Book review: With or Without You by Domenica Ruta (9780679645023) E-book

15998223“I will not become my mother.”

These were famous last words from Domenica (Nikki) Ruta. It was touch and go for a while.

Nikki’s mom, Kathi, was a drug addict who wanted her daughter to have more than she did. This book is not only about Nikki’s fight to try and find a “normal” life, but it is also a story of Kathi who truly loves her daughter and will fight tooth and nail to find the money to put her daughter in a private school and then on to college.

Your emotions are all over the place with this story. One minute you are laughing, the next you are crying and then you are angry. The ups and downs of Nikki’s life are like a roller coaster and when she finally realizes she needs to change or die, you breathe a sigh of relief.  This is a remarkable memoir that you won’t want to put down.

Thank you to Ms. Ruta, Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

Book review: Hey Kids, Want Some Chocolates?: My Family’s Journey to Freedom by Melitta Strandberg (9781456717933)

“I guess sometimes the search for freedom is enough to keep one alive.”

Melitta and her family’s  experience in Nazi Germany in WWII was something that no one wants to contemplate, but it happened and she has written a short, but stirring memoir about it.  In Weimar, Germany, Melitta was born on September 3, 1944 and she was taken from her mother in the hospital in order to perform experiments on her.  However, miraculously, she was returned to her family 6 months later with no side effects resulting from the time away.  Her story covers the frightening journey her family took for freedom and how they finally found peace.

Melitta eventually moved to the United States along with some of her siblings and was asked if she would give any comments to Americans regarding freedom.  She replied:  “I have come to deeply love this country and what it stands for, but much has changed and is changing.  We must be vigilant against those who wittingly and unwittingly destroy our freedom.  Bad politicians can do that.”

There is a lot of impact squeezed into this short book and I recommend it to people of all ages.

Thank you to Melitta Strandberg and Bostick Communications for giving me the opportunity to review this book.  Also reviewed on LibraryThing, Amazon and GoodReads.

Book review: There Are Worse Things I Could Do by Adrienne Barbeau (9780786716371)

Adrienne Barbeau is not only a gifted actress and singer, but a gifted writer as well. There is early proof in the excerpts from her journals starting in fifth grade and her ninth grade term paper., “To Be Or Not To Be: Acting as a Vocation”. She writes with honesty, strength, humility and humor. This book will make you laugh, cry and just root for the skinny little girl with glasses and bushy hair that became a beautiful woman, mother, wife and a darned good actress.

Book review – Forgiving Troy: A True Story of Murder, Mental Illness, and Recovery by Thom Bierdz (9781615394852)

Thom Bierdz is an actor, artist, author and loving brother who reaches into his own psyche to tell a heart wrenching and raw account of his life that will leave you breathless.

Not only does Thom write about his struggle to understand why his brother murdered his mother, but he writes about his struggles with his religious beliefs, his sexuality, his acting career and his own mental challenges. His writing style is remarkable. You feel like he is sitting right in front of you telling his life story and he leaves nothing out.

A very gripping book that pulled me in from the beginning. I read this book in one sitting and will not forget it. One of the best memoirs I have read in a long time. I look forward to Thom’s return to The Young and the Restless and I hope to see a motion picture soon based on this book.

Also, I want to mention Thom’s striking artwork that is displayed throughout the book. He has a website at http://www.ThomBierdz.com that shows more of his work.

Thank you very much to Thom and Bostick Communications for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

Book review: Suitcase Full of Dreams by Hoy Kersh (9780982316511)

“There is a hardness to life that I couldn’t understand.” ~Hoy Kersh

Ms. Kersh’s wonderful prose brings me back to the first time I read Harper Lee’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird”.  Her descriptions of her family, her surroundings and growing up in the tumultuous South make you feel like you were right there beside her.  From her days in Catholic school, to her grandmother’s strong presence, to the civil rights movement, this book is Ms. Hersh’s journey toward a new life.

Thank you to Ms. Kersh and PR by the Book for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

Book Review: Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg (9781401322472)

ef6915d875944e459394d375551417941414141“Without really trying, I have become a collector of other families’ secrets.” –Steve Luxenberg.

Steve Luxenberg’s memoir reads like a mystery.  In the Spring of 1995, Steve finds out that his mother, Beth, had a sister, Annie, who was mentally and physically disabled.  This and other family secrets unfold in a number of shocking revelations and frustrating dead ends.

