It’s a cold winter’s night in Brisvegas and I’m at a loose end. I’m a single woman living in the time of Corona – when dating is challenging and socialising hasn’t quite returned to normal.
I’ve done my daily scroll through the dating apps and still feel uninspired. Why do so many men have a strong penchant for bushranger-style facial hair and scowling demeanours? Who told them this is attractive?
Clearly my true love is not online this evening.
I decide to do a little romantic personal development and pull out my friend Carolyn’s book, Finding Love Again. I finished reading it a few weeks ago but I skipped over most of the exercises in the back.
The first part of the book contains personal stories of men and women who have lost and then found love again. With a strong emphasis on common values as the glue that makes relationships work, people share their experiences of divorce, being single, grief, children and much more. It also explores what each of them learned on their journey to finding love again.
But it’s the end of the book with its self-reflection exercises that I turn to tonight, specifically Exercise 6 – Your Story which centres on the problem of how to talk about yourself when you first meet a new potential date.
I’ve joined some online speed-dating events recently and been faced with the challenge of describing myself in an interesting way to a complete stranger in two minutes via Zoom. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
Carolyn has a suggestion about how to approach telling your story, so I decide to give it a go. It seems I need to go back and map out the most interesting and significant events in my life so far, from birth.
Perhaps this is going to be a rather short story…
No. I’m doing this – you never know what gold I may discover to fill those awkward silences on my next date.
Carolyn suggests you create a table and for each year, jot down things like where you were living, what you were doing, an achievement, a people thing, a funny thing, little known fact. You don’t need to fill every box for each year, just put in anything noteworthy that springs to mind.
Obviously being born was significant for me but I’m not sure if that’s something I need to highlight on a date. Fast forward to late primary school though and I won a prize for one of my oil paintings and got my picture in the paper – that was pretty cool. I still have the newspaper clipping somewhere – all skinny legs and gaunt-faced cheekbones. I was one of those kids who ate and ate and never put on any weight. Pity that didn’t last post-21…
Back to the task at hand.
Two memorable moments from my under-graduate degree – watching a disturbing German film where the female protagonist had all her teeth pulled out and sitting behind some Goths and their pet rat in a lecture.
Got married, traveled overseas for the first time and my love affair with Italy truly began. Repelled down five stories of the children’s hospital with the police special emergency response team – as you do.
Went overseas for a second time – yes, Italy again and I still loved it. Left marriage and traveled solo overseas, felt fearless and free. Watched the moon rise above camel trains in the Sahara.
Bought a house, worked with judges, zip-lined with gibbons through the jungle, published a book…
I could keep going but I don’t want to reveal everything before we’ve met in person, dear reader. But I’m sure you get the picture.
I know this is meant as a dating preparation activity, but I think it has value far beyond that. Revisiting your history and recognising your achievements and the events that have shaped you is a great thing to do at any time. When we get stuck in the daily grind and pressures of life, we often forget just how far we’ve come – this exercise is a great way to remind ourselves.
As I read back over my story, I have a laugh to myself and realise Carolyn’s words on page 238 ring very true – “this exercise demonstrates how uninteresting your previous break-up is in the totality of your life story”.
Have you ever read a book and thought, ‘This is so true. I have to recommend it to everyone I know!’
Well I’ve been doing exactly that about a recent purchase called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight. My book purchase couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d had an incredibly frustrating day full of disrespectful people and challenging situations when, there on the news agency shelf, I saw the book title and just knew I had to buy it. And it has definitely delivered! Now, if you’re offended by the F-word then this clearly isn’t the book for you. However, if you are okay with it then this may be the text that changes your life or at least gets you to reassess the obligations, duties and things you currently believe you have to care about.
Because it’s true many of us can spend a lot of time trying to do the ‘right thing’/give a f**k about things we don’t really care about and this sucks away our energy, time and money. Often the ‘right thing’ doesn’t align with what we want to do, who we want to be, how we want to spend our time or what we’re interested in. Yet we say yes and are drawn into the ‘vortex of should’ when really we just don’t want to do those things at all.
Knight takes a very irreverent (seriously, I laugh aloud when I read this book) approach to looking at the things we think we should do/give a f**k about and challenges every single one of them. From friends to work to family, she casts a glaring spotlight on all those parts of our lives where we feel obligations, guilt and shame and asks us to look at them a differently. Even more importantly, she challenges the reader to begin living more in alignment with what will make them happy rather than trying to make everyone else happy all the time (which we all know is a fool’s errand anyway!). Even more fabulously, Knight provides polite strategies and techniques to help you manage all those important relationships in your life while still saying ‘no’ in a way that helps you ‘stop giving a f**k’ about the things that really add no value to your life.
For example, in her section on boundaries and maintaining friendships Knight offers the following (p.77):
p. Anecdotes and analogies like this are sprinkled throughout the book like hundreds and thousands on party bread and if you don’t laugh several times then I’ll be very, very surprised.
I’m only about two-thirds in but, as I mentioned it to yet another friend this afternoon, I felt I just had to write about it now. Forthright, practical and hilarious, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight is a great book and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Rating? 4/5 stars Genre? Fiction Sex? Only the barest hint
“January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’d never met, a native of Guernsey, the British island, once occupied by the Nazis. He’d come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author.
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, a unique book club formed in a unique spur-of-the-moment way: as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans…”
My Mum read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for her book club and loved it so much she bought me a copy.
