REVIEW: #GIRLBOSS, BY SOPHIA AMORUSO

 

In the New York Times bestseller that the Washington Post called “Lean In for misfits,” Sophia Amoruso shares how she went from dumpster diving to founding one of the fastest-growing retailers in the world.

Amoruso spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and scrounging in dumpsters for leftover bagels. By age twenty-two she had dropped out of school, and was broke, directionless, and checking IDs in the lobby of an art school—a job she’d taken for the health insurance. It was in that lobby that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay.

Flash forward to today, and she’s the founder of Nasty Gal and the founder and CEO of Girlboss. Sophia was never a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she’s written #GIRLBOSS for other girls like her: outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is windy as all hell and lined with naysayers.

#GIRLBOSS proves that being successful isn’t about where you went to college or how popular you were in high school. It’s about trusting your instincts and following your gut; knowing which rules to follow and which to break; when to button up and when to let your freak flag fly.


My Thoughts: What an inspirational story of one young woman’s determination to find what made her happy, and to go for it.

Being an outsider, not following a conventional path, and chasing her dreams sum up what led to this young woman’s success. Some might have labeled her too much of a rebel to achieve her goals, but those naysayers would soon learn otherwise.

Her attitude and her “out of the box” thinking would be key ingredients in making her company what it became, and would show others how to find their own journey.

Some of what I learned from the author’s stories included that she doesn’t believe in luck, but in the ability to control one’s own fate. She believes in magic, though, which simply means sending your good intentions out to the Universe, and visualizing what you want.

As for following the rules, she believes the challenge is in knowing which rules to accept, and which to rewrite.

I saw the Netflix show and loved it, so I immediately downloaded #GirlBoss. I wanted to read the anecdotes, learn her pattern for creating her own rules and her own path, and revel in how she is sharing with others. An interesting story of a unique company and its creator. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: SECRETS IN SUMMER, BY NANCY THAYER

 

Memorial Day weekend means that seasonal visitors have descended on the glamorous island of Nantucket. For year-round resident Darcy Cotterill, it means late-night stargazing in the backyard of the beautiful house she grew up in and inherited from her beloved grandmother. It’s also Darcy’s chance to hit the beach and meet her new summertime neighbors. But the last person the thirty-year-old librarian expects to see staying next door is her ex-husband, Boyz, along with his wife, Autumn, and stepdaughter, Willow.

Darcy must also navigate the highs and lows of a new romantic relationship with local carpenter Nash Forester even as she becomes smitten with handsome vacationer Clive Rush, a musicologist in town to write a book and visit family. And she finds herself pulled into the concerns of Boyz, Autumn, a charming elderly neighbor, and an at-risk teen.

As the season nears its end, Darcy must decide her next move: retreating to the comforts of her steady and secure island life, or risking it all for a chance at true happiness.


My Thoughts: Swept away by the author’s descriptions of the homes, gardens, people, summer events, and the magic of the island, I savored every page in Secrets in Summer. I felt an immediate connection to Darcy, whose grandmother Penny had raised her, having had a special relationship with my own grandmother. I could understand why she loved the home that had belonged to her, and where she grew up.

I could visualize the backyard gardens that were close together, separated only by hedges, which also lent themselves to unique connections. When Darcy found out that her ex-husband Boyz and his new wife were renting the house next door, I anticipated that there would be awkward moments. And there were, but what I didn’t expect was the relationship that would develop between Darcy and Boyz’s stepdaughter Willow.

In the rental house on the other side of Darcy’s were an elderly woman Mimi and her grandson Clive. Mimi was like a surrogate grandmother, but her vivid personality and her tendency to openly share her thoughts made her a more modern day version of Penny. All the new and old friends shared the delights of the season.

Themes of friendships, even those transitory summer connections, kept me interested throughout, as did the drama from Willow, who turned out to be a more likable teen than we usually see in fiction…or real life. Would Darcy find a permanent love connection with her lover, Nash, or might she choose someone new? A delightful story that made me long to visit Nantucket and find some summer friends that might even last through the seasons. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE WIDOW OF WALL STREET, BY RANDY SUSAN MEYERS

 

Phoebe recognizes fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers. As he creates a financial dynasty, she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.

