There is a certain genre of chic-lit romances that women just seem to love: that of the young, vulnerable beauty and the tough guy. Launching just this month, The Cowboy Takes A Bride by Lori Wilde (Avon, March 2012) is just such a book. The pleasing formula always has a reluctant young woman finding herself back “home” for one reason or another, and in the course of what she’s doing, she finds the sexy man who she knows is impossible, but also impossible to forget. In this case, the young woman (wedding planner Mariah Callahan) has come home to deal with a dilapidated ranch she inherited from her estranged father, and the sexy tough guy is Joe Daniels, an ex-champion bull rider turned cutting-horse cowboy. Of course there is the back and forth, sexual tension, mistaken intentions, and eventually, the realization that the person they’ve tried so hard to ignore is the one they really wanted, all along. Yes, there’s a happy ending. Ah, bliss! To me it’s just too predictable, but if you love a love story, this one will satisfy.
All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson (William Morrow December 20, 2011) is a true page-turner. It’s the sort of novel that pulls you in and makes you want to read it until it’s done. The book is set in Shanghai in the 1930’s when a daughter’s duty was the ultimate requirement. A dutiful daughter, Feng must become the bride of a wealthy businessman she doesn’t even really know, when her sister, his fiancé, dies suddenly and her parents insist upon Feng taking her place, with the man’s consent. Barely more than a child, Feng soon learns how to navigate the restrictive, prescribed life in front of her, and that includes bearing a male heir for the Sang family of which she is now a part. As the story unfolds, Feng makes a decision that will come to haunt her for the rest of her life. As the story continues, Feng figures out what she needs to do to survive, but the book takes a turn when her secret is discovered and she runs away from the cosseted life she had been leading, only to find herself thrust into the reality of the revolution happening in China. The book is exciting, the characters, vivid. If I have any criticisms about the book it’s the ending, which is just sad and alas, the nook just sort of …ends…without the resolution of the story that you might have expected or wanted. But all in all, a great read.
I had mixed feelings about Spin by Catherine McKenzie (William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (February 7, 2012). Now out in paperback as well as in hard cover, the book is like a party cloudy day — grim for most of the time, with spots of brightness in-between. The plot is a bit unrealistic, but the idea of a young woman who has to go through something difficult to reach her goal and understand who she is, makes the storyline, work. The main character is writer and music lover, Katie Sandford, who is irresponsible enough to get so drunk the night before a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview at her favorite music magazine, that she literally barfs during the interview the next day. If someone did that while interviewing for a job at advicesisters.net I’d show them the door for good. But, like Hollywood, this story has the magazine sending her for an assignment perfect for her as a “trial” for a job in the future. All Katie has to do is follow “it girl” actress Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop (and complete the 30-day program without getting kicked out), they’ll reconsider her for the job at The Line. Obviously, Katie has to start taking stock of herself, her goals, and her future. As the story unfolds, she has her ups and downs. She’s vulnerable, but honestly, unlike-able. But I liked this quirky book, and the fact that Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (one of my favorite bands) is mentioned multiple times, and on Katie’s playlist of favorite songs.
Did you ever notice that sometimes, people look like whatever their passion is? Dog owners look like their dogs, and couples who have been together along time start to look more alike? The head shot of Emma Staub, author of Other People We Married (Riverhead Trade Paperback, February 2012) is a perfect visual for her writing style. The author’s photo on the back of the book shows a pale, young woman with a pinched, resigned expression, and long, thin, straight hair. Her book of short stories about relationships of all types, evoke the same. I liked the stories for their varied relationship issues, and characters with diverse sexual orientations and ages. Her writing style is excellent. But the mostly urban New York-centric stories will appeal to that audience the most. And while it’s not written in stone that a book of relationship stories needs to be happy, these really made me feel very sad. I read most of the book in Mexico, on sparkling, sunny days when I was quite content, and the stories were pretty depressing. However, relationships can be messy, and Staub’s take on them, is a good read.
If you like fast-paced mystery stories, you’ll be intrigued by And She Was, a Novel of Suspense by Alison Gaylin Harper Collins February 28, 2012). The book has a few unique facets, such as the main character, Brenna Spector. She is a missing-persons investigator with a rare disorder: She can recall every detail of every day of her life. The disorder sounds bizarre, but apparently, there are a few real, rare cases of it. But for the purposes of this book, Brenna’s disorder is useful in her work. Alas, if you never forget anything, you also are cursed to remember events that are traumatic, such as the time long-ago day that Brenna’s sister stepped into a strange car, never to be seen again. In this book, Brenna is hired to investigate the disappearance of Carol Wentz, a woman who, like herself, had been secretly obsessed with a missing-child case Brenna investigated 11 years ago. The plot has plenty of twists and turns and unexpected surprised to keep the mystery fan happily involved. It’s the perfect “airplane trip” novel. The photo above is of the hardcover version, but it’s now in paperback, too.
