Becoming by Michelle Obama

I will admit that I didn’t know too much about Michelle Obama beyond her being First Lady and her work to promote healthy eating for children. I have great respect for anyone who can pull off being married to the President with grace and style, and I also wondered how stressful it was to raise children in the White House. This book was an amazing insight into Mrs. Obama’s life — her upbringing in Chicago, her thoughts and feelings about Barack when she first met him, her wild ride into the White House, her time as First Lady, and more. I absolutely loved this memoir and found it so interesting! One of my favorite parts was reading about her close knit family while she was growing up. You could just feel the love and connectedness that she shared with her parents, brother, and extended family. I found the Washington years so interesting, especially when she talked about some misconceptions in the press’ portrayal of her (which I remembered). All in all, this was an insightful and positive read, which I actually listened to as I got it with my audible credit. It is read by Michelle Obama herself, which makes it extra special.

Two thumbs up for this one!

Educated by Tara Westover

Since I still have my lengthier than ever commute, I used my Audible credit last month for this novel which I had heard so much about. Everyone has been VERY EFFUSIVE about it, so I assumed that I wouldn’t like it, because I rarely like the things that everyone else raves over (I’m weird like that).

However, I was wrong. This was a fascinating read/listen about an amazing young woman who overcame significant odds to become the person she is today. The description is about education (hence, the title) but there is so much more in this book about family and sibling relationships. Julia Whelan’s narration was spot on perfect and I highly recommend the audiobook. Readers should note that there are some triggers in this story in regards to emotional and physical abuse.

Here’s the overview, which pretty much sums it up!

Number-one New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Boston Globe best seller

Named One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review

One of President Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of the Year

Bill Gates’s Holiday Reading List

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s Award in Autobiography

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize for Best First Book

Finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award 

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by: The Washington PostO: The Oprah Magazine Time NPR Good Morning America San Francisco Chronicle The Guardian The Economist Financial TimesNewsday New York Post theSkimm Refinery29 Bloomberg Self Real Simple Town & Country Bustle Paste Publishers Weekly Library Journal LibraryReads BookRiot Pamela Paul, KQED New York Public Library 

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home. 

“Beautiful and propulsive…. Despite the singularity of [Tara Westover’s] childhood, the questions her book poses are universal: How much of ourselves should we give to those we love? And how much must we betray them to grow up?” (Vogue

“Westover has somehow managed not only to capture her unsurpassably exceptional upbringing, but to make her current situation seem not so exceptional at all, and resonant for many others.” (The New York Times Book Review)

Lessons from the Prairie by Melissa Francis

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I was thrilled to be offered a copy of this book to review by Ms. Francis’ publicist. I absolutely ADORED Little House on the Prairie as a child, first the books then the show, and I certainly remember Melissa Francis as the fictional “Cassandra Cooper”. What I didn’t realize was how funny she was in real life – or how smart. This was an interesting read, with some parts being laugh out loud funny and some parts being so touching they made me a bit teary. While I thought it would be all about Little House and what it was like on set and off, it went through Melissa’s life and some of her personal journeys as well.

Thank you for my review copy!

Lessons from the Prairie delivers one belly laugh after another as Melissa tees up an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to tackling life’s toughest challenges, and making your life happier.” – Megyn Kelly
For fans of the beloved TV show Little House on the Prairie, a self-help book by Melissa Francis, bestselling author of Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter and child star of Little House, revealing important life lessons inspired by a childhood on set.
Melissa Francis was only eight years old when she won the role of a lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the world’s most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie.

Now in Lessons from the Prairie, she shares behind-the-scenes stories from the set, and lessons learned from the show’s dynamic creator, Michael Landon, that have echoed throughout Melissa’s adult life. With novel insights on hard work, making mistakes, and even spirituality, Francis shares inspirational and practical life lessons that will appeal both to her current TV fans, and fans of one of the most adored TV shows of all time.

Biography

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Melissa Francis, anchor of MONEY with Melissa Francis and Markets Now on the Fox Business Network, did not get her start on television in news. At the age of eight, she played Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the world’s most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie, working alongside 1980s icons Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, and Jason Bateman.

In her book Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter, Melissa recounts her life as a child star in the 1980s, a life wholly controlled by a highly neurotic and dangerously competitive “tiger mother.” Now the mother of two young boys herself, Melissa reflects not only on her past but on the subject of parenthood and the impact of relentlessly driving a child to succeed, an approach that sent Melissa’s sister into a deadly spiral.

“What I have learned from a difficult childhood is that, no matter what has happened in the past, you can take charge of your life and be happy. Your life is your own. In fact, a tough past is actually a richness of experience to draw upon. You know what doesn’t work,” says Melissa.

