Review: My Glory Was I have Such Friends, by Amy Silverstein – with Giveaway

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends About the book, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (June 27, 2017)

In this moving memoir about the power of friendship and the resilience of the human spirit, Amy Silverstein tells the story of the extraordinary group of women who supported her as she waited on the precipice for a life-saving heart transplant.

Nearly twenty-six years after receiving her first heart transplant, Amy Silverstein’s donor heart plummeted into failure. If she wanted to live, she had to take on the grueling quest for a new heart—immediately.

A shot at survival meant uprooting her life and moving across the country to California. When her friends heard of her plans, there was only one reaction: “I’m there.” Nine remarkable women—Joy, Jill, Leja, Jody, Lauren, Robin, Valerie, Ann, and Jane—put demanding jobs and pressing family obligations on hold to fly across the country and be by Amy’s side. Creating a calendar spreadsheet, the women—some of them strangers to one another—passed the baton of friendship, one to the next, and headed straight and strong into the battle to help save Amy’s life.

Empowered by the kind of empathy that can only grow with age, these women, each knowing Amy from different stages of her life, banded together to provide her with something that medicine alone could not.  Sleeping on a cot beside her bed, they rubbed her back and feet when the pain was unbearable, adorned her room with death-distracting decorations, and engaged in their “best talks ever.”  They saw the true measure of their friend’s strength, and they each responded in kind.

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends is a tribute to these women and the intense hours they spent together—hours of heightened emotion and self-awareness, where everything was laid bare. Candid and heartrending, this once-in-a-lifetime story of connection and empathy is a powerful reminder of the ultimate importance of “showing up” for those we love.

Buy, read, and discuss, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes &  Noble | Goodreads


Amy Silverstein AP Photo by Deborah FeingoldAbout the author, Amy Silverstein

Amy Silverstein is the author of Sick Girl, which won a “Books for a Better Life Award” and was a finalist for the Border’s Original Voices Award. She earned her Juris Doctor at New York University School of Law, has served on the Board of the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), and is an active speaker and writer on women’s health issues and patient advocacy. She lives in New York.

Connect with Amy:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Memoirs are always tricky things to review, at least for me, because it feels a little like you’re judging the author’s life, rather than their writing and storytelling skills. In the case of My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, though, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a memoir, because the writing is so tight, the voice so consistent, and the storytelling so well-paced that it reads like a novel.

Silverstein is candid in telling her story. I haven’t read her previous book, Sick Girl, but I’m guessing her tone was similar in that: upbeat, despite the description of sometimes-grim events, a little bit snarky, a little bit self-deprecating, a lot poignant…

What really struck me, though, is that Silverstein’s book is full of joy.

Obviously when writing a story about life-threatening heart issues and the race between remaining beats in your existing heart and time to be hooked up with a new organ ready for transplant, you’re going to be joyful just for having survived it (spoiler: she lived, and wrote this book). But the sense of joy I felt while reading this was more than that. It was the sense that every friend mentioned in this memoir, these women (including one actually called Joy) who took chunks of their lives to support the author through a harrowing experience, both gave Amy strength and comfort, but also received the same.

It is my hope that most of us will never have to get so close to a ‘premature’ death that we’re not just looking it in the eye, but smelling its foul breath (seriously, does death floss?) , but if we do, we should all be so lucky as to have friends like Amy’s, and like Amy herself, because it’s clear from this memoir that her friendships go both ways.

Goes well with banana pudding with ‘nilla wafers.


My Glory Was I Had Such Friends Giveaway

One lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your best friend. (You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Thursday, July 20th. Winner will be notified by email.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 27th: Leigh Kramer

Wednesday, June 28th: Becklist

Thursday, June 29th: Tina Says…

Friday, June 30th: Openly Bookish

Monday, July 3rd: StephTheBookworm

Tuesday, July 4th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, July 5th: BookNAround

Thursday, July 6th: Bibliotica

Monday, July 10th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 11th: Literary Quicksand

Wednesday, July 12th: The Desert Bibliophile

Thursday, July 13th: Sara the Introvert

Monday, July 17th: She’s All Booked

Tuesday, July 18th: Everyone Needs Therapy

Wednesday, July 19th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, July 20th: Wining Wife

Review: All Our Waves Are Water, by Jamail Yogis – with Giveaway

All Our Waves Are Water coverAbout the book All Our Waves Are Water

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (July 4, 2017)

In this meditative memoir—a compelling fusion of Barbarian Days and the journals of Thomas Merton—the author of Saltwater Buddha reflects on his “failing toward enlightenment,” his continued search to find meaning and a greater understanding of the Divine in the world’s oceans as well as everyday life.

