When Life Gives You Lululemons is a funny look at life after Miranda Priestly

36373647I’m a big fan of The Devil Wears Prada.  Any time it’s on TV I have to watch.  I’ve lost count how many times I have caught parts or all of the movie over the years.  Of course my first exposure to the story was through the book by Lauren Weisberger.  I remember the story was funny and exciting.  It gave me a look into the fashion world that has always fascinated me.

So when Weisberger came out with Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, I was excited to know what happened next.  That book focused mainly on Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway’s character).  This time around Weisberger concentrates on Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s first assistant, in When Life Gives You Lululemons.

I must admit, I don’t own any lululemons and don’t plan to own any.  Why?  Because they are expensive and I don’t like hanging out in leggings.  I digress.  Let’s get back to Emily’s story.  It has been several years and Emily is now married, living in Hollywood and works as an image consultant for several famous stars.  Emily is just as snarky and rude as she was in The Devil Wears Prada.

Emily (Emily Blunt in my head) handles what I consider some pretty crazy celebrities.  They seem to be more of a pain in the ass instead of worth the time.  She tries to help them with their images and how they should conduct themselves in public, which doesn’t seem to work.  She seems to deal more with damage control that their social media post will have on their careers.

Then there is Karolina, a supermodel married to a senator.  Karolina gets arrested and charged with a DUI that seems super fishy.  This is the start of her life completely falling apart.  Then there is Miriam, a friend to both Emily and Karolina.  She gave up her high-stress job in the city to head to the suburbs with her husband and three children.  Miriam thinks her husband might be having an affair.  Karolina’s husband is having a very public affair and Emily has a husband that travels a ton and Emily likes to innocently flirt.

Miriam thinks Emily can help Karolina with her image and Karolina doesn’t want help.  While Emily doesn’t want to go home because her husband is traveling and their place is empty.  She also doesn’t understand why all these suburban women run around in Lululemon leggings like they are regular pants.  Emily would NEVER do that…until she does.

This is a funny, slightly irrelevant look at motherhood, suburbs and how life changes with age.  The three main characters were likeable and I hoped everything would work out for each of them.  Even though Karolina is a supermodel and should be at ease in front of crowds, she was klutzy and very downhome.  Her biggest wish in life is to just be a Mom.  There were other women in the book that I could not stand and wanted to reach in and slap them.

When Life Gives You Lululemons is a great continuation of Emily’s life after Runway and Miranda Priestly.  If you liked The Devil Wears Prada, you will enjoy this book.

Book Description:
New York Times bestselling author Lauren Weisberger returns with a novel starring one of her favorite characters from The Devil Wears Prada—Emily Charlton, first assistant to Miranda Priestly, now a highly successful image consultant who’s just landed the client of a lifetime.

Welcome to Greenwich, CT, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant, does not do the suburbs. She’s working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

Karolina Hartwell is as A-list as they come. She’s the former face of L’Oreal. A mega-supermodel recognized the world over. And now, the gorgeous wife of the newly elected senator from New York, Graham, who also has his eye on the presidency. It’s all very Kennedy-esque, right down to the public philandering and Karolina’s arrest for a DUI—with a Suburban full of other people’s children.

Miriam is the link between them. Until recently she was a partner at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. But when Miriam moves to Greenwich and takes time off to spend with her children, she never could have predicted that being stay-at-home mom in an uber-wealthy town could have more pitfalls than a stressful legal career.

Emily, Karolina, and Miriam make an unlikely trio, but they desperately need each other. Together, they’ll navigate the social landmines of life in America’s favorite suburb on steroids, revealing the truths—and the lies—that simmer just below the glittering surface. With her signature biting style, Lauren Weisberger offers a dazzling look into another sexy, over-the-top world, where nothing is as it appears.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

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Parallel lives are real in Shift

Shift Cover - Final Front OnlyI recently read a book that talked about how our past lives can begin before our current birth date and end after our current lives end.  Or in other words we can live multiple parallel lives.  Over the years I have been places for the first time but feel like I’ve lived there for years.  It’s starting to happen more and more, especially in the United Kingdom, where my ancestors are from.

Lately I have had that experience with books.  Books that won’t be published for months.  Books I could predict where the characters would stand a room next, what they will do and what they will say.  These are books I know I have never read before and the concepts are new.

I attribute this weird experience with unpublished books to the fact we are living a parallel life.  A parallel life where I am also a reader, because of course in every parallel life I love books.

M.A. George must think the same way I do.  In her latest book Shift, High School Senior Peregrine (Perry) experiences vivid dreams that feel real and leave her exhausted.  Perry is an artist and she fills her bedroom walls with drawing of her dreams.  Perry lives with her Aunt Jessamine (Jess) and her brother Ezra, who she says is her best friend, is off at college.

