Monthly Archives: October 2012

Book Review: Heart of the Matter

Image credit: Goodreads

I’m heading off to my monthly book club meeting this evening to discuss The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, a book I finished last week that I will review in the future. I really loved that book but found it quite heavy and emotionally draining, so I was craving an easier read to follow it. That’s where this book comes in; for awhile now, Emily Giffin has been my go-to girl for chick lit.

Note: This review contains some spoilers. I’m not giving away the ending, but I want to discuss one of the events from the middle of the book!

Heart of the Matter is a story following three main characters. Tessa Russo is a stay-at-home mother of two children, married to Nick Russo, a pediatric surgeon. She has only just recently quit her career to care for her kids and it’s not going as smoothly as she’d hoped. Then there’s Valerie Anderson, a single mother of a year old boy named Charlie. When Charlie has an accident at a birthday party, he ends up in hospital with Nick as his doctor, and the lives of all these characters intersect.

This was my least favourite book of Emily Giffin’s that I’ve read thus far. And here’s why: (here comes the spoiler!) This was another Giffin book centred around cheating. Now, I don’t have a problem reading a fictional story about an affair, but it’s starting to feel like Giffin is a one-trick pony. Not only that, but her earlier variations on this theme were better, so it was disappointing to read a diluted version of a similar storyline.

I found it difficult to believe that Nick was a fantastic guy who simply made a mistake. He was painted by Tessa and by Valerie as this amazing catch and I think the intention of Giffin was for the readers to agree with this assessment, but I didn’t. I thought he was a cheating git, and I hate the perpetuation of the idea that men (or women, for that matter) simply can’t help themselves when faced with a hot woman. Even if there are real feelings involved, there are a lot of steps in between meeting an attractive woman and boning her, and the guy’s big brain could have vetoed his little brain at any stage of the game. “It was a mistake, it just happened!” I’m sorry, you didn’t just trip, fall and land with your dick inside another woman!

I felt conflicted most of the way through; whereas in the Something series it was clear that I was on the side of Dex & Rachel, I never felt a true allegiance to either Valerie or Tessa. I don’t think this was due to Giffin building nuanced, conflicted, or flawed but fundamentally good characters here; that would imply that her characters were layered, complex and interesting, which they were decidedly not. Rather, while pleasant and easy to relate to, I found Tessa in particular to be a very one-dimensional character. I liked her and didn’t want to see her marriage break down, but never got a satisfactory answer as to why she loved Nick. I understood Valerie better; from the outside, though I felt it was wrong to engage in an affair with a married man, it was easier to understand how a single woman would allow it to happen than the married man who was supposedly in a happy marriage.

Despite my misgivings, I did feel invested in learning the outcome of the story and got what I wanted out of the book: a fun, mindless read. I didn’t hate it but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it either.

Have you read it and if so, what did you think? What’s your favourite chick lit book?

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Love for Phoenix

I’ve been spending considerable time lately on a fundraising project called Love for Phoenix and I wanted to share this with my readers here as well.

My sister and I used to work with this fabulous lady, Jenn del Rosario. I didn’t work with her for long… she quit just about 2 years ago, shortly after I had joined the company, but she came in to have lunch with old colleagues after leaving and I heard some of her news through the grapevine, so she’s stayed on my radar. Jenn had a young daughter named Phoenix when I met her, and I learned about a year ago that Phoenix was battling leukemia.

This is Jenn with Phoenix earlier this year

Phoenix did so well through treatment – fighting so hard enduring aggressive therapies after relapsing in November 2011, remission in March 2012, then her stem cell transplant in April, and then finally home from the hospital in late June of this year.

Unfortunately this September, she began complaining of fevers and pain. To the family’s horror, they learned the cancer was back and this time, she wasn’t well enough to go through treatment again. Phoenix, Jenn and Rahman (Phoenix’s dad) moved to Canuck Place
about a month ago, a hospice for children where they can receive the care they need in a much preferable environment to the hospital. I’m sad to report that Phoenix passed away in the early hours of Friday morning, October 12.

Jenn & Rahman have been financially devastated by Phoenix’s illness. Unable to work due to the care & time required, bills kept mounting and insensitive collectors have been calling. There was a segment on Global TV news recently featuring their story. The reason we set up the Love for Phoenix site, in addition to providing a central place for Jenn & Rahman to update friends about Phoenix, was that it also provided a place for people to donate to a trust fund that will help.

Now in addition to their existing financial burdens, they are also dealing with the extraodinary grief of losing their child – something no parent should ever have to face. If you would be kind enough to read about how you can help and consider sharing Phoenix’s story, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for caring for my friend during this tough time.

Fun New Thing: Scroll-down Disaster

Have you ever heard this term before? I just heard it today for the first time. As in:

Scroll-down disaster: An ensemble that seems alright at first glance, if first glance is at eye-level. But then as your eyes scroll down to take in the whole outfit, the picture gets progressively worse.

To illustrate this hot mess visually:

Marion Cottillard at the 2012 MET Gala. Source: MSN Wonderwall

I must work this term into my 2012/2013 award season viewing lexicon. Everyone just watches the Oscars for the outfits anyway, right? Thanks to Slate’s Culture Gabfest podcast for the new addition to my snark vocabulary.

Blogging from the Heart: Finding my Niche

In an effort to re-focus on blogging and find some inspiration, I’ve been enrolled for the last few weeks in Susannah Conway‘s course, Blogging from the Heart, with about 100 or so other Internet lovelies. I’ve fallen a bit behind on the curriculum, but I’ve been saving all the lessons and am catching up on some serious blog work while taking a little “staycation” from work this week.

The course has been great in a number of ways so far. First of all, I decided that while I don’t have any particular interest in having a self-hosted blog again (that is for people more technologically-inclined than I!), I made the switch back to WordPress. I am not in love with this design template, but I do find it cleaner and somewhat easier to do what I want to do with WordPress than Blogger. So here’s my new home. I hope I can change up the design sometime in the not-too-distant future.

More importantly, I’ve been given some great food for thought in terms of what I want to write about, what type of reader I envision enjoying this blog, and what direction I want this to take. And I’ve found it! This is a personal blog, and will always have a personal narrative bent on the writing. But my interests, while varied and sometimes random, are generally always related to wellness in some way or another.

When I worked with a life coach back in 2010 briefly, she had me complete what she called a Wellness Wheel, that looked something like this:

Source: Surrey Pain & Wellness Clinic

In each spoke of the wellness wheel, I had to rate how I was doing in that aspect of my life on a scale of 1 to 10. It was an interesting exercise, and moreover, I think it makes for a great way to tie in all my different interests to a central theme of my interest in wellness! I will create my own wheel with my own style of category names in the future, but generally I will be posting about career, finance, creativity, intellect, emotions, family, relationships, fitness, health, personal growth, fun, and recreation.

Stay tuned for more in these areas!