This Week, I Read… (2019 #3)

7 - angelfall

#7 – Angelfall, by Susan Ee

  • Read: 1/10/19 – 1/12/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (5/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A debut novel
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

This book left me with as many questions still hanging as the ones it answered, so I’m glad I already have the rest of the series.

It’s impressively paced, filled with tension and action both. The romance subplot I expect to find in most YA novels was subverted, morphed into an attraction that was as gripping and visceral as it was impossible to contemplate leading anywhere. The personal tension between Penryn and Raffe is not ignored, but it’s definitely not romanticized, either. Which I liked.

I also liked that the entire story is loaded with murkiness about who is friend and who is foe. Raffe should be the enemy, especially after Penryn discovers his true identity (though I thought it was obvious just from his name…) and the Resistance starts out being an enemy (sort of) and ends up being an ally (sort of.) The other angels are pretty clearly the enemy, but some of them are still willing to help (sort of.) I prefer moving through gray areas like that to reading about simple black-and-white divisions between opposing forces.

What I liked less is a pretty minor point: it got difficult, especially at the end, to track who was where at any given moment, especially in the action scenes. Penryn’s schizophrenic mother being constantly missing then reappearing was understandable, and I liked that Penryn felt both guilty and grimly fatalistic about her inability to keep her family together, because riding herd on her mother sounds exhausting. But sometimes in the action scenes, things just sort of paused while two characters were talking or fighting, and I kept thinking, “What is everyone else in the room doing right now? Are they still there?”

Overall, I enjoyed it, and it’s certainly an impressive debut novel. I have high hopes for the rest of the series answering the questions that this left me with.

8 - the sleeper and the spindle

#8 – The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

  • Read: 1/12/19 – 1/13/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (3/48); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book that makes you nostalgic
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

As a longtime fan of Gaiman’s ability to balance darkness with humor, this was perfect for me. A bold and interesting interweaving of two classic fairy tales into something new and strange and lovely. Riddell’s illustrations were beautiful, sumptuously detailed, and vaguely disturbing, matching the tone of the text and enriching it. (I may have spent almost as much time studying the illustrations as I did reading the narrative. If not, it was close.)

9 - misery

#9 – Misery, by Stephen King

  • Read: 1/14/19 – 1/15/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (6/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: Read a book during the season it’s set in
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

I remember, a long time ago, telling a friend who was also a Stephen King fan that I loved the movie Misery but hadn’t read the book. They immediately warned me the book was “much more hardcore.”

Uh, yeah, it was. So much so that I whizzed through this in two days because it was so hard to put down!

I’ve never tried to write a novel with a psychotic fan hovering over me, but it does come across as a great motivator. In the end, though, I like that Paul was writing for himself, and I loved that I could see, so clearly, how he was using the (ongoing) trauma of his experience to fuel the story he was writing, even if he said he was using the act of writing as an escape. I was properly horrified by Annie, but I was also strangely gleeful reading her, because she’s such a marvelous villain, with her odd mannerisms and hidden slyness.

It’s gruesome, terrifying, and pretty darn brilliant from start to finish.

10 - betrayal

#10 – Betrayal, by Aleatha Romig

  • Read: 1/15/19 – 1/16/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (7/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

As romances with cliffhangers go, that last chapter had me wanting to read the next book. A lot of work clearly went into filling the ending with unresolved tension that begged me to buy the second installment.

Too bad the rest of the book wasn’t nearly that good, so I was easily able to resist.

The plot was reasonably predictable. Alexandria/Alex/Charli’s identity crisis was layered on way too thick, especially because her “Charli” persona, who was supposed to be wild, was still pretty tame. Nox was as bland as a dominant alpha-male character can get. So I wasn’t that attached to the characters, either.

The sex scenes were meh at best.

