Category Archives: Self-Help/Memoir

Book Review: Wild @CherylStrayed

WildTitle: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Publisher: Knopf
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

★ ☆★ ☆★ – 4 Stars

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.
Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
“One of the Best Books of the Year”: NPR, The Boston GlobeEntertainment Weekly, Vogue, St. Louis Dispatch .

It is about finding yourself, when you have lost so much. Strayed definitely let go, and went head on with nature. I found myself pushing for her to continue on, even through blisters, and missing toenails. I have loved every moment in this book, even with all the people she met along the way. I really enjoyed the back story as to her life before the trail, it painted a picture of why she decided to get real with herself.
One moment of the book that I loved was the horse named Lady. You grieved with her, but you continued to read through her words of everything she had to overcome.
Another part, closer to the beginning were she was screaming Moose! rofl! Oh, I giggled. Strayed has a way with words, and I enjoyed the humor here in there throughout the story.
I personally don’t know if I would ever be able to do such a journey but boy does this book give you hope.
Thank you for sharing your story, and I will definitely have to find the movie!

About the Author
StrayedCheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild, will be published by Knopf in March 2012. It will also be published in Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Her novel, Torch (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) was a finalist for the Great Lakes Book Award and was selected by The Oregonian as one of the top ten books of the year by writers from the Pacific Northwest. Strayed’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, Allure, Self, The Missouri Review, Brain, Child, The Rumpus, The Sun and elsewhere. The winner of a Pushcart Prize as well as fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, her essays and stories have been published in The Best American Essays, The Best New American Voices, and other anthologies. She holds an MFA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. She’s a founding member of VIDA: Women In Literary Arts, and serves on their board of directors. Raised in Minnesota, Strayed now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, the filmmaker Brian Lindstrom, and their two children.

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Disclosure:  I received this book from a friend.  I did not have to do the review, and this review is my honest opinion.

Review: Fly a Little Higher @LauraSobiech

FlyaLittleHigherPublisher: Nelson Books
Author: Laura Sobiech
Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help/Memoir

★ ☆★ ☆★ – 5 Stars!

Laura Sobiech tells the amazing story of how God used her son’s battle with cancer to touch the lives of millions.
“Okay, Lord, you can have him. But if he must die, I want it to be for something big. I want someone’s life to be changed forever.”
This is what Laura Sobiech prayed when she found out her seventeen-year-old son had only one year to live. With this desperate prayer, she released her son to God’s will.
At that point, Zach Sobiech was just another teenager battling cancer. When his mother told him to think about writing good-bye letters to family and friends, he decided instead to write songs. One of them, “Clouds,” captured hearts and changed not one life but millions, making him an international sensation.
But Zach’s story is not just about music. It’s a testament to what can happen when you live as if each day might be your last. It’s a story about the human spirit. It’s about how God used a dying boy from a small town in Minnesota to touch the hearts of millions—including top executives in the music industry, major music artists, news anchors, talk show hosts, actors, priests and pastors, and school children across the globe.
Zach once said, “I want to be known as the kid who went down fighting, and didn’t really lose.” Fly a Little Higher is about how God used Zach to do something big.

I heard of Zach’s story before he passed. I found a video on Facebook of a friend who shared “Clouds” as well as Soul Pancake’s YouTube video: My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech. I immediately wanted to know more of this precious soul.  I followed his story on Facebook, and watched his songs over and over again on YouTube. Then within a month or so the status came of his passing. I didn’t know a book would come out, but once I seen it, I knew I wanted to read it.
Laura painted a beautiful picture of the ups and downs that went through their life, it was absolutely touching, and the emotions were, and I am sure are still raw. I cried along with them, as I read the words throughout the book; Zach was a phenomenal guy, and one who was full of life.
To read such a story, Laura is a perfect mom, regardless of everything Zach went through she still let him live his life, even if the annoying cancer hung over them. To hear of their trip, the way the community came together to support such an amazing individual and for him to still have the energy to out-pour his songs, and his love is courageous.
If you get this read, keep your tissues close, and it will remind to hug your family a little tighter. Fly High Zach Sobiech, you have already touched millions, and I am sure your story will continue to touch a million more!

