Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

I have read some really great books this month. I have only been sharing the things I plan to read but I seldom really talk about what I learn or what I love about them. So I think I’m going to start making the last Friday of the month (ish – maybe sometimes the first Friday of the next month) the top five reads I’ve enjoyed (with maybe the occasional “save yourself” PSA if I run into a book that I really didn’t like).

But today I want to talk about stars. Not the actual stars, although those are nice (I see you, full moon in Pisces on Monday), but rather the star ratings that I use when I log my books on Goodreads. I know that there are generic meanings, but I think that people pretty much ignore those for the most part. And by people I do mean me. I ignore them.

Here’s what my ratings mean instead:

  1. One star – Yuck. I’m embarrassed on behalf of humanity that this book exists. I don’t have this reaction often, but when I do, it’s visceral. I felt this way about Twilight (which I read – all four books – just so I could explain IN DETAIL exactly what I didn’t like to people who were like “How do you know if you haven’t read them?”). Also Bridges of Madison County. How anyone ever read that terrible book and thought, “Let’s prolong this drivel by making it into a movie” is beyond me. I have a copy that I use for blackout poetry, which greatly improves it. These books lived rent-free in my head for a long while, and they made me want to turn off my give-a-damn about my love of reading.
    [Aside – if you enjoyed either of those books, great for you. Read what you love; just keep reading. I’m sure you despise something that I love, and that’s ok, too.]
  2. Two stars – Meh. It may have taken me a long time to finish this book because it did not hold my attention at all. I many not have even finished it, which doesn’t happen very often. A lot of my two star reviews are classics which, admittedly, may just not be my preferred style but it felt like they in particular droned on and on. Anna Karenina is one such book – a few nice descriptions but overall too tedious to finish. Plus, I don’t think Tolstoy liked her (or maybe even women) that much. A Woman of Substance was suspiciously lacking in substance itself. Madame Bovary made me want to drop out of my honors humanities course from sheer boredom (I didn’t…thank goodness we only spent a week on it).
  3. Three stars – Good. Or…it was fine. Meh+, maybe. I don’t have vast complaints about this book. I may even be able to understand why other people liked it or why they thought I would. It didn’t quite live up to the hype for me, though. The most recent book I gave three stars was The Midnight Library, which I really wanted to love, but alas, no.
  4. Four stars – Great (or at least very good for what it is). I recommend it, particularly for people who like this genre. Most of the books I read fall within this category.
  5. Five stars – I LOVE IT AND EVERYONE SHOULD READ IT EVEN IF THEY NEVER READ THIS GENRE. I definitely own it and have probably bought additional copies to give away to reader friends. If you mention it, I will likely clap enthusiastically and perhaps hop around in joy a bit. I just can’t help myself. It’s possible that this book will make anyone who reads it a happier/better person. I may have cried when I finished because I was sad it was over. I felt this way about Their Eyes Were Watching God and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Anxious People is my most recent 5-star review. Stop what you’re doing and go read it now.

Do you track and rate the books you read (do you do it on Goodreads? Are we friends so I can see your recommendations?)? If so, how closely do you stick to the generic meanings on your ratings?

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September TBR

Hello! I get excited in September because both jobs calm down a little and the weather (usually) starts being a little more bearable. Well, there is talk that the weather may someday be more bearable, at least. I start to think about fall things, like who I’m going to be for Halloween (right now I’m varying between 80s Susannah Hoffs from the Bangles and Daria), warm beverages on patios, and new boots.

September’s not always a big reading month for me, but this year may be different. With the pandemic still raging away in Texas and the Texas legislature’s utter lack of concern for…well, anyone…I’m bouncing between hyper-anxious and dissociative, both of which have many effects, and one of them is that I act even more introverted than usual. If the last couple of weeks has been any indication, this may shape up to be a heavy reading month.


I am going to read the books I meant to read for joy last month because that didn’t happen at all. 

Community Reading

One way I’m keeping myself from going full hermit is continuing with book discussions. Most are online but a couple of them still meet in person. Follow the Reader met in the swimming pool last Thursday, and that is my new favorite way to talk about books in the summertime. I’ve joined a couple of other low-maintenance book groups in the last month or two

Seasonal Leanings

Ah, fall. The time of year when my love of mystery and gothic novels and magic intensifies. The TBR list for the month reflects some of these particular leanings.

Also I had to pick up the latest releases from two of my favorite contemporary romance authors, and I doubt I’ll be able to wait another month to tuck into them:

The list is long this month, but I’ve started quite a few of these selections and finished a couple of them already. So I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to finish most of it. 

What are you reading?

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August TBR

August is the busiest work month. At both jobs. It’s a mess.

So when I’m finally free for the day, all I want to do is curl up and read until I start nodding off. I mean, that’s what I want to do every night always, but I tend to neglect all other nonessential tasks in the late summer because I am absolutely fried from the weather and the busyness of the day. The good news is that this typically serves as an opportunity to take a chunk out of my TBR stack. Here is the planned chunk for August.

Book Clubs

  • The Searcher by Tana French – I listened to this on audiobook. It started during my commute but I devoured the rest of it last weekend. Another good pick by my first wine book club of the month.
  • Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger – This audiobook is my current commuting selection. So far I like it. It’s the seventh in a series of which I have not read any of the other books, so I feel a little like the new love interest walking in to holiday with a close-knit family. If I end up really liking it I may play catch up at some point.
  • Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford – There are a lot of hard things in this memoir, but it’s gotten great reviews from people who tend to love books I love, so I’m looking forward to it.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt – I like books about misfits, and I like the way Tartt writes characters. I’m excited about this one!
  • Mrs. March by Virginia Feito – Suspensful story? Check. Odd characters? Check. I’m in!


My joy selections this month are about building the life you want and taking care of yourself while doing it. Two of them actually have joy in the title, but the third is just on theme (and also due at the library next week).

Other Selections

What are you reading this month?

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This week has been a little intense (some health things, some practical things, some Texas-summer-is-the-worst things), but I’m looking forward to the next couple of days. Maybe you want to enjoy a few of these things, too?

  • Playlist for The Magicians – Any time I really love a show or a book, I want a playlist that reminds me of it. The Magicians has a great soundtrack. I went to make one and found that there are already so many out there. This is a nice list to start with but this is definitely my dancing/reading/vegging vibe for tonight.
  • Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Readers’ Weekend – Minimal structure, maximum reading. Basically, the perfect weekend.
  • Suits Season 1 – I am rewatching this adorable show, starting this weekend. Yay!
  • Reconciling in Christ – our group is meeting on Sunday, and I’m glad my church is pursuing being more intentional about inclusion. This learning structure is not as…assertive…as I tend to be, but it’s a start.
  • Nectarines – I had a nectarine/cherry upside down cake at lunch and I forget every year how much I love nectarines but I think I’ll need some tomorrow. Maybe also apricots….

Hope you have a nice weekend as well!

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Beautiful view on a farm outing with friends

I look forward to Joy the Baker’s summer bucket list every year. It’s typically a mix of places to go and things to learn and/or make, and it’s inspiring. Because summer tends to be a busier time for me, I am expanding my timeframe into fall (and really – the rest of the year). So this is my remainder-of-2021 bucket list. Doesn’t quite have the same ring but…oh, well.

  1. Get some ducks in order – Some of my goals are just reminders to get/keep it together enough to be healthy or at least not completely derail any progress I’ve made in various areas. To that end:
    – Pay off personal loan (last payment due in September!)
    – Carve out time to get back into Pilates practice
    – Make eye exam and yearly physical appointments
    – Write, edit, and submit a short story every month
  2. Take a trip with friends – Okay, so I’ve already done this one. We went to Colorado for a few days in June, and it was magnificent.
  3. Get a new (to me) car – Watson is showing signs of unreliability, and I want to trade her in before her upkeep starts costing more than a car payment would. My first car was a hatchback, and I’ve wanted another one ever since, so I’m looking at gently used options in the area along the lines of a VW Golf or Kia Soul.
  4. Take an overnight bookshop trip – I’ve been musing about going to Magic City Books in Tulsa for a while, but I think my next long-distance bookstore venture is going to be to Nowhere Bookshop in San Antonio. They’re opening for real to the public on Monday, and I think a leisurely drive down there in October would be a great way to break in a new ride.
  5. Choose a new planner – I do love my Simplified Planner, but the siren song of Papier’s daily planner beckons me. I have had separate goal and meal planning calendars for the longest time, and the idea of having everything in one book is so appealing. Also…there are so many cover designs to choose from. *salivates*
Although there’s certainly nothing wrong with this cover…

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Mountain dragon from Colorado says hello

A couple of things I’m into these days…

While The Audacity is closed for essay submissions the rest of the year, Roxane Gay Books is now open for manuscript submissions. I love love love this and if you have a manuscript that you are waiting to submit because you haven’t quite achieved the *insert example of the hyper-capitalistic hellscape that is a lot of the publishing industry here* maybe this is an appealing option?

