Tag Archive: non-fiction



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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Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You ThinkFactfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love books that make you think. This one certainly does that! It took a while to get through it. As you probably know, my reading is done at bedtime. This was not that kind of book. Though it was nonfiction, a lot of it kept me up at night.

There were eye-opening statistics that one might not have thought of before. Predictive statistics that the book talked about were even more eye-opening. One of the most striking was made clear to me, showed that like the chart of a newborn baby can’t predict with the same growth later in life. We don’t expect a baby to continue to grow as much or as fast as a school child as the newborn. If a person kept that same growth rate we’d all be giants. So predictive charts need to look at other aspects during different times, incomes, health and wealth influences. I know I’m not saying this the way the author did. But the points he made similar to the example I tried to put forth, were equally stunning.

My friend recommended this book and I am glad I followed through. On the other hand, I must admit that I would have gotten a lot more out of the book had I had the paper book. Since I have trouble reading tree-books for the eye-sight and font issue, I listen to the text-to-speech. The problem was that I didn’t take the moment to read the charts and graphs presented to help the reader understand how things really are as opposed to how we think they are.

Even so, I found this a super interesting book that in the future I might just try to find the paper book just for the illustrations. Maybe I don’t agree with all his perspectives, it seems I have read somewhere that statistics are rarely pure. Most are bent to reflect the person’s paid position to research to the paid end. Still closing one’s eyes to the possibilities presented in this book are so much more destructive than paying attention and learning what we can from it all.

Give it a try. I picked my copy from the local e-library.

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Changing Your Pain Pathways: Ways to cope with pain in daily lifeChanging Your Pain Pathways: Ways to cope with pain in daily life by Bronwen Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been doing chair-yoga for a while. It is one of the things I do to help become healthier in spite of the pain. One of the YouTube tutorials I follow features the authors of this book. Cara, Sarah, and Bronwen. As they are introduced I tried to decide who was who. Here is the link to the lesson:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMps5…

Now what I had thought was the one in the middle and the one on the right of the screen looked like sisters. Then I thought they might be twins. Thereby I named them Cara and Sarah. The one on the left didn’t look related so I figured she was Bronwen. I went online to see if I could find these teachers’ pictures. Nothing that helped my curiosity. But then I discovered their book. With fibromyalgia and arthritis competing for my full attention, I thought maybe I could find something that would help me become healthier and have less pain. I found the Kindle version was cheaper so bought it. I would suggest if you have the money get the paper book as it is a workbook with pages to fill out as you move along.

The workbook idea is a good one to help you realize your points of pain increases and decreases. It helps you see how your mind can steer you to better health. And even more important how you can help others to see what you are going through and how they can help you. People caught in chronic pain cycles find themselves bullied in every direction.

As it happened I was in the middle of a flare and reading this by text-to-speech helped me reflect on my pain and my methods of relief. I don’t take many drugs for it as I found they made me sicker. The occasional Advil and CBD for sleep. The rest of the time I use distraction therapy. Keep my mind working on interesting projects.

I will be picking up this book again in the near future to do the exercises and journal what I learn as I go. Thank you for the tutorials and this book to all of you involved in it.

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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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50 Loom Knitted Stuffed Animal Pattern Collection50 Loom Knitted Stuffed Animal Pattern Collection by Scarlett Royale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is kept for its reference capabilities. I have not made every animal in the book. But I have made enough to know that I am happy to have the book.

One of the problems I have with the book is that sometimes the patterns can be confusing and there are a few errors. But the best part of this book is the links to the tutorials. They take you right to the YouTube teaching how to make what you want to make. My latest is the snowman, that looks so cute! And it had very little sewing.

I would like to someday get the paper version so I don’t have to be on the computer while making these little cuties. But in the meantime, this will do!

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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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The Hot ZoneThe Hot Zone by Richard Preston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do I say “Research?” It is due to the fact that I am writing a fictional ‘zombie’ book for NaNoWriMo that I picked up the Kindle and Audible versions of this book. My zombies are merely sick people. I am not a medical person so I needed some input on how it all starts and how contagious it all is. As it turns out it isn’t as bad as Ebola, but the gore of my book might evolve due to this book.

