How I Rate Books, In General.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m too stingy with my star ratings. 3 is a hard category, because I feel some people will look at it and think that I did not like it. I’m trying to go with the Goodreads guidelines for some consistency in my grading. 3 means that I liked it. I may or may not read it again. I may or may not buy a physical copy if I got this via Kindle/Audiobooks/borrowed from a library.

4 means that I really liked the story and would recommend it to most people.

5 means that I want to live in this world, read everything there is about the characters, and buy the book in every version possible.

Going in the opposite direction, 2 means that I didn’t really like it. It was “meh” or boring or there was something wrong with it. I probably slogged through it and finished, but it’s not a book that I’d typically recommend. I’d probably give this book away rather than keep it (which is saying a lot, since I tend to hoard books).

I feel really bad about giving books a 1 rating. Most likely, I will also mark it as DNF (did not finish). I either hated it with a passion or just could not bring myself to make it through it.

However I feel about a certain book(s), I really try to keep an open mind about the author (for as long as I can, certain styles are just not my cup of tea and that’s okay as well). I always appreciate the effort that it takes to write a book and feel bad about a less-than-stellar review.

You Can’t Force the Things You Love

Now that we are just over a week into the new year, this is the time for all those bright, shiny New Year’s Resolutions to start falling by the wayside. It’s the time where you cheat for the first (or millionth) time, where you let yourself not do something *just this once*, where you promise to double up tomorrow. It’s a slippery slope and the slide starts early.

This evening, I started reading Emily Ley’s book, “A Simplified Life.” I bought two copies of this book: one for myself and one for my best friend. We both have aspects of our life which are hectic and frustrating and often feel that each day has far too much in the To Do column than will ever get checked off as Done.

Emily starts by talking about our environment and how clutter can make you feel overwhelmed and defeated before you even begin. So true, Emily. So true. I was read in a little bit, and then when I turned the page, there were some questions for us to answer about our home and what kind of environment we imagine for ourselves. So, of course, I decided that I would answer these for myself, instead of just plowing forward in reading the book. But then, I didn’t want to write in the book, because maybe I’d want to read it again later? So, sticky notes to the rescue! I had to then get up and find some sticky notes. And a pen. And while I’m up, I might as well put the phone on the charger since it’s almost out of battery. And let’s move the phone stand from the office to the bedroom (I’ve REALLY got to go to the Container Store and get another one! I am SO SICK of moving it from room to room every day!). Then, I consider blogging my responses instead, since I want to get back into blogging more anyway. So now, I need to go back into the office to grab the laptop (Is it charged?!). Finally, I cozy myself into the chaise with my sherpa throw and go to my website. And I can’t remember my password. Ugh! Seriously? I try a few times, because I know basically what it is, just not if the current iteration has a number or a different capital letter or what special character I added (did I add one?). *sigh* FINE. I’ll get up. And go BACK into the office, because I know that I have the password on a sticky note by the desk (I think so anyway). FINALLY, I’m logged in. Back to the chaise and my sherpa throw. Well, maybe not the throw, after all. I’m kind of warm. But not too far away, in case I get cold. how about right beside me? Oh yes, the blog post. What did I want to blog about? Forget environmental clutter, all of this mental clutter exhausts me before I can even consider my surroundings. Not that the surroundings help. So.

What’s the title of this post? You can’t force the things you love? Right. Back to the topic. Somewhere between charging the phone and grabbing the laptop — when I was thinking that I’d like to blog more — I segued into thinking about the various things I wanted to get back into doing. Things that I make “resolutions” around. Things that I used to do a lot and enjoyed doing. Like blogging and photography. And how I rarely do these things any more. I thought about how they have been on my New Year’s Resolutions list for years now. How every year, I am determined to get back into my old habits and how every year I don’t succeed. Why not?

Why not indeed. I think it’s precisely because I make them into a resolution. I make them into an item to complete and check off. Instead of being something that I enjoy and that I’m passionate about, I’ve suddenly made it into a chore or an errand. Something ELSE that I have to do. But that’s not the way I want to feel about these things. I want to do them because I love doing them. Not because a prompt in #cy365 says that today is the day to take a photograph of something From a Different Perspective (not actually today’s prompt – I haven’t looked at today’s prompt yet).

