Wednesday, May 29, 2019

My take on: Waisted

There's never a day that goes by when I don't have thoughts about my weight or body image. There's hardly ever a day when I don't see a commercial or some kind of media that makes me question my own weight or body image. I think in the last week alone I've seen several commercials for Weight Watchers. Everyday I say today is the day that I'm going to put down that piece of chocolate and get on the treadmill. But then I remember how much I hate exercise (probably a strong word to use, maybe I just tolerate it) and how much I love chocolate.

I say all of this because the latest book I read, Waisted by Randy Susan Meyers, conjured up all kinds of thoughts about my own relationship with food, weight, and body image. It was the rare book that I saw a lot of myself in the main characters.

Alice and Daphne are two very accomplished women. Alice runs a community center and Daphne is a makeup artist. They're both married to successful men and have children. They don't seem to have a lot of doubts in their professional lives. It's their personal lives that are filled with doubts.

Alice is bulimic and has never gotten treatment for her eating disorder. In her mind, if she doesn't binge and purge often then she doesn't really have a problem. It's only when life gets too stressful or someone makes snide comments about her weight does her eating disorder take over. Weight and food are never far from her mind. Her husband, Clancy, flat out states he's not as attracted to her as he used to be -- especially with all the weight she's gained. This is when Alice decides it's time for desperate measures. Signing up for Waisted, a reality show that's pretending to be a serious documentary. Losing weight in a controlled environment with strangers is an extreme solution to Alice's problems. It's also where she meets fellow contestant Daphne.

Daphne's relationship and obsession with food and body image began at an early age. Next to her two sisters, Daphne was the fat one. Daphne was the one her mother always shamed about her weight. She grew up thinking her mother didn't want a fat daughter. Her mother was always trying to fix Daphne. But perhaps Daphne isn't the one who needs fixing? It's her mother? These are questions Daphne never asked herself, instead she let her mother's feelings about weight occupy space and time in her adult life and relationships. Even in the bedroom with her husband, Sam, Daphne's mother is a wedge in their marriage. It's something that Daphne needs to deal with. What's her answer? Appearing on Waisted!

However Waisted seems like every bad weight loss show rolled into one. There's no encouragement, instead there's intimidation, fear, and criticism. Intimidation by the trainers, who watch every small morsel of food Alice, Daphne, and the other women eat. Criticism if they don't hit their weight loss goals. Fear of being fat forever. Fear of never being attractive. Fear of life without Waisted. There's no chance of these women developing a healthy relationship with food, if they're taught it's something to fear.

At times this book made me hungry, but that went away as soon as Alice and Daphne take part in Waisted. At times it made me angry. It was just a roller coaster of emotions. But the overall message of the book was clear, a program like Waisted is not the answer. The answer is within. They could count calories until they were blue in the face. If they didn't deal with their inner demons, they were never going to change. They had to want to change. I'm sure this book isn't for everybody, but it spoke to me and I enjoyed it.

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Atria Books) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

My take on: The Song of the Jade Lily

Every time a book about World War II comes out, my immediate thought is how many ways are there to tell about the hardships of war? Is there really more to tell about WWII? Yes, there is. The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning is fictional story but it gave me insight into another piece of history that I didn't know about. Told in dual perspectives, The Song of the Jade Lily is a nuanced portrayal of friendship, parenthood, grief, loss, and love.

The book opens in 1938 Vienna. Young Romy Bernfeld, her parents, and brothers Benjamin and Daniel are outcasts in their homeland. Adolf Hitler has risen to power and is rounding up Jewish people, like Romy and her family, into camps. As difficult as it might be, the Bernfelds' only choice is to flee. But where? And will the whole family be able to make it? After suffering every parents' worst nightmare, only Mr. and Mrs Bernfeld and Romy make it out of Vienna, running away to Shanghai. Once in China, the family finally finds some relief. Mr. Bernfeld puts his skills as a doctor to good use, working at a local hospital. Romy gets to continue her schooling, she often marvels at her good fortune. She even makes friends with a local girl, Li Ho, and her family. With a shared passion for food and alternative medicine, the Bernfelds and the Hos are more like family than friends.

The bond Li and Romy share goes through many ups and downs, both knowing they can count on the other when catastrophe strikes. A bond that will be put to the test as the Japanese rise to power and eventually take over Shanghai.

In modern day Australia, Romy is now an old woman with a dying husband. Her granddaughter, Alexandra, has returned home not just to be with her grandparents but to finally put the pieces of her family's history together. Alexandra's mother, Sophia, has long since passed away but there were always nagging questions about her true heritage. Sophia was adopted and even before her death she wanted to know the truth about her birth parents. A truth that her parents always tap danced around. A truth that not even Alexandra knows. But following the death of her grandfather, Alexandra gets the chance to start over in the very place that was once Romy's salvation -- Shanghai. Professionally, moving to Shanghai offers Alexandra a chance to advance her career. But on the personal side, Alexandra's true mission is to trace her family's history, finally getting the answers her mother never got.

Multi-perspective books are often hit and miss for me. But this was an exception, as it was clear how the past connected to the present. Romy and Alexandra both have strong points of view, each with a compelling story. For both, the past has shaped their present. Without all of the personal strife of the past, neither would be able to be the strong characters they are in the present. This all made for compelling and engrossing read; definitely an author I want to read more of!

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (William Morrow) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

I have an unpopular opinion

First, where have I been. Always reading, but of course there were some books that I put aside (The Witch Elm by Tana French) because they were boring me. Second, I just finally figured out how to get back into my Blogger account after Google+ went down. :)

And....I've been trying to gather my thoughts on a very very popular book I just read. Whenever I read a well-reviewed or hyped book, I wonder if I should read it all. (Gasp) What if I don't like it? All those great reviews, and I question if I read the same book. I think back to reading Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, that had good reviews and I was swayed to read it by the pretty cover. But I was sooooooo disappointed. It's even worse when you read a book by a person you like and admire....

...yes...I regret to say...I was underwhelmed by Becoming by Michelle Obama.

It's not a bad book. It's actually well-written and inspirational. I just feel it was lacking in depth. Yes, a book clocking in at 421 pages was, for me, lacking in depth.

What fell short for me?

The White House years.

I appreciate that a book by a former First Lady was not all about her husband. Especially since her husband is portrayed as Superman. I'm not kidding, there is A LOT about how special and unique a person Barack Obama is. I did want more of Mrs. Obama's perspective on her time as First Lady. The White House years are not addressed until page 283 and by then we're more than 60 percent into the book. I felt like there was a lot of buildup to those eight years in the White House, but the actual eight years in the White House were kind of glossed over. Reading the book, I could totally understand her disdain for politics and campaigning. I remember the scrutiny Mrs. Obama herself and her family were subjected to, I often wondered what it must be like to live in a fishbowl. I thought that kind of perspective would be in her memoir, and I didn't get that.

Keep in mind, I don't say any of this as a criticism on Mrs. Obama as a person. This is purely my thoughts on her book. I feel like I need to say that because sometimes people think a criticism of a book or content is a criticism of the person. It's not! You can like a person and what they stand for and still critique their book. No regrets in buying this book. I would do it again. I'm quite sure Mrs. Obama will write another book, and I will absolutely buy it.