Sunday, December 21, 2014

"The Woman I Wanted To Be" by Diane von Furstenberg

   If you ever wondered why most of my book reviews are of memoirs or biographies, The Woman I Wanted To Be is why. Despite reading being one of my fave things to do, time to just sit and have a leisurely read-fest is limited. In order to get the biggest bang for my buck -- to be entertained as well as to learn something new -- I gravitate to reading what is REAL. Plus I guess I'm a bit of a voyeur and enjoy peeping inside another person's life without being considered a stalker. Believe me, a book doesn't get any more real, more entertaining, more full of wisdom out the wazoo, and more behind-closed-doors titillating than The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane von Furstenberg!
   I have admired DVF since her explosion into the Seventies fashion scene with the wrap dress. She and her clingy, jersey dresses were the epitome of Studio 54 sexy chic! I envied her wild flaming red hair, her sensual confidence, her European sophistication and style, and her real-life princess turned fashion designer fairytale-like journey. Now, after reading her book, I know she is a woman just like me -- often unsure; sometimes taking wrong turns; struggling with aging and feeling good about yourself in a youth-obsessed world; and striving to live your life as true and full as possible so in the end there are no regrets -- and I admire her even more. Through it all, the many highs and lows and reincarnations of herself and her brand, DVF has focused on "the woman she wants to be" and kept marching forward to make that happen. Thank you, Diane, for showing me the way as well!
   In order not to quote the whole damn book (it's that good, but I want you to read it for yourself!), I'll share just a few of the passages that I will carry with me as I march forward:      

On facing challenges: "When I have an obstacle in front of me, especially of someone else's making, I say 'OK. I don't like it, but I can't change it, so let's find a way around it.' Then I find a different path to a solution, which so satisfies me that I forget what the problem was in the first place. Of all the lessons my mother drummed into me, that was perhaps the most important. How could you possibly better yourself if you didn't face your challenges up front or if you laid your problems off on someone or something else and didn't learn from them?"

Beauty is: "Character. Intelligence. Strength. Style. That makes beauty. All these attributes form beauty, and personality, that elusive state of being that is not necessarily perfect."

The truth about aging: "Aging is out of your control. How you handle it, though, is in your hands."

"And never, ever lie about your age. Who can lie with the Internet anyway? To embrace your age is to embrace your life. Lying about your age, or about anything for that matter, is the beginning of trouble; it is the beginning of lying about who you are. What is important is to live fully every single day of every period of every age so that no time gets wasted."

"The best thing about aging, I have come to understand, is that you have a past. No one can take that away, so you'd better like it. That is why it is so important to waste no time. By living fully every day, you create your life and that becomes your past, a rich past."

"In my older face, I see my life. Every wrinkle, every smile line, every age spot. My life is written on my face. There is a saying that with age, you look outside what you are inside. If you are someone who never smiles your face gets saggy. If you're a person who smiles a lot, you will have more smile lines. Your wrinkles reflect the roads you've taken; they form the map of your life. My face reflects the wind and sun and rain and dust from the trips I've taken. My curiosity and love of life have filled me with colors and experiences and I wear them all with gratitude and pride. My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them?"

Becoming the woman you want to be: "You cannot have a good relationship with anyone, unless you first have it with yourself. Once you have that, any other relationship is a plus, and not a must. Become your best friend; it is well worth it. It takes a lot of work and it can be painful because it requires honesty and discipline. It means you have to accept who you are, see all your faults and weaknesses. Having done that, you can correct, improve, and little by little discover the things you do like about yourself and start to design your life. There is no love unless there is truth and there is nothing truer than discovering and accepting who you really are. By being critical, you will find things you dislike as well as things you like, and the whole package is who you are. The whole package is what you must embrace and the whole package is what you have control of. It is you! Everything you think, do, like, becomes the person you are and the whole thing weaves into a life, your life."

"I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I knew the woman I wanted to become."

