Friday, March 16, 2018

A stroke of luck?

My class was cancelled today. This means I don't have to turn in work that is probably -- definitely -- below standard. I also get more time to relax and eat lunch, and a little more time to prepare for work rather than rushing off to a 5 PM clock-in time immediately after a class that ends at 5 PM. This seems to keep happening no matter how many times I tell my supervisor that I have class until 5. Ah, well.

This delay also lets me dance around the problem I've encountered for one more week, which I would otherwise have been forced to confront today. I think taking this class may have been a mistake -- despite the amount that I've learned. An incident occurred in the last class I attended that made me lose a great deal of respect for and trust in the instructor, and I'm not sure how to resolve that properly when next we meet.

Whether the cancellation is a good thing or a bad thing -- because perhaps being forced to confront the issue today would have good -- remains to be seen. 

Anyway, I keep meaning to do book reviews here, but something always gets in the way. I'll attempt to write something creative on my own time instead. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2017: In which I realize I have an eating disorder

Please note! This post has content related to eating disorders, food, and weight.

So, you may know that a lot of shit went sideways for me in 2017. The summer in particular...well. 

Among all the big upsets happening in my life, I started to put together the pieces on some little things. Things that added up to make the most sense out of a troubling pattern that I'd observed for several years.

2017 was the year I slowly realized I have an eating disorder.

What kind? I don't know! Some good general information on ED's can be found here. Whether or not I fit any of the criteria for a diagnosable eating disorder, I definitely have disordered eating and a weird relationship with food. 

Maybe it's more of a phobia than an eating disorder -- I don't know. I do know that I hoard food, have an irrational fear of food not being there or of losing food, sometimes eat too much either for no reason or because of a fear that I won't be able to later, and go order takeout too much to avoid diminishing my store of food. And I definitely hang on to things like leftovers and whatnot far past when it's reasonable to throw them out. Sometimes I take home or prepare food I have no intention of eating, just to have it. More rarely, I have very occasionally avoided eating because I'm convinced there is no food to eat (even if there is), although this is rare for me and I hate doing it. 

I forget to eat, or I overeat. My stomach physically hurts a lot, so eating is already stress-inducing. Until I started an appetite medication, I couldn't tell if I was full or not, or really hungry or not. And there was all this weird anxiety around food being gone or going away or that the food I did eat would somehow not be "enough" or...something. 

I've decided to focus on this in 2018 because I can point to the exact factors in my life that fucked me. This, in theory, should make it easier to address. 

First, I did not want to admit to myself that I had disordered eating because I did not want to follow the family pattern. Let's just say that there are certain anti-fat people who have contributed to the development of eating disorders in multiple generations of my family. I don't think that they had a very large influence on me; however, if I wasn't so determined to escape their toxic attitudes on this front, I might have recognized and dealt with this sooner.

Second: without going into too much detail, I also have bad experiences related to food in the past -- in which some other people have been rather terrible to me about it, perhaps planting the grains of this fear that I would be denied food. 

Finally, I went to college, where food was only available at certain times regardless of when I was hungry -- so I had to stuff myself even when I wasn't and do other things that promoted an unhealthy relationship with food. Add all that together, throw in some financial anxiety, and you come up with a...whatever this is.

Anyway, a 2018 resolution of mine is to address this and get some advice for dealing with it. I've already started using a food tracking app -- MyFitnessPal -- to log food and exercise, and HOLY CRAP the difference is already astounding. It helps me remember when I'm hungry, reminds me to eat and drink water, and most importantly in relieving this anxiety, assures me that the food is, in fact, there, that I did eat it, and I'm not going to, idk, run out of food or not eat enough. Translating the food into concrete numbers has been incredibly helpful in this regard.

I know there are many misconceptions about eating disorders, some of which have prevented me from realizing sooner why I was so miserable about food. I've been sifting through a deal of information and I think I'm reasonably well-informed of what my next steps are.

That's all. If you have dealt with or are dealing with anything similar, I support you! :)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review: Eye of the Storm by Frank Cavallo

I received a free copy for review, and with the neat and ominous cover art, summary, and pretty cool title, I had high hopes for this book. Even though it took me forever to get around to starting it!