Meanwhile, this is a book I put off for decades. I remember a guy named Jason at the school I worked at that came up to me with the paperback. He was so excited about it. But the more he talked the squirmier I got. “And it’s a true story!” He exclaimed. I started watching shows like Outbreak. We saw it in the theater. Remember that sneeze? I nearly ran out of there when someone coughed.

I grew–good or bad, I guess that’s for others to judge. But lately, I can watch a disaster movie, or The Walking Dead and notice only the social reaction to the monsters or the disease or the overwhelming snow. So I thought I could now face this book.

Reading happens at bedtime. Bet you can guess how this book blended into dreams. And since I listened as I read the Kindle with the Audible, that voice! Richard M. Davidson’s voice. What a deep bass and excellent for the genre! Creepy and authoritative! Wow!

What I learned is that my characters in my book were dressed properly to deal with their strains of disease. And I learned I never want to be anywhere near someone coughing! If I was a germaphobe before… well, let’s just say there isn’t enough hand sanitizer in the world for me!

Knowing this is nonfiction made this even more frightening. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago there was an Ebola scare. What a horrid disease! And this author did a poetic job of helping the reader to see it and feel it. If you haven’t read it yet, climb out of your hiding place and give it a try. Forewarned is forearmed as they say. Might as well get the Audible version to make it even more real. I will try to read more of his books now. Time for more vitamin C and Airborne!

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Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American PoliticsPlaying with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics by Lawrence O’Donnell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like Lawrence O’Donnell. He’s not my favorite. But I relate to him in that he is about Southern California where others are all in New York. I relate to him because he’s close in age to me. He seems to see things the way I do, most of the time. Not always. So when I had another credit on Audible I decided to grab his book.

It makes me a little embarrassed to admit that this was tough to get through. Not because it was a difficult read or that Mr. O’Donnell is boring. It is just… well… I lived through this history.

1968 is the year I graduated. The draft and Viet Nam were in the news and alive in our school. The boys who graduated the year before us were drafted. By 1968 we lost so many guys that were friends. So this history is painful. Oh, and if we didn’t lose the guys to death they went to Canada and we never saw them again. Or they killed themselves. It was a hard time to be a teen. In our high school, the spirit of our class was depressed. We lost most of the games. The year before and the year after the spirit was normal. But I really feel that that depression that lived in our souls was due to everyone knowing we might not see each other again. So I entered this read with that heavy weight.

Not only was this hard to listen to because of the death of friends, but we’d also lived through Kennedy being assassinated and the disharmonious political life was on the news every day. Listening to the political upheaval again did give me a little understanding as to what happened but it also hurt like reliving it all. As my bedtime book it brought dreams back I never wanted to see again.

On the other hand, if you didn’t graduate that year, especially if you are younger, this is an important look at that history. Lawrence reads and tells this history with reverence and his research was deep. Even if you aren’t his fan, this may give a bit of history to your political understanding. I know I am nowhere near politically adept, I like seeing how others perceived that time. Just like now, our families, friends, churches, and personal experiences color how we see our moment in time. It wasn’t quite such a divided world as it is now, and yet it was. Walter Cronkite helped us get through some of it but I can remember family members arguing about all of it. A Catholic President? Unheard of! The Pope will be running the show. Yep, I heard that said. People who were marching were unAmerican? Really? What about the Tea Party? Anyway, if you get the chance, read or listen to this and see what you can remember way back then.

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The Writer's Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characterwriter's Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characters SThe Writer’s Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characterwriter’s Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characters S by Marc McCutcheon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my go-to book for NaNoWriMo. It is great to set up characters for your book. I don’t know how others do it. I have a program called WriteItNow that is good for generating names. Other people use that program for everything. But I write in yWriter. After I have my names, I go to this book. I have tabs set up for different characteristics and I use a number generator on my phone to give me the characteristic according to the list of each page. I try not to cheat. If the character is very flawed it is easier to write them. Between the name and the characteristics, a story seems to emerge.

The beginning of this book has a character development questionnaire. I have found this handy, also. This is the best book to get me started writing and helps me keep writing unless my characters are stuck behind boulders and not moving. Then I need bigger help. Probably a sprint/prompt=sprompt will get my characters out. Or I’ll pull a George R.R. Martin on them.

If you get the chance to buy this book, you will be buying a treasure!

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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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