Autobiography, Nonfiction

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

This is a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time, starting back in 2006 when I suffered the loss of someone very dear to me. I opted instead, that year, to read Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg, about a widow recovering from the death of her husband. I’m so glad I made that decision, because The Year of Magical Thinking is not the handbook on grief that I hoped it would be. It is Joan Didion’s stream-of-consciousness outpouring, one that is disjointed, random, and very personal.

Personal is fine. There’s nothing wrong with personal, and I’m sure this book was extremely cathartic for her to write. However, the title doesn’t fit anywhere in the content and, while there are some profound thoughts about loss, they are sparse. Instead, there is also a lot of zigzagging and digging up old memories. So I have to wonder, if anyone but Joan Didion wrote this book, would it have even been published?

The reviews are very mixed. Some people applaud the disjointed writing style, saying that it is exactly how one feels after losing a spouse or partner. This is true. I wish she had explored that more, the way loss lives rent free in your mind while you’re trying to carry on with life. Other reviewers are annoyed at Didion constantly referring to her upper-class lifestyle, having been married to John Gregory Dunne, and the fabulous places she lived, visited, and dined. I agree. After being bombarded with off-the-mark anecdotes about Delmonico’s, the Beverly Hills Hotel, high-end private schools, and vacations that are beyond the reach of the common man, I found it refreshing when she talked about grabbing a burger at McDonald’s. But it wasn’t enough to buffer the very obvious showiness of privilege, which often eclipsed the tragedies she experienced in a very short amount of time. Was the end goal to appear relatable or to relate her loss? We will never know.

So, unfortunately, it didn’t have the sensitive, healing effect I expected. I didn’t find it magical, memorable, or thought-provoking. But her ardent fans will probably find it very interesting.

7/10 Stars

Autobiography, Nonfiction

If You Build It, by Dwier Brown

Back in the early 1980’s two things were happening simultaneously. 1. A Canadian writer named W.P. Kinsella was launching his new book called Shoeless Joe 2. A struggling actor from Ohio named Dwier Brown was trying his hand at acting. While Kinsella’s book gained traction, Brown’s career, aside from playing “Stuart Cleary” in The Thorn Birds and being cast in a few plays, did not.

Their stories merged in 1988 when Shoeless Joe was adapted to screen as the beloved film, Field of Dreams, with Kevin Costner, then at his career apex. Dwier Brown was cast as John Kinsella, Ray’s (Costner’s) father. It’s a small but pivotal role, set in the day’s “magic hour,” making the viewer realize that Field of Dreams is about so much more than baseball.

When it was complete, not much was expected of Field of Dreams. Yes, it had Burt Lancaster in his final role and the incomparable James Earl Jones as Ray’s unlikely road trip companion, but no one could’ve guessed that this quiet little film would become the juggernaut that it is today. The Lansing farm in Iowa, where Dreams was filmed, still draws thousands of fathers and sons every year hoping to recapture the magic as they “have a catch” on that famous baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield. A diamond inspired by the mystical phrase “If you build it, he will come.”

While Dwier Brown’s role is small–he appears in some early photographs and in the last five minutes of the movie–its impact on his life has been enormous. It is this impact that his book, If You Build It, is based. Part autobiography, part behind-the-scenes of the film, Brown sensitively shows how his whole life led up to that role and the part it would play in years to come. He also adds anecdotes, snapshots of the many times that people would recognize him and share their own personal stories. Stories of men and their dads watching the movie together, feeling their bond strengthen, and stories of estranged fathers and sons feeling the need to reconnect and forgive, inspired by the movie’s message.

That is what makes this book so special. It does not focus heavily on ideal father/son relationships. It acknowledges the honest truth that all parent/child relationships are complicated, including Ray and John in the movie, Dwier Brown and his father, and his father before him. As a daughter who had a complicated relationship with my father, I found this extremely refreshing. The book is beautifully written, with a rhythmic fluidity and plenty of heart-tugging tidbits that keep your interest until the very end.

