Tag Archive: biography



If All the Seas Were Ink: A MemoirIf All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir by Ilana Kurshan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was young, and even to this day, I loved to spend time, overnight to weeks, if I could, in other people’s homes. It was interesting to see how other people lived. I learned how different and yet the same my life was to my friends. What rules applied? What was okay? How huggy or talky were the people?

As an adult that is less likely to happen. Slumber parties seem to stay in the child’s world. Really close friends can share their lives. But it isn’t the same as personal observation.

Autobiographies give that kind of insight. You live inside the person’s world, hear their thoughts, see how they try to live up to their own standards. See how they feel when they don’t.

Ilana Kurshan provides that kind of insight. I admire her determination and curiosity. She decided to study the Talmud in a seven-year quest to understand it and her relationship to it better. She lived it as best she could, all the easier for living in Jerusalem, all the harder as a single person, then newlywed, then young mother. But she did her best to apply what she learned along the way.

I was raised protestant. I have many friends of various religious leanings and love to learn their belief systems and how they work in real life. I have a friend who has moved to Israel and thought of her as I read. I don’t know if she read this yet, but I bet she will glean from this person’s challenge.

Rating autobiographies is harder than a piece of fiction. It is personal. I can’t judge another person’s life or their own memories. It was where they are/were and how they choose to live it. Ms. Kurshan’s writing was compelling. I couldn’t stop reading. Since this was an ARC or Uncorrected Copy, there were formatting issues that made my text-to-speech the best way to read it all. But I’m sure those issues were corrected in the retail versions. Other than that it was a delightful read and I highly recommend it to others. I doubt I will ever try the seven-year Talmud, though who knows? I’ve taken on lessor challenges. I was glad that Ilana included scripture so I could feel a part of the quest. And I’m proud of her for taking a feminist view on her religion. It makes it all more real and possible.

I can’t wait to read other reviews about this book.

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The Best of UsThe Best of Us by Joyce Maynard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t usually include the book blurb but I felt it said more about the book that I could.

“In 2011, when she was in her late fifties, beloved author and journalist Joyce Maynard met the first true partner she had ever known. Jim wore a rakish hat over a good head of hair; he asked real questions and gave real answers; he loved to see Joyce shine, both in and out of the spotlight; and he didn’t mind the mess she made in the kitchen. He was not the husband Joyce imagined, but he quickly became the partner she had always dreamed of.

Before they met, both had believed they were done with marriage, and even after they married, Joyce resolved that no one could alter her course of determined independence. Then, just after their one-year wedding anniversary, her new husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. During the nineteen months that followed, as they battled his illness together, she discovered for the first time what it really meant to be a couple–to be a true partner and to have one.

This is their story. Charting the course through their whirlwind romance, a marriage cut short by tragedy, and Joyce’s return to singleness on new terms, The Best of Us is a heart-wrenching, ultimately life-affirming reflection on coming to understand true love through the experience of great loss. ”

Knowing this may help you decide if you want to read this book. It is autobiographical and full of the journey that the author took through a gorgeous romance and then finding that her husband has pancreatic cancer and all that they went through during this journey. Though it is a depressing topic, after the romance, the author is able to keep the reader from falling into despair. In fact, it was only toward the end of the book that I nearly lost it in a loud sob that would have awaken the neighborhood had I let it escape. But I felt okay most of the read.

I guess I should tell you that for me it was a bit personal in that my mother passed of Pancreatic Cancer. She certainly didn’t last as long as Joyce’s husband. The doctors did exploratory surgery, found the cancer and closed her up. They said she would live for about three months, she barely lasted three weeks. So it is good to know that many are getting longer life-spans after diagnosis.

Mostly the book is a story of love and learning life as you go. I loved it and hated that I had to put it away and go to sleep.

I did have an issue with the formatting in that every now and then there was a title or author’s name and page number interrupting the flow. But it didn’t take me out of the book for more than a second.

I want to thank NetGalley for letting me read the book for an honest review. I hope others get the chance to read this book. There is a lot to learn here.