You realize that you aren’t leaving the battle field behind but are actually taking it with you and it will be a part of you forever ~ 20%Kindle

I truly understood the meaning of hope. It is something much bigger than anything physical we may desire. It’s about raising our eyes from a point on the horizon to the heavens and into eternity. And it’s about relying on God’s grace to do it, no matter what the cost. ~ 46% Kindle

About the Author
Laura Sobiech was born and raised in Minnesota. She has been married to her husband, Rob, for twenty-four years, and they are the proud parents of four awesome children: one married, one in college, one in heaven, and one in high school. Laura has spent the past couple of years crossing things off her I-Never-Want-To-Do List, now having done most everything that was on it, including: globe trekking, public speaking, fund-raising, Skype-ing on live television, and supporting a child with cancer. In her free time she volunteers as an EMT/firefighter at her local fire department and can knit a wicked awesome pair of socks.

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More of Zach’s Story
Clouds by Zach Sobiech
My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech
My Last Days: Zach Sobiech, One Year Later

Disclosure: I received this book for free via NetGalley/Nelson Books. I did not have to do the review, and this review is my honest opinion.

Review: Swimming with Maya

SwimmingMayaPublisher: Dream of Things
Author: Eleanor Vincent
Genre: Memoir
Review Source: Goodreads ARC

★ ☆★ – 3 Stars

Swimming with Maya demonstrates the remarkable process of healing after the traumatic death of a loved one. Eleanor Vincent raised her two daughters, Maya and Meghan, virtually as a single-parent. Maya, the eldest, was a high-spirited and gifted young woman. As a toddler, Maya was an angelic tow-head, full of life and curiosity. As a teenager, Maya was energetic and independent – and often butted heads with her mother. But Eleanor and Maya were always close and connected, like best friends or sisters, but always also mother and daughter.
Then at age 19, Maya mounts a horse bareback as a dare and, in a crushing cantilever fall, is left in a coma from which she will never recover. Eleanor’s life is turned upside down as she struggles to make the painful decision about Maya’s fate.
Ultimately Eleanor chooses to donate Maya’s organs. Years later, she is able to hear Maya’s heart beat in the chest of the heart recipient. Along the way, Eleanor re-examines her relationship with her daughter, as well as Eleanor’s traumatic life as a child and young woman. In a story that has been called “heartbreaking and heart-healing,” Eleanor Vincent illuminates the kind of courage, creativity, faith, and sheer tenacity it takes to find one’s balance after unthinkable tragedy.

When a book brings you to tears, you know the writer has pulled you into her words, and with Eleanor she pulls you into her story. I longed for Eleanor through having to tell her daughter’s story. It made me understand how my own Aunt must have went through when she buried her own son. I could never imagine the pain, the questions, or the emotions one might feel, but Eleanor captured just that.
One part of the book that caught my attention, was when she was giving away Maya’s shoes and the girl tried them on then walked to make sure they fit. After the girl left Eleanor could still hear the sound of Maya’s feet. I would never have thought about that, and I can imagine that would be hard on any parent to witness, especially with coming to the realization their child just passed away.
While getting further into the book, the book starts focusing more on the mother though, and I really wish it would have focused more on Maya: her childhood, laughter, the things she did, what she accomplished, etc.
Overall is was an okay book.

About the Author
Eleanor Vincent is an award-winning writer whose debut memoir, Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story, was nominated for the Independent Publisher Book Award and was reissued by Dream of Things press early in 2013. She writes about love, loss, and grief recovery with a special focus on the challenges and joys of raising children at any age.

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Disclosure: I won this book for free via Goodreads First Reads. I did not have to do the review, and this review is my honest opinion.

Review: Washing Cars & Wasting Time

washingcarsPublisher: Orange Hat Publishing
Author: John Oliva
Genre: Memoir
Review Source: Author

★ ☆★ ☆ – 4 Stars

Have you ever been given the impromptu offer to buy a crossbow from a random stranger? Has your life ever been threatened over $1.75 in quarters? Can you say that you have ever been so bored that sifting through broken glass and cigarette butts constituted an accepted pastime? Those are just a sampling of the many adventures that I had while working as an attendant at Speedee Car Wash in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I also learned to never untie a plastic grocery bag that you find in the trash. I was taught that there is not as great of a distinction between a car wash and a pawnshop as most people may think and that there are fewer bikini-clad girls washing cars than Hollywood would have people believe. Despite all of the abrasive customers; cold, tiring winter hours; hot, boredom-filled, and even longer summer hours, I got some great stories to tell out of those years. And they are compiled here in Washing Cars & Wasting Time. Oh yeah…and we managed to wash a couple of cars amidst all of the chaos as well.

