Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

0ea3b551-3abc-4cfd-89b9-2d4b8a454633.jpg

Wolf Hall was the winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize, and one I’ve heard everyone who loves historical fiction RAVE about it. So when I got the urge to dig into a big old book, I ended up picking this one, because my fascination with the Tudors was just too much to resist! But I will start off by saying this is not an “easy-to-read” novel, it requires attention, but is so fascinating.

It’s the 1520’s and on, and Tudor England is in the throes of its own chaos. Henry VIII has begun the arduous feat of annulling his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, due to the fact that he hasn’t been born a living male heir. He is ending his marriage of 20 years, to marry the elusive Anne Boleyn. Although the Pope, England, and Europe is opposing this marriage, he leans on Thomas Cromwell to help him scheme his plan into action. Cromwell, who was known as a family man, lawyer, an entrepeneur, and a bully, slowly helps him work his plan into action.

You all know that I have an undying love for historical fiction, and Wolf Hall is probably one of the most researched, epic novels I’ve read in this genre. I had sat with my computer, or phone while I read this book, and looked SO many things up throughout it. From the terrible torture methods, to the plotting characters, Hilary Mantel nailed it. I cannot even imagine how long his novel must have taken her to write.

A great thing to know and use in this novel, is the Cast of Characters at the start of the book, because let me tell you, there are a whole lot of Thomas’, Henry’s, and Johane’s! The storyline tends to follow a linear path, with some little side trips along the way. Mantel tells us the past of Cromwell through these little side trips, which start to make the reader realize why he may have turned out to be the scheming character he was. Historically Cromwell has been seen as a villain, but Mantel chose to make him into the hero of this novel. This is an interesting point of view, and she does such a great job convincing you that he was a visionary who could be counted on to get the job done.

On the day of the trial, rivers breach their banks; the Thames itself rises, bubbling like some river in Hell, and washes its flotsam over the quays.

Lastly, I’d be remise if I didn’t mention the character that was not in the official cast… the setting! The descriptions of the city, and the river were just so well done you felt like you needed to pour yourself a cup of tea to get the dampness out of your bones.

Until next time, happy reading!

Advertisements

The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict

IMG_0905

I’m going to be honest with you. I purely put this book on hold at the library because it’s just such a gorgeous cover. I didn’t even know what it was about until I picked it up to read it, but in this case you can judge a book by it’s cover!

Hedy Kiesler, who is later known as the famous Hollywood actress Hedy Lemarr, is lucky. Her beauty leads to a starring role in a controversial film and marriage to a powerful Austrian arms dealer, which gives her a pass to the Nazi persecution despite her Jewish heritage. But Hedy’s not just a pretty face, she’s also intelligent. At lavish Vienna dinner parties, she overhears the Third Reich’s plans. One night in 1937, desperate to escape her controlling husband and the rise of the Nazis, she disguises herself escapes her husband’s grasp. Eventually Hedy has made it to Hollywood where she is on the big screen, but even through her success cannot shake the survivor’s guilt she is suffering from. Hedy’s past inside knowledge, leads her to a place where she decides to use it and invent something that would help save lives.

I really enjoyed this book, and was sucked in instantly. You are thrown into the 30’s glamour, and lavishness by experiencing Hedy growing up and becoming her own self. Obviously the fact that she decided to successfully invent a technology we still use today is impressive, but also the fact that she decided to escape a very abusive, yet monetarily comfortable, life, is where you see her strength begin to build.

The most chilling thing about this novel is the moments where Hedy is in the same room as the Third Reich and overhearing the terrible things that they believed, and wanted to put into action… and then they ultimately do even worse things than she could ever imagine. I loved learning these little details about Hedy’s early life, and I also enjoyed listening to a couple interviews with Marie Benedict talk about Hedy Lamar. Check out the Professional Booknerds Podcast if you want to listen to!

The technology that Hedy Lamarr invented was one that would help the communication of torpedos to be more accurate. But, each day you look at your cell phone, you are actually staring at technology that Hedy had invented. Not only was she a beauty, but she was a scientist. She put her mind to work in a way that she hoped would help save refugees lives. You will have to read the book to see just what happens.

Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.
-Hedy Lamarr

 

Transcription, Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson is one of those author’s that her book’s are an automatic “to read” on my list. Her novels, Life after Life, and God in Ruins, were amazing. So when Transcription came out, I immediately put it on hold at my library. My feelings about this novel are a little bit murky, but the reviews on it are INCREDIBLE. So, what do I know??

Transcription follows Juliet Armstrong, who at 18 years old has been recruited to join an espionage team in England for M15 in 1940. Just like her last two novels, Atkinson plays with time travel, and takes you to post-war (1950), and to her current life (1981). While Juliet is a naive, pathological liar, the M15 admires these qualities in someone… as long as they are good at it. And she was. When something tragic happens to her and her work mates, she finds herself in a state of paranoia and panic. And also questioning whose side her work mates are actually one.

