Sunday, November 22, 2009

Austen meets Book meets Girl

Confession: When I was in high school I was a bona-fide theater nerd. I loved singing and acting (sometimes dancing, even though I can't dance to save my life, unless booty dancing is legit, and if that's the case I should probably join the New York City Ballet).

I loved the costumes, the makeup, the incestuous camaraderie and most of all, I loved the moment right before the lights came up for the first scene.

First, the audience members shift quietly in their seats, people backstage frantically whisper to each other on their headphones and make sure everyone is in place, and you stand there trying to remember your first line. But then the atmosphere changes, always just seconds before the bright lights illuminate the stage and bring you to life; the audience settles, those people backstage pause and you all take in one deep, collective breath.


I think that's why I liked this book so much. It kind of reminded me of being on stage; getting to transform into a different person, creating layers and diving into an alternate world.

When Jane Hayes' great-aunt dies, she leaves Jane an all-expense paid trip to a resort in England where she leaves her modern crap behind and immerses into an Austen world; trading in her cellphone for a trunk full of empire waist dresses. Jane realizes that this is her last chance to find her Mr. Darcy before she tucks that fantastic dream away forever.

Those who work at the resort are actors paid to deliver the most authentic Austen experience. At first this place seems like a dream come true, Jane's last hurrah before turning over a new Darcy-free leaf; however, we all know how that ends. Jane of course falls for the wrong guy, when the right one is right under her nose! It's one of those really frustrating chick-lit books that you know who she should (and will eventually) end up with, but she still does not heed your telepathic advice.

I always find that when I read these "predictable" books, I am torn between knowing that in the end everything will work out the way it should and wanting the ending to surprise me and be drastically different. The most annoying thing is that the action always happens in the last 100-50 pages and the really important part, a.k.a when the two people finally realize they love each other and need to jump through a million hoops to reach one another, takes place within the last 10-5 pages. I can't help having a love-hate relationship with this chick-lit template. I love knowing that there will be a happy ending, but what happens after they make out at the airport? Do they get married? Does he turn out to be a douche-bag?

We don't get to see the real part. The part after the honeymoon months....but maybe that's the point. These books are meant to help you escape the mundane, every-day seriousness that is real life, right?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Believe It, Be It

You know when you meet celebrities, you always hope that they are as cool as you've made them out to be in your head?

Well, Ali Vincent was even cooler and nicer then I imagined she would ever be! How did I meet her, you might be asking yourself, well let me start at the beginning...

To tell you the truth, I did not watch Biggest Loser until Season 5 when I totally fell in love with Ali and Brittany.* They were cute and fun and nice and committed and let's face it, they passed my ultimate celebrity test: I could see myself hanging out with them on a Saturday night talking about things you only talk about with your best friends.

So, since they were my new best friends, I was dedicated to watching their show and cheering for them on the sidelines. When Brittany was voted off, I continued my rally for Ali. I mean it was definitely destiny that brought her back to the show and eventually what helped her become the FIRST FEMALE BIGGEST LOSER!!! (Destiny and a massive amount of dedication and strength --- I mean, she was JACKED at the end of the show).

Imagine my surprise when I found out that we had published her new book Believe It, Be It! I was so excited. When I started my new job, it was the first book I set out to read "to familiarize myself with our merchandise" (more like I totally freaked out and neeeeded to read her book. helloooo, she is my best friend).

Anyway, enough of my being a superfan. Believe It, Be It is unlike any memoir I've read. Her voice was threaded throughout the whole thing. She was open and honest about everything. She did not hold back on admitting her faults or her insecurities. She is strong and truly inspirational for any woman. Even though it was a book about her journey on Biggest Loser, I wouldn't categorize it as a weigh loss book. You can draw inspiration from her for anything you are striving to achieve. Ali has an uncanny ability to put her mind to anything and come out at the top. And that is what I took from her story; the strength to accomplish any goal. When you want something bad enough, you will get it.


Ali is genuine when it comes to the stories in her book and she is genuine in real life. There was no "I'm a celebrity, so back up" air to her when I read the book or when I met her, on our way to her first book signing.

Honestly, she was exactly how I thought she would be, just better. Of course I had to keep my fan-ness in check before I met her, because let's face it, I pride myself in being a calm and collected New Yorker who acts like seeing a celebrity is "the norm" (please see NYC Prep Episode where they go to the fashion show and the public school girl freaks out because they see Amanda Bynes, you'll see what I mean). But it wasn't that hard because, she was so down to earth. It felt like I was sitting at home, talking to one of my sisters, that's how un-pretentious she is.

Example: As we pull up to B&N, she gets this huge grin on her face and says:

"This is my first signing! I am so excited. I am getting that same exciting
feeling I got when I first won Biggest Loser."

So I offer to take her picture with the sign announcing her book signing.

And you know when you go see your friend in a concert or in a show and you take a million pictures so that she will remember that very special moment in her life. Well, I was that friend for Ali. Picture of her signing her first book, picture of her talking to the awesome fans that came out for the signing, picture of her sitting at the signing desk, picture of her walking around, picture of her first microphone malfunction at her first signing.....need I go on? And I loved every minute of it.

The only picture I didn't get was one with her at her first signing, because I am an idiot and totally forgot my camera. When I asked her if she would mind taking a picture with me in the office the next day, she looked at me:

Ali: "We didn't get a picture last night?"
Me: "No, I forgot my camera"
Ali: "Why didn't you just use my camera! Come on!"
Me: (Stunned into silence, because how COOL IS SHE?) "Because I'm stupid"

Believe It, Be It.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment." - Jane Austen

For our 11th grade summer reading, two of the books we were assigned to read were Beowulf and Pride & Prejudice.

Well my classmates were not shy in voicing their opinions, or those they had heard through the grapevine. Consensus was, Beowulf was great and P&P was bo-riiiing.

Poor Jane Austen, how was I to know that my classmates were bereft of any good sense or taste?

All things considered, I had to prepare myself for anything. Since I was going on a month long trip with my parents, I threw in my Stony Brook School provided paperbacks along with the saving grace of any lazy high-schooler: Cliffnotes. I wasn't going to waste my time reading P&P if I didn't like it after the first 50 pages!

I know, I know, my dedication to my studies must just revolutionize your world.

Well after lugging my books and bathing suits on the 12 hour flight to Greece, I was ready to hunker down and make my way down the summer reading check-list, one excruciating page at a time.

Do you think that I read P&P first, you know, to get the pain over with?? NOPE! I decided to leave it for last, avoiding Austen at all costs. Finally, when I had no where else to go, and no other book to read, I settled into my beach chair, careful not to get any suntan lotion on my beloved Cliffnotes and began:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
Ok, I can dig that, whatever, this book was written in the late 1700s, published in 1813. This book is famous for its first sentence, but that isn't where Jane hooked me.

"However, little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters."

This woman is hilarious. Any rich and single man was considered "rightful property to some one or other of their daughters"? Hold on, there were gold diggers even in the 1800s????? That is priceless.

This is probably around the time that I decided Jane Austen was to be my best friend.

Needless to say, it took me one afternoon to read the whole thing, including Cliffnotes (just in case I missed anything).
Ever since then, I have been unable to quell my infatuation with anything Austen. From Pride & Prejudice to Persuasion I have left no Austen page unturned. I took a Jane Austen class in college, I've seen almost every movie adaptation and if I see any fiction novel that has "Jane" or "Austen" in the title, chances are I have read it or plan on reading it.
Some may say this is unhealthy, but really? I don't drink coffee, I don't smoke cigarettes....should I really be ashamed of this vice? Perhaps you could even call it a virtue.......

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Where's the beef?

When I read Julie & Julia all I wanted to do was cook. I just finished reading The Butcher and the Vegetarian (by Tara Austen Weaver) and all I've wanted to do was eat a big juicy steak.

Even though Weaver taught me about the cruelty inflicted on those poor cows and pigs, it still did not turn me off to thinking about eating a huge hamburger with avocado and cheese accompanied with bacon and maybe some fries.

I didn't know what to expect from this book when I first picked it up. What would you think if you saw a big leaf of lettuce cuddled around a large piece of raw steak on a book cover?

Not only was the book full of humor, but it was interesting and informative on all the different aspects of a vegetarian vs. a carnivorous lifestyle.

I was so inspired by this story that I even toyed with the idea of experimenting and cutting back on my own meat consumption......but I decided to have a dinner party instead and cook up a mean meat dish that finally satisfied the primal craving that bubbled up inside me when I cracked open this delectable book.