Next Up For Review

Next Up For Review
The Center Cannot Hold, Elyn Saks

Friday, September 30, 2011

What I Learned From Anna Karenina

Well, I finally did it. I finished ANNA KARENINA. I started it in late July. Since I read it on my Kindle, I have no idea if that is an acceptable time frame for finishing. If you don't own a Kindle, everything goes by percentages. For example: page 28 would be viewed as 5% or 10% or any other percent based on how long the book is. This is a curse & a blessing. With a typical book, say anything 300 pages or less, my percentage to time left ratio is fairly accurate; however, with a mega novel like ANNA KARENINA--not so much. Once I hit the 98% mark, it still took close to a week to read to the end.
Since this book is considered to be one of the *greats* I'm not going to go through with my typical graded review. I mean really, it's Tolstoy people. What could I possibly have to say about a book written by Tolstoy that would be of any value to anyone? Instead, I will give you my thoughts (those are always interesting, right?) pretending I know nothing of the gravity of the book. Consider me a babe in arms, with no knowledge of literary classics (not much of a stretch), no knowledge of Russian history...or any history beyond what I learned in high school (okay, I admit, this is true), and the attention span of a gnat who just ingested a Starbucks double shot.
Above all, try to keep a sense of humor. To do otherwise will only serve to make you hate me in the worst way.
What I learned from reading Anna Karenina:
1. People talked, wrote, and thought in the longest, most convoluted ways. If Tolstoy wrote (I'm speaking only of sentence structure here) the same book today, his editors would be having fits. I'm talking serious, Grand Mal seizures. I certainly didn't mind the long winded, semi colon filled conversations; but considering the last five Literary Agents I spoke to told me that long, complicated, wordy writing was a no-no...I'm thinking he'd be self published for sure.Of course, this is true of all period writing, since styles change to give an accurate portrayal of current times.
2.Details were mega important. If you like a fully detailed scene from every possible angle, this book will rock your socks off. I like details. I also believe that there is such a thing as over kill. Chapters devoted entirely to harvesting fields in Russia fall into the latter category. I like that type of detail to be a page or two at most. I fell asleep a few times while Levin was pontificating about the role of the peasant in Russian society. I know how terrible that sounds. If you're offended by my lack of cooth, please re-read the above preface to this review, as I will not apologize.
3. If you happened to be  of any wealth or means (and you were a man), your life was AWESOME. In the upper echelon of Russian society, life was one big party. Even the fake rich (Dolly & Stepan) had nurses, cooks, country houses, name it. Work consisted of going to an office where people came to ask you if you would grant them wishes, etc, and every night you would stay out until one or two in the morning. Dinner parties happened every night of the week, as did the opera, and nobody exchanged much cash.
4. Everyone was given at least three names, which were all interchangeable, depending on mood/whims/relationship and the person speaking. I'm sure there is cultural/period/class significance here. No need to explain. I only wish this held true today. I'd love to be known as: Elizabeth Loan, Elisabetta Burkano Manifesto AND Elsie cool would that be?
5. The rich, in spite of all their wealth, were pretty miserable. AS a reader who would have fallen into the peasant class, I can't help but feeling these people just needed more to do. In other words, if you can spend entire months in 'spiritual crisis' during the 1800's, you needed some good old fashioned real work! BTW, I find this to remain true today. :)
6. Lastly, Anna, Anna, Anna...what can I say? I loved her and I hated her. The scene where she visits Seryhoza on his birthday brought me to tears; but to jump in front of a train for the lost love of a man? No, I cannot accept that.Where does her death leave her son...her daughter? I found myself trying to diagnose her. Was she suffering from PPD? Bipolar disorder? Severe Narcissism? Did she really truly believe her death would teach Vronsky the ultimate lesson?
In the end I decided she was part of Tolstoy's twisted soap opera (the book was originally done in installments. I love this because: a. it tells me that people have always loved scintillating scandalous material and b.even the greats produced in small bites from time to time) unable to fathom life without her one great love.
Not quite the heroine I was looking for. Although I give her bonus points for having the courage to follow her heart.
And that my friends, is my take on ANNA KARENINA.
(free on for kindle)
Have an excellent weekend. Until next time,

Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm Shrinking!

