I apologize, Mea Culpa, I’m sorry, lo siento mucho. It’s been months since I’ve posted a book review roundup. Along with merging my two relationship web sites into one, I’ve been busy co-authoring a book. It has theworking title: Road Gypsies: the Unsung Lives & Untold Stories of Rock and Roll Roadies . If you want to know more about the project visit the Road Gypsies Book Project Facebook page, and follow on Twitter @RoadGypsiesBook. If you are an agent or a publisher who is interested in any of my books including this one, please use my contact form and let’s connect.
What I don’t have, is the same amount of time to read books as I once did. As a result, there were some interesting books that I had to put aside or simply overlooked. Most of these were published in 2014 (and a few in 2013). They are still worthy of your consideration. I’ve also included a few brand new books that you’ll want to know about.
ROMANCE IN AN EXOTIC LOCALE!
Drowning by Jassy DeJong (Astor + Blue Editions (December 7, 2014) was sent to me as an E book ($4.95 eBook) although it is also available in a print version. The main character is newlywed New York City photographer, Erin Mitchell, who is en route with her controlling husband to a photographic assignment in South Africa. Before they can reach their destination, a flash flood washes away Erin’s vehicle and she nearly drowns. Somehow, she finds herself without any of her equipment, belongings or her husband, stranded at a luxury safari lodge (this may seem to be a real stroke of incredible luck or a plot vehicle that is just highly implausible. But this is a true romance novel, so just go with it.
While recuperating, she meets Nicholas, the owner of the luxurious Leopard Rock lodge. Stuck there for several days due to the flood damage with no way to really get back to her husband, Erin begins to realize that her husband isn’t all that she thought he was. In addition, with a bit of prodding from Nicholas, she begins to have feelings for him. Should she give in and if she does, what will happen to her marriage and her entire belief system? Without giving away the rest of the story, I can say that it kept my attention through two very long airplane rides, and the ending, well, it’s predictable but satisfying.
MAKEOVERS FOR MATURE WOMEN:
I really love the premise behind Beautiful Encore – Makeovers for Mature Women by Anne Reiser (Greenleaf Book Group Press January 2015). This is a newly-minted book of makeovers and inspiring bios of accomplished, interesting women, with before and after photos , the focus being on women who are all over age 60. The author is a stylish woman herself who hardly looks to be 70 years old. But while the idea of this book is great, I don’t think the book helps women feel great about themselves, even though that was the intent. For example, the first statement from the author is: “Mature women do not often hear ”You look sensational!” but, in fact, most women of every age are not used to hearing that!
The author immediately sends the message that older women can hope to look “nice” or “appropriate and that just perpetuates the kind of thinking we need to avoid. The basic tips provided in the book to re-start a woman’s thinking might help someone who is really “stuck” and I’ll give the author points for that. After that its downhill. The women selected for the make-overs were average looking, simply not dressed up in the “before” photos. They certainly looked more put together with full makeup, styled hair, and dresses instead of shapeless sweats or jeans.
However, as I flipped through page after page of the “after” photos I noticed a disturbing pattern: the after photos seems eerily the same: the women had boring bubble or bob hairstyles. They were wearing in dowdy/frumpy, unexciting outfits that would translate as unimaginative, conservative and uninspired. These make-overs for the most part would render these fabulous women invisible in a crowd, and sexually unappealing.
The book had the opportunity to show how women over 60 can sizzle with personality but it’s just not in this book. I’m not suggesting that the author had to clad these women in catsuits or mini dresses to make them head-turners, but by making them into cookie-cutter grandmas with no nod to modern style, the message is “conform to your age, and don’t take risks.” The author had the opportunity to show women that they can break free of those stereotypes, show their personal style, and be fabulous. She failed to do it.
GIFT A GUY WHO NEEDS A GIRLFRIEND:
How to Get Laid Before The Main Course: A Gentleman’s Approach For the Big Date by ViMal (Friesen Press (April 29, 2014) is a slim book with a titillating title that is obviously meant to capture your attention...and it does. But hold onto that package of Trojans, because this isn’t a book about sex, really, it is a cookbook with a lot of very basic information for the clueless host about how to prepare a dinner “a deux” for a special woman. The idea is that if you wow her with wine and food, perhaps she will hang around for “more.” The author is a world traveler who claims to have made kitchen skills as well as being a “player” when it comes to women.
