New York Times Bestselling Author

Posts made in October, 2016

Health & Fitness: The Importance of Warm Ups, Regular Workouts, and Other Lofty but Mythical Goals

Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 |

I have a habit of getting fit and healthy for a couple weeks, feel smug and satisfied with myself, and then get bored with my dazzling healthy perfection. So then I let all of my muscles calcify and my gut balloon to the point that it gets into daily epic battles with the successful buttoning of my jeans.

The idea, of course, is to work out a few times a week and generally eat in a healthy manner. My reality, however, is that I work out like a maniac and eat like a saint for a couple weeks, and then I don’t work out at all and eat like the zombie apocalypse is coming so I should enjoy my sloth until imminent Armageddon. (That whole: live like every day is your last is lovely advice . . . unless you happen to wake up the next day and have bills to pay and would prefer to not to achieve the level of morbid obesity that would require firefighters to break down an entire wall to rescue you from a fire.)

After my couple of weeks of sloth and gluttony, when I get back to the work out and eat right phase, it’s unbelievably depressing that in just such a short time, all of the strides toward fitness I’d made disappear into the ether. Just a couple weeks ago I was patting myself on the back and bragging about how I could do fifteen straight-leg push-ups IN A ROW, and now I’m doing a few bent knee push-ups only to discover that the next day I find it difficult to lift my arms high enough to wash my hair.

It’s disheartening how quickly muscles atrophy. Seemingly overnight they become fossilized and cranky.

That’s one of the joys of middle age: When I was in high school I could go into the splits without warming up. Now, warming up is an achievement in itself.

When I watched the movie Magic Mike XXL, I did not, as one reviewer had stated, find it that it was empowering for women. Yes, the men are celebrating women of all sizes, but they are telling these women how beautiful they are BECAUSE THEY WANT THEIR MONEY. But the main thing I kept thinking was—these gorgeous men can’t just pull women out of the audience and start flinging them around—these women haven’t warmed up yet! What if they throw their back out! Think of sciatica health!

I’m currently in a work out and eat right phase. I spent quite a bit of time warming up, naturally—I hate throwing my back out.

Pardon me while I dwell in a cocoon of smug self-satisfaction . . .

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Book Reviews: Women’s Fiction

Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 |

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie

♥♥♥♥

Women’s Fiction

hiddenOne of the things that’s compelling about McKenzie’s work is that each book is distinct from her others. They are all unique. What’s unique about this story isn’t simply that it alternates points of view between different characters—lots of novels do that—but that one of the narrators, Jeff, is killed in chapter one, yet he continues throughout the book to tell his part of the story. His point of view helps explain why it’s not just his wife, Claire, who is grieving, but a coworker who lives a few hours away, Tish.

This book goes back and forth in time—the present in which Claire is planning and then attending the funeral, back to work events that happened a few days or weeks or a year prior to Jeff’s untimely death.

The relationships between the characters are complex and nuanced. Claire begins to suspect that there may have been something more between Jeff and Tish than simply working for the same company, even if they worked at different branches. Claire has her 12-year-old son, Tish has a doctor husband and a precocious 11-year-old daughter. We, the readers, are also unclear throughout the book if Tish and Jeff simply enjoyed emailing each other and being together at work retreats, or if something more was going on—something that could destroy both their marriages.

After the initial shock of Claire’s husband dying in a car accident and dealing with the funeral and the endless stream of people telling her how sorry they are for her loss, Claire becomes obsessed with finding out if the love she shared with Jeff was real, or was he also in love with another woman? She is dealing with her own grief and her complicated past with Jeff’s brother—who has largely been estranged and living in Australia for years but comes back for the funeral.

This is a complex book about the choices we make with relationships, with love, with family, and with ourselves.

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

♥♥♥♥♥

Women’s Fiction

onsecondthouhtI loved, loved, loved this book. This is exactly what I like to read—women’s fiction with comedic and romantic elements. This novel delivers in every way—humor, heartbreak, complex family and romantic relationships, and characters you root for the whole way.

