Ugly as Sin by Toni Raiten-D’Antonio

Title:  Ugly as Sin: The Truth About How We Look and Finding Freedom From Self-Hatred
Author:  Toni Raiten-D’Antonio
Release date:  September 1, 2010
Publisher:  HCI
Pages:  268
Genre:  Self-help
Source: TLC Book Tours

Toni Raiten-D’Antonio begins Ugly as Sin by making a radical statement: that she is ugly in the eyes of the world.  Her goal in this book is to free women everywhere from the shackles that society’s perceptions have on us.  She talks about how the debilitating fear of being ugly wreaks havoc on our bodies, minds, and hearts.  She talks about how, as a society, we have developed these insane standards of beauty that ensure every woman believes herself to have tons of flaws.  And she talks about how we can free ourselves from these impossible standards and embrace ourselves for the ugly and beautiful parts we all have.

I went into Ugly as Sin with the expectation that I would learn something.  I was expecting to get some new knowledge, some new information, or at least a new perspective on how society has construed women’s perceptions of themselves and their self-esteem in negative ways.  I wanted to know how we got here, how we evolved into this society that puts beauty before all else, and puts so much pressure on women to be perfect in every single aspect.

I don’t want to say I didn’t get what I was expecting at all, but I was mildly disappointed when Ugly as Sin was just an okay reading experience for me.  It was much more a self-help book than a sociological examination of beauty standards in our culture, and to be fair, I think it’s marketed as a self-help book and I somehow missed the memo.  And I really don’t like self-help books.  So the fault is more mine than anything else.  I will say, however, that I think this book could be a great tool for a lot of women, so instead of going into too much detail about what I didn’t like about it, I’ll explain what Raiten-D’Antonio did well.

I think there are a lot of women out there who hate their bodies, who obsess over every single flaw they see, and don’t ever think about exactly why they do this.  They don’t ever take a second to think about the fact that society has conditioned them to be so critical of themselves, instead they constantly pick and prod and worry and diet and obsess, blaming their own bodies and minds for every single thing they think is wrong with themselves.  These women absolutely need a copy of this book.  These women need to understand that no matter what they do, no matter how perfect they actually become, the world will always find something ugly about them.  And they need, somehow, to become okay with that, and to embrace themselves for who they are anyway.

What I believe was missing from this book was an in-depth look at teen girls.  A look at how parents, teachers, and other adults important in the lives of girls and young women can help teens avoid some of the negativity and low self-esteem issues that most women suffer from.  We all have little girls and young women in our lives, and I know that most women wouldn’t want their daughters to grow up feeling awful about their looks, so what can we do to prevent that?  I think a discussion about this would have been a nice addition to the book.

Ugly as Sin is an important book in that it examines what adult women can do to understand that the feelings they have about being ugly, about not being good enough, and wanting to be perfect in every way are the norm and almost every single woman out there suffers from the same thing.  Women who need to be reminded that these issues stem from societal pressure and not personal imperfections will definitely benefit from this book.  While the book isn’t really my cup of tea, it will resonate heavily with many, many women.

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

Title:  The Purpose Driven Life

Author:  Rick Warren

Published:  October 1, 2002

Page Count:  334

Genres:  Nonfiction, Inspirational

My Rating:  2.5 out of 5

You are not an accident. Even before the universe was created, God had you in mind, and he planned you for his purposes. These purposes will extend far beyond the few years you will spend on earth. You were made to last forever!

Self-help books often suggest that you try to discover the meaning and purpose of your life by looking within yourself, but Rick Warren says that is the wrong place to start. You must begin with God, your Creator, and his reasons for creating you. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense.

This book will help you understand why you are alive and God’s amazing plan for you—both here and now, and for eternity. Rick Warren will guide you through a personal 40-day spiritual journey that will transform your answer to life’s most important question: What on earth am I here for? Knowing God’s purpose for creating you will reduce your stress, focus your energy, simplify your decisions, give meaning to your life, and, most importantly, prepare you for eternity.

