Nine Nifty New Books for June

As Summer approaches, there are more reasons than ever to find a read a good book, be it on a Kindle or Nook, iPad, tablet, or simply in lovely, traditional paper.  Who could resist sitting in a lawn chair on a sunny afternoon with a book and a cool beverage?  What trip to the airport or train station is complete without a good book to divert one’s attention away from noise, chaos and delays?!

While you’re waiting for whatever it is that you need to do, it’s nice to be able to do something else (like read a good book).  Memorable books are a must-have in your Summertime tote.  Here are nine nifty new ones to consider with something for everyone: chick lit, autobiography,  biography, how-to, suspense, travel and more. I hope you like this selection!

 

I am not a fan of most chick-lit, but I am a fan of Valerie Frankel’s fun writing style, and her books that are full of interesting characters that you might actually want to get to know in real life. Her dialogue is flawless, and the situations she places her characters in are realistic.  You can really connect with them. New in chick lit is:   Four of a Kind by Valerie Frankel (Ballentine, 2012). This novel centers around four mothers whose children attend a private school in Brooklyn.  The neighborhood landmarks are familiar to me, and that made the book more fun. But the point of the book is that these four women would never be friends under normal circumstances and are brought together to work on the diversity committee for the school school. As the book unfolds, the glue that binds them while it exposes their secrets, is a  “truth or dare” vehicle of the card game,  Poker.  The book, like the four women, seems awkward at first, but it continues to pick up speed until the ending.  The reader gets to experience the transformation of these women. It was a satisfying, easy to read, feel good book that makes for a perfect Summer read.

When I first saw the title of the book The YOU Code by Judi James and James Moore (Vermillion Books 2010) that I was sent recently, I thought it would really be interesting to learn about how habits might impact your life. Alas, I quickly realized that this silly, snarky book can’t be taken seriously, even though it looks at first like it should be educational, self-help.  But if it’s supposed to be humorous, it fails. This book isn’t funny in the judgements it makes, from the coffee you drink, to the underthings you choose. The author, Judi James started her career as a leading catwalk model and trained many big names at her modelling school in Chelsea, Naomi Campbell among them (and we don’t need a crystal ball to know about her body language, do we?!).  Judi is supposedly now a television expert in body language, social behaviour, image, workplace culture and communication skills.  But if she really has those skills, she could have used them to add something witty but wise to this genre, and she didn’t. I was amazed that anyone would publish this book.  It has a nasty tone that would make an insecure person who really wanted to know about body language,  feel even more depressed. And, it’s not amusing enough to put it in the “loo” for a laugh.  I usually believe that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all, but here, all I can find to say that is positive is this: the cover art is cute.   I was really disappointed  to read something this dumb. However, if you like semi-mean-spirited snark writing, you might like it just because it is what it is….but don’t follow the advice!

I am a fan of quirky, self-published books. A delightful one is:  A Change of Habit: A Spiritual Journey from Sister Mary Kateri to Sister Mary Vodka (ebook, $5.99 at amazon and barnesandnoble.com). Patty Ptak Kogutek, the former Sister Mary Kateri, gives the reader a fascinating, intimate look at what it might be like to become a nun, and then leave the order.  For many years Patty struggled to become her own person and make her own decisions.  Although she wasn’t sure that being a nun was really her calling, she did so as to not let her family down. But after years of unhappiness, she finally left the convent, married and then divorced, and finally found the happiness she sought (thanks to time, and therapy) with a second husband. This is the kind of story that is stranger and more interesting than any fiction novel. The lesson to be learned? You can’t live your life to please someone else.  To be a good partner and to be truly happy, one must be honest about their own needs and desires, claim their power, and then follow their heart. The author writes well, the book is well organized, and it truly is a rare find for those who want to read something just a bit different from the same-old, same-old.

