Firsts of 2017

It’s been a while (since October) that I posted regularly, so I wanted to inform my minuscule readers what I’ve been reading and up to while on hiatus. Mostly, I was too depressed to actually write, but I was still reading. My goal here is to compile a list of books that I read in the first few months that meant something to me. Now, I’ve certainly read books that have made me cry or made me go “what did I just read?” but these books are the first books of the year that I’ve read that made me cry or made me go “whaaaat?” So without further adieu, let’s get started.

2017’s Firsts


First Book I Bought for an Actual Reason: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

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Disclaimer: the pink/white pills are joint medication for my cat; the purple round ones are children’s chewable ibuprofen; the two prescription bottles are obviously that–prescriptions written for me. This is a commentary on Carrie Fisher’s love of drugs, especially her own.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Published by Blue Rider Press on November 22nd 2016
Genres: Biography, Diary, History
Pages: 272
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

I’m not crying, you’re crying. I knew that when this book came out that I had to own it. It was over Christmas break, I was back home in Chicago while my cat and boyfriend were in our little cottage in central PA when we heard the news. Princess Leia has passed away. I didn’t grow up with Star Wars (I was stereotypically given dolls and not science things), but I knew of the impact these movies have had on future movies to come, Hollywood itself, and nerds of every age. I only saw the movies for the first time about two years ago, all in the rightful order of 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3 and then 7 and 3.5 when they came out respectively. I cried at the end of 7, The Force Awakens, because, though I didn’t see them as a child, I was already deeply attached to the characters and the harrowing story.

When Carrie Fisher died, I didn’t know what to think. She was older and clearly didn’t take the best care of herself, but she was an idol–is an idol–and will continue to be not only for fans in metal bikinis everywhere, but for those with mental illness that she made feel more normal with her hilarity towards her own problems. I didn’t even know much about her seminars and discussions, mostly because I don’t have bipolar disorder, but I know that she influenced many outside of the Star Wars franchise. Long story short, I had to have her book. I knew her also as an hilarious actor outside of the franchise–starring in 30 Rock as a crazy cat-less lady and the equally real and hilarious British show Catastrophe. I watched her with admiration as someone who accomplished so much in her life, while struggling with her own problems of stardom, mental health, unrequited love, etc.

I will continue collecting her works–I didn’t know she wrote so much, why did she have to leave us!–and forever remember her as fantastic woman.


First WTF is Happening Book: The Graces by Laura Eve

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The Graces by Laura Eve
Published by Harry N. Abrams on September 6th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Thriller, Romance, Friendship
Pages: 352
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Has anyone read this book????? Can someone explain to me this book??? Laura Eve, you have done it. I have a literature degree and have been trained, for more than four years if we’re counting my excessive literature classes in high school, as well as getting my Master’s in literature starting in August and yet, you have stumped me. So thank you. Thank you, Laura Eve for completely and utterly confusing me.

I thought I had it all figured this out while reading this book, and yet once I got to that last chapter, everything I thought I knew went flying out the window. And it was so refreshing! I love young adult books, they’re my favorite genre–so much so that I write in this genre–and yet sometimes I can figure out the entire story during the first couple of chapters. And this is nice, don’t get me wrong, I can then just focus on the characters, love stories, familial ties, etc. and not have to worry about using my brain too much. But not with Eve’s ridiculous and outstanding tale.

Also, I can’t even disclose any of my confusion because it would give away the entire story, and I wouldn’t want to do that because the twist is so intense, so heart-stopping, that it would be an injustice as a book-lover to spoil. Please read this book if you have ever thought what it would be like to meet real-life witches, people you have read about in books and searched the internet for, and are desperate to be a part of that life. I can imagine Harry Potter lovers relating with River and her desperate need to know more about the Grace family. Who doesn’t want to be best friends with witches?

BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN THE HALF OF IT! If you enjoy murder mystery, surprise twists with characters, forbidden love and desperate lust, then read The Graces; it will do you well.

A close second for this category is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.


First Book I Cried In: The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout

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The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, Family, Mental Health
Pages: 480
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

This book is beautiful. It does seem a little long in the beginning, and since it’s almost 500 pages long, it can seem like it’s dragging. But do not lose hope because the more you read, the more you discover. Armentrout carefully and artfully discloses only certain information at a time, never giving away too much, always keeping you on the edge of your seat. I fell in love with the characters–feeling so much for them that when the time is right I am going to consider adoption myself. I wanted to go into the book and hug Mallory and Rider each (even though the name Rider isn’t my favorite name for the character, but that’s just how it is).

