Goodreads

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Just like podcasts, I will admit I was pretty late to the Goodreads game.  My mom had mention the website a few times in passing whenever she talked about her book club. It never struck me as something I would be interested in. So instead, over the last few years I have kept a running list of Books To Read in my evergrowing Evernote lists. Lets just say this became tricky to track and I have no doubt that some books were listed twice or even three times accidentally. I would also attempt to keep track of books I’d read by highlighting them. This was definitely not a perfect system.

On a whim, I decided to check out what Goodreads was all about, and now I am absolutely hooked. One of my goals for myself this year is to read more. I loved to read in college, and it was pretty much a necessity for an English Literature and Political Science major. Also, turning off my phone and reading before I fall asleep has made a huge difference in how well I sleep.

This app is exactly what I never knew I needed. I love that I can keep track of all the books I want to read, as well as pace how many books I read overtime, all in one place. It is nice to be able to look back on all the books I have read and to provide my own reviews. I also set a reading goal for 2016… read 25 books this year! I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it will definitely be a challenge for me. In some ways Goodreads has reinvigorated my love of reading. I like the challenge and the ability to track status on different books. The best part? I can see what my friends are reading and add them to my lists.

Check out what books I’ve read and am currently reading here.

Do you have a Goodreads account? What books are on your list?

My Bookshelf: The Husband’s Secret

I’m back again with another book review! The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty was my book club’s pick for February, but it has been on my “Books to Read” list for months! I am glad I finally had an excuse to dive into this best seller.

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The story centers around three different women living in Sydney, Australia. I was excited to read about the city I studied abroad in (and fell in love with!) as well as read some familiar Aussie slang. The three main characters in this book are Cecilia, Tess, and Rachel. Each chapter shifts back and forth between their different perspectives, as the story unravels. Cecilia Fitzpatrick is the woman who seemingly has it all. A beautiful family, a successful Tupperware business, and the ability to juggle everything in her life with ease. However, when Cecilia discovers a letter her husband wrote her, only to be opened in the event of his death, it threatens to change not only the life she has built with him but the lives of many others. Tess O’Leary and Rachel Crowley barely know Cecilia, or each other for that matter, but the truth in this letter could shatter everything they thought they knew.

As always, I don’t want to give too much away but I will say that I enjoyed this book! It wasn’t my all-time favorite read, but it was a good choice that I finished within days of starting. Moriarty has a knack for allowing readers to truly relate and even deeply feel what her characters are feeling. It was this ability to go underneath a person’s shiny exterior (particularly that of Cecilia) that I found most compelling about The Husband’s Secret. Each woman’s story is woven together seamlessly, a problem I have noticed other author’s unable to manage effectively. As a devoted fan of Gone Girl, I loved the suspense in this work. I would recommend this book to my friends, and am excited to read Moriarty’s other best seller Big Little Lies. I hear that it is even better than The Husband’s Secret!

What are you currently reading? Anything I should add to my list?

National Novel Writing Month

So you may or may not have heard, but November is National Novel Writing Month!
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Who knew? Well strangely enough, lately I have been thinking about writing a book (or two, or three!). I have been trying to get back into reading for pleasure which has immediately sparked multiple ideas. Based on my experiences over the last couple of years, from studying abroad in Australia to moving to NYC, there is a lot of material to choose from! I am by no means an expert and have never even taken a creative writing class in my life, but I figure why not?

To help me focus in on this goal throughout the month of November, I have signed myself up on the National Novel Writing Month website. It is REALLY easy, and takes only a matter of minutes! You create a profile to commit to writing 50,000 words throughout the month, (not going to lie that number is pretty intimidating!). Instead of posting your work directly on the site, you simply update your word count. You can update your word count as frequently or infrequently as you would prefer, allowing you to go at your own pace. It is not until November 20th through November 30th, that you can paste the full text of your novel, and receive a trophy badge announcing your win! There are also a few prizes if you’re interested 😉 I am excited to see what happens and if I can come up with something unique and fun!

