I’m So Glad You’re Here by Pamela Gay

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My Synopsis:

I’m So Glad You’re Here is a memoir written by Pamela Gay. She shares her very traumatic early life experiences and how those shaped her life. Pamela witnessed her father’s forced removal from their family home at a young age. He was restrained and wheeled out right in front of her, leaving a terrible mental imprint on her. Pamela’s family later moved to Florida leaving her behind, which further impacts her mental health.

Pamela shares with the reader that she was later diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. She tries a multitude of methods to help her, but finally finds eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) as a therapy method and finds that it helps her. This leads her to the beginning of her healing process.

How I Felt:

Pamela Gay’s story was written with such an honest, emotional voice. I thought that she was very open about her experiences and her recovery process, and I appreciated that. She talks a lot about her family’s dynamic, how they interacted with one another, and also about their mental health history. I like how this information helped to shape her story, and I found it very interesting.

Continue reading “I’m So Glad You’re Here by Pamela Gay”

Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What I Loved:

Mikel Jollett wrote this memoir in a way that made me see how he felt going through these experiences. His narrative changes as he ages, so I really got a sense of the issues that he dealt with during each age range of his life. As a child, his story is written with a child’s narrative, and it was my favorite part. I loved how he chose to spell or write words, making me understand what this word meant or how it sounded to him as a child.

How I Felt:

I listened to the audio version of this book, so my review will discuss both the book itself, and the narration of the book.

Mikel Jollett spent the early years of his life in a cult called Synanon in California. Synanon started as a drug rehabilitation group, drawing Mikel’s parents to the cult, as his father was an addict. Synanon leaders soon forgot their original purpose, transforming into the cult Mikel grew up in. All children were separated from parents and raised in an orphanage-type environment within the Synanon encampment. Many children did not understand who their parents were, and some families rarely saw each other. Mikel writes about his brother in a description of the treatment of the children and it broke my heart.

Continue reading “Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett”

Bury Him by Doug Chamberlain

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Bury Him is one of the most heartbreaking memoirs I have read recently. I was so invested in Doug Chamberlain’s story and I felt every single emotion that he described throughout his story. It’s a war story that shows the lifelong impact of war time events on soldiers.

Doug Chamberlain did an excellent job of writing his story. I felt the entire book was well-written and I appreciated his honest, open expression of his feelings and the events he had to endure. I liked that this story offered a view of this war from a soldier’s eye. This war was before my time, so it is one I only have books like this to learn from.

Continue reading “Bury Him by Doug Chamberlain”

Perils and Pearls by Hulda Bachman-Neeb

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As A Whole:

I loved that Perils and Pearls provides a view of a family’s experiences during World War II from a different setting than I usually find. I liked that this covered Indonesia and the Netherlands throughout the book.

On the Details:

The story begins with the patriarchal line, dating back to the 1600s. I struggled with this portion of the story a bit. I had a hard time keeping all the family members straight, and I’m unsure if this much detail was truly necessary to the overall story. It was interesting to see how Bachman-Neeb’s family moves between Indonesia and the Netherlands though. I was intrigued by all the historical information that I didn’t know much about. I felt like there was some good information that provided detail that helped understand the rest of her story.

Continue reading “Perils and Pearls by Hulda Bachman-Neeb”

GET OFF: The Sordid Youth and Unlikely Survival of a Queer Junkie Wonder Boy by Scott Alderman – Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

Get Off is written as though it is a conversation between the author and the reader. I felt like I was sitting down with Scott Alderman while he told me his story, and it was wonderful.

How I Felt:

I really enjoy reading memoirs because I find that they are packed with emotion. The author is telling their personal story, sharing secrets with the reader, and that experience is impactful for me, as the reader. Reading Scott Alderman’s book Get Off gave just the kind of experience I love.

