“The Universe Has Your Back” by Gabrielle Bernstein

My nutritionist/holistic coach (oh hey Stevie) recommended this to me a few weeks ago, during one of our last phone sessions. And I just finished it, having read most of it on a flight back from San Francisco for work & family. Needless to say, I am obsessed with this book. It’s wonderful and has just the right amount of cheesiness for a self help book.

Gabrielle Bernstein is apparently a pretty well known guru who’s all about meditation, giving into the power of the universe and total new age stuff. But this is the first time i’ve ever really heard of her and I’m definitely incredibly tempted to buy her other two books.

I think my favourite part of the book was definitely her guided meditations and ways to actually give into the universe without feeling super cheesy or weird about it. It’s a great book and a really easy read if you’re looking into some of the new age stuff but don’t know where to start.

3.5/5 

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

TW: this will be frank in discussion about sexual assault and revenge. If you are in danger, please either call 911 or, if you need help, RAINN at 1-800-656-4673.

This book has been wreaking havoc with my nightmares and has probably been the main reason why I’ve been in a weird mind space recently. It’s not because of the way it’s written or the themes it dives into. I mean, it’s a YA novel, for goodness sake’s. It’s about the subject matter and how close I am to it, whether i care to admit it or not.

The Female of The Species is heartwrenching and an important novel to read, especially today. It’s about a few teenagers — Peekay, Alex, and Jack — with appearances by other key characters as well. Alex lost her sister in one of the most violently brutal ways a person can go, in my opinion. She goes because someone took the time to rape, torture, and murder her in seemingly cold blood. Or on a meth binge, that part’s not really clear.

Anyway, we come into the novel after the attacker of Alex’s sister has been killed (we learn later on that it’s Alex. this isn’t a spoiler, promise) and the small town is coming to grips with not only one murder, but two. Though this book revolves around high school students and the weirdness that is high school, it dips into some pretty significant themes. Like how do you say no when you’re terrified for your life? And is it rape if you froze? And does God frown upon it if you have sex while on an altar in a historically abandoned, rotting church?

The Female of The Species also takes into account how in several other species, the female is often, more so than not, the protector. The defender. And the one who brings home the bacon, often literally. They’re the strongest links and often the ones that are defended first, not because of weakness but of  necessity. And this novel brings the conclusion that the human species isn’t too far off either from the natural kingdom.

Alex is the protagonist and throughout the book, you can tell she has no problems taking revenge out violently, if the end result takes out a child molester, a rapist, or another vile kind of person. And she understands that her decisions were hers and hers alone. And Peekay & Jack are drawn to her, not because they knew what she was capable of, but because of her strength and her ability to remain standing while everything else was crumbling.

I picked this book up for selfish reasons. I wanted to read a book where an assailant got justice, vigilante or judicial. Mostly, I wanted to see someone with a harrowed past actually be talked about like they were human, instead of some space case where what has happened to them will be all they ever be. And this book broke my heart. It made me cry more times than I care to admit, not because anything necessarily sad happened. But because I know the themes all too well. Maybe not to this degree but Mindy McGinnis has a way of writing that even the coldest of hearts will have their muscle grow a few times too large after reading this. Even the Grinch couldn’t read this without a little change in soul.

Anyway, if you have the steadfast resolve to pick this book up and finish it cover to cover, be prepared for your insides to go through the ringer. Be prepared to question so many things and be at the ready to have things distorted for you.

Maybe it’s the current political climate, maybe it’s that women make up most of the purchasing decisions, but YA novels are becoming more and more nuanced with real, honest stories. ANd though I often feel a little old to be reading, it feels really great to know that a generation is being taught through novels that sexual assault is nuanced, gray, and horribly complicated. And according to this book, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Favourite quote: I wonder what would happen if I went down there, took a ball out of the cage, and pretended to have sex with it. I think people would stop & look….but boys will be boys, our favourite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll. 

6/5

 

‘Wildly into The Dark’ by Tyler Knott Gregson

If you asked me who my favourite poets were, Tyler Knott Gregson would definitely be in the top three. This guy is absolutely magical. And i’m sure you’ve seen his work on Tumblr and on various celebrities Instagrams. His work is thought provoking and hits you straight in the feels.

He does type writer poetry and it’s a fun take on poetry. He really has revitalized the image of what people assume poetry is. And he is such a great vibe too. Super friendly, and incredibly passionate about a variety of work. I’ve written about his previous books here.

I’ve worked with Tyler in the past on a few projects for a non-profit I volunteer with and i can honestly say he’s one of the most genuine artists I’ve ever met. He devotes his time and dives right into projects he honestly cares about. And the ideas he brings to the table are often nothing short of brilliant. I don’t think I can say one negative thing about the man and I don’t even know him all that well.

You can follow him @tylerknott on various social media channels and he also has a wedding photography company as well! If you haven’t bought one of his books or somehow oblivious to his rounds  made on Tumblr, Instagram, & the like, check his stuff out. His books are found anywhere books are sold and I promise you won’t regret it. His words will move you not unlike mountains do.

Favourite line: All I could think to say was that poetry is taking an ache and making it sing 

10/5 

‘Scrappy Little Nobody’ by Anna Kendrick

If any celebrity would be my twin in real life or my so called spirit animal (i always feel like such a douche when i say that), I feel like it would be Anna Kendrick. She makes me laugh hysterically and I secretly just want to be her when I grow up. Even though she’s only, maybe, a couple years older than me. Whatever.

Anyway, when I heard she had a book out, I knew instantly that I needed it in my life. And my boyfriend’s sister gave it to me for Christmas and I AM so obsessed with it. Finally sat down to read it these past couple weeks and it’s endearing. Though not my favourite memoir I’ve ever read, I feel like it was one done in the most Anna Kendrick way possible, if it makes sense.

This novel makes her even more approachable and likable and relatable if that was even possible. It’s full of stories from when she made Twilight to the time she was nominated for a Tony when she was freaking 12. Can we say badass? I think we can.

If you’re a fan of anna kendrick or even just a fan of quirky women and sarcasm, then this book is for you. It’s a beach read and wont take many brain cells to process but it makes you see celebrity stature in a whole new light. ANd for more than the tabloid ‘They’re just like us!’ segments we all like to pretend we don’t browse through while at the supermarket.

Plus that title though? I feel like it was written just for me.

favourite quote: women encounter this in social situations as well. let me take you out. don’t be so uptight. just one more drink. and if you don’t, someone might strip you of an adjective you’ve been convinced has value, and label you as something else. Professional people are usually clever enough not to use this term, but in social situations, the threatened brand is ‘bitch’. 

3.5/5 

Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett

If you follow me on social media, especially Instagram, I’ve posted snippets of this book over the past couple weeks of doodles or great passages. And that’s because  I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS BOOK. not only because it combines two of my favourite things — Fight Club and Feminism — but also because it’s such an intricately fun read that goes by quickly, only to be slowed down because you keep wanting to reread passages. Or show your friends the drawings in the pages.

This book basically flips workplace sexism, which is far more common than I think people realize, and b asically creates a secret club for women or female identifying individuals to help fight it in healthy, substantial ways. It’s awesome. And while reading it, you have several “holy shit” moments because we’ve all encountered these kinds of men or even women in the work place. you know the ones — the mansplainers, the manterrupters, and the like who either explain something in mundane detail that either you just said or know extensively and the ones who like to interrupt you every 5 minutes with either something that is completely off track or is trying to take ownership of the conversation. Can I get an Amen to how freakishly annoying that is?

Also, total sidenote, I wish I read this book earlier in my 20s. It’s super relevant – and IMO, a necessary read for any young woman entering a corporate environment for the first time.  At one of my previous jobs, the rampant, underbelly sexism was astounding. For example, I was told by a coworker and my former boss that, in short, I was only hired for the size of my ass as well as how i looked in a dress. Amongst other things that I don’t feel comfortable sharing on the internet. And because moms (hi mom!). I almost filed a lawsuit against the company but before I took a better job, I ended up leaving all the women there gift baskets with notes about what to expect from certain coworkers and what would make them shut up efficiently. And the stuff I encountered wasn’t even the worst examples I could provide. Anyway, that just goes to show how relevant this book is.

