Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Waisted by Randy Susan Meyers

Glance at the magazines in the checkout aisle at the supermarket. Notice what the people on the cover look like. Read the article teasers and see how many of them refer to looks or weight loss. Now turn on the TV and note what all of the actresses look like. If you see an actress who isn't incredibly thin (this will be hard to do), do a quick internet search and note how many articles about her mention her weight. While you're at it, try to see how many articles there are out there about any actress (go ahead and pick one who is in the news a lot) who has supposedly gained weight and see how many times the speculation is whether she's pregnant or not because of something as small as 5 pounds. Now search and read articles accusing magazines of airbrushing women to conform to our often times unattainable looks (read weight) guidelines. On the internet, fat shaming is one of the last, close to universal, and least called out moments of nastiness around. When you start paying attention to these seemingly superficial things, it is easy to see that we as a society have a weight obsession. Now try being an overweight woman who is bombarded with this everyday. Fat people are told all sorts of things from the falsely concerned "you need to lose weight to be healthy" to the hurtful "you have such a pretty face" to the downright mean (and generally not said in front of a person but instead said behind their back within earshot) "she's huge." There is judgment in all of it. All of it is painful. For those of us who have battled our weight, it all hurts. And yes, we are aware of just exactly how many pounds we need to lose in order to escape the categories of overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. Don't think we aren't. But even women who aren't overweight probably have a very good idea of what they weigh and worry when they overindulge because that is the way society has programmed us. Randy Susan Meyers' newest novel, Waisted, takes on the issue of women's weight, how far people will go to lose it, the underlying emotional issues that contribute to it, and the strength it takes to love yourself no matter what size your skin.

Daphne is a former Hollywood makeup artist who owns her own business. She is absolutely amazing at her job and can transform anyone. But while she can make herself "painted pretty," she can't seem to transform her body into something she isn't ashamed of. Her lovely husband Sam loves her just the way she is but she has absorbed a lifetime of her mother's comments about her weight, especially in contrast to her thin sisters, that have wounded her to the core.

Alice successfully runs a large community center in a wonderfully diverse neighborhood while her husband is a handsome and talented documentary filmmaker. Alice met him when she was at her thinnest, right after a breakup, but now she's gained a lot of weight and he makes no secret of the fact that he prefers her thin. Her mother tells her that she should own herself, be big, black, and bold but it's hard for Alice to take that advice when it's coming from her slight, white mother who has no idea what it's like to be mixed race, belonging fully to neither culture that forms her.

Daphne and Alice meet each other when they sign up to participate in an intensive weight loss boot camp experience. But the minute they walk in the door to the farm, their experience is nothing like it was billed. It is humiliating, unhealthy, abusive, and frankly misogynistic. The women are shamed, kept on an unsafe calorie restriction and exercised for hours, while a cameraman documents everything. Do they lose weight? Yes, and the joy they feel as they step on the scale every day and see lower numbers fuels their ability to endure the hatefulness of the place even as they know that this life isn't right or sustainable. But when they finally question something in private, they discover that this "fat camp" is far more than they ever imagined and they vow to fight back and expose the unethical seediness.

I had to suck in my breath many times as I read this, recognizing myself in these characters and the self-destructive things they said and did. Each woman chose food as a way to salve her emotions, as a way to avoid addressing the emotional baggage they each carried, and then chose it again to deal with her unhappiness about her burgeoning size. While this may not represent all overweight women, it certainly does capture the shame and powerlessness of many. It was hard to read about women so beaten down, so full of self-hatred, that they would accept all manner of abuse but this does forcefully point out how deeply internalized our societal beliefs go and how much power they have over us in so many ways. As the women work towards acceptance of themselves, whether without the weight or with it, the story slows down and dips more fully into their lives in the outside world. In some ways this change made it feel like two different books, not always entirely comfortable together. But even once released from Privation Farm, the women have to hear comments and speculation about whether the weight will stay off, have to acknowledge and address their wounds, and have to ultimately live in their bodies whatever shape they take in the end, a lessen all of us should understand. This may not be an easy read for anyone struggling with her weight but it will certainly inspire reflection and adds to the conversation about personal and social expectations about women's appearances and I'm glad to have read it.

For more information about Randy Susan Meyers and the book, check our her author website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and publisher Atria Books for sending me a copy of this books for review.

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Ghost Clause by Howard Norman.

The book is being released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on July 2, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: Simon Inescort is no longer bodily present in his marriage. It’s been several months since he keeled over the rail of a Nova Scotia–bound ferry, a massive heart attack to blame. Simon's widow, Lorca Pell, has sold their farmhouse to newlyweds Zachary and Muriel—after revealing that the deed contains a “ghost clause,” an actual legal clause, not unheard of in Vermont, allowing for reimbursement if a recently purchased home turns out to be haunted.