In the first chapter, Perry is in a medieval land where a knight with ice-blue eyes looks very familiar.  Her brother Ezra is also in the dream fighting along with Perry.  This dream made me laugh out loud as Perry tries to decide if she is in a dream because it feels so real and she is trying to understand why she thinks it’s a dream while in the dream.  Make sense?

Then one weekend Perry and Aunt Jess visit Ezra in college where she meets Ezra’s best friend, Max, who looks super familiar to Perry.  In fact, he looks just like the guy who is all over her bedroom wall that she keeps drawing from her dreams.  Max is a geeky, smart science guy with funny T-shirts, not the typical jock-type hero.  But alas, a hero he is.

After experiencing a few more dreams that take Perry all over the place, including space, Ezra drops a bombshell that Perry has a hard time wrapping her brain around.  Perry and her brother can “shift” to different scapes.  Not different planets or time travel, but different varieties of reality.  Once Perry becomes aware that her dreams aren’t really dreams, that is when the story takes off on a rollercoaster of a ride.

Ms. George just keeps getting better and better and so far I think this is my favorite story and characters to come from her imagination.   She has presented a reality that some of us could be living parallel lives and it makes total sense to me.

What a fantastic job giving life to these characters.  Perry is spunky, strong, quick witted yet vulnerable.  I literally burst out laughing a few times.  I was totally sucked into this book and the lives of the characters.  I could not put this book down and leave the characters, and I stayed up WAY past my bedtime.

Well done Ms. George.  I know this is a stand-alone, but I feel there is more we need to learn from Perry and the other characters.  I don’t know if I’m ready to let them go quite yet.  If you like this type of genre, do not miss this book.

Book Description:

Seventeen-year-old Perry Teasdale is a dreamer.

She’s not the kind of dreamer who waltzes through fields of wildflowers, twirling her skirts in a starry-eyed daze; or the kind who aspires to be the biggest rock star the world has ever known (not that she’d complain, if that accidentally happened). She’s the kind of dreamer who can’t get a decent night’s rest, because her sleep is flooded with scenes from other worlds—ones that seem as real as life itself.

Mind-blowing dreams may sound like loads of fun, but when they start to bleed into Perry’s waking hours—confusing the line between dream and reality, and keeping her in a sleep-deprived fog no amount of caffeine can cure—Perry’s not exactly thrilled.

Try as she might to shake the dreams from her mind, they keep gaining speed, growing ever more vivid and intense…until that hazy boundary between real and imaginary fades away, and Perry is forced to consider the impossible: Her dreams seem real, because they are.

When disaster strikes, sending Perry’s newfound normalcy into a tailspin, she takes the only logical path left: a whirlwind tour of the multiverse, scouring an ever-growing assortment of alternate realities for the missing piece—the missing person—to put her life together again.

Along the way, Perry enlists the help of an ancient wise woman (who may be a tad homicidal); a nerdy-in-all-the-right-ways mathematician (who knows all of Perry’s secrets, even before introducing himself); and a sword (because you can never go wrong with a sword).

At times hilarious—at times heartbreaking—Shift is sure to be, well, one of those two things.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Tomorrow Will be Different is a story of strength and courage

36452276The first time I was introduced to Sarah McBride was when she spoke at the Democratic National Convention.  I already knew about transgender people since my daughter had a friend in high school who was transgender.  She would come stay at our house and our daughter would go to her house for overnight stays. I never had an issue with the sleepovers.  My husband only asked once if we should be worried and allow it.  Once I explained why someone is transgender, he got it.

In Tomorrow Will Be Different, Sarah does a great job explaining what she went through all her life knowing deep down she was a girl in a boy’s body.  She also does a great job explaining the struggles that transgender people go through just to have basic rights.  There are a lot of misconceptions about the transgender.  So many people and politicians have the idea that transgender people say they are the wrong sex so they can assault someone.  That is so far from the truth.  Transgender people just want to live their life as the person they always thought they should be.

Sarah talks about all the many people who have been fighting for years to change state and federal laws.  She shows just how hard it is to change those laws.  Then once a law has been changed, the fight continues because of another politician who circles back and tries to reverse the law almost immediately after it passes.

Two years ago, the nonprofit organization where I work, fought the Missouri Government against SJR39, a bathroom bill.  Luckily it was defeated at the committee level but now there is yet another bill on the docket.  Once again, our office is taking up the fight.

