Eleanor and Park

eleanor and park

She tells her friend to have her parent call to ask if she can come over. If she asks them herself they will say no. It’s more difficult to say no to another adult. They might ask why. Appearances must be kept. They would rather she be at home so they can control her and their secrets, but appearances are more important.

***

The boy smells her period on her. Her father wouldn’t let her shower that morning, she has to shower before he leaves for work, even though there is a full half hour after he leaves before the bus comes, and she was too tired to get up in time. If her father discovers she did shower there will be consequences. The boy offers to let her shower at his house before he gives her a ride home from school. She is embarrassed and shamed, but thankful.

***

She falls asleep in every class that day. They kept her up yelling; she wasn’t allowed to go to bed until they were finished with her. Maybe she loaded the dishwasher wrong, maybe she said the wrong thing, maybe the counters weren’t clean enough, maybe they were just in a fighting mood. Her friends share their notes with her.

***

He drags her down the hall by her hair. He wants her in the livingroom so that he can have the luxury of looking at her. Family time.

***

Her anger overflows and she slams her bedroom door. They remove it and do not replace it with a curtain. She has to change in the bathroom. She can’t remember how long it lasts.

***

She forgets to feed her parakeets. The cage isn’t clean as often as it should be. Her mother is tired of doing it for her. Opens the window in the winter and sets the cage in the snowy flower box and closes it, saying if she won’t take care of them, we might as well kill them.

***

Belts. Wooden spoons. Slaps across the face. Grabbed arms and hair. Old time discipline.

***

The scavenging, the hiding, the tip-toeing, the smells, the poverty, the hunger, the fear, the exhaustion – and then the sense of failure and helplessness when you get away but have to leave others behind.

Something I need you to understand about this book is the importance of recognizing the signs of a strained or abusive home-life. This is not a love story, this is a suspenseful thriller and as you read you wonder if Eleanor will escape before she is raped or killed. Will someone notice in time? Will people help? And probably most important of all – remember that sometimes these situations wear you down so that there isn’t anything left to free, that it’s easier just to stay. Safer even. 

This book hit me right in the heart. The things you have to keep hidden, the appearances that have to be maintained so that the people around you don’t shame you, ostracize you, or possibly try to help you. Sometimes the help is more dangerous than the shame and ridicule. If you are going to help, you had better be ready to go all the way. Half-measures may be more harmful than doing nothing at all.

Kindness is important. Acceptance is important. Help and protection are important. Look around you, you can recognize the signs even if that person or child is working so hard to hide them. Give them a comic book. Give them batteries so they can listen to music all night long. Give them access to a shower. To food. To safety. To love.

This book is about surviving, and about how kindness is the light that can guide someone to safety. Please go read this book, it is essential.

Winter (Lunar Chronicles #4)

winter

Cinder (#1)
Scarlet (#2)
Cress (#3)

I have really enjoyed this series. It grounds itself in familiar fairy tales and then reaches into new territory that is terrifying, political, and romantic. In Winter, we take a closer look into the inner workings of Luna, and learn about the almost Hunger Games-like set up of the moon (sans actual Hunger Games). We have the central city (a la the Capital) and outer sectors that do different things like mining, farming, lumber, etc (i.e. districts).

The aristocrats that live in Artemisia dress really weird and use their powers/glamours to be as beautiful and stylish as possible, while the people in the outer sectors struggle to get by and are forced to watch propaganda-ish videos every day projected in by the queen. Now that I’m writing it down, it sounds exactly like the Hunger Games societal makeup, right down to the trains and tunnel systems that connect the sectors/districts. Hmmm…weird.

The setting is interesting and compelling, but the story lost me on this book. They have captured the Emperor, everyone is paired off and loves each other, Wolf is still mourning the kidnapping of Scarlet (who is being held in Winter’s menagerie on Luna), and Thorne and Cress have this “will they or won’t they” vibe that is obviously going to result in “will they.” So we have all the love stories going on, and at the same time we have Cinder trying to get to Luna to start an uprising now that she understands that she is the long lost Princess Selene that Queen Levana tried to have killed years ago. They get onto Luna hidden in the Emperor’s ship because the wedding has been moved there.

If that paragraph is confusing and muddled, you get how reading the book felt. You’re keeping track of the love stories, the political stories, the past, the present, the new culture on Luna – all while holding your breath to see if Cinder can pull it all off. The best part of this book is the conclusion. I could see how some might see it as anti-climactic, but I would let you know that it happens in a very realistic way.

The ending scenes are rather gruesome, and I appreciate that Meyer wrote the riot and war scenes without holding back. The realism of how an uprising like this might actually take place, and the consequences involved really pump up the suspense and should spark conversations with young people about dictatorships and society in general.  It’s basically the Hunger Games uprising on the moon, so if you liked Mockingjay you’ll like this book.

