A Review of Conversations with the Fat Girl by Liza Palmer

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I was so happy to find I enjoyed this book. Immediately after claiming I found it impossible to hate books I managed to read several books that I hated. So, glad to be back on the right path. Disclaimer of sorts: Are you a fatter-than-you’d-like-to-be woman? You will love this book. Don’t even read the review, just go read the book. You can trust me on this. I would never lie to you! But actually, read the review anyway, I was being dramatic.

Conversations with the Fat Girl primarily deals with one of the most common problems of all women and generally most men, as well: body image. The main character, Maggie Thompson, has been fat since adolescence. She can hardly remember who she is because all she can identify herself as is fat. For many years she found solace in the friendship of Olivia Morten, a fellow fat girl. Olivia isn’t quiet or self-effacing. She ignores her shape and tries to rise above the taunts of her peers. They hurt her, but she internalizes them until one night, one insult, pushes her over the edge. Olivia decides to get her stomach stapled and loses all of the weight in a hurry. Four years after that is when the story opens.

Olivia is a size two, getting married to a gorgeous doctor, and is a colossal bitch. Maggie, meanwhile, is bigger than ever, has a Master’s degree in museum studies (focusing on restoration), works in a coffee shop, and lives alone with a dog named Solo. Their friendship has endured their lives following completely different paths. They’re planning Olivia’s dream wedding together, an event they’ve both been looking forward to since childhood.

That’s the plot in a nutshell. What you really need to know about this book, however, is that it isn’t your typical accept yourself and your life will be perfect self-help nonsense. I was sure that was what I should expect and I was dreading it. I can’t take my heart being warmed. Maggie is easy to relate to but she isn’t one dimensional. She has flaws and she’s brazen about them. She’s unlikable sometimes. Mostly, she’s fun to follow. She has a great voice.

Anyway, if I could end this as unprofessionally as possible, read this damn book. Do it tomorrow. You want to borrow it? You totally can. It’s kind of wavy in the back though. Koshek knocked over a glass of water on my bookcase.

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Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

My first review was fantastic. But you’ll never see it, because WordPress ate it. I don’t know why and I can’t find a shred of it. So instead you get a truncated version of my rage.

This book is the story of a woman kidnapped and held prisoner in a fancy shed in a guy’s backyard. He’s a truly shitty guy who rapes and abuses her regularly. Eventually, she has a son, Jack. I guess the author thought that story wouldn’t be good enough so she decided to tell it from Jack’s perspective. Which is a stupid idea on its face. Jack is 5 at the start of the novel and goes from kind of precocious and adorable to insufferable in a hurry.

After this point there be spoilers. But it doesn’t matter because if you read this review you won’t want to read the book anyway, with or without spoilers. But I’ve bolded all instances of the word spoilers, in case you don’t take good advice. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

PS: Spoilers!

I didn’t finish this book so I can’t actually ruin the ending for you. At least there’s that. The mom is simply known as “Ma”. Maybe they tell you her name in the last 60 pages or so, but I didn’t get that far so I’m sticking with Ma. Ma was snatched from her college grounds after falling for the oldest trick in the kidnapper’s book. The guy, Old Nick, tells her his dog is sick and can she come over to his truck and help him. This was 7 years before the opening of the story.

In the five years Jack has been alive, Ma managed to give him a sense of normalcy. From his point of view, he has happy life. All his needs. Ma, however, grew up outside of Room (as the two of them refer to the shed where they live) and knows that this is not a way for anyone to live. She wants to escape, he’s resistant, ultimately they escape. In my opinion, that’s where the book should end. They get out, Old Nick goes to jail, happily ever after. But no. The author has yet to impress upon us what is really important in life. So it goes on.

There are two main things that make it impossible to suspend disbelief while reading this book. They are Ma and Jack. Ma has been a prisoner for 7 years, raped and beaten regularly, completely under the control of this horrible man. While still in Room, it is made clear that she’s falling apart mentally. However, as soon as she’s out, she’s just fine. The police put her up in a psychiatric facility which she insists she doesn’t need. She wanders around the place, totally self-assured. She’s strong enough inside to not shy away from the stares of strangers when she nurses Jack. She even tells them off. I’m calling shenanigans on that. She should be experiencing learned helplessness at the very least. The fact that they managed to escape should have exhausted every ounce of her reserves. But no. She’s superwoman.

And Jack. He’s portrayed as a super smart little kid and that’s believable enough. With unlimited time and his mother’s completely undivided attention, most kids at 5 could be that advanced. I mean, it’s not like the two of them have anything else to do. But there are several instances where he’s unbelievable. For one, his mother drills him with proper names for things and even regularly corrects his grammar and yet, he doesn’t ever refer to nursing. He calls it “having some” and it comes off really creepy. It took me reading about 3 different sessions of nursing before I actually figured out that that was what he was doing. The slow burn of figuring it out made it more weird. I’m pretty sure, from the rest of the book, that the author was trying to make it seem commonplace but she failed spectacularly.

