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Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb

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Growing up in Beverly Hills in the 1970s, Lori Gottlieb learned the lessons her culture had to teach her—for example, that “no one could ever like a girl with thunder thighs.” Lori took those lessons seriously, and saw her world fall slowly apart as she developed a fierce reluctance to eat—winding up hospitalized when her “diet” took over her life. Fortunately, she recorded the journey in her diary, and her story is funny, slyly insightful, and surprisingly universal. A Los Angeles Times bestseller, Lori’s story is being made into a motion picture film by Martin Scorsese’s company, Carpo Productions. 

This memoir was written from Lori Gottlieb’s old diary entries when she was just a preteen. When I first realized this, I thought that it would feel juvenile, but the opposite was the case. Although there was the expected insights about school, peers (especially the “mean girls” and her family but the insights in this book surprised me.

Lori spends a lot of time observing the people around her, especially the women in her life. In the late 70’s, diet culture was huge and Lori observed her mother, her friend’s and their mother’s in their relationship with food. Over and over again she saw how women saw food as the enemy. The women in her life almost always showed some type of disordered eating so it was easy to see why Lori at first became interested in those behaviors and as an overachiever, taking the behavior to the extreme.

This was a short book, just over 200 pages, but I took my time reading it as there was a lot to process. I understand all to well what it’s like to grow up in a household where I was privy to disordered eating (though, of a different type) and it made me realize just how much kids observe. I hope I remember this as my daughter gets older and it’s super important for her to be surrounded by body positivity.

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I Can Breath

I am back. I took some unexpected time away because I started feeling overwhelmed with the election. Now that the results are finally in, I am feeling better and I feel like I can breath again. I know that the results are not a fix all, but at least one thing is starting to look a little bit better.

I am not going to attempt to catch up with the backlog of books to write reviews for. Tomorrow I will start up again with Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb that I just finished. After that, who knows what happens, but that’s what I’m excited about. No more pre-writing and pre-planning posts. No more putting me on a schedule where I force myself to write reviews that feel half-hearted.

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I have a few books still left to review, but one of the books I recently read gave me some inspiration for another project so I spent most of this afternoon/evening working on that. Plus the toddler wasn’t feeling well this morning so I was busy taking care of her…which consisted mostly of laying in bed until she felt better.

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

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2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of RoomMy Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

I listened to the audio version of this book, and it was split into two different listening sessions as I didn’t get through the book on the first borrow cycle (only a week). So things were a little lost between the two sessions.

This was one of those books that is really hard to listen to. The subject is very heavy and very disturbing and honestly, I was surprised I was able to get through it. I think the only thing that was getting me through was the fact that I wanted to make sure Vanessa turned out okay at the end.

I am conflicted about my thoughts on this book. On one hand, I appreciated the writing and how it drew me into the story and kept me listening even though I was so uncomfortable. At the same time though, I just didn’t like listening to this. I spend way too much time listening to true crime podcasts, often episodes that are stressful to listen to but this book was so much worse. I think it’s because I didn’t like any of the characters. Obviously Strain was not someone to like, but at the same time, Vanessa was just as unlikable a lot of the time. I absolutely hate to admit it but I had a hard time not to judge Vanessa.

I gave the book four stars as I can’t help but admire how the author was able to create Vanessa and her world in a way that challenges the reader to keep holding on until the end. it’s not easy to create a story that is so stressful and uncomfortable but keep the reader engaged until the end.

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Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

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One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them is a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured vet returning from Afghanistan, a septuagenarian business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward's story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place for himself in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a piece of him has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery--one that will lead him to the answers of some of life's most profound questions: When you've lost everything, how do find yourself? How do you discover your purpose?

Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.

This was a good, but not great book. I liked the plot, I found it unique and emotional in the right ways. I enjoyed the flawed characters. Edward wasn’t written as some perfect child that is sweet and innocent. The way he was written made him feel like a real person with real emotions.

