My Rating System: 5 Stars & Gut Reactions


 This was originally posted when I was on Wordpress, but I wanted to have it here also

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I watched this videofrom Kirsti on her rating system for book reviews, and thought it was a great topic. As she points out, rating systems can vary a LOT between different people and since my blog has revolved around book reviews lately, it makes sense to show exactly what my ratings mean.
Like Kirsti, I use a 5 point system that includes half stars and is mostly based on gut reaction.

I generally have an idea how I will rate a book throughout, but it really depends on the ending.

There may be an extra half a point or so for an amazing cliffhanger, or a full point for a character I just really love (for instance, my love of The Walking Dead grew exponentially when Michonne came into the picture- she is probably my favorite female character on television…ever).

So here we go- my rating system! This is written specifically for books, but roughly translates to TV and movies also.


5 Stars usually means it was either a) amazing and so spoke to me and literally everything felt relevant to my life, but more typically b) touched on SO MANY topics or SO DEEPLY that I feel like it’s an amazing stepping stone to deep conversation (I call it my English class theory: my freshman English professor would split us into two teams and assign sides for a debate, then make us switch sides and debate the opposing view during the second half of the class/at the next meeting- 5 star books are books where each side would have a valid argument).



4 stars means I really loved it, or found it interesting or unique. It was a very good book, but not quite mind-blowing or universal.


3 stars equal good, not great. I don’t feel like I wasted my time, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend. Probably my most common rating.



2 star books I pretty much hated it and only finished because I cringe at the thought of not finishing books.



A 1 star book is one that I didn’t finish and it’s a piece of trash and UGH WHY DID ANYONE BOTHER WRITING THIS.



And the half-stars mean I am somewhere in the middle of the categories, but that seems pretty obvious.

I try to review books on Goodreads and add a stared review and add it to my shelves as soon as I finish…or else I never do.

 This is why it says I’ve only read something like 285 books or 2 for the entire year of 2014. I was doing a lot of book reviews on the blog over the past few months, but  the past few I wrote a quick basic review on Goodreads right away.


What is your rating system?


Hey It's OK Link-Up

I was scrolling through my feedly today and saw where Jana particpated in the Hey It's Okay Tuesday! link-up from Airing My Dirty Laundry. Seemed fun, so why not?


Airing My Dirty Laundry


  • It's okay that trying to pick a travel system (car seat + stroller) makes me crazy. So much pressure- so many options that are basically the same thing! Ughhhh. I feel like once we just suck it up and get it, it'll be fine. But it's the decision making process that bugs me.

  •  It's okay that I haven't been to the gym in forever. I'm walking during my lunch and working out at home. And I'm on track with my weight according to my doctor's office so... 

  • It's okay that seeing my stomach do the roll-y/moving thing from the baby was actually kinda cool. Even though it still freaks me out when I see it from other people (I expect no one else to enjoy it while it happens to me, for the record). 
 
  • It's okay that I really wish I could take another big vacation like the cruise last year, even though I for sure can't...le sigh.
 
  • It's okay that I can't stop thinking about the cake my hubby packed in my lunch. 

  • It's okay that I'm rewatching The Office mainly because of Jim & Pam (although currently it's at the part where he's dating the girl from Scranton and just ugh).

  • It's okay that my baby shower here where I live will be super small and possibly only include my church group...because I don't really know that many people here well enough to feel comfortable inviting them (showers are so controversial, I had no idea).

  • It's okay that my blog url has .blogspot in it...or so I try to tell myself.

 
 What do you have to remind your "It's okay..." about?

Diversity Reading Challenge Update



Starting off strong this month and finished 2 books that fit my Diversity Reading Challenge! This pushes me over the halfway mark, so hopefully the downhill portion will go much more smoothly than the first half which took way too long.

This month I finished Black Boy by Richard Wright, meeting goal #2: person of color on cover.



 I also read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli over the weekend. This takes care of goal #3: about coming out. 



I did not realize I went in order on those...not aiming for that specifically. Black Boy was also part of my IRL TBR that I am working on, because I'd just always heard it was one of those books I should read. And SVTHSA has been EVERYWHERE in the book/blog/vlog-ospheres lately, plus I wanted to give myself a break from the IRL TBR (I've finished 3 so far and it's not even 3 weeks into January). 