The book promises that in less than 30 minutes, any man can go from “rookie to rockstar.” While the bragging is a bit much, the book does lay out (pun intended) a plan. But only socially unsophisticated men would need to know how to make a quick exit if necessary. The tips are common sense. The recipes are easy enough for any man to master. This is the kind of book you give your male friend who is having real trouble closing the deal with his dates.
DITCH YOUR PARTNER THIS YEAR:
This is the time of year when a lot of people break up, move out, and decide that their marriages aren’t working. Perhaps they will be seeking “how to” books on divorce and might want to check out 37 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Divorce: Learn How to Save Time, Money, Your Kids, and Yourself by Nicole Baras Feuer, Francine Baras, and Lynn Prowitt (Balboa Press , April 24, 2014). Lovers of romance that most of us are, we might not want to believe it, but at least half of all marriages end in divorce. Nicole Baras Feuer, M.S., a divorced mother of two, and her mother, Francine Baras, L.C.S.W., a child of divorce, have founded their own divorce advisory practice in Connecticut.
I love the idea of a mother-daughter book on the topic of divorce. But as far as learning lots of tips and tactics you can really use, I think you’d be better off hiring a good divorce attorney. Alas, the book just doesn’t have a lot of actual “meat” in it. Chapters offer advice such as “stay away from the crazy divorced people (and don’t become one). Suggestions include “love your children more than you hate your ex.” This isn’t bad advice, but it’s just common sense. If you lack that much common sense I doubt that this book is going to help you much in a divorce.
For example, In “Recruit Your Team of Professionals” they could have listed real questions to ask before hiring those professionals as well as where to check out their credentials, but there is nothing in that section but a few sentences for each. The book is on the right track in terms of organization and what you would probably need to know, but it doesn’t give you the what, just a taste of it. Perhaps the point is that the authors would like you to pay for that information not just for their book, but for their services? I hate to be down on the book, but I can’t recommend it as a great resource.
COOK SOME COMFORT FOOD:
Recipes in cookbooks are so highly subjective. You either like the style, or you don’t. Adventures in Comfort Food: Incredible, Delicious and New Recipes from a Unique, Small-Town Restaurant by Kerry Altiero with Katherine Gaudet (Page Street Publishing 2014) is supposed to be a new spin on the kinds of comfort food we all know and love. Kerry Altiero is the Chef and Owner of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, Maine. I liked the idea of gussying up things like meatloaf or mac and cheese, and the names of the recipes are adorable, such as “wontons from Spaaace” and “50 MPPH Tomatoes,” but underneath the beautiful photos and the cute names were a lot of recipes that I just didn’t think I’d ever put in the effort to make, or that seemed too caloric (e.g. French fries with brown gravy and two different kinds of cheese or jalapenos stuffed with goat cheese and ricotta, just for starters).
For Picky Eaters:
Where I think this book would be very helpful is if you have a family with a bunch of young, picky eaters who wouldn’t normally put their forks into something remotely boring or healthy. Kerry Altiero re-brands some of the dishes to make them look and sound delightful and makes them fun (e.g. Pitch a Tent which is really roasted sausage, pasta, and kale in a brown cream sauce). Most of the recipes feed a crowd and don’t require you to shop and purchase a boatload of expensive or exotic ingredients. The book certainly makes you want to visit Maine and Cafe Miranda.
Some Cool Relationship Books:
FEELING KIND OF KINKY?
By the time this feature is published, the 50 Shades of Grey movie will have hit the big screen, most likely igniting the passion of plenty to explore BDSM. 50 Shades of Kink( An Introduction to BDSM) by
READ THIS, UNCOUTH KIDS!
I couldn’t help but love the title of this book: Rude Bitches Make Me Tired: Slightly Profane and Entirely Logical Answers to Modern Etiquette Dilemmas Paperback by Celia Rivenbark (St. Martin’s Press, 2013). With a title like that, and cover art featuring a matron and a poodle, you get the feeling that it’s not to be taken too seriously. While this is called an etiquette book, and it does have some tips about how to handle some of those annoying situations society might hand you/e, it really is more a snarky (but gently cute) commentary — a young person’s view of society and how to deal with some of the things that really make youngsters so annoyed they don’t even have the energy left to take a photo of it and post it Twitter or Facebook.