I ended up DNFing (did not finish) this one after the first several chapters. I think it will still be helpful to other readers to explain why I put this one down -- in case this sounds like something any of y'all might like.

Image result for eye of the storm frank cavallo'

Eye of the Storm is a portal fantasy about a group of scientists, documentary filmmakers, and mercenaries who set out to film alleged Neanderthals but are transported through a storm of black flame to a terrifying prehistoric world. In this world, there's a struggle as the reins of power change hand against the backdrop of some kind of sorcerous threat. 

There are humans in this world, living alongside dinosaurs and whatnot. Although they don't have technology like we do, they have magic and are significantly past the Flintstones type of "cavemen" you might think of when Neanderthals come to mind.

But what is the story?

That's approximately as far as I got, because this book takes forever to start and can't seem to decide on where it starts. First, there's a chapter that begins with a bunch of scientists watching a PowerPoint presentation. In real life, I don't find PowerPoints particularly riveting. They somehow become even more boring if you have to sit through one secondhand as a reader. 

A recently deceased Neanderthal has been found in modern times, and an entertainment company wants to fund a scientific research expedition and documentary film. They head out into the middle of nowhere to look for more signs of what they believe to be a surviving Neanderthal community. 

Just as you begin to become intrigued, the book jumps forward in time to where they've been searching for weeks with no sign of homo neanderthalensis. Several of the characters in a chopper see a flying dinosaur -- and pursue it into a mysterious hellstorm. They crash on the other side.

A mysterious time and place

We then jump to a different world with a dying king. We have enough clues to assume he's the king of the Neanderthal world, I guess. He has some mysterious instructions for his daughter and advisers, there's some romantic intrigue between some characters, and then the chapter is over with dire threats of a returning evil sorcerer. 

The book makes another leap forward two years in time with the expedition characters who got sucked into the storm. Two years after crash landing, they're spending their last bullets hunting triceratops for food. I don't even know if that's frickin' possible, since those things are huge af, armored af, and travel in large groups for protection. 

OK OK I know it's not possible for humans and dinosaurs to exist at one time, and this is fantasy so I shouldn't care, but the POINT of being a dinosaur nerd reading portal and time travel fantasy is that I get to relish my random nerdy knowledge of dinosaur-type facts!!! MY NINE-YEAR-OLD SELF DEMANDS ACCURACY. :'D

Why I DNF'd

I don't actually mind any of that, not really. What finally made me put this down in frustration was how the story didn't seem to start anywhere. I still know essentially nothing of the characters beyond their basic roles -- scientist, soldier dude, virtuous princess, magical adviser -- and there didn't seem to be much sense to the time skips. It was almost like starting a new book every time the plot skipped. 

I think the book could have started with the death of the king. Or the expedition being sucked into the portal-storm. Or even with them hunting dinosaurs for food. There's too much backstory and exposition -- once you think you know where you are and have a handle on where the story starts, the book's like, "nope, psych" and yanks the narrative rug out from under you. I lost my patience with it after several chapters. 

Overall, I don't recommend it. That's not to say I could do any better! Who knows -- I might return to it sometime if I feel like it. Also, plenty of other people might have no problem at all with it. If you read like I do, though, you'll want to skip the first 30-ish pages.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Review: Double Exposure by Chelsea Cameron

Double Exposure is the second in the Violet Hill series of short romance novels set in a queer cafe in Maine. While it's the second in a series, each book can be read as a standalone and you can start anywhere in the series. I picked this one up when it was on sale, and am glad I did! 

[Trigger warnings: a character makes an ageist/age-disparaging comment; there's one sex scene; a character mentions past panmisia and rejection from her parents; character describes past queermisia against the cafe]



Double Exposure is an extremely heckin' cute meet cute. Anna is a twenty-something working her butt off at the Violet Hill cafe ... when in walks the beautiful photographer Lacey. Instant crush! 

