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from lapis

Happy Anniversary to this fun idea. I hope y'all have enjoyed seeing me write these round-ups and had at least as much fun as I have had, and my journey to actually chart stuff I did. My Hobonichi Cousin is becoming a better record of my life thanks to adding notes about media that eases making these.

Games

April

I continued playing Stardew Valley 1.6 though I took a break after April. I plan to get back to it, not sure when though.

I also played Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising with the goal to beat it before Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes came out. I did not but that's okay.

As always I did some relaxation with Moonstone Island. One day I will decide who to marry in that game. I like most of the cast far too much to choose. I need more people to play this game so they can peer pressure me into marrying someone.

May

I beat Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising this month (and started Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes.) and did a little of the post-game stuff. It sort of seems like it may go on forever?

I beat Umineko Chiru: Episode 6. Solid episode. Furudo Erika is simultaneously so awful and the best. I LOVE that twisted girl. Though honestly, I think you could count the number of non-twisted characters in this game on one hand.

Possibly most important of all—my dreams coming true. I bought Ciel noSurge for switch (no region locking) and my brother and I are playing through it (very slowly). This means so much to me. I'd listened to the music before, but chills ran down my spine when I heard To the Songless Hill in game.

There was one slight problem though: We elected to keep putting my switch to sleep instead of saving and quitting, so I literally could not play anything else on that console until my brother agreed to save and quit. Which happened about a week ago as of writing this.

June

I just unlocked Fast Travel / Teleport in Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, I have some issues with the balance of the game (magic seems to not be worth it, for healing or attacks. Items are better, but you can't carry very many items at least to start with) but I'm enjoying it.

I started Umineko Episode 7. I forgot how much I love this episode. And Lion. And Willard. After I clear Episode 7, it's all new material for me from there (I will likely play Saku and Tsubasa next year,). Time to finally beat this saga.

I played a little of an Itch game I got from the Racial Justice and Equality Bundle called Secret Little Haven.

It's very nice, I love it, though I haven't beaten it because I'm not currently in the headspace to deal with the emotional abuse and gaslighting that features prominently in the game.

I played a little Coral Island. It's nice though with so many characters I'm having trouble keeping them all straight.

I played the Fields of Mistria demo. It's great. I love it. I am absolutely playing this when it releases.

We played a bit of Ciel noSurge and we are still not done with Chapter 1 but I love it so. But we saved and quit and I am playing switch games again.

Since I have my switch available again, I've been playing a bit of Pokémon: Scarlet and XenoBlade Chronicles I. I missed both these games.

Things I'd Like to Work on (Game-wise)

I definitely want to actually beat something soon. Probably XenoBlade Chronicles. And Pokémon: Scarlet. I'd definitely like to do more Ciel noSurge,

Things I'm looking forward to (Game-wise)

Drăculești, a romantic horror VN has a demo that releases the 1st of July. I've decided I simultaneously love Dracula the novel (Though I've only read the Daily / Chronological version) and hate all adaptations (more for what they do to the characters and who they remove) aside from Re: Dracula, but I love this concept, especially since it seems to star Renfield, who I feel needs more fleshing out.

The game Vampire Therapist is supposed to release. This was not on my radar at all at first, and then I found out that Cyrus Nemati, voice actor of Theseus, Ares, and Dionysus in Hugo-award-winning game Hades by Supergiant Games. And even if I wasn't a fan of the guy from his voice-acting, I really like the concept of providing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to vampires, plus I've been a patient of that kind of therapy for years. Maybe I can prove I am as excellent at providing mental health help as I feel when applying it to my own life. That's Vampire Therapist, releasing on July 18th, please wish-list it

And Fields of Mistria releases in Early Access on August 5th. For some reason I thought it was July, but it is not. So I will play more Coral Island and Moonstone Island while I await the 90's anime-style Farming Sim

Books

April

I mostly read manga this month. I finished reading The Essence of Being A Muse. I quite liked it. Definitely belongs on people's shelves.

I started a reread of A Bride's Story. I got through eleven volumes.

I finished a Six of Crows reread, because someone on Mastodon was reading it for the first time and it reminded me how great that duology was. I have not started Crooked Kingdom yet though.

May

I caught up (in English published volumes) to A Bride's Story. I really want more.

I read and finished T. Kingfisher's Minor Mage. I must say, between this, Jackalope Wives and A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking, I am becoming a huge fan of T. Kingfisher / Ursula Vernon.

I read Death's Country, a queer polyam take on Orpheus and Eurydice. Quite enjoyed it.

I started my reread of Lore Olympus. I got through four volumes this month.

June

I am caught up on traditionally published Lore Olympus, and also caught up on the WebToon, as it ended recently. I will miss it, but I have faith I will see Rachel Smythe's work again eventually. And until then, there's more volumes of Lore Olympus coming out.

I got through the Welcome to Night Vale audio-book. It's not bad, but evidently audio-books take an eternity to listen to. I had to renew it two times before I was done. Don't ask me why a 20+ hour playlist of podcasts is different to me, it just is.

I started my reread of Children of Blood and Bone since thanks to both ECTs and the passage of time (with no critique intended of Tomi Adeyemi for taking her time) meant I don't remember much of what happened, so I want both this and Children of Virtue and Vengeance fresh in my mind before I read Children of Anguish and Anarchy.

Things I'd Like to Work on (Reading-Wise)

I should probably have less books that I'm in the middle of. Like finish more, or start less. I don't know. Maybe next therapy appointment (since this is supposedly an ADHD thing) I can ask my therapist how to actually FINISH things. Or I suppose I could ask the internet.

Things I'm looking forward to (Reading-Wise)

It would be a lie to say I'm not looking forward to any books but I am trying really hard to focus on things. Like finish The Legacy of Orïsha series before I start any more fantasy. (Time will tell if I'm successful).

Miscellaneous Media

April

Continued watching X-men and Dungeon Meshi / Delicious in Dungeon. Watched some Pokémon Horizons. All of these are great shows.

