First Introverts Retreat Box!

I got my first Introverts Retreat Box today! I talked about getting a book subscription before, and well, the first one has arrived! It’s the Read option, one of their cheapest, where I only get a book, some snacks, and a bookmark. It arrived much sooner than I expected. With all the hoopla around slow mail and blockades and all that jazz I definitely expected it later. But hey, nice Valentine’s surprise, yeah?

(Oh, Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! We usually celebrate by going out and have a fancy dinner, but not these pandemic years. And we’re both really busy with work and stuff so, I guess it’ll have to wait another year before our regular programming.)

The book I received is Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden. It’s a satire about life of school teachers and the education system in general. Neat. I admit I’ve never read books like this before, and it’s good that I now have one! That’s the whole point of me trying out the subscriptions – broadening my horizons and reading things I’d never pick up because I wouldn’t know where to start. Along with the book I got some caramel corn, pistachios, hot chocolate, and a bookmark. The bookmark is surprisingly cute haha. I’m not sure about the snacks – might give those to my husband, but I’m all about the hot chocolate! It’s getting pretty warm in So Cal already (the past few days have been in the 80s!), but a good, warm cup of chocolate always brightens my day.

I won’t be reading this book right away because I have a few others to get through first. And they’re all long epics too (because fantasy and sci-fi tend to do that), so I probably won’t be able to tell you how I feel about it for a good bit. I’ve gotta be honest, I had no idea what to expect with a category like “General Fiction” so I was a little worried it might be something I just can’t get into. But this one I’m fairly intrigued and excited about. Guess I’ll be sticking with this box for a while.


Book Subscription

I joined a book subscription yesterday. I’ve been meaning to for a while, but they’re usually super expensive, and I’m in the camp of less stuff more books for cheap type. I mean, some of the boxes are “worth it” if you like a lot of tchotchkes to go with your reading experience, but it’s not for me personally. I rather get a book or two and maybe some snacks/tea for a reasonable price, and that’d be enough.

So after some Youtube research, I’ve decided to get the Introverts Retreat box. I went for the cheapest option (and I’m still not too happy about how expensive the shipping is, but I think that just comes with the territory of book subscriptions). They give you 3 genre choices and I chose the general fiction one. See, because I’m a sci-fi writer, I kind of have to read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. It’s more akin to researching the market than just reading for fun (fun is included, of course). So when I pick my sci-fi/fantasy books I don’t want a crap-shoot; I’d actually go find Hugo/Nebula winners, or ones that’re pertinent to what I’m writing, etc. However, it’s no fun reading the same kind of book all the time. I wanted to branch out a bit, and well, here comes book subscription boxes to scratch that itch! Only problem is that they really can get up there when it comes to price, and so I’ve always been hesitant. Well, this year I’ve successfully paid off all my student loans, so now I’ve got some extra spending cash per month. Why not give it a go? Plus, I want to read more books in general. I was definitely a non-stop reading sort of kid, but in the recent years I’ve been seriously neglecting that aspect of my life. Time to get myself back into the habit, I say.

I probably will shop around a couple of the cheaper subscription boxes before I settle on one. I mean for the Introverts Retreat box I’m thinking of switching genres next month just to try something new. I don’t read very fast, and I also have literally a giant bookshelf full of books that I haven’t read yet, so the monthly thing just isn’t really viable for me. But I am excited of getting a new book – it’s like a present, you know? I have no idea when it’s going to arrive (with the pace mail is going right now I assume it’ll be a while). But when it does I’m sure I’ll give an update here. Hopefully I don’t get something crazy, but if I do, hey, that’s part of the fun.


Book Thoughts – Order from Chaos: The Everyday Grind of Staying Organized with Adult ADHD by Jaclyn Paul

Wow. I finished reading an actual book. I meant for “Book Thoughts” to be a series, but so far I’ve only had one entry in it, and it was back in September of last year. Yeah… you know, I used to read all the time when I was younger. I don’t know what has happened since I became an adult.

Well, no matter, now I’m going to get back into the reading groove. So today I’m going to talk about this book I just finished. It’s not even fiction, more of self-help book when I need a kick in my derrière to get my productivity up. And I think it has done its job pretty well considering. It’s a fast and easy read organization guide mainly for folks with ADHD. The author has a blog focused on dealing with ADHD, as she and her family all suffer from it. In Order from Chaos she doesn’t really go into too much detail about the ‘why’s’ behind ADHD, but instead jumps right to the ‘what to do when’s’, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Of course, ADHD comes in all shapes and sizes, and the author specifically talked about how different her own ADHD manifests versus her husband’s. (I can’t imagine keeping a household functional when multiple people have ADHD. Major kudos for her.) So the tricks and organization advices in this book might not work for all people. For example, I don’t have the same issues as the author when it comes to retaining information. She has to write every single thing down; I can keep some in my brain without forgetting. I mean, of course I do write things down, but it’s more of a “if I don’t write it, it won’t get done” kind of thing instead of forgetfulness. The author also talks about how sometimes she’d tunnel vision on one thing and forget time existed. I do not have experience with that. What I have instead is that I have trouble prioritizing tasks. Imagine cleaning, cooking, laundry, vacuuming all weigh the same in your head as writing your book, and everything has to be done in an order that your brain just arbitrarily assigns. You will never get to writing because you will never run out of cleaning jobs in your house! That’s what I have. My brain has to go through all the “little” things before it can tackle the “big” thing, but by the time it got to the “big” thing it’s so tired that it just doesn’t do it at all.

So what did I learn from the author to fix my issue? Well, I wouldn’t say “fix” completely because that’s not possible, but there are still a lot of things I can do to minimize the problem. I think the biggest takeaway is that I have to learn to work with reality and not wishful thinking. The reality is that I have to have nothing on my plate when I start working, so I need to pare down significantly what I need to do each day in order to function. It means only do one major chore a day and STOP. It means block ALL websites while working except for a useful handful (, for example). It means turn on DO NOT DISTURB on my phone and only write ONE blog entry per day (this one for today!) and work in absolute silence instead of with background music (learned that I’m a visual learner and any noise detracts from my concentration, not help it like with some others). My brain is not equipped to do what normal people can do without effort, so in order to get my main goals done (finish my novel), I have to significantly aim for less everywhere else.

I didn’t mean for this book thought to be mostly about me. But I think with a self-help book, this is probably the result you’d want, right? After reading there should be some kind of epiphany that makes your life better. If you have ADHD and you just want some practical advice on how to organize your life instead of diving deep into the psychology of manifestation of ADHD, this book is very helpful. Not every exercise she suggest would work for you, but I thinks the fundamental lessons she listed out is good, and you can always tailor what she does to what you need. Essentially she gives you the tools to help yourself. I probably used less than half of her techniques but still found ways fundamentally to make things work better for me. Even if you don’t have ADHD she’s got some solid organization skills in general, so I wholeheartedly recommend checking this book out.

Books · Life

Good Mondays – Libraries

Today I’m going to talk about my love for public libraries. As a child who grew up poor but loved books, the public library was my sanctuary. My local one when I was growing up was not very big, neither was my school’s, but there was a branch that was literally a five-minute drive from my house (or 15-minute walk if I felt like walking alongside a local highway without sidewalks in ridiculously hot weather – the deep south was not fun). I volunteered at that library during summers and the experience actually gave me the inkling to become a librarian. (Alas, life has taken me down a different path, but I really do wonder what would happen had I stuck with that back then.) I went to college at a different state and the university’s library was awesome. I was definitely one of those weirdos who actually spent time in the library not for cram study but just for reading. They had a lot of Chinese literature and that was my only source of it in the States. What can I say? I love reading. Of anything. Everything. It’s just never not been a part of my life.

So imagine my great joy when I discovered that my local library (a wonderful system here in So Cal) carries digital magazines on Libby! I’ve always subscribed to random magazines, but there’s a limit on how many you can read at one time (and it got pricey). One day I decided to check out the magazine collection (I believe it was a recent addition, or they just started to advertise, because I don’t remember seeing it featured so prominently before), and behold, you could get so many current magazine for absolutely free! Unlimited checkout, the issues are always available (but I believe it’s the current issue only. Not sure how you’re supposed to get back issues), and there are so, so, so many choices. (They don’t have everything, such as literary magazines, but uh, those should be paid for so I agree with that decision.) I’ve always wanted to read Wired but never got around to buying a single issue to try. Well, fret no more, I can now do it for free. There’s also magazines I read religiously every month and I can probably stop all my subscriptions now, but I do feel like I want to support them, especially the smaller publishers, so I’m still debating on that.

So a great big kudos for resources in our local libraries. If you haven’t used your membership you really should give it a go. I believe it’s a great public good, and I’m so, so grateful for its existence, especially during these pandemic times.


Book Thoughts – Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch

Yes folks, I’m 1) reading books again and actually finishing them and 2) going to blog down my thoughts post-read. There’s just something nice about putting reactions into words, and I’ve been following a couple of book review blogs and was inspired. Anyway, this is named “Book Thoughts” because these entries are not reviews, per se, because I’m not going to give them a score or anything, although I’d wholeheartedly recommend ones I really love. It’s kind of exciting, both me picking up reading again and talking about them. Also makes me work on my critical reading skills after I’ve been out of school for such a long time. It feels good.

So, the book I’m going to talk about today is Yellow Bird by Sierra Crane Murdoch. (I’d type out the whole title but man it’s long! Plus it’s in the blog title anyway.) It’s journalistic nonfiction mostly revolving around Lissa Yellow Bird, a Native American woman from Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. I first heard about Lissa from a This American Life episode called “A Mess to be Reckoned With.” It was absolutely fascinating and I picked up the book as soon as I finished listening. The episode doesn’t go into what the book entails – the disappearance of an oil rig worker – but on another case a few years later involving Lissa’s niece, who’d also disappeared. Because Indian reservations have odd jurisdiction rules when it comes to law enforcement, a lot of crimes go un-investigated by either the US police or the reservation police. So Lissa, in this case, is basically the person to go to if you’re looking for someone, dead or alive, when official law enforcement can’t, or won’t, help you.

The book’s main story is about the disappearance of Kristopher Clarke, or KC. What happened, who was involved, how did the case and trial go, etc. But it was also about Lissa. Who she is, what she does, how did she come to be. Murdoch, the writer and a journalist, has been following Lissa (and subsequently KC’s case) extensively for years. She went into extraordinary details about not just the case itself, but everything surrounding it – from the extensive family history of the Yellow Birds to the history of the reservation (and how the United States government, along with a whole long line of unscrupulous white business owners, have completely screwed over the reservation in terms of land, money, oil rights, and all that in between.) It is about so much more than just what happened to KC, and the narrative is richly interwoven with many stories about the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nation (MHA) as a whole. I have learned so much and feels like I’ve only read a sliver of the injustices and trial and tribulations that faced Native American tribes. It really puts in perspective just how badly everything was, is, from such a microcosm of what from the surface to be a confined case of missing persons.

However, because of the all-encompassing nature and the sheer number of people involved in the story, the narrative can get a bit confusing. The author tries to mitigate it by always adding descriptions along with names. “Lissa talks to so-and-so, the sheriff in charge of the case.” Or “So-and-so, the tribal leader of MHA, goes to Washington DC.” Stuff like that. It helps some, but I still find myself constantly trying to remember what else she had said about so-and-so before, and it can get very distracting. I think the book could benefit with a giant “who’s who” tree, like an index of every single person mentioned with what they do, how they’re related to Lissa or KC or whoever, so that if I don’t remember exactly I can flip to it and quickly find out. But alas, it doesn’t have one, which I think is a miss.

Overall I think the book is very interesting and informative. Lissa is such a strong and imperfect human being and absolutely fascinating to listen to. (Another reason I highly recommend the TAL episode, because you literally do hear her talk and it helps with the narrative voice so much). I was unfamiliar with all the background – never knew the MHA nation existed, didn’t know North Dakota had an oil boom, you know, the most basic stuff, and the book does a great job of both entertain and inform a clueless reader like me. I’ve read some reviews that the book seems a bit meandering and disjointed, which I can see why considering what I said in the previous paragraph. But I personally didn’t mind too much, and find that the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. I was taken through this great journey and came out with newly gained insights. And just like real life, the journey doesn’t wrap up neatly or even ends, for that matter. It continues on and I’m just glad to parse a slice of it as it goes.