a lit-el forecast

4.10.21

Hello! It’s been a weird two weeks; I ended up taking a break from reading and blogging that I hadn’t really been intending but nevertheless found very helpful. For those waiting on an update, sorry for the delay and thanks for being patient with me; my family members are all doing pretty well and I am feeling much better. I am being kinder to myself though about letting things take the amount of time I need for them rather than trying to push through to keep to a schedule, so my presence here may still be somewhat sporadic for the next few weeks as I (hopefully) continue to improve.

But on the plus side, after struggling for a few weeks with my second bout of Covid in March and into April, I think this turn of events has actually helped clear out some of the lingering symptoms I’ve been unable to shake for the last year. I am feeling physically better this week than I have felt since pre-pandemic days, have gotten back into reading and writing, and have been taking long walks and appreciating my health. The good thing about having felt slightly under the weather for a long time is that on my best days now I feel absolutely gleeful about just feeling “normal;” I don’t think I’ll ever again take for granted just waking up and feeling like myself. Even though my fatigue and brain fog have been mild compared to most accounts of them that I’ve seen, I just haven’t felt fully present since I had Covid last spring, and getting a more complete recovery this time is pretty exciting in the wake of all that. Also exciting- this past week my state finally made me eligible for the vaccine! I called the first day the call center was open, and even though it took seven tries to get through I did in the end get an appointment for both doses, the first of which will be coming up this week. Yay! Unfortunately my family seems to have taken their recent illness as further reason not to get vaccinated, but I’m trying to make peace with the fact that there’s only so much I can do.

Since I missed last week’s update in order to rest and recharge and care for my family, I have two weeks of photos to share today from The 365. I’m so grateful that the weather is finally nice enough to be spending time outdoors, so most of these photos are from walks I’ve taken since my last post. Sorry they’re so gray, but even though it has been warmer out my walks seem have doubled as a game of chicken with perpetual rain clouds. Luckily, I only got wet once, and it was a drizzle rather than a soak.

In addition, two weeks means two Cats of the Week. First up is Shrill (first cat photo, closed eyes) who is two years old and aptly named for his voice, his one fault. Otherwise, he’s such a dainty snuggly boi and will sample every available lap to find the best sleeping spot. It is an honor to be chosen. Next (second cat photo, eyes open) is Robin, ten months old and named after Batman’s Robin because he’s such a little sidekick. Whatever you’re doing, he’ll be right there to “help.” (This is sounding uncharitable toward the original character, but cat Robin definitely has a knack for getting his nose in the way.)

In my absence last week I also missed sharing my March reading stats, so I’ll add a few here. I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear that March was a low point for me reading-wise. According to Storygraph, I read nearly 2,000 pages, but actually I keep my own record of pages read day to day and my bullet journal shows closer to 1,200 pages for March. The difference, I think, is A Court of Silver Flames, which I read the bulk of at the end of February but finished in early March, so Storygraph counted those 700+ pages toward March even though I didn’t. Interesting to note, I think, but I’m sure by the end of the year those month-to-month fluctuations should even out. Now that I’m doing weekly reading updates instead of monthly wrap-ups, I no longer feel like I have to finish whatever I’m reading on the last day of the month and start a new book on the 1st to keep things neat, but I do always start as fresh as possible on Jan 1st.

And honestly, maybe I would’ve read more throughout March if, while ill, I hadn’t been trudging through such *checks notes* dark, mysterious, challenging, and emotional reads. Lol.

It was necessary to make one particular adjustment to my reading in March, though: no nonfiction. I started one but just didn’t have the brain power to keep it up.

Unfortunately, my ratings took a hit last month, as well. While I only actively disliked one of the books I read, I had no 5-star reads and struggled with a couple of books that definitely suffered for how unusually long it took me to finish them. And while I would say a 3-star rating is still good, it’s not… inspiring. It’s not a rating I tend to aim for, and thus always feels slightly disappointing even if I would still recommend those books to the right reader, so seeing 2 and 3s make up more than half of my reading shows a lack of excitement for me, even if most of my reading wasn’t particularly “bad.”