The Purpose-Driven™ Life is a blueprint for Christian living in the 21st century—a lifestyle based on God’s eternal purposes, not cultural values. Using over 1,200 scriptural quotes and references, it challenges the conventional definitions of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. In the tradition of Oswald Chambers, Rick Warren offers distilled wisdom on the essence of what life is all about.

This is a book of hope and challenge that you will read and re-read, and it will be a classic treasured by generations to come.

These are the kinds of reviews I really hate writing.  I am trying to come up with the correct words to describe how the book made me feel and I am literally coming up empty.  It is sort of like a completely neutral feeling – didn’t really like it, didn’t hate it either (hence the 2.5 rating).  I think the issue for me is that I really didn’t get anything new out of The Purpose Driven Life. I am here for God’s purpose, not my own, okay I get it.  No need to devote forty chapters to that same idea.  Not to sound harsh, I just didn’t get what the big deal was about this one.  I don’t see what made it such an international sensation.  To me, the book was an incredibly simple message which was spelled out very clearly in the introduction and then repeated a zillion times throughout the book.  So, I just don’t know what all the hype is about.

That said, I can see how Warren’s message would be welcome and necessary in many lives.  So many people, Christians included, go through life striving for power, or for money, or wander through life striving for nothing at all.  I can see the appeal of changing ones’ thinking to live life only for God’s glory – this would be a welcome change for many people.  As for me, well, I get it.  No need to beat me over the head with it for forty chapters.

So, yeah, this one was pretty eh for me.  Anybody have thoughts on this one?  Did it change your life?  Do you even agree with Warren’s proclaimed purpose for all of our lives?  I’d love to hear your input.

Review: The Get Organized Answer Book

Title:  The Get Organized Answer Book

Author:  Jamie Novak

Published:  March 1, 2009

Page Count:  272

Genres:  Nonfiction, Self-help

My Rating:  4/5

In a world with more stuff, more to-do’s, and more wants, organizing and efficiency expert Jamie Novak offers clear and simple ideas to help readers cut through the clutter and find what’s important. Proven strategies show readers how they can better organize their lives – and find more free time and energy.

The Get Organized Answer Book tackles all areas of life and home, answering such questions as:

  • Where do I start?
  • How can I free up more storage space?
  • What papers should I save?
  • How can I help my kids stay organized?
  • What can I do to get the most out of my time every day?

Novak, who frequently appears on QVC, says that about 80% of the clutter in every home or office is a result of disorganization, not lack of space. Her strategies, tips, and tools for success can help every reader conquer the messes and start living a happier, more productive life today. 

I am ashamed to admit that when it comes to my home, I am not an organized person.  I am organized at work, but that’s about it.  My closet, my car, my kitchen cabinets, my desk area… all big messes.  So when the opportunity to read and review The Get Organized Answer Book presented itself, I figured I could probably use a few tips and said that I’d be happy to read the book.  Generally speaking, this book did provide many useful ideas for how to organize in small, easy steps without getting too overwhelmed with the tasks.

What I appreciated most about the book is how simple Novak made organizing seem.  She makes it clear that it’s important not to think about things as huge projects, but instead to set small goals for yourself and to give yourself rewards when these goals are accomplished.  One example would be to set a kitchen timer for fifteen minutes and organize the pots and pans for just that amount of time, then stop, watch a short TV show or something as a reward, then move on to the next task.  Novak gave plenty of examples of tasks that can easily be accomplished in fifteen or twenty minutes, which is nice to see because I tend to get overwhelmed with those kinds of tasks and feel like I’ll never be able to get them done in a short amount of time.

I have to admit that while reading this book, I actually felt GOOD about my messiness – because I realized I’m not nearly as bad as I sometimes feel that I am.  Some people have literally years of stuff taking up entire rooms in their houses – I just have a few too many papers at my desk, too much crap in my car, etc.  The book also provided lots of advice on where to start and how to organize every single space of a home – I mean, this is detailed advice.  I did skim parts of the book that aren’t of particular interest to me, but there is a LOT of information here.

