This Week in Books 10-24

This week I finished:

The Girl on the Train– I know I’ve heard a lot of people saying that the ending is problematic. While I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, I suppose the ending is only a real problem if you’re actually comparing it to Gone Girl. Honestly, except that there is a female protagonist, interesting depictions of marriage/relationships, and a supposed murder, I don’t think the books have anything in common. The tone is different, the characterization is a bit less arch and it was still a solid read.

The White Magic Five & Dime– Got this on a Book Riot deal and found it to be surprisingly engaging. The title lets you know this is going to be a different setting, with a hint to the occult, but the book itself is more a straightforward mystery. The characters are interesting and have creative dynamics. The protagonist isn’t warm and fuzzy, but isn’t really unlikeable (in short, like a normal person). The ending wrapped up a bit nicely and I was surprised to find out there’s a second book, though I haven’t picked it up yet.

Ancillary Sword – 2nd in the Ancillary series by Ann Leckie and still as engaging and interesting as the first. Breq has been removed (removed herself) from the system and is attempting to pay an old debt. The new system, ignorant to the political infighting Breq discovered in the first book, has its own particular problems and dilemmas. Satisfying read and I’m looking forward to the conclusion. FWIW, if you like audiobooks, these are not too lengthy and make for good listening while walking/running.

I’m nearly finished with Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? It’s been a lovely light read to help me travel this week and get my mind off things. I’ve also started the last of the Ancillary series (Mercy) so I should be done with that by next Saturday.

In semi-related news, the obssessive listening to Hamilton continues.


This week in books

I finished The Emperor of All Maladies. I began it before I knew my mother’s breast cancer had returned and finished it while she recovered from her mastectomies. It’s compelling, if you’ve got experience with cancer, and equal parts disappointing and inspiring. Disappointing at how much has not changed since the 1800s and inspiring because of the changes that HAVE happened. It’s a personal story for the author, an oncologist, but it’s a story that I have to believe almost everyone can relate to. Thumbs up.

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I can’t remembe why I picked up the first in this series, but I really enjoyed it. It took the ‘hidden princess’ trope and really did interesting things with it that I hadn’t expected. The second book, I will not lie, went a WHOLE different direction than I expected. I liked it, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a time travel aspect and future apocalypse storyline that seemed a bit out of left field. They’re woven into the story neatly and now I’m really intrigued for the next book. Thumbs up, even if I have no idea where the next one is going.

Friday Five, travel

Friday Five

Making Me Happy This Week:

Chicago Style Pizza
Since I left the state, Pizza Papalis has expanded and sprinkled locations all over Metro Detroit. Since no one outside of the Great Lakes seems to understand what real Chicago deep dish is, I’ve made two visits this week. Totally worth it.

Mom is still recuperating and we’ve gotten through almost 9 seasons. I expect we’ll get caught up before I get on a plane.

Tool Skillz
While I’ve been here, I’ve been able to do some repairs around the house. My dad was a handy guy and passed on plenty of knowledge to me, which I am always grateful for.

I know it seems superficial, but I love a good tea and especially a good tea latte. Starbucks is consistent, something I didn’t realize made such a difference until I lived in three different states and was driving through four. Proximity here means I may even get to keep my gold status.

New Kicks
I got some new shoes this week, with the new school’s colors. I’m pretty excited about them.


life unfiltered, work

Knowing Your Worth

When I turned 16, I was super excited because I could get a real time-clock job. I’d been working for years, baby-sitting, filing, helping one of my mom’s friends with medical billling – but this would be a legit job with hours that would allow me to escape my parents intense, super-strict church cult.

I started like a lot of people do, in a fast food restaurant. Predictably the job was not especially fun but I met some really fun people and had a good time anyhow. I learned the magic rule of customer service: people are cranky about food. About nine months in, I found a job at a local sporting goods store and left BK.

I stayed at Dunham’s for the rest of my high school years. I stayed through my first year of college breaks. It wasn’t something I loved, but I enjoyed it and my coworkers. I got extra responsbility early on and began training other employees. The managers gave me an override key, which technically they probably weren’t supposed to do, but they trusted me to do good work.

That first year of college, when I came home every break and worked as much OT as they’d give me, I discovered something strange. The guys I was training on the front end, while having a manager’s override key, were making more money than I was. I’m not sure which one of them mentioned it, and I’m just about certain it was because they were grousing that they weren’t getting paid enough, but I was shocked. Dump a cold bucket of ice water on me shocked.

I went home PISSED about it. Mad. I mean, I had been a good and loyal employee. I was doing one of the shittier jobs (all customer service, all the time) and training guys who were going to go hide out in the shoe department and screw off for most of their shifts. It was a really valuable lesson. The nature of business is to do what’s best for the business. That usually means getting more for less. That’s what they were doing with me.

The next day I came to work, still righteously pissed off, and at my lunch break I requested a meeting with the store manager with whom I’d been working for the last year or so. I explained that I should make more money because 1) I worked hard and added value to the company and 2) was making less than the people I was training. All I was looking for was basic fairness. He didn’t really listen and just said no.

I quit on the spot. The only time I’ve ever done that. I’d had a feeling it could go that way (this store manager was not known for being employee-friendly), so I’d brought my spare uniform shirts with me to work. I dropped them on his chair, walked out and never looked back.

I had a new job before the end of the week.

There are so many things I learned from that work experience. I learned that a good manager is one who helps balance what’s good for the company with what’s good for the employees. A good manager goes to bat for good employees. The company will always look out for itself. And if you work hard, you will always have a job. My dad, a very wise man, always said “It might not be THE job, but if you care and work hard you will always have A job.” He was right and as a result, I’ve never felt helpless. I have always been confident (right, wrong or indifferent) that I will have a job. Most importantly, I learned to stand up for myself and for what I thought was right.