Here’s what I finished reading in March:

  • A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas – 2 stars.
  • The History of Bees by Maja Lunde, translated by Diane Oatley – 3 stars.
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – 4 stars.
  • The Butchers’ Blessing by Ruth Gilligan – 4 stars. (review pending)
  • Luster by Raven Leilani – 3 stars. (review pending)

April has also been off to a slow start for reading but I am picking up speed and gaining optimism. I’m behind on my reading goal for the year, but not too concerned about it at this point. I’m more frustrated that the shortlist date for the Women’s Prize is fast approaching (April 28th) and I’m lagging behind in reading and reviews for that, but it is what it is.

Here’s how my April reading has been going so far:

  • Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan – 4 stars. I really liked this Women’s Prize longlister. Dolan’s prose is incredible, the messy MC shockingly relatable, and the complex three-way relationship tense and fun. Full thoughts coming soon (hopefully), but I’ll say for now that the book is divided into three sections, one of which worked much better for me than the others, my only real complaint here.
  • Made in China by Amelia Pang – ongoing. I’m mentioning this nonfiction read about forced labor in China related to US’s imported goods just to keep it on the record, even though I’ve hardly touched it in the last two weeks. I am looking forward to getting back to this soon.
  • Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers – ongoing. Another Women’s Prize longlist read, though I’m less enthusiastic about this one. I’m about halfway through and so far it’s just… fine? I’m discovering that stories set in the 50s just do not really work for me. It was a bad time for women. The plot is slow-going in this one but in its favor it’s undeniably easy to read, which is what I needed this week.

As for posts, I haven’t shared a review in weeks and can’t guarantee exactly when they’ll start cropping up again. I have been working on my Luster review and have notes started for my other pending reviews because I forget things too quickly not to jot down some immediate starting points. Hopefully I’ll get something finished this week and fall back into the groove of it. I am also very behind in blog hopping, and I feel bad posting new stuff without looking at anyone else’s so that’s a priority as I catch back up here.

That’s all for me for now, I think. Drop your current Women’s Prize thoughts below if you’ve been reading any of the longlisted titles- I am eager to jump back in and see where everyone’s at!

The Literary Elephant

23 thoughts on “a lit-el forecast”

    1. Thank you very much, and happy reading to you as well! 🙂
      I think it’s been fairly rare to get covid more than once, I hadn’t heard much about that happening either until I had reason to search for anecdotes about it. In my case the illnesses were a full year apart, so I’m guessing that was long enough for my initial antibodies to wear off, unfortunately. On the bright side I am feeling much better now, and hoping the vaccinations will help prevent others from sharing this experience!

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  1. I somehow missed that you’d been sick with this last year, I’m so sorry to hear you went through that! The lingering symptoms are really the most insidious part of this illness, and why I think it’s so terrifying and worth avoiding as best as we can, despite the idiots saying “it’s no worse than the flu!” but ugh, I know you already know all this. But it’s completely unpredictable in how our bodies will respond and how long the whole thing plays out!

    I’m pretty sure that I had it in the fall since my downstairs neighbors, who believe in conspiracy theories and want everything to “go back to normal” but don’t want to actually do anything to facilitate that happening, all came down with it right before I started feeling bad. Disturbingly, I’d had no contact with them, so no idea how it could’ve passed to me, but seemed like it did. The weird thing was that around three months later, I suddenly started smelling and tasting cigarette smoke EVERYWHERE. It lasted for a month or so, and there was nothing that could’ve caused it – I don’t smoke and the neighbors don’t either, plus I had the symptoms while away from home. It seems like this is also a weird possible covid aftereffect. Insane, right? But it passed, and I’m happy to hear it seems like your lingering symptoms are on the way out and that you can enjoy just feeling “normal” again – it can mean so much! And yay that you’re getting the vaccine!! I got my first dose last week, I was almost in tears of joy, not even kidding. Hang in there and I’m sorry your family is seeing things differently – such a tough and strange time this has all been but the light at the end of the tunnel is finally in view! Feel better 🙂

