BOOK REVIEW ~ Epic Solitude

A Story of Survival and a Quest for Meaning

 

An amazing memoir about a young woman who beats the odds and so much adversity to find her way through incredible challenges and pain. I had to take some time to digest all that she went through after I was done reading it, and then all that she did to work on herself in the latter part. It’s really quite admirable, and I’m glad she had family to help at times. I just flew through this book like a person starved for text, it was so readable to me and kept pulling me along. I was hooked, and had to know what came next. It’s truly a story that will make you wonder how much a person can take, yet shows you how some can keep going on in the face of harsh adversity. This is one tough lady with tons of determination. I recommend for those who like to read about people with high adrenaline lives. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Katherine Keith, and the publisher.


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Publisher: Blackstone Publications – 280 pages
Publication: Feb 4th, 2020
My Rating: 5/5 Stars


The Author- Katherine Keith is a wilderness athlete, experience junkie, spiritual questor, long-distance dog musher, and mother to a fifteen-year-old daughter and thirty-five dogs, living above the Arctic Circle in Kotzebue, Alaska. Professionally, and as a jack-of-all-trades survivalist, she is a small business owner, rural Alaska project director, energy engineer, commercial fisherman, and wellness advocate. Accomplishments such as completing six Ironman triathlons and five 1,000-mile dog sled races form the cornerstone of Katherine’s philosophy of generating grit through overcoming real-time obstacles. A never-ending dreamer, Katherine is currently pursuing climbing the seven tallest summits on every continent as a budding alpinist. Above all, she loves spending time star-gazing, chasing northern lights, and playing cribbage by the woodstove with Amelia at camp.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Hippie Chick

Hippie Chick: Coming of Age in the ‘60s

This was pretty different as you follow Ilene, who is the youngest of six kids and the last to leave home in New Jersey. Her mother died when she was sixteen, and while she loves her father, she wants out of the house as he is difficult and temperamental. When her sister Carole provides her with a plane ticket to California she finally has her way out and joins her and her lawyer husband there. She starts growing up rather quickly from this point though she is still naive to the ways of men. Her life will become quite bohemian in short order without even trying. Things get even crazier as it goes along, and Ilene seems to land in one jam after another with Carole and/or her hubby coming to her rescue in her younger years. Not only is she a hippie chick with a love for marijuana and the occasional LSD trip; but she seems to become a vagabond too, moving more than anyone I’ve ever heard of that wasn’t military.

This is certainly a read from the times, a memoir of Ilene’s different circumstances back during the 1960s as she traveled the US and Hawaii trying to figure out where she belonged. I’d recommend for more adventurous memoir readers, and those who like coming of age stories in the 60s & 70s. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Ilene English, and the publisher.


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Publisher: She Writes Press – 334 pages
Publication: Sep 24th, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author-  Born in New Jersey as the youngest of six to a mother who was seriously ill, Ilene English became something of a lost child. In spite of this, she was a free spirit, her life fueled by an innate sense of optimism and determination. As a young woman, she became an early psychedelic pioneer, experimenting with LSD during a time when it was still legal and its effects were not yet fully comprehended. During the sixties, she, along with an entire community of fellow trippers, innocently thought that they could change the world into one that valued love over materialism through psychedelics. Today, years later, English is a licensed psychotherapist. Her life experience informs her work as a healer and a teacher. Hippie Chick is her first book.

BOOK REVIEW ~LEGION RISING

Legion Rising: Surviving Combat And The Scars It Left Behind

 

This is an incredible read if you want to learn about the journey Jeff Morris took in serving his country. Not all of it is an easy read, as he was deployed to Iraq more than once as an officer and there were losses that were difficult. But it’s well written and I was interested in his time over there, along with the after effects on a person, and learned quite a lot from reading this. I recommend it for anyone who likes military biographies. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Jeff Morris with LC Mickler, and the publisher.


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Publisher: WildBlue Press – 243 pages
Publication: July 23rd, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars


The Author-  Jeff Morris is a former Infantry Officer in the United States Army, serving two deployments to Baghdad, Iraq as a Platoon Leader and Company Commander. He has been featured in numerous magazine articles, television profiles, and speaks to a wide array of audiences. He lives in Texas with his wife and four children.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

This is just an awesome story of a lawyer who made it his life’s work to fight for the underdog and do all he can to get them justice. He started a non-profit legal office in Alabama to help people in need of serious legal help like those facing execution, the wrongly convicted, teens sentenced to die in prison and others. He spends long hours working, searching for funding, visiting prisoners, and working on cases. After you get so far in the book, you can see why it’s won several awards, and they are making a movie about this man’s story with top actors, due out in January.

The book is well-written and flows easily. I had a hard time putting it down and forcing myself to go to sleep, even after staying up past dawn reading it. He shares different cases he worked on and some things that went on during some that were pretty crazy. I couldn’t help but be moved by it, amazed by it, and impressed by it. It’s a great biogragraphy with a lot of legal discussion.  This was a Goodreads win.

 

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Publisher: Spiegel & Grau – 368 pages
Publication: Aug 18th, 2015
RATED: 5/5 Stars

 

The Author – Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Forever and Ever, Amen

Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life

I’ve been a fan of Randy Travis from way back so I picked up this ARC without hesitation. The story itself was good, easy reading, almost like having Randy Travis sitting in your living room having a fine old talk. This book in its final form will be enjoyed by most any Randy Travis fan who is looking for a good read about him. Or a biography reader who likes country music. The main focus is on his career, but there is some about his growing up years too. It’s also an inspiring story of how he’s overcome such awful medical issues that he wasn’t expected to survive. My thanks for the advance electronic review copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Randy Travis, and the publisher.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson- 304 pages
Published: May 14th, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars

 

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The Author- Randy Travis is a country music singer, songwriter, guitarist, and actor. Since 1985, he has recorded 20 studio albums and charted more than 50 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and 16 of these were number-one hits. His debut album Storms of Life sold more than 4 million copies and established him as a major force in the neotraditional country movement. Travis followed up his successful debut with a string of platinum and multi-platinum albums. He has sold more than 25 million records and has earned 22 number-one hits, six number one albums, six Grammy Awards, six CMA Awards, nine ACM Awards, 10 AMA Awards, eight Dove Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2016, Travis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

 

Heavier Than Heaven

Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

Originally published in 2001 and with a well-written update added to bring it up to date, this is a well-researched book by an author who was around for many of the events at the time. Charles Cross spent 4 years researching, and interviewing 400 people for this book. So you can tell it’s pretty thorough. He tells us how Cobain’s time being famous, from his first album coming out to his death was less than 1000 days. That’s pretty heart-rending to think about. It does a good job of filling out the picture from his beginnings in Aberdeen through growing up and finding success. A lot of focus on his songwriting and touring, practices and time spent making albums. Meeting and marrying Courtney Love and becoming a father. And of course, you know how the story ends, yet it still grabs you. This is a really good book for Nirvana fans. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Charles R Cross, and the publisher for my fair review.

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Publisher: Hachette Books – 381 pages
Published: April 2nd, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars

The Author- CHARLES R. CROSS was editor of The Rocket, the Northwest’s highly regarded music and entertainment magazine and the first publication to do a cover story on Nirvana. He is also the author of Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix; Led Zeppelin: Heaven and Hell; Backstreets: Springsteen, the Man and his Music; Nevermind: The Classic Album; and Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact of Kurt Cobain. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Spy, among many other publications. He lives in Seattle.

The Beneficiary

The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father

I enjoyed the style in which this was written, kind of felt to me like a well written historical novel, but it’s non-fiction instead. It starts out with a family tree, showing the major players, the patriarch the Colonel who started the grand estate named Ardrossan with 800 acres back in the day, down to the present-day narrator who is an offspring. It tells about major people down through the years but is about the author’s father. It shares how he’d gotten rich almost overnight during the Panic of 1907 when he started buying up small businesses. His family felt he’d cut his life short through choices he’d made in the way he did things. Author Janny Scott just seriously felt that her father could have made different choices and lived a good deal longer, thus being around for his family more. It’s an intriguing look into this family of privilege during the end of a bygone era.  My thanks for the advance electronic review copy that was provided by Edelweiss, author Janny Scott, and the publisher.

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Publisher: Riverhead Books – 288 pages
Published: April 16th, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars

The Author Janny Scott is the author of A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother. She was a reporter for The New York Times from 1994 to 2009 and was a member of the Times reporting team that won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

Dutch Girl

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II

This book is about Hepburn’s early years in Europe during the war. It has a foreword by her youngest son Luca Dotta. She had always been very introverted, a quiet, shy girl. Probably more so after her parents split and her father wasn’t around anymore. but the ballet lessons she loved so much finally helped her become more expressive outwardly. Her mother, Baroness Ella Van Heemstra was very pro-German before the war began and had met Hitler a couple of times during their many travels. But then Audrey’s father had walked out when she was 6. They were both taking it hard but Audrey was really worried about her mother.

Elle put Audrey in a school and found her some ballet classes in London, but when war became imminent her mother had her brought to the always previously neutral Netherlands to live. It was hard for Audrey because she didn’t speak the language there and so didn’t understand a word of what they were saying at school. The only thing that made it bearable for her was that her mother was able to get her into ballet classes again. She grew up as Adriaantje (little Audrey) Van Heemstra, but after the Germans moved in she became known as the English-sounding Audrey Hepburn-Ruston. Ella is good at organizing events, especially if it will be something that will offer a chance to show her daughter’s talent. But she’s lacking in showing warm feelings to Audrey, who is so needing them. Audrey can’t understand why Ella is still friendly with the Germans, who are being so cruel to their Jewish friends. Though, as time goes on and her mother can no longer ignore what’s going on, she does stop socializing with them, etc. But this will cause problems for Audrey throughout the rest of her life.

About halfway through the book, near the end of the war, it begins speaking from Audrey’s later perspective, done in italics, where she returns to the Netherlands and reminisces about the war, married and a star. This appears off and on through the book. It’s well researched and reads well. This is for those interested in the old star biographies, and WWII. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Robert Matzen, and the publisher for my fair review.

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Publisher: GoodKnight Books – 400 pages
Published: April 15th, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars

The Author- Robert Matzen is the award-winning author of Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe, Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3, and five other books. He has appeared on national broadcast programs and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal among other publications.

Luca Dotti is the younger son of Audrey Hepburn and New York Times bestselling author of Audrey at Home. He is a former graphic designer and now chairs the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. Created by Audrey’s family in 1994, the Fund helps children in need around the world.

The Last Stone

The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation

This book is a true crime story about the disappearance of two sisters from a Wheaton, Maryland mall way back in March of 1975. Katherine and Sheila Lyons, 10 and 12 were seen with a man and then vanished. It became a cold case that journalist Mark Bowden became interested in and sank his teeth into. It’s a different kind of true crime book, as it pits five bulldog detectives against one of the most determined liars they’ve ever run into, after sifting through other possible leads. It becomes almost a battle of wills as the interrogations play out, the detectives trying to find the bodies of the girls after decades of others failing. I found this a compelling crime read that really held my interest very well, especially the use of different kinds of interrogation techniques, what is allowed and what is not. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Mark Bowden, and the publisher for my fair review.

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Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press – 304 pages
Publication: April 2nd, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars

The Author- Mark Bowden is the author of thirteen books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Black Hawk Down. He reported at the Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and now writes for the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and other magazines. He is also the writer in residence at the University of Delaware. His most recent book is Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam.

Sex and the Serial Killer

Sex and the Serial Killer: My Bizarre Times with Robert Durst

This is a really twisted and bizarre story by this writer using the penname William Steel, for reasons that will become much more understandable as you read the book. With Robert Durst all over the media again lately with another documentary, and his trial for killing his friend Susan Berman coming up later this year, he’s a pretty hot topic. As most folks know, he’s been long suspected of having likely killed his first wife, Kathleen who went missing in 1982 as she was studying to be a doctor. This is his story of meeting Robert Durst back in the 1980’s, literally being bumped into by Durst, who spilled Steele’s soft drink all over him that he’d just bought while walking outside with a friend. Durst was with his good friend Susan Berman, and Steele introduced himself to both, oddly enough beginning a friendship with both that day. His friendship with Susan lasted some months; with Durst about a decade of madness.

This book is about their time together as Durst began dropping by, sometimes unannounced, with very strange requests and even stranger friends in tow. He would pay Steele a large sum to use a room in the house to party with various playmates he brought with him usually, hookers or at times paid girlfriends that he trusted a little to do things for him. Over the years Steele saw some very dark things that scared him, and he tried to taper off the friendship to lessen his exposure to harm. It mentioned the HBO documentary miniseries 2015 The Jinx, which covers all three people he is suspected of killing, including a neighbor, and where he was caught on an open mic saying, “ok so I killed them all, so what. The newest documentary I saw just recently was when Investigation Discovery network released a special miniseries titled Robert Durst: An ID Murder Mystery on January 21 and 22, 2019.

I think any true crime fan would enjoy this book, especially if they have been keeping an eye on the Robert Durst situation over the years. It’s weirder than fiction for sure!

I bought this as a Kindle version ebook.

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Publisher: CreateSpace – 195 pages
Published: Oct 9th, 2018
Rated: 4/5 Stars (Just for all the creepy weirdness vibe!!)

The authorsWilliam Steel is a pseudonym for a repentant jewel and art thief, who has been incarcerated and is now residing at an undisclosed location for his safety as a protected potential witness. Gary Greenberg is an award-winning journalist and has written true crime stories for national publications. His novel Dead Man’s Tale is available on Amazon.