His Needs, Her Needs

His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage
By:  Willard F. Harley, Jr.
Published: 2001
# of pages: 224

Official description: Marriage works only when each spouse takes the time to consider the other’s needs and strives to meet them. In His Needs, Her Needs, Willard Harley identifies the ten most vital needs of men and women and shows husbands and wives how to satisfy those needs in their spouses. He provides guidance for becoming irresistible to your spouse and for loving more creatively and sensitively, thereby eliminating the problems that often lead to extramarital affairs. The revised anniversary edition of His Needs, Her Needs is a celebration of how the book has helped thousands of couples revitalize their marriages during the last fifteen years. This best-seller identifies the causes of marital difficulties and instructs couples on how to prevent them, guiding them to build a relationship that sustains romance and increases intimacy. With today’s soaring divorce rate and prevalence of affairs, Harley’s insights are needed more than ever before.An unabridged recording of His Needs, Her Needs, the 15th anniversary edition, is now available as an audio book.

My opinion:  I changed this from 3 stars to 2 stars after thinking about it overnight. First of all, this book is obviously written by a man! Someone who has never given birth or stayed at home full time with babies/toddlers/preschoolers. 

Secondly, the book definitely uses fear and negativity throughout the chapters. I understand that probably every family that deals with a cheating spouse never thought it would happen to them, but I don’t think that it is as common as the author makes it out to be, and even if it is, I don’t think it’s necessary to continually use guilt and scare tactics to make the reader feel insecure. 

Third, the author uses modern ideas of beauty in his chapter on physical appearance. Men should appreciate a woman’s natural beauty. A woman shouldn’t have to put chemicals on her face, on her skin, or in her hair to keep her husband from cheating on her. It wasn’t so long ago that makeup, hair dyes, and trendy hair and clothes were not beautiful to American men and women. Prostitutes were the ones wearing makeup and dying their hair. Now the typical American’s idea of a beautiful woman is very thin, tan, wearing makeup, and highlighted hair. It is just a phase and women shouldn’t feel forced to take place in that just to make a man happy. There is always going to be someone prettier that your husband comes into contact with to put more “love units” into his “bank.” If that’s what it takes for him to cheat, it won’t matter what you do to make him happy with your physical appearance.

There are some positive ideas in the book. His advice about affection and mutual activities are very helpful. It is also helpful to know that men and women have different needs and that it may be uncomfortable, but trying to meet some of those needs will be helpful in your marriage



Why I gave this book 2/5 stars: Negative, untrue concepts, some good ideas

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One Thousand White Women

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd
By: Jim Fergus
Published: 1998
# of pages: 320

Official description: One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.

My opinion:  I liked that the author re-wrote history (with an explanation at the beginning).  The “historic event” he chooses is original and interesting.  If only someone else could take the same idea and write a better novel!  I didn’t like the main character, May Dodd, at all.  She was hard to relate to, but also didn’t seem realistic at all.  It felt like she was a modern day woman, an unfeminine modern day woman, put back in the 1800s.  I’m sure there were liberal, unconventional women in 1875, but not like May Dodd was in this novel.  I can’t imagine even a modern day woman reacting the way May reacts when placed in a completely different environment, culture, and people group who don’t speak the same language.  She wasn’t a realistic woman, and that’s what the book is about.  The physical and mental journey of white women whose lives are turned upside down.

She blasts everyone whose viewpoint isn’t like her own.  That also includes Christians and I felt like Fergus realized he’d been too harsh and then included a Christian character that May likes at the end.  The reader doesn’t get to know that character well, so it was odd when he seemed to be an important character at the very end.  Once again, I just felt like it was an obvious way for Fergus to pacify anyone he may have offended.

Most of all, I felt that it would have been better if there had been a different ending.  Since Fergus was rewriting history, couldn’t he have rewritten history?  I think that would have been really neat.

Why I gave this book 2/5 stars:  Original story, interesting (and hopefully accurate!) facts about the Cheyenne history and culture in the late 1800s, unbelievable main character, too many unrealistic viewpoints for that period of history.