What really bothered me, though, was the structure. Okay, so the present timeline and the flashback timeline are both moving forward as the book goes on, no problem, pretty standard. But when I read the flashback scene that covered the last morning of Alex’s vacation (and thus the last morning of her week with Nox) I expected the flashback timeline to end there, because that was the whole point of that arc of the story. Except it didn’t. There was another flashback chapter after that, talking about the day before their last day together. So, flashback within a flashback? Or just sloppy construction? In addition, after most of the book is exclusively from Alex’s first-person POV, near the very end, suddenly Nox is a POV character, for just long enough to explain how he and “Charli” are barreling toward their unplanned reunion. Since it’s such a short blip in an otherwise Alex-centered book, I feel like it would have been more useful to have him explain it to Alex in person (in her POV) rather than drag the reader through it firsthand. And if that wouldn’t work with the timeline established here, it could fit in the second book easily, because without his section, I think there would have actually been more suspense at the end.

11 - fire

#11 – Fire, by Kristen Cashore

  • Read: 1/16/19 – 1/17/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (4/48); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

The rough edges of style and narrative that I had issues with in Graceling have been entirely sanded off here, which I appreciate, because DAMN I LOVE THIS BOOK.

Why?

  • Sex isn’t reserved for anyone’s One True Love, and both the positive and negative aspects of this are depicted across the story’s major and minor romantic/sexual relationships. Which is not standard for YA at all.
  • Bisexual MC? It’s not stated outright, but it’s heavily implied, and I’m not going to be as harsh about the missing b-word with a book published ten years ago as I would be with something published today. Bisexual representation has been creeping forward slowly for a while now, but it’s only exploded (in my media sphere, at least) in the past few years.
  • The character who is literally so beautiful and appealing that she can influence minds directly ISN’T THE EVIL ONE. Fire struggles throughout the story with what her power means and the legacy her father left her, but not once is she (or her father, for that matter) simply depicted as evil.
  • Serious, in-universe discussions about menstruation (OMG Fire and Brigan were adorable there,) abortion (Mila admitting she would have done it if she had known it was an option and Fire not shaming her for it,) voluntary sterilization (Fire,) and general acknowledgment of the complexities of pregnancy and motherhood, including men’s responsibility for getting women that way and how women shouldn’t be the only ones concerned with birth control (Archer.)
  • Positive depictions of both single mother- and fatherhood. Seriously, I never see single fathers in stories unless they’re benignly neglectful of their giant brood of cared-for-by-servants children (I’m looking at you, Daughter of the Forest) or fetishized as perfect men in single-father-themed romance novels.
  • Realistically paced romantic attraction. Do I love Brigan more than Po from Graceling? I might. He’s really great, and all of those brief, out-wandering-at-night conversations are just awkward and sweet and lovely.

 

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#spookyromancenovel update!

cathedral

It took a little longer than I meant it to, but the draft reread is done, and I have pages upon pages of notes about what works, what doesn’t, and that time I gave Shannon a magical umbrella that could hit like a sledgehammer then completely forgot it existed.

Chekhov’s Umbrella, anyone?

So I’ve got some world-building to flesh out, for sure. I’ve got some pretty hideous plot holes that need paving, especially in the latter half, which I was racing through for NaNoWriMo. But overall? I’m feeling pretty good about it. For something I threw together in just over two months with zero planning beforehand, it’s actually a decent first draft.

The big rewrite will be soon. My rough plan is use the rest of January for the planning stuff–world-building, ironing the kinks out of the time line, brainstorming fixes to the plot holes, beefing up my subplots. Then I’m hoping to get the second draft cranked out by the end of March, another two-month window. It seems to be the right length of time for me.

Will you be hearing much about it in the mean time? I’m not sure. Whenever I do a rewrite I end up coming up with new editing tricks, which usually turn into Editing Notes posts. So quite possibly. But I’m also two weeks into the new reading year, and I’m swimming in books, I love my reading challenges, so there’s still going to be tons of reading content, too.

My goal, much like back when I started with What We Need to Survive, is to have this released sometime by the end of the year. I was disappointed not to put anything out in 2018 after three straight years of a book a year, but I didn’t have anything worth publishing. The rock star novel I was so excited about is still on my hard drive, and I may go back to it some day, but it’s definitely not ready for anyone else to see, and that’s the lesson 2018 taught me–not every story is going to work out like you want it to.

#spookyromancenovel, on the other hand, feels like it’s going to be great. After some more work, of course!