Mallory and Rider’s relationship is so complicated and heartbreaking, but also extremely uplifting and hopeful. Rider’s unconditional love for Mallory, both as her boyfriend but mostly as her best friend, is so endearing and real. Of course he wants, needs, to protect her from the horrible things she’s seen, but he’s also there to watch her grow into the fully functioning and courageous woman she becomes.

Definitely a must read for those wanting a good cry, to feel something in their chest as they near the end of the story, and the aggressive need to keep reading.


First Book I Wanted to Like, but Didn’t: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
Published by HarperTeen on June 7th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, History
Pages: 512
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Okay, I didn’t hate this book, that is much too dramatic. In fact, it’s quite silly and hilarious, making the reader laugh out loud. However, the main factor that I disliked was the constant intervention from the narrators. I’ve done my fair share of studying when it comes to the British monarch and while I hadn’t heard of all the characters, I did have a pretty good grasp on who was who. I would be reading, though, and suddenly the narrators would intervene to tell me that what I’m reading isn’t true. Well…duh. Someone didn’t actually have a horrible curse–that isn’t really a curse–that turns them into a horse every day break. That would just be ridiculous of me to think that was real. I love the idea of the authors taking over a story that we don’t know much of, and turning into something lovely, but the constant interruptions are a little jarring.

That being said, I did enjoy the adventure. This is an easy read, so though it’s a long 500 pages, it is a fast read. I didn’t need to fuss over it (other than it being heavy!). The characters, Jane and G are adorable and hilarious, but part of me (spoiler!) wanted Jane to end up with Edward! I know that there is an incest-problem there, but as the narrators dutifully point out, this was very common back then. And something about Edward and Jane seemed real. On the other hand, G and Jane are quite fitting for each other too–how G constantly teases Jane, calling her “love” even when they haven’t discussed their relationship other than their pure hatred for each other. I think this book would have been better if there weren’t so many interruptions from the writers–simply let the story be and you can either disclaim in the prologue or epilogue that none of it was real–as well as getting more in-depth with the characters. I wanted to feel something when reading about them, other than just laughing and enjoying my time. I want to worry about them, fear for them, love them.


First Book with a Love Story that Won Me Over: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

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A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Published by HarperTeen on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Romance, Friendship, Family, Suspense
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

So even though I’ve given this book the title of winning me over with the love story, I actually don’t know if I’m going to read the sequel, mostly because I can’t take any more heartbreak between the main characters. Now I’m not the biggest science fiction buff, so it took me a little while to get into the whole “Firebird”, multi-demnsional travel, but I was able to get through it and I’m so glad that I did because Marguerite and the Russian Paul’s love is indescribable. I constantly go back to how I felt, my heart racing, sweating palms as I frantically read to make sure they made it out of the snow storm alright and into each other’s arms.

I don’t know if what I feel for this dimension’s Paul, for my own, or for both of them. I can’t tell the difference any longer, and in the moment, I don’t care…

“Paul,” I murmur, “call me by my name.”

“You know I cannot.”

“Just once”…

And we are lost. I’m the one who breaks the last rule, the final taboo–the one who kisses him. But then he surrenders. He holds nothing back. We tangle together, kissing desperately, clutching at the few clothes we still wear, hardly able to breathe or think or do anything other than those ourselves in each other (194-95).

I could go on, pretty much quoting this entire scene between Paul and Marguerite because I get butterflies in my stomach, rising up my throat, threatening to escape, but I won’t; I’ll let the beauty stay in the book. I don’t know how Gray does it, but I feel so enchanted with the characters and storyline. There is a sense of urgency, the rushing that Marguerite, Paul, and Theo feel trying to catch each other and get to the right dimension, that manifests in the reader, as if we are a part of the race.


First Collection: The Entire Works of William Shakespeare by Modern Library

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From left to right: The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of The Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry V, Henry IV Part 2, Macbeth, Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3, Richard III, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Winter’s Tale, Twelfth Night, All’s Well That Ends Well, Henry IV Part 1, Titus Andronicus & Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, Hamlet, King John & Henry VIII, Othello, The Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, The Sonnets and Other Poems; King Lear, Cymbeline, Antony and Cleopatra, Troilus and Cressida, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Richard II

 

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that Shakespeare is my true passion. I wrote my 30-page senior thesis on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and am now going to attend St. John’s University in New York for my Master’s and then Ph.D in literature with an emphasis in the Early Modern Period, or Shakespeare’s time. The collection I just bought is published by Modern Library and edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.

