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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Good Girl's Revolt by Lynn Povich

Lynn Povich's boss told her that when he arrived at Newsweek, he was told that the best part of the job is sleeping with the researchers.  Even though this was the 1970's and women journalists had been working for newspapers and magazines for at least a century, women were treated as 'underlings' at Newsweek.  It was almost impossible for researchers to become serious writers or editors at the magazine even though they were just as highly qualified as the men.  One woman was even told to get a job somewhere else if she wanted to become a writer! Most women who wanted to be journalists had to put up with being hired as researchers - some of this work was apparently extremely boring.

When some of the women discussed this and found out that it was against the law, they decided to meet in secret and organise a law suit.  This became the first class action by women in America.  The women were brought up to be 'good girl's and put up with this kind of discrimination.  These courageous young women had a huge battle on their hands - it would take five years for them to win. They not only fought a law suit; they also had to fight to find themselves and obtain the confidence which they needed to become successful journalists.

This is a great Mad Men - like story about what life was like for women who worked for magazines at this time in America.  It's also a social history about the attitudes of men to 'career women' and the early days of the fight for women's liberation.

Lynn Povich writes the story in a factual, but intimate and chatty way. She includes a lot of detail about her own background and life. (I especially liked the story of her romance). This made the book more interesting.  In fact, this would make a wonderful TV series.  I suggest that someone starts working on it soon!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Faith, Love, and Perfume: The Scent of Rain by Kristin Billerbeck

Daphne, the heroine of The Scent of Rain by Kristin Billerbeck, wins our sympathy from the beginning when she is jilted at the altar by Mark and handles this with courage and panache.  She has the consolation of a good friend, a new house, and a new job.  The problem is that this 'nose' is used to the beautiful cities of Paris and San Francisco and her new house and position are in Dayton, Ohio.

However, Daphne is not to be daunted and bravely jets off to Dayton where she is supposed to create scents for mundane cleaning products.  The problem is that she has lost her sense of smell and she doesn't want to admit it!

Daphne's new boss, Jesse, embarrasses her by knowing all about her situation.  However, she finds herself attracted by his good looks and his kind heart.  He is almost the only one at her new workplace who is at all nice, however.  'Gibraltar' is a hotbed of office politics and Daphne doesn't even have the option of going back to Paris because her ex has taken her old position!  Her situation becomes even worse when Jesse finds out that she can't smell and she has kept this a secret from him.  How will poor Daphne handle all of these problems?

I really enjoyed this well-written love story.  Daphne is a winning heroine whose actions are always easy to understand and she has a lot of admirable inner strength, even though she tends to make a mess of things occasionally.  Jesse, a caring single father, is also a captivating character.  They both share a strong faith.  However, this Christian chick-lit book could be enjoyed by non-religious people as well - there isn't any preaching here.

I liked the part that scent played in the book.  The descriptions of the different types of fragrances and the way that these are interwoven into the plot are evocative and add interest to the plot.

I hope to read more of Kristin Billerbeck's books.  Here is an interview about The Scent of Rain.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What to Wear by Michelle Madhok with Eileen Conlan

Would you like to transform your wardrobe and improve your style?  Do you have trouble deciding what to wear in the morning and what to wear for special occasions?  Don’t worry any more! This great book will help to solve all of your clothes problems.

Wear This Now will have you organizing your clothes closet in no time flat!  You will soon know what to keep and what to give away or throw out.  There are also suggestions for selling clothes on eBay. The authors even include tips on which accessories to keep.  I especially liked the suggestion that you should turn the hangers of clothes that you haven’t worn for a long time around.  This will help you immediately see the outdated clothes or the ones which you don’t like.

Wear This Now also has a large section on how to choose clothes for each season.  The authors concentrate on selecting winter outfits.  This didn’t suit me because I unfortunately live in an extremely hot climate.  (I’d much rather live in a cold one).  However, I found their advice about choosing wardrobes for spring and summer spot-on.

Michelle Madhok and Conlan include everything in this book.  They have advice for what to wear to help your career and several different types of special occasions, such as weddings.  They suggest what to wear on planes and the right clothes for trips to different continents, such as Europe.  They even include tips on what to wear in hospital!

This comprehensive guide is wonderfully useful for all women who are interested in organizing their wardrobes quickly and want to know what to wear for different types of occasions.  I was lucky enough to read a galley from Net Galley but I will certainly buy my own copy.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson

Topsham, Devon

The shy and mousy Barbara Buncle hides a secret.  She is what we used to call a ‘stirrer’, back in the day.  Impoverished, but genteel, she decides to write a book (as you do). ‘I wanted money,’ she tells her publisher, Mr. Abbott, when he asks her why she wrote it.

