Wild by Cheryl Strayed

As the weather outside gets colder, I find myself dreaming of being outdoors more. Of course, in the spring/summer/fall I’m out and about soaking up the whatever kindness the Kentucky weather gives me, but by this time of year, I’m starting to feel the lack of sunshine. So, from my pile of December TBRs, I pulled out Wild, ready for an adventure with some cozy feels.

Image result for wild cheryl strayed

Let me tell you, if you haven’t read it yet, the emotional journey in this book will have you cheering on Cheryl and every woman you know who is searching for inner peace. I connected with her as the narrator in the way that I connected with Liz from Eat Pray Love– I felt like her confidant, and she inspired me in so many ways.

First off, Cheryl is not a perfect person. She’s lost her mother, her husband, her family, her sense of identity, and dealing with these tragedies lead her to drugs, adultery, desperation, and poor attempts to escape her reality. She decides that the only way she can figure out how to face her problems is to go on a physical journey- hiking the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) from Southern California to the Oregon/Washington border- alone. Terrified and relatively unprepared, she sets out with her pack (lovingly dubbed Monster) and literally carries her baggage through the wilderness, getting stronger mile by mile.

Image result for pacific crest trail

It’s excruciating and exhilarating all at the same time. Each step of the way, the reader in inside Cheryl’s head, reliving her past, figuring out how to handle what could come in her future, and yet staying in the moment with her as she sees some amazing views of the country. And, on the occasions that she meets up with those on similar kindred travellers, the reader gets to experience the camaraderie of people who walk the same path for all sorts of reasons.

I’ve seen the movie as well, starring Reese Witherspoon, and no matter which medium you partake in, it’s absolutely worth it. I highly recommend the book (although I know I’m not the only one, and Oprah beat me to it years ago). I’m glad I found this copy on a recent book haul, because it is certainly one of my new favorites.

Image result for cheryl strayed

Advertisements

Hello December ❄️

… And hello Everyone!

Can you believe that we are already on the last month of the year? I have no idea where the time has gone, but I know it’s been a whirlwind!

I wanted to talk to you all today about my goals for my blog. Since June, I’ve been trying really hard to be more active here and on social media, and I’m loving being a part of the amazing the bookish blogging community. I made it a goal to post every other day, and to push myself to read as many books as I could in November- knowing this would be tough due to my day job work schedule being at it’s busiest. It was a little stressful, I’ll be honest, but I’m proud that I made it happen!

But now, I need to recharge a little, and I think that since the holidays are near, it’s time to give back some of the love you’ve all shown me. So this month, I’m going to do my first ever giveaway (!!!) and do more on my social media accounts. I’m also cutting my posts back (just a little!), in the hopes that I’ll be able to give myself some time for more social aspects of the holiday season- time with my family, evening gift exchanges with friends, and maybe the occasional outdoor adventures to enjoy this seasonal weather we’ve been having in the Bluegrass. On a more personal note, I’ve also put myself on a book buying ban for the month of December (Lord knows I bought enough to last me the winter this past month!) and am doing a no-spend month. The holidays, to me, are about giving, NOT getting, so I’m trying to give more than I get!

On that note, I need some help from you all. I have some giveaway ideas, but what would you recommend as good prizes? Comment below with your suggestions, or message me on Twitter or Instagram!

Ya-Yas in Bloom

Image result for yayas in bloom

Ya-Yas in Bloom is the last book in the series, and I liked it only slightly more than Divine Secrets. Wells opts to change up the narrators again, bouncing between the Ya-Yas and the Ya Yas Petites, as they jump from past memories to present states discussing religion, parties, antics, and relationships. This book is also shorter than the last two at just 258 pages, making it seem to me a much quicker read.

In the last of the series, the Ya-Yas and their children are delving into more stories from the past, including how the Ya-Yas first met, Sidda’s first directing ‘gig’, Baylor’s Buckaroo debut, and more crazy Ya-Ya moments that pull the families together. It’s all clever writing, funny moments paired with somber moments, in a way that makes you feel more like the narrator is conversing the memory to you at a kitchen table.

Now, overall, to sum up the Ya-Ya trilogy, I’d have to say that Little Altars Everywhere was my favorite. I devoured it. But the other two felt repetitive because many stories from Altars were delved into with more detail in the following books. I liked learning more information about the stories, but my imagination was pretty close to the written information in the second and third books, and therefore it really slowed the pace of the books down. That was the biggest turn off for me. I also had a hard time with Siddalee, who happened to be a prominent character as the eldest Walker child, and key observer of the Ya-Ya antics. She tended to beat a dead horse about the relationship problems with her mother- she loved her, she resented her, repeat. I understand her wounds ran deep, but the complicated relationship was very tiresome.

I’d also like to note that the movie inspired by the books is very different. They cut out a lot of the melodrama, and added more humor. I would say, if you were interested in this series, read Altars, skip the rest of the books, and then watch the movie. You’ll get the gist.

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

Image result for divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood book quotes

Following Little Altars Everywhere is The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, in which the reader gets more in depth with the past of the Ya-Yas, mostly through Siddalee.

Grown Sidda is living in New York City, directing theater plays and becoming a hit. After Sidda has sort-of-accidentally ranted to a reviewing New York Times journalist about the rough past with her mother’s alcoholism, Sidda becomes disowned by Vivi. Trying to make up, Sidda tries calling her mother, but Vivi isn’t talking. So she tries writing to her instead, and after some subtle ego-stoking, mentions that it would be helpful for a future play to learn more about the Ya-Yas, if not for Sidda, then for the American theater. Still hesitant, Vivi isn’t willing to forgive Sidda until she learns that Sidda has postponed, yet again, her wedding to fiance Connor. Instead of a discussion, she sends the Divine Secrets to Sidda…and gives her a lesson on love, friendship, and forgiveness.

Image result for divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood

Surprisingly, I had a harder time getting into this sequel. I think the pace is slower than in Little Altars Everywhere, which frustrated me because I knew there were going to be good Ya-Ya stories… which of course, there were. Those Ya-Yas kept me from giving up on the series, actually. Because I understand what happened with Vivi before Sidda understood, it was frustrating for me to see Sidda hold on to her past and hold those grudges against her mother. I mean, I get the dramatics, that’s a key element to the story…but I just couldn’t get into Sidda’s head, and it’s hard for me to read a book where the main character/narrator and I don’t see eye to eye. At the risk of admitting the blasphemy, I also liked enjoyed the movie version better than the book this time around.

However, I am so fond of the Ya-Yas, their true sisterhood, their lingo (I so badly want to start calling everyone bebé and dahlin’, haha) and their adventures, and how they understand each other’s shortcomings and strengths. So, I’m pressing on to Ya-Yas in Bloom, and hope to reconcile my differences with Sidda.

 

Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells

I finally got around to reading the first of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood series. I’ve had this book on my TBR list for about three months now, and I was dragging my feet about reading it. But once I started reading, I had a hard time putting it down.

Little Altars Everywhere follows the life of the Walker family and the lives around them There’s Vivi Abbott Walker, the mother and a cornerstone of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, and then there’s Big Shep Walker, the farmer father. These two have four children (well, five counting an infant son that died four days after he was born)- Siddalee, Little Shep, Baylor, and Lulu. Each one has their own stories to tell, and every story is brutally honest. Each character has their own growing pains, vices, and struggles, and holds nothing back from the reader when discussing them.

Vivi talks about her glory Ya Ya days, of when she was popular and fun, a wannabe actress in New York, a walking party. Then, when she became a mother, things changed. She made sacrifices. She loved her children, but she loved herself more. And drinking more. And before the kids are even old enough to understand what she was happening, she turned into a violent and abusive woman, trying to fight her inner demons brought out by alcoholism.

Big Shep, used to the torrid actions of his wife, tried to provide for his family- be the family man, without having the time to actually be with the family. More often than not, when he was with his wife, they were arguing, making up, and then arguing again. And when things got to be too much, he would run away to duck camp, and hide out. He wanted to do right, but he didn’t have the stomach- and in other ways, the clout- to do it.

The four kids are pretty much left to their own devices, and nurtured as much as possible by Willetta, their housemaid. As they grow into adults, they reflect on their childhoods and the way their parents influenced their adolescence and adulthood.

I absolutely adored this book, even with the heartbreaking issues caused and brought about by Vivi’s alcoholism. I love the voices that Wells has given her characters- each sassy, blunt, honest, witty… reading the book was like sitting in a room, listening to your family bickering. The sarcasm that flies, I tell ya! I’m really looking forward to reading the next in the series- the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood – and getting to learn more about the four Ya Yas. If you haven’t read this book, I give it two thumbs up, and suggest you at least watch the movie that the book inspired!

Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach

Image result for money

If you’re like me, money isn’t exactly a strong suit. Actually, I could say I’m excellent at spending it, and not so much at saving it. So when I saw this book in Goodwill, I thought it must be a sign to get my finances straight before the new year began. I also thought all of you might be interested in what Mr. Bach had to say, so I’m going to give you a few of his pointers!

  1. “The problem is not income- it’s what we spend!” I’m guessing we all know this, but truthfully the most helpful advice is to put money away, not spend it.
  2. “Without values, goals rarely get accomplished. Values are key.” The obvious target audience for this book is women, and Bach easily shows how women understand the value of money more than men. We tend to aim it more towards security, freedom, and happiness, rather than just posession of stuff- cars and big houses and fancy vacations.
  3. “Make getting you financial house in order a priority.” I’m a bit of a neat freak, so I have a really great filing system. But I also have a stack of ‘to file’ papers and nothing organized enough to draw a conclusion out of my financial statements. It’s completely daunting to think of having to get all of it organized to use the information in this book, so Bach urges you to break it down. Get stuff in order. Then set aside time to read through the book. Then, set aside more time to go through your financials. It’s a process for understanding, not a race.
  4. The secret isn’t making more money- the secret is saving as much as you can! Even if it’s your daily latte money, set it aside and make that money work for you by gaining interest, etc.
  5. “Practice Grandma’s three basket approach to financial security.” The security basket for unexpected hardships, the retirement basket, and the dream basket for the goals you want to achieve.
  6. Learn the mistakes investors make. They’re human, and make mistakes too. Educate yourself, and don’t put blind faith into someone managing your money.
  7. Teach others how to be financially secure, such as your parents, children, and friends. (Haha, this counts right? Check!)
  8. Allow the choices you are making to reflect your values. This will help your overall focus of acquiring what you need to meet your needs and goals. And if you’re a believer in karma, what you put out into the universe will come back to you- so think of that when you think of why you need money.
  9. Get inspired! If you need motivation (like I did/always do), then get out there and find it! Books are one of my favorite ways to get inspired, which is why I decided to spend (splurge, haha) the $1.00 on it. If that wasn’t money well spent, I don’t know what to tell you! But there are plenty of other ways to be inspired to get financially secure- attend a lecture, take a workshop, talk to an adviser- whatever you need to do to get motivated.

Bach recommended reading this book in its entirety, and reading each chapter twice, before applying it to your own financials. So I’ve got some more reading before I really get to work. I hope this advice helps you out, or inspires you to ‘get rich’ too! I suggest picking up your own copy so you can reference all the good information. I’ve already flagged and highlighted mine the first time around!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Image result for the perks of being a wallflower

I would have easily read this in a few hours if I had had the time to read this over the weekend. At a short 213 pages, The Perks of Being a Wallflower grabs your attention from the first page as main character Charlie writes letters to his unnamed friend.  Each letter, Charlie pours his heart out about his family, his friends, and the observations and tribulations of growing up.

Losing his best friend and his favorite aunt prior to his freshman year, Charlie enters high school as a bit of a spectacle. Anyone who knew him knew he was friends with the boy who committed suicide, isolating him, and those who didn’t know him didn’t acknowledge him. It was easy for Charlie to slip into the background, but his therapist recommended that he try to “participate”. So he decided to attend a football game, and there he befriends Patrick, a funny guy from his shop class, and Sam, Patrick’s half sister and the prettiest girl Charlie has ever met. The three become fast friends, and Charlie’s recount of their friendship is the saddest, sweetest thing I’ve ever read.

Chbosky creates such a charming, sweet, smart, etc etc character in Charlie, and yet allows Charlie’s voice to haunt and seep into the reader. The stories told in the letters from Charlie hold nothing back about friendship, deep admiration, depression, utter sadness, struggles with personal and sexual identity, relationships, and family bonds. It surprised me how much Chbosky packed into such a short novel. Each letter is told with so much emotion, and nearly each part of the novel made me want to hug Charlie more and more.  Of course, addressing the perks to being a wallflower- Charlie has this amazing ability to silently observe a situation, and think about it in both an emotional and analytical way. It’s why he’s able to connection certain songs to his friends and situations, and why he’s able to read a book and understand the story and the context behind the written work.

Reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a must. I know you could just skip the book and watch the movie, but I’ve seen the movie and the book is even more amazing. You’ll need to hug someone at the end, and you’ll feel all the feels, but I promise you’ll love it. It’ll be like hearing a sad, beautiful song on the radio exactly when you need to hear one.

Image result for the perks of being a wallflower