A little late to the party….

Book Reviews, Bursting the Bubble, film, Lifestyle/Personal

I’m a little late to the Gatsby party (the DiCaprio film version, not the novel). I watched it this weekend and have to admit that it made me fall in love the book even more, it gave me a deeper understanding of the characters and the story. Granted, I still detest Tom and Daisy, I still pity and admire Gatsby, and I’m still thankful to Nick for sharing everything he saw.

largeThe past does, in many ways, dictate our plans for the future. It’s an anchor, a point of reference, a way to see how far we’ve come or how much we’ve changed. Plans, dreams, goals, they all stem from something that happened before, something or someone who showed us what we want. I believe in reflection, in reminiscing, and in memories. I believe in growth and change and getting everything you want. I believe in stepping back and looking at your life from the outside in order to gain perspective (just like Nick).

“I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
― F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby

I believe in choices and options, and weighing them based on importance. I believe that if you’re hopeful, if you keep reaching out towards your dream, eventually you’ll be able to grasp it. That green light pulsating in the distance, that heart beat staring back at you, you’ll hold it in the palm of your hand — just don’t ask too much of it.

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Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

This is my happiness.

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

I’m focussed on the present and instead of letting the moments, minutes, and hours pass by, I’m being conscious of what’s going on. I’m making an effort to notice when I feel happy, who I’m with, and what I’m doing. Visiting, eating, and spur of the moment dates are my happiness. A hand-held stroll leading to a phones-less lunch and conversation with my boyfriend, enjoying a wonderful meal, seeing him smile, that is my happiness. An unplanned mall and coffee date with my sister, reading a book to my niece for the first time, that is my happiness. Watching her eyes scan the cardboard pages, noticing all of the wonderful colours in front of her eyes, seeing her chubby perfect hand reach up and grab the bottom corner of the page I’m reading, as if to help me turn it, that is my happiness. Chatting with my best friend, knowing that she knows everything about me and is STILL my friend, that is my happiness. Spending time with my family, watching a scary film, and hearing their reactions to different scenes, that is my happiness. Human interaction is an amazing thing… so is love.

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The happiness you feel is in direct proportion to the love you give.

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo 

Eleanor & Park [Book Review]

Book Reviews

 

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I hadn’t planned on writing a review of this book but after reading the last sentence over and over and over again, I had a feeling I’d be sharing my thoughts with all of you. Eleanor & Park is the kind of novel that makes your heart feel bigger — bigger, redder, and full of love. At first it reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars but Eleanor & Park is so special that I couldn’t even copy quotes from it. I always write out my favourite lines from novels, I keep them for a rainy day or to add a little pizzaz to a blog post but with this book I just couldn’t do it. I don’t want to share it, I don’t want to share those deeply moving lines with anyone. I want to hold them in my heart forever.

You may think it’s silly to feel so deeply about a YA novel, a YA novel about falling in love for the first time at the age of sixteen but I can’t help it. I fell in love for the first time at the age of twenty. I fell in love with my first love at a fairly ripe age compared to Eleanor and Park, but their love reminded me what it feels like to fall in love. They reminded me what it feels like to be in love. All of their descriptions, the way they banter back-and-forth, the way they pick fights when they’re bored, the way that they love each other is so real that you can’t help but feel it too. You can’t help but smile, you can’t help but love the one you’re with even more after reading this book. You can’t help but realize certain similarities between the way Park loves Eleanor, the way he accepts her, and the way that you are loved.

I effing loved this novel and I think you might too…

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Love Always 

Vanessa Xo

the only way out is deeper in.

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands, Toronto Adventures

“The only way out is deeper in. It’s what you don’t yet know that can save you.”
Irini Spanidou, Before

Whatever it is that you’re going through, good or bad, pour your whole being into it. Eventually you will get out of the rut, you’ll move onto something better, or you’ll realize that where you are is exactly where you’re supposed to be. I don’t know why that quote pricked my heart, why it made me feel so… hopeful but I hope it does the same for you. I hope it helps you get through your week and pushes you to keep moving forward. Sometimes I feel like with everything I’m doing, I’m getting no results. Did you know that I’ve thought about giving up this whole “blogging” thing? I’ve thought about giving up on a job in publishing (magazine or book) and settling for whatever company will take a look at my resume. But then I realize (thanks to the thoughtful advice of my parents) that you have to keep going if you want something to happen — the only way out (or onto something better) is deeper in. Maybe your path with change, maybe your dreams will alter, but you’ll achieve them (it’s what will save you).