For Jaimal Yogis, the path to enlightenment is surfing. Between water and air, between control and surrender, between the tangible and intangible realities of life, the spiritual can be found. Born to a family of seekers, he left home at sixteen to surf in Hawaii and join a monastery—an adventure he chronicled in Saltwater Buddha. Now, in his early twenties, his heart is broken and he’s lost his way. Hitting the road again, he lands in a monastery in Dharamsala, where he meets Sonam, a displaced Tibetan.

To help his friend, Jaimal makes a cockamamie attempt to reunite him with his family in Tibet by way of America. Though he does not succeed, witnessing Sonam’s indomitable spirit in the face of failure offers Jaimal a deeper understanding of faith. When the two friends part, he cannot fathom the unlikely circumstances that will reunite them.

All Our Waves Are Water follows Jaimal’s trek from the Himalayas to Indonesia; to a Franciscan Friary in New York City to the dusty streets of Jerusalem; and finally to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Along his journey, Jaimal prays and surfs; mourning a lost love and seeking something that keeps eluding him, until he ultimately finds what he’s been looking for—that the perfect ride may well be the one we are on right now.

The poet Rumi wrote, “we are not a drop in the ocean. We are the ocean in a drop.” All Our Waves Are Water is Jaimal’s “attempt to understand the ocean in a drop, to find that one moon shining in the water everywhere”—to find the Divine that unites us all.

Buy, read, and discuss All Our Waves Are Water:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Jaimal Yogis AP Photo by Peter DawsonAbout the author, Jaimal Yogis

Jaimal Yogis is an award-winning writer, outdoorsman, and frequent teacher. He is the author of the memoir Saltwater Buddha, which has been made into a feature documentary film, and The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing, and Love.

A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, he has written for ESPN: The Magazine, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco magazine, Surfer’s Journal, and many other publications.He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and their three sons.

Connect with Jaimal:

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Defining Jaimal Yogis’ most recent book, All Our Waves Are Water, proved difficult for me. As I was describing the book to friends and family, I said, “well, it’s kind of a travel memoir, but it’s also about spirituality and physics  and neuroscience and surfing.” The truth is, that book is all of those things, but it’s also the perfect example of a finished product, a whole work, being much greater than the sum of its parts, because it’s also about creativity, finding your own path, and practicing self-care.

I don’t surf (I swim recreationally), but I eagerly read about surfing, because I share that connection to the water. That’s what initially drew me to this book, but all too quickly I found myself sharing bits of it that resonated with me with my husband, my friends, and my social media followers. I even tweeted the author as I was beginning to read it, sharing that I was hooked from the first page. (He was very kind in his response.)

I love it when a book grabs me like this, when it makes me think, examine, ponder, and then – because it’s the way I’m wired – pick up a notebook and pen and write something of my own. The first passage I quoted at people, I actually turned into a jpeg so I could put it on Instagram, with credit of course:

“The paths are simply fingers pointing at the moon, rafts across the ocean of suffering, different strokes for different folks. Or to use my favorite metaphor, the paths – like all things subject to birth and death – are waves.”

“God is the sea.”

And it went on from there.

Yogis’ writing is sophisticated, but still accessible. He’s sometimes funny, but his humor is the organic kind that is inspired by ordinary life. He’s candid, but never treads into TMI territory, and when he does discuss deeper subjects he does so in a way that is both informative and insightful. He never panders, but assumes that his audience can keep up with the shifts between tone and topic.

If you’re looking for a smarmy attempt to convince you to learn surfing and take up meditation – you won’t find it in All Our Waves are Water.

But… if you want to spend a few hours feeling like you’re having a conversation with a man who’s sharing some of his own experiences and life-lessons, you should read this book. No, you should devour it – absorb it the way I did.

Goes well with a mug of hot coffee and fresh scones, preferably enjoyed on a chilly coastal morning, while gazing at the ocean.


All Our Waves Are Water coverGiveaway

One lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your best friend. (You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, August 4th. Winner will be notified by email.


