Book Review: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Ms. Gilber has really outdone herself with one of the best books I’ve read this year, feminist yet realistic, with a flare that few have, the story is one that will capture your heart up until the end. A book that needs to be read with an open mind and that will transport you back to a different New York. If there would be a book that I strongly recommend you to read this year, this is the City of Girls. Warning, the review might contain spoilers.

The narrator is Vivian, an old lady now that is telling her life story in a letter to a girl that asks what was the relationship that she had with her late dad. Unable to define it herself, Vivian gives the details of her life, for the conclusion to be taken by the readers. The story of is of a 19 years old girl, who is a college dropout, and is sent by her parents to live in the New York of 1940 with her aunt Peg.

A virgin with no sexual experience, Vivian enters the world of the Lily Playhouse theater filled with burlesque dancers and showgirls, glamour, drama, and low-cost tickets. This place is going to be her home in the next months. Since her talent included sewing, she volunteers to make the costumes for the actors in the plays.  She will stay in one of the apartments from the upper floors, the one that belonged to Peg’s husband Billy, who she didn’t divorce although they were long separated and he lived in LA.

Celia, one of the showgirls, will be the one to guide Vivian through the process of sexual initiation, from staging, along with other dancers, where and with whom she will lose her virginity, to nights of partying and meeting random men. Vivians life transforms, she becomes a dressmaker by day and party girl by night. It all changes when WWII starts in London and one of the best actresses of the UK theaters joins the crew, along with Billy, the (ex)husband, who makes an appearance in NYC. They they all decide to put in place a new show, City of Girls, that will take Lily in a new direction and also the lives of everyone involved.

The moment when Vivian’s life will take a turn for the worst is when she is heartbroken and mislead into having an affair with Celia and the City of Girls’ main character’s husband. A mistake that will cause her to be expelled from the theater and sent back to her parent’s house.

The book has from the beginning a way of presenting the feminine sexual liberation as seen by the 20 years old girl and perhaps shows the way feminism was seen before and after the war. Even after falling in disgrace, the main character is still not taking full responsibility for her actions and doesn’t understand the harm she has caused up until the end when she is faced with the outcome.

I will not spoil the ending of the book, but I do want to say that it is not what you’ve expected. It will bring into light a different life path than you normally would have seen for that period and let’s face it, who doesn’t like to be taken back in time to a way different than now New York City. Perhaps I love this book even more, because of this place, but I do want to recommend you read it. I do hope they will make a movie out of it as well, so fingers crossed.

Book review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

If you have a Netflix account, and by now I think most of us do, I think you already saw the movie ad, but you will (or will not) be surprised to hear that it’s based on a book written by Jenny Han, first in a series of three. Since I actually liked the first book I decided that it will have an entire post written for it, so let’s get started.

Lara Jean is a sixteen-year-old girl, with Korean origins that lives in Virginia. She has a unique way of coping with love, every time she falls for a boy she writes him a letter expressing all of her feelings, surely she never sends them and keeps them in a box in her closet. There are 5 letters in total, one is for her now sister’s boyfriend Josh, one for an old friend who happens to be the pretty boy from the school Peter, and 3 others that are addressed to a now gay guy, and 2 middle school colleagues.

Before leaving for college in Scotland, her sister Margot dumps Josh, since she says that doesn’t want to be the girl crying for her long-distance relationship, and soon Lara Jean is once again facing her feelings for her sister’s ex-boyfriend as he is still present around her and her younger sister Kitty even after’s Margot’s departure.

One day at school Peter Kavinsky approaches Lara Jean and tells her he is honored by her letter but doesn’t feel the same way. At first, she is confused by the remark, but soon after realizes that he is holding the letter that she wrote to him a while back. Furthermore, she finds out that all 5 letters were sent, including the one addressed to Josh. From the desired to cover up the story that she is still in love with him, Lara Jane decides to kiss Peter and also start a fake relationship with him, since he also wants to make his ex-girlfriend jealous.

