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Trigger warning for eating disorders

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-16-19

The first part of Running on Empty was hugely validating, and I experienced it as a big relief. It helps me to understand what happened to me and my sister, what happened to our parents in addition to the abuse we know they experienced, and why they were unable to meet our needs, or cope with one disabled / high-needs sibling. Many of the examples she used were things that *literally happened to me*. It helps me quite a bit to have words and names to describe what I experienced, and why it had an impact. I can now understand that I was raised with / by authoritarian parents, with a disabled / high-needs sibling - two family dynamics that tend to create environments for emotional neglect.

I really wish the therapists I had seen over the past twenty years had been educated in emotional neglect and hidden psychological abuse. It has been so frustrating to present with symptoms of trauma, but not be able to point to enough significant traumatic incidents. I feel like this book has provided a map for the path I've been walking my whole life.

...Except for the second section. Between the robotic narrator (speed up your playback to 1.25x it helps a bit) and the new years resolution style "change sheets" I suggest you manage your expectations for the "overcoming childhood neglect" section. I think the authour is excellent at observation and understanding family dynamics, but is frankly rather useless at giving advice in a book. She did say the reader should take a "buffet" approach and take only what is useful to them, but there was nothing here that your average life coach or self help book or facebook meme hasn't already covered many times.

Frustratingly, as I'm recovering from an eating disorder which I developed in part because of messages perpetuated in the advice part of this book, the authour suggested things like, "Practice resisting three things a day, such as not eating a piece of chocolate cake." She qualified that a bit, but it's a ludicrous statement. You don't simply resist an impulse to eat anything once, or three times in a day. That's not how diets work, that's not how deprivation works, and that's not how healing disordered eating works either. No matter where you are from any kind of eating disorder, this is terrible advice. If you have been depriving yourself through dieting by internalizing messages like those in this book that suggest if you're overweight, it's because you've been eating to self-soothe for the love you didn't receive, therefore in order to be healthy you should replace "emotional eating" almost entirely with other "healthy habits". If you don't understand why this is harmful, I suggest you start with the podcast, "Food Psych" by Christy Harrison.

It doesn't get really bad until the second section of the book, so even if you do have an eating disorder, I still recommend this book and strongly suggest you skip the second section, or at least skip the sections on eating, exercise, and self-discipline. No one knows self-discipline like an eating disorder veteran, and again, any "healthy habits" book would suggest you document changes you're trying to make in your life. Frankly, the sections on rest and self care were ridiculous too. Rest when you need it - but don't rest too much! Come on. Any depression-veteran has had every well-meaning person in their life tell them to rest and exercise. It's the generic advice for everything from period cramps to major life transitions to grief management.

Instead, the book "Healing from hidden psychological abuse" has practical, more actionable advice, and does not imply your internal suffering is simply solved over time through forced behavior changes tracked with "change sheets". "Healing from hidden psycological abuse" is also safe for those recovering from eating disorders, as it never states nor implies changing your weight or eating habits is simply a matter of willpower.

I give the first section of this book 5 stars. It's set me on the road to understanding myself and my family dynamics.

Poorly written, poor narration

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-05-18

The story may as well have been read by Siri, the narrator was monotone, and his cadence repetitive.

The story itself was written like a newspaper article. Facts and events listed, very little humanity.

While the events themselves were horrific, no effort was made to flesh out the lives or characters of the women involved. It was like listening to a robot recite court transcripts.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sadly, I got pretty bored with this one.

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-16-18

I do generally enjoy autobiographies. Jennings' story has all the elements of a great, though heartbreaking story.

I think a combination of the narrator, the pacing of the story, and the perspective from the child only, with no insight or retrospect from the adult authour just doesn't give me the depth I usually appreciate from autobiographies.

It's just the authour's choice, putting the story together in this way, and I don't think I'll even finish it. There's no idea of who Jennings is now. It's like you're floating along side his childhood self, watching helplessly as he is tossed from this home to that.

The language and emotional tone is repetitive. "Oh boy, oh gosh, gee whiz" yet there is no emotive elements to the performance, and the conversation feels flat.

Listened all the way through in one day.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-03-18

If you've ever been labelled as "overweight" or "obese" you can likely relate to what Whitney has been through. I have certainly been labelled "obese" in the past, and paid thousands of dollars to "bariatric doctors" and clinics to help me perfect an eating disorder, which still affects me twenty years later.

If I had known then what I know now, and what is witnessed, and validated, in Whitney's book, I NEVER would have dieted in the first place! It is completely pointless!!!

Now in my 40s, mid-life, a time when women are actually more likely to develop disordered eating than in their teens, I have found health at every size, I have begun to rebuild my body after dieting and hormone issues took their toll (fortunately surgery fixed me!) I can honestly say I'm healthier now, even though I'm heavier than ever - and the narrative that weight is some sort of vital sign that trumps all the other health markers - has to stop!

Thank you Whitney for being fabulous, and for sharing your story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

I am shocked by my powerful dislike of this book.

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-22-18

Spoilers ahead.
*

Good fiction asks you to suspend your disbelief in order to invest in the characters and sink into the story.

