The Girl Ordered a Robot to Get Her Mom off Her Back

As a mom, I object. As a reader, I really enjoyed this book.

At first glance, this book seems like a romance novel. I mean, the cover literally mentions a boyfriend, has a cutesy photo, etc. But what this novel is actually about is self-discovery and family.

Wanna-be novelist Crystal Hemmingway (incidentally, the author’s name, as well), is a little too close to her mom. They have the kind if relationship that causes boyfriends to cringe – or, in the case of Crystal’s fiance, break off the engagement to go hiking a la Wild. As she is re-evaluating whether or not her guy might have a point, Crystal is fired from her job, and agrees to the humiliation of moving in with the woman she is contemplating needing a break from to take the opportunity to write her first novel. When she realizes that her mom still expects her to do chores, Crystal quickly concocts a plot along the veins of an ‘80s John Hughes’ film, and decides that if her mother had a romantic interest, she wouldn’t be expected to be around as much. And so the drama beings, gets more intense, and resolves itself.

I was lured in by the cover. My brain was like – romance novel? Epistolary format? Bee – you’re not going to like this. But the cover was adorable, and the plot sounded fun, so I requested and received an ARC. When it arrived, the publisher included a handwritten note that showed the Galbradia Press had checked out my blog, and it was this personal touch that inclined me to place it at the top of my TBR list.

It just goes to show, sometimes (not often, as my older son will tell you) my brain is wrong. And I was delighted it was proven wrong in this case. This book is funny. The author uses the epistolary format well, which makes this novel a quick, but enjoyable read. This book includes real characters – they’re all a little bit annoying, they all have some decent points, and they’re all occasionally wrong.

I will say, the character whom I considered the protagonist (Crystal) and her sister both suffer from upper middle class white privilege. Like, “I can afford to live in California and pay my rent and buy expensive shoes” and “It’s so annoying that, like, my mom expects me to, like, talk to her and shit, when I’m on my own personal journey” yet “I still have the gall to complain about my problems.” It was realistic, but also annoying. As a young-ish mother who tried, and failed, to make it work in the Bay Area, I was worried that my family and I were going to be thrown out on the streets or not be able to eat, despite a decent job, it was difficult for me not to be annoyed sometimes by this casual expectation that the world should revolve around a couple of chicks who seem pretty selfish and kind of petty. Like, Crystal’s sister is hiding some fairly big news from both Crystal and their mother, which is completely glossed over and which is blatantly not okay.

Don’t hide shit from mom

Still, overall, this novel is a cute, fun read. And it is slated for release mid-July, which is perfect timing for a quick beach read.

4.5 Stars

Parrot Image: African_Grey_Parrot,_peeking_out_from_under_its_wing.jpg: Avenuederivative work: Avenue [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

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[Untitled] – Because Titles Make Posts Fat

For a novel that provides stark detail on the realities of eating disorders, The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a rather lovely book. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC, which I forgot about, then had a pleasant surprise in February that that new book I wanted to read and kept seeing in communications and bookstores was literally on my bookshelf.

#lucky

At first glance of the cover and/or synopsis, the subject matter can seem a bit too easy. We all know that ballerinas and eating disorders go together like chocolate and peanut butter, which is ironic, since both of these edibles are items that a ballerina is likely never going to eat. Yet this novel really only involves one, particular, ballerina – protagonist Anna, who is a ballerina no longer. And ballet is not the only reason Anna has become obsessive about becoming thin. Like most women, there are a plethora of reasons that Anna has begun to believe the world as it shouted the message to her that thin is the new worthwhile.

#tooloud

To get the preliminaries out of the way – this novel is well done, and I recommend it if the cover, title, subject matter, fiction, etc., is at all interesting to you.

#necessitiesdone

To get to what I am really interested in, could not help noticing as I read, and have found my mind drawn to long after having finished the last page, let’s talk about this book’s broader subject matter. As a woman, I have found myself torn between my desire to consume delicious food and my desire to be thin, but overall, thought I had a pretty healthy relationship with food. This novel caused me to re-evaluate and really think through my motivations when making food choices.

Because Anna doesn’t just stop eating. She’s just not eating enough. But limiting herself primarily to fruit and popcorn? Definitely things I have done, when I want a snack, and tell myself I need to eat more healthy. And exercising without having eaten enough? Also something I have done, generally telling myself I can eat after I have exercised (except I do, because in addition to wanting to be thin, I really, really like food). So while I am not in pain due to extreme fragility if I take a simple ride on a roller coaster, I found myself questioning the reasons why I wanted to eat more/less, what I wanted to eat, and realizing that, often, the motivations behind my eating are not ideal.

