Monday, August 9, 2021

Bookish Jay and the Reading Mermaid Reading Challenge 2021: Update

Here we are, at about mid-year. Summer break, my prime reading time, is over as swiftly as it begun. I am looking forward to fall and winter reading, with chilly breezes and eventually some fireside stories. But now it is hot. I am in a back-to-school frenzy. And reading for pleasure has not been in the forefront for a few weeks now. However, I have read several books so far for the reading challenge this year.

My rating system: *= skip it, it was terrible,  **= might be worth the time,  ***= you should read it

 1. It’s the end of the world as we know it…—an apocalyptic tome, dystopian nightmare, or something set in/about the year 2020.

2. Choose a book from an independent book store.
Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides was picked up at an independent used bookstore here in Orlando. I read it lightening fast. It was a gripping, through distressing tale of a clutch of sisters desperately trying to grow up in 70's middle- America suburbia, though ultimately failing. I went on to watch the film. ***

3. Reclaim her name— choose from a multitude of titles which feature generic pronouns; “girl”, “woman”, “wife”, “lady”, or “she” in the title, and discover the true story of the character. Or, select from the sponsored list by the Women’s Prize for Fiction of 25 authors who used male pseudonyms to publish.

4. Shelf control—pick up a dusty, neglected book that’s already sitting unread on your shelf.
The Grave Keepers by Elizabeth Byrne was a strange tale of how in an alternate time people spend a great deal of time in their future grave, contemplating and reflecting, tending to their long-term home for when they die. This young adult book follows a family of "grave keepers" who live in a cemetery and help others with their plots and graves. They live on the fringes of society and the two daughters struggle to find belonging. **

5. Big Book Energy😉—level up with an 750+ page.

6. Bright lights, big city—get lost in a Metropolis, real or fictional.
Winterfolk by Janel Kolby is a young adult story about a homeless teen girl and how she navigates her coming of age in Seattle with an absentee father and an over protective male friend. It made for a quick, heartfelt read. **

7. Small town vibes— find yourself in a cozy village setting, where everybody knows your name.
The Rattled Bones by S.M. Parker had better cover art than content for my money. A tale of a young lady who is battling grief over her father's death and whether to keep up his fishing territory in small-town Maine or go to college. She is haunted by local spirits who demand to have their injustices brought to light. It is a promising story-line but not well executed. The characters are flat and the story drags. *

8. Don’t you, forget about me— relive the 80s, whether it was your glory days or decade of excess, choose a throwback book from that time, either set in the 80’s or published in the 80’s.

9. Embrace your elemental—align with a fiery, earth, air or water feature in title/cover.
Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski, and well the whole Witcher series. I enjoyed tagging alongside Geralt and Dandelion's adventures. I do feel that the books did not merge seamlessly into one epic tale. It had many starts and stops and points of view. Sometimes I was semi-lost and others happily ensconced in the tale. Overall, I recommend reading it if you are a lover of fantasy. However, I would not re-read the books. Once was good enough for me. **

10. Rule of 3—three main characters, a friendly trio, love triangle or 3 objects on the cover.
The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike was an entertaining read. It follows three women in New England who are joined by their life sorrows and magical abilities. An intriguing man moves into town and disrupts their small coven both for better and for worse. ***

11. Font geek—if an appealing typeface catches your eye, give the book a try.
Darwin's Ghosts by Rebecca Stott, I mean, would you look at those fonts? I love them. I also loved this book. It is a well researched, non-fiction approach to to the men and women who set the stage for Darwin to emerge with his theories on evolution. Growing up as a Baptist kid, Darwin was uber taboo and his ideas discredited roundly. I am so happy that I have been able, over time, to education myself about him. This book was a joy for me to read. ***

12. Book that bites—snakes, bones or teeth on the cover or the title.
The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec fit this prompt perfectly since the witch in question gave birth to a large wolf, snake and daughter, all of whom can be spied in the book art. This is the tale of the ice giant witch named Angrboda who fell in love with the Norse god Loki and bore his children: Fenrir, Jormungandr, and Hel. Their love story is bittersweet and the witch discovers much about herself. I love well written mythology tales and this is one of them. ***

13. Go to the dark side—villains, rogues, bad bois or anti-heroines--pick your reading poison.
Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan is certainly an anti-hero story about a fierce female werewolf and her struggle to save her children from a vampire clan. She is anything but nice, and is quite often very repulsive. This is the third book in a series but I read it as a stand alone and it was quite good. Very gory. Very gross. But I liked it. ***

