Book Review | Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher HarperCollins Canada (where I am currently an intern!). This does not affect my opinion of the book.]

In high school, one of my favourite movies was Into the Wild. Watching it was such an escape and a great reminder that worldly things don’t really matter. I always finished the movie feeling more grounded, appreciative, and content. (I reacted similarly to Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.) So, when I wrote about Girl in the Woods for The Savvy Reader‘s fall preview (read it here!), I knew that I had to get my hands on it.

Now, I’ve never read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, so I don’t know how these two books compare, but I was incredibly moved by Girl in the Woods. In it, Matis hikes the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada as a way to heal from the devastation she felt after being raped on her second night at college and feeling disappointed by people’s reactions to it: instead of consoling Matis, her family treated it awkwardly and even urged Matis to keep quiet about the rape; her school was no better and deemed her case “inconclusive,” allowing the perpetrator to remain on campus with no consequences. With college feeling more and more unbearable each day, Matis decides to move on from the pain and seek healing in the woods.

I really admired Matis’ honesty in Girl in the Woods. She doesn’t shy away from writing about difficult situations, from her rape to her interpretation of her family’s reaction to it. In some parts, I did feel like Matis was being overly harsh on her family, but it’s refreshing to read something so unfiltered. Luckily, she does come around by the end of the book – thanks to her time in the woods – and recognizes how difficult the situation was for everyone. She also experiences a lot of growth while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (aka the PCT), and learns to feel strong and proud of her body. I could relate to some of the insecurities that she felt, and it just made me feel that much closer to her experience.

Matis’ recollection of the trek itself was engaging, thrilling, and inspiring. I’ve always felt very connected to nature, and reading about Matis’ journey was almost as good as being there myself. I loved the idea of “Trail Magic” and sleeping under the stars. It made me yearn to go exploring, to get out of the city, to see new things. Though Matis’ experience is a personal and individual one, I’m sure we can all relate to how wonderful it is to unplug and reflect.

Girl in the Woods is more than just a memoir: it’s a book about growth, standing up for yourself, and finding the strength you never knew you had in you.

Verdict: An unflinching memoir about a woman’s journey to finding and loving herself. It combines action with a ton of heart to create an inspiring and heartwarming read.

Read if: You’ve ever felt alone, or that you weren’t good enough; you want to read about how being alone in the woods can transform you; you want to read a well-written and touching memoir with tons of positive messages for readers of all ages and experiences.

Ps. After finishing the book I came across this interview Matis did with Interview Magazine and it’s definitely worth a read.

Do you want to read Girl in the Woods? Have you read Wild?

Things I Learned from Amy Poehler’s Yes Please

Things I Learned from Amy Poehler's Yes Please

I would call myself somewhat of an Amy Poehler fan, though I knew next to nothing about her participation in the Upright Citizens Brigade (both the sketch group and theatre), her recurring roles on Saturday Night Live, or her work with Smart Girls at the Party before reading her memoir Yes Please. I was, however, familiar with her work on Parks and Rec prior to reading the book and have always admired how she seems to really care about promoting other women’s work, especially when it comes to up-and-coming comedy groups (Broad City, anyone?). So to say I had high hopes for Yes Please is a slight understatement, but I am thrilled to tell you that I was not disappointed.

On Monday, I mentioned a new feature I was working on for my blog. Well, I’m excited to say: this is it! I was inspired by the many things I learned from Yes Please and so I thought I would pull my favourite lessons from it to share with you all. Without further ado…

1. Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier. (p 21)

One thing I love about Amy is that she is not known for being conventionally beautiful. Instead, she’s loved for her sense of humour, her contributions to the improv world, and her writing. That is her currency. I find it so inspiring that there’s such a strong voice encouraging woman (and anyone, for that matter) that looks aren’t the only important thing. You can also be smart, hardworking, and funny. What’s my currency? I haven’t quite landed on it, but thanks to Amy, I feel like I’m closer to figuring it out.

2. Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. (p 217)

In this section of the book, Amy goes against the grain a bit. Instead of pushing the idea that “as long as you really want it, you can get it!”, she advocates “practic[ing] ambivalence.” She writes, “…your career is a bad boyfriend. It likes when you don’t depend on it. It will reward you every time you don’t act needy. It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you” (p 225).

As someone who is just entering the “looking for a career” stage in my life, this is very interesting to me. I have always really wanted things. I wonder how things would change if I switched up my thinking a bit.

