Thoughts on Elizabeth Gilbert, and a City of Girls Review

 

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I hope you know this feeling. It’s when a book just hits all the right notes that you need in your life at that moment. It’s the feeling that makes you want to tell everyone to read it, and you find yourself copying down passages. Well, City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert is that book I’m jumping on here to tell you about today.

Awhile back I read Big Magic, and even longer back, like 9 years ago, I read Eat, Pray, Love. One I tote as a favourite of all time, another I absolutely hated and didn’t even finish… both by Elizabeth Gilbert. But Big Magic(see blog post here) absolutely lit me up. I was at a point with the blog that I thought, who actually cares about what I’m writing. But that book reminded me that I write because I love it. I write because it makes me feel whole, and creativity is something you need to continue to work on. Will I ever write a novel? Maybe not, but this little blog continues to be a big creative outlet for me.

City of Girls could not have come at a better time in my life to read. I’m currently 39 weeks pregnant now, off work, and feeling pretty restless without much of an outlet. But picking up this book, I was sucked into it immediately. Gilbert’s writing is next level. It’s a fiction novel, with big non-fiction takeaways.

In my experience, this is the hardest lesson of them all. After a certain age, we are all walking around this world in bodies made of secrets and shame and sorrow and old, unhealed injuries. Our hearts grow sore and misshapen around all this pain – yet somehow, still, we carry on.

It’s 1940, and 19 year old Vivian Morris, recently kicked out of College, is sent by her well-off parents to live with her Aunt Peg in Manhattan. Aunt Peg, owns a barely surviving theatre company, which she has apartments above. Upon arriving, Vivian is thrusted into the extravagant life of a showgirl vicariously through a friend she has met. From here starts a the revolution of Vivian, she starts to figure herself out through living this wild life. Told through the lens of Vivian as a 95 year old woman, reflecting on her whole life, this is a brilliant coming of age story of a young woman who learns hard lessons along the way. It’s also a beautiful, unlikely love story, on finding a true love at last.

This book is stunning. I think the writing is out of this world, and so vibrant, Vivian’s character is a naive, wild, young woman, and her voice is snarky, and sassy. So I’m totally here for it. In parts it’s laugh out loud funny, then breaks your heart, and then all the sudden extremely introspective. It’s truly what great fiction to me is. Her life story is beautiful, but also so poignant, and allows the reader to truly reflect on their own life this far.

I highly suggest this book and give it a 5 star rating all around. It is so far my favourite book of the year! Go out and grab it, and let’s chat about it.

Until next time, happy reading!!

 

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What I’ve Been Reading

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Happy Summer!!! It’s finally here, and I am so ready for it. Getting to the end stage of this pregnancy, I find myself so excited to meet this new baby and incredibly aware of how much my body is accommodating this growing babe.

Recently I was out on a run early one morning with my dog. I was struck by the fullness of the trees, and just how green and lush everything had seemed to become overnight. In that same moment I had the thought of just how fast the trees will be bare, and the leaves will be crunching under my feet. Then I realized that I will then have a child moving up a grade, staying home with a 3 year old, and newborn, and my life will look completely different. When I read I Miss You When I Blink, the very first essay made me go, whoa! How many moments have I let pass by in hopes that the future will soon be here.

This book made me stop and realize that I need to start really living in the present. Instead of complaining how uncomfortable I am at the end of this pregnancy, I need to enjoy every barrel role that this little baby is doing, because soon I will feel so empty inside without it. Instead of counting down the days until I start my maternity leave, I need to enjoy my interactions at work, because soon I will have very littler interactions with adults on a daily basis. It made me realize that I need to not rush through the present, do a really slow blink, and open my eyes to what the current moment is giving me. Anywho, heavy thoughts, but isn’t that the gift of reading a great book?!

WHAT I’VE BEEN READING LATELY:

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottleib. (4 stars). Lori Gottlieb is a therapist in L.A. She has intertwined 4 of her patients therapy sessions, within her own crisis and journey with her own therapist. This non-fiction book is one that will stay with you for awhile. The four patients Lori is counselling have very different reasons they are grieving, and very different journeys with their grief. There is moments that you are laughing, and then moments that strike you down with sadness. I will be thinking about this book for a very long time, and really recommend it. Emotional pain is something that I think we can all take some lessons on, and the more stories we hear, the more feelings we become capable.