May

Dracula Daily Started up again. I am listening to Re: Dracula and just using the newsletter to reference when I should listen to an episode. It's a really good podcast, I recommend it.

I was really psyched about the second episode of The Amazing Digital Circus coming out. I watched it twice in May.

As may not surprise anyone, I watched more Pokémon Horizons. It's a good show, even if I mutter “go, go, Fue-co-co!” to myself at times now.

June

We took a break from X-men for May, but we started watching it again.

Yes I watched more Pokémon Horizons. Is Dot a non-binary icon? I will probably watch more if only to find this out.

During a break / lull in Dracula Daily entries, I listened to the podcast / audio drama Temujin. Very nice! I recommend it.

Things I'd Like to Work on (In General)

I promised my brother I'd find a new TV schedule for us (like which days we play something or which days we watch something). He jokingly commented he's mad that he's still on the first Kuro no Kiseki game when the English version Trails through Daybreak is either out or coming out very soon. It was a joke, I don't think he prided himself on this (and if he does the answer to me is “Focus on Ciel noSurge. That's never officially coming out in English!”) but maybe he has to be more careful of spoilers? I dunno.

I'd also like to listen to more Audio Dramas when Re: Dracula / Dracula Daily is on break. Looking ahead at my podcatcher, it looks like aside from a couple episodes with Seward and Renfield, there's a lot of nothing until Whitby / The Captain of the Demeter's log. Probably a great time to get something in.

Things I'm looking forward to (Miscellaneous)

It looks like as I skim a couple sites there is no announced date for more Pokémon Concierge, or Dungeon Meshi / Delicious in Dungeon season 2. So I assume they're not coming particularly soon (the latter especially so). So I will probably focus on Pokémon Horizons and X-Men and hopefully some other stuff. I can't think of anything I'm looking forward to with a release date honestly.

I don't think my brother would be interested in watching this, but I have some mild interest in getting into Bridgerton. And eventually I have to watch Riverdale all the way through.

That's all from me. Let me know if you're looking forward to anything in the July through September Window. I hope to bring you another Quarterly report in September that has some great news to share.

 
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from lapis

Maybe it's due to making these reports, but I've gotten better at tracking what media I enjoy. I typically add the media to my Hobonichi Cousin either the day of or the day after. I feel great that I don't need to rely on external sources as much.

Let's start with games.

Games

January

A great month for games. I continued my Umineko playthrough, this time with the Chiru / Answer arc. So naturally early in January I started episode 5. I love Furudo Erika so much, she's just so terrible!

I continued to play In Stars and Time I will probably never shut up about this game, I think it's truly one of my favorites of all time, but as you may have guessed: I love timeloop stories.

There were a few days I played Moonstone Island. It's so relaxing.

I worked on Pokemon Scarlet: The Indigo Disk DLC but I did not clear it before the epilogue came out. In fact, as of writing this? I still have not cleared it. I enjoy it, I do, I just don't want it to end!

February

I finished Umineko episode 5. Plenty of time to spare to boot!

I also finished In Stars and Time and fell into a funk afterwards. Despite taking my time playing (you can beat it in like 10 hours, I took at least 40), I missed a lot of content. you can bet I'll replay it in the future. Fanfiction has helped soothe my grief after beating it, but I still kind of want to restart it, but I've promised myself I'd wait at least several months before doing so.

More Moonstone Island and Pokemon Scarlet but not much to report. I sort of hate how the BBQ missions in The Indigo Disk work? Like, it feels like Animal Crossing: New Horizons Nook Miles + missions. The difference is, I found most of those missions in Animal Crossing you know, enjoyable. A lot of the Blueberry Quest missions felt tedious.

March

This may come as a shock, but I started Umineko episode 6. It occured to me, since like me, my brother has gone through all but episode 8, and he agreed to go through episode 8 with me, I would be playing on his schedule, not mine. So I need extra time for Episode 8, plus I remember Episode 7 being extremely heavy, so I will probably take a break after I clear that one.

I've played a little of The Indigo Disk but mostly only when I need a change of pace.

Since I want to beat it before the main game comes out (next month!) I started Eiyuden Chroncle: Rising. I'm currently taking a break from it because I hyperfocused a bit too much, but I'm confident I'll beat it before the main game comes out.

And of course, Stardew Valley: Version 1.6 Came out this month. I am thrilled. I am loving the new content. I elected to try out the new farm type that comes with chickens. It's great! No my character has not drunk any mayo. I can neither confirm or deny that I will marry Shane like I have every other file. I'm hoping eventually in a future patch there will be an ability to expand your silo instead of building, like, a million of them.

Things I'd Like to Work on (Game-wise)

My brother really wants me to return to playing Xenoblade Chronicles and I had planned on doing that this quarter. I just... didn't.

Of course next month I'll start Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes after beating Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising. I'll keep on track with Umineko Chiru. I promise nothing, but I'll try to get back to Xenoblade Chronicles, I Was A Teenage Exocolonist and I have a copy of Dragon Quest XI with my name on it, so I should give it a try.

Books

January

The 9th Wayward Children novella ( Mislaid in Parts Half-Known) came out, and I was excited about it as usual, though I did not tear through it like I usually do.

I finished Pride and Prejudice which I had started last year. I've read it before, but I feel I got more out of this time.

I started a reread of the Song of the Lioness Quartet. The ebook version I have has afterwords by Tamora Pierce from 2014, and they're interesting reads (though I'd love to hear her thoughts in 2024). I get frustrated with narratives (either with Queer characters or Gender Non-conforming Characters) where everything girly is bad, so I really appreciate that part of Alanna's character arc is learning Girly Things are not bad. Maybe I'm just sensitive to it as a Nonbinary person with a lot of “Girly” hobbies (relating to fiber arts).

February

This is the month I actually finished the Wayward Children Novella.

I read Ngozi Ukazu and Mad Rupert's Graphic Novel Bunt!. It's solid. You should get it. Maybe I should just make “Queer Sports Narratives” a thing I specifically seek out.

