Tag Archives: books

You Are a Badass

15 Mar


I’ve been thinking a bit lately about my opinion regarding self-help books. How do they factor into The IWOM Book Club? Or do they at all?

Certainly, one is never the worse for doing some self-analysis and broadening their own horizons. But does International Woman of Mystery. do self-help? Or does she help herself? I debated these ideas heavily the other day, while doing some soul-searching in a downtown book shop. I had come prepared to choose something off of my required reading list, but when I got to the book store, they were out of most of my picks. I then proceeded to wander a bit aimlessly. For hours.

Call it a fugue state, but when I got to the self-help section, I began to peruse some of the titles. It was then that a book called to me. Front and center with some other bestsellers was Jen Sincero’s “You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living Your Awesome Life.” Surely this wasn’t really self-help. So maybe it was okay to buy? (I rationalized.)

I grabbed it immediately. Paid for it discreetly before going home and tearing it open. I wanted so badly to know, what it had to say. And I’m sure it’s no secret, I very much wish to be told I am a Badass.

Luckily, Sincero’s book, is pretty good about delivering that. Although it verges on self-help often, “You Are a Badass” reads more like sensible friend-to-friend advice. The authoress divulges her own struggles and triumphs, and how she overcame various challenges. She offers up mostly relatable anecdotes to demonstrate her point and frequently reminds us: “Love yourself.” Admittedly, the International Woman of Mystery is a bit of a cynic. There were still a few moments that had my eyes rolling.

Even still, I found it an enlightening and entertaining read. The book is as full of humor as it is deep advice. The book also reads quick. (Perfect for a woman on the run.) And the more I read, the more Sincero’s ideas started to make sense. She advocates heavily for changing your own life, by making better decisions and letting go of self-limiting beliefs. Playing bigger, dreaming bigger and going after what you really want. With chapter titles such as, “Your Brain is Your Bitch” and “Fear Is For Suckers”, one can’t help but be inspired by the moxie in this book.

If anything, this book was so jam-packed with compelling material, that I believe I will have to revisit it later. In the meantime, I intend to bring some of that moxie out of the book and into my own life.

Jenny G.


Guest Post: Required Reading

15 Feb


Hello Readers,
I have a treat to share today, in the form of my very first guest post! See, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by a reader, Margaret, who found my card. Margaret, as it turns out (and as she’ll explain below) is a bit of a literature expert and enthusiast. When she wrote into me with some book suggestions for the IWOM Book Club, I was so impressed by her due diligence I asked her if I could share it here and she agreed. I’m so glad to have made Margaret’s acquaintance and hope we can meet for tea someday and to poke around old book stores. I also hope you enjoy her book reviews as much as I did.


Jenny G.


Hey Jenny,

I hope you don’t mind me butting in about your blog, but I found your calling card a few weeks ago downtown. My name’s Margaret, and I love books. I love books so much that I hope it will be okay for me to submit for your consideration a reading list, since I agree with you that an International Woman of Mystery should always be well read.

It’s not too long or pedantic (I hope!) It’s a few titles written by or featuring really bad ass women, women of mystery, women of strength, women who are working to find their place in the world. Not to say that this is the end all, be all, because while I think literature can challenge you and change you, sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s pleasurable. I don’t think books need to be difficult or obscure to be of value.

That said, let’s start with a challenge. I’m sure it’s the English major in me coming out, but to me, one of the original strong women is Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales. If you’re up for an adventure and want to spend some time looking up words in the dictionary, you can read it in the original Middle English, or you can find a translation and start there. The Wife is on a pilgrimage with an incredibly diverse group of characters in the 1400s, at a time when women were the property of their father or their husband, and they were little seen and certainly not heard. And yet, she’s on her pilgrimage, not as a nun, but as a bawdy, funny, spirited individual, talking openly about her marriages and her desire for another husband (or two, maybe!) What is always amazing to me is the familiarity in the Wife and in her tale, though she and I are separated by hundreds of years of time and many, MANY radical shifts in culture and conduct. I think hers is a worthy story, and the act of reading about her is an interesting history lesson.

From challenge to “chick lit.” I love Jennifer Weiner’s novels (I particularly love her break up book Good in Bed) and I also love her as an author and an advocate. Her books are about the lives of women – they’re real and they’re accessible and they make me feel like I’m talking to a great friend who also happens to be able to say the things I can’t say in words in exactly the right way. I also love that Weiner has been very public in her defense of so called “chick lit” and the art of reading for pure pleasure and entertainment. She’s gone toe to toe with The New York Times and challenged the boys club nature of who they choose to review in their book section, and uses her platform as a successful author to advocate for more equality in publishing.