Tour StopsTLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 4th: Bibliotica

Monday, July 17th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 18th: Openly Bookish

Thursday, July 20th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Monday, July 24th: Toning the OM

Thursday, August 3rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Friday, August 4th: Everyone Needs Therapy

TBD: Jathan & Heather

TBD: Breezes at Dawn

TBD: Girl in a Boy House

Review: Return to Glow, by Chandi Wyant

About the book, Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy

 

  • Print Length: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Chandi Wyant (March 30, 2017)

In her early forties, Chandi Wyant’s world implodes in the wake of a divorce and traumatic illness. Determined to embrace life by following her heart, she sets out on Italy’s historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, to walk for forty days to Rome.

Weakened by her recent illness, she walks over the Apennines, through the valleys of Tuscany, and beside busy highways on her 425-kilometer trek equipped with a nineteen-pound pack, two journals, and three pens.

Return to Glow chronicles this journey that is both profoundly spiritual and ruggedly adventuresome. As Chandi traverses this ancient pilgrim’s route, she rediscovers awe in the splendor of the Italian countryside and finds sustenance and comfort from surprising sources. Drawing on her profession as a college history instructor, she gracefully weaves in relevant anecdotes, melding past and present in this odyssey toward her soul.

This delightful, transporting tale awakens the senses while inviting readers to discover their own inner glow by letting go of fixed expectations, choosing courage over comfort, and following their heart.

Buy, read, and discuss Return to Glow:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Chandi Wyant Chandi Wyant

A world traveler, photographer, writer and historian, Chandi Wyant has lived in Qatar, India, Italy, Switzerland and England, and has been returning to Italy with unremitting passion since she first lived there at age twenty. She holds a Masters degree in Florentine Renaissance history and is the former head of Sogni Italiani, an events planning firm specializing in weddings, vow renewals, and honeymoons in Italy.  The manuscript of her memoir, Return to Glow (2017), won third place in the 2015 National Association of Memoir contest.

When she’s not dreaming in Italian, she can be found teaching history and writing about travel for the Huffington Post and her blog, Paradise of Exiles.

Connect with Chandi:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

If you came across Chandi Wyant’s fascinating memoir Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy, you might note the athletic-looking blonde woman on the cover and think, “Oh, this is a rip-off of Wild,” and pass it by.

You would be missing out on a story that shares the barest of similarities with that oh-so-famous book – “woman heals herself emotionally and spiritually by taking a long hike”  – but is absolutely original. Even more, I found this book to be highly engaging, and really uplifting, though, forgive me, I will remain an armchair hiker.

When we first meet Chandi, she is recovering from the emergency appendectomy she had to undergo while on vacation in Italy, a relatively routine surgery that was complicated by sepsis. Back in the states, still healing physically, Chandi is also in the midst of a divorce, and is re-evaluating her life.

A variety of factors, including the sometimes bone-deep chill of Boulder, CO, during a damp winter, sends Chandi on her new mission: she will walk across Italy. Research is begun  – are there trails? Are there convenient stops on the most promising route? Finally something connects: Chandi will hike the Via Francigena – the road that connects Canterbury to Rome.

Of course, Wyant’s route doesn’t actually start in England, but at the Italian border – a 40-day hike on this ancient trail, sometimes in solitude, sometimes running into strangers and sharing their stories. There’s time in a convent, and time on the open trail, and the entire story meshes beautifully as the author’s hike leads her, not just to one of the world’s most famous cities, but back to her best self, back to her glow.

In some ways, each chapter of this book felt like a separate essay, but there was still connection. Part travelogue, part memoir, I found Wyant’s writing style to be intimate and conversational, her descriptions as vivid as the photos she takes.

If you read only one “personal transformation” memoir this year, make it Return to Glow. After reading it, I felt closer to my own glow, even without the physical pilgrimage.

Goes well with roasted chicken and vegetables and a glass of wine.

 

 

Review: Unbound, by Steph Jagger

About the book, Unbound Unbound

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (January 24, 2017)

A young woman follows winter across five continents on a physical and spiritual journey that tests her body and soul, in this transformative memoir, full of heart and courage, that speaks to the adventurousness in all of us.

Steph Jagger had always been a force of nature. Dissatisfied with the passive, limited roles she saw for women growing up, she emulated the men in her life—chasing success, climbing the corporate ladder, ticking the boxes, playing by the rules of a masculine ideal. She was accomplished. She was living “The Dream.” But it wasn’t her dream.

