Born Blue by Han Nolan (A book Review)

Sorry about overloading the blogosphere with posts from ME but I haven’t been able to get on for a while and I’m OCD so I feel like I can’t put these books away until I blog about them!  lol  I really need professional help, I know!

Born Blue

Published by:  Harcourt Inc.

I purchased this book at St. Louis’s largest book fair just the other day.  I usually don’t get around to reading new books for a very long time because I have a list of books I need to finish in my lifetime.  HOWEVER, I’ve spent the last 2 days in the hot sun, at a baseball field, just waiting for news that a good friends son was chosen for the minor leagues.  I needed a quick read.  At first, I didn’t notice that this was a young adult genre book.  Apparently, this is the genre for me because I’m LOVING the stray YA books I’ve chosen!  I can tell you too that Han Nolan is going to be one of my new favorite writers  🙂  Can you tell that this was a favorite?

From the back cover:

“She has no last name.  She has no real home.  But she has a dream…

Janie… Leshaya… whatever she’s called… she’s a survivor.  Rescued from the brink of death, this child of a heroin addict has seen it all:  revolving foster homes, physical abuse, and unwanted pregnancy.  Now her childhood is coming to an end, and she is determined to make a life for herself by doing the only thing that makes her feel whole… singing.

Can this girl, born to a life of hardship, find the strength and courage to break away from her past and become the legend that she is meant to be?”

I guess I’d have to say that this book resonates with me so much because The lead character feels NOTHING and has something diagnosed as “Attachment Disorder”, which basically means she’s got no conscience.  I recognized my stepdaughter throughout this book.  This was a personal journey to me.  I have a hard time understanding people who can’t FEEL and this took me deep into the mind of an abused child and explained WHY this happens.  It made me sad, and so mad at times that I wanted to reach in and shake this girl.  It’s written in “first person” and in a language better known as “wigga” – basically a white girl who wants to be black.  At first, being the white girl that I am, it was hard for me to understand the language but I quickly caught on.  lol

I finished this one in a day and a half and I want to know more about what happened to Leshaya…  it’s THAT good.

The Duck Commander Family by Willie and Korie Robertson (A book review)

The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty

Published by:  Howard Books  – A Division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Okay guys… I knew I loved these redneck people from Louisiana because I’m a Duck Dynasty fanatic BUT I really didn’t expect to love this book so much.  I figured the Robertson’s were maybe a little illiterate?  I’m pleasantly surprised to be wrong.  This might be a secret but I think you should all know that the Robertson sons appear to really be “Yuppies” disguised as rednecks.  Although Phil (the dad) is a true redneck. AND a lovable one, at that! They’re spiritual, yet REAL and very intelligent!  I could NOT put this book down.  There’s a reason it made the New York Times Best Sellers List!  I laughed and fell in love with this family even more than I already was.  Now I need to figure out how to get them to adopt me into their family!  lol

Here’s the scoop from back cover:

“What do faith, family, ducks and money have in common?  The well-known stars of A&E’s hit show DUCK DYNASTY – Korie and Willie Robertson!  From Louisiana’s Bayou comes the story of how he Robertson family went from eating fried bologna sandwiches to consuming fine filet mignon.

Ask anyone from Louisiana, and they’ll tell you that the bayou state’s favorite family doesn’t live in the governor’s mansion but in the backwoods, where the Robertson’s Duck Commander has become a sporting empire by making top-of-the-line duck calls.

Part redneck logic, part humorous family stories, combined with family business tips and faith, this book is the inside sneak peek for everything you wanted to know about being a Robertson.

In the pages of this book, you’ll find out things about this lovable family that you won’t see on the popular TV show – such as how the family survived while Miss Kay worked days and left the boys in the care of 8 year old older brother Alan.  You’ll get to know the beautiful Korie Robertson – how she met Willie, what their dating days were like, and how she juggles being a mom to their children, a wife to Willie, and an active partner in the family business.

You’ll get a taste of the Robertson clan’s famous food, through recipes included in each chapter, and you’ll see childhood photos of Willie and Korie, photos of Willie before the beard, and photos of their children and all of the Robertson clan.”