In chapter one, we know that Kate’s husband will not live through the day. You would think a novel that begins with a loved one’s death—a quirk of an accident—would not be funny, but there is a lot of humor throughout this story.

The other thing I love about this book is that it alternates between Kate’s first person point of view and her sister’s point of view. STEPsister, as Ainsley has been reminded time and time again by her stepmother throughout her life.

In part because Kate is several years older than Ainsley and in part because they have very different personalities, they’ve never been that close. But when Kate’s husband dies and Ainsley’s boyfriend of eleven years decides not to propose to her at long last but to break up with her, the two shattered sisters come together to help each other survive their mutual heartbreaks.

Much of the humor comes from the character of Gram-Gram, their octogenarian grandmother who gets a Tinder account and prowls wakes to make her move on newly widowed men.

Both Kate and Ainsley are likeable characters in their own way, and how the plot unfolds is not predictable—I hate when I can figure how things will end way before I actually finish the last page, and this book does not disappoint in that regard.

The writing is wonderful—I definitely recommend this for fans of women’s fiction.

Thanks to Netgalley and HQN for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.


Paris for One by JoJo Moyes

♥♥♥♥

Women’s Fiction

parisThis is a light and funny collection of one novella and several short stories. I prefer the depth of novels, but if you’re looking for quick, short reads, this is fun.

Moyes is able to give deep glimpses into her characters’ lives in very brief tales. In a couple of the stories, married life does not seem appealing at all. The short story Holdups is particularly funny, but there are a lot of hilarious lines throughout the book.

There isn’t a ton of depth here, but it was definitely an enjoyable read. This book reminded me of the work of Marian Keyes, an author I adore.


Triple Love Score by Brandi Megan Granett 

♥♥♥

Women’s Fiction

triplelovescoreA poetry professor has led a rather dull life thus far, pining away for her childhood sweetheart, who mysteriously disappeared from her life six years earlier. When he turns up again after she’s had a torrid affair with an Irish student, his reasons for disappearing are complicated, but not unforgiveable.

This book has romantic elements, but they are complex, which makes it interesting. The writing is good and it definitely got me wanting to play more Scrabble! I liked the idea of a poetry professor who’s having time writing poems turning to her Scrabble board to create poems/art that she then shares with folks on the internet. That morphs into something much bigger than she could have imagined.

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Health & Fitness: How Sugar Addiction is like Heroin: Why I hate Halloween

Posted by on Oct 30, 2016 |

Halloween as a kid was the greatest. I grew up in a suburb of about 30,000 people not far from Chicago, a city of 2.7 million people, but my neighborhood was tightknit—everyone knew everyone. Of course, trick-or-treating in the Midwest meant spending hours putting together a creative costume—and then covering up said costume with ten layers of coats and gloves and scarves and hats so we didn’t get frostbite as we went door to door collecting candy.

I know lots of adults who say Halloween is their favorite holiday of the year. These are the same people that get VERY excited about Comic Con events and can reference Star Trek and Star Wars the way I reference works of literature to people who have evidently never read a book in their lives. For me, Halloween is like Christmas—it’s a holiday for kids. As a grown up, I find Halloween evil—all those endless commercials for candy get me craving sugar like crazy.

Now, pretty much everything except crack cocaine is OK in moderation. Growing up, my dad would always have a small bag of M&Ms in the freezer. He’d have one or two, then put the bag back and go about his day. Me on the other hand? If candy or ice cream comes into my house, it will not survive the day. When I lived with my boyfriend, he was under strict orders to hide his candy in his study—preferably under lock and key.

Where I live now, I don’t get trick-or-treaters, so I have no excuse to bring candy into the house, and I’m no longer living with my boyfriend, so I couldn’t raid his stash in a sugar emergency even if I wanted to. But the Halloween candy commercials get me salivating—not for high-quality gourmet chocolates that will be savored leisurely, but for cheap crap that is 99% sugar and 1% dye and scary chemicals I can’t pronounce that will be consumed as fast as I can chew and swallow.