My hold on the final volume of I Think Our Son is Gay came in. It's a very nice manga.

March

I've been reading less this month. The main thing I want to shout is the Victorian WLW romance Don't Want You Like A Best Friend.

Things I'd Like to Work on (Reading-Wise)

It's nearly time to start spring cleaning. I want to reorganize my comics and manga. One of my shelves broke earlier in the year. Not like in a “haha you bought too many books” way, I mean, it was the same amount of books on the bookshelf and if anything it was missing books that it usually had, and it just.... collapsed. I was devastated.

As I've said previously I want to finish Babel. I've gotten a bit farther in it.

I've also been reading more literary works, I think I needed a change of pace, and sometimes I enjoy a book I can really chew on in a spinach sense (no canned spinach though).

Miscellaneous Media

I'm still years upon years behind, but I've started getting into Welcome to Nightvale. I've gotten back into The Magnus Archives as well. I know in theory you can listen to The Magnus Protocol without prior knowledge but I want to save it for now.

In celebration for the new series (and the fact this is just, you know, good) my brother and I have been watching the old X-Men cartoon. Enjoying it.

Early in January I watched all of Pokemon Concierge. It's adorable, I love claymation. I can't wait for the next season, but I also know not to get attached because Netflix is allergic to giving anything I like a 3rd season.

We started watching Pokemon Horizons when it premiered in the US. It's so cute so far, and affirms I was correct to choose Fuecoco as my starter.

And of course, our Thursday ritual has become to watch Delicious in Dungeon / Dungeon Meshi while eating supper. It's so good. I'm watching it in Japanese right now (because in most cases my brother prefers to listen to the original Voice track if it's available) but at some point I'm going to rewatch listening to the English dub, because the clips I've heard so far are Wonderful.

Things I'd Like to Work on (In General)

I'd love to list lots of goals here, but sadly I've been having health problems that take away time from a lot of things. I've been doing physical therapy for a few months now, and I am making gradual progress, but it's frustratingly slow.

 
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from lapis

On Valentine’s Day, I woke up to the news that Yoshitaka Murayama of Genso Suikoden fame, writer of the upcoming Eiyuden Chronicle game, to name only two of his accomplishments, died last week, due to “complications with an ongoing illness” (Project Update 70 from Rabbit & Bear Studio).

I hope at the least, he was not in pain when he went.

I'm sure fans are happy to know he had completed writing of Eiyuden Chronicle before he passed.

I put on some Suikoden music thinking to honor him, and as soon as I hit a remix of “La mia tristezza”, I started crying.

Now, of course any artist (of high or low art, regardless of medium) dying is sad. I'm sure every death in the world is mourned by someone, whether or not they created or if you feel they deserve to be mourned, to use an example like Kissinger.

But, and this may be obvious, when someone dies, you really feel the sense of transience for every living thing.

When an artist dies (or a lighter example, a band breaks up with irreconcilable differences) the Finiteness strikes me. Like, yes, I am mortal, I can only produce Finite amounts of art, but while I am alive, it feels infinite. I'm certain it would feel different if I discovered I had a terminal disease.

And I feel that infinity with most art I experience. Until something happens that reminds me that life is short.

It's not like I've played all of Murayama's games. I haven't even gotten the good ending on Suikoden II yet. And of course Eiyuden Chronicle is coming out in a couple months, I will play through that and Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising really trying to absorb the story.

While I am sad, there is something I remember from the first book of Shusterman's Arc of a Scythe series, where the two protagonists are in a museum, looking at the art from the Mortal Era, and the art from their current, virtually immortal time, and it's clear the art from the Mortal Era is more moving, possibly because the artists had to contend with mortality (and poverty, and war, and so on). Maybe that is worth dwelling on.

 
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from lapis

Things have been hectic, as I'm sure y'all have guessed. I'm going to use this to reflect on the end of the year, as I'm doubtful putting out a year-end roundup would be particularly interesting.

Let's start with games!

Games

October

Silent Hope came out. It's not that I hate it, I quite like it, in fact, but I got distracted by many other games so I haven't gotten super far. It was around this time I had a discussion with some friends about what ”Cozy“ or ”Relaxing“ games are. To keep this short: basically my favorite thing to do with games is to listen to podcasts while playing them, and not be deeply focusing on the games. This means I don't pay as much attention to the music, sadly, but it's a great way to relax. Silent Hope is great for this.

I of course started Umineko Episode 4 but I'm going to discuss that more in December.

I think I mentioned this before, but I got into Honkai: Star Rail partially as some first-hand research into Gachas, but I genuinely enjoy it (might help I haven't tried to pull for anything yet). I have to try some other Gachas for my research, but I have yet to do that. Maybe in 2024.

I've been playing some My Time At Portia. Quite like it.

Moonstone Island: I still love thee. I haven't finished the first year yet, but there's no rush.

November

So I was super excited (as I love time-loops) for the game In Stars and Time to come out. I did play it (though I haven't beaten it yet) when it came out, but I also wanted to play the (optional) prequel Start Again: A Prologue. As you may expect from a time-loop game, this is depressing at times (it hasn't gotten there yet, but I assume In Stars and Time will get to this point as well) and there's some self-harm. So while I absolutely recommend both games, make sure you're in a good place mentally when playing.

December

December was largely about hauling ass to finish Umineko episode 4. In case I hadn't made it clear, I had played most of the Umineko series before it was officially licensed, back when it was a fan translation. I have beaten Episode 4 at least twice years ago. But regardless, Episode 4 still emotionally destroys me. When I cleared all of it yesterday (December 30th) I was devastated and just listened to Discode on repeat.

There was also Pokemon. My brother wanted to make sure I cleared The Teal Mask before The Indigo Disk DLC came out. So I did work on that. I intend to at least get close to clearing Indigo Disk before the epilogue in January comes out.