Being familiar with the film is very helpful, but not completely essential, to read If You Build It. I recommend watching the movie and reading the book, in that order. Both are very much worth your time and will restore some of your faith in family and its potential.

9/10 Stars

Memoir, Nonfiction

Theme: Embracing Our Differences

This week I’m participating in an online nonfiction read-a-thon, so I will be getting out of my comfort zone a bit. Not that I don’t like nonfiction, but I’ve enjoyed creatively told stories a lot lately.

Which brings me to two books that I read today. Both address differences–dealing with them, owning them, and embracing them.

Visual Thinking, by Temple Grandin, has been on my radar for quite a while. Temple Grandin is a fascinating woman with a unique story. Born with Autism, she has used her differences in the way she absorbs and processes information to become a pioneer in animal behavior. Her work is mainly with the meat industry, making sure that animals raised for slaughter are humanely treated. Because she is a visual thinker, which she explains in the book, she notices details that others might miss.

The part that I thought was most profound is the way she describes the “screening out” of visual thinkers in the American education system. Thanks to different government movements in the name of “progress,” teachers are now forced to teach in such a linear way that students with diverse learning can easily get left behind. Speaking as a former teacher, I wholeheartedly agree. However, the book itself was a cumbersome read. There is a lot of repetition and spiraling in the way information is presented. It is broken up into chapters, but their content doesn’t seem as individual as you’d expect. Instead, it is more of the same over and over again. For that reason I can only give it a lukewarm 8/10 Stars.

Ugly, by Robert Hoge. The youngest of five children, Robert was born in Australia in 1972. The reasons are still unclear, but he came into this world with a large tumor above his nose and misshapen legs and feet. The tumor pushed his eyes far to each side, like a fish, making depth perception and balance difficult. His crooked legs and feet made walking impossible. Intellectually, though, Robert was born a bright and inquisitive child.

This memoir is marketed to readers of all ages and, because this world and the media are so unforgiving of people who look different, Ugly is an important book. After dozens of surgeries on his face, amputations of both feet, and adjusting to prosthetic legs, Robert lives a fairly “normal” life. His journey, one with pain and humor, is an inspiring one. His unusual appearance is the first thing you notice about him, but his attitude and sensitive nature are what you remember. This is a wonderfully well-written autobiography that I highly recommend. 9/10 Stars

***Both Temple Grandin and Robert Hoge are popular speakers on the TED Talk circuit and in other public speaking settings. You can easily find them on YouTube to hear more about their lives and experiences.

Autobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction

Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, by Matthew Perry

It’s 1995, FRIENDS has been on the air for a year. (As soon as I saw a promo for it in 1994, I knew I wanted to watch this series. And I did–every episode of every season for ten seasons. I still kick myself that I never attended a taping.) Now I’m at Disneyland with my mom, aunt, and cousin, Laura. My aunt had recently been hired at Disney Imagineering and was able to get us into the park for free. It was a blast.

Halfway through the day we’re in New Orleans Square (my favorite section) and Laura says to me, “Hey, isn’t that Matthew Perry?” Yes, it was. Celebrity sightings–one of the perks of growing up in Southern California. There was Matthew Perry, aka Chandler Bing, wearing (I’ll never forget) a white leather letterman’s-style jacket, holding court in the middle of an entourage of 6-8 friends, with a glow and a swagger that showed he was on top of the world. The guy oozed charisma.

We headed over to the Haunted Mansion. Matthew and group probably entered through some VIP back door without waiting in line because suddenly, we were all in the “stretching room”–our group, his group, and a few other people who probably didn’t love the show FRIENDS as much as I did. I can only assume.

Yes, I stared. This was a big deal. I have a faint memory of catching his eye and a hopeful, selective memory that there was a small grin returned only for me, but it could just be my imagination. I don’t care. It was dang cool. After the ride we only saw the backs of him and his group. Moment over, but not forgotten.

Some shows are just a part of us. FRIENDS is one of those shows for me. It started right as I earned my college degree, saw me through getting my first apartment, my first “real job,” and all of those milestones that make you feel grown up (except getting married, that came later.)

