• Book Reviews

    Book Review: The Farm

    The Farm – Joanne Ramos

    ✂️✂️✂️/5

    Welcome to the future – welcome to The Farm.

    Jane is a single mom and a struggling immigrant from the Philippines. She is presented with the opportunity to be a host and live at a luxury retreat of sorts – Golden Oaks.

    Massages, gourmet food, expert medical care, and generous pay with one caveat – you are pregnant as a surrogate for a wealthy family or individual and cannot leave the grounds. Oh, and you are continuously monitored. It’s a business and you are simply a host with a number instead of a name.

    Jane accepts the opportunity and leaves her daughter, Amalia, in the care of Ate, her cousin they are living with. While motivated to provide a better life for her daughter, Jane still struggles with losing contact with her daughter and the outside world.

    As a mother myself, my heart broke for Jane, especially when Golden Oaks used contact with her daughter as a means of control. The other hosts were in similar situations – missing family and significant others.

    Naturally the hosts bond and one by one you learn their own backgrounds and experiences at The Farm; some in more detail than others.

    This was where the book went sideways for me. I was initially captivated by the difficult choices Jane had to make and the big business of surrogacy. But as each host and their individual lives were introduced, the plot became crowded with characters and none of them felt well developed.

    When I finished the book I felt like something was missing. There was a lot of potential to examine the ethics of a surrogacy farm, the control of their bodies that the women gave up, race, imbalances of power, and motherhood and the sacrifices mothers make. The author briefly hit on all of these issues but almost seemed hesitant to fully weave them into the plot.

    Overall the book was written well and the concept was unique and creative. It was entertaining in parts – it just lacked depth.

    Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the free e-ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  • Himalayas of Literature

    The Himalayas of Literature: a challenge

    Do you have bucket list books that have languished on paper or in mental notes for longer than it would have taken to read the books – twice through?

    On December 1st I posted an Instagram picture of my to-be-read (TBR) stack that included three of my ultimate books to conquer. I had read 75 books in 2018; my original goal was 52. To celebrate exceeding my goal I thought it would be interesting to tackle a few books that checked the challenging box.

    But oddly enough, for the first time ever, I received some direct messages about my book choices that were less than kind or encouraging. It was strange and very unlike the typically supportive bookstagram community. I’m going to bypass that the messages were all from men because that’s not the point of this post – but, UGH.

    A lovely Instagram follower noticed this stack and introduced me to an online course reading these and three other challenging books. Did you know that there is a term for this group of books?

    I didn’t. I was buying Infinite Jest and Amazon suggested that they are frequently bought together and I wanted next day shipping for my book and magnetic bookmarks so into the cart they all went. Well played, Amazon.

    These books are referred to as the Himalayas of Literature. I love ridiculous goals so here they are:

    1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – 1078 pages
    2. The Waves by Virginia Woolf – 297 pages
    3. The Recognitions by William Gaddis – 976 pages
    4. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon – 776 pages
    5. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce – 628 pages
    6. 2666 by Robert Bolzano – 912 pages

    This is a six course bundle that spans a year. I purchased the course and for what I get – commentary, essays, live discussions, and interactions with other readers – it will be well worth it.

    A post like this is probably as good of a place as any to bury the fact that I am bored. I have a successful career in finance that spans 20 years but there is more. I know there has to be more. This isn’t a surprise to people who really know me but it feels good to write this. My hope is that this challenge helps me chart a course.

    I also love a good book cover…

    I love a good book that I can finish in a few sittings. But I know that to become a better writer, you have to be a better reader. The Himalayas of Literature seem like a great place to start so here goes.

    I am certainly not forsaking great, current books; I just want to stretch myself. But I have to admit, after reading Infinite Jest all day, it was nice to pick up Nine Perfect Strangers that our book club is reading this month.

    I don’t know how often I’ll blog about this journey because the books are long and involve discussions but it’s still nice to write about the direction I’m headed for 2019.

    What are your reading goals for 2019? Do you have any writing goals as well?

  • Lists

    Top Ten Tuesday: Winter reads

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    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

    One of my very favorite parts of winter is that time seems to slow which means more time for reading.

    It is common to see descriptors for summer books: easy read, beach read, poolside read, summer read, etc. But you don’t see that as much for the other seasons which I find highly unfair because it’s not their fault that they aren’t summer.

    So now it’s time to put the spotlight on winter. Here are my top ten winter books:

    1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – This is a childhood favorite of mine. Not even knowing exactly what “Turkish Delight” was, I always hoped for some in my stocking.
    2. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman – Interesting characters, a magical plot, and the value of having family make this a great read.
    3. Murder on The Orient Express by Agatha Christie – Another childhood favorite and who doesn’t like a cozy mystery in the winter?
    4. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham – This is really the only overtly Christmas book. It’s a quick read that is humorous. It sums up the madness of the holiday season and what happens when we resist.
    5. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens – A great mystery with highly interesting backstories of the characters.
    6. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – When you’re cold and tired of the snow, the rich imagery and descriptions of marsh life will warm you up.
    7. Educated by Tara Westover – This is the only memoir to make the list. It’s an amazing story of survival and the power of education.
    8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte Who doesn’t need a little attic wife hilarity during the holidays? Also check out the book Texts From Jane Eyre – SO funny!
    9. Calypso by David Sedaris – Want to feel better about your dysfunctional family? Here you go… but with a healthy dose of laughter too.
    10. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – This is my “long book” for December. At over 1000 pages, I’ll be spending a lot of time in front of the fire with this book. So far, it’s amazing and I’ll write more about it tomorrow.