Before I met my daughter’s friend, I didn’t know what transgender meant.  I thought it was the same as transvestite.  Which even though different, neither one is a danger to society.  It saddens me to see how transgender people are treated and misunderstood.  Just because someone is different from us doesn’t mean it is evil or wrong.

The way I explain transgender to people quickly is a soul was put in a body by mistake.  I know Sarah has opened my eyes further in the transgender world and I think if people aren’t sure what it’s like for someone to struggle to live their authentic self, they need to read Sarah’s book.  My heart breaks for transgender people and how they are being treated out in the world.  They just want to live their lives to the fullest and feel safe.  I’m so glad I read Tomorrow Will Be Different and I thank Sarah for being brave enough to share her story.

Book Description:
A captivating memoir that will change the way we look at identity and equality in this country
 
Before she became the first transgender person to speak at a national political convention in 2016 at the age of twenty-six, Sarah McBride struggled with the decision to come out—not just to her family but to the students of American University, where she was serving as student body president. She’d known she was a girl from her earliest memories, but it wasn’t until the Facebook post announcing her truth went viral that she realized just how much impact her story could have on the country.

Four years later, McBride was one of the nation’s most prominent transgender activists, walking the halls of the White House, advocating inclusive legislation, and addressing the country in the midst of a heated presidential election. She had also found her first love and future husband, Andy, a trans man and fellow activist, who complemented her in every way . . . until cancer tragically intervened.

Informative, heartbreaking, and profoundly empowering, Tomorrow Will Be Different is McBride’s story of love and loss and a powerful entry point into the LGBTQ community’s battle for equal rights and what it means to be openly transgender. From issues like bathroom access to health care to gender in America, McBride weaves the important political and cultural milestones into a personal journey that will open hearts and change minds.

As McBride urges: “We must never be a country that says there’s only one way to love, only one way to look, and only one way to live.”

The fight for equality and freedom has only just begun.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger side

The Sunshine Sisters isn’t all sunshine

32867521The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green is about the relationships within one family.  Ronni Sunshine is the perfect selfish Hollywood diva who cares more about her image than her three daughters who can’t wait to get away from her, and a husband who can’t make her happy no matter what he does.  To the general public, Ronni is a wonderful person who has the perfect family.  But behind closed doors it’s another story.  Ronni is narcissistic and often a cruel mother.

When the veil comes off and her mood comes out, Ronni treats her daughters differently and the daughters react in different ways to Ronni’s cruelness.  Nell, who is the oldest, withdraws within herself and when she turns 18, flees to a farm a few miles away where she befriends the owner, who becomes a stable mother figure.  Nell seemed like a genuine, down-to-earth person who worked tirelessly to fill the voids she didn’t get from her childhood.

Meredith takes a lot of abuse from Ronni.  She is told she needs to lose weight, that she isn’t pretty enough.  This breaks Meredith and she flees to England to stay with relatives.  Meredith is a people pleaser and wants everyone to be happy.  Because of her mother’s comments over the years, Meredith doesn’t feel she deserve to be treated with respect, which leads her to be engaged to a who acts like she isn’t good enough as herself.

Then there is Lizzy who doesn’t take any crap from Ronnie.  While growing up, she laughed at the things Ronni said and did, never taking it seriously.  Lizzy really came across just as selfish and self-centered as Ronni.  Now a famous TV chef, Lizzy doesn’t care who she hurts with her actions, including her husband and child.

The main focus of the book is bringing the three girls together again to be with Ronnie, who has become ill and wants them by her side as she passes.  Once again making everything about her and bringing the attention to her, the center of attention.  This story is also about the relationship between the sisters, who are not close and are so very different.

The Sunshine Sisters shows that families can look all rainbows and sunshine on the outside, the inside, behind closed doors, might not be what it seems.  It’s probably why on the news, the neighbors say “they were such a nice and loving family” when something goes wrong with a family member or an entire family.

I have four older sisters so it was interesting for me to see how the sisters were very different yet could support each other after being reacquainted. There were relationships where I wanted to smack people on the back of the head and relationships where I wanted to stand up and cheer.

I have pretty much read all of Jane Green’s books and have enjoyed every one of them.  Like her other books, I had a hard time putting The Sunshine Sisters down.  When I wasn’t reading the book, I found myself thinking about the sisters.  The Sunshine Sisters looks like a fun cheerful book, but instead it dives into family dynamics that aren’t so filled with sunshine.

Book Description:
The New York Times bestselling author of Falling presents a warm, wise, and wonderfully vivid novel about a mother who asks her three estranged daughters to come home to help her end her life.

Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.

As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.

But now the Sunshine Girls are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own, their mother s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears and they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Sri Lanka tea plantations are a fascinating topic

25237718It’s always enjoyable to read a good historical literature, especially when it’s set in a location I know nothing about.  That is one of the great things about The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jeffries.