Of course we knew that, of all the cast members, Matthew Perry was the one struggling the most. We just didn’t know how much. Fast forward 20+ years to last Monday, when my husband and I watched his interview with Diane Sawyer. He’s uber famous, uber wealthy, starred in one of the most beloved shows of all time, and my first thought was, “He seems like a really lonely guy.” The swagger and smirk I saw in 1995 was replaced with a man slightly older than me, but wearing decades of trauma on his face.

I had to read the book. What a life. What an exhausting, sad, tortured, lonely life. I’ve never really understood addiction, but this is probably the closest I’ll ever get. His memoir is that raw. And it is heartbreaking. As a highly sensitive empath, I absorb other people’s pain more than most, and I felt like I was right there with every relapse of drinking and pills and their accompanying horrific consequences. This book is both fascinating and painful. Never once does he play the victim.

If you’ve been on the FRIENDS journey at all since its inception, read about Matthew’s journey and see what he went through. It’s a miracle he’s even still alive. And it’s a lesson of where fulfillment can truly be found. Hint: it isn’t fame and fortune. 9/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Nonfiction

Amazing Surgeons: Two Books

Two books: one nonfiction and one fiction.

Two doctors: a pediatric neurosurgeon and an embittered heart surgeon.

One goal: save the patient.

I always say that books seem to enter our lives at the right time, and these two are no different. There is something special and similar about them that made me feel they needed to be grouped together. I highly recommend both.

First, ALL THAT MOVES US, by Jay Wellons. Dr. Jay Wellons, to be exact. An experienced pediatric neurosurgeon with decades of operating and teaching experience, this is his memoir and love letter to the profession. We follow him from patient to patient, those that he saved and those he couldn’t, year after year. As expected, certain patients stand out and have left imprints on his heart. The writing is excellent and his humility is admirable. Be prepared for some detailed medical explanations, but it is never boring. A great, timely autobiography. 9.5/10 Stars

Next, WHEN CRICKETS CRY, by the incomparable Charles Martin. I truly believe Martin is one of our greatest living novelists, and I’ve only read four of his books with many more left to discover. It is, perhaps, a minor spoiler to identify the main character as a surgeon because he spends most of the story building and restoring boats with his brother-in-law, Charlie (who deserves his own book.) But whether he is known as “Reese Mitch: boat builder” or “Jonathan Reese Mitchell: heart surgeon extraordinaire,” he is still a lonely, broken man. When Reese meets Annie, a little girl selling lemonade who is ill and wise beyond her years, he must ask himself if the time is right to emerge from his shell of grief and uncertainty and tap into his incredible gifts. 9.5/10

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Faith, Nonfiction, Self-Help

Raising Emotionally Strong Boys, by David Thomas

AVAILABLE June 14, 2022

I am so impressed with this book! Although I’m not a parent, I have taught hundreds of boys ages 4-11 in my teaching career. I could not help but think of the variety of personalities and levels of emotional strength in my young students.

The insights and tools in this book are excellent. It emphasizes the importance of teaching boys not only to manage their emotions, but to give themselves permission to have them in the first place. It talks about how essential it is for boys to see examples of other men being vulnerable, asking for help, losing a competition, and mourning a loved one, all without compromising their manliness. That is something I appreciated greatly, being married to a very masculine, but also a sensitive man.

I also thought about the other men in my life: my second generation absent father, my brother who broke that cycle and is an extremely involved dad to his children, an amazing grandfather who often stepped into the father role, cousins and uncles, circling back to my husband, who is one of the most emotionally strong men I know.

While I welcome them, I was not prepared for the amount of Biblical references. They may, unfortunately, limit the book’s audience. The author uses Christ as the ultimate example of emotional strength. Who better to pattern your life after?

This would make a great book club selection, a terrific gift, and an interesting read for parents, grandparents, and teachers. Thank you NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

9.5/10 Stars

Autobiography, Faith, Memoir, Nonfiction

Hope Unseen, by Captain Scotty Smiley and Doug Crandall

“I’m not sure what God is going to do with my life, but I know that there are good things in store and that He has a purpose for me.”