This meta monologue from Penny pretty much sums up my love of The Magicians (the show – I’ve yet to start the book but expect to love it, too):

“All I’m saying is you think you’ve seen stories like this before, so you can guess what’s going to happen. Who’s important and who isn’t. But that’s because you are trapped in your POV. You have a classic case of White Male Protagonist, Derek, and a Librarian simply can’t have that. But that’s why these books are so important. They’re such a gift. They can allow you to see other points of view. And once you start seeing that, you’ll find that the story doesn’t end the way you think, and the most important characters aren’t who you expect.”

“When you file people away as sidekicks, you don’t realize their importance to the story, and this story belongs to a lot more people than you think. Where to shelve a book – it’s not a little thing. You’re telling the world what to value, who to value.”

I’m excited to be working on some short stories for submission in a new local publication. More to come on this soon.

I hope you’re having a good weekend so far!

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I read Laundry Love by Patric Richardson and Karin Miller in almost one sitting. It is delightful. I knew I would love it because I love doing laundry. I find it soothing and comforting, and it was wonderful reading the thoughts of someone who clearly enjoys it just as much as I do.

Of course the book is full of great tips, but it also contains quite a bit of insight on the textile and fashion industries. The way it places this simple, personal chore into the larger context of environmental and labor ethics is right up my alley. Yes to preferring natural fabrics over synthetic ones because they breathe better, are better for the environment and won’t melt before your very eyes if you accidentally spill nail polish remover on them (not that I’m bitter, acetate). (I’m definitely still a little bitter.) Yes to saying no to fast fashion whenever possible (which is almost always, even on a tight budget). Yes to washing and pressing that wool blazer at home because you know how to do it right. Yes to extravagant musings about the laundry room of my dreams (I have drawn floor plans) right alongside a list of the perks of the laundromat. There are even family recipes at the end because it would just be unfair to mention the downside of favorite foods (i.e., staining) without also sharing how delicious and thus completely worth the mess they are. If I were to write a book about this favorite household task of mine, it would look a lot like this.

Of course, I have comments.


One of the benefits the authors listed of taking proper care of your clothing is that it lasts longer. At one point it was mentioned that if you care for it well, a garment should endure 50 wash/dry cycles. I realize they were likely making a conservative estimate, but since I’m not the writers and am thus not at risk of losing book sales by making extravagant claims, I’ll go ahead and do so. If you follow the advice in this book on not only caring for your clothes but also choosing pieces that are made to last to begin with, you should get way more wash/dry cycles out of them and keep the clothes you love for as long as they fit.

For example, I still have and frequently wear a skirt I bought at a thrift store in my mid-twenties. Aside from the occasional seam reinforcement or elastic replacement, it is still in great shape two decades and hundreds of washes later. Buying well-made clothing doesn’t have to be expensive. I doubt I spent more than $5 on that skirt, and it’s lasted forever. It’s just a matter of learning how to spot good quality.

Fabric Softener

I typically add a little bit of vinegar (i.e., 1/8-1/4 cup) to each rinse cycle, and that sufficiently softens clothes, towels, linens, etc. It even reduces static a little, as does using wool, silicone, and/or aluminum foil balls in the dryer, or air drying my clothes. But if I want to completely eliminate static (and I absolutely do), nothing works like fabric softener.

I know it’s bad for the environment. I know it’s bad (yes, even the free and clear kind) for humans.


I also know that it’s the only thing that saves me from thousands of tiny electrocutions every time I roll over in my peppermint-scented lightning sheets at night. It’s the only thing that keeps me from flashing my ass to the world when my skirt rides up on the walk from my car to the office (PSA: I have no qualms about showing some skin. I just want it to be my choice, not my clothing’s).

I would be delighted to find a tip or trick that does what fabric softener does. I would love to eliminate it from my laundry routine. But to date, every tip I’ve tried has failed me (have a tip? Feel free to share. Bet I’ve tried it, though.). Until there is a real solution that actually works, I will continue to use fabric softener sparingly.