Things I'd Like to Work on (Game-wise)

Other than some important games ( Hades II, Suikoden I & II and Eiyuden Chronicle ) that are coming out next year that I absolutely want to play, I think I want to beat at least one game from my backlog in the coming year. That should probably be Xenoblade Chronicles but I have many things I have half-finished, as has been clear from prior posts. Also, since Eiyuden Chronicle is coming out, I want to get back to Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising and beat that.

And of course, I want to finish all of Umineko Chiru / The Answer arc. I have to emotionally destroy my soul in 2024, I promised!

Books

October

I finished A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking. I wish I had read this sooner, it's wonderful. Virtually everything else in October was a graphic novel, and overall I think I read less than usual.

November

In November, Dracula Daily ended (again), and of course, that meant Re: Dracula (the podcast audio drama version) ended as well. I cannot state how much I loved this. I may have to add an audio drama section to this report next year, because Re: Dracula got me really into listening to audio drama podcasts.

I also (finally) finished A Conjuring of Light, the final book in the Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab. Apparently there's a new series taking place in the same world that just released.

And comics, once more.

December

In December I finally noticed I was in a book slump and needed a break from comics. Ironically, I started reading a buttload of comics this year because I was in a book slump from Young Adult fiction. This month, I've tried a little nonfiction and a little literature. I highly recommend Idol, Burning by Rin Usami. It's a good read, plus it's a novella so it doesn't take as long to read.

Finally, my hold on Bookshops & Bonedust as well, and that was a wonderful treat.

Things I'd like to work on (Books edition)

It's not like I need to read hundreds of books in a year. But I love reading, and I'd like to figure out what to read that will resonate with me. Right now, it appears to be literature (especially Japanese literature). But who knows what the new year will hold. Maybe I'll just ask people to tell me what to read.

I enjoy doing these reports, so I plan to continue this practice next year.

 
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from lapis

As you may have guessed from the title: I still think it’s a good idea to have these quarterly reflections. I have improved on writing down when I play/read/watch/start/finish something. Sometimes it takes a few days before I remember to add it to the Hobonichi Cousin, but I’ve gotten a lot better about remembering, probably because it’s become a habit. Though personally? I’d still like Nintendo and Steam to give me more data, and not just at the end of the year. Maybe they will read this blog and go “you know what? That’s an excellent idea from a genius writer and we’re giving them free games (and localizing Mother 3) as a result”. I can dream, can’t I?

Anyway, there's a decent amount here, let's start with games, like last time.

Games

July

A great month for Cozy Games. Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life came out, and while I petered out playing it, I can confirm: If you buy the goat, it will not run out of milk: no more justification for murdering the goat!

Atelier Marie Remake came out, and you can bet as someone who played the Atelier series since they first came here, I was quite excited, I had always wanted to play this one. I decided to do an unlimited time run file. As you may expect, there are still annual events, they just recur however many times per year. Which is my current problem. I need Dunkelheits. Information in game seems to indicate they show up during an annual eclipse, and I’m so worried about spacing out (I tend to space out playing Cozy Games) and missing the Dunkelheit and having to wait another year. So it’s on hold until I’m “Ready”, whenever that is.

A new friend introduced me to Moonlighter, which is another game I can just put on a podcast to and relax. This is oddly specific and so Steam cannot help me with a dynamic list. I will have to come up with “lapis’ podcast and play” curated game list at some other point.

As you may have guessed, in July, I beat my first run of I Was a Teenage Exocolonist. I was so happy to start it again, so eager to right my wrongs. So far two less people have died. Though I have failed at preventing at least one death so far. I think I know how to avoid it next time.

I did in fact start Umineko: Episode 3 in July, and it took me until today (September 30th) to clear it. Not much to report, just picking up details I missed the first time around.

August

I learned about the existence of MOTHER: Encore. It’s basically a fan reimagining of the original, with sprites more like Earthbound and MOTHER 3, and some added functionality. I want to be clear. I LOVE the original MOTHER / EarthBound: Beginnings. Maybe it’s because I’ve played EarthBound / MOTHER 2 since before I can remember but collecting eight melodies holds a special place in my heart, despite all the bullshit and balancing issues the original game has. I played a bit of the demo, but I very much want to wait for the full game. A friend of mine, who has studied when Nintendo C&Ds something, is more optimistic than I that this will be made. Supposedly Nintendo’s C&Ds are entirely about Brand Confusion, so if they C&D’d this, it would indicate they probably did want to remake the first game. But anyway, you should check it out here.

I also did a bit of Honkai: Star Rail which I will insist is for a project I’m working on and not because I find March 7th really adorable. I have to check out some other Gachas for this project, and I haven’t progressed super far in the game yet.

I also did a bit of the Pokemon Scarlet postgame to make sure I was ready for the DLC.

September

Discovered a bunch of cool stuff this month. I started playing My Time At Portia at someone’s recommendation. Not much to say other than that I like it and should get back to it.

As you may know, Part 1 of the Pokemon Scarlet / Violet DLC came out, The Teal Mask. (Minor, vague spoilers for the main game and a bit of the DLC follow, skip ahead to Moonstone Island to skip it)

I don’t know if you have to have beaten the game to start it. Level-wise, I would say “yes”, but so far (and admittedly I’m not super-far in) I feel like it’s really mean to give Kieran a complex about how much he sucks at fighting you when you’re Champion-ranked. Like, this was Nemona’s character-arc, that she started holding back because she’s the only one that likes losing (and then she met you, and you let her go all out). I really hope it comes up, because as fun as it is to “bully” Kieran, it does feel really mean, he’s gonna need therapy at this rate.

Moonstone Island came out and I love this game so far. I think the reason some people don’t is they think it will just be another farming sim. So far the farming elements, while necessary, are light. I honestly wouldn’t mention the farming elements when pitching this game to someone. Say that the map is randomly generated after you complete the tutorial (which I suspect will lead to more replayability), and that while it seems to have less unique dialogue than a Rune Factory or Stardew Valley, I actually like how conversing works: you get a brief line, and then the option of Chatting, Joking, or Flirting with the person. These have different success rates and rewards (and presumably flirting is a requirement for dating someone). That’s right, you can make someone’s affection go down by picking “chat” and having poor luck. Also I like the battle system a lot, honestly: more than Stardew Valley’s.