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    1. You couldn’t have known, I didn’t share anything online about being sick last year until my previous post! The actual illness for me was initially pretty mild and it was right at the start of lockdowns; it just seemed like there were so many bigger issues at the time and it took me embarrassingly long to realize that feeling off afterwards was even related, so it didn’t seem worth talking about until it had really worn me down and gotten worse with the second bout last month. By that point keeping it to myself started feeling ridiculous. (Though I am feeling much better now!) I agree 100% about the unpredictable aftereffects being a huge reason to try not to get sick, even for those who are dismissive of the mortality rate. (Double ugh.) There’s just no knowing how that “flu-like” or even “cold-like” illness is going to affect anyone long-term; even in my case with lingering symptoms so mild I wasn’t even sure what they were for *months*, it’s been disruptive and disheartening enough that I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Unfortunately, those who haven’t experienced it firsthand don’t always seem to understand how much it really can set someone back. At least, I’m trying to believe this is the biggest cause of covid carelessness.
      I hope you’re faring well after being sick yourself- so sorry to hear you’ve had to deal with this illness too, especially without knowing exactly how you came into contact with it, that must’ve been incredibly frustrating. The cigarette smell/taste sounds like a miserable experience too, but actually that helps connect another dot for me- after my family was sick, one of them complained about having a bad chicken smell lingering for a week or so when there wasn’t any reason for it and no one else could smell it; bit of a different scent, but I’ll bet you’re right about carrying a bad scent around in your nose as a weird aftereffect of covid, which I hadn’t realized at the time my family was describing it. I’m sorry if I missed you mentioning any of your own covid experiences earlier on while you were dealing with them, and wishing you good health going forward- yay for your vaccination as well, that’s so exciting! Hearing about people I know getting the vaccine is one of my top sources of pleasure this year, so thank you for sharing that. I am beyond thrilled that it’s becoming so much more available and the doses are making the rounds! It truly is a time for some increased optimism (at last!). 🙂

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      1. That’s so weird, my experience with it was similar to yours in that I didn’t completely realize what it was (and actually I never even got an antibody test – I did one but the blood sample got lost, wtf!) so I don’t even have complete certainty I had it, but it lined up with when the neighbors could’ve infected me so seems likely. When I told a friend that I just woke up feeling awful but didn’t have any of the respiratory-related symptoms, she was like “yeah, but so many mornings I wake up just feeling awful,” which, true, so it took me awhile to even realize it was probably that myself!

        The cigarette smell thing was really weird, especially because I didn’t lose smell or taste when I felt ill, it just suddenly happened months later! I noticed at first because food I’d just prepared from fresh stuff tasted like it was coated in dirt and coffee tasted the same. Then it went away just as suddenly (thank goodness!!) I found other stories of people who’d had the same, just weird changes like that to taste and smell. It can happen with other illnesses but apparently with Covid, too, so might be the same with your relative. What I read is that it’s either a smell of something rotten or of cigarettes (not sure which is worse, tbh).

        Anyway I’m so glad you’ve reached a point of feeling so much better – the whole thing is so scary, I think the fear of what might or could happen, and of lingering symptoms, just made it that much more traumatic. I hope you get the shot soon and are only feeling better and stronger from here!! Hang in there, I know how tough it is to be surrounded by people who view this situation differently than you do 😦

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      2. Oh my gosh, they lost your blood sample?! I know the pandemic has been a trying time for everyone, but that sounds beyond frustrating. I never tried to get the covid or antibody test; my first bout was last March/April and I live rurally so there weren’t really tests available in my area at the time, and it was easier to just assume and isolate. (And last month the person who got me ill did test positive and let me know, so getting my own test felt unnecessary.) I was really confident right away that it was covid though even without a test for proof; I didn’t have respiratory symptoms exactly but I was sore around the ribs, which I assumed was something going on in my lungs that luckily didn’t affect my breathing or give me a cough. And I did get coughed on at the airport on my way home last March so I was on the lookout and was not really surprised to start getting symptoms about 10 days later. The confusing thing for me was just that the fatigue and brain fog didn’t start until I’d fully recovered from the pain and fever, and then my energy level would fluctuate so much that it took me months to realize it was all connected. Those lingering aftereffects were more along those uncertain lines of “yeah, but so many mornings I just wake up feeling off or awful” than the initial illness, for me! I am glad that you were able to make the connection with your neighbors having been sick, to figure out what was going on and take care of yourself. And that you came out on the other side in the end, of course! It’s been a scary time for so many, but it’s such a relief too to hear from people who’ve recovered fully.