There are many editions of Shakespeare’s work published; I have many different copies of the same play (particularly A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet) as well as the entire collection in one book by Oxford. However, I saw these editions on Instagram and fell in love. It took me so long to find them, but when I did, I knew I had to get them. They are not only beautiful covers, the editions themselves (footnotes, introductory information, etc.) are spot on. This is something I look for as a scholar and the main scene I double check is Act 2 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. Most editions will print “etc.” on line 40, but this edition does print the “open arse” that is usually left out. A winner for sure!

I don’t normally buy collections, partly because trilogy, sagas, etc. don’t all come out at the same time unless you’re reading a collection that has been out for a while. My boyfriend buys many comic book collections (like March written by Congressman John Lewis), but I don’t have many completed collection, except for now! These plays will serve me well once I start school again this fall. Wish me luck!

Dear My New Best Friends,

Dear Jenny Lawson, Ruby Elliot, and Allie Brosh,

Dear award-winning authors,

Dear you crazy women,

Dear my new best friends,

I’m assuming you’ve heard this many, many, many times over (I’m hoping it doesn’t get old), but I want to thank each of you for the work you have done. To some, your work might seem like fun books with drawings and crazy taxidermy stories, and while this is totally true, your books have been so much more to me. I honestly don’t even know where to begin this review–and let’s be honest, this is hardly a review at this point but more like word-vomit colored with fancy sprinkles and googly eyes. All five books get five stars and if you don’t like that, you can leave. This is my website after all. If I must nitpick, I would give Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson five out of five stars and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened also by Lawson four-and-a-half stars simply because that’s how much I love Furiously Happy. So you get five stars! And you get five stars! Everyone gets five staaarrrsss!

But seriously, I am in awe of all of you. I think I might be in love with all three of you at the same time. Can we have a sleepover?

Did that come off as too creepy? I’m sure at a Barnes and Noble signing, you guys have heard worse–like someone’s comment about how your hair smells and you wonder how he knows. Or someone on meth asks you to a steak dinner with a note reading: Attn. pretty lady behind the counter. Wait…these things happened to me, not you. Anyways, dear god do not ever change. Please, for the love of humanity, keep writing, drawing, living your beautiful lives so nobodies like me, who frantically type up raves that no one will read, have something to do with their boring, depression-ridden lives.

You all speak to me–individually and together. We are having a conversation together, whether you intended for it or not.

Positive conversations between women are crucial today and by displaying all sides of yourselves, you three women (and I’m sure many more) are having a conversation with each reader, letting them know that everything they are feeling from mental illness to motherhood, from husbands/boyfriend/girlfriends to family issues and work issues, we are not the only ones. These feelings, emotions, dark and light thoughts are happening to women all around the globe. By publishing these stories, these non-fiction tales, Lawson, Brosh, and Elliot are letting me know that what I am experiencing right now, in this very moment, might be both horrible and hilarious, or the worst and the best. Because you all talk about these issues as everyday problems, and yet still a crucial part of you, you are normalizing issues that society has hushed. No experience from a woman is allowed to be discredited or silenced any longer.

With the changing of hands in our government, the repealing of Obamacare and the lack of care for mental health patients, I am scared that my drugs that keep me stable enough to live each day will no longer by supported by my insurance. I’m scared that those like me, that have problem waking up in the morning because of something dark sitting on their chest, will not receive the help that they, that we, need. Depression and anxiety might seem commonplace on the internet, it is still misunderstand or not wildly accepted as a real thing. Many do not understand, and choose to not understand because these illnesses do not affect them the way they affect us, and this scares me. However, thanks to you guys, you have made these illnesses even more commonplace and easier to explain. I can show RubyEtc.’s pictures or Brosh’s drawings to my boyfriend, so he can grasp what I’m feeling when words escape me. I can color in and hang a picture drawn by Lawson’s beautiful hand in a heavy-traffic space in my house, so I can see it every day and feel “normal.”

