Month: May 2009

Book 45 of 52: The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances

The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances: A Memoirby Mark Millhone(to be published in July) is yet another book in this series that I almost put down. I couldn’t tell what it was about. I requested a copy from Rodale when I ordered a slew of health books to consider for review. I thought it was about being a used car salesman. Then I started reading and still couldn’t tell the main subject. About a guy who buys a lot of used cars? A flailing marraige? A father/son relationship? An epic rode trip?

Turns out it’s a a little bit of all three, but it takes about half of the book for them to all blend together in a book that I’m glad I didn’t stop reading.

“ was like online porn you could talk about around the watercooler the next day. My kink was grandma cars. Cars only driven by little old ladies to church on Sundays. Cherry. Mint as new money. Like new. That’s what I’m taking about,” Millhone writes in the prologue. He likes to buy used cars. The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances: A Memoir really […]

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Book 44 of 52: The Divorce Party

The Divorce Partyby Laura Dave is about unraveling relationship — the title’s an indicator of that. But it’s not just about one couple. Instead, three relationships are stressed in this book, which takes place in one day — the day of a divorce party, which is mean to celebrate a marriage ending like a wedding celebrates a marriage beginning.

It’s an OK novel. The split narrator perspective, which alternates between the main character, Gwyn, and her son’s finance, Maggie, both adds perspective and mystery. It allows Dave to write the story from two points of view, but also keep some information, which is assumed by the other character, shrouded.

But it’s just OK — not a work of fiction that kept me anchored to my chair, but not a bad way to pass some reading time.

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Book 43 of 52: Die Fat or Get Tough

People get into shape in different ways. Some like to be pulled along. Others need to be coaxed with kindness. And others want to be smacked in the face and told to stop being a stupid fat lard.

Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People, an ebook by Steven Siebold, is for the last group and no one else — I’m not kidding. With passages like the following, you need to steel yourself if you’re going to give this one a go:

“Fat women are labeled ‘plus-size’ to make them comfortable buying giant clothing for their bloated bodies. The underlying message is ‘It’s OK to destroy your health and die young. . .celebrate your obesity and buy our giant clothes!’ And fat people are buying it. That’s the power of delusion.”

“People do judge a book by its cover, and a fit body shows the world you have mastered this critical area of your life and gives them confidence you are capable of conquering challenges. Fat people don’t get second looks from people of the opposite sex, but fit people get noticed.

“99% of compliance is failing.”

Yikes. I’m a fit person and even […]

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Book 42 of 52: Eco-Beautiful: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty and Wellness

That was fast, right? That’s because, like Book 20 of 52, Eco-Beautiful: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty and Wellnessis more pictures and large type with generous spacing than you’ll find in a typical book, like most of what I review here. That’s not to diminish the book — not at all. If you’re looking to get into a greener lifestyle, especially when it comes to what you put on your face every day, it’s a nice place to start, though I’d skip the nutrition information and what author Lina Hanson has to say about the sun (you DO need some vitamin D through the sun).

It was OK to read. I’m not really a makeup person. Most days I don’t wear any, and I don’t own foundation. I lost my makeup bag for a few days while in the Florida Keys, and I didn’t miss it. But for those days I DO need to look slightly nicer, I might take a look at some of the looks Hanson presents (though illustrations might help).

And with that, I’m off to the shore tomorrow. Not sure what I’ll be bringing, but I hope it’ll be interesting.

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Book 41 of 52: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

My food reading journey has come around again. It started with Omnivore’s Dilemma, Book 40 of 53 of the last “Book a Week” series — a real eye opener about what’s in most of the food you buy from the grocery story. I followed that up with Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer, which was the LAST book of the last series, and a book I give out as gifts.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)by Barbara Kingsolver (with experts by her husband and daughter) is about living a local diet for a year. She and her family swear of just about everything that does not come from the area around the Apalacia home (save olive oil, coffee, and a few other things). They start in early spring, race through summer, eat the bounty of fall, and survive off what they’ve frozen, canned and stored all winter long.

I did a little of this last year, putting up peaches and corner that I’ve used in baked and cooked dishes throughout the winter. One of my favorite childhood memories is going with my mom to the blueberry farm, buying flats and […]

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Book 40 of 52: Vision in White

It’s finally here! My article about the secret lives of romance writers is out in the June issue of New Jersey Monthly. What fun! I had a blast writing that one, which leads me into this next book: Vision In White
by Nora Roberts.

I bought this book a few weeks ago, but tamped down temptation to read it. Why? Because I wanted it for vacation. And it’s the perfect beach (or pool or wherever-you-escape book). Unlike some of Roberts titles, it does not involve murder, magic or even real threat. It’s about a woman trying to figure out love.

This book is the first of a four-part series about four friends who run a wedding business (typical Roberts pattern as well). This book’s “couples who you know will fall in love” include a the wedding photographer of the bunch and a history professor. I do love a man in tweed, so that was a nice touch.

Yes, it reads like many of her other novels, and I knew how it would end, but isn’t that the kind of book you WANT to read on vacation? Something that’s not too taxing? I finished the book half way […]

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Book 39 of 52: The End of Overeating

I’ve never been obese. I might have tipped high on the body fat scale from college until my mid-20s, but I was never so heavy that my weight was a medical issue. But certain foods are so tempted that I can rarely turn them down: a BLT with fries at a Jersey Diner; hoagie from Carmen’s deli in Bellmawr, N.J.; potato chips. Oh, potato chips. You are my demon and friend.

My response to dealing with these foods is not to have them in my home. I never buy potato chips. I don’t order hoagies. I switched my eating patterns around by writing an article about it. In writing down everything I ate and forcing myself to try something new, I retrained my brain away from processed foods and instead seek out fresh fruits and vegetables. My favorite lunch is a kick ass Greek Salad. I slip sometimes and have that BLT, that hoagie, or those chips (usually with the hoagie), but I don’t lust after them.

I never thought about why those foods are so good for me even though I know they’re not healthy. David A. Kessler, former commissioner of the FDA (and self proclaimed over-eater), examines that issue […]

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Book 38 of 52: 4th of July, Asbury Park: A History of the Promised Land

I first visited Asbury Park about a year ago. I dated someone who lived in the area, and we took a stroll on the boardwalk. It was the Jersey Shore, but it was different than the towns I wrote about in my book, which covers Atlantic City to Cape May.

We saw a lot of activity on the boardwalk, but it was an area end-capped by what looked like a graveyard and a building past its prime. On the south end was the Casino, a gutted shell attached to hold a grand carousel. On the north end was Convention Hall, a glorious building that still looked gritty inside. In between were boarded up buildings and pockets of construction. I didn’t give it too much thought — we passed over into Ocean Grove, and I got lost in the architecture there.

The scene this weekend in Asbury was nearly the same, except that gentleman is in my past and those pockets of construction were new restaurants and bars — and they were packed. The shell of a failed condo project still backs the boardwalk, but the boardwalk was alive. Out that Friday night, I went from one crowded hot spot to […]

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Scrub a dub dub

Scrubs ended tonight, and I wrote about the finale on my other blog if you wanted to check it out. I usually write about more personal things on this blog, but wanted to share with the site that gets more readers (no offense!) I has a happy ending — especially if you’ve followed along as I’ve used writing and reading to sort through heartbreak.

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Book 37 of 52: How Sex Works

A book about sex should be interesting. The topic of How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Act the Way We Doby Dr. Sharon Maolem was enough for my editor to assign me a review, and for me to accept said assignment. Getting paid to read a doctor-written book about sex and the hows and whys behind why we act in the mating race? Sign me up.

How Sex Works, though, is a disappointment, a jumbled mess that makes sex boring. With scant organization, poor writing and even worse editing, it’s a waste of time and money for any reader who wants to learn something about what the book promises to be about.

Harsh? Maybe, but I struggled reading through this one. It’s also an example of how book publishing isn’t so high and mighty that it produces only fantastic books, and of the marketing trappings that can shroud a book to make it more interesting if you see it in a bookstore.

Let’s tackle these two separately.

1. Poorly written and edited.
Reach back into your memory to what you learned about adverb and adverb phrases. While both can add description to what you’re writing, […]

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