When Phoebe learns her husband’s triumph and vast reach rests on an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Was she his accomplice?

While Jake is trapped in the web of his deceit, Phoebe is caught in an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning him feels cruel and impossible.


My Thoughts: The story that unfolds in The Widow of Wall Street is not as shocking as it once might have been, since other men have also betrayed their investors and their families. What sets this story apart is how we very slowly come to know Jake and Phoebe via their alternating voices, from their teen years until their world fell apart.

From the beginning, though, and probably knowing how the story would end, I disliked Jake, who tried to get by on charm and tall tales. Admittedly, Phoebe had also kept a big secret from Jake through their whole lives together, but she paid her dues by taking care of him, the family, and bowing to his wishes most of the time. Having luxuries cannot make up for what one loses in confidence by having a spouse who belittles, makes demands, and hides the most basic things from his wife.

We follow Jake and Phoebe through their lives in a linear fashion, which felt a bit like a very slow reveal at times, but my interest perked up after Jake’s sins were finally out in the open.

In some ways, Jake got off easy, since the load of his secrets was lifted, while Phoebe was left with the stares and scorn of the public, and having to pick up the pieces of her life after losing most of her possessions. Sadness, loss, and broken connections would follow her always, but at some point, she would find a way to start over.

I liked this excerpt that reveals how those with plenty develop their sense of entitlement:

“Rich people thought themselves special, but in truth, they simply possessed extra layers of insulation against the winds of misfortune.”

Obviously, those who lose their worldly goods, their position in life, and their favor from the world around them have also lost those extra layers. A bitter truth that Phoebe discovered, through no fault of her own. An unforgettable novel, this one earned 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: A MOTHER’S CONFESSION, BY KELLY RIMMER

 

Your husband took his own life. Tell the truth and destroy what’s left of your family. Or keep a secret that will tear you apart. What would you do?

Olivia and David were the perfect couple with their whole lives in front of them. When beautiful baby daughter Zoe came along, their world seemed complete.

But now David is dead and Olivia’s world is in pieces. While she is consumed with grief, her mother-in-law Ivy is also mourning the loss of her son. Both women are hiding secrets about the man they loved. Secrets that have put the family in danger.

Something was very wrong in Olivia and David’s marriage. Can Olivia and Ivy break their silence and speak the truth? A mother should protect her child, whatever the cost… shouldn’t she?

MY THOUGHTS:
In alternating perspectives and over different timelines, Olivia, the wife, and Ivy, David’s mother, tell their stories, set in a small Australian village.

The “confession” part of the title could be seen from both sides, since each has played a role in how events unfolded. It is clear from the beginning of A Mother’s Confession that violence and domestic abuse are central themes. As for Ivy, David’s mother, her denial is the kind that allows abuse to continue and proliferate. She was the kind of mother who saw no wrong in anything her son did, from a very early age. And as for Olivia, her inability to accept that the abuse was not going to go away and that David would not change contributed to the final outcomes.

We do not learn all the details of that event, referred to as The Tragedy, the one that claimed David’s life, except in bits and pieces, and then, near the end, we are blindsided by the missing part of the puzzle that literally stunned me.

There were many clues along the way. Why was Olivia unable to function for months after her husband’s death? Since he was her abuser, wouldn’t she be feeling some relief? And why is Dr. Eric still making house calls for such a long period afterwards?

The therapy sessions also revealed details along the way, but slowly, leading us to realize that whatever we were about to discover would be huge, and would burst through a thick veneer of denial. The story was frustrating, in that we knew from the early pages that nothing good was going to happen. But by the end, there was a glimmer of hope that Olivia could move on and make a new life. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: HOT MILK, BY DEBORAH LEVY

I have been sleuthing my mother’s symptoms for as long as I can remember. If I see myself as an unwilling detective with a desire for justice, is her illness an unsolved crime? If so, who is the villain and who is the victim?

Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant–their very last chance–in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.

But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia’s mother’s illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sofia’s role as detective–tracking her mother’s symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain–deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.

MY THOUGHTS:
Sofia’s meandering ruminations lead us through Hot Milk, and sometimes we can flow along with her, and at other times, her ramblings are annoying and boring.