I was a little hesitant to open its front cover because it didn’t really appeal – the cover simply features a dark silhouette on a foreshore. And let’s face it, the name of the book is also rather unwieldy.
But I was pleasantly surprised.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an old fashioned read…for all the right reasons.
Firstly, it’s well written and tells its story using letters and journal entries. I know quite a few people lament the loss of the art of letter writing and this novel proves their point.
Set in 1946 in post-war England and Guernsey (one of the Channel Islands), the book introduces the main character, Juliet Ashton, through letters to her publisher and friends.
An unexpected request from a Guernsey resident sparks Juliet’s interest in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and its’ members. And soon we are introduced to their lives through letters too as we learn about their feelings, losses, loves and triumphs during the Nazi occupation.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society took me on a gentle and genteel journey as I was slowly but surely absorbed into the flow of this story.
I usually avoid books that deal with war because I find the painful imagery they invoke stays with me long after I’ve read the last page.
But this one doesn’t delve too much into the viciousness of war. Instead it focuses on the everyday wartime hardships of the Guernsey residents and their occupiers.
And ultimately it describes how The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society brings together a disparate group of residents and creates friendships that last long after the war is over.
This book gave me a lovely excuse to sit back, immerse myself in another world and gently while away a few summer hours.
But I think I’ll leave the recipe for potato peel pie off my personal menu.
My summer read-a-thon is continuing and as promised, I’m making my way through those ten books on my coffee table.
In an effort to keep myself honest I’m going to post a review of each book on this blog. So, if you’re looking for a little summer reading inspiration, check out my first review of Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich. It’s all about bounty hunting for chicks.
Image courtesy of fishpond.com.au
Rating? 4/5 stars for good fun and a few laughs out loud.
Genre? Chick lit, comedy, adventure
Sex? A bit of sexual tension to get you sizzling.
Stephanie Plum has a talent for attracting crazies.
Unfortunately, she also has to hunt them down when they’ve missed their court date.
The latest offering from Janet Evanovich, Notorious Nineteen, takes us on yet another hilarious romp through Trenton, Newark and the rather eventful life of bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum.
The plot includes all the characters we’ve come to love in this series.
Firstly, there’s Stephanie Plum, a hot and somewhat accident-prone bounty hunter who chases the bad guys. In this installment she has a couple of cars blown to smithereens, receives psychic messages from a Tiki, is threatened by a madman and continues to flirt with the dangerous but incredibly sexy Ranger.
Phew…and that’s just some of the highlights.
Stephanie is joined by her sidekick Lula, a curvaceous former prostitute with a dedicated love of fried chicken and tight spandex, Connie the mob-connected secretary who keeps a shotgun by her desk and of course, dodgy Cousin Vinnie. Crazy Grandma Mazur also makes an appearance and goes ‘undercover’ to help investigate mysterious happenings at the local hospital (her ‘disguise’ is described in vivid detail).
Added to the usual cast of characters is a Yeti, a group of nursing home vigilantes and a security guard with “the personality of a rabid raccoon” (p. 20).
Stephanie as always, gets by with a combination of luck, good timing and fearlessness. Her intermittent boyfriend, Joe Morelli, can’t always believe the situations she gets herself into.
“I’m serious,” Morelli said. “You’re like one of those people who keep getting hit by lightning.”
“Hey, it’s no picnic for me either. Do you think I like having rockets shot into my living room? Do you think I like getting poisoned, threatened with cremation, and forced into a pink taffeta dress?” (p. 209).
Evanovich has a wonderful talent for seamlessly connecting multiple characters and storylines into an action-packed plot. So while Stephanie is on the hunt for a million-dollar con man and some other bail jumpers, she’s also witnessing random shootings, doing stakeouts and working as a bodyguard for her sometime colleague and occasional lover Ranger.
As with all Stephanie Plum novels, Evanovich taps into our bad boy fantasies with the Stephanie, Morelli and Ranger sexual triangle.
Both men are hot, slightly dangerous and live by their own rules. One’s a cop and the other uses methods outside the law. And they both want Stephanie.
“He opened two blouse buttons and traced a line along the top of my bra with his fingertip. He bent his head, brushed a kiss across my breast, and slipped his hand inside my bra. I think I might have moaned a little, and I steadied myself by sliding my hand up the inside of his thigh. It turns out that just because I think I could have a future with Morelli doesn’t mean I’m entirely immune to Ranger’s hotness.” (p. 241).
I’ve read all nineteen Stephanie Plum novels and I’ve also introduced the series to my parents and sisters. These days Mum gives me advance notice when she hears the next one is about to hit the shelves. She knows I’ll buy, read and then pass the book on to her and the rest of the family.
My little sister says she’s stopped reading the series because they were getting to be all the same. And it is accurate to say Evanovich uses a tried and true formula.
The resourceful Stephanie continues to escape dangerous situations, her cars get blown up and she somehow manages to capture enough bail jumpers to pay the rent. And throughout the novel, the tension between Stephanie, Morelli and Ranger continues to sizzle.
And that’s all part of the fun.
Fortunately, you don’t need to read all nineteen books to enjoy the ride. Each novel works as a stand-alone piece with Stephanie’s character and the premise clearly outlined in the first few pages.
Notorious Nineteen is a well-written, fast paced, quick-witted and enjoyable romp through the chaos of Stephanie Plum’s life.
If that’s the kind of book you like to read then you will find Notorious Nineteen is quite simply, notoriously good.