September Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

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This book can be summed up in one word for me: meh. It was very… average. Which is a terrible shame. Consider the premise: a world filled with Chosen Ones (aka indie kids), battling soul-eating ghosts, undead and vampires every few years – but the rest of us just live here; these are the normal people who are just trying to live their lives in this crazy world.

The idea behind it is fantastic; the execution is where it falls apart. It doesn’t deliver on the intriguing synopsis, and isn’t even a good slice of life novel. It’s essentially a typical teenage angst book written by an adult, with shallower characters than usual.

Note that I listened to the audio book; it doesn’t affect how I found the writing, but I would like to note that the audio book narrator just doesn’t know how to do voices for female characters. It’s like this weird, extra breathy, fluttery voice for all of them. I listen to a number of podcasts & have to say I haven’t seen this in any of the podcasts I follow, but have experienced in waaaay too many audio books. Why people?!

Back to the book itself. There were a few things I liked, so I’ll talk about them first, and then rip on the rest.

I liked the little bit of poking of fun at the Chosen One genre, like the comments about how the Indie kids don’t use the Internet, the drunken uncle policeman, the ironic love triangle. There were some jokes about falling in love with vampires, and some more pointed jokes about Fault in Our Stars (unnamed of course). I also liked the recurring joke of waiting until they’ve graduated for the high school to blow up, and the super obvious conclusion/ punch-line to said joke.

That said, aside from these little pokes every so often, it didn’t feel very much like the parody it was supposed to be. It could have been so awesome but just fell flat. Just… fizzled out. For the criticisms, I have a lot of similar points as Sugar & YellowBlueEye’s reviews.

The ‘normal’ main characters were extremely 2 dimensional & it felt like each of them was given an “issue” to make them more interesting. Like, Mikey has OCD/anxiety, Mel is a recovering anorexic, Henna is the only black girl in town, & Jared is gay. I don’t understand how Mikey can say “this story isn’t about our issues – that isn’t the story I’m trying to tell”, but it kind of totally is. I mean, what else is it about? They just drive around, hang out, and Mikey burns with weird jealous love for Henna. Sometimes there’s a thing that happens with the Indie kids. What are their hobbies, their interests? Aside from Jared being good at math, I don’t even know their college/ job aspirations. Do they like music, playing instruments, games, reading, movies? Who knows!

On top of that, they only really interact with each other. Other people at their school don’t exist unless brought in as a weak plot device (hi Tony). These 4 are the only ones who matter – they don’t talk to other kids or people (which is a greaaaat way to make it different from the Chosen One genre you’re supposed to be parodying *eye roll*).

Even after making the main characters have only their issues as personality traits, the ball is dropped even on these issues. Mikey is the only one whose issue is explored; the others only kind of exist as props who are able to say “everyone has something” truthfully (though their issues aren’t really shown to affect them).

Jared is gay in a small conservative town; how does that affect his life? Nobody knows! But he does get a boyfriend at the very end so huzzah. Jared is mentioned as being on the football team – he also doesn’t ever mention any of the other players, ever shown going to practices, working out, or even playing in any games. It’s just a cheap veneer with an illusion of depth.

Henna is quote unquote the only black person in town. Racism? Privilege? Exploring the lack of PoC in Chosen One books? Where’s the rest of her family? If they’re abroad, does she ever meet them, skype, penpal, phone calls? None of that – it’s enough to know she’s black, so the author can pat himself on the back for diversity.

Which brings me to another point – the so-called diversity in this book. Some of the other lukewarm reviews of this book I’ve seen have given it a few brownie points here, saying that it wasn’t good, but at least it had diversity.
I challenge that. It felt like the worst kind of excuse for diversity – 2D stickers placed on characters at random to tick off a box. It’s like those shows that are 99% white with 1 black side character.

Like, Tony is Korean. Super. He shows up twice, for like 3-4 sentences. Steve is part Honduran – nice that he mentions it exactly once (ignore that he’s dating Mel, who has a republican politician mother – there are no problems here). Sidenote: how the hell is he a full doctor at the age of 25?! Shouldn’t he be an intern or, at max, a resident?? What…
I digress; this pattern of supposed diversity repeats throughout, including with Jared and Henna as I’ve discussed.

