb and added great flavor. The onions were delicious too, and I am usually not a huge fan of big onion slices. The problem I had with it was the sauce. It was a specialty bacon jam. I know. Most of you just started crying with glee. I knew it was on there, from the menu, and that was the thing that made it different than just an everyday hamburger, that made me really want to try it. And it was good, really– sweet and savory, kind of thick and an interesting texture. But after the first half of the burger, the jam was overpowering. It was too sweet, too heavy, it overpowered the saltiness of the meat (which wasn’t very well seasoned in the first place), and it wasn’t balanced out by anything else salty or fresh on the burger.
Granted, I go for salty above all tastes, so the sweetness wasn’t really my thing, but I think it would have been improved with a spicy mustard or perhaps fresh lettuce and tomato. As it was, I left feeling a bit too heavy. (And not just because of how massive the burger was.) It was just a little too– well, Greasy. Oh Greasy House, at least you don’t false advertise.
The sides: Fries. Of course. They were Wonderful. Maybe my standards are low, because fries are my umber one favorite food and it’s hard to disappoint me in this area, but it’s hard to find really good quality steakhouse fries in Korea, and these were super super excellent. Crispy, the right thickness, just. So good. There was also some radish kimchi, which really helped balance the greasiness of the burger, though I would have preferred dill pickles. (Then again, this is Korea, not America, so I don’t resent the kimchi haha.)
It was pretty dark in here, and they were crazy busy (even for the random time of day I went– 2pm! Though there were only like 5 tables, so.) Instead of reading, I listened to The Black Tapes podcast, which is sci-fi/fantasy fiction podcast about a research team investigating a series of mysterious happenings that have remained unsolved by premier paranormal skeptic and investigator Dr. Strand. It’s kind of like The X-Files meets Serial, and it’s pretty addictive, though I lost my spot in the recordings thanks to the Play Next function on my phone, so I ended up listening to Season 1 out of order. Ahh, well. Season 2 launched January 19 and it’s on my to-listen list, but if you’re interested definitely start from the beginning of Season 1.
A few weeks back, I visited Everyday Mooonday, a tiny little gallery in Seoul that showcases quirky indy artists in a really cool gallery space!
Despite the website saying that Jamsil Station is near, it was a TREK, so I ended up taking a cab. Which was great, because this place is tucked on a teeny side street, super hard to find. (At least, if you’re like me and you have terrible time with directions.) When the cab dropped me in this alley I thought– great. He got tired of driving and can tell I don’t know enough Korean to disagree so he just left me somewhere. I’m cheerful like that. But when I saw these little guys outside and the badass murals, I realized I was just quick to believe people are mean. Thanks, Atlanta.
I first found out about Everyday Mooonday from my obsession with Anna Hrachovec, a professional knitter and creator of MochiMochiLand. She had a gallery showing earlier in 2015, and although I missed it I still wanted to see the gallery space. The current exhibit was Ana Albero, who did a series called “Pet Portraits,” which follows the life of Petra, a pet portrait painter, through her everyday life. The series was full of vintage-y flat colors and graphic details, and the exhibit had several real-life, full-size recreations of the paintings that were incredible.
I love exhibits that go to extra lengths to involve the viewer more viscerally in the experience of the art. Bringing some of the pieces to life with models and the 3D dot room, and framing the smaller illustrations in a mixed assortment of frames that gave the sense of a living room wall made a very small show seem very immersive and personal. I’m definitely going to be going back to see other shows at this gallery!
Though I loved the exhibit, I honestly think I may have loved the gallery’s gift shop/ seating area more. It had hundreds of pieces from past exhibits on the walls, scattered on the couches and tables, and in display cases, and I spent nearly an hour walking around looking at things. The curator(s?) seem to lean towards quirky, indy artists with a more cartoon-y vibe, which is totally my style. If they wanted to come decorate my apartment, I’d have no objection…
Anna Hrachovec’s MochiMochiLand sweetpeas
The gallery also has a little cafe where you can order beer, coffee and tea, and sweets. I’m assuming at night you can also walk around the gallery with the drinks, which would make a super adorable date, but I visited the cafe last and didn’t end up getting anything. The stadium seating leads up outside, and I can see it being a really cool, chill place to hang out at night (though in the day, as one of 2 people there, it was pretty awkward haha).
The next exhibit is Cosmic Girls by Stickmonger, which I know NOTHING about, but I may go check it out! I have such an urge to buy all of the little knick knacks from the store. It’s like it was made to take my money. If you’re in Seoul, definitely check out Everyday Mooonday for a fix of cuteness!