   Beyond all the life lessons Diane imparts, this memoir is packed full of celebrity tidbits, behind-the-scenes glimpses of the fashion industry, tales of her travels around the globe, a fabulous photo gallery, and juicy details of the many loves of a woman who likes to fall in love. Loved it, loved it all!  
   What a fascinating and inspiring woman DVF was, is, and will continue to become!  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits"

   PARIS -- never been, must go! J'adore Paris ever since Carrie Bradshaw was "An American Girl in Paris" in the final two episodes of Sex and the City. Beyond seeing all the fabulous sights and wining and dining in charming bistros, I want that laid-back yet über sexy Parisienne flair to be my flair. How lucky for me that How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits is fresh off the press! Written by four long-time friends -- Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas (even their names sound sophisticated!) -- as if they were sharing secrets with you over cocktails, this book has given me the tools to let my "inner Parisienne" out until I actually make it to France.
   Just a few How To Be Parisian gems:

* "Don't be afraid of aging. As the saying goes, don't be afraid of anything but fear itself."

* "Make it look easy. Everything you do should seem effortless and graceful." (I've used this one a ton lately -- working in a hair salon during the holidays is STRESSFUL!)

* perfecting the Parisienne pout

* "Taking yourself too seriously" is a major faux pas. (Another tip I've been using every day!)

* Start every party with champagne to kick up the festivity but add a few ice cubes to stay hydrated and nix the next-day hangover.

* When dressing sexy, less is more. "The Parisienne never gives too much away. When it comes to revealing herself, she follows one golden rule: less is definitely more."

* The art of being naked means "in short, you're not a slave to the cult of the perfect body -- so learn to make the best of what nature gave you."

* how-tos on hair, skin, and plastic surgery for that "au naturel" look

* forget perfection (a very American bad habit), play up your imperfections instead

   I could go on and on, but I want to leave you something to read for yourself because this book is a HOOT! Beyond the life lessons, you'll love the quirky "Scenes From Parisian Life" and candid photos that feel like you've stumbled onto your bestie's diary and sneaked a peek. If you are looking for a fun, quick read that will transport you to Paris -- and to being Parisienne -- from your favorite arm chair, you've found it!

Monday, December 8, 2014

"I'll Drink to That: A life in style, with a twist" by Betty Halbreich (with Rebecca Paley)

   Can retail therapy really save your life? For Betty Halbreich it did. She went from falling apart after the break-up of her marriage, followed by an extended stay in a psych ward, to falling into the perfect life-saving career as a personal shopper for customers of Bergdorf Goodman, the crème de la crème of New York City department stores. And Halbreich is still doing it forty years later, dressing clients and running Bergdorf's Solutions department, at age 86!
   What a fascinating life Miss Betty has lived, which she throws wide open like double closet doors in the new memoir: I'll Drink to That: A life in style, with a twist.  In her distinctively classy but candid style, Halbreich shares her journey from an insular upbringing as an only child in Chicago, fairytale-like with servants and custom-made clothes, to her whirlwind romance and marriage to Sonny Halbreich, a dabbler in real estate and fashion whose real passion, Miss Betty finds out too late, is booze, affairs, and living the high life. To cope with her Park Avenue loneliness and lack of purpose, Halbreich turns to shopping with the ladies-who-lunch. And she was good at it, it came easy for her, and she became the go-to gal for help in "looking put together" within her crowd. When Edna Woolman Chase, the legendary Editor-in-Chief for Vogue, said, "Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess," she could have been speaking directly about Betty Halbreich.