A few last things to wrap up, otherwise I’d keep going on for a looooong time. The romance was terrible, which I kind of expected. Mikey spends the whole book jealously pining after Henna, who makes it clear she’s not interested (super strong ‘nice guy’ & ‘friendzone’ trope vibes); until the end when she *spoiler* sleeps with him, at which point Mikey goes on & on how amazing it was, and then says, “Oh yeah I realize now I don’t like you like that. Let’s just be friends after all”… literally 5 seconds after they finish having sex…

Is this supposed to be character development?? This is a so-called ‘coming-of-age’ story??

Also, there was a lot of forced teenage slang that felt sprinkled in at random points to make it hashtag relatable. So many “I know right?” and “Seriously”s just thrown around.

I found Jared’s character the most interesting, which isn’t saying much. It may have been marginally better from his PoV, but then again, maybe not. I mean, the author could have just tweaked the synopsis, and it would have been an amazing story about Jared. Like a Chosen Kid who is resisting being a main character; he’s like, “I just want to be normaaaal”, and trying his hardest to not get involved in anything.

To sum up, the original idea is great, the book is not. If you still want to read it, go in with extremely low expectations.

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here Review

*A heads up for spoilers here, I was unable to give my opinion fully without them.*

I have been waiting for an opportunity to read this book for a while, ever since I first saw it. I really liked the cover, and the story sounded amusing and interesting; a relevant idea to all the super heroes in the media. As it turns put, unfortunately, the cover might be the best part. It was relatively quick to read, which I am thankful for. It seems that I am the only one that didn’t go with an audiobook this time, and I wonder how that may have effected my feelings for the book; considering I did not have to hear a narrator awkwardly trying to voice a female character.

I expected romance; it’s a YA novel. But I also have standards, and if one of your main characters is going to be unpleasant in regards to this, please also include proper character Growth. Michael’s possessiveness and jealousy over Henna could have possibly be a little less annoying if he actually had the chance to develop at some point, as opposed to him technically getting a slap on the wrist but then rewarded. I know that the book is set over just 4 weeks or so, but that doesn’t mean Michael couldn’t have actually grown up a bit. Henna does give appear to give him a good knockdown when she says something like “you are way too possessive for someone who doesn’t even date me”; but then gives in?

Instead of getting the opportunity for character growth, Henna’s rejection of him seems superficial since they still have sex. She rejects him in terms of a romantic relationship but he still gets a reward. Considering that he seems to be completely accepting of this, was he only in lust with her? In itself, them hooking up without being in a relationship is not wrong; however in the context that Michael could have had the opportunity to start growing, it tastes sour.

I was originally impressed by the seemingly diverse cast, but as Sugar Cube pointed out to me, it could come dangerously close to a sort of forced diversity. There was also a lack of context for some of the character’s diverseness, which I address lower in this book review. Mental illness and addiction was also liberally used, but perhaps too liberally? I was thrown off by Michael saying he had anxiety, but the anxiety having the appearance of an obsessive disorder. Near the end of the book, it is actually named as an obsessive disorder, so why call it anxiety before?? Anxiety and obsessive disorders may come hand in hand, and one developing from the other, but there was no reason to avoid naming his disorder earlier. He used to struggle with it, and has started to now. It would have helped with the fleshing out of characters a little (Although saying that makes me think that characters should be more fleshed out then just having a mental illness for a personality).  I was also unclear about Michael’s father’s struggle with alcohol. Were we supposed to sympathize with him at all? I never found myself doing so. I have mixed feelings about Jared offering to heal Michael of his obsessive disorder. My only positive feeling is that it didn’t actually happen. Healing mental illness with magic is a trope, and certainly one to be avoided.

I thought it was an interesting style choice to have the titles long, and yet that’s where you found the indie kids. In this sense, it’s the normal kids who are at the forefront, and the special ones are at the edges. The indie kids mostly show up when they effect the lives of the normal ones, as read in the chapters, and the regular kids have mostly no idea what is going on. The reader does, as the context is all in the chapter titles. I thought it was a clever style choice, however the regular kids were not really strong enough, didn’t seem to have full characters or lives to really carry the story. The fact that he made normal people the center of the story is fine. But that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be strong characters. If all fantasy parts of the story were stripped away, the plot and characters would be pretty uninteresting. In fact it could be said that the diversity, and the mental illnesses were simply added to make the characters more interesting, as plot devices. This is unfortunate. You should be able to write interesting enough characters without having to use such things.