I first heard about Scott Smiley a few weeks ago. He was a guest speaker at an event hosted by a state congressional candidate I follow on Facebook. I had no idea who he was and what made him so inspiring. As I learned more about him and his story, I was reminded how backwards this world is, in that so many famous people have done very little for others, basking in the light of their own glory, while those who truly deserve our attention are often relegated to smaller venues.

One of seven children, a West Point graduate who married his high school sweetheart, Tiffany, Scotty Smiley’s life dramatically changed on April 6, 2005. While leading a 40-man platoon in Iraq charged with finding car bombs stationed throughout a residential area, Smiley confronted a suicide bomber at the moment of detonation. At that instant his world went black. He was blinded and partially paralyzed.

This book tells of Captain Smiley’s journey from that day to recovery, rehabilitation, and finding a new purpose in life. Make no mistake, this man had his gloomy days–lots of them–despite being blessed with an incredible support system of family and friends. Going from an independent, highly motivated Army officer to a man who could get lost walking in a parking lot was a huge blow. It challenged his sense of self and his lifelong faith down to their very cores.

Certainly, his story is one like many veterans who return home with physical and emotional scars that can last a lifetime. Living in a country that hasn’t seen war on its own soil for such a long time can make us feel distanced from the sacrifices made on a daily basis by people who dedicate their lives to preserving freedom for ourselves and others. No doubt, his story, faith, and determination are worthy of 10 stars. As a piece of writing I do wish it was more linear with less detours. There were several, although it may be the style of his coauthor. But overall, Scotty Smiley does make you want to try harder and be better, remembering that through God, all things are possible.

8.5/10 Stars

Biography, Historical Fiction, Nonfiction

The Indigo Girl, by Natasha Boyd

I was different. Different from other women. The crushing paralysis that came from being stuck between a past I couldn’t return to and a future I couldn’t have was heightened by the realization there was nothing to be done about it. I couldn’t change the fact I was a woman.

It is the mid 1700’s, closer to the American Revolution than the American Civil War. Sixteen-year-old Eliza Lucas has been set a daunting task. While seeking to advance his military commission in Antigua, her father wants her to take charge of the business dealings of their three plantations in South Carolina. This will involve supervising planting, harvesting, selling, bartering with buyers, managing multiple accounts, sparring with violent overseers, and dealing with slaves and their internal dynamics and hierarchy. Her mother, on the other hand, has only one goal for Eliza–find a husband.

Colonel Lucas has every reason to feel confident in his daughter, but no one can predict the amount of obstacles Eliza will encounter, some of which her father creates. An unmarried teenage girl who cannot vote or own land holds little sway in the business world. Only the most intelligent, respectful, progressive individuals will see past her age, gender and marital status. They are few and far between.

With rice being the main cash crop of the region, Eliza sets a new goal. Indigo. It is a revolutionary idea, one that requires ideal conditions and knowledge of the plants and how to transform them into marketable dye cakes. Success eludes her again and again. But never tell a smart, determined woman that something cannot be accomplished. That will only kindle the fire within her.

This is a true story, which makes it even more remarkable, and perfect for March–Women’s History Month. The real Eliza left behind writings which were, aptly, passed from mother to daughter for generations. Details lost to time are woven in elegantly by the author. The story is inspiring and the writing is marvelous. Very highly recommended and a terrific read for book clubs.

~I found miracles every day and I clung to them…~

9.5/10 Stars

Autobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction

Val Kilmer: I’m Your Huckleberry, by Val Kilmer

Do you ever finish a book and sit in awe at the beauty you’ve just witnessed? That is how I feel having just completed Val Kilmer’s autobiography. It is, hands down, the best memoir I’ve ever read.

If you’ve ever seen him as Doc Holliday in Tombstone (the greatest modern western EVER) or his embodiment of Jim Morrison in The Doors, you know that Val Kilmer is a dynamic force onscreen, able to morph into a character while he, himself, disappears. Like his idol and mentor, Marlon Brando, he purposefully chose parts that were difficult. If you’re not constantly challenging yourself, what’s the point?