Melissa eventually left acting, earned a degree in Economics from Harvard University, and went on to a successful career as a broadcast journalist. Today, Melissa Francis lives in New York City with her husband and two children. She anchors two daily shows on the Fox Business Network, including Money with Melissa Francis, which covers the intersection of Wall Street and Main Street. Prior to her role at FOX Business, Melissa spent nine years at CNBC, where she anchored shows such as Power Lunch, The Call, and On the Money, and made regular contributions to the Today show and Weekend Today.

Litfuse Blog Tour for SIMPLE PLEASURES: Stories of my Life as an Amish Mother

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Today I’m part of the Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour for Marianne Jantzi’s non-fiction book of “snapshots” of her life as an Amish mother.

I’ve always been fascinated with the Amish and how they live their lives. These stories are short glimpses into the daily life of their household, from pregnancy, to child care, to jobs, to household “dailiness”. It was a lovely read and very insightful. And that cover just brings a smile to my face whenever I see it!

I read that the publisher is one that focuses on having Amish individuals tell their stories so that the world can have a better understanding of Amish life and culture. Love this!

Here’s the description from Litfuse:

Young Amish homemaker Marianne Jantzi invites readers into her family’s life and Amish community. The mother of four young children, Jantzi writes about her daily routines and heartfelt faith with equal measures of wit and warmth. Sewing, cleaning, cooking, gardening, and helping to manage the family store take up most hours in her day, but Jantzi finds time to pen columns for the Connection, a magazine beloved by Amish and Mennonite readers. Never sugarcoating the frustrations of motherhood, Jantzi tells it like it is, broken washing machine and bickering children and all. But through her busy days, Jantzi finds strength in simple pleasures of family, fellowship with her Amish community, and quiet time with God.

About Marianne:

Marianne Jantzi is an Amish writer and homemaker. Formerly a teacher in an Amish school, Jantzi now educates and inspires through her Northern Reflections column for the Connection. She and her husband have four young children and run a shoe store in the Milverton Amish community of Ontario.

Follow the tour and discover a new blog!

Tour Schedule:

4/14/2016
Mary | The Mary Book Reader
Karen | Karens Korner
Jalynn | A Simple Life, really?!

4/15/2016
Pam | Southern Gal Loves to Read
Amy | Forever Beloved

4/16/2016
Amanda | Inklings and Notions

4/17/2016
Terra | Heck Of A Bunch
Cristi | Cristi’s Reviews
Lisa | A Rup Life
Margaret | The World As I See It
Shawna | Not The Former Things

4/18/2016
Laura | Lighthouse Academy
Gloria | Amish Reader
Amanda | The Talbert Report

4/19/2016
Heidi | Heidi’s Wanderings
Susan | Susan Heim on Writing
Tammy | Bluerose’s Heart

4/20/2016
Melissa | Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers
Heather | Mom 2 Mom Connection
Athena | The Loose Screw
Kathleen | Reviews From The Heart
Megan | When life gets you down…read a book
Beth-Anne | Book Reviews

4/21/2016
Brenda | WV stitcher
Kristie | Moments
Pat | Living Life With The Love’s
Colletta | Colletta’s Kitchen Sink
Sarah | Running Through The Storms
Alyssa | 1 Six 1 Five

4/22/2016
Crystal | Eccentric Eclectic Woman
JC | J.C.s BookShelf
Donna | Donna’s BookShelf
Alison | NOVA Frugal Family
Carol | Buttercup Counts Her Blessings

4/23/2016
Julie | More Of Him
Annie | Just Commonly

4/24/2016
Kemi | Homemaking Organized
LeAnne | Rockin’ My Mom Jeans

4/25/2016
Joyce | Joyce Maree
Carrie | Reading Is My SuperPower

4/26/2016
Dominique | Mama and the Bears
Beth | Beth’s Book-Nook Blog
Patty | Tammycookblogsbooks
Vicky | Walking in Grace
Alaina | The Untrained Housewife
Wendy | Life at Rossmont
Maureen | Maureen’s Musings

4/27/2016
Lindsey | Growing Kids Ministry

4/28/2016
Bethany | Perfect Beginnings
Leslie | Did you hear about the Morgan’s?

THANK YOU for my review copy and for making me part of the tour!

Two Stories of the Holocaust

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I recently read two very moving memoirs from the Holocaust: FAREWELL TO PRAGUE by Miriam Darvas (sent to me by the publisher) and OUTCRY: HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS by Manny Steinberg (which I got free on my kindle).

