Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Mystery Liebster Blogger Award

Carrie @ Cat on the Bookshelf tagged me for the Mystery Blogger Award. The Mystery Blogger Award was started by Okoto Enigma as a way to discover new blogs. Bookish Owlette tagged me for the Liebster Award. I’ve done both of these tags before, so instead of being repetitive, I’m going to combine them and just answer the questions that Carrie and Bookish Owlette asked. The random questions are the best part of tags, right? Here we go: 

Carrie’s questions:

Besides what you normally blog about, what is one other thing you are passionate about?

Dogs. I love them. The majority of my Twitter feed is just photos of random dogs.

If all expenses were taken care of, where in the world would you want to go?

Europe. I know that’s a very nonspecific answer, but I want to see everything in Europe. I can’t pick one place.

Would you rather be a dragon or have a dragon?

Be a dragon. Dragons seem like terrible pets. They’re huge; they eat people; and they start fires. Also, who’s going to clean up the dragon poop? I’d rather be a giant pooping arsonist than clean up after one.

If you could speak a language other than the one(s) you know, which would it be and why?

Spanish. I live in a state that used to be part of Mexico, so there’s a large Spanish-speaking population here. I studied Spanish for 7 years in school, but I was hopeless at it. Being fluent in Spanish would be really helpful.

What chance encounter changed your life forever?

My 12th grade creative writing teacher inadvertently convinced me to apply to college. I wrote about that here.

Bookish Owlette’s questions:

Have you ever met an author or celebrity in real life? Who and what happened!?
Pretty much everyone I know is an author or a wannabe author. That’s what happens when you spend 11 years studying literature in college. You meet a lot of authors. I’ve never met anyone too famous or well-known. Just average-famous authors.

What inspires your blog content and design?

Books inspire the content. The design is inspired by a lot of things. I’m a hipster who likes vintage stuff. I review “old” backlist books instead of ARCs. I’m eagerly awaiting the day that top hats come back in fashion . . .

Which Hogwarts House are you in?

Would you do this, get $100,000 every week = marry the one person you hate, and loathe.

I guess that depends on how “married” we’d have to be. Can we get married, take the money, and go our separate ways? Or, do we have to live together and pretend to love each other? If we could get married and then never see each other again, I’d totally do it.

What is the story behind your blog name?

Way back in 2011, I named my TBR pile "All The Things." As in “There are all the things I have to read.”

Time Machine and Magic Wand in hand, if you could be any person in the world, who would you be and why?

This is hard! I’d probably be one of the astronauts who walked on the moon. I’d love to go to space, but I’m panicky and prone to motion sickness. No sane person would allow me near a rocket.

What’s your dream job?

Wealthy philanthropist. I want to wear a ridiculous ball gown and hand out money like it’s candy at a Halloween party.

What is the main obstacle you face in your blog?

Myself. Depression and perfectionism make it hard to get stuff done sometimes. Luckily, I binge blog and schedule posts when I’m feeling good. That way, you guys don’t notice when I disappear for a few days.

Most embarrassing moment?

I don’t think anything too mortifying has ever happened to me, but here are two embarrassing moments from teenagehood:

In 7th grade science class, we were watching a film. Suddenly, the kid sitting next to me smacked me on the back of the head really hard. When I touched the place he’d smacked, I found a bumper sticker. He’d stuck a massive bumper sticker to the back of my head. Everyone in the class noticed except for the teacher. I spent the rest of science class trying to de-sticker my head without ripping out all my hair. I probably should have gone to the bathroom to do this, but I wasn’t that smart. I did it in class with everybody watching. 

In 9th grade math class, I sat next to this boy called Heavy C. Heavy C liked to draw penises. On everything. During class, he’d rip up notebook paper, draw a dick on each scrap, and then fling the scraps at me like confetti. It’s astounding how many dicks one kid can draw and throw during a 60-minute math class. I was constantly terrified that the teacher would walk past my desk and notice that it was surrounded by itty bitty dick pics. My classmates sure noticed. It’s really hard to concentrate on algebra when it’s raining men in the classroom. No matter how many times I asked him to stop, Heavy C wouldn’t quit his penis deluge, so I eventually asked the teacher if I could change desks. I didn’t tell her what was going on, but she moved me out of dick-flinging range.

If you could be a supernatural being, what would you be?

I don’t know much about supernatural creatures. I’d probably want to be something that can fly and is hard to kill.

