Tag Archives: women

Everything Lovely

Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe: A Novel by first-time author Jenny Hollowell will be released by Henry Holt and Company,Inc. on June 8, 2010.   Here is a preview look including a synopsis of the novel, blurbs from other authors and an excerpt from its opening pages.

Synopsis

A young woman caught at the turning point between success and failure hopes fame and fortune will finally let her leave her old life – and her old self – behind.   Birdie Baker has always dreamed of becoming someone else.   At twenty-two, she sets off to do just that.   Walking out on her pastor husband and deeply evangelical parents, she leaves behind her small-town, part-time life and gets on a bus to Los Angeles.

Quotes

“Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe introduces a strong new voice, poised and sharp, beautifully suited to both the satiric task of dismantling Hollywood, and the empathetic one of rendering a young actress’s grinding struggle for stardom.”   – Jennifer Egan

“There’s some Joan Didion here, some Lorrie Moore, some Nathanael West, but really, it’s all Jenny Hollowell, a new name to remember.”   – Christopher Tilghman

“Jenny Hollowell’s writing is gorgeous and edgy, lyrical and in-your-face.”   – Sheri Reynolds

Excerpt

Prologue

Ask Birdie how she got here and she’ll pretend she doesn’t remember.   “Honestly,” she’ll say, “it all blends together.”   She doesn’t want to talk about the past.   It’s only cocktail talk, but still everyone wants a story.   That’s Los Angeles for you.   Everything’s a pitch.   Sell the beginning and give the end a twist.

The truth is rarely filmic.   Lies are better.   Once she’d told a director she was sleeping with, or who, more accurately was sleeping with her:  My whole family is dead.   We were in a car accident together.   My mother, father, and sister were killed and I am the only survivor.   What did he say?   “What an amazing story,” which meant that he was sorry but also that it would make a great movie.

Semantics, anyway.   There was never any car accident but still she has lost them all.

Ask Birdie how she got here and she will smile and laugh and look down into her glass.   Two things she’s good at:  drinking and keeping secrets.   In the melting cubes she sees the past…

At her agent’s insistence her bio contains the basics:  1979, Powhatan, Virginia.   Even that doesn’t matter.   Redmond changed it to 1983.   “Whoever said thirty is the new twenty-two wasn’t trying to get you work.”   Proof positive: no one really wants the truth…

Going West and the Rest, 2001.   In Powhatan, she leaves a letter that says:

To Judah and My Parents,

I don’t know if you will be surprised to find this note.   I am not surprised to be writing it, though I know it will hurt you and I hate to do that.   But you have to know I have no other choice.   I have been a liar and a hypocrite.   I have tried to be a Believer, but I am not.   Every day, I am full of doubt.   I would rather be honest about my feelings in this life than lie to preserve an eternal hope I am unsure of.   Let’s hope God understands my decision.   I’m sorry.

Love, Birdie.

PS – Don’t try to find me.   I’m safe, but I’m going somewhere far away.

The bus ride to Los Angeles takes two days, seventeen hours, and five minutes.   For the first day, she imagines that Judah is following her, that when the bus stops at a rest area he will be standing there stormy-faced, waiting to take her back.   But by the morning of the second day, as serpentine mountain roads begin to flatten and give way to low flat stretches of highway, her escape begins to feel real.   Nothing is familiar – the scenery, her fellow passengers, the gravity and speed of the bus as it rockets westward past towns, sprawling lights, empty desert, road signs.   Her face reflected back at her in the thick safety glass of the bus window appears ghostly and doubled.   She glances back and forth between both sets of eyes and watches the reflections react – her fractured face bobs and shifts across the glass.      

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She’s Gone Country

Jane Porter is the author of several successful popular fiction books including Easy on the Eyes, Flirting with Forty, Mrs. Perfect and Odd Man Out.   Her next book, She’s Gone Country, will be released on August 23, 2010.   Thanks to the folks at five spot and Hachette Book Group, we’re giving you a sneak peek right now.   The following is an excerpt from Chapter One.

Brick calls me on his cell about an hour later.   “That was the most boring sermon ever, Shey.   You owe me.”

I grin at the misery in his deep voice.   He might be the oldest and I might be the youngest but we’ve always been tight.   “You don’t have to pretend to like church just because she’s here,” I answer, taking a step outside the house to stretch and stand on the screened porch with its view of the oak lined drive.   More oak trees dot the pasture between the house and the six stall barn.   There’s not a lot else to see but trees, cows, and land.   Mama and Pop lived here for fifty-some years, and Pop’s parents before that.

“If it makes her happy,” he says.

“That’s why you’ll go to heaven and I won’t,” I laugh and ruffle my hair.   I’ve always gotten along well with all my brothers, but I enjoy teasing Brick the most, probably because he takes his job as the oldest so damn seriously.   “You all on your way home now?”

“No.   We’re going for breakfast.   Mama’s still worked up, and Charlotte thought a good hot meal would put her in a better mood, especially when she’s driving back to Jefferson this afternoon.   Don’t want her on the road when she’s in a mood.”

“No, we certainly don’t.   So where are you going, and are we invited?”