Humorous! John did an amazing job, and has a natural talent for writing.
Every story he told you could totally see it happening with someone you may know. He brought his Dad, and his whole family to life through his words. His writing had me smiling and laughing as I was reading along.
Even in the beginning of the book his Dad had me laughing. The neighbor across the street left his truck in front of the wrecker service doors, and the Dad insisted on “lesson-learned” motto, haha! (hey, I can’t just tell you what happens, you will need to read this book to find out!) The smart-ass tone reminded me a lot of my Dad, and I could so just picture what it was like to be face-to-face with him while this scene played out.
This is a short, but fun read! I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good laugh, or three.

About the Author:
John Oliva has found relative success for himself despite working seven years during high school and college at his family’s self-service car wash. He holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering and has had his engineering research published in peer-reviewed engineering journals and conference proceedings. John spent the first half of his career as an engineering professor. He has since held several different engineering positions in the fields of defense, nuclear physics research, and currently the solar industry. At each step of the way, he manages to attract strange characters, unlikely circumstances, and hard-to-believe occurrences while just trying to live his life. John resides in mid-Michigan with his wife and daughter…both of whom think he’s nuts.

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Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: I’ll Never Forget

IllneverforgetPublisher: iUniverse
Author: Elaine C. Pereira
Genre: Memoir
Review Source:  Goodreads ARC

★ ☆★ ☆★ – 5 Stars!

Summary: (Goodreads)
It is extremely difficult to watch a loved one decline as dementia ravages his or her mind, robbing him or her of memory, thinking abilities, and judgment. In her touching memoir, I Will Never Forget, Elaine C. Pereira shares the sometimes heartbreaking and occasionally humorous story of her mother’s journey through dementia, as seen through the eyes of her little girl.
Pereira begins by offering entertaining glimpses into her own childhood and feisty teenage years. Through it all, Pereira shares how her mom’s unconditional love and creative parenting style helped mold an opinionated young woman into a resourceful adult who eventually would move mountains on her mother’s behalf. As Betty Ward slowly begins to wander down the dark and narrow corridors of Alzheimer’s, Pereira details her mother’s amazing ability to mask the truth until something as innocuous as a drapery rod suddenly launches a waterfall of events. As their roles shift and a new paradigm forms, Pereira transforms into a caregiver who blindly navigates dementia’s unpredictable haze while her mother orchestrates Houdini-like disappearances and surprisingly rallies to take charge of her own destiny.
I Will Never Forget shares a powerful, emotional story that can help people affected by dementia take comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

My Review:
So many are affected by Dementia, My Grandmother was one of those. I am so glad Elaine shared her mother’s story. I could relate as I look back on my Grandmother when she would misplace recipes, her handwriting changed to the point of shakiness and not being able to read it, she later couldn’t remember which medicine she had taken that morning, evening, or at bed time. I remember how it affected not only her, but the whole family.
One vivid memory was her getting so mad that “people” misplaced her keys, and her purse. She would get mad as a whistle. She would hunt all over the house, but then I would later find her purse, or keys still in the car (this was before we took those things away)
Elaine brings a new look on life, and her writing is smooth, before you know it you will be 100 pages in, and not even wanting to put the book down. I would recommend this book to anyone, anywhere. You never know when Dementia could hit your family, as it did mine and Elaine’s.

About the Author: Amazon
Elaine C. Pereira is a retired school occupational therapist who worked with special needs children. She earned her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from Wayne State University and later completed her master’s degree. Pereira and her husband live in southeastern Michigan with their cat, Snoopy, and two dogs, Bailey and Maddee.
Elaine C. Pereira is a licensed/registered Occupational Therapist who worked with special needs children as well as adult rehab and home care. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Wayne State University and later completed her Master’s Degree. Elaine and her husband Joseph live in southeastern Michigan with their cat, Snoopy, and two dogs, Bailey and Maddee. Together they have five adult children, Joe’s three sons and Elaine’s twin daughters, and five young grandchildren.
Pereira was inspired to share her mother’s story in part to help others know they are not alone in their journey through Dementia. She donates a portion of book sale proceeds to Alzheimer’s research. Pereira has also completed courses a for Certified Dementia Practitioner and Certified Dementia Caregiver, CDP. CDC.

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Disclosure: I won this book for free via Goodreads First Reads. I did not have to do the review, and this review is my honest opinion.

