Tag Archive: memoir



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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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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On Edge: A Journey Through AnxietyOn Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Petersen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book. Boy, am I glad I did! It was well-written and well-researched.

Do you suffer from anxiety/depression like I do? Have you taken every drug the doctor prescribed and not have it work at all? Here is someone who has. I personally related to this book. Andrea Petersen tells her story while relating it to the science in history and current treatments for these ailments. She tells about her experiences helping us to see all the things in her life that could have or didn’t cause her own problems. She owns what she can but it isn’t a blame game for her. It is trying to understand how it was she thought she was going to die during anxiety episodes.

I am going to put a bit of a spoiler here as it is the one takeaway I want to remember. And I’ll tell you why. Have you had a panic attack? I have. But I’ve also had stage fright. I used to sing solos at churches. I found this to be true: If I could get excited about singing the song in front of people I rarely made mistakes and the song sounded pretty good. I never could have said that about giving a speech or playing solos on the piano. TERRIFIED FROZEN POOL OF SWEAT. The same applies to talking to people on the phone, even people I love. If I had the performance memorized and I was excited (which can also cause shaking hands) I did fine. If I can work on making sure to build the excitement, I might be able to overcome the phone issues. It’s an idea I plan to try as I think of it. You see, you can’t memorize what you are going to say on the phone. I tried when I did phone sales. My stuff was memorized for the person if they followed their lines, they never did. But maybe when I plan to talk to someone I love, friends, and the family I can start applying this excitement over anxiety. Have you tried it? Did it work for you?

You may find a ton of things to help you in Ms. Petersen’s story. As a journalist she gets personal yet she hangs onto that ability to step back and remain ‘just the facts, M’am’ research writer. I loved reading this book! I hope others who have had to endure mental illness either personally or someone you love, will take the time to read it. Maybe you’ll find some answers.

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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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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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We're Going to Need More Wine: StoriesWe’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories by Gabrielle Union

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always feel weird reviewing autobiography. It is somebody’s story about their own life. So I guess I need to review how it was told. I was able to pick up the Audible version with the author reading it. That made it feel like she was in the room just telling me about herself and her past.

Gabrielle Union’s story is unique. And while she is telling her story she covers her outlook on how it felt to grow up as a minority in the school year and as herself with relatives in the summer. She gave her views of feminism and how she went through various discriminating situations. And she told her ‘Me, too” story.

This was an interesting read. I think if I were younger it would have been even more so. I think teens and young adults would get so much out of what she shares.

I hope you get the chance to read/listen to this one to draw your own conclusions.

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Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White HouseHacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House by Donna Brazile

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have always admired Donna Brazile. She seems a classy woman. I love hearing her talk. I always thought she does a good job giving her listeners both side of a picture. So I chose not to get the book but rather the Audible version. Her’s is a good voice to hear before going to sleep.

I always say this when I’ve read an autobiography. I cannot be the judge of her points of view about her own life. Think about your own life. Look back a few years and you may not think of what happened in the same light as how it looked when it was happening. So I do not doubt this is her point of view of recent events.

It took me several nights to read this (NaNoWriMo took my days). I must admit that each night I found this paranoia taking over my psyche. I do feel the Russians have done terrible things to our systems of government. I hope we can get to the bottom of all of it and recover our dignity as Americans.

There are some very scary things in this book. I want to try and warn you. But I don’t want to spoil the read for you. Try to keep your own political point of view out of this. It is this person’s brave telling of what happened in her life at a crazy time in our history. And don’t come after me with your arguments. I will delete them. This is my opinion and you cannot argue a person to think like you.

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You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always admired Felicia Day. It was great to see a smart female actress playing smart female characters on the shows I’ve seen her on.

This book gave me insight to the person and her history. It was fun to know that we shared a similar history. No, I’m old enough to be her mother. But my children shared her history and I through them. We learned the computer from way back with CompuServe, Prodigy (where I met my husband) and various video games and bulletin boards. Her ultimate game was WoW whereas my kids got into EQ. It was fun reading about how it was physically meeting the friends she made online. That experience the kids and I shared. But it was fun to watch the computer evolving with the generation who came of age at the same time.

My children were homeschooled, too. It was interesting to see her thoughts on it. I find that we who were schooled who wasted so many years with more time dedicated to kids with bad behaviors or teachers who bored us to sleep and were still quite socially shy and experienced depression tried to save our children of that. Instead, they blame their very anxiety on not having to school. They don’t realize the opportunity they had without all the wasted time. Felicia became a professional violinist. And all these skills she acquired that makes her unique are a direct result from not being squeezed into a mold that schools force children into.

Anyway, I loved being able to listen to Felicia read her own story. It gave, even more, credence to autobiography. I knew I wanted to listen to her read it. But I found that there was no Text-to-Speech. That made me sad because had I not been able to afford the Audible version to whispersynch I would have had no way to enjoy this book. Still, it was delightful to listen to her voice. I wish her the very best in life. She deserves it!

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Jyotichamp

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