How Do We Actually Use A Rating System, Anyway

Aka, how I justify giving books stars on Goodreads. I had to think long and hard about it when I first started using it, since I wanted to be consistent and not hem and haw every time I finished a book and needed to give it a rating.

1 star– I never give books one star, because I think a one star book is a book I should have put down and not finished. If I didn’t finish it, I don’t rate it, just because I don’t think that’s fair (maybe it got really awesome in the last 50 pages!)

2 stars– 2 stars means that there was SOMETHING there in the book that kept me going, and even though I really didn’t like it, I finished it.

3 stars– I consider this average, a book I enjoyed, might have some writing I didn’t like, might have a plot hole, might have a terrible character, but it was overall a solid read.

4 stars– A good book or a great book. Could be one of the best books I’ve ever read, but…

5 stars– The only way to get 5 stars is if I know I want to READ IT AGAIN. This means my collection of 5 stars might end up being a bit random, but hey. It’s a good way to mark which books I really, really enjoyed.

 

How do you go about rating books, either on Goodreads or on your blog or just mentally? Also–how good does a book have to be for you to recommend it to a friend?

My Favorite Books of 2016

Probably more for my benefit than yours, dear reader, I’ve decided to compile a list of my favorite books of 2016!

Books I read in 2016, that is, doesn’t mean they were RELEASED in 2016…. Let’s begin. The order? Me going down my iPhone list of what I read and slapping them on here. (WordPress did this cool mosaic but somehow The Queen of the Tearling got really large.)

  1. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: God I love this book. I think I must have some sort of internalized misogyny because I am SUPER picky about female protagonists in books, but I loved the flawed heroine Kelsea. This is like both dystopian AND medieval, two of my favorite things, and it’s a trilogy, so it doesn’t end too soon.
  2. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: So I loved The Handmaid’s Tale, could not finish The Robber Bride, but Oryx and Crake is another win in the Margaret Atwood column. I’m a sucker for well-written sci-fi. So hard to find (if you only look not-so-hard, like me). My friend Annie recommended it to me! And it’s ALSO a trilogy, but I think this one is definitely the best.
  3. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: Literally no words. This book like wrenched out my gut and then STOMPED on it. I cried. It stayed with me for days. And I recommend it to everyone. I think this will be a little like “Titanic” or “Brokeback Mountain” for me–a favorite, but one I can only read (watch) every few years because it ruins me.
  4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: My not-so-secret secret? I love fan fiction. Sorry, not sorry. So when I picked up Fangirl I really felt for the main character, a slash fan fiction writer, lol, and it was just hilarious and great and I subsequently read everything else Rainbow Rowell has written, but this is by far the best.
  5. The Rules of Attraction by Brett Easton Ellis: Of course I’ve seen the movie, but god I didn’t know the book was SO GOOD. Ellis’s writing style, very stream of consciousness, I’m sure isn’t for everyone, but I love it and it was PERFECT for this book and the multiple narrators. I love books set on college campuses where everyone is an alcoholic fuckup. The super fun fact is that Ellis went to college with Donna Tartt, and they dated, and some details from my absolute favorite book The Secret History are mentioned in Rules, which 100% blew my mind because I didn’t know about this ahead of time.
  6. Just Kids by Patti Smith: I’m so late to the Patti Smith train, but this book about her early life and romance/friendship with Mapplethorpe is SO. GOOD. Ugh. Reincarnate me as a bohemian living in a hotel in NYC. On second thought, don’t, just let me visit for a day.
  7. The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger: It’s rare that I find chick lit I really love, but The Singles Game was just really, really good! The transformation of a top tennis player, with some soapy drama. Would I read it again? Yup.
  8. The Cartel by Don Winslow: Oh man, I was so into this. It’s about drug cartels (fiction) but it’s never dry, the writing is great, and it’s gory, violent, and unexpected. Surprised me how much I liked it.
  9. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: Part Ender’s Game, part best science fiction I’ve ever read, this book is amazing and filled with 80’s nostalgia that I had even know about but it was so compelling and interesting. I try to make everyone read this. Successfully got my ex-boyfriend to. It’s so nerdy, in a good way.
  10. The Passage by Justin Cronin: This is the first book in an epic and kinda confusing zombie trilogy with some writing that I didn’t really love but it was really just so good and I haven’t read that many zombie novels before and I just loved it. Plus, it’s nice ‘n long.
  11. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: Starts with two girls in Ghana, spans generations and comes to the US. It’s vast, it’s well-written, beautiful and sad.
  12. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie: Ifemulu is such a great main character and her trajectory from Nigeria across the US and back to Nigeria is so interesting. And, the excerpts from her blog really make you think about how unintentionally racist you probably are.
  13. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: Lol, I was an English major and somehow didn’t read Plath. I know, what a loser. Worth the wait, though! Truly an excellent novel.
  14. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: I remember my mom saying she hated this like 5 million years ago, but I’d liked the Virgin Suicides so I decided to give it a try and was blown away. The Detroit setting really stuck, and Cal’s journey and coming of age was just so interesting. Plus, the flashbacks to the family history did not bore me, and they usually do.
  15. Probably a few more but this is the highlight reel!