Review: Hair Spray, High Heels, & Second Hand Smoke

Hair Spray, High Heels and Second Hand SmokePublisher: CreateSpace
Author: Frank Meyner
Genre: Humor, Memoir

★ ☆★ – 3 Stars

Hair Spray, High Heels, & Second Hand Smoke:
When twenty-year-old cosmetologist Frank Meyner moved from a tiny West Texas town to the big city of Fort Worth, he had no inkling of the places his cutting shears would take him. Now, his warmhearted, colorful retelling, Hair Spray, High Heels, and Second Hand Smoke, shares his journey from a small-town boy to the founder of one of the city’s leading salons. With its wealth of big hearts and great hair, Meyner’s captivating tale follows him from humble Hamlin to Fort Worth for his first job at the exclusive Neiman Marcus, where he served as assistant to the legendary stylist Phillip Trotter. There, he was initiated into the upper echelons of Fort Worth society,giving audience to their colorful lifestyle, myriad eccentricities, and graceful charm. After he leaves the salon for his own chair elsewhere, Meyner eventually grabs the brass curling iron and opens his own salon, in which he styles a high spirited who’s who list of always-entertaining patrons for the next thirty years. Amid these “Steel Magnolias” of Fort Worth, Meyner wields his scissors and humor with grace, wit, and humanity. His heartwarming success story turns the salon chair to reveal the generosity, selflessness, and boundless love of this delightful community of customers and colleagues. It’s a must for anyone looking for a fabulous lift that’s sure to produce a permanent smile.

My Review:
I have to say, I was looking forward to this book. I was ecstatic to receive it, but when I started reading it was like I was having to force myself to turn the page. I am not saying the writing is bad, because it is not. I am saying I just couldn’t get the “connect” to the book/author.
I will say that it brought back a lot of memories with my Grandparents, as they helped raise me too, with being raised by Grandparents you learn the value of money, respect, and love. You would understand if  you read even the first chapter of Hair Spray, High Heels, and Second Hand Smoke.
I loved the fact that he went back and wrote about the times he spent with his Grandparents, he will always have those memories in his book, and in everyday life.
The book is about Frank’s journey to become a hairdresser/beauty operator, from a life-changing move to the big city of Forth Worth to his funny tales of what happens behind the beauty chair, and he is still going strong thirty years later.
If you want to find out what it is like looking in on a life of a hairdresser, I would suggest this book! It is funny, and I did laugh through some of it. I just couldn’t keep turning the pages.
This book may not have been for me, but it could be for you. Don’t let my review turn your nose, at least give it a try!

About the Author:
A cosmetologist for the past 37 years, Frank Meyner earned his certification at the Glen and Lottie’s Pivot Point School of Cosmetology. He has owned his own salon, Frank Meyner’s Mane Event, for 28 years in Fort Worth, where he lives.

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Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: The Spinsterlicious Life

The Spinsterlicious LifePublisher: CreateSpace
Author: Eleanore Wells
Genre: Self-Help/Memoir

★ ☆★ ☆ – 4 Stars

The Spinsterlicious Life:
The Chronicles of life is about adventures, joys, and realities of a happy single woman in a “married-is-normal” world. It is a funny, clever, and insightful read for any woman who is single… for the time being or for a lifetime.

My Review:
I love the authors writing style, and humor within the book. You can totally relate to her (even with being married), and become understanding of the reason to be single & child-free life that she has chosen to lead.
She is honest through the entire book, and lays out her everyday life just for the reader. While you read you will discover 20 lessons, or chapters, as to why she has chosen this life style and she has simple made it her own. Twenty lessons are shared personal experiences, not only the good side of things, but some potential bumps in the road as well.
Potential bumps are like; if she would have a husband, then he would change the light bulb, catch the mouse in the house, and fix the tenants water problems, but instead everything is up to her.

About the Author:
Born and raised in Washington, DC, Eleanore Wells now lives in and loves New York City. Her very popular blog –The Spinsterlicious Life—celebrates the joys and realities of life as a happily single woman. Due to its widespread popularity, the obvious next step was a book by the same name. Funny, insightful, and wise, The Spinsterlicious Life: Twenty Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Child-free, is part memoir, part-self help. It chronicles Eleanore’s life and lessons, and enlightens us all that there’s a lot that’s really good about being single, free, and unencumbered. When she’s not writing about “the single life”, Eleanore runs her own consumer research and strategy firm, Golden Door Consulting.

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Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.