That's what I will be saying if any of my hard work & meticulous food logging pays off. So far, I'm exactly the same as I was when I was sitting around with a tub of Ben & Jerry's in hand. With the season of good eating (which starts on Halloween and runs straight through Valentine's Day) just around the corner, I realize I've reached my maximum comfortable girth.
Not good if you live for pumpkin pie, peppermint ice cream, and chocolate martini's.
So, with a little over a month of time left before the Love's Halloween driveway bonfire/smorgasbord, I decided to kick my glutes into high gear with a shake-up of the 'ol fitness routine. Furthermore, since I've put oodles of thought and time (and money...can't forget the greenbacks) into this project, I felt a review of my first two new DVD's was in order. Here we go:
Tracey Mallet, Booty Barre, Total Body Transformation
Grade A
The Booty Barre DVD is a fun, unique, high energy class. It fuses legendary fitness techniques from Pilates, Dance, Calisthenics and yoga. You will streamline, firm, tighten and tone your entire body without adding bulk. Creating balance, posture, body awareness, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance.
The result is a body that looks and moves 10 years younger!
What's the secret behind The Booty Barre?
Fat Burning Interval Training
Deep Toning Isometric Conditioning
Elongating Techniques inherent in Pilates and Dance
Mixed together to create a NEW workout that will change how you exercise forever!
Say goodbye to cellulite and belly fat with The Booty Barre.
For this workout you will need a chair or a ballet barre and a set of 3-5 pound dumbbells
This is the original Booty Barre DVD. It is a full 60 minutes of heart pumping, thigh burning, abs screaming exercise. Technically this is a 'strength' workout; but research (cough, cough, looked it up on several sites online) has shown that it is a major calorie burner weighing in around 430 calories for the hour. I've been using this DVD three times a week in conjunction with running sprint intervals two days and walking three others. There are still sections where I have to stop for a few seconds because my legs are crying. I'm also drenched in sweat when I'm finished. The added bonus is that my abs have really taken on some great lines (partially hidden under my belly pouch, but still feeling pretty rock solid) and I can now kick over my head! Wowzers!
@$15.99 (on or $12.99 on Collage Video...I consider this a workout that pays for itself!
Tracy Anderson Mat Method
Grade B-/C+
Re-engineer your muscular structure, wake up your accessory muscles, pull in your larger muscles, and shift your shape into something you never knew you could achieve! This helpful DVD trains your muscles to work in a different way and shift your approach to fitness. From Tracy Anderson.

As always, please consult your personal physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.

Take a realistic approach: If you work consistently and follow the program, you maximize your results.

This workout is also a full hour. I got this on sale from Mamapedia. Ordered it mid August. It took an entire month for the DVD to arrive; which is *completely* unacceptable. That being said, I will move on to the workout. Tracy Anderson is a dancer with big name devotees, the biggest being Mad(I'm too good for this planet & Hydrangeas) onna & Gwenny I-peed-in-my-pants Paltrow. I'm not a big fan of either, but Madonna has a smoking hot bod in an I'm too old to look like this kind of way. So I thought, why not?
Here's why not:
To look 'teeny tiny' you have do this workout four days a week + an hour of dance cardio six days a week. No running allowed (builds muscle). No jump roping, stepping, eliptical training, swimming, or any other type of exercise that might give you a ripple of muscle anywhere. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part, there's a special diet that's basically 700 calories of mushed up Gerber Baby food that goes with your 'teeny' physique. She doesn't tell you any of that on the DVD...I found it doing some online digging.
But, I tried it anyway. The workout itself isn't bad. It's great for women who are into pilates/ballet workouts and the unweighted arm section burns like a lie. I doubt it will do much except make my shoulders scream in isometric pain. That & the hip flexors...I'm not sure why anyone focuses so much on hip flexors... are they the key to shrinking my a$$? Even with my misgivings, I'm sticking with it for two weeks to see if there is any change in any fat pockets anywhere. After that I'm on to Tracy Effinger's SQUEEZE STRONGER & PHYSIQUE 57 (both of which I will review).
It should be noted that there are tons of women who love her style/strategic methods & an equal amount of women who positively loathe her. I'm in the 'meh' category. She's okay. unless I see some changes soon...then I will revisit this review and bump it up.
Tracy Anderson's DVD's are NOT available on Collage (since she isn't a certified instructor) but you can snatch them up on QVC for anywhere from $99.00 (Total Body Transformation) to $12.00 (Beginner Dance Cardio). Not a bad investment if you're looking to spice up your routine or begin fitness anew.

