Archive for Book Mentions/Reviews

Misery Loves Company: A Poem on the Common Cold by Samantha Reynolds

The questionable plot device of the common cold

by Samantha Reynolds, on

My tongue is a woolen mitt
the ones you see abandoned
on the wet street
run over and over
by buses.

My head is a soggy cave
my only ambition
to find the nomadic cool patch
on the bedsheets.

Having a cold
makes me question
whether there is a God

not because it’s merciless
quite the opposite

if God is the playwright
why conjure up such an undramatic bug
that does little
but render
your cast

Sick In Bed With a Book: Review of Ellen DeGeneres’s “Seriously I’m Kidding”


REVIEW: Seriously … I’m kidding

Book by Ellen DeGeneres
by Joanne Latimer on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 8:05am

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Since her last book in 2003, much has happened to Ellen DeGeneres. She hosted the Oscars, married Portia de Rossi, started a record label, debuted on Broadway, became a talk-show host and a spokeswoman for Covergirl—a 50-year-old cover girl and an openly gay cover girl, at that. Most readers of her new book will be fans of the show, hoping for more of Ellen’s loopy charm.

As an extension of her talk-show personality, Seriously . . . I’m Kidding is a success. It has funny rants about meditating, gambling, Portia’s addiction to hand lotion, their pets and punctuality. As a book about the last eight years of DeGeneres’s life, it’s an artful dodge. She tries too hard to entertain readers, and forgoes thoughtful reflection. The substance of the book is supposed to be advice from DeGeneres about how to be happy. She throws out predictable chestnuts like enjoy every day, accept yourself, get a mammogram and colonoscopy and think positively. What are missing are personal stories. The result feels less intimate than an episode of her show. Some chapters are so empty generous readers will suspect they’re satirical—Ellen’s spoof on the genre of comedy autobiography.

Still, a few chapters nearly redeem the entire project. Her “Letter to Mall Security” is priceless, as is her riff on endorphins. She speaks honestly about the difficulty of hosting a daily talk show and being a gay role model. “[When I came out], there were extreme groups that didn’t think I was gay enough. There were other groups of people who thought I was too gay. It didn’t occur to me that when I announced I was gay I would have to clarify just how gay I was.” DeGeneres also speaks openly about her and Portia’s decision not to have children. These candid moments are too few. Ironically, Ellen could take a page from Portia’s book, The Unbearable Lightness, which is more accomplished, personal and entertaining.

The Common Cold: Rhyme & Reason

November 2, 2011  |  Book Mentions/Reviews  |  ,  |  1 Comment

The Common Cold, by Ogden Nash (d. 1971)

Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I’m not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever’s hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught! (…click here to continue)

Read More Post a comment (1)

Top 6 Sinus eBooks: A Roundup of Hay Fever and Allergy eBooks

Sinus Sister hits the e-books

Here’s a roundup of sinus-related ebooks. Sinus Sister isn’t endorsing them yet—not until she reads ’em—but she wants to give an overview of what’s online. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

1. The 24 Hour Sinus Breakthrough, by James Kennedy ($47 USD)

James Kennedy, if he exists, gives a compelling pitch for his book, The 24 Hour Sinus Breakthrough. He claims to have a natural remedy recipe made up of 4 simple ingredients that can be obtained at any pharmacy or drug store. When mixed and used properly, it’s supposed to literally dissolve sinus congestion, relieve the pressure and “vaporize” your sinus infection. James, we’re listening. For your trouble, James throws in four bonus books: “The Ultimate Starbucks Coffee & Deserts Recipe Ebook”; “The Secrets To Healthy Sleep”; “Back Pain Relief Secrets” and “How To Get Rid Of Your Snoring.” 

2. Home Remedies for Sinus Infections that Work, by Christina Starkman MD ($19 USD)

Dr. Starkman, if she exists, tells us what to expect in her ebook: causes and symptoms, old home remedies, nasal irrigation methods, best methods of steam inhalation, a list of immune-boosting supplements, herbal teas, natural decongestants, diet tips and notes on prevention. Sounds great. And I’m a sucker for someone with a medical degree—not just an aptitude for HTML.

