Monday, June 29, 2009

Nora, Nora, Nora

If you've read this site, you know I have a special love for Nora Roberts. Is she a romance novelist? Yes. Are you books sometimes hokey/predictable/sigh worthy? Always. But they are delight to read when I need a mental break.

Roberts got the New Yorker treatment in the June 22 issue. And Sarah Wendell, co-author of book 12 of 52 and all things romance novel got a nice shout out as well.

Well done, ladies! I've been typing away at a romance novel myself. Why not? I like reading the genre. I used to write fiction. So I'm giving it a go. Whether it amounts to anything is another story. I dutifully put away 2,000 words a day for a bit, but I'm lagging because of work and boyfriend. Hopefully this article will inspire me to get back at it.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Book 51 of 52: Personal Assets

Wowza. I think my cheeks are still burning after this one.

I picked up a way discounted copy of Personal Assetsby Emma Holly, I don't know where. I do know that I recognized the name from Book 12 of 52 as one of the authors that one of the authors enjoyed. For $4? Why not.

What I forgot, though, was that Holly writes a specific kind of romance novel. In fact, some wouldn't even call it a romance novel. It's erotic fiction. I imagined if someone filmed it, it would be classified as pornography hence why my cheeks are still burning.

But it's not a bad book. It has very good plot structure, suspense, and strong characters. Otherwise, I wouldn't have kept on after realizing that "erotic fiction" was written on the cover. The story's about two best friends, both caught up in the fashion retail world, and how said best friends find the loves of their lives. The difference between erotic fiction and romance? In this case, the characters like to get it on a lot, sometimes with strangers, sometimes in trios. Not for the faint of heart, though the cover of this one is probably one of the more tame from Holly's titles (thank goodness because I had the book in my bag yesterday when I went to my mom's house).

Am I really at book 51 of 52?

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Book 50 of 52: Gossip of the Starlings

Before you think I'm a speed reader: I read both of these books over the last week, but hadn't had time to write up the last post until today. I finished that book on Thursday. I'd started reading Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont before that, but had to put it aside in favor of the work-related reading.

I didn't like TK. I was curious enough about the plot to finish reading the book to see what happened, but I didn't like any of the characters. To really dig a novel, you have to at least identify with someone if not like parts of one of the characters, or so hate a character that you must see what happens. I wanted to smack everyone in this book about privileged prep school kids who drugged their way through the 1980s. Poor rich babies as they whine about coke and horses? Yawn. Not even worthy of a "beach book" label.

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Book 49 of 52: Getting Past Your Breakup

Where was this book two years ago?

Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You by Susan J. Elliott is about exactly what you think it would be about: getting over a break up. It's not one of those "your ex is evil and you are fabulous" books. It's written in a calm, soothing tone that makes no judgements against who dumped the reader. It focuses on how the dumpee can start putting the past relationship in the past and then move ahead.

I like Elliott's way of comparing getting over a breakup to grieving (makes sense since Elliott is a grief counselor). I thought back to my bad break up two years ago while reading through the book, and my reactions then were a perfect match. Maybe I did roll my eyes when Elliott went on and on about daily affirmations, but there is a lot of good advice here, like "NC" -- no contact. Nothing, zip, zilch, zero. And no going back to said ex for "closure." It's done. Let it go. Getting back in touch again will not help.

How timely. I read this book for work, but once and a while I'd get an email from my ex, who is now engaged, just saying hi. He called me last month, and when I saw the number on my phone, I let it go right to voicemail. I considered asking him for an apology for everything he did (he was a lying alcoholic who left me for someone who he said was "younger and hotter.") But why bother? I'm confident in myself now. I have a wonderful boyfriend who is 1000 times better and makes me think all those over the top romantic songs CAN be true. When I heard the ex was engaged, my first reaction was "that poor girl."

I don't need his closure. I got that on my own, and you know what? I think I'm stronger for it. Call it a cliche or whatever you want, but I don't think I'd have done everything I did if I hadn't gone through that. I didn't return his call, and I set up a filter on my email account so that anything from him is sent right to the trash without crossing my inbox. Very liberating to do that.

Will I thank him? Of course not. I hate that I let someone walk all over me like that. I sometimes can't listen to music I know he liked, but that aversion is fading (I'm listening to my Anberlin Pandora channel as I write this, but I don't think I could ever enjoy Angels & Airwaves again). I came out if it OK, which is why I think Elliott's book can help people stuck in the depths of despair over a break up. Minus the affirmation stuff, it's clear of self help mumbo jumbo too. Interesting book.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Book 48 of 52: No Regrets

I was just lamenting to someone the other day about the poor quality of galleys I picked up at Book Expo America. Galleys, if you're not in the biz, are preview copies of books that are given to folks like me in the hopes that we will write about them. I usually pick up so many good books that I'm set reading wise for months.

This year? I didn't like anything I grabbed. I also said that a lot of books coming out seem like longer versions of Glamour magazine articles, and I have little love for Glamour. It's one of those women's magazines you can rely on to tell you the same three things every issue: you're too fat, you don't please your significant other, and you're going to die young (probably of breast cancer).

Sarah Ivens, author of No Regrets: 101 Fabulous Things to Do Before You're Too Old, Married, or Pregnant, has written for Glamour and another one I love to hate, Cosmo. She's was editor-at-large for OK! magazine, which is in a boat load of financial trouble (she left in December). The book definitely recalls a pre-recession time. It tells women to do things like Shop Till you Drop in New York City, Buy a Burberry Trench Coat and take fabulous trips to far flung countries as "must do" while I know most of us are just trying to hang on and save every penny we have.