First off, let me tell you what I did like. Kate Atkinson can dazzle a reader with her snarky one-liners, and her perfect placement of words. But, I found this book’s pace to be quite sketchy. For pages it was so moving, and I found my brain wandering as I read it. Then it would pick up at an incredible pace, and you were turning the pages so fast! As I sit here writing this, I think that possibly Atkinson used this as a tool. That being a spy would be much like this. From one moment you are just waiting for something to happen that is worthy of reporting, or reacting to. Then the moment it actually happens you have to react fast, and get moving.

I have listened to a couple podcasts in which Atkinson was being interviewed, and doing this was really eye opening. It made me appreciate the novel much more. She talks a lot about how the “Phony War”  played a part in her novel, in the sense that she wanted to create a foggy, secretive setting… just like the British were experiencing in 1940 as the War was also very unknown to them. They had no idea what they were to expect, and ultimately what was coming there way until the Battle of Dunkirk. The interview I enjoyed the most was The Guardian Book Podcast.

One last thing I will leave you with about this book, is a quick quote that really captures just how snarky, and smart her writing is. And of course, it’s quick little nod to Jane Eyre wins me over immediately.

Juliet felt slighted yet relieved. It was curious how you could hold two quite opposing feelings at the same time, an unsettling emotional discord. She felt an odd pang at the sight of him. She had been fond of him. She had been his girl. Reader, I didn’t marry him, she thought.

Until next time, happy reading!!

September: Continue to Learn

img_1335.jpg

Whoopsy… I dropped the ball on posting for my September Happiness Project. But here’s the thing I’ve realized, at this point in my project… I am tired! Summer has been busy for all of us, so in hopes of an organized September I had thought of all these different things months ago that I could accomplish for September.

Well… here’s the truth, I decided this month is truly just reflection. I had hoped to sign up for a course, or some lectures, and what I know right now what I need is a slow down. It’s time to journal, listen to some reflective podcasts, and truly just be.

This week I listened to an eye opening episode of Goop podcast, which was an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah. At one point Gwyneth asked Oprah whether she was happy, and I’m paraphrasing, but what Oprah answered back was with that being happy isn’t a word she uses for herself. It’s temporary, but being present is a thing. It’s about not holding onto a something too tightly with your expectations. It’s about being you, and taking comparison out of your life and living YOUR best self. This episode was one big AHA moment for me, and exactly what I needed right now.

SO last but not least, what I’ve learned and continue to learn about myself is that it’s not always about being perfect. It’s about being balanced, and whole.

That’s all for today, and I will check back in with you in October 🙂

A Tribe Called Bliss, by Lori Harder

img_1029.jpg

I stumbled upon Lori Harder when a client had recommended her podcast called Earn your Happy. So, after some intense binge-listening, I heard she released a book based on how she reached her highest potential. I ran out to the only bookstore that had it and bought the last one… and happy danced upon holding it in my hands!!

A Tribe Called Bliss is based on Lori’s journey through dealing with anxiety, loneliness, and disconnection. She describes in detail on how she shed those unfulfilling friendships, and discovered her untapped potential. This book is truly a manual on how to create deeper connections with people, instead of burying deeper inside yourself. It’s also a manual on how to use specific tools that will help you become a better and more whole being.

At this point in my life, I feel like female friendships are interesting. I have some friends I’ve had for a super long time, and those relationships are the ones that feel authentic and always pick up where they leave off. It’s cool if we haven’t talked in a bit, and we always check in on each other, and reach out to each other. BUT, meeting new friends at this stage is such a hard ship to navigate. With a young family, time is limited… and sometimes you may click with someone who could potentially become a really good friend, but the time is so limited that there isn’t much time for it to flourish. Or sometimes these new friendships start off great, and then you start to realize that maybe you didn’t have as much in common as you thought you may have. Either way… it’s a weird thing to struggle with at this stage in my life… but in talking to other women after reading this book, there are a lot of people who feel the same way.

What I loved about this book was it made you really look inside of yourself, and figure out what exactly holds you back from connecting with other people, and most of all, yourself. I’m not really on the level to air all my dirty laundry on here, but I will say that there was one line that made me realize what does hold me back. Upon reading this line, I cried, and cried, and then I journaled.  Another thing resonated with me is that Lori talked about how often we cut people down because of our own insecurities. She talks about how malicious gossip is so hurtful, and there is a difference between that type of gossip, and the processing and venting that can be helpful. Lori shares quotes all through this book, and here’s one that made me go AHA, about gossip;

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt.

