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 the 19 years old girl, who is a college dropout, and 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, the 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, 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 theater actresses joins the crew, also Billy the ex-husband makes an appearance in NY and they all decide to put in place a new show, City of Girls, that will take Lily in a new direction and 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, she 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 live 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 childhood 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 Josh 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 now, her sister’s ex-boyfriend. From the desired to cover up the story that she is still in love with Josh, 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 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?

 

Last Month’s Favorites: June 2019

June, the first month of summer has not come to an end, finally, we got to enjoy the sun and welcome the heatwave. It seems that nowadays it’s impossible to get that perfect temperature that we used to have, but let’s dig into what happened in the 6th month of the year.

Books, books, books!

Finally managed to finish the After series, or at least the first 4 books, there is the 5th one with them before the action from the books, but I am putting that aside for the time being since I want to still have a couple of neurons left. A full review of the “world phenomenon” can be found here, but just so you know I wasn’t that impressed about it.

Since I wanted to do some brain exercises after the book mentioned above, I started Dr. Brown’s book: The power of vulnerability. I have to say that I love her writing style, if you don’t know her work, go ahead and search her TEDx talks, she has plenty on the subject. To me, showing vulnerability was always a sign of weakness, but as I went into the position of project management I learned that I need to connect with the people and show empathy, which leads to vulnerability. Also, I’ve learned about many mistakes that I keep on making. So I strongly recommend this lecture, also if you plan on going for the audiobook, here is a surprise it’s narrated by the author herself, so enjoy!

From one extreme to another, the next book that I had on my list was To all the boys I’ve loved before by Jenny Han, another teen romance story that I have to admit I loved. I will write a full review on the series (yes there are more books, 3 to be precise) in the upcoming period so stay tuned. Until then I can only say that it will make a great book to take to the beach. 😉

As for the upcoming period, I already brought a couple of new entries in my library for the upcoming months. The list contains: The Little Teashop Of Lost & Found by Trisha Ashley, My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella, You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac and P.S. I Like You by Kasie West. Looking forward to my next read.

Shopping time!

This time I tried only to get items that I really need and from quality fabrics, so in my closet, we now have a new dress in yellow and orange from Zara that I absolutely adore, yet I didn’t yet have the chance to wear, a new leather wallet in baby blue that I brought for an Italian brand, Zevo, that I am not yet convinced of and to match the wallet I also got a letter bag that I used for work.

Health and exercise!

Since June I started to go to Yoga classes and I have to admit I just love them. In the past, I’ve only gone to Yoga that was taught at the gym, and I am telling you it has nothing to do with the real deal. As a bonus to all the posture we are also doing meditation, either guided or using colors. At first, I was a bit skeptic about it, but after 3 classes I am now a huge fan. Planning on going in the upcoming year since it has the power to take the stress away.

Also on the topic of health and exercising, I decided to give it a try with XBody EMS training. This stands for Electro Muscular Stimulation and the sessions take around 20 minutes. I’ve only done 2 sessions until now so the results are yet to be seen, but if you are like me and you are afraid for the pain, rest assured it’s not present. The trainer also gave me a diet plan, that I am trying as much as possible in order for the best results. I am planning on going in the next 3 months and I will keep you posted on the results.

Fun stuff!

In Cluj, the festival season has begun, and it started off with Jazz in the Park. As the name already states it’s a jazz festival that is held in the city’s central park. The ticket is optional, and the money raised is donated to social causes. If you are wondering, yes, people are buying the tickets even if it’s not mandatory. Starting from the first days, the park gets filled with music and happy people, along with hammocks and food trucks. It just marks the beginning of summer and music festivals, Electric Castle is next and I cannot wait for it to begin.

Last Month’s Favorites: May

It’s officially summer, May has just ended and we are now entering the warmest period of the year. Unfortunately, this year showed us how much our climate has changed and how the seasons shifted, from 4 seasons in Romania we started to have only 2, so Spring was rainy and cold, nothing like we expected, but at least it was better than winter. So here is what happened in the 5th month of the year.

La Bella Italia! The vacation that I have planned since last year when my best friend told me about the Como Lake and Cinque Terre, finally happened in May. The weather was definitely NOT on my favorite list, but Italy will always be a good idea. A full post on how we planned it, costs and itinerary will follow, but until then, I have to say that Manarola, one of the towns from Cinque Terre has become one of the best places I’ve ever visited.

Since I got to travel quite a lot by train, I had the time to start one of the book series ordered last month, After by Anna Todd. I have to say that I have mixed feelings about it, a part of me likes it, since it’s a teenage love story, written in an easy to read manner, but the adult part of me, knows that abusive relationships should not be advertised as “normal” and girls should stay away from the Hardin’s of the world, it’s not healthy to try to “fix” someone. Nevertheless, the series caught me, I read the first 3 books and I am planning on finishing the remaining 2, also as a spoiler, the books had plenty of sex scenes narrated with lots of details that can make even the kinkiest of us blush, so enjoy! 😀

While we are in the books department, here are 2 other honorable mentions: Sofia Kinsella – Wedding Night, I literally laughed with tears as I read it. I am a huge fan of her books, funny, optimistic and charismatic, all in all, my kind of chick-lit. So make sure to add it to your to-read list. The other one is a teenage love story-ish, Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch, I got the book because of the reference to Italy, it wasn’t a bad book, not a great one either, so for me, it will go under the category read it while on the beach books. 