Have any novel ideas that you are dying to write down? Or do simply want to try out a new hobby?

My Bookshelf: Luckiest Girl Alive

Since I no longer have the obligation to read for class, I am trying to get back into reading books for pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love to read (#EnglishMajor) but I feel like I’ve pushed it to the wayside over the last few months. Instead of reading, I’ve spent far too much time watching Netflix, and then I wonder why I can’t fall asleep directly after watching several episodes of Gossip Girl. Clearly, I needed a change so I decided to pick up The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, in hopes that it would live up to all the buzz surrounding it.

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To preface, Gone Girl is hands down one of my all time favorite books so the fact that this book is constantly compared to Gillian Flynn’s work excited me, but also reminded me how that can lead to disappoint (*cough* Girl On The Train *cough*). The being said, I was blown away by Knoll’s debut novel!

The story focuses on Ani, pronounced Ah-nee, not Annie, a woman who has it all. She is twenty something, living in Manhattan, and working as an editor for The Women’s Magazine (which sounds comparable to Cosmopolitan Magazine). She is engaged to Luke Harrison, who comes from a prestigious family and works in a high powered finance job. She wears a stunning family heirloom engagement ring, that further highlights her luxurious lifestyle simply by the swipe of her hand. She is the woman who walks down the street in the perfect ensemble, the woman that both men and women cannot help but stare at because she is effortlessly beautiful. Women wishing they could be like her, and men wishing they could be with her. Ani, without a doubt, has it all.

But, Ani also has a secret.

Now before you think this book is like all others, an optimistic and driven heroine who is still spunky and relatable, Ani is not that girl. She is dark, sarcastic, calculating, and above all else secretive. She is entirely fake. She is not Ani, but TifAni FaNelli, who grew up in Pennsylvania on the blue collar side of town. Her mother is status obsessed, and pretty much the worst version of “have nots” sporting a bright cherry red BMW that she cannot afford and is never without french tips. TifAni attends a prestigious co-ed private school filled with students who grew up in massive mansions. They all come from old money, where social class reigns supreme. TifAni longs to be a part of the “cool group” (as with any high school there is always that one group!) but quickly learns there is more than the issue of where to sit in the lunchroom to deal with in order to claim a spot. TifAni works to extricate herself from her lack of pedigree, and become a part of in crowd. While trying to move past her lack of status, TiFani undergoes a truly traumatic experience. This tragedy does not break her, but instead makes her more calculating and manipulative.

This novel weaves back and forth between the nearly perfect life Ani has crafted for herself and TifAni’s secret life. Although Ani’s life looks idyllic from the outside, this horrific experience from her high school years is one that she cannot move past. As her wedding date approaches, Ani questions whether breaking her silence will destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it set her free?

This is a truly compelling novel and one that I could not put down. I found the manipulative nature of Ani strangely refreshing. Instead of the typically spunky heroine, Ani’s thoughts are dark and cutting. She works very hard to make her life appear effortless, and in so many ways I couldn’t help but root for her. I think at some point in our lives we all work to appear a certain way, but Ani’s is constant and in many ways exhausting. Her narcissistic nature is clear from the get go, but also understandable given her experiences. She is keenly aware of how she is perceived by those around her, and makes sure she knows all the tricks of social class (for example: turning oyster shells upside down on your platter to show that you are finished) so that she is never revealed. I think Knoll’s best sections throughout the novel are when we read Ani’s thoughts. It is fascinating to hear her inner thoughts about all the ways in which she has created this ideal life for herself. That being said, this book is very disturbing at points. I will not deny that I had to keep reading because the thought of falling asleep after a certain chapter was too much for me. Knoll is similar to Flynn in this sense. As a whole, I definitely recommend this book to others, but also want to preface this by saying be prepared for some very traumatic moments.

Have you read The Luckiest Girl Alive? What other books are on your bookshelf? Any recommendations?