You can imagine that this will lead to all sorts of trouble and complications, one of them being the fact that Josh confessed that he first liked Lara and not Margot and even ends with them sharing a kiss. Also, the saying fake it, ’till you make it will turn out to be true for Lara and Peter.

There are indeed a couple of areas where things could have been better, like the fact that there is no real girl friendship pictured, just shallow relations between them and a lot of jealousy ( I am excluding the sisterhood bound), also the fact that Lara Jane is somehow going after her sister’s boyfriend (that is a bit odd, but let’s face it not really so out of the ordinary).

I will try not to spoil the ending of the book since I encourage you to read, it’s the perfect beach lecture that you can have. It’s not a great book, it will not stick with you, there is no lesson learned or any takeaway, a simple young adult book that can make you be glued to it for a few hours. Maybe my review is more positive than it should be since I read it after the awful After series (review can be found here) but somehow it was a guilty pleasure. Now I am planning to pour a glass of wine, open Netflix and play the movie. Curious about how you found the book? Did you read it/liked it/planning on reading it?

 

Book Review: The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho

Another amazing story was written by one of the biggest contemporary writers, and one of my personal favorites, Paulo Coelho. If you’ve never heard of him then you are probably living under a rock somewhere, but if you did, praise yourself this book is one of the best he’s ever written.

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The action is placed in Cannes during the film festival and it surrounds two former spouses who are now divorced, she is the one who left him for one of the world’s most talented designers. Igor, the ex-husband, is not accepting the fact that Ewa stopped loving him and will do anything in his power to convince her to come back. His plan is to destroy a couple of worlds, aka commit crimes, to get her attention, especially since he knows she and her lover are going to be present at the festival.

The story is taking place over one day and is narrated in turns by everyone who will interact with the couple, along with Igor and Ewa. The peace of the small French town is now threatened by a war in the name of love, in the most important time of the year, the film festival, that is gathering the most important people of the industry.

Apart from the main conflict, that of obsessive love, Coelho also offers a glance in the life of the most adulated people, the celebrities. Talks about the dark side of fame, the shallow life of those who are the actors in the play directed by the puppet masters that sit in the shadow, but also about the lives of those who aspire to get in the spotlight, even if, just for a moment.

I would say that The Winner Stands Alone is my favorite book from the author’s bibliography and, at least in my point of view, tops The Alchemist. Don’t know if this is because it describes the most notorious worlds, that of celebrities. The book made me question everything related to glamour and gave me an inside of a world that is always painted so pretty for the outsiders, even if the ones that are part of it comes at a high price.

The end of the book is not a happy one and definitely not what I’d expected. No, I will not spoil the surprise by telling you how it ends, but I will challenge you to read it, especially if you, like myself, are attracted to the glamorous life of the celebrities. Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: 365 Days of Happiness: Because happiness is a piece of cake! by Jacqueline Pirtle

As you’ve probably seen in my last posts, 2019 is the year in which I want to make peace with myself and learn as much as I can about happiness, and what better way to learn about it than reading a book aimed to teach us how to embrace it?

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If you were a fan of The Secret, I have great news, you might have found another book to add to your reading list since 365 Days of Happiness starts from the idea of positive thinking and takes you through ways you can make it a routine in your life. We all know that we should put out positive energy in the Universe to receive it back, but how will we accommodate this?

Jacqueline’s book is a divided into 365 small chapters that act as the days that we have in a year, each day you learn how to accept happiness into your life, how to accept yourself for who you are, be present, to recognize when happiness is at your door.

One of the points that I absolutely loved was to accept sorrow and sadness when they come and visit, to live through these feelings but also to walk away from them when it no longer feels good. I read a lot of books that wanted to teach me to be happy by walking away and denying any negative feelings, unfortunately, life’s not working like that, we cannot run away from them, bad things will happen and we will have to go through them, but as the book says we should accept them, but also move away from them and not settle in unhappiness.