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Oh, Nurse!: One Man’s Journey Through the Nursing Life, a Personal Account of the Highs and LowsOh, Nurse!: One Man’s Journey Through the Nursing Life, a Personal Account of the Highs and Lows by David Daniels
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When the author asked me to review this book I stated that I mostly read books by females with strong female leads. But I took a moment and realized that this was a male nurse. He knew where I was coming from, and he’d proven himself. So I figured his book deserved my read.

It was good. If my feet and back could have handled it, I would have tried to be a doctor or a nurse. I was a candy striper with that aim. But not only couldn’t I handle it physically, when one of my patients died I found that to be too hard to take. Granted I was sixteen, not enough life experience to know people come and go from your life. But that little bit of experience made what I read in Oh, Nurse! ring even truer.

As I usually say when reviewing a biography or autobiography, this is someone’s life. It is hard to play judge and jury when watching them walk in their own shoes. I wish I would be able to say this book encourages future nurses. But, with medical marriage with insurance, I don’t think it is going to get better any time soon. The greatest profession should still be nursing. They are the patient advocate, or at least they should be. They are invaluable to doctors, at least they should be.

I have always loved shows like Greys Anatomy, ER, all those medical shows. They are there to give us all an eye into what is happening or can happen when personalities and money are involved in trying to take care of medical issues people present with.

I hope that in spite of his honest story of his life as a nurse, others will choose to go into that career. I hope his story opens the eyes of those in charge of our medical needs to how to make things right for all.

Good job, David Daniels!

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The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's StoryThe Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, what a fantastic book! Hyeonseo Lee tells her story in an immaculate way. Her story was so messy yet the writing was well-done and kept my interest all the way through. It is an autobiography. As such we get the inside view of people who live in North Korea and how hard it is to escape and integrate into other countries.

I want to write more but I’m afraid of ruining your reading experience with this book. I wish Ms. Lee continued success and I hope as time goes on more people will break loose and that country will be independent. It does make you want to make sure the things you think of as truth are truth and not something others want you to believe.

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Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life UnstrungGone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Passion.

That is what this book inspired in me. The music major (piano/voice) in me was jumping up and down as I read and listened to this book. By the way, I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book from NetGalley.

As I have often said, it is hard to rate an autobiography. It is their life, their truth. Even so, if you have practiced any instrument for any length of time you feel what the author feels about her violin. Min Kym has written a readable and relatable story. She describes her passion to play the violin in great detail. Stagefright doesn’t seem to enter her world as she is with her best friend at all times. Her life goes downhill when the violin disappears. I won’t give spoilers but that is enough. I have been without my piano (by the way, I have a love/hate with the piano) and worse found times when my voice didn’t work (bronchitis, etc.) and I know I was a mess!

I don’t want to rewrite her book or tell much more. I think musicians will appreciate this book the most but others will enjoy it, too.

The biggest thing that has happened to me since reading this is I want a violin to play with! I’m watching sales hoping. I know I might never get past Twinkle, Twinkle, something I did learn when I tried it a long time ago, but, I want to try!

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The Delany Sisters' Book of Everyday WisdomThe Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom by Sarah L. Delany
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m so behind on my reviews. Sorry. I finished this over a week ago. It was my hardback read. At least it didn’t take nearly a year like my last ‘real’ book. I think the font, paper color, size of page worked out pretty well for my crazy eyes. And I loved the sisters and their stories.

How does one live so long as the Delany Sisters? (Well over the century mark.) They tell us what they think works, at least for them. They even include their favorite recipes from soap to cobblers. Since I don’t like to cook, those weren’t for me but other readers will love that. My favorite parts were reading how the sisters related to each other, their family and the world at large.

Since it was an easy read for me, it will be quite a fast one for those with better eyes. Maybe you’ll glean some good advice for your own life.

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The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard TimesThe Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As an addict of the BBC show, Call the Midwife, I couldn’t resist getting the Kindle and Audible versions of the book. As usual, the book is better than the show, but not by much. Books always give more insight into the thinking of a character, something film cannot capture properly.

Jennifer Worth’s memoir takes us to another time and the way people were then. Science, especially nursing and midwifery were new. Much was done by ‘old wives tales’ in the beginning but as medical science developed, giving birth sometimes took back steps. Ms. Worth shows us the mistakes and the achievements womanhood gained when men took over the most female of jobs.