A little while ago I made a trip to Seoul with the intent to meet a friend, and then ended up getting stood up. This is not a sad story. One of the things to know about me, if we’re going to be friends (and why else would you read this unless you wanted to be my friend? Oh, you want to hear a restaurant review? Right. Huh. Well… This is awkward…), one of the things to know is that I really, really love cancelled plans. This is not sarcasm. I love when I have something that I have to go do, and I’ve pumped myself up for it and made a decision to go, and then I find out that I no longer have to go. Why? Because then I can let myself relax. All of that energy I’ve been storing up in order to power through this social gathering can be released into something that isn’t stressful for me, like reading, or making stuff, or spending time alone. Don’t get me wrong, I almost always enjoy going out with friends, and I love a good party. But the pure relief I feel when I learn that the constant low-level but present anxiety that eats at me during the lead-up to these interactions goes away?
Pure, ecstatic, laughing about nothing bliss.
So instead the Lobster Bar is super easy to find, on the main strip outside of the subway stop at Itaewon. Or, if you’re like me and have one main reason to go to Itaewon: a block or two down the street from What the Book, the English language bookstore in Itawewon. I went by What the Book, bought an indecent/incredible haul of books, then headed over to Lobster Bar for a solitary, book-centric late lunch. I thought it would be a fun, relaxing idea to eat some critically-acclaimed food while I got a start reading Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon, a YA book about a boy living in a dystopian world that resembles a mashup of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia called the Motherland.
And guess what? It was, as most of my ideas are, pretty damn excellent.
I had the Lobster Roll and oh my. Was my mouth pleased. The roll was buttery, salty, crisp on the outside but pillowy soft. How do food bloggers do this? I am starving thinking about it. The lobster (which was, I’m pretty sure, real lobster) was cut in thick colorful chunks. It was salty and buttery and had a nice texture that contrasted with the crunchy lettuce.
On the side, of course, I got french fries. Thin crunchy steak fries. Nothing special, but still very good. And incredible honey mustard. INCREDIBLE.
There was also coleslaw, which, I have to say, I had the lowest of expectations for. It’s the most hit or miss food I’ve ever eaten. Seriously, it’s so easy to screw up coleslaw that I barely even register it’s on the plate. But damn. This coleslaw tho. It was SO GOOD. Not too mayonnaise-y. Not weirdly sweet like some coleslaws? Just… I don’t know, you know what good coleslaw tastes like right? It tasted like that. Delicious. And a really great refresher for the palate after the buttery saltiness of the roll and fries. Yeah, I said palate. I’m basically Anthony Bourdain. One thing, though: the coleslaw had corn in it, which is, I’m assuming, a consequence of the Korean obsession of “let’s put corn in every single thing ever.” But it didn’t bother me, still really good.
Despite planning on getting a gin and tonic, I ended up randomly trying the Lemon Honey Ginger Beer. Holy Moly guys. That’s all I can say. This was the best beer I’ve ever had. I don’t know what the brand is, because it was on tap and honestly who remembers to take a picture of the menu when you’re starving? Not this moi. This beer was so delicious. Mostly lemony, super refreshing and light, but with enough ginger to keep it from tasting like Pledge, and pleasantly fizzy. SO GOOD. UGH. I want that right now, too. Basically I want to stop writing this review and go back and eat there, but here I am, typing away. See what I do for you, blog? Do you see??
The restaurant’s up on the second floor, and the inside is very industrial shipping yard-inspired, with lots of natural light from the wall of windows. I chose a window seat, like you do, then immediately regretted it when I realized there was a puppy adoption happening across the street.
Ye gods, why must thou torture me so?!? I planned to go afterwards, but it’s probably good for both my mental health and criminal record that I forgot to, because I would have taken home one of those dogs no matter how fast I had to run away with it.
The waiter was super nice, and they were really not busy at all, but that’s probably because it was like 3pm. Not exactly hopping restaurant time.
I’ll definitely be going back, next time I want to try their Lobster Grilled Cheese because are you serious? That should be illegal.
