Monday, July 19, 2010

Betting on Weight Loss
Have trouble staying on your diet?
Try putting your money where your mouth is
By Sari Harrar
Good Housekeeping, July 2010 (Vol. 251 No. 1)
Good Housekeeping photography Bill Swan and Jean E. Lee

I'm so lame! I totally abandoned taking PETER & MAX (by Bill Willingham; illustrated by Steve Leialoha) on vacation in favor of starting Tana French's IN THE WOODS . Problem was, once I got to my parent's house, I wasn't in the mood for IN THE WOODS and I hadn't brought a back-up book! So I went looking around the house for something to read only to discover, much to my chagrin, there are NO books in my parent's house, only back issues of Ladies Home Journal and a recent issue of Good Housekeeping! Okaaay, I picked up the copy of GH and read an article by Sari Harrar called "Betting on Weight Loss." It ended up being a timely article in my life as I'm about to start a round of the Game On! Diet (08/01) and it served as a sort of gloss about competing with your family and friends in weight loss challenges.

The Game On! Diet
By Krista Vernoff and Az Ferguson
HarperCollins e-books, Kindle edition

Anyway, I also dnloaded the e-book edition of The Game On! Diet (by Krista Vernoff and Az Ferguson) which isn't so much a diet book, as it is an explanation of the rules of the game. I did feel a little ripped off as it wasn't really much more substantive than the GH article (unfair I know since the book came out first and I'm sure it was the basis for the article) and, the experts quoted for the book were the medical consultants for the television show, Grey's Anatomy (The book was written by one of the show's writers, Krista Vernoff and, the show's trainer, Az Ferguson.) Hmmm, I might have felt better had the consulting doctors written the book instead, but then I would have probably have complained that the good doctors had no writing skills :-/ Well, at least the information is fairly innocuous (eat better, exercise more and get plenty of sleep) so it's not going to kill me and, I think it's a great way to get in the habit of making smarter choices health-wise. Moreover, the book does contain recipes and helpful hints for succeeding in your challenge and the common sense underpinning the book is delivered in a friendly way (unlike the screeching SKINNY BITCH book which I will be reviewing later.) As the challenge approaches its start date and throughout the game, I will be posting more specific comments about the Game On! Diet book as well as other relevant material.

Some of my reasons for wanting to play this game:

  • I am overweight. Four months ago I was obese and currently I am the average weight for my height and age; but I would like to get back to fighting form. For this challenge, I would like to just get back to the normal weight for my height and age;
  • I want to be around for the important milestones in my child's life. I can't be around if I'm dying or dead because of diabetes, cardiac issues, or whatever. I envision myself strutting in a vintage Chanel (by Karl Lagerfeld) little black dress suit at my daughter's college graduation; adjusting the wedding veil right before she walks down the aisle; holding my grandchild/-ren when they're babies... I want to be around for all that and more.
  • I hate the way I look and feel, which is basically like Jabba the Hutt. I really want to look and feel like a sexy Manga chick wearing stiletto thigh-high biker boots...

In case you're wondering, I will NOT to posting daily blogs about this challenge. I will instead be tweeting daily and posting weekly. For now, I will leave you with this "Before" picture:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
by Karl Marlantes
narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Blackstone Audio, Inc.
20.4 hours

I picked this title up because of the helicopter on the cover. Yep, that's right, I let cover art influence my reading choice! There is something about a helicopter in flight that evokes excited feelings of hope, rescue and relief. If I were a different kind of person, I might feel the same way about an image of a Prince Charming on a white charger, but I'm not and so there it is. I do not generally judge a book by its cover, but in this case, the helicopter was the siren song that seduced me into choosing this title. The only question that remained was whether I would read the book in print or, listen to it in audio.

That question was answered when the narrator was in Ashland, OR and my husband and I took him out to dinner. During the course of the dinner, Bronson was asking about "the Columbus book." It was explained to him that the book was WAITING FOR COLUMBUS (by Thomas Trofimuk; narrated by Grover Gardner) and that, while recording the book, Grover had become so emotionally enmeshed with the text that he actually broke down during the studio sessions. Bronson then said that he had had the same experience while narrating MATTERHORN and, that was what decided it for me. That kind of narrator engagement and response to a story is rare and always something special.