Read More Post a comment (2)

Review of Roger Ebert’s “Life Itself”


REVIEW: by Joanne Latimer on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 4:15pm

The author of 21 other books, Roger Ebert has finally written a memoir about his personal life, touching only tangentially on his career as a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic and TV personality. That’s risky business, since many readers will expect Hollywood anecdotes in a 415-page book written by someone who saw an early draft of Mean Streets, made movies with Russ Meyer, visited the set of Ingmar Bergman films, bought Quentin Tarantino a chicken sandwich at Cannes, drank with Robert Mitchum in Ireland and went on a pseudo date with Oprah. The memoir is a much more thoughtful reflection on Ebert’s trajectory from a sports reporter in Urbana, Ill., to the living rooms of America.

“I was born inside the movie of my life” is the opening line. Thankfully, he soon drops this conceit and tells an uncontrived tale about his family, his hard-living mentors and his alcoholism. He examines his uneasy relationship with his mother, Catholicism, his weight and his late co-host Gene Siskel. (They were strangers thrown together by a PBS producer. Originally, each thought the other was redundant.) When he does reminisce about showbiz, it’s to record his awe for freewheeling legends like Mitchum, Lee Marvin and John Wayne.

Ebert has had time to think about the Big Questions—God, death, love—while recovering from thyroid cancer treatments that left him unable to talk or eat. Bergman films and Cormac McCarthy’s book Suttreegave him cheer because he “had no use for happy characters. What did they know?” Without a hint of self-pity, Ebert describes what it’s like for an articulate man to have no voice, aside from a computer generated stand-in. What has been his saviour, aside from his selfless wife, Chaz? His blog, where he still follows his winning film-review formula: “Focus on what you saw and how it affected you. Don’t fake it.” Ebert took the same approach to writing this memoir, and the unflinching honesty sent this reader to the library for his other books.

Edward Riche’s “Easy to Like” Review

September 22, 2011  |  Book Mentions/Reviews  |  3 Comments

Stuck inside with hay fever, Sinus Sister reviews….


by Joanne Latimer on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 8:30am

Canadian-born Elliot Jonson is a Hollywood screenwriter and vintner before events conspire to send him home. His penance? To become the vice-president of the CBC’s English-television programming. “It’s like PBS, but with commercials,” he explains to an American movie executive. That’s the kindest thing Elliot says about the CBC, but not the funniest, by far. The title of Riche’s hilarious new novel is a backhanded compliment to TV and wine, topics that find a surprising kinship in a story about a guy trying to simultaneously save his failing vineyard and a public broadcaster.

The book opens with Elliot schooling a couple of California trophy wives on wine appreciation. Elliot plays the straight man to their airhead banter, reassuring readers they’re in for a treat. The rest of the story races along, from FBI investigations to trouble with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We learn that Elliot was served the ultimate, ironic punishment for moving to Tinseltown: his son, once a child star, is currently in prison for drug possession and robbery. But Elliot isn’t jaded about Hollywood so much as he’s tired of rejection. He calls method actors dissociative psychopaths, more like “method humans.” When Elliot lands in Toronto, his powers of observation are lethal.

The best stuff is the author’s parody of the CBC bureaucracy and its adherence to regional balance and bland programming. Elliot’s job interview is laugh-out-loud funny, as are his speeches to the staff. In the book’s acknowledgements, Riche thanks the CBC employees who “sang”—boy, did they. While “the Corpse,” as some call it, admittedly is an easy target, Riche skewers the policy wonks with glee, just as he pilloried private school administration in The Nine Planets. That book’s protagonist, Marty Devereaux, is a classic antihero, but there’s something sweeter about Elliot, who strives simply to make a great bottle of wine. Elliot’s a dreamer: “You can chase taste all you want,” he says, “you’ll never catch it.”

Rating: ★★★★½ 

50 Things You Can Do Today To Manage Hay Fever (Book Review)

September 15, 2011  |  Book Mentions/Reviews  |  2 Comments

Sinus Sister hunkers down with a self-help book

Allergy books, like diet books, tend to state the obvious—“avoid pollen”, “exercise more”. Thanks! So it was with great trepidation that I picked up a preview copy of 50 things you can do today to manage hay fever, by Wendy Green. Although it’s written by and for people in the U.K., this slim booklet is well worth the 45 minutes it takes to read, cover to cover, no matter where you live. Oddly, Trafalgar Square Publishing in Chicago is releasing the book in November, just after peak season in North America, but many of my readers are four-season sneezers.

Green gives a primer on the medical side of allergies—the science behind what happens when your nose is blocked. She follows with a painless questionnaire to help readers identify their allergies, then provides actual tips on how to reduce exposure to pollen and spores. Chapter 5: Hay Fever and Emotions is a little touchy-feely, as is Chapter 7: Living and Working with Hay Fever, but those chapters can be excused…or just skipped over. The rest of the book is wonderfully practical for people who want to take charge and stop moaning.