A friend urged me to try the Silent Hope Demo that Marvelous / XSeed released. I love the system of time for crafting or other activities, and being able to switch characters (and getting a buff) in the dungeon. I’m quite looking forward to this game.

Things I'd Like to Work on (Game-wise)

I really need to get back to Xenoblade Chronicles I. It's like Eiyuden Chronicle and the Suikoden I & II remake delays were made specifically for me, but surprising probably no one that read this, I am really bad at staying on task and finishing games in a timely manner. At least I managed to clear I was a Teenage Exocolonist once... Unfortunately XBC will probably be delayed while I play Cozy Games. I will keep on top of Umineko Ep 4 though!

Books

July

I didn't write a review of it, but I wanted to highlight The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher by E. M. Anderson. This time the Chosen One hails from a Retirement Home. While there are sad and brutal parts of this book (it does not glorify them but it does not shy away from it, this book is basically “Trauma: A Fantasy Novel”) it is gentle and loving and I LOVE this book. Please buy it or request it from your library, the author deserves to do well.

I started Kimi no Todoke: From Me to You because my library got it in digitally. Unfortunately, though I checked out volume 16, it never showed up on my kobo (this apparently has something to do with updating files, but I have no idea what the issue is, but it made me sad because I really like the manga).

August

I caught up on Delicious in Dungeon / _Dungeon Meshi English Graphic Novel releases. The manga reached its conclusion the following month and you bet I read those chapters.

I finished reading What You Will: A Queer-er Shakespeare. You can see my review here. Jess Mahler, as always, does quite nice work, and I know in future writings, if I have a character transition during the story, this will be one of the books I study to make sure I do a good job.

I got through A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows during August, and the corresponding videos. As of writing I have about 20% of the final book left.

Because of the new zine, Madison, I reread all of Ngozi Ukazu's Check, Please! and Huddle! comics and zines respectively. I'm pretty sure it's not a MLM story, but I'm quite looking forward to her Graphic Novel Bunt! to be published in 2024.

People had been nagging me to read The God of Arepo and since I had a copy of it I finally did. I uh, see what the fuss is about (Yes I cried), and I'm glad it won an Ignatz. Reimena Yee is not responsible for the original story, but she does excellent art. She also made the Graphic Novel My Aunt is a Monster which I also happened to read this August. Solid work.

September

Less was read this month (besides trying my hardest to get through A Conjuring of Light). I read the comic Coven (Jennifer Dugan, Kit Seaton) and it was nice. My hold for My Brain is Different (MONZUSU) came in, and it was a great look at ADHD, Autism, and other such Neurodiversities in Japan. I recommend it (but it's a heavy book, dealing with bullying and suicide a lot. Take care while reading).

Around the same time I also checked out Shino Can’t Say Her Name (Shuzo Oshimi) and it was an interesting one. While not an anthology like the above, it is also only one volume. I recommend it.

Things I'd Like to Work on (Book-wise)

I absolutely want to finish A Conjuring of Light. I'm hoping if I'm lucky, once I do, my hold on R. F. Kuang's Babel will come back in and I can finish that as well. That new book written by Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame, The Mysteries is coming out in October along with a bunch of other comics. There's another Nagata Kabi book coming out in November (and a new version of My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness if you haven't picked that up yet) so I'm excited about that.

I really want to get back to Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi as well. It's my first Danmei as well as first Xianxia, so I think maybe rereading volume 1 is in order. I know I can grasp this stuff. I mean, I was certainly able to grasp a bunch of random facts about Japan I inhaled from manga in my peak Weeb period. Just because this is new doesn't mean it's impossible.

Things I'd Like to Work on (In General)

I joined an ASL class. I'm quite happy, I've been wanting to learn ASL especially in case I have another period where I go silent for whatever reason. But it's a really cool language and I'm loving what I've learned of the grammar so far. Wish me luck!

I've mentioned on Mastodon and Discord repeatedly that I plan on spending October improving my handwriting—not just for legibility, I think if I find a better position and grip it will help with my hand pain somewhat. I'm hoping to have something to report regarding that. I would love it if anyone else wanted to join in a 30-day (31st is for make ups and reflection) challenge of their own, it doesn't have to be handwriting.

I plan to do this again in December, possibly with an Annual Round-up too. I hope I will write a blog post or two before then though!

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

Most of my meditation these days is based on visualization and imagination. I've had a really intense inner life for as long as I can remember, and I recently started deliberately mapping it all out and developing a cohesive world I can travel in my mind. I start in front of my house there, which is in a tree like some kind of fairy tale because it can be, imagination is fun.

From there I travel to whatever part of the world makes sense for the type of meditation I want to do. I might go to the sacred grove for druid work, sit by a lake to think deeply about something, or revisit places I've been in the real world to draw on those memories. Sometimes that's just unguided wandering, sometimes I'll follow a recording, sometimes I use oracle decks. The treehouse I mentioned connects to the world tree and from there I can access all the possible worlds I could imagine.

Fantasy Worlds

Since I got the Vibe Check Deck, I've been doing a lot of that last one. It's a deck of AI-generated art showing places of all kinds. Small rooms, shrines, restaurants, markets, landscapes, etc. All of it gives me post-apocalyptic sci-fi vibes, which is kind of peak optimism for me. And I'm not finding it easy to be optimistic lately, so I like to visit these worlds after the end and believe in a world where there is an after and people still find meaning and connection.

In this post I shared a picture of one of these readings. I typically draw three cards, one for the general setting, one for my home/place in it, and one for the way those come together to create a story. In that example, the sunny green market makes me feel like this is a solarpunk world featuring cooperation and shared resources. The little cottage surrounded by pink foliage and clouds in the second one is exactly the kind of place I would love to live and sings to my little witchy heart.