Although he focused on the normals, it felt as if the book was too focused on them, with a microscope so that you only saw their lives without any of the surrounding environments. Again, I understand that there is only 4 weeks left of school, but there was little mention of school at all really. No clubs, no classes, nothing that would have added a little more depth to the characters and the book. How large is their school? Were they part of any clubs? Was there a small number of Finnish kids for some reason, and what was that reason? I also didn’t really get a good sense of where they were living. How large is their town? Were there any more children of missionaries there? I know Jared was a football player, that’s about it. There seems to be a vacuum around the characters, when, as supposed normal people, there really shouldn’t be.

The writer may have been trying to be relevant to the young persons reading his book. I assumed at some point that the Indies were supposed to be hipsters, although his tone takes mostly the mocking view of them that much of the media uses. Calling them indie kids was perhaps a reference to hipsters liking indie music? It is not clear to me.

The idea was was certainly intriguing, but the execution sadly needs some work.

 

Review: SpiderGwen

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I don’t need to tell you how excited I was to read this comic, I have seen so much fanart that I really wanted to get my hands on both volume 1 & 2. After reading Gwenpool, that feeling only intensified and the hold on these volumes was let off and I finally got my hands on them.

To start with SpiderGwen…I was kind of disappointed. It opens to this scene of Gwen Stacey being part of a girl band called the Mary Janes. I wouldn’t be too bothered by it, but then MJ is part of this band and the lead singer for it too. It seemed odd that a band, that is all about the team, would name itself after the lead singer. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it but then things got worse.

Issue 1: Character Personalities

I’m not here to say that all girls are nice, far from it. But it seemed odd that a selfish, self-centered and kind of controlling person like MJ would have so many girl friends – friends who would be willing to be in a band together. I also didn’t quite understand why they gave MJ that personality type.

From what I remembered, and it has been a while, she wasn’t this brat or else why would Peter have liked her?

I can’t say much for Gwen either, she was all angst and “oh I must redeem myself because of me Peter died”. Which is a very male…personality trait. From the flashbacks that are in Volume 0, Peter seemed to have killed himself because of the experiments he did. So why would she take on that guilt for SUCH a long time. Like yeah, there’s survivors guilt, but it seemed like she was just beating herself up constantly.

I also wasn’t too fond with how they basically made Gwen a female Peter, in terms of personality and again, as far as I could remember. She couldn’t balance all her commitments, like him, took on way too much ownership of things that she had no control over, like him, and refused to seek out any help, like him.

Honestly, I know this is called SpiderGwen, but I wasn’t expecting this. I was expecting SpiderGwen with Gwen’s personality.

The other girls were also kind of 2D most of the time, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Pacing of the Volumes

Now to add some clarity, Gwen Stacey’s Spider Gwen starts with Volume 0 and goes up from there. I assumed, I guess incorrectly, that Volume 0 would be her “creation” story. We would follow as Gwen becomes Spidergirl? But no. Volume 0 gives brief flashbacks to Peter dying within the first two pages and just jumps into a mess.

A couple of weeks later and I can’t remember what the plot was. There were some interesting parts – The Vulture – Matt Madock being evil – The Punisher being a cop, and the spider pig. But the overlying story is just a blur.

And I don’t like that. I don’t like how half way through Volume 1, it appears as if Gwen Stacey gets sucked into another universe and comes back with all these memories from this other battle.

She’s just become SpiderGwen, she is super green and gets sucked into a parallel universe?? I don’t get it and I don’t understand why we keep missing context.

What is her creation story? Why do I have to read spiderwoman to get it? Why isn’t Volume 0 about that? Why is she a carbon copy of Spiderman? Why is it, within the first volume, she’s already being sucked into other universes? You haven’t even set up her character yet and the story?

Also, I understand this is a parallel universe where Peter died, but why is Matt Murdock evil? Like… why would Peter’s death have any effect on that? Why do you change that of all things and not, I don’t know, her personality?

Overall, it felt kind of like they created SpiderGwen to be thrown into other comics as some sort of ploy. Her own comics, for now, have no meat to them or depth. To go through two volumes, and still feel kind of indifferent.

I’m not sure if I’ll read more of this comic, I really wanted them to do her some justice but it just feels kind of lame.

Back to Ms Marvel it is!