One last thing I will share with you that I took away from this book is that Lori Harder must be a huge bookworm, because she even references Anne Shirley. She talks about how she always believed there would be one friend who would be her “bosom buddy”, and that this belief had proven to be untrue. So, as you may guess, anyone who is an Anne fan already feels like a kindred spirit to me.

Anywho, that’s all on this one friends. I’ve been really trying to sprinkle in some more non-fiction, self-help, memoir genre books to give my reading life a little more variety. I hope you’ve enjoyed these reviews as much as I’ve enjoyed reading these books.

Up next, a fiction title that a client has lent me called The Rent Collector. I’m thoroughly enjoying this one, and it also has referenced some great books in it… that’s a win/win, friends!

You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero

IMG_0363

This book is definitely badass. I’m not one for the “self-help” genre, but every now and then I hear from multiple bookish people that a book is great and I finally cave. I have seen this splashy cover all over Instagram and actually thought there is no chance in hell I will read this book. It sounded cheesy and self-righteous. Like come on, “start living an awesome life”?!? Then I heard the girls on By the Book Podcast recapping their experience of living by this book for two weeks, and chatted with a friend in the same day about how awesome this book was… so I ran on over to Hunter Street Books to buy it.

You are a Badass is a book aimed at people who want to improve their lives. Jen Sincero is a success coach, and a writer, who has documented the process on how to start understanding yourself, and start kicking some ass!

If you want more time in your life, show time some respect.

This book has so much great information, but the main thing is… it’s all things that we know, but just aren’t putting to practice. Sincero gives some really honest, and great advice. The one thing that really rang loudly for me was changing my internal story. I’ve been juggling two jobs for awhile. One where I work at a clinic, another where I am self-employed and trying to build my own business. And in all honesty, I’m exhausted lately, and tired of saying how busy I am. Sincero had said to try changing your story to let’s just see… and maybe from there you can start giving it a shot. For a long time my internal story was I need to keep both jobs for security, because what if my business doesn’t work. Well, from now on I’m just gonna see if I can really make it work. I finished this book, and decided that I need to quit my one job, and really make space for my business to grow and flourish.

I have lived a long life, and had many troubles, most of which ever happened. – Mark Twain

Another thing that this book reminded me was that I’m the WORST procrastinator ever! I will literally put something off to the very last minute, then run around like crazy to get the job done. You are a Badass totally kicked me out of that procrastination habit… for awhile. Let’s see how long that lasts 🙂

Well… honestly I could go ON and ON about this book, and the lessons that it reminded me and taught me. I have dog-eared, and highlighted the shit out of this book, and I have also reflected back on it so many times already. It’s an easy-to-read, full of sarcasm, and completely inspiring book. I suggest it whole-heartedly, and am literally telling everyone I meet about it.

Anywho, until next time, happy reading!!

 

State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett

IMG_4391

I’m an Ann Patchett fan. I loved both of her novels, Bel Canto, and then I rushed out to read Commonwealth when it was released. Sadly, State of Wonder sat on my bookshelf for far too long before I finally read it. Here’s the real reason I finally picked it up… when I read Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, there was a fascinating chapter about an exchange that she and Ann had in which she believes that she transferred the idea of this novel to her. I thought it was fascinating, so I moved State of Wonder to my pile of books to be read ASAP.  One last thing, Ann Patchett believes in the power of a local bookstore. So much so that she opened up Parnassus Books in Nashville, click on over to hear her interview about why she did this!

Here’s a quick synopsis: Dr. Marina Singh is sent by her boss to the Amazon in an effort to determine two things: What happened to her colleague, who had died mysteriously there scant weeks ago, and what kind of progress was being made by her former mentor in the development of a new fertility drug that was being funded by her pharmaceutical company. Both of these tasks prove to be most complex and difficult to achieve. Her former mentor’s work is at the centre of her journey and involves a little known tribe of people whose fertility extends well into their seventies and proves to be as closely linked to their life’s rituals as the environment in which they live. As Marina spends more time in the Amazon, it seems she is learning some deep, dark secrets that could end up extending her visit!

Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don’t know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it’s not. It’s a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and somebody just keeps pulling it and pulling it.

State of Wonder is awesome. I was skeptical, because a guest on Anne Bogel’s podcast WSIRN had said she threw this book across the room because she hated the ending so much!! I, on the other hand, just felt like giving this book a really long hug after I read it. There were crazy scientists, an insane anaconda fight, and some risky love!! All of these things had me sitting on the edge of my seat while I read this book. But as exciting of a story it was, there were some big themes and beautiful writing!

Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.

If you haven’t read any Ann Patchett, I strongly encourage you to. She writes an effortless story that just makes a reader feel so satisfied at the end. Her novels are all really interesting concepts that make you go, “Huh, what would I do in this situation?”

That’s all friend, happy reading!!