February is the month we most always think of as the “love month.” I always think that’s funny, because it is the month most people really dislike, due to the cold and dark that makes you long for Spring. On a personal note, my favorite holiday of the year is in February: Ground Hog Day! To honor “Love Month” I am offering some reading ideas that will please very different types of “lovers.” I hope you enjoy the Advice Sisters’ February book selections!
Alison Blackman, The Advice Sisters
DATING AND LOVE: Pretty, sassy Shallon Lester is one of those blond, silly, “Fauxsocialites” who has a talent for writing in a funny, snarky way that young women, can’t get enough of. In her book Exes & Ohs, a Downtown Girl’s (mostly Awkward) Tales of Love, Lust, Revenge and a little Facebook Stalking, Three Rivers Press, 2011, the author unloads her “private” social life and world of being a mean girl, on her readers. By luck or perhaps, with some blonde ambition, Lester became a gossip writer for the New York Daily News, and now writes for women’s magazines such as Glamour. Lester had her 15 minutes of fame as one of the reality stars of “Downtown Girls,” in which Shallon and her equally feisty and snarky friends try to find love and get the best swag bags in town, while whining about having to “work” by attending parties and events. With plenty of personality and looks, I initially wondered why the author has (or is still having) difficulty finding and keeping the one thing she and her girlfriends seem to want the most– a rich, handsome, high profile boyfriend who hopefully is also a famous athlete. But perhaps their expectations, and what they offer in return, are simply unrealistic. Working her way up from a terrible job as a waitress at Houston’s Time Square restaurant, to gossip columnist and all the way to MTV reality star, Lester provides plenty of fodder about the boys she dated and dumped (or who dumped her). And I suppose it is “humor” she’s after when she gleefully recounts the ways she has dealt with these dumb apes who dated her, featuring juvenile and sometimes wickedly unkind escapades for retribution. Shallon Lester is a good writer, and I found the book entertaining. But much of the time she comes across not so much as witty and clever, as a a self-absorbed and somewhat vapid “mean girl” doing all the wrong things to find success and happiness. If Valentine’s Day depresses you, treat yourself to Exes and Ohs, and feel a lot better about yourself.
LOVE OF SHOES: Who doesn’t love shoes? But Shoegasm, An Explosion of Cutting-Edge Design by Clare Anthony (preface by Manolo Blahnik), Race Point Publishing, October 2012 will change your perception of shoes are merely footwear. The coffee-table sized book of photos shoes the shoe in various creative forms. You might not want to wear them, but you’ll ooh and aah over their creative beauty. The book begins with a brief history of shoes, from ancient times, to today. The visual and narrative is interesting, But then, as you turn the pages to the remainder of the book, readers get to see many modern re-definitions of what a shoe can be. Some are beautiful, some clever, some simply scary, but all will make you think “how did s/he ever come up with that? There is a little description of the designer and the concept for each shoe, shown. Some of the designers are well known, others less so. Some get a few pages and so only one. Blahnick has seven. But they’re all unusual, not just the iconic pumps and flats found in high ends stores like Barneys. While many of the designs would be practical only on a shelf or on the avant-garde fashion runway, there will be some you would long to own, if you could actually access them and had pots of cash to purchase them. The book truly will give fashion and shoe lovers, “Shoegams” every time they open the book.
HEARTBREAK AND LOVE: Ah love! It can be wonderful, or torture. If you are experiencing the pain of a breakup right now, you’re in not alone in your misery. There are people both famous and infamous who have dumped and been dumped. Heartbreak is a universal emotion, and a universal right of passage. Very few people with the capacity to love someone, go through life without having at least one broken heart, and probably causing at least one, as well. As you ponder the person who “done you wrong.” consider The Little Book of Heartbreak by Meghan Laslocky (Plume 2012) . It might just make you feel a lot better about your own situation. The author begins the book with lots of interesting information about the history and culture of heartbreak and unrequited love. The first part of the book offers some perspective on the cultural and historical aspects of unrequited love and heartbreak, and the entire book is peppered with amusing tstories of people who suffered complicated heartbreaks, and who did dastardly deeds hat wronged someone in love. The author regales the reader with lots of interesting information about the history and culture of heartbreak and unrequited love., and peppers the book with lots of spicy stories of people who dumped or were dumped, throughout the ages. Consider the complicated relationship of two famous musicians, Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann. Writer Ernest Hemmingway’s many wives, were all dumped more or less, as he cheated on them. It appears that more recently, writer Norman Mailer’s booty calls distressed his wives, as well. This book is neither a history book or a self-help book, but it has life lessons from real people who will amuse and inspire you. After you read this book and realize that not even the rich, beauty and famous are exempt from heartbreak of mammoth proportion, your own breakups won’t ever seem as hideous. It’s a fun read, even if you are deeply and happily, in love!