The story starts in 1925 as 19-year-old Gwendoline meets Laurence Hooper and quickly marries him.  She sails to Ceylon to join Laurence at his tea plantation.  Life on the plantation has a big racial divide between the British Colonists who own the plantations and the workers who are Indian Tamils and the Sinhalese.

The residents of the Hooper tea plantation are very interesting.  We meet Nick MacGregor, the plantation manager who treats the workers like objects and not human beings.  Gwen doesn’t understand why Nick treats the workers this way.  She believes the workers deserve a better life and wants to give them better health care, better living conditions and better nutrition.  Nick doesn’t like Gwen butting into his business when she tries to befriend the workers.

There is Laurence’s sister Verity.  This woman is very messed up and jealous of any female who is more important to Laurence than she is.  Verity has an aversion to working and acts like Laurence needs to support her.  She’s a spoiled little brat who I wanted to just go away.  I think I even said “go away, go away, go away” when Verity yet again moves into the plantation house.

Then there is ex-mistress Christina Bradshaw who blatantly flirts with Laurence right in front of Gwen.  Christina and Laurence do business together but Christina wants more.  Another character I wanted to go away and leave Laurence and Gwen alone.

The Tea Plantation’s Wife highlights a very volatile time in history and Jeffries does a great job bringing the era to life.  There are also lots of secrets in this family that are hidden for many years and slowly come to light.  Because of this story, I have researched more information about Ceylon and about tea plantations in Sri Lanka. This is definitely well worth the read.  I was able to read this book through the First to Read program with Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
#1 International bestselling novel set in 1920’s Ceylon, about a young Englishwoman who marries a charming tea plantation owner and widower, only to discover he’s keeping terrible secrets about his past, including what happened to his first wife, that lead to devastating consequences

Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married to a rich and charming widower, eager to join him on his tea plantation, determined to be the perfect wife and mother. But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected.

The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbours treacherous, and there are clues to the past – a dusty trunk of dresses, an overgrown gravestone in the grounds – that her husband refuses to discuss.

Just as Gwen finds her feet, disaster strikes. She faces a terrible choice, hiding the truth from almost everyone, but a secret this big can’t stay buried forever…

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

 

With Love from the Inside is a heartbreaking story

27833799With Love from the Inside by Angela Pisel is a story about a mother, Grace, accused of killing her infant son, William, and what the accusation did to her husband and daughter.  Grace insisted she is innocent but is convicted of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome.  After serving 17 years, she is now awaiting execution.  She hasn’t seen her daughter Sophie for 11 years and wants to see her one last time before she is executed.

While Grace has been sitting on death row, her husband always believed she was innocent and worked hard trying to get her conviction overturned.  After her father died, Sophie started to doubt her mom and thinks she really is guilty.  Sophie decides she needs to move on and doesn’t want anything to do with Grace so she stops visiting.  She wants to just live a normal life.  But she can’t quite do that knowing Grace is about to be executed.

The story is told from two perspectives – Grace and Sophie.  Grace is a very strong woman who has accepted her fate and has made her life behind bars the best that it can be.  This book is sad in so many different ways.  I was really surprised the emotion the story brought out of me.

When I was first married, there was a woman in my apartment complex who was charged with Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome so this story really interested me.  I’m so glad I had the chance to read this story.  It was well worth my time.  I want to thank Penguin Random House for the advanced copy I received through their First to Read program.

Book Description:

Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die.  On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m.  Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter’s voice and the final moment she’d heard anyone call her Mom.  Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing—reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth.

Secrets lurk behind Sophie Logan’s big house and even bigger bank account.  Every day when she kisses her husband good-bye, she worries her fabricated life is about to come crumbling down.  No one knows the unforgivable things her mother did to tear her family apart—not her husband, who is a prominent plastic surgeon, or her “synthetic” friends who live in her upscale neighborhood.

Grace’s looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood.  When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William’s death seventeen years ago—proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever.

Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers—the one who painted her toenails glittery pink and plastered Post-it notes with inspiring quotes (“100 percent failure rate if you don’t try”) all over Sophie’s bathroom mirror—before their time runs out.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Things can change your perspective on life

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York

Suze Orman asked a very interesting question the other day on the show Finding Sarah, on Lifetime about Duchess Sarah Ferguson.  “What will matter when you are on your deathbed?”  Sarah is struggling with lots of past issues, she is working on her self esteem and finding who she is, not who the media think she is.