Anyone have some of their favorite books they read in 2016 to share? I pretty much will read anything, unless it’s like some HELLA BORING nonfiction.

 

 

T-Fierce Takes: You Will Know Me

I read You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott in a few hours last night. I loved it! I haven’t read any of her other books, but they were on my list, and Stephen King tweeted he loved this one, so I put myself in the library queue ASAP. I’ve never actually read anything by Stephen King, other than On Writing, but as a fellow Mainer, apparently I trust his reco’s.

Your two-sentence summary: Parents with an Olympic-track gymnast daughter find some things out about her and the people at the gym where she trains. Intrigue ensues in this coming-of-age tale about ambition, puberty, and of course a hit-and-run.

Readability: Anything I finish in a night is eminently readable. The thing is, You Will Know Me was so WELL WRITTEN, unlike some of the other “thrillers” I’ve encountered.

Plot: There was plenty of backstory, so when you get to the twists and turns, you don’t feel like they’re rushed or forced. And, there were enough plot twists to keep you interested, but not a surfeit.

Entertainment factor: High! You want to know what’s up with Devon (the gymnast daughter) and you keep on reading for the intrigue.

You’ll probably like this if you like: Again, if you like any of those female-centric thrillers by Gillian Flynn or Ruth Ware or Paula Hawkins or what have you. Also, if you like gymnastics, or any sort of cutthroat sport involving young girls.

Quality of writing: As I mentioned earlier, I thought this was very well-written, so you can appreciate the words AND the plot.

Overall thoughts: Go pick it up-you won’t be disappointed. Perfect for the beach, the airplane, or a rainy night by the fire.

T-Fierce Takes: The Couple Next Door

Guys, what if I called this book review series “T-Fierce Takes”? Or maybe “T-Fierce’s Hot Takes.” I love anything alliterative.

Today’s topic is one of this year’s slew of thrillers dubbed “the next Gone Girl” or “for fans of Gone Girl,” The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. I wouldn’t say I was impressed. Your one sentence plot summary: a couple’s baby is taken from their house in the middle of the night, but THINGS ARE NOT AS THEY SEEM.

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I got this image from NPR

Readability: For sure a very readable book, it only took me three hours. Plot moved along pretty well.

Entertainment factor: There’s a minor salacious theme or two, and there are the requisite plot twists and turns, but despite the fact that the baby was like missing, the book lacked an urgency I think could’ve helped.

You’ll probably like this if you like: Any of the thrillers that are supposed to be Gone Girl but aren’t as good as Gone Girl.

Quality of writing: Eh, I think this might be where I took issue with the book. I didn’t care about any of the characters. The narrative POV also switched a lot-I would say it was third person limited omniscient, but it kept hopping around. So you’d get a page basically only knowing what the wife knows, but then the next page it’ll be focused on the husband. I think if LaPena was going to do this, she should’ve switched POV’s in chapters, to make it less choppy. Additionally, the characters weren’t likable, but I’m not sure if this was intentional or not. I feel like you’re supposed to like the mom if her baby is missing. Or MAYBE NOT who knows.