The third card shares the color palette with the house and the buildings easily match up with the cityscape in the back of the market. None of the aesthetics in these cards really seem to match and I wouldn't expect to see them all in one movie. In particular, the third card stands out as being particularly not green and not meshing well with the garden vibes of the first card. This tells me that the people in this world have deliberately spread out to places and come together to share to make the most of their resources and provide for everyone.

I can picture myself here in that little cottage on the border of these two very different landscapes. Making food and clothing to share with people in those other areas when I visit them. The perfect mix of solitude and community that I crave in my daily life. It's comforting to stay there for awhile, to imagine the work I might be doing on that day, to see myself as a part of that community and feel my work has meaning.

Challenges and Guards

There are a lot of Wonderland/Oz/Labyrinth style places in my inner world. A lot of gates and hidden information. I will envision myself traveling through the course and when I reach a block I pull a card to understand what I need to move forward. Something that needs to be sacrificed, a puzzle I have to solve, a gift given, etc. If the door opens, I move on to the next section. If not, I'll keep working on it or might decide that it's not meant for me today and go back.

Basically any deck could work for this, but I tend to use my own homemade oracles. They're tailored for my specific purposes so I can pick out exactly the right one for whatever kind of work I'm doing, and I already have strong connections to the symbols so it's easy to draw on them to imagine what comes next. It might be interesting to try this with a fandom deck. I'll have to keep that in mind.

Rituals and Shrines

Quite a few of my decks were offerings for various deities or ancestors and I use them specifically to communicate with those entities. I'm an atheist, but I really believe in the power of storytelling and personal narratives and this kind of ritual speaks to me in a deep way. Feelings are weird and again, imagination is cool.

A short distance from my treehouse in the inner world there is an ancient temple with shrines to various gods in one direction, the sacred grove mentioned before in another, and various other places of worship. Inside the house there are several small shrines to my ancestors, other guides, and the gods I work with most.

In rituals after I've done the physical setup and offerings, I'll spend time in meditation visiting the most appropriate worship space. I'll then draw cards from a deck devoted to that individual to see how the ritual was and offering were received, ask if there are any further offerings to be given or questions to be answered or challenges to be done. I think the physical components of a ritual are important and effective, but being able to imagine my ideal worship space and have it all look and feel like I want it to is also helpful for me in internalizing it and making it feel real.

Future Experiment: Meeting the Cards

YouTube keeps recommending me videos of people talking about how they use oracle cards. That didn't make a lot of sense to me, because I pretty much use oracle decks exactly like I use tarot decks. But I recently watched a really cool video about using oracle cards to create spreads and I got really excited to try it. And between that and my recent explorations with the Vibe Check deck, I've also been curious to try new things and stretch my concept of how these things work.

I have three decks that are basically just a lot of characters (well, and a few signposts for one of them): Wisdom of Avalon, Heart of Faerie, and the Faries' Oracles. I use them with tarot spreads and it works fine that way, but making a trip to visit the characters or places in the cards and try to talk to them or interact with their world might be better suited and help me get more out of these decks. I look forward to trying that soon.

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

I joined ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin) for the first time back around 2010. I've lapsed and re-joined a few times since then and am a current member, but to be honest I always find it's not a good fit for me and I always wind up deciding it was a mistake. Nothing specific about it, I guess it just never really vibed for me.

I do know that one of the bigger problems I had was the meditation requirement. I just couldn't get into sitting still and counting my breath every day, and I didn't really see the point. They have something called a Two Powers meditation, and that was better, but...then what? I'd be like “ok, chill, I feel the two powers, love it, I'm a tree, cool...has it been 20 minutes yet?”

In one of my classes at school we would spend a few minutes meditating at the start of every day to “let our brains catch up with our bodies” and I hated that because I didn't know what my brain was supposed to do to catch up to my body. It's just...there. I talked to a classmate about my frustration and said I understood it was a metaphor but my brain doesn't really need to catch up and I'd just sit there waiting for everyone else.

Eventually I realized that this is likely an autism and dissociation thing. It's not that my brain was already there, it's that my mind never feels like it's a part of my body, it's always floating a few feet above me and kind of observing. So meditation for me would require some much more intentional work to get my consciousness to feel more embodied. I started doing a lot of guided meditations focused on feeling every part of my body from the head down to the toes. It helped a lot.

It's also helped me take advantage of ease with which my mind dissociates from my body and my tendency to imagine complex and beautiful worlds for it to live in since it's never really liked this one. Now that I understand that's not how consciousness typically works and have gotten a bit more control of it, I can switch back and forth with some effort. So I enjoy doing meditations that involve visualization and journeying through the inner world, and then taking a few minutes to feel my body again when I'm ready or when I'm having trouble with anxiety or focus at work.

I realized the core of meditation, for me, is really about understanding what your mind does naturally so that you can develop a strategy and try different methods to get it to do what you want it to do. So there's not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach since all our minds work so differently. My partner can't visualize things at all, so he'd never be able to do the journeying stuff I enjoy so much, but he can sit and breathe for soooooo long.

(Honestly, I'm getting a little better at that, but it's definitely not my favorite.)

One of the things that helped me was finally joining OBOD, another modern druidry group. I'd avoided it for quite awhile because it's far away whereas I've always had ADF groves fairly close to me, even if I never actually went to them. But since I don't actually go and ADF clearly hadn't been working for me, I gave it a try and have been working through the Bardic course they offer. I love it! I've been learning a lot and making a lot of progress with my meditation practice.

I can't really share details, but for meditation specifically, the former chief Philip Carr-Gomm does “tea with a druid” videos on youtube that end with guided visual meditations I find really useful. They do mesh very well with both the meditations from the course and my own inner landscape, but I think they'd also be very good on their own. So that might be a good starting point for someone looking to incorporate inner world journeying into their own spiritual practices.

I want to talk more about my inner world map and what I do there, but I've also just realized the intro to this post is a full post on its own. So I'll do that as a separate entry and post it soon. In particular, I'll eventually get to this post and give some more background on how I use these cards. But I also have some other non-card-related meditations and I'm excited to talk about all of it. Soon!