Another takeaway point was the idea of treating your happiness as a part of yourself, one that you have to nourish, to understand, and to respect. To constantly try to create a healthy relationship with it and to be thankful for what you have. Even if these might sound like something obvious I am pretty sure most of you, like myself, forget to be kind to oneself and to take care of your own happiness. Instead of being thankful for what we have, we focus on what we would like to achieve and on the pitfalls of our life. Instead of focusing on the empty half of the glass, we should try to focus on the fact that we have the glass, to begin with, to understand why it’s not full, but to be happy and grateful that half of the glass is filled.

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To be honest, I would have loved to follow the author’s advice and keep the book by my bed and each morning to read one of her chapters, but unfortunately, I was way too curious so I went through all 365 days in a week and a half. That doesn’t mean that I will not turn to this book once I feel I need to be reminded. Personally, I loved the idea of small chapters that are perfect for reading in the morning while enjoying the first cup of coffee, starting the day with the correct mindset that should be kept until the next day.

I feel like 365 Days of Happiness is the type of book that you should have on your mobile phone or on an ebook that you always keep by your side, for whenever you feel down or that you just want to give up, pull it out and read a few chapters, it will make you feel lighter and positive in a few minutes.

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Being happy might not be something that will happen overnight, it’s something that needs to be understood, recognized and praised, and Jacqueline’s book can really help with getting a few steps closer to the overall goal, to be happy.

Book Review: One Day in December by Josie Silver

Since it’s that time of the year, what better book to read than a cheesy Christmas love story? Accompanied by a cup of mulled wine, a cozy blanket and the smell of the Christmas tree I give you the best recipe for a night at home in December.

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The story describes 9 years from the life of Laurie and Jack, two people that briefly saw each other for a few seconds in December 2008, when she was on the bus and he was reading in the station. They both stared at each other, but she didn’t get off the bus and he never got on it, leaving them both with regret.

For a whole year Laurie, helped by Sarah, her best friend and roommate, tried to find the mysterious boy, with no success. Until one day when Sarah introduces her new boyfriend, Jack, with whom she is madly in love. Laurie recognizes Jack but realizes that she cannot say anything to destroy their happiness and so her struggle with the feelings she has for him begins.

The book will follow them in the next years while both Jack and Laurie go on with their lives, switch jobs, go through family drama or accidents, Laurie marries a different man. They even share a kiss on a snowy day but decide never to mention it, since that will hurt Sarah. I will not spoil the ending of the book, but as you have probably guessed it’s a happy one.

The book and the story is not a piece of art but is easy to read and at least for me, kept me glued to the sofa wanting to get to the end. I am not sure how is it for the rest of you, but for me reading a simple and romantic book during Christmas time is exactly what I need. Romance is definitely not dead while we still have these stories.

Book Review: A World Worth Seeing by Brian Nelson

How to better start autumn than with a traveler’s journal? If you ever wondered what it would be to quit your job and go see the world, then you found exactly the book you were looking for!

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A World Worth Seeing is the type of book that will make you want to get on a plane to your dream destination and never return to your mundane living. It might sound idyllic, but as the author is describing easier than it sounds. Narrated in a friendly manner you will be taken on a journey across the globe, with personal notes on each visited destination and photos of the iconic attractions. Even if you are among those who didn’t think traveling is for them, you might experience a change of heart just as you turn the last page.

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In the first chapter you will learn more about Brian’s life and how he ended up making the decision to leave America and go see the world, along with some very important information related to traveling, from visas to safety measures, costs, languages, weather and ways of sustaining yourself when you are abroad and you have to work for your next meal. You will also find tips and tricks for different parts of the world, like never getting your passport stamped in Israel since you will be denied entering other Muslim countries, or the type of vaccines you need to have before traveling to Africa, or even where to exchange money so that you get the best rate in Myanmar. Answers to questions you didn’t even know you have to ask are present in this first chapter entitled Vacation 101.

The next 5 chapters will be divided by each continent and contain the itinerary Brian took to check all major attractions from North and South America, Australia and the Pacific Islands, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and Africa. I have to say that I would have loved for him to go a little bit deeper with the description of each place he visited, but given the huge amount of cities that would have to take us a while to be able to finish reading.

As I read about places that I also checked I smiled and saw them once again but this time from a different perspective and part of an itinerary. Small dots on a map that are holding so many memories, some that happened and some that are waiting to happen. Creating a map is not always easy, neither is knowing what to expect when you get there, so reading about the alternatives are always welcome. I love the fact that now I have a roadmap of all the countries from each continent, not to mention inside information about locations that are not so easy to reach, for example North Korea, Venezuela, Columbia, Cambodia or Kenya, places that I never thought I would be interested in, are now part of my “master plan” as well.

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Travelling the world is on the bucket list of many of us, unfortunately not all have the courage to give it all up and live the dream, some of us are still influenced by the media and never get to leave their home country because “it is not safe out there”, failing to see that the danger is leaving inside their own mind. Reading the adventure of a traveler that is not doing this for the media, or to get money from advertising, is the best feedback about the world you can get, to see each country through his eyes makes you realize how lucky you are to be borne on a place like Earth. As the author finishes his book you are warned: “World travel can be addictive“, but this type of drug is exactly what we need to feel alive.

Book and Series Review: The Handmade’s Tale

In the last year I keep on hearing about the new HBO series that everyone has an opinion about, so I investigated a little bit and I found the root of the story, a book. I put in on my Kindle and keep trying to take some time for it. The time was never there, so I decided to start with the TV series first since I already have the HBO Go subscription. What I’ve seen was not for the weak ones at all, torture, discrimination, a new world where fanatic religions principles rule and lots of blood, watching The Handmade’s Tale is not a way of relaxing at all.

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I might give some spoiler alerts, but will try to keep it high level, the story is revolved around June, a wife, and mother that has seen America fall and transform into Gilead, a new society ruled by men. She tried running away when the new laws were installed but were caught before making it to Canada. She knows nothing of her daughter or husband.

In the new society, the highest in ranks are the commanders who can have wives and are engaged in political matters. Since childbirth is extremely rare and infertility is the main cause, the women that can have kids are trained and sent into the house of commanders to bear children for them. The act is considered religions one, going back to one passage from the Bible, the wives are also taking part by holding the handmade’s hands. Anything considered frivolous is prohibited, being gay is sentenced to death, but so is everything that has to do with science, other religions that the official one and any act against the system.

The women that weren’t apt for giving birth or were involved in frivolous acts in the past are sent to the colonies, where they are forced to work until they are exhausted, get sick and die. Being sent to the colonies is one of the worst punishments as a woman.

After only 3 episodes I was already so angry that I wanted to set the TV on fire, the amount of cruelty and injustice is enough to make anyone mad. So I tried taking a break from the series to try to focus on the book but ended up continuing with both. Even if the series keeps the original script of the book for the first season, I have to say that it added a lot of extra cruel details. The punishment scenes are not described in the book with the same amount of details and maybe it’s the visual effect, but to me, it looks a lot like torture and torture porn.

In a world as unjust as hours, it’s hard to imagine this can be taken to a new level, but even so, this type of preview made me shiver. Lots will think that is a good manner of showing the world what will happen if we don’t fight back, but I think we already have this system, but most of us don’t see it from our windows, we are the wives that take part in the rapping act and consider it for the greater good.

On Earth we still have places where the fanatic religions allow men to kill the unfaithful wives, stoning is still used for public execution. In countries like Thailand, we still have a huge number of kids sex slaves, in Europe, we have lots of women sold on the sex market. The high class still pays surrogate mothers to bear their children and in the poor countries, people are forced to work until exhaustion is extreme conditions for a few dollars a day, not to mention those who will sell their organs to be able to have something to eat. In Africa we still have children die of hunger and thirst. So don’t for a second think that Gilead is not real, it is, but we chose to look the other way.

Even if it’s going to be a tough one to read, I would make the book a mandatory read. It’s important to know what happens when we let ourselves lead by fanatics, it happened in the past and with our new leaders, it might happen again. Also, it’s important for us to know the problems that occur in poor countries and at least to stop encouraging cruelty. As for the series, I still have mixed feelings about it, maybe a bit too visual and cruel, it focuses so much on the violence that I have considered stop watching since it’s a bit too much for me.