I am a compulsive eater, I love food, and I am a former dancer who has difficulty ascertaining of what a healthy weight consists for me and aspiring to be thinner than I currently am. I have to work to try to have and maintain a healthy relationship with food every day, and quite frankly, I don’t know that I have found it. While dancing, wearing a formfitting leotard in a room with a wall comprised of mirrors around other girls who due to genetics, not having hit puberty yet, or eating disorders, did not have any curves, certainly did not help me with my self-image, I would not say it caused my issues, either. If I had not danced, I would still be inundated with images clearly identifying thin as pretty, I would still notice the girls at school who were blessed with genetics or whose struggles were not apparent and who visually appeared to fit society’s mould of “pretty and thin,” and I would have still likely felt “not enough.” Not thin enough. Not pretty enough. Not confident enough to just rock what I was born with, and always comparing myself to those who are what I aspire to be, even when it is completely unrealistic.

One of the tricky things about eating disorders is that those who suffer from them cannot just quit their problem. If you have a drinking problem, and you survive withdrawal, you can subsequently abstain from drinking. It is not easy, but it is a clear and rational response to the problem. With anorexia and bulemia, abstaining from food is the problem. The thing that sufferers struggle with, that the sight of causes them to break out in sweat, is a thing that they also physically need in order to survive. This problem is a point that The Girls at 17 Swann Street drives home very well. And another point? Similar to those who suffer from addiction or mental illness, a person does not simply get better. Anna makes clear progress in the novel, but she could backslide into her old habits at any time.

I don’t think that I have an eating disorder. I think I am a pretty normal woman. Which brings me to the stark and unsettling conclusion that that means that I also think that every woman struggles with eating and body image.

What about you, dear reader? Do you agree? Disagree? I would love to read your thoughts. & although I am human and love agreement/validation, I would also love to be wrong about this conclusion I have drawn.

TBR Treasure Hunt: Truly, Devious

Novel #2 from my TBR list: Maureen Johnson’s Truly, Devious.

This novel, while classified as a mystery, is in reality a pure escapist fantasy that hardly solves anything. Having said that, I liked it.

#gofigure

Johnson’s writing is funny, inclusive, and intelligent, while writing about things that are, at their core, both interesting (if you’re into mysteries and/or true-crime documentaries/podcasts) and dark. In general, I consider this novel a portion of the treasure – more akin to gold doubloons stolen from the pirate’s corpse than discovery of the actual chestful buried beneath a large, red “X.”

#doubloon

It has all of the elements of a mystery novel, except for the solution. It is the most interesting book entirely comprised of exposition I have read. Yet at the end of the day, this book is entirely comprised of set-up for, at the least, a second novel, and more likely, an entire series. And the mystery set-up throughout this book is not solved. So I am currently queued up for the second book in the series (The Vanishing Stair) through my library.

#welldoneMsJohnson

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think?

(Hyperlinks are to Amazon links from which I earn from qualifying purchases; please consider using these links if you are already planning to purchase the identified items via Amazon, anyway.)

TBR Treasure Hunt: The Bloody Chamber (& Other Stories)

The first novel I crossed off my TBR list is Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (& Other Stories), a collection of fairy tale re-tellings that lingers on the more dark/scary/sexy than the “here’s a story you would feel comfortable telling your kids. Right before they go to sleep.”

#youvebeenwarned

Carter is said to have been a woman ahead of her time – to have pretty much brought about the fairy tale retelling oeuvre that is well known and liked today. She is cited as having influenced Gaiman and Niffeneger, amongst others. How could I go wrong?

The 10 stories in this collection are good, particularly given that Carter was pioneering a writing style rather than continuing in an established style that had already proven it had an audience. I am certainly not sorry to have read these tales. Having said that, I did not care enough for them to now want to procure my own copy.

#sorrynotsorry

Of course, some stories were better than others. I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor of Puss-in-Boots; probably one of the lighter stories. The language in the Erl-King was like a smorgasbord of showing off a well-developed vocabulary. There is less murder than I was expecting, there is a lot of sex and virginity, and many tales featuring a male “beast” character which seems designed to showcase how very much bestiality is inherent in those stories you read over and over again as a kid (short answer: a lot). My favorite tale is probably the one whence the collection derives its’ name.

#predictable

All in all, a fairly good start to my TBR challenge. Having said that, I’m still searching for some treasure. How is your search going?

(Hyperlinks are to Amazon links from which I earn from qualifying purchases; please consider using these links if you are already planning to purchase the identified items via Amazon, anyway.)

TBR Treasure Hunt

Hello, my lovely readers! Thanks for stopping by the blog. Today, we’re going to talk about the quest on which I have embarked, and on which I further encourage you to join me.

#quest #treasurehunt #joinmeplease

Letz Bee Real – if you are an avid reader, you have an endless, seemingly insurmountable To-Be-Read (“TBR”) pile of books. As the days pass, it grows ever larger, and thank the powers-that-be that Goodreads is around, or you would never be able to keep track of it. Hidden within this list are books you will treasure, and books you thought you would like that are complete shit; it’s a bit of roulette. And you may never find those treasures, etc., if you don’t make a commitment to get started on that TBR.

This, dear readers, is where the quest comes into play. I solemnly pledge that I will do my very best to read at least one book off of my TBR list (currently sitting at 60 books) each month.

