Category Archives: book review

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

There’s been a lot of hype about this book and now after reading it, I can say it lived up to all of those great things.

I posted an Instagram story with three new books I got, Where the Crawdads Sing being one of them. More than a dozen people responded saying how much they loved this book or how quickly they had turned through the pages, soaking up the story.

I will admit the plot was a little slow in the beginning, but the narrative drew me in from the first page and I knew it was going to be one of those books that kept me up at night, my eyes heavy but still turning through the pages.

Readers meet Kya a young girl in the marsh of the Carolinas that slowly gets abandoned by her entire family. Her Ma up and walks out on her abusive husband and slowly four of her five children leave the marsh behind her, forgetting to take their six year old sister. Eventually her dad leaves too and Kya is forced to raise herself alone in the marsh with the gulls and herons. Not unlikely, everyone in the town refers to her as Marsh Girl.

Although she is just a young, abandoned child the townspeople see her as an outcast, “marsh trash”. I became angry several times throughout the book, “Someone help this little girl!!” But whenever social workers popped by or anyone else, Kya hid in the marsh, her social skills practically nonexistent, and eventually everyone gave up on her and left her to fend for herself.

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Watching Kya grow up alone in the wilderness, lonely as can be, my heart broke for her and all the other individuals that get outcast because they’re dealt a crappy hand. Kya couldn’t change that her family left her behind, she could only do what she had to do to survive, and of course it made her different from everyone else. Kya’s story made me realize that we truly never know what some people have gone through to make them who they are.

Her loneliness was steady, except for the gulls and the marsh life, and it made me realize I only think I know what it’s like to be lonely.

But Kya makes do, alone in the marsh, digging mussels and frying fish to sell to Jumpin’ – her most true and consistent friend. Eventually, when she is older, she is able to publish her collections and research from marsh life and write and illustrate seven books.

I couldn’t help but fall in love with Kya and her determination to survive, despite all the odds being stacked against her.

As the book progresses, a murder investigation is introduced. The victim we learn is a crude male that shortly took an interest in Kya and was around only for a short while.

Of course, eventually, Kya is tried for his murder. I won’t spoil too much here, but the chapters on the murder trial were just as interesting as the poetic descriptions of the marsh.

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Overall, I really loved this story, the language, and the theme of constant aloneness. If you’re looking for a good novel to lose yourself in and inhale the entire thing, here ya go!

Be Impeccable with your Word

The power of our words is astounding. When we speak something aloud, it becomes our reality. I had a basketball coach who would chastise my teammates and me whenever we’d talk negatively. If we’d say, “I can’t make a shot,” he would agree and say, “yeah, now you definitely won’t make one because that’s what you believe.” And it was true. Once you articulate something, you manifest it.

This is true for both negative affirmations and positive affirmations.

I recently started reading “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The first agreement is “Be impeccable with your word”. Our words shape our lives. Therefore, I believe positive self-talk is such a beautiful way to show self-love.

Recently, my life coach gave me an exercise: look at your reflection for three minutes and write down every single thought you have.

I procrastinated doing this for a couple days until one morning I caught a glimpse of my reflection and decided it was a good enough time as any to do the exercise.

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So I stared at myself for three whole minutes. At first, I was apprehensive. Nothing came to my mind for the first minute and a half. Then, a Glennon Doyle quote popped into my head:

“Make sure when you look into your eyes, you’re looking into the eyes of someone you trust.”

After that, my thoughts mainly concerned my physical features: wild eyebrow hairs, unruly, unwashed hair, and blemishes where my mask rubs against my skin. Then the anxiety came. “I’m doing this wrong! I’m supposed to be having profound thoughts!” But I wasn’t. There was no blueprint or guidelines, just me and my reflection.

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I sent my list of random, scattered thoughts to my life coach afterward, and she turned these thoughts into affirmations for me.

Read silently. Then read aloud. Then read aloud while looking in the mirror.

I love trusting myself.

I love my skin. I love my eyebrows.

I love how my body knows just how to take care of itself.

I inhale the breath of life. I exhale ease. (Do this)

I love how my instincts guide me.

I love the person I am.

Book Review: “The Midnight Library”

My book club just finished “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. It was… wow. The book introduced the idea of parallel realities and that there could be multiple versions of everyone living simultaneously. It’s fascinating, yet overwhelming to really consider how every single decision we make shapes our world and that making a decision will permanently alter everything afterwards.

In this fiction story, readers meet Nora Seed: a depressed, middle-aged woman living in London. In fact, Nora is so depressed and unhappy with her life, she takes it. It was a dark opening chapter and I instantly became anxious reading it. I hadn’t realized there was going to be a suicide in the book, especially so early on. I worried this would trigger someone in my book club. Thankfully it didn’t.