This Week, I Read… (2019 #2)

3 - royal assassin

#3 – Royal Assassin, by Robin Hobb

  • Read: 1/2/19 – 1/5/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (2/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book with a two-word title
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

After the masterpiece that was Assassin’s Apprentice, this was disappointing.

Most of the length of the book felt like it was treading water, waiting for the right time to move the plot along. Very little of note happened in the first half of the story, aside from Fitz indulging himself in his disastrous relationship with Molly; I want my heroes to have flaws, and I know he’s inexperienced with women and love, but he’s both stupid and selfish in his treatment of her. Not that the faults all lie with him, because Molly basically shuts her eyes and blithely pretends she’ll get her happy ending, too, and when she realizes she won’t, she still sticks with Fitz for a good long while before she breaks it off.

Fitz’s relationships with Burrich, Verity, and Nighteyes are far more interesting, once they get going, but the Fool and Chade both seem like ghosts of themselves here, and basically everyone in the whole book got hit with the stupid stick. No one suspected a spy among the Queen’s maids? No one but Fitz ever realized how far Regal might go in his quest for power? No one realized he was maneuvering people too?

And that’s another issue, because if Regal is supposed to have outsmarted them all, then I wanted his petulance, indulgence, and arrogance to be a pose to hide his intelligence, and it seemed near the end that that would bear out–but then when he’s initially denied the pleasure of executing Fitz, he throws a temper tantrum and immediately starts antagonizing his own supporters, so I guess he really is an overgrown man-child and not a political mastermind.

With all that being said, I still found plenty to like about this, especially when the pace finally picked up in the second half and things happened. The ending? Whew boy, that had me riveted. I just wish we’d gotten there faster, and with less whining on the way. I’m in it for the long haul, and I love the dark, soul-examining aspects of Hobb’s writing, but I can’t help but hope the last book in the trilogy improves on this one.

4 - fair game

#4 – Fair Game, by Monica Murphy

  • Read: 1/5/19 – 1/6/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (3/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book set on a college or university campus
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF @ 30%. I couldn’t find anything to like about this.

The heroine is so stupid and inconsistent it hurts to read her POV sections. First she knows all about gambling because her grandfather taught her as a kid (which is weird?) but then, without even realizing it at first, she tries to help her boyfriend cheat at poker and gets caught, because she does it so badly. Then she’s rightfully pissed when his opponent (and her eventual “love” interest) suggests the boyfriend bet her to cover his losses, and even more pissed when he does, and then loses.

So the hero (and I use that term only because it’s standard for romances, not because Shep deserves it) “wins” her in a card game, and she slaps him and dumps her boyfriend. “Good for her!” I thought for about two minutes, until she’s so super-attracted to the hero that she’s waffling about whether or not it’s okay to win a girl in a card game. Her best friend doesn’t think the bet is a big deal. Also her best friend is the most stereotypical and bland of all best friends; she’s clearly a party girl and talks about sex all the time, with the heroine, basically telling her to get some. And I’d be all for the sex positivity, if the heroine wasn’t constantly slut-shaming her best friend internally for all of her gross, slutty ways. No, thank you. I expect the female characters in my romances to be allowed to enjoy sex. It’s kind of the point!

But said best friend also doesn’t necessarily think the heroine should have dumped her loser boyfriend, because the bet didn’t really mean anything, right? And if he’d won, the payout would have been $50K! So clearly it’s okay to bet your girlfriend, right? (I’m totally with the heroine here, his ass is gone.)

So H and h run into each other at a frat party, and he immediately manages to whisk her into an empty bedroom on the flimsiest of pretexts and starts flirting with her. And eventually distracting her so much with his charm and wit (not!) that she doesn’t even notice his hand up her skirt.

First of all, no. I’ve always noticed when some guy is trying to get into my clothing, whether he’s been invited to or not. Does this heroine not have nerve endings in her skin? Or is her sense of self-preservation so atrophied by stupidity that she literally can’t detect a guy trying to stick his body parts in the vicinity of her hoohaa? Because I call bullshit on that.