After all, writing a book beats keeping hens.  Her book (which is written under a pseudonym) stirs up the whole village and feathers certainly fly! (I couldn’t resist this).  Neighbours realise that they love each other, people go on holidays to places that they’ve never heard of and some people find out what they’re really like. Will thin and dowdy 40 year-old Barbara be able to transform herself, however?

Barbara is in all sorts of trouble when several people in her pretty English village become extremely angry with the author!   One even suggests that ‘he’ should be horse-whipped. There are many cats in this village – old and young cats – and they’re mostly human.  Will Barbara, who tends to be ignored or disliked by these cats and some others, be able to resist or defeat them?

This vintage book, which was written in the 1930’s, is an absolute charmer, like its main character. Likeable and sweet, Miss Buncle is not only hiding her book from the village.  She also hides an open mind and excellent judgment of character. Barbara’s comical adventures as she tries to avoid being ‘found out’ are often hilarious.  There are lots of other amusing characters in Miss Buncle’s Book as well, such as Dolores, Barbara’s maid, who suggests that Barbara should give up writing and ‘try hens’.  

I also loved Barbara’s publisher, the urbane and sophisticated Mr. Abbott.  He thinks that it ‘was simply marvellous’ when some people in the village call the author ‘immoral and perverted’. ‘I know. It was simply marvellous,’ replied Mr. Abbott, holding out his cigarette and watching the smoke curl upwards with appreciation and content.’ 

We can only hope that an astute producer decides to turn this into a film soon.  I am already attempting to imagine who will play the characters!

NB: I chose to put a picture of Topsham here because I've been there and it's a very pretty English village.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

One Minute Success Secrets for Women by Gail M. Hayes

This is just what I needed to help me get up on cold winter mornings! Full of inspirational Biblical quotes and positive interpretations of them, this book will help readers not only get out of bed but get through difficult times in their lives.

Like most self-help books, this is designed to help people develop confidence, achieve their dreams, and have a cheerful attitude.  However, I liked the Christian emphasis on being friendly, kind, forgiving and making a decision to 'serve the army of light'.  Many of these books concentrate on helping people improve their 'self-esteem' in a selfish way - sometimes even by ruthless means.  This one is designed to assist readers become better people through faith and will-power.

My favourite quotation from One Minute Success Secrets for Women is: 'This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.'  Hayes's interpretation concentrates on the importance of counting one's blessings and being thankful.  I love this quote, although it may be difficult to rejoice on a cold, miserable and rainy day!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane

One person who definitely has charisma and, indeed, lives up to her name is the actress, Charisma Carpenter.  (Strangely, she was named after an Avon perfume!) Many of us don't have it, however, or we would like more of it.  The Charisma Myth is designed to help us.

The Charisma Myth is full of useful suggestions to assist people to be more charismatic.  Cabane tells readers about the different types of charisma and when to use them.  She also provides helpful advice for dealing with many different types of scenarios, such as making presentations and being charismatic in a crisis.

Many will like the chapter about how to be charismatic in difficult situations the best.  This chapter includes advice about dealing with difficult people, delivering bad news and delivering criticism.

The book also has great exercises to help readers become more charismatic.  It's certainly hard work but, at the very least, The Charisma Myth will help you to listen more carefully and be more patient.  I would also love Cabane to come to Australia and teach some of our rude journalists NOT TO INTERRUPT!

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky

                                                                  CHANGE HOTELS

                                                                  Savoy Hotel

The thought of finding out the dark secrets behind the closed doors of luxury hotels intrigued me.  I liked the English TV series along the same lines a few years ago.

This book was very disappointing, however.  After reading a few pages I decided not to go on with it. The writing was scattered and didn't flow.  I think that Tomsky just tries too hard to be sassy and hip.  One reviewer advises people to read Hotel Babylon instead.  I'll give that a try.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Art of Procrastination by John Perry

I never got one badge when I was a Girl Guide.  This certainly wasn't because I couldn't achieve it - I just kept putting off getting a badge!  I still hate to admit this but The Art of Procrastination made me feel somewhat better.  After all, there were more important things to do at the time.  (I can't remember but I hope that there were).  (If you are a Girl Guide, please get some badges!).