So, I pulled a copy from Blackstone's warehouse and I spent the next couple of weeks listening to one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard, finishing late on a Saturday night. At the beginning of the audio I took the time to draft out a chart of the characters. You can see the Command Structure/List of Characters if you "Look Inside" the book on or you can draft out your own chart within a couple of minutes (I drafted first and compared.) After having written it down, it was pretty much set in my mind. I referred to it once after that to scribble a note about Lt. Col. Simpson (sometimes, Lt. Col. Simpson was referred to as "Big John Six" and other times just as "Big John.")

Anyway, this is why you should listen to MATTERHORN:
  • Excellent writing: From the opening lines to the close of the novel, the author immediately and effectively places the reader/listener in Vietnam, 1969. The imagery is evocative without dipping into superfluous metaphor and, the scenes resonate with physical and psychological detail;
  • Excellent narration: I had one small gripe about the narrator which was that the first three of four times he says the word "gook," he pronounces it to rhyme with "book." The rest of the time, he pronounces the word to rhyme with "kook." Both are correct, but the inconsistency bothered me. The times he pronounced "gook" like "book" I was taken out of the story. But outside of that, I would have to say the narration was flawless. Bronson channeled the characters and the material so effectively that he literally disappeared into the book and the characters spoke (and BTW, "Balki" does not make an appearance in any way, shape or form!)
  • For the veterans: I've read a lot of the customer reviews posted for both the print and audio editions of this title. A lot of Vietnam veterans seem to love this book, clearly believing their story has finally been told. This book is fiction; but clearly it's "true." Without having read the reviews though, you would know it. There is an honesty in the writing that comes through.
  • For everyone else: There's a old adage about not judging a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes. This book forces you to hump 6 clicks in a Marine's boots. This book does what the very best of books do: enables the reader to see another point of view. There's a great scene in the book wherein Jackson, a black Lance Corporal explains to Mellas, a white Second Lieutenant, that he (Jackson) could no more explain what it's like to be black to Mellas than either of them could explain what its like to be in the bush to civilians. The irony is of course, is that Marlantes has explained what's its like to be in the bush. Readers/listeners will feel like they were with Bravo Company every step of the way.
I never know which books are going to deeply resonate with me and when they do I really don't know why. I'm a middle-aged overweight mother in the the Northwest. I have had no military experience and no one in my family served (my father's experiences in WWII are a different kind of story.) Anyway, Matterhorn really affected me. The first night after I had started listening to the audio, I woke up in the middle of the night, more than a little panicky, slightly sweating and attacking the leech on my leg. OK, it was really a Band-Aid, but it never knew what hit it!

After finishing this audiobook, I spent a week still "in the bush" and another week trying to find another audiobook to listen to (after you listen to something this amazing, everything else sounds like dreck!)

Highly recommend to absolutely everyone.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yesterday, no blog; Today, blog!

What you can expect from this blog:
  • Reviews of books, audiobooks, an occasional movie, play or piece of music;
  • Every once in a while, something related to the book, audiobook, movie, play or music I've reviewed. This may include (but is not limited to) recipes, photos, video, sound clips or art;
  • Occasionally a dream, conspiracy theory or something so absurd that I will have to share even though I'm sure you won't believe me
What you will NOT find on this blog:
  • Me being a tool for the company I work for (Blackstone Audio, Inc.) This is a personal blog and the opinions expressed herein are my own;
  • Discussions/posts/pictures about politics, porn, meanness or, my family life unless its so funny that you think a) I have to be making it up and/or b) truly relevant to a title review
  • No monetizing. This may change after a year or two; but not now
Why I didn't have a blog yesterday:
  • The thought of maintaining a blog was frankly enervating;
  • People who have encouraged me to start a blog have always said things like, "brand the world with your wit" or "You'd be awesome at this" or such. Who do these people think I am? Disappointment and embarrassment is sure to follow but now I realize that's on them (not me;)
  • I was afraid that I might hurt an author or narrator's feelings. I have a professional and/or personal relationship with a number of authors and narrators, people I really like and I don't really want to have tell any of them that they might have the literary equivalent of spinach stuck in their teeth; on the other hand, only a true friend would tell you that :-)
Why I have a blog today:
  • I like writing stuff. Make no mistake, I have no ambitions about becoming a professional critic, writer or author; but I do have a desire to express things beyond the 140 character set of a tweet
As the blog evolves and I find my voice, I hope you'll be along for the ride.

Stay Cool & Keep the Faith,