        The fact that your cigarette smell came months later is what surprises me most- for my relative the chicken-gone-off smell happened within a week of the end of the fever. (Maybe more bad smells will be forthcoming??) That was a symptom I hadn’t heard of before at all, although it does sound very much like your experience. My family member was smelling it outdoors, too, which was what convinced us it was just them and not an actual smell in the room, as they’d thought. They also had no loss of taste or smell earlier on, and even during the bad chicken days they could catch a whiff of real scents here and there too, so it was just odd. It also went away as suddenly as it arrived. (And yes, it’s hard to decide whether rotten food or cigarettes is the worst end of the bargain, both sound miserable!)

        Thank you very much. One of the things that’s been helpful for me throughout is just reading through others’ covid experiences that have eventually reached an end, so I’m very grateful for your taking the time to comment here on what it’s been like for you. It’s really encouraging to see that no matter how weird and frustrating some of the symptoms have been, that they do in most cases taper off at some point. And I do feel much improved, and more optimistic, and should be getting my first dose of the vaccine tomorrow! Even just having a concrete date for my dose has helped ease things with my family, who’ve been pretty outspokenly opposed to the vaccine when talking about it more hypothetically but seem to respect my choice once it’s sunk in that they can’t influence it, so I think things really are looking up. Thanks so much for reaching out with such kindness, it really is such a help! 🙂

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      3. Isn’t it nuts that they lost it?? Like you didn’t go for a test when I first felt sick because I would’ve had to put someone at risk no matter how I went, either by subway or by Uber, and I wasn’t going to do that just for my own satisfaction of knowing. And I was nowhere near ill enough to require any care. By the time I needed another Covid test to travel and see my husband (he’s still living in Germany!) it had been several weeks and was negative. Then I finally got around to going for the antibody test when I returned to the US, waited 2 weeks for results and then called, and they just had a mysterious note in the file that the sample never left the hospital for testing. I gave up because I guess what does it matter at this point.

        And about the smell, I kept thinking it was coming from construction happening next door, although would be really weird if cigarette smoke was seeping through two walls, and then I had that sick moment of realization when I was at the grocery store and smelled and tasted it. But it just went away, thank goodness, and I hope nothing else suspicious creeps up. When I googled it, it seemed like it was a symptom more often in kids and younger people, and all either had it as a lingering symptom or appearing months later. But who really knows, like with your relative, it’s all so new and affects everyone differently.

        I think that I also had some residual lingering tiredness, although nothing near the “long Covid” stories I’ve read. The Guardian had a good series of those, it might be helpful or even comforting (? is that the right word to use here?) for you to read.

        I hope your first dose of the vaccine goes well!!! It was so exciting and even bizarrely emotional to be there and get it. I know it’s so hard to be amidst people who view all this so differently, even more so when it’s family. I’m glad it sounds like it’s easing a bit with them, it’s so ridiculous that they’d even have so much to say against your choice as it is. You’re absolutely doing all the right things, and hopefully they’ll eventually come around. I’m happy we could share thoughts and experiences on this…I’m always here if you need someone to listen! ❤

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      4. Yes, that’s exactly it- I didn’t want to put anyone at risk getting tested when it would only really be proof for myself. It really didn’t seem worth it when I was so sure anyway, but I do think there’s something to be said for the ease of mind that comes with confirmation. Definitely the hardest part of covid for me has been the uncertainties- I should perhaps have tried for the antibody test, but I think if I had gone through with it and had an experience like yours that would have been so disheartening for me at the time, on top of not feeling right and not understanding that it was all covid-related anyway. I actually did see a doctor about my lingering symptoms before I understood what they were, and was told I had allergies. (Not that she did any tests for that either.) Of course the allergy meds did nothing, and I finally figured out the reasoning on my own. Ah, well. An interesting chapter in my life, anyway.

        Thanks for mentioning the Guardian series- I’m not sure that’s one I’ve looked at yet so I’ll appreciate checking it out. It is hard to say I find it a ‘comfort’ reading stories of others’ suffering, but the solidarity does help. Better that none of us had had to go through it at all, but as long as we have, it’s nice to be able to connect with others who understand.