If you’re the type of person who needs a gentle nudge to organize your home, your car, your office, or your life, this is the book for you.  Jamie Novak provides great advice and instructions about how to organize just about anything, and she makes it seem very manageable and simple.  When I finished the book, I started cleaning out my closet right away!  No joke – I put together three bags of clothes to donate.  I would definitely recommend the book for anyone like me who needs a little assistance with organization. 🙂

Review: The Day After Tomorrow

untitledTitle:  The Day After Tomorrow

Author:  Sandee Sgarlata

Published:  February 20, 2009

# of Pages:  77

ISBN:  9780980082425

My Rating:  3/5

The Day After Tomorrow is the first book in a planned series aimed at helping teens navigate the daily struggles and issues in their lives through peaceful, productive methods rather than harmful ones.  This particular book focuses on Julia Monroe, an average teenage girl, as she begins her freshman year of high school.  She acts like many teenagers – she’s rude to her mother, she’s obsessed with her boyfriend, and generally thinks she has a crappy life (even though she lives in a very nice house, with a nice family, great friends, goes to a good school, etc.).  Throughout the book, several events happen in Julia’s life which cause her to have to make a choice as to how to react to the world around her.  The book’s message is that when Julia reacts with peace and forgiveness instead of fear and anger, the consequences of her actions are very positive.  The idea for the book series was started by the folks at 4give 4peace, which is devoted to the idea that forgiveness in daily life is essential and will always have a profoundly positive impact on our lives.  

So – what did I think about this book/novella aimed at teens?  Well, first of all, I appreciate the thought behind it.  I like the idea of trying to encourage teens to cultivate forgiveness and love in their lives, as it is clear that in this world there is far too much violence, hatred, etc.  But as far as Julia Monroe is concerned… I didn’t find her entirely believable.  I know that she’s supposed to be representative of teen girls, but when I was a teenager I certainly wasn’t awful to my mother, I didn’t act like a complete idiot with regards to my boyfriend, and most of my friends didn’t do those things either.  So I don’t know how many girls will actually see themselves in Julia.  Also, the end of the book wrapped itself up too fast – an extra fifteen pages or so would have been better, I think – and the result is that the ending came off as kind of preachy.  I like the idea, though, and the book was a SUPER quick read (good for high schoolers who don’t read too much), and it wasn’t a bad book.  I would be interested to hear from actual teens who have read this one, because I just can’t decide if the book is an effective method of getting teens to think more about peace and forgiveness in our world.

Not bad, by any means, but not my favorite.  And the jury’s still out on my opinion of The Day After Tomorrow‘s effectiveness for what it’s trying to accomplish.

Review: Skinny Bitch

Skinny Bitch – Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

From the back cover –

Stop being a moron and start getting skinny!  If you can’t take one more day of self-loathing, you’re ready to hear the truth: You cannot keep shoveling the same crap into your mouth every day and expect to lose weight.

Authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin are your new smart-mouthed girlfriends who won’t mince words and will finally tell you the truth about what you’re feeding yourself.  And they’ll guide you on making intelligent and educated decisions about food.  They may be bitches, but they are skinny bitches.  And you’ll be one too – after you get with the program and start eating right.

For the record, I did not read this book because I need to lose weight.  I read the book because I have a very close friend who made a lot of changes in her life (health-wise) after reading it, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  

Warning – if you read this book, you WILL want to become a vegetarian.  You may not necessarily become one (I’m not planning on it), but you will learn lots of disgusting facts about the meat, dairy, and poultry industries and these facts will definitely make you want to stay away from these foods entirely.  The book advocates a completely vegan diet, and I’m not going to lie, they put together a pretty strong case for why anything BUT vegan is just stupid.  I mean, I totally bought it and am strongly motivated to give up red meat, pork products, and chicken, and to cut back on my consumption of dairy.  And if I read Skinny Bitch with the preconceived notion of reading it in order to change my lifestyle, I’d be starting my vegan detox right now.  It is VERY compelling.  Personally, I’m ok with the way I look and feel and don’t plan on going vegan.  However, the book did motivate me to take a closer look at what I do eat, and I plan to cut way back on the amount of meat, refined sugar, and bleached flour I eat as well as increase the amount of fruits and vegetables I consume.  And I’m giving up soda completely… at least I plan on it.

