NYC Dreaming: Sweetbitter Book Review

I really liked this book, Stephanie Danler’s debut novel, about a girl who heads to New York City to alter the boring narrative of her life thus far. NYC represents that for so many, a place to escape, write a new story, grow, and become whoever you want to be for the time being. It paints a dreamy picture of what it might be like to pack your bags and move to New York with no plans, taking whatever the city gives you, accepting it all. Tess is young and wants to feel something no matter the stakes, no matter if it’s right, no matter if it lasts. The novel perfectly captures what it feels like feel: to desire someone who desires you back, just not enough to choose you when more is on the line.  This is a book for the senses-I cared about the flavors and feelings on the page all the way to the end.

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I love books like this that give me such a good sense of a place, feeding my wanderlust without being a “travel book.” Another such novel was The Lullaby of Polish Girls. See my review here.

I’m curious: What feelings does New York City evoke in you?

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The Rocks by Peter Nichols: Book Review

I totally object to buying e-books and reading on a screen. I love having the physical copy in my hands, turning its pages, and seeing my progress. But books aren’t cheap, and you may wonder how I can afford to buy so many of them. Answer: I use thriftbooks.com and buy used! Rarely do I buy a newly released book for full price. That being said, it was different with The Rocks. When I read the synopsis, I knew I had to have it right away and couldn’t wait to buy it used a year or two from now. So did buying full price pay off?

This book was a hit for me. It’s set in a dreamy, exotic location (as if I didn’t want to go to Mallorca enough already this book further confirmed that desire). It’s packed with drama, and a lot of messed up stuff happens (which makes me enjoy a book that much more). It’s also very interesting because it starts at the end and works its way back, so the whole time you’re reading it you feel like you already know the ending…but boy is there a lot to discover. So yes, buying full price paid off!

 

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Review

In my eyes, Elizabeth Gilbert is a genius. I love everything she does. I immediately bought Big Magic when it came out but purposefully waited to read it until a time where I felt like I could give creativity more of my time and attention. I knew reading her words would inspire me to actually create, and boy did it. I also feel like the release of this book aligned perfectly with my life, coming into the world right as I decided to start blogging as a creative outlet. Funny how things work out like that 🙂 The messages in this book were just what I needed, and I love all the advice she gives. Starting a blog (or doing anything creative) can feel scary at times because you don’t know what people will think or if anyone will read it or care. Yet somehow none of that mattered, and I had to just go for it because I knew it would be good for me. Liz touches on this in the book– how creativity is good for your soul and how you can’t let fear stop you from experiencing the big magic that comes along with it. I agree with her; I don’t care if no one notices my blog or if people think it’s good or not. I just care that I’m doing it at all. I also felt reassured because she talks about getting things out into the world (even though they might be messy and imperfect) versus striving for perfection that will never exist. I feel like we can all take away so much from reading this book, especially when it comes to that. I highly recommend reading this novel, not only to “creatives,” but to everyone. Liz gives us a new way to think about creativity and also weaves in great examples from her own life and experiences to support her views. It makes me happy to think that more people will be out there creating after reading this book!

I attended the Big Magic Book Tour last year and got to hear Liz in person speak about the book. Here’s a snap from that day:

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Also, this post aligns with the release of Liz’s 2nd season of the Magic Lessons podcast starting August 1, 2016. You should definitely tune in!

To close, I wanted to share one of my favorite passages from the book found on page 173: “Bring forth what is within you, then, whether it succeeds or fails. Do it whether the final product is crap or gold. Do it whether critics love you or hate you- or whether the critics have never heard of you and perhaps never will hear of you. Do it whether people get it or don’t get it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to be Plato.”

Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert for bringing forth what is within you.

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The 10 Lines From “Sex and World Peace” That Shocked Me The Most

I felt the inspiration to start working on this post because I just finished watching the Gloria Steinem documentary, “Gloria: In Her Own Words.” Then I started thinking about the interview that Emma Watson posted on her Facebook page not too long ago where she speaks with Gloria. It was in that interview that I was introduced to my current read “Sex and World Peace” by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett. In short (and in my words), this book sets out to show that the way girls and women are treated in family systems on a small scale can affect and predict how violent (or peaceful) a country/cultural system will be on an international level. I made the interpretation that if boys are taught from a young age that a human (a female) is not worth as much as they are and doesn’t deserve the same rights/safety/respect/opportunities as they do, it can fuel violence and condone inequality in all aspects of life.  I highly recommend this book to anyone-feminist or not. It is very thought-provoking, and I wanted to share the parts of the book that were the most shocking to me. I hope this will inspire you to read it for the full effect and maybe get you thinking about issues you’ve never thought of before.

page 4: “Interestingly, more lives are lost through violence against women from sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, suicide, egregious maternal mortality, and other sex-linked causes than were lost during all the wars and civil strife of the twentieth century. From this perspective, the greatest security dilemma is, then, the systemic insecurity of women-half of the world’s population. Indeed, if we want to be technical about it, the systemic insecurity of women has resulted in a situation in which women are now no longer half of humanity, with a world sex ratio of 101.3 men per 100 women on the planet.”

page 18: “When we speak of microaggression against women, we must not overlook the fact that women may be as culpable as men.”

page 42: “Ironically, the United States insisted on quotas for women in both countries it invaded, Iraq and Afghanistan, so that now there is a significantly higher percentage of women in the legislatures of those two nations than in the United States itself.”

Ok, 2 sections from page 48 because I’m that taken aback: “…salary estimates of how much money would be required to buy the services of a full-time mother and housewife on the open market in 2009 in the United States ranged from $125,000 to more than $700,000. To exclude such a massive labor contribution toward the well-being of society from societal decision making is an invitation for economic and societal mayhem.”

“And so we find in the United States, the greatest risk factor for poverty in old age is to have ever been a mother–not a father, but a mother. That is because the Social Security system does not count any of a mother’s labor toward her Social Security check in old age.”

Interesting details of some experiments on page 52: “Research has shown that men process the voices of women in the same area of the brain that processes music and noise.”

page 60: “When a state, such a Yemen, allows an eight-year-old girl to be sold by her father into marriage with a man four decades older, that is one of the most profound betrayals of women a state can perpetrate.”

page 61: “The soberingly high maternal mortality rates among many African states should be seen as a call to arms by the rest of the world to help women through the vulnerable life stages of pregnancy and birth. It is a true devaluation of women’s lives for the state to be indifferent as to whether they live or die as a result of bringing forth the next generation of citizens.”

I want to include all of page 86 but I’ll just share this: “Given the multitude of degrading acts and demeaning innuendos constantly being made against girls and women, the rate of reinforcement for violence against women is extremely high, resulting in over-learned automatic violent behaviors.”

page 87: “When little girls are made to go hungry in order for little boys to have access to more food, the message is immediately sent that female children are of less value than male children and that little girls should not be given the same opportunities that are given to little boys.”

Here are some closing thoughts for those who think feminism means man shaming, from page 179: “Men are part of the problem, but they are also part of the solution. We are against violence, not men.” And page 200: “There is not a zero-sum game being played between men and women in which if women are elevated, then men are debased. We were meant to win together.”

The final chapters of the book offer top-down and bottom-up approaches to how we can make positive changes towards gender equality. Many people believe there are far more important issues going on these days than gender equality. However, protecting half the world’s population and thereby promoting world peace sounds like a pretty big deal to me.

 

My Top Travel Memoir Recommendations

I love how reading a book can take your mind off of everything except what’s happening on the pages in front of you. All books offer an escape in that sense, but travel memoirs take it to the next level. Locations and cultures come to life, transporting you to a place you’ve never been or even dreamed existed. Here is a quick breakdown of my personal favorites. Open one up, escape, enjoy. Warning: increased wanderlust will result.

  1. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman: I’m not going to be able to do this book justice—it’s that good. First of all, it is laugh out loud funny and contains a lot of steamy romance (what’s not to love?). Secondly, the author puts her thoughts into words so well, making the reader privy to inner debates that are super relatable. I love a book that causes me to stop reading just to immediately discuss said book. Her different perspectives on life and travel became the fuel for many conversations I would subsequently have with friends. Finally, the author’s life is a traveler’s dream—being able to have a career and still get in a solid 3-4 months of travel per year. If only I could be that lucky. She picks amazing countries to visit, and I loved experiencing them through her eyes. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
  1. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner: The author travels to some very unique, off-the-radar places, which made me love this book. I have always said there are only a few places in the world I would never go. If a place isn’t on my bucket list, it’s probably because I don’t know about it or what it has to offer yet. Geography opened my eyes to some blissfully happy countries—places we all could learn from and places that have now been added to my bucket list.
  1. The Lost Girls: Three Friends, Four Continents. One Conventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner: This is the book that made me realize you can quit your job and travel the world for a year if you really wanted to. And I loved realizing that. It also gave an honest perspective about what it would actually be like to do so—all the way from how it feels spending every single day in a foreign country with 2 people you don’t really know that well to how it feels experiencing a new country and falling in love with it. If you have a serious case of wanderlust or are going through travel withdrawals, this book is a great inspiration. The story has stayed with me for many years since reading it. Bravo Jennifer, Holly, and Amanda.
  1. The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife by Janna Cawrse Esarey: This book was exciting because although I’ve spent many hours daydreaming about traveling the world, I had never thought about “sailing the world.” Which is exactly what this couple did—even though the author was not an experienced sailor by any means. It teaches the ever important lesson that no dreams are out of reach no matter how big or impossible they may seem. That being said, this couple went through more ups and downs emotionally than they did physically (despite dealing with the constant swell of the ocean in a small sailboat). This was an intriguing read about discovering the world via the sea and also about discovering the extremes of what it means to be in a relationship (a.k.a. stuck on a boat together for a year). However, what surprised me most: life on a sailboat isn’t as solitary as you might imagine.
  1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat, Pray, Love is one of the most popular travel memoirs out there, taking place in Italy, India, and Indonesia. Travel has a way of healing, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey is a testament to that. Her story is one not to be missed.
  1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed: Going along with the same theme, Wild is also a story about setting off into the unknown with the hopes of moving on from a devastating event and finding peace through travel. The author goes through an amazing transformation physically and emotionally. Her strength shines through and makes for quite an inspirational read.
  1. A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi: I discovered this book after visiting Venice in real life, and reading it was a great way to keep my memories alive. Venice is beautiful and romantic, which is exactly how I would describe this novel.

The Lullaby of Polish Girls

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I’m always yearning for places I’ve never been. There’s something about being on the move that moves me. Something about discovering new places and new parts of yourself that you never knew existed until you went on an adventure and they were revealed. But there’s also something just as strong about roots and where you’re from. And that makes me yearn for Poland more than I’ve ever yearned for a place before. Because going there would take me back to the very beginning, back to my roots, and help fill in a piece of the puzzle that is Allison. This is something I feel like many Americans can relate to, since most of our ancestors immigrated here from far away places in search of a better life. What would it be like if they hadn’t? What would life be like if we were born in another country and grew up somewhere else?

Having never been to Poland, this novel offered me a way there. That was one of my favorite things about The Lullaby of Polish Girls–being able to connect to Poland and therefore explore a part of myself through the words of Dagmara Dominczyk. It gave me a little glimpse of what my life may have been like if I had been born there instead of here. I also love discussing relationships, and reading about the characters and their connections with each other was just as satisfying as gossiping with an old friend about boys. The three girls come to life so well it’s like you know them and can completely understand how they tick. I really enjoyed reading about their friendship that spanned across years and all the drama and emotion that went along with it. It left me reflecting on friendships, the different forms they can take, and the pull people can have on you. It also reignited my desire to visit Poland, and for me, that made this novel a win.