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

The TarotTube topic/hashtag I wrote about awhile back got a sequel, which reminded me I never came back to do the second half of the first one. So now I have even more prompts and this will probably be two more posts after this one. Woooooo.

The idea here is there are a bunch of dichotomies and you pick a deck in your collection for each.

Confronting vs Comforting

My confronting deck is the Arthur Rackham Oracle. It was the deck I worked with for my daily readings in September and it was just calling me tf out every single day. It's a beautiful deck featuring fairy tale/fantasy art and I love it to pieces. A lot of oracles kind of err on the side of positivity, and I was kind of pleasantly surprised by how many cards in this lean neutral to negative. Lots of opportunity to dig deep and work on things that needed attention.

On the other side, my comforting deck is Heart of Faerie Oracle. This is my “mom” deck, and I get it out when I need a hug. I think this might actually be the only deck I've ever pre-ordered (not counting Kickstarters). The Faeries' Oracle was one of my first and still a favorite deck, so even though the style seemed very different I was really excited for another Froud deck. And it is very, very different. But it still has that same approach to faerie that makes the world around me feel magical and hopeful.

Every Day Vs Every So Often

I struggled with this one a bit. There isn't actually any deck I use every day, what I do instead is pick a new deck for my daily readings every month. So at most it would be every day for awhile.

I decided to rework it and talk about one that is pretty much always appropriate to pull from and one that is very limited in use/scope. For both of those, I'm not talking about a published deck but one I put together myself! A couple months ago I had the idea to make some decks using old trading cards my (deceased) aunt would have liked and I wound up making a lot of them.

A good every day deck is my Vintage Disney Oracle. I didn't add anything to these cards or assign them to any existing system, just selected cards as they are. Each one has a still from an animated short film and a quote or plot note underneath. It makes for a good quick one-card draw when I just want to break up the day with something cute and fun.

Then I used some vintage Coca-Cola cards and made my own oracle I call Late Stage Capitalism. I picked out all the cards from this set that were the most horrifying to me and that I didn't want to include in the other decks I'd made from it. Then I wrote titles on each card, mostly words that are kind of ironically positive, like things my parents would probably think are good values but make me feel squicky. Examples are “Choices” for a card boasting you can have regular or giant soda bottles, “Trust Me” for one with a Coca-Cola logo force-feeding the globe a bottle of coke, or “Empire” for one that shows all the Mount Rushmore figures drinking Diet Coke.

It's a very gallows-humor sort of deck and I use it when I'm stressed about work or money things. Or sometimes just the need to interact with society. It'd be a real downer to use regularly, but it's pretty good for making me laugh when I already feel like crying.

Over-rated vs Under-rated

I'm approaching this one a little differently, too. I don't think any of my decks are actually over-rated because I think they're all great. But I do have one that I took for granted and that has taught me some valuable lessons on both sides of this.

The Celtic Dragon Tarot was one of my first decks. I loved it soooo much. I used it to read for friends even though I was brand new to tarot because the illustrations are so intuitive there wasn't really any need to have the meanings memorized. And there's dragons! So many dragons.

I lost my tarot decks when I went back to my parents' house for the summer. Luckily, my collection was only 3 decks at that time (all the ones my local Sam Goody carried!) and I learned my lesson not to start collecting again until I actually finished school and moved out. So when that finally happened and I wanted to start by getting my old decks, one was out of print and the Celtic Dragon had changed its card stock. I'd been thinking about that card stock for years. The texture was so specific, smooth and cool to the touch and flexible without feeling fragile.

The new deck I bought was nothing like it. And it made me so sad any time I tried to use it because even though it was still beautiful, it wasn't the deck I remembered. I felt so guilty for letting that first deck go and devastated that I might never feel those cards again. I found the original version on ebay recently and bought it. And it feels so great! Just like I remember. Now that I know more about cards and have seen a lot to compare them, I can see that the new ones are actually an improvement in basically every way. But I don't care, I missed these cards and I have them again!

For right now, I'm keeping both. The difference in texture gives them completely different vibes and I colored the edges differently to match those vibes. They both stay in the same bag, and they remind me to take better care of the things I value but also not to get too hung up on the way things used to be. I think I'll probably pass one of them on at some point, but I'm not there yet.

Light Work vs Shadow Work

The decks that made the most sense to me for this are another kind of matched set of oracles I made. In this case, they're both standard playing card decks. I assigned symbols for each card and wrote the titles in sharpie, sometimes with very simple illustrations or written in a way that the word itself is an illustration.

I won't get into the specific titles or descriptions because they're both connected to meditation/journey work I do and are very specific and private to me. But in general, the first one (light work) is based on fairy tales, Ghibli films, and similar kid-friendly stories about interacting with spiritual realms. The other (shadow work) is a chthonic deck inspired by myths of Dionysus, Persephone, Hekate, and Loki.

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

Before I met my partner, he went through a phrase where he was really into astrology, which he now does not believe in at all. I think he's probably a little embarrassed about it, but he'll still talk about it pretty openly. Everyone goes through a process of learning about the world and deciding how to learn it.

I never got into astrology because I don't actually know what time I was born beyond early morning and my mom hates answering questions. So I was always kinda sad I couldn't do one because it wouldn't be “accurate.”

Today I finally realized that was some serious nonsense. I don't believe in astrology, I don't think it's magic and your personality is predetermined like that. I treat it like tarot, the way you respond to whatever you find is the most important part of the process. The cards themselves are arbitrary, sometimes they fit and sometimes you have to stretch to make them fit, and I've learned way more from disagreeing with texts and cards and teachers than I ever have from just memorizing answers.

So it doesn't really matter what my star chart looks like or whether I got the time right, and therefore it doesn't much matter what time I was actually born. To me, with apologies if you believe astrology is actually very accurate and precise and must be followed to the letter.

