31 May 2014

Nerdsville Book Club: Eeeny Meeny, By M.J. Arlidge

A few months ago, my fellow blogger friends Ragini, Isha and I realized that we share more than a love of fashion, body confidence and quirky styling: a passion for literature. Those of you who are recurring readers of mine have probably stumbled upon more than one post referring to my binge reading or qualms with film adaptations of certain beloved books! We began chatting via social media about starting up a book club, and were slowly joined by Cynthia and Charlotte in the banter. Thanks to Isha’s exceptional organization skills, a Facebook page was created and a group e-mail session set up. We all came to the decision that our reviews and commentary on our chosen monthly book would be best posted onto our individual blogs, but we will be linking to each other’s pages so that hopefully readers will check out what we all have to say. These are beautiful, intelligent women whose writing and input I cherish, and I am so pleased to be part of this Nerdsville Book Club with them.
Our May book, chosen by Charlotte, is Eeeny Meeny, by M.J. Arlidge.
Eeeny Meeny is high-end British drama producer M.J. Arlidge’s debut novel, and it shows – at times, in refreshing bursts of energy and life, but at others, in painful, borderline offensive comments that have the potential to be funny (ish), but come off instead as offensive due to poor editing and seemingly rushed writing:

“Could a woman have dragged Sam by herself – all twelve stone of him – or would she have needed an accomplice?” (43) – Just one quick example.

“She kind of looked like a social worker, except she wasn't depressed and her clothes were all right” (107) – Maybe one more.

As a rookie novelist, Arlidge’s thriller is filled with possibilities – moments during which you think, “This is it. Things are going to get good now,” but said instances are quickly trumped by plot developments that seem crudely inserted in at the last minute, and hyperbolic events with little purpose other than shock factor.

Arlidge’s story itself is one that on paper should greatly appeal to me. His novel, which follows a pattern of abductions, imprisonments, starvation and psychological and physical torture, puts the characters through some of the nastiest situations imaginable. Their humanity is tested. Their morality challenged. In order to escape, prisoners must kill or be killed. But like any good psychopathic villain, their kidnapper has planned their captivities carefully, of course. The pairs are not strangers. They are couples, mother and child, friends, business partners, colleagues supposedly fighting for the same cause. When your survival depends on taking the life of someone you know well – of someone you love more than life itself in some cases – what do you do? Who do you sacrifice? Do you choose to die?

The reason writers like Hubert Selby Junior (Requiem for a Dream) and Tracy Letts (August: Osage County) appeal to me is because they have the beautiful ability to put their characters through raw, unthinkably gruesome struggles, and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of homo sapiens’ minds and hearts along the way. They highlight our fragility, our instinctual self preservation, our loyalty (or lack thereof) toward others. The reality is that most of us are only human, and grim tales of suffering often (not always) fascinate us. For me, there needs to be more to a tale than blood for the sake of blood, though. There must be emotion. There must be profoundness tucked within the words on the page. As we watch Detective Inspector Helen Grace discover one set of murders after another, we fear for her stability. Her background, predominantly unclear to us, is one we at least know has come with its share of toils. Her mental release of choice, coated in sadomasochistic tendencies, leaves much to be desired for her psychological safety, and we do remain on edge, waiting to discover her fate.

But it is the prisoners who keep us gripped time after time. Had we seen fewer victims up close, the story would have quickly become obsolete and drifted toward the land boring books set aside to collect dust. It is that we always know there will be more – and suspect that even our main characters are at danger – that keeps us reading. And though the profoundness I crave in my literature – that thing that makes you reflect and remember a book days, weeks and years to come –  is somewhat absent, I could not help become immersed in the victims’ outcomes. Who would kill who? Who would take their own life? Would any pair choose to die together?

Arlidge succeeds in that he makes readers question why they personally are attracted to such tales, and in keeping us sufficiently entertained so that we read the book to its end, where we then find out it will have an unnecessary sequel to it. But he does not succeed in convincing us that he is a good writer. Often, he drifts into cliché and mainstream moralistic phrasing. His career in television transpires through passages and full graphs that come off as blatant stage direction rather than literature. But alas, Arlidge entertained. It is that his goal seemed purely to do so, and not to impact and challenge and relay deep thought, that bothered me.