***Some positive notes for both DVD's***
My abs/core muscles have very quickly become very strong. Better than they've been in years. My posture is better. My flexibility rocks. All good things!

Now, on to some book news!
I opened my inbox this week to find a review request!!! I'm thrilled to check this one out, since it sounds like it will be funny as bananas in pajamas. Even more thrilled because I've managed to finished Anna longest read ever.
Get ready, get set....
A SLOT MACHINE ATE MY MIDLIFE CRISIS, Irene Woodbury is next on my hit list!
Until then, eat your Greek Yogurt and kick like a ballerina.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thank God You're Still Here!

I think we've established that when things get tough, Elsie hides behind the Ben & Jerry's, only taking short breaks to write & sleep.
And lately, things have been TOUGH.
I don't want to bore you with the down & dirty details, but I will say this: when trouble rains down at the Love house, it really is a torrential downpour that requires an ark. If I'm lucky, I will have bailed out the aftermath (with my teaspoon) by October. I'm not holding my breath mind you, just keeping my breathing straw slightly above the water line.
So what have I been doing/reading?
1. Reading
Well, I gave the Count of Monte Cristo one page. I sensed, in those very first lines, that I was in no frame of mind to absorb the material & promptly ditched it for:
So far, I'm loving it. I'll admit there have been times when talk of Russian agriculture found me skimming a page or two; but for the most part it has been a tale of love, betrayal, friendships & life. There was even a curveball or two I didn't see coming. But--I'm only just past the halfway mark--so I'm not ready for a full review as of yet. I will be. Soon, I promise.

2. Publishing (yes, I'm still pretending I'm a writer)
On another note, ether publishing just picked up SNOW ANGELS! And the very best part is that it is FREE for all you lovely readers out there. It even received one 5star review (thank you, whoever you are). Of course there's a catch: ether is a mobile/Apple download only product (yucky for those who don't iPod, Pad, or Phone). If you'd like the free Apple app, click HERE and please, if you read it...drop me a line & leave a nice review. Every little bit feeds the ego.

3. Doing (By doing, I mean writing)
I've reached that point. SIXTY POUNDS OF SH!T & COUNTING has 50,000 words, all already through one round of editing, and a chapter or two left to write. This is the stage where my mind starts to wander beyond the book I'm currently writing & into other books which have yet to be written. This is very dangerous territory, my friends, as it slows the entire process down to a snail's pace--and that's when I'm *not* dealing with job changes, children on the verge of breakdowns, & other various life altering issues. I took a minor break to write a thriller (POSSESSIONS- 4,000 words yet to be published), spent a month with rewrites, and now I'm onto the finish line....if I can just keep my eye on the prize.
So that's it in a nutshell. Nothing big, new & exciting. Just me, trudging through day by day, hoping to make it to the end. I can't thank you enough for sticking around. If I'd logged in today & found I only had a follower or two left...I don't know what I would have done.
perhaps write a book about a dysfunctional, impulsive writer who is her own worst enemy? Hmmmm...
**Side note** DO NOT read the tells you the ending! GRRRRR. I hate that. I went on to add the link & now I know the end. Pooh. That stinks.