These are all things that I’ve taken with me in every job I’ve had since then. It shaped the kind of manager I became and the way that I advocate for employees.

I’m back home this month and I went into that store today. It was interesting to see what’s changed and what hasn’t. And if you’d told me that store would have such an impact on the person I became, I would probably have called you a liar. If you’re an employer, you should keep that in mind.



Catching a Break


I’m home for less-than-ideal reasons. The visit coincided incidentally with a minor injury before I left Montana. The best that Google and I could determine, I got a case of turf toe in my left big toe.

This would probably not be a big deal, but I’m a forefoot runner and it pretty much meant 2 weeks of no workout. Yikes.

This week I got stir crazy. I took advantage of the proximity to the big city to get proper running shoes. I clocked a 5k on Sunday in a reasonable
time frame.

Tonight I did 1.8 miles and did my first mile in 10:15- a first since I started running again and arguably my fastest mile in 5 years.

I’m crediting family stress, the Hamilton cast recording and Chicago style pizza I had for lunch today.

Friday Five, life unfiltered

Friday Five

Things Making Me Happy This Week

I’ve already talked about The Martian, which was exactly what I needed when I needed it. I’m recommending it to anyone who is currently depressed about the film offerings out right now.


If, like me, you’ve been watching the internet freak out a out about this show for months, you’ll be interested. The digital release of the cast recording was at the end of September and the entire album is phenomenal. Once you hear it, you’ll understand why all of Twitter has been on fire about #hamiltunes. I’ve had it on pretty much non-stop all week.

Pizza and Coneys
It’s been a long time since I’ve been home for this long. Despite less than optimal circumstances, the comfort foods of metro Detroit have been really, really nicimage


Cider Mills and doughnuts, changing colors on the trees and a crisp breeze. Mom is doing well and this is possibly the best time of the year to be in Michimage


I love this podcast. If you don’t want to take my word for The Martian and Hamilton, you can listen to other smart people talk about them this week. I’m listening on Stitcher these days, so I can sell my old iPod and their Listen Later feature is the best.

books, life unfiltered, movies

You Should Go See The Martian

My husband and I had a cross-country date last night with The Martian: 3D.

More than a year ago, he told me he thought I might like the book. He was listening to the audio, so I picked up the kindle version. Fast forward to me recommending that book to literally  EVERYONE, including pepole who don’t like sci-fi, ever since. I also read no less than 5 space-fic novels after that- when space and hard sci-fi is not generally my jam.

I was excited about Drew Goddard doing the adaptation. I’ve been a fan since he wrote for Buffy, so I knew he could get the humor out of a bad situation. Matt Damon also seemed like a really good casting choice. I was less sold on 3D until I heard Bob Mondelo talk about it on Pop Culture Happy Hour (where both he and Linda Holmes said excellent things about the film).


So The Martian was our movie! And it is really, really good. It’s a ‘feel great’ kind of film. Since it was a Monday night, I was in the theater with approximately 6 other people but we all laughed at the funny parts and got tight at the tense parts. It was a super enjoyable film experience. The 3D is not ‘shit-flying-at-your-face’ 3D which really did make the film better. You get the sense that you are in the room, in a way that 3D hasn’t worked for me since Avatar.


Go see it. You won’t regret it. And if you want more “sciencing” read the novel. If you want more space, I recommend: Old Man’s War, Ancillary Justice (first in a series of 3, already complete), Seveneves (much longer than the other 2 but worth it). I’ve got more but those are my top 3 post-Martian space reads.

Do you have favorite books about space?

life unfiltered, travel

You can’t go home again


My parents moved when I was at the end of elementary school. They moved again during my freshman year of college, so the house I left wasn’t the one I returned to after Christmas. Dad has been gone 10 years now and my mom moved again. During junior high and high school, we lived on the outskirts of the school district: a 2 mile walk to the bus stop and a 45 minute ride to school. Mom relocated right down the road from my junior high school, which makes this visit home a bit more surreal.

I didn’t have a lot of friends outside of school. My parents were religious zealots and I had a real fear that anyone I brought home would get pigeonholed by my dad, who would try to Save them. I was also a nerd, when being a nerd wasn’t cool. I was good at school and I liked it, and I didn’t care if anyone else didn’t. I was kind of a jock- basketball and track – but never ran in those crowds. I worked as soon as I was old enough to punch a timeclock (well, earlier really) so that’s where I spent as much free time as they’d pay me for.

Now I’m staying in the heart of all these areas where I only rode the bus, or walked after school on half-days. I’m closer to the elementary school where I spent 6th grade and those houses of my friends whose parents likely are no longer there. Everything is the same and everything is completely different. 

I don’t recognize huge chunks of this area and the parts I do… well, I’m feeling the distance more keenly tonight. I’m reminded that I never had much of a community here – as much my fault as anyone else’s – and how glad I was to go away. I’d have given my left arm to live where my mom’s house is now. It’s nice to think I would have had a different set of friends or a different experience but I recognize enough about myself to know that’s unlikely.

I don’t miss this place or those times. I do miss my family now. My good friends who are scattered across Colorado. The handful of people in Michigan that I still interact with. My Buffy friends. My LJ friends. Because this is not my home and there isn’t much for me here.

My sister had Netflix running non-stop today and there was a terrible episode of Bones on (are there good ones?). Someone killed Santa Claus and the subplot was about how Brennan’s family wasn’t going to be together for Christmas because some were in jail and she was going to Peru. And I realized, for approximately the billionth time, that my family will never be together for Christmas again because my father is dead. It seems like at some point in time that should stop gutting me. That time was not today.

So yes. You can go home, but it’s not the home you left and the people aren’t the ones you remember and nothing feels the same even if it appears to be. I’m a long way from home here.