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.

Sunday Book Club! “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker

Hey everyone!
Today’s post will be a review on “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker.
I hope you’ve been enjoying these Sunday Book Club posts. Even if you’re not reading the book before the review is posted, hopefully you’re discovering some new literature/authors you’re interested in.
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Initial Thoughts:
My Book List is at least 5 years old, so sometimes I don’t remember why I put a book on it. “Little Giant” is one of those books. Even when I read the back of the book I was still wondering why I’d wanted to read it. The description was too vague. I couldn’t figure out if there was going to be actual magic in play or if it was metaphorical. However, if a book made it to my Book List, 99% of the time I read it even if I don’t understand why I wanted to in the first place. I figure that at one point something piqued my interest so it deserves a read. Keep reading to find out what I thought of “Little Giant”!

Plot:
“Little Giant” is the story of Truly, a huge girl in a small town. Her parents die & Truly & her sister Serena Jane are left to fend for themselves. Their lives take them on completely different journeys yet ultimately keep them close & bring them together despite tragedy after tragedy. The story follows Truly as she figures out where she fits into her world despite her big size & insecurities.

Quotes:
– Pg 1: Not a specific quote, but the Prologue was kind of confusing & didn’t start the book off in a great way for me. It’s a flash forward covering a scene from the end of the book & I was thinking, “What? Who?! What does that mean?” There were a lot of details, but no real information & for whatever reason it didn’t pull me into the story but kind of made me turn my nose up at it.
– Again, not a specific quote, but just a warning that this book can be pretty dark. There’s quite a lot of death, a rape scene, & several graphic passages about war in Vietnam.

Rating: D
This wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read but I did have a hard time finishing it. I was able to put the book down for days at a time & feel no desire to keep reading, which is extremely strange for me. Even if I’m not loving a book I usually feel a strong urge to keep reading simply just to finish & move on. This book made me feel lethargic. It just didn’t have enough oomph! It was boring. I realize the story is taking place over a lifetime, but even so, it moved so slow & was often predictable. I found the characters unlikeable & therefore didn’t care what happened to them, which of course only increased my lack of desire to keep reading.

Have you read this book? If so, what are your thoughts? Am I being too harsh? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club will be posted May 1st & the book is “I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag” by Jennifer Gilbert. I just started reading it & I already love it!

Sunday Book Club! Paper Towns by John Green

Hello again!
I hope you’ve all been enjoying these Sunday Book Club posts! I would love more of your book suggestions in the Comment section below or via Social Media! Remember you can add me on Twitter/Instagram: @MissAl_Leigh
Also, please hit the FOLLOW button to get email updates for new posts 🙂
Please keep reading to see my thoughts on “Paper Towns” by John Green.

Initial Thoughts:
This book came recommended by one of my college roommates that really likes John Green. I was nervous because he obviously has a reputation for writing Young Adult novels, which I’ve found to be very hit or miss. Also, I knew he was behind “The Fault in Our Stars” & I didn’t want to read a depressing book. However, my friend assured me that “Paper Towns” was different – so off I went.

Plot:
“Paper Towns” is about a teenage boy named Quentin & the wild adventure his life takes him on when he becomes involved with his next door neighbor Margo – who he’s been in love with basically forever. One day Margo disappears & Quentin sets off on a journey to find her following clues he believes she left for him. It’s a coming of age story that teaches us that first impressions can be deceiving & it’s always important to give people a chance to show us who they are. I really can’t say too much more than that without giving everything away.

Characters:
– Margo: About half way through the book, I was over this girl. I had no idea why Quentin was so obsessed with her, I suppose because she was a mystery to him & he was intrigued. Once you get to know her though, she’s such a brat. She’s super selfish and overly dramatic. There were several points where I thought she was going to die & I was totally fine with it. I’m ashamed to say I was like this at one point in my life. Now that I’m “older & wiser”, I have no patience for whiny teenage girls that think everything revolves around them & every bad thing that happens is the end of the world.

Quotes:
– Pg 75: “I shaved this morning for PRECISELY that reason. I was like, ‘Well, you never know when someone is going to clamp down on your calf and try to suck out the snake poison.'” – Margo
The dialogue in this book is spot on. This is just one of many clever lines that I laughed out loud while reading and thought, “That sounds like something I would say!”. Green is known for having a pretty good handle on clever & accurate young people verbiage.

Overall:
Despite this being a “Young Adult” novel, I could definitely relate to the complex themes presented. They reflect what most of us have been through, life & death, falling in & out of love, growing up, friendship, our general connection with others, & how we tie it all together to make a full life.
Random side note, I was frustrated by the discrepancies between Book Margo & Film Margo’s physical description – which I will admit might be a bit unfair especially because I haven’t even seen the film. Book Margo is described as curvy, her friends make comments on it, it’s part of her insecurities. Film Margo is played by Model Cara Delevingne who according to the internet is 5’8 & a size 2. She’s not someone I can see having trouble squeezing into her friends jeans, as Book Margo does. I know that has nothing to do with the book, but it annoyed me as soon as I read her description because Hollywood had the opportunity to use a curvy actress, & didn’t take it. It’s also frustrating because as I mentioned, her size is part of her insecurities, it’s part of her character. I’m not sure how they would have included that in the film.

Rating: B+
While I didn’t enjoy one of the main characters, overall, I enjoyed this book. Green’s style of writing is smart/on point & helped me identify with the characters. I’m not sure this book will be everyone’s cup of tea as it is about high school kids getting into shenanigans, but if you can suspend yourself from your “serious adult business”, you just might enjoy it.

Have you read “Paper Towns” or any other John Green novels? If so, what are your thoughts? Which one is your favorite? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club read will be April 3rd & the book is, “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker.

Sunday Book Club! “ROOM” by Emma Donoghue

Hi everyone!
As mentioned in last Sunday Book Club’s post I’m going to be discussing “ROOM” by Emma Donoghue this week. Did you finish it by today or did you need more time? I’m generally a fast reader, so I can put more time between Sunday Book Club posts if more time is needed, or, if you’re not reading along & you don’t care when they get posted – please let me know in the Comments below!
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Initial Thoughts:
I heard about this book through one of my college roommates when it first came out a few years ago. At the time I wasn’t too intrigued because it sounded super sad & possibly graphic. Now, however, the book has been made into a film that’s getting a huge amount of positive attention in the Entertainment industry. The film was nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role (Brie Larson – winner!), Directing, Adapted Screenplay. I was curious to read the source material before I potentially watch the movie. Also, along the way I have added other books by Emma Donoghue to my book list, so I’m more interested to read this novel that first introduced me to her name. As I said, I was a little scared to read this due to the troubling plot…which you’ll read below!

Plot:
WARNING: Light spoilers. If you know the basic plot of the story, you can figure out the path it’s going to take, so I’m just going to describe the basics. However, I’ll try not to be too specific so you can still be surprised by the twists & turns.
“ROOM” is the story of Ma & Jack, told from 5 year old Jack’s point of view. Ma is a young woman who was kidnapped & held hostage by a man known as Old Nick. She becomes pregnant with Jack while being held hostage, so all Jack has ever known is the one room they are contained in. He knows nothing of the outside world or the people that exist beyond Ma & Old Nick. The book follows their life including how Ma shields Jack from the real reason they’re in “Room”, among other things.

Characters:
– Ma: Ma is extremely tough & dedicated to giving Jack the best life possible despite their crazy circumstances. She often has to choose between Jack & herself & has to sacrifice to keep him protected from the reality of the situation, I can’t imagine being in her shoes. There are some scenes at the end of the book that do a wonderful job of showcasing her character, especially who she was before the kidnapping & her commitment to Jack. It’s hard to get into too much detail without giving away the plot.
– Jack: I think overall Jack’s character is supposed to represent a fear of moving on, something we carry with us even as adults. He never quite understands that Room is a bad place. It’s all he knows & Ma did a great job protecting him, so he never fully agrees with her that Outside would be better. I don’t think Donoghue meant for this story to be metaphorical, I think she was just trying to tell a story of a fierce love between a mother & son in unimaginable circumstances. However, I like the idea of Jack representing a fear of moving on because I think more people can identify with that. It’s a little hard to connect to someone who’s 20 years younger than me, different gender, obviously different upbringing, etc – but it’s easy to connect with him when I think about how scared he must be to figure out there’s a big world beyond the only front door he’s ever seen. At its most basic, its similar to leaving home for the first time, ending a bad relationship, starting a new adventure etc.

Quotes:
– Pg 6: “Oh, I forgetted to have some when I woke up.
That’s OK. Maybe we could skip it once in a while, now you’re five?
No way Jose. So she lies down on the white of Duvet and me too and I have lots.”
Jack/Ma/Jack
When I first read this passage I had NO idea what was going on. I know nothing about kids or the way they talk, so I wasn’t sure if I was missing something, or if this is how Donoghue wrote the dialogue. After a bit more reading – that’s how Jack was written. This passage refers to breast feeding, which Jack still does at 5 years old due to the strange conditions of his living situation & Ma’s reluctant willingness. Also, Jack refers to everything in “Room” like it’s a person…Duvet, Bed, etc are names, not just objects.

Overall:
Donoghue did an amazing job of pacing this novel so you feel like you’re in that room with Ma & Jack. Every day/page it’s basically the same thing, a little monotonous & slow, but mixed with anxiety because you never know what might happen. At a certain point there’s only a couple options for the ending so you’re just waiting for it to go down & see HOW exactly it happens. After the excitement, the ending is kind of lackluster, but I think that’s a reflection of what you could expect from the situation – this sounds vague but I don’t want to give too much away. Reading from the point of view of a 5 year old was an interesting writing technique on Donoghue’s part because it gives a very horrific & graphic topic a bit of innocence. Obviously Jack is the product of rape & Old Nick keeps Ma to continue raping her. However, the reader is never really subjected to those intense scenes because Jack isn’t, we only experience what Jack experiences. When Old Nick comes to “visit” Ma, Jack is usually asleep or Ma has told him to hide. We hear about the “bed creaking”, but that’s about as graphic as it gets, which is a welcome relief. I feel like this book could be a different experience for every reader because we can only know as much as Jack knows, yet at the same time, we can make inferences based on context clues & everyone can interpret those differently.

Rating: B+
As dark & ugly as the topic of this book is, I did enjoy it. However, it’s not something I feel a great desire to read again. I’m not even sure I would recommend it, except that the writing was really well done & that’s worth something to me. As mentioned before you kind of have an idea of how things are going to end which might be frustrating for some.

Have you read “ROOM”? If so, what did you think? Have you read/do you recommend any of Donoghue’s other books? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!
Again, please let me know in the Comment section below if you would prefer that I only cover one book a month so you have time to read along or if you’re not reading along & want me to review books at my own pace.

The next Sunday Book Club will be March 20th & will cover “Paper Towns” by John Green.