NOT Letitia Baldridge (Gen Z-ers look her up if you don’t know who she is):
It’s still a fun read. When I was much younger, someone actually gave me an etiquette book that (supposedly) was made for teenagers and I could immediately see that it was just old-fashioned and silly. However, if etiquette is about doing the right thing and fitting in to society, the author’s use of profanity, and dropping of the names of trashy faux-lebrities (can you say “Kardashian?”) really was UNclassy.. Ladies, you see, don’t drop names and don’t really behave like that (unless they’re alone with their friends at daddy’s house in the Hamptons when the servants are out and and he’s with his mistress for the weekend in Paris).
On the other hand, if you have no couth at all and truly don’t know how to deal with nicely splitting a restaurant bill with your besties, or what to wear to a funeral (hint: keep the crop top at home for that one) then you might actually learn a few things from the book. Take it in the spirit in which I think it was really intended, that is, for info-tainment. THen give it to a teen to teach her a few “manners. ” You’ll both enjoy it.
BANISH BAD BOYS FROM YOUR LOVE LIFE!
On Becoming NaughtABimbeaux: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Prince Without Ever Kissing Another Frog by Morgan Rose (Amazon Digital Services, Inc. Kindle Edition 2013). It’s the age-old story: smart women select bad, bad men. Cancer survivor and bad boy survivor and psychology Morgan Rose definitely knows what that’s like. In this book, she does her best to challenge women to consider themselves and how they view their inner selves and their choices, before venturing out to find a lasting love (if they venture out at all).
Like most of these books, there isn’t really anything earth-shatteringly new to tell you, but what I do like about this one is that the author puts it right in your face, in a way only another, insightful “been-there-done-that” woman would do. When I wrote my first relationship book I did a literature search first, and most of the books tried to lure readers with quick tricks that sound good on the page but are useless in practice, and they also lull readers into complacency by soothing the reader by assuring them that the issues are not the fault of you, the reader but with all those guys out there who can’t love, can’t commit and are just plain crazy.
Pointing the Finger at YOU:
This book points the finger, not at those commitment-phoebes and nuts out there. It points at you, the reader because you can avoid those men and find the ones who aren’t like that. I am wondering if this book is self-published in paperback because publishers prefer to publish relationships books that soft-sell feel-good, easy solutions. And readers love them even if those are quick fixes that don’t really work, long term.
So if you want some tough love about your poor choices, and you want to get better radar about the men who are toxic, and you really want to start to learn about what you need and want in a relationship (not just a six-pack, a hot car, a wad of cash, and “he makes me laugh”( get the book and wake up…at least a bit. It’s not a perfect primer for women looking for love by a long shot, but it’s one of the better ones.
POSITIVELY BOB DYLAN:
I have a cousin who simply adores Bob Dylan (aka. Robert Zimmerman). I’m wondering, however, how her perception of Bob Dylan the man would be altered after she read Bob Dylan: The Biography by Dennis McDougal (Turner Publishing 2014). Bob Dylan, the musician, and artist is an icon. Now he’s in his 70’s, and perhaps its time to reflect on a life that has been lived, if not always so well lived. There is plenty of commentary on the man, the music, and the performer but this book written by Dennis McDougal, who has won more than 50 awards for his coverage of the entertainment industry, contains lots of details and anecdotes and stories, and in many ways seems to be fairly balanced between “bad boy Bob” and simply a man who has many facets (as do we all).
I learned a lot of Robert Zimmerman that I didn’t know, from his early beginnings (which definitely influenced his life and art) to the current day. I felt more than a small amount of dismay learning about how callous he was with some of his business partners and friends, his lovers and wives, and how he displayed his apparently tremendous ego. But I also admired the way he was a clever marketer and re-inventor of himself, which is a difficult thing to do when you become famous, and a legend very young and people have expectations of you that are hard to fulfill. This book is large and detailed, so I had to wade through a bit of it, but for Dylan fans and those who find him curious, mysterious, or perhaps, larger than life, it’s a great read and a must-have for every Dylan fan and collector.
FOR WANDERING CHOWHOUNDS:
I so wanted to love Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 800 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More by The idea is a good one, sort of like the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. A couple of foodies traverse the country looking for great local eateries across America. In this revised version they apparently have added 200 new places to chow down in. But as I hungrily devoured the pages it quickly became clear. The authors just went to places they wanted to visit. They left out key cities where food reigns supreme. And in the cities they did visit, they left out key places that foodies know. These inclusions would have been no-brainers.