Review: How To Save Your Own Life by Michael Gates Gill

I’m a sucker for lists. “Best of” lists are big this time of year and I love looking at them, but I also enjoy any type of round up. Boil something down to a few essential elements and give me the bullet points! “5 Easy Ways to Get Organized” or “8 Steps to a Better Sex Life” on a magazine cover immediately gets my attention. So when How To Save Your Own Life, with the subtitle 15 Lessons on Finding Hope in Unexpected Places, came up on tour over at TLC, I was all over it, even though it didn’t promise to get me organized or teach me how to be sexy(er). <— Those who know me can now stop laughing.

Author Michael Gates Gill writes about what it was like to go from being a high powered, highly paid advertising executive with a privileged lifestyle to a guy who lost everything later in life; the job he’d held for 25 years, his decades-long marriage, and his health. His world was in turmoil and seemed to be crashing down around his ears. Change was forced upon him yet that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. At his lowest point, he walked into a Starbucks on a day they were recruiting new employees and met a young woman named Crystal who turned his life around by offering him a job (even though he wasn’t there looking for one); a job in which serving others is priority #1. He surprised himself by accepting the offer. Learning to serve others was pivotal in fundamentally changing who he was on the inside, and now he is a much better and happier human being for it.

This is a short little memoir-ish book (about 200 pages), yet it took me more than two weeks to read it. I kept it on my nightstand and read one “lesson” per day, savoring the lessons and ‘saving my life’ in bite sized chunks. Gill writes plainly and simply about his experiences and what he learned from them, and offers others ways in which they can apply these lessons to their own lives.

None of this is rocket science and I didn’t encounter any earth shattering new ideas or experience any Aha! moments. However.. this book came at a good time for me. Basic ideas like being grateful, simplifying and letting go of material things, unplugging (from cell phones, pda’s, watches, computers, etc.), laughing more, leaping with faith (rather than over-thinking everything), following your heart, etc. are things I’ve been giving quite a lot of thought to lately as I do my annual resolution making for the incoming year and reflection on the outgoing one.

Leaping with faith and not over-thinking is something I’ve always struggled with. I tend to over-analyze and worry things to death. However, leaping with faith was one of the best things I ever did when, in 2008, I asked someone I trust and consider a friend to start a business with me, even though we’d never actually met in person (we’ve since remedied that). Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first!) but sometimes you just have to go with your gut. I’m so glad I did.

This charming book full of inspiring thoughts and good reminders will have a permanent spot in my nightstand. I’ll take it out whenever I need a pick-me-up of positivity or a little nudge of courage because let’s face it, change can be scary. It can also be great.

Here are the rest of the stops on this TLC Book Tour:

Monday, January 4th: MidLifeBloggers

Tuesday, January 5th: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker

Wednesday, January 6th: Books on the Brain

Thursday, January 7th: The Written World

Tuesday, January 12th: TexasRed’s Books

Wednesday, January 13th: It’s All A Matter of Perspective

Thursday, January 14th: A Novel Menagerie

Tuesday, January 19th: Confessions of a Book a Holic

Wednesday, January 20th: Thoughts of an Evil Overlord

Monday, January 25th: Silver and Grace

Tuesday, January 26th: Inventing My Life

Wednesday, January 27th: Write for a Reader

A big “Thank You” to Anne at Penguin for sending me this book to review.

Guest Post: Allyson Roy, author(s) of Babydoll!

babydoll-192x300Please welcome Allyson Roy, author(s) of the new book, Babydoll, to Books on the Brain!  Allyson Roy is actually Alice & Roy, husband and wife collaborating authors. 

Did you know laughter makes you healthy? Literally. Studies have shown it enhances the cellular immune system and produces disease-fighting anti-bodies.

“Wait a sec,” you say, “isn’t this supposed to be a book blog?”

That’s right. And today we’re here to talk about a book that will make you laugh so hard you’ll forget about all the latest doom and gloom. And improve your health.

Not that there aren’t tense, poignant or meaningful elements in our Saylor Oz series. Book #1 (which won a Daphne du Maurier Award) addressed an issue that lurks in most of us, thanks to our celebrity obsessed culture — a deep, down secret wish to maybe just once experience what it’s like to be irresistibly beautiful. 

And BABYDOLL, which just came out on August 4th, taps into ideas about people striving to make a name for themselves. And forgotten people who might as well be nameless. It looks at how far many will go to get their wishes. And how some react when it all goes up in smoke. 

But we weave these themes into novels that are part suspense, part comedy and part women’s fiction.

Alice and Roy, a.k.a. Allyson Roy

Alice and Roy, a.k.a. Allyson Roy

The friendship of our two main characters is a major factor in BABYDOLL. Saylor Oz and Benita Morales are women who have worked to achieve their professional goals, yet carry with them all the vulnerabilities of their past. Like most women, they can be strong and confident one minute, but insecure and needy the next. They’re smart, but they get upset and make impulsive, foolish decisions that get them into trouble. Their relationship with each other has lasted longer than those they’ve had with men — Benita is divorced, Saylor never married. Being roommates, they fall into bickering and blaming. But when it comes down to the real stuff, they are deeply loyal and willing to put their lives on the line for each other.

And, oh yeah, they’ll make you laugh out loud. To quote a Pop Syndicate reviewer, “If Saylor and Benita were real, I’d have to friend them on every social network, and go out for beers with them just to experience their humor firsthand.”

Thanks, Lisa, for having us as your guests today!

Blogger Bio:  With backgrounds in the arts – Alice in dance and choreography, Roy in fine art, theater and standup comedy – Alice and Roy spent many gypsy years living and working in the different neighborhoods of New York City and Philadelphia. Their Saylor Oz crime adventure series, set in the Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood of DUMBO, combines suspense, comedy and a bit of girl stuff. 

Visit the Allyson Roy website HERE and check out the TLC Book Tour schedule for Babydoll HERE.

Review: Beach Trip by Cathy Holton

imageDB.cgiYou might think Beach Trip by Cathy Holton would be a light, fun, summertime romp, based on the cover and the description, but it really isn’t that.  I’d call it women’s fiction, which to me means it’s a bit more serious than chick lit, and a lot less fluffy than what I think of as a beach read. 

The story is about Lola, Mel, Sara, and Annie, college roommates and close friends who get together some 20 years later, in their 40’s, for a week at the beach.  Life has taken them in completely different directions since their college years, but they still have a bond. 

Alternating between the past and present, we get to know the women as they were and are.  Lola- rich, beautiful, married to the very controlling Briggs, is sweet but childlike- she seemed medicated and in her own little world during the week at the beach.  Mel, the wild one, is a twice-divorced writer and a breast cancer survivor who gets the women talking over margaronas.  Sara is an attorney whose marriage is suffering under the strain of a difficult medical diagnosis for one of her children.  Annie is an empty nester and uptight clean freak with secrets of her own.  I related most to Sara, a former career woman with a long marriage and a couple of kids, whose life isn’t perfect, but I found Mel to be the most interesting of the four.

The women don’t connect immediately at the beach- they definitely have their guard up- and it takes almost the entire trip before they have any meaningful conversation with each other.  I doubt they would have been friends without their shared history- they are friends because they’ve known each other forever.  But as the week wears on and the secrets start coming out, their friendship grows and changes to allow for the mature people they’ve become.  

So much of the first 3/4ths of the book is made up of the women’s inner dialogue- being around their old friends brings on a flood of memories- so much so that I kept thinking, are they ever going to really talk to each other?  They are all so self involved!  But then, finally, they do talk and share their lives with each other.  That’s when the book starts to get really good. 

I like when a book can surprise me, and there are a couple of big twists in Beach Trip.  The ending was great- it totally made the book for me!  One twist was obvious to me from the beginning (I’m not sure I’d even call it a twist, but then in our Summer Reading Series discussion, several people said that their favorite part was when it was revealed, so I guess it was a twist).  The end, though, really took me by surprise.  If you’ve read the book, don’t give it away!  It’s a great ending. 

I’d recommend Beach Trip to anyone who likes women’s fiction.  For more thoughts on Beach Trip, follow Cathy Holton’s TLC Book Tour.