If I had given up I would’ve never entered the HTC One contest, nor would I have won the opportunity to WRITE a post on one of my favourite blogs. But today, that happened. My post is up on THIS IS MY LIFE and I couldn’t be happier, it’s a blogging dream come true and I’m optimistic that slowly but surely — if I keep working hard, good things will come.

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Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Lost Girl at Heart — #Travel #Life #Leap

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

Thanks to Not A Model’s review of The Lost Girls, I decided to pick up a copy. I’m only a hundred or so pages in (I’m trying to enjoy this book rather than swallow it whole), I have already learned a few important things. For starters I need to write better — their descriptions are beautifully written and vivid, without being pretentious. Secondly, I need to take more chances and make a few changes, but changes that are RIGHT FOR ME, right now. I don’t think I could drop my life and travel for a year through South American countries (like The Lost Girls) but my need for travel is still burning strong. I feel like I’m in the same little lost boat as the girls who penned this book — trying to figure out the next step of my life and what I want from it. I’m a little lost and my need to compare and contrast my life with other is hindering my vision. My future is clouded by other people’s decisions, commitments, and destinies. I need to paddle my way through all of their decisions and figure out exactly what I want, for now, and later. Then I need to take a leap of faith (whenever that ‘then’ may be).

‘There’s a Buddhist saying that goes “Leap, and the net will appear.” I didn’t understand what the restlessness was that was driving me, but I was compelled to take the leap. I could only have faith that there would be a net to catch me if I fell.’ 

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Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Creeps [Book Review]

Book Reviews, Lifestyle/Personal

When a copy of Creeps by Darren Hynes showed up in my mailbox I was ecstatic! I love YA novels, particularly ones that are REAL or depict high school in a true light. Creeps is The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets The Fault in Our Stars meets Invisible — three books that I love dearly, so you can only imagine how I feel about this one.

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Fifteen-year-old Wayne Pumphrey wishes he were courageous enough to actually send the heartfelt letters he writes to friends and family. He also wishes his father would drive on the right side of the street, his mother would stop packing her suitcase to leave, and his sister would stop listening to Nickelback. But most of all, he wishes that Pete “The Meat” would let him walk to school in peace. After all, how many times can one person eat yellow snow?

Then one morning, while facing Pete and his posse, Wayne is rescued by Marjorie, the girl with a dead father and a mother who might as well be. Together, the two of them escape Pete’s relentless bullying by rehearsing for the school play, and an unlikely friendship is formed. As they grow ever closer to one another, they begin to dream of escape from their small town and restricted lives. But Pete now has plans for both of them—and after a moment of sudden violence, nothing will ever be the same again for Wayne, Marjorie, or Pete himself.

Creeps is a tough book to read, in that it hurts you your heart. For a fifteen-year-old kid to feel so helpless and so alone, to be picked on to the point insanity, whose only comfort is writing un-sent letters, your heart bleeds for this child. The language, scenes, and bullying leave very little room for imagination. They are what they are and there’s no sugar-coating it. Some kids go through hell in high school and this novel is a testament to that. It’s an eye-opener for anyone who doesn’t believe that there are real bullies out there. Bullying seems to be worse now than when I was in high school. It’s harder to ft in, it’s harder to stand out, it’s harder to be accepted.

…I’ll take the job anyway because it’s good to have somewhere to go and something to do and someone other than the wall to look at and say stuff to.” (Page 59)

Wayne, is a character I won’t soon forget, he is everything I was in high school. The kind of kid who likes the quiet, who writes instead of speaks, who knows that the day will come when he or she has to get LOUD, has to stand up for his or herself. His words and his letters will stick with me for a long time. His fears and his insecurities are things that I would never wish upon anyone. He is a great character that can teach readers many things. He can teach you by showing you. He shows you that we all have problems, even if we try to keep them inside. He shows you what it is to be brave in ‘silly’ little ways. He shows you that you’re not as alone as you think you are. He shows you how big of a difference one person can make.

…he wonders how it could be that yesterday he felt so young but now feels like a man and it occurs to him that something begins at the same time something ends, so he’ll always be in motion, moving towards and away from things.” (Page 180)

With his raw and sincere writing style, Darren Hynes has crafted a book that should be on the TO READ list of every ninth-grader.

Creeps will have you turning pages, shedding tears, and hoping for the best possible ending, because Wayne deserves it.

