Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

woman in hammock

Dear Fellow Reader,

I don’t really like the term self-help books. There is something about that term that makes me want to steer clear of them. It isn’t fair. There are lots of good and helpful books that fall under the self-help category but I always start with a bit of wariness. So, had that doubt in my mind when I took Girl, Wash Your Face out of the library. I knew that it was on the best-seller lists, and  I wanted to see what the brouhaha was about it.

girl

 

I had no idea who Rachel Hollis is. I am not familiar with her blog/empire. She is the founder of TheChicSite.com and CEO of Chic Media. A quick look at her site shows that she is very much the center of her empire but there seem to be several interesting sounding blog posts to check out. She is the author of Girl, Wash Your Face. The subtitle of her book is “Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be”

 

In the introduction to the book, in fact on the first page of the book, she states the following:

“The truth? You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are. That’s the takeaway.”

Okay, she hooked me right there. And I think that sets the tone for the book. Each of the twenty chapters in the book deals with a lie that she told herself and how she turned that concept around. Then at the end of the chapter, she provides a section “Things That Helped Me” where she provides ideas of how to make changes. She is very open in sharing the “messiness” of her life. She talks about weight, adoption, sex, dating, motherhood, parenting, and work among other things. While she has done very well for herself, she has not had an easy life and has worked hard. Some of the stories about her life are incredibly sad or scary.

“I am successful because I refused to take no for an answer. I am successful because I have never once believed my dreams were someone else’s to manage. Thats the incredible part about your dreams: nobody gets to tell you how big they can be.

When it comes to your dreams, no is not an answer. The word “no” is not a reason to stop. Instead, think of it as a detour or a yield sign. No means merge with caution. No reminds you to slow down- to re-evaluate where you are and to judge how the new position you’re in can better prepare you for your destination.

“You don’t see things as they are; you see things through the lens of what you think and feel and believe. Perception is reality and I’m here to tell you that your reality is colored much more by your past experiences than by what is actually happening to you. If your past tells you that nothing ever works out, that life is against you, and that you’ll never succeed than how likely are you to keep fighting for something you want? “

In reflecting on the book, several things stand out. One of my favorites was about exercise. If you are constantly saying that you are going to start doing something, but you never do or you only start for a little while, then you are not being a very good friend to yourself. You would not put up with constant disappointment from a friend, so why are you doing it with yourself?

The book is very easy to read and is funny and sad and light and hard. If you are looking at your life and attitudes, I suggest that this book provides an interesting starting point. Not every bit of it might apply to your situation but I think that you will find words of wisdom in this book.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

 

Dear Fellow Reader,

When my book club pick for October was Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford, I had never heard of it. Then I read the cover and discovered that Jamie Ford’s other book was Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I had read that book and while I don’t remember that much about it, I knew that I enjoyed it.

Okay, let me tell you that Love and Other Consolation Prizes is dark. There is no way around it. The main character starts in abject poverty in China. He finds out later in life that the smell he associates with his mother is the smell of someone starving to death. He leaves China at the age of five with an “uncle” – not a real uncle – a man his mother sold him to in an attempt to save him. His mother gave him her only possession.

“She merely placed a filigreed hairpin in his hand and folded his tiny fingers around the tarnished copper and jade phoenix that represented the last of their worldly possessions”

After telling the story of how Ernest got to the United States in 1902, the book moves back and forth between 1909 and 1962 – the two times that the World’s Fair was in Seattle. Ernest has not had an easy life. He was not supposed to survive the trip to Seattle but he did. Ernest is a survivor although when he is young he often doesn’t even understand what Is going on. When the book shifts to 1962, we learn that Ernest is married and has two daughters. Ernest’s wife is sick – she is living with his daughter because she doesn’t know who he is and she doesn’t want to be with him. Ernest is living in a drab hotel by himself.

Going back and forth through time tells the story on Ernest and his two loves, Maisie and Fahn and what happened to each of them in 1909 and where they are in 1962.

There is no way to get around the darkness of this story. It is the seamy side of the story of Ernest’s survival. From the opening scene where his mother is killing his newborn sister to the most positive way the story could end, there are terrible things that happen to and around Ernest.

BUT it is beautifully written. When I describe the story, it loses any of its texture because I’m not using Jamie Ford’s words.

“He drew a deep breath. Memories are narcotic, he thought. Like the array of pill bottles that sit cluttered on my nightstand. Each does, carefully administered, use as directed. Too much and they become dangerous. Too much and they’ll stop your heart.”

I think you should read this book but be prepared. It is not light; it is not happy. I thought that the very beginning was a bit slow but that is where a lot (but not all) of the horrible things happen. I don’t feel like I am selling this book but I did like it.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

Dear Fellow Reader,

Immigration is a huge issue in this country. There are those who have firm ideas on the issue and those who just might not understand the issue that well. (I feel that if those two groups were in a Venn diagram that there would be a large overlapping part. But that is not what we are here to discuss.)

When he was 12, Jose Antonio Vargas was sent by his mother to live in the United States with his grandparents. He had extended family living in the United States and he moved to join them. He missed his mother but adjusted to living in California. When he was 16, he decided to go to the DMV and apply for his driver’s license. At the DMV, the woman behind the counter informed him that his green card was fake and that he should not come back again. He was stunned. He had no idea. He went home and confronted his grandfather who told him it was true. It was then that he learned that his family’s hope was that he would marry into citizenship.

To say this was a turning point in his life is to put it lightly. He had a secret now. He didn’t feel he could tell anyone his secret because bad things would happen. And then he discovered that for his situation, there was no road to citizenship. Fortunately for him, he had people who helped him. He received a scholarship to college, and then received internships and was able to get through until the day he had to fill out an application form that required him to check a box.

“I attest, under penalty of perjury that I am

                                A citizen or national of the United States

                                A lawful permanent resident (Alien #)

                                An alien authorized to work until (Alien # or                                                                                        Admission #) “

He was none of these.

Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen tells of his struggles and his eventual full public disclosure of his status. He talks about how he is stuck and there is not a cure for his problem as of right now. He does not look for sympathy. He is more explaining his situation and the situation for undocumented people in this country.

It is not a long book and it reads very quickly. I strongly suggest that you read this book. I think that it offers a different perspective on the issue and information that you may not have heard before.

Thanks for reading!

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An Elderly Lady is up to No Good by Helene Tursten

Dear Fellow Reader,

I just read a fun little book. I don’t remember where I read about it or what it said but something prompted me to request it from the library. It is only 171 pages and the book itself is small, so it is a very quick read.

The book is An Elderly Lady is up to No Good by Helene Tursten. The book is five short stories with Maud as the central character in each story. Maud lives rent-free in a large apartment. Maud has lived in this apartment her entire life. When her father died penniless, (much to the surprise of her mother) the building that they owned had to be sold. The family lawyer inserted a clause into the sales contract that stated that Maud, her mother, and her sister could stay in the apartment rent-free until their death. Maud is the surviving member of the family and she is 88 years old. The building has changed ownership several times but each time, Maud prevails and stays in the apartment. When Maud’s sister, who was apparently a bit unhinged, lived in the apartment, they had to take in lodgers to help pay the utilities and taxes on their unit. After Charlotte’s death, Maud no longer needs to take in lodgers as she worked and could pay the fees. As a result, Maud lives in a very large apartment by herself. She is a loner, but she travels frequently and has seen most of the world. She is also in good mental and physical shape. She is not above using her age to fool people into thinking that she is infirmed and not very sharp mentally.

I really hate to give away very much about the stories. While I was reading the first story, I could see where it was leading but could not believe that is where it was going. It was fun.

My feeling about these stories is that the author was having fun when she wrote them. She just dreamed up this character and let it go where it went. The stories have some humor,  lots of surprises, and are quick reads. They leave you smiling. If you read the synopsis of the book given on sites (like Amazon) you will be disappointed when you read the book. Don’t read them! Be surprised!

I suggest that you check out An Elderly Lady is up to No Good by Helene Tursten. I understand that Helene Tursten has written other books. She has a mystery series with Inspector Irene Huss. Inspector Huss is in one of the short stories. I have not read any of Ms. Tursten’s other books.

Thanks for reading!

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Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta

Dear Fellow Reader,

With this review, I am finally caught up with my reviews of freebie books. (You know the drill, I am given a copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review.)

Stuck in Manistique is not a heavy, dark read, in contrast to some of the books I have read lately. It is a nice story about Mark and Emily. Mark goes to Manistique, Michigan, because he has inherited a house from his estranged aunt. His aunt, Vivian, had been a doctor who traveled the world, going from one emergency to the next. He doesn’t know why she left him the house. His intention is to sell it as soon as possible. Once there, he discovers that the house was a bed and breakfast and that people have reservations to stay there.

Before he can cancel the reservations, the doorbell rings. There stands Emily with an eye patch. Emily has just finished medical school and is supposed to be going to Mackinac Island to meet her lover before she starts her residency at a hospital in Chicago. Emily is having doubts about meeting her lover. She has decided that she is not going to go when she hits a deer outside of Manistique. Her car needs repairs and she needs to have her eye checked. Manistique is the closest town, so her car is towed to the repair shop there and she goes to the local ER to have her eye checked. After telling her that her car won’t be ready until the next day, the car repair shop receptionist sends her over to the bed and breakfast because it is the only place in town that is available.

Mark tries to discourage Emily from staying there by telling her that his aunt is away and the inn isn’t prepared for guests, but in the end, they decide that Emily can stay for the night.

While Mark gets Emily settled, the doorbell rings again. Mark was trying to just ignore it but Emily answers it and there is George. George is on a gambling bus trip and has been kicked out of the local hotel. Despite Mark trying to discourage it, George then moves into the inn for the night.

This is the beginning of an interesting cast of characters who spend the next week in or around the inn. Mark finally admits that his aunt is dead. Emily’s lover shows up. A couple comes that are on a trip to drive an all-electric car around Lake Michigan. But somehow, no one is exactly what they seem.

I will admit that there are times that I don’t understand why the characters are doing what they are doing. Like why did Mark not admit that his aunt was dead? The story tells the story of Mark and Emily’s lives and explores Vivian’s life and that holds some surprises for Mark.

Part of the reason I did like the book is the setting. If you have ever been up in that area of Michigan, it is a pleasant reminder of how pretty the area is and all the quaint spots there.

Thanks for reading!

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