This wasn’t the best book of the four, but you have to read it to get to the intense, amazing, suddenly kind of half-satisfying ending, so go get you some.

BlogHer17 – Conference Thoughts

I’m sitting in a Hilton Garden Inn at the moment because my AC went out one day back from BlogHer at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and so I figured now was as good a time as ever to briefly go over my experience. If you are interested in seeing some of my pictures from the conference, you can visit me on instagram here:

https://www.instagram.com/angryangelbooks/

1. The Hotel

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek was absolutely spectacular. My room was large and clean and smelled nice and had a gorgeous view of the nature preserves. A common complaint from other attendees was that the food was expensive at the hotel and parking was exorbitant ($27 self park/$35 valet per day) but I feel like unless you booked very close to the conference, you would have had time to plan for this. Also…it’s a Hilton that is near theme parks. They’re gonna get you for stuff, but complaining isn’t going to change the nature of the beast. 

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The pool looked so amazing and had a lazy river that you could just float around in, but I was either so busy or so tired that I never made it down there. And I brought my sassy bikini too! I did enter a contest to win a two night stay there, so hopefully I will win and I can go for leisure and relax by the pool. There were several restaurants to choose from and since the Hilton was attached to the Waldorf via the conference rooms you had the option to go there to eat/use the pool too. 

13/10 would hotel again.

2. The Conference Food

In the days since the conference ended I have seen many complaints about the food provided by the conference. Buying a full conference pass earned you access to breakfast and lunch on Friday and Saturday, leaving dinner to be scrounged. I went down for breakfast on Saturday and found fruit and croissants and that earned a big fat NOPE from me. Lunch on Saturday was provided by Disney Studios’ Pandora and was AMAZING. I was also pretty hungry from not having breakfast so I enjoyed every bit (see above). 

I didn’t mind getting my own dinner. I think it offered people a chance to network, connect, visit, or to be alone when the rest of the day was filled with other obligations. I got room service Friday night, and a sandwich from the hotel store in the lobby on Saturday night. Since I only had to drive, I also brought my own snacks with me.

I feel very strongly that breakfast could be vastly improved. Throw a hot thing of scrambled eggs and bacon in there and it would have rounded things out nicely. I don’t need a waffle bar or anything super crazy, but the lack of hot options was really off putting.

3. The Expo Hall

expo

I was told time and time again that it didn’t matter how small you were, how new you were, that brands were there to meet you and connect and even small blogs had a chance at making a partnership. The Expo, where brands had booths set up for their company, was the place for that to happen. I was also under the impression that there would be samples that we could take home and write posts about as sort of auditions to write posts for the brand. 

I came home with a lot of…well…literature? And junk? I don’t want that to sound negative even though it does, but really it was a lot of sales as opposed to partnership conversations. I put my name in to become a member of the Medieval Times and Best Buy blogger networks but I’m not sure how those translate to $$$.

The one booth I stopped at that felt like it would fit really well was with Day Owl Rose’. The lovely marketing representative introduced me to their partner brand line39, which attempts to partner wines with experiences. If you click the link to go to their site, you’ll notice that they are currently pairing wines with the perfect weekend. We talked about pairing wines with books and a campaign that might show how that works with different kinds of characters, plots, etc. I hope that turns into something because it feels really interesting and natural – drinking wine while reading a book is like peas and carrots!

4. The Educational Sessions

Right here is my biggest regret from the conference. I should have gone to as many educational sessions as I could fit my body into. I chose two to attend – How to Create Multiple Online Income Streams and How to Start/Make a Podcast. Both were the most relevant to where I am right now and I have copious notes from both that I am going to put to use in the latter half of this year. (Podcast launching in July!) There were other sessions I should have gone to as well: How to Boost Facebook Traffic, Using SEO Strategies, and more that would just be ways to get more eyes on my content. When I go next year, I’m going to make it an educational endeavor and not so much about…

5. …Special Events

Because I was under the impression that no matter how small, blogs would be considered for sponsors and branding and partnerships, I worked very hard to get into special events to make an impression and to learn more about the brands. I participated in AM yoga with Florida Citrus Growers, an evening hosted event with Medieval Times, and a late-morning speed dating session with 6 brands: Disney, Medieval Times, Casper, Common Sense Media, Gumdrop (Goodshop), and KissAway Wipes. 

While fun, I don’t think participating in these improved my chances at a partnership, and very little chance for Q & A existed. When I go next year I think I will bypass these altogether in favor of the educational sessions and…

6. …Keynotes!