– Sugar Out

September Book Review

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I started a new job this week, finally a change after 8 months of stress and pain. I was excited to have this fresh beginning and I decided to take on this book by downloading it as an audiobook for when I traveled to and from work.

I can’t say I enjoyed it, at all. There were parts that were interesting but mostly it felt like a whiny angsty white kid that I was supposed to sympathize with because he is the main character of the book.

The narrator himself had this bad habit of making all the women in this book breathless and soft spoken, I guess to identify that they were women and not the guys. But it just ended up annoying when the guys had different “voices” but all the ladies didn’t, except maybe his younger sister because she was 8.

The writing was pretty basic, and I mean that in a bad way. Everything was “he says, she says, they says, he says, he says, she says”, I started to just get annoyed from hearing says-says-says over and over and over again, when it was followed in context to these types of conversations: “uhuh” he says, “what?” she says.

Like… diversify your writing my man, it won’t hurt you. And yes, I put “they says’ there on purpose, because not only is this guy basic but he can’t follow basic grammar either.

The actual story line was terrible, we follow four teens as they finish their last year of high school while living in a YA novel but not being the main characters. The premise sounds great, how many hijinks would ensue? I wondered. How would these kids interact with this world? What about the adults, would they all be over it?

It sounded great and exciting, what I got was boring and kind of… redundant? We follow Mickey who is head over heels in love with his good friend, who is a girl, Henna (sp?).

Ever since she broke up with her no-good bf, Mickey has realized he is in love but he can’t/won’t do anything about it.

EVERYONE knows he loves her though, LOL OBVIOUSLY. Even she does, but she makes no overtures or flirts with him, instead she’s into this guy named Nathan that Mickey is ugly jealous over and just hates his guts for no reason whatsoever.

But then it was redundant because they didn’t end up with each other at the end, when the whole plot of the story revolved around it.

Issue 1: The Romance

This love story, I need to cover first, because what a wet kleenex at the bottom of a trash can it is. The only reason him and Henna get together is because after a mysterious car accident, she decides to pursue him in the name of “exploration” though, right before said accident, she basically told him she wasn’t interested and he wasn’t in love with her either. Wow, what a story that would have been if we followed that plot line. HA, please let’s not get ahead of ourselves. They kiss and flirt, but she’s also flirting with Nathan (gj girl) and again Mickey is just this ugly jealous and possessive brat. Henna calls him out on this, but what does it matter when they still get back together? The writer I guess is trying to critique this kind of relationship, but Mickey doesn’t learn that being possessive is bad, he suffers no consequences so what was the point?

Anyway, to make this short – turns out Nathan is gay, and presumably that’s why she gives Mickey a chance because he’s the only guy in their group of friends and the rest of the school doesn’t exist (So original from the usual YA model right?). Mickey almost gets this guy killed for nothing, blames him for things other people took responsibility for – again the ugly jealous type, and then magically – THEY HAVE SEX. (They being Mickey and Henna, not Mickey and Nathan)

Oh he’s totally into it by the way, its magical and beautiful and everything he’s wanted, and he’s so happy, they fit together so perfectly. So you can imagine my surprise when: after this whole ode to her body/the sex they had, Henna decides to be just friends (cool girl, he’s a jerk) and he’s totally okay with it. No hissy fit, no rage, no demanding why, no I’m still in love with her but I respect her wishes. NOPE, he’s on board, “yeah we’re totally friends not lovers” like… did I just miss that last few couple of paragraphs where you basically turned her into a goddess in your mind?

She’s the best sex you’ve ever had kind of deal – oh he’s had sex before btw. He needs to tells us this repeatedly because…. yeah he’s a different YA main character. He’s had two other girlfriends before Henna, we even slightly meet the ex, but only for him to remind us he lost his virginity to her… great…thanks for letting us know that’s her only defining characteristic. (Reminder: he has no other female friends, can’t ask Henna out and acting as if she’s his first love…like…really? I’m supposed to believe this is the way a guy with past relationships behaves?)

Not to mention the other love story in this book, about Mel and Steve, is between a 19 year old and a 25 (?) year old (I know they have 7 years age difference). Oh but that’s okay, as she reminds us in the book, because she’s “legal”. I thought I would puke, god what bullshit is this book? A jealous, possessive jerk and basically a sexual predator but that’s okay since at the end, he takes the girl dumping him with no aggression and Mel instigated the relationship so……. I can’t even.

