Thursday, November 13, 2014

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.” 
― Cheryl StrayedWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Book Title: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Publication Date: 2007
Genres: Nonfiction (!!!!)
Goodreads Rating: 3.91 Stars 
My RatingStars
Recommended To: Anyone who is feeling lost; Anyone who loves the outdoors

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. 

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

1. Y'all! I read nonfiction! And loved it! Ok, so there are very, very few nonfiction books that capture my attention. Even less of them that I read in two days. But this book... whew. I was hooked. You could tell this was a nonfiction memoir the whole time reading it, because the author's voice was so strong and clear.

2. Strayed's voice is RAW. This girl doesn't hold back. You will hear about her promiscuous love life, her deciding to cheat on her husband, her drug use.. She makes no apologies. She has regrets and she doesn't think she was on the right path, but she never says she wishes she didn't do it. I think I really connected to the idea that every bad thing she did lead to where she was then. Of course, she wrote this novel a whole 8 years AFTER her trek up the PCT, so there's a lot of introspection and forgiveness there. If she had written this memoir immediately after her trip, I think it would have sounded much different.

3. There are dissenters. I try to go into the book without expectations. Of course, I (being addicted to Goodreads) like to read the reviews of a book AFTER I read the novel. And these reviews surprised me. There were many reviews citing that they HATED this book because of Strayed's unapologetic, or even "dissmissive", tone when discussing her past transgressions. Many people criticized her for being silly enough to try to hike the PCT with so little experience, or they felt like she was looking for pity when complaining about her mother's death or her toenails falling off. I didn't see it like this at all. I connected with Strayed because, seriously, it made me feel like I could totally go hike a mountain. It wouldn't be easy (she never said it would be). But I felt like despite being ill prepared and lacking experience, I could do it because she did it. I connected with Strayed because I felt like she was on my level -- imperfect and searching. 

This memoir hit me at my core, and while there were a few improvements that could be made with her storytelling, overall, it was one of the best nonfiction books I've ever read.

"It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.” 

“The universe, I'd learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.” 

"Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore."

“There's no way to know what makes one thing happen and not another. What leads to what. What destroys what. What causes what to flourish or die or take another course.” 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Wish Had Their Own Books

This was a hard TTT for me. Typically, I read novels that are shown from multiple points of view (eliminating a need for a secondary character novel, like The Memory Keeper's Daughter) or the few novels I would want to see a different point of view from have already been written (ahem, If I Say/Where She Went and Four from the Divergent series). That being said, there were a few that came to the top of my mind when I started searching for those characters.

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
Here's a no-brainer: Hermione needs her own book. I would love to imagine what was going through her head as she slapped Draco or fell in love with Ron. Also, a throwback novel to the Marauders. Please, JK, please give us this story!
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bernadette went missing for months and months... What was she doing? What's the real story? I'd love to hear about her adventures and what was going on in her head as she ran away from her family.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
So much was unclear about these teens in the beginning of the novel, and even as I worked my way through Jellicoe Road, I still had trouble getting the real story behind their friendship. Really, I just want to read Hannah's manuscript (in the correct order, please).
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Lady Brett Ashley is coy and sassy and feminine, and the men just don't get her. I'd love to see a novel written from her point of view to see her way of thinking and get the real story behind her feelings.

Paper Towns by John Green
Margo isn't in much of this novel. Rather, Q spends the entire novel obsessing and idealizing her. I would love to see the real struggles behind her travels.

Ok, so I only pulled out six characters for their own novels. What characters did I miss? Who are you wishing you had another novel for?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Currently Crushing On: Poppy and Fern

Hey all! What a weekend. Had a great time with some of my favorite girls Saturday night, celebrating a friend's marriage, followed by a Sunday full of cooking, cleaning, and schoolwork (always.. unending...).

I just realized that Christmas season is coming up. I know, I know! It's still a month and a half away. But if you're thinking of ordering presents online, particularly through Etsy, you want to get your orders in early, so you can make sure your presents come in on time.

Today, for my Currently Crushing On, I wanted to share with y'all this awesome Etsy shop I've recently started following on Instagram.

Poppy and Fern is run by a woman out of Austin who learned to embroider from her grandmothers. While teaching Pre-K, she discovered a vintage frame that she decided to fill with an embroidered anchor. From there, her business blossomed, and just six months later, she put in her two weeks notice as a teacher and began running her Etsy shop full time.

Since I started following her on Instagram, I've become obsessed with her small designs. She caught my eye with her hot air balloons. I've recently become pretty obsessed with hot air balloons, since Jeromy's fantastic proposal and our trip to Colorado. Plus, Poppy and Fern's hot air balloons are just adorable.

Also, her tiny flower bouquets are to die for. I mean, right? The variety and colors are endless, and her bouquets are so detailed. Plus, her little animals are adorable, and most of her custom orders are of people's pets, which, duh. I think my little pup would make an adorable necklace.

So, of course, I completely digging these, and I'm fairly certain that one or more of my favorite people will be receiving little charms in their Christmas stockings.

For Poppy and Fern's Etsy shop, click here.
To follow Poppy and Fern on Instagram, click here.
To find Poppy and Fern on Facebook, click here.

To learn more about Poppy and Fern, check out their feature on Etsy, which has great information about the shop, as well as some great pictures and insights behind the process. If you love Poppy and Fern, place an order soon. Christmas orders are book fast!

Have a great Monday!

(All images via Etsy)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Inspirations and My Future

Today, I was going to list out goals for the month, to try to keep myself accountable for something. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that right now, setting goals just isn't for me. It's not that I'm goal-less or that I don't have anything that I'm stretching for. Trust me, there are plenty of things I'm working toward. It's just that, for the first time in months, I feel content. I feel like the path I'm on is the right path for me. To some, the path of substituting to make money and blogging (for free) doesn't look like it's heading down any lifelong path, but for me, right now, this is right.

Over the past few months, I've struggled with job hunting. A lot. More than anyone (other than my poor Jeromy) probably realizes. At the core of the job hunt wasn't finding a job I could do, but rather a job that I could love.

Once I decided to be completely honest with myself, I realized that teaching is what I should be doing for the rest of my life. 

When I left teaching 3 years ago, I was a lost puppy. I thought that because the life I was living at that moment wasn't the life I wanted, that meant that EVERYTHING in that life was wrong. And to some extent, it was. I've realized that teaching in a public school is NOT right for me. Sure, I went to public school, and the only places I've ever taught were public schools. However, I'm realizing, as a teacher, this is not the right place for me. Without getting too fired up (because man, this fires me up), I can say definitively and without question, public school teachers are lacking the resources and structure that they need to be the most effective they can be. And while many, many teachers (and some of my best friends) are making the best of a shitty situation, I know that I can't follow that path.

So I'm going private.

Am I selling out? Some people probably think so. I have a lot of respect for all of my friends and teachers who have dealt with budget cuts and pay plateaus and unsupportive administration. However, I know that if I put myself in that situation again, I will not survive. I need to be the best teacher I can be to the students who are looking to me for guidance and support, and in public school, I won't be the best teacher I can be. For me, guiding and supporting is what teaching is about. Sure, they need to know how to write a complete sentence and read Shakespeare, but what they really need is affirmation that they are being heard and support through the most confusing times in their lives. High school is hell, y'all. If I can help one student get through it easier, then it will all be worth it. In public schools (at least the ones I have experienced), there is resentment, fear, and struggle that would overshadow my ability to be the best teacher I could be.

I've been really hesitant to talk about it out loud for fear of judgement. Also, while I have applied for a position that I am perfectly (both educationally and personally) suited for, I'm still waiting for a contract. That's scary, and this whole journey to now has been a roller coaster. Last month, I pushed myself; I set goals and worked hard to achieve them. I pushed and pulled to get myself on the right path.

But I finally feel like I'm on the right track.

So this month, no goals. No pushing. This month, I focus on my fiancee and our little family, I focus on finishing graduate school, I focus on working hard to keep food on our table. But I'm not striving for more. I'm coasting, and I'm ok with that.

For now. For November.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

“From this distance everything is so bloody perfect.” 
― Melina MarchettaJellicoe Road

Book Title: Jellicoe Road
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 2007
Genres: YA Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 4.18 Stars 
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
Recommended To: Anyone who is feeling lost; Anyone who wants to read about finding family

I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.

Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs - the enigmatic leader of the Cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother - who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

1. Rough start, smooth finish. This probably had a lot more to do with my frame of mind than the book itself. (I shouldn't start reading books when I'm hungry. Note taken.) I found the first third of the book to be pretty disjointed and confusing. I think that this was for a reason. Taylor is lost and confused, but as the novel goes on, Taylor becomes more certain and sure of herself, and the novel begins tying up loose ends that were quite confusing at the beginning. So, whether it was by design or it was just my hungry head getting confused, the novel does clear up as you go on.

2. The original 5 stole my heart. So the novel opens with a story of a family getting in a car accident. Then, flash forward 22 years, and we meet Taylor. No, Taylor is not in the opening series. But as I found out more about those 5 kids mentioned at the beginning, I began to wish they were my best friends. They are funny, and they really and truly care about each other. Once I realized how the book was playing out, I was eager to get more information about these mysterious kids.

3. It's just a good story. Did this story change my life? No, probably not. But overall, it's a compelling and intriguing story, and it kept me turning the pages and wanting to know what happens. I read this novel in 2 days. It was a quick read, but so darn good.

This novel shows the meaning and importance of family, and I felt a real connection with the characters.

“It's funny how you can forget everything except people loving you. Maybe that's why humans find it so hard getting over love affairs. It's not the pain they're getting over, it's the love.” 

“He stops and looks at me. 'I'm here because of you. You're my priority. Your happiness, in some fucked way, is tuned in to mine. Get that through your thick skull. Would I like it any other way? Hell, yes, but I don't think that will be happening in my lifetime.” 

“But grief makes a monster out of us sometimes . . . and sometimes you say and do things to the people you love that you can't forgive yourself for.” 

“These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I'm thinking. Jonah Griggs takes my hand under the table and links my fingers with his and I know that I would sacrifice almost anything just to keep this state of mind, for the rest of the week at least.” 

“If I want more, I need to go and get it, demand it, take hold of it with all my might, and do the best I can with it.” 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guest Post: Favorite Books with Male Protagonists

Today, I'm so excited to welcome fellow Potterhead, blogger, and Louisiana resident -- Tiffany! She blogs at Endless Bliss, and has amazing book reviews and lifestyle posts. I asked her to guest post today while I studied all week for finals (ahem, last finals ever!), and boy did she deliver. I'm loving this post, and I added a book or two to my To Read list!
Without further ado, here's Tiffany.

Hi everyone! I'm Tiffany, a 20-something trying to navigate the real world post-graduation. My blog, Endless Bliss, is a happy lifestyle blog where I like to talk about living life with a smile on your face and a book in your hands. I'm such a bookworm, which is why Emily and I connected so easily. Our tastes in books overlap, which I love!
If you ever wander over to my book reviews page, you'll notice that most of the books I review have a few things things in common:
  1. They're YA.
  2. They're usually in one of two categories: contemporary or dystopian.
  3. There's always a killer love story.
  4. There's a female protagonist.
Before I started posting my book reviews, I never noticed that most of the books I read were catered toward girls. Call me non-observant (because I definitely am), but I didn't. 
While I love a good Sarah Dessen novel as much as the next girl, every once in awhile, I'll read something with a male protagonist that makes go 'woah,' and today, I'm excited to share with you a few of my favorite novels where the main character isn't a female.
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photo credit: ginnerobot via photopin cc


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Okay, this may be an obvious first choice, but come on, it's Harry Potter! Of course, I love Harry Potter, and even though my favorite character is actually Hermione, that still doesn't take away from the fact that the main character in JK's debut novels is a male. I think we're all pretty familiar with Harry's wizarding adventures, so I'll just move along.


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I don't know that I've ever met someone who has read Perks of Being a Wallflower and not fallen in love with Charlie's story. I wanted to travel into the book and be his friend. I read this book in less than 24 hours because it's hard to put down, even though I already know what happens. It's heartbreaking, but at the same time, it's really uplifting in a weird way.


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I jumped on the Maze Runner train a little late. I actually didn't read the books until I found out that they were becoming a movie. I really wanted to not like them, because I'm the kind of person that likes to find something to hate about the books that everyone loves (even though I rarely do), but I found myself really liking this series. While the first book trumped the rest of the series for me, I still had fun getting to know Thomas and following his adventure, even though he's so stubborn that sometimes I just wanted to jump in the book and strangle him. 


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I was surprised by how hard I fell in love with Openly Straight. It was my first LGBT novel, so I wasn't sure what to expect. And while I can't relate to Rafe's struggle with his homosexuality, there was so much that I could relate to. The book was about discovering yourself and being accepted by your peers, and I loved being able to follow Rafe's journey to find that balance between his old life and his new one.


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I can't tell you how many people told me I needed to read this book, and after I did, I couldn't believe it took me so long to do so. I recently bought it from a bargain book sale at a local college, and I still can't believe someone would willingly donate that book. It's so good! I loved Clay Jensen and his big heart and his desire to just do better.
What are some of your favorite books with male protags?
If you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Twitter or like my blog's page on Facebook!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want to ReRead

Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and Bookish) was an easy one for me this week! I'm a huge fan of rereading books because I read so quickly and rereading allows me to find things I missed the first time around. I have a whole shelf on Goodreads dedicated to books I want to reread, so it wasn't hard for me to round up the novels I'm most looking forward to rereading.

Gemma Doyle Series by Libba Bray -- I read this series A LONG TIME AGO, and I remember loving it, but I really have no idea what it was about. So... Reread!
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling -- We will not talk about how many times I read Sorcerer's Stone (17 times), but that doesn't stop me from wanting to reread, especially since the movies have distorted the real story for me. 

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta -- I just finished this novel. No seriously, I finished it right before I started writing this post. But I already know I want to reread it. (Review coming soon!)
Paper Towns by John Green -- In terms of John Green novels, this one is low on my favorites list (behind TFiOS and LfA for sure), but Green has been teasing me on Tumblr and Instagram with behind the scenes photos from the movie, so I know I'll have to reread this one soon.
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher -- This novel has been popping up everywhere lately, and since it's been about a year since I've read it, I figure it's about time to read it again... If I could only find my copy! 

White Noise by Don DeLillo -- This is the only novel I remember enjoying from my Current Fiction class in undergrad, and now I want to remember why I liked it so much. Probably because I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic worlds.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams -- This is one of the very few novels I listened to as an audiobook, but it was so fragmented, and I think I could really enjoy the weirdness if I read it instead of listening.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce -- This was one of my top favorite novels of last summer, and I still think about Harold Fry often (one of my all time favorite characters, along with Ove). Definitely time for a reread.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier -- This was one of my first classic novels that I read, and I've read it 5-6 times since that first reading. Each time, it astounds me and surprises me, and I feel like there's still more hiding at Manderley.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott -- Another one of the first classics I read (True Story: I lost my mom's copy when I was in the 5th grade and I still haven't told her. Shhhh). Each time I read this novel, I connect with a different character, but as I've gotten older, Jo has been someone I love. I'm ready to dive back into this one.

What do you think? What novel are you itching to reread and why?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Club Reviews A Memory Keeper's Daughter

Last night, we had Book Club at a local Mexican restaurant (the cheese! the margaritas!), and we talked about The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.

Book Title: The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Publication Date: 2006
Genres: Adult Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 3.6 Stars 
Book Club Rating3.5 Stars

This novel received mixed reviews from the group... Some of us (me!) thought it was deep-thinking and posed some interesting questions, while others thought it was just too sad and annoying (most of the other people). Granted, I didn't like the main characters very much, but as I read more novels, I've learned to appreciate stories outside of whether I like the main characters or not. 
A #1 New York Times bestseller by Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a brilliantly crafted novel of parallel lives, familial secrets, and the redemptive power of love.

Kim Edwards’s stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964 in Lexington, Kentucky, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a century—in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that winter night long ago.

A family drama, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter explores every mother's silent fear: What would happen if you lost your child and she grew up without you? It is also an astonishing tale of love and how the mysterious ties that hold a family together help us survive the heartache that occurs when long-buried secrets are finally uncovered.
1. The premise. Ok, so reading the back cover is pretty interesting. The story is set in a time period we don't usually read (1960s-70s), and the idea of a doctor giving up his newborn is intriguing. I think it was executed well, and showed an interesting parallel between someone who makes the wrong decision (Dr. Henry) vs. someone who makes the right decision (Caroline).

2. The time period. We don't usually see novels set in this time period, especially ones about normal people (and not hippies/drug users). I found it interesting to see the expectations of women at that time. It seems like the 60s weren't that long ago, but women still had crazy expectations on them. Also, watching Caroline fight for Phoebe's right to an education was so exciting for me.

1. The Henry Family. So the decision that Dr. Henry makes and the lies he conceals undeniably pulls his family apart. We all found ourselves shouting at the book, "Just tell them already!" There were so many "What If" moments in this novel... What if they had kept Phoebe? What if Dr. Henry had told his wife the truth? What if Caroline hadn't kept Phoebe? I liked this aspect, but most of the group thought it was frustrating.

2. The sad. This book is a tough book. It's not easy to get through. There's a lot of heartbreak, hurting each other, and tough decisions. Eventually, the novel wrapped up well, but getting to the end was emotionally draining.

"Why can't we ever read fluffy books?"
- Simone

"But I really liked this one!"
- Me