Eeny Meeny has potential. That we know from early on that the villain is a woman is an interesting plot line in and of itself. Stories along similar genres tend to feature men as the evil geniuses behind the series of unfortunate events we are presented with. That it tests people to its limits in physical, psychological and emotional capacities is gripping. But that the author seemed to rush the story – seeming not to give much thought to his words or how far and deep and subsequently more interesting he could make them – left me somewhat vacant and unsatisfied.

While not my favorite, and certainly not a future repeat read, I do think this book has potential for those interested in crime fiction or horror, especially on the screen. Oftentimes Eeny Meeny felt like a TV script, and while that just didn't work for me in this case, it definitely might for someone else. It's important, I find, in literature and in life, to drift outside your comfort zone and delve into new things. I don't have much experience with crime/horror fiction or film, so this read was a rewarding experience overall.

For more, check out these lovely ladies' posts:

Ragini on A Curious Fancy

26 May 2014

Solar Peace, Well It Swirls And Sweeps

This fall will mark my second anniversary of blogging. In that time, I have been lucky. I feel like I have a platform to share my thoughts and feelings and ranty dwellings when it comes to size acceptance, fashion or just daily experiences and adventures -- with kind, open-minded strangers and friends ready to listen, to read and to share their own views. I've met people who have touched my heart and mind, and inspired me to keep putting words onto pages.
Just over a month after I started Big, Beautiful and Bold (this blog's previous title), I reached out to Marcy Guevara, former Big Girl in a Skinny World columnist at Marie Claire and founder of The Marcy Minute, to request an interview for my blog. Marcy was one of the few plus-size women I knew of at the time who successfully managed to meld a love of journalism and of body confident-promoting fashion into a career, and she remains an inspiration and a figure of hope. Naturally, I wanted to know all her secrets and styling advice and goals.
I received something of an epic shock when she not only said yes to the interview, but invited me to attend the launch party of the Lane collection by Lane Bryant in Manhattan, where I was going to school at the time. That night would reify my desire to be part of not just the blogosphere, but of the efforts of plus-size women to feel integrated and accepted and respected by the mainstream. I will always have so much gratitude to Marcy for inviting a rookie blogger to such a beautiful evening, where I got to meet Candace Huffine and Jay Manuel and sip cocktails whilst doing it.
I also have Marcy to thank for being introduced to City Chic -- the Australian brand founded in Australia circa 2006 that has since opened 79 stores and operates in New Zealand, America and Canada. City Chic designs under the mantra of creating BOLD, SEXY, GLAM and CHIC apparel for the plus-size woman who "is not defined by the way she looks, but by the way she feels and embraces her curves." I gravitate toward retailers who make clothes for women to feel beautiful and confident in, as opposed to those who inherently seem to design to hide the body and reiterate the "shame" we are supposed to feel for having fat on it. City Chic is certainly the former, so when they reached out and asked if I would be interested in trying out some pieces from the new collection, there was no two ways about it.
This polka dot dress called by name the moment I saw it. The criss-crossed neckline adds a bit of a daring, sexy touch to an otherwise classic-cut piece. I love the flow of this dress, because it reminds me of something Marilyn would have worn, but with modernity's influence shining through in the contrasting elements and color. As I've gotten older, I've stepped back from the tom boy I once was, and craved a more traditionally feminine aesthetic, for which this dress is ideal. It balances flowiness and comfort effortlessly, and needs very little styling or accessorizing due to its accents and neckline. In other words, it's pretty perfect for days you want keep to your style but put very little time into getting ready -- which, I will be honest, is most days for me.
Because the weather has started shifting to a more summery vibe, and this dress definitely feels ideal for the season, I finally got to break out the floppy hat that Claires UK was kind enough to send me last year after I attended a blogger event in Manchester. It is literally the only styling I added to this dress, and ultimately I think the two blend intrinsically well.
Get the Look:
Spotty Blues Dress, $98, c/o City Chic
Shimmer Monochrome Floppy Hat, $30, c/o Claires UK