In the shopping department, even if I said that I will be a good girl and only buy capsule items, I cheated a little bit and got myself one of the Vietnamese bags, I know those were a huge thing last year, and probably I am the last one to arrive at the party, but I love it nevertheless. To it, I added a pair of simple black sandals that I plan to wear when the “real” summer will arrive and the rain will stop. 😀

I keep the best for the last of the favorites, one that I would have never thought I would get, especially since I live in an apartment and already have two cats…. a German shepherd. Yes, you read it right, now I am at 3 pets, 2 cats and a dog. I would love to tell you a nice story about how we got it, but it isn’t a happy or funny one. My grandpa found it starving in the middle of nowhere, someone got rid of it and felt to die. At first, I wanted to find a safe home, but it turned out that home will be ours, and therefore Fox is now part of my happy family.

How about you, how was the last month of spring on your end?

 

Last Month’s Favorites: April

April came and went with the speed of a hurricane, lots of things to be done, lots of places to see, Easter and family gatherings, ink and rain, fun and Game of Thrones. As always spring brought a new vibe of energy, so let’s see what went on my list of favorites.

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Probably one of the most expected series of all times, Game of Thrones, finally started with the last season, so you can imagine the hard time trying not to see any spoilers, especially since it will air during Romania nighttime, so I would only get to see it the next day, when Facebook already has all the articles with what happened. Luckily until now, the spoilers didn’t ruin my fun, looking forward to the last episodes, yes I am very behind, but I will go through the last ones.

About the trip to Puglia area, Italy, I will dedicate an entire post, but since there was something that caught my eyes while I was there, I have to brag about the Carpisa backpack that I got. Even if I wanted to resist buying another bag, I just couldn’t do it, so here I am now owning this red and cute item. And while I am on the topic of bags, I also got one as a birthday gift, so I cannot help but add it too. Even for a little while, I am trying to stay away from shopping in the bags department and, hopefully, get more accustomed to the idea of minimalism.

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Speaking of birthday gifts, the best ones are those given by yourself, so for my 29th birthday, I have put a tattoo on my right wrist, overcoming one of my biggest fears. More about the meaning and reasons you can find here. Possibly one in the series of more, I am more than happy and proud of the 3 swallows that are inked on my head.

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In the books department, I will add one that I have owned for a few years, and that I love to re-read every time I feel like things are going my way. Why Your Life Sucks: And What You Can Do About It by Alan H. Cohen starts from the same idea as The Secret, but offers a perspective given through the real-life story’s. At least for me, it works wonders on my morals and decreases the level of stress that I get from my 9 to 6 job. Easy to read, the book is divided into 10 chapters and in each of them, the author will talk about ways you screw your life and how you can work to improve. This might be the 3rd time I am reading it, and even now I am seeing other meaning and I am learning from it, so if you are looking for a personal development book to get you of the blues, this is my recommendation for you.

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With spring anding the new energy, I started to document more about the minimalist idea, about how we can break the rat race and stop wasting our resources on things that don’t truly matter. While I am still at the begging I will link the Netflix documentary that I recommend here. Also if you are looking for ideas about outfits made from capsule items for spring, this Pinterest board might help. I am not saying that I will give up shopping or start throwing away all my items, but I do want to move towards a more responsible buying manner since I know I do have a shopping addiction.

Spring is officially here, and even if in Cluj it was up to a rainy start, I am looking forward to the new adventure that has yet to bring. How was your April?

 

 

10 Things That Make Me Happy

Leaving aside traveling, there are a couple of smaller things that will instantly put a smile on my face even in the darkest times. Here is my list of happiness bringers:

  • Spring and warm weather

I am very influenced by the weather and the most difficult time of the year is winter, that is why I am so happy that Spring has finally arrived and with it the warm weather, nothing makes me happier than ditching the winter clothes for the lighter ones.

  • Sunny days

Cannot help but loving the sunny days when the blue is so intense that it hurts your eyes. If you combine this with a sea view then the smile is guaranteed.

  • Swimming in the sea

For many, this might not be a very pleasant experience because of the salty water and the effects it has on the hair and skin, but for me swimming in the sea is one of the best things. The smell of the salty water and the cold feeling that you get when entering the sea, are just what I am enjoying most.

  • Horseback riding

One of the sports that I practiced as a kid, horseback riding will always hold a very important place in my heart. From the moment you get in the saddle to the moment you get off, all my problems vanished. There is no way of better enjoying the present moment than when you are practicing the noble sport.

  • Shopping

Shallow? Yes! Pleasant? Also yes! Even if nowadays I am trying to cut back on the shopping, I am still enjoying the moments when I go for a shopping sprint.

  • Reading a great book

All the bookworms out there will understand the feeling you get when you start a great book and you lose yourself in the author’s universe. Not knowing when hours passed, I am unable to distance myself from the book until I turn the last page, only to miss it once it’s gone. As a kid, I remember crying when I finished the last book in a series that I fell in love with.

  • Going out for dessert

A guilty pleasure that I like to indulge in is eating a great dessert. Ever since I could talk, I had a sweet tooth and I was madly in love with sweets. Nowadays I like to keep the cravings under control, but every once in a while I love to go out and try different deserts.

  • Dressing up

Nothing changes my mood than dressing up, especially when there is no special occasion. Whether is accessorizing my outfit or simply changing from the basic jeans to a skirt,  this is my go-to treatment for the blue days.

  • Walking hand in hand with my significant other

Even the worst day can be changed in a second when I am walking hand in hand with my loved one. It helps with recharging my batteries and offers me a different perspective on whatever happened.

  • Coffee

Saved the best for last. There is nothing like a great cup of coffee to change my mood, even if I know that I spend a lot on coffee, this is the one vice I totally indulge in.

We all have our bad days, but even in those not so pleasant times, there are fast remedies that can better your mood. What makes you happy?

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,  in order 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 that is 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!