Lacey wants to do a piece on the cafe, and she wants to interview Anna. As Anna convinces her media-shy bosses to do the piece, she knows her enthusiasm for Lacey and her work goes beyond professional interest. But Lacey is a travelling photojournalist, and Anna doesn't know if she's ready to commit her feelings to someone who's going to leave. 

Characters worrying about money, or, why I am basically Anna in many ways

As a millennial, I found Anna extremely relatable. She is clearly happy where she is, but has an air of being frazzled that I've definitely experienced. She works hard, and while she's settled nicely in Violet Hill, there's this sense that she's frantically moving around and doesn't take much time to enjoy herself because she's so busy. She mentions that as a pansexual woman, she is attracted to people of all genders; however, while she forms crushes easily, she is afraid of forming emotional connections because she's been burned by heartbreak in the past. She's a little shy, a little vulnerable, a little self-conscious. 

Of course, Anna can't help falling for Lacey emotionally as well as physically. Lacey is the elegant, traveled, sophisticated woman -- Anna is pretty intimidated by her at first. But when they finally admit their mutual attraction, we learn that Lacey is warm and friendly and funny. She has a black cat named Murder, who I loved. Give a character a cat, and I will love that character. 

a black cat sits on a tree stump outdoors, looking photogenic.

Beautiful, Healthy, Happy Queer Romance

My favorite thing about this budding romance between the small-town girl and the glamorous out-of-towner was how open and communicative they were. They talked about themselves, their body confidence issues, their work, their boundaries, and what they wanted their relationship to be in a healthy way. 

For instance, when they are kissing, Anna stops and confesses that she isn't ready for a serious relationship because Lacey will leave in just a few weeks. They talk about it and set physical boundaries in an attempt to create some emotional distance.

Situating Sex

The book then gets into what constitutes a "serious" relationship. Despite their mutual -- and intense -- physical attraction, Anna and Lacey don't have sex until the very end of the book. When one of her coworkers makes a joke about her "fling" with Lacey, Anna replies that it isn't a fling since they haven't had sex. Her coworker challenges that -- does it need sex to be a fling? Why does sex need to be involved for a relationship to be serious or valid?

These are questions which give Anna pause, and I'm glad the book included them. There's definitely a stigma that sex = serious, or that having sex must deepen emotional commitment. Anna and Lacey's relationship demonstrates this to be false -- despite holding off sex until the very end, they develop Serious Feelings and ... well, without spoilers, everything does work out for them in the end. :)

I would say that this book is a low to medium heat romance, with some kissing and one sex scene at the very end. It delves into the questions of emotional and physical boundaries with a sensitivity that I've rarely seen, and overturns the idea that a sex-free relationship is less valid.

Representation and Body Confidence

Lacey tells Anna that her work as a photojournalist focusing on queer spaces and issues is important to her as a bisexual trans woman. Anna, who had been furtively (and amusingly) trying to figure out if Lacey is into girls, blurts out that she's pansexual. It was a cute scene. 

Frequently, books with trans characters resort to insulting tropes to reveal that the character is trans. I was relieved that this was not the case here. Also, Anna does not assume that Lacey being bisexual automatically means that she's into women. This was incredibly affirming to read, as bisexual does not necessarily include or exclude the two main binary genders. 

While both Anna and Lacey have body insecurities, Anna does not try to compare her body confidence issues as a cis woman with Lacey's body confidence and dysphoria as a trans woman. At one moment, when Lacey is lamenting the size of her breasts, Anna holds off saying that she thinks they're awesome -- because at that moment, complimenting her partner's body would be more invalidating than uplifting. 

Lacey also has some hesitation about whether Anna is OK with her being trans. Lacey is so elegant and confident that that moment of vulnerability was more touching. Lacey talking to Anna about her own body was clearly somewhat difficult for her, and Anna is very supportive and lovely about everything. Some people might view these scenes in a different light, so if you know of any own voices review of Double Exposure by trans women, please let me know so that I can link them here. 

Using Xan West's ranking, I would call this a fat-neutral romance. The author has written other fat heroines and love interests in this series (which I am reading now!). 