08 May 2014

Freezing Air Is Getting Thin

Despite the allergies that is produces, I love the changing of the seasons. The air loses that chill crispness, the trees begin blossoming and all the hopefulness that summer breeds starts feeling approachable and imminent.
A few weeks ago, the folks at Simply Be announced their new collection in collaboration with Look Magazine. I'm not hugely into mainstream fashion mags, if I'm being totally honest. Despite interning at and blogging for Marie Claire for a few months my senior year at N.Y.U., I've always been frustrated at the minimal inclusion of articles geared at a larger size range of women. I like Marie Claire far more than, let's just say, Vogue, and Nicolette Mason's Big Girl in a Skinny World column is definitely a must-read every month, but for the most part, mainstream magazines are for the skinny girl in a skinny world. So that being said, I was pretty intrigued by the concept of a well-known British fashion mag collaborating with a major plus brand that I know and love.
Look Magazine for Simply Be is filled with patterns. You guys know I'm a bold pattern kind of girl, and the plus-size fashion rule that says bigger women can only wear solids is amongst my favorite ones to break. From floral jumpsuits to snake print maxis, this is an experimental, quirky, incredibly interesting collection. When a group of bloggers, including myself, were asked to choose their favorite piece for review, I knew mine had to be this galaxy print duster jacket. The print alone was cause for celebration -- being that I am a Trekkie/sci-fi lover/basically-Amy-from-Big-Bang-Theory. But what most surprised me is that despite having that mild blazer look, this jacket is not office-y at all. I'm not normally a blazer person, but the airy casualness is perfect for day-to-day use. 
What I most love about the jacket (besides the print) is the length. A fan of longer coats in general as opposed to cropped-ones, the length is what I think enables the jacket to transition from day to night use effortlessly. My only complaint would be that it is a bit of a large, loose fit, but sizing down should easily remedy the issue. I'm always cautious of wearing a baggy coat/sweater over a flowy dress or skirt, just because I like my shape to be highlighted rather than obscured, so pairing the duster with my more body-hugging Collectif top and trousers seemed like a good move.
Check out how Callie Thorpe of From the Corners of the Curve styled the same piece here!

Get the Look:
Galaxy Print Duster Jacket, $80, c/o Simply Be
Renie Gypsy Gingham Cropped Top, $41, Collectif
Bonnie Cigarette Trousers, $36, Collectif


02 May 2014

Summer Arrives With A Length Of Lights; Summer Blows Away, And Quietly Gets Swallowed By A Wave

This summer is going to be different, but it's hard to explain exactly why. Though it will be my second one in the UK, it kind of feels like the first. Last year was a really stressful mess of visas and border agencies and immigration issues -- and though Patrick and I escaped for about 10 days on a road trip through Britain, the summer was veiled by questions and insecurities about my status in the country. Now that we don't have that issue this summer, relaxation seems imminent. And one way we're planning on doing so is attending festivals.
So I know the U.S. has a festival scene, i.e. Coachella, Lollapalooza, Burning Man. But it's always been my impression that some of them (principally Coachella) are all about the celebrity factor, rather than the music or the vibe. In all honesty, I've never been to one, so I cannot say with certainty what they're like. But I've never felt like festival culture was much of a thing back home -- whereas over here, it's the quintessential summer experience. There are the top tier festivals: the ones with the obscenely jam-packed lineup of top-40 stars and thousands upon thousands of spectators and no room to breathe. But there are also a ton of smaller festivals that are more about the feeling and the process of making friends and getting totally off your face and camping in a field, on top of discovering independent musicians and small bands as a bonus. 
I've been in the pre-festival mood for weeks now, so when I saw this dress from Beloved Endeavor Vintage, an Etsy shop run by Deena Dee in Preston, I couldn't help but envisage myself wearing it at The Green Gathering -- the festival I'm most looking forward to this year. I can't describe it as anything other than psychedelic grandma chic. It's a calf-length, vintage style piece, reminiscent of the dresses I've seen my own Abuelita wearing in old '40's photos. But the pattern is trippy and fun, and paired with this straw hat I found in Brighton -- ideal for summer. Considering this is England, I wanted something that would be airy and comfortable, but still warm enough to brave unexpected and inevitable rain showers and winds, and I think I found the perfect thing.
Beloved Endeavor Vintage sells new and vintage pieces in sizes 14 and up, as well as accessories. It's one of the best shops I've found in terms of authenticity and size range. The prices are pretty reasonable, with items starting as low as $15, but spreading into the hundreds depending on quality and brand. 
This post was sponsored by Beloved Endeavor Vintage. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

I leave you with this GIF...
And a song, of course.

Shoes are from ModCloth, but are unfortunately sold out :(
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