14. Note your improvement—read up on your favorite hobby, or new interest.
The Green Witch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock was a pleasant and uplifting read about the green path. This is not a religion or spiritual journey but a way of being, living in tune with the earth and surrounding elements, creatures, and life forms. It is a simple read and can be repetitive but is a wonderful foundational book. I ended up gifting it to another who was interested in beginning witchcraft. ***

15. Book with a map.

16. Story set in, or written during the 1920s.

17. Comfort read—need a feel-good story right now, who doesn’t? The cozier, the better.
Lament by Maggie Stiefvater is the first in a trilogy about a human teenage girl and the fae who are attracted to her like a magical magnet. I have not made my way to the second book but probably will at some point. This is one of my favorite author's but it is also one of her first books, so if you do read it it, don't judge her other works on it. It is a little weak. It is a young adult read. **

18. 2021 is the Year of the Ox, read a story with themes of hard work or manual labor. “Without labor, neither knowledge nor wisdom can accomplish much.”

19. The UN declared 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables- pick a book that has a cover ripe with edible plants.

20. Choose a book with regency couples- the art of smoldering eyes while maintaining social distancing.

21. Space Force, astronauts back on the moon and missions to Mars- read something out of this world.

22. Social Justice- read a book to provide more perspective.

23. Animated film adaptation.

24. Cooking up something more than just food in the kitchen: a chef inspired tale.
Good Luck With That by Kristin Hannah is the story of three friends who met at fat camp as teenagers and grew into women who continued to struggle with their weight. One is a chef. It was hard to read at times given my own battles around food and weight but I pushed on. It was a decent book, a bit contrived at times and simply annoying at others, but not terrible. **

25. Poetry: Lyrical limericks, buried metaphors and big feelings. Dive right on in.
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J. R. R. Tolkien is a wee book of poetry and so beautifully written. He is gently lyrical and paints with sunshine and moonbeams. Some I had to read three and four times because they were so tender and deft. ***

26. Find small moments of adventure with some short stories.
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood is technically only one short story but I think it still fits. If I am at a book store and I see Atwood on the spine of something I have not read then I always pick it up. This is the short tale of Odysseus' wife, Penelope, and her point of view of the famous events of the Odyssey. It is set up like a play with the handmaids as a chorus and it reads simply but powerfully. One can never quite tell if Penelope was as honorable as she was portrayed. ***

27. Christmas in July anyone? Find a holiday centric story to read out of season.

28. Brush up on a Native American tribe or historical event involving Native Americans.

29. Pick a candy read, a fluff read, a junk food read. You know the kind. The guilty pleasure you can fly through in a day or two that makes you smile and reminds you that not every book has to be top shelf literature to be enjoyed.
Warm Bodies by Isaac Maron is a young adult zombie love story that was popular years ago. I never got around to it but I am glad I finally did. A zombie boy falls in love with a healthy girl and they try to fight a sinister force together. I have not read the rest of the series but I was happy with the first book. It was entertaining, engaging and silly. ***

30. Royalty reading: monarchies of the past, present or fantastical times.

31. Thinning of the veil- tales involving ghosts, spirits or spectral phenomena.

I have also been heavily into David Sedaris memoirs but could not figure out where to put them in the challenge. How is your reading going this year? Is it a good year for it, or a crap one? Any recommendations for me on my empty prompts? 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Arcana Wildcraft: Layering Notes - Forest Floor, Cedars, Buttercream, Chocolate, Lavender and More

I picked up a handful of layering notes a while back from Julia at Arcana Wildcraft. I was in the mood for woods and calming scents. A few gourmand scents were generously gifted as well. I believe Julia mentioned that her Layering Notes scents would be living at Arcana Craves, once it is set to reopen, which I believe will be soon. The Layering Notes scents are currently $20 each on the Wildcraft site. I enjoy them for their simplicity and realism. Once in a while I will layer them but I mostly choose to wear them alone in appreciation for uncomplicated pleasure.

Buttercream Frosting- Notes: Clouds of powered sugar are lavished over creamy whipped butter and plump vanilla beans. A rich and buttery buttercream confection. 

In the vial the powered sugar and vanilla pull forth strongest, the dustings of velvety white sugar that cling to the lips and corner of the mouth. Stray sweetness. On the wrist that powdery confectioners' sugar slowly warms with soft fresh churned butter to create the creamy whipped sensation of buttercream frosting. A dash of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and dozens of memories baking my daughters' birthday cakes over the years. Each cake was graced with homemade vanilla buttercream frosting, whether it was a dragon, snake, Pokemon (Mew), the One Ring, heart-eyed emoji, or whale cupcakes. This perfume is the perfect photorealistic impression of these moments. As it settles in, the frosting becomes soft again, powdered and gentle. Flavors of dusky tonka, papery benzoin and furry vanilla musk drift hazily through the scent. This will be a bedtime aroma for me. For some reason I get comfort from simple vanilla scents at night. My current go-to is the Marshmallow Layering Note. Once it is gone I will put this in the rotation.

Forest Floor was a Layering Note that was requested by a customer. This accord was featured in Her Forest and Strawberries Crave Sunlit Paths (I believe). I don't recall it ever really being officially listed on the website but you could order it upon request. For a while there Julia was generously creating customer requests for Layering Notes. I think that is on hold while she gets back to curating seasonal delights and some Craves goodies. She does still ask for input in her Facebook group Arcana Addicts. I highly recommend joining. 

Back to the scent at hand, Forest Floor is indeed just that. Soil, moss, humus, mycorrhizae, roly-poly pill bug decomposers, peat, and all the brown, damp crumbly life-filled organic matter that is so vital to forest health. On the skin it begins fresh and mineral laden, like the cool, wet stones in the river bed that meanders between massive trunks of trees. The wet knotty brown roots of cypress knees creep up as you ascend the bank. Bits of needles, dead leaves and pine straw pinch and grab at the toes while silken mud seeps between. Forest Floor possesses the ability to straddle the line between earthen and refreshing, bracing in its dewy greenness and grounded in the bracken, much like lichen and moss. This beauty is easy to wear. I put it on when I want to feel like a dryad. 

Along those dryad tendencies, I also requested a cedar layering note from Julia. She said she had two so I bought both of them. Can you tell I am a sucker for cedar? It all began with the Western Red Cedar oil I purchased from Britton at Blood Moon Botanica. I knew Julia would have some amazing cedar offerings as well. Red Cedar Heartwood and Atlas Cedarwood were the two she created. 

Red Cedar Heartwood is dry and papery, like the dust motes that fly through the shafts of sunlight filtering through the cracked and hazy windows in an old barn. This is the scent of forgotten cedar chests, sunny Victorian attics, and empty barns in the dark of late summer. On the skin this dry wood imparts a peaceful grounded feeling. As a teacher I do catch tiny suggestions of pencil sharpener leavings and that is nicely nostalgic. I would wear this with the other foresty scents, vanillas, frankincense, and patchouli. 

Blue Amber- Notes: Fresh white amber, crystal blue aquatic notes, sea air, and a bit of Egyptian blue chamomile.

From the vial lifts up a perfectly serene blending of chamomile and smooth pale amber. It glows like polished moonstone. There is a soft sandy sweetness to it. On the skin a bit of the salty sea air and briny aquatic tang pushes through the sandy amber initially. It possesses a mild soapy cleanness, like a creamy buttery bar of the best goat's milk soap. The chamomile watery sweet, apple-like essence compliments the ghostly amber. This wears perfectly as a stand-alone aroma.

Chocolate Cake- Notes: The scent of a delicate, cocoa-dusted chocolate cake. Rather than a fudgy chocolate note, this is light and cake-like. 

This is brownie batter in a bowl, spoon licking, spatula licking, finger licking bliss. On the skin the chocolate is light and airy, dustings of cocoa that make the mouth water. Nuances of coconut play around the edges of the light fluffy chocolate cake. This is supremely delicious and completely realistic.

Atlas Cedarwood is not dry like the Red Cedar, this one blooms with the bracing effluvia of turpentine like effervescence. This camphorous scent bubbles with life, the aldehydes of the forest. If you like a wee bit of gasoline in your whiff, give this one a go.

Lavender Absolute- Notes: Buttery, smooth French lavender absolute. The creme de la creme of lavenders.

I know lavender may seem a little pedestrian or commonplace, but honestly no one sources a lush lavender like Julia. Hers always shine with authenticity and saturation. It is certainly buttery and smooth, but also delicately sweet and herbal, with tones of rosemary and pine. I wear this alone but also pair it with Filthy Viking, vanillas and patchouli.

If you enjoy keeping things simple and high quality, give these Arcana Layering Notes a whirl. I find them to be priced well and of excellent taste. What is one of your favorite notes right now? I am on a huge vanilla kick. I cannot get enough Two Finger Ballet, Marshmallow or Devilish.