So for most of my solo restaurant reviews, I have a feeling I’ll also have something of a book review because staring out trying to not make eye contact with people from other tables is not my favorite thing to do. Maggot Moon was incredible. I started it during my lunch and got a good 40 or so pages in, and later finished it on the KTX. It was one of my Runners-up for top book of 2015. I loved the main character, and all of the characters really, they were so lifelike, their dialogue was all perfectly crafted to fit their ages and the environment (fascist regime) they lived in. I loved the plot, and the mysteries behind it. The only thing that kept it out of the top books of 2015 for me was that about 85% of the way in, the plot lost a little of its steam. I started to feel like it was slowing, and though the end was satisfying in a way, I felt like I had to work harder to get to it than I thought I was going to have to halfway through the book. That sounds like I don’t want a challenging story, which isn’t true, I just thought the writing lost some of its sparkle after the midway point. That being said, I highly, highly recommend it, as its one that I like more and more the more I think about it.
Hey guys, here’s a few pictures that have been languishing on my phone of my daily life in Korea. Just moments I took pictures of, but never ended up posting anywhere. Hold onto your butts, it’s going to get exciting in here!
I now know what quicksand feels like. (Unfortunately, I do not know how to escape quicksand without ruining a pair of socks and having to divest my top layer leggings. Thankfully I was wearing two pairs of pants that day. Serendipity.
After having a truly terrible day, one of my students who I thought didn’t like me gave me a lollipop. Kinda looks like a beer mug with a brain bubbling over the top, right? It tasted like it too.
Just kidding, it tasted like Butterbeer and I want hundreds of them.
The Seoul Subway System has absolutely won me over to the necessity of reliable and efficient public transport. Also look, here’s a mural.
Christmastime in Myeongdong, Seoul was a show of capitalism and cheer that would make Times Square jealous.
I picked this up on a whim from a rather schmancy-looking cafe in Seoul after a disappointing day of wandering around. It was chocolate gateau, and while browsing, ordering, and walking back to my hostel I was listening to the Mystery Show podcast about a woman who wrote a book that she later saw Britney Spears reading in a paparazzi photo. She wanted to ask her if she liked it. It was, to my utter surprise, totally fascinating, honestly. The cake was just alright. I learned that although chocolate gateau is rich and delicious, it also has a powder on the top that tastes a little like very fine flour. “But Weatherly! That’s the part that makes it so sophisticated!” you say, wringing your opera gloved hands and gnashing your cosmetically perfected teeth. Unfortunately, dear classy readers, I have the palate of a 10 year old, and thus can only appreciate sophisticated food if it also tastes incredible.
Yes, I make resolutions. I know it’s kind of the cool slash practical thing to not make resolutions, especially because they’re usually doomed from the start, but I am neither cool nor practical, and I love a fresh start. Also, the first day of the new year is also the first day of my new year, and I am powerless to that kind of symbolic beginning.
There are a few general things I want to do in 2016, namely be happier, be not as lazy, eat food that wouldn’t make my health-obsessed friends scream in horror, but some of my resolutions are easier to track, so I’ll put them here for prosperity’s sake. Also for the possibility of completing them due to imaginary internet pressure. Of all the imaginary forces that work on my guilt, this one is perhaps the most effective.
Read 100 books in 2016. This one is a repeat of last year, and one I completed with little trouble. Last year I started with 52, but ended up totally blowing that out of the water, so this year I’m going to stretch for a challenge.
Watch 50 movies in 2016. I thought about making it 50 classic/critically acclaimed movies, but I don’t want to doom it before it ever starts. I’m just going to say 50 movies, any movie counts as long as it’s not a re-watch of a movie I’ve already watched in 2016.
Blog twice a week. I’m doing great with this one this past week, I want to keep up the momentum!
Explore Korea. Check out my Korea Bucket List page (which will probably be updated within the week). I’m here for another 9 months, and I want to see as much of this country as possible.
Exercise. 3 Times a week? I always put this one. I always fail. But I think doing yoga at my house after school is a doable goal. Also, I got a FitBit for Christmas, so. It would be kind of embarrassing to do zero exercise all year, and just be wearing a dorky, non-time-telling watch.
Drink more water. I started using this super adorable Plant Nanny app last year, but by the time I got to Korea that habit had pretty much died a dehydrated death, so here’s to reviving the dead!
Eat Healthier. So for the first day of January 2016, I’ve eaten ice cream for breakfast and chicken nuggets for dinner. This one will take some effort. I am not going to do any particular diet, because I know a lost cause when I see one, but I do want to really figure out how to cook healthy, delicious stuff for myself that might be able to tear me away from the overwhelming desire to mainline french fries.
So yeah. Those are my goals for 2016. They’re pretty doable, I think, and I’ve left out all of that stuff about losing 20 lbs and paying it forward and blah blah blah. These are things I want to actually accomplish, after all. What are your 2016 resolutions?
