Thursday, December 28, 2006

So, What Did YOU Do This Holiday?

Who me? Oh, nothing. NOTHING at all. Ok, well, I exaggerate a bit. I slept. A LOT. I read. A LOT. I ate. A LOT. What I didn’t do A LOT of is drink nor exercise. I suppose one “x’s” out the other, so I am even in that regard. In any case, when you are high up in the mountains, where the temperature is about 30 degrees F, where the winds freeze the water tearing from your squinting eyes before it even hits your red cheeks (NFL fans, think "Frozen Tundra"), where cell/wireless service is the poster child for the latest Cingular dropped calls commercials on a LUCKY day, where the term “high speed” literally means going 15 miles above the 65 MPH speed limit on Rte 68 and where “broadband” may in fact be an accepted term for an all girl instrument group: there really IS NOTHING to do. And I loved every minute of it.

This is not to say I spent the festive holiday season holed up like a crazy recluse. No, I was lucky to have much time with my wonderful parents and family out near Deep Creek Lake, MD. Away from the hustle, bustle, and rats racing for first place. I had been looking forward to these days and nights for so long, you cannot imagine. I know, it sounds crazy coming from me, whose nights are most people’s days and whose calendar sometimes has more engagements per evening than is physically possible to experience until cloning becomes legal. (It is for BUSINESS, I swear!)

“R and R” means PEACE and QUIET which for me, translates to: catch up on reading, movie watching and of course, sleeping. Because for five full nights, I had no social adventures to report to you readers, I thought I’d share with you my reviews and recommendations for a few books I got to check out.

Extraordinary Women – Fantasies Revealed: Produced by Ilene Leventhal and Francine Levinson, Photos by Clay Blackmore, Text by George Nicholas (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35.00). This was a gift from my dear friend Elaine Leibsohn. A gorgeous coffee table book, this 144 page colorful piece showcases 58 women of accomplishment who portray their true hopes and dreams. The cover has the beautiful Ann Curry from The Today Show whose fantasy is to be a Humanitarian. Also included in the 58 are locals like jewelry designer Ann Hand (To Sing Mimi in La Boheme at the Met), wife of Ben Bradlee and media extraordinaire, Sally Quinn (Chanteuse), Marie Johns (Bistro Owner), who was the CEO of Verizon DC as well as a recent Mayoral candidate, and Lynda Carter (Olympic Gold Medalist), who’s name goes hand in hand with the most gorgeous super heroine ever, and who is married to lawyer Robert Altman. These are just a handful of the fun delights you will find in this fabulous book. Local photographer Clay Blackmore, does his artistry more than well (I have had the privilege of working with this portrait master on a shoot for a past Washington Life Magazine piece.) This awesome hardback is priced at a mere $35.00 and proceeds benefit the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington DC.

The Phony Marine: Jim Lehrer (Random House, $23.95). I picked up 2 copies of this clever novel (personally autographed) one for my father and one for me, at the last Nathan’s Q & A of the year, featuring Jim Lehrer himself as the luncheon guest. Carol Joynt does a wonderful job of interviewing her media friends and accomplished journalists, especially those who come prepared to sign their recently written books. The authors are more than happy to stay, chat with the luncheon attendees, and autograph books. This makes for an easy gift, and a fun way to meet these successful interviewees, who would normally be seen to we regular people on TV and computer screens, Time magazine, or national newspapers.

Lehrer’s writing style offers the reader an intelligent story, while not getting too far into details, so it moves right along. It is only 206 pages and because Lehrer is an accomplished novelist, it was pure enjoyment to read and I myself wanted to wander into Border’s for another one of his works. The premise is based in DC (I love books like that, we can RELATE!) and tells of an ordinary man, Hugo Marder, who buys a Marine’s Silver Star medal on eBay (legal) and begins to wear it (not legal), all the while, noticing how differently people treat him now that he is a “hero”. Next thing we know, Hugo researches how to BECOME that Marine hero (physical appearance, walk, clothing, talk, and knowledge of Vietnam War) so that everyone will believe he truly IS that Marine hero, even those who have actually served our country. Anyone knows, especially in Washington, falsifying someone who earned a medal like the Silver Star in the armed forces is NOT an easy task … pick up this book and find out what happens to Hugo!

The Collectors: David Baldacci (Warner Books, $26.99). Oh my goodness, can I say – Baldacci is my favorite author. He has been for the past several years. I have read pretty much all of this local (Alexandria, VA) writer’s works. He bases his books mostly around the local metro area and is a political suspense, spy, espionage novelist, who, for at least me, is so engaging it is hard to put his books down. Where Lehrer doesn’t get so caught up in minute details, Baldacci is king. This can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on what mood you are in. His books can take some quiet and concentration, but hey, if you always wanted to learn about the history of pretty much anything political, the CIA, the NSA, how to be a con, how to beat a con, all while wondering how close to “true” are his stories (I mean, how much can you trust the government after reading these books?), I say go all out Baldacci.

In The Collectors, his characters take you on a roller coaster of adventure, entwining you into their lives, secrecy and risk taking til your heart is beating and you are at the edge of your seat. His most recent book is a continuation of his last publication, The Camel Club (whose major character, Oliver Stone, gets more play time in The Collectors). I am still reading The Collectors, but I can tell you, if you read the previous book, this is a more fun read, as it introduces a con artist, Annabelle Conroy, into the Club’s life, and starts with the assassination (if you read a lot of Baldacci, political assassinations are a plenty) of the U.S. Speaker of the House. Get ready to jump on this roller coaster, where the characters who are collectors, wind us from the casinos of Atlantic City, through the streets of DC, to the historic tomes of the Library of Congress, to the stark whiteness of the U.S. Capitol. The not so smart characters take us to their deaths and the smart ones- to their prize.

I hope you get a chance this holiday season to read at least one of these picks, whether while jetsetting to a fun destination, laying on a tropical beach, lounging by a ski lodge's cozy fire, sitting in a Georgetown Starbucks, or just relaxing at home by yourself. Turn off your phone, grab a drink, and totally escape. Enjoy!

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