Who doesn’t love a good book? The five I’ve chosen as book suggestions for April are focused primarily on women and their relationships with men, each other, and the divine. The Mexican Cookbook has easy recipes that are healthy enough to make you want to eat at home more often. Enjoy! And let me know what you think of these. (Alison Blackman Dunham, aka. “Advice Sister Alison”).
As I said in last Summer’s book review round-up, I almost never review dating books because (as someone who has personally published several), I feel that most authors in this genre don’t have much more to offer than what’s already been said. but Why You’re Not Married Yet by Tracy McMillan (Ballantine Books Trade Paperback, 3013)–read our Summer review but this author has received her experience as a three-time divorcee. Smart enough to learn a thing or two, this book is going to especially teach love lessons (about who you are, not how to snag a man) to the young women out there who don’t want to deal with reading a serious book and like snark with their advice. Now the book is in paperback. If you didn’t read it last Summer, you can pick it up in paperback for $15.00. If you learn a thing or two about your interpersonal relationship style, it might be $15.00 well spent. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting a lot more than that on drinks and the “singles” bar. I don’t usually endorse dating books, but this one is worth your time and your money.
When you’re feeling a bit down, reading about someone else’s troubles, and eventual “triumphs” can make you feel better about your own life. That’s pretty much what I took away from Angel Works, Soaring from Abuse to Love, Forgiveness and Enlightenment by Barbara Anne Rose (Balboa Press, 2013). Like many of these so-called spiritual/religious books, the best part is often the personal story. The author suffered some tramatic experiences, including early sexual abuse (from her father). As a result, she suggests that you can fix your troubles if you build a relationship with your “Spirit.” I believe that the author feels strongly about her personal convictions, but whether or not you agree with her beliefs is of course, a personal matter. I do agree with the author that holding hate in your heart and refusing to forgive, can be an unhealthy thing. But will her
Christian counsel” be your life-changing advice? I respected her personal story and her personal journey to her personal truths, but I personally found the obvious religious elements, “squirm worthy.” The author mentions Jesus Christ as her “close friend” right on the back cover of her paperback book. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about where the book is going to lead you. Pain can make you stronger if you can find a way to rise about it. If you already believe (in angels), you may find yourself relating, but I didn’t. ‘Nuff said!
I thought A View from My Window Real Stories For Real Women by Sylvia Forrest was going to be another boring book about women, mothers, and grandmothers, but it is much more than that. This lovely book of personal recollections and bits of wisdom is a personal and touching look back and forward of one woman’s life, family and relationships. The stories are written in that personal, intimate, just-between-us-girls style I I love so much, in the manner of Amy Ephron’s Loose Diamonds, and world’s apart from the treacle-y “Chicken Soup” type books. You feel as though the author has pulled up a chair an a cup of coffee, to tell you something special that is meant just for your ears.Separated into womanhood, motherhood and grandmothers, there are little stories that inspire or might just give you an “awww” moment. Apart from the nicely written book, I like the fact that the author doesn’t judge, throw in political or religious messages, or pontificate. What she has done is share her favorite women and stories about the various phases in her life, for you, the reader, to judge and absotb as you wish. There is something that will strike a chord with girls and women of all ages. It was a lovely book to read and I really liked it! I was sorry when I finished it. I have a feeling that Sylvia Forrest wrote this (self published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform) book for her daughter, a gift to be cherished as she gets older and wants to access her mother’s wisdom, but there are snippets of important truths sprinkled throughout the amusing chapters for you, too. You can get your copy on amazon.com
Tacos, enchiladas, and burritos are things even finicky children deign to eat. But Mexican food is much more than this. In 200 Easy Mexican Recipes by Kelly Clearly Coffeen (Robert Rose 2013), the author gives you a well organized book (with some nice color photos) covering everything from drinks and appetizers, to main courses, and desserts. There is even a section on recipes to do on a grill, which will be lovely for Summer entertaining. The recipes are good, but I do have some issues with the book. “Easy” is in the title, and it is true that a lot of the recipes are for things like tacos or salads, that are basically assembly recipes with not that many steps after finding the right ingredients and chopping or stirring them together. But Mexican food isn’t as quick and easy as what you find the the Taco Bell. There are a lot of spices and ingredients in many Mexican recipes that give them flavor, and in truth, there are several steps to most of the recipes that take time, if not cooking talent. If you’re the type who likes fast and minimalistic recipes, even those seemingly simple, such as Salpicon Beef Salad or Grilled Carne Asada Tacos, may not be as they should seem. Both, for example, have 10-12 ingredients and require pre-marinating of the meat for at least 2 hours. Other recipes require a pre-made salsa or other such ingredient (although some may be purchased in cans or jars), so these obviously aren’t going to be quick and easy dinner ideas. However, if you have the time and a little bit of patience, the classic chicken mole recipe is worth the cost of the book, to wow a small crowd at book club or a Saturday night dinner party. Making your own salsas and so forth, keep meals healthy and delicious, even if you’re not making Mexican food. Most of the ingredients can be found in your local supermarket or you can substitute for them. The Essentials section in the beginning of the book is basic, but will de-mystify chiles, cheeses, and veggies you may not be all that familiar with. Basic mexican food terms, are also included. If you and/or your family likes Mexican Food (and who doesn’t?), 200 Easy Mexican Recipes can be the way to eat healthy, and enjoy learning new recipes that are full of flavor, and fun!
Quirky, self-published books, how I love them! Even if they contain the most skillful writing, they often have the most interesting stories. This, perhaps, because the authors are able to say whatever they feel they must, without an editor at a publishing house, silencing their thoughts. This also, unfortunately, means that the books often read as “awkward.” Since I’m an author of a number of dating books, including one specifically geared towards people over age 40 (The Everything Dating Book 2nd Edition, Adams Media), I was curious about Ask Avery Anything: A Woman’s Journey Through Midlife Dating by Maro Eliot (Second City Books 2012). This book was a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Books Awards ( an awards program for independent publishers). oo often,dating books don’t really say anything new, and this one seemed interesting. I had hoped that the author would have some insights to share with middle aged women who are suddenly single (or have remained single, but now want to be in a committed relationship). Why is dating, especially after 40, so difficult, and what can women do about it? Even a sliver of insight could have made this book a precious gem. The author, herself a singleton, attempts to find someone special, using the book as a sort of dating journal of her attempts, and failures. The Advice Sisters suggested keeping a dating journal in our first book Recruiting Love: Using the Business Skills You Have to Find the Love You Want (Cyclone Books, 2008). Maro starts out by trying common courses of connecting, including fix-ups,speed dating, matchmkers, and the internet. None of these are particularly fresh or exciting ways to find someone, but they can work. Alas, in Maro’s case, her attempts are met with disappointment, frustration and eventually, what appears to me as thinly veiled despair. The vehicle of using her BFF Avery is weak, because Avery is not a well defined character, and what can one learn about her qualifications to guide Avery, other than she’s a friend of the author? Why would anyone care what her friend thinks? I was clueless. Avery’s comments add nothing, and are, oddly, not even in her own words but are broadcast in a second person style. These comments do, however, adds some meat to this otherwise slim, 79-page book. What does work very well in this book are the amusing stories of Maro’s various dates. When my twin sister, Jessica, was re-entering the “meet market” I asked her to write down what happened on her dates, and send them to me. The stories were, like Maro’s, full of heightened expectations and often, later on, disappointments sometimes bordering on utter disgust. But Jessica was a skilled writer who amused me greatly with her search for love (she did finally meet a man, and re-marry). Maro’s attempt to chronicle her dates is not quite as droll, but still, interesting to read as long as you’re not the one single and searching. However, there’s another message the book sends, if you’re ready to understand it: if you are over a certain age, dating is tough and finding someone who will meet all of your criteria is even more challenging. If you focus only on your requirements, without really considering what the other person wants and needs, and how you present yourself, you may find yourself still single. Throughout the book, the author tells readers some of her quirks that to a relationship expert, signal that she is not so much the enticing prospect for a man she feels she is. When she finds herself continuing to meet men she doesn’t like, or that are inappropriate for her, you can clearly see that she feels it’s the other person’s fault. That is a signature failing of single people who say they want to connect, but don’t. I wish the author success and happiness, and I hope she doesn’t give up on love. But she needs to make some changes, if she wants to get what she wants out of a relationship. And, perhaps, instead of “Asking Avery” she might do better with a dating coach, maybe even the Advice Sisters! The author’s website, AskAveryAnything.com, invites you to share your stories.
If you’ve seen the movie, Magic Mike, you may be intrigued about the world of real life male strippers. Is it glamorous and lucrative, or is there a dark and seedy side that even the most successful male strippers can’t escape? The book, Take It Off! The Naked Truth About Male Strippers, by Justin Whitfield and Taylor Cole (Ellora’s Cave, 2012), is a tale of two male strippers who tell readers all about their personal experiences in the business, from baring it all, to being fit, and finding “love.” I was interested in how these two men got started, and intrigued about what goes on backstage. These aspects of the book were amusing. But for me, the book mis-fired (pun intended) when the men (supposedly candidly) expose the naked truth about their personal lives, playing women to get what they wanted, without any consideration of the women, or the consequences. The chapters describing their sexual exploits were simply that, terrifyingly exploitative. The “SexCapades” chapter was simply roughly written soft porn. Obviously these men are not seasoned authors, but their graphic sexual descriptions and blatant reports of how they abused women for their own pleasure only to throw them away like yesterday’s garbage afterwards, was so ugly, it had me gagging (no pun intended). My feeling before and after reading Take It Off! is that the kind of man who goes into the business and enjoys it, is someone either addicted to sex and hates or has a total disregard for women, or he is the type that is simply born to be an exhibitionist and is into showing off his body. The movie, Magic Mike is the Hollywood’s sanitized version. These real life strippers are immature, self-centered, shallow and very heartless. One of the authors was quoted as saying: “At the end of the day, we are the boys next door who just happen to have a very unusual job.” From what I read, this is not the case. They are not normal guys. They might be good looking (there are some fuzzy smart phone photos showing the guys “at work”) but while they may look good on a stage or as male models for erotic novels, meeting them in person would strip them of any appeal. This is not a book about sex, or erotica, but in the end, a book about the underside of a dirty business full of guys for whom “clean living” has no appeal.