Thursday, March 22, 2012

Posted by Carla B. at 9:45 AM
BOOK REVIEW: The Song Remains the Same

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it did stumble in a few places. I give the author credit for writing such a complicated situation, especially from the first person point-of-view.

This novel is primarily told from the view of Nell Slattery, a woman who awakes from a coma with no memory of any events or people from her life. She soon learns she survived a horrible plane crash, but the only details disclosed are those told to her by the one other survivor who credits her with saving his life (who just happens to be a B-list movie star).

As she awakens and moves through her recovery, her memory does not return and she is dependent on those around her to fill in the details of her life. These are primarily her mother, husband and sister. Gradually she learns the information is true in general terms but not so much specifically. For instance, while she was married at the time of the crash her marriage was in turmoil - a fact her husband keeps from her. Eventually other, greater, revelations occur prompting Nell to regain larger chunks of memory and force her to choose how she wants to live the rest of her life: complacency or active change.

The novel is advertised as asking: "Who are we without our memories? And how much of our current self is defined by our former self?" I believe this book made a strong effort to answer these questions, although it was awkward at times and relied too much on plot twists at other times. For example, Nell was recalling her husband's infidelity and her mother's lies, trying to determine how to deal with those in absence of full memory return.  This provided an excellent chance to thoroughly explore that through the character, forcing her and the audience to look deep inside for answers. However, before she could delve into this she took off to find a house from her memories (after she just happened to find the key) where she discovers a half-brother she never knew she had (although she had vague memories of him from childhood). This new plot twist took her character and the audience off into a new direction.

I see a novel like this as a wagon wheel. Nell and her memory loss are at the center, which the various spokes representing her primary memory centers (marriage, mother/sister, children, childhood, work, etc.). It would be tempting to follow each of these spokes, for they all depend on one another to make the wheel work as it should. However, there also has to be that outer circle that keeps these spokes reigned in and balanced. In this book, it appeared that outer circle was missing. Her career had a very short spoke compared to her childhood which has a very long, crooked spoke. It is easy to see how difficult it would be to control this type of book.

I would like to have seen the author concentrate on one area more specifically. It seems the emphasis was on her childhood experience with her father and how this shaped her entire life. If so, then all other aspects should have revolved around this issue asking the questions of why. Why did she pick a husband like Peter? Why did she pick her career? Why did she not stand up to her mother? Those questions were presented, but they were lost among sideline stories such as the actor, the paparazzi, the long lost brother, etc.

I can even understand the desire to make herself over. As a middle aged housewife and mother to five children, I can only imagine waking in a hospital with no memory and a picture of myself on the cover. I know that if I saw that picture, I would want to make myself over into Angelina Jolie - the cool, gorgeous, exciting mom. Without memories or any anchors, perhaps creating a new "you" would provide the security - something to anchor yourself with during a time of change.

Scotch knows how to keep up reader suspense which is not easy. I do wish she could find a way to put in the information presented in third person without using the third person italic chapters. For most of those, I didn't really need the information. In fact, I kind of regretted reading them thinking it added more to the suspense to always be in the same situation as Nell - not knowing what was going on in someone's head and dependent only on what we saw and heard.

All in all, I read this book very quickly. I was always anxious to find out what happened next, which is the mark of good writing. I give it four stars out of five: would recommend to a friend. 

 **I received an advanced reading copy of this book from as part of their Early Reviewers program. Please see my  disclosure policy for further information.**

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Posted by Carla B. at 10:10 PM
I recently joined Team Beachbody. Here is my first blog post there, which I would like to share for all of you as well. It explains a bit about why I chose to do something like that and to let you join my journey to health. I will be posting more often now that I am getting past my mother's illness and subsequent death.

Wow - it's so late, and I really need to get to bed! But, I just had to jot in a quick blog entry to finish up my profile update.

Joining Beachbody is a bit of a new beginning for me. I think everything happens in the time it is meant and for specific reasons. In my own life, this is showing to be quite true yet again - this time where my health is concerned.