        And thanks so much! 🙂 I really appreciate it, and the same goes, of course! I got my first shot this morning and am doing fine so far- very excited about starting to put the whole thing behind me at last.

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  2. Glad to hear you are feeling better, these after-effects of COVID can be really strange and vary from person to person. Hope you will be 100% back to normal soon. I have been reading Piranesi as well (if you are interested my review went up this morning) and really enjoyed it.

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    1. Thank you very much! It really is wild how different the experiences with Covid can be, and none of them worth the risk- I hope the vaccinations will be a big help toward public safety. Fortunately I am feeling much better, but I know I’ve been lucky compared to others.
      Thanks for mentioning your review of Piranesi, I’ll definitely want to check that out, and am glad to hear you enjoyed the read! It’s such a unique book, and great to see on the Women’s Prize list. 🙂

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  3. I realised we hadn’t heard from you for a while and was hoping you were OK – glad to hear you’re feeling better. And that you have a vaccine booked!

    The photos are beautiful, I miss those huge spaces in the US.

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    1. Thanks for thinking of me while I was away, that means a lot. Fortunately I am feeling significantly better now and excited about getting vaccinated!

      And thank you, it took me too long growing up to get over how boring the flat land around here is, but I love the openness now and it’s nice to hear I’m not the only one! 🙂

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  4. Yeeeeees! I was just telling my mom during our book club that I tend to dislike historical fiction, and part of the problem is it’s too long ago and I can’t imagine the setting and customs (anything before 1800 for me) or it’s in that sour spot in American history, basically 1940-1960, that I find boring and awful because it’s always some soldier cheating on his “best gal” waiting at home.

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    1. Historical fiction can definitely be hit or miss for me, but you’re right, that mid-1900s period is especially rocky and is probably one of the time periods I’m most grateful to have avoided living in. Luckily the male lead in this one was probably the best character of the bunch (though there is some infidelity…). It’s the female protagonist with all of her internalized misogyny that bothers me most. Her attitudes regarding housework and personal appearance and marriage felt very 50s indeed, which might have been fine if the author was using it as a chance for criticism at all. Alas.

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  5. I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling better! Hope you’re able to still take time to rest and read just as much as you want to/ feel able to.

    My reference for Batman and Robin is always the old Adam West TV show so Robin as a name for someone who is just sort of there and maybe helpful fits exactly into my idea of the character!

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    1. Thank you! I’ve definitely been cutting myself some slack, which has made returning to reading all the better.

      Ah, I’m glad I wasn’t too off base! That’s a familiar point of reference for me too, although a lesser one in my experience; I’ve had a sense that more recent adaptations (which I think I have heard about but not followed very closely) have tried doing a little more with Robin’s character. Maybe? Tbh my best sense of Batman lore comes from the Dark Knight movies, which were a staple of my teenage years (for some reason we watched them repeatedly in high school Spanish classes?) but they hardly even have a Robin, so when that came first to mind I was left feeling a bit blank!

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      1. Those are the only other Batman movies I’ve ever seen too and I don’t recall Robin having much of a presence either. Did you watch them in Spanish? That seems like an odd choice!

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      2. No, we watched in English! In retrospect I’m pretty sure we had movie days in that class because we didn’t have a substitute Spanish teacher, so if ever our usual teacher was gone there was not much we could do to stay productive. We did watch a soccer movie in Spanish once, and it was always there in the classroom, but it seemed the subs were always instructed to put on The Dark Knight, for some reason.

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  6. I’m so sorry you’ve been unwell, but really pleased to hear you’re on the road to recovery. Taking a break and easing back into things is very important, so definitely don’t rush things. Wishing you bluer skies, more long walks, and some good titles on the TBR! And while there’s absolutely no pressure, I’ve missed your posts so am looking forward to your reviews again when you get there 🙂

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    1. Thanks very much Eleanor, that means so much to hear! I’ve got a little backlog of reviews I’m working on to hopefully post soon. Taking time for oneself can be a surprisingly hard lesson to learn, but the break has helped so much and I’m grateful to be feeling well enough to start catching back up. It’s been a lovely time finally reading through your recent reviews! 🙂

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