Like you, like many women, I struggle with my mental illnesses. In fact, I feel as if saying this is so commonplace that my readers will be like “Yeah, so? We all do. You’re not special in saying that you have mental heal issues.” However, it is so easy to feel alone in our own minds. Sure, logically I know I’m not the only one with depression, anxiety about time, etc. but since most of the people I surround myself with do not experience these crippling issues, I can feel more alone. You guys take that feeling away. I am not alone thanks to your books. I am normal thanks to your books.

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Order in which I read, starting on the left.

So to Ruby Elliot:

Thank you for putting pictures to my thoughts and feelings. In the beginning stages of my mental illness, I didn’t even know I had problems–I just thought I had temper tantrums, anger management problems, and tons of emotions because I was always crying. Once I started therapy and began putting names to the feelings, I felt much better. And you have done that again. If someone asks me how I’m feeling, I can just show them your book. Pictures are so much easier to digest and interpret. In our busy lives, sitting and reading an entire self-help book is unlikely (okay but I do this anyways), but being able to flip through your book to a dog-eared page and remember that you felt this way strong enough to draw it out for me to ponder on is remarkable. Here are some pictures (that I took myself) of your pictures that perfectly describe me (please excuse potato quality and my nail polish):

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To Allie Brosh:

I had one of my least favorite English professors recommend your book. He is a condescending arse-hole and actually got fired from my school. Now I’m assuming this has NOTHING do to with your book and more to do with the fact that no one likes him. However, once I started reading Elliot’s book and had read one of Lawson’s, everyone began asking me if I had heard of or read Hyperbole and a Half. I was always brought back to that classroom with my teacher saying he had found myself in your book (so condescendingly might I add) and I wanted to smack him. But trust me. I get it now. Sure he’s a prick, this letter isn’t about him, but goodness Ms. Brosh, I think I peed my pants while reading your book (I wouldn’t be surprised if many strangers tell you that). Not only this, but even though I’ve been on medication for four years now and have seemed to grasp my own problems as far as mental illness goes, you still have shed new light on what I once was feeling and what I still am currently feeling.

The beginning of my depression had been nothing but feelings, so the emotional deadening that followed was a welcome relief…But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there’s a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck…Which leads to horrible, soul-decaying boredom (124-25).

I feel like when I start therapy again once I move, I could simply bring in chapters from your book and say “This. Diagnose this, and you’ve diagnosed me.” On top of the mental illness similarities, you just totally understand the other weird shit that I feel:

It feels unfair when the other things in the world refuse to be governed by my justice system. [Brosh goes on to draw a panel about falling in love with an otter in a magazine, and then wondering why the otter has betrayed her by not being real and in front of her] (276-77).

Why do we feel this way? I don’t know, but thank you for pointing out a thing I do that I really didn’t even know that I did until you pointed it out.

Finally, to the mastermind Jenny Lawson:

Where do I even begin? You were my first; my first for a lot of things. Furiously Happy was not only the first book I bought that you wrote, it was the first “mental illness is a topic in this book” book that I bought, and I’m pretty sure it was the first book that made me laugh so freaking hard I wanted to throw up. Jenny,–I can call you Jenny, right?–I want to be like how you are to your own mental health issues. I know that that is kind of a shitty and fucked up thing to say, knowing your history with self-harm and just general issues, but seriously. You not only put to words feelings and emotions that leave me speechless and that I cannot describe to the lesser, normal people, but you then take it a step further and depict the ways that you are actually living with it. Your stories, particularly all those in Furiously Happy, have made me want to be a better person towards the issues that battle each other inside my cranium. You are so proud of yourself and the work you’ve accomplished–being a famous blogger, bestselling author, loving mother and wife, taxidermy animal collector–all while struggling with these non-curable problems. And you’ve done it so hilariously and real. I cannot thank you enough for being the type of person who is so true to herself and just also happens to have crippling mental problems and doesn’t use them as a crutch for her life.

I’m pretty sure I’ve dogeared my entire copy of Furiously Happy, so much so I can’t even find an appropriate passage to turn into a block quote here because I’m pretty sure I can’t insert the entire text–must be some sort of law. All I know is that throughout Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened I was laughing so hard I was peeing and my boyfriend was wondering if I was going to make it out alive (uhh the pooping story in LPTNH??), I was nodding my head in complete and utter agreement with other tales, and for once in my life, dreaming about visiting Texas. And though I haven’t had the chance to fully go through You Are Here, I know while it might not be as hilarious as your tears-in-the-eyes stories you tell, it will only further complete my collection of your work.

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These are the things that I need to get through the day.

Take One Drop of Pretty, and Call Me in the Morning

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wow. just, wow. I cannot get over this book. I am totally blown away by how unassuming Clark’s book is, resting neatly on the shelf in barns and noble where I purchased it, only to completely mind-fuck me with each page turn.

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The Regulars by Georgia Clark
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Feminism, Friendship, Romance, Beauty
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 5 out of 5

★★★★★

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Picture that episode of Sherlock where the victims of an unknown cause of death are to choose from two pills: one will kill you, the other lets you live. Now, The Regulars is certainly not that dramatic, but the choice of poison is still there. Would you drink a drop of Pretty, a powerful “drug” that once swallowed, turns the user into their most perfect, beautiful, “pretty” self.

Three friends, roommates Evie Selby and Krista Kumar, along with Willow Hendrickson, have been friends since their college days. Naturally living in NYC as three, young, talented, but unrecognized women can be difficult and bills need to be paid. Evie works at Salty, a magazine that seems loosely based on our world’s Cosmo. She is a lowly editor (wait, I want that job), but has dreams of writing big league stories on real women’s issues. Krista is a law-school dropout turned aspiring actress. She cannot seem to catch an acting break though and owes Evie quite a few dollars in bills. Finally, there’s Willow, who actually needs no help financially seeing as her father is a famous movie producer. She, instead, needs help finding her own, personal path of art without the help, and support, of her father.

When Krista is approached by an old classmate, whom she doesn’t recognize, and given a strange purple vial containing a liquid called “Pretty” the three girl’s lives will change. Pretty turns each user into their truest, best, most popular and overall prettiest self. It sheds pounds, gray hairs, unwanted overly large noses, and more. It changes hair color, length and texture, eye color, removes blemishes and even tattoos. It truly creates a person who is worthy of fashion magazines and prom queen titles.

Each woman takes Pretty for a different reason and therefore create their alter-egos. Krista becomes Lenka Penka, a beautiful aspiring actress who needs a new agent and new movie. Evie becomes Chloe Fontaine, a new face for Salty‘s new live show Extra Salty where Evie hopes to influence people politically. And Willow turns into Caroline for the simple reason of trying it. She later develops a method to her madness in using Caroline as a model in her photographs.

Love interests bloom, careers expand, and overall good things happen to those that are pretty, all while the three aren’t really themselves. So why bother going back? Why not have it all? The brains and personality of a Regular but the look and taste of a Pretty? Who’s even stopping them? They are young and hungry women, eager to make a name for themselves in the big city and they have a secret potion that is going to get them there.

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Take this fanart  “There’s no such thing as ugly”; I understand the message they are trying to send–a classic case of “everyone and everything is beautiful” and while they’re not wrong in wanting to believe that, Clark’s characters echo through my mind.

In a rational world, a hopeful world, there wouldn’t be anything described as ugly, but on a realistic level, there are many, many things holding that description and it doesn’t even have to be women! Certain Lularoe legging patterns, the world’s ugliest dog [okay, but all dogs are cute, right?], insects, deep-sea creatures, those toaster cars, the lovely and inevitable acne, and the list continues. It is horrendous that “ugly” is commonly used to describe people or features of a person whether it be their hair or their personality. So instead of writing another tale about women’s bodies through rose-colored glasses, Clark writes about the good, the bad, and of course, the ugly.

If you are interested in a refreshing tale that will completely take you by surprise, then I suggest you picking up this pink book. Sitting perfectly on the shelf, just like a little jar of Pretty, it screams simple but edgy, it has something to say and boy does Clark say it.

Evie’s, or should I say Chloe’s, makeup artist at Extra Salty, Marcello, asks the question Clark poses:

“Does that annoy you?” Marcello asked, dotting Evie’s skin with foundation. “The fact you’re not in charge of how you look?” (page 256)

Aren’t we all a little annoyed that we can painstakingly work on profiles, lip proportions, chin jut outs on a Sim character, but not on ourselves? Of course, we are! We’re realists! Someone is always going to want bigger boobs, less bushy eyebrows, curlier hair, and the opposites to go with those. So, of course, we’re mad that with a snap of fingers, our face is rid of acne, age spots, dark spots, scars, wrinkles, and anything else women are told is ugly. But of course, we can’t do that. There is no magic pill, serum, or drink; this isn’t Wonderland and we aren’t Alice. We are real and our “ugly” features are real too; they are a part of us. And when we take those away, are we really us anymore?