Secondly…she likes it. She “knows” what he’s doing is wrong, out of line, inappropriate, whatever; but she’s so attracted to him, he’s so mesmerizing, that somehow it’s okay both that he’s an obvious asshole for intending to “collect” on the bet (which, might I remind you, she didn’t make on her own behalf) and that he’s sexually assaulting her.

How is any of this a) romantic, or b) morally acceptable?

5 - casino royale

#5 – Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming

  • Read: 1/6/19 – 1/7/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (4/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

I expected this to be sexist, but I was still shocked at just how bad it truly was.

Bond is introduced as a cold, hard, brutal man who regards women either as sex objects or puttering domestics. He’d be a great portrait of an antihero, if only the tone of the narrative didn’t celebrate everything else about him; his intelligence, his dedication to detail, his appreciation of luxury. He’s not supposed to be anti- at all; he’s clearly meant to be aspirational.

Because this is a power fantasy for educated ’50s-era British white men who wish they were rich. The target audience is so specific, so clear, from the way Fleming wrote it: not explaining the constant streams of French, a commonly studied language in the UK, while explaining in exhaustive detail the rules of baccarat, which is a high-stakes game few of his audience would have ever played. Handling lightly the politics of the Cold War and depicting the British intelligence services as a boys’ club. Describing various items of luxury in great detail.

And as far as that purpose goes, it’s brilliantly done, I can’t fault it for doing precisely what it set out to do. But when I tried to set aside the rampant sexism and casual racism (it’s limited but telling) to search for whatever else I could gain from this book despite it, all I really came up with was that it spawned Bond himself, who ended up being in a lot of great (and especially recently, less sexist) movies.

I’m already regretting my goal of reading the entire series this year, but I have hope that it might get better.

6 - graceling

#6 – Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

  • Read: 1/8/19 – 1/9/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (4/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book about someone with a superpower
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

I can see why so many people adore this book, but it was actually a rough start for me. The text is loaded with awkward sentence structures and dangling modifiers, so from a technical level I feel it needed finer editing. Then the Council is introduced, and I simply found it hard to believe it could grow so big–out of Katsa’s control, as she acknowledges early on–and remain undiscovered by those in power.

The rest of the book didn’t really solve either of those issues, but since I absolutely fell for Prince Po, it didn’t end up mattering. This is one of the most solid, believable romances I’ve read in a YA fantasy, with a male lead the least affected by toxic masculinity that I’ve ever seen.

Also, while Katsa is definitely Not Like Other Girls, it’s not a shallow and pointless use of the trope; the entire plot amply demonstrates just how unlike other girls she is, and how much it’s not something she ever wanted. She can be abrasive and irritating, but I never disliked her or questioned her motives.

Bitterblue was a fun and surprising side character with her sass and get-it-done attitude; when I finished and looked into the rest of the series, I was pleased to see she gets her own book, down the line. I’ll definitely keep going with this series!

The Christmas 2018 Book Haul, Part II!

bloom into you 1-5

Second Christmas with my husband’s family didn’t happen until the first week of January, but both of us set aside a present or two (or five) to give each other then, instead of during Regular Christmas. And my presents were the first five volumes of the Bloom Into You manga, which one of my absolute favorite 2018 anime series was adapted from!

I’m not going to go crazy collecting manga, because boy, could that get out of hand quickly. But I am a huge anime nerd (anime club in college is actually how my husband and I met originally!) and I’m really happy to have a little manga section on my shelves now. I look forward to reading them and finding all the little snippets that didn’t make it into the anime adaptation!

Down the TBR Hole #14

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

The journey continues! Christmas bloated my TBR and my actual collection, so it’s more important than ever to take out any trash that’s accumulated. Up for the axe this month:

#1 – Feed, by Mira Grant

7094569I love me some plague, zombies, and dystopia.

Bonus: it’s well-reviewed by basically everyone, my Goodreads friends included.

It stays, no question. Next!

 

 

 

#2 – The Bourbon Thief, by Tiffany Reisz

27277165Romance, mystery, booze. Set in Louisville, where I lived briefly as a child, where my mother’s whole side of the family is from.