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Secrets of Eden

Secrets of Eden
By: Chris Bohjalian

Published: 2010

# of pages: 362

Official description: From the bestselling author of The Double BindMidwives, andSkeletons at the Feast comes a novel of shattered faith, intimate secrets, and the delicate nature of sacrifice.
“There,” says Alice Hayward to Reverend Stephen Drew, just after her baptism, and just before going home to the husband who will kill her that evening and then shoot himself. Drew, tortured by the cryptic finality of that short utterance, feels his faith in God slipping away and is saved from despair only by a meeting with Heather Laurent, the author of wildly successful, inspirational books about . . . angels. 
Heather survived a childhood that culminated in her own parents’ murder-suicide, so she identifies deeply with Alice’s daughter, Katie, offering herself as a mentor to the girl and a shoulder for Stephen – who flees the pulpit to be with Heather and see if there is anything to be salvaged from the spiritual wreckage around him.But then the State’s Attorney begins to suspect that Alice’s husband may not have killed himself. . .and finds out that Alice had secrets only her minister knew.
Secrets of Eden is both a haunting literary thriller and a deeply evocative testament to the inner complexities that mark all of our lives.  Once again Chris Bohjalian has given us a riveting page-turner in which nothing is precisely what it seems.  As one character remarks, “Believe no one.  Trust no one.  Assume all of our stories are suspect.”

My opinion:  Didn’t like it very much.  It was depressing with all of the domestic violence and disfunctional characters.  The whole angel thing was weird and didn’t really fit with the main story line.  I liked the plot twist at the very end (the last few pages!), but I wish the rest of the book had been less disjointed and the characters easier to relate to.

Why I gave this book 2/5 stars:  Depressing, graphic violence descriptions, weird characters that were hard to relate to, a whole theme in the book that wasn’t really developed and didn’t go with the rest of the book.

Other reviews:
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The Daughter of Time

The Daughter of Time
by: Josephine Tey

Challenges: What’s in a Name?

Published: 1951

# of pages: 206

Don’t ask me how this ended up on my TBR list. It’s been on it for years though, I can’t remember what made me put it on there. I have to say, I was disappointed when I finally read it!

The story is about Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard, who was injured during a case and is in the hospital…bored out of his mind. One of his friends decides to help him find something to do to pass the time and gives him a stack of portraits since he likes to analyze faces so much. Grant is immediately drawn to a portrait of Richard III, ruler of England in the 1400s. Richard was known as being a “monster,” but Grant is struck by the fact that he looks so respectable in his portrait. Convinced that he isn’t seeing the face of a murderer, he decides to discover what really happened over 400 years ago that left Richard with a grisly reputation.

What I didn’t like about this book was the fact that the reader doesn’t get to know the characters, even Grant, very well. However, I discovered that Tey wrote several other books that feature Inspector Grant before The Daughter of Time. This is a stand alone novel, but I think that by the time Tey wrote this novel she no longer had to introduce the characters as much. So perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I read her other books first.

Also, while the historical facts are very interesting, I felt like they could have been conveyed even better. The majority of the book is dialogue about history. There’s so much information in so few pages. I would read and feel like I had read so much, only to realize that it was only 3 pages worth. I think that there could have been a better way to present the information. Maybe spread it out more, only put what was really relevant to the mystery, or just make it more interesting by putting more of the modern day story about Grant in between to break it up.

Anyway, the good thing about this book was that it does cover an interesting subject that I didn’t know anything about before picking it up. Now I’m interested in Richard III and have even done a little bit of extra research to find out more about him and what people in our modern time think of him (Wikipedia counts as research, right?). It was neat how history is presented in a mystery form and that Inspector Grant goes about solving it just as he would a crime case assigned to him by the Scotland Yard. I was also interested to read on Wiki that Richard III was actually given a modern day “trial” in 1997 to formally decide whether or not he was guilty of the crimes attributed to him. Apparently Inspector Grant wasn’t the only one who wondered more about this mysterious historical figure.

Overall I don’t rate this very high because I feel like it could have been written in a more agreeable and interesting way. I recommend this to lovers of history, especially medieval history.

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Practical Magic

Practical Magic
by: Alice Hoffman

Published: 2003

# of pages: 304

Whew! It’s been forever since I’ve posted! I haven’t read a whole lot of interesting books since February, but now I’m starting to pick up the pace again so I’m back to blogging. I read this one a long time ago, but I’m going to go ahead and do a short review.

I honestly didn’t care for this book. I like the whole magical realism genre, I think it’s very interesting. However, I thought that Practical Magic had too much unnecessary crudeness and language in it. The overall story is fun though. I remember enjoying the movie, I think that if you are interested in this book you might as well just watch the movie. It’s different, but I think it’s different in a good way.

That being said, the story is very girl power. It’s about two sisters who grew up with their two aunts, who are known to be witches. The two sisters go their separate ways as they grow up and one has two daughters. When the daughters are teenagers an event happens that brings the other sister into town. The 4 women become close as they live together over a summer. The daughters start becoming women, all of them start to find their place in the world as they confront their pasts, and they all start falling in love with four different men. Of course, the two old aunts have to come and be a part of all of this bonding so they come along at the end of the summer and everyone is happy.