“Um, Shey, you’re the reason Mama’s in a bad mood.   You’re probably better off staying at the house.”

“Gotcha.”   My lips twist in a rueful smile.   My mother and I have a funny relationship.   Given that I’m the only daughter and the baby of the family, you’d think we would have been close.   Only it didn’t work out that way.   Mama prefers boys.   But I can’t complain.   I certainly wasn’t neglected growing up.   I had three brothers to chase after and always was the apple of my Daddy’s eye.   “We’ll see you later, then, and don’t rush your meal.   We’ll be here when you return.”

(Used by permission.)

 

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Waiting for McLean Stevenson

Cakewalk: A Memoir by Kate Moses

“The byproduct of suffering, if you’re lucky, is appreciation…  My windfall has always been a sweet tooth, the gold watch that deflected the bullet aimed straight at my heart.”

I was more than 50 pages into reading a galley of Cakewalk before I realized that this is a non-fiction memoir.   At the start it reads like a novel that might have been written by Anne Tyler or Anna Quindlen, although I should have taken a clue from its overly upbeat nature.   “Mom, did you know the words ‘treat’ and ‘threat’ are separated by just one letter?”   But the tone shifted before many more pages had been turned.

Kate Moses was in first grade in 1969 and this re-telling of her life story reads like a memorial to an earlier time, the 1950’s.   It’s made all the more interesting by the fact that Moses grew up living in several places including Palo Alto, Petaluma, Sonoma, outside of Philadelphia (where the Main Line ended), Virginia and Fairbanks, Alaska.   She also had relatives in San Francisco and Dayton, Ohio (“…along every road in Ohio the corn stood high as an elephant’s eye.”)

This initially appears to be an ode to food, the many treats and meals that an overweight young girl took in growing up.   She sees a cross-country trip as “an opportunity for reunion with Howard Johnson’s coconut cake.”   And she “spent every cent I was given on candy and pink Hostess Sno Balls.”   The impression that this is all about food is given further credence by a recipe that concludes each chapter.   Yet the food talk is a cover.

“My family was totally screwed up…”

This memoir is, to a great extent, about the pain of growing up.   Moses’ parents had a very unhappy marriage.   Her father was an overly serious man and her mother was fun-loving.   It did not make for a good mix.   One fault with the telling is that Moses makes a few too many negative references to her father.   He was “a rigid bullying husband…” and a violent father who caught his wife in “the stranglehold of… marriage” due to his “brutalizing domination.”   The reader gets the point after the first couple of references.

This brings up the issue of editing.   All in all, this is an entertaining read but not so much that the typical reader will want to stick with it for 368 pages.   It could easily have been shortened by a third of its length, and there is a bit too much repetition.   Ah, and a minor point, some of Peter Frampton’s lyrics are quoted incorrectly.

“It was the year we started waiting for McLean Stevenson…”

Still, there are some very entertaining stories included in Cakewalk, some of which prove the adage that truth is stranger than fiction.   Kate’s mother fantasized about being rescued by the actor McLean Stevenson, and she eventually was arrested – or rather, detained – while visiting the White House after being caught taking something from Pat Nixon’s bathroom!

Further, if you absolutely love food more than life itself, there are plenty of intriguing descriptions here of meals and snacks.   In fact, this autobiography is gorged with tales of food consumption.   Then there are the recipes to try out.   Be sure to try the one for chocolate chip cookies!

Cakewalk will be released on May 11, 2010.   An advance review copy was provided by The Dial Press, an imprint of Random House.

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Time Goes By

In the Fullness of Time: 32 Women on Life After 50 will be released by Atria on April 27, 2010 in trade paperback form ($16.00).   This collection of essays, poems, photographs and drawings was edited by Emily W. Upham and Linda Gravenson.   The following is an excerpt from one of the essays included in the compilation.

“My Narrow Escape” – Abigail Thomas

I like living alone.   I like not having to make male conversation.   I like that I can take as many naps as I feel like taking and nobody knows.   I like that if I’m painting trees and the telephone receiver gets sticky with hunter green and there’s a long drool of blue sky running down the front of the dishwasher, nobody complains.  

I’m seldom lonely.   I have three dogs, twelve grandchildren and four grown kids.   I have a good friend who now and then drives down with his dog.   We’ve known each other so long that we don’t have to talk and when we do we don’t have to say anything.   When he asks me if I’d like to take a trip around the world, I can say yes, knowing that I’ll never have to go.

Inertia is a driving force in both our lives.  

Sometimes I feel sorry for my friends who are looking around for a mate.   I don’t want one, and I don’t want to want one.   It has taken me the better part of 60 years to enjoy the inside of my own head and I do that best when I’m by myself.

I am smug.   I am probably insufferable.

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From The Heart

Mother-Daughter Duet: Getting to the Relationship You Want with Your Adult Daughter by Cheri Fuller & Ali Plum

Cheri Fuller and Ali Plum are ideally suited to offer advice about the always-complex mother-daughter relationship.   Each of these women has experienced her own challenges in life, among them alcoholism and marital discord.   As mother (Cheri) and daughter (Ali), they provide the voices for the book’s chapters that address key events in a mother-daughter relationship such as leaving home, weddings and the birth of grandchildren.   Their voices are first heard as solos and then as a duet.   The reader is advised on what works and what does not when specific issues are confronted.