Then the universe caught her attention with a sign: Raise Restraining Device. Steph had seen this ski lift sign on countless occasions in the past, but the familiar words suddenly became a personal call to shake off the life she had built in a search for something different, something more.

Steph soon decided to walk away from the success and security she had worked long and hard to obtain. She quit her job, took a second mortgage on her house, sold everything except her ski equipment and her laptop, and bought a bundle of plane tickets. For the next year, she followed winter across North and South America, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand—and up and down the mountains of nine countries—on a mission to ski four million vertical feet in a year.

What hiking was for Cheryl Strayed, skiing became for Steph: a crucible in which to crack open her life and get to the very center of herself. But she would have to break herself down—first physically, then emotionally—before she could start to rebuild. And it was through this journey that she came to understand how to be a woman, how to love, and how to live authentically.

Electrifying, heartfelt, and full of humor, Unbound is Steph’s story—an odyssey of courage and self-discovery that, like Wild and Eat, Pray, Love, will inspire readers to remove their own restraining devices and pursue the life they are meant to lead.

Buy, read, and discuss Unbound:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Steph Jagger Steph Jagger

Steph Jagger splits her time between Southern California and British Columbia where she dreams big dreams, writes her heart out, and runs an executive & life coaching practice. She holds a CEC (certified Executive Coach) degree from Royal Roads University and she believes courageous living doesn’t happen with one toe dangling in, but that we jump in, fully submerge, and sit in the juice. Think pickle, not cucumber.

Connect with Steph:

Website | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’m not an athlete, and when I play tourist it’s almost always to cities and towns known for art and culture and amazing food. I don’t do rural. I don’t camp. I don’t even like movies where the people are cold, tired, hungry, dirty, or lacking toilet paper for too long. I lived in Colorado for seven years as a kid and never learned to ski (but I was a pretty decent recreational ice skater). My idea of ‘roughing it’ used to be a hotel without room service; now it’s a hotel without wifi. And it’s good that I know this about myself because it keeps me from trying crazy things that would only leave me, and anyone traveling with me, feeling utterly miserable.

Nevertheless, I’m intrigued by stories of people – especially women – who undertake such feats as solo circumnavigations in sailboats (Tania Aebi) or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (Cheryl Strayed), so when I was offered a chance to read and review Unbound, I jumped at the chance, and spent a weekend fully submerged in this memoir of author Steph Jagger’s attempt to ski around the world.

Her writing style is almost conversational, and I really enjoyed that about this book. She isn’t afraid of coarse language, but uses it where it’s appropriate, something I always find really refreshing. She’s also incredibly candid – how many people do you know who would open a memoir with a scene involving puking and raw self-analysis?

As I read Unbound I found that even though the author and I are radically different people, and choose to define success in vastly different ways, I still learned a lot about determinaton, self-reliance, and how each of us must be willing to do the hard work of looking at our worst selves, and using that information to build and become our best.

Oh, and the parts about actual skiing were also great to read, and made me almost – almost – miss winter.

Goes well with: grilled cheese, tomato soup, and Sam Adams Winter Lager.


Tour Stops for Unbound TLC Book Tours - Unbound

Wednesday, January 25th: Cait’s Cozy Corner

Tuesday, January 31st: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, February 2nd: She’s Got Books On Her Mind

Monday, February 6th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, February 7th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, February 8th: Dwell in Possibility

Sunday, February 12th: Readaholic Zone

Tuesday, February 14th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, February 15th: Writing and Running Through Life

Thursday, February 16th: Eliot’s Eats

Monday, February 20th: Book Dilettante

Friday, February 24th: Sara the Introvert

Monday, February 27th: Read Till Dawn

Review: Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly

About the book,  Hidden Figures Hidden Figures

• Paperback: 368 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (December 6, 2016)

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

Buy, read, and discuss Hidden Figures

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author Margot Lee Shetterly Margot Lee Shetterly

Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Connect with Margot

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

I love biographies, in print and on screen, and I’m a big space nut. Until recently, my favorite space book was A Man on the Moon, by Andrew Chaikin, and its accompanying miniseries From the Earth to the Moon (1995, HBO), but after reading Hidden Figures that book has been edged into second place.