I'm happy to do that for Jennifer Weiner, who has written several other books I enjoyed. WHAT HAPPENED JEN?!

Is the authour a self-hating fat person? I hate to be harsh, but in contrast to other fat characters in Jennifer's other books, Addie's stories of struggle don't culminate in growth and self-acceptance. She loses weight through a restrictive diet, which many fat people have done, and then is *fixed* - and then gets pregnant! A pregnant neighbour moves in, who is ALSO pregnant! Yay! The cycle of friendship between neighbour girls continues! That's our big ending. The ending was tacked on.

AND given the character's very recent weight loss, the book did not at all address what happens to 95% of people who go on a self-hating diet and lose 50, 80, 100, 200 lbs - they GAIN IT BACK 95% of the time within 5-7 years! Especially when there are things like pregnancy happening. This "lost the weight, had a crazy friend adventure, then lived happily ever after" seemed like a complete cop-out for Jennifer, who I know is a large woman as well, so I have to wonder if the authour is really writing about a hope for herself? I'm sure she must know the stats, and as Jennifer established herself with fat characters like Cannie and Rose, I was shocked to see a weight loss rainbows and unicorns story in one of Jennifer's books!

There was no real resolution between Val and Addie - and I couldn't quite suspend my disbelief that Addie, who withdrew 10K in her own savings to cover Val's attempt at bank robbery, and had to LOSE 2K of it to a bank teller bribe, harbored no resentment of Val at all.

A relatable character would have been pissed, given their history of friendship and how Val had essentially dropped Addie for 10+ years.

The dynamic of their friendship didn't really work for me. I could identify with Addie in several ways, but Addie didn't seem to have much of an inner life - she didn't seem at all conflicted when Val swept back into her life like a Cat 4 hurricane, especially when Val explained she'd maybe killed her rapist, the man and event that resulted in the destruction of their friendship and the narrowing of Addie's world, and Addie's complete abandonment to deal with the deaths of her parents and the long-term needs of her brother ALONE. Gee, she really could have used a friend during those years! Where were you VAL!?

Addie apparently forgives Val for everything, instantly, without any sort of inner dialogue - which is what initially threw me out of the narrative. Just, "Oh hey, you're back, sure I guess I'll go on the lam with you as you dodge the law for maybe killing your rapist. Why not! I only have an appointment with an oncologist and a potentially expensive fight for my life coming up, but hey, even though you dumped me as a friend I'll jump RIGHT BACK on your bandwagon!"

She still isn't even a tiny bit resentful of the money she spent on this trip when she finds out she's actually pregnant, not dying, and now needs to provide for her child as a single mother on a greeting card designer commission. Val is a TV personality with money for monthly laser skin resurfacing, but offers Addie no help with setting up her house for the new baby.

What about the baby's father? He just disappears? She never tells him? That thought never seems to occur to Addie either - again no inner life! Just, "My baby." That's it.

And the rapist repents. Yay? This part of the book pissed me off, because these men don't repent. They certainly don't apologize to their victims, admit guilt, or turn themselves in. They don't suddenly start to care that their mother was disappointed in them. The "Holy Mary" thing? What the heck was that?

No, entitled guys like that don't suddenly wake up and feel sorry. Maybe they go to therapy and become better men. Maybe another man they look up to sets a better example and THEN they start to do some inner work.

It was icky and gross too because the book sooooort of implies that if Val had just been able to tell the rapist that he had hurt her and she was angry with him, that maybe he would have had this epiphany back in high school. I'm sure that's not what the author intended, but I can see that interpretation.

The cop narrative was boring to me. I'm not a fan of the beach-read-mystery genre, and I didn't know that Jennifer was trying to write for it. It was OBVIOUS where that story line was going from the very beginning, and as the story is supposed to be about Val and Addie, I found myself impatient to get back to their chapters, and not really invested in what the cop was doing or thinking, since clearly he would end up with Addie in the end.

Oh, and he has no problem with raising Addie's child from a previous, very recent affair. AFFAIR. His last wife cheated on him, yet he's perfectly happy to make a lifetime commitment to a woman who slept with a married man for months, was dumped, but is keeping his baby? What??? That's not the kind of conversation that happens SO SOON into a relationship! This baby is the result of a longer-term affair with a married doctor. Her relationship with the cop is BRAND NEW and she's not even six months out from the last encounter with the doctor. Cop immediately says he will commit to raising her baby.

Um, RED FLAG!? What???

Why not do a flash-forward or something to when the child is a toddler and the cop proposes?

This whole book seems like Jennifer took a swing at a concept and came up with a half-decent first draft. For whatever reason it was rushed to publishing, or maybe it was an awesome first draft and it was butchered in editing.

Sadly, this does not at all live up to my J. Weirner favourites. Sorry. Returned the book.




1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Loved!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-04-18

I vaguely knew who Hannah Hart was from her YouTube videos, which didn't really resonate with me, probably because I'm so much older than her... but she got my subscribe and occasional views anyway, because as an older dyke, I like to give support to the young queers who come behind me (just as my seniors supported me.)

This book showed me how much Hannah held back of herself from her channel - with good reason - and the fact she shared it here has converted me into a true fan.