After Nora takes her life, she ends up in this library filled with books. She quickly learns – thanks to the sweet old librarian – that all of these books contain stories of the different realities she could be living. Trippy, right?

“Every life contains many millions of decisions. Some big, some small. But every time one decision is taken over another, the outcomes differ. An irreversible variation occurs, which in turn leads to further variations. These books are portals to all the lives you could be living,” (pg. 31).

As this abnormal circumstance begins to sink in for Nora, the librarian hands her another book titled “The Book of Regrets”. It’s filled with – you guessed it – all the regrets Nora had in her “root life”. As she flips through it, her anxiety rises and she remembers why she took her life to begin with, but the librarian snaps her out of it and tells her it’s time to make a decision. Nora gets to pick another reality to live in.

As the book progresses, readers watch Nora traverse through different realities as a citizen in Australia populating the coast, a former Olympian swimmer giving inspirational speeches, a glaciologist fighting climate change, a famous musician in a well-known band, a dog-walker, a writer, a mom, etc . Yet none of these lives satisfy Nora and after only a short time in each reality she ends up back in the midnight library.

It made us wonder, in my book club, what would our book of regrets contain? Where would our “in-between” place be? Would who be there? What other realities would be want to inhabit?

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“Because just as this library was a part of her, so too were all the other lives. She might not have felt everything she had felt in those lives, but she had the capability. She might have missed those particular opportunities that led her to become an Olympic swimmer, or a traveller, or a vineyard owner, or a rock star, or a planet-saving glaciologist, or a Cambridge graduate, or a mother, or the million other things, but she was still in some way all of those people. They were all her. She could have been all those amazing things, and that wasn’t depressing, as she had once thought. Not at all. It was inspiring. Because now she saw the kinds of things she could do when she put herself to work. And that, actually, the life she had been living had its own logic to it. What sometimes feels like a trap is actually just a trick of the mind. She just needed potential. And she was nothing if not potential. She wondered why she had never seen it before,” (pg.269).

It was strangely comforting to read Nora’s discontentment with her different realities and then how in the end she returns to her root life and decides not to take it fore-granted. Of course, it made me think of all the different realities I could be in right now, had I made different decisions than what I have. But as far as we know, we only get one shot at this whole life thing, one chance to make it meaningful and impactful and worthwhile and enjoyable and beautiful. And no matter which reality I live in, I want to soak it all up and make the most of it while trying not to worry too much about my own book of regrets.

I Started a Book Club!!

As an English major, my college career involved a lot of well.. English. I constantly had my nose crammed in a book and I always kept around a journal to be able to jot down potential story ideas. I was obsessed. My classes involved a lot of discussing what we were reading and I absolutely loved this. I enjoyed being able to give my opinion and point of view and then get to hear what everyone else got from the text.

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Post-graduation itself is a weird, uncertain time. But during a pandemic? Yikes. Not only was I ripped out of the academic world, I also moved cities all on my own. Talk about a completely different chapter.

But I kept reading and writing through all of it. It has kept my grounded and sane. But it obviously wasn’t the same as being in a classroom setting. No one around to keep me accountable or make sure I was staying on track.

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I started talking to my cousin about this transition – she’s currently pursuing an English degree online – and we talked about how much we missed face to face interaction discussing books. So, we decided to start a book club together – via Zoom of course! The first book we read was Followers by Megan Angelo. It was a science fiction novel that touched on the complexities of the advancements of social media and how dangerous it can be to display your entire life online. It was so fun to read and discuss every week. We even roped a couple of other people into reading it with us.

And now, after we’ve finished that book, we’ve decided to keep the train rolling and read another book together! The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is currently en route to my home. I can’t wait to read it. Here’s a little excerpt from it:

“Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?”

Yay for staying connected in the literary community!

Book Review: “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle

There’s no other way to begin this review than to start out by saying that this book has changed my life. Not in the Oh! I’m so motivated type of way. But instead in the way that has stirred my soul and gently rocked my bones. It has changed my life because I have soaked up all of it.

I started reading this book right after I moved cities by myself during a pandemic. The timing of this was certainly not on accident. I had this beautiful book tucked away on my shelf for about a month after a friend had insisted I borrow it. I figured I would need these words the most right after my move. I was right.

I’m fiercely independent. Anyone who knows me can tell you that. But sometimes it’s nice to just be held. Sometimes it’s nice to hear the words, “I know you’re trying to take on so much by yourself. But you don’t have to do that. You can surrender sometimes.” This was what “Untamed” did for me.

The book starts out with a beautiful metaphor: a cheetah running around in a zoo. Although this particular cheetah was born in this zoo, Doyle can’t help but notice how this cheetah senses there is more to the world then the same ten miles she’s galloped her entire life. “Wasn’t it supposed to be more beautiful than this?” she asks.

So right there, right in the introduction, Doyle reminds us that we’re all cheetahs and that we’ve all been trapped – in our bodies, our minds, our assigned societal roles, our ways of thinking, etc.

In the following chapters, Doyle reminds us that we can do hard things, but we must never abandon ourselves. We must never put anyone ahead of our own wellbeing – no matter how comfortable that option may seem in the moment. We must stay true to our Knowing. We must look within ourselves for answers. We must trust our intuitions and our gut feelings.

Doyle claims that in the past 18 years, she has learned two things.

  1. She can feel everything and she can survive.
  2. She can use the pain to become.

As I read these words, wrapped in my blanket on my couch, book in one hand, coffee cup in another, I realized how precious each of my experiences are and how, with the right mindset, I can use these days of loneliness and uncertainty to mold the present and the future that I want for myself. It won’t be easy, things rarely are, but it will be worth.

It’s important to take a good look in the mirror every once in a while. Not the way you look at yourself while you’re getting dressed or putting on makeup. Not the way you look at your thighs or sunspots or chin hairs. Not that way. I mean you need to look dead into your own eyes – at your real self. You need to make sure there are no lies there. You need to make sure the eyes in the mirror are the eyes of a woman you respect.”

I am untamed because, no matter the cost, I trust myself and I will always put my well being above everything else.

I am untamed because I will allow myself to feel all the feelings – the good, the bad, the ugly, the anxiety, the joy. I want it all. I want the full human experience. No matter how uncomfortable this makes the outside world. No matter how uncomfortable I feel in certain moments. Give me the feelings.

I am untamed because I will take my pain and my discomfort and my sadness and I will put it towards creating something beautiful and wonderful.

I am untamed because I will not conform to society’s standards that tell me – a woman – to be quiet, or agreeable, or pleasant, or small.

I am untamed because I will no longer allow myself to live in any sort of cage.

I am untamed because I have realized that I am a damn cheetah.

My Lack of Emotional Intelligence

I recently started reading “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. I was browsing Barnes & Noble when the book caught my eye. I have never been good at articulating my feelings and it’s caused issues and problems for me in the past.

The book starts out by explaining what emotional intelligence is and why it’s beneficial. Then, the authors invite readers to go online and use the access code provided in the book to take a short quiz to see exactly what their individual emotional intelligence score is.

I bought the book and came home and took the quiz. I was completely and utterly shocked at how low my score was. I mean I knew that it wouldn’t be very high, but I truly had no idea it was as low as the test calculated. I knew I needed to do some work in this area.

I’m excited to begin this journey of improving my emotional intelligence, I know it can only help me maintain a better mental state and closer, more connected relationships. I know the journey won’t be easy, but growth never is.

The following chart is the different categories from the book:

90-100

A STRENGTH TO CAPITALIZE ON

These scores are much higher than average and indicate a noteworthy strength. These strengths probably come naturally to you or exist because you have worked hard to develop them. Seize every opportunity to use these emotionally intelligent behaviors to maximize your success. You are highly competent in this skill, so work to capitalize on it and achieve your potential.

80-89

A STRENGTH TO BUILD ON

This score is above average. However, there are a few situations where you don’t demonstrate emotionally intelligent behavior. There are many things you’ve done well to receive this score and a few that could be better with some practice. Study the behaviors for which you received this score and consider how you can polish your skills.

70-79

WITH A LITTLE IMPROVEMENT, THIS COULD BE A STRENGTH

You are aware of some of the behaviors for which you received this score, and you are doing well with them. Other emotionally intelligent behaviors in this group are holding you back. Lots of people start here and see a big improvement in their emotional intelligence once it’s brought to their attention. Use this opportunity to discover the difference and improve in the areas where you don’t do as well.

60-69

SOMETHING YOU SHOULD WORK ON

This is an area where you sometimes demonstrate emotionally intelligent behavior but not usually. You may be starting to let people down. Perhaps this is a skill area that doesn’t always come naturally for you or that you don’t make use of. With a little improvement in this skill, your credibility will go way up.

A CONCERN YOU MUST ADDRESS

This skill area is either a problem for you, you don’t value it, or you didn’t know it was important. The bad news is your skills in this area are limiting your effectiveness. The good news is this discovery and choosing to do something about it will go a long way in improving your emotionally intelligent behavior.

Which category do you think you would fall into?