Possession *UPDATED

Possession
by: A.S. Byatt

Published: 1990

# of pages: 555

Sooooo slow. I know I’m probably going to have a lot of people disagree with me on this, but this book was not good. I almost put it down several times. The only reason I didn’t was because I thought it would get better and by the time I realized it wasn’t better I had invested too much time and didn’t want to waste it. The whole book could have been at least 150 pages shorter. I enjoyed the overall plot and would love to see it rewritten in a more readable manner.

I understand that Byatt did an amazing job with her research and creativity. The novel is very well written. I can’t criticize her writing style and although it was wordy, I could keep up. I understood the literary and psychology references, so it wasn’t like I was completely lost. However, I still think the book is too well written…it’s superficial. As if Byatt was showing off her intelligence by including unnecessary references, words, and ideas. I don’t understand who could truly enjoy the long letters and poems that are ingrained throughout the story, but maybe someone who is more learned and distinguished would. I appreciate these elements in novels, but I prefer them to be natural and a little more subtle.

The letters by the fictional Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash, were the worst. He is so boring and pompous sounding! Plus — I couldn’t stand — the “–” every other — word! I skipped most of his letters. His love interest, the poet Christabel, was better. I enjoyed her letters more because they seemed like real letters that someone would write and someone else would enjoy reading. Her poetry was also better, but towards the end I skipped hers too so that I could make my way to the end a little quicker. The letters I did read (all of the ones in the first half of the book and a few in the second) were pointless. They did nothing to further the plot and even less to further the sense of romance between the poets.

I enjoyed the mystery between Ash and Christabel. I could understand why Roland and Maud wanted to find out about their lives so badly. I liked the contemporary romance that was portrayed and only wish that the book had spent a little less time on made up poems (sorry Byatt, if I’m going to read poetry, I’d rather read the authentic Victorian stuff) and more on their conversations and interactions. I also liked reading Sabine’s and Ellen’s journals. They were realistic and interesting. They had intelligent thoughts, but didn’t sound stuck up and full of it.

A fellow book blogger pointed out the fairy tales that are told in the book! I completely forgot about this aspect of the book in my original review. I have to admit to enjoying the fairy tales that are in the book. Christabel is especially interested in fairy tales and her poetry reflects this. Fairy tales are randomly placed throughout the book (I only wish there were more!) and Christabel tells or discusses fairy tales. In one section Sabine retells one in her journal. They weren’t tales I was familiar with which I’m very glad about. I love hearing new fairy tales. Was this book worth reading just to hear these tales? I still don’t know.

I’ve also changed my conclusion to be a little less harsh. I find it hard to believe that so many people LOVE this book, but I suppose that most people take the time to review and rate books that they enjoy while the people who put a book down after reading half may not take the time to go and do that. So I didn’t mean to be offensive, but I still stand by my comments that surely I’m not alone in disliking the book overall. And I still wonder if some people pretend to like it just because it’s intellectual. So, I recommend this book if you have a lot of time on your hands and can get through/enjoy all of the academic references and poetry!

The Human Stain

The Human Stain
by: Philip Roth

Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously

Published: 2000

# of pages: 361

What a deep book. Honestly, I didn’t really like it much. The language was crude and so was the subject matter. Sure, it gives the reader an unedited glimpse of human nature. And I appreciated that there’s at least one person out there addressing how out of control the concept of being “politically correct” has become.

The Human Stain uses the character of Coleman Silk, the former dean at a small town college and professor of ancient literature, as an example of what mob mentality can do to an individual person. And an example of what happens to someone who loses everything for a reason that is unexplainable. One word changes Silk’s life forever and the injustice is hard to read about. The reader wants to step into the book and yell at these people, “How can you do this to someone!? How can you sacrifice a good man who has accomplished so much and helped each of you out?”

I don’t enjoy reading about war and depression and sexual misconduct and death and deceit. It’s bad enough reading the news everyday. The subjects in the book made it hard to pick it up and read about them happening to fictional characters. I think there are things to be learned from this book, but a lot of it we already know about. Unfortunately, most people already know about the stains humans leave behind.

There is a plot twist to the book. I liked the part that told of Coleman’s childhood. I was also interested in the memories of Les Farley, the Vietnam veteran who struggles with post traumatic stress disorder. It’s one thing to read about that in history books, but another to get into the mind of a character who experienced all of that and returned home to find everything changed with no understanding or support available.

Anyway, I recommend this book to fans of Roth and people who enjoy intellectual books that explore the minds and thoughts of all different types of people, from war vets to college deans. Like I’ve mentioned several times, it has a lot of bad language and sexual descriptions so avoid it if that bothers you.