This book biography, it’s history – herstory – it’s about culture and society and the way white and black America are still incredibly different even though they have many similarities, but it’s also a story about math and physics, and how those things help us to create our dreams.

Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden were mathematicians in the early days of NASA’s space program. Without them, John Glenn would never have successfully orbited Earth, and Apollo 13 would never have come home, but those are only two big events in a series of many, many smaller events.

In that first book I read, years ago, there’s an explanation of what it takes to accomplish docking two craft (the orbiter and the LEM) in space. In the HBO miniseries, it’s dramatized by a scene in which one man says to each other, “Okay, you stand in my front yard, and I’ll stand in the back, and I’m going to throw this basketball over the roof and you’re gonna try to hit it with this baseball as it crests.” (I might be paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of the conversation.”

These women, Dorothy, Mary, Katherine and Christine, did the math to make that work.

But they weren’t mere math geeks. And this book shows that. It shows that they had lives and homes and families, and all of the usual conflicts that working woman have when choosing between career and family. It shows their similarities, and their differences, and it does it in a way that – even at it’s ‘mathiest’ – is never boring, never dry.

Hidden Figures is a must-read for women and girls who are in, or interested in, STEM fields, yes, but I’d recommend it to space nuts like me, to feminists, to people who want a better understanding of the civil rights movement, and to people who just enjoy reading biographies, because it’s well crafted, compelling, and so, so human.

There’s a movie based on this book that is opening in select theaters on Christmas Day, and nationwide in January. Read the book before you see the movie.

Trust me on this.

Goes well with massive amounts of coffee and egg salad sandwiches.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, December 6th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, December 7th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, December 8th: Dwell in Possibility

Friday, December 9th: G. Jacks Writes

Monday, December 12th: Lit and Life

Tuesday, December 13th: As I turn the pages

Friday, December 16th: Art @ Home

Monday, December 19th: Leigh Kramer

Monday, December 19th: Reading Lark

Tuesday, December 20th: Emerald City Book Review

Tuesday, December 20th: Buried in Print

Wednesday, December 21st: Bibliotica

Thursday, December 22nd: Helen’s Book Blog

Friday, December 23rd: Based on a True Story

Review: Searching for John Hughes, by Jason Diamond

Searching for John HughesAbout the book,  Searching for John Hughes

• Paperback: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (November 29, 2016)

For all fans of John Hughes and his hit films such as National Lampoon’s VacationSixteen Candles, and Home Alone, comes Jason Diamond’s hilarious memoir of growing up obsessed with the iconic filmmaker’s movies—a preoccupation that eventually convinces Diamond he should write Hughes’ biography and travel to New York City on a quest that is as funny as it is hopeless.

For as long as Jason Diamond can remember, he’s been infatuated with John Hughes’ movies. From the outrageous, raunchy antics in National Lampoon’s Vacation to the teenage angst in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink to the insanely clever and unforgettable Home Alone, Jason could not get enough of Hughes’ films. And so the seed was planted in his mind that it should fall to him to write a biography of his favorite filmmaker. It didn’t matter to Jason that he had no qualifications, training, background, platform, or direction. Thus went the years-long, delusional, earnest, and assiduous quest to reach his goal. But no book came out of these years, and no book will. What he did get was a story that fills the pages of this unconventional, hilarious memoir.

In Searching for John Hughes, Jason tells how a Jewish kid from a broken home in a Chicago suburb—sometimes homeless, always restless—found comfort and connection in the likewise broken lives in the suburban Chicago of John Hughes’ oeuvre. He moved to New York to become a writer. He started to write a book he had no business writing. In the meantime, he brewed coffee and guarded cupcake cafes. All the while, he watched John Hughes movies religiously.

Though his original biography of Hughes has long since been abandoned, Jason has discovered he is a writer through and through. And the adversity of going for broke has now been transformed into wisdom. Or, at least, a really, really good story.

In other words, this is a memoir of growing up. One part big dream, one part big failure, one part John Hughes movies, one part Chicago, and one part New York. It’s a story of what comes after the “Go for it!” part of the command to young creatives to pursue their dreams—no matter how absurd they might seem at first.

