Book Review: All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

With titles such as Something Borrowed and Baby Proof on her bibliography, Emily Giffin is hands down one of the queens of ‘chic-lit’ literature – next to JoJo Moyes and Sophie Kinsella of course.However, in her latest novel, All We Ever Wanted, Giffin begins
to stray from her roots. The result? One of the best novels that I’ve read this year.

All We Ever Wanted starts out with elite Nina Browning and her husband, Kirk. The couple are at one of their charity functions — a typical night out for the couple. Nina is a stay at home wife, whose charity and shopping fills her days, since husband Kirk makes more money than ever due to deals.

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However, across town, their 18 year-old son Finch makes the biggest mistake of his life. He takes a racist picture of a drunken girl passed out on a bed – Lyla Volpe – and has it sent around school. Soon enough, Finch’s parents have caught wind of what happened, and so has Finch’s school. This results in Finch losing everything he has ever worked for – including his coveted place in Princeton. As a result, we as the reader watch as the characters’ true morals come to show – and how money can never truly make you a good person.

Giffin tells this story through three points of view – Tom Volpe, Nina Browning, and Lyla Volpe. She does this quite well, as this adds a little something extra to the novel. As a reader, you get to see the point of view to what’s going on, whether it may be Lyla (the victim), or how the parents react. I liked hearing about what Nina’s processes
were, in addition to hearing about what it was like for Lyla. Hearing Nina’s point of view helped me understand the effects of this on the parents of the person who did it — something that can instantly be forgotten.

What I really liked was the character development of Nina Browning. At the start of the novel, Nina was yourtypical wealthy Nashville wife. However, throughout the novel, she
slowly sees the light on a lot of issues – including her husband’s morals, and what it’s doing to her son. Furthermore, I think the incident removed some of the blindness Nina had for the people around her. While I am not sure if this is realistic, I thought that Giffin did an amazing job with that. I won’t give anything away here, but you’re in for a surprise as the novel unfolds.

The only problem that I had with the novel was this – Lyla’s attraction to Finch. Yes, she’s 15 years old. However, she harbored a crush on him throughout much of the novel – despite the fact that he took this picture that was downright humiliating. Finch lied his way through everything – just to clear his name. Yet, in Lyla’s eyes, he was perfect. Now, this could be the fact that she’s 15 years old and naïve. However, I would be more angry than forgiving to the person who took that kind of picture of me.

With that being said, I still really loved this book. It was superbly written, and Giffin kept readers engage from the first chapter down to the last sentence. Therefore, I highly recommend that if you’re looking for a great book for your beach trip or summer travels, that you pick up All We Ever Wanted. Chances are, you’ll be reaching for her other books next (which I can tell you from experience that they are just as well written).

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24

Today is my 24th birthday. If you’ve been following me since the beginning of my blogging days, you know that every year, I write a post about the age I am turning. In addition, I also write about some reflections, and maybe some goals I have for myself.

24 to some of you may think 24 is a baby. Others may think it’s old. I am one of the latter. I am now in my mid-20s. I am no longer a fresh-faced college student. I am now an adult – whatever that means. When I was younger, I thought that being in my mid-20s would mean that I had my life together. Well, I can assure you that’s not exactly the case. I still sometimes don’t know what I am doing. And, that’s okay.

This past year, I’ve made a lot of big steps. I joined the Arts Commission in my town. I also bought a car – my very first new one on my own. During this year, I had disappointments, and I had celebrated successes. I even managed to make it on the radio.

As I turn 24, I decided to set some goals for myself. The first is to get my finances and credit in order. One way I can do this is to start saving money, and stop spending it stupidly. When I bought my car, I nearly drained my savings for the down payment. I never really gained it back. Furthermore, I have a habit of living paycheck to paycheck and purchasing things that I may not necessarily need.

So, with that being said, I’ve decided to work on that. My first plan of attack is to stop shopping at QVC – or at least stop putting so many things on Easy Pay. Over time, I can easily spend over $100 on my payments. Good news, after July, it will go down to half.

Secondly, I want to make it a habit to put more in my savings. Since I get paid weekly, I want to put a portion of my check into my savings before I even can spend it. Even though it might not equal much, that little bit does add up.

Another way I want to do this is to help pay my car off – or get closer to doing so. I currently pay more than my payments are every month. However, I want to begin to increase those payments by a bit. That way, I can get closer to paying it off.

Another goal I have for myself is to make me a bigger priority. As my responsibilities continue to grow, sometimes I realize that I put me on the bottom of the list. So, this year that’s going to change. Whether it may be taking my full lunch break or including a bath gel when taking a bath, I am going to do my best to take care of me. Sometimes it’s not easy to do so, but it’s really important. After all, if I am not going to take care of myself, then who is going to? Asking for a friend . . .

So, 24. So far, it seems like it’s going to be a pretty good year. I guess you’ll have to wait until I write 25 to know for certain.

Learning to Be Nice To Yourself

Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel like you just can’t get anything right? You know, when you’re struggling just to get something down pat, only to fail. And father than allow yourself the mistake, you beat yourself up for it?

You’re not alone, here. I do it too.

With that being said, how to we nip that habit right in the bud? How do we, instead of getting frustrated with ourselves so easily, learn to take a deep breath and say, it’s okay. I can do this. 

I say, with practice. Naturally, it’s easier said that done. But, I bet you can do it.

Okay, so how?

Let’s take when you’re new at something, for example. Often, you don’t pick something up right away. Do you remember when you first learned how to drive? Chances are, you didn’t do perfectly the first second you got behind the wheel. However, over time, you’ve managed to not only brake easily, but also feel comfortable driving around other cars. Therefore, we have to learn that since we’re new at something, we need to give ourselves a chance to get used to everything — whether it may be a new job or even a semester.

Patience, people.

Furthermore, we also need to work on learning to be nice to ourselves. That means giving ourselves a break when things don’t go right. That means changing our inner dialogues so that we can instead focus on what we learned from the mistakes that we made instead of yelling at ourselves. That means changing our outlook.

It also means giving ourselves a break.

At the end of the day, not everyone is perfect. Not everyone is going to be the top of the class, or adapt to something easily. And, that’s okay. It doesn’t meant that they aren’t good at it. It means that they are human.

Therefore, everyone — myself included — should take note.

Book Review: Save The Date by Morgan Matson

Your wedding day is the one day where everything is supposed to go right. At least, you hope so.

However, that’s not the case with Charlie’s sister’s wedding in Morgan Matson’s Save the Date. Between a fallen wedding cake, a faulty alarm, and a wedding planner that hits the road the day before, it seems like the day can’t go right. With that being said, Charlie is excited because she gets a chance to hang out with all five of her siblings altogether — even estranged sibling Mike.

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My copy of Save the Date — it’s a signed edition! 

But the wedding isn’t the only craziness that is happening in Charlie’s life. In addition to preparing for her sister’s wedding, she’s getting ready for college and figuring out where she is going to go next year. Her parents are selling their childhood home, and the comic strip that her mother had worked on for the past 25 years is now drawing to a close as well.

With that being said, this novel isn’t about a wedding or a happy family. I mean it is, but it’s so much more than that. It is also a coming of age, watching a woman grow up kind of story. I mean, throughout the novel you watch Charlie mature, whether it may be coming to the light with her childhood crush, or seeing her siblings with their faults — not as superheroes.

Overall, I thought that this was a great book. Usually, whenever I read a book where everything seems to go wrong, I begin to get frustrated. This was not the case. Tucked between the mini disasters were those heartfelt family moments that only come with the wedding territory. For instance, the Grants played capture the flag the night before Linnie’s wedding.

In addition, I enjoyed how the different story lines flowed. There’s a lot going on in this novel. You have the wedding, you have Charlie figuring out where she stands with Jesse and where to go to college, and the house being sold. But, there’s so much more than that. For instance, you have the end of Charlie’s mom’s comic, Grant Central Station. You see an unexpected romance form. And, you see one end.

What was also cool — and something that Matson always does in her books — was that you get to see a character in a previous novel. This time, you see Andie Walker from the Unexpected Everything. In addition, you see her father, who is now the governor, make a few appearances. I always love it when authors do that — it’s kind of neat to see how your favorite characters in your novels are, without reading another book about them.

However, while I enjoyed the book, I still wondered if it was realistic. Having never really been in a wedding or have gotten married, I wouldn’t have experienced the trials of planning a wedding. But, for all of you who have, let me ask you this — it is realistic for everything to go wrong on your wedding day?

Other than that, it was definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. Furthermore, if you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, or Jennifer Smith, than Save the Date should also be on your summer reading list.

Two Different Worlds?

Recently, I’ve accompanied my mom on a trip to our local nursery where she had been going for several years. She started talking to the owner, with whom she has grown to be friendly with (which comes with the territory when you’ve been going to the same place for several years now). The two discussed work, parents, and then went onto children. It was then my mother said something interesting.

Now, let me give you a little background information so I don’t leave you in the cold. They were talking about how one of the owner’s children went down to Florida for a bit. He was 25, and is looking for work.

Here’s what my mom said: “At 25, you and I were trying to get married. Now, at their age, that’s the furthest thing from their mind.”

I began to think about it. I am 23, and will turn 24 next month. While I am in a relationship, getting married is something that I’m not ready for at this moment. I still want to be established, and I want to pay my car off. And, most of the people I talk to are in the same boat. My friends are in their late 20s, and many of them don’t have engagement or wedding rings on their fingers.

Let’s take a look at the generation before us — our parents. My mom got married at 28, while my father was 23. Now, that’s not so much of an uncommon thing, but back then that was a much bigger deal.

With that being said, I have a friend who got married at 21. When I first heard that they wanted to get married, I started screaming at them. What about finishing college? What about getting a good job, a place to live, etc.?

It was then my friend reminded me about the meaning of love.

But, with that being said, what happens if someone wants to get married in their younger years? Now, it’s being seen more and more crazy to get married before you get a diploma. Why do people have to endure being criticized for that, when they are simply doing what’s best for them. That’s an entirely different conversation altogether.

However, I do think that while love is an important factor in relationships, more and more millennials are looking to be established. You know, have a steady job, savings, etc. Our generation — despite the weight of student loans — is the first with the majority to graduate with Bachelor’s and even Master’s degrees. My mom didn’t finish college, and I don’t know if my dad even went. That education opens far too many doors and opens up a significant amount of opportunity than ever before, such as studying abroad and internships.

Also, our generation is the first where both men and women have solid careers. In our parents’ generation, that wasn’t the case. One of the biggest changes, by far, is the opportunities for women opened up by feminism. Women were expected to maintain a caregiver role with the man provided. Now, both parents are providing — or dad is the one who chooses to stay home. 

It’s kind of interesting how things change in the span of 30 years, if you ask me. However, with that being said, while I still want to maintain a lively and successful career, I still also aspire to wear a white gown and have a family. But, just not right now.

Book Review: Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

I don’t know about you, but I have a list a mile long of places that I want to travel to. One of them, Italy, was the setting of Jenna Evans Welch’s debut novel, Love & Gelato. Another place is Ireland, which is the setting of her latest novel, Love & Luck.

Love & Luck in some ways is like a sequel to Love & Gelato. The protagonist, Addie, is Lina’s best friend, who was the protagonist of Love & Gelato. But, don’t be fooled. It’s not a sequel to Love & Gelato by any means.

The novel begins at Addie’s aunt’s destination wedding, which is in Ireland. At the wedding, Addie and her brother Ian have an argument that gets resolved by Addie pushing her brother down a hill. However, before the reception, Addie’s mother gives them a challenge — to behave without incident while the two visit Addie’s best friend Lina while she’s in Italy or she’s revoking all their privileges to play sports. Since both of them are athletes, this is the ultimate punishment.

However, here’s the thing — Addie and Ian are usually the closer of the sibling group. But, after Addie dates football bad boy Cubby — which had an unfortunate ending — the two are drifting apart. This leads Addie to pick up the book Ireland and the Heartbroken, which isn’t your typical guidebook.

Right before Addie is destined to leave for Italy, she discovers Ian to be missing along with his suitcase. She finds him on his way to the ultimate music festival, where his favorite band will be giving one last performance. Addie follows him, which leads her down a rabbit hole of the unexpected as she heals her broken heart. Along with her brother’s friend, she begins to complete the heartbreak homework to ultimately heal the broken heart that she arrived with.

This is easily one of the best books that I’ve read this year. Furthermore, this book is the perfect read for summer. You can easily get lost in it, just as Addie gets lost in the Irish hills. The book is one of those books you can easily finish in a few days, but it’s one of those books that can become your favorite.

What’s unique about the book is that each chapter is sandwiched with an excerpt from Ireland and the Heartbroken. Now, you may be wondering whether or not this may take away or add to the novel. Personally, I liked it. It served as a preview for the upcoming destination. Furthermore, I also think that it also helped with the tone of the book. It helped Addie come to terms with what’s going on with her life at home.

I also liked that this book didn’t reveal all at once. It added to the intrigue of what happened to Addie to lead her to that point. At the beginning of the book, Addie and her brother are arguing. By the end, their relationship is restored.

The one thing that I didn’t like about the book though was the ending. I personally felt that it was a little rushed. I would have liked to see everything go full circle just a bit more. Maybe show more about Addie and Ian as they go back to school, and face the music.

But, with that being said, if you’re a fan of young adult literature, travel or even both, I highly recommend you reading Love and Luck.

Hi Anxiety, Will You Let Me Sleep At Night?

In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Month, I am going to write about having anxiety. But, if you’re a regular around here, chances are you know already I deal with anxiety.

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Me during my junior year of college.

Anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since my junior year of college. That was the time when I struggled to maintain a normal, balanced schedule. At the time, I was taking five intensive college courses, as well as balanced two jobs. Needless to say, I quickly crashed. After dropping a course and receiving therapy from my school’s counseling center, I entered the summer feeling confident.

However, the following fall, I began to struggle with anxiety once again. Only this time, the fix wasn’t as easy as dropping a course or reducing my hours. My fall semester was a constant downward spiral of mental breakdowns. At the time, I was working three different jobs, and taking intense classes. And, I never went to my therapist, because I felt like he never listened to me.

This continued into the spring semester, where between coursework and work, I wasn’t able to even breathe. However, I saw some changes in the spring semester. For instance, I saw a new therapist who was much more open to my needs. I also began thinking about what’s best for me.

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Me, along with friends the night I gave the sermon.

Eventually, I began to get better. I became an advocate for myself, and truly tried to make sure that I was listening to myself. Furthermore, I’ve developed an attitude where I focus more on myself and my needs, and less on the expectations. I’ve also learned to be less critical of myself, and focus more on the good vs. the bad. Towards the end, I even delivered a sermon on how faith plays a role in mental health.

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Me at the beach, August 2017.

Since graduating college, I still with anxiety. Only now, it’s less feeling crushed by the weight of the amount of work I had. Instead, it’s overthinking every little thing and worrying constantly. It’s asking my boyfriend a thousand times if we are okay. It’s lying in bed at night and worrying about whether or not I’ll be able to accomplish everything. It’s crying because a rush of emotion comes to me all at once, and I need someone to give me a hug.

Can I be honest here?

Anxiety freaking sucks.

Although I still attend therapy semi regularly, I’ve come to accept anxiety as a part of my daily routine. However, I’ve somewhat learned to control it. Somewhat is the key word here. I still have moments where I call my boyfriend crying because I feel as though I can’t handle the stresses (to which I thank him so much for, because he not helps me get through it, but does a very good job of making me smile). I still have moments where I write everything in my journal as a release. I still run to get those endorphins pulsing through my veins.

With that being said, since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I write a post about my journey with anxiety. Since this is the second time I’ve done it, I like to look back at it and think about how far I’ve come. I’m not perfect, and maybe I’ll never be. And, that’s perfectly alright. There is no such thing as a perfect human.

However, I do ask one thing of every person who is reading this. And, that is to become more aware of mental health and mental health issues. That’s the main goal of me having this blog, although I’ve strayed to discuss other topics. It can be uncomfortable to talk about mental illness, which is why some don’t often do. But, just because it’s uncomfortable, doesn’t mean that we should sweep it under the rug, now should we?

Didn’t think so.

Furthermore, I ask that each and every one of you helps spread that awareness to others. Stamping out ignorance is the first step in trying to spread and develop a world where mental illness should be regarded as the same class as a physical one. So, if you suffer from a mental illness, be sure to reach out to me. I’ll be more than happy to help you get through it.