Oh and the third one, between his friend Jared and Nathan, is about this open gay guy in love with a guy in the closet who presumably needs to get drunk each time when he’s around him….I can’t….. what is this trash?

Not to mention apparently Mickey and Jared fooled around a bit sometime in the past, he’s not gay though (no homo man!) because he’s a guy and guys would bang a tree if they could (legit what was said). This also makes him super possessive over Jared and it’s just terrible how Mickey defends this as – he’ll “protect them ferociously” if anything happens to them-. Like, take my abuse because I’ll save you?

No thanks man.

Issue 2: The Adults

As per usual YA novel fashion, all adults are useless. How…original. But what I hated most about the adults was not their attitude but how Mickey spoke about them.

Just…. his mom, his wonderful, hard working mom who kept his own father out of jail after he stole from her family. Oh Mickey doesn’t see that as saving his ass, no he sees it as her trying to save face for her campaign. Because she’s a politician, and any time she’s nice, its because it’s for the campaign.

She basically kept his own father out of jail and presumably pays most of the bills, yet he craps on her at any moment he can get. She gets home and is annoyed the teenagers are putting their shoes on her coffee table – the DICTATOR! She is in the car, asking how he’s dealing with his OCD, OH SHE WANTS TO MANAGE HIM FOR HER CAMPAIGN. Like…why don’t you direct half that anger to your lazy ass father, who’s an alcoholic and barely manages? No way man, you have to feel SAD when you see him, what a load of crap.

Not to mention when his father does decide to go to rehab, and says he’ll go after the campaign is done, Mickey immediately jumps to the conclusion his mom has decided that when, his father tells him, she didn’t. She’s wanted him in rehab the whole time…god Mickey pisses me off.

Let’s also talk about Mel, since shes 19 and legal apparently. Might as well make her an adult right? AHA. Man I hate damsel in distress tropes, and Mel fits into that perfectly. She has an eating disorder her younger brother needs to save her from, there’s an explosion and shes too busy asking “what was that?” to get the hell out of there. Girl, it was an explosion….get out – ask questions later. She’s super insecure making insufferable demands out of her ‘friends’, and of course Mickey understands it’s not because she’s selfish/spoiled but from this insecurity.

Yeah…uh…I don’t know how she functions.

Issue 3: The YA bit

Which in this case, are the long winded chapter titles explaining what is happening in the YA novel that this book is taking place in.

At first, I didn’t see the point of it, it just seemed to be used to make fun of the characters living this story. Oh haaha, her name is Satchel. She’s an “indie” (sp?) kid. I didn’t understand at the beginning what an indie kid was, and why they were calling them that. There was no explanation as to why, but it was told to us that the “chosen ones” were a part of that titled group.

Then something happened that pissed me off royally. After the chapter that Mickey recounts his sexual prowess, we get the long winded chapter title going on about how Satchel meets the prince and they kiss. But the prince won’t go any further out of respect for Satchel. And it all seemed…like an insult. Like the author is insulting what these women are writing in terms of relationships. As in – he should have torn off her clothes and banged her right there on the floor, isn’t he a man?

It disgusted me, especially after his main character going on about banging two girls. There is no nuance to his writing a relationship, there’s none of that: oh we held hands! I was nervous to put my arm around her. We sat in bed and I could feel my heart pumping. Because that’s too…. I don’t even know honestly. Like everything is about sex, and the way he wrote the sex scene, it is.

All the emotional connections you make with a person, that just comes from sex. Too bad asexuals, you’ll never have a deep meaningful relationship.

And that’s my last issue with this book. His “diversity”. I’m guessing he meant to do this for relevance and nothing else.

Jared the gay guy, Henna the half black-half Finnish girl, and then the two white kids with  mental disabilities. What a great quartet, except they have no other friends, and everyone else is white. Jared has no other gay friends, no connection to an LGBTQ community, why would he? It’s a small community right?

No it’s just lazy writing.

Henna has no cousins or family coming to visit her. The half-Finnish part is also kind of stupid when her father is apparently some sort of…what are they called? Missionary! They’re going to central Africa too! Didn’t you know? Look how diverse this book is, it even knows a country on the continent of Africa! And then Romania also! Because they’re orthodox and… need converting to…Christianity? WTF?! Why would a Catholic need converting to Christianity??