Which fictional character would you marry?

One who can do magic. Wouldn’t it be awesome if your spouse could clean the house by waving a wand? No more housework for us!

Tell me about one of your embarrassing moments . . .

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review: The Edible Woman – Margaret Atwood

The Edible Woman – Margaret Atwood

Marian has a problem. A willing member of the consumer society in which she lives, she suddenly finds herself identifying with the things being consumed. She can cope with her tidy-minded fiancé, Peter, who likes shooting rabbits. She can cope with her job in market research, and the antics of her roommate. She can even cope with Duncan, a graduate student who seems to prefer laundromats to women. But not being able to eat is a different matter. Steak was the first to go. Then lamb, pork, and the rest. Next came her incapacity to face an egg. Vegetables were the final straw. But Marian has her reasons, and what happens next provides an unusual solution.

Review: I’ve read almost all of Margaret Atwood’s fiction, but I kept putting this book off because the synopsis sounds . . . weird. Like, what even is this book about? People who kill rabbits, go to the laundromat, and don’t eat? It all sounded unbearably quirky to me.

Turns out, the book is about a lot of things. It’s about consumer culture and the expectations that society has for young people. It’s about mental illness and feeling trapped. It’s about a group of twenty-somethings in 1960s Canada who are too paralyzed by fear to take the next step in their lives.

"The human mind was the last thing to be commercialized but they’re doing a good job of it now" – The Edible Woman

The story centers on Marian, a recent college graduate who has a job doing market research. She’s not happy with her life, but she’s not unhappy, either. Then her boyfriend proposes, and her life starts falling apart. She knows she’s supposed to be happy about getting married, but every time she imagines herself as a housewife and mother, she gets ill. She starts identifying with food and becomes terrified of being consumed. At first it’s only meat and eggs that she can’t swallow, but the closer she gets to her wedding, the smaller her menu becomes.

All of the characters in this story are subconsciously rebelling against society’s expectations. They know that after college, they’re supposed to get married, get a good job, buy a house, have kids. They’re all trying to do what’s expected of them, but none of them actually want what’s expected. As a result, they’re all stuck. Marian is slowly starving to death while dreading her marriage. Marian’s roommate desperately wants children, but she doesn’t want a man in her life. Marian’s friend, Duncan, doesn’t like sex, but he does it because it’s expected of him. This book doesn’t have much of a plot, but it is a fascinating character study about people who reject what society wants for them.

“What a moron I was to think you were sweet and innocent, when it turns out you were actually college-educated the whole time!” – The Edible Woman

I think Marian’s mental illness is handled realistically. Her anxiety makes her throw up if she eats. She knows she’s in trouble, but her problems are dismissed by everyone else. The other characters tell her to “stop acting hysterical,” “don’t drink so much,” “get more sleep.” When Marian leaves a party without telling anyone, her fiancĂ© gets angry because she made him look bad. No one tries to understand what’s going on with her. Everybody just assumes that she’s thrilled about all the changes in her life.

“I know I was alright on Friday when I got up; if anything I was feeling more solid than usual.” – The Edible Woman

The Edible Woman is Margaret Atwood’s first published novel. To me, it reads like a first novel. It’s definitely not my favorite Atwood book. It occasionally felt rambley to me, which got on my nerves because I just wanted it to move on with the plot. It also sometimes felt pretentious, like the author wanted to show how quirky and clever she could be.

The book does contain most of the stuff I love about Atwood’s work. It has brilliant descriptions, lifelike characters, feminist themes, and a sense of humor. Atwood is the queen of word choice. She somehow always finds the perfect word to bring a scene to life for me. It’s like a superpower or something.

“Her metaphors for her children included barnacles encrusting a ship and limpets clinging to a rock.” – The Edible Woman

If you’re new to Margaret Atwood, you probably shouldn’t start with this book. (Start with The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a lot better than this one.) The Edible Woman isn’t Atwood’s best novel, but it’s always interesting to see how authors get their start.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Newbery TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books on my winter to-be-read list. In 2018, I’m going to try really hard to get through the past Newbery winners that I haven’t read yet. Here are 10 Newberys that I swear I’m going to read this winter. (Please send motivation. I need it.)

My Newbery TBR

Criss Cross – Lynne Rae Perkins

She wished something would happen. 
Something good. To her. Checking her wish for loopholes, she found one. Hoping it wasn't too late, she thought the word soon. 
Meanwhile, in another part of town, he felt as if the world was opening. Life was rearranging itself; bulging in places, fraying in spots. He felt himself changing, too, but into what? 
So much can happen in a summer.