Yeah, I’m jumping on that bandwagon. What? I love musical wagons.
So I’ve read 115 books in 2015. I’m inordinately proud of this fact, especially because last year I read… what was it? 36? Yeah. Despite the fact that many books were comic book issues, and others were throwaway books I read for the mind candy (cough my first romance ever, cough), I did a damn good job reading consistently throughout the year.
This year started in Atlanta, living with my brother and working an office job. My first read of the year was The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, which does not make it onto the list because it was a terrible pile of garbage (ok, it wasn’t that bad. But my hopes were high, guys. Really high.) My last read of the year (Again, SO FAR, and this will change tonight, I’m sure. I have several days off work, so I’m going to be powering through some stuff) is Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn, which was AMAZING and does feature on this list. (Edit: Already there’s a different last book of the year– Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. This post has been chilling in an open window on my laptop for a few days, and to avoid writing it I’ve been reading.) (Edit edit: I’m planning to read Saga Volume 2 tomorrow on my birthday to finish with a solid 115. So basically this entirely paragraph is a lie, just like the cake.)
I can’t wait to see next year’s list. I’m sure you’re feeling the same sort of backwards-nostalgia.
Weatherly, there’s already a word for that. It’s called anticipation.
Oh, right. Right, right. Thanks.
No problem. Here to help. There’s also a word(s) for having dialogues with yourself. It’s called cuckoo for cocoa puffs.
Right again, buckaroo. Thanks, brain-thesaurus!
Onto the list!
Ahh, no, another clarification. If I really loved a book, I put it on my favorites-of-2015 shelf on Goodreads (Check it out here, and follow me because ya girl is fire on Goodreads.) I’ve narrowed down that list to these absolute favorites. There are a few at the bottom that didn’t quite make the list, but I still wanted to mention because they were close to the top! There’s a word for this. It’s called cheating. Now REALLY. Onto the list!
I just read this today (or many years in the past, if you’re reading this in an archive of Earth publications after the heat death of our planet. Look at the pub date and figure it out, I don’t know your life.) I’ve been hearing about Saga ALL DAMN YEAR, and honestly I was a little hesitant to read it, because of the hype. So hesitant that as soon as I got an Amazon gift card from Christmas, I immediately downloaded it and finished the first volume within an hour of starting. I’m very stoic about these things.
The story’s about these two non-human characters on opposing sides of a war, one is a prisoner and one is his guard. And then they fall in illicit love, get illicit married, and have an illicit trans-species baby. And that’s the first page. The first volume is them running from the armies of both sides, trying to escape the planet and go into hiding/out on the run in the galaxy. It’s incredible. If I were going to do one of those “it’s blah blah meets blah blah” descriptions, I’d say it’s West Side Story meets Firefly meets Why are you reading this, I just said that an alien prisoner and an alien guard fall in love, have a trans-species alien baby, and go on the run into space what more do you need, here? Honestly. Get some perspective.
Of all of the the memoirs I read this year, (a weirdly large amount for me), this was hands-down my favorite. I was a casual fan of Felicia Day before reading. I loved The Guild, which she wrote/produced/starred in, and of course I’d seen Dr. Horrible. But I picked this up just on a whim, not because I was truly interested in her life. It was my first week in Korea, before I started school, and I was walking every day to the PC Bang to sit amongst League of Legends gaming prepubescents to soak up the free wifi and try to gain some sense of equilibrium in my completely new life. (This is a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down… no? Another time? Ok.) This audiobook, narrated by the author, is all about her life as a homeschooled, roleplaying game-obsessed, social awkward, digital-friends-having nerd, and I LOVED IT. Day’s a perfect audiobook narrator for it, and her writing style is hilariously honest and self-deprecating without making the reader feel uncomfortable, like a best friend who’s a nerd but doesn’t feel the need to wear a sweater that says NERD on it, you know? (I have one of these sweaters. I didn’t buy it myself, but. Yeah. Felicia Day is much cooler than I am.) Truly, this book was a huge part of my adjusting to Korea, and I will forever appreciate it.
Also, the part where she meets up with her “online crush” she met through an RPG forum and he turned out to be just as un-dreamboaty as any logical human would expect? Hysterical.
I don’t have a lot to say about this, because all my feelings are expressed in a sort of chaotic, adoring screaming inside my head. If you like the show, you’ll love the comic books. They’re perfect. If you don’t watch the the show, you’re welcome.