Multiple Wearings

The tips for refreshing fabrics so that you can wear them multiple times between washes? Great advice. Unless you live in Texas in the summer. Then you get a pass. I mean, if I only wear a sundress to go to the farmers’ market and then come right home, I will give it a vodka spritz and air it out before hanging it back in the closet to wear again. But if my outfit goes through a whole day in the Texas heat of walking a couple of blocks from my car to the office, walking a few blocks to and from lunch, walking back to my car in the late afternoon, and then running whatever errands or attending whatever meeting I have that evening, I’m going to give it a proper wash before I wear it again. It’s earned it.

Texas folk, you don’t have to be a hero. Please be advised that it’s perfectly okay not to walk around in clothes that are holding a collective three days of the August-in-Texas meat sweats that have accrued since the last time you washed them. There’s not enough vodka (for spritzing or otherwise) in the world to combat that.

To conclude, I really love this book. I look forward to referencing it for advice and entertainment in the years to come.

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July TBR

I was fortunate to spend a few days last week basking in the cool air of Colorado. A brief reprieve from the intense Texas heat with people I adore. This week, I was back in it (although it’s been rainy and a little bit cooler – a tiny mercy) and back at work. The choices below are defintely leaning toward my typical summer reads (adventure, mystery, fun, etc.) this month.

Book Clubs

Books About Joy

This month’s joy selections focus on finding joy in ordinary life (even daily, seemingly dull things). I need this reminder during the summer when my automatic modus operandi is just to get through it.

Library Reads

These are the main books I want to finish and return to the library this month, although I suspect there will be more by the time the end of the month rolls around. I’ve been on a reading frenzy lately!

What are you reading this month?

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Once again, I have a library problem. Or I’m a problem to the library. At any rate…I also have a solution.

So I was doing really well, only checking out a sensible number of books at a time that I could reasonably expect to finish before they were due back at the library. Just a little thing like having to schedule a time during their limited hours to pick them up was all it took to curtail my habit of going on a reservation spree and taking out more books than I could possibly hope to finish that quickly. But now that the library is back to normal hours and operations, and I can just pop by and pick up everything I’ve put aside at my convenience, I’ve reverted back to old practices. I wish I could tell you that the stack above represents even a fourth of the books I have checked out, but…no.

This month, I’m weaning myself off again. I’m never at a loss for something to read. I have four apps with books and audiobooks I can read from my phone. I also have hundreds of books in my personal collection at home. So there’s no reason I need to hold on to the library’s copies that someone else could be enjoying. I’m going to read my books for the clubs I’m in and my joy selections for the month, but other than that? Working on this stack of library books so I can get them back where they belong.

[One could argue that I could just return the books without reading them and check them out later when I know I have time for them, but one would receive a derisive scoff as a reward for this helpful suggestion which would then be completely ignored.]

Book Clubs

Joy Books

We’re going a little meta this month. These joy books actually deal with joy as a subject.

Library Books

These make it back to the library by the end of the month.

Pride Month!

Of course, I will also be reflecting on my favorite books written by LGBTQIA+ authors and/or starring LGBTQIA+ characters in my local library’s monthly book discussion. If you want to explore this genre, some of my favorites can be found on these lists.

What’s on your TBR list for June?

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This was my first week back in the office after working from home since last August. There was quite a bit of adjustment, but nothing I didn’t expect. At least there were no surprises?

I expected that my focus would be down with other people around, and that has been somewhat true but it’s not been as bad as I thought it would be. I expected I would not like getting up even earlier in order to commute. Accurate. Commuting is a ridiculous use of time. Consoling myself by listening to Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris on audio during the daily drives.

Five things I have enjoyed about coming back to campus:

  1. Automatic daily walk. Depending on how far away I have to park from the building (I’m not buying a permit for three and a half months because 1) no and 2) stubborn), just by getting from my car to the building and back to my car I am automatically getting in an extra 10-15 minutes of walking a day.
  2. Random free snacks. In related news, I have a new donut place near my house I need to visit some weekend.
  3. Seeing coworkers face to face has been nice.
  4. Not hearing every. step. my. upstairs. neighbor. takes. all. day. Last night it was as loud as usual, and I didn’t even care because my psyche had not been beaten down all day long by unnecessary stomping noises. Note to self: next time I work from home, make sure the job pays well enough that I can live in a building with no one else above me.
  5. Since our phone system is now through MS Teams, I have a headset. This is the reason my focus has been better. When I’m not doing anything in particular, I can still hear through them but if it’s loud in the office when I’m trying to do something, I just play some soothing music to drown it out.

Overall, not too bad a week! Have a good weekend!

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