Evie doesn’t seem to think so when she becomes Chloe Fontaine for the first time, but she brushes it away quickly:

The most unusual inclusions were two subtractions: first, she no longer needed glasses…And second, her tattoo was gone. This struck her as odd: she was fond of her tat, but the ink had spread over the years and was sun-faded. By comparison, the space where it used to be on her forearm resembled pristine carved marble (page 94).

Two vital parts of her are missing: first, her glasses, a necessary accessory that she had been wearing since 10 years old, and then her tattoo, a permanent piece of art that she chose to get for some reason at some point, was now missing. Sure these are minor, and in a way, we have the availability to rid ourselves of poor eyesight (contacts, laser eye surgery) and bad tattoos (tattoo removal i.e. a saw), but Evie didn’t necessarily see either of those features as ugly but the Pretty did and in order for her to become her perfect self, she must be rid of anything ugly–including things that made her feel pretty at one point.

I myself have 5 tattoos, all that have deep meaning to me. The reader doesn’t know what Evie’s tattoo is, but it begs the question of whether or not tattoos are “pretty” enough to be included in someone’s Pretty form. Clearly, Evie’s wasn’t.


Moving on from Evie, Willow/Caroline is probably my favorite character in the story. Although Evie seems to dominate Clark’s world, Willow, to me, seems the most relatable. Evie is a pronounced feminist and woman-rioter. She has short hair, is a blogger, and denounces her Cosmopolitain-like magazine. Krista, on the other hand, is extremely bubbly and overall annoying. She only thinks of herself when taking the Pretty (well, I suppose all three women only think of themselves when taking the Pretty…) and doesn’t seem to want to do any good with it. Finally, there’s Willow, who although she doesn’t use her new beauty for good, per se, the reader watches as Pretty completely shuts her down–a normal reaction I presume to such an addictive and overwhelming drug.

She notes spot on that by becoming Caroline, this alter-ego of herself, she isn’t Willow anymore. It doesn’t bother her that she is no longer the daughter or friend or girlfriend people in her life care for because now she can feel like a “normal” person in the world; her anxiety and depression don’t cripple her on a daily basis–she can create a person who doesn’t have any mental illness at all and this is exactly what she does.

There was something about being Caroline that was so incredibly freeing. Caroline didn’t carry herself with an invisible shield. Sometimes Willow felt like she was always conducting two conversations with the world: the one that was spoken out loud, and the one she carried with her, inside her head. Caroline wasn’t like that. Caroline didn’t hide her body. Caroline didn’t double-check her statements to make sure they sounded smart. Caroline knew how to flirt. Caroline was liberated (page 202-03).

Willow as Caroline, of course, makes mistakes–all of the girls do. She does stupid things, ranging from completely ignoring her two best friends for days on end to flirting with her own boyfriend as a different person. All of this is in the name of art, though. Her photography is what separates her from her father’s Hollywood movies and her friends “adult” careers. She finds peace in her photography, so imagine the inner peace she gets from being Caroline and taking pictures? This all spirals out of control, obviously, and Caroline starts to take over. Who are the girls now without their alter-egos? What if they decide to never be their old selfs again?

“And I know you think makeup sets an unrealistic standard and yadda yadda yadda, but the way I see it, I’m just helping people bring out their inner goddess. I can’t make you beautiful, Chloe. I can just help you see, with a little color here and a little color there, that you are already beautiful” (page 257).

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Being Regular wasn’t enough though for the three women and others in New York who are taking Pretty. Though Marcello’s words resonate with all of us, and Evie when he tells her this, their beauty standards are still impeccably high. Once Evie and Krista transform into Chloe and Lenka respectively for the second time, they notice that some features are not as elegant or brilliant as before from their first transformation. Krista/Lenka’s eyes are not as sea-green and Evie/Chloe’s chin juts out a little more than she remembered. Is this the beginning of the Pretty becoming the Regular? If taken so many times, what is to say that the Pretty version completely takes over the Regular version and suddenly the Pretty is actually the Regular version? We are always going to find faults with our faces, bodies, hair. I have days where I feel completely and utterly badass–strutting myself down the streets, feeling unstoppable. But the next day, a simple 16 hours later or so, another woman can feel the same way–strutting down the sidewalk past me–and totally shatter my self-esteem. Why doesn’t my winged eyeliner look that great? Are those honey-colored highlights? I should try that! She worked it so much better than me today, I’m a failure. These feelings flipflop, interchanging and always coming as a surprise. That woman, though, that made me question myself, was probably questioning herself just the other day too. She must have seen another woman online, in a magazine or person, who seemed to have it all and broke her self-confidence in one blink.