So to recap….  READ this book!  I don’t see how you’d be sorry!  🙂

Ana’s Story (A Journey of Hope) by Jenna Bush: A Book Review

Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope

Ana’s Story

A Journey of Hope

By Jenna Bush

Based on her work with Unicef

Harper Collins Publisher

I love buying books where a portion of the proceeds go to help a charitable organization!  I especially like it when that charitable organization is Unicef.  I’ve been helping to raise money for Unicef since I was a very little girl.  In Catholic school, we used to go around collecting money in little milk cartons.  We’d then send that money into Unicef so that they could help to feed the poor and hungry in third world countries.

Here’s the description from the book:

“She’s 17. She’s been abused.  She has a child.  And she’s HIV positive. She is Ana, and this is her story.  It begins the day she is born infected with HIV, transmitted from her young mother.  Now, she barely remembers her mama, who died when Ana was only 3.  From then on, Ana’s childhood becomes a blur of faint memories and secrets – secrets about her illness and about the abuse she endures.

Ana’s journey is a long one.  Shuffled from home to home, she rarely finds safety or love.  And then she meets a boy.  Berto is one of the only people Ana trusts with all her secrets.  That trust puts Ana on a path to breaking the silence that has harmed her and leads her to new beginnings, new sorrows, and new hope.

Jenna Bush has written a powerful narrative nonfiction account of a girl who struggles to break free from a vicious cycle of abuse, poverty, and illness.  Based on Jenna’s work with UNICEF and inspired by the framework of one girls life, it is also the story of many children around the world who are marginalized and excluded from basic care, support, and education.  Resources at the back of the book share how you can make a difference to children in need and how you can protect yourself and others”

I didn’t realize I was buying a book written for teens!  lol  BUT I’m glad I did.  Yes, it was a little simple but simple is good.  I read this one in 2 bath tub sessions:-)  What I LOVED about Ana’s Story was that it flowed easily and it was written well.  I found myself wanting to know more about Ana at the end of the book.  It ends kind of abruptly but Ana’s story had to end somewhere.  It was a TRUE story and she’s still alive.  I wonder how Ana is doing now?

This book reminded me of Half The SKY by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  I absolutely LOVE the idea of helping to empower and educate girls and women in poorer countries.  It’s my dream to be able to go to Latin America or India and help in the schools.  Or do ANYTHING that brings hope.  Jenna Bush impressed me with her compassion and her willingness to “get her hands dirty” by helping Aids patients through her work with UNICEF.  As mentioned in the description, Jenna gives websites and even phone numbers for numerous charitable organizations.  She also gives suggestions for what a teenager or an adult can do to help raise money to help several organizations.  She gives ideas for what students can do to protect themselves against the spread of Aids/HIV and ideas on how to stop bullying.

I think this one will be on Julia’s reading list soon 😉

The Madness of Mary Lincoln by Jason Emerson, a book review

Product Details

The Madness Of Mary Lincoln 

by Jason Emerson

Southern Illinois University Press

Description from the back cover:

“This compelling story of the purposed insanity trail of one of America’s most tragic first ladies covers Mary Lincoln’s life from childhood to death and asserts that she suffered from bi-polar disorder.  Utilizing a set of letters that had been lost for eighty years, Jason Emerson shows how Mary Lincoln’s predisposition toward psychiatric illness and a life filled with mental and emotional trauma led by her son, Robert T. Lincoln, to commit her to an insane asylum.  Named Book of the Year by the Illinois State Historical Society, The Madness of Mary Lincoln is a gripping historical page turner.”

This one had me turning pages quickly!  The Madness of Mary Lincoln was recommended to me by a one of the women who worked at the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.  She was a volunteer historian and Lincoln specialist.  There are a million books written on Abraham Lincoln and his crazy wife, Mary.  Of course I’m interested in history but more specifically, the “dirt” that remains in history!  lol  What can be more dirty than an insanity trial where a presidential son puts his mother into an asylum?  Much has been written about the insanity of Mary Lincoln but this one was recommended because it’s a little different due to it’s extensive reference and research, also the fact that the author based his book on the “lost insanity letters”.  Not much has been written with these lost letters in mind.  VERY interesting and if you read it, you just might come away with a new feeling for Mrs. Lincoln and new insight into her illness.