Suze asked Sarah when she is on her deathbed, will what other people think of her matter.  Sarah immediately said yes, with no hesitation.  I had kind of an ah ha moment when Suze asked the question.  What really does matter at the end of the day?  And I’ve always wondered what an ah ha moment felt like when Oprah talked about them.

For the past few months I have had a lot of ah ha moments.  Not sure if it’s due to my blinders finally being taken off or if I finally have become an older, wiser adult.  Who knows, maybe I finally got kicked in the head and everything lined up correctly.

All I know is my perspective on life has changed.  When I was going through cancer treatment, everyone kept saying it would totally change the way I looked at life, I wouldn’t take anything for granted.  Things would be sharper and more in focus.

Didn’t happen.  I think I didn’t have the clarity because I knew I wasn’t going to die.  I knew when treatment was over, I would be fine.  Don’t get me wrong; hearing the “c” word drops you to your knees and makes you start thinking if you will see your child grow up, if you will grow old with your spouse.  But it didn’t change me like a lot of people said it would.

Well, it changed me a little.  I now eat more fresh produce; I use natural or organic products from house cleaning to make-up.  I use organic fertilizer for the yard.  I’ve even purchased a few clothes made from natural fibers.  I’m more careful about the items I consume or the products next to my skin.

My boss and his family.

What really changed my perspective on life and changed my answer to Suze Orman’s question is the recent death of my boss.  He was a 51-year-old man who was in pretty good health, full of energy and life and had a lot of things he wanted to get done, including walk his four daughters down the aisle when they got married.  What he didn’t plan was to be told he had terminal cancer instead of a fractured hip or pulled muscle.  He didn’t plan on having such a rare form of cancer that only 12 people were diagnosed in 2010.  He also didn’t plan on dying less than three months after his diagnosis.  THAT is what changed my perspective on life.

Watching someone full of big plans, walking so fast I can hardly keep up, to dying 90 days later that puts things in perspective.  Yes, that’s right.  It took just 90 days for his life, his family’s life and my associates’ lives to change.  Ninety days is not long.

After the loss of my boss, which I still am struggling with, I started thinking back over my life.  When I was a kid, I had dreams of traveling the world.  I wanted to leave my small town farm and go to the ends of the earth and see all the exotic locations.  The Great Wall of China, Australia, Africa, the Sahara Desert, the Great Barrier Reef, all the ancient villages and locations rich with history.

Great Wall of China

Instead I lost focus.  Having a bigger house, a nicer car, the latest electronic gadget was more important.  Getting all the fun stuff for my crafts, whether it was counted cross stitching or rubber stamping my own cards, that was more important.  Yes, I got married and had a child, but that shouldn’t have changed my focus.  Instead I had someone to go to all the wonderful places with me.

I’ve been decluttering the house and as I uncover items from my past, my thought has been “what was I thinking?”  None of this matters; none of this will matter when I’m on my death bed.

What matters to me when I’m on my death bed?  Spending time with family and friends, even if it is just sitting on the back deck having a conversation.  What matters?  Seeing the world like I wanted to when I was a kid.

A big house, fancy gadgets no longer matter to me.  If I need something I can always get it, why hold onto the useless stuff that doesn’t help me with my answer.  Why hold onto something for 20 years because I “might” use it.  Why have something else to dust.

Alexander Vinokourov after crashing and probably ending his career.

I’ve experienced a few other ah ha moments since my boss’ death.  Shannon Stone, an 18 year firefighter, trying to grab a baseball thrown to him at a Rangers game, trying to catch it and instead falling to his death in front of his young son.  The scary crashes at the Tour de France that have ended a few careers, and the woman who recently was out for a triathlon bike training run and was run over.  It’s like ah ha moments are springing up everywhere.  My blinders must be demolished or they are signs telling me to wake up from my slumber.

So what have I done to change things and do what will matter to me on my deathbed?  I’ve initiated a Monday happy hour with my friend Karen.  Every Monday we meet for happy hour and if our husbands, daughters or some of our friends want to join us then more the merrier, if not that’s fine, we get to catch up on our lives.

We have put our house up for sale.  That’s right, we are downsizing to a patio home so no more time wasted on taking care of a yard and no more time wasted on maintenance of a big house.  I plan to travel more including scheduling a time to visit my cousin who lives in Costa Rica.  I’m attending a family reunion which I haven’t attended in over ten years.

I’m saying what the hell, why am I waiting to rent a car and drive around the French countryside.  Why am I waiting to walk the length of the Great Wall of China.  Why am I waiting to spend time with my family who live in different cities?  None of us are getting any younger.

When I’m on my death bed and someone asks me what matters, my answer hopefully will be I lived a great life because I said why not, I didn’t wait.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat.