The Light We Carry Book Review

It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind and many headlines coming from the evening news. Before we know it, the stress and negativity start to creep in and our outlook starts to change for the worse.

Michelle Obama‘s new book, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, was published this month. While reflecting on her own life and challenges, the former First Lady asks big questions that do not have an easy answers. In doing so, she talks about the people and skills that have helped her to get through the various obstacles that have stood in her way. Building on a life of experience, she encourages the reader to tackle the stumbling blocks in their own lives and find their happiness.

This is classic Michelle Obama: funny, down-to-earth, honest, and humble.

Though she does not speak directly about mental health, there are aspects of the book that can help with this illness in its various forms. Instead of bullshitting or providing pie-in-the-sky answers, her approach is simple and relatable. As someone who has been living with mental illness for years, I appreciated her outlook. It is refreshing in a world that could easily bring us down.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Light We Carry is available wherever books are sold.

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Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence Book Review

Rape and sexual assault are unfortunately a part of human history. For as long as anyone can remember, women have dealt with this reality on a daily basis.

Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence, by Ken Auletta, was published in July. This biography tells the story of former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the 2017 revelation of the numerous women he forced himself on.

Born to a Jewish family in Queens, Weinstein was an insecure boy who grew into an insecure man. Though this business acumen is notable, how he treated people (and women specifically) is another story. Though there were instances of kindness and generosity, those events were few and far between. He was temperamental, impatient, arrogant, and threw his power around like a frisbee.

The stories of the women Weinstein assaulted are basically the same. He would turn on the charm and make them believe that he was genuinely interested. He would then invite them to his hotel room to discuss possible career opportunities. Once that hotel room door closed, it was just a matter of time.

For obvious reasons, this book is hard to read. It is a long read and the subject is obviously a difficult one.

The psychological profile that Auletta presents is that of a bully. Like all bullies, he has unresolved issues. Instead of dealing with them in a healthy manner, he lashes out and takes his anger out on others.

If nothing else, it should get us all angry. The problem is not just Weinstein’s actions, it is the complicity of everyone around him. As Auletta points out, his sexual reputation was not unknown. Instead of rallying around his victims, the majority stayed silent. If they had the gall to speak out, there were consequences. It was only after the initial revelations in 2017 that the silence was acknowledged and genuine change started to occur.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also state that this is one of the top five books of the year.

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The Matchmaker’s Gift: A Novel Book Review

The concept of marrying for love is a relatively new one. In the past, marriage was a business arrangement. Your spouse was based on your status in society, not the person who made you happy.

Lynda Cohen Loigman‘s new novel, The Matchmaker’s Gift: A Novel, was published in September. In the early 20th century, Sara Glikman has just emigrated to America with her family. Moving to the Lower East Side, she has recently discovered that she has a talent for making matches.

The problem is that she is a girl. The men who make a living doing the same thing are far from pleased that their competition is a young lady. After a decade of doing her work in secret, Sara has to find the courage to stand up for herself.

Decades later, Sara’s granddaughter Abby is a divorce lawyer, representing the rich and famous. A child of divorce herself, she takes a cynical view of romance. Soon after Sara’s passing, Abby inherits a series of journals that contains details of her grandmother’s matchmaking. As she begins to go through the pages, she begins to question her career choices and her opinion on love.

I have been a fan of this author since her first book. Kudos to her for creating a dual timeline that is believable and easy to follow. In my experience (as both a reader and a writer), this is one of the harder narratives to craft. The balance between the individual stories while slowly weaving them together is akin to walking a literary tightrope. If one is out of balance, the reader is likely to walk away.

I loved it. It was compelling, entertaining, and inspiring. Sara is a proto-feminist, standing up against those who stand in her way simply because of her gender.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would go as far as to say that this is one of my favorite new books of the year.

The Matchmaker’s Gift: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

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Waypoints: My Scottish Journey Book Review

Mother nature has a way of providing a fresh perspective as nothing else can. She challenges us to examine what we think we know and ask ourselves hard questions.

The new travelogue/ memoir, Waypoints: My Scottish Journey is written by Outlander star Sam Heughan. It is more than the average celebrity autobiography. While telling the story of his life and career, he describes the journey he took while hiking Scotland‘s West Highland Way.

Raised by his single mother after his father walked out on the family, Sam decided early on that he wanted to be an actor. Taking the typical route of a working performer, he would eventually earn worldwide fame as Jamie Fraser.

I truly enjoyed this book. Instead of coming off as obnoxious and “look at me”, Heughan is down-to-earth, intelligent, and warm. I appreciated his honesty about fame and its trapping, both good and bad. What struck me was the pressure to look a certain way in order to achieve success. Though it may appear to only be a woman’s issue, the truth is that it affects everyone who wants to be in front of the camera.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Waypoints: My Scottish Journey is available wherever books are sold.

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My Two Elaines: Learning Coping and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Book Review

To say that it is difficult to lose a loved one to Alzheimer’s is an understatement. The slow destruction of their mind is painful beyond words. It is an experience that I know all too well.

The new memoir, My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, by Martin J. Schreiber and Cathy Breitenbucher, was published in June. Schreiber was Governor of Wisconsin in the late 1970s. He was also the caregiver of his late wife, Elaine. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the early 2000s, he spent the last 18 years taking care of her.

