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review 2018-08-02 21:29
Having It All (Even If You're Starting With Nothing) by Helen Gurley Brown
Having It All - Helen Gurley Brown

The editor of "Cosmopolitan" gives advice on dealing with men and women, sex, marriage, career success, becoming more attractive, making money, and staying healthy with frank accounts of her own experiences in those areas.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Helen Gurley Brown was the founder of Cosmopolitan magazine in the format we know today. There was a version of the magazine in existence, owned by Hearst Corporation, prior to Brown coming on board, but she explains here that the content and layout of the publication was notably different. When the magazine in its original form started financially failing, Brown was hired on to turn things around and revamped it into the format recognizable in grocery store aisles to this day (Chapter 2... man, all I could think of was the movie Working Girl lol). *Well, actually... let's give credit where credit is due --- HGB points out that it was her husband who often wrote the cover blurbs, designed the layout, and more often than not, it was the stories HE liked that ended up being the ones they ran with. 

 

Brown never bothered with college, instead starting her professional life in her 20s, working her way up the ranks first as a secretary and later script girl for the Abbott & Costello radio show. She also wrote script copy for radio commercials of the day. Raised by a mother threatened by a prettier sister, Helen Gurley Brown rarely ever heard the word "pretty" tossed in her direction. As a young woman, she becomes obsessive about her looks so later heading up a women's beauty magazine seemed like a natural fit. Some may be shocked to read just how honest HGB is about the work she had done to attain that "pretty" so often withheld from her in her early years: eye lifts, rhinoplasty, dermabrasion, years-long treatments of silicone injections around her nose and mouth.. just to name a bit of it... but at least she also does advocate the regular use of sunscreen! She also describes details on lax post-op care, at one point opting to sneak out to see Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall. 

 

Also not surprising, HGB was clearly consumed with designer labels and makes sly knocks on those with more tomboy style. Additionally, there was one little two page section where she talks about brains being more important than looks but then later goes on to further knock "non-pretties" in a rather patronizing tone, stating that "thoughts and deeds do absolutely nothing for a forgettable face... but a little helping out, ie. makeup or plastic surgery, can." WOW. 

 

 

 

Her discussions on sex get a little weird, y'all. She gets into some probably better left unsaid details of her bed life with husband David Brown (David Brown co-operated a production company with Richard Zanuck, son of Daryl Zanuck, once-president of 20th Century Fox. Brown/Zanuck's company produced films such as Jaws 1 & 2 and The Sting. Apparently, life with David taught her that "men don't want to know about you masturbating." K... noted... WTF. She also spends many pages frequently rhapsodizing about mens' down belows and even offers readers a step by step instructional on fellatio. NOT. EVEN. KIDDING. (Here we go, this book -- originally published in 1982 -- will now show an odd resurgence in sales LOL). She closes with a quaint "swallowing is a sign of affection." Que one of those Bob Belcher OMGs. 

 

 

Then there's the recommendation about occasionally murmuring "would you mind" during sex. LOL. No. Just no. Oh, the laughs this section provides though! 

 

Except, not a laughing matter... what is this bit about nonchalantly referencing incest with her uncle when she was 9?! Seriously, some parts in this book had me wondering if this woman had a wire or four loose the casual way she brought up certain topics. 

 

Her advice on finding men and later marriage success is perhaps questionable though. Where to find men? HGB suggests maybe checking out Alcoholics Anonymous or Tiffany's at Christmas. Already married? HGB totally cool with extra-marital affairs, because, in her mind, people only remain faithful if they don't require romance. Furthermore, she says to not tell others if you are involved in an affair because "you owe it to your husband's honor." JFC. But actually... about on par for Cosmo advice, I guess!

 

If you get through all that, there are portions of actual advice scattered throughout.... much of it dated, most of it laughable, but a small percentage of it still remains surprisingly helpful. Some of the ones that stood out to me (good or bad):

 

Re: Love

 

* On finding men: HGB says women need to aspire to amazing high-level jobs with lots of pay and power, because really hot men won't find you if you're just the entry-level or even SAH sort. 

 

* keeping a man: a woman stands a better chance "if you love something other than him"

 

* HGB also offers some tips on married life -- how to navigate hurdles such as a spouse losing a job -- that are not entirely unhelpful. 

 

 

Re: Career

 

* Hone in on what your specialty skills are and pursue work in that direction, make your overall personality open and welcoming and be sure to have or develop a sense of humor about the journey! 

 

* Learn to be "quietly aggressive" -- keep eagle eyes on what needs to be done and just get it done

 

* Make confident, solid decisions, learn not to dwell on rejection. Remember that powerful people can still be vulnerable but use moments of hurt to fuel you further in your work.

 

* Problems don't magically disappear once you're at the top, you just have better resources to handle them. Also, once you reach the top, don't forget to help people behind you still trying to get there. 

 

Re: Personal Growth

 

* HGB encourages readers to take up charity / volunteer work. Not only is it good to help but it develops useful multi-tasking skills

 

* Embracing alone time plays a key factor in personal emotional growth.

 

* HGB gives you some ideas on how to strengthen friendships and / or how to handle frenemies

 

* This woman is going to harp on and on about this term she came up with called "mouseburgering": when you start out feeling low about yourself but quietly gain confidence over time until you eventually rise to the top. Brace yourself. She's gonna bring it up A. LOT. It's not the concept I have an issue with. It's just a stupid f-in word.  

 

 

In addition to all that, Brown also dishes out some hilariously (though sometimes borderline dangerous) 1980s style health tips. She promotes the idea of semi-starvation to keep a trim figure -- her personal plan being starvation for breakfast up until dinner where one is allowed one big meal and then later a pre-bed snack. At least she admits to the dangers of bulimia (she doesn't actually use the term but that is essentially what she describes). She also encourages 36 hour fasts after binges and notes that the use of saccharine (aka Equal) is her "guilty cheat food".

 

"As I write this, a new artificial sweetener, aspartame, is being test-marketed. I've used it and it's sensational. Put out by G.D. Searle & Co under the brand name Equal, it should be available for all of us soon."

 

Brown continues on to offer her stance on the whole "are models too thin?" argument, to which she firmly replies, "Models are not cadaverous, they look great." Remember, this was in the 80s and this debate is STILL going on in the fashion industry. There's also a story here where she knocks singer Peggy Lee for struggling with dieting, "zooming back up to 150".

 

So, yeah, take HGB's diet advice with a HARDCORE grain of salt. This woman clearly had issues with unhealthy body image that she foisted onto vulnerable young readers. Her sex advice, have a good laugh with it like you would any Cosmo issue today. The tone is definitely geared towards a female audience, but there is still plenty of take-away advice for the men as well. But again, use your own discretion as to what you would actually take to heart. 

 

Image result for bob belcher gif

 

Also keep in mind that this will read dated as hell -- eg. "We'll see how Princess Diana makes it (as far as her HEA as a princess)..." eeehhh --- but the dated references are actually part of what still make this thing readable in today's world... the historical look back, the ridiculousness of some of the passages. The actual advice, not so much. Also, the continuous unnecessary transitions will drive you batty: "More in a moment", "more on that later", "now let's talk about"... c'mon girl, you were the head honcho at a major magazine!

 

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review 2018-07-25 10:39
Unbridled Faith: 100 Devotions from the Horse Farm by Cara Whitney
Unbridled Faith: 100 Devotions From The Horse Farm - Cara Whitney

Horses nuzzle their way into our hearts and have a way of teaching us a lot about ourselves, about life, and even about God. Just ask horse enthusiast Cara Whitney, wife of comedian and actor Dan Whitney (aka Larry the Cable Guy).

Through years spent working with these majestic animals—Cara Whitney has learned countless spiritual lessons that have brought her closer to God.

In 100 heartfelt devotions with stunning photography, you'll

  • *Learn about being flexible in your faith from a gangly legged colt.
  • *Discover the secret to overcoming temptation through a horse's "sneak and eat" game.
  • *From a pony with a sweet tooth, find out why we should be glad God doesn’t answer yes   to all of our prayers.
  • *Be reminded that you are priceless to God from a one-eyed quarter horse named Roanie.  