One wonders why someone would voluntarily, and without compensation, put their most intimate thoughts about sex on the internet, but that’s exactly what The Sex Diaries project is doing. The Sex Diaries Project collects anonymous Diaries from around the globe and invites people to read other Diaries, write their own, or think about joining “the Quickie,” where one can see what’s possible in sex and relationships. In The Sex Diaries Project : What We’re Saying About What We’re Doing by Arianne Cohen (John Wiley & Sons February 2012) Arianne Cohen collected 1,500 Sex Diaries over four years, and puts them into a book, loosely categorized by type of relationship that is not limited solely to heterosexual singles, those in relationships, and married couples. Given society’s apparently insiatiable need to be voyeurs and enjoy “reality” at the same time, there is a television show in the works. But the book, advertised as a “saucy read” left me wondering about the people who are included. For starters, not everyone has sex on the brain 24/7 and if they do, they’re not describing it in detail for all to read on the internet. As with review web sites, those who tend to participate are not middle of the road, but those on either end of the spectrum who are either very satisfied, or very dissatisfied with something. In this case, the focus is on sexual relationships. The book is well edited and organized, but obviously the stories were selected (out of thousands of so-called diaries) not just for their titillating escapades, but for their diversity. Readers can certainly enjoy their from a voyeuristic standpoint, but I’d caution them not to believe everything they read, nor to assume that these people are the majority. I’ve looked at the diary submission form on the Sex Diaries Project Web Site, and as far as I can tell there is no “vetting” of what people put up there. Many may just be living out a virtual fantasy that comes across as their real life. Like so many things on the net, what you see isn’t always the true thing. This book may indeed be a “saucy read,” but that doesn’t mean it is true reality. Enjoy it for what it is, but I’d caution you not to measure your own relationships by it.
When I saw the title Wabi Sabi Love: The Art of Finding the Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships by Arielle Ford (Harper One, 2012) at first I thought the the title was wasabi love, which would mean love was like a horseradish type root that is used with sushi. But actually, that’s not too far from the truth, because relationships really do have the bitter along with the sweet, and ugliness with beauty. The point of the book, confusion aside, is that wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. When it comes to modern relationships, the author is pointing out that no one is perfect, and that to have a healthy, long lasting, loving relationship, you have to accept and forgive. The author (who is not a member of the medical profession) believes that with a simple Wabi Sabi shift in perception, couples can have a deeper, more loving and more fulfilling relationship. The author makes it sound simple, and provides real life examples. That’s all good and well if it’s something small, but disappointments and betrayals that are larger, take a lot more forgiveness and acceptance. Learning to trust someone again when they’ve profoundly hurt you, is not a simple task. But in support of the concept, couples who are happy together for a long time really do have to accept each other, warts and all, balance the good with the bad, and forgive trespasses as partners do. In other words, you have to want to stay together, and then work on it. No one is perfect, and that imperfection can sometimes strengthen a relationship, long term. If you are in a relationship for the long haul and really want to be there, you will! You really don’t have to buy this book to know this, but the book is a nice read for those who may be wondering whether or not they should stay, or go.
Kiss Your Customer: 77 Reasons Why Sales & Service Are Just Like Dating & Relationships, by Andy Masters (Hawthorne Press, 2010) proves that there is really nothing new about how to find a mate. But funnyman and speaker Andy, makes a similar analogy to the one I made in both Recruiting Love: Using the Business Skills You Have to Find the Love You Want and You Are the Product: How to Sell Yourself to Employers – that dating like anything else in life, involves thought, persistance, patience, and hard work, plus a smattering of business savvy. And, he makes it funny (ish) by relating funny instances and stories that might make you feel better, if not able to really date smarter. Dating is not always easy or pleasant, and suggesting that it is, leaves a someone who really wants to find someone feeling frustrated. At least this feel-good book of wry humor won’t send you fleeing to the fridge for a pint of ice-cream. Andy Masters isn’t offering any earth-shattering news about how to find a mate, but he does handle wince-worthy moments with humor, such as this way to apologize: “One time I sent a chocolate apology with an edible photo of myself. The note said: “Sorry, please don’t bite my head off! By the way, if you or your company makes a lot of mistakes—you can preorder 100 of these and get a volume discount!” It might not really be the way to someone’s heart, but it did make me smile, as did many other funny examples that the author weaves into the book. This book really isn’t a dating bible, but for someone who is frustrated with the dating scene, the humorous spin it puts on this decidedly unfunny topic, is worth the pick-me-up. And, as I always say about dating books (even the ones I personally wrote), if you take away just one hint, one truth, one new idea, you’ve more than gotten your money’s worth.