Sunday Book Club! I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert

Hello again!
Thanks for joining me for another Sunday Book Club! Today I’ll be reviewing “I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag” by Jennifer Gilbert. Please hit that FOLLOW button to subscribe to the blog, if you haven’t already & SHARE with your friends!

Initial Thoughts:
Surprisingly, I found this book at the Dollar Tree. I was intrigued by the idea of reading about someone with a successful career in Event Planning – my future career – hopefully! I was hoping to simply pick up some career tips, but I found so much more inspiration than just that! This book was also bought for me as a Christmas gift, which makes me happy that someone knew me well enough to know I would appreciate this story.

Plot:
“…Goodie Bag” is the story of Jennifer Gilbert. She’s the creative, ambitious, girl next door living a relatively normal life…until a horrible crime is committed against her in her early twenties & everything changes. The details of the crime are truly disgusting. They make me lose my faith in humanity even more, & I’m talking about Gilbert’s “friends”, not just the criminal. The scenes where she discusses the immediate aftermath of the crime are pretty intense. I raced through them because I wanted to absorb all the information as quickly as possible, but ended up going back and re-reading some passages because I wanted to make sure I was processing everything correctly. After the attack Gilbert finds a career in Event Planning, eventually starting her own company, Save the Date. The memoir follows her life as she learns to cope with her attack & struggles to find a sense of normalcy again.

Characters:
– Jennifer: OH! MY! GOSH! Jennifer Gilbert is my spirit animal. I love everything about her, I hope she reads this Review & decides to hire me, haha! I connected with her sense of humor, work ethic, and struggle with her inner demons. At some points Gilbert seems to be a bit ungrateful – something she acknowledges & struggles with. Yes, she went through an extremely traumatic experience but ultimately ends up having a wonderful life otherwise yet can’t always appreciate it. However, I think we all can sympathize with what it’s like to want something so badly (in her case, a normal life) & have it taken away. It’s hard to focus on a new target when the one you had in mind & had been working towards has been destroyed, especially when you’re as competitive as Gilbert. It feels nearly impossible to admit defeat & start over, but eventually we have to learn that starting over is just part of life. It’s a learning experience that helps us grow & become better. I appreciated that she’s not afraid to admit she needs professional help in the form of a therapist. I feel like so many people brush aside this notion as “crazy”, but I think therapy can be extremely helpful if you allow it to be.

Quotes:
– Before the book even begins I’m in love with chapter titles like “This is Not My Fabulous Life” & “Keep Calm & Carry On”.
– Pg 4: “…while I was fixing things for other people, I didn’t have to think twice about myself. Obsessing over every tiny detail of other people’s most important events was what I did best. It was the perfect way to avoid thinking about the dark, scary void inside me”
Working hard & challenging myself has helped me move past some of my hardest struggles, so I understand where she’s coming from.
– Pg 109: “My mission…was to surround myself with people who were celebrating, and to know that I had helped them make their joy tangible”
THIS. This is why I want to be in Event Planning. Events can sometimes seem a little frivolous & self involved but joy can be so hard to come by these days. If I could help bring awesome memories to someone through a spectacular Event – that would give me such a great feeling of accomplishment & personal satisfaction. With quotes like this, the readers sees how Gilbert changes throughout her narrative, moving from someone who uses Events to hide herself away to someone that wants to connect with others & help them.
– Overall there were MANY quotes I pulled from this book that really spoke to me, some even made me cry because of how spot on they were to feelings I had or have. However, for the sake of lengthiness, I’ve chosen to not include any more.

Overall:
This book was a quick & easy read, especially because I was interested & highly entertained by the subject matter. This book really spoke to the issue of no matter what’s going on in our life, if we can’t move past our demons, we lose all perspective. A few years after the crime, Gilbert is living a life many only dream of. At 25 years old she’s extremely successful in her career, starting her own business, & has a huge social circle including a long term boyfriend. However, none of this matters to her as she can’t move past the trauma of her attack. Her story reminds me of a Joseph Campbell quote, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us”.

Rating: A+
If you can’t tell, I LOVED this book. I would 100% recommend it. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I could relate to the author so much, but I found it to be a non preachy tale of triumph & perseverance in the face of much adversity. Gilbert’s story inspired me, made me feel, & gave me hope for my own future. The book doesn’t have a ton to do with Event Planning in the sense that I was able to gain ideas of how to begin my career, but that was still a fun personal touch/connection for me.

Have you read “I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag” or a book related to your career field? If so, what are your thoughts? Do you enjoy learning about your field from someone else’s point of view? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club read will be May 15th & the book is, “Straight From the Source” by Kim Osario.

Book Review! Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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OH MY GOSH! I’m FREAKING OUT over this book. It’s seriously THAT GOOD! I’m so stinking excited to talk to you today about “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. The inspiration for this book is really unique. Ransom Riggs, the author, started collecting vintage pictures from thrift stores & flea markets. He felt such an intense curiosity to know the story behind these anonymous pictures that, rather than settle for never knowing, he created his own fantastical stories to explain what was going on in the photos. There are several odd photos placed in the book that you would think are Photoshopped, but are real pictures he found while writing. According to Riggs’ website, this series – there are 3 Miss Peregrine novels, the last one slated to be released September of this year – is being made into a film by Tim Burton. OF COURSE IT IS. I’m not a huge Burton enthusiast, but he’s a perfect choice in this case. Okay, onto the review. I’ll try my best to limit the spoilers because I really do want you all to read this book. Really, like right now, click on the picture of the book above & buy it from Amazon. However, if you insist on reading my full review before buying it, it’s fine, I guess. Here we go!

Plot: Jacob grows up idolizing his tall tale telling grandfather, Grandpa Portman. He grows disillusioned as a teenager when he realizes that Grandpa Portman’s stories about being shipped to an orphanage in Wales, a magical place where no one ever got sick or died & was protected by a woman who could turn into a bird, could not possibly be true. Tragedy strikes & through a series of insane events Jacob is forced to admit that Grandpa Portman’s stories were much more real than he previously believed. He embarks on a whirlwind adventure full of magic, danger, romance, and self discovery.

Initial Thoughts: I had no expectations going into this novel. I wasn’t even really sure what genre it was, fantasy, sci fi, children’s literature, zombies, all of the above? Right off the bat, Grandpa Portman tells stories of monsters in Poland circa WWII & I was thinking, “Hmm, real monsters or is this a veiled reference to the Nazi Party? What are we dealing with here?” The answer is, to a certain degree, both! After finishing the first two pages, I wrote a note, “I’m so excited to read this book, will I have nightmares?! Am I ready to welcome another series into my life?! I’m already in a very committed, long term relationship with Harry Potter..”. Riggs’ writing already had me hooked.
I was reminded of the movie “Big Fish”. If you’ve never seen it, you’re living life all wrong. “Big Fish” is easily one of my top 10 favorite movies.Everyone loves it, Yellowcard even wrote a song about it called “How I Go” which makes me weep every time I hear it. The bottom line is it’s an amazing film directed by Tim Burton (a pattern is emerging) about a man with a strained relationship with his father. The father always tells amazing, wild stories of his youth which the son stopped believing a long time ago. Through flashbacks you’re swept up in the father’s magical stories & in the end the film is really about how we stay in the hearts of those we love, even when we’re not around anymore. That’s all I’ll say, seriously, you should watch it. Back to the review…

Characters: Jacob is a wonderful character, well developed, & different from other characters in YA Fiction, which is technically the book’s genre. Usually I’m annoyed by teenage characters, but not Jacob. He admits to being odd, scared, & not macho, but continues on his adventure because he’s inspired by the life of someone he loved. I love that he cries! It’s rare to find young male characters so in touch with their emotions.
A character that helps my “Big Fish” tie in, is Emma Bloom. The main character in “Big Fish” is named Edward Bloom. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence but it made me happy to continue the connection between the two stories.

Quotes – SPOILERS HERE!!!:
– Not necessarily a quote, but on page 48 there’s a passage describing how Jacob’s family deals with the aftermath of Grandpa Portman passing away. If you’ve ever had to go through someone’s belongings after they’ve passed away – you will totally identify with this scene. Riggs writes the most accurate description of that process that I’ve ever read.
– pg 108, Jacob talks about how WWII has changed his family history. It’s kind of a long passage but I thought it was really powerful. “I thought about how my great-grandparents had starved to death…their wasted bodies being fed to incinerators because people they didn’t know hated them. I thought about how the children who had lived in this house had been burned up & blown apart because a pilot who didn’t care pushed a button. I thought about how my grandfather’s family had been taken from him, and how because of that my dad grew up feeling like he didn’t have a dad…[a]ll because of a 70 year old hurt that had somehow been passed down to me like some poisonous heirloom & monsters I couldn’t fight because they were all dead, beyond killing or punishing or any kind of reckoning. At least my grandfather had been able to join the army & go fight them. What could I do?”

Overall: I’m sure you can tell I loved this book with a serious passion. My one hiccup was the romance between Emma & Jacob. No Spoilers, but given her past, the romance between them was slightly uncomfortable for me. The twist near the end threw me for a loop! Again, to avoid spoilers, that’s all I’m going to say. My note literally reads, “Holy effin shit! Holy effin shit! I knew he was suspect but never expected THIS! The nightmares are gonna be so real tonight”. I have referenced nightmares a few times, but please don’t be afraid, I’m mostly being dramatic. While the story was intense, it tied into many other works of fiction that I have a soft spot for. As previously mentioned, “Big Fish”, but also “Peter Pan” because of the whole children on an island that never grow old aspect, “Harry Potter” because of the magic, plus Jacob & Harry seem like kindred spirits, they never know the important details until it’s too late & they’re left to fight on in the memory of those who inspired them, & “Supernatural”, because Grandpa Portman was a hunter, an absent father out fighting darkness, & Jacob continues on the family business. So if you like any of those things – you should enjoy this story.

Rating: A+! Obviously!! After all that raving could I really have given this book any other rating?! “Miss Peregrine’s…” was highly entertaining and engaging. I literally couldn’t put it down & finished reading it in about 3 or 4 hours. I realize a second more thorough reading may reveal plot holes or annoyances in the character’s personalities I didn’t notice before, but this first reading was pure joy. This novel was everything I look for in a “A+” work, well written characters & an engaging, relatable story that was able to suck me in, take me away, & make me care about everything it had to offer. I am definitely looking forward to reading the second installment in the series, “Hollow City”. I would also be interested in prequel books featuring Grandpa Portman’s adventures during WWII – maybe I should write a letter to Riggs suggesting that, haha!

Have you read “Miss Peregrine’s…” or the second novel “Hollow City”? Are you enjoying this series as much as I am?! If you haven’t heard of this series before, what do you think, will you give it a try? Please let me know what you thought of this review in the comments below! Send your book recommendations my way & I’ll add them to my list of Books to Read! Please click the FOLLOW button on the top right of this page to be notified by email when I post my next Book Review. Thanks for reading, until we meet again!