In the 1960’s, when jet travel became more accessible to the middle class,  you would be hard-pressed to find a bookshelf that didn’t include Arthur Frommer’s classic: Europe on Five Dollars a Day.  This slim paperback book, published in 1957 by Arthur Frommer, gave Americans who wanted to travel in Europe a modern, economical way to do it.  Instead of travel guides that were written merely for wealthy travelers with “staff,” this book emphasized how to travel “on the cheap.”  Decades of Americans carried around their dog-eared copies as they made their own “grand tours” through Europe.  Europe on 5 wrong turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide, by Doug Mack (Perigee 2012) is a brand new book with a brand-new take on what it would be like to take that original $5.00 a day book, and revisit the places Frommer initially suggested.  Mr. Mack is a young man who was inspired by his mother’s letters from the 1960’s, written to her fiancé (Mack’s father) as she made her way through Europe prior to getting married. As Mack quickly discovers, you can’t really “go home again.”  Mack attempts to travel through Europe using the original guide, but, of course, many of the places Frommer suggests to stay, eat, and even see, are no longer in existence and the dollar is not worth the same.  So he  “Frommers” through the countries, trying to find places that might be similar, and in today’s terms, as inexpensive. The result is a book that shows both the joy and the misery of budget travel. I read this book while on a European vacation that was quite luxe, nothing like a $5 a day experience. And yet, some of the true-isms about travel were as valid for me and for today as they were back in the 1960′s, and also for the author this book. Alas, the author was sometimes charming and witty, and sometimes his unhappiness just spilled off the pages and depressed me.  My husband also read the book, and found it a fascinating view of travel without the same issues I had with the writing.  But in any case, the book is a fast-paced read that will either have you ready to pack your bags and perhaps eat Kebobs in every country of Europe, or relieved that you’re just an armchair traveler entertained by an accounting of someone else’s trip.

Sneak Peek Review: Mention the name “Marilyn Monroe” and practically everyone on the planet has a visual of the blonde bombshell that left the universe, way too soon.  A new book called Marilyn Monroe: The Final Years by Keith Badman (Thomas Dunne Books on sale 7/7/2012) will provide more information about the actress.  Marilyn’s story is so interesting, if tragic, that it’s hard to deliver a boring book on the subject.  You’ll have to wait a few months for this one, but you can pre-order it.  The writing is a bit dry but it is also clear that the author has closely scrutinized the final years of Marilyn Monroe’s life, and does his level best to almost academically share some new views about those years, and also of the circumstances surrounding her infamous death.  He also has some interesting thoughts about several other almost iconic incidents in the actress’s life, such as the night she sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President” for JFK, her relationship with Joe DiMaggio, and how some supposed supporters, took advantage of her.  You can’t help but feel pain and sorrow for this beautiful, “candle in the wind.”  Like Whitney Houston and so many other wonderful entertainers, her bright light somehow, sadly,  couldn’t make it to a natural end. The author has written other books including subjects featuring the Beach Boys, The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. His Marilyn Monroe book is a skilled and worthwhile account that will be out in a month, making a good read for your Spring or Summer vacation, or a staycation!

Books about planning a wedding are nothing new, but a new book called: The Running of the Bride- My Frenzied Quest to Tie the Knot, Tear Up the Dance Floor, and Figure out Why My 15 Minutes of Fame Included Commercial Breaks by Rachel Eddey (Skirt! books, May 2012) is a really amusing glimpse inside the mind of a woman who transitions with wedding plans from anormal woman into a contest-obsessed “bride-zilla” where the celebration becomes so magnified and her quest for “free stuff” so obsessive, that the reason for marriage becomes obscured. The author is an obviously smart woman who, like some many brides, just got caught up in the process of putting together a wedding to the point where the man and the marriage ends up taking a back seat to the party.  She really gives readers an intimate, no-holds-barred look at how even the most sane girl can get giddy with wedding plans.  And she also talks about being on so called “reality” television including Rock the Reception and Say Yes to the Dress.  The author has a witty writing style and it’s a lot of fun to read. Follow Rachel and her “showbiz”  fiance through their wedding plans from a Sex & the City Proposal (no really, on the set with SJP as a witness) through to her literally “on camera” wedding extravaganza,  through to a honeymoon in Aruba where reality (not reality TV) finally kick in.    You’ll enjoy it whether you are committed to being single, engaged, or already married and relieved your wedding planning is over (but hopefully, never, the honeymoon).