Unbridled Faith is the perfect daily devotional for horse lovers.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Cara Whitney, wife of comedian Dan Whitney (aka "Larry The Cable Guy") puts together a very beautifully designed, gift-worthy book to which Dan Whitney provides the foreword. "Larry The Cable Guy wrote the forward to a devotional?!" you might be asking with just a dash of skepticism, I imagine. Well, Dan Whitney is here to explain.

 

Though he might not be immediately known for his faith professionally, he is actually the son of a preacher and went on to have his own education provided primarily through Christian based primary schools and colleges. He also explains that wife Cara came to her faith via a straightforward, rather pragmatic, maybe even slightly agnostic approach. This devotional she has now crafted is the culmination of years of dedicated theological study and regular introspection while working on the Whitney horse farm. 

 

p163 image Unbridled Faith

 

Whitney writes very much in the vein of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, each devotion a quick 2 page read with a prayer prompt at the end of each one. One of my favorite prayer prompts in this book: "Lord, help me to amplify the good in my life and control my emotions." Certainly something that spoke to me!

 

Another line that struck me, "God will bring the right scriptures, worship songs, and people into our lives when He knows we need them most. When we are lonely or in deep grief, He will send us his love in creative, diverse ways --- through nature, an email, or a movie scene." This was the case for me last year, months after losing my mother unexpectedly to a heart attack. That, combined with additional hits before and after that day, (making late 2016-2017 one of the worst periods of my life) ... I was spiritually exhausted after trying to keep myself emotionally strong, pushing back my emotions, putting all my energy into blocking out anything but daily obligations and work. Over time I found myself feeling more and more separated from the core of my soul. I didn't know if I myself was going to make it to the end of the year. On one of the hardest days of all, the song "Just Be Held" by Casting Crows mysteriously found its way into my noggin. That and Hilary Scott's "Thy Will"... I didn't even know she had solo work out there (apart from her band Lady Antebellum, of whom I'm a big fan).. but again, this song somehow found me. With the help of these songs, I allowed myself to finally cry out all that was pent up and then began to rebuild from the inside out. 

 

end panel of Unbridled Faith

 

While the photography in Unbridled Faith is undeniably GOREGOUS,  and the sentiments are comforting, the devotional pieces themselves, as far as topics covered, are pretty standard fare (for the devotional genre as a whole, that is). Whitney offers her own horse-themed spin on things of course, but doesn't really touch upon any new territory.

 

 

Some of the transitions felt a little clunky, such as the salt one, talking about how horses crave salt and then the next line talking about salt being currency in Christ's time. It just flowed oddly to me. But I did have a giggle (though I don't think it was intended humorously) at the line, "It's your salty side God loves most." LOL Well, I don't know about THAT, but I'll take it, I guess! 

 

p173 image Unbridled Faith

 

Much of what was offered here, while as sweet and feel-good as one would expect, struck me as rehashings of topics you've likely read in a number of other books of this style. Furthermore, at times her thoughts struck me as a tinge judgmental of "non-believers", though she claims to feel called to evangelism.

 

In Devotion 61, she writes, "It's sad to believe, but there are Christians out there who think that it is their job to evaluate the holiness of other people." In Devotion 63: "Horses aren't the only ones who suffer from unfair perceptions. Sometimes people's perceptions of us are hard to overcome."

 

You don't say. 

 

But I have to admit, I did enjoy her sense of humor at times:

 

"The next time your horse creates manure, remind yourself your animal is keeping you humble."

 

"Although my patient neighbors may disagree with my musical tastes, in my opinion all donkeys have perfect pitch."

 

Note to readers:  this book contains spoilers for the children's classic Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

 

p37 image from Unbridled Faith

 

 

FTC Disclaimer:  BookLookBloggers.com kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-06-11 15:49
All The Lonely People by Jess Riley
All the Lonely People - Jess Riley

WANTED: a whole new family to share holidays with. Please have a good heart and be a thoughtful, polite person. No sociopaths, no pedophiles, no fans of the Kardashians. We're not weirdos, I promise. I love old Steve Martin movies, new Steve Martin banjo tunes, Indian food, and reruns of Bob Ross painting happy little trees. So if you're looking for something other than the typical family dysfunction this Christmas, drop us a line.