For many years, I have been overweight. I battled weight problems as a teenager and in college, thinking I was fat but actually a very average size. I had a skewed image of myself, combined with a childhood where physical activity was limited other than what I obtained through neighborhood games or summers at our lake house. There were no organized sports in my childhood - just dance and piano lessons (what all little Southern girls learn in preparation for future pageants).

After college, a series of bad relationships left me a dedicated emotional eater. That combined with all the Southern food available meant excess weight gain. I eventually ended up at 285 pounds on my 5'4" frame - huge. I divorced my husband and started walking with my dog. I also started watching my diet more carefully and gradually increasing the amount and distance of my walking. I managed to pull off about 50 pounds doing that. Then I ended up moving back home to SC from TN.

At this point, I was transitioning to a new place and looking for employment. Along the way, I met a wonderful man and a year later we were married. However, along with him came five children and two ex-wives. My mother swore I must have had a brain tumor. We ended up being custodial to the kids, and I ended up watching my weight yo-yo from 199 up to 250. Over ten years, the kids grew up and started graduating and leaving home but not without a lot of stress in between. And a surprise pregnancy to me - who had been told she couldn't have kids! Surprise!! At age 40!!

All that took me to late 2010 when my mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. I turned back to the food I loved, but which I now also saw as a poison - but one I was unable to stop. It was like watching an alcoholic die of liver cancer but turning to alcohol to help you cope your way through it. I hated myself and then tried to "love myself" with treats of chocolate. During that time, I also went through some turbulent times in my marriage while my husband dealt with job stress.

My mother managed to 'beat' the cancer, which ended up claiming her stomach (she had to have the entire thing removed). Without a stomach, she found it very hard to adjust to eating. This resulted in her developing vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as lowered immune response. After developing illness in September 2011, she finally passed away from a massive heart attack in November 2011.

The whole time I sat with her in intensive care and at hospice (she was alive for about two weeks as her systems slowly shut down), I kept praying and promising that I would no longer turn to food. That this was my new beginning. After a period of grief, some self-consoling, I started to get more serious. I started eating more healthy and getting physical exercise. I started doing our Wii Fit and anything else I could do. I even adopted the word "HEALTH" for 2012, getting a necklace made with it to remind me daily to make healthy choices. I decided to get my early screening colonoscopy (which I had done on 2/12/12) and the doctor removed two polyps, one of which was in my stomach.

Around the same time, my DH (dear hubby) saw the Insanity infomercial and wanted that T-Shirt! He insisted I order the program. So, off I go to the Internet. I read up on the program. Now, let me back up to say years ago I heard of Beachbody and even got a sample of the shake. I didn't really pay it attention, and I forgot to even make the shake. Two years later I found the sample and threw it out without trying it since it had been so long - by then that coach had quit the program and we had lost touch after that. Apparently, the universe didn't think I was ready. This time I was.

I signed up in my name (since DH is all about the activity and nothing more). I figured it was the same cost to order the program as it was to order it and sign up as a coach - and be able to get a future discount. So, that's what I did - for the sole reason of a discount.

Once the kit came in, I tried the Chocolate Shakeology. And I fell in love!! It was so awesome! Then I read up and started my Coach office and Beachbody profile. Well, then I heard about the Challenge. But I couldn't do Insanity - it was way too much for this starter. I decided I wanted to start with Hip Hop Abs (after doing the little best program for you wizard on the site). So, I recruited DH who is now a bit more excited and he ordered my program.

About this time, I saw Shaun T on Dr. Oz... and Shaun showed how you could modify Insanity to fit your fitness level. Once I saw how I could modify the moves, I was even MORE excited. I know how far I can go, so I feel comfortable doing the moves and quitting before I hurt myself.

All in all... all the signs are pointing to this being my new beginning. Each place I turn there is Beachbody. Tomorrow, I'll add a little post about my health history... you will be amazed at the transformation I am already seeing.

Have a great night y'all!

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