No matter where I go these days where there are groups of women, the conversation inevitably turns to the “50 Shades of Grey” books. While Bondage and Sado-masochism (BDSM) have been around probably, forever, why all the interest in this now? Boasting all original content and including topics covered in the Fifty Shades series, The Many Shades of BDSM: A Safe and Scintillating Entry Into the Escalating Pleasure of BDSM (F+W Media, September 2012) by B.J. Dempsey, is touted as “a perfect introduction to the world of BDSM for anyone looking to branch out in the bedroom, and please their partner in ways they never thought possible.” I asked the author, B.J. Dempsey, why so many BDSM books are cropping up, like late Fall weeds. Here is the response: “I think the fact that the Fifty Shades trilogy has become part of mainstream pop culture—it’s being discussed on the morning news shows—makes women feel comfortable openly talking about it. It gives them an opening to strike up a conversation about it with friends—sort of like when a particular sex act or dating issue would be featured as part of a storyline on Sex and the City. It also helps calm their fears about being ‘strange….After all, if other women are doing it—or at least reading and talking about it—this kind of sex play must not be so unusual. And for women who haven’t yet tried BDSM yet but have thought about it, this might help them get up the nerve to give it a try.” My response is that those who want to try this form of sexual activity can get a few tips, including some safety tips from the book, but it is so general that you can get most of it for free in magazines, other sex books, or even on the Internet. However, if you are truly clueless and want a safe way to dip your toes in the water, and if silk ties or handcuffs get you going, this book is as good as any for a beginning.
Renee D. Petrillo’s self-published book: A Sail of Two Idiots (April 2012) spins a unique “yarn” about a personal sailor’s journey; interesting and exciting to read, from beginning to end. The author and her husband decided to quit their jobs, sell their house and car, and embark on a journey by sailboat through the Caribbean with their 16-year old, diabetic cat. Who hasn’t at least once wished that they could ditch their current life, and simply, escape? With no children or apparent obligations, this might seem fairly easy, but the book chronicles everything the couple did right and wrong, throughout their initial sailing journey. From storms to sails, failures to new friends, this book offers a story and lots of actual tips for anyone who ever dreamed of making a sailboat, their home. The author also offers actual lessons, and encouragement to those who might want to try what she and her husband did and while they had some experience prior to buying a boat, no one knows it all. I found the book fascinating not just because their story was interesting, but as a “weekend sailor” myself, I learned a lot about boats and sailing that I didn’t know. s with so many self-published books, what it lacks in writing sophistication doesn’t diminish the quality of the story. This is a little gem.
My taste isn’t necessarily yours. But that doesn’t mean that if I didn’t love a book, it isn’t a good one. That is the situation with a unique novel called The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern (William Morrow Trade Paperback Reprint July 2012). The author had the good fortune to gain lots of fans for her very first novel: PS I Love You (made into a major motion picture of the same name). Not everyone has that kind of exposure, but it also means that once you’re a big “hit” you have to produce encores of the same quality. Cecilia has written a bunch of books since PS I Love You, including this newbie, The Book of Tomorrow. Without giving away too much of the plot, the book starts out with a classic chick-lit formula: a woman (in this case, a teenage girl) is suffering with a bad relationship situation or dilemma she can’t quite manage at the moment. In this case, the main character is Tamara, a spoiled teenager from a wealthy family. When her father kills himself, she and her mother discover that they’re alone, and broke. Forced to give up friends and her lifestyle, she finds herself stuck in a hick town in the Irish countryside, under the roof of her Aunt and Uncle; both distant, and strange. While Tamara’s fragile mother grieves, Tamara is left to deal with her feelings and her future, alone. With no one to talk to and nothing to do, Tamara begins to explore her surroundings, finds something unusual, and then the “magic” (literally) begins. The rest of the book is laced with fantasy. That’s when the author lost me. If the book had been a “web of secrets” without the mystical, magical mumbo-jumbo, I would have wanted to follow this young woman’s journey. But a main element being a diary that for tells the future was just too silly. Still, there are lots of people who like this kind of Harry Potter-esque writing, and they will like the book. It is well written, although I thought Tamara’s journey would have been equally good without the diary. Fans of Ms. Ahern will disagree with me, you can’t please everyone!
Miss Me When I’m Gone by Emily Arsenault (William Morrow paperbacks, July 2012) is billed as a “story within a story.” But it is also, cleverly, a book within a book. This intriguing mystery story is about the (fictional) death of a (fictional) young author, whose (fictional) first book about country music superstars (e.g. Tammy Wynette) called: “Tammyland,” gained acclaim. But when you have had a literary “hit,” everyone expects you to produce another one. As this author (Gretchen) begins work on another book, this one supposedly about the superstar men of country music, she falls down some steps and dies. Her best friend is designated the literary executor, and in the process of trying to figure out what would have been tammyland’s sequel, she finds a lot more than she bargained for, including clues to Gretchen’s death that prove it wasn’t an accident. There are snippets of the fictional “Tammyland” throughout the book (Miss me When I’m Gone) that make you really believe it existed in total. The entire tale is both gripping,and interesting. You won’t want to put it done. Well done!