At the heart of the story, however, is the conflicted relationship between Sofia and her mother Rose. Does Sofia seem too enmeshed with Rose? Does she feel guilty because Rose was left by Sofia’s father? What is the meaning of Rose’s strange symptoms that seem intermittent and almost imaginary?

Then we realize that, with Rose at this new clinic in Spain, Sofia has an opportunity to go out on her own a bit and explore some of her hidden desires. She meets a strange young woman named Ingrid. Why does the somewhat pushy Ingrid fascinate Sofia so much? The fact of her aggressive behaviors that push and pull at Sofia take us through their “relationship,” and arouse some questions in Sofia about identity and desire.

I liked this excerpt:

“Am I self-destructive, or pathetically passive or reckless or just experimental, or am I a rigorous cultural anthropologist, or am I in love?”
Reconnecting with her father in Greece turns into an unsatisfactory few days, after which Sofia must now return to Spain and her mother…and look at what is left in her life. Will her mother’s condition find a diagnosis? Will Sofia be able to plan her own life, free of her mother’s control? 4 stars.
***

REVIEW: WAIT FOR THE RAIN, BY MARIA MURNANE

 

Daphne White is staring down the barrel of forty—and is distraught at what she sees. Her ex-husband is getting remarried, her teenage daughter hardly needs her anymore, and the career she once dreamed about has somehow slipped from her grasp. She’s almost lost sight of the spirited and optimistic young woman she used to be.

As she heads off to a Caribbean island to mark the new decade with her best friends from college, Daphne’s in anything but the mood to celebrate. But when she meets Clay Hanson, a much younger man, she ignores her inner voice warning her that she’s too old for a fling. In fact, this tropical getaway might be the perfect opportunity to picture her future in a new sun-drenched light.

With the help of her friends, Daphne rediscovers her enthusiasm for life, as well as her love for herself—and realizes that her best years are still ahead.

MY THOUGHTS:

Another delightful girlfriend outing is brought to us in Wait for the Rain. The three college friends, Skylar, Daphne, and KC, felt like old friends to me, too, after reading about them in “Bridges.”

Never having been on a Caribbean vacation, I thoroughly enjoyed joining them on the island getaway, and from the descriptions of the setting, the food, and the activities, I could almost have been there with them…vicariously.

It was fun to watch Daphne’s foray into enjoying her single life. I could relate to her testing the waters, having been almost her age when I tried single life again, back in the day. Her insecurities and the tentative way she connected with Clay, the younger man, felt real to me.

On the island, the little bursts of rain that happened frequently throughout their stay reminded Daphne of the cleansing power of rain…and how the adventure had given her the opportunity for a fresh start. Now she knew that her homecoming would reveal her whole life with fresh eyes. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE PRINCESS DIARIST, BY CARRIE FISHER

 

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford. 

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes.  Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

MY THOUGHTS:

A thoroughly enjoyable foray into the past, The Princess Diarist showed the author’s trademark humor, self-deprecatory descriptions, and the skill of the wordsmith that have followed her in all of her work. Additionally, the photos were some I had never seen before.

I liked how she tastefully revealed the love affair that had been a secret for years. I felt as though I could see into her heart as she revealed her anxieties about that relationship, while also allowing us to enjoy the thrill she felt, most precious because she also knew that it was a temporary thing.

Those insecurities came out most in the diary entries, written by her younger self. She was nineteen at the time, while Harrison Ford was in his thirties. Her anecdotes of their short relationship, which she has characterized as a three-month one-night stand, reveal much about their personalities then…and later, too.

Her thoughts forty years later were also typically witty, even about very emotional topics. While she honestly revealed her thoughts and feelings, she was also able to mask the pain with her wit.

I especially enjoyed her anecdotes about the Princess Leia iconic images and the ongoing fan reactions, especially as time went by. Were her portrayals of Princess Leia her most defining moments? Must she constantly be confronted by the images, including dolls that commemorated her youthful life? Then again, without those reminders, would the fame have faded?

Fortunately, other movies and her bestselling novels added to her legacy.

Sadly, since Carrie Fisher’s passing in December 2016, we all must confront the reality that we will forever be looking into the rear view mirror when we think of her. I cherish the books and movies I own, and especially enjoyed this last memoir, the one she was celebrating at the time of her death. 5 stars.

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