I’m not a fan of mystery as a primary genre, but I’ve definitely read a lot of great books where it plays a secondary role.

And since this is a new-to-me author, this sounds like a great book to try her out. It stays.

 

#3 – Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins

25063781Twelve love stories seems like my thing, but I’m not going out of my way to read short story collections these days, and while I already know and love some of these authors, there are plenty here I know I don’t care for.

If a copy of this falls into my hands at a used book sale for next to nothing, I’ll reconsider, but until then, it can go.

 

 

 

#4 + #5 – Crosstown Crush and Downtown Devil, by Cara McKenna

24611593

29066892These can go. I’m down with erotica, no problem, and threesomes on the page don’t faze me. But the tone of both the blurbs and reviews are so focused on the forbidden, salacious aspects of the kinks involved, and that’s not what turns my crank as a romance fan. Not for me.

 

#6 – Good Girls Don’t, by Victoria Dahl

10583264I’ve heard Dahl recommended often and decided to throw a first-in-series of hers on my list, but rereading the blurb, I’m less than impressed. Especially since it’s yet another sister-brother-brother’s friend triangle, apparently, and I’m just not down for another potential dose of toxic masculinity masquerading as protectiveness. It’s too soon after the last train wreck of a romance I read with that. This goes.

 

 

 

#7 – Crashed Out, by Tessa Bailey

25781782Originally intrigued because this came off a list of recommendations for romances with blue-collar heroes and heroines, I’m less excited now. Yeah, the guy’s a rock star, and I’m usually all about rock stars. But with reviews throwing around the term “cougar” and one review in particular listing some particularly unimpressive snippets of dirty talk, I feel safe cutting this one, it goes. Which is too bad, because I’ve heard good things about Bailey as an author. I’ll keep my eyes open for another book of hers to try out.

 

#8 – Crazy for You, by Jennifer Crusie

33726Since putting this on the list, I’ve read three other Crusie novels.

Two were okay, and one was a DNF. I think it’s fair to say I’ve given this author a shot and don’t need to keep trying.

It goes.

 

 

 

#9 – My Love is Blue, by Rosemary Danielis

31019081I honestly don’t remember how I heard about this indie romance, but I’m glad I did. Artists, depression, romance. These things are in my wheelhouse.

I’m a little concerned by the throwaway line at the very end of the blurb, that introduces a suspense subplot, because romantic suspense has not done well for me in the past.

But for an indie, it’s highly rated, so it can stay.

 

 

#10 – Wallbangerby Alice Clayton

15858248This sounded awfully familiar when I read the blurb, and I realized that’s because I’d already read this exact plot in another work a few years back. I’m not throwing down plagiarism accusations, I’m not even sure which book came first without looking it up–but I don’t feel any great need to read the same basic plot again, even though the final product is undoubtedly different.

Also, my Goodreads friends have rated this poorly compared to its overall rating. I trust them. It goes.

 


I cut 7/10 this time! I’m not surprised that a lot of what went were romances; I have so many already that I don’t need to clog my TBR with them.

As always, if you’ve read any of these and want to share your opinion or campaign for a good book to make it back onto my list, leave a comment and let me know!

This Week, I Read… (2019 #1)

One last review from 2018, then it’s on to a new year of reading!

186 - Loving a Lost Lord

#186 – Loving a Lost Lord, by Mary Jo Putney

Amnesia is not a sturdy trope to lean on, and it’s done poorly here. But once I accepted that it was the central point of Adam’s character, it turned out that I liked him, and the bulk of his interactions with Mariah. Whom I didn’t care for, because I also don’t have much patience for a liar whose one, simple lie snowballs out of control with potentially devastating consequences.

I mean, she had sex with him under the completely false pretense of already being his wife, when she wasn’t. Amnesia really messes with consent issues, doesn’t it?

But Adam’s charm is really the only reason this isn’t a one-star review, because I also found the chapters from Adam’s friends’ POV, the plotline where they’re searching for him, incredibly dull. By halfway through, I was skimming them, because of course they were going to find him, and the tale of how they did it wasn’t exactly riveting.


