A unicorn is a mythical beast, but it is also a term that some use in “the lifestyle” to represent a single woman who likes to “play” with couples. In the self published book Unicorn by Isabella Martin (not her real name), it’s the latter. The book was written by a 30 year old woman who is a lawyer and who, by all accounts, seems reasonably well put together on the outside. On the inside, however, not all is well. She is battling deep depression brought on by a terrible childhood with an unstable mother, an abortion she now regrets, and other emotional issues that she attempts to dull the pain of, with dangerous sex. After a failed marriage, she turns to other men for validation and comfort, and this slowly escalates into a need for more sex, and then unconventional sex. As she spirals out of control as a sex addict, she ends up craving all sorts of risky hook-ups that include descriptions of group sex, masochism, and even gang bangs. She lies to her friends and leads a double life that soothes and yet, frightens her. The author seems like an intelligent woman with tons of problems, but not totally crazy. Her breaking point oddly comes not from the more violent sex acts, but from a visit to a sex club where swingers are doing their thing. Interestingly, it is only at the very end of the book at the sex club, that the author even mentions being worried about disease or even violence or death. But in the end, she begins to realize how far she has gone to mask her pain and suffering. Eventually, she starts to come out of her depression to re-enter a relatively normal life. Who knows how accurate the account of this woman’s journey into, and out of, a life as a sex addict really is. The book is reasonably tasteful and sounds truthful, compared to many fiction books that are not half as horrifyingly sad and yet fascinating. Using sex as a coping mechanism isn’t a new theme in books, but this one really is personal. Not everyone has the courage to share such an intimate and depraved story. You can read it, and come to your own conclusions.
I used to be a fan of the advice of Randy Cohen, the original writer of “The Ethicst.” Each week he would dispense ” advice on the sorts of everyday situations that put people in quandaries. I absorbed this advice not in print where he worked for 12 years at the New York Times as a columnist, but on his weekly podcasts while my husband and I were in the car. We found the issues, and Cohen’s point of view, thought-provoking. What often followed were long discussions about whether or not we agreed with the advice, and how we would act in similar circumstances. My other connection to Mr. Cohen is less theoretical. The Advice Sisters were once featured with Mr. Cohen in a piece about Ann and Abby in US Magazine (although I am sure he doesn’t remember that). Randy Cohen is no longer working as The Ethicist, but he compiled some of the best of the ethical situations he once opined upon, and that one would find in everyday life in a book called: Be Good, How To Navigate The Ethics of Everything By Randy Cohen (Chronicle Books 2012). This book covers a lot of quandaries I recognized from his column and podcasts. If you haven’t read or heard them previously, you’re in for a treat of thought-provoking questions with their Cohen-esque responses. The author does try hard to see the issues from varying points of view, and he does this both skillfully and amusingly. It’s a great read, and the topics will be “dinner party” fodder for years to come. This is also a great book to leave in your guest bedroom for those late night readers and early morning risers.
Mika Brezesinski has a true political pedigree. She is the daughter the foreign policy expert and former US National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brezinski, and her mother is the grandniece of Czecholsvakia’s former President Edvard Beneš. She is also a journalist and television host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” with former Republican representative Joe Scarborough and she has something else: she has a lifelong and serious eating disorder. It is about this, and the issues surrounding food, obesity, health, diets and her obsession with food, that are the topic of Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction – and My Own by Mika Brezesinski (Weinstein Books May 2013). As with many women who seem to have it all, Mika’s life under the surface, is hardly picture-perfect. While she lectures against obesity, she personally struggles to be thin and control her own serious eating urges. It’s a grim picture, and you may not even agree with Brezinski’s views about why America is overweight and what we can (and should) do about it, but it is her book. As such, she is free to say what she genuinely feels is right. More importantly than her views on what the rest of us can or should be doing about food issues, is her own story. Her battle with food and that of her good friend, who also struggles in a different way with food, really are heartfelt, interesting, and courageous in the description. While the book doesn’t really provide anything all that new or earth-shattering about being overweight or the other, general food and health issues, it’s the personal stories plus those of other high profile people, and the “how-to” tips, that might just help a reader or two to lose weight and exercise. If nothing else, you’ll get insights from people who also have food issues and struggles, including singer Jennifer Hudson, the late Nora Ephron, Gayle Kind, Governor Chris Christie, and others who have had to focus on the battle of the bulge. It’s a good book, well written, and thoughtfully presented. Let it empower you, too.
