The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders || Book Review

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Number of Pages: 189
Rating: 2.5/5 stars


Synopsis

In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.

The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food—and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.

Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life—and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less

Review

It had been a while since I opened a book (or in this case an e-book). I was on day 3 of scrolling through the library books available online at that exact moment when I stumbled upon The Year of Less. In my time away from blogging, I thought a lot about my spending habits (i.e. buying books that I wasn’t reading yet!!) and how it was impacting my overall life. I was putting money into savings every month, paid off my student loans, began really saving for buying a house — but I was (and still am) stuck with the question: Am I doing enough for my future financially?

I flew through the pages of The Year of Less not because it was a well-written book, but rather the underlying message spoke deeply to me.

If I could describe the writing style of The Year of Less in a single word it would be: whiny. This book was mainly memoir of a 20-something who made some major mistakes in her life and overcame huge obstacles to get back on her feet, but the writing was not good. There were sections of the novel that repeated the same line multiple times. I had to flip back and forth to make sure I wasn’t having double vision.

The 5% of the book focused on decluttering your life and saving money for your financial future sparked a little light under my butt. I came home and grabbed a garbage bag and sat in the bathroom to begin to throw away all of the extra, superfluous items in my life. I made my way through one cabinet and needed a break… could be my sleep schedule, could be my interest or maybe I just completely overwhelmed myself. But I began the process of clearing out the clutter.

“But there were really only two categories I could see: the stuff I used, and the stuff I wanted the ideal version of myself to use.”

The concept in the memoir that I found the most interesting (and unrealistic) was how she emptied her closet down to something nutty like 25 articles of clothing. She lived in Canada — are there not TWO+ seasons in Canada where you need different styles of clothing? Can you really function with only one pair of shoes?? (Says the girl who ordered a new pair of boots from Kohls last night…)

So for those of you who have made it this far, could you pare your closet down to 25 articles of clothing/shoes? At this moment, that is truly just unrealistic for me, and likely most people. I have 25+ articles of clothing specifically for work. Is that overkill? Yes, likely. But oooooof – This is the one place that I couldn’t jump on the decluttering band-wagon (You could also ask Michael who painfully threw away 15 pairs of my old, ratty vans and converse a few years ago when he was helping me pack to move… RIP SHOES).

If I’m feeling generous (which I am because she sparked a light under my butt), I would give The Year of Less a 2.5 out of 5 rating. Her editor could’ve pared down the stories; she could’ve been less whiny in her writing and poor me attitude. If I didn’t take away bits and pieces of her message, I would’ve likely rated it a 1.5 or 2.

Juliet the Maniac by Juliet Escoria || ARC Review

Date Published: May 7, 2019
Genre: Fiction
Number of Pages: 320

Synopsis

A shockingly dark, funny, and heartbreaking portrait of a young teenager’s clash with mental illness and her battle toward understanding and recovery.

Ambitious, talented 14-year-old honors student Juliet is poised for success at her Southern California high school. However, she soon finds herself on an increasingly frightening spiral of drug use, self-harm, and mental illness that lands her in a remote therapeutic boarding school, where she must ultimately find the inner strength, and determination, to survive.

Review

I am still slightly confused if this was a fiction novel or a non-fiction memoir. Is it something called Autofiction?? It’s noted as a fiction novel honing in on mental health.

To me, this wasn’t a memorable book — There were a lot of drugs, fighting with parents, and suicide attempts. It felt redundant. You could feel the story happening and honestly, I wasn’t surprised when her parents dropped her off at a school in the woods.

I feel bad for disliking Juliet the Maniac because it does fall into the strange auto fiction realm meaning that this is Juliet’s story with some artistic range. I feel bad rating someone else’s trauma and experiences? This is the first time that I feel weird about it.

Additionally for a book like this, you really shouldn’t judge the book by its cover. It’s not the warm, fuzzy young adult novel you would be expecting. I also don’t remember thinking this was a funny novel — Juliet’s story was just intense.

I’m rating Juliet the Maniac as a solid 2 out of 5 stars.

Maid by Stephanie Land|| ARC Review

Date Published: January 22, 2019

Publisher: Hatchette Books

Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir

Synopsis: Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich. 

“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”

While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.

While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.

Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the “servant” worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.

Thoughts + Feelings: Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mothers Will to Survive was incredibly frustrating to read. Stephanie Land was dealt challenging cards in life. She became pregnant in an abusive relationship, left that relationship without a steady income, struggled to find affordable housing, entered into more unstable and unreliable relationships, continued to make poor choices with any extra source of income, and so on and so forth.

I was really looking forward to reading this memoir because I was expecting to learn more about the profession of being a maid — crazy right? I was disappointed in the lack of story revolving around being a maid.

One piece of the story that has stuck with me is that Stephanie didn’t appear to fit the “stereotype” of the individuals we associate with needing to go to the government for help. Often times we jump to conclusions about individuals who use government services, although the services are there for a reason and there is absolutely nothing bad about utilizing the services that we have provided to us. It was a big check to my own privilege – things can happen to anyone; it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like or where you’re from.

However I was left with quite a few questions… Why does Stephanie have zero savings? Why does she buy herself a $200 diamond ring when she receives a $4000 tax refund instead of moving herself and her daughter, Mia, out of an apartment with black mold??