I’d read much about how “insane” Mary Lincoln was and with the other books came a feeling that I would truly not like the woman.  I’d always felt that I’d despise her son, Robert, too.  What son puts his mother in an insane asylum after all she’d gone through just to put his hands on his family’s fortune?  Ahhhh,, SO not true were my beliefs.  First of all, it might surprise you to know that the Lincoln fortune really didn’t exist, as far as fortunes of the late 1800’s go.  Robert L. Lincoln had quite a lot of money in his own right and didn’t need his mother’s money.  Another thing I realized after I finished this book was that Robert really did love his mother and felt completely burdened by her actions and by her insanity.  He was a tortured soul who didn’t WANT to have his mother committed or declared insane.  It became necessary to protect her from herself.  After reading this book, I had a whole new sympathy for Robert, the only surviving son of Mary and Abraham Lincoln.

I also walked away knowing that I would have probably REALLY liked Mary Lincoln!  I’m almost afraid to admit this but I saw a lot of similarities between her personality and my own.  Okay maybe not when she became paranoid or manic, but when she was demanding and “wanted what she wants when she wants it”.  THAT part.  I’m that way too.  I felt tremendously sorry that she just kept living after losing 3 of her sons and the husband that shielded her from reality.  She’d pretty much lost every reason to WANT to live.  I’m wondering how many of US could live after so much tragedy?  Untimely death didn’t just begin with her children, it started with the death’s of her mother and father and then sisters and brothers.  Wow.  I can tell you that I’d be insane too!  She didn’t want to live anymore and she did whacky things.  I’m pretty sure I would have too.

I still have questions about whether she was truly insane.  I see the similarities in her behavior and the behavior of my step daughter who’s also been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.  The question remains with some mental health workers, whether or not Mary Lincoln was “emotionally insane” – insanity brought on by living through so much tragedy and sadness – or “mentally insane”.  There’s also a question now about whether or not her behavior was brought on by physical illness.  Maybe she wasn’t insane at all but she suffered from illness that had no diagnosis back then.  Some people think so.  A reoccurring theme with Mary Lincoln was that even during her “insanity” , she communicated with family and friends in a lively and “sane” way. I guess we probably wouldn’t even believe she was insane if we’d met her today.  However, those who knew her best, witnessed self destructive habits.  Even suicidal tendencies.  Again, I seriously don’t blame the poor woman for wanting death to come quickly.  Who knows what any of us would do if we walked a mile in HER shoes?  Many people who attended her funeral say that she appeared to have died with a smile on her face.  Like she was finally at peace.  Poor woman.

I’d give this book 2 thumbs up based on the amount of research that went into writing.  There were also more facts than I’d ever heard about and it painted a clear picture of what Mary Lincoln’s personality was like.  I really enjoyed it and didn’t find the writing style to be dry, as so many other historical books are.  I finished this one a LOT quicker than I thought I would 🙂

The Shack by Wm Paul Young (Julia’s reading project boo review)

The Shack

By:  Wm Paul Young

Published by:  Windblown Media

Remember the reading project I’m doing with my teenage munchkin?  We’re kind of getting behind…  with Springtime busyness.  Let’s face it, I’m not the most disciplined person in the world so why should my daughter be, right?  lol  FINALLY, after a few weeks, Munchkin finished her last book!  This one’s costing me 5 bucks and it’s 5 bucks I’m happy to pay because she LOVED it!

Here’s the description from the back cover:

“Mackenzie Allen Phillips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.  Four years later, in the midst of his “Great Sadness” , Mack received a suspicious not apparently fro God, inviting him back to that shack for the weekend.

Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare.  What he finds there will change Mack’s life forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world  so filled with unspeakable pain?”  The answer Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.  You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!”

What was Julia’s take on this AMAZING story?  It made her THINK & FEEL.  She asked me if this was a true story.  I’d heard conflicting reports about the “truthfulness” of this story.  In the end, we “Googled” the question.  We found the authors site and read straight from the horses mouth that The Shack was indeed fiction based on an event in the authors life.  He says that he wrote the book for his own children and he’s leaving it up to the reader whether or not the “conversations” took place.  He leads us to believe they did actually happen and that he (the author) really IS Mack, the lead character in the book.

There are so many questions we, as adults, have about God.  Is He/She a disciplinary God or is He/She a loving God or maybe both?  Why does God let bad things happen to good people?  Naturally, a teenager has maybe even more questions than an adult has.  My daughter has faith that God exists and she really IS more spiritual than the average teenager, I think.  However, this book answered most of the questions she has.  The Shack just made sense out of God’s love for her.

Here’s what Julia says about The Shack:

“I believe Missy (Mack’s daughter) was murdered just so that Mack can see what God is really about.  Instead of God being his enemy, He became Mack’s closest confidant.  This was the BEST book I’ve ever read so far.  I took a lot of notes on pretty much everything that Papa (God) said.  My favorite quote was, “A part of you chooses not to see me.  You don’t need me at all to create your list of good and evil.  But you DO need me to stop such an insane lust for independence.”  It reminds me a lot of myself.  The Shack changed my perspective on God.  Now I see Him as a loving, caring and forgiving God, instead of only seeing God as a powerful, scary man who only exists to punish me for my sins.  Although I didn’t see Him as only mean, I just didn’t see Him capable or willing to be as nurturing of a God as the author portrayed in the book.

I wish the whole world would red this book!!!”

So you see, by Julia’s comments, she cared enough to not only READ the book, she also took notes!  Wow.  I didn’t know this until she gave me her book report.  This made me SO happy!  It’s a definite jackpot when she finishes a book, remembers what it talked about AND it sparks her imagination and makes her grow as an individual.  Now I have the hard job of trying to top this one for her!  lol

Proof of Heaven (A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife)… A Book Review

Proof of Heaven a Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife

By Eben Alexander

Simon & Schuster Paperbacks

Description from the back cover:

“Thousand’s of people have had near- death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible.  Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists.  A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that  NDEs  feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

Then Dr. ALexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness.  The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion – and in essence makes us human – shut down completely.  For seven days he lay in a coma.  Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped opened.  He had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle.  But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere.  While his body lay in a coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super physical existence.  There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

Alexander’s story is not a fantasy.  Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul.  Today, Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.

This story would be remarkable no matter who it happened to.  That it happened to Dr. Alexander makes it revolutionary.  No scientist or person of faith will be able to ignore it.  Reading it will change your life.”

I really have no words to tell you how I felt about this book.  I can try though.  I loved it.  Even with all it’s medical references and scientific terms.  I’ve always believed in an afterlife though.  I didn’t need to be convinced.

Some of the time this neurosurgeon spent in “heaven” and some of what he was able to describe, I can picture perfectly.  Why?  I’ve had dreams for as long as I can remember living, of places like he’s described.  From the time I was VERY small (at least 5 years old), I’ve believed that I came from a place like this.  Like maybe it could have been a holding place until I was born?  I know, sounds crazy.  But they were reoccurring dreams and the theme always starred ME in this beautiful, comfortable place, for lack of better words.  When I began reading Eben Alexander’s story and learned of his description of that place… I got goose bumps.  I knew it was THAT place.  Besides the fact that I’ve actually had to be brought back to life at least 3 times on the operating table in more recent years.  Although, to be honest, I don’t have a memory of traveling to the afterlife during the times they’ve worked hard to bring me back.

I think, if you have any questions about an afterlife, you should read this.  It’s not all Christiany, just the opposite.  This is written from a clinical perspective.  It struck me that God is “unconditional love” and that we are always striving to get back to that place.  It also struck me that there are several other universes but God loves human beings the most.  The whole “freedom of choice” thing came into play several times.