In fact, Simon finds himself still at home: “Every waking moment, I'm astonished I have any consciousness . . . What am I to call myself now, a revenant?” He spends time replaying his marriage in his own mind, as if in poignant reel-to-reel, while also engaging in occasionally intimate observation of the new homeowners. But soon the crisis of a missing child, a local eleven-year-old, threatens the tenuous domestic equilibrium, as the weight of the case falls to Zachary, a rookie private detective with the Green Mountain Agency.

The Ghost Clause is a heartrending, affirming portrait of two marriages—one in its afterlife, one new and erotically charged—and of the Vermont village life that sustains and remakes them.

Monday, May 20, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I am in the middle of a streak of picking up and putting down a lot of books. :-( This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this week are:

Haben by Haben Girma

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
A Moveable Feast edited by Don George
The Desert Sky Before Us by Anne Valente
The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar
Educated by Tara Westover
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhannon
The Paris Orphan by Natasha Lester
Breaking the Ocean by Annahid Dashtgard

Reviews posted this week:

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Kathrine Reay

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handle
Oh, Tama! by Mieko Kanai
The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Exposure by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Here I Am! by Pauline Holdstock
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas
Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St. Vincent
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
The Archive of Alternate Endings by Lindsey Drager
Granny’s Got a Gun by Harper Lin
White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf
At Briarwood School for Girls by Michael Knight
The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel
All Ships Follow Me by Mieke Eerkens
Like This Afternoon Forever by Jaime Manrique
Gravity Well by Melanie Joosten
Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Dear Baba by Maryam Rafiee
Saint Everywhere by Mary Lea Carroll
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Tonic and Balm by Stephanie Allen
Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons
In the Shadow of Wolves by Alvydas Slepikas
The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
CinderGirl by Christina Meredith
The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones
The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renee Lavoie
The Fragments by Toni Jordan
The Question Authority by Rachel Cline
The Plaza by Julie Satow
The Lonely Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya
Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa
To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari
Haben by Haben Girma

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Salon: How I consume my books

When you have as many books as I do, the second question you usually hear from people is "You know you can use the library, right?" (The first is "Have you read all of these?") The answer to that question is that of course I know about libraries. In fact, I still have my very first, much treasured library card from my childhood in a memento box. I spent many lovely hours during indoor recess (and sometimes even when it wasn't raining) in the school library. I was even one of two students invited to my elementary school librarian's wedding. But somewhere along the line, I stopped using the library (don‘t throw stones, I have reasons I‘ll list below). And that has led to my house being its own sort of library, which makes me happier than you can ever imagine. I did take my children to the library a lot when they were small for story time or to check their own books out. Now that they are grown, they are like me though. They buy books (well, I buy them books--in fact my college child texted me pictures of books she wanted knowing full well that they'd be waiting for her here at home when she came home for the summer, and they were). Oh, and the answer to the first question? No, I haven't read all the books I own. In fact, I haven't read the majority of them. It wouldn't be as satisfying to have all of these books if I had. And now, before my librarian friends get too worked up with me, my reasons for not using the library as an adult:

Reason #1: Libraries have this irrational interest in having their books returned. Even if I'm not finished. I mean, doesn't everyone set a book down and come back to it 8 months later?

Reason #2: Libraries want me to read a book when it‘s available rather than when the mood strikes me 4 years from now. And did you know they purge books from their collection? I mean, what if I want to read an obscure book twenty years after I heard about it and no one else has ever checked it out in that time frame? Gone from their shelves but not from mine.

Reason #3: Working in the industry means I often get books long before the library.

Reason #4: In theory I‘m reading from my own out of control library and don‘t need another source of temptation.

Reason #5: The last time I checked a book out, it was on the boat I sank so I very shamefacedly had to fess up to ruining their lovely, new hardback book and pay for it. Library bound copies are more expensive than regular books so I would have come out ahead by not borrowing it. They would have come out ahead too by not having boneheaded me flood their book. Did I mention it was the newest in a series of books that have a pretty extensive fan base? Yeah, I'm really sorry to the librarian who had to tell them that the library was waiting for a replacement copy to arrive and be processed. :-/

Reason #6: If I lost a library book in this house, I‘d never find it again. And given the book state of my house, I lose books with shocking regularity. (See above on cost of library books.) I can't tell you how many children's books over the years led to very extensive scavenger hunts through the house. And that seriously cuts into my reading time.

This probably helps to explain my insane book acquisitions this past week. And no, I'm not 'fessing up to how many books came in versus how many headed out. No one needs that kind of negativity in their life.

I started and set aside a bunch of books this week but I'm diligently trying to finish the latest one, which has me in Europe during WWII with female photographers and correspondents. What have you been reading this week (from the library or from your own personal collection)?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Review: The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

Independent bookstores are, as a rule, wonderful and magical places. They're all different, but no matter how different, they generally evoke a similar feeling in the readers who love them. They are a refuge, a home, a quieting. The people who work in them have to love them too, but in a different way than the readers who wander in to visit and browse and buy. The owners and employees see behind the welcome to the stresses that accompany any business: the costs, the work, and the balancing act that is stocking the store. Katherine Reay's newest novel, set in the fictional Printed Letter Bookshop, shows the magic and importance of the small bookshop in the hearts and lives of the women who work there.