Also an amazing person in addition to author is Margaret Atwood, and I’m not just mentioning her because we share a name. Her writing is bad ass and she IS a bad ass. She writes about dystopias (if you liked any Hunger Games, you’ll love The Handmaid’s Tale) and wild science fiction just as well as she writes about the lives and friendships of women. My favorite of hers is The Blind Assassin, which is a love story, a mystery story and the story of the relationship between two sisters – a Woman of Mystery could definitely learn from the way the main character Iris uncoils the details of the story slowly and slyly.

And if you’re looking for something different, she has short stories, poetry collections and works of nonfiction. She’s so prodigious that she’s the first author in the Future Library Project, having submitted a book in 2015 that won’t be read by anyone until 2114. It makes me jealous of my grandchildren, that they’ll get to enjoy Atwood’ dark humor and beautiful writing and the surprise of a novel that’s been just waiting a hundred years to be discovered.

I know that you have felt a lot of upheaval in leaving Boston for Denver, and so I think you’d like reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pultizer Prize winning story collection The Interpreter of Maladies, because she focuses on the immigrant experience and the way we assimilate and assume new identities when we change our location and our culture. Her writing is so simple and her stories are incredibly moving.

Lastly, I’m recommending this book because it’s my all time favorite novel. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende tells the story of three generations of uniquely powerful women while also telling the history of Chile’s political upheavals in the 20th century. It’s magical realism, Allende’s beautiful writing, and a story that’s both unbelievable and true at the same time.

So again, forgive the intrusion and the influx of opinions, but I hope this gives you a little something to add to your reading queue- does an International Woman of Mystery carry a library card?

Sincerely, Margaret

New Construction

13 Feb


I got home from a run the other day to find six large, cardboard boxes outside my apartment door. I studied the information on them, mystified at who would possibly have sent me so much stuff.

In fact, my mom had sent me all my books from home. What a lovely surprise!

As a child and teenager, I was an avid reader (still am) and books were the only things I ever wanted for birthdays and Christmases. Accordingly, I acquired a large collection of books: first edition Harry Potters, Hemingway in hard cover, vintage children’s storybooks, French philosophy books sent from Paris, feminist fiction from Aunt Petra, classics that looked like they belonged in a dark library, and all the Shakespeare plays in leather-bound covers.

I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in their pages once again. I dragged the boxes into my apartment, and spent the better half of an afternoon joyfully opening them, rediscovering the books I hadn’t seen in such a long time.

Because many of them had been gifts, their covers were high quality, just begging for a prominent display. After studying my mostly blank walls, I decided that a full wall of books would be the most dramatic and elegant way to shelve them. Thus, I needed to build some shelves.

For a moment I considered hiring someone to install them for me, but then I realized how expensive that would be, especially after I bought all the shelving. I also considered buying bookcases, but I would have to buy too many of them to display all my books, and I just didn’t have the money for that, nor the space. I then sensed an opportunity to cross another item off my list. I would be resourceful.

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Girl Waits With Gun

24 Jan


Becoming Jenny G. can be hard work at times, what with the gallivanting about town, the wigs and the rigor of finding and completing new missions. Luckily, I recently had a bit of downtime to refocus on my ongoing mission of finding outside sources of inspiration. Thusly, the International Woman of Mystery book club has reconvened.

I’ve recently picked up Amy Stewart’s “Girl Waits With Gun.” A brief description informed me that it was a fictional story, based on true events and a true heroine. In other words, just my cup of tea. After my marginal disappointment in “The Secret History of Wonder Woman”, I had high hopes for finding a new literary icon. Luckily, I was not disappointed.

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The Secret History of Wonder Woman

16 Nov


As per my list of International Woman of Mystery Must-Haves, I recently decided it was time to start looking for outside inspiration. The answer arrived rather serendipitously on my day off. While wandering through a bookstore downtown and glimpsing the shelves, a book caught my attention: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore.

Admittedly I’ve never been a comic enthusiast, but I was intrigued. Even in 2015, women superheroes are hard to come by. It seems like even when we do see women in superhero lore, they exist only to be the scantily clad sidekick to a more prominent, more powerful male superhero. Why is that?

But Wonder Woman was more or less the original, no? Or at least kind of a badass? This book seemed like a perfect way to kick off my International Woman of Mystery book club. Membership: One. For now.

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