With so many people afraid of losing their jobs or actually, unemployed, you’re not alone if you find yourself worried, and financially strapped. The thing is, you can whine about it and feel bad, or you can take a page (or 271 pages) from Laura Lee’s book: Broke Is Beautiful: Living and Loving the Cash Strapped Life (Running Press, April 2010) and look at the world in that “half-full” way. Broke is Beautiful is not a book about how to deal with finances, or how to be thrifty, or find a new job. It’s just a book full of positive thinking, written in an upbeat, personal, and funny way. It won’t help you pay the bills, but it might just get you through a dark day. “Be grateful for what you’ve got, and look on the flip side of gloom,” is really Ms. Lee’s mantra. She points out the pluses in being broke (or nearly so), and while a lot of what she says is obvious, common sense, it actually feels good to see it in print. Her way of looking at adversity will have you altering your feelings about it, to. For example, she mentions the thing we all are asked: “what have you been up to?”She points out that this is a tricky question to answer if your life isn’t going well. “Everyone it seems is doing fine” (except maybe you), she comments. But then she says that people tend to create a fantasy around that question–so maybe no one is really doing better than you, they just put a more spin on it. That should make you feel better! This book won’t really change your life, but it should have your ailing spirit back in fighting shape. For that, it’s a bargain at $12.95 in paperback!
A watermark is a design that appears in paper to show ownership. Sometimes watermarks are obvious, and sometimes they can be seen only by viewing them in reflected light or on a dark background.The book Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran (Harper Collins April 2010) is a fast-paced novel that mixes fantasy and fact, in a fascinating tale about paper making and how watermarks were used in 14th Century France. The main character is Auda, an albino *(considered cursed). In a truly barbarous act, her tongue is cut out at birth, so she can’t talk (to prevent her from speaking “The devil’s lies). As shocking as this is, clever Auda is not going to let that keep her from living the life she wants. With the support of her father, she learns his paper making techniques, works in his shop, and learns to read and write. Since most people didn’t have such skills, she has more freedom than a young woman normally would have. But her physical situation keeps her in the shadows…for a while. I don’t want to give away the story, but while Auda has to deal with the challenges of being a woman, her physical issues, and the dangers of community perception and the church against her, she is also trying to empower herself and other women. All these things put her in danger, but the most dangerous act of all is the innocent purchase of a special watermark for her father’s paper business. I don’t know how many women in the Middle Ages tried to be feminists, but I like to think there might have been some. If you’re looking for a great vacation read, Watermark will hit the mark
A Lost Wives Tale by Marion McGilvary (Penguin Books March 2010 ) has a lot of surprising twists and turns that make it an interesting mystery novel. The tale is about Edith Lutz, a woman who vanishes, re-invents herself from top to bottom, and then takes a job as a live-in housekeeper to Adam, a wealthy and divorced publisher. As Edith’s relationship with her employer becomes more personal, she begins to worry that he will find out who she really is. You might think you can figure out the ending when you hit the middle of the book, but you’d be wrong! Perhaps the main point is that you can run, but you can’t hide…forever. If you’ve ever wanted to just run away and be someone else, you’ll find A Lost Wives Tale enticing. The ending is both alarming, and surprising…it’s a real attention grabber.
When I was in my twenties and looking for Mr. Right, one of my definite “non-negotiables” was that I didn’t want to date a man with kids. The idea of being a stepmother wasn’t worth the stress. When I read The Other Mother’s Club by Samantha Baker (Harper Collins June 2010) I was sure I made the right decision. This book is a novel that has realistic story lines of women who find themselves in love with men who come with children as part of the deal. It really shows why it takes a special type of woman, to be a stepmom. The plot in this book revolves around a group of women who end up creating a support group to deal with the anxiety and stress of being part of an instant family. It is an easy book to read, and the characters are likeable—you really want them to succeed in their relationships. The author, Samantha Baker, is a stepmom herself, and if she didn’t write the details about all the trials and tribulations of stepmotherhood from her own experience, she surely consulted plenty of other women who also swam through those uncharted waters. I liked the book. You don’t have to be a stepmother, or even a mom, to enjoy it.
I have mixed feelings about The More You Ignore Me, by Jo Brand (Harper, May 2010). The author is a former psychiatric nurse who is supposedly a stand-up comic, but I didn’t think this fictional novel was funny. I couldn’t help but squirm at the sad situation of a young woman growing up in a completely dysfunctional family, She has a seriously mentally ill mother, a father who appears incapable of handling or supporting either his wife or his daughter, and there’s also a cast of buffoons for the rest of the family members. The main character is Alice, the daughter of Gina (the mentally ill mother) and Keith (the incompetent father). Alice grows into a teenager, pretty much on her own. She becomes captivated by Singer Steven Morrissey of The Smiths. Most of the book is about her quest to connect with the rock star, and her relationship with her parents, that make her more responsible than a normal child would have to be. In some ways, Alice is the parent, and the parents, the ones that require looking after. The press literature calls the book “hilariously funny” but I thought it was more of a “feel bad” with nothing much to make you even crack a smile, or smirk. It is hard to have a lighthearted look at serious mental illness. Still, I wanted to learn what happens at the end, so I kept reading instead of shelving it. The ending isn’t completely predictable, and you do want Alice to find some peace in her life. That’s what makes this book interesting, and quirky, and worth your time.
There is an entire fan base for fictional novels about impoverished but beautiful young women living in times gone by, with doomed love affairs. These damsels are not always in distress (but they usually are in some sort of sticky circumstances). They never just fall in love with the boy next door, but with the Lord (or other royalty) down the road. Their men are 18th and 19th century “Mr. Wrongs,” with fearsome reputations, or they’re promised to another, or they cannot marry beneath their station. A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James (Avon Books, July 27, 2010) is right in the zone when it comes to novels of this type. While the preview press release insists that this book really is a new twist on the Cinderella story, you’ll see that there still is the damsel, the handsome prince, and of course, plenty of indignities, twists and turns in the plot until the ending (I won’t tell you if it’s happy or not so you’ll want to read the book when it hits the bookstores on July 27th). I personally don’t like fictional romances of this type, but if you’re one of the millions of fans, or if you’re already familiar with author Eloisa James, you will want to snap up a copy of this easy-reading paperback.
Recently I did a review on the Advice Sisters Blog of a lip gloss by Three Custom Color (called White Heat), created for Brenda Novak’s newest novel, also called White Heat. I liked the sheer, shimmery pink lip gloss in a pot, and I liked the book, too. Based on the cover, I thought it was going to be one of those cheesy detective stories, but this one was actually well paced, well written, and with enough of a story to capture my interest from beginning to end. The story revolves around a smart, young woman who works for a private security agency, who is dispatched (with Nate, her hunky boss with whom she has been embarrassingly intimate), to infiltrate a cult in a tiny town in the middle of a desert called Paradise, Arizona. In fact, Paradise is a real ghost town — a mining town that was established in 1901. Back to the present, this spy work is dangerous stuff. Adding to Rachel’s stress is that Rachel and Nate have to pretend to be married to get inside the cult. There will be plenty of bizarre activities, danger, and of course, romance. You’ll be on the edge of your seat, wondering what is going to happen next. It’s a perfect book for that next cross country airplane trip! It will keep your attention – you won’t even mind the lack of food, and the screaming kid in the seat behind you!
The cover of Glamour: Women, History, Feminism by Carol Dyhouse (Zed Book April 2010) grabs you right away. The woman with chic hat and gloves, applying her ruby red lipstick, is the quintessential view we have of feminine women in our society. But the book isn’t going to offer you a bunch of illustrations and hot beauty tips. It is a serious look at the topic of (female) glamour from early Hollywood to recent times. To be sure there are plenty of fun photos, but the author is a top researcher focusing on gender. This book is for the most part, scholarly, although it is still entertaining. You can simply look at the photos and enjoy them, but if you take the time to wade through the (sometimes dryly-written) pages, you’ll get an enhanced perspective about the history and meaning of image, clothing and cosmetics to women throughout the deaces. Anyone considering herself a “fashionista,” or any woman who simply wants to know more about how a glamorous image manipulates women, as they manipulate it, will find this book, fascinating.
I liked the title of: Wander Woman –How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction by Marcia Reynolds (Berrett-Koehler Publishers 2010), but I am not sure I understand why high powered women searching for something to add to their lives to make it more interesting and meaningful need a book full of “work” to do it. When a book exhausts me with wording, and too may to do lists and exercises, I lose the ability to think creatively. A book like this should energize you, but this one did just the opposite. I had trouble getting through it, although I liked the stories. “Over-think” saps spontaneity and I found that, frustrating. Smart women should be able to contenplate their future, their own way, without resorting to exercises and too many lists. Isn’t that just what they are trying to get away from in their business routines? If you don’t have a clue how to add joy and meaning to your over-stressed life, a book might help…but I’m not sure this one is the best choice.
Last but not least, my favorite book of the season speaks directly to those who love crafts and cooking, gardeners, and anyone who is seeking thrifty holiday gifts to make now (and relax when the frenzy of shopping starts in the late Fall). I love Put ’em Up: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling, by Sherri Brooks Vinton (Storey Press, June 2010). This fabulous book will help those who want to preserve food to do it properly, and with good results. I’ve been making jellies, jams and preserves for decades, but I found the 150+ recipes enticing (nice photos, and illustrations, too), and the instructions so easy, that a total newbie can find success. The book has tons of ideas and recipes for pickling, freezing, infusing, air-and-oven drying, and cold and hot-pack canning just about every kind of “foodstuff” you can think of. Imgine presenting your nearest and dearest with your home-made pear butter, applesauce, cantaloupe rum, cranberry walnut relish, or any one of a number of tempting treats. SO much more impressive than a gift from the store. Whether you “grow your own” or you buy it in a farmers market, you can, can (or freeze, or preserve)! Get the book and try it this Summer!
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