So, maybe I’ll focus more on Enjoying instead of Task Completion. Goals are fine and can be motivating, but at the end of the year, will I be better off from having a bunch of checkboxes, but feeling as though I need a vacation from my free time? Or should I not worry about accomplishing anything at all and allow myself to relax. Can I allow myself to be happy with wasting a day without getting frustrated with myself? I don’t know.

But I do know that I cannot “list” myself into passion for any particular thing, no matter how pretty the paper or how many colored pens I use. (Blasphemy!) I would rather Experience and Live and Enjoy and Savor, than check off yet another box.

And then, perhaps, I can use my lists to dream….

New Year’s Angst

Week 1:  "Cold" and "The New Year"

Every year it’s the same, I make New Year’s resolutions, then promptly screw them up or forget about them before the month (week) is out.

Usually, they are the same resolutions, too.

So… at what point do I either decide that they are not important enough to me to make a resolution or hold my feet to the fire and actually follow through?

Why is it so HARD?!

I think I found part of the reason earlier this year, when I was taking Naina’s Wild 30 Meal Prep course. One of the activities was to take a personality test to learn more about yourself. Gretchen Rubin has categorized people into four groups: Upholder, Obliger, Rebel, and Questioner. I am an Obliger, meaning that I tend to do things for other people, but am not particularly motivated to do things for myself. So, it’s easy for me to do dishes at the office or to clean a friend’s house, but it’s like pulling teeth to do it at my own house. New Year’s resolutions are right there too, since they are commitments to myself and I’ll always give preference to tasks that are for other people and not reserve the energy or time for things for me.

So, should I fight this tendency and keep trying to make these resolutions work? Or should I refocus them to good things that I can do for other people and leverage my natural inclinations?

I’m not sure.

Hence the angst.

I’d *like* to get everything together and focus more on personal goals. But, in all reality, I’ll probably make as much progress on them this year as I have every other year, which is not much.

What to do? What to do? I have no answers, so I guess I’ll just leave you with that question. Perhaps it’s your question also. #miserylovescompany #andsuggestions

The Confusion of Languages

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

Hmm…. How do I feel about this book? I have to really think about that. It was a good book, but I guess what makes me rate is lower is that I did not like any of the main characters.

Cassie, while appropriately cautious about the culture and the military rules, is bitter about a lot of things in her life and almost seeks to bring Margaret down at times. A horrible personality flaw, but one that rings truthful, especially in military circles. Women can be vicious. How she acts toward her own husband, and with Margaret’s husband is also troubling. Her holier-than-thou attitude, even when she was technically correct, made me want to slap her.

Margaret is a little bit more likable and sympathetic of a character. Her naiveté is sometimes annoying. Almost like she knows better but acts clueless sometimes. She does not properly understand the implication of her actions, even when they get her into significant trouble the first time.

Both men are also flawed and have flawed interactions with their wives. Sad, but again often the case in military marriages.

Overwhelmingly, these characters felt like their story was written in a vacuum. There was minimal interaction with other characters on base. Possibly just because the story was focused on them, but it felt a little off. Usually on a base, there are way too many people up in your business. In this book, it felt like the Hugos and Brickshaws were on a military base on the moon and there were no other military spouses around. It was portrayed that Cassie felt alienated because she didn’t have any children, but all of it felt oddly disconnected. Even in a scene where a base party was thrown, there was minimal discussion of the other guests.

Ultimately, I think my relationship with this book feels like Cassie’s feelings toward Margaret. They would not have normally been friends, but due to a sense of military obligation you do your duty. You may not entirely like the other person, but you do want to help them out. At the end, I just wished that I had liked the book a little more. It was well done, but just didn’t capture me the way I really wanted it to.


I’ve never really been a non-fiction girl.  Most of the time, it is dry reading.  Boring. Facts and figures with very little to make me want to care about them.

Oddly enough though, I just finished one non-fiction book and am in the middle of another.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

I *loved* The Radium Girls! The author does an incredible job of telling their story. You almost do not even know that it’s non-fiction. It’s exciting, page-turning, suspenseful, and you really come to know the girls. The author gave them a life that endures. Their voice, their experiences, their suffering, their pluck and determination, their zest for life, their faith and loyalty… it is all amazing and inspiring.

I suppose you could say that I was already inclined toward this book, as I used to be a Nuclear Reactor Operator in the Navy. And to an extent, this is true. There is a certain wonder and fascination with radiologic material. But, in my time, also a healthy caution, respect, and sometimes fear. I live in an age which is after things like Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Chernobyl. We know of the power and destruction that fissile material can cause. We also know how it can be used in positive ways, including in the fields of medicine and power generation. I suppose you could say that I am a proponent of nuclear energy.

But reading this book gave me this sense of horror from the beginning. These girls were literally using it as makeup some evenings. *Coating* themselves in it. It made me want to reach over and pluck those brushes right out of their mouths and give lengthy lectures. Throughout the book, I was wondering about the lingering radioactivity of items that came in contact with the girls. Towards the end, the author commented on how a sister of one of the girls developed cancer later in life which was likely ascribed to the fact that the two girls had shared a bed. What about the radioactivity of their houses? Their beds? The plumbing that was surely coated in radium after they showered at the end of the day? The book describes the impact that the sites of USRC and Radium Dial had on their communities, but what about the effect the girls had on their neighborhoods? It leaves an Erin Brockovich question mark in the air.

I loved this book. Not because it was cheery, but because it is important. More than that, I came to really love the girls. I read this book when I probably should have been sleeping. In the middle of the night both Thursday and Friday night. Their story resonates with me and is not one that I will soon forget. I finished it sometime around 3 am this morning — all 496 pages of it. I had borrowed it from the library, having snatched it up from the New shelf. It had been published in April and I remember having been interested in it when I first saw it months ago in a Barnes & Noble, but it had fallen off my radar until recently when I paid my library fines and again went to pick up way too many books for me to possibly read before their return dates (Horrible, I know, but I can’t help taking too many and then owing money – my civic duty is monetarily supporting the library via fines, apparently).

I can only highly encourage everyone to read this book. Even if you only read one non-fiction book in a decade, read this one.

Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back by Nathan Bomey

This is another book that magically fell into my hands as I was perusing the library. I am only about half-way through this book. I originally checked it out from the library, but didn’t start it until after it was due. I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that it was on the HITS list and due back in a week. As soon as I got the email notice about it’s overdue status, I thought about reading it quickly before returning it, but at 336 dense pages, it was not likely that I would finish soon. So I returned it and purchased an audiobook version from Audible. This is what I have been listening due during my commutes to and from work this week.

I’ll have to say that it’s not nearly as engaging as The Radium Girls was, especially as it revolves around banks, politicians, and lawyers — not typically genres of interest for me. But I *do* have a fondness for Detroit and its people. The author does a good job of making a somewhat dry tale interesting and giving flavor to the main players surrounding Detroit’s bankruptcy and restructuring. I’ll let you know the rest of my thoughts after I finish the read (or listen, as the case may be).

One of my planner friends, Monica, turned me onto a podcast (and website) called What Should I Read Next (Modern Mrs. Darcy) by Anne Bogel. I’m constantly amazed by how many books they can mention in the course of a single podcast! It definitely feeds the bookworm in me and makes me want to read more. I think she is currently on episode 91, which gives me lots of catching up to do!

Not non-fiction, but this morning I took my car in for an oil change and started reading yet another library book. I’m about 90 pages into that one and will likely finish it sometime this weekend. I’m about to head out to the library to return The Radium Girls and have my eye on picking up a few more books. See you soon!

4WBW: Week 4: Day 26

Week 4: Four-Day Split: Full Body

The premise this week is that we will work on each body part only once per week,
except for calves and abs, which will be worked twice.

Day 26: Back, Biceps & Abs

  1. Barbell Bent-Over Row (5 sets; 12 reps)
  2. Lat Pulldown (5 sets; 8/8/10/10/12 reps)
  3. Single-Arm Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Row (5 sets; 8/8/8/10/10 reps)
  4. Barbell Biceps Curl (4 sets; 10/10/12/12 reps)
  5. Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl (3 sets; 10 reps)
  6. Machine Preacher Curl (3 sets; 10 reps)
  7. Crunch (3 sets; 20 reps)

Thanks for joining me on this journey! If you have any suggestions/encouragement, I’d love to hear it!


4WBW: Week 4: Day 25

Week 4: Four-Day Split: Full Body

The premise this week is that we will work on each body part only once per week,

except for calves and abs, which will be worked twice.

Day 25: Shoulders & Calves

  1. Overhead Dumbbell Press (4 sets; 12 reps)
  2. Smith Machine Upright Row (3 sets; 8/10/12 reps)
  3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise (3 sets; 10 reps)
  4. Seated Calf Raise (10 sets; 10 reps)

Thanks for joining me on this journey! If you have any suggestions/encouragement, I’d love to hear it!