If you are stuck on your Christian views, I wouldn’t suggest reading this.  I am a Christian but this didn’t offend me at all.  I think I may have more of an open mind than most, understanding that God appears in MANY forms and that He’a not limited to what our brain can comprehend.  He’s also not limited our human perception of Him.

I’ve read many books on the afterlife and NDEs.  This is right up there with the best.  I think I liked it so much because of his story.  Obviously he was a neurosurgeon but what impressed me was that he was the ONLY person alive to have lived through such a lengthy coma where his brain completely shut down.  Pretty much brain dead.  In the book, he explains why none of the scientific explanations of an NDE can apply to what happened to him.  It’s scientific but I think it needs to be as it is geared toward the unbeliever or the people in his scientific community.

BTW… I read this in 2 days.  I only have time to read while I’m in the bath tub so this is amazing! lol  It’s a quick read for sure and if I was able to read anywhere BUT the bathtub, I could have finished it in a couple of hours.

A Prologue to Love by Taylor Caldwell, a mirror into my mother’s soul…

“It is not possible for us to know each other EXCEPT as we manifest ourselves in distorted shadows to the eyes of others.  We do NOT even know ourselves; therefore, why should we judge a neighbor?  Who knows what pain is behind virtue and what fear behind vice?  No one, in short, knows what makes a man, and ONLY God knows his thoughts, his joys, his bitternesses, his agony, the injustices he commits… God is too inscrutable for our little understanding.  After sad meditation it comes to me that all that lives, whether good or in error, mournful or joyous, obscure or of gilded reputation, painful or happy, is only a prologue to love beyond the grave, where all is understood and almost all forgiven”

Seneca

How powerful these words are to me.  Seneca’s words echo in my mind, reminding me a my own mother and how it seems that she doesn’t love or feel.  What brought her to this cold place she calls her world?  I don’t know.

Even more powerful that my mother gave me this book and asked me to see the similarities between myself and the main character, Caroline Ames.  Caroline is very damaged and uncaring about anyone or anything besides her money.  She can’t even feel for her own children.  Through the entire book, which took me 2 months to get through, I was SO hurt that my mother sees me this way.  Damaged, yes I am.  Uncaring, SO far from it!  In the end, I need to recognize that my mother MUST see herself and labels me for everything in the world that she hates about herself.  So very sad.

Product Details

A Prologue to Love

By:  Taylor Caldwell

Overview

In A Prologue To Love Taylor Caldwell has written a profoundly moving novel of a woman, rich beyond imagining, whose inability to give or accept love, whose fear of poverty and hostility towards the world brings in its wake tragedy and unhappiness for almost all whose lives she touches.
Caroline Ames was detested by the father she worshipped. An unscrupulous businessman, John Ames denied Caroline not only of his love, but instilled in her a horror of poverty and a faith in the power of money which was to make her the richest woman in the world – and one of the loneliest.
Miss Caldwell writes of three generations of the Ames family with great insight and compassion. Set in and around Boston during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, she has evoked the period of the great American fortunes through the intricate pattern of a family’s destiny. And she has peopled her novel with characters of unusual depth – all of whom come under the shadow of the strange recluse, Caroline Ames, and the power of her millions.
Perhaps Miss Caldwell’s most impressive achievement in A Prologue To Love is her ability to evoke the reader’s sympathy for Caroline – why it was that she so desperately needed to amass so much money at the expense of family love and community respect, and how, in the end, she comes to realize that her father’s teachings were so wrong.
It is an inspiring story of the power of love and faith in overcoming evil.
My thoughts about the book and NOT my mother?  This book spoke to me because of my own family.  However, the theme will speak to anyone.  Don’t judge someone by outside appearances…  you don’t know what lies behind the hurt and the pain.  In the end, you understand that your entire life is a Prologue to God’s Love.  This is one of my ALL time favorites and I’m proud to recommend it to anyone.
The book was written in the early 1960’s and I believe that it’s message stands the test of time.