How Do You Grab a Naked Lady, a Memoir by Sharon L. Hicks (Abbot Press 2013) is a strange and sad tale of a woman growing up with a mentally ill mother and a idealist father. The story is one of family dysfunction and their consequences. Her mother was charming, but also unstable with the tendency to curse, do impulsive things, and occasionally, walk around naked in public. If half of what the author mentions she endured with her mother is true, you can only thank your lucky stars that her mom wasn’t yours. Not surprisingly, the author longs for and fashions what she thinks will be a traditional, stable life, complete with husband, kids, and the white picket fence, but seemingly, the only real constant was the instability of her mother. After a number of failed marriages and a lot mental anguish, the author finally figures out how to be her authentic self, with her mother as a sort of “spirit guide.” It isn’t one of those books you’d call a happy story, but still, it is sort of hopeful. The author writes about what she knows, and she does it well, and in a way that will grab your attention. If you think your childhood was not so great, read about Sharon’s and feel better. Takes of women with terrible childhoods abound, but this one grabbed me.
I am so tired of books about all those ambitious, intelligent, obviously pretty, but somewhat naive young women who make misguided love connections on the job, but after some angst, still triumph in life, love and (in most cases), career. That would be the plot of yet another easy-reading (but fun) book called Domestic Affairs, by Bridget Siegel, (Weinsteain Books, 2013). My soft cover reviewer’s copy comes with the statement “The Fifty Shades of Grey of Political novels” – CNN Starting Point. Maybe this reviewer just wanted to be on the cover of a book, but really? It’s mild and not erotic sex that mixes our heroine, the sassy fund-raiser, Olivea Greenley, when she gets involved with the Georgia Governor running for higher office, Landon Taylor. The characters are well developed, and you can’t help but like them (other than the big bad Governor, who comes across as crazy and unscrupulous, of course), but do we really need another book about a sassy young woman who makes all the wrong decisions, and then wriggles out of her panties, and then her problems, before the last page is revealed? Do we really need to read about another (fictional?) adulterous politician with a wife and kids who should know better, but is reckless enough not to care? I wanted to like it, and I wanted to care about the characters. Alas, Domestic Affairs failed to win my vote.
Have you always wanted to make Indian food at home, but didn’t really know how? Indian food requires some (semi) exotic ingredients that my local stores don’t carry, and sometimes, the recipes are just too complicated. Easy Indian Cooking Second Edition by Suneeta Vaswani (Robert Rose 2013) is launching this month, and features recipes you will not only know and love, but actually be able to successfully make at home. If you’re not familiar with Indian cooking but want to learn, this book is a good way to get started, too. Common ingredients and spices are described in the beginning of the book, along with tips to help make your culinary experience more smooth. Alas, even if you live in an area where you can pick up the ingredients you need, you may find that many of the recipes require multiple steps, and lots of different ingredients. They’re not one pan wonders. Still, that’s not the fault of the author or the cookbook, it’s just simply the nature of the cuisine. But when I looked at the recipes, I realized that many of them rely on a lot of vegetables and the dishes appear to be very healthy. Something like Lamb Braised in Yogurt, Tomatoes and Onions may use a ton of spices, but it’s light and very flavorful, and well worth the effort. For something easy and cool, but different for Spring and Summer, try a Savory Yogurt or Sweet Yogurt Cooler. Easy, and delicious! For under $20.00 this book is going to be your “go to” for Indian Cooking and for new food ideas. Well done!