Overall thoughts: I wouldn’t say don’t read it, and there was a pretty good plot twist, but I just found that I didn’t care what happened to anyone. So it was like, a dull thriller?Definitely just borrow it from someone or the library, though.

Book Review: But Enough About ME

Hello fans!
I’ve decided to some quick n’ dirty book reviews on the blog, partially because it will help me if I want to look back and remember what I read, and partially because this format is a lot easier than an actual book review, which I had to write once for a class and it was actually the hardest thing to do, since you’re supposed to describe how it was without giving away the plot, and also by using big and useless words. (It was about Southern Cross the Dog, if you want to know, which I absolutely hated.)
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First up: But Enough About Me: How a Small-Town Girl Went from Shag Carpet to the Red Carpet by Jancee Dunn. She was a Rolling Stone writer and this memoir about her life and her time working there interviewing celebrities is a hoot.

1. Readability: Super easy and engaging to read, and well paced. She’s a very likable, relatable narrator.

 

2. Entertainment factor: It’s funny, it’s got the dirt on celebrities that you probably haven’t heard, and it never felt boring.
3. You’ll probably like this if you like: David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, Isaac Oliver, any of the books written by the lady comedians (Poehler, Kaling, Fey, etc.)
4. Quality of writing: I thought this was really well-written, rightly so because the author was a journalist.
5. Overall Thoughts: Can’t recommend this enough. My dad bought it offhand in the airport one day when he needed something to read, and was pleasantly surprised and told me to read it. 3 years later, still in a stack of my to-read books, I picked it up, and was so glad I did!

Thankful For…

Happy Thanksgiving, or cultural genocide day, whichever you prefer!

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(image via designlovefest)

I recognize how extremely problematic Thanksgiving as a holiday is, and this year it’s especially sickening to think about as we see ONCE AGAIN, hundreds of years later, Native Americans being attacked and shoved aside on their land so that white people can do what they think is best for white people–in this case, an oil pipeline.

Today I will be making a donation to the Standing Rock protestors, once I do some research on where my donation would best serve. I know it’s not enough, but it will be something. And now more than ever it’s important to stand up for what we believe in, even if it’s from afar.

On the other side of the coin, I think Thanksgiving has mutated, something it seems America does to all holidays (cough cough Cinco de Mayo). We’re not getting together with our families to celebrate the mass killing of Native Americans, we’re gathering to celebrate overeating and what we’re thankful for. And I don’t think that’s a terrible thing, as long as we acknowledge the people who have suffered before Thanksgiving turned into the Thanksgiving it is today.

My favorite website for everything, Man Repeller, is celebrating Thanksgiving by listing #UnderratedGratitudes, something I’ve decided to co-opt and post here as well. Along with some not so underrated, but you will not find Family + Friends because, of course I’m thankful for them.

 

  1. Athleisure–so I don’t have to suffer at the movies in jeans
  2. Purring cats
  3. Leo’s Coney Island, and more specifically, chicken tenders salads and ranch dressing
  4. Renting ebooks from the library
  5. Netflix + all streaming services in general
  6. My movie theater, Emagine, which has $5 matinees and comfortable, reclining seats
  7. Gel manicures
  8. Giant cashmere sweaters
  9. Brie cheese
  10. Starbucks red cups (sorry I am NOT sorry)
  11. Free birth control (DON’T TAKE IT AWAY)
  12. Group texts
  13. Snapchat
  14. Kroger gas points
  15. Flannel sheets
  16. Being fortunate enough to travel
  17. Credit cards where you can earn points
  18. Dry shampoo
  19. Solid sushi that’s not hella $$
  20. Diet FUCKING coke
  21. GIF keyboard on the new iOS
  22. Google
  23. Dictionaries (learned today that dictionaries didn’t exist when Shakespeare was writing. Wild!)
  24. Uggs
  25. High-rise denim
  26. A dad who cooks
  27. J.Crew sales
  28. Bobbi Brown bb cream, which doesn’t make me break out
  29. Being employed!
  30. Panda videos
  31. Val and Maks Chmerkovskiy

Election Thoughts from a Liberal Woman Who Was Hillary Clinton For Halloween

(I wrote this two weeks ago and apparently never posted so I’m putting it up in it’s entirety now, sans edits.)

