Confessions of a Shopaholic

Don’t worry. I’m not the shopaholic here. I just finished reading a book by that name by Sophie Kinsella. Rebecca Bloomwood is a financial journalist in London who loves to shop, especially when she’s depressed. She ignores the mounting piles of letters from her bank and credit card companies and goes merrily on her way. But one day after a disastrous date the night before, she tries to buy a large amount of items at a department store and discovers, to her amazement, that all her credit cards have been maxed out. She then runs home crying to Mom and Dad. Okay, she’s not exactly crying. She is, after all, a big girl. But she tells them she’s being stalked by a man who works at her bank, and they agree to let her stay for as long as necessary. While hiding out at her parents’ house, she discovers that their neighbors and others have been scammed by a major bank and writes an article about it which is published in a London tabloid. As a result, she ends up on a major morning television talk show and gets a contract to do call-ins on the show regarding financial issues on a regular basis. This should bring in enough extra money so she can pay off her debts.
Confessions of a Shopaholic is the first in a series of books, but right now, I’m not sure I want to read any more books in this series. I loved Sophie Kinsella’s first person point of view portrayal of Becky because I got the feeling Becky was talking to me directly. Of course, I was listening to a recording of the book I purchased from audible.com, and the English narrator did an excellent job. The problem is that I don’t like Becky Bloomwood. Time and time again, I found myself telling her off when she got herself into one mess after another.
Here’s one case in point. In an attempt to make more money so she can pay off her credit card debts, she gets a Saturday job working in a clothing store. While stocking shelves, she discovers a pair of jeans she absolutely must have and plans to buy them later while she’s on her break. After being assigned to help customers in the fitting rooms, a girl appears, carrying that same pair of jeans, and in a vain attempt to keep them for herself, Becky tells her that she can only try on three items, and she has four. The girl agrees to try everything else on except the jeans. Becky hides them, and when much to her horror, the girl asks for them after trying everything else on, she hems and haws until the girl becomes angry, and the manager appears. Becky is fired on the spot. My poor husband didn’t know what to think when at that point, I said, “Oh, God, Becky, how could you be so stupid?”
I don’t think Becky understood the severity of her circumstances, even at the end of the book. If she did, she didn’t want to admit she was wrong. I prefer to read a book with a main character with whom I can empathize, and I really have a hard time understanding people like Becky Bloomwood. To learn more about Sophie Kinsella and her books, visit http://www.sophiekinsella.co.uk/
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome
Advertisements

Chicken Soup for the Soul

I’ve been reading Chicken Soup for the Soul: Children with Special Needs. This is a compilation of stories by parents, teachers, and others working with disabled children. Having been a disabled child myself, I feel a special bond with these children and their parents.
Fortunately, my parents didn’t have to put up with screaming, head banging, or other destructive behaviors of autistic or emotionally disturbed children, nor did they have to deal with a debilitating physical disordered that confined me to a wheelchair. The only part of my body that didn’t’ work well and still doesn’t is my eyes.
Even so, teaching a child with a visual impairment how to care for herself and do other tasks can be a challenge, and the  Arizona School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson, where we lived, was little help. They taught me to read and write Braille, and I learned English, spelling, and arithmetic like any sighted child, but when I was ten, the school sent my parents a letter telling them that over the summer, they needed to teach me certain skills such as making a bed and fixing myself a sandwich, and if they failed, I would have to live in the dormitory the following year. I don’t remember much about that summer, but I do know that my mother taught me how to make my bed, peel a banana, pour myself a glass of chocolate milk, and eat a sandwich. In the fall, I was tested, and I passed.
There’s my tale of triumphing over adversity as a disabled child. If Chicken Soup for the Soul were publishing an anthology about disabled children in the sixties when I was growing up, my mother would have told them her story. To learn more about Chicken Soup for the Soul books, go to http://www.chickensoup.com/
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

Julie and Julia

I recently watched this movie for the first time. It was released in 2009 so why did I wait two years to see it? When a movie is first made available in theaters, it’s not that accessible to those of us who don’t see well. If I sit close to the front of the theater, I can see most of the action on the screen but not everything. So I prefer to wait until the movie is available in a described format, meaning that a voice describes everything including the action, costumes, and scenery.
The same goes for books. Most are only available in print when they’re first released. Although I have a desktop magnifier, reading that way is a tiresome process. I’d rather wait until the book is either recorded by a live human being or made available in a format that can be read by a text to speech engine.
“Julie and Julia” is a true story of two women. In 2002, insurance agent Julie Powell decides to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s first cookbook in 365 days and blog about it. This is intertwined with the story of how Julia Child wrote her first cookbook in the late 1940’s.
When I was a child, I loved watching an educational program on PBS called “The Electric Company.” It was aimed at teaching children to read and consisted of a variety of sketches. One piece was about a bumbling chef by the name of Julia Grown-up who laid dresses over salads, broke bowls, dropped them in wishing wells, and tried to mix eggs without breaking them first instead of using salad dressing, breaking eggs, dropping them into bowls, and mixing well.  It wasn’t until I was grown up that I heard of  Julia Child.
At one point in the movie after Julie Powell has received numerous offers from publishers and agents for a book about her experiences, she receives a phone call from a reporter who recently interviewed Julia Child. Apparently, Julia told the reporter that what Julie was doing was disrespectful. Julia Child must have been even less impressed with Julia Grown-up.
At the end of the movie, Julia Child opens a manila envelope containing a copy of her first book. This reminded me of the time I opened a box containing thirty copies of my novel, We Shall overcome. How exhilarating it was to hold my book in my own two hands and gaze in wonder upon the cover.
I wish that like  Julie Powell, I could come up with something ingenious that I could blog about and end up with a book deal. I don’t think I’ll try cooking any of Julia Child’s recipes, though. I couldn’t bring myself to drop a live lobster into a pot of boiling water, and the process of boning a duck sounds similar to that of dissecting a frog in eighth grade science class, and that made me sick. Maybe something else will come to me. In the meantime, I just sent a manuscript of poems to a publisher. Will see what happens.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

First Word

I recently read Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry by Donald Hall. One thing he said struck me as interesting. The first word he learned to read when he went to school was that. I wish I could remember the first word I learned to read. My mother once told me that the first word I spoke was ashtray which is strange because I’ve never smoked. In the first grade, I remember reading about the adventures of Dick, Jane, Tom, and Betty who encouraged each other to ride fast, on bicycles, I’m assuming. There was also the dog Spot who chased a blue ball.
My mother is gone now, and I doubt my father would know the first word I learned to read because he was away most of the time. If any of you remember the first word you learned to read or would like to share any other childhood memories, please use the comment box below. If you have trouble, you can e-mail me, using the link below, and I’ll post your comments for you. Happy reading!
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome