40 days and 40 nights…Happiness is A Choice

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Self-help books……

Go on, tell me your first immediate reaction or response to that term. Shame? Guilt? Success? Powerful? Self-declared fan?

So many different terms can come to mind when you think of a Self-Help book, but why is that? It’s 2015 and there is still such a stigma attached to those words: SELF HELP. And yet, it’s one of the biggest sections in any book store. There are millions of books to browse through, on a plethora of different topics: money, success, budgeting your finances, business start-ups, love, relationships, trauma…and the list goes on. I have browsed the section many times, looking at all the different titles, checking out books that have been recommended by friends who swear it changed their life, picking up titles that have grabbed my attention. But I have never actually purchased one – until today.

I have heard about Gabrielle Bernstein before, and have even had acquaintances recommend a few of her books. I have had her book titles saved in my phone, on my “to-read” lists and in my Favourites in the Indigo App for a while. But something was always keeping me from bringing the books I’ve flipped through a dozen times up to the cash register. Embarrassment? Fear? I can’t really tell you. All I can tell you is why I made the purchase today. And the simplest answer is, I finally thought, “why not?”.

I was visiting with a friend who, when we get together, all kinds of brainstorming and goal setting seems to occur. We challenge each other and ask questions that you might be afraid to ask yourself. And, it’s awesome! So after many beers and hours of conversation, I had a few lists going and my notebook was full of ideas. The next day we hit up Chapters, for the second time in 24 hours (which, is not that unusual for me really…) and she went directly to the Self-Help section. She has been there before, made purchases, recommended books to be, and still enjoys going back. No shame. No embarrassment. So, I followed. I picked up books that caught my eye and read the back of books with faces of celebrities that you and I all know. Then I did a search for Gabrielle Bernstein. I don’t know “why” I decided that it was her books I was going to consider. Maybe it has something to do with her journey – rising up from her struggles (addiction and recovery from an Eating Disorder), her dedication towards empowering women or her carefree attitude and relevant way she writes – but whatever it is, I was drawn to her. I immediately reached for her first published book, but something about “May Cause Miracles” kept puling at me. I read the back twice, flipped through the pages and even said “I can’t read a book daily for 40 days…”. And when my friend asked, “why not? Maybe that’s what you need to do”, I read the title again, put one of the two books back that I was holding, and made my way up to the cash. No stopping at Go, no second-guessing.

I proudly put my purchases (a new journal and pen had to be included, never mind the dozens I have in every room and bag that I own) and looked the cashier right in the eye as she rung me up. The cashier didn’t look at me with empathy, or sympathy as she scanned my Self-Help book, and believe me, I was watching. She didn’t avoid eye contact or blush when she was putting it in the bag. No, all she did was ask how my day was going and comment on my nail polish colour. What was I expecting? I guess I was waiting for the judgement. The judgement that comes along with someone wanting a little help or guidance in their life. Some motivation even. But that judgement never occurred. And I left feeling excited and liberated – maybe in 2015, the world is changing a bit. Maybe it’s okay for someone to reach out for some help, some clarity, some curious reading even. Maybe Self-Help books will start to lose that stigma that comes attached to it. And maybe the labels that are attached to the people who purchase such books will start to diminish as well, especially those placed on females. MAYBE!

So, as I read the introduction to “May Cause Miracles“, I am focused. I am making a commitment. To myself. The book contains Weekly Chapters that are broken down daily, and include Morning Reflections, Affirmations and Evening Exercises. It’s like the book was basically made for me. It’s just oozing out positivity, inspiration and intentions. With a side order of self-reflection, asking yourself the tough questions and taking leaps of faith in areas that have been taped off as a “no entry zone”.

I can’t wait to start!

Week 1 is titled “Becoming Miracle Minded” and Day 1: Witness Your Fear, begins tomorrow morning. How long do they say it takes to create a habit? 21 days? That will have me at just over half way though. I am already in the mindset of trying to be a little more kinder wherever I go and with whoever I meet, taking the time to notice the little things in life and being able to just “be happy” (thank you #100happydays for that). So, I am hoping this new journey is a smooth transition. I have high hopes. And even if it’s just one thing that resinates with me from this experience, I will be forever grateful. And a frequent visitor in the Self-Help section.

Don’t dance around the perimeter of the person you want to be. Dive deeply and fully into it. 

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I just want to break this book into a hundred pieces, and love them all to death…

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HOW HAS IT TAKEN ME THIS LONG TO READ THIS BOOK…?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

It’s been over 24 hours since I have finished Eleanor & Park and I am still thinking about it, still mind-quoting lines, still smiling and chuckling at jokes that made me literally laugh out loud, even in a room full of people, and then saying over and over again – this book is just so amazing!

Eleanor & Park has been on my “List” for quite a while now, since it was released actually. And it’s not that I didn’t want to read it, it’s just that others kept budding in line, pushing it further back down the “List”. And, as you have probably guessed, my “List” is pretty long. Massive would be an understatement. But when my friend said she was reading it, I decided that as soon as I was done my current read, (yes, another YA novel…I’m on kinda a kick right now) it was time. Time to jump head-first into Eleanor and Park’s world, set in Omaha, Nebraska in 1986 (The perfect era for any story to take place).

Eleanor and Park are two misfit teenagers who meet on the bus. They share common interests, musical preferences, a sense of humour and views of the world. They just don’t know it yet. They would have to actually talk for that to happen. Which is no easy task when the rest of the world is already against them, before they’ve even begun. 

I don’t think I can put into worlds just how much I loved this book. I really didn’t know what to expect when I opened the cover. All my friend told me was “it’s very sweet and very sad”. That statement does not even begin to describe the emotions that came rolling through as I made my way, quickly, through Eleanor and Park’s tale. I could not stop reading, flipping the pages to see what happened next. 

Rainbow Rowell has gained a new fan. And the rest of her novels, that were behind Eleanor & Park on the “List” have been bumped right back up to the front of the line. VIP access actually. No line, no cover.

If it would’t spoil it for you, I’d write a complete synopsis just so I could re-live the moments all over again. But, of course, I won’t do that. I tried not to give too many details away about the book because I want you to experience reading it for the first time like I did. Because any other way would be blasphemy. But I wanted to write something about Eleanor & Park….I NEEDED to write something about it, because it’s been a long time since a book has touched me like this. I can’t even really put it into words. Yes it’s YA Fiction, yes they are teenagers, yes it’s about young love….but it’s also so much more.

The best I can do to express just how much I love this book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantastic writing and “real” characters is……..

I’m already considering a re-read. *BOOM* (drops the mic)

 

And that’s how it should be done!

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Gayle Forman knows how to write a book. At least the second time around she does. As I close the cover on Where She Went, the follow-up successor to Forman’s If I Stay, I am left grinning like a fool, tears drying up in my eyes and wanting MORE!

Where She Went is Adam’s tale. The supportive and loving boyfriend who sat by Mia’s side while she contemplated life or death, unbeknownst to him. I usually am not down with follow-up books being told from the male’s perspective, because I find it repetitive and boring. But this was not the case! Adam’s story takes place 3 years after “the accident” and lets readers satisfy that need of wondering….wondering what happened to the characters, where are they now and what transpired from previous events.

I have a personal attraction towards Series’. I NEED to know what happens next. I get so attached to the characters and their stories, that I wish most books were 5000 pages long, or a series of 20. And that’s how I felt with Where She Went. It gave me the information that I was craving. The inside details of Adam and Mia…the guts. And it was fantastic. And the fact that Adam achieves his “dreams and desires” of becoming a Rock Star, which means countless mentions of musical artists, songs, albums and lyrics just adds to the affection I feel towards this book.

If I had to have one criticism, it would be that no matter how much closure I felt at the end, no matter how big of a smile I had when I turned that last page…I was still left wanting more. What happens next?! Did things go as planned? Can the term “happily ever after” be said for Adam and Mia’s tale?

But, is that really a criticism or just the sign of a well-written novel? And possibly the symptom of being a book junkie?

“The things that don’t matter easy come and go
And the things that satisfy only come real slow”

Would I stay? The ultimate life or death decision, based on fiction.

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Death is a common theme in Young Adult fiction , but If I Stay, by Gayle Forman was different. To me anyways. Instead of the ever-popular main character who is going through her own person struggle with teenage angst – “I will just die if he doesn’t ask me to go to prom…” – Mia is thrown into a situation where she has to stare life or death in the face, with no warning but all the consequences of her decision. 

Mia’s tale takes place over the span of 24 hours, and has readers laughing along with her as she remembers stories from her past, and then crying tears of intense sadness as she is faced with what loved ones will endure is she leaves. What should be the most significant factor, as always, is the boyfriend, Adam. For me, it was Gramps….

After breezing through Mia’s story in about 24 hours myself, I am left with….I’m not quite sure. Did I love it? I don’t think so. Did I hate it? Absolutely not. Am I going to read the follow-up (which is rumoured to be significantly better)? OF COURSE! 
I guess I just fell into the hype. The fact that the film adaption was starting, which must mean it was fan-freakin-tastic. But in the end, I found myself skimming over sections of the book, not really giving Mia the attention that she probably deserves. 

One great thing about Mia, is that she is a strong, confident and smart female. Yes, she has insecure thoughts and bouts of second-guessing herself, but she doesn’t let it define her. She chose to play the cello instead of following in her Punk Rock dad’s footsteps, that should say it all. All too often, the main female character in Young Adult fiction makes me wince and want to reach in to the pages and shake some confidence into her. Why do the young females of the world, or any female or individual for that matter, need even more of a reason to feel insecure, unworthy of love, lack confidence and feel like they need to hide their inner self? We can thank the “Bellas” of YA for that. What we need more of is Mia. And Hermione.  

People who know me, know that YA is a guilty pleasure of mine, one that I don’t actually feel THAT guilty about! So when my friend sent me these books, it was a foregone conclusion that they would be added to my list. But did it live up to the hype? Negative. Hopefully, Where She Went has me craving to turn the pages and read until all hours of the night, because that’s what Book Lovers desire….the addiction. I just didn’t feel it with If I Stay. Maybe in this instance, the film adaption will be better than the book. I know, I know….the horror!

I did, however, find that I put myself in Mia’s shoes. What would I decide? Could I leave those that love me behind, give up all my hopes, dreams, goals, desires? Or would I go to the unknown, give into the feeling of “freedom”? Seek out those who had already left me behind? Would I find myself thinking the same as Mia, “I realize now that dying is easy. Living is hard”.

Living is hard, but isn’t that half the fun?

 

 

How “Before I Fall” changed my week…

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I started Before I Fall seven days ago….how ironic.

I was already a fan of Lauren Oliver after reading 2/3 of her Delirium series (just waiting on my turn on the third book), so when I heard that Oliver’s debut novel was a must, this self-proclaimed YA addict jumped right in.

Before I fall follows Sam, the girl who has everything: looks, the perfect boyfriend and popularity. What she does’t realize, is that on February 12th when she wakes up and heads to school, it’s her last…everything….last day at school, last Friday, last hang-out with her besties. But when Sam wakes up to her alarm the next morning, and realizes it’s February 12th AGAIN….things get messy…for the next seven days.

I will admit, the thought of reading through a modern-day version of Groundhog Day – except filled with teenage angst and antics – did not bode well with me. But, I told myself to at least get through day 2….and thank god I did!

What Oliver delivers is a medium for people to take a closer look at their own lives. Deep…I know. But after reading through Sam’s “final” seven days, and being shocked – because let’s face it, I thought for sure I knew the ending before it ever really began – I found myself wondering what I would have done or changed….what actions do I take everyday that could possibility have an impact on another person’s day or life, without even realizing it.

I found myself smiling at strangers, holding doors open for others, not rushing to be the next in line….because, does it really matter if I get my coffee before John Doe?

So, if you have a few days and want some fantastic YA fiction to help pass the time, take Before I fall out for a spin….I promise you, you won’t regret it.

* image from http://www.goodreads.com

Summer time To-Do: Lists

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As many are aware, I am an avid reader and tv watcher. Seeing as it’s mid-June and all the regular prime time shows are off sipping Bahama Mamas, it’s time for us to start tackling our Summer lists. You have those too right?

What’s on yours?

The final season of Dexter? Showing some Toronto love for Rookie Blue?

What pages are you currently turning? I’m 39 pages into the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver and can’t wait to let the obsession take over!

Soooooo…..what’s on yours? Let’s compare notes…..er…lists.