Cheri and Ali have sought assistance and advice from professional counselors and trusted friends when dealing with their own issues.   As would be expected with a Multnomah publication, the book is written with a Christian perspective; hence the scripture citations and references to prayer.   Cheri is a well-known author, columnist and speaker on women’s issues.   Ali is a songwriter and makes a strong debut in this book as a writer.

The take-away from Mother-Daughter Duet is that life holds the promise of closeness with those we care for; however, it requires mindfulness and faith to experience these rewards.   Mindfulness and faith are not accomplished once and for all time, rather, they must be practiced each and every day.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah, a division of Random House. 

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Big Girls Don’t Cry

The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhaun

This book is a take on helping women in the business world to break through the so-called glass ceiling.   The key is to use a male-oriented approach in the workplace – it’s business, not personal.   Author Shaunti Feldhaun goes to great lengths to establish her credentials and the sampling methodology she and her team used to produce this book.   She also touts her wildly successful career as a consultant; a bit of overkill.   During this disclosure, Feldhaun emphasizes majority versus minority responses to her carefully crafted written survey that forms the basis for many of her conclusions.   At the outset, the reader is repeatedly offered allusions to the findings in later chapters.   These allusions are not the least bit tantalizing.

The world featured in this book is acknowledged as private sector; there was no exploration of the public sector – government.   This is a shortcoming, for government and its employees, albeit civil servants, factor mightily in the economy of the United States.   Many opportunities for female advancement exist in this sector.   Although civil service is dominated by testing and exam rankings, the interview and subsequent probation period following a hire determine whether women are upwardly mobile (just as is the case in the private sector).

The version of the book being reviewed here is the “Christian” one.   It contains many references to workplaces that are operated as Christian enterprises or Christian male employers and coworkers in secular businesses.   Feldhaun over generalizes and portrays Christians in a homogenous way that is presumptuous.   The “Christian” community is comprised of many permutations and is no more alike than an “Asian” or “Muslim” community.

The men who graciously agreed to being interviewed by Ms. Feldhaun (her own characterization) come off as strangely schizophrenic, following one set of norms at the office and another during their personal lives.   Apparently, because the workplace was established by men, the rules are not going to change.   Women, particularly those who she views as most in need of reading this book, are chastised for not perceiving the difference.

There are ample references to scientific studies that established the differences between male brain activity and female brain activity.   Males are described as 100% focused and not able to multi-task, while women are eager, willing and able to lay the groundwork, illustrate the concept and come to a conclusion while performing multiple activities.   No kidding!   Anyone can easily use this finding to justify why human males do not bear the babies or provide their nourishment for the first few months.

There are italicized comments placed at what the reader assumes are teachable moments in each section of the book; however, they are repetitive extracts from the immediately preceding text.   While these statements are obviously intended to be pearls of wisdom and learning points, they come off as slogans or watchwords to use on business trendy flashcards.

Sadly, a reader who would most benefit from the best parts of this book (yes, there are some) is not only fully committed to her view of the “good old boys’ network,” she is too emotional to wade through the dry narrative.   A lost opportunity but two stars for the attempt.

Review by Ruta Arellano.   This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Random House.

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Another Book Giveaway!

Yes, we’re still giving away three (3) copies of the amazing book Double Take: A Memoir.   The Double Take  book giveaway contest remains open until midnight this Friday, January 8, 2010 Pacific Standard Time (PST).   To read the contest rules, enter the terms “double take” in the Search It! box to the right and hit enter.

But we’re here announcing a new book giveaway!   Through the courtesy of the publisher Multnomah, we have a copy of The Male Factor: The Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions, and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace for one of our readers.Here is a synopsis of the book –

Among the subjects tackled by The Male Factor are: how men, with rare exceptions, view almost any emotional display as a sign that the person can no longer think clearly – as well as what they perceive to be emotion in the first place (it’s not just crying); why certain trendy clothes that women wear may create a career-sabotaging land mine in terms of how male colleagues perceive them; and the unintentional signals that can change a man’s perception of a woman from assertive and competent to difficult.

Women will likely be surprised, even shocked, by these revelations.   Some may find them challenging.   Yet what they will gain is an invaluable understanding of how their male bosses, colleagues, subordinates, and customers react to a host of situations – as well as the ability to correct common misperceptions.   The Male Factor offers a unique road map to what men in the workplace are thinking, allowing women the opportunity to decide for themselves how to use the insights the author reveals.

Note:  I suspect that this is a book that both men and women will find to be extremely interesting!

We will be giving away one brand new hardbound copy of this 320-page book by Shaunti Feldhahn, author of the  prior bestseller For Women Only.   The Male Factor has a value of $22.99.   In order to enter this contest, just send an e-mail to josephsreviews@gmail.com .   You must submit your entry by 12:00 midnight PST on Saturday, January 30, 2010.   Only readers who live in the continental United States are eligible to enter this particular contest and prior contest winners at this site will not be eligible to win this time around.  

That’s it – Good luck and good reading!

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