Continue reading “GET OFF: The Sordid Youth and Unlikely Survival of a Queer Junkie Wonder Boy by Scott Alderman – Book Review”

A Discovery: A Bookshop in Berlin by Françoise Frenkel, Patrick Modiano – Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

A Bookshop in Berlin is not your normal memoir. Françoise Frenkel wrote her experiences down and they were published in 1945. They were then re-discovered in an attic in 2010. I loved Françoise’s descriptions of her experiences. I felt delighted when she was, horrified when she was; all of her feelings were placed on the pages and as the reader, I felt a bit like I was drawing back a curtain to someone’s secrets and memories. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be there, but there I was, reading her work, and it was a beautiful and horrifying view of her experiences.

How I Felt:

A Bookshop in Berlin was a beautiful account of Françoise Frenkel’s early life and then entrapment and escape from the Nazi’s. The writing style was a bit jumpy at times. I felt like we would jump from memory to memory and I kind of wanted to go back and learn a bit more about the previous thing. However, the overall story is written from start to finish, making her experiences easy to follow, I just wanted more details sometimes.

For the book lover: If you are a lover of books, which I suspect you might be, as you are taking the time to read this, you will appreciate this book just because of Françoise’s very clear love of literature. When she was younger, she had a bookcase made of all glass so that she could place it in the middle of her room to admire the books from all sides. I mean, who doesn’t want that now!?!? I really enjoyed her descriptions of books and her passion for them. When she is closing the bookstore to leave Germany, she walks the aisles saying goodbye to her books. That part of the story made me so sad for her.

Her Escape: Her story follows her escape from Germany and the Nazi’s. It is filled with stops and starts as she is blocked by soldiers, red tape, train issues, and so many other problems. She finds and loses family members and friends. She witnesses destruction and violence, but also heartwarming moments of kindness. It is a very interesting story and I really enjoyed reading about it.

The Preface: Patrick Modiano has written the preface in A Bookshop in Berlin. I enjoyed this insight into the story. He gives background on Françoise Frenkel with some extra information that she didn’t share in her memoir. He mentions that Françoise had a husband and gives some information on him. I would have loved for her to have shared some details about their life together, but she chose to exclude him from her story.

Overall: A Bookshop in Berlin is a wonderful memoir and a powerful story.

To Read or Not To Read:

I would recommend A Bookshop in Berlin for readers that enjoy historical fiction, historical non-fiction, and memoirs.

Where to Find This Book:

A Bookshop in Berlin by Françoise Frenkel, Patrick Modiano (Preface) is available at these sites.

Bookshop.org | Amazon Kindle | Amazon | Goodreads

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WINNER OF THE JQ-WINGATE LITERARY PRIZE

“A beautiful and important book” (The Independent) in the tradition of rediscovered works like Suite Française and The Nazi Officer’s Wife, the prize-winning memoir of a fearless Jewish bookseller on a harrowing fight for survival across Nazi-occupied Europe.

In 1921, Françoise Frenkel–a Jewish woman from Poland–fulfills a dream. She opens La Maison du Livre, Berlin’s first French bookshop, attracting artists and diplomats, celebrities and poets. The shop becomes a haven for intellectual exchange as Nazi ideology begins to poison the culturally rich city. In 1935, the scene continues to darken. First come the new bureaucratic hurdles, followed by frequent police visits and book confiscations.

Françoise’s dream finally shatters on Kristallnacht in November 1938, as hundreds of Jewish shops and businesses are destroyed. La Maison du Livre is miraculously spared, but fear of persecution eventually forces Françoise on a desperate, lonely flight to Paris. When the city is bombed, she seeks refuge across southern France, witnessing countless horrors: children torn from their parents, mothers throwing themselves under buses. Secreted away from one safe house to the next, Françoise survives at the heroic hands of strangers risking their lives to protect her.

Published quietly in 1945, then rediscovered nearly sixty years later in an attic, A Bookshop in Berlin is a remarkable story of survival and resilience, of human cruelty and human spirit. In the tradition of Suite Française and The Nazi Officer’s Wife, this book is the tale of a fearless woman whose lust for life and literature refuses to leave her, even in her darkest hours.