But this book is amazing. It’s an easy read that you won’t want to put down. You’ll relate, I’m sure, to at least 85% of it and wish you could start your very own Feminist Fight Club. It’s full of real life examples and great ways to “fight the man” in real life that don’t feel overtly weird or uncomfortable. I think that’s the thing i like the most about this book. Though the subject matter is a little uncomfortable, it makes ways to implement making your voice heard realistic in a total non self help book kind of way.

So long story short? Pick up this book if you’ve ever wondered how to shut down a mansplainer effectively. Pick this book up if you’ve ever needed reassurance that female friendships are in fact the most powerful force. Or even, pick this book if you have no idea what I’m talking about and you want to learn more.

Feminist Fight Club is hilarious, poignant, and relevant to today’s societal influences. It’s an amazing read that’s informative and fantastic. Pick it up wherever books are sold.

Favourite Quote: Even Beyonce had an alter ego-Sasha Fierce-to help her develop into a more confident stage performer….acting confident, even if it’s an act, will not only convince others that you’re competent, it can lead to actual confidence. If you can’t do it for yourself, try doing it for your alter shego — and hype the shit out of her. 

5/5 

‘The Year of Yes’ by Shonda Rimes

Now, if you watch any form of TV – whether it’s Hulu, Netflix, and/or cable – you’ve probs heard of Shonda Rimes. She’s the brains and writer behind fan favourite shows Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and, my personal favourite, How to Get Away with Murder. If you haven’t, you’re probably living under a rock. Because her shows are rich in story telling, diverse backgrounds, and the best/worst cliff hangers you’ve ever witnessed on a show. Holy wow, those cliff hangers. If you watch How to Get Away with Murder, you know cliff hangers. That mid season finale? Oh my god.

Anyway, back to the point. I recently picked up her book The Year of Yes because it came highly recommended by a friend of mine and i love Shonda. I want to be friends with her and know how on Earth she could put my heart through the ringer every week without thinking twice. Whatever, anyway.

This book is lovely. It’s a little slow to start but it picks up. And it’s great insight. It follows her journey into the year of yes, inspired by something her sister said during Thanksgiving in 2013 or 2014. And her goal was to say yes to basically everything for an entire year. SHe couldn’t say no. Now, Im sure this excluded anything that was illegal, vastly immoral, or other caveats I’m not thinking of right now because I ordered Chinese delivery for the first time in forever.

The Year of Yes is filled with great side notes about your favourite shows as well as her journey of saying yes to everything and then some. You learn how she mustered up the courage to speak at the Human Rights Campaign awards show, take on Jimmy Kimmel, and change her own narrative into something motivatingly fantastic. You learn about her insecurities as well as her triumphs and how saying yes for a year turned into a lifelong habit.

This book, at times, is cheesy but you feel as though Rimes is encouraging you along the way, when you haven’t the words to do so yourself. It’s an easy read, perfect if you just finished an intense book or you need something that doesn’t take much brain cells to follow along. It’s funny, darling, and everything I needed right now.

It’s inspired me to do my own year of yes and take on my fears head on. It’s a self help book that doesn’t feel like one at all. ANd if you like Shonda’s shows, just wait until you read her book. It’s wonderful. Pick it up wherever books are sold and you’ll be in for a ride you weren’t expecting.

Favourite quote: No one is meaner than a pack of human beings faced with someone who is different.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

If you’re on Instagram, or any form of social media for that matter, I’m beyond positive you’ve seen Rupi Kaur’s poetry shared at least once. Her work is brilliant, thought provoking, and heart wrenching. It will be a sucker punch to the gut you’ll regrettably enjoy. And you’ll hand  your heart over to her articulate words to be gutted, to be reborn again.

Her first book of poetry, Milk and Honey, is separated into 4 sections. The sections are about breaking, healing, loving, and hurting. I read this in the day and am fully planning on reading again when I’m hurting, when I’m healing, and when I’m loving. And full disclosure, I’ve had a rough past couple days so I turned to her words to bring me back to the light. 

Kaur’s words are brilliant. Read this in the best days of your life and in the worst. She’ll remind you that you’re worth it all the same. Poetry can and will save lives. Poetry reminds us that we’re worth it, that there’s beauty in every crevice — no matter how dark it is before you get out.

Favourite line: you must enter a relationship/with yourself/before anyone else