Ok. You know The Iliad? (Yeah, I know, you skipped reading it, it’s fine, everyone knows.) Ok, so this is The Iliad… fan fiction. Gay Iliad fan fiction. Yeah, I know, that would have 100% sold me too, even if it was terrible. But here’s the thing: It’s NOT terrible. It’s INCREDIBLE. Madeline Miller is a Greek and Latin teacher who spent ten years researching and writing this book, and her careful attention to detail and knowledge of the subject absolutely shows. The story follows the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, which had an immense influence on the Trojan War. The nature of the relationship, whether romantic or platonic, has been a subject of scholarly debate for a long, long time. (Plato was on the Lovers team, and I like my odds siding with that guy.) In Miller’s book, Patroclus and Achilles fall in love and are deeply connected, and she explores how this affects both characters as they continue through the events before and during the Trojan War. This book is so gorgeously written, her prose reads like long form poetry, which is a perfect complement to The Iliad. And the characters. My god, the characters. *HEARTEYES FOREVER* It won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012 (now called the Bailey’s Women Prize for Fiction) and it is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read.
There’s no excuse not to know about Lumberjanes. Especially because if you’re located on the planet Earth, you probably heard my undignified squealing when I first read it (hello to those excluded, thanks for checking out this blog, if you’re an alien we should be friends, if you’re an astronaut I do not come in peace.) This comic is about a butt-kicking awesome group of girl friends who go to a summer camp to become way-more-badass versions-of-Girl-Scouts, called Lumberjanes. Every character has their own strengths and weaknesses, storylines, and awesome one-liners. It crushes the Bechdel, all while promoting friendships between girls, being confident, and non-cliche girl power. Oh, and there are magical creatures that they happen to fight. Basically, it’s the comic book everyone needs to read.
So this book blew my away when I first read it, I could not stop talking about it. (Basically nobody I recommended it to read it… I obviously need to improve my recommendation skills, or get more receptive friends.) However, it was a really early in the year when I read it, and I’m having trouble forming any sort of emotions around it now. So here’s my Goodreads review, written right after finishing:
I am absolutely crazy about this book. It had everything I wanted: deep, interesting, hyper-real characters, apocalyptic nightmare scenarios, cult-based horror, graphic novel writing, flashbacks that were even more absorbing than the main plot… I just finished this book and I’m having a hard time forming full thoughts about it… and I don’t want to be too hasty… but I think it’s one of my favorite books of this year. Maybe even my MOST favorite. I know. Hold your gasps until the end, please. Probably 3/4 through the book I realized that the Miranda and Station Eleven parts were my favorite parts, along with flashbacks to Arthur’s life through other people, Clark especially. See? I know everyone’s names. It’s a book of such insane scope and yet I, worst name rememberer of all time, remembers almost every character’s name. That’s how you know I was paying attention. I know I said this about the book I read before this in my 52 Books Challenge (Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest, oh my god read that please for god’s sake), but oh my god read this please for god’s sake.
I want to say that this was a strange pick for me, because I’m not a runner (no matter how I try, I cannot seem to find that “runner’s high” people go on about. Maybe it’s because the only emotion I feel when running is an intense need to lay down in the road and die?) But it wasn’t really that strange, because it’s not really about running. I really enjoy hearing people talk about routines and meditative tasks, especially in books. My de-stress hobby is reading, so combining someone else’s de-stress hobby with my de-stress hobby is like a de-stress ice cream sundae from yoga land (v good). Murakami draws parallels between running and writing, and the idea of living a healthy lifestyle so he can continue to write for the rest of his life. He’s such a careful, thoughtful writer, and hearing him talk about his life and his work was just really, really nice. I may reread this one, actually. But first, Ihink I’m ready for some more Murakami in the new year!
I didn’t do this on purpose, but I’m pretty sure I’ve saved the very best for last. This is a modern retelling/interpretation of the myth of Tiresias through rhythmic, spoken word-style poetry. It explores topics ranging from gender roles, modern social structures, isolation, and dealing with adversity when it seems there’s nothing to live for. This book ripped my guts out and stomped all over them, and I loved every single word. I’ve been craving re-reading it since I read it the first time, and it will probably be an annual re-read for me. I’m excited to read Tempest’s other book Brand New Ancients in 2016. And if you’re interested, she also has a lot of spoken word on Youtube. I personally like reading it better, but the lyrics are just incredible.
Almost made the cut:
The Secret Place by Tana French
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh
Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
This year was a pretty great reading year for me! I couldn’t be more pleased to have reached my reading goals. Stay tuned for my 2016 Reading Goals! And as always, leave your backdoor unlocked. I’m hungry.