His story explores the history of mental institutions and how those patients had fewer rights than criminals.  It explores the life of poor Jewish immigrants who tried to make ends meet the best way they knew how by sacrificing things they held dear.  Most importantly it is a personal story of a man who wants to find answers to get closure from a life of secrets.

Steve is a journalist for The Washington Post and the perfect person to do research for his families’ story.  Through interviews, letters, documents, and hospital records he traces Annie’s history which kept this reader on the edge of her seat.  I commend Steve for telling such a personal story which helps us to reflect on what is important to us in our lives.

Book review:The Shipwreck of a Nation. Germany: An Inside View by H. Peter Nennhaus (9781432734039)

1432734032.01._SX50_SCLZZZZZZZ_H. Peter Nennhaus grew up in Berlin during WWII; a volatile time in German and world history.  The book is different in that he tells the story from a German boy’s point of view who saw things differently at that time in history.  You can see Mr. Nennhaus’s interest in history by reading the historical events in this book.  He tries to link these events to what was happening in his life at that same time.

A memorable scene was when his father, who worked for the German Ministry of Agriculture, was trying to deter the young 15-year-old Peter from wanting to join Hitler’s war.

It was not how he said it; he spoke with fatherly concern, earnest and like a friend.  It was what he said.  It not only contradicted my innermost feelings and desires, but it also violated my idealism, which had been burned and hardened in the patriotic kiln of war….I was on the threshold of what I had been waiting for these past five years, and now Father told me it was wrong.

Despite his dad’s hopes, Peter was drafted at 16 years old to attend pre-military training at the Adolf-Hitler School in the Swiss Alps and he finds out first hand that the war is going no where.

The prose went back and forth from historical events to events happening in his families lives which only seemed to slow down my reading.

Mr. Nennhaus’s account of his life at this frightening time in history is verypersonal and heartbreaking and I commend him and his family for the courage and perseverance they displayed in trying to survive such a horrible event.

Book Review: Who Do You Think You Are? by Alyse Myers (9781416543060)

1416543066.01._SX50_SCLZZZZZZZ_Alyse Myers’s memoir is very personal, brave and honest.

This memoir was mainly about Alyse Myers’ rocky relationship with her mother. The eldest of three girls, Alyse adored her father, but hated her mother. Alyse was her father’s favorite, but her mother’s jealousy and anger at the attention he paid to Alyse was something that Alyse would carry with her for the rest of her life.

It begins with her mother’s funeral when she remembers a secured wooden box that her mother kept in her bedroom closet. This is the only item in her mother’s apartment that she wants, but she is afraid what it contains and waits to open it 12 years later with her 15 year old daughter present.

Most of the book is a flashback to her years growing up in the 1960’s in a poor section of Queens, New York, when her father was frequently away on business and her mother stayed at home with the children.

I was caught up in this book from the very beginning and couldn’t put it down. The simple prose enlightens us that no family relationship is perfect and that everyone has their ups and downs. Alyse’s fight to find out who she is and to win her mother’s love is a true mark of perseverance and forgiveness. I highly recommend this book.

Book review: Behind the Mask…No More by Byron Nease (9781419655296)

1419655299.01._SX50_SCLZZZZZZZ_ Byron Nease’s memoir is both tragic and uplifting at the same time.

Byron “Bud” Nease was born into a family in turmoil and was whisked away from his minister father and his two sisters by his neurotic, actress/singer mother at a very young age to a life of abuse and confusion.

He spends most of his life explaining to his father that he is Christian and he is gay. Though his father is not happy with Bud’s “choice”, he does not banish him from his life.

When Bud is diagnosed as HIV positive, his life and career are threatened due to the side effects of the many drugs he is taking. However, he proves that he is a survivor and he has his family’s and friend’s support through the difficulties he encounters.

As for Bud’s professional life, he is a singer and actor who has many wonderful famous friends who support him in his happiest and his darkest moments.

I enjoyed Mr. Nease’s story for the notable strength and perseverance that he demonstrates for the many obstacles that he has had to overcome. The many photographs in his book are very telling and help the reader to visualize the people and places he loved so much. Though the book was written more like a diary, which some people may not like, I found it an enjoyable read.