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Love Always

Vanessa Xo

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual [Book Review]

Book Reviews, Fashion & Beauty, Just for Fun

9781443407236I fell in love with Kim Izzo’s writing after reading her second novel My Life in Black and White. Her work is filled with quick wit, classic charm, and fantastic fashion. They’re the type of novels where you get more out of it than you thought you would. They’re the type of novels that you can’t put down, and that you don’t want to end.  I was graciously sent a copy of her first novel by the author herself.  The Jane Austen Marriage Manual begins as most novels do, with a crisis. Kate is simply down on her luck, her mother gambled away their home, her grandmother is ill, her boyfriend dumped her for someone younger and put her into a load of debt due to his schooling, and she has lost her job. Her solution, take everything she’s ever learned from Jane Austen novels and put it into use. This forty-year-old ex beauty editor will try to solve all of her problems by marrying for money. She has been given a freelance writing assignment trying to answer the question, Is a woman of forty too old to marry for money? Kate finds the answer to that question and learns a lot more than she bargained for.

In truth, I have never read Jane Austen (gasp!), nor am I close to the age of forty, nor do I understand the desperation that comes with having everything taken away from you (thank goodness), but I still enjoyed this novel and related to it on different levels. Kim Izzo made me feel as though I had gone through ALL of those things and made me wonder what I would ever do in a situation such as hers. Could I marry for money? Could I pretend I was someone else? Do desperate times really call for desperate measures? For Kate they did and I enjoyed following her along in this journey. She’s a very flawed character, one that you even dislike for a few chapters, but she has such a tremendous heart, an independent mind, and has such a belief in true romance that you can’t help but root for her. What I like most about Kate is her determination.

I stomped away determined to prove that I could land in shit and come out smelling like a rose.” (107)

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual forced me to think about love, romance, and family relationships. How they’re displayed and depicted in movies and novels, and whether or not they can mirror real life. It’s so easy to get swept up in the kind of passion and grand gestures one sees and reads but, as the wise and handsome Griff states, “Love doesn’t have to be explosive twenty-four/seven. If you’d slow down long enough, you might be happy”.

Thank you to Kim Izzo for sending me this wonderful novel — I will definitely be following your writing, can’t wait for the next one!

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Orange Is the New Black [Book Review]

Book Reviews

I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz surrounding the new Netflix Original Series, Orange Is the New Black but did you know that it’s based on a true story & memoir?

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I was sent a signed copy of this memoir from Netflix Canada last week and once I started, I couldn’t put it down. A young woman who craves adventure gets involved with the wrong crowd, gets thrown into the wrong adventure. She transports drug money once at the age of twenty-four for her lesbian lover, Nora, and at the age of thirty-four is convicted and sent to the federal correctional facility in Danbury for fifteen months. Piper Kerman has a great job and a wonderful fiancé named Larry. They’ve finally started a life together and now she must tell him about her past — a past that she isn’t proud of. A past that seemed like a little bump in the road, a silly mistake, something she never thought would turn into anything. Not only does she have to come clean to her fiancé, but his parents and her parents and every single person she ever lied to.

“I thought I understood risk. I considered my time abroad with Nora as a crash course on the realities of  the world, how ugly things can get, and how important it is to stay true to yourself even in the midst of an adventure or experiment.” (Page 16)

What I found fascinating about this book is the honest look into what life in women’s prison can be like. Piper Kerman writes with delicacy, honesty, and intelligence. She shares her story and the stories of her prison mates with conviction (no pun), letting the reader in on the human truth that you can survive even the most horrid situation but you cannot do it alone and most importantly, you can’t lose yourself in the meantime. Piper Kerman has a seemingly “decent” time in prison, a time spent running, working, reading, writing letters, and learning whatever she needed to about “prison rules” to not get on anyone else’s nerves. Of course, prison life was no picnic and some of her stories will make your skin crawl.

What I like about Piper Kerman and her story is that not once did she paint herself as the victim, as someone to be pitied. She made a mistake many years ago but it was HER mistake and she should be punished for it. She felt worse about the pain it caused her family than the pain she caused herself and with that attitude she went through her fifteen months trying to gain something from the experience.

SO, why the insane buzz around this book? Why should we all care about one woman’s year in prison? I think there are a few reasons…

– To see what it is like to live behind bars.

– To understand that what happened to Piper Kerman could have happened to you or your sister or anyone you know. A silly kid making a stupid mistake and dealing with the karma of it all ten years later. Every indiscretion has a cost and Piper Kerman paid hers with class and determination.

– To get an idea of the freedoms we take for granted, such as eating good food, showering alone in a locked bathroom, and feeling drops of rain kiss your face.

“‘In Brooklyn there’s a little rec deck they take us up on, but it’s covered over, barbed wire and shit, and you don’t really see the sky…So we don’t mind the rain. We love it.’ And she put her head back again, face up, as close to the sky as it could get.” (A new inmate from a different prison talking to Piper, Page 96).