My Bookshelf: Summer Reading List

Okay so I know this post is LONG overdue, but that’s because I haven’t been embracing my favorite summertime pastime this year…lounging by the pool and reading a great book in the sunshine. Every year I look forward to weekends spent at my family’s country club where I can escape from the craziness of life (or claustrophobia in NYC!) and unwind. In my iPhone I have an ever growing list of books that I cannot wait to read. Some have been on this list for quite sometime and I cannot wait to finally crack them open. Since technically summer is more than halfway over (SCARY!) I seriously need to get started! And by that I mean plan a beach trip ASAP!

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Here are my top picks from my ever growing “Books To Read” list…

The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Leave Your Mark – Aliza Licht

Paper Towns – John Green

Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham

The Knockoff – Lucy Sykes

The Vacationers – Emma Straub

Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir – Wednesday Martin

In The Unlikely Event – Judy Blume

Add one or all these options to your beach bag but before you do, leave your own book recommendation below!

My Bookshelf: The Girl On the Train

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*Don’t worry there are no spoilers! I wouldn’t do that to you guys!*

I am back today with another great read! When I first moved to New York City I knew that I wanted to get involved with my sorority’s alumni group. Every month they send out a newsletter with upcoming events and I knew that Book Club would be the perfect fit for me. (Plus, let’s be honest, there was no way I was joining the running club!). This past Thursday, I adventured out to Brooklyn for the first time (minus that quick taxi ride for work to drop off supplies at a photoshoot that were left at our offices by mistake) to attend this month’s book club meeting at a sister’s apartment. Her apartment was AMAZING! A huge living room and a kitchen I would kill for, plus an amazing patio space that could fit the dozen or so of us more than comfortably. Good wine, good food, good book, and new friends made for a great Thursday night!

Sidenote: I am not going to lie I felt like quite a hipster adventuring to Brooklyn for book club vs. my usual Gossip Girl UES attempted persona

This month’s pick was The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins and had been on my own personal reading list for quite some time. I had heard many people compare it to Gone Girl, which is hands down one of my favorite books (I seriously could not put it down when I read it a few years ago! And I thought the movie with Rosamund Pike was done very well!)

After finishing this month’s pick I had mixed feelings, and I was very glad to discuss it at book club. I liked The Girl On The Train, but if I’m being completely honest, it was not as great as I was expecting. This is likely due in part to the high regard I hold Gone Girl in, and I felt like in comparison, The Girl On The Train fell short. There were a lot of similarities between the two books, for example: an unreliable narrator, mystery, suspense, and varying chapters by character’s perspective. However, I felt like most of the “shocking” moments in The Girl On The Train were not that surprising or did not leave me speechless. The characters were complex in their own ways but I felt like Hawkins did not develop them as much as I would have preferred. This was clearly a dark book and each character has their own personal demons that they needed to deal with but again I felt like it fell short in comparison to Gone Girl (are you noticing a trend haha?) Also, moving from chapter to chapter and switching character perspectives was typically not a very smooth transition. Instead, I often got lost and had to continuously turn back and figure out what year/month/day and morning/night we were in. That being said there are many positives to this book too.

I liked that this book kept me intrigued enough to keep picking it up in order to find out the ultimate ending. It was also on the shorter side and I was able to finish it within a matter of days. In the summer, I like to read books that are light and interesting, rather than ones that are incredibly dense or complicated. This was a great read in that respect. I tend to enjoy mysteries and this choice was a nice change of pace from the other books I have read as of late. Although there were some lulls throughout, as a whole it was a good read, not my all time favorite by any means but a good read. I also laughed to myself when I was reading this book on the train ride home to NJ last weekend, it just felt very apropo.

I liked The Girl On The Train and would recommend it to others, however I would definitely recommend Gone Girl first.

Have you read The Girl On The Train? What was your impression? Would you recommend it to others?

My Bookshelf: Wild

This post is a very long time coming! To be completely honest, I haven’t been reading as much as I would like lately, which partly explains for the delay in this book review. But I promise to keep you posted as I cross titles off my ever growing list. Now that the weather is warming up, I cannot imagine a better way to unwind from my day then sitting in my backyard patio with a glass of white wine and a new book. Now, onto the book review.