I really enjoyed reading this book, even though it made me really uncomfortable at times.  I like that the premise of the book is that if you want to feel healthy and happy and look your best, all you need to do is eat natural, good-for-you foods, and exercise a reasonable amount.  No crazy diets, no starvation, nothing like that… just live a healthy lifestyle.  Always.  The program they put forward is very doable, but it would take TONS of willpower the first few months, as it would be a radical change for most people (myself included).  If you need a kick in the pants about what to eat and how to maintain a healthy weight, this is the book for you.  But I am warning you – if you don’t want to know about what really goes on behind the scenes of food production, the book is probably not for you.

Review: The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch


From the back cover –

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.”  While they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the question:  What would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  But the lecture he gave – “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” – wasn’t about dying.  It was about overcoming obstacles, enabling the dreams of others, and seizing every moment.  It was about living.

Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration, and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and created a book that will be shared for generations to come.

My thoughts –

You know what, I really enjoyed this little book.  The way Pausch gives his advice, or life lessons as he sort of calls each chapter, is very matter-of-fact and not at all preachy.  He’s basically saying, this is how I lived my life and I have been pretty successful and am incredibly happy, so maybe you should consider doing a few of these things too.  Which, in my opinion, is a great way to impart wisdom – don’t push it, just tell me what you think, why you think it, and how it helped you in our own life.  What I liked about Pausch’s book is that it was very concise, informative, wise, and even though he was expecting to die in the next 3-6 months, not at all sad.  Sure there were moment when he talked about being sad that he wouldn’t see his kids grow up, or when he acknowledged the fact that his wife would have a hard time without him, but he was rather optimistic about the entire thing.  He got his affairs in order, and then set about living as best he could for his last few months on earth.  And it was very inspiring to read… I really, really enjoyed reading it.

As a sidenote, I Wiki’d Pausch after I finished the book and turns out, he did pass away in late July of 2008.  If I have the timeline correct, I think that he lived an extra 6 months or so from what his doctor originally told him, which is nice to know.  After reading his book it’s weird for me to think that his family is currently in Virginia, and have been dealing with the last 5 months without him… it’s just, you know, so CURRENT, and most books you read aren’t so much like that.  I hope and pray with all my heart that his wife and three children are surrounded by family and friends and grieving in peace.  My heart goes out to them right now.

PS… read this book.  I really liked it and I think you will too.

Also reviewed by: Stacy at Stacy’s Bookblog, Kristen at Book Club Classics, Rebecca at Rebecca Reads, and Melissa at Shh I’m Reading.

Review: Awakening to Mindfulness

Awakening to Mindfulness: 10 Steps for Positive Change – Richard Fields, Ph.D.

scheduled for publishing 2008 – 169 pages

From the back cover –

Mindfulness is a state of consciousness that fosters heightened awareness of the self, of the senses, and of the outside world.  It is a state of being “aware.”  Reaching and sustaining this state is what makes or breaks successful recovery, according to Dr. Richard Fields.

In this highly engaging and highly practical book, Dr. Fields, an accomplished mental health and addictions counselor and speaker, “awakens” the reader to new, positive, healthy life changes and possibilities.  He clearly explains how mindfulness and meditation practices can help us all to a better, more enlightened life, a life of freedom from our addictions and delusions, a life with compassion for self and others.

My thoughts –

I received this book from Fields’ PR rep, who contacted me because I had done a review of one of her other clients’ books, and she thought I might want to review this one as well.  Overall, this was not my favorite self-help book, but let’s start with what I did like about it.  The subtitle in this book is 10 Steps for Positive Change, and one thing that I appreciated about this book was that Fields broke his theory down into ten, easy to follow steps that should be used in order to achieve mindfulness in one’s life.  I also like how the book was infused with Buddhist thought and Buddhist teachings, which I’ve always been intrigued by.  At the end of each step was a meditation script, so that one could understand and deeply explore that step while meditating.  There was also a mantra attached to each step, so that while in the car, the store, or getting ready in the morning, one can repeat this mantra to more fully divulge into that step throughout an ordinary day.