The things I didn’t like was the introduction of the people who died on the flight and the flashbacks to those characters on this flight. I knew it was done as a way to connect the tragedy and miracle of Edward’s survival but aside from Edward’s immediately family, none of those characters were interesting enough for me to look forward to those flashback scenes.

I can see how this is such a popular book and definitely worth the four star rating I gave it.

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Rapid Falls by Amber Cowie

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It’s been twenty years since Cara’s boyfriend died in a horrible accident and her sister, Anna, went to prison. The tragedy has become a local legend, but Cara has moved past her grief to have a successful career and a happy family. Pity about Anna. Recently released from incarceration, she’s struggling with addiction, guilt, and shame—a shattered life. Cara’s forgiveness seems to be the only thing that helps her pick up the pieces.
But as Anna pulls herself together, her memories of that night on the bridge start to come into focus. And few of them match her sister’s.
As past secrets unfold and nothing is what it seems anymore, Anna desperately searches for the truth. But what if Cara doesn’t want her to find it?

When I sat down tonight to write a review for this book my first thought was, wait, what book was this? I finished reading this only two weeks ago, yet, if I hadn’t saved this on Goodreads there’s a good chance I would have totally forgotten about it…but as soon as my memory was triggered the story immediately rose to the front of my memory.

Even though this book wasn’t super memoriable and it was kind of predictable, it wasn’t too bad. I’m often not great at seeing twists coming or figuring out what really happened until everything is layed out at the end but this book surprised me in that I was able to figure things out mostly by myself.

Cara was an interesting character. I was impressed by the development of her character, when you first meet her she seems like one of those people who has everything together. She has a career. A family. She helps take care of her troubled sister. Then as you get to know her more the facade that Cara has put up starts breaking down and as the book progresses you realize that Cara is not who you think she is.

There were a lot of details that threw me off in this. Some are just minor details then just annoyed me but others just didn’t develop enough to fit into the story. It’s not bad, and I actually enjoyed this a lot but on reflection I am remembering things that could have been left out or developed better.

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I am back from my week long break. My weekend with my parents was actually really nice. It was short but they had time to snuggle with the toddler, hubby and I went out to dinner solo and it was just nice to go somewhere aside from work and home.

Work was okay this week but I ended up getting stuck doing an overnight Saturday. The management is amazingly bad at work anymore and I am over all of it. But now I’m off work for nine days (well 8 now). It will definitely be a welcome break even though we are going to try to get started on potty training and get some cleaning done. But I’m hopefully going to have time to relax a bit.

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I probably will not be updating until sometime next week. I am working long shifts the next three days and Monday my family is taking an overnight trip to see my parents. Hopefully that time will give me a chance to take a little breather.

I am buried in paperwork at work. I finally got my van back today and updated my voter registration so at least that’s taken care of. But I am exhausted. I’m going to try to relax and read. I didn’t sleep well last night so I am going to try really hard to get some good sleep.

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This is how I feel every day off. On Saturday when I am at work I will make a list of every chore I want to get accomplished over the next few days. Sundays I don’t even bother being productive. I am exhausted from work and it’s an unspoken agreement in my house that it is my day to rest and relax. And mentally I am getting much better at not feeling guilty…but then if I don’t do everything on my list on Monday and Tuesday I can’t help but feel guilty.

These last two days I was actually productive. I fixed my voter registration. I called and changed my address with my credit card company. I even made a doctor’s appointment that I’m two years overdue for. I caught up on dishes.

But I didn’t get to the bathrooms. I didn’t do laundry. I didn’t vacuum or pick up or any more of the hundreds of other tasks that are still waiting to be done. And instead of working on them today I felt crappy, tired and lazy so I took the day to lay around and watch YouTube videos and now I’m trying not to feel guilty…especially as next week will be spent visiting my parents.

It has been a hard year. The news is insane and our President is gas-lighting the country. I know what he is doing, but there’s a reason gas-lighting is such a successful technique for abusers. It has been getting to my head and I’m struggling with that. I lowkey worry that I have Covid every time I cough.

I know there’s no reason to feel guilty for just trying to survive, but it’s a lot harder than it looks.