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Thursday, August 28, 2014

One Plus One: a Novel

          Here is a novel that combines the realistic with the romantic. The author is JoJo Moyes, a British writer who is successful in her home country and is gaining recognition in the United States.
         Our heroine is Jess, a single mother with two children, who works many hours as a co-partner for a house cleaning service and also as a barmaid. She has sent her estranged husband, who is unemployed and supposedly in the throes of depression, to live with his mother until his prospects improve. Jess is reluctant to ask him for child support since he cannot support himself. Jess’s stepson Nicky is the victim of bullies. Her daughter Tanzie is a math genius who is offered a scholarship to a prestigious private school but Jess has difficulty making up the final ten percent of fees needed. Despite her problems, Jess has an optimistic outlook on life, believing that something will turn up to solve their problems.

         Then we meet Ed. He is a techie geek who co-founded a software company with his friend; eventually selling it to “the suits” (businessmen) but still working for the company. Ed is a millionaire, although not as wealthy since his ex-wife got a lot of his money in the divorce settlement. Ed also is one of Jess’s house cleaning clients; they do not care for one another.  Things fall apart for Ed when he is charged with giving “insider information” to a romantic partner. An investigation ensues and Ed is asked not to return to work until the enquiry is completed.

         Jess is told that there is a math tournament in Scotland for which Tanzie is eligible, winning one of the prizes could pay towards her schooling. Jess, the children and the dog take off in a dilapidated old car, breaking down on the highway. Charged by the police for driving without insurance, who should come to the rescue but Ed, who in an attempt to avoid his personal problems and a desire to do something to boost his feelings of self-worth, offers to drive them all to Scotland in his car.

         The road trip that follows, and the events beyond it, are at turns hysterical and serious.  The characters in this book are fully fleshed out and encourage the reader to care about each one. Comedy and pathos combine, yet things work out in the end; making for an enjoyable reading experience.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Brooklyn: a Novel

           Both a coming-of-age novel and an immigrant’s tale, Brooklyn: a Novel, written by Colm Toibin, tells the story of Eilis, a young Irish woman who is intelligent yet inexperienced in the ways of the world. We meet Eilis first in Enniscorthy, Ireland, during the early 1950s, where she lives with her widowed mother and her outgoing elder sister Rose. Jobs are hard to find in Ireland; Eilis’ brothers have left the country to work in England. Rose contacts Father Flood, an Irish priest working in Brooklyn and arrangements are made for Eilis to get a job there. The author portrays Eilis as a submissive daughter and sister, afraid to leave her home for the unknown yet willing to do so because it is expected of her.

            As Eilis embarks on her journey across the ocean to her new life in Brooklyn, she rides a roller coaster of new experiences that include independence, adjustment to a new culture, and romance. She meets Tony who comes from a warm Italian family, much different from her own. She attends Brooklyn College, earns a certificate in bookkeeping and obtains the promise of a bookkeeping position from her current employer. Her life is going well; then, tragedy strikes. Eilis is notified that her sister Rose has died. At first bereft and then guilt-ridden when her brother sends a letter urging her to go to Ireland to look after their mother, Eilis and Tony confer and together decide that she will visit her mother for a short while and then return to Brooklyn to Tony and her new life. Tony insists that Eilis marry him in a civil ceremony before leaving for Ireland, to be followed by a church wedding when she returns.

            Once in Ireland, Eilis falls into a routine of caring for her mother, meeting up with friends and garnering the interest of a young man who she previously thought to be ill-mannered. Also, she is offered a job at the company where Rose worked. Never having told her mother that she was going with a young man in Brooklyn, Eilis is unable to tell her that she has married. It looks as though she could settle into life in Ireland again, although it would be a deceitful choice. But then a chance encounter with an old employer shocks Eilis into honesty, confessing to her mother about Tony and beginning her journey back home the next day.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Spruce Up Your Fall Wardrobe Now

With school beginning in September, and autumn weather arriving soon after, this is the ideal time to update your wardrobe. Here are some books to help.

            Lawrence Zarian’s Ten Commandments for a Perfect Wardrobe is written by Zarian, who is a fashion advisor to celebrities and a television personality in his own right. He takes the reader through his personal struggles in weight control and self-image, then details the before-and-after stories of celebrity makeovers, including photos.

Style Bible: What to Wear to Work is written by Lauren Rothman, a fashion/style expert featured in various magazines and television shows. She helps both men and women discover the best work wardrobes for themselves according to their industry, city and gender. Shopping tips for both in-store and in-closet are presented.

Magical Fashionista: Dress for the Life You Want is written by Tess Whitehurst, an intuitive worker and energy counselor. She relies on the use of Western and Chinese astrology, Feng Shui, psychology and more to help the reader discover her true essence and express it through wardrobe and accessories.

Style and the Successful Girl: Transform Your Look, Transform Your Life is written by Gretta Monahan, a businesswoman who owns several boutiques and spas, and is Rachael Ray’s go-to fashion/style expert. Photos, stories, and sidebars assist the reader in dressing for success.

Wear this now: Your Style Solution for every Season and any Occasion is written by Michelle Madhok, an online shopping and style expert who is the founder and CEO of  Shefinds Media. Design advice and shopping tips abound in this book!