The book tells the story of her disease and their life together. Meeting in high school, they married young and had four children. Martin would eventually get into politics while Elaine took on the traditional roles of wife and mother. She was also his biggest cheerleader and actively campaigned for him.

When it became apparent that something was off, Martin did everything he could to support her.

The best way to describe the book is part love story, part memoir, and part advice column. In between the story of their life together is guidance and information on how to deal with slow and painful mental decline.

What made the narrative stick for me were two distinct elements. The first is reading Elaine’s own words. The second is Martin’s perspective as the male caregiver. Normally, this role is fulfilled by a female, whether she is his wife, family member, or an aide who has been hired out from an agency.

The most important part for me (as a family member of someone who has the illness), is how important mental health is for the person who is taking care of their loved one. Taking time for themselves provides a much needed break from the stress that comes with this experience.

In providing his perspective, he shows that this experience is universal, regardless of gender. It also shows how powerful love can be, even during challenging times.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver is available wherever books are sold.

Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind Book Review

It wasn’t that long ago that politicians on both sides of the aisle understood that compromise was the key to getting the job done. These days, compromise is a dirty word.

Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind, by Robert Draper, was published last month. In the book, he details the pervasive and planned destruction of American democracy in the name of power. They are names that we know all too well: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Kevin McCarthy, etc.

What I find to be disturbing and scary is that this plan is not haphazardly thrown together. These Republicans know exactly what they are doing. They know what to say to rile up their base, they know who to say it to, and they know how to manipulate the facts.

If we are to keep this nation going as it was envisioned by its founders (warts and all), we need to make it clear that what they are doing is wrong and unacceptable. Until then, they will continue to play this game that puts everything we hold dear in danger.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind is available wherever books are sold.

Cradles of the Reich: A Novel Book Review

Just when we think we have been told every story there is to tell about World War II, another narrative reveals itself.

The new novel, Cradles of the Reich: A Novel, by Jennifer Coburn, was published last month.

One of the mostly unknown aspects of the Nazi propaganda machine was the Lebensborn project. In order to bring about and raise “racially fit” children, unwed mothers of appropriate backgrounds were sent to homes to prepare for when their babies would enter the world. After the birth, the newborns would then be given to other families to raise as their own.

The tale focuses on three women. Gundi is a university student who is both pregnant and a member of the resistance. The father of Hilde’s child is married, a generation ahead of her, and high up in the government. She is only 18 and has fully immersed herself in the regime’s ideals. Irma is a nurse whose job is to take care of the girls and their babies. After dealing with a deeply personal loss, she needs a new opportunity.

Each will soon learn that not everything is as rosy as it seems to be.

Wow. As I got further along, I kept getting flashes of The Handmaid’s Tale. In both worlds, the next generation is not a cherished member of the family. They are commodities to be used to further the government’s agenda.

I loved it. It is engaging, powerful, and instantly pulled me in. It is a reminder of how quickly we can forget our humanity and the journey that we must go on to reclaim it.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. In fact, it is one of the best books I have read this year.

Cradles of the Reich: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

My Moment: 106 Women on Fighting for Themselves

We all know that we live in a world that is not exactly kind to those of us of the female sex. In order to get what we want, we need to speak up.

My Moment: 106 Women on Fighting for Themselves was published earlier this year. Co-written by Chely Wright, Linda Perry, Kristin Chenoweth, Lauren Blitzer, and Kathy Najimy, the book contains stories of women standing up for themselves. They run the gamut from famous to unknown, young and old, and come from across the world.

Starts at 3:02

I loved this book. Though the subjects are all different, they have one thing in common: they were faced with a moment in which a decision had to be made. They could either use their voice or stand down. They chose to stand up for themselves. In doing so, they changed their lives and inspired others to do the same.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

My Moment: 106 Women on Fighting for Themselves is available wherever books are sold.

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The Artist’s Way Book Review

Creativity is like a ball of energy. Without a vessel/tool to harness it or shape it, it just hangs there.

The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, was originally published in 1992. The 25th-anniversary edition was published in 2016. In the book, Cameron takes a unique approach to be creative. Using a variety of techniques (such as The Morning Pages and Artist Dates) she encourages her readers to dig deep and discover what is holding them back. She also includes exercises, activities, and prompts in each chapter, giving the reader further opportunities to pull out what is metaphorically inside of them.

I was shocked that I had never heard of this book until a friend told me about it recently. Learning about Cameron’s methods was almost akin to picking up a mental health-related self-help book. It’s not just about facing what is blocking us as artists, it is what is holding us back in life as well.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Artist’s Way is available wherever books are sold.

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships Book Review

Our friends are more than our chosen family. They are our support system and the ones we turn to in our hour of need.

For more than fifty years, respected NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg palled around with the late Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Their half-a-century friendship is detailed in Totenberg’s new memoir, Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships.

The book tells a dual narrative. It reveals the real women behind the powerhouse figures while reminding the reader of the barriers they broke along the way. Through professional highs and personal sorrows, Totenberg and Ginsburg were as thick as thieves.

The book is ok. Though there is no denying that both women made history and continue to inspire us today. The problem is that the story is slow. Though I did finish it, I was left with an eh feeling.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships is available wherever books are sold.

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