Here’s why I try to avoid sugar: Too much sugar in your diet makes you look older than you are. A natural process known as glycation happens when the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs, for short). The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. These damage surrounding proteins like collagen and elastin, which keep skin firm and elastic. Once damaged, springy and resilient collagen and elastin become dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. These aging effects start at about age thirty-five and increase rapidly after that.

Also, sugar has been shown to be as addictive as cocaine and heroin. Researchers at Princeton University studying bingeing and dependency in rats have found that when the animals ingest large amounts of sugar, their brains undergo changes similar to the changes in the brains of people who abuse illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin. In the studies, the animals consuming sugar water experienced behavioral changes, too, along with signs of withdrawal and even long-lasting effects that resemble cravings.

Even though I try to limit the amount of sugar I consume, the commercials for Halloween candy inspire insane cravings, and I feel like a junkie desperate for a hit. There is no rehab for mainlining bags of sugar (in the form of candy). Alcoholism is a genetic trait, but my dad’s ability to have two M&Ms and then go about his day unfettered by visions of chocolate lurking in the freezer was not a genetic trait passed on to me. Fortunately, this evil holiday is almost over, and except for that huge bag of Starbursts I ate in one night, I’ll otherwise survive without having to go through sugar-junkie withdrawal.

I’ll never speak of the Starburst bender again. I’ve confessed to my journal and this blog. I hope it works the same way as Catholics confessing to priests—I’m forgiven for my sins now that I’ve come clean. My penance is having to do extra Insanity workouts and dinners of bland protein and lots of taste-free vegetables.

I’m a vegetarian, so I can survive Thanksgiving and Christmas with just two days of overeating, but not going completely insane.

I just have to make it through the next eleven months until the candy commercials start again, tempting me like a drug dealer at the playground . . .

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#funnylinefic

Posted by on Oct 9, 2016 | 1 comment

The idea behind #funnylinefic is to see how humor is used effectively in fiction. Some books are intended to be humorous, sometimes humor is used to add levity to after a tension-filled scene, other times comedy is used to show character. People like funny, so a protagonist with a sense of humor is likeable, even if the subject matter is decidedly unfunny. For example, in RACHEL’S HOLIDAY by Marian Keyes, the protagonist is dealing with drug addiction, yet the book is hilarious. In THE DOG YEAR by Ann Garvin, the protagonist is suffering from the loss of her husband and unborn child from an accident. She adopts a dog and finds a cast of humorously damaged characters who help her heal.

Also, it’s always important to promote our fellow writers, so share funny lines from your favorite authors, your own published books or from your works in progress! (Please feel free to share in the comments section of this page as well—by sharing we’ll assume you’re open to comments on your work.) Tweet them out—if 140 characters isn’t enough, make the quote a graphic.

goodinbed“It’s sometimes hard not to be envious of someone who can take food or leave it, whereas I mostly take it and then take hers, too.” GOOD IN BED by Jennifer Weiner

 

 

 

rachelsholidayThey said I was a drug addict. If found that hard to come to terms with . . . surely drug addicts were thinner? RACHEL’S HOLIDAY by Marian Keyes

 

 

 

 

fieldofschemesWithout the German team emblem and player number on the back, it could’ve passed for a prison uniform, which is exactly what I’d be wearing if I made it a habit of getting into retail brawls with other soccer moms. FIELD OF SCHEMES  by Jennifer Coburn 

 

 

 

lifeaftercoffee“Noooo! No! No!” she screams, straining against her harness and thrashing all of her legs and arms at the same time. I notice that she manages to keep hold of the muffin. I have no time for this McDrama; we’re going to have to take the muffin in. If I have stink out the reception area with McDonald’s reek, then so be it.” LIFE AFTER COFFEE by Virginia Franken 

 

 

bookofjoe

 

Any schmuck can be unhappy when things aren’t going well, but it takes a truly unique variety of schmuck, a real innovator in the schmuck field, to be unhappy when things are going as great as they are for me. THE BOOK OF JOE Jonaby thon Tropper

 

 

 

who2-1Going into the job market armed with nothing more than a degree in English is like trying to fight a five-alarm fire when you’re soaked with lighter fluid—you’re just not going to get very far. WHO YOU KNOW by Theresa Alan