If you haven’t picked up your copy of Orange Is the New Black, I definitely think you should before you hit up the cottage this weekend. I plan on watching the series now that I’ve finished the book. I got goosebumps reading the book, I even shed a few tears, and after watching the show’s trailer I have a feeling that there are more tears on the way!

Happy reading, happy watching.

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Love Always

Vanessa Xo 

Book and Blog Tour(ish)

Book Reviews, Lifestyle/Personal

IMG_1793Many of you know that I published my first book in February of 2011. My Pen, My Voice is not only my diary but also the inspiration behind this blog — behind the reason for sharing my writing online. I’ve decided that I haven’t quite finished with My Pen, My Voice, as such I’ve sent copies out to various bloggers in hopes to get some honest reviews of it. Positive or negative I will post links to the reviews right here, via Twitter, and Facebook. Below you will find the dates and blogs that my book will be reviewed on (as more bloggers sign on, I’ll add them too).

I’m a little nervous about all this since some of these reviewers have never met me and therefore have no reason to give me a positive review. They have promised to tell me their honest opinion and although I advocate honesty and I promised to share ALL reviews, including the negative.

The fun will begin on July 22nd and continue every Monday after until the end of August (hopefully). If you’ve read my book, feel free to share your thoughts and insights on these blogs or right here in the comments.

July 22nd – Review on I Believe in Story by Maria Vicente

July 29th – Review on Books Etc. by Kaley Stewart

August 5th – Review on Ham and Eggs by Karlee May

August 19th – Review on Words of Mystery by LLN

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Bursting the Bubble [Week 11]

Bursting the Bubble, Toronto Adventures

Yes, you read that correctly, I just finished WEEK ELEVEN of my internship — next week is the final week. But before I dwell on the sadness that envelopes my heart at the thought of that, I’ll tell you what happened this week.

Random House of Canada, Chatelaine Magazine, and Flare Magazine teamed up to celebrate the launch of Crazy Rich Asians at the Shangri-La Hotel on Tuesday. Although I’m still an intern, I got to attend as a blogger which meant I received a wicked gift bag at the end of the evening. This launch was by far the swankiest I’ve attended. The hotel is GORGEOUS and the Museum room was perfect for the event — plus the hotel is mentioned a few times throughout the novel, so why not!

I started the night out with the signature drink: Shangri-La Lemonade. A delicious concoction of vodka, cranberry juice, ginger, orange juice, and soda. Then I mingled with my fellow bloggers and watched the room get pretty packed with both book people and magazine people. It was great to attend an event where the two worlds intertwined. Kevin Kwan took the stage, as did the publisher of Doubleday Canada, and two seriously fashion forward ladies from Chatelaine and Flare – which was my favourite part of the evening. Kevin Kwan gave a sweet, sincere, and witty speech, mentioning his love for Canada and his gratitude for Canadians who love to read!

Week 11 was FULL of binding and mailings but just as full of good weather, hard work, and a few laughs. I love working with positive, passionate, and upbeat people who listen, answer, and understand. Everyone has taught me something about the world of publishing and I am so glad I decided to come into this internship with an open mind and all the energy and passion needed to back it up. I now understand why internships are so important and how great they can be if you give your all.

Also, this week I’ve been preparing for interviews (that I hope will come up). I’ve been sending out my resume, gathering references, and researching all I possibly can about interviews to ensure that I make a great first impression. This internship has made me want to work, to start a career, and to devote my energy, time, and passion to a job I enjoy.

largeIt’s also helped me appreciate many of the people in my life. I don’t know if I mentioned this before but my family waits for me every single night to eat dinner with them. I get home anywhere between 6:35 and 7:10, and for a family who used to eat dinner at 6:00 on the nose, eating at 7:00 would normally cause a serious kind of HANGER. Even if they’re hangry, they don’t mention it. We eat together and discuss our days and they ALWAYS listen to my stories and to my anxious yammering (even my 16-year-old brother who probably doesn’t care at all). Getting home and talking to my family makes the subway delays and bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 400 disappear. I definitely appreciate the bf and my best friend a lot more too — I don’t see them as often as I’d like and when I do, I usually fall asleep! I always miss them and I appreciate their encouragement and their constant belief in me — I owe you two, forever!

Next week is my final week as a publicity intern at Random House of Canada. I’m a little sad at the prospect but you never really know where life is going to take you. It will be the end of a three-month chapter but the beginning of something else too.

I feel like I’m on the edge of glory.

I know that I’ll have to make a leap to something bigger? different? and I have less than a week to do it…

Here goes nothing!

Love Always

Vanessa Xo