Another time, Ma is talking to a lawyer and the lawyer spells the word “feces” so that Jack won’t know what he’s talking about. Except, Jack does. So, I’m meant to believe that Jack recognizes the word feces when it’s being spelled out loud. A word he never had cause to know, since bowel movements are referred to as poop every time they’re brought up. So he magically knows the word feces but only recognizes milk as the thing his mom pours into glasses for herself. That doesn’t follow.

The worst thing, though, is the constant talk of God. I feel like the author thought she could get away with being ham-fisted about it because the narrator is a child and no one is a true believer the way a child is. But it comes off as an intentional message put in to try to teach the reader. The part that irritated me in particular was when Jack says a prayer over his food to baby Jesus in a cafeteria and everyone looks at him strangely, he thinks, “I guess they don’t have him Outside”. I rolled my eyes so hard I thought they would fall out of my head.

Ultimately, I think this book wanted to teach me about the evils of the world and let me look at the wonders of the world through the eyes of a child. Besides the fact that it failed at the aim, it was a stupid idea to begin with.

I feel a bit bad, because this second review was more venomous than the last one. But really, this book deserves it.

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Goodness Gracious, More Sword Fighting!

First, a little shield blocking with a handy boogie board. Actually, first is getting a hold of the boogie board. That was tough stuff.

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It went a bit better with John behind the shield.

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During a lesson about how to fight from one’s knees, Lily had a bit of trouble holding on to her weapon. John really needs to reconsider how he builds his grips.

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Back on their feet, they practiced form. Lily is very anti-form. Her style is more swing like crazy, try not to get hit. Methodical she is not.

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She tries really hard and she’s very enthusiastic though. Plus, you can’t deny she’s insanely adorable.

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John decided it was time for Lily to pick on someone her own size. We had to roust Aidan from his bedroom to that end. As I’ve mentioned, these lessons weren’t meant for him originally. He seems pretty interested, though, and it’s really handy to have someone who is about the same build for Lily to spar with.

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Sometimes they even look they’re enjoying each other’s company and that’s beautiful. Other times Lily gets her can-you-believe-I-have-to-hang-out-with-my-little-brother look on her face.

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Usually that’s when she’s tired of chasing him all over the yard. The kid hates to swing. He loves to retreat.

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He looks uncomfortable standing his ground, I can only hope that that’ll change with practice.

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Maybe Lily will learn to temper her strikes and in three years she can fight for real. If, you know, she wants to.

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And I don’t know about Dan. Maybe he’ll get into it, too. Except, he’s got nearly 5 years to wait. Lots of practice time.

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In the mean time, lots of adorable pictures.

 

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Review: Bone House by Betsy Tobin

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I can’t tell you what exactly about this book held me captive. I spent the entire story trying to figure it out. The characters are engaging but not breathtakingly original. The setting is one most regular readers know very well: an English village in the 1600s. Disease, witch burnings, peasants and aristocracy. It’s nothing groundbreaking. It’s a pretty straightforward Gothic novel that I couldn’t stop reading.

The story is almost agonizingly slow. It starts with the death of a woman in the village, Dora. She was a prostitute, the only one in town, it seems, but she was highly revered by everyone in the community. Her death is a tragedy to one and all but her loss is felt particularly strongly by the narrator (who isn’t ever named). Her mother is the village’s midwife and as such she and the narrator spend a considerable amount of time with Dora. They didn’t exactly have the pill in those days, after all. The narrator recalls her run ins with Dora (nicknamed “the great-bellied woman” due to her near constant pregnancies) and struggles to come to terms with her sudden, confusing death.

As time passes, Dora’s death becomes more of mystery. At first, it seems apparent that she merely slipped and fell to her death. Evidence starts to come to light that maybe something more sinister was involved. Something suspicious about the men in her life. Something odd about the twelve year old son she left behind. Maybe even something demonic is at work.

There isn’t much I can say without giving everything away. One thing this book has is a perfectly surprising ending. I was shocked but not disappointed. The ending fits even though it isn’t at all what I expected. I absolutely love a book that can surprise me.

One warning for potential readers: if you can’t stand a slow burn, don’t even bother. It was hard to stand sometimes, I kept waiting for a pay off that kept not happening. However, if you can stand the torture, the pay off is worth it.

