Book Review: Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

If you have a goal, a mind-blowing dream, and haven’t done anything about it yet…

Get. This. Book.

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image courtesy: goodreads.com

I heard the audio book during my daily commute and I literally felt like Ms. Hollis wrote this book for me. Maybe not the entire book, but definitely the chapter on “Not Having Enough Time” in the excuses section of the book.

Ms. Hollis is straightforward and bold as she encourages women from all walks of life to finally get themselves into action and make, yes MAKE, their dreams come true.

She addresses excuses we all use to avoid tackling on a project head-on. And, chances are, there is at least one excuse which resonates so deeply with you, Ms. Hollis will unpack and dismantle it in minutes.

The audio book is rich with examples from her personal story of success and she keeps each point relevant to the pressures women face in modern-day society.

A print copy of the book would be useful if like me, you love to underline, note-take or highlight sections to remember. However, if you’re also like me and have your day pretty much planned out between work and family, the audio book delivers her message rather effectively during your commute.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who feels stuck or is unsure of where she’ll find the drive to truly go after her goals. Ms. Hollis will fire you up and get you going! (I hope).

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Vulnerable. Worthy. Authentic. Take Aways from The Gifts of Imperfection

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Oh, this Book! I will write about this book again, and again…and maybe even again as I re-read it, and let the lessons unfold.

For now, I will say that my biggest take-aways were:

We can choose with whom to be vulnerable.

Not everyone earns the right to see our vulnerability. Holy Crap. That’s huge! Let me tell you something about Colombian families….everyone knows everything. Always. And, they all have an opinion they believe is meant to be heard – which can create a lot of shame even though that might not have been the intention. So, I guess you grow up believing your life/triumphs/failures have to be an open book. Don’t get me wrong here. I didn’t misinterpret Brown’s words. I’m not saying she’s advising to close ourselves off. She reminds us of the power we have to select who has the right to our vulnerability. We can choose those who support us, nurture us, and challenge us to be the best version of ourselves with compassion. These people have earned that right.

Stop the hustle! We are worthy as we are.

That’s it. So simple…yet, so hard to do, right? This is the equivalent of teaching our children: never try to get someone to like you. We are perfect in our imperfections. Shit happens. Life happens. Stop trying so hard because regardless of what happens or what does or doesn’t get done, we are worthy of love. The End.

Remaining true to ourselves. Using another, very popular term du jour, be Authentic. 

Authenticity goes beyond being truthful. Brown defines it as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are” (50). I guess it means shedding all of the ways in which we’re expected to show up in our different roles. I remember I had a therapy session with a friend of my mother’s. I was feeling extremely depleted at the time; she worked with my energy and chakras. During the session she asked me to bring to mind all of the expectations I had of myself, or believed others had of me, and to see them, as though I was looking in a mirror. She asked me to hold that vision for a few seconds. And, then, with all my might, I was instructed to shatter that mirror. As the pieces fell away, she asked who was left. The only answer, of course, was me. It was one of the most powerful moments in my life. I go back to that moment often when life becomes too demanding; when I need to go back to me and let go of the bullshit.

Perfectionism Sucks

While this wasn’t a new lesson for me, it was a great reminder to let go of any nagging need to satisfy appearances. It’s part of the everyday flux…what to let go of because it doesn’t serve and what to embrace because it makes up the imperfect person I am.

I think this book has something to offer everyone. From those well into their vulnerability journey to those who are toying with the idea of facing down their shames in order to live a fuller life. Brene Brown teaches, reminds, guides with compassion, humour and stories which show she is in the trenches with us.

Hope to hear about your own journey, whether through this book, or another you might recommend.

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Bookish Thursdays: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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from goodreads

Summary from deborahharkness.com:  When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer. For witches are not the only otherworldly creatures living alongside humans. There are also creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires who become interested in the witch’s discovery. They believe that the manuscript contains important clues about the past and the future, and want to know how Diana Bishop has been able to get her hands on the elusive volume. Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans—and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well.

This book is long. As much as I would’ve loved to make it a marathon and just read into the wee hours of the night, my lifestyle (ha! what lifestyle? I’m on maternity leave)…anyway, it wasn’t possible.

So each time I opened the book, I allowed myself to just enjoy the writing and let Deborah Harkness spin her tale and wrap me in it. 

I loved the mix of historical fiction/fantasy. Harkness’ background as a scholar really comes through in her writing. It is thorough, and my guess would be in the historical fiction part of it, accurate – and if not, it felt accurate. Which in a work of fiction is probably more important.

Each character is flawlessly created and distinct. I really felt that I was shown the layers that make up each character – no matter how minor and I loved that! It is a rich, rich story that truly offers readers the chance to get lost in a story.

So, it wasn’t until I finished the novel and shook my head a little, that I realized that there were a few things that bothered me. I found Diana very immature. Her reluctance to accept her legacy was thoroughly annoying. I mean she has all this power – just learn how to use it already! And, why is it that an intelligent female character always has to be low-maintenance? Maybe it’s the Latina in me but women can take care of themselves, appreciate their own beauty and be intelligent. Don’t know why it bothered me so much…perhaps since the narrator always makes sure to tell us what she’s wearing and it’s usually not all that appealing…

I also thought Matthew was a little too controlling. And his pet name for Diana “ma lionne” was too much…sure she survived being tortured by a fellow witch, but other than that I wouldn’t call this character brave…at least not yet.

My annoyances with the characters were minor and didn’t really affect my overall opinion of the book. I liked A Discovery of Witches. I enjoyed the slightly different portrayal of vampires and witches. The writing and character development were superb. And, I loved the way Harkness weaved history and major historical events into the plot and the lives of the characters. It was fun to see the love story between Matthew and Diana develop thought at times it was a bit juvenile (I fell in love with you before you fell in love with me). The narrator treated the reader with maturity so it was easy to overlook instances like those. A Discovery of Witches was a little dense at times, but I think it worked.

I will definitely be reading book two of the All Souls Trilogy, Shadow of Night.

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Bookish Thursdays: Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Summary from GoodreadsIn this breathtaking novel—rich in history and adventure—The New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon continues the story of Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser that began with the now-classic novel Outlander and continued in Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager. Once again spanning continents and centuries, Diana Gabaldon has created a work of sheer passion and brilliance…. It began at an ancient Scottish stone circle. There, a doorway, open to a select few, leads into the past—or the grave. Dr. Claire Randall survived the extraordinary passage, not once but twice. Her first trip swept her into the arms of Jamie Fraser, an eighteenth-century Scot whose love for her became a legend—a tale of tragic passion that ended with her return to the present to bear his child. Her second journey, two decades later, brought them together again in the American colonies. But Claire had left someone behind in the twentieth century—their daughter, Brianna…. Now Brianna has made a disturbing discovery that sends her to the circle of stones and a terrifying leap into the unknown. In search of her mother and the father she has never met, she is risking her own future to try to change history … and to save their lives. But as Brianna plunges into an uncharted wilderness, a heartbreaking encounter may strand her forever in the past … or root her in the place she should be, where her heart and soul belong….

I loved Drums of Autumn. Almost as much as I loved Outlander. Almost. Even though I didn’t love Voyager, I read Drums of Autumn because it was there and I felt compelled to keep reading Claire and Jamie’s story. I’m glad I did. Drums of Autumn restored my faith in the series and I am now quickly moving through The Fiery Cross.

Once again, Gabaldon delivers a strong novel about love, relationships and family.

This time the Frasers are in America – the new world. And what a fierce world it is. Claire and Jamie battle the political landscape, wilderness, poverty, and the knowledge that war will once again find them with ferocious courage and determination to make a good life for themselves.

Any romantic notions about time travel are quickly dissolved in this novel. Gabaldon paints a picture of a very hard life. The struggle to survive is the focus of each day. The constant preparation for long winters is exhausting. I wouldn’t last a month.

I loved Brianna’s journey in this book – both literal and metaphorical – and absolutely loved when she finally finds her parents and meets Jamie. The adventures in this book are vast and full of unexpected turns. My mouth fell wide open with shock at certain points and I just could not put the book down.

I thought Gabaldon did a nice job of developing Jamie and Brianna’s father/daughter relationship.  They disagree on most things; their views on life and gender are completely alien to one another due to being from wildly different centuries. Yet, the love they have for each other helps them to bridge the abyss no matter how unforgivable their actions may seem.

This book highlights new characters and conflicts that Jamie and Claire bravely face together. It also manages to maintain the deep love and romance between Jamie and Claire without being redundant or overly dramatic. I really loved the growth in Brianna’s character as well.

Drums of Autum was so much fun read. It was entertaining and had just enough romance, intrigue, violence and adventure to leave one fully satisfied and ready to read the next installment upon closing the book.

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Bookish Thursdays: The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

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from Goodreads

Summary from GoodreadsFor fans of The House at Riverton and Rebecca—a debut spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from a magnificent estate in war-torn England to Thailand, this sweeping novel tells the tale of a concert pianist, Julia, and the prominent Crawford family whose shocking secrets are revealed, leading to devastating consequences for generations to come. As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the great house where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to the tranquility of the estate. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation. When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park. Their search takes them back to the 1930s when a former heir to Wharton Park married his young society bride on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt on generations to come.

I read The Orchid House in August. It was on display at the library and I just grabbed it on the way out. I love stories that span generations so I really got into this book quickly. For the most part I enjoyed the novel, however there were parts that left me feeling a little uncomfortable.

The plot opens approximately 7 months after the main character, Julia, faces the tragic loss of her husband and two year old son in a car accident. I found it very hard to believe that her sister, who happens to be a mother of 4, is rallying Julia to “get on with her life” a mere 7 months after the destruction of her family. Immediately, I found that hard to believe but carried on with the reading in order to give the book a chance.

I was easily swept into 1930s London. I loved reading how youth at the time cavorted and frolicked. I quickly became a fan of Olivia. She is sweet, loyal and yearns for love. It is easy to be on her side when she falls madly in love with Harry Crawford, heir to Wharton Park. They stumble a few times, but I really bought it when he commits to her and claims to love her. I feel like the true tragedy in this novel is his betrayal of her. (Sure he’s a P.O.W during WWII and all that…but poor Olivia!)

As the story unfolds and secret after secret is revealed, I can’t say I was really surprised by any of them…except perhaps one about Julia’s dead husband…but that was just absurd…it was about at this point that The Orchid House lost me and I finished it because I had to see how the whole thing finished.

For the most part, the novel was entertaining, the characters not all that complex and the plot – at first, had me hooked – but then slowly released me and left me feeling not all that interested. Reading about wartime London and how women were involved in the war effort was also pretty interesting (again, more points in Olivia’s favour!) If you enjoy stories about family secrets affecting generations that follow and how these secrets are slowly revealed during the simultaneous self discovery of a hero as she pieces her life back together after a tragedy and everything ends splendidly for all involved, then you’ll enjoy The Orchid House.

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