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If you haven’t heard of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed you are probably living under a rock. This book is a #1 New York Times bestseller, An Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 Pick, Best Book of the Year for NPR, The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, and just last year Reese Witherspoon starred in the film adaptation. I had Wild in my stacks of books for months before I finally decided to read it. I was still commuting when I started reading this memoir, and it was strangely aprepo. Do you remember that scene in Easy A when Emma Stone says “But isn’t that always the way? The books you read in class always seems to have a strong connection with whatever angsty adolescent drama is being recounted.” Well, I felt a true connection to this book from the moment I picked it up.

When I started reading Wild I was pretty unhappy. I was living at home with my parents and commuting into New York City every day at the crack of dawn and returning way past the time the sun went down. Commuting is incredibly draining and I greatly respect the millions of adults that do it daily for years on end. I found it really difficult living in one place and working in another, feeling constantly caught up in a state of limbo and endless train rides. It was very isolating. Add in the fact that I was now hundreds of miles away from some of my closest friends and still adjusting to a new routine. Suffice it to say that most days were long, frustrating, and lonely.

As I started reading Wild I felt like Cheryl could put into words things that I felt, in a way that was both poetic but realistic. Although my struggle is nothing compared to Cheryl dealing with the death of her mother (at the same age I am now mind you!), I felt instantly connected to her. She has her flaws and recognizes her pain, but within the first few pages you feel like you truly know her. You root for her, you laugh with her, and you cry for her. Her emotions are unapologetically real and she never falters in representing her path honestly, whether or not it admits her own faults. It was a refreshing read that constantly surprised me. I was not entirely sure what to expect from a book that details a woman’s solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, but every page kept me enticed.

Strayed decides to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail through a journey of self discovery four years after her mother passes away. She starts in the Mojave Desert and hikes through California and Oregon up to the border of Washington State. Throughout this trek, Strayed tells memories from her childhood all the way up until her decision to leave everything behind for this hike. Distance from her stepfather and two siblings, newly divorced from her husband, and consistent heroin use are moments we see and experience alongside Strayed. The book weaves both the past and present perfectly into one cohesive story that both inspires readers and causes them to reflect on their own life.

While I read Wild I could not help but dog ear countless pages because of lines or paragraphs that moved me in some way. Maybe it’s the English major in me or Cheryl’s unquestionable talent, but there are so many lines throughout this memoir that I reread over and over because they were so eloquent.

Here are just a few excerpts to give you a taste (don’t worry they won’t give anything away I promise!)

I had only just begun. I was three weeks into my hike, but everything in me felt altered. I lay in the water as long as I could without breathing, alone in a strange new land, while the actual world all around me hummed on.

 

Each of those peaks seemed in my mind’s eye to be like a set of monkey bars I’d swung on as a child. Every time I got to one, the next would be just out of reach.

 

But you seemed so happy was all they could say. And it was true: we had seemed that way. Just as I’d seemed to be doing okay after my mom died. Grief doesn’t have a face.

 

Going down, I realized was like taking hold of the loose strand of yarn on a sweater unraveled into a pile of string. Hiking the PCT was the maddening effort of knitting that sweater and unraveling it over and over again. As if everything gained was inevitably lost.

 

The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer—and yet also, like most things, so very simple—was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay. As I clung to the chaparral that day, attempting to patch up my bleeding finger, terrified by every sound that the bull was coming back, I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go.

And so I walked on.

I truly cannot recommend this book enough. A colleague at work told me she had given it to a friend who recently lost her father to cancer. I thought that that was such a thoughtful gift, one that may help her friend heal in ways she did not expect. Reading about Cheryl’s journey forces you in a way to focus on your own roadblocks in life and how to overcome them. I think Wild should be required reading, because as humans we all face peaks and valleys, which we need to journey through in order to overcome.

Ironically, I finished this book just the other day. Sitting alongside the East River while the springtime sun shone down, I sat and finished reading Strayed’s huge adventure. I finished her’s just as I realized I was truly starting my own.