Autobiographies can sometimes take the shine off someone I'm invested in, but with Hannah it's made me understand what's going on behind those videos.

Keep on creating, Hannah!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Overall enjoyable, but a tad disappointing

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-10-18

Any additional comments?

I really enjoyed the resolution of some of Cannie's story arcs, and it satisfied my curiosity about what happened after Good In Bed (which was one of my favourite books).

Certain Girls did leave me feeling somewhat deflated. Cannie's internal conflict about her father, her mother, her mother's partner, her ex-boyfriend - all of these issues were very relate-able with a 20-something character. We all go through this type of personal growth.

But now Cannie is in her 40s, and I had hoped she had grown. The sarcastic and sometimes mean comments about her mother's homosexuality are cringe-worthy. Has she really not gotten over this? Has her mother's partner really not redeemed herself in Cannie's eyes by now? This detail of her mother being a lesbian could be so fun, but Cannie seems to have held on to this sense of resentment about it all. It was understandable when it was a fresh development for Cannie's character, but has she really never grown to love and accept her mother's partner in 15 years?

That was disappointing, and it seemed that the "gay jokes" or sarcastic remarks just made me dislike Cannie, and sympathize with her mother, and it made me notice all the other sarcastic remarks that passed for humour in the book. It seems to me that Cannie was incredibly fortunate in Book 1, which ended on a high note, why was she still hurting or resentful in Book 2? Girl, things worked out well for you!

I was also surprised and a bit saddened that Cannie and Bruce's relationship hadn't evolved either. It's realistic, but it's a missed opportunity too.

I bought Good In Bed the audiobook version shortly after listening to Certain Girls, wondering if maybe *I* had outgrown Cannie, but the audio version of Good In Bed is just as funny and sympathetic as I remembered.

I did really enjoy the development of Joy, Cannie's daughter, and I loved the increased presence and development of Cannie's sister.

I feel like an event at the end of the book was unnecessary, and it left me feeling sad and angry. Yes, life is hard sometimes, but this seemed cruel in a fictional world, and although it resulted in some further growth for Joy, that growth could have been achieved through another plot device.

It's also a bit tough to empathize with Cannie knowing she got a book deal that secured her future, yet she shied away from the attention she received. Why not have her go all in, like Lindy West - Cannie was described by Bruce as a "foot-soldier in the body wars" in Book 1 - what happened? Why didn't Cannie get a twitter account? Learn to stand up for herself, set boundaries in real life, deal with trolls? Where is our fat girl heroine? And her friendship with Maxie seemed so strong and immediate in Book 1, yet Maxie was barely there in Book 2.

I'm glad Certain Girls was written, as a Good In Bed fan, I really appreciate the continuation of the story and the characters, so I can have some resolution as to what happened after Book 1... but it's a fictional story, so I wanted a happier ending, to be honest. It was sort of a happy ending. I feel like we need a third book!

PLEASE use a different narrator!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-28-18

How could the performance have been better?

The narrator is terrible. The cadence is repetitive, the volume and tone of her voice go up and down with every sentence. I put it on 1.25x speed which helped a bit, but the problem of the volume of her voice means I find myself turning the volume up to hear the quiet bits, and down when she does the certain character voices.

This is just an annoying style of narration, please use someone like Denica Fairman. She has a similar accent but a much nicer narration style.

Any additional comments?

I really love Casey's fostering memoirs, and I have listened to "Groomed" several times. Definitely a keeper.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Disappointing. Spoilers below.

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-16-17

Privileged girl is whisked away to have her baby in secret. For five months she keeps company with underprivileged pregnant teens and is nice to them, influences one or two to consider adoption, learns that her own family feels entitled to the best of everything, yet despite all this wealth, no one even offers to help her with keeping her and her baby together.

Girl signs the papers, and reflects on how nice it is to return to her own life, but what a bummer it is to have to keep this secret - but at least she will be able to keep living her life.

Then the book ends.

That is why i am giving this just 2 stars. Did she never think of the baby again? Did the child grow up and seek contact? Does the girl ever wonder what might have been if she had kept her baby?

Adoption stories don’t end with the paperwork. This reads almost like a book written for teens considering adoption, under-emphasizing the lasting emotional impact of adoption and the trauma is causes mother and child. It glosses over that part saying she was told it is normal
to get the blues.

No follow up with the other girls in the home, either.

I will never re-listen to this book, the ending was so disappointing.

Everyone has a right to tell their story, and that’s fine, i just have limited empathy for a privileged girl whose biggest story to tell is how she once had a baby, then gave it away and everything was okay. Compared to all the other girls in that home, i don’t really care about Liz by the end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

fantastic, riveting, heartbreaking.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-19-17

What did you love best about Sometimes Amazing Things Happen?

As a hospital administrator, I loved listening to this psychiatrist's autobiography of managing this psychiatric floor of the famous Bellview hospital, serving patients from the infamous Rikers Island.

I especially loved the disaster management part of her story after hurricane Sandy hit New York. I work for an isolated rural hospital, serving a vulnerable population, and we could very well see a similar scenario one day.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful