Month: February 2010

Review: The Body Shop by Paul Solotaroff

I’ve had a free subscription to Muscle & Fitness magazine for two years – a professional courtesy. It’s stuffed with pictures of hugely muscular guys screaming, yelling, their muscles veiny and overwrought. A guy dressed as a spartan is on the cover. It’s about as muscle worshiping a magazine as I’ve ever seen.

Everything in the publication is about how to build muscle and get lean naturally or with the help of supplements (and those ads are pretty scary). But in the back, in the classifieds, are text only ads about what look to be illegal ways of getting that same muscle mass. No matter how much Mark McGuire cries for forgiveness about using steroids, he still stacked millions upon millions of dollars for doing so, and guys still want to get big.

Paul Solotroff’s The Body Shop is about the same thing: steroids, but in a far cruder form. He started juicing in 1976 as a college student, using something that was probably mixed up in a guy’s basement sink. As a skinny Jewish guy desperate for girls to pay attention, getting big was a […]

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Review: Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Cue up book two of the weekend mini-break.

I’ve avoided Jodi Picoult. I know I’m fuzzy on the details but bear with me. It was a while ago, and I only have a faint memory it: She wrote an essay for a writer’s magazine – I don’t remember which one – that annoyed me. It was right around the time when the chick lit argument burned through the literary world, and I think it had something to do with that. It reminded me of something Jennifer Weiner, who I cannot STAND, would say, so I never read any of Picoult’s books.

I ended up with Vanishing Acts because I found a used copy in an antique store for $5. I added it onto my bill, which also included an obnoxious yellow and white cocktail ring.

For $5, it was worth it. Vanishing Acts is a story of disappearance told from a six points of view (I think). She gives each character his or her own voice and writing style. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because, if I’d have […]

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Review: Water Hazard by Don Dahler

I didn’t think I’d like Water Hazard by Don Dahler. It’s a mystery novel. It’s manly. It’s about golf. I dated a pro golfer in high school. Our four years together was enough birdies and eagles and par for me, thank you very much.

But I needed a book to take with me on my weekend trip, and the galley of Water Hazard came right before I left (it’ll be published in March). Despite a wobbly start, I got sucked into the story of Huck Doyle, sometimes pro golfer, sometimes private eye, as he runs around Hawaii trying to solve his friend’s father’s murder while also playing in a pro golf tournament. There’s plenty of booze, babes and golf talk. I skimmed through most of the golf stuff, which made the reading easier.

It’s an incredibly male novel, but I ended up liking it anyway. It reminded me of all those Clive Cussler novels I read as a teenager. For an airport book it was pretty good. It kept me occupied during the three-hour delay on my flight to Minneapolis, and on my three […]

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Review: How to Make Love like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson

Don’t freak out, people. This isn’t an instruction manual. How to Make Love Like a Porn Star is Jenna Jameson’s memoir about, well, how she became a porn star.

I’ve read parts of this book since it was published in 2004. I read a few chapters at the Barnes & Noble in Philadelphia while waiting to meet a friend; another few chapters from another friend’s copy that he kept on his coffee table. But I never wanted to pony up to buy the hardback copy.

I needed a book to take with me on what I hope will be my flight tomorrow, and bought the paperback edition at Borders. But given that we got socked with another huge storm in New Jersey, I was stuck instead and read all 577 pages in two days.

It’s not the best memoir ever, but it’s pretty interesting. She doesn’t try to hide that she had a ghost writer either. Neil Strauss, who’s been on the blog before, worked with her on the book. I lost my way a bit in the middle when the book shifted from narrative to transcripts of Jenna […]

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Review: The Edge of Ruin by Irene Fleming

I cracked open The Edge of Ruinon Friday night, just as a light snow started to fall. By Saturday, when I was in the thick of the mystery, almost 30 inches of the white stuff had piled up outside. Sunday morning, I raced to the end of the book before setting out on a 10 mile snow run.

I therefore dub The Edge of Ruin by Irene Fleming (who also writes under the name Kate Gallison) my blizzard book (it will work as a beach book, too – it’s not published until April 27).

I’m not a big mystery fan, but this story about a murder on an independent movie set – a 1909 independent movie set – was perfect for being stuck inside.

It’s largely based on fact, too. In 1909, Thomas Edison (yes, THAT Thomas Edison) held a monopoly on the movie industry. He employed “Trust detectives” to bust up any independent companies. Sometimes they’d walk up to the camera and break it.

Yet – in this novel at least – Adam Weiss decided to defy Edison and create four movies anyway. But the book’s not really about […]

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Review: One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell

Alrighty! Last book from vacation!

I found this one at the airport bookstore. Even though I’ve enjoyed two of Candace Bushnell’s novels, I never bought one, nor have I followed her career.

I read Lipstick Jungle and Trading Up while visiting my grandparents because those books were available for free in their retirement home community.

But I had a Borders gift certificate, and I do love wandering around airport bookstores. They try to stock whatever is popular for different groups of travelers in a small space. One Fifth Avenue, this time, appealed to me.

Like Lipstick Jungle, it wasn’t terribly serious and perfect for beachside reading. It’s about the residents of one building in New York City, the politics of that building, and a snapshot what real estate means to some people in New York. It is a world beyond me, but it was interesting to read about it (geez, hedge fund managers), especially as it takes place right before the housing bust.

My favorite part of the book was Bushnell’s skewering of people who want to be famous for […]

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Review: Hot Damn! by James W. Hall

When I tell people I went to college in Florida, I’m just as surprised as they are – still, nearly eight years after graduating. “You’re SO Northeast,” is the usual reply, or something along the lines of how I seem Ivy league, preppy or some other such silliness that really means: Why would someone who went to and performed well at an upper class public high school (my parents paid for tuition for me to go there) head south to a small private college with virtually no reputation north of the Carolinas? The answer is simple: Money.

I wanted to go to Boston University with all the passion and fervor my 17 year old body could muster. I got in, too. But BU is expensive. My parents were divorcing, so money was tight, and BU didn’t offer any financial help.

The University of Tampa did. They were in the middle of a huge recruiting drive and kept throwing money at me. “It’s not a matter of whether you get in,” an admissions counselor told me when I made my on campus visit. “It’s a matter of how much money we give you.” […]

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Review: The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch

I got a galley of Allison Winn Scotch’s upcoming book The One That I Want the DAY before I left on vacation. I’ve enjoyed Allison’s first two books, The Department of Lost and Found and Time of My Life. I’ve also followed along as she transitioned from freelance writer to novelist (she still freelances but not that the level she used to), so I feel a separate sort of joy in reading her work.

The One That I Want is about Tilly Farmer, a 32-year old high school guidance counselor who works at the same school where she was once a student. She married her high school sweetheart, settled in that same town, and expected her life to spool out from there.

But everything’s not OK in Tilly’s world. First, her mother died of cancer when Tilly was in high school, which tore apart her family. It kicked off her father’s drinking problem. Her younger sister became one of those stick thin aspiring musicians who ran off to Los Angeles at the first chance and comes storming back […]

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Vacation Reading

I read three books while on vacation – well, 3.5 if you count the one I started on the flight home. I usually post in “real time” i.e. as soon as I’ve finished reading the book, but I’m not going to rush to post everything at once. Stay tuned!

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