After reading, I will review the book on this blog, and for funzies, I will judge myself at the end of the year and figure out whether my TBR list seems decent or if I don’t appear to know my own tastes at all.

As a reminder, most of us aren’t rich, and given the gambling nature of this exercise, the library is your friend. I plan to obtain most of my TBR books from the library, because I can always purchase a copy later if I love it.

So – will you join me? If so, please let me know in the comments below, so I can follow you and see how your reading journey goes.

Willy Wonka picture obtained from IMDB (text added)

The Writer’s Journey

I recently borrowed a copy of Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers from the library. The title appealed to me, as someone with aspirations to potentially becoming a published novelist at some point in the future who also has a background in Classics. There are a lot of writing aids out there, some better, some worse. Based on the Vogler’s own words, this particular guide is his interpretation of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. However, as someone who has actually not read Campbell’s famed work, I found Vogler’s work meaningful, particularly because he uses examples from famous books and movies to help explain the concepts that he is recommending to help structure any (longer) work – novel, screenplay, etc.

Because this was a library book, and I could not mark the book up with highlights, handwriting, etc. (yes, I am one of those people who marks up her books), I am including the quotes, tables, summaries, etc., that struck me on this initial reading below. You definitely are not expected nor recommended to read the remainder of this post; this is literally posting so that I don’t lose the info that struck me as interesting/poignant from a reference book, but if you are currently struggling with the plot of this novel, I think this particular reference book could be a good resource.

Okay, now I’m going to post my notes, and shit’s going to get boring. #youwerewarned

At heart, despite its infinite variety, the hero’s story is always a journey.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “A Practical Guide”

Archetypes:

Ultimately, a Hero is one who is able to transcend the bounds and illusions of the ego, but at first, Heros are all ego: the I, the one, that personal identity which thinks it is separate from the rest of the group.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Hero”

People commonly think of Heroes as strong or brave, but these qualities are secondary to sacrifice – the true mark of a Hero.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Hero”

Ideally, every well-rounded character should manifest a touch of every archetype, because the archetypes are expressions of the parts that make up a complete personality.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Hero”

Interesting flaws humanize a character.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Hero”

Gift-giving, the donor function of the Mentor, has an important role in mythology.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Mentor”

Testing of the hero is the primary dramatic function of the Threshold Guardian.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Mentor

The energy of the Threshold Guardian may not be embodied as a character, but may be found as a prop, architectural feature, animal, or force of nature that blocks and tests the hero.


Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Threshold Guardian”

The Shapeshifter serves teh dramatic function of bringing doubt and suspense into a story…

Shapeshifters appears with great frequency and variety in the film noir and thriller genres.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Shapeshifter”

The negative face of the Shadow in stories is projected onto characters called villains, antagonists, or enemies. Villains and enemies are usually dedicated to the death, destruction, or defeat of the hero. Antagonists may not be quites o hostile – they may be Allies who are after the same goal but who disagree with the hero’s tactics. Antagonists and heroes in conflict are like horses in a team pulling in different directions, while villains and heroes are like trains on a head-on collision course.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Shadow”

In secret societies, a old rule of initiation is: Disorientation leads to suggestibility.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Ordinary World”

Every good story poses a series of questions about the hero.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Ordinary World”

Fairy tale heroes have a common denominator, a quality that unites them across boundaries of culture, geography, and time. They are lacking something, or something is taken away from them.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Ordinary World”

Scripts often fail because the stakes simply aren’t high enough.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Ordinary World”

In a good story, everything is related somehow to the theme…”

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Ordinary World”

A string of accidents or coincidences may be the message that calls a hero to adventure. This is the mysterious force of synchronicity

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Call to Adventure”

An important lesson of martial arts is Finish your opponent.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Road Back”

The central crisis or Supreme Ordeal is like a midterm exam; the Resurrection is the final exam. Heroes must be tested one last time to see if they retained the learning from the Supreme Ordeal of Act Two.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Resurrection”

Resurrection often calls for a sacrifice by the hero. Something must be surrendered, such as an old habit or belief. Something must be given back, like the libation the Greeks used to pour to the gods before drinking.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Resurrection”

There are two branches to the end of the Hero’s Journey. The more conventional way of ending a story, greatly preferred in Western culture and American movies in particular, is the circular form in which there is a sense of closure and completion. The other way, more popular in Asia and in Australian and European movies, is the open-ended approach in which there is a sense of unanswered questions, ambiguities, and unresolved conflicts. Heroes may have grown in awareness in both forms, but in the open-ended form their problems may not be tied up so neatly.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Return with the Elixir”

A rule of thumb: Subplots should have at least three “beats” or scenes distributed throughout the story, one in each act.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Return with the Elixir”

Another good rule of thumb for the Return phase is to operate on the KISS system, that is: Keep It Simple. Stupid. Many stories fail because they have too many endings.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Return with the Elixir”