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In Search of the Menopause Ranch, by Deborah Vaughn

March 22, 2012 Comments off

FICTION

From the moment Kimberly woke up she knew she had to be dreaming. Or worse…. Where was she? Middle age felt like the edge of a cliff and she hadn’t decided whether or not to jump. She’s about to learn what lies ahead in this transition, if only she can find the courage.

Heart-warming, irreverent and funny, “IN SEARCH OF THE MENOPAUSE RANCH” shares the intimate lives of women who’ve been devoted mothers, caretakers, workaholics and loving wives. But now what? As time seems to stand still, Deborah Vaughn takes us on a journey of self-discovery through encounters with the Goddess and the lives of each woman as they discover what’s missing —  what they almost forgot about themselves, their world and their gifts.

“I loved this book! Men, women, ancient history, the church, witches, inquisition, Gods and Goddesses—everything you wanted to know about how you got to where you are and what you can do about it. What will we do with our menopausal zest? How can we change our immediate worlds for the better—one woman, one town at a time?

Read this book— well researched, fascinating in its portrayal of history we never learned in school. All women will recognize themselves or others they know in the characters found at the Menopause Ranch. Laugh, weep, and then apply its lessons in your life. A great experience!”
Nikki Marie Welch, M.D.

Women in your middle years, what would you give to be whisked away from the cares of your daily life (by such colorful Spirit Guides as Belladonna Morose and Mea Culpeppa); to be taken to a magical realm where you’d discover the secrets of the ages that women have known since the world was new? Fortunately, to gain all the warmth, humor and wisdom of this special women’s retreat, you only have to read Deborah’s captivating novel, IN SEARCH OF THE MENOPAUSE RANCH.
Kris Neri, award-winning author of NEVER SAY DIE and the Tracy Eaton mysteries.

Deborah Vaughn attributes her straight-talking honesty to her Indiana roots. Life has been an instructive detour as an aspiring actress on Broadway, a minion in the corporate jungle and loving wife for 23 years. It was on a road trip with her sister where ‘IN SEARCH OF THE MENOPAUSE RANCH’ was born with the message that every journey in life is unique and special, just like every woman. Parts of it maybe unplanned and a bit bumpy, but by mid-life we have the skills, the talent and the guts to pave our own way.

Pisquale Productions

www.menopauseranch.com

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As is often the case with the books I review here, the back cover copy of In Search of the Menopause Ranch doesn’t provide a good indication of what the book is about: in it, menopausal women arrive mysteriously at a place with beautiful scenery and perfect catering, they share the stories of their lives, and are given some dodgy information about medical science and the gift of menopause. It’s an easy-enough read and it has the potential to be amusing: but the characters are thinly-drawn and homogenous and are often used as little more than vehicles to deliver information to each other; the information provided seems biased-to-wrong; and I find it quite unbelievable that not one out of all the women who appear at the ranch chooses to share a positive, affirming moment in their lives. Instead, they all share stories of unhappiness and exclusion, and while I’m sure that there are plenty of women who experience life in this way, I know that there are plenty more who do not. The people who feature in this book are a dreary lot, with their stories of sexism and misogyny, and I found it impossible to empathise with any of them despite my own menopausal trials. The women who work at the menopause ranch are no more finely drawn: they talk of the gift of femininity and the joy that is missing from contemporary life: but far from empathising with them I wanted to strangle them for their patronising, superior attitudes and their insistence that the women who had been transported to the ranch should follow their schedule without motive or explanation.

It’s an easy enough read, and is not at all demanding: it has the usual mix of punctuation and grammar problems; it’s often confusing; and it makes all sorts of claims about research, medicine and menopause which I suspect are based more on opinion than on fact. I read twenty-five of this book’s two hundred and seventy-two pages, but that relatively high page count owes more to my lenient mood when I was reading than to the appeal of this book.

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The Outsider’s Guide To Orthodox Judaism: Rabbi Arnie Singer

June 18, 2009 Comments off

The Outsider’s guide To Orthodox Judaism

“The Outsider’s Guide gave me the information and insight I needed to better understand my Orthodox Jewish colleagues.”

“This book is the perfect gift for any non-Orthodox friend or coworker. It’ll help clear up many misconceptions about Orthodox practice and beliefs.”

“Clear, concise, informative, and easy to read.”

“After reading The Outsider’s Guide, I don’t feel like such an outsider any more!”

What we have here is a book which is just right for self-publication: it occupies a nice little niche in the market which its author, Rabbi Arnie Singer, is perfectly placed to exploit.

It is not without its problems: the punctuation is somewhat erratic; there are several inconsistencies in formatting and style which are typical of self-published books; and I frequently found myself frustrated by the brevity of the text because despite this book’s rather dry title, it’s a good read. It provides a lot of information in a very small space and while the depth and detail that I’d have preferred is lacking, I can understand why the author chose this route—he was writing a handbook, not a history. I read twenty-five pages out of one hundred and fifteen to find my fifteen problems but I will be reading more and would suggest that you do too: this is a very informative, useful little book for anyone to have on their shelves.

The Bomb That Followed Me Home (Rumpleville Chronicles): Cevin Soling and Steve Kille

May 14, 2009 3 comments

We’ve all heard of stray cats following kids home or a lost puppy yelping by a kitchen door for food, but did you know that even a wayward little bomb needs love and attention to?

When a bomb, looking for a friend, follows a young boy home, trouble breaks out in a suburban household that is just trying to keep peace with the angry neighbors next door.

I make it quite clear that I don’t review picture books so by sending me a picture book to review, the authors of The Bomb That Followed Me Home: A Fairly Twisted Fairy Tale already have a strike against them.

Because this is a picture book it has relatively little text and I’ll admit, I consequently reached the end before I’d found my fifteen errors: so as I do follow the rules here, I shall now review the book even though it shouldn’t have been submitted to me in the first place.

According to the the press release which was included with this book, the author and illustrator responsible for this book are being deliberately provocative in an attempt to make their readers think about social issues: I wish they’d spent a little more time working on their story, and a little less time thinking about how clever they could be, because it just doesn’t work.

In the book, a bomb follows a little boy home; the next-door neighbour shouts at the boy when he takes a short cut through her garden; and as his parents don’t like the neighbour either, they end up giving the bomb to her. You can guess the ending. And if you want to be helpful you could also try to guess the social commentary contained within the story because all I can see here is a book with an ugly cover and a retro-in-all-the-wrong-ways design; an unengaging text with a few clumsy attempts at humour and characterisation, and a glib, self-congratulatory tone which alienated me right from the start.

Straight From The Horse’s Heart: R T Fitch

March 24, 2009 8 comments

Horses can’t talk, but they can speak if you listen. And in Straight from the Horse’s Heart: A Spiritual Ride through Love, Loss, and Hope, R. T. Fitch translates what he has learned while listening to horses. In fact, the author is not so much a horse whisperer as he is a horse listener. From the horse’s mouth to our ears, he beautifully captures the essence of the language of horses and the special relationship between horse and human. As dramatic as it is inspiring, his insights on life, love, and survival are echoes of the windswept mane and beating hooves of a wild mare and the calm stillness of a foal. Together these melodic, often poetic stories find blessings in the eye of the storm and celebrate the quietude of reflection and inner peace.

When I started to read this book I expected to dislike it: I don’t do well with sentimentality, nor with those “tragic-about-brave” tabloid-fodder stories that so often form around animals and those who rescue them.

Instead, I found a book which is, at its start at least, heart-warming and full of a very particular charm. It is simply written and very accessible: but the text needs a stiff edit as it’s let down by a good few careless mistakes in punctuation and structure which could easily have been addressed, which prevented me from reading past page twenty-five.

What worries me more, though, is the direction that the book eventually takes. It is episodic, built from thirty-five short standalone pieces: but while the early chapters discuss the author’s work with horses with great simplicity and charm the later pieces are rather more surreal, and take the form of conversations with horses in turmoil, several of which are written from the horse’s points of view. I did not find these pieces convincing or credible: and they let down the rest of the writing, I’m afraid.

I suspect that the author would have had a good chance of finding a mainstream publisher if he had only written a different book: despite the errors that I spotted he writes well, seems to have a natural sense of pacing, and I’ll bet he has plenty of stories to tell. I’d strongly advise him to consider writing a book which describes all the various horses he had helped over the years, and discusses the many challenges that each horse presented, and trying for a mainstream deal next time.