I, like everyone else, am still processing this whole Donald Trump presidency thing.

I woke up the day after the election with a pit in my stomach, knowing that the small sliver of hope I’d gone to bed with had disappeared in the night, probably around the same time of Trump’s acceptance speech.

I woke up thinking “I’m glad I voted in Michigan because it clearly needed my vote, but MICHIGAN WHY DID YOU DO THIS!”

I’m scared for my rights as a woman. I hope dearly that Roe v. Wade won’t be overturned. But this is one of those situations where I have to “check my privilege,” even though I feel dumb saying that phrase. I’m white. I am a US Citizen and that will never be taken away from me. Based on how my life is going, I’ll likely always have access to healthcare (knock on wood). Many people aren’t that fortunate. I want to help. I don’t know how. I hope that soon, I’ll learn how.

I’m mad at myself for not knocking on doors and phone banking for Hillary. I’m mad at all the democrats who didn’t vote for her because they “didn’t like her,” all the misogynists out there who say they aren’t misogynists. I’m mad at the people who didn’t vote because they “didn’t care.” But somehow I can’t be mad at the people who voted for Trump who really just believed in him (for some fucking reason). We say it’s our civic duty to vote, our right. We should vote for what we believe in. Some people believed in Donald Trump–I completely disagree and I wish everyone thought like I did, but that’s just not the case in this country right now. I can’t vilify people for voting for what they thought was right–because that’s exactly what I did. I can still be pissed, though.

Oh yeah, and I’m mad at all the dang people who said Bernie Sanders woulda won. WE DON’T HAVE A FREAKING CLUE.

Here comes the more complicated part. I would say my mostly democratic Facebook feed is divided: between people who are fucking angry and who are going to stay that way, protest, never call him their president, etc. Then you have the people who, like Obama, say America is strong, we can’t turn our back on our country, we need to move on and try our best and give him a chance.

I might be both? I think Donald Trump has said and done horrible things and I think he’ll probably do them in office. Just because he hasn’t built a wall YET doesn’t mean he will. Just because Sarah Palin is on the short list for a cabinet position doesn’t mean she’s been appointed YET. I guess the jury in my mind is still out. I don’t want to give him a chance, per se, but I do want to believe that he’ll try to unite this divided America. I don’t think he’s the man for the job, but JESUS if we elected someone who has half the country (well, maybe more than half, I’m terrible at numbers) who hates him, I HOPE he’ll have some sort of Ebenezer Scrooge moment and think, wow, maybe I’ll try to get all these people who hate me, to like me.

There’s a quote my dad always says to me which I haven’t been able to find online, but I’ll paraphrase: it takes only a second to forgive, but it takes every second of every minute of every day to hold a grudge.

Forgiving doesn’t always mean forgetting, as we all know. And I don’t ever want to forgive Donald Trump for the things he said. I don’t want to ignore it either. But yet, I don’t want to spend all my energy hating him. I think my energy would be better spent doing good.

I could be wrong. But I’ll go ahead and like the angry people’s Facebook statuses and the optimistic people’s Facebook statuses all the same. The only people’s posts who I won’t like are those trying to preach tolerance to all their Tump-hating democratic friends, because after all, America did elect a racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, intolerant president. I just hope he can put that aside to lead the damn country.

And for now, I’m still going to be angry and upset. It’s the least us women can do, since we’re so fucked up emotionally and all that.

This is really just a post for me, so I can look back and see if I disagree with myself later, but it always feels good to get the words out.