Buy, read, and discuss this book

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jason Diamond Jason Diamond

Jason Diamond is the sports editor at RollingStone.com and founder of Vol. 1 Brooklyn. His work has been published by The New York TimesBuzzFeedVultureThe New RepublicThe Paris ReviewPitchforkEsquireVice and many other outlets. He was born in Skokie, Illinois, but currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife, his two cats and his dog named Max.

Connect with Jason

Website | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Like the author of this memoir, Jason Diamond, I grew up on John Hughes movies. Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy were my virtual best friends when I was a teenager, and while I never lived in Chicago or New York, I completely understand the feeling that comes from seeing the place you live depicted in a movie (thank you Kevin Smith for making people aware that Highlands, NJ is a place).

I always feel a bit weird about reviewing memoirs, because I feel like I’m judging the person, and not their story. In this case, I really enjoyed the story – the journey that Jason took from cupcake bouncer to witty and read writer.

I also enjoyed Jason’s writing style. I was completely unfamiliar with his work before I read Searching for John Hughes, but his ‘voice’ is so engaging, with a good balance of wry wit, self-deprecation, and frank observation, that I’m eager to go find his stuff at Rolling Stone and read every word.

Ultimately, this is a memoir that will speak to anyone who is considering a major creative endeavor, who hates their current job and wants to find something fulfilling, or who grew up on movies like Pretty in Pink and wants to recapture the feeling of seeing those films for the first time.

It’s a compelling read, a fast read, and one I’m really glad I got to experience.

Goes well with a cupcake (but please, chocolate, not double vanilla) and a perfect cappuccino.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, November 30th: BookNAround

Thursday, December 1st: Book Chatter

Monday, December 5th: Helen’s Book Blog

Tuesday, December 6th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, December 7th: Cait’s Cozy Corner

Thursday, December 8th: Book by Book

Thursday, December 8th: Bibliotica

Monday, December 12th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, December 13th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, December 14th: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, December 15th: she treads softly

Review: Hound of the Sea, by Garret McNamara (with Karen Karbo)

About the book, Hound of the Sea Hound of the Sea

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (November 15, 2016)

In this thrilling and candid memoir, world record-holding and controversial Big Wave surfer Garrett McNamara chronicles his emotional quest to ride the most formidable waves on earth.

Garrett McNamara—affectionately known as GMac—set the world record for the sport, surfing a seventy-eight-foot wave in Nazaré, Portugal in 2011, a record he smashed two years later at the same break. Propelled by the challenge and promise of bigger, more difficult waves, this adrenaline-fueled loner and polarizing figure travels the globe to ride the most dangerous swells the oceans have to offer, from calving glaciers to hurricane swells.

But what motivates McNamara to go to such extremes—to risk everything for one thrilling ride? Is riding giant waves the ultimate exercise in control or surrender?

Personal and emotional, readers will know GMac as never before, seeing for the first time the personal alongside the professional in an exciting, intimate look at what drives this inventive, iconoclastic man. Surfing awesome giants isn’t just thrill seeking, he explains—it’s about vanquishing fears and defeating obstacles past and present. Surfers and non-surfers alike will embrace McNamara’s story—as they have William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days—and its intimate look at the enigmatic pursuit of riding waves, big and small.

Hound of the Sea is a record of perseverance, passion, and healing. Thoughtful, suspenseful, and spiritually profound, McNamara reveals the beautiful soul of surfing through the eyes of one of its most daring and devoted disciples.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Garrett McNamara Garrett McNamara

Garrett McNamara holds the Guinness record for surfing the world’s largest wave, in addition to garnering numerous first-place wins in professional competitions around the world. He is the first foreigner ever to be awarded the prestigious Vasco de Gama Medal of Honor from the Portuguese Navy. McNamara splits his time between Hawaii, Portugal, and the rest of the world, where he explores with his family.

Connect with Garrett

Website | Facebook


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’m not a surfer, but as someone who was almost born on the beach, I’ve always been fascinated by the sport, and I became even more so a few years ago after reading Susan Casey’s book The Wave, and seeing the movie Chasing Mavericks. I have fond memories of watching the surfers in Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, California. Therefore, when I had the chance to read Hound of the Sea, I jumped at the chance.

I spent a couple of lovely, chilly afternoons immersed – even submerged – in GMac’s story. Not only were the details about surfing fascinating, but his self-analysis of the part of his psyche that drives him to continue raising the difficulty level of his chosen sport.