And, yes, it reads like a really long Glamour magazine article (without the "you're going to die young" part though it does focus on looking younger and skinnier -- Spanx aren't something everyone should do to feel better about themselves), but it's not ALL bad. I can see someone in a rut, whether from heart ache, job ache or general ennui, finding some of these 101 things to do inspiring. It's a "kick in the pants" kind of book -- just skip over some of the sillier suggestions, like getting fake eyelashes and get a Brazilian wax. Really? Not something everyone needs to do.

I've done 59 of the 101 things she recommends. I did pretty well up until the travel and beauty parts. With travel, I can't afford a lot of the vacation suggestions. For beauty, it's stuff I would never want to do or can't do (can't dye my hair back to my childhood color since I don't dye my hair and, yes, it's the same color). Not bad for someone who has little interest in the magazines the author writes/wrote for.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book 48 of 52: Face to Face

Today's guest on Fresh Air, the Terry Gross NPR interview show, was Maria Siemionow, the doctor who performed the first face transplant. The interview was fascinating. I would expect her memoir to be the same.

Except I finished Face to Face: My Quest to Perform the First Full Face Transplantthis afternoon, and it was one of the more dull memoirs I've ever read. I hate to seven say it because Siemionow has a fascinating story. She grew up poor in Poland and came to the U.S. to study hand transplant surgery. In December 2008, she did a face transplant on a woman who had been horribly disfigured through domestic violence.

But how dreary and dull and full of cliches. I think she'll best be served by a biography written by someone else. Her story is very flat and one dimensional. Those extra angles need to be added to pain a full picture of a woman who has done something amazing.

Two cover notes: the image is misleading. While the face transplant Siemionow was a vast improvement for her patient, she does not look anything like the woman on the cover. Also, part of the cover verbiage touts about an epilogue that about the actual transplant. It's only three pages.

And for a stand out memoir by a transplant surgeon? Try Pauline Chen's Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Book 47 of 52: The Runner's Body

Two words: MUST READ. Well, Runner's World The Runner's Body: How the Latest Exercise Science Can Help You Run Stronger, Longer, and Fasterby Ross Tucker, Jonathan Dugas and Matt Fitzgerald is a must read if you run. It might be a little overwhelming to novices, but if you're like me and have three, four, five or many more years of running tallied on your legs, understanding the science of running can be an eye opener.

Perfect timing for me to read this, too (aside from being assigned a review for a newspaper): I'm hitting my summer wall, which is when it gets hot and humid in New Jersey and the last thing I want to do is run. I tell myself that I CAN'T run because it's hot. I chalk it up to being a "cold weather runner," but I'm starting to wonder if it's more of a mental block that comes from once being so dehydrated that I almost ended up in the hospital (not from running, though -- and not from drinking alcohol). That experience was petrifying. I lost all control of my body and was sick for days after. Why would I want to put myself out into hazy, hot and humid weather and risk it?

I've been working past this block so far by doing hot and humid runs this past week, starting in the early morning hours. I've also bought myself a water bottle that straps around my hand, even though people tell me I don't need to hydrate for runs under an hour. I understand that after reading this book, but I think having it with me, knowing that I can get a drink if I need it, makes a huge mental difference, and has pushed me through some muggy runs so far (a sip of water from a water found at 22 minutes into my run today made a big difference).

The information about overhydrating was eye opening, too -- no runner has died of dehydration, as far as the authors know. But runners have died from putting too much water and sports drink in their bodies. I'll tell that to all the Broad Street volunteers who screamed at me to drink during the last legs of the race. The authors carefully pull apart research that comes of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and why their studies do not work for runners, and they imply without directly say that their push to get runners to drink, drink and drink some more has lead to tragic outcomes.

Yes, it's scientific, but told in a way that is accessible. I've taught technical writing before, and this book is an example of technical writing done right. Fascinating read.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book 46 of 52: A Brain Wider than the Sky: A Migraine Diary

Fair warning: my brain and writing ability have briefly left me. I'm not surprised -- I hit a major deadline last Thursday, and my brain typically shuts off after such an event. Here's a better explaination.

I'm starting to come out of it, but rather than wait for 100 percent function to write the review, I'll share it with you now because I like to write the review the day I finish the book.

I don't suffer migraines. My brother did, though. He'd throw up, lock himself into a room, and fall asleep. He still gets them sometimes, I believe, but not as bad as Andrew Levy, author of A Brain Wider Than the Sky: A Migraine Diary, a fascinating and painful-to-read book about living with migraines.

I had no idea that migraines could affect your vision, or last for months at a time. I also didn't know how many artists either suffered migraines or are thought to have suffered migraines: Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Picasso, Elvis. The title comes from a line of Dickenson's poetry. According to Levy, scholars think that Charles Dodgson, author of Alice in Wonderland, either suffered migraines or wrote what children described to him as migraines: the falling down a hole, feeling like you're tall and small, not being able to speak in the sentences you form in your head.

To a non-sufferer, it's scary, and I don't know how people cope with it. There's no sure-fire fix, either, and Levy experiments with different ways to just make the pain go away.

If you suffer migraines or know someone who does, it's well worth the read. Even if you don't know of someone who comes out and says "I have them," you might and they might be silent about it -- 12 percent of Americans get migraines, and 50 percent more people suffer from migraines than depression. Yikes.

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