Miracle Creek: A NovelMiracle Creek, by Angie Kim. (4.5 stars). This is a gorgeous literary mystery, that I think fans of Celeste Ng, or Jodi Picoult will LOVE! Based in a very small town, Miracle Creek, Korean immigrants, Young and Pak Yoo own an experimental medical treatment device which is a hyperbaric chamber. They treat patients with conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, and infertility. But when the chamber mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a complex murder trail opens up and unravels secrets, and the lives of the people involved. This is a beautifully written, plot driven novel and so worth reading. This would be a great book club pick, as there are so many things to talk about!

The Farm: A NovelThe Farm, by Joanne Ramos. (3.5 stars). The Farm is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. You can earn some big bucks, but the only catch is that you have to become a surrogate mother to the Farm’s wealthy clientele. For nine months, the staff of the Farm are watching your every move, and the former life you had doesn’t really exist. We see the whole perspective of the Farm through the eyes of Jane, who has become a surrogate mother, and had to leave her young daughter. It’s a great look at motherhood, money, and the sacrifices that we all have to make to grow a child, and then raise it.

I Miss You When I Blink: EssaysI Miss You When I Blink, by Mary Laura Philpott. (5 stars). I loved this book so much. This is a memoir told in essays, about Mary Laura who is an essayist, and a bookseller at Parnassus Books, and a Type A. I felt like I related to this one so much. It’s a great look at Mary’s reflections on her balance with identity, motherhood, and her relationships. It’s exactly the thoughts out of my own head, and I feel like so many readers will also feel this. Her incredible talent to relate to a reader will have you laughing, saying ME TOO, and wishing you could sit down on your couch and have coffee with her. It’s perfect!

A QUOTE TO PONDER:

“Over time, “I miss you when I blink” became another one of these phrases. It helps me live in the moment. It slows me down and makes me absorb each instant instead of rushing, because I know already how much I miss things that happened in the past-how they’re right there behind my eyelids but also gone forever.”  Mary Laura Philpott

4 Books & A New Direction

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Oh hey there, friends! This year I’ve made a goal to read even more. Yes, I know, some of you may think, what the hell?!? You read a lot already. But in my defence, I’m 25 weeks pregnant, and holding on to a little piece of me and what I love to do… or at least until August. So, in turn what I’ve been finding is the book reviews are piling up. And even though I have so much to say about each book, maybe for now, less will be more.

Here’s comes the NEW DIRECTION. What I’m thinking of serving up for you for the next little bit is quick, fast reviews. I hope you will gain from this is a clear sense of whether you should pick up this book, or not. Because let’s be honest, not every book is worth your time. Life is way too short to read books you don’t enjoy, and not everyone will love the same books.

Below you will find the four books I’ve read lately. In brackets beside the title, I’m giving you a star rating. Just like GoodReads, 1 star is ekkkkk I hate this book! 5 stars is holy moly, stop what you’re doing now and go read this book asap. After this rating, I will give you a general idea of what the book is about, and a couple of my personal opinions about it. Lastly, because I’m a bit of a quote lover, so I’m going to leave you with just one quote that stuck with me.

What I’ve Read Lately:

The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff. (3.75 stars) There is a literary trend that I’m so digging right now. Badass females in historical fiction! In this novel, you are hearing the stories of 3 different women and their experience throughout WWII and the network of female spies. So interesting, and based on actual people and events. People who loved The Alice Network, The Huntress, or Lilac Girls NEED to read this one.

Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese. (4.5 stars) Put this one on your list to read if you are human, appreciate great writing, or are Canadian. This is the fictional, becoming of age story, of Saul Indian Horse. At a young age he was forced into a residential school, experienced horrifying trauma, and then fell in love with hockey. Based loosely on Richard Wagamese’s life, this novel will have you feeling like you need to talk about it, and a much better human for having had read it. Plus, his writing is INCREDIBLE. It’s the perfect book for a book club, and there was recently a movie made about it.

Women Talking, by Miriam Toews. (4 stars) Okay, I love this Toews. Everything she does, I will read, so when I picked up this novel which also a fictional account of true events, yet again I was floored. From approximately 2005-2009 in a Mennonite community in Manitoba, some women of this colony were waking up complaining of symptoms of rape. Their leader, who had concocted a lie to them that it was actually their sins giving them this trauma, had covered up the fact that the men had been drugging the women, and raping their own family and friends. The setting is a barn hay loft, and told through the minutes of a meeting that these women have snuck away to have. The meeting is to decide whether they as a group, 1) Do Nothing. 2) Stay. 3) Leave. I read this one in 2 days and could not put it down, even though the writing style is a little different.

Tell Me More, by Kelly Corrigan. (5 stars) This is my first book I’ve read written by Kelly Corrigan, and holy S*@$… I will be reading her whole back catalogue. This will be a book I press into so many hands and say you must read! The subtitle of this memoir is; Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say. This is a hard one to describe, but I do feel as if it should be required reading as an adult. This book is gorgeous, and told around the two facts that her father and best friend died within a year of each other. The chapters of this memoir are broken into the words you say in hard conversations. It’s so raw, funny at times, and makes you cry at times. There are sentences that literally brought goosebumps to my arms. Go read this one, and maybe go buy it for your momma for Mother’s Day.

A Quote that Struck Me:

This is a quote from Tell Me More, by Kelly Corrigan. This chapter was called I Love You, and it’s based around those three little words.

The first time the words pass between two people: electrifying. Ten thousand times later: cause for marvel. The last time: the dream you revisit over and over and over again.

Until next time, happy reading!

Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams

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When I picked up Queenie, I was fully expecting to enter into the light, fluffy world of chick lit. This is an easy read, but has deep content, and I was pleasantly surprised. This novel is getting a TON of praise, and selling like hot-cakes. With it’s eye-catching cover, and being compared to a combination of Bridget Jones Diary and Americanah… how could you not want to read it?

Meet Queenie. She’s a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London. She has a great job at a newspaper, and after a hard break up with her white boyfriend, she starts to slowly put everything… her job, her friendships, her family, and also her mental health at risk. You follow Queenie as she makes one bad decision after the next, and listen to her ask herself why she keeps doing these things. Eventually Queenie finds a better path, but you will have to read the book to see how she turns things around.

This is essentially a coming of age story. You are following Queenie through her daily life, but also flashing back to the past where she is re-visiting some of the past trauma from her childhood, and her current struggles in learning how to identify herself. Right about now, you are probably saying… hmmmm doesn’t sound like a light, fast read?!?! But, I’m telling you, the way that Carty-Williams has written these complex characters is actually really fun. The dynamics that Queenie has in her relationships with family and friends, is actually quite funny most times, and had me laughing out loud.

But let me warn you, this is a novel full of triggers… sexual harrassment, racism, miscarriage, and graphic sex. But the way that Candice Carty-Williams has addressed these issues is in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you need to skip pages! I think that this is a really exciting time for literature. We are slowly seeing more relatable characters integrated into the white-washed world of literature. Queenie is a full-bodied, Jamaican woman, who has suffered childhood trauma, and starts to do the work to heal mentally.

PS- This is a debut novel, that Jojo Moyes has really got behind!! If review hasn’t talked you into this reading it, that little tidbit of information should get you intrigued!

Until next time, happy reading!

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai

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As you can tell from the pictures above, I went into to pick up my latest library haul and was greeting with a bunch of amazing books. But when I read the first page of The Great Believers, I had to pick that continue reading! This novel has been getting a ton of praise, and after reading it you see that this is a work that needed to be written, and that also needs to be read.

It’s 1980’s Chicago, and Yale Tishman works at an art gallery in which he is developing their collection. As Yale’s career is starting to take off when he starts working on bringing a collection of 1920’s paintings to the gallery. As he career sky rockets, the AIDS epidemic is growing closer around him. When one of his closest friends Nico dies from the virus, one by one, his friends are also being picked off. Yale, along with Nico’s sister, Fiona, take care of their dying group of friends. Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking her estranged daughter, and staying with an old friend. This old friend, just so happens to be a photographer who thirty years ago was documenting the Chicago crisis. In the search for her daughter, old memories of her past are brought up, and the feelings are all too familiar to Fiona.

They meant well, all of them. How could she explain that this city was a graveyard? That they were walking every day through streets where there had been a holocaust, a mass murder of neglect and antipathy, that when they stepped through a pocket of cold air, didn’t they understand it was a ghost, it was a boy the world had spat out?

I don’t really know where to begin. This is such an incredible story, and also so sad. Other than watching Philadelphia, and Dallas Buyers Club, I would consider myself to have very little knowledge of the AIDS epidemic. After reading this novel, I found myself googling, and checking out non-fiction novels to learn more about it. What Rebecca Makkai has accomplished is the beginning of an education for me, and I bet many readers. The AIDS epidemic claimed a generation of people, and has definitely shaped several generations. But the things that we don’t hear are the stories of the people’s lives who were lost at start a fast rate that they couldn’t even grapple with it.

Nico’s death, although being the first friend to die, had such an impact on this story. His friends had taken some of his belongings as ways to remember him, and as each one of them were dying they were passing on Nico’s scarf. These characters and the community in Chicago were all so capable of good things, and then equally quite evil things. I listened to an interview with Rebecca Makkai, and she said that she used this as a tool to make AIDS the real villain. Even to this day, people are unaware to what and how HIV/AIDS are contracted. In this novel the parents of the characters who had died would go into their child’s apartment with masks and gloves.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this novel, have you read it? If not, I recommend it. The Great Believers is a book that I haven’t stopped talking about, or thinking about since I put it down.

An Anonymous Girl,

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I read An Anonymous Girl, a couple weeks ago… and somehow it slipped my mind to write a review on it! This book is Gone Girl adjacent. I got all the thrills, psycho-analytical vibes that I had been craving since that novel. I feel like a lot of authors have tried to give us a novel that reached that Gone Girl status, but this is the first time I really feel like I’ve been satiated since.

Jessica Farris is a woman in her late twenties, who is a successful make-up artist. She works her butt off, running from one client’s house to the next, for a decent pay. When she visits a client’s house and is alerted to a psychology study being conducted which has a big financial pay-off, she’s instantly interested. This could help her pay her bills, and her families medical expenses. She decides to go to the study, and answer Dr. Shield’s questions, collect her money, and leave. But these questions are deep, invasive, and she finds out she has the options for multiple sessions… equalling multiple pay-offs. As Jessica gets deeper into the study, the questions are revealing her deep dark secrets, and she starts to question the real reason that Dr. Shields is conducting this study.

This novel was co-written by Greer Hendricks, and Sara Pekkanen, I was a little hesitant thinking how good can a book be written by two authors?!? But this book was so well done it didn’t really cross my mind until I would look at the cover with both their names. But that does bring up an interesting point into how does this process go? The last one I read with two authors was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Club, and I, and the reading world loved that one too.

An Anonymous Girl, is a thrilling novel, with every character being unreliable. And to be honest, I didn’t really like any of these characters, but I LOVED the story. I do think that this may have been a writing tactic, because in every situation there is never just ONE person guilty or wrong. We are all involved in the situations we find ourselves in. This plot although really intriguing, was a little bit far fetched. I am trying not to give too much of the spiralling plot away in this review, but at one point the twists are almost a little too far… but very enjoyable!

Anywho, that’s about all I’m going to say for this, because like I said earlier, talking too much about these characters or the plot would just give away the exciting twists of the novel.

Until next time, happy reading!

Waiting for Eden, by Elliot Ackerman

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While in one of my deep, dark rabbit holes of lurking Instagram one evening, I saw two ladies whose book taste I really trust had posted about Waiting for Eden. They had both said similar things in that it’s a small novel, that will give you all the feelings. So yes, I put it on hold at my library and it came in days later.

Eden Malcom is in a hospital bed, stuck in a body that is no longer recognizable, and even worse he is imprisoned in his own mind unconscious. He will never be the same, and never get to see friend and fellow soldier who didn’t survive the attack in a war-torn country. His wife, Mary, spends her days on the couch waiting for him to wake up, and torn between who she should be with, Eden or their daughter. When Mary makes the hard decision to go home for Christmas, she gets a call that Eden has gained consciousness. He begins to try to communicate to the nurses, his wife, and to his friend who has died. You learn the couples troubled past, through love, loyalty, and acceptance.

Holy smokes, this is a little novel, coming in at 192 pages with small pages, but as sparse as it may look to a reader, it packs a big punch. The telling of this story is so important, for me it created so many feelings of empathy. You sit infront of your television, or computer, and have probably all heard the stories of the lives that soldiers have lost. You think of they families, and you have all the feelings. Then what happens, is you get up and go on with your day, and forget about it. This story makes you crawl into the skin of the family who has been deeply affected by the atrocities of war.

What Waiting for Eden isn’t, is… is a happy book. It will leave you feeling a little shattered. You learn the past of their relationship is rocky, but you see a wife who rallies to be by her husband’s side. It’s so moving, and sad. But very necessary.

The author, Elliot Ackerman, has served 5 tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. I can’t help but wonder how much of this novel has been written as a way for him to deal the the terrible things he’s seen, heard, and experienced.

Stay warm, friends, and I hope you are curled up under a blanket with a book that you don’t want to stop reading 🙂