3. You can travel back and forth by living in the moment and paying attention. (p 280)

This was a more abstract chapter, but the stories Amy shares when explaining what she means when she says time travel is real convinced me that she’s right. Perhaps it’s not real in the physical sense, but emotionally, yes. This chapter taught me to live in the moment and pay attention to every small detail, whether they’re happy or not. Remembering the little things gives us our time travel wings – and once you get there, it’ll be magical. (In fact, writing this blog post and re-reading parts of the book has brought me back to this past Christmas, when I was snuggled in bed reading those words for the first time, feeling absolutely content and peaceful. Time travel is real. It really is.)

Yes Please was more than just a celebrity memoir for me. Yes, I found out more about Amy Poehler’s history and rise to fame, but I also learned valuable lessons that have inspired me in many ways. The points I shared here are just small samplers of the wisdom Amy imparts. I hope it moves you to give this book a chance so you can laugh and learn from it like I did.

Are you a fan of Amy Poehler? Have you read Yes Please? Did you learn anything new today (bookish or otherwise)?

Giveaway | Not That Kind of Girl: A Night With Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham Not That Kind of Girl Toronto

Lena Dunham has been someone I’ve admired for quite a while. I think that she’s an important public figure in that she seems like a pretty down-to-earth person with a lot of interesting things to say, especially about gender relations and mental health. I am a huge fan of her show GIRLS and I devoured her newly-released memoir Not That Kind of Girl in two days (in my opinion, I read it a little too quickly, but that’s what re-reads are for, right?). So, when I managed to snag tickets to see her in Toronto, I was over the moon.

When I watched GIRLS for the first time, I was in a place in my life where I felt like I was getting it together but also not really getting it. I found a lot of myself (and my friends) in the girls in the show, and the honesty with which it portrayed women (or, at least, a group of women) really impressed me. I finally felt like there was a show that was real; it wasn’t sugar-coated or tied up neatly. I could relate to it. Oh, and did I mention that on top of that it’s also funny and thought-provoking? Because it’s both of those things too.

I’m happy to report that Lena in person is just as impressive as Lena on screen or Lena in writing. Her answers to interviewer Johanna Schneller’s questions were smart, humorous, and honest. She was very articulate and charming and I agreed with a lot of the things she said. Since I was basically in awe the whole time I was at the event (honestly, it felt like such a surreal night), I didn’t think to write down any quotes; luckily, Jessica from Paper Trail Diary has a wonderful re-cap that I urge you to check out.

After her on-stage interview, Lena signed copies of her book. She was incredibly friendly and really took the time to talk to each of her fans. She even personalized each book, which I wasn’t expecting her to do since the line up was so long. I was a jumble of nerves when talking to her but I managed to get a few words out and I’m glad I got the chance to tell her how much I love her work. It was truly a magical night.

Now, here’s the fun part! I want to share my love for Lena Dunham with YOU! I was able to get an extra copy of the book signed, so I’m giving it away to one lucky reader!

**CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY**

CONTEST RULES:
1. No purchase necessary.
2. Open to residents of Canada + the United States only.
3. If a winner is picked and their Twitter account only has giveaway entries, I will choose again.
I want the winner to genuinely enjoy these books!
4. Have fun and good luck!

Are you a fan of Lena Dunham? Will you be checking out (or have you read) Not That Kind of Girl?

Wishlist Wednesday | Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham Book Cover

Source: Goodreads

[Wishlist Wednesday is a book blog hop hosted by Pen to Paper]

I’m not normally a huge memoir/autobiography reader, but after reading and loving Elaine Lui (Lainey Gossip)’s Listen to the Squawking Chicken, I’m looking forward to reading my next one! When I heard Lena Dunham was writing a book, I was instantly sold. I’m a huge fan of her HBO show Girls and have high hopes for Not That Kind of Girl.

Of the book, Dunham says, “If I can take what I’ve learned in this life and make one treacherous relationship or degrading job easier for you, perhaps even prevent you from becoming temporarily vegan, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile. This book contains stories about wonderful nights with terrible boys and terrible days with wonderful friends, about ambition and the two existential crises I had before the age of twenty. About fashion and its many discontents. ” (from the book’s Goodreads page)

Needless to say, I can’t wait to read this book. I think it will be full of Dunham’s trademark humour and wit. And if her work on Girls is any indication, Not That Kind of Girl is going to be insightful, hilarious, and relatable.

Are you as excited for Not That Kind of Girl as I am? Are you a fan of Girls? Did you add anything new to your wishlist this week?