Just the Facts:

  • A Bookshop in Berlin by Françoise Frenkel
  • Subtitle: The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman’s Harrowing Escape from the Nazis
  • Preface by Patrick Modiano
  • Genre: Non-fiction / Memoir
  • Page Count: 287 pages
  • Publisher:  Atria Books
  • Pub Date: December 3, 2019
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I was provided an advanced readers copy of this book for free. I am leaving my honest, unbiased review voluntarily.

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Spirit Baby by Nina Neilson Little

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“There’s an ancient Chinese belief that women possess two hearts; an upper heart associated with the standard Western heart, and a lower heart tied to the uterus. They say that women hold dreams of infants, lost children, and babies never-meant-to-be in their upper hearts, while babies destined to be born travel to their mother’s lower heart.”

Spirit Baby by Nina Neilson Little

What I Loved:

What a beautifully written memoir! I was so drawn in as Nina told her story of her struggles with infertility and miscarriage. Written with such emotion, it was beautiful to read.

How I Felt:

Spirit Baby is a memoir about Nina Neilson Little’s path to motherhood, but it is also a travel memoir of her times in China. I was absolutely drawn in to the descriptions and stories of China. Having visited China twice, reading her book made me want to go back and visit all the places I didn’t get to! Her descriptions of China are amazing. She discusses ancient traditions, the history of locations she visits, eating habits and rituals, and so much more! I loved how the story was written in a way that connected her travel experiences with herself and fertility.

She writes about her name, which I must admit, I was mispronouncing for months until I read this book (sorry about that Nina)! She tells the reader how she never enjoyed her name until, in China, she found all these traditions and beliefs that connected her to her name in a way she never had before. I love how she did this over and over in the book, giving life to these places and experiences.

Nina’s journey through this story is one with sadness and loss, however, she writes with such positivity that the overall feel of this book is uplifting and wonderful. She discusses her sadness and loss, her depression, and her healing. This is truly a lovely book with a wonderful, heartwarming story.

Content Warnings:

This is a book about struggles with infertility and miscarriage. This could be a trigger for some people.

To Read or Not To Read:

I would recommend Spirit Baby to any reader that enjoys memoirs or stories of travel. The descriptions of China are wonderful and the story of her path to motherhood is so beautiful.

Nina and her husband Chris have struggle with infertility for years. They have decided to head to China for a chance to heal and adopt. Nina takes us with her on her visits through Chinese streets and historical places. She tells us about ancient traditions, sharing the ones that she chose to partake in. Her journey through this story speaks of loss and healing. It is a beautiful journey that readers will be so happy to have gone on.

  • Spirit Baby by Nina Neilson Little
  • Sub-Title: Travels Through China on the Long Road to Motherhood
  • Page Count: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Illumify Media Global
  • Pub Date: April 22, 2019

I received a copy of this book for free from a giveaway hosted by the author. I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.

All Amazon links are affiliate links.

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My Beautiful Detour by Amy Oestreicher

An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

I had this on my to-be-read list for January, but when I received it from the author, I just couldn’t wait to get started, so I put aside some other books on my list and pushed this one to the top. I’m so glad I did! My Beautiful Detour is a beautifully written story filled with heartache, loss, growth, and amazing strength. I was so impressed with the way this story was written. I felt sucked in and devastated for Amy, but it was so uplifting as well.

How I Felt:

My Beautiful Detour is written telling the reader of Amy’s story from the beginning. We are introduced to her family and are given some insight into her years before the sexual abuse. The book then takes us through the abuse and then her unrelated medical tragedy. I really liked how when she is in the hospital, the story is written with comments from Amy, but also journal entries from her family that were written while she was going through procedures and during recovery.

During Amy’s recovery, she found solace and healing through art therapy and writing. She found a way to make a road to recovery that worked for her, piecing together her own ideas along with doctor and therapist recommendations. I liked this depiction of her recuperation as it really gave me a sense for how strong and determined Amy was. Her rehabilitation is beautifully written, giving insight into the personal struggles as well as the triumphs.

Content Warnings: Sexual abuse.