I'm trying make a list of books that could fit each  category, because I am more likely to complete the challenge when I feel prepared and also have time to research and look forward to the story. If you have any suggestions for the remaining categories, feel free to leave them in a comment! I'd love to hear it :)

4) Main or Secondary Character with a disability 
7) Illustrator of color 
    -I think this will be the hardest...since I don't really ever think of/read books that have illustrators
8) Any Walter Dean Myers book
10) Boy soldier/childhood in the Middle East
      -The Kite Runner (thanks for the rec, Teh Megan!)
12) Contains same-sex parents
      -Lola & The Boy Next Door (thanks for rec, Emmy!)

 

Diversity seems to have been a big factor in lots of 2016 Reading Goals- are you trying to branch out this year?

Domain & Blogging Woes

Y'all, my blogging situation is a hot mess right now. Um, it basically all sucks.

Last year I decided to go to Wordpress.com and host through Bluehost. This year I decided to come back to Blogger (because I thought it would be free and simpler). I decided to just re-purchase my domain name through Bluehost so I didn't have to totally change everything again.

I don't think I can do that...even though I was told I could. Half of my Bluehost account doesn't show up when I try to click into it, their customer service is NOT helpful and basically told me I'm screwed (but they won't refund my money and take back the damn domain either).

So I've paid for a domain that I can't use, even though I called them and told the guy what I wanted (during the refund period) and he supposedly told me how to fix it. Did what he said, then like 2 weeks later (AFTER the refund period) my blog just dissapeared so if you go to www.pinesandpalmettos.com you see a Bluehost message.

I am thinking I will just have to buy a new domain...not sure if I will try to keep it similar to P&P or go with something totally different. But I figured the best plan now would be to buy through Blogger...only when I click "buy domain" nothing happens.

*facepalm*


I don't know what to do y'all. It's tough to blog when I really don't even feel like hitting publish does anything because people are probably not even seeing my post. So, I will try to do something about all this...but who knows. 2016 is not looking like the year of blogging so far. But hey, it's only January.

How To Pick a Baby Name



Today, we're going to discuss some tips on picking a baby name. This is not just for people expecting a baby- that's my first tip, actually. Start BEFORE the kid is a reality. You don't need the hormones and stress that a baby brings getting in the way of you finding a name you love.

Granted, I do not claim to be an expert here. I'm currently pregnant with my first child, and while her name is picked out...she isn't actually here yet. She's currently taking up space in my belly. But she is named. And picking out her name was a relatively easy process. So take my advice with a grain of salt, but I do feel it's worth consideration.

Some of these are personal things I just think helped the overall name picking process. Some are things I whole-heartedly believe from having worked in both medical and educational records. Trust me, I say these things to make your life/your child's life/anyone who has to deal with your child in a professional manner's life.

The Dos:
  • Start before you are expecting! 
    • For seriously. I have been considering kids names since I was a teenager- maybe before. They've changed a lot over the years (I'm great at predicting a trend, apparently) but I'm glad I didn't start at ground zero once the stick turned blue.  
 
    • Pick a direction or general theme or some kind of starting point.
      • My hubby and I both have Celtic ancestry, so we started there. We also knew we didn't want a super common name...because we both have super common names (I may have pushed this more than him...I don't remember, but it is something I feel really strongly about and he agrees although perhaps not as vehemently). It was much easier to have a theme to go to rather than picking things out of the air.  
     
      • Yell it out loud.
        • You're going to scream your kids name at some point. Maybe you will be the super amazing parent who never looses their temper...even then you'll probably yell it when you loose sight of them at the grocery store for 5 seconds. It'll happen- you want it to flow.
          • This is the point where you also ensure it flows with a middle name, and last name. It needs to sound good in all of these arrangements: First+Middle, First+Last, and First+Middle+Last.
       
        • Consider the monogram.
          • Some people don't care about monograms or initials...but if you see a monogram that says aSs...it's not good. Or sTd...no. Just no.
         
          •  Consider the nicknames.
            • Over Christmas my MIL mentioned a nickname that she would 100% be calling the baby. She made a comment basically going "You know this is going to happen, right?" Um, yeah. If I didn't like the nickname, I wouldn't have named her that! People who MUST be called their full name (or MUST be called their nickname) are super annoying. Prepare for a nickname, be sure you like that as much as the name itself. 
           