Then his greatest tool, his voice, was cruelly taken away by throat cancer and its subsequent treatments. The swagger is gone too, replaced by introspection and humility. Why do the great ones lose what’s most important to their work? It seems so unfair. I was reminded of Beethoven losing his hearing and Renoir’s hands crippled by arthritis. Except a true artist will carry on, as exemplified here.

This is a brilliant man who peppers his book with words like equanimity, quixotic, autodidact, and digestif. Thank goodness for the Kindle dictionary link. But not once do you feel you are being talked down to, instead, you’re being elevated and forced to challenge yourself as well. And the profanity that often slithers into celebrity autobiographies? There is none. A wordsmith like Val has no use for curse words in telling his story. They are for the lazy.

Connections to people, nature, and art in all its forms constantly propel him. I loved learning about his devotion to Mark Twain’s writings, his Christian Science faith, and his adoration for his children, Mercedes and Jack. I’ve seen them interviewed and the feeling is clearly mutual. He’s worked hard not to repeat the tenuous relationship he had with his own father.

I can understand why this book was a bestseller. It isn’t just because he starred in several blockbusters. People may buy it for that reason, but they will read it and recommend it for another. It is masterful. Just because his voice is gone, does not mean Kilmer will be silenced. Stay strong, Val. We can still hear you.

10/10 Stars

P.S. I’m going to do something I’ve never done, and that is to provide a link to my highlights. Visit it. You’ll see what I mean.

Autobiography, Entertainment, Memoir, Nonfiction

Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin

If you grew up in the 1970s and 80s, you will remember a specific group of comedians that rose to fame during that time. There was the unparalleled original Saturday Night Live cast and there were those who worked from a different direction, like Robin Williams, Andy Kaufman, and Steve Martin to name a few.

The older I get, the more I appreciate Steve Martin’s brand of comedy, which has also matured. His depth and brilliance is equally apparent when he takes on serious film roles. If you’ve never seen him in The Spanish Prisoner, see it. Recently I watched Shopgirl for the first time, with a screenplay written by Steve Martin based on his novella of the same name. These are worthwhile departures from his earlier films and he surrounds himself with cerebral, high quality actors in both.

I knew Steve Martin was originally from Waco, Texas. I knew he once worked in the magic shop at Disneyland. I knew he played the banjo with great proficiency. I knew it was a delight and an honor to see him perform live twice with the Steep Canyon Rangers (in Los Angeles and Eugene, Oregon.) But I knew nothing about his childhood and the years of paying his dues.

Like many comedians, Steve Martin’s humor was born out of pathos and melancholy, partly innate and partly inflicted upon him by others. His mother was his shining light while his father was critical, moody, and envious.
Success brought other demons, as it often does.

In a brief two hundred pages and with a deft, fluid style, we travel in that time machine called memory back to simpler decades when a young boy and then young man sought escapism and validation through performing. Never delving much into his personal life except when it intersected with his career, Martin confirms his status as one at the top of his profession. He is a student of the science of comedy, always working to refine, improve, and evolve his technique. In a time where modern celebrities are often famous because of their lifestyles, it was refreshing to read about someone whose success came because of tenacity and a doggedly determined work ethic. In this ever-increasingly serious world, we need people like this.

9/10 Stars

Biography, History, Nonfiction, Series & Collections

Alan Turing, by Hourly Histories

After watching The Imitation Game again, I felt like it was time to learn more about Alan Turing, one of those essential people in history whose story was suppressed for decades after his death. In doing so I happened upon the Hourly Histories series.

These books, which focus mostly on war and film figures of the 1940s are truly excellent. In about 80 pages they describe much about the subject, getting to the heart of what made them who they were and the importance of their contributions. I’ve read a few others and was equally impressed.

Like many geniuses, Turing was a brilliant man with a tragic life, but as the father of the modern computer–upon which we all rely–his name needs to be known and recognized.