   While at times I felt sad for Miss Betty's struggles with confidence, feeling lost within her own life, and having to deal with Sonny's bad-boy behavior until she finally gave him the boot -- he was quite an ass! -- seeing her life unfold on paper was like watching a masterpiece being painted, with each event and experience, each job and connection, layering on the canvas of her journey to culminate in a very rare phenomenon: finding exactly what you are meant to do, making a good living at it, and actually loving doing it. Going way beyond personal shopping, Miss Betty has become a mentor, confidante, social worker, and lay counselor to her wide variety of clients AND SHE LOVES IT. Maybe not all day -- some of her clients sound so insanely demanding they should be banned from Bergdorf's, but Miss Betty tolerates them with wit and tough love -- but every day. After forty years! I am so jealous! I have been looking for a "calling" like this my entire life. But I've got a while left before I hit 86, so maybe there's hope for me.
   Love this book! And I adore Miss Betty! She tells (and sells) the truth straight up, but makes it palatable with a twist of humor. I gobbled up all the delicious details of Big Apple life through the decades like a pie straight out of the oven, then the whip cream on top was the secret tidbits about the fashion and costume designers she connected with through her Solutions department. And anyone who's read any of my writing can guess that I nearly went out of my mind when Miss Betty wrote about helping Pat Field dress the Sex and the City ladies -- my bestest gal pals for six seasons! -- and her many encounters personal shopping with Joan Rivers! I am a "Joan Ranger" for life and am still mourning the recent loss of my Fashion Police guru.
   Just like Fashion Police and Sex and the City, I never wanted I'll Drink to That to end, but sadly it did. Now I'll just have to read Miss Betty's other book, Secrets of a Fashion Therapist, and hope she writes another very soon. 
   (Kudos to Rebecca Paley for co-writing this memoir! I'll be looking for more of her work as well.)


Sunday, August 3, 2014

"What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding" (a Memoir) by Kristin Newman

   I SO wanted to hate Kristin Newman!

   On my fave show "Fashion Police," there is a segment called "Bitch Stole My Look!," featuring two celebs caught wearing the same outfit, and the hosts dish on who wore it better. In Kristin Newman's case, I'm calling the segment "Bitch Stole My Life!," or at least the life I wish I had. Newman makes her living as a TV comedy writer, most notably for the wildly popular shows "How I Met Your Mother" and "That '70s Show," and makes a buttload of money doing it. I am also a writer -- of two twenty-something-selling books (aka not wildly popular) and three blogs I write for free that barely get noticed -- that scrapes by financially at a day-job in a salon. (If you are one of the few that do actually read my blogs: thank you, thank you, thank you!) With her buttload of money, Newman travels all over the world having fabulous adventures while on hiatus from writing. I, on the other hand, am a self-proclaimed adventurista (I have a blog to prove it!) whose only venture outside the USofA was twenty-some years ago to the Bahamas and whose most recent adventure was to Nashville (not so fabulous). And now it seems Newman is on the verge of being a best-selling author with this memoir and make even more money to fund even more exotic excursions while I sit home and write this free blog. In the battle of "Bitch Stole My Life," Newman wins big time, hence why I wanted to hate her.
   But I couldn't! She is too damn hilarious and fun and self-deprecating and crazy enough to try anything. Instead, I wanted to be her bestie, to be right by her side and "do the thing you're supposed to do in the place you're supposed to do it," her number one rule of adventuring. Except I'd have to draw the line at being by her side during the number one thing she does during her travels: having sex with foreigners. Bestie or not, three is a crowd in the bedroom (and on a boat, in a hammock, and on a kitchen counter -- just a few of the places Newman had international sex-capades).
   Love, love, love this book! Besides being one hell of a hootie read, this memoir is packed with bonus educational tidbits: fun things to see and do from Iceland to Antarctica (or close); how to pick up hot dudes when you don't speak the language; tips for writers on turning painful personal experiences into marketable material; and the basic rules for being a good traveler and travel companion. I do dig getting a two-fer! And Kristin, I have memorized and agree to abide by your road-tripping rules, so the next time you whip out your passport for adventures abroad, give me a call. Then we can write a buddy book or TV series about our time together, and I can get started on the life I wish I had!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way To Monogamy" by Ophira Eisenberg