We are so hard on ourselves. A war wages before our eyes when we look in the mirror.

Taking Pretty opened up Evie, Krista, and Willow’s eyes and certainly the readers. I did not enter this book expecting such harsh, but at the same time optimistic commentary on women’s bodies in today’s world. Clark’s story is fresh and honest, it is not a simple remedy tale–in fact, indirectly she recommends taking a little dose of Pretty. Without knowing what our most perfect, most pretty self looks like–and thus the disaster that follows with that–how are we to appreciate our true selves?

At first, Evie felt self-conscious of the way her stomach bulged over the satin hot pants’ tiny waistband, the way her arms seemed heavy and thick in the sleeveless gold top. But none of the other early risers even gave her a second look. Not because she didn’t matter, Evie realized. Because in New York, everything was permissible. No one cared what you wore, how you looked. Only you cared about those things.

Her body was back. And she felt good about it (page 363-65).

 

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Another Rant About Women’s Bodies

[Disclaimer: this is totally not a book review, just a little social piece I thought I’d share]

The new hit comedy, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, started another craze for me. Ever the fan of beautiful Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick as well as sexy Zac Efron, seeing their movie was a must. Little did I know it would upset my stomach–not like the way some Tosh.0 episodes do, but in a much more unexpected way.

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As a budding 22 year old with too many plans for my future that I don’t know which one to pick, to say that I am “in shape” would be a disappointing understatement. Sucking it in is really the only ab exercise I do these days. So unless you count pudgy hourglass as a shape, then I am not in it. I have large breasts and a decently sized booty to match. My legs don’t go on for days, but are average and my arms could be more toned but eh. What remains is the centerfold of every woman: the stomach–I’m envisioning here the sound of canned screaming as if from a drive in movie back in the fifties when The Blob came at the screen. At times and at the right angle, I’m a size 8 to the passerby. Other times I’m so large i look five months pregnant (spoiler: I have gotten seats on the bus before by sticking out my gut and cradling it like any good unwed young mother would).

While hilariously well-written and starring an A+ cast, I walked out of the movie, tossing my empty giant-sized cherry limeade slushie in the trash, with whiplash about my own body. I wanted to love every aspect of it, but i couldn’t look Plaza and Kendrick in the face, only their one-eyed, rock hard midsections. I can’t blame them, and I don’t. They didn’t know this feeling of utter self-hatred would arise from their glorious on screen performance, and in fact both girls are so cool that if they had known, they probably would have stopped production, or at the least gained ten pounds in just their stomachs for me. However, their movie started a new body craze for me.

“I’m gonna work out” I told myself on the drive home in the rain. I can get washboard abs like they do (I can’t), I can get toned thighs and arms like they have (I can’t do that either). But I was on a mission. Soon I was thinking are diet pills really that bad? How easy it would be to get skinny by just swallowing a pill a day! I would love that! I began downloading workout apps on my phone and dreaming about running in the morning. However, I always hit snooze.

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Though they gave me reason to hate myself a little, Plaza and Kendrick couldn’t give me the one thing I really need: motivation. Furthermore, I got mixed signals. Cosmopolitan’s August covergirl, model Ashley Graham, talks about how amazing it is to model and still be a normal woman–that is a regular, average, size which is somehow deemed “plus-sized” in the business. For once in a long time, the queen of women’s magazine seemed to be edging towards accepting women as they are; what a game changer! Graham plowed through her interview with chic confidence and inspiration for every woman with a waist size thats double digits. She is awesome, to put it simply. She the Cosmo interviewer about her troubling past (all models seem to have it) and how she eventually found body peace: “A tireless body activist, [Graham is] never not preaching that beauty is beyond size.” The article features pictures of Graham’s sexy body at parties, on the runway, with husband and so on and it ends with Graham’s last tidbit of self-wisdom: “Everybody’s going to have an opinion. As long as I’m healthy and I feel good, that’s what matters.”