To Read or Not To Read:

My Beautiful Detour is the perfect book for people looking for memoirs about overcoming life’s obstacles. While you may not have experienced Amy’s personal struggles, her overall strength is empowering and absolutely worth reading.

Where To Find This Book:

Amazon * Amazon Kindle * Goodreads

As a teenager, Amy Oestreicher is a bright, talented girl with a very promising musical talent. She is sexually abused during her late high school years by her music teacher and mentor. Her family was not the type of family that shared a lot, and she found herself keeping this story to herself, with no one to discuss the situation with. Then, her stomach explodes. She is rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Her family was right there, coming together to support her and give her strength. They play such an important role in her story, but Amy plays the most important role of all.

Amy’s story is one of spiritual belief, overcoming obstacles, and finding a path to recovery. It shows that everyone can find their way through life’s detours.

  • My Beautiful Detour: An Unthinkable Journey from Gutless to Grateful by Amy Oestreicher
  • Genre: Autobiography / Memoir
  • Page Count: 546 pages
  • Publisher: Singing Tree Publishing
  • Pub Date: May 29, 2019

I received a copy of this advanced reader’s copy for free. I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.

Of Bitter Herbs and Sweet Confections by Susan Shalev

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My Thoughts:

What I Loved:

Susan Shalev’s writing sucked me into this story. I would be distracted while I was reading by something (a child or my husband) and I felt like I was coming out of a trance. I truly stepped into the pages of this book and was pulled into these character’s lives.

How I Felt:

When I started this book, I fully expected this to be a story surrounding a concentration camp, however, I was completely surprised to find that it was not. Instead, Of Bitter Herbs and Sweet Confections tells a different journey, just as important, but not as well known. When Tanya’s family must flee Poland, their next steps take them to Russia. Their story is one of perseverance, love, and determination.

While this story is a fictionalized story, it is based in truth from her late mother-in-law’s re-tellings, as it is her story. I found the story to be utterly captivating, and whether memoir, or fiction, it was wonderful.

To Read or Not To Read:

As this was a beautiful, well-told story, I would recommend this book to any historical fiction fans!

What’s This Book About Anyway?

Tanya has lived in Nowy Sacz, Poland her entire life. Then, talk of the Nazi invasions in neighboring areas begins, and Tanya’s family knows it is time to leave. Their travels to their next stop are riffled with air raids and nazi machine guns. Danger is around every turn in the road.

They manage to find refuge in Russia and start to put down roots only to be uprooted by Russian soldiers giving them an ultimatum. Their choices taken them on a grueling trip by train and boat to a work camp in Siberia. There, they encounter new troubles to overcome. Their story continues to take them from place to place; each leaving a lasting impression on the family.

Of Bitter Herbs and Sweet Confections is a fictionalized memoir that will have you reading late into the night to see what happens next.

Where To Find This Book:

Amazon

Goodreads

Footnotes:

I received a copy of this advanced reader’s copy for free. I am leaving my review voluntarily.

All Amazon links on SheJustLovesBooks are affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales from the use of them. If you fall in love with a book because of my review and you want to buy, I would greatly appreciate the use of the link on my page.

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Clarence’s Big Secret by Roy MacGregor

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What I Loved:

Clarence’s Big Secret was a great children’s non-fiction book written in a way that felt like a story to a child. It was easy for my daughter to understand and she enjoyed the book.

How I Felt:

I loved the way the book started with Clarence as a young boy and progressed through his life. It didn’t move so fast that you felt like parts of his life were skipped, and it wasn’t so slow that if felt like the story dragged. The end of the book wraps up with the triumphant reading of a book to children by Clarence, and it was so nice to see that while, it took him many years, he put effort into something that he wanted and he learned to read.

To Read or Not to Read:

This is a great book to provoke a literacy discussion with a child. It’s perfect for elementary school children. I would recommend it for any home, school, or library!

Where to Find This Book:

Clarence’s Big Secret by Roy MacGregor publishes on March 15, 2020 and is available at these sites.

