Today Will Be Different – Review

“Because the other way wasn’t working. The waking up just to get the day over with until it was time for bed. The grinding it out was a disgrace, an affront to the honor and long shot of being alive at all.”

Today Will Be Different is exactly the book I needed to read! The story about a woman, Eleanor Flood, struggling with her identity in so many ways. She is a writer, but she keeps avoiding her editor and pushing back the book. (minus the editor, SO RELATABLE) Excuses build, pressure mounts, anxiety looms!

The book opens with a mantra of all the things she will do differently. She will be present. She will make eye contact. She’ll spend time with her son and make effort with her husband. She will be kind to strangers and smile. There is more, but you get the idea. Her goal is to be the person she wants to be, not the person she generally is. Which is, quite frankly, a mess.

There is something to the theory that the Universe gives us what we need, and we see that theory shine as the day unfolds for Eleanor. First her son, Timby, says he is sick and the school makes her take him home. Determined to teach him a lesson, they end up going to her husband’s office, where his staff thinks they’ve been on vacation. They haven’t. She is forced to take Timby to a lunch she tried to cancel, only to find out that it was with a former colleague. And he doesn’t know that parts of her past were definitely, assuredly, and soundly put to rest in the past. Now Timby is asking questions he shouldn’t be asking, Eleanor still doesn’t know where her husband is, and nothing in her day unfolds anything like what she envisioned when she woke up.

“The world isn’t your friend,” Joe told Eleanor. “It’s not designed to go your way. All you can do is make the decisions to muscle through and fight the trend.”

I completely related to Eleanor. Not just with her sarcasm, or the way she really does try to make better decisions. It is a struggle sometimes to remember to be grateful, or to smile at strangers, or to remember the little things when the big things feel so big. It isn’t that you mean to fall in a rut with your marriage, or to get frustrated when your kid is being a kid. It just can happen sometimes. We all need reminders to help us stay on track. And when reminders don’t work, well, getting knocked with a hard dose of reality usually does the trick.

And that’s what this book is about. Eleanor has been in a rut. A big rut for a long time. But her husband was always the steady hand guiding her on the tightrope she felt balanced on. She knew him. She could rely on him. So, when he isn’t in the office, the giant flare of ‘what ifs’ force Eleanor into a full panic. Which, again, I think is completely understandable. Everything is fine. Until it isn’t.

While Eleanor scrambles through her day trying to solve the mystery of Joe, she is dragging along her third grade son, and the conversations these two had were amazing.

“Gee, I said. “I always thought you didn’t get my jokes.”

“I get them,” he said. “Most of the time they’re just not funny.”

Anyone who has had a child too smart for their own good can probably relate to that! The other thing I adored about this book, is this is all one day. It may seem that filling a book with the mundanity of a single day would be tedious and boring. Except, it isn’t. The brilliance in this, is of course, we’ve all had days like that. Maybe not in these exact circumstances, but I know I have had more than one day that seems to stretch into an eternity of disaster. We empathize with Eleanor more and more as the endless procession of he day just keeps unfolding, and she just tries to stay afloat.

The book sounds like it should be an eye-rolling romp through first-world problems. But the thing that makes it leap from tolerable to entertaining is that Eleanor completely admits to the ridiculousness of her life, and her problems. She is up front about why her life shouldn’t be as hard as she makes it. She is self-deprecating and full on admits that her problems are tame in nature to people with more serious obstacles in their way.

“If I’m forced to be honest, here’s an account of how I left the world last week “worse, worse, better, worse, same, worse, same. Not an inventory to make one swell with pride.”

This book may not resonate with everyone. I get that. We don’t all have mid-life crises looming or wonder how our lives landed in such different places than we aimed. It isn’t that life is bad. It’s just not how we pictured. It runs away with itself, and we can be helpless passengers. The trick is in admitting that we allow the train to derail. That we slip into the gentle comfort of mediocrity so that we can then blame the world for our misfortune or bad luck. Today Will Be Different gently nudges us into this realization that life is indeed what we make of it. That we cannot rely on the steady husband or the tenacious child to hold us afloat. That we must face the secrets of our past, and that we must choose the life we want to live. Of course, all of this is easier said than done.

It is easier to accept difficult truths through laughter, and this book, if nothing else will let you laugh. Eleanor is a character in every aspect of the word. And perhaps, through the people she meets, or the situations she finds herself in, you may also find that you can laugh at yourself as well.

Thank you Little, Brown for sending me a copy to read and review! I LOVED it!!!

Fitness Junkie – Review

“Sugar is the devil, you know.”