            The Don'ts:

            • No hypens. Or any other form of punctuation. 
              • There's no place for that in a name. This goes for first and last names. It's just annoying, as you will find out with EVERY LEGAL DOCUMENT EVER.  
             
              • Don't give your kid two of anything. 
                • No two first names, or two middle names, or two last names. At least in America, okay? Just give them three flipping names.
                • If you want to name your child Mary Ann, make it MaryAnn or better yet Marianne. JoAnn versus Jo Ann. Just make it ONE FREAKIN' WORD.
               
                •  Don't pick a crazy spelling of a normal name.
                  • Either pick a super unique name, or accept a traditional spelling. You're trying to have it both ways and it sucks. Trust me, I know because my name is one of the top 3 for my birth year and there's like 12 different ways to spell it and IT DRIVES ME BATTY. 
                 
                  •  Don't name them something you have no intention of calling them.
                    • This includes middle names that you want your child to go by, and nicknames.
                      • If you want your child to be known by their middle name...make it their first name!
                      • If you want your child to be Evie instead of Evangeline, name her Evie! There is no need for an "adult" version of a name, if she is going to spend the first 12+ years being called solely a nickname. You'll give them a friggin' identity crisis, and if she decides to take her husband's last name one day (or wife's, I guess) she will probably just change her first name too (or drop it all together if you've called her by her middle name) making her life's paper trail super annoying to follow.
                    • Nicknames are a term of endearment for those you are close to, not a requirement for the rest of the world. If you name your child John and call him Hank, your pediatrician's new receptionist is going to have a lot of trouble scheduling an appointment for "Hank" because he is definitely listed as "John" in the computer system because THAT'S HIS LEGAL NAME.
                      • Yes, I may be speaking from experience here. 
                   
                  •  Juniors, Thirds, etc are not worth anything at all.  
                    • Give the kid a family middle name and move on. Or a first name with a different middle.
                    •  Especially if you all go to the same doctor or college, etc. It's SO CONFUSING. Some forms just don't have places for Jr, or III, and especially if the first one isn't willing to put Sr there (which you probably haven't been doing your whole life anyway). Your child deserves his/her own personal identifier.

                  • Don't "steal" a name.
                    • I've heard some people say that you can't really do this...but you can. We all know it. This is why I'm really hesitant to put my baby's name out there online (along with security reasons), or to tell anyone the boy name we have in place. Obviously, I think a LOT about baby names, and other people do to. If you just hear a name from someone and use it before they can...it really does feel like a betrayal. Maybe it wasn't on purpose- that happens. But if you know someone in your life has their hopes on a specific name for their little one, back off. Stretch your creative muscles and get to thinking!
                   
                  •  Don't expect expecting parents to give a crap about YOUR opinion of their child's name.
                    • People get way too involved in other people's pregnancies. If you don't like a name, who cares?! If you want them to use a specific name (especially your own), who cares?! It's not your place. Let the parents choose the name and STFU about it.


                  So there you go. Some of these seem harsh- I'm okay with that. It's an important decision! But here is my final and most important piece of advice:

                  Stick to your guns!

                  We already had a boy and girl name picked out when I found out I was pregnant. We told a few select people, but announced her name after we found out the gender. It was decided, we weren't wavering, we weren't interested in anyone's opinion. That was IT. Some people go even further and don't tell anyone until the baby is actually born and the birth certificate is signed.

                  Some people feel super opinionated about names (clearly, I can be one of them). That being said, I've read way to much about drama between friends and family over this. Discuss with your partner, find what works for you, and let any negative comments roll of your back.

                    Show Us Your Books Link-Up

                    Hello! This is my first 
                    Show Us Your Books link-up 
                    since the move...and of 2016! 

                    Life According to Steph

                    Honestly, until looking back at last month's post I did not realize that I actually read a decent bit over the holidays.




                    1. Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari & Eric Klinenberg
                      1. ★★★★ (4)
                      2. I really enjoyed this book. If you are looking for something that is just Aziz doing bits about modern romance, don't read it. He actually partners with some psychologists/sociologists and looks at studies to prove his points. There are some fun personal descriptions but there are statistics involved. As a psych major, I loved it and really felt this added to the overall examination of romance in the 21st century. But some people do not like it, so just know what you are getting into.
                      3. Also, this book further solidifies the fact that I am SO GLAD I got married at 18. Dating sounds like the actual worse. 