But these aren’t just about the theories. We learn of Jennifer’s life as a nurse and midwife as she lived in the convent of nuns. The characters of the TV show are there in full glory. My favorite, Chummy, isn’t seen as much as I’d like (neither is Miranda Hart in the show as much as I’d like). But it is comical to watch her learn to be a midwife in her tall, elegant way.

I love how both the show (which seem to stick closely to Worth’s story) carefully lead us through patients lives and how pregnancy and motherhood impacted daily life post-WWII. Jennifer Worth’s writing is impeccable and yet poetic. It is fun to watch as she grows to become a stronger person and midwife as the book progresses.

Oh, and a note for the lovely narrator: Nicola Barber. Though it took me a minute to get used to her, I was so happy I did. She could do the cockney or the more proper British if needed and kept my interest piqued.

I would hope everyone reads and watches these as there is much to learn here. I can’t wait to read the next book.

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Waiting for a Miracle: Historical NovelWaiting for a Miracle: Historical Novel by Helen (Wininger) Livnat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished reading this a few days ago. I hate it when I finish before I am ready to sleep. I start the next book and forget to get back to the last book to review. But this one needs a review!

There cannot be enough books about the Holocaust. We need to look at it from every angle to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This book presented another point of view. It is from paternal journals handed down from the time of the first world war. The great-granddaughter is conveying the story. All the way to her own life.

All in all, it is well told. It doesn’t quite fit into my goal of reading books by strong women with strong women as main characters as Helen (Wininger) Livnat only tells her story at the end and it feels she left much of her own life out to give her forefathers the say of what happened in those horrid times. And that’s fine with me. She includes what is happening to the females at that time as best she can. The stories are coming from journals of the men so she’s telling what she inherited. None of it is fiction. We’ve read the histories, we can see the truth. We need to take warning.

It is always hard to give a rating to someone else’s life. So in that, I’m sticking with the five-star rating. There were errors, grammatical mostly–near the end, a ‘there’ that should have either been ‘they’re’ or ‘their’ (I can’t remember which now) is one example. In fact, the ending could use an editor’s eyes. But it didn’t take away from the truth and horror of the story or the warnings. And I think that there may have been some translation problems in that I think Russian was the first language. But I’m guessing.

Like I said, it is the story that is the important issue here. I think everyone should read this. It is enjoyable watching the families and the sons adjust and still love no matter what the outside world is doing. It is amazing what we can do when we do it for love.

Yes, there are a lot of tears. Even near the beginning. So have your Kleenex handy. But there are big joyous moments as well. Life and love bring us generations of stories and struggles. Well worth the read. But I’m repeating myself. I just want people to pick this up when they can and take it into their souls.

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A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of TragedyA Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whew! We all know what causes these shootings, right? Each of us has a laundry list of how it happens and how, if we had the power we could solve this right now. Some say take away the guns. Some say if parents were held responsible this would never happen. Some say that it’s the mentally ill, or on drugs, or are terrorists. No one seems to have the right answers.

What if you would walk inside the life of one who was directly involved (and so unwilling!) the mother of one of the killers in Columbine?

Sue Klebold is eloquent as she tells her own story. Imagine learning that your son is dead. Then learn he was one of the killers. If your son had been a terror in your life you might believe it and welcome the freedom from that kind of child. But if the son had been sweet and seemed merely a regular teenage boy this would be shocking.

Please, take the time to read this. Judge not lest ye be judged, just listen. I did with the Overdrive (library), audio version of this book. Maybe this book holds the beginnings of answers we need to look at and implement in our country/world as it grows scarier by the day.

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Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War IIElephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Constantine Croke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love elephants. Such smart sensitive beings. And this book is by a woman so it sort of fit my requirements of reading diet. The guy was a human being who cared, so I dismissed my final mission of female main character. Besides, it is about WWII so the chances of the main character being female was diminished as women were back then.

The writing was dry, historic. I wish there was a way to get into it all more deeply. It seemed to be a his-story. Bits about elephants were interesting but I wanted more. I wanted to know more about his wife who seemed very much of kindred spirit.

Still, had I not read the book, I wouldn’t have known about how the elephants helped in the second world war.

Many people have given this book high ratings. Maybe you will, too.

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