As an added bonus, the back pages are a goldmine of products and web sites for sneezers like us. Who knew that England was so sympathetic? They have two (TWO) charities—AAIR Charity and Action Against Allergy, with a telephone network—to help their sneezers. British asthma people have even more resources. Well done, England, and well done Green. This wee book is a blessing.

Highlights for the Lazy:

From the Skeptics Corner: the author suggests trying an acupressure point called “bend pool”, or the Quchi acupoint, at the inside of the elbow joint [insert eye roll] I wouldn’t trade your box of Reactine for a rub on the elbow.

Top Food Tip: everyone knows that eating less dairy is supposed to calm allergies, but Green suggests we eat less wheat. The best diet for allergies consists of food with a low glycaemic index (sweet potatoes, brown rice) and foods with essential fatty acid (oily fish) and almonds. This sounds like a covert plan to get skinny, which gets my full endorsement.

Most intriguing supplement: something called “butterbur” acts as a natural anti-inflammatory.

Things we should’ve known: wear contact lenses and/or wrap around sunglasses to help keep out pollen.

Why we love 50 Things: the author gives us permission to buy new bedding and get our eyelashes tinted.

Unintentionally funny: suggesting self hypnosis…with a straight face.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

“Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life”

Sinus Sister reviews a hot new allergy book


Meet author and poet Sandra Beasley. She’s allergic to dairy, eggs, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, swordfish and mustard. She’s also a fellow sneezer, allergic to pollen, cigarette smoke, dogs, wool and horses. These lists raise a delicate question: can a memoir about allergies be any fun? Most stories involving anaphylactic shock don’t end well. Yet, from its title onward, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life never fails to entertain.

Beasley grew up in Virginia in the early 1980s, just before the mainstreaming of food allergies. Food labelling wasn’t reliable and she had to fear every meal. This cramped her style at school and college, where she didn’t want to be known as “the allergy girl”. Readers instantly like Beasley and her feisty attitude. We hear hilarious stories about birthday rituals, adolescent rebellion, boyfriends, the Benadryl club, French fries and Whiskey Sours. Through anecdotes, not lectures, Sandra raises readers’ empathy levels and brings a new level of awareness to Team Sandra. As a sneezer, I wanted to hear something about her close encounters with pollen, dogs and cigarette smoke, but maybe that’s the sequel (wink). In the meantime, Sinus Sister will take a page from Beasley’s book and try the hand-cut fries at Five Guys.

Why We Like The Birthday Girl:

Funny: “Horse riding—the one Texan tradition that didn’t put animals on the receiving end of a bullet or a fork.”

Really Funny: “This was in an era when Wonder Bread and brown rice stood side by side as equals in the ranks of starch.”

Funny & Wise: “Why is a generation of children being raised under the belief that it takes a village to avoid a peanut?”

Parting Wisdom: “My job is to center on staying safe in this world, but my job is also never to assume the world should revolve around keeping me safe”.

Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life (Crown Publishers, Random House, $24.95)

Tennis by the Book

Illustration by Steven Savage,

“GESUNDHEIT!”, said Sinus Sister’s tennis partner. It was the fifth gesundheit in 10 minutes and nobody wanted to say or hear it again–least of all, the people on the adjacent court. Their sideways glances were full of genteel hostility.  My sneezing was becoming unseemly–vulgar, even–and didn’t belong on the clay courts. Like a good W.A.S.P., I slunk away, apologizing to anyone who’d listen.

Seeking solace indoors, I had my tennis itch scratched by reading possibly the funniest thing ever written about the game. It blends sports casting with literary criticism in a New York Times spoof about the fictitious Intertemporal Tennis Writers Classic.

Some of the greatest writers in history came and competed and showed us what it means to write extraordinarily well about tennis. This tournament attracts the world’s sharpest minds because tennis is a global sport that’s steeped in tradition, and more, it’s a gentlemanly clash of wills where you’re out there alone, and the way you play reveals so much about who you are. Somewhere between chess and boxing lies tennis…On one side we had the No. 2 seed, John McPhee, against the wild card Vladimir Nabokov. On the other we saw the eighth seed, Martin Amis, against the No. 1 seed, David Foster Wallace.

It was written by a rascal called Touré who stole the trophy with his hilarious article. Curiously, I didn’t sneeze once while reading it, proving that distraction may be hay fever’s strongest opponent.