A Year Down Yonder – Richard Peck

It's 1937, and while rumor has it that the worst of the Depression is over, the "Roosevelt recession" is firmly in place. It's not bad enough that Mary Alice's dad has lost his job, or that her parents are being forced to move into a "light housekeeping" room, or that her older brother Joey has gone off to plant trees out west with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Now Mary Alice must spend a year living with her feisty and formidable grandmother in a hick town where the other kids in school think of her as the "rich Chicago girl." Grandma Dowdel is well known about town and most of the residents cower in fear at the mere sight of her. It's a fear well justified, for the woman has little tolerance for fools, a rifle she knows how to use, and a knack for cooking up outrageous schemes. At first, Mary Alice finds herself an unwitting (and often unwilling) accomplice to some of Grandma's more shocking manipulations, but as time goes by, Mary Alice discovers a knack of her own when it comes to conniving.

Out of The Dust – Karen Hesse

When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring. 
Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma's staggering dust storms, and the environmental—and emotional—turmoil they leave in their path.

The View from Saturday – E.L. Koingsburg

How has Mrs. Olinski chosen her sixth-grade Academic Bowl team? She had a number of answers. But were any of them true? How had she really chosen Noah and Nadia and Ethan and Julian? And why did they make such a good team? It was a surprise to a lot of people when Mrs. Olinski's team won the sixth-grade Academic Bowl contest at Epiphany Middle School. It was an even bigger surprise when they beat the seventh grade and the eighth grade, too. And when they went on to even greater victories, everyone began to ask: How did it happen? 
It happened at least partly because Noah had been the best man (quite by accident) at the wedding of Ethan's grandmother and Nadia's grandfather. It happened because Nadia discovered that she could not let a lot of baby turtles die. It happened when Ethan could not let Julian face disaster alone. And it happened because Julian valued something important in himself and saw in the other three something he also valued. 
Mrs. Olinski, returning to teaching after having been injured in an automobile accident, found that her Academic Bowl team became her answer to finding confidence and success. What she did not know, at least at first, was that her team knew more than she did the answer to why they had been chosen.

The Midwife’s Apprentice – Karen Cushman

The girl known only as Brat has no family, no home, and no future until she meets Jane the Midwife and becomes her apprentice. As she helps the sharp-tempered Jane deliver babies, Brat—who renames herself Alyce—gains knowledge, confidence, and the courage to want something from life: "A full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world."

Missing May – Cynthia Rylant

When May dies suddenly while gardening, Summer assumes she'll never see her beloved aunt again. But then Summer's Uncle Ob claims that May is on her way back—she has sent a sign from the spirit world. 
Summer isn't sure she believes in the spirit world, but her quirky classmate Cletus Underwood—who befriends Ob during his time of mourning—does. So at Cletus' suggestion, Ob and Summer (with Cletus in tow) set off in search of Miriam B. Young, Small Medium at Large, whom they hope will explain May's departure and confirm her possible return.

Maniac Magee – Jerry Spinelli

Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee might have lived a normal life if a freak accident hadn't made him an orphan. After living with his unhappy and uptight aunt and uncle for eight years, he decides to run—and not just run away, but run. This is where the myth of Maniac Magee begins, as he changes the lives of a racially divided small town with his amazing and legendary feats.

The Whipping Boy – Sid Fleischman

A shout comes echoing up the stairway “Fetch the whipping boy!”
A young orphan named Jemmy rouses from his sleep. “Ain't I already been whipped twice today? Gaw! What's the prince done now?” It was forbidden to spank, thrash, or whack the heir to the throne. Jemmy had been plucked from the streets to serve as whipping boy to the arrogant and spiteful Prince Brat.

Dear Mr. Henshaw – Beverly Cleary

After his parents separate, Leigh Botts moves to a new town with his mother. Struggling to make friends and deal with his anger toward his absent father, Leigh loses himself in a class assignment in which he must write to his favorite author. When Mr. Henshaw responds, the two form an unexpected friendship that will change Leigh’s life forever.

Dicey’s Song – Cynthia Voigt

Thirteen-year-old Dicey Tillerman brings her abandoned family to the home of their eccentric grandmother to learn how to trust, and when to let go.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?