It is said that everyone has at least one book in them. And to be honest, some of the self-published books have the most interesting stories, even if they aren’t the most skillfully written. Everyone has a story to tell!! This book review contains four self-published books, plus some other more traditionally published books:
Although most of the books that The Advice Sisters receive to review are from traditional publishing houses, every now and then I like to explore what’s being self-published. One book that recently came across my desk from iUniverse, a self-publishing company, is My Life With Rita: The Love of My Life by Jim Booksh. The book is supposed to be about his 58-year marriage to his wife, and her long struggle at the end, with Alzheimers. I was initially interested in the title because dementia is at such epidemic proportions, and as the disease progresses, it tears couples, and families, apart. The book was billed as" a resource for those caring for loved ones with the disease." To be sure, the author, Rita’s husband, wrote this book as a labor of love. But while it’s supposed to be about Rita (the love of his life), it is mostly a dry re-counting of this engineer’s life as he traveled and moved around the United States, the Far East , and Australia. Rita is really not mentioned all that much in the beginning of the book, except that it was obvious that she loved her husband and never complained when he uprooted the family. Rita obviously took care of her husband and children, and when her husband had to become the care-giver, it was a difficult and horrifying transition. However much the author loved Rita, he really didn’t paint her personality well with words. I never got the sense of who she was, only that when she became severely demented and developed serious physical issues, he was devastated. Maybe Rita was very special or maybe not, but it is clear that Rita was the most important person in Jim Booksh’s life. That being said, the book is more about Jim than Rita, and I didn’t take away any additional or new information about dealing with Alzeheimers, or how to be a good care-giver in a similar situation. That was disappointing, although I felt so sorry for Jim Booksh’s loss of his wife. I am sure she would be pleased at his tribute.
Take a former beauty bombshell and add thyroid cancer, and you still have a former beauty bombshell who is now a thyroid cancer survivor — but now she’s been radiated so she’s a dirty bombshell. That’s the sort of humor in Lorna J. Brunelle"s self-published book: Dirty Bomb Shell, From Thyroid Cancer Back to Fabulous (Authorhouse 20111) is a very personal, and accurate account of a standard thyroid cancer journey. I ought to know, because I am a thyroid cancer survivor, too. I just didn’t think it was necessary to write a book about it. Like so many self-published authors, Lorna has something to she was compelled to say and something to share. Her account of the thyroid cancer treatment she received is not as scary as it is an honest account of how she saw it unfolding. She’s not given to self pity, either. I give her high marks for that. But I am not really sure what her motivation was in writing the book. Was it to share her personal thoughts, or to help promote the reality show is is apparently part of? In any case, There is in the book that will surely be of interest to others diagnosed with, or treated for, thyroid cancer. Her experience is hers to own, but it wasn’t quite the same for me, nor for anyone else. And, I wish she would have focused more on some of the other serious side-effects of the treatment, such as weight gain, memory lapses, dry skin, etc. Still, the end result of her thyroid cancer journey seems to have but the author on the rigtht trackfor a lomng and fabulous life. Thyroid cancer, which occurs more often in women, has a 97 percent, five-year survival rate, but that does not mean it is a "good" cancer. Every cancer is a bad cancer. The fear and despair, and sometimes frustration and humiliation of being a cancer patient/survivor is very clear in the pages of the book. It makes for thoughtful reading.
As I said previously, there’s at least one book in everyone. In Confessions of a Recovering Stupid Male (Balboa Press 2011), self-published author Mike Love shares the story of his own troubled journey, from being a self-centered, immature, and angry man to a more open, loving, and compassionate person. Mike is not a slick writer, and the book is hard to deal with in some parts due to his awkward writing style, but I believe that Mike really feels he has something to share with other men who may have been abusive (or at least very difficult to live with) as he infers in his relationship with his wife. His story is fairly interesting, but as far as really offering what the press literature touts as: “hope and down-to-earth guidance for couples who desire a richer, more satisfying relationship, far beyond their wildest dreams,” the book is a lightweight. Mike’s personal experience is valid in itself, but he lost me when he began to pontificate about relationship issues beyond his own life’s experience. Everyone believe that they can give advice, but it takes more than the desire to do so. This author is really a “stupid male” but he waded into waters too deep for him to handle. He is not a relationship expert. The second part of the book where the “heavy duty” relationship advice is trumpeted, make Mike look like an evangelical preacher who only sees what he believes is “right” for everyone. That’s when he lost me.
It’s a Long Way from China to Hollywood by Grace F, Yang/ghostwritten by Sames (iUnvierse 2011) started out as a fascinating tale of Grace Yang’s childhood in China in 1964, living under the Communist rule of Mao Zedong. I loved her tales of growing up with a doctor mother and a Father who worked in another place, forcing Yang to learn how to do many things a girl wouldn’t normally have done if she had a father and brothers, around. I cheered her marriage the longed for daughter’s birth, and rooted for her when she finally broke away from China and found a new life in the United States with Tony, her new husband. But as with many self-published books, the tale turned from what the reader thinks is going to be the subject, to something else. The second half of the book is mostly about her talented daughter Yvonne, and her life with Yvonne as she assumes the role of stage mother and sometimes, actress, in Hollywood. As a reader, you can’t help but wonder why her second husband Tony, who literally saved her, would put up with her taking Yvonne from their home in Texas to Hollywood to live apart. He seems to have no significance other than to be a big wallet to finance Yvonne’s (and her mother’s) ambitions. It just got tiring to hear about Yvonne and her typical, teen-aged struggles while “mom” puffs up with pride, on paper. But that aside, the first part of the book is so interesting, it’s worth the price. Few of us could even imagine a life like Grace’s in China, or her parent’s challenges to adjust to life in a new country. Most of us would be grateful we didn’t have to!
A Hai-Ku is a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five. Doubtless your English teacher made you try to write your own, way back when. Haiku for the Single Girl by Beth Griffenhagen with (cute) pen and ink drawing by Cynthia Vehslage Meyers (Penguin November 2011) , follows the format. The book is billed as: "Brilliantly incisive and wittily illustrated collection, every woman- whether single or not-will laugh until she cries, and then start laughing all over again." Really? I didn’t crack a smile. I hate to trash a book but this one was simply, in my humble opinion, a true waste of paper. That is my opinion, and perhaps there really are a few single girls out there that will find it "cute." Perhaps it is the limits of the strict, haiku format that made the book seem more like a bunch of random, silly little "thoughts" about singlehood than a book of haiku, but the author could have done so much more! This book reads like a collection of the very annoying, idle tweets we have all learned to ignore, and not a book of haiku that is usually a thoughtful and gracious, poetic art form. "Who actually decided to publish this book and did she know someone at Penguin whose arm she seriously twisted to get this in print?" is all I could think of as I turned the pages of this little "giftable" hard cover book. If you like sayings like: "I now understand the appeal of younger men, Which makes me feel old” and other predictable and so very trite and expected thoughts, you” like Haiku for the Single Girl. The Haiku form is a beautiful one, too bad it was wasted on this book, which you can read in about five minutes, tops.
Some childhood memories are gone for good, such as the incredible baked goods, especially the hard-icing black, white and pink cupcakes my grandmother routinely brought home from Ebinger’s Bakery in Brooklyn. But Entenmann’s has survived and now you can bake some of the favorites from this well loved bakery brand, yourself. The Entenmann’s Big Book of Baking by Kathleen Rogers (Parragonm 2011) makes it easy for bakers of all levels to create Entenmann’s classic baked goods, from Entenmann’s Cinnamon Crumb Cake, Chocolate Cake Donuts, and Banana Crunch Cake, to new ideas such as Blackberry and Apple Loaf Cake, Cranberry Sour Cream Brownies, and even healthy on-the-go snack choices such as Nutty Granola Bars. The author is a Master Baker in Research and Development at Entenmann’s Bakery, so she knows whereof she speaks when it comes to baking in Entenmann’s style. My only beef with the book is that a number of the recipes actually rely upon Entenmann’s products to make the recipes come to life. That’s hardly baking "from scratch" and I did feel disappointed that I would have to actually buy other bakes goods to make the recipes come ot life. While it is a book about Entenmann’s products and therefore a way to promote them, I did feel a bit manipulated. But there are over 150 recipes with something for everyone’s sweet tooth, and most are fairly easy. If you love Entenmanns you will want this book! The book is also available as an Ebook and an iPadd App.
Jewish baking is a taste I never quite acquired. While others were gushing over the babka and apple cake and Tayglech, I never could see the delight they felt, and tasted. However, for those who are fans of Jewish style baking (and there are legions of them), Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking by Stanley Ginsberg and Norman Berg (Camino Books 2011) will offer a veritable treasure-trove of recipes that may bring the reader right back to "Bubby’s" kitchen. The photographs make it easy to understand how to do even the most mystifying things, such as producing a six strand or even eight strand, challah. It might not be easy, but if you live in an area without good Jewish bakeries (or any Jewish bakeries), it’s worth giving the recipes a try. And, if like my grandmother, measurements from family recipes were sketchy or non-existent, you can approximate much more easily using the recipes in this large book with clear amounts of ingredients, rather than trying to guess on your own. Delight someone with a classic Jewish coffee ring or checkerboard cake, or multi-colored rainbow cookies, No you do not have to be Jewish to love Jewish baking, or this fun cook book! More than a collection of recipes, the book chronicles the history and traditions as well as the distinctive baked goods of Ashkenazic Jewry in Eastern Europe and America. Drawing on sources as diverse as the Talmud, Sholom Aleichem and the yizkor books that memorialize communities destroyed in the Holocaust, the authors have crafted an engaging edible history that endows their recipes with a powerful sense of time and place. This book is a must for a Jewish home and for holiday celebrations, and it makes a great gift idea, too.
After recommending two books on baking, it seems fitting that I am also recommending: Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting, and Live Large by Kimberly Brittingham (Three Rivers Press 2011). In this book, the author provides a very personal, sometimes funny, and interesting view of her relationship with food and body image. It also may give pause to people and even professionals that dismiss a deride “fatties” with all sorts of unfair assumptions. There is definitely a stigma attached to being fat in our society, and as a result, many people with a few (to a lot) of pounds to lose are filled with self loathing and a sense of failure. I think Kim puts all of it into perspective in a thoughtful, compassionate way. The author struggled for years with her weight and body image before she learned how to love her self unconditionally, find her confidence, and fully enjoy her life. She has earned my respect for her advice and for her empowering words. You don’t have to be overweight to get something positive from this book. Whether weight loss is your issue, or some other body image situation, Read My Hips will make you feel good about yourself. I loved her attitude and her philosophy. I think you will, too.