After losing her beloved mother to cancer, 37-year-old Jaime Collins must confront the ugly fact that she and her siblings don't actually like one another. At all. Fueled by grief and an epic argument at Thanksgiving dinner, Jaime decides to divorce her siblings and posts an ad on Craigslist for a new family with whom to share Christmas dinner.

What happens next is a heartwarming, funny, and surprising journey to forgiveness and healing. Is blood really thicker than water? What makes a family? And how far do we have to go to find our way back home again?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This novel touches upon the topics of cutting, depression, abusive relationships and attempted suicide.

 

Thirty-seven year old Jaime Collins recently lost her mom to cancer. Now the holiday season is just around the corner and Jaime could not be less enthused. She has no interest in holiday shopping or putting on smiles around her insensitive brother and meddlesome sister-in-law. Things come to a head when she ends up having a blow-out fight with her siblings over Thanksgiving dinner. Riding the high emotions of that night, Jaime goes home and decides to place a Craigslist ad for a new family for Christmas. She requests responses from anyone else feeling alone or fed up with their own family situation. She crafts the ad while intoxicated, posts, and within 12 hours has 26 responses to sift through. The winners for her Christmas party include transgender Chris, daschund-loving Paul, welding artist Evelyn (who also happens to have a dander allergy) and Alyssa, a science major struggling through her own grieving process after recently losing her boyfriend in a car wreck.

 

 

All the Lonely People

re-release cover for this book

 

 

While this story certainly has its laughs, it may not be for the more sensitive readers out there because plenty of hard-hitting topics are addressed over the course of Jaime's story. There's also a fair bit of crude language and dark / off-color / risque humor (ie. jokes about strap-ons) implemented in the process. In addition to witnessing our main character work through the grieving process over the death of her mother, we (the readers) are also informed of Jaime's father-in-law battling Alzheimer's, Jaime herself struggling with fertility issues (her journey through IVF treatments), as well as the plot also bringing up the topics of cutting, depression, attempted suicide, abusive relationships and struggles with gender identity.

 

That night, I sleep on the couch for the first time in years... Erik finds me downstairs in the morning, a hurt look on his face. "We never sleep apart," he says, like a wounded little boy. I tell him he was snoring, that I couldn't sleep, that I didn't want to wake him with my tossing and turning. The real reason is this: I'd simply wanted to be alone with my sadness, giving it space to spread out, because there wasn't enough room for all three of us in the queen-sized bed...Part of it was that I felt like a broken shard from a smashed vase, and I only wanted to spend time with the other broken pieces because maybe we could glue ourselves together and hold water again. Erik wasn't a broken shard. He was a whole vase, forged from some space-age unbreakable polymer. He bounced when he fell. I shattered into sharp little pieces waiting to slice into the next person unfortunate enough to walk into the room barefoot. Or as Frankie would say, I'd cut a bitch. And then feel really bad about it.

 

Even though I can appreciate that important topics were brought to light in the unfolding of this story, and the story itself is solidly entertaining, it did go on a little long for me. By Chapter 17 I was feeling like the story could've been sufficiently wrapped up, all questions answered... a feeling that continued on right through Chapter 26... and even after that you get three more chapters! I also didn't always love Jaime. In fact, she struck me as a being a little petty with her dad near the end of the book.

 

In the acknowledgements, Jess Riley gives a shout-out to author friend Jen Lancaster.

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review 2018-05-10 12:51
Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons
Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English - Natasha Solomons

1937: Jack and Sadie Rosenblum and their one year old daughter, Elizabeth, are just one family in a crowd of Jewish refugees who emigrate to England. Jack wants to embrace British culture but runs into some roadblocks, one being that over the course of 15 years in England he never quite loses his accent. Jack ponders changing his surname to something more English, but Sadie, proud of their Jewish roots, is against the idea.

 

Being denied access to all the country clubs he applies to, Jack gets the idea to start his own. He becomes obsessed with perfecting all the details of the club and golf course. Meanwhile, wife Sadie suffers social ridicule as the family is deemed "crazy".