This extremely amusing and gentle book helps procrastinators practice 'structured procrastination', i.e. doing other tasks while procrastinating and completing tasks in their real order of priority.  Perry tells readers how to to use to-do lists, alarm clocks and set time limits to help them stop delaying tasks.  He has lots of useful tips. My favourite is his suggestion that if a task is delayed for long enough, it might go away.  The problem is then solved!

Perry also lists some other resources at the end of the book.  One of these is the Procrastinator's Digest by Psychyl.  He apparently wants people to put sticky notes on their refrigerators to remind them about important tasks and why they have this problem.  One of these is: "My personality provides both risk for and resilience against self-regulation failure."  ???

If you love to put things off until tomorrow, this is the book for you!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Barbara Stanwyk by Dan Callaghan

I found Barbara Stanwyk long-winded and rather dull so I didn't finish it.  Dan Callaghan does write that this book is a study of the famous actress's films - it isn't meant to be a gossipy account of her personal life.  I would have preferred an account of her personal life, I'm afraid.

Callaghan analyses every film of Stanwyk's in great detail.  This is useful if you are an avid fan or you need an academic analysis.  However, I found it irritating.  I read this book on the Kindle which missed out the actual names of the movies for some reason.  This didn't help!

Callaghan's writing also tends to be slangy and chatty at times.  I didn't think that this suited the subject matter. This stylish and imperious actress deserves better.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Living in Romantic Baghdad: An American Memoir of Teaching and Travel in Iraq, 1924-1947 by Ida Donges Staudt

Feasts of pomegranates and roses, golden minarets, Everlasting Fires.  Ida Staudt and her husband, John, experienced all these during their time in Iraq.  Staudt's account celebrates their romantic and idyllic life in Iraq and truly takes the reader into a lost world.

Staudt and her husband established the renowned American School for Boys in Baghdad.  This prestigious school attracted students from all over Iraq.  The couple also improved the education of girls in Baghdad.

Unfortunately, I didn't think that Staudt wrote very much about the school but her memoir is so interesting that this is a minor complaint.  She and her husband travelled from one end of the country to the other. They enjoyed Bedouin hospitality, met the Kurds in the distant mountains, and saw the ancient splendour of the ruins.  They met King Faisal, ambassadors, a grandmother of kings and many other fascinating and influential people, such as the imperious Gertrude Bell.  
I wasn't sure if I would like this book at first because the writing was a little bit old-fashioned and the beginning of the book consisted of a history lesson.  However, I began to really enjoy it after reading about ten pages and I am now thinking of buying it.  (I read it on the Kindle).

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Your 5-Minute Personal Coach by Valorie Burton

Your 5-Minute Personal Coach is a great book to carry with you and dip into when you need it.  Set out mostly in question and answer format, this book is designed to help people develop resilience, improve difficult relationships, improve your career, and much more.  This is an extremely comprehensive book which covers more than most self-help tomes.  For example, I haven't noticed a section about 'goal fatigue' in other self-help books.

Valorie Burton is a Christian psychologist so her book is mostly for religious people.  It has sections on developing your mission and finding out what God is trying to tell you.  People who are not Christians might not like this.

Unfortunately,  Your 5-Minute Personal Coach made me feel quite tired because I read it all at once.  I certainly wouldn't advise this! The question and answer format is wearisome unless you look up what you need at the time.

Now that I've read the whole book, I will look at certain sections again when I feel that I need them.  The problem with self-help books, of course, is that they're useless unless you actually APPLY the information and that is hard work! Valorie Burton gives excellent tips in this book so I do highly recommend it. I will also have a good look at her wonderful website and her other books.

Lucretia and the Kroons by Victor LaValle

Some children get used to death too soon.  You can see it in their eyes.  Lucretia, the heroine of Lucretia and the Kroons, is one of these children.

Lucretia has to cope with a lot in this horror novella.  She has a friend called Sunny who is dying of cancer, a difficult mother and brother, and some nasty enemies.  Soon her nightmare starts. The Kroons, nasty grotesque drug addicts from the eighties, start attacking her and she has to run for her life.  Then she has to get away from flying rats and swim in a void. 

I found it all quite scary and Loochie was a sympathetic heroine.  Sunny was also likeable.  The Kroons were especially frightening.  The writing was a little bit contrived at times.  However, this was a vivid and dramatic story with lots of action.

I wasn't sure why I was pre-approved by Net Galley to read this book.  Horror and dystopian stories are not my scene.  They are all the rage so it is interesting to read the occasional one, I suppose.

Here is an interview with Victor LaValle on narrative voice.