At times, I felt like I was right there on the board with him, and I would not have been surprised if I had looked up from a chapter to find my hair wet or crusted with salt. At other times I felt his frustration at being out of the water because of injury, or some other circumstance.

As is often the case when I’m reviewing a memoir or (auto)biography, I find myself having to separate my critique of the actual text from my opinion of the person. In this case, I found the book to be well-written and interesting, and I believe even people with zero knowledge of surfing would find it a compelling and informative read.

As well, McNamara as a person is the kind of guy I’d love to sit down and share a pot of tea with, because the whole mindset of pushing to be the best at something intrigues me.

Goes well with grilled sea bass wrapped in seaweed and coconut-infused rice.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, November 16th: Rambling Reviews

Monday, November 21st: Bibliotica

Tuesday, November 22nd: Tina Says…

Monday, November 28th: Rebecca Radish

Thursday, December 1st: Love Life Surf

Friday, December 9th: Surfer Dad

TBD: Back Porchervations

TBD: Sapphire Ng

TBD: Luxury Reading

 

 

 

Introducing: Such Mad Fun: Ambition and Glamour in Hollywood’s Golden Age, by Robin Cutler

 

Glamour, Ambition and Hollywood’s Golden Age: Author and historian Robin Cutler shines in biography of writer Jane Hall Robin Cutler

NEW YORK CITY – Emmy-nominated Robin R. Cutler is known for her ability to bring compelling historical stories to life both on screen and on the page. Following her book about her grandfather, Arizona humorist Dick Wick Hall (The Laughing Desert, 2012), Cutler explores the world of her mother, Jane Hall, a literary prodigy published as a 10-year-old by the L.A. Times. In the masterfully written and researched Such Mad Fun (Sept. 8, 2016), Cutler brings the glamour of yesteryear to life as a newly-orphaned Jane journeys from a mining town in Arizona to Manhattan’s Café Society, and then to work among the bright lights and big stars of Hollywood.

A Kirkus starred review noted: “This portrait of a more literary mass-market America offers much food for reflection on modern culture,” and described Cutler’s book as “a valuable, absorbing contribution to the history of women, golden-age Hollywood and America’s magazine culture of the 1930s and ‘40s.”


About the book, Such Mad Fun: Ambition and Glamour in Hollywood’s Golden Age Such Mad Fun

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: View Tree Press (May 23, 2016)
  • Language: English

“I was a candle on the president’s birthday cake!” On Jan. 30, 1934, Jane Hall was exuberant as she whirled around the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 52nd birthday. For 19-year-old Jane, this ball wasn’t just fun; it was research. At Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Jane wrote the story and the script for the “best social comedy of 1939,” These Glamour Girls, and established a lively camaraderie with F. Scott Fitzgerald, who worked in the office next door to hers. But Jane’s ambition conflicted with the expectations of her family, her friends, and the era in which she lived. Gathered from her mother’s diaries and scores of letters, this coming-of-age story takes us on an unforgettable journey through the 1930s as Jane tries to determine who she’s meant to be.

Buy, read, and discuss Such Mad Fun.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Goodreads


About the author, Robin Cutler Robin Cutler

Cutler holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and has been a public historian for more than three decades. She co-produced the Emmy-nominated dramatic series, ROANOAK, for PBS’ American Playhouse. A lover of animals, trees, salted caramel, baseball, PBS and classic films, these days Cutler can be found in New York, in Florida or with her daughters in California.

Connect with Robin.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Review: Composing Temple Sunrise, by Hassan El-Tayyab

About the book Composing Temple Sunrise Composing Temple Sunrise

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Poetic Matrix Press (July 15, 2016)

Composing Temple Sunrise is a coming-of-age memoir about a 26-year-old songwriter’s journey across America to find his lost muse.

Triggered by the Great Recession of 2008, Hassan El-Tayyab loses his special education teaching job in Boston and sets out on a cross-country adventure with a woman named Hope Rideout, determined to find his lost muse. His journey brings him to Berkeley, CA, where he befriends a female metal art collective constructing a 37-foot Burning Man art sculpture named “Fishbug.” What follows is a life-changing odyssey through Burning Man that helps Hassan harness his creative spirit, overcome his self-critic, confront his childhood trauma, and realize the healing power of musical expression.

In this candid, inspiring memoir, singer-songwriter Hassan El-Tayyab of the Bay Area’s American Nomad takes us deep into the heart of what it means to chase a creative dream.