 

Jack also finds British humor lost on him. He tries to read Wodenhouse's Jeeves & Wooster series but it turns him off from trying any more English Lit. A strain grows between Jack and Sadie as she continues to mourn the death of her brother and the loss of her old life in Germany. She tries to cope with hobbies like gardening and baking, but it's pretty much just an emotional Band-Aid.

 

There were blips of interest for me within the plot, moments of humor or a powerful line here and there but largely it struck me as a lot more dry and "meh" than I was expecting. That said though, something about this story made me think that with the right director and screenwriter, this could be translated into a fun little film.

 

* Funny Edit: Just saw on the author's Amazon profile that her author blurb says she's a screenwriter LOL

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review 2018-05-07 16:11
Forgiveness In The First Degree (True Crime Account) by Rondol Hammer & Phillip Robinson, with Margot Starbuck
Forgiveness In The First Degree - Rondol Hammer,Phillip Robinson,Margot Starbuck

The gun was never supposed to go off. When a drug dealer assured twenty-nine-year-old Ron Hammer and his brother-in-law that they could make some quick easy money, they were intrigued. He promised them that when a local grocer delivered a bag of money to his store to cash Friday paychecks, they only needed to show him a gun and he d hand over the bag. But high on meth and dulled by liquor, they ended up in a scuffle with their target, and the gun accidentally fired. And when Phillip Robinson rushed from the shelves he d been stocking to investigate the commotion at the front of the store, he saw his father lying on the sidewalk, dying. The lives of Ron Hammer and Phillip Robinson, whose paths should only have ever crossed at the grocery checkout line, became inextricably linked by one foolish decision that would shatter a web of lives. Over three decades the two men came to discover not only that they both needed to be set free, but that in God s unlikely economy of redemption their liberation was bound up with one another. Like the famous prodigal son and his dutiful older brother, the moving story of Phillip Robinson and Rondol Hammer reveals how two men wrestling with law and grace discover unlikely redemption. 

~from back cover

 

 

 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This book discusses the topics of attempted suicide, murder and otherwise extreme violence (mainly in the form of prison stories that describe scenes of eyes being gouged out and ears bitten off)

 

In 1986, twenty-seven year old auto mechanic & Vietnam veteran Ron Hammer, high on meth, carries out armed robbery at a local grocery store. In the process, Ron unintentionally kills the father of the store's assistant manager, Phillip Robinson. Hammer, along with his brother-in-law / robbery accomplice / fellow meth addict, flees the scene with the money. Though he evades escape for a time, Ron is eventually caught and sent to prison. The prison sentence forces him to quit meth cold turkey. It is also there in prison that he finds religion, leading him to the decision to approach the Robinson family with his honest apology for his irreversible actions. 

 

Though at the time of Ron's initial attempt at apology Phillip is a practicing Christian and aspiring pastor, the road to forgiving Ron proves to be a decades long journey. It is not until 1994 that Phillip finds himself ready to honestly hear Ron out on the topic of forgiveness. Once at that place, though, Phillip discovers the blessing that comes in the form of an emotional weight lifted he didn't even entirely realize he was carrying!

 

The format of this book alternates between Ron's point of view of the events, and then Phillip's. As far as the flow of the writing itself, I found Ron's portions of the story more compelling. When it came to Phillip's portions... him losing his father in such a violent way is undeniably tragic, but from a sheer matter of reading enjoyment, something about Phillip's portions came off as more boring and preachy. Not surprising, I suppose, as Phillip IS a preacher, but I'm just sharing the truth of my reading experience. 

 

Still, this story is an important one to be shared because look at the message it presents: a man finds it in his heart to bestow honest forgiveness on the man who murdered his father. If a person can do that, it makes any other seemingly "unforgiveable" dealbreaker-type situation easily traversable, doesn't it? There are also takeaways from the perspective of Ron: one can come back from a life thrown into a tailspin via drug addiction and go on to have a powerful testimony of a life bound to help others out of their emotional mires. The book definitely gives you material to think on. 

 

NOTE: This book does give spoilers for the film The Outlaw Josie Wales and Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables

 

FTC Disclaimer:  Blue Ridge CWC and FaithHappenings Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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