Two quibbles

The dialogue is confusingly spaced so that it is hard to tell which character is talking. When formatting dialogue, a new paragraph break should mean a new character is speaking. For instance, 

"The soup is cold," Mary said. 

I stuck a finger in the soup. "Feels fine to me."

The book did not obey these formatting rules, and that made for a slower read as I spent more time parsing who was talking when. It may hamper your comprehension of what's going on. I wish the books would be re-released with this changed.

The other quibble is the cover. With the somber black and white flower on a black background, I thought it would be a much gloomier read than it was. I'm not sure how much control the author has over these elements, but if I noticed them, others probably will -- so I included them. The book is worth the read, though! Don't let that discourage you! :)

Would I recommend?

Overall, I would recommend this book. It's an incredibly sweet meet cute. I did not think I could like meet cute romances. I was wrong!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

I DID get around to my New Year's Resolution

Hello friends! I've not made much progress on my blog revamp, but I wanted to drop by for a quick blog post.

This year I wanted to read more out of my comfort zones and favorite genres, specifically non-fiction and romance. I'm glad to say I enjoyed most of what I read, too -- always a plus. :)

I will do a post later on the books as a group and will likely review some of them separately. It's just, well, it's a lot to do. I have not kept up with the pile of other tasks I have to do, either. Mainly, I'm working on a project for school and all else is shelved until that is finished. 

I think I will just have to put the blog aside until the New Year, unless I finish that thing before then. Still, I look forward to sharing these wonderful books with you. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Hello! Hope you are having a good holiday. 

 I haven't been around on the blog much lately. I'm going to do a revamp of the look of the whole thing and revisit some of my reviews -- revise them, and also revise how I do reviews period. 

I'm going to get rid of star ratings and do some other stuff. I've been reading a lot of books that I want to share my thoughts on, but I never seem to have the time to make full-blown posts. I'm going to try to change that and free up more time for blogging... 

 Have a good turkey day, wherever you are. :)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Review: Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

Hello friends! I woke up at 6:15 this morning for NO REASON and with boundless energy. I have no idea where it came from, but I'll take it. Here's a review of Blind Spot, a YA mystery/suspense novel by Laura Ellen. 

I found Blind Spot from an interview with the author on Disability In Kidlit. Their site does great stuff and you should totally check them out. 


Blind Spot is the story of Roz, a teenager with macular degeneration who is put in a Special Education class for the first time -- and then has to solve the murder of one of her classmates. She has a blind spot in the center of her vision, where everything is blurry. Despite living with this for most of her life, it was never diagnosed and she's been in mainstream class her whole life. Roz is initially angry and offended to be put in Special Ed; she feels like she's being singled out and doesn't like the "disabled" label. However, after a suicide of a disabled teen in the past year, the class is now mandatory for all disabled students. 

Text: Blind Spot, Laura Ellen. Tagline: "What you can't see might be murder." Review quote at the top reads: "An utterly believable mystery, gritty with high school drama and shot through with suspense...A captivating read, right to the last page." -- Carol Plum-Ucci, author of 'The Body of Christopher Creed.' Image: A close-up of a girl's eye looking out past the reader, with some jagged lines crossing the top and bottom of the cover. Everything is tinted blue, image and text included.


On her first day in the class, everyone is paired up with a partner who's supposed to act as a homework-buddy-slash-support-system. Roz gets paired with Tricia, a girl who deals with drug addiction, PTSD, and, in her somewhat sarcastic words, "emotional disturbance." When Tricia is found dead, Roz may have been the last person to see her alive -- during their fight. And she doesn't remember the rest of the night. 

I'm not tagging Tricia's death as a spoiler, because it's on the summary and the first page of the book. However, throughout the story we get to know Tricia, and her death really has an emotional impact. Roz and her friends try to find the killer. As events unfold, however, Roz starts to worry that she might be the killer.


The teens in this novel felt authentic to me. Roz is extremely excited to catch the attention of an older, popular boy -- her first real boyfriend -- who, surprise surprise, turns out to be an unrepentant pile of shit. He emotionally manipulates her, showering her with affection only to drop all communication for days, only to mack on her at the dance. Roz, thankfully, finally realizes what a dick he is, but only after about a ton of drama. Even then, her physical attraction to him doesn't totally disappear -- she still finds herself thinking how cute he is, and is frustrated by that. I thought that was pretty realistic. 

