Top 5 Books I Read in 2015

I am currently celebrating the fact that I hit my 25 books in 2015 goal via Goodreads! This could not have been done without the completion of my Masters degree, the joyous book club I joined (here’s to you Changing Hands Bookstore/First Draft Book Bar), and the copious amount of free time I have had in the past few months.

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I originally planned to rank all 25 books in order from best to worse, but that would take way too much time (and reading on your part) so I chose to only review 5 of the best books I enjoyed this year.
5. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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This was a book I had heard good things about in the new year and was excite to read. I wasn’t disappointed at all. It kept me on my seat throughout its entirety and also left me with so much thought after it was done. I didn’t think I would be a fan of the thriller type books that have been out recently, but after this and Gone Girl, I definitely get the trend.

 
4. Did you Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

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Just tragic. Those were the words I repeated so many times as I read this book. That feeling of closure, and the fear of never getting it, allows so much feeling that we all as humans can connect to. I loved hearing from other perspectives surrounding this one small town, and left the book wanting to make sure everyone was just okay, because I knew that would be all they would ask for.

 
3. Bossypants by Tina Fey

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I had been waiting for the perfect time to read this book, and finally found my opportunity as I boarded the plane back home to Kansas City for Thanksgiving. I am not much of a flyer, so I knew I needed a book that would distract me 100 percent and allow me to laugh as I flew through bumpy skies. Bossypants was the perfect antidote. Tina had me laughing out loud throughout my entire flight home and back to Arizona. Not only was this book hilarious, it touched on things I often think about with being a woman seeking success and the possibility of having a family, and my creative spirit…all of those things and more including childhood stories and growing up made me love this read.

 
2. Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey by Maya Angelou

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I should have known Maya Angelou would come right at the last minute and steal my heart. This was my last book of the year, and I’m so happy it was. As a twenty-something trying to figure out who I am, I could strongly relate to this book. I have been in need of a prose from an African American woman, and I sought out Maya for that solace. Quickest read I have ever done, but was filled with so much impactful content.

 
1. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

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This book. I was nervous yet excited to read this as I had heard rumors about the plot and how it differs from To Kill a MockingBird, but what I did not expect is what made me love this book so much. Its timeliness of its publication was eerily perfect, and so needed in a time where we think racism is over and we don’t have to talk about it anymore…No, we really do need to. Harper Lee wrote this before To Kill a Mockinbird and I bet her editor said, “people are not ready for this yet”. Sad to say, I don’t know if people today are still ready for it, but I strongly encourage everyone to read this! Even though it was not edited as thoroughly as most books are, the message packed a great punch, and I loved hearing Scouts voice as a twenty-something trying to figure out her life. This book couldn’t have spoken to me more at the exact right time it needed to.

 
Honorable mentions: (in no particular order)
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for reading!

V

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My Letter to Fear

I love when I hear something inspiring that makes me think or reflect on my own experiences. I was fortunate enough to have some inspiration this past Sunday, when I heard Elizabeth Gilbert speak about her new book, Big Magic (P.s. Buy it! – locally please!). Her new book is about living a creative life, and the purpose of fear. She said that fear should not be completely gone from your life, and that fear and creativity actually depend on each other. She told us fear is more than welcome to join her throughout her journey with creativity, but in no way is fear allowed to make any decisions or have a voice. I absolutely loved this. Elizabeth wrote a letter to fear telling it just that: that it had no voice in her life, but its presence is more than welcome.

This inspired me to write my own letter to fear. My personal acceptance of its purpose and putting it in its place. Fear and I have come through hell and high water. Sometimes I could win, and tell fear to shove it, but more often than anything, fear found a way to make me feel vulnerable and afraid of an outcome I wasn’t sure of. When I first started writing this letter, I couldn’t stop thinking about The Little Rascals and the lovely note that was sent to Darla (for reference, please see video). I wanted to so badly to grill at my fear and tell it to stay out of my business and that it truly did make me want to vomit. In my head there was so much I wanted to yell at fear for. For all the times it held me back to living a my creative life, but I decided to take a step back and be really honest with my fear. To let it know that I did appreciate it for being there, because like Elizabeth Gilbert had mentioned during her talk, “If you live without fear, you would pretty much be a sociopath” (not exactly the direct quote, but close enough). So I decided to take a crack at writing to my fear as truthfully as I could, and I decided to share it with you all.

Dear Fear,

How’s life treating you inside my head? You have been putting in a lot of extra hours lately, and for that, I respect your want to work over time, but it doesn’t mean you will be compensated for it. I wanted you to know that I am no longer trying to quit you. That I am okay that you are up there in my head, giving me all the ways things can go wrong with what I want to do. What I am thankful for is that you have no place in my heart. My heart belongs to me and my creativity. You know creativity, right? I’m sure you have met before. Its the one that you push off the swings every now and then because you aren’t the biggest fan of sharing my mind. Well, creativity and I have had enough of your bullying. Creativity and I have the reins in this here body of mine, and I would like for it to stay that way. I know that you are here for a reason, and that sometimes I will hear your voice and start to feel my palms sweat and my anxiety kick in, but instead of listening and following your voice, I’m going to turn to my heart and let creativity be my guide.

Forever and always, but never in charge you will forever be.

All my love,

Virginia

A Bibliophile’s Review On: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

**Note: The following thoughts and reflections are my own and do not have to be a view for everyone to agree with.. Just sharing my thoughts!

Wow. That was my first impression of this book. I kept telling myself that the stories couldn’t be real. Shaking my head at any chance I got to make myself believe that everything in the book was fiction… And then I read the Author’s note and how not only the stories are true, but the names as well.

I couldn’t believe it, but at the same time, I knew experiences like this happened in India, its just hard to picture at times.

I am so thankful that this book found me. A friend in my program loaned it to me upon return from her travels in India, visiting the slum areas and seeing the images the book portrays herself. I wanted to go on this trip with her but due to finances, I was not able to, so I was hoping this book would be able to paint a picture on what I missed.

All I can say is wow. I really enjoyed the book (even though it took me forever to read – but I blame myself and grad school for that)

I waited to reflect on the author’s point of view until the very end. I wanted to hear her side of the story before I made any comments. I do often times wonder what her experiences were like there as a white female telling the story of the Annawadi people. She mentions briefly that it was difficult in the beginning, but with all of the details mentioned she included in this book, I can’t imagine their community to want their full truths out there in the open without a little confidentiality. I mean, there were stories of theft, prostitution, fraud, bribery, etc. and full names were accurate throughout the book.. I can see it as being great to finally bring truth to how the Annawadi, and possibly other villages surrounding Mumbai, live, but I also have been thinking about privilege a lot and what that entails for a journalist like Katherine.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and recommend anyone who is interested of the details behind what a slum village is like and may not have the means of going there at this time, to read it.

Be sure to check out Katherine’s website for more information on the book!

VA

“I’m Bringing Blogging Back.. Yeah!”

In the inspiring words of JT, I am bringing blogging back.

Truly I did miss it. I always felt regret when I didn’t take the time to get on the computer and just write what I was feeling. I enjoy writing. I journal regularly, why am I not capable of holding down a blog?

Personally, I felt that if I wasn’t traveling or doing something exciting (you don’t want to hear about my grad life of readings and writing theoretical papers on student development?) there was no reason for me to write.. wrong! I need to keep telling myself that, at least.

So, to spice things up, I have added two new pages to my blog:
Bibliophile and A Moveable Feast where I will talk about my two favorite things: reading and eating. (on that note, a great book suggestion if you love travel stories is A Moveable Feast by Don George and other amazing travel writers)

Here’s to a new year and an updated blog!