Madeline Cullen is up for partner at her high powered legal firm when her Aunt Maddie dies of cancer. Madeline had spent one wonderful summer working with her Aunt Maddie in the Printed Letter Bookshop before a rift between her father and her aunt caused her to lose touch with Maddie. But Maddie never forgot her beloved niece, leaving the bookshop and all its inventory to Madeline. Despite her good memories, Madeline is certain she will sell the store and its contents because her life is on a different track, at least until life deals her another blow. The idea of selling the store devastates the store's two employees, good friends of Maddie's, Janet and Claire. Both of them are struggling emotionally and the store and their jobs in it are their touchstones, ones they desperately want to hold onto, even if it means cooperating with the niece who, to their minds, abandoned her aunt, their dear friend. And as the women open up to each other, coming together to try to pull the store out of the red, each of them starts to heal in her own way from the emotional hurt that is holding her down.

The novel is told in alternating perspectives from all three women. Madeline and Janet tell their own stories in first person while Claire's is told in the third person. The revolving narratives allow the reader to see the evolution of the three women's friendship, their misunderstandings, their fears, and what motivates their actions, as well as the things they keep private from each other, especially in the beginning. The bookshop gives each of them the chance to start over again, for Madeline to come to terms with her lack of passion for the law and her desire for a settled home, for Janet to acknowledge and accept from the fallout and unhappiness after a divorce she herself precipitated, and for Claire to adjust to and push back at being shut out of her teenage daughter's life and the loneliness of a marriage with a constantly traveling husband. The beginning of the novel is a little difficult to get into, each of the characters coming across as standoffish not only to each other but also the reader, and several of the later plot twists are entirely predictable but Madeline, Janet, and Claire's growing relationship is well done and the book succeeds as a cozy, gentle read about renewal, forgiveness, and second chances.

For more information about Katherine Reay and the book, check our her author website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and publisher Thomas Nelson for sending me a copy of this books for review.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Lifelines by Heidi Diehl.

The book is being released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on June 18, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: For fans of Meg Wolitzer and Maggie Shipstead: a sweeping debut novel following an American artist who returns to Germany—where she fell in love and had a child decades earlier—to confront her past at her former mother-in-law’s funeral.

It’s 1971 when Louise leaves Oregon for Düsseldorf, a city grappling with its nation’s horrific recent history, to study art. Soon she’s embroiled in a scene dramatically different from the one at home, thanks in large part to Dieter, a mercurial musician. Their romance ignites quickly, but life gets in the way: an unplanned pregnancy, hasty marriage, the tense balance of their creative ambitions, and—finally, fatally—a family secret that shatters Dieter, and drives Louise home.

But in 2008 she’s headed to Dieter’s mother’s funeral. She never returned to Germany, and has since remarried, had another daughter, and built a life in Oregon. As she flies into the heart of her past, she reckons with the choices she made, and the ones she didn’t, just as her family—current and former—must consider how Louise’s life has shaped their own, for better and for worse.

Exquisitely balanced, expansive yet wonderfully intimate, Lifelines explores the indelible ties of family; the shape art, history, and nationality give to our lives; and the ways in which we are forever evolving, with each step we take, with each turn of the Earth.

Monday, May 13, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I forgot to post the week before last and this past week I was driving all over the country taking my youngest child on college visits so not much reading or reviewing was accomplished. This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this week are:

The Lonely Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya
Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa
To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari
The Printed Letter Bookshop by Kathrine Reay

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
A Moveable Feast edited by Don George
Haben by Haben Girma

Reviews posted this week:

Gold Fever by Steve Boggan

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handle
Oh, Tama! by Mieko Kanai
The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Exposure by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Here I Am! by Pauline Holdstock
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas
Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St. Vincent
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
The Archive of Alternate Endings by Lindsey Drager
Granny’s Got a Gun by Harper Lin
White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf
At Briarwood School for Girls by Michael Knight
The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel
All Ships Follow Me by Mieke Eerkens
Like This Afternoon Forever by Jaime Manrique
Gravity Well by Melanie Joosten
Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Dear Baba by Maryam Rafiee
Saint Everywhere by Mary Lea Carroll
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Tonic and Balm by Stephanie Allen
Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons
In the Shadow of Wolves by Alvydas Slepikas
The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
CinderGirl by Christina Meredith
The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones
The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renee Lavoie
The Fragments by Toni Jordan
The Question Authority by Rachel Cline
The Plaza by Julie Satow
The Lonely Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya
Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa
To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari
The Printed Letter Bookshop by Kathrine Reay

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