The love interest of the book is Roz's study buddy -- but don't worry, there's a ton of drama there, too. They're constantly sniping at each other, having misunderstandings, sweet moments which are interrupted, and arguing before finally getting on the same page. 

The Character I Hated

I wanted to STRANGLE Roz's Special Ed teacher. He is an example of 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions.' While he does want Roz to be able to accept her disability and work with it rather than fight it, he starts going about that in ways that first cross the line and then turn straight-up abusive. Furthermore, he's a shitty teacher in other ways. For his class's "career development," he organizes a series of unpaid jobs. Hiring disabled people for less than minimum wage or for no money at all is practiced widely in the U.S. Predictably, the students are hurt and angry. They rebel, which is a fantastically satisfying part of the book. 

Some Things I Didn't Like

One thing I didn't like was that it was unclear whether the teacher still had his job by the end of the book. He should've been fired. He's awful. 

Blind Spot also spends a lot of time on the issue of consent and relationship abuse. These, I felt, were important topics to address in a book for teens where drugs and roofies are involved. One thing I didn't like is when we find out Heather slept with the guy Roz likes while she was drunk. The way Heather described it, "it just sort of happened" and she wasn't fully in control -- while, I'm pretty sure, the guy was sober. If you are sober and have sex with someone who isn't, that's rape. While the book did address other parts of this subplot, and did a decent job of handling consent elsewhere, it never addressed the problem of consent there. It's never framed as rape.

Finally, some of the kids from the Special Ed class are excluded from the final plot to try and catch the killer. The abled kids, Roz, her physically disabled friend, and others who are not intellectually disabled decide that it would all be too much for the intellectually disabled kids in the class to understand, and that they don't want to get their hopes up only to have them crushed. This is infantilizing and goes against the message from other parts of the book. It's fairly common for non-intellectually-disabled disabled folks to still display forms of ableism towards intellectually disabled people. While this happens in real life, I didn't like it much and wished the book would have done more to challenge those assumptions.

Some Things I Liked

Roz begins this book with a lot of internalized ableism. She stereotypes her classmates, is furious to be labelled disabled, and tries to hide her disability whenever possible. By the end of the book, she's started to overcome a lot of that internalized ableism. Internalized ableism is something many disabled people deal with, and I thought Blind Spot handled it pretty sensitively. 

Roz also has to deal with abled expectations of behavior. For instance, when she is being questioned by police, she has to put in an effort to look them straight in the eye -- because otherwise, she looks shifty and guilty. But, her macular degeneration means that she can't look someone right in the eye, because that way, she can't see them. Roz is constantly being mistaken for shy, aloof, or shifty because of how she uses her peripheral vision to see people's faces. The author has macular degeneration herself, so this is an ownvoices work that captures a lot of the experiences an abled writer would probably miss. (You can read an interview with the author here.)

I liked that the book had a fair range of disabilities represented in the class, and that each of the students had a personality and goals beyond a stereotype. I particularly liked Tricia as a character, even though her fate saddened me. I won't give away too much, but Tricia is an example of how the system failed her and her family. I think she'd have been much better off if authority figures (including the teacher) didn't intervene to try to """"save"""" her by "doing the right thing." 

The ending may frustrate some with its odd lack of closure. I thought it was a satisfying way to close things off. 

The suspense in this was also through the roof. I was simultaneously cringing and on the edge of my seat flipping the pages, desperate to see what would happen next!

Overall, I would give this 4/5 stars. It's a great read. I got very into the characters and totally absorbed in the story. I recommend it to those who like mystery and suspense.

[Trigger warnings for this book include: death, ableism, drug and alcohol use/abuse, emotional abuse, descriptions of past sexual assault, discussion of suicide, physical assault, kidnapping, apartment fire.]

A stroke of luck?

My class was cancelled today. This means I don't have to turn in work that is probably -- definitely -- below standard. I also get more ...