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This isn’t the only #BiggerGirlsMatter article the August issue of Cosmopolitan printed. Before Graham’s interview, Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s six-page piece “Stop the Absanity” sits nestled in at page 116. Here Brodesser-Akner assess the origin of our obsession with the midsection from Tamilee Webb’s Abs of Steel video became a hit in 1991 to today where “a rock-hard belly is the ultimate signifier of hotness and hard work” (121). If this is true, then I am neither of the these things. Now wait a second, I always considered myself at least one of those things! Hard-worker. I’m a hard-worker and my boyfriend calls me hot, so that has to count for something?

“This is a body part that is historically was hard, associated with men, and soft, associated with women. Now we, the women, just want our bellies hard. We want the softness eradicated like it was never there” (122).

So what is a girl to think? On one side, there’s Plaza and Kendrick along with every other female celebrity in LA with their thigh-gaps, and then Cosmopolitan features a bigger model and an anti-ab declaration. What side am I supposed to be on? Obviously the bigger side (both literally in weight and in population) because that’s where I fit. However, the fact that Graham is covered up on her cover and how her interview really only deals with her being bigger as the only reason for her success, it’s already sending mixed signals. I want to applaud Cosmopolitan for at least putting in some effort, but what’s stopping Cosmopolitan from featuring what they deem a “normal-sized” girl on cover of the September issue? I guarantee that they will because bigger girls, unless their last name is Kardashian, they do not get featured very often.

I suppose by now you’re wondering “Where is she going with this rant?” and honestly, I do not know. I suppose that’s the sad part. Every day I wake up with a different feeling about my body. Some days it looks killer and I’m the hottest chick around and some days I want to burn all my clothing, start eating only water (if I chew it, then I’m burning calories right?), and question why my boyfriend finds me attractive. The constant media whiplash of “Butts are Totally In Right Now” to “Women were supposed to be soft!” and also “You need to be skinny–end of story” certainly doesn’t help either. I truly think that the only way to find some body peace is to literally try everything and then push out anything that doesn’t work.

If your boyfriend thinks you look great and you love eating mac and cheese, then why stop? Does eating it make you feel good? Sure it does! It’s freaking cheese! I ain’t giving any of that up. Maybe I’ll stop eating bread with every meal, but I am not giving up gluten because Miley Cyrus said so. Candy is my kryptonite and I probably have dessert after 6 out of 7 dinners a week. Who cares? I need to learn to be happy with that regime because I know that anything different would make me unhappy. Watching my boyfriend get to have a milkshake while I have a kale smoothie for dessert? Kill me now.

So to the Aubrey Plazas and the Ashley Grahams alike, I salute you. You’ve found a way to be healthy, sexy, confident, sexy, beautiful, sexy and, most importantly, happy. One day I’ll get there. Let me just research 21 Day Fix while eating frozen yogurt first.

Check out two of my earlier reviews!

since i have just about caught up to the books that i’ve already read and therefore require reviews, i’m not writing a review today but instead will catch you all up on what’s going on my life regarding books.

first of all, i want to draw your attention to two other sites that i have written reviews for. one is for my good friend Hippolyta and her beautiful website, mode and the like. i wrote a review for her on the book Furiously Happy by jenny lawson. a fantastically blunt and hilarious piece about what it is like living with dramatic mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more. lawson does not sugar coat anything when it comes to the difficult topics.

another review i did for a different website is about my favorite topics: sex and shakespeare. conveniently titled Sex with Shakespeare, jillian keenan explores not only her sexual life including BDSM practices and more, but also analyzes how shakespeare’s characters could be interpreted as portraying similar tendencies. i wrote this review for my boyfriend’s website, mixtake press. 

i figured two additional reviews, though written a little while ago, could count for the one i do a day. so please go check those out, helping my two friends websites as well.

and finally, i just got a job at barns and noble! so it’s safe to say that i am totally working in a book sanctuary where i get a pretty nice employee discount towards all things book, cafe, and other related. my entire paycheck is going to be spent on books for this website just so you know!

stay tuned for reviews on A Court of Thorns and Roses as well as a weird review / rave about the Pendragon series from our childhood.

thanks for reading!