Both were amazing stories of strength and resiliency.

OUTCRY is Mendel (Manny) Steinberg’s story of his family’s experience. Manny and his brother Stanley clung to each other and kept each other going to survive the brutal conditions that they were forced to endure at Auschwitz and three other concentration camps. Their story is remarkable and a testament to their faith and strength. Honestly, when you read it, you can hardly imagine how anyone could endure what they did. OUTCRY is a short book and reads very quickly. It is published by Amsterdam Publishers.

FAREWELL TO PRAGUE was sent to me by the publishers (MP Publishing). This another short but unforgettable account of a young person surviving the war. Miriam’s father was Jewish and her mother German, but her father was quite outspoken against the Nazi’s. Her family sends her miles away to safety, but she travels alone and has to rely on her own wits and strengths and the kindness of strangers.Eventually she makes her way to Britain with other child refugees.

Since both of these novels were short, I read one on a Saturday and one on a Sunday. I have to say, it was a bit depressing when I was done with these books. I think I’m drawn to Holocaust stories because I am so amazed by the resiliency of the authors, and the incredible experiences they had – and how they can find kindness and goodness in the midst of so much depravity. These two stories were no different. I must be honest, though — I was making dinner Sunday night and looking at all our nice food and actually started crying thinking about Manny and his brother and how starved they were.

You can find both of these stories online at Amazon. As of this writing, FAREWELL was 99 cents and OUTCRY was free for Kindle Unlimited. Look for them at your favorite indie, too!

 

 

Review: THE NAZI OFFICER’S WIFE by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin

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While at BEA, I met Susan Dworkin and got a signed copy of her book. The subtitle to this novel is “How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust”. This was a fascinating story about how Edith, a young Jewish woman in Vienna, survived WWII through an incredible series of circumstances, including, at one point, being married to a German officer and being a “hausfrau”.

Edith was born in Vienna in 1914 into a well-to-do and educated Jewish family. She always wanted to study law and was doing so when she was denied her final exams and degree because she was Jewish. She and her family were sent to the ghetto and then she was sent to a labor camp, working first on a farm and then in a paper factory. She survived harsh conditions for months, then escaped as she was being sent “home” (she realized it was to a concentration camp). Edith hid for a while, then borrowed a brave friend’s identity papers and went to Germany, getting a job at the Red Cross and passing herself off as Christian. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi officer. He wanted to marry her, but Edith felt she must reveal her true self to him first. Vetter and she married and she lived as a housewife until the war was over. While this is much more a summary than I usually give, believe me, it’s only the tip of the iceberg in this book. The amount of scary circumstances, the coincidences, the heartfelt yearning she had for her mother, her life of living a lie – plus all the events post WWII, well it made for fascinating and inspiring reading.

The story reads as a memoir, with Edith’s voice strongly standing out. You can picture her telling her story to Ms. Dworkin as you read. It was published about 15 years ago, though I had never come across it. A documentary was also made on Edith’s life, but it looks like it only aired in the UK. Edith Hahn Beer died in 2009.

You can find this book at an Indie near you — I am an Indie Bound Affiliate. Read it and be inspired.


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REVIEW: My Thinning Years by Jon Derek Croteau

A while back I received a note from a publicist asking if I would read and review Jon’s book: MY THINNING YEARS, which is subtitled, “Starving the Gay Within”. It had published this past fall. It took me FOREVER to get to the book, and then it took me a while to read it as Jon’s story is so heart-wrenching (though the book is under 300 pages).

This book is a memoir of Jon’s life growing up in Massachusetts and how he was stifled by an incredibly overbearing, opinionated, and demanding father. Jon’s life was made to be sports (whether he liked it or not). Jon’s proclivities as a child leaned more towards theater, dress-up, and singing, but his father was having none of it. As Jon matured, his tried to hide and deny his sexuality, instead exercising and running relentlessly, and dieting to the point of anorexia. Eventually, Jon is able to accept himself and make a life for himself, find love, and be happy.

I have to say – this book is at some points just heart-breaking. Jon’s father is determined to turn him into his ideal of “American boy” and it’s not a pretty process. Jon’s mother is the one who accepts him unconditionally, but she is just not strong enough to take on his father. It’s basically disaster after disaster and I just felt terrible for young Jon as he went through his younger years trying to escape his father’s wrath and trying to deny or hide his natural proclivities and talents.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. It’s brave of Jon to share his story with the world, and I hope that it helps other young people who may be at the point he was when younger.

Thank you for my review copy, Claire McKinney PR!

You can find this book at an indie bookstore near you — I am an Indie Bound Affiliate:


My Thinning Years