1 - Artemis

#1 – Artemis, by Andy Weir

  • Read: 12/31/18 – 1/1/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (1/48); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book you think should be made into a movie
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

I told myself I wasn’t going to compare this to The Martian, which I adored, and I really tried not to at first. But eventually, the comparisons made themselves. Jazz, despite being female instead of male, of Middle Eastern descent instead of white, and a petty criminal instead of an astronaut, had nearly the exact same snarky narrative voice as the beloved Mark Watney. Maybe she swears a little less, but that’s about it.

While this isn’t a full-blown case of the dreaded “look at how badly male authors write women” syndrome, as Jazz never once tells us what she thinks about her own breasts, I don’t really feel like Jazz ever feels like a woman to me. I don’t expect every female narrator to be excessively feminine, but Jazz is such a tomboy, so “one of the guys” in most social situations, that her femininity never came across as authentic. And while there’s absolutely nothing bad about an AFAB character presenting herself as either nonbinary/genderfluid/gender-neutral, I don’t see any signs that that was the intention here. Being a narrative near-clone of Mark Watney only accentuates the feeling that she’s a guy thinly coated in a female-appearing shell.

Setting all that aside, it’s a fun, science-driven heist story with a quick pace and a lot of personality. I never had much trouble following the science, and like in The Martian, Weir both explains it well when necessary but also uses it to briefly obscure the unexpected consequences of Jazz’s actions and the resulting disasters.

Magic Shifts

#2 – Magic Shifts, by Ilona Andrews

  • Read: 1/1/19 – 1/2/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (1/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book with a wedding
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

I was really interested to see how Kate + Curran leaving the Pack turned out, and also what Kate claiming Atlanta out from under her father would mean. I was not disappointed on either count. The tension just keeps getting ratcheted higher and higher with each installment.

The main plot for this book, though, the “monster of the week” that gave everything else an excuse to happen, felt weak compared to some of the others. Possibly because so much of the book was focused elsewhere–there’s a lot of subplots being juggled, as well as the over-arcing story lines. It wasn’t that the book was hard to follow or jumbled, just that poor Eduardo being missing never actually felt like it was the most important thing going on, even when it should have been.

That isn’t to say I didn’t love this, I just loved it a little bit less than my favorites in the series.

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

160 - The Telling

I read The Telling last year, and I loved it. But there was one thing about it, so small it isn’t even a nitpick, that bothered me.

Sutty, the main character, constantly chastised herself internally whenever she made a gaffe. Seeing as how she was embedded in a culture entirely unlike her own, one in which simple politeness was labelled as “unnecessary” and thus semi-taboo, she had to remind herself often of her mistakes. As a piece of characterization, her narrative tic of saying to herself things like “No. Wrong.” or “Bad. Bad.” was brilliant–two single words, sometimes different, sometimes one repeated, always negative. It was a strong thread stitching the tale together and emphasizing Sutty’s utter alienness along with her attempts to lessen it.

But over the last year, as part of my therapy for anxiety, I’ve been actively moving away from self-criticism, so this character-building stuck out to me, not as evidence of bad writing, but of how accepted it is to be down on ourselves.

Instead of being harsh with myself when I do something “wrong,” like have a snack I probably shouldn’t, I let it go. When I do something “good,” like resisting that piece of chocolate and eating fruit instead, or not snacking at all, I congratulate myself. I’m rewarding myself for positive behavior while not penalizing myself for slipping.

I talked a little with a coworker about this, and she wondered if that wouldn’t lead to bad habits quickly. After all, if there’s no penalty for it, why not? But first, I’m not perfect at this new skill yet, and the “guilt” part of guilty pleasures hasn’t been completely erased. The mood boost from patting myself on the back for doing something right completely outweighs it, though. So if we stick with the food example, will I go for the delicious but vaguely “bad” chocolate candy with no feeling of accomplishment, or the clementine, also delicious, far healthier, and paired with permission to feel great about myself for choosing it?

Clementines all the way, baby.

The moral of the story: in 2019, try rewarding yourself for good choices, while not punishing yourself for bad. Train yourself into positive habits.