Janey Sweet finds herself in the midst of a strange midlife crisis. Strange because rather than developing on it’s own, her crisis is thrust upon her by her boss and business partner. Over breakfast Beau breaks the news that Janey is fat: the mother of all F*words to Beau, and most of New York City. As the face of their company, she is ordered to take time off to get herself back together.

And so we begin this hilarious romp into the obsession with weight and fitness.

We’ve all read the blog posts, and the magazine articles, and the Facebook links promising us the newest superfood, or the best new workout, or the most effective way to lose weight and feel great! They’re everywhere. And, it’s easy to have fallen for it, once or two dozen times.

So when Janey enlists the help of her friend CJ, purveyor of all new diet and workout trends, along with Ivy, her fitness instructor cousin, I expected hilarious results. I was not disappointed!

The thing about these women is how relatable they are. Janey doesn’t want to be “one of those women”. Always talking and thinking and concentrating on what she looks like. She wants to eat the fries and feel satisfied after a meal. Isn’t that the point in life? Meanwhile, Ivy, a kind-hearted fitness instructor paid to yell at the same women she’s instructing can’t help but feel lost and disappointed with her current career situation. CJ is that friend who is always dieting, always working out, no matter the cost.

Intermixed between the chapters are blog posts and Facebook articles touting the latest and greatest in health. “Coffee Pooped Out Of Brazilian Bird Selling Big In States” and “Free The Nipple Yoga Will Change Your Life” are two of my personal favorites. The best thing about these blurbs isn’t how ridiculous they are. And they are ridiculous. It’s that I had to pause and Google which ones were real. Because let’s face it, they are just ridiculous enough to be real.

Everything from the “motivation tax” to “sober raves”, these details all bring a level of hilarity to our obsession with health and fitness. They are presented as fiction, yet the brands and trends are all pulled from reality. The result is a story you want to brush off as pure fiction, but can’t. The reality we find ourselves in is much stranger than fiction. Or at least just as strange.

I really loved the discussion this book raises on how we treat each other as women. We tout ourselves as progressive and feminist, and yet we can be vicious to each other by belittling imperfect bodies and unfiltered lives.

“It amazed her that someone she didn’t even know was telling her she had a big bum and that person was also wearing a necklace that said FEMINIST in bright gold letters.”

The irony is, we do this all the time. We see scandals from women leading “empowered” companies being charged with sexist and decidedly unfeminist policies more and more in the news. We think that anyone wanting to be healthier, also wants to be criticized in the disguise of helpfulness. We talk about being real while we also speculate on every celebrity showing a tiny tummy bump as a possible fetus. Our hypocrisy is glaring and real.

“Wow. Forty, getting divorced and out of a job. It’s like you’re the poster girl for sadness.”

Fitness Junkies takes these extremes, these outright falsities of our society and shows us the lunacy of them. It helps us laugh at ourselves.

The plot is somewhat predictable, but the joy of the journey make up for that. I also think that the plot isn’t exactly the point. Which sounds crazy to say about a book, but hear me out. This book is so real it’s uncomfortable. You don’t need to live in size obsessed New York to recognize these trends. They’re everywhere. The bigger point of the book isn’t whether Janey finds herself, or how she resolves her conflict with Beau. It’s a larger look at the lengths women often go to in the name of appearance.

It’s also a look at the role society plays. Sykes & Piazza tackle this conversation both with the blog posts and social media articles, but also in Janey’s business. B a wedding dress company that prides itself on how tiny their sizes are, is couture to the extreme. She is aware of her own hypocrisy of being CEO of a company that creates products she herself couldn’t wear. The impact this has on the everyday woman is made all the more real to Janey through her own journey.

“She’d known they were wading into ridiculous territory with their ever-shrinking dresses, but she’d been so focused on growing the business, she hadn’t thought about any of the consequences.”

This is also a deeper examination of the friendships we find ourselves in, both men and women. There are many times we find ourselves in friendships that stopped being healthy long ago. Yet, we can’t let them go. Janey finds herself surrounded by friends, both new and old, and has to decide who is real and who is not.

“Some friendships were transactional.”

This book made me laugh, but it also reminded me that the more important thing in life is to try and love yourself. Sometimes we need a fun story and a good laugh to remind us of that. Fitness Junkie is a great beach or pool read! It’s perfect for anyone who has struggled with diets and exercise regimes, or has ever agonized over which superfood is REALLY the best for your family.

Fitness Junkie is a fictional story about fictional people. But the very real issues and ideas that they explore aren’t as funny even if they are just as ridiculous. It’s good to laugh at ourselves. It’s good to recognize insanity when we see it. Honestly, as Janey says, “No woman should have to live in a world without French fries.”

Thank you Booksparks and Doubleday books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.