I tried not to judge while reading the memoir because each person gets to make their own decisions and its hard to say what choices you’ll make when faced with a challenging question. But there is also a point where you have to stop and reflect on your choices in the moment and figure out what the heck you’re doing.

I originally rated this book as an average novel, but now I feel like it was 2/5 stars. While I understand that this is representative of Stephanie Land’s life, she was repetitive in her novel and quite irresponsible with her child. I hope that as her success takes off, both as a student and a writer, that Stephanie has learned how to manage her time, money and lifestyle.

Rating: ⭐⭐

Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Release date: February 16, 2006

Publisher: 

Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir

Premise: A celebrated writer’s irresistible, candid, and eloquent account of her pursuit of worldly pleasure, spiritual devotion, and what she really wanted out of life.

Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want—a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be.

To recover from all this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world—all alone. Eat, Pray, Love is the absorbing chronicle of that year. Her aim was to visit three places where she could examine one aspect of her own nature set against the backdrop of a culture that has traditionally done that one thing very well. In Rome, she studied the art of pleasure, learning to speak Italian and gaining the twenty-three happiest pounds of her life. India was for the art of devotion, and with the help of a native guru and a surprisingly wise cowboy from Texas, she embarked on four uninterrupted months of spiritual exploration. In Bali, she studied the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. She became the pupil of an elderly medicine man and also fell in love the best way—unexpectedly.

An intensely articulate and moving memoir of self-discovery, Eat, Pray, Love is about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society’s ideals. It is certain to touch anyone who has ever woken up to the unrelenting need for change.

Thoughts + Feelings: I strongly disliked this book. I contemplated not finishing it several times. But I’m no quitter, so I powered through the absolute garbage that was Eat, Pray, Love. I understand why there were mixed reviews of this memoir because I went back and forth between being empathetic with Liz Gilbert and really just wanting her to shut up (maybe that’s a little harsh). She had a wonderful year long journey in Italy, India and Indonesia. She lived a life that so many others can just dream of. Several quotes throughout the memoir are the reasons that I decided to power through – I’m a sucker for motivational quotes.

“My truth is not a condemnation of yours.”

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”

“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”

I chose to finish this book because I know that Elizabeth Gilbert had a reason to writing it for the story to become a global phenomenon. I have not yet seen the movie, but it is on my life. Deep down I appreciated the story because it was relatable. It’s not always about traveling the world, and eating an insane amount of pasta. It’s about realizing what you need in your life in that moment. It’s reflecting on your relationships with your friends, family and with yourself. This by no means meant that I liked this book. I thoroughly wanted to smash my iPad as I was reading it, but I did like bits and pieces of it.

Rating: ⭐⭐

Recommend? No, I honestly wouldn’t. I’ve already texted several friends that it would not be worth their time to read the book. I was initially so excited for this memoir because it’s about self-discovery, but it was SO boring.

Book Review: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

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Release date: March 7, 2017

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Genre: Fiction/Contemporary

Premise: Who is Andrea Bern? When her therapist asks the question, Andrea knows the right things to say: she’s a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But it’s what she leaves unsaid—she’s alone, a drinker, a former artist, a shrieker in bed, captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh—that feels the most true. Everyone around her seems to have an entirely different idea of what it means to be an adult: her best friend, Indigo, is getting married; her brother—who miraculously seems unscathed by their shared tumultuous childhood—and sister-in-law are having a hoped-for baby; and her friend Matthew continues to wholly devote himself to making dark paintings at the cost of being flat broke. But when Andrea’s niece finally arrives, born with a heartbreaking ailment, the Bern family is forced to reexamine what really matters. Will this drive them together or tear them apart?

Thoughts + Feelings: There were a couple tidbits of this book that almost made me consider it a good book – but the positives were so few and far between, this just wasn’t an enjoyable read. The most notable quote from the entire novel is “Your context is different than my context.” In today’s society of political correctness, I think that this is a key point that many people forget. Just because my personal life is different than your personal life doesn’t make mine/yours any worse, or any better. We’re each in different circumstances and we’re all allowed to feel how we feel — we’re human and we are allowed to have feelings. One aspect of society that I have the hardest time dealing with is how when we (a person in society) has a problem, everyone else’s problem seems to go by the wayside. We need to care about everyone, not just ourselves. We can work together to make the world a better place for everyone, but that means we have to work to understand other viewpoints, perspectives and contexts. “Stop telling me about myself.” This is another problem in our society. We speak for others when we do not truly understand the situations that they are in. We need to learn to communicate in order to have a more peaceful and understanding society.

This book just wasn’t for me. Maybe I didn’t understand the bigger picture and only saw the tiny pieces, but Andrea just seemed to never grow up to me. Having a revelation on the last 3 pages doesn’t count for me. Thinking about the story, I see how Andrea is young and impressionable as a child — how she starts making her own decisions in her twenties –how she strays from her family and ultimately comes to realize how important they are to her. I see it. I can appreciate it. It is her story, her perspective on life. It just wasn’t for me.

Rating: ⭐⭐

Recommend? Meh, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. I didn’t get the good vibes from this book at all.