After experiencing multiple losses (family, home, love, job, self-confidence) , El-Tayyab sets out on a transcontinental quest that eventually lands him in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. His vivid descriptions capture both the vast, surreal landscapes of the Burning Man festival and the hard practice of making art.

Buy, read, and discuss Composing Temple Sunrise

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Composing Temple Sunrise Website | Goodreads


About the author, Hassan El-Tayyab Hassan El-Tayyab

Hassan El-Tayyab is an award-winning singer/songwriter, author, teacher, and cultural activist currently residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. His critically acclaimed Americana act American Nomad performs regularly at festivals and venues up and down the West Coast and beyond and he teaches music in the Bay Area.

Connect with Hassan

Facebook


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I have to confess: before I read this book I’d never heard of the author or his band American Nomad, nor did I have a clear picture of what Burning Man actually is. I mean, I’d heard of it, of course, who hasn’t? I just didn’t have correct information.

As it turned out, none of that mattered, and I began reading Hassan El-Tayyab’s memoir with no expectations except that I would ‘meet’ a new person within its pages.

I always feel odd about reviewing memoirs, as if I’m critiquing the author’s actual life, and not just the way they chose to depict it on paper (real or virtual).  Forgive me then, for nitpicking. This memoir could have used another pass by a line editor or proof reader. Some of the grammar is a little ‘off.’ Despite that, however, I found myself thoroughly engaged, and I even managed to suppress my grammar-police tendencies.

Composing Temple Sunrise is not an entire book about composing a single song. Rather, it’s the story of the author’s journey from a place of frustration  – having just lost a job that he was good at, though it wasn’t his true calling – and a series of losses that began in childhood, to a place where he could unleash the full force of his creativity.

It is a fascinating study of both the creative process and in general, and El-Tayyab’s personal journey, and how the two intertwine. As a writer, improvisor, amateur musician (I sing, I’ve played the cello since childhood, and I and bought my first guitar last year, but so far, I only know how to tune it), I found everything he wrote about – from undertaking a cross-country road-trip just to do something, to waking up one morning with a whole composition (the song “Temple Sunrise” referred to in the title) in his head – incredibly compelling and truthful.

While I was intrigued by the author’s experiences at Burning Man, and appreciated finally learning about what it really was, I found myself both yearning for that kind of conversion of creative energies, and also recognizing that I, a woman who believes ‘roughing it’ means staying in a hotel that doesn’t have room service or wifi, would not benefit from that specific event.

But it isn’t about me, except in the sense that we, as readers, bring our own experiences and perceptions to every book we begin. It’s about Hassan El-Tayyab, and his journey, and I feel privileged to have shared it with him, even if it was only virtually, and after the fact.

Whether or not you have creative pursuits, Composing Temple Sunrise is a fascinating glimpse at both the artist’s personality, and one artist specifically.

Goes well with vegan pad Thai made with grilled tofu and your favorite craft beer.


Bonus!

Provided to YouTube by CDBaby, here’s the track referenced in the title: “Temple Sunrise”


Tour Stops Poetic Book Tours

Sept. 1: OakTreeReviews (Review)

Sept. 2: The Serial Reader (Review)
Sept. 3: Applied Book Reviews (Review)
Sept. 7: Everything Distils Into Reading (Review)
Sept. 13: The Soapy Violinist (Review)
Sept. 15: Bermudaonion (Guest Post)
Sept. 20: Tea Leaves (Review)
Sept. 23: Write-Read-Life (Review)
Sept. 30: DonnaBookReviews (Review)
Oct. 5: Eva Lucia’s Reviews (Review)
Oct. 6: Bibliotica (Review)
Oct. 11: Eva Lucia’s Reviews (Interview)
Oct. 13: Katherine & Books (Review)
Oct. 17: Margaret Reviews Books (Review)
Oct. 20: Diary of an Eccentric (Guest Post)
Oct. 26: Peeking Between the Pages (Guest Post)
Oct. 27: Rainy Day Reviews (Review)
Nov. 3: Sportochick’s Musings (Review)

Review: Finding Fontainebleau, by Thad Carhart – with Giveaway

About the book, Finding Fontainebleau Finding Fontainebleau

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (May 17, 2016)

Viking is proud to announce a new memoir from Thad Carhