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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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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.

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Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I would like to take a minute before I delve into the two movies/ one book comparison, and say that by the end of Mockingjay, if I hadn’t been in a public place when I turned the last page, I would have been crying. To go through the journey of horrors that Katniss had to deal with for three books, to the relatively happy ending in which even she has to remind herself that she is still surviving… talk about heavy heart. Despite those feelings, I wanted to subject myself to seeing the movie for the obvious comparison reasons, and the maybe not-so-obvious visual representation of the action that takes place. Because there are two movies, there’s going to be a lot of things to point out, so bear with me.

  • The reunion with Gabe- there is no lead up, nor is it as emotionally charged as in the book. At this point, Katniss is still having a lot of internal conflict about who she loves more, Peeta or Gale, in the book, and yet the movie skims this.
  • Katniss’s conditions of becoming the Mockingjay are cut short. In the movie, she only asks for Peeta, Johanna, and Annie to be spared (and no mention of Enobaria) to be pardoned, and for her sisters cat to stay in the district. No mention of hunting, no mention of Gale being beside her at all times, no mention of getting to kill Snow.
  • Up to this point, no mention of Haymitch, except that he’s ‘drying out’. Effie is asked to help prep the Mockingjay, instead of who was left from the stylist team. There is no mention of the abuse to the stylist team, which is important in that it adds depth to the kind of person Coin is as a leader- the kind who hurts the innocent.
  • Prim relays the information about the District 13 epidemic and that Coin loses her husband and daughter to the epidemic, which is something that I either completely missed in the book, or was a Hollywood addition for sympathy from the audience.
  • Katniss breaks the news about the miscarriage in District 8, when in the book it was spread like a rumor by the uppers like Haymitch, Coin, and Plutarch.  Also while in 8, when the attack on the hospital happens, Katniss only shoots one plane down. There is no geese formation comment like in the book, which demonstrates the  bond between Gale and Katniss.
  • The movie does give much more coverage from other districts demonstrating the uprisings in comparison of the book, which mostly relays that information via narration from Katniss or broadcasts.
  • Hunting above ground was Gales idea and okayed by Coin in the movie, and relayed as a surprise for Katniss. In the book, this was one of the requests Katniss makes as a condition of being the Mockingjay. Also, as a hunter myself, I’m very curious as to what the map of the districts would look like, because in my mind, I was surprised to see Katniss and Gale hunting elk in District 13- I tend to think of them as more of a Rocky Mountain range animal, and in my mind, 13 was near the Appalachians (which I know have elk, but in small populations). I did a little research to see if a map existed, and this is what I found to be the “unofficial official” map of Panem:

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  • The evacuation to the lower level is portrayed with way more panic and chaos than the book describes. The only dramatic part in the book is when Prim can’t be found. No idea what all the rain is about in the movie either… I don’t remember any pipes bursting underground, so I’m not sure why it’s pouring in the movie.
  • Katniss is supposed to be talking about Peeta with Finnick as a distraction during the rescue mission of Peeta and the others captured during the Quarter Quell. However, in the movie, Katniss isn’t a part of the propo.  Instead she is watching the rescue mission, a in communication with President Snow, which didn’t happen during Peeta’s rescue mission.
  • They send in Prim, not Delly, as the first introduction to Peeta after he attacks Katniss. This makes no sense to those who read the book, because Prim would be a definite trigger that would connect back to Katniss.
  • Snow poisoning the minister was definitely a show piece for the movie audience and not a part of the book- or at least, it wasn’t narrated, but more speculated by Finnick.
  • Johanna looking at Katniss’s things in the hospital, not in their room. Johanna shows no hesitance when she sees the stuff, nor gets permission from Katniss to look at the things. This doesn’t allow the movie audience to see their sort of camaraderie build.
  • Instead of earning her place on the 451 squad, and showing the effort that Johanna and Katniss put in training, the movie bypasses the situation and has Johanna cover for Katniss after Finnick and Annie’s wedding so that Katniss can sneak onto a plane headed for the Capital. This frustrated me, because there was so much character development for Johanna in that time period, and when she fails to make the team, it was meaningful to the reader as to why. And the same goes for Katniss, especially when she outwits the training simulator into thinking she can follow orders. Anyways, it was so Hollywood to see her walk into the war front and of course everyone was recognizing her, and then when she meets up with Gale, she learns that Coin is annoyed with her now that she’s gone rogue- when in the book, the mistrust from Coin is found out later. Finally, the squad is introduced while in the Capital during the movie, when in the book they are all shipped to the capital together.
  • Finnick recognizes the Holo as akin to the Hunger Games arena before Katniss- in the book it is visa versa.
  • Katniss and Gale are the only ones to head out toward the Snow mansion, and  unlike when all 5 of them head out. In the book, the significance of the remaining squad members leaving to create distractions from Katniss as she makes her way to the mansion is lost in the movie. The same goes for Gale giving his nightlock pill to Peeta, and for Peeta to want to protect Katniss. Also, when Gale is captured, it is supposed to be a chaotic moment that Katniss doesn’t even have time to hear or register what Gale was shouting at her. She is not supposed to hear Gale saying shoot me.
  • Snow isn’t locked up within the garden like in the book.
  • Katniss only gets one arrow in the book to shoot Snow, and yet she walks out in the movie with a full quiver. Also, she mentions the lack of stage space, and how close she was to Snow for the execution, and yet the movie has a huge wide area. And on top of that, Peeta is there to witness the whole event when he should actually still be in the hospital.

There you have it, as many discrepancies as I could note while watching the films. I would like to say that over all, these movies kept me on the edge of my seat, and I enjoyed the way the actors fit their roles. I have to say, my favorite in the movie was surprisingly Haymitch- haha Woody Harrelson nailed the character. I’ll definitely be rereading and rewatching this series, and am glad I finally came out from under my rock to tackle them!

 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I’m just getting around to reading the Hunger Games series (I know, I know, but I like living under a rock!) and decided that since they were so popular and such major movies, I’d do a book/movie comparison! I mean, we all know the book is going to be much better because Hollywood likes cutting the good stuff for movie length reasons (just give us the 4 hour movie, seriously!) but I like being able to remember what really happened vs what happened in the movies.

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  • The introduction of the movie sums up the first few chapters of the book fairly well, though there is far more background in the book. And the relationship between Gale and Katniss isn’t as defined at the start of the movie as in the book.
  • How Katniss got the Mockingjay pin is far more meaningful in the book than in the movie. For a mayor’s daughter to give away a pure gold pin versus being handed it by a Hob woman without much insight on the pin doesn’t give the audience much information about the state of the district and the worth of the pin to Katniss. Though they add sentimentality in the movie- where Katniss gives the pin to Prim to protect her, and then she gives it back after the reaping- it still doesn’t do the book justice, in my opinion.
  • Katniss doesn’t put on as much of a show in the opening ceremony in the movie, and it’s Peeta’s idea to hold hands and not Cinna’s. Truthfully, this carries throughout the movie, and it makes their romantic interest in each other hard to believe in the movie. In the books, you really think there could be something mixed in from what the reader gathers from Katniss’ internal conflict.
  • Katniss’ display to the scoring panel- way more thrilling in the book than the movie- although, seeing her hit the apple was pretty cool!
  • The constant surveillance isn’t as apparent in the movies as in the book. The things that Peeta tells Katniss the eve of the Games in the movie is less censored than the book. The surveillance in general during the games is also lesser than the book portrays. Katniss doesn’t act up or hide her emotions in the movie as often as the book says. In the book, they seem to be constantly aware of the cameras.
  • The relationship between Katniss and Rue wasn’t as developed in the movie as the book. You get that they admire each other, but you don’t see Katniss’ soft side, the part that makes Rue remind her of Prim.
  • Katniss didn’t stay hidden after blowing up the cornucopia in the movie, nor did they explain her hearing loss.
  • The uprising of District 11 in the movie wasn’t talked about in the book. None of the underlying Gamemaker/Capital business is truly revealed, only speculated by Katniss, until the end of the book. Even so there wasn’t any mention of any district outside of the capital being upset about the Games ending the way that it did.
  • The love story is definitely not played up as much in the movie, making the whole “Romeo and Juliet star-crossed lovers” death threat at the end a lot less believable, and the whole end of the book is Katniss trying to sort out her feelings in the Games vs her reality.
  • There is no mention of the separation of the two main characters at the end of the movie, and Peeta finding out about Katniss’ not reciprocating the same feelings for Peeta. This obviously is supposed to set the reader up for the following book in the series, and therefore should also be done in the movies- but it wasn’t.

Obviously, as the first in the series, the movie left the audience curious about what might happen next, but the book left the reader rushing off to the store in search for the next one. Now, if you’re like me and haven’t read or seen the movie, I suggest you check them out, because even though I found the movie lacking in comparison, both the book and movie are thrilling and keep their respective audiences wanting more.