Now, on to what I wasn’t crazy about.  My main issue is that I think the majority of this book is common sense.  When I read self-help books (and honestly, I don’t read too many for this reason), I expect to be wowed by some idea or principle that I hadn’t thought of before.  I expect to be hit over the head with what exactly I need to do to achieve whatever goal the book wants for me – and I expect it to be new-to-me actions and practices that will help me get to this point.  Maybe it’s because I have a degree in psychology, but this book was nothing new to me.  For example, some of the things that Fields suggests we need to do to achieve positive change are feeling compassion for others, accepting yourself as you are, and embracing healthy habits like eating right and exercising… none of which I was shocked by.  I feel like this might be a good book to have around in an addiction/recovery place (which I think is one of Fields’ intended uses of it), and maybe a prison or other type of rehabilitation center where the people there NEED to know how to make positive changes, but for the average person, I just think the tips and tools in this book are mostly common sense.  Although, “common sense” isn’t always so common, so I could be wrong.

Would anyone else be interested in reading/reviewing this book? I’m thinking of giving it away…. just let me know. 🙂

Review – High Heels to Hormones: A Woman’s Guide to Spine Care

High Heels to Hormones: A Woman’s Guide to Spine Careby Christina Lasich, M.D.

From the back cover –

With all the medical concerns facing women today, a healthier spine might not be at the top of your list – but it should.  Back and neck pain interferes with many women’s busy lives, but a remedy for it is easier than you might think.

Christina Lasich, M.D., draws on her many years of experience as a spine rehabilitation specialist to bring you High Heels to Hormones: A Woman’s Guide to Spine Care.  Through hilarious cartoons and short, easy-to-read, informative text, Dr. Lasich shows you how important good spinal health is to your overall well-being.

Women of every size, shape, and age will benefit from Dr. Lasich’s sound, proven advice.  Say good-bye to your sore neck and aching back and hello to a stronger, healthier spine!

My thoughts –

I received this book from the publisher to read and review on my blog, and I have to admit, I was a little nervous to be doing this.  This is the first time anyone’s requested this of me, and of course I wanted to do a good job.  Well, I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed the book so I am definitely excited to post about it and introduce everyone to this concise and wonderful little book.

I actually learned a lot from this one.  I personally don’t suffer from any serious back pain, but I do have definite aches from time to time, and reading this book helped me pinpoint when I have more pain in my back, what might be causing it during those times, and what I might be able to do about it.  There was a lot of information in this book that I would never have known – such as how important healthy foods are for your spine health, how awful cigarette smoking is for your spine (I don’t smoke, but I had no idea it had a direct correlation to spine pain!), and how terrible it is for your back to be sitting in one position all day long (I’m talking to you, all you people with desk jobs, and yes I am sort of one of them).  There were also a lot of simple things that women can do to alleviate spine pain for the long run, such as sleeping with a pillow between your legs, going for a proper bra fitting, and even taking short walks throughout the day.

In addition, each section ended with specific exercises that you should do to lessen the pain for the short term, pictures included.  These sections were especially helpful, as I think it’s very easy for women to do something if they have concrete instructions.  Better still, these exercises are nothing fancy, not difficult by any means, and they can even be done while watching TV during a commercial break or something.  This book is very short, less than 100 pages, but I think that works in its favor because it’s easy and quick to get through, and there is not a lot of scientific, medical terminology that may turn some people off.  It is definitely geared toward women, which is nice because Dr. Lasich makes it very clear that men and women’s bodies are built differently, especially in regards to the spine area, so women need different and more specific information regarding spine care. 

I really enjoyed reading this book and learned a lot from it.  I’ll be happy to pass it along to any of you bloggers, especially if you have back pain and could really use the advice.  Just comment on this post to be entered, and if you’d like to be entered twice go ahead and post about the giveaway on your own blog.  I’ll probably choose a winner sometime next weekend (June 6-8).

Thanks again to Dr. Lasich and Kathlene Carney for sending the book to me and allowing me to review it!