Among my memorabilia is a Playbill from the original Broadway show, HAIR.  On the cover, is Diane Keaton’s signature.  She was note-able as the only cast member who didn’t take of all her clothes. Even then, Diane, delighted audiences.  But Diane is best know for starring in all those wonderful Woody Allen films and then later on, in many other good movies. She she won an Academy Award for her most beloved role in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.  She was that kooky, love-able character who wore men’s clothing with such panache that her style spawned a fashion craze that is still popular today. Diane became an even bigger star as she grew older (and severed her romantic relationship with Woody Allen).  While Annie Hall is synonymous with Diane Keaton, Annie Hall is a character,  and Diane Keaton is a real person. In Then Again by Diane Keaton(Random House May 2012 the actress writes about her life in real (not just “reel”) terms. No one’s life is a story book, and Keaton’s isn’t, either.  Keaton’s dreams took hard work to realize and she had plenty of real life to deal with. She suffered from an eating disorder, and plenty of personal pain, including dealing with her father’s death from a brain tumor, and having to come to terms with the horrific, slow death of her mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s.  Keaton is, not surprisingly, intelligent and while I am sure the book was well edited, it is a good book.  In fact, the writing is a bit like I’d expect from her Annie Hall character: a bit of a wacky mix of  Keaton, with pieces of the journals of her mother,  Dorothy Deanne Keaton Hall, who died in 2008. The book isn’t a santized version of the actress’s life  and family so fans and the merely curious will really get a better idea of what this special lady is like as a person and not just a character on screen.  This book brings up real emotions that will make you feel. At the end of the day, the message is clear:   family ties are important, essential.

Siblings are supposed to love (or at least like) one another, but in Unordinary Love by Antonio F. Vianna (Authorhouse 2012) the relationship between a brother and sister goes beyond the line, with the predictable, and disastrous,  results. The self-published book is both tense and creepy, with taboo and adult topics that include love, death incest, and more than one crime.  The author worked for more than 20 years in human resources, and I’ll wager he’s seen a lot of strange and inappropriate behavior. But I can’t say that I found the characters in this book either like-able or completely believeable.  However, he must have had some real life scenario in mind when he wrote Unordinary Love,  although I haven’t a clue what that would be.   I can’t say that I found the book artful in terms of the writing, but the somewhat titillating characters and intriguing content, kept my interest.

With wedding and special event season upon us, books that inspire budding photographers to take unique and better photographs, are sure to be in demand.  But one of my issues with “how-to” photo books is that while all offer the beauty of extraordinary photographs by the authors, the books rarely speak personally to a reader, they’re merely coffee table beauties with sketchy details about photos you couldn’t possibly hope to re-create. The Luminous Portrait: Capture the Beauty of Natural Light for Glowing, Flattering Photographs, by Elizabeth Messina, with Jacqueline Tobin (Amphoto Books, may 2012) provides a more personal and approachable way to create exceptional pictures. The book is personally directed more to you, the reader,  not just a visual homage to the photographer’s skill.  The author also shares some of her personal success and make suggestions to readers about how they too, might become professionals (or at least pro-style photographers).  Her advice doesn’t stop with how she took a photo, but includes everything from suggestions for building a business, to effective business cards, to working the “net.”  The author/photographer is a wedding and celebrity portrait photographer. Your subjects might not be models or celebrities, and you might not even personally want or be able to emulate her style, but even the average photography buff will gain at least a few new ideas to enhance a hobby, or enhance a photography business, or at least just take better portraits.

 

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Comments

  1. I need to to thank you for this very good read!! I definitely loved every bit of it.
    I have got you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post…

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