Hourly Histories books will interest a variety of readers of different ages. They would make great additions to a classroom or home library and digital versions are available to borrow if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

8.5/10 Stars

Autobiography, Faith, Memoir, Nonfiction

River of Fire, by Sister Helen Prejean

While exploring new podcasts I came across one called Everything Happens, with Kate Bowler, out of Duke University. She often focuses on Catholic themes, but not always, and she has an intelligent, soft-spoken style of interviewing that draws you in while making the interviewee feel comfortable.

One of my favorite episodes was the Helen Prejean interview. You may not think you know who Helen Prejean is, but you probably do if you’ve heard of the biographical film Dead Man Walking, with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Sister Prejean, a Catholic nun from the Deep South, has made it her life’s work to befriend and advocate for prisoners on death row.

However you may feel about the death penalty–hot button topic that it is–you will enjoy River of Fire, Sister Prejean’s autobiography. Her warm, Southern, conversational drawl permeates through the pages as you travel with her back to Louisiana in the early nineteen forties and fifties. You read about her childhood, her funny relationship with her sister, and her personal vocation to serve others as a nun. You’ll also learn about the dramatic shift brought on by Vatican II and the necessary adjustments required of those in the Catholic ministry.

I admire Sister Prejean’s tireless efforts to serve the poor, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized. The world needs more people with her compassion for others.

9/10 Stars

Listen to the podcast episode HERE. (25 minutes)

Autobiography, Nonfiction

The Wilding Way, by Michael Wilding

Just like there are talented musicians on YouTube who you will never see in a large venue or at the Grammys, there are actors with witty charm who can hold their own with the biggest names and never quite become big names themselves.

Enter Michael Wilding, best known (sadly) as Husband #2 of Elizabeth Taylor. Their marriage lasted a bumpy 5 years, where he sacrificed a very promising British film career to follow his young bride to America. He is the father of her two sons, Michael Jr. and Christopher. But Hollywood didn’t quite know what to do with him, and his star faded like a blinking light bulb, while Taylor’s became stratospheric.

I went down a rabbit hole a few months ago that led me to this autobiography of an actor who is so self-effacing and charming, I began a quest to find his films. It isn’t easy. Most are unavailable or Region 2 DVDs (Europe,) but I did manage to find a few, especially his starring turns with Anna Neagle (wife of Herbert Wilcox, who is the father of Wilding’s coauthor.) They were the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan of their day and the films I did find with the two of them are positively delightful. (Spring in Park Lane and Maytime in Mayfair, both with the same main cast, on DVD only. I found them on eBay.)

Unlike Elizabeth Taylor, whose childhood was anything but conventional, Michael Wilding came from a stable family whose parents allowed him to explore his interests. This led him on a fascinating life journey through four marriages and a myriad of film and TV genres, putting him in the company of some exceptional people like Noel Coward (check out In Which We Serve, on Amazon streaming–it’s excellent) and Alfred Hitchcock (I liked Stage Fright, but found Under Capricorn tiresome.)

Michael Wilding with his future and final wife,
Margaret Leighton, in Under Capricorn

Despite being saddled with epilepsy, Wilding remained dignified and roguish until the very end, which came too soon. Other films I’ve enjoyed are The Law and the Lady with Greer Garson, The Glass Slipper with Leslie Caron (skip the ballets, trust me,) and the semi-campy Torch Song with troublesome Joan Crawford. These last three, plus his films with Anna Neagle, are his best.

What I liked best about The Wilding Way was that he never once plays a victim of circumstance, always taking responsibility for his failures. There is a breezy grace to the way he moves onscreen and in his life, never taking it too seriously. A cross between Cary Grant, Danny Kaye, and Laurence Olivier. An impressive (and fun) mix.

8.5/10 Stars


The Menopause Manifesto, by Dr. Jen Gunter

Time to play catch-up! There are several reviews that will appear soon on this blog. Get ready! Here we go:

I remember a scene in Father of the Bride Part 2 when Diane Keaton was looking at books on the bed table of a house where she and her husband were staying. All of them were on menopause. I’m sure I chuckled about this upon my first viewing of the movie. Who would want to read a book on menopause? The book title that comes to mind in that stack is “The Silent Passage.”