   Screw everyone, something I've said in my head many times, being a rebel at heart, but have never actually done. Guess I am more chicken than rebel when it comes to my genitals and STDs. Not Ophira Eisenberg though. In what started out as an experiment to "get rid of her virginity" as soon as she could, Eisenberg recounts schtupping her way across Canada and New York City in the hilarious book "Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way To Monogamy."
   For you more modest readers, rest assured the title is more graphic than the coital contents inside. This is not porn disguised as a memoir. But it is a raucous romp through Eisenberg's revolving door of roommates, wacky jobs between comedy gigs, home-away-from-home dive bars, and sex-capades as she tries NOT to find "the one." She is a trooper, too, going back for more after her first sexual encounter with a "Top Gun" Goose-lookalike on a bathroom counter she recalls as being "two minutes long and kind of annoying." (I would have gotten rid of my virginity in a flash had a Maverick-lookalike come along for me! When "Top Gun" came out I saw it in the theater at least ten times and left titillated and moist every time!!) Then after her three-chord guitar strumming boyfriend who was hot in bed but had an even hotter temper, Eisenberg meets Michael, the one she thinks might be "the one" even though she doesn't want one. Turns out he is the one who can't accept her tryst with a Brit while she spent a year down under and he waited for her faithfully. Boo-hoo and bye-bye Michael. If you feel like a slut anyway, might as well be the biggest, best slut you can, right?!
   So Eisenberg really ramps up her sex-as-an-escape life post-Michael, having Canadian encounters Mickey (aka Mr. Anal Beads); Gene, with the smallest penis ever (he told her so himself); and Roger, the nice guy she nearly moved in with but fled to NYC instead. In the Big Apple, Eisenberg hopes to find a better quality of men under the tutelage of the clickety-clack gals, so named for the sound their heels made on the pavement. Even with their advice on how to handle New York men that are demanding and fickle and the necessity of being Brazilian waxed -- which for the half-Israeli Eisenberg lasts about 40 minutes -- the sexual pickings Ophira finds are even worse than in Canada. Take, for instance, the on-again off-again coke guy with the on-again off-again girlfriend, er, wife; the Dark Pony bar back with the best pot EVER that nearly got Ophira arrested and killed in her sleep by his psycho bitch waitress girlfriend; and Mr. "Thanks for the blow job but don't expect anything in return." Who wouldn't give up after those guys??
   Not Eisenberg. She keeps sleeping on and eventually meets "Bright Eyes," whom she thinks she might actually like. Only he won't go out with her because a) he can't date a girl that a friend of his already went out with (even though Ophira only went out with his friend by mistake as she thought the dude texting her for a date WAS Bright Eyes), and b) he isn't into actresses. "Um, I'm a comedian, not an actress," she finally convinces him, and he gives in to try a date. After spending most of her time and energy on sex-perimenting, morphing to a long-term relationship doesn't come easy for Eisenberg, but it sure is funny reading about her getting there. As you might have guessed from the title, there is a happy ending, but I'll let you find out for yourself.
   Read "Screw Everyone" while lazing by the pool this summer, and I bet you will meet someone new who stops to ask what you're laughing out loud about!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Twisted Sisters" by Jen Lancaster

   Jen Lancaster, you can be my twisted sister anytime! Please?!
   In her third novel, "Twisted Sisters," Jen spins the tale of Dr. Reagan Bishop, a psychologist on television (or a television psychologist, depending on where you are in the story) who helps guests overcome their fears on the cable show "I Need a Push." Despite getting recognized in stores for her somewhat celeb status, Reagan never gets proper recognition or respect from her family for her accomplishments. Somehow Geri, Reagan's younger sister, gets all the family accolades, even though her only claims to fame are styling hair, singing karaoke, and being curvaceous (aka "fat ass," according to Reagan). After "Push" gets taken over by a big network, Reagan herself gets pushed into doing some pretty cray-cray things to make their guests "get well" by the end of each episode in order to boost ratings, plus not fail and therefore lose face even more with her family. What follows is a hilarious romp with body surfing through astral projection (like channel surfing only you switch bodies instead of channels), quirky characters, family feuds, serendipitous realizations, and the underlying theme that the truth as you judge it isn't always true, nor does it always bring happiness.
   Love, love, love this book! If you follow my blog, you know that back in January was the last time I raved about what I was reading, so I've been craving a good book BIG TIME. Thankfully, Jen never disappoints! I have to admit that I love her memoirs -- I've read them all and they are fabulous! --more than her novels, but to me "Twisted Sisters" is the ultimate combo of both genres because Dr. Reagan Bishop is SO Jen in so many ways. It's as if Jen channeled herself into Reagan, and then Reagan channeled herself into . . . I'll stop there, don't want to be a spoiler. What else did I love? I was tickled to see the Deva character resurrected from Jen's second novel "Here I Go Again." When she popped up in the story it was an awesome surprise, like an unexpected visit from an old friend. Deva's fat-fingered texting faux pas nearly made me wet my pants every time! Since I work in a salon, I totally dug the parts about sister Geri and her hair magic. And it is true, getting a new 'do CAN change your life, or at least how you feel about your life. I also adored Reagan's neighbors, Trevor and Bryce! Even though I don't speak gringo-gangsta and didn't know what they were talking about most of the time, I would definitely party with those dudes the next time I get a craving for cupcake-flavored vodka. Plus, they taught me the acronym "yolo": You only live once. (Well, actually they didn't teach me so much as they said it so many times I had to Google it to figure out the meaning, but still, now I know so I can be in the know when someone says yolo. So thanks, Playas!)
   So many things to love about "Twisted Sisters"! Probably the best thing about the book, besides all the laugh-out-loud laughs, is the Bishop family makes my family seem almost normal. Almost. 
   "Twisted Sisters": get it, read it, let me know if you love it too!

Here's a link to Jen Lancaster's website:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion" by Fannie Flagg

   All hail to Fannie Flagg, the absolute queen of storytelling! She weaves a can't-wait-to-turn-the-page tale like nobody else, spins characters (some new, some old friends from previous stories) you wish lived right next door to you and you start to miss before the book is even finished, and teaches you a little something along the way. Now that is the very best of fiction writing!  
  In her newest novel "The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion," Flagg tells side-by-side stories occurring in different places and times, reminiscent of her bestselling novel "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe." In the beginning we get reacquainted with Mrs. Earle Poole, Jr., aka Sarah Jane "Sookie" Poole, daughter of the formidable Lenore Simmons Krackenberry, of Point Clear, Alabama. The last time I hung out with Sookie was in Flagg's novel "Welcome to the World, Baby Girl," when her kids were still little and her best college friend Dena Nordstrom comes to Alabama to escape the pressures of being a big city newswoman. Now Sookie's kids are all grown up, the last of her and Earle's girls are married off, and she is contemplating relaxing and figuring out what's next for her life. Believe me, never in her wildest imagination, even with the tad bit of crazy that runs through the Simmons' family, did Sookie figure on what happens next.
   While Sookie is fretting and fainting and seeing psychiatrist Dr. Shapiro on the sly (oh my!), we also follow the Jurdabralinksi family's journey all the way from war-torn Poland to Pulaski, Wisconsin, and them scoring a perfect 100 for the cleanest restrooms in the entire Phillips 66 Petroleum chain. Those Jurdabralinskis are a hoot! From fearless Fritzi to war-bound Wink-a-Dink to sweet Sophie, Flagg made me feel like I got to hang out with each and every one of them, got to hear their innermost thoughts, feel their fears and joys. And somehow through vignettes and letters, Flagg meshes the lives of Sookie Poole and the Jurdabralinskis into a charming, heartwarming, and thoroughly entertaining story that also reminds the world of the WASPS -- the Women Air Force Service Pilots -- that risked their lives to ferry planes to military bases during World War II despite being considered "volunteers" and never being eligible for military benefits. I was awed at the amazing courage of these lady fliers, 38 of whom died in service, who stepped up when their country needed them and were cast away with barely a "thanks" of recognition when the war was coming to a close.
   Thanks Fannie, for teaching me about the WASPS, acquainting me with the Jurdabralinskis (I hope I meet them again in another book!), and bringing Sookie back with a bang in a book of her very own. I love, love, love "The All-Girls Filling-Station's Last Reunion!" My only complaint is that it's been soooo long since your last novel, so get started on the next one right away!