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Confessions of a condescending, egomaniacal, self-centered, Smart-ass, or why you should never carry a Prada Bag to the unemployment office
By Jen Lancaster
($13.95, New American Library,

With a title as long as a micro-mini, BITTER IS THE NEW BLACK is everything it promises to be. If you are looking for a really good, guilty-pleasure, summer read, look no further.

Jen Lancaster, the main character and author, spins a tale that would be unbelievable, were it not true. Stranger than fiction is this tale of a young dot-com-boomer couple, trying to survive in Chicago at the dawn of the dot-com-bust. Our heroine is a frothy young woman who is fixated on fashion, furniture and how others measure up in both departments. Her drive to buy an over-priced, uncomfortable, backless couch because she thinks she’ll look good perched upon it, is a prime example of her maniacal spending habits. They catch up with her sooner rather than later, despite the warnings of her parents and her adorable boyfriend Fletch.

Ms. Lancaster’s habit of talking down to everyone she considers a peon, which is very nearly everybody, comes back to bite her on her couture-draped bottom when she is fired from her very impressive job which comes with an even more impressive salary. Thinking she can certainly do better, our feckless heroine ventures out into the world armed with her delusions and an entire new wardrobe, before she comes face to face with the fact that no one will hire her. Her final coup des grace brings her to the Unemployment Office, Prada bag in tow, where she encounters a class of individual she feels entirely superior to, especially when they express resentment at the two weeks salary she is sporting on her arm.

All’s well that ends well, as you might suspect since she did write this memoir, but the roller coaster ride is worth the price of admission, even though you might have already guessed the ending.

TEASE: 50 Inspired T-Shirt Transformations
Edited by Sarah Sockit
(The Penguin Group, $15.95,

Upon first glance, TEASE appears to be just another in a long line of T-Shirt transformation books. But au contraire, this collection of T-Shirt transformations by superstars of art, craft and design has much more to offer than one could ever imagine. I don’t know about you, but I have a huge collection of T-Shirts I never wear which take up much needed storage space. I know I should give them to Goodwill or toss them, but I just can’t seem to do it. They represent pieces of personal history, like memorable Rock concerts, obscure vacation sites or causes I have worked for, tirelessly. And how can I get rid of the T that got me through a really bad break-up, which I slept in every night until I was over him? The answer: I don’t have to.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have come up with the plethora of ideas contained in this book. Every idea such as T-Shirt placemats, lampshade covers and T-inspired throw pillows comes with illustrated instructions and a list of tools you will need to complete each project. One of my favorites is the Soft-Tee Box, which is an actual keepsake box constructed of a large T-shirt, mat board and hi-loft batting. This project comes with an “L” rating of difficulty, which translates to Get Busy. Other ratings are “S” No Sweat, “M” Good Time and “XL” Focus. There are also icons that let you know the various tools you will need to complete each T-ransformation.

Besides the crafty uses for T’s, you’ll also find many fashionable reconstructs that are fun and very trendy, such as A Nifty–Knit Tee scarf, a Chilly Girl Jacket and a Tee with a button-down collar. Or how about an i-pod cozy, or a bag for your yoga mat? The possibilliT’s are endless and more fun then stuffing those un-mined T’reasures back in the dresser.

THE ONE: Finding Soul Mate Love and Making it Last
By Kathy Freston
(Hyperion, $23.95,

When I read the title of Kathy Freston’s new book, THE ONE: Finding Soul Mate Love and Making It Last, I was anxious to jump in immediately. After all, which of us has not longed for true-love-everlasting at one point or another?

I was certainly not disappointed by Freston’s main theme, which is that the purpose of finding and keeping your soul mate is to bring oneself closer to the divine in all things, by being the best person we can be. Day to day conflicts notwithstanding, we are encouraged to look beyond the mundane by learning the tools of forgiveness and acceptance and applying them to our lives.

Long ago, I realized that we are drawn to intimate relationships, not only because of the joy of being in love, but also to discover new parts of ourselves. What Ms. Freston does here is take this theory to a new level, by teaching us how to nurture each other, enabling the relationship to grow to its full potential.

There is no magic bullet here, however. Just like anything worth having, an enriching, fulfilling relationship takes work, some done together and some on our own. The spiritual work we undertake to do under Ms. Freasons tutelage, promises to make us healthier in body, mind and spirit, which is a promise I believe she can deliver.

Most of all, the simplicity of the authors ideas and the clarity with which she expresses them, makes THE ONE, a book worth having and holding and definitely worth sharing.

The Pioneers of Country and Western Music
By Holly George Warren and Laura Levine
(Houghton Mifflin Company, $16.00,

How much do you know about the origins of today’s country music? Whether you consider yourself a walking encyclopedia or a novice on the subject, you will not be disappointed when you read HONKY-TONK HEROES AND HILLBILLY ANGELS. Written by Holly Warren and illustrated by Laura Levine, this book covers this never-dull genre of music whose ancestors are as colorful as the marvelous folk art portraits presented within.

It is difficult to take a legend such as Hank Williams or Johnny Cash and distill them down to one or two pages, but Ms. Warren does so with an eloquence and simplicity as authentic as the artists she depicts. Beginning with a brief history of Country Music, she explains how little known “hillbilly” music was first discovered by mainstream American audiences, through early recordings and radio shows. The Grand Ole Opry, which got it’s name when the MC, George D. Hay made fun of the “hoity-toity folks who listened to the Grand Opera”, began showcasing the great Country and Western artists of the late 1920’s and 30’s, bringing their music into the homes of every American who owned a radio. From there, reputations were built and the love of these honest, story-songs captured the hearts of everyone who heard them.

Such notables as The Carter Family, who were known as ‘The First Family of Country Music’ made old folk songs like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Keep On The Sunnyside” big hits, while others like Ernest Tubb wrote and performed original songs like “Walking the Floor Over You” and “Slippin’ Around”. Other great artists from Jimmie Rodgers, nicknamed the ‘Singing Brakeman’ to Bill Monroe and Patsy Cline are also represented here with the same panache. Ostensibly written as a children’s book, I would recommend this volume to anyone who loves Country music, no matter what your age.

COVER-TO-COVER: Other Titles We Like

IF THESE HALLS COULD TALK : A Historical Tour through San Francisco Recording Studios
By Heather Johnson
(Thomason, $29.95,

Take a tour of the San Francisco studios made famous by such legendary greats as The Jefferson Airplane, Herbie Hancock, Journey, The Grateful Dead and Green Day. Learn the history of the studios themselves, the technological advances through the years and the affect they had on the Music Industry.

HEALTH POLITICS: Power, Populism and Health
By Mike Magee, MD
(Spencer Books, $39.95)

With a forward by C. Everett Koop, MD, this is the seventh book by Dr. Magee about health care in America. An advocate for patients and their families, he also hosts a weekly internet-based program that addresses the complex issues of health care as it affects consumers, policy makers, educators and the news media. A CD is enclosed.

WILD WOMEN and BOOKS: Bibliophiles, Bluestockings, and Prolific Pens
By Brenda Knight
(Conari Press, $16.95)

This amazing collection of mini-biographies of great women authors will give you endless pleasure and a good education to boot. From Aphra Behn to Zora Neal Hurston and from Anne Rice to The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, this incredible anthology will certainly inspire you to lift your own prolific pen and scribble away. / Issue 58 - September 0091
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