 

 

 

 

likeyoujustfineI LIKE YOU JUST FINE WHEN YOU’RE NOT AROUND by Ann Garvin (That’s just the title of the book, but I think it wins for best humorous title)

 

 

 

 

spin

It was O.J. all over again (sans, you know, the whole murdering your ex-wife thing). SPIN by Catherine McKenzie 

 

 

 

 

meninkiltsThe only man I met was a street person who hit me up for a pound by promising to write my name in urine on the sidewalk. MEN IN KILTS by Katie Macallister

 

 

 

 

longwaydownWhen we first split up, he called me a stalker, but that’s an emotive word “stalker” isn’t it? I don’t think you can call it stalking when it’s just phone calls and letters and emails and knocking on the door. And I only turned up at his work twice. Three times, if you count his Christmas party, which I don’t. A LONG WAY DOWN by Nick Hornby

 

 

 

smalladmissionsChildhood with Professors Pearson and Watts had been perfectly stable and even loving, but acutely, serially embarrassing. SMALL ADMISSIONS by Amy Peoppel

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Book Reviews: Suspense

Posted by on Oct 6, 2016 |

The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni

♥♥♥♥♥

Mystery

trappedgirlIt wasn’t until the end of the book that I fell in love with it.

This was my first Tracy Crosswhite book, and while the murder case involving a woman’s body found in a crab trap by mistake might be linked to a woman who disappeared two months earlier was compelling, I wanted a closer POV from Tracy’s perspective. I felt like much about what we knew about Detective Tracy Crosswhite was simply told to us: she was too personally involved in this case because her own sister had gone missing twenty years ago and Tracy had sacrificed her own personal happiness searching for answers. I’m guessing some of that insight would have been answered for me if I’d read the earlier books in this series.

While Tracy and her partner Kins investigate the body found in the water, there is cross-department feuding over jurisdiction. (Was it murder? Was it a missing persons case that belonged to another county?)

I did like how well drawn the supporting characters are, but it’s not until the last fifty pages of the book that things really start to get interesting. Dugoni is a gifted writer; I’ll definitely be reading all of his books that I can get my hands on.


Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless

♥♥♥♥♥

Mystery > Suspense 

bloodonthetracksThis is great writing. The story and characters grab you right away and the pace is unrelenting.

Railroad cop and Iraq veteran Sydney Parnell is brought in to help track down The Burned Man, a man known for riding the rails and suspected of a vicious murder of a woman who reached out to people in need, including those who ride trains.

The Burned Man is an Iraq vet who has burns over thirty percent of his body, including his face. He should be easy to find, but when Sydney and her canine, Clyde (who is also haunted by his time in Iraq), join the Denver Police on the case, Sydney begins to suspect that maybe someone other than The Burned Man is responsible for the woman’s horrible death.

Sydney still sees the ghosts of the people she put back together during her time in mortuary affairs in Iraq. Even before her two tours of duty, she had a rough childhood. She is a complex individual, and both Sydney and her dog are likeable characters. The snowy, cold Denver weather and setting play an important role in this story as well.

I highly recommend this suspense-filled story.


The Trespasser by Tana French

♥♥♥

Mystery > Suspense

trespasserThis is not my favorite Tana French book. In The Trespasser, Detectives Antoinette Conway and Steve Moran are assigned what they think is a run-of-the-mill domestic dispute gone horribly awry. After all, there is no forced entry and they know that she was meeting a date that night. They do think there is something suspicious about the way Detective Breslin wants them to arrest the boyfriend ASAP, but despite his hurry, they do their best to look into the few things at odds with making this an open and shut case.

The problem with this book, unlike other French’s novels, is that because the lead detectives think this is boring and run-of-the-mill, and because things don’t really start unraveling until the last one hundred pages or so, it’s also kind of run-of-the-mill and boring for us, the readers. Also, the writing isn’t the high-literary quality of her other books.

This is still well written and it will keep you turning pages, it’s just not her best work. Start with her novels in the Murder Squad series 1-5, like Into the Woods or The Secret Place.

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