Lovers of chick-lit rejoice! Arriving in paperback in October, is Elizabeth Berg’s Once Upon A Time There Was You (Ballantine Papberback October, 2012). Like many of these books, if you’re engaged with the characters,the book becomes a true page turner. For empty-nester (or about to be) moms, this book about growing up, growing older, and finding new meanings. While I didn’t find the characters to be completely well formed, they were interesting and had plenty of dimension. A couple, Irene and John, might have married in a bit of haste or self-denial, but then they grew older, and grew apart. John moved on to a much younger and different wife, but Irene is “stuck.” A lasting reminder of the marriage they once had is Sadie, their 18-year old somewhat rebellious daughter. A tragedy concerning Sadie bring Irene and John together. The situations in this book are plausible, but do we really care? I guess it depends upon your own experiences and situation. For this reviewer, the book was hard to get through at times. I wanted to root for Irene and John, but if I’d known them in real life I’d probably not want to be friends with them. Others, who have led different lives, may really relate, however. Fans of Elizabeth Berg’s novels, will want this one, too.
When I was asked if I wanted to review I Heart Paris by Kindsey Kellk (Harper Collins 2012) I initially wasn’t enthusiastic. Here seemed to be just another chick-lit novel about a young woman with a seemingly impossibly glamorous job (in, fashion, of course) with an impossibly glamorous boyfriend (in a band, of course) with a the-devil-wears-prada boss (of course), and a world-famous blog (why not?!). But when I discovered that the “heroine” is also from England, in NYC on a work visa, and somehow, by chance, gets an opportunity for a dream job with a fashion magazine (Belle) with an initial assignment in Paris (where her boyfriend is playing a gig at a festival), I almost put the book down and walked away. I’m glad I didn’t. The book is written in a fresh and easy to like “just between us girls” style that is fun to read. Angela Clark (the main character) and her friends, were interesting enough to keep my attention and keep my fingers turning pages to find out what happened next, even though this “too too fabulous life” seemed unlikely, ok…fake. But the book has enough twists and turns to keep the reader’s interest, and the ending is a predictable and happy one (of course). This reviewer read the entire novel in a single sitting, one rainy Sunday morning when there was not much else going on for a few hours. The thing I really liked is the authors skillful writing style, especially the dialogue, that the author seems to flawlessly and effortlessly. The book will have wide appeal to a wide variety of girls/women who just want to read an easy, fun, happy read (and who doesn’t)?
What do men want from women? Dr. Ian Smith, author of The Truth About Men, the Secret Side of the Opposite Sex (St Martins Press, 2012) thinks he knows. Well, he is a man, and he is educated, and he’s written a bunch of diet books, but does that make him an expert? And even if it does, has he finally cracked “the code” that so many others have pondered but failed to do? I wanted to believe that this book would be different, exciting, a miracle breakthrough, but as someone who has written a number of dating and relationship books, plus a long standing advice column, the “truth” is that there is nothing mystical about what men (or women) want. If women would pay attention, they’d make men happier. This book is not a bad book, it is just a very simple primer that women could follow slavishly if they wished. But there’s nothing new, exciting or unique about the information provided. You have read the same advice in Cosmo and in every single women’s magazine, every single month since you’ve been able to read them (e.g. “Mean What You Say” and “Know how to Listen and What we Care About (it doesn’t matter if you buy the yellow pillows or the blue pillows but that doesn’t mean you don’t matter)!” The truth? This book is going to tell you what you already should know, even if you resist, and don’t follow it. There is nothing in terms of earth-shattering insights, but if you are bombing out with men, maybe it is time to re-read the basic, but important ideas and facts about what bug men, and what turns them on. It’s not rocket science. Just be sure to follow the advice next time around.
I am sure that many people who read Bond Girl, A novel by Erin Duffy (William Morrow Paperbacks 2012) will immediately think about The Devil Wears Prada, although in this case, the Devil(s) wear pants! The author apparently worked for a decade in the world of fixed income sales, and it appears that she has put some of her experience, on paper. The Bond Girl is about Alex Garrett, a young woman who is recruited after college to work on the sales floor of Cromwell Pierce. The men in her group are so misogynistic and chauvinistic, just reading about how they tortured Alex on a daily basis, made my skin crawl. It may be fiction, but it is evident that a lot of truth is in the telling. Alex is called “Girle” and made to sit on a folding chair for months and much worse, while doing grunt work beneath the lowliest intern, but it doesn’t deter her from her goal. Eventually, she finds some success, only to discover when her boss is fired (and he was bad enough) that the new boss has assigned her to a client that clearly will not rest until she sleeps with him. At the turning point, Alex has to decide how she is going to handle the situation. Without giving away the ending, I have to say that a woman who could endure the degrading, daily harassment at Cromwell Pierce, probably would have done something different than what is held up as a “solution” to the reader. The book was titilating, but the ending was “no sale.”
The Art Travel Guide by Connie Terwiliger (ArtNetwork 2012) is touted as “the only guidebook of its kind.” I’m not quite sure if that’s true or not, but it certainly does have a very unique focus: finding unique places in the USA to enjoy contemporary art of many different types. This guidebook does give travelers a chance to check out well known and not-so-famous art genues for contemporary art throughout the United States. Over a hundred full-color photographs entice, with all sorts of unique art sites that you might miss if you didn’t know they were there. From mosaics, mural, and museums, to sculpture parks and even, kinetic art races, sand castle competitions, and snow sculptures, this book has something for everyone. It will bring a bit of joy to the art lover who is an armchair traveler, and will be a good reference for those who travel in the USA. You might not plan your entire vacation around what you find in The Art Travel Guide, but then again, you just might!