    Other than coffee or bourbon, my favorite accessory to read with is my weighted blanket. It helps tremendously with anxiety and pairs perfect with a good winter book.

    What are some of your favorite cold weather books?

  • Lists

    November Reading Wrap Up

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    I missed the memo but apparently “nonfiction November” is a thing. Perhaps subconsciously, I followed along because I read more nonfiction in November than I read the entire rest of the year. I also only listened to one audiobook which is strange for me.

    Six of the ten books I finished were nonfiction:

    • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
    • Hope and Other Superpowers by John Pavlovitz
    • Meaty by Samantha Irby
    • Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott
    • Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (audiobook)
    • Shrill by Lindy West

    The other four fiction books:

    • The Farm by Joanne Ramos (ARC)
    • Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller – Our Book Club for Introverts November pick
    • Little Darlings by Melanie Golding (ARC) – look for this one stopping by on its blog tour in April!
    • Running from Scissors by T.C. Westcott

    My favorite nonfiction book was Shrill. The message is so important. Bird by Bird was a close second.

    My favorite fiction book was Bitter Orange with Little Darlings coming in second. Both books had dark twists and turns and were enjoyable reads.

    I have four books left to hit my 2018 reading goal of 75. I should meet that goal that goal this coming week so then my December plans are to dig into some tougher books and enjoy my book club book, Nine Perfect Strangers. And BTW, it’s not too late to join Book Club For Introverts for December. Anyone is welcome!

  • Book Reviews,  Feminism,  Writing

    Shrill: a loud book review

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    Three years ago I sat in my car, in my driveway, listening to an old This American Life podcast. It was featuring a young woman working for an online publication who confronted her boss via email after his rant/article was published about fat women and the obesity epidemic. He never responded so she posted her own article.

    Listening to her read her writing brought tears to my eyes. I am not a crier but there I was because I felt her exhaustion from the endless pursuit to measure up to what men, women, society, the media, and internet trolls believe you should look like. People are cruel but unlike me, this young woman put herself out there online – it was her job.

    •     •     •     •

    I purchased Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman because I had seen several people talking about the book on Instagram. After a few hilarious pages in, I realized that Lindy West was the young woman from the podcast that brought me to tears.

    First, the hilarity:

    Why is, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ the go-to small talk we make with children? ‘Hello, child. As I have run out of compliments to pay you on your doodling, can you tell me what sort of niche you plan to carve out for yourself in the howling existential morass of uncertainty known as the future? … The answer was ballerina, or, for a minute, veterinarian, as I had been erroneously led to believe that ‘veterinarian’ was the grown-up term for ‘professional animal-petter’. I would later learn, crestfallen and appalled, that it’s more a term for ‘touching poo all the time featuring intermittent cat murder,’ so the plan was abandoned. (The fact that ANY kid wants to be a veterinarian is bananas, – by the way, whoever does veterinary medicine’s PR amoung preschool aged children should be working in the fucking White House.) Lindy West, Shrill

    But soon after that, West takes a hard right and tackles some of the toughest issues facing women today. Abortion, rape culture, fat-shaming, bullying, discrimination, misogyny, death, and grief – just to name more than a few.

    Her writing is raw, angry, and vulgar, but with touches of fantastic humor along the way. I stopped a few times wondering if these extremes were necessary, mainly because I was  hoping to let my 14-year-old daughter, Chaney, read this book. Spoiler: I’m not going to let her but I’ll be sharing passages with her.

    But back to the necessity – yes, it is necessary. Our culture and the world we are raising our daughters and sons in is that toxic. When our president is spewing taunts via Twitter at the suffering people of California in the midst of historic and horrific wildfires – yes, it is that toxic and necessary.

    •     •     •     •

    Necessary. I thought about our advice to Chaney in January after being assaulted at school. The old advice of kick them in the balls goes out the window when you are a tiny 14 year old girl and you are cornered, out of view, with no way out, and there is over a foot in height and 100 lb differential between him and her.

    Our advice to her if any other situation where she felt threatened should happen: SCREAM AND SCREAM PROFANITIES OVER AND OVER UNTIL YOU GET AWAY, HE BACKS DOWN, OR HELP ARRIVES. AND THEN SCREAM SOME MORE. Why would we, fairly typical parents, tell our daughter to curse loudly in public?

    Because people pay attention when a small, young woman is screaming profanity.

    Why? Because we are expected to be sweet, ladylike, compliant, quiet, and non confrontational, all with a smile. That is the gender norm. Something has to be wrong if she’s spewing profanity. So pay attention when you hear women like Lindy West.

    •     •     •     •

    When West is crass and profane, I don’t mind. Because it gets people’s attention. It is outside the norm of expected female behavior and whether you like it or you don’t, she grabs your attention to address issues that are that toxic.

    A recurrent theme throughout the book is Lindy living life as what the world would call “fat”. She’s in good health, she is smart, funny, and beautiful but that doesn’t matter to some – especially the internet trolls who have been absolutely relentless in their bullying of her. Death threats, rape threats, and the worst – a troll impersonating her father who had passed away. They were all means of harrassment. I honestly don’t know how she has endured so much of the vileness that the internet, and even some celebrities, have to offer.

    Lindy is an excellent writer and there wasn’t a part of this book that I did not enjoy. One of my favorite parts was when she took on comedy and comedians and their perpetuation of rape culture by making rape “jokes” a regular part of their comedy routines. I can’t believe I even had to type that.

    Her honesty is refreshing and we need more books like this one and Meaty. I truly hope that the paradigm begins to shift with this next generation but until then, I’ll be over here not being afraid to be shrill.

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