SELF-ESTEEM AND LOVE: There is nothing better than the love of ones-self. Help yourself to get the life you deserve, and look 7 years younger in the process. That’s the idea behind a new book and plan by the Editors of Good Housekeeping magazine. 7 YEARS YOUNGER: The Revolutionary 7-Week Anti-Aging Plan (7YY/Hearst Magazines, January 2, 2012) that launched in January. It’s a labor of love from the Editors of Good Housekeeping, with a team of health, beauty, nutrition, food and science experts, using their state-of-the-art testing facilities. The plan was based on extensive product research conducted by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute on hundreds of volunteers and theexpertise of 100+ dermatologists, brain scientists, stress reduction researchers, exercise experts, makeup artists, hairstylists, nutritionists, life coaches, and psychologists. The result of the interviews, testing and research is a book for home use with an easy anti-aging plan that anyone can follow. Your genetics and lifestyle do impact how you look and feel, and no plan works unless you work it.But this books hows you things you can do that can help improve your health, appearance and outlook without spending a lot of money or time. Small changes can get you big benefits. Read the book and follow the 11 chapters that offer tips on beauty, stress reduction, diet and exercise, beauty, brain teasers, nutrition, and more. One of my favorite chapters is #10, with recipes and eating strategies that anyone can easily implement. For example, a page of snack suggestions that offer more interest than the typical carrot sticks or granola bar, and easy to make breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes that everyone in the family can enjoy. A lot of this book is common sense, but how many of us really use that when reaching for a doughnut, or letting our style just “go” because it’s comfortable and we’re busy? If I have any issues with this book, it’s not because it isn’t inspirational, but for most people it’s still going to be aspirational. They’ll buy the book, look it over, get excited, and then put it on the bedside table and forget it’s there. That’s not the fault of the book. A 7 week plan that requires an overhaul in thinking and action, is something a lot of people will not be able to follow religiously. That being said, while you might not get the incredible results the women monitored by the team at Good Housekeeping got, you may find a few ideas that really stick!
SEX AND LOVE: Bette Davis famously said that getting old was not for sissies. That might be true, but today’s “senior” is not yesterday’s senior. Women are looking better and living better way into their 80’s and even 90’s. In fact, your grandmother might be seeing more “romance” than you do! In How we Love Now, Women Talk About Intimacy After 50 by Suzanne Braun Levine (Penguin Group, PLUME, 2013) the author offers a frank and somewhat academic look at how women view, and deal, with intimacy after age 50. Like any other issue in life, some women are having the time of their lives, with existing, and new, partners. Others are struggling with physical and emotional issues that might make them miserable. The author provides an fairly balanced view of women over 50 and their sexuality. The writing is somewhat dry, even clinical in spots, but there is a wealth of insight and information that will help women nearing the big 5-Oh! to feel re-assured that their sex lives can, and should, continue for decades to come. For women who are over 50, the book provides relate-able stories and situations that can help them cope with this particular aspect of aging. For women who think “old” is turning 30, this book will definitely be an eye-opener that might make them re-evaluate what “old” means.
FOOD-LOVING VEGANS: If you’ve ever considered embracing a vegan lifestyle, but felt the food choices would be too restrictive, The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook by Melissa Costello (Health Communications 2013) might be enough to change your mind and help you take the plunge. The author is the founder of KarmaChow.com. She is also a Nutritional Educator and Wellness Coach (NHI & Spencer Institute). More than 200 pages of recipes, how-to, and even baking substitutions, resources & recommendations, and books and films, offer the vegan more choices than you could ever imagine, along with a number of very tempting-looking, full-color photographs. The recipes seem easy enough to do(in most cases) and include everything from appetizers to desserts. You don’t have to be a vegan to want to try these recipes, and many of them seems like healthy choices. However, being a vegan apparently isn’t all that easy on a tight budget, as many of the ingredients are either expensive or might be hard to get (and therefore pricey) if you didn’t live in a large, urban area. That being said, I’m assuming true vegans know how and where to find ingredients that many of us have never even tried (e.g. pelt berries or maca powder) and are willing to spend a little more to add variety to their diet. The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook might not be your first choice if you are not a vegan, but the 125+ plant-based vegan recipes will make true vegans, rejoice!
FACEBOOK FANATICS: Hardly a man, woman or child is without a Facebook page these days. In fact, according to the press literature I received for The FaceBook Diet: 50 Funny Signs of Facebook Addiction and Ways to Unplug with a Tech-Detox by Gemini Adams (Live Consciously Publishing Ltd, January 2103) says that 57% of users talk to others more on Facebook than they do in real life. I’d say that they’re not “talking” then, but electronically communicating in some way. Facebook is now a way of life, until it goes away for the next, best thing (as most things eventually do…remember how hot AOL dial up was back when it started?). Love it or hate it, Facebook is part of our culture. The many behaviors that are commonly displayed regarding Facebook are fancifully (but truthfully) displayed in this funny little paperback. Truth is stranger (and funnier) than fiction. You may find that you are indeed, a Facebook addict when you start agreeing with some many of the ideas expressed within the pages, such as “You phone your friends to ask: Did you see what I wrote on your wall, today?” or “You’ve faked a bathroom visit so you can check for messages.” and so on. As to the “Detox” part, it’s less realistic or funny. For example, to overcome your Facebook addiction you should : “get sent to jail” or; “get over your narcissistic tendencies by putting your photo on mugs and tee shirt.” Ok, not so funny. But the book makes for a great little pick me up, bathroom reading (read the book, instead of checking for those Facebook messages) and a cute little gift for your Facebook-obsessed friends. Maybe seeing themselves as they really are (and not just on their Facebook profiles) will encourage them to “unplug” a bit!