I was on the go go go! so much that I didn’t really have the opportunity to sit long enough to enjoy the keynote speeches. I wish I could have heard Luvvie Ajayi, Serena Williams, and Carla Hall. Chelsea Clinton was there too! I think at my next conference I want more time for education and inspiration. I did run into Luvvie near the elevators, and it was so sudden and I was so thankful she agreed to take a selfie with my sweaty post-Medieval Times self.

luvvie

Overall it was a great time, and I am already waiting to see where it will be held next year so I can take advantage of early bird pricing and book accommodations! I want a second chance to do it right. 🙂 For now though, I’m going to get my podcast started, continue to provide great content here on the blog, and keep growing!

 

Happee Birthday Harry

HP cake

The onslaught of Harry Potter posts today after my Harry Potter weekend informed me that it is the 20th anniversary of the release of HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I am not sure how I managed to miss these books until I was in college, but they’ve been around since 1997. I was 14 then and I’m only a little upset that I didn’t have these books in high school because I needed as much magic as I could get to survive that period of time. But I digress…

To know me is to know that I absolutely love Harry Potter. I re-read the books about once a year, and one of the Christmas requests that I’m most proud of is that I held out until all the movies were done to ask for the box set. The only thing I have asked for this year is to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Orlando, where I plan to buy everything.

money

There was a MySpace era survey going around Facebook and I thought it would be fun to go through and give my answers.

1. Favorite Character? This one is a three way tie between Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and Molly Weasley
2. Character you relate to the most, or are the most like? Another tie: Minerva McGonagall and Molly Weasley
3. Hogwarts House? Gryffindor (I’m sorted here on Pottermore and my patronus is a Newfoundland)
4. Hogwarts House you thought you were in when you were younger: Ravenclaw
5. Favorite Hogwarts Teacher: McGonagall
6. Favorite Common Room: Gryffindor
7. Least favorite character/ character you hate: Lucius Malfoy
8. Favorite movie Harry (which year?): Deathly Hallows Pt2
9. Favorite movie Ron: Half-Blood Prince
10. Favorite movie Hermione: Prisoner of Azkaban
11. Underappreciated character? Dobby the House Elf (in the movies)
12. Overappreciated character? I don’t think there is one. 
13. Favorite place explored in the books? The Forbidden Forest
14. Where do you wish they explored more in the books? The other houses’ common rooms and spaces.
15. Which cast member is the most like their character? Maggie Smith
16. Would you have brought cat, owl, or a toad? A cat (also, how come Ron gets to bring a rat? That is clearly not on the list.)
17. Favorite film? Half-Blood Prince
18. Least favorite film? Chamber of Secrets
19. Favorite book? Deathly Hallows
20. Least favorite book? Chamber of Secrets

I’m off to finish up the Lunar Chronicles and some Rainbow Rowell novels. Mischief managed. 🙂

 

The House – The Movie

The_House_(2017_film)

We all have our heroes. When Parks and Recreation was on TV, I loved watching Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson. I’m Ron on the outside, Leslie on the inside. As the show progressed I learned more about Amy Poehler as a person and was continually impressed. From Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls to SNL to her partner work with Tina Fey, she has been a powerhouse for a good long time, and a feminist icon to boot. I got her memoir “Yes Please” on a Kindle sale and now that I have the next month and a half off, I will finally have a chance to read it!

All of this makes my disappointment in her newest movie The House that much sharper. When I saw the initial teaser trailer it immediately put a bad taste in my mouth. Family in the suburbs with a daughter who gets into a top university, then upon discovering they don’t have enough in savings to send her to that college (like you didn’t realize that when she started applying? This isn’t something you looked into before her acceptance letter arrived?) they decide to open an illegal casino to make enough money to send her to college. In subsequent trailers they seem to “break bad” as they sink deeper into the casino and begin to enjoy running it.

I want to see this as a high satirical statement about the ridiculousness of the cost of higher education in this country – that families must go to great lengths to get their children the education they need to get good jobs, or rather the chance at good jobs. I am intelligent enough and well informed enough to see that this could be more than just a silly Will Ferrell movie.

All I feel is a very deep insult.

The idea that parents have enough money saved up to pay for their children to go to college is laughable. Scholarships, state reward programs, grants, and other non-debt options are in high demand and are not available to all. Private student loans have unbelievable interest rates and are not held to the same standards as federally funded Stafford or Direct loans, which offer more protection and more deferral options (note: for now). But the truth of the matter is that when parents can’t afford 100% of the cost of tuition, there are options for students to pay for higher education.

My parents couldn’t afford to send me to any college. Not even close. Not even a sparkle in their eyes. When they helped me get loans, they said specifically that while legally they were co-signing and could be compelled to pay the loans, I had better always pay them because they would not (really “could not”) help any more than just offering their names and credit histories. Bachelor’s, Master’s, and 2 years of a Doctoral degree later, I am very educated and have a lot of good experience, but I have looooooaaaaaaannnnssss for days. And I’m all alone. No one can help me if I can’t pay them. I can’t discharge them in bankruptcy (fuck you Congress), and my chances of making every payment on time for ten straight years as is required for FULL loan forgiveness is…hahahahahah….I’m sorry wait… I’m ROFL….*deep breath* okay I’ve got it under control.

So the fact that this movie makes a joke about the fact that these parents would do crazy illegal things rather than have their daughter take loans is offensive to me. Federal loans are available to children from families of all incomes. They are a last resort but they are an option. This movie shames me. This movie makes me feel dirty, poor, and furious. Every time these trailers come on I get angry. And I’m not just angry, I’m disappointed.

I’m disappointed in a role model. Amy Poehler really let me down by being a part of this movie, and I haven’t even seen it yet. Student loan debt is a huge problem in this country, higher education costs are an important issue, and this movie just seems to throw a giant pie in the face of both concerns. More broadly poor people in this country endure enough ridicule, enough shame, enough hoops to jump through to get the same help and opportunities as those with more money and connections to work with. More than a pie in the face, this movie feels like a slap in the face.

Chocolate and Book: Subscription Box

choc and book 7
Sorry about the picture. The stamp is really beautiful but it was not very clear.

For June we’re exploring the book subscription box Chocolate and Book. Its slogan is simple: something to read, something to eat, and something to drink. I ordered it from CrateJoy, which is a great resource for subscription boxes. Chocolate and Book comes from England and it was worth the wait.

choc and book 6

The wrapping was so nice and very personal. It was as if I was getting a care package from my British grandmother. The book is there on the left wrapped in tissue and silk ribbon. Someone actually Scotch taped the book like a present.

choc and book 5

Opening the tissue further revealed the something to eat and something to drink. Puppy was not included in the box. The candy is a chocolate and cherry pudding bar and the tea is chocolate mint.
choc and book 4

There were also a few very nice, personal notes within the box. Click to enlarge.

 

The book that was included was The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox. On Goodreads it has a 3.7 star rating, so that’s  enough that I don’t feel worried about reading it and possibly hating it.

choc and book 1

I think this is my favorite box so far. I know the tea will be good, and the book is one I wouldn’t have picked for myself, which is fun. We’ll see how the pudding bars are. But for this box I feel like I could enjoy all parts of it without it feeling like someone threw a bunch of knick knack junk in a box with a book that I have to find a use for.

This is a box I would recommend, especially if you are a tea drinker. Get a taste of England with Chocolate and Book!

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes

wishesI am a wicked sucker for stories about people who just leave everything they know and start fresh someplace else. One of my favorite books, Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God is about a woman whose husband dies, and she takes the life insurance money and sells her house and goes to grieve someplace away  from all the old memories and finds new friends and a new life in the process. I absolutely love stories like this, probably because it makes me dream about what it would be like to do something like that myself. To have that kind of financial freedom and safety to go on that kind of a soul-searching adventure.

Rachel is what we might call a witch, but with very specific magical powers. She can grant wishes. If someone wishes for something close enough to her, a small piece of paper will appear nearby and if she reads it and even thinks the wish, it will be granted. When she’s young without understanding how her ability works, she wishes her brother would “get lost” when he destroys her Lego castle – and he does. No one remembers he existed and she is sent to therapy and the psych ward at the local hospital for being so insistent that he did exist. She experiences very negative consequences at a very young age, and so develops the belief that her ability is dangerous and tries to squelch it.

After a long time without seeing any papers, she accidentally grants the wish of her best friend’s daughter on her birthday, Rachel decides that she would rather leave than hurt anyone she cares about, and ends up in the magical town of Nowhere. Her car suddenly runs out of gas and she is taken in by Catch, a local piemaker who has magical gifts of her own. She takes Catch up on her offer of staying in the attic, beginning a months long stay which will change her life and the lives of the people in that town forever.

This book had everything I love: redemption, discovery, hot make-out sessions, friendship, forgiveness, in-depth pie smell descriptions, new beginnings, and above all understanding and acceptance for who a person is. The kind of relief that comes from someone loving you for who you are, being able to be yourself without hiding or holding back, that’s relief that touches deep in the soul. I love reading a story that shows me that this kind of love or friendship might be possible. It’s like watching a flower unfurl, feeling safe to open up toward the sunshine.

I loved this book, and to be honest I was reading it at a time when I needed to see these things happening for someone, even if it was in a fiction novel. If you need redemption, if you need hope that you can start anew, if you need to believe that wishes can come true, pick up Susan Crispell’s The Secret Ingredient of Wishes. You will not be disappointed.