                      1. Whiskey Rebellion, by Liliana Hart
                        1.  ★★★
                        2.  I don't really remember why or how I got this book- I'm thinking maybe it was Nook Free Friday? I started reading it mainly because I had my iPad and I have all these books that I never read on there because I just keep downloading free things without necessarily doing a quality check #NeedToStop
                        3. This book was good, not great. The writing wasn't the best, and at first I thought it was going to be pretty fluffy and stereotypical...and to some extent, it was.
                        4. Lots of sexy talk (but almost no actual sex), lots of Southern stereotypes, and a protagonist who is basically a friggin' mess.
                        5. Overall, it was good but not great. Actually better than I originally expected, and I would definitely read more of it when I want to read something that isn't super heavy (somewhat similar to how I felt to the Stephanie Plum books)



                        1. Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
                          1. ★★★★⋆ (4.5)
                          2. Why do I keep thinking Ranobow Rowell is just going to be a cute, fun YA novel? It never is. There is always so much heart and meaning in her stories...
                          3. Basically, I love this. Great characters, great first loves, but not easy. Like, I love love love it. 



                          1. The Wettest County in the World: A Novel based on a True Story, by Matt Bondurant
                            1. ★★★
                            2.  So, I liked this story but didn't love it. Knowing the specific history of that region/trial/writer would probably have helped peak my interest sooner. That being said, I think a lot of time was spent trying to really create this world- down on their luck community, really tough men, hard lives, etc. Not saying I have experienced this, but I personally didn't feel like I needed that much background to build the story. It was more buildup than actual story in a lot of ways.
                            3. Also, it took way to long to realize the book did not go in chronological order but instead leaped back and forth, picking one story up for a bit then heading back and circling around. I partly blame myself for this, but it made a large chunk of the story hard to follow.
                            4. This book was one I got from B&N in the clearance section, and has been on my IRL TBR list forever so this hit a 2016 Reading Goal!  
                           
                           
                           
                            1. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
                              1.  ★★★⋆ (3.5)
                              2. This book hit two of my 2016 Reading Goals- my diversity reading challenge (character of color on cover, and IRL TBR). I can't remember where I picked this up, but I felt like it was one of those I've heard of a lot and should have read.
                              3. Overall it was good. It took a little bit to get into, and there were some chunks that I just didn't feel were needed- somewhat descriptive or metaphorical (like lists of a dozen metaphors or notations).
                              4. However, it was really interesting to read something from this viewpoint and time period (young boy in the Jim Crow South). This past year was full of racial tension and reading this book actually puts a lot of that in context. Especially as a millennial, I think it's easy to forget how we got to where we are when it comes to race relations. I feel like reading this brought me back to a place where I could potentially participate in a conversation about race more positively and fairly.



                              1. A Madness So Discreet, by Mindy McGinnis
                                1. ★★★★⋆ (4.5)
                                2.  This is one of my favorite books that I've read in quite a while. I loved it in the way I loved Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It was a unique story (more realistic than MPHfPC, but still a very unique viewpoint). 
                                3. MINOR SPOILER**************************I had to put this down when I first tried to read it last December, because there is a miscarriage pretty early on in the book. Normally I can handle this as a part of life, but after experiencing a miscarriage myself and currently being pregnant it was just a little too heavy for me. Maybe it was just a hormone change, maybe it helped that I could now feel my baby girl kicking away as I tried again, but I'm glad I pushed past this because the book got...not lighter, necessarily, but the issues went in a different direction. I couldn't have handled a book ALL about loosing a baby, which it thankfully wasn't. SPOILER OVER********
                                4. I'm not going to say a lot about this book, because it's one where if I say anything I'll just go on and on and on. But I highly recommend.

                               What did you read this past month? Link-up & share!
                              Life According to Steph

                              Currently...

                              Currently, I am...