The operative word being “silent.” Menopause is a subject rarely discussed unless one seeks it out. That is maddening, because few of us–myself included–are prepared when it happens to us. In a few weeks I turn 51, the average age of menopause, yet I’m ashamed to admit that I knew little about it, including those several years leading up to it, called peri-menopause. (To be clear, one has experienced “menopause” when 12 full months have elapsed since the last menstrual period. Symptoms up until that point are “peri-menopause.”) So am I experiencing menopause right now? No.

The Menopause Manifesto was recommended to me last week by a Facebook group acquaintance. I devoured it in two days, focusing mostly on sections that pertain specifically to my own experience. Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN with decades of experience treating patients, covers A LOT. It’s her manifesto because she frustratingly reveals the plight of menopausal women filtered through a profession dominated by men. It’s not to hate on men, but it is the reality that people who will never experience menopause have, historically, treated those who will go through the physical/emotional/mental/sexual changes caused by this phenomenon.

Yes, phenomenon. Women’s bodies are amazing! They are so much more than objectified, CGIed, Photoshopped 2-dimensional objects in magazines and film. And, as progressive as we would like to think modern society is when it comes to our bodies, we have a long way to go. Women are just as much to blame as men in this respect. We deserve better and we need to do better. All women’s bodies are beautiful. Say it with me: ALL WOMEN’S BODIES ARE BEAUTIFUL.

One major discovery from this book: Ancestral family medical history plays absolutely no role when it comes to menopausal symptoms. Just because a mother had hot flashes doesn’t mean her daughter will too. Every menopausal body is unique, and the closest indication of what to expect–but by no means a guarantee–is between sisters, not mother and daughter.

The predictable unpredictability was another. Basically, menopause is a roller coaster of one’s very own. Nature’s tailor-made experience. But that experience can affect others, so the chapter on how peri-menopause and menopause affect sexual desire is one that I highly recommend couples read together.

I’m so grateful this book was recommended to me. It holds a wealth of knowledge, situations, and medical information that will be helpful to ANYONE who reads it. But if you are in your early forties and menopause is on the horizon for you, it is essential and invaluable.

9.5/10 Stars

Biography, Nonfiction

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

The story of an adopted son of a blue-collar family becoming founder and CEO of the most successful company in the world is nothing short of epic. But the journey getting there is just as intriguing. Knowing the cancer he’d been battling for years would eventually win, Steve Jobs took control in the only way he could, enlisting a hand-picked biographer to take charge of his story, in effect, getting ahead of those who would dissect his life after his passing.

No matter what kind of smartphone you use, you’re Team Apple whether you realize it or not. Those clicks, pinch zooms, and swipes that are second nature to all of us started with the iPhone and morphed into every smartphone brand available. The App store, the Cloud, digital music, digital animation–all of these and more were refined by Steve Jobs and his “A team.” Refined, but not necessarily invented. He gave us simplicity in our devices we didn’t even know we wanted until we owned one. The artistry he demanded in every detail of Apple’s technology and aspect of the company is both the root of his brilliance and the target of criticism. Yet, for those of us deeply embedded and loyal to Apple’s integrated ecosystem, it wouldn’t even be possible without that controlling grip upon which Jobs tirelessly insisted.

Issacson’s biography, written after dozens of interviews with Jobs, his family, and colleagues, is as unvarnished as it gets. Intimidating, moody, exhausted and exhausting, changeable, eccentric, we see all sides of Jobs. From his adoption, to garage inventions with Steve Wozniak, to the building and rebuilding of Apple, to his family and friend relationships, to his health challenges and everything in between, we ride alongside this man whose quest for excellence and vision has permeated into nearly everything that involves personal technology. The legacy he left behind, as well as trusted lieutenants like current Apple CEO Tim Cook and former VP of Design Jony Ive show that all of the blood, sweat and tears–lots of tears–was worth it.

9.5/10 stars