Sunday, May 30, 2010

Review: What I Know Now About Success

I'll go ahead and give What I Know Now About Success: Letters from Extraordinary Women to Their Younger Selvesa mixed review - not unusual for a book that's a collection of essays.

It's a collection of letters that successful women would write to themselves at a younger age. Some are inspiring and great reminders that failure can lead to success. Reading those were freeing - made me realize that I don't need to be stuck in what I'm doing now, and that I can do something radically different. I could, if I wanted, pick up and move and start over somewhere else. They're also reminders that I do not need to attach my value to a relationship. Being single is far better than being trapped by someone who isn't right for me.

But some of the essays...well. Did I really need to read about so many cosmetics company founders? All that BS about how cosmetics make people feel pretty is hard to swallow. I don't look up to a woman who introduced Chinese women to make up. Not at all. I skipped some of those cosmetics essays, and I'm not sure Suzanne Somers should be held up as a role model.

The book is hit or miss. But the hits? Worth reading.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

If you told me to read a book about a bunch of men who chased a way to find a logical foundation of mathematics, I'd suggest you didn't know me. I topped out at pre-calc and struggled with physics, so this isn't something I'd really like to follow up on in book form.

But that's what Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth is about. Why'd I read it? Because it's told in graphic novel form.

The book has two stories in one: the historical story of those men who tried to put logic into math, and then the authors of this book, Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, putting the book together. Splicing the two stories together gave it more of a human element as opposed to "these guys tried to form a mathematical theory."

I know this isn't very clear, but it's hard to explain. You need to see it - literally - to get it. Reading Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth in graphic novel form made the information more accessible.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beach Reads!

If you haven't caught on, I do a version of this "summer beach reads" story every year, but it works. Why? Because new books are always published, and people always want something to read while sitting on the sand.

This year, I wrote the piece for New Jersey Monthly along with one of my editors, and we picked books that all have some connection to New Jersey. Two I've reviewed here already on the blog: Simply From Scratch by Alicia Bessette and The Edge of Ruin by Irene Fleming.

If you're looking for more beach reads, I suggest you check out the piece, or scroll through the reviews I've written here over the last six months. Many of those books are now out on bookshelves, and well worth a look.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Review: Unfinished Business by Lee Kravitz

Unfinished Business could be a book in what will be an emerging trend in 2010 and 2011: the lay off book.

When Lee Kravitz was laid off from his job as editor of Parade Magazine, he lost part of his identity. He had worked so long and so hard at work that he forgot to be a human being. So he went on a year-long journey to reconnect with people from his past and, as the title suggest, taking care of unfinished business, from telling a favorite teacher "thank you" to finding what happened to a mentally disabled aunt.

It's a fascinating read, and an example of how anyone's life can be interesting. It had me looking at some unfinished business in my life, too, and asking who I'd visit or track down if I had a year to do it. My story would be a little bit different (Kravitz, after all, is of the AARP generation), but it could be worth looking into in honor of my 30th birthday, which is happening this year, and the cross-country trip I might make after the big day.

So will this be a trend? The "I lost my job during the great recession so I wrote a book?" Maybe. I'm going to Book Expo America at the end of the month, which is a great way to see what's next. Who knows. Maybe it'll be the next "zombie book."

I know I promised to review that latest Nora Roberts book, but it wasn't much different than everything else she's written, and I'm kinda tired (it was that kind of weekend!) Sorry, folks.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Review: Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts

I've chronicled my love of Nora Roberts books on this site before. They are a wonderful escape valve for me, especially in times of stress. Now is one of those times, so I was jazzed to find out she had a new book coming out in April 27 (which will be the next review after this one).

But at the time, April 27 was too far away, so I dove into my library and pulled out what might have been the first Roberts book I ever read: Daring to Dream, originally published in 1996. It's the first in a trilogy I have read twice already, and I knew the characters well: Margo, the daughter of the housekeeper who at 18 years old fled to chase her dream and become a fashion model in Europe; Josh, the heir to the Templeton resort and hotel fortunate - and son of the family that kept Margo's mother as the housekeeper. When Margo is caught in a drug scandal and realizes she's broke, she comes back home. Sparks fly between the two. They have sex, they fight, they live happily ever after.

Typical Roberts, but can I admit something? This book frustrated me. Maybe it's because Roberts is a better writer now, or maybe I've read this too many times before, but all the nonsense of descriptions about the Templeton's fabulous wealth, and the strength of female friendships was annoying. It's also fabulously out of date. Homes along the cliffs of California cost, apparently, only $350,000. Margo's the perfect fashion model at a size 8, and she smokes - indoors - constantly. This was also in Roberts' "hair curling slightly over the collar" phase for men. Thank God the mullets are gone.

I almost put this aside once I had my hands on the new book, but I stuck with it through a very sunny Saturday on the beach. It's a good reminder that even writers I've enjoyed get better over time - a key lesson for me to remember as I continue with my writing and try to approve.

But I'll do without the smoking and mullets, thank you very much.

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