                              listening to:
                              Season 6 of Parenthood

                              eating:
                              Crockpot Chicken Salsa

                              drinking:
                              Water

                              wearing:
                              Maternity clothes, and I LOVE IT

                              feeling:
                              too sniffly and itchy

                              wanting:
                              to lay down and maybe drink some orange juice

                              needing:
                              to start bring my allergy meds to work

                              thinking:
                              only 3 more hours left of work

                              enjoying:
                              the fact that I can crank out a blog post & watch Netflix while still being pretty dang productive at work

                              Random Pregnancy Thoughts



                              My pregnancy has been, thankfully, pretty smooth. Still, my life (not to mention body) are clearly a little bit different now. Here are some of the random musings I've had regarding life in general as a preggo:

                              • I did not realize that the size/shape of preggo bellies didn't stay the same.
                                • I really thought it just morphed into a ball and then slowly grew bigger. This is not accurate- my stomach can look pretty different one day to the next, depending on where this baby decides to hang out. And I am not a particularly tall person or have a particularly tall waist, so I can only imagine the variations women with a longer torso face.

                              • It's kind of fun to play "Where's the baby?" 
                                • I do it all the time. I'm not one of those people who can tell if I'm feeling a foot or a head, etc, but there are definite spots in my stomach where it's obvious there is something other than just fat.

                              • People commenting on your weight does get old...and I'm sure I still have LOTS more to go
                                • It's tough because yes, while pregnant you are supposed to get big but that doesn't mean you want to just eat everything and gain ALL THE WEIGHT...there is a healthy balance only it's much much harder to control than when you aren't pregnant. I try to take it with a smile and view it as a good thing- baby is growing! Also, pregnant women complaining about getting bigger is such a drag, and I know that-it's bound to happen, but let's just put it this way- no matter how ridiculous or drastic the physical appearance of a pregnant woman may appear to you, I assure you SHE is aware of it and does not need you to point it out. The best option is to say "You look cute!" or if you don't think she looks cute, bypass physical judgement all together and just say you hope everyone is happy and healthy.

                              • Also, do you know how many times I have been told to take care of the baby as we leave a place? 
                                • It's apparently what you say to a preggo. Which I get, kinda, but also...do people really feel this is necessary? Like, if you don't say it, I'm going to start chugging whiskey and bungee jumping?

                              • Oh, and we've officially reached the part of the pregnancy where I miss booze. 
                                • Made it about halfway and then realized what all I'm missing.

                              • I'm finally feeling movement! Like, for sure movement. 
                                • It's nice. Everyone has been asking me for weeks, even though I knew it was still really early. Can't lie, it's a pretty cool thing. 

                              • Maternity clothes rule.
                                • Some people apparently have issues with maternity clothes. They keep saying to just buy regular clothes in bigger sizes. I've heard everything from "They're too expensive, I can't afford shipping and nothing in my small town offers maternity clothes, they come in ugly weird patterns, I want something I can wear after delivery..." All of these statements are bullshit, OK
                                • I've spent maybe $100 on my maternity stuff, which includes two pairs of jeans and 5-7 shirts. Everything is pretty close to my normal style and I didn't pay shipping for anything (even though I did order half of it online). Now, I have been incredibly blessed that people have given me clothes so I haven't really bought a ton for myself (definitely asked for maternity clothes for Christmas presents). But if I was buying "regular" clothes in larger sizes I would have spent probably the same if not more...and they probably wouldn't have been as cute if I was shopping off the clearance rack! These clothes are made specifically for a pregnant body, which as I already said changes in VERY weird ways. I'd rather have clothes that specifically show I'm preggo versus making me look like I'm wearing too big clothes because I'm just becoming overweight. Maybe that's just me, maybe it's bitchy...but that's how I feel.
                                • And if you are planning on staying large after birth...why does it matter if you're wearing large regular clothes or large maternity clothes? If anything, wouldn't having maternity clothes as the only thing that fits be motivation to drop the baby weight? This is probably the part where it becomes obvious that I'm a first-time mom and ignorant about these things...but oh well. We are who we are sometimes.

                              • I can still do a lot, I just pay for it the next day.
                                • I sound like an old man, but it's true. Yesterday we spent literally all day (except for lunch & dinner breaks) putting up decals in the baby's room. I did it...but I was hurting by the end of the day. Not like a worrisome way...but the my hips hurt and my arms hurt and my stomach hurts from where she was pushing on it (which she loves to do, also in my ribs, to the point where it feels almost bruised if I touch it from the outside). Basically, I needed to go lay down...which is really the only truly comfortable position a lot of the time (and yes, I know, I'm not even at the really bad part yet).