(Also why is her Finnish father the missionary? Isn’t Finland mostly atheist? What…)

Ok, but they’re not the only minorities, Call Me Steve (I hate that goddamn nickname so much, I hate Mickey even more for this) is also half Honduran but HAHA he’s never been! I can’t….. what diversity is this? Also Steve is the magical doctor at the age of 25, he’s so magic he doesn’t mind hanging out with a bunch of teenagers.

Like why even bother with this placeholders to say your diverse when you don’t create a world where this people would exist? How is it Steve is the only half-Honduran in that area? Where are the other latin american kids? Or the community? How is there only one black person in this town, when she’s half? Did her mom just pop into existence? Where is their family?

And how is it that Jared thinks he’d be an “indie” kid, aka a main character/hero in a YA novel, when this author – trying to poke holes at the tropes of YA novels, can’t bother to make his own character fully bisexual? How realistic of a statement is that? Where does this author live honestly? (Note: I know where he lives its on Wikipedia but apparently he lives in a hole)

TLDR

In the end, I disliked Mickey a lot. I hated his personality, how he somehow had anxiety throughout the whole book but then that finally was addressed as OCD, which it had been the entire time. How dangerously possessive he was to everyone but no one addresses it. How he’s somehow hero-ing around, saving his sisters from an explosion at a concert, the other from an eating disorder and trying to charge ahead and find out what the indie kids are up to, even though the premise of the book is that they’re just trying to live here. So why would he even want to get involved?

I disliked the guy’s writing even more, how he put in a concert explosion after what happened with Ariana Grande. It felt like he saw this terrible event as a means to show off his character in his book. (Edit: Was told this book was published before this so my bad)

How he kept using “I know right?”, in arbitrary areas to make us relate to the character when I didn’t know what to “right” about. Like, oh yeah “forever young” is the title of their prom, I know right?? Okay…you didn’t plan the stupid thing can you stop judging every single thing you put your face in front of.

There are so many things I could rage about, but I will end this here.

I don’t recommend, I’m glad I didn’t buy it, and I wont be reading anything more from this guy. I know I’m not the best in terms of spelling and grammar, but I don’t have a team of editors.

This was lazy, insulting and, overall, a waste of time. Go back to the bottom of the trash where you belong.

-Sugar Out

 

 

 

 

 

July Book Review: Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls

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This review took me a while to put up, as what started as a short review turned into a long personal essay. So, be forewarned 😛

This book was a very interesting read for me. I knew prior to reading it that it was about body positivity, but I was still surprised by some of the content. The various guest essays from other diverse perspectives were amazing; especially the androgynous essay, and the cis-male essay. Additionally, although I roughly knew the basics about body positivity, it’s a difficult thing to incorporate into daily life, at least for me, and reading about it was an amazing reaffirment.

The blog style of writing was a bit strange at first – it was like reading printed out blog posts more than anything. Since the author runs a major blog, this makes sense, and you get used to it after a few chapters. The ‘homework’ pieces weren’t really personally useful, as none of those things were activities that I refrain from doing. They were eye-opening to me however, in showing how restricted truly over-weight people feel. The most useful personal lessons included the bad mental health day, re-training your brain & neuroplasticity, and approach to exercise & healthy foods, which were all excellent, and super valuable. The resource list of blogs, books and other websites was also fantastic, and which I will definitely be checking out.

From a personal perspective, I’m not exactly ‘fat-fat’, but I’m not skinny either. Despite being a relatively constant weight most of my young adult life, I’ve only really stopped thinking about weight loss & being more comfortable in my skin during the last 4 years. Low self body image still sneaks up on me every once in a while, and it doesn’t help that my mother tells me relatively often that I should lose weight, or tells me not to eat that cookie/chocolate, or that I’m not going to be able to fit in my pants soon, etc.

Something that especially resonated with me was the idealization of the hourglass shape. Although I do have a bit of an hourglass shape, I also have a belly pooch, and any weight I gain goes straight to the belly. Into the butt, boobs or thighs for that idealized hour-glass look? Nope, doesn’t go there for me, just an expanding beer belly.

In high school, I remember a friend telling me about a summer camp she had gone to. It was full of physical activity, but it wasn’t a fat camp or anything like that. Despite this, the counselors made all the teenage girls grab their stomach fat, disassociate from it by giving it a separate name, and then all of the physical activity was heavily focused at eliminating it. The worst part, as she told me this story, was that I thought, “What a good idea”, and promptly called my own stomach fat ‘evil John’. I spent much of my high school and cegep years trying to be rid of evil John. Calorie counting & restriction? Yessir. Multiple exercise tapes, classes, machines; not with the aim of getting stronger in mind, but with the single aim of getting rid of evil John. I printed out pictures of fit women as goals, and kept clothes much too small around as motivation for ‘when I lose weight’. I never straight up dieted though, and so didn’t feel I was nearly as obsessed as other girls my age. How sad is that?

Even now, going through my closet & finding an old article of clothing that doesn’t fit, it’s hard for me to get rid of it. My first thought will be, “this is so pretty, I’ll keep it until I lose enough weight to wear it again.” And in my closet it will sit, and I’ll put off buying new clothes that actually fit me, looking longingly instead at my overstuffed closet.

Into university, my mindset changed slightly, but not really. I simply replaced ‘skinny’ in my mind with ‘fit’, and as the book points out, they’re basically the same thing, just evolved to seem better for you. It’s one thing training to BE fit & another training to LOOK fit. You can train a shit ton, still be fat, but also BE fit as hell. For most people, that’s not enough; it’s not actually about being healthy, it’s about the way you look. This is something I have to actively keep in mind and reaffirm when I workout nowadays – I am working out to BE stronger, BE healthier, get endorphins going, & sweat out my stress; NOT to lose weight. If I lose weight, fine – if I don’t, that’s fine too. This principle also applies to food & eating.

Which leads me to one of the themes in the books; Fat as a factual adjective, not an insult. This is incredibly important to acknowledge and think about. I have a fat little belly pooch – and that’s ok. It’s not demeaning myself, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact. And it’s incredibly backwards if I point it out, or say I’ve gained weight, and people respond, “No! You’re not fat, you look great.” It does a disservice by equating fat = looking bad. And going further, the book points out how ‘looking good’ shouldn’t be the focus of the body positive movement either.

All of this to say, many of the chapters struck a major chord. Just look at some of the chapter titles:
“Start now, goddamnit: waiting doesn’t work”
“Fat and health: rethink that shit”
“Change your Tumblr, change your life: diversify your media feed”
“100% of humans have brains: mental health support is for everyone”
“Watch your language: words matter”
“Fatshion” is a form of political resistance: wear what scares you”
Etc.

I feel like anyone who has felt an issue with their size should read this book – however, it’s not for everyone. Some people have no issues with their body image, and to you, I bow down in reverence and jealousy. On the other side of the spectrum, I think that people who are severely deep down the rabbit hole of fat hate will completely miss the point, and spout some BS how “this book is advocating obesity weh”.

To conclude, the concept of evil John is no more, and hasn’t been for a few years. I’ve been building a tentative peace with my body, but there are always setbacks and bad days. For these, I have a new resource list, media feed, and books to read, thanks to this amazing little book.

Review: Dorothy Must Die

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Vacation time means I get to catch up on reading. Dorothy was a new purchase and for whatever reason I wanted to give it a shot.

Everyone knows of the wizard of Oz and I had the pleasure of seeing the stage performance in the last month or so. This helped refresh some of the finer plot points I hadn’t noticed as a child, like the tin man literally chopping himself to bits.

I was mostly entertained by Amy, she was an angry teenager that had a lot on her plate without her having stepped foot in Oz. Her being the chosen one to kill Dorothy seemed a bit of a stretch but who am I to argue against the plot? As usual there was that jump in belief as Amy trained to become a witch and an assassin that comes with any fighting type YA novel. Her strength comes from her anger, not surprising, as it follows along the lines of Katniss and whats-her-face from Divergent. That she suddenly has magical powers was acceptable in terms of the plot and overall I was entertained by it.

The darkness of this OZ was interesting and it was really well constructed and thought out. It wasn’t just dead plants but melting munchkins, eyeless maids and half metal girls. There was a sense of reach to Dorothy’s tyranny that’s usually not there. Not in the sense of how everyone is affected in different ways, usually everyone is being terrorized in the same way. But with Dorothy Must Die, it feels terrifying.

Her descriptions are superb, man the Scarecrow with the moving triangle and button eyes – total nightmare material. The Tinman also and the Lion? She really knew how to adjust them subtly to the grotesque.

I do have criticisms for this book though; though any YA is not perfect and there are many tropes and plot devices they copy off of each other. I was hoping that though Danielle followed the tropes and devices she would adjust them to suit the story.

I was slightly disappointed when she didn’t.

To start, the love interest – oh Nox, you’re so two dimensional and a bit of a blockhead and yet Amy just falls for you. Oh she knows the witches are manipulating them to fall for each other and grow an attachment, yet she falls into their scheming easily. I would like to believe it was a spell the witches conducted to keep Amy loyal, and it would be awesome to see that be true in the next book, but for now she seems pretty dead set on him. Which was boring.

At first I thought there was going to be a threeway with Pete, but Pete ended up being someone else, so thank god that didn’t happen. Unless that someone else becomes the other corner of this triangle and that would shake things up a bit for sure. Again why hope though?

Second – Don’t trust anyone, don’t trust me thing. God could everyone shut up already? Don’t trust me but trust me with this advice I’m telling you?!? Like do you hear yourselves? And everyone was saying it. I hate when a part of the plot is to withhold useless information from the main character for no apparent reason. Everything she finds out at the end of the novel, which everyone kept secret from her, wasn’t actually important. Astrid is her handler! Too bad you didn’t know from the beginning when that would have been actually super useful for you?? Like??? Who would do that? That doesn’t make any sense!? Doesn’t matter though cuz she’s dead so….. cool story bro?

And then this:

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See how it says “Your mission”? Yeah, she only finds out about this at the end of the novel. And this is a key piece of information.

She can’t kill Dorothy without completing these steps yet NO ONE TELLS HER. She’s basically trying to kill Dorothy the whole novel TO NO AVAIL.

I was waiting the whole novel to find out why this was at the back as it didn’t seem pertinent at all, only to find out it was stupid important at the end. What a stupid thing to do. Not to mention completely unnecessary in terms of the plot.

She could still have a second novel, no one is thinking she would be able to do all 4 things in one book. But apparently its going to be 1 and then 3, surprise she kills one of them just at the end when she finds out this important tidbit.

Though why didn’t kill the others to begin with seems a bit…noobish. Like why wouldn’t you take out her three biggest supporters and obvious guardians? Who are literal monsters and should, for the good of OZ, be eliminated?

And you know, I could totally get over her being trained and become so adept so easily, I could get over the love interest, and this terrible plot reveal. But what really ticked me off was Gert and the other witches.

This witch is literally stronger than anyone else, she took on the lion and almost killed him and she *dies* in the process for no discernible reason. He doesn’t hit her, doesn’t tear her into two, she just drains him and that drains her?!?

WHY ARE ALL THE ADULTS INCOMPETENT!?!  SO FRUSTRATING!

No it has to be this one girl who has to do everything, and yeah parallels to Dorothy are soo cool.

But last time I checked, Dorothy didn’t have to kill the Wicked Witches three super tough mini bosses?

I’d just like a YA novel where the girl doesn’t fall for the first boy she claps eyes on, is actually supported by other older characters who are useful in getting shit done, and has some actual either self-defense background or some sport background to explain her ability to be trained so efficiently.

Otherwise, cool story, looking forward to reading the second one….

Did I sound too negative? I feel like I ranted a lot, when I enjoyed the book overall. I should have read it in French to get some practice in.

H’ohwell.

Suhgar OUT

 

 

 

September Book Choices

Here are my choices for the month. I tried to think of books that might suit September, with a little bit of history, a little bit of creepy, as well as magic. And of course, school.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam–a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion–a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office–leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand–and fear–the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night…

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway – a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Illusive by Emily Llyod-Jones

When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers, and Americans suffering from these so-called adverse effects were given an ultimatum: Serve the country or be declared a traitor.

Some people chose a third option: live a life of crime.

Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She’s what’s known as an illusionist. She’s also a thief. After crossing a gang of mobsters, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow superpowered criminals on a job that most would have considered impossible: a hunt for the formula that gave them their abilities. It was supposedly destroyed years ago – but what if it wasn’t?

Government agents are hot on their trail, and the lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race that could cost them their lives.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions…

Poll: https://goo.gl/forms/BgS0Oypm7DqZ5wu32