 

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First Sword Fighting Lesson (The Lily & Dan Show)

Lily has been reading the Percy Jackson books and is completely obsessed with them. As well as all activities contained within them. She expressed to me an interest in learning to sword fight and I told her John would teach her. After all, he sword fights on the regular and even so happens to have weapons small enough for her to handle. She was super excited to get started. This past weekend John and I were planning to be over at my sister’s house anyway so John brought his weapons. Just in case.

I expected that Lily would start out nervous and awkward. No. She picked up a sword and came out like a whirlwind on fire.

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Though the lesson was meant for Lily, Dan decided to join in, too.  After John explained the rules and Aidan watched for a while, it became a free for all.

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At some point in this, it occurred to John that he might want to teach the children how they were actually supposed to hold and swing their weapons. I think he took it for granted that they would pick it up naturally. Or else he forgot. There was a brief instruction phase and then it was brother versus sister.

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Lily was beyond confident but I think Aidan has more of the temperament for an assassin. He was very meek face to face but he never hesitated to stab someone once they turned their back. Sneaky little thing. (I think he gets it from me.)

Watching John teaching the kids was great fun for me. He’s so good with them and they seem to like him. When they referred to him as Uncle John I had to stop for a minute to make sure my heart hadn’t burst. So, so much happiness. It was a lovely day.

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Easter Shenanigans

 

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Not that I think anyone was waiting breathlessly for my Easter post, but sorry for taking so long with it, anyway. I’m a horribly lazy person. And addicted to Skyrim. So I could pretend I’m a busy adult with lots of important things to do except really I’m just lame.

Easter started off on the right foot, with the introduction of Milo, shown in the picture above. My brother and his girlfriend just got the little guy a couple months ago. They thought he would be a great Easter bunny. He wasn’t all that great at hiding eggs, but his adorableness made that easy to forgive.

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Lily and Dan were being very hammy while the eggs were being hidden, so, I obliged them by taking these silly pictures.

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Lily preferred to flip the exercise on its head, swapping her bucket and ears. Not to be outdone, Aidan put on everything he could find.

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The littlest member of the family, my brother’s daughter, Kiera, is a bit young to participate in this particular pre-Easter ritual. But I’m sure next year she’ll be hamming it up for the camera just like her cousins.

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By the time they got their heads de-bucketed, it was time to actually hunt.

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Fortunately, they’re not cutthroat egg hunters. They both filled their buckets and no one got knocked down or anything. Kiera hunted, too, insofar as a one year old can. She didn’t really get the concept but she was pretty cute the whole time while she was stumbling around with her parents.

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John was involved with his own egg hunt, while the kids weren’t looking. I was looking, though, and I caught him snatching an egg out of the tree (silly that it was there to begin with, since none of the kids could reach it). He proceeded to take the candy out of the egg and put it back where he found it.

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Shameful. But there was no shortage of candy and other treats for the kids, anyway. They barely missed that one. I mean, look at this haul!

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Big-eared Love

Our new kitten, Koshek, isn’t really getting along with the other felines. When Roma isn’t fending off his attacks, she’s starting fights with him. Because she doesn’t know how to play or because she hates his face. I don’t speak cat, so I couldn’t tell you. And Smoosh…well…the less said about her, the better. He isn’t entirely friendless in the house, however. Prim, at least, doesn’t hate him.

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We got Prim from a bunny rescue nearly four years ago, when we were still living in San Jose. I wanted a different bunny but John insisted on Prim (then named Shasta) because she has a lot of attitude. Boy, does she ever. It might not be entirely clear in the following picture, since it isn’t moving, but what happened was Prim jumped at Koshek, who responded by leaping up onto the chairs.

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Roma and Prim never became friends because Roma’s fear of Prim outweighed her curiosity. Koshek does not have that problem. Every time he gets scared, he comes right back. He’s never even hesitant.

Now I’ve set the scene so, I present to you, Kitten & Bunny: A Love Story

 

The players:

Primrose

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Koshek

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Act 1: So Much Lurking

It begins simply enough, with a little bit of interest.

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Maybe a little too much interest.

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Mostly, Koshek was overly attached. Bit of a stalker.

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Act 2: Violent Displays of Affection

Next comes a bit of schoolboy mischief. Koshek decided he liked Prim, so he showed her. By hitting her. (Forgive the blurriness of the action shots, my cell phone camera is not perfect.)

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Prim, for her part, reacted like a lady. She sniffed and pretended to be aloof.

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So, to prove his love, Koshek escalated.

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Act 3: Cage Match

Prim wanted to go outside. Koshek, of course, wanted to follow. When he first got in with her, he tried to play hard to get.

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That, of course, quickly turned into stalking.

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And creeping.

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Leaping.

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Leaping lead to excessive contact.

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The contact, amazingly, led to friendship.

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Curtain close.

 

 

 

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