I do know from when my mom had to answer questions for a class assignment that I was born pretty early in the morning, so I decided on a time that felt right in that range (and then later learned there's a pretty long gap in the categories that matter and therefore I had a good enough idea anyway) and told my partner I was gonna do my chart. And also that I was jealous I could never do mine, which I had apparently never said before because he would have told me that it's not that precise, but whatever.

We still have the astrology book he learned from and told me about very soon after we started dating. “The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need” by Joanna Martine Woolfolk. So I grabbed it and started going through it, but I was getting confused so he helped me out step by step and now I have a chart! And some very basic notes on what each house represents.

There's so much information I didn't know astrology included, it was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to actually digging into the book on my own and learning more about what all of this brand new shiny information is supposed to mean for me and deciding how I feel about it.

And then go back and listen to “Written in the Stars” by Alexandria Bellefleur again. That was one of my books from last year and it was so good. There's a lot of references to astrology that aren't really important to understand and enjoy the book, but might be more fun when I have a better idea what the main character is talking about. And then the other two books in the series!

It's also officially time for my Grady Hendrix book of the year. I haven't read “We Sold Our Souls” yet even though I've had it for a few years and I have read all his other books in my collection, so I guess it's finally time! (It's not like I haven't wanted to read it, I just always wanted to read another one more.)

Yay October!

 
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from Zeph's Bookish Rambles

Things that I've been reading/watching/listening to lately and have too much to say for a mastodon post but too little to say to talk about them on their own blog post.

Do Revenge

I listened to the Netflix suggestion immediately for a change, and I'm glad I did. This was so much fun and just a little cringe at times but overall very worth it.

Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke are both incredible and their characters are horrifically delightful and I want all the best for these awful, awful people. Also Sarah Michelle Gellar is in this and she's just GAH. I don't even have words, I just love her so much.

The cringe is mostly the way “woke” words are used, but I think even that is more because it's overlapping with other things I've seen recently. I love She-Hulk and I thought The Craft: Legacy was great, seeing girl-centric with all the focus on relationships and personal power makes me really happy. And the occasional nod to real-world patriarchal bullshit is nice and cathartic. But at a certain point it just feels obligatory and hollow and takes too much focus away from the feminine joy and power I want to see.

In this movie it's only ever used ironically. The cishet white boy villain uses performative wokeness as a weapon, the Latina main character only ever mentions that she's a woman of color (her words) when she's reminding people how bad it looks for them to target her. It's really gross. And I can't tell if it's supposed to be gross or if someone thought we needed this. Or whether it's supposed to be that they're handling it badly or that the writers think this is what social justice looks like.

Or maybe it's just what they think teenagers look like, regardless of what they're doing. It does have a general vibe of teens being awful because learning compassion takes time and experience and trauma, so maybe misusing this language is more of the same. I don't know, I don't get it, but I still really like the movie and it's only ever a few moments at a time.

Definitely worth a watch, and if you do let me know what you think please.

Cobra Kai

I can't anymore and that makes me sad.

I watched the first episode of the new season and I've liked this show a lot but it just keeps trying to ramp up the stakes and drama and I really need some fluff. Why can't it just be a fun show about kids learning karate and being friends?

Bloodthirst Hearts

This is a podcast/radio drama about a group of former close friends at a convention where there is also an actual embodiment of the monster from the series they're celebrating. I'm only a few episodes in but I love it so far. Friendship, fandom, and monsters! Yay!

Hocus Pocus Tarot

Does this count as media? Whatever, it's related to a movie, I'm counting it.

It's such a cute deck. But more than that, it's a really good deck and useful for thinking and learning about tarot. What drew me to tarot in the first place was the idea that all these archetypes match so well to so many stories, that we all go through these cycles and live these symbols over and over again. That made sense for the majors but I had difficulty with the minor arcana until someone explained to me that each of the suits is also telling their own story that you can follow from card to card.

And that sounds great but can be hard to see when you're just looking at individual cars, especially pip cards without a clear scene illustrating the ideas they represent. I worried about that with this deck since it is a pip deck, but I didn't need to worry.

I do recommend reading through the entire guide book before starting to play with the deck. All of the cards are shown in the book, so you can read the descriptions and follow the story they tell and then on each page look at the card next to its description to get an idea of why it was chosen and make that connection with the card.

It turns out that even if you're just looking at a number of candles, the candles are drawn differently on each card, you can see shadows or note the style and bring to mind what that represents in the larger story. I haven't needed to check the book since that first reading, and I think this is my new go-to recommendation for someone who wants to get started reading tarot.

What else am I doing?

I've kept up the daily tarot draw. Working from home makes this habit a lot easier to build since I don't have to depend on getting up early setting aside time for it. I just keep the deck at my work desk so while I'm waiting for my computer to boot up I can shuffle yesterday's card back into it and draw the new one. I display it right between my monitors so I'm looking at it all day long and it's working really well so far.

I also started a journaling practice so at the end of the day I can reflect on the card and what I think I need to learn from it. For awhile I'd been considering this but was trying to decide if I should start a new blog for it even though that caused some anxiety.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that doing very personal journaling online is actually terrible for me and probably part of why I'd abandoned various spiritual practices in the past decade or so. So now I'm journaling offline again, still with a computer because writing by hand hurts my hands and also results in entries I can't read, but just for myself. Much better solution.

I'm reading actual books again, too, just slowly. After watching a documentary about tree communication networks (“Intelligent Trees,” absolutely worth a watch) and being completely fascinated, I found a couple of books on the subject and I'm super excited about them. Suzanne Simard's “Finding the Mother Tree” is first and I'm not very far in it yet, but I'm enjoying it and expect to keep reading.

I've also been listening to Kiki's Delivery Service when I need a narrative to follow to keep my mind focused at work. That hasn't been so much of a problem lately so it's going slow, I've still got about an hour left in the book after several months. But I do want to save it for when I need it since I know it works so well, so that might take awhile.

Any thoughts or recommendations? Let me know!

 
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