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes and Noble

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Clarence kept a secret for almost his entire life (almost 100 years!). Whenever there was a part of his life that may require him to read, he runs away, which is sad. He has missed so many opportunities. However, he grows up and meets his wife and they have a family. As he grows older, we see how happy he is. Then, his wife passes away, and he doesn’t know what to do. She took care of any writing or reading that was required to run the house. he decides to try to teach himself, and then enlists the help of his daughter.

  • Clarence’s Big Secret by Roy MacGregor
  • Genre: Children’s book
  • Page Count: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Owlkids
  • Pub Date: March 15, 2020
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This ARC was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. I am leaving my honest, unbiased review voluntarily.

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Choices: The True Story of One Family’s Daring Escape to Freedom by J.E. Laufer

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My Thoughts:

What I Loved: This is a somewhat short book at 120 pages and those 120 pages were filled with a wonderful and amazing story of strength, determination, and Choices. JE Laufer writes her family’s story with such love and passion, you cannot help, but to be drawn in. The book does not have down time, each chapter, each sentence is meaningful to the story, making it a page-turning, wonderful book.

How I Felt: I did not really know anything about this part of history. I was so pulled into the story and my heart beat faster as the family tried to escape, running towards safety. My heart broke when something would go wrong, and I was elated when something would go right. I was so pleased to see that the end of the book held photos again of people in this story, and it was so nice to connect faces with the names. My only wish was that this was a bit longer so I could stay immersed in the story longer.

To Read or Not To Read: Everyone can read this book. It’s perfect for young adults as it is short and there are characters that they can relate to. It’s perfect for adults that enjoy stories of family, survival, and history.

What’s This Book About Anyway?

JE Laufer was just 2 years old when her parents decided to attempt fleeing Hungary to gain freedom in another country. Once the decision is made, there isn’t much time, they must pack one small bag, and go. The book takes the reader through their escape, giving a glimpse into the difficulty and terror that comes with making such a daring move.

Laufer’s mother was a Jewish refugee, liberated from a concentration camp, and there are moments where Kati, her mother, reflects on those memories. The fear she feels, 12 years after she was saved from the Nazi’s, shows during moments of her escape from Budapest.

Once the family has made it across the border, their struggle for survival is not yet over. They must find food, shelter, and a path to their new lives. Choices is a beautiful tribute to JE Laufer’s family, their struggles, decisions, and sacrifices to make a better life.

Where To Find This Book:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Choices-Familys-Daring-Escape-Freedom-ebook/dp/B073VWH8R5/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=choices+by+jj+lauder&qid=1572189483&s=books&sr=8-1-fkmr0

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34948814-choices?ac=1&from_search=true

Footnotes:

This book was provided to me by the publisher, Little Egg Publishing, in exchange for my honest review.

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Mothers and Murderers by Katherine Ellison

A True Story of Love, Lies, Obsession … and Second Chances

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My Thoughts:

What I Loved: I don’t read true crime a lot, but this book was provided to me by the publisher, so it was the perfect opportunity to try one out. This turned out to be the perfect book to start with. It was more like a memoir/biography with a true murder story as well. I liked that I got to read about the murder as well as delve into the authors thoughts on her own life.

How I Felt: I was worried that a true crime book would be too grisly for me. I can read the fiction versions of things, but when I know that it really happened, I can be very bothered. However, I didn’t feel that way in this book. I felt like we were given all the information, but I wasn’t ever put off by the facts of the case.

To Read or Not To Read: For true crime lovers, this is a good read, but gives you a memoir too. If you haven’t read true crime before, I feel this a good one to start with! This a great book that kept me quickly turning the pages to see what happened next!

What’s This Book About Anyway?

Katherine Ellison, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, makes a mistake in a court-case article she wrote. This error gets her sued by the victim’s wife, bringing her more personally into the case. She tries to move on with her life, taking freelance work in other countries even, but always comes back to this one case. While she continues to investigate this mystery, she also looks deeper into her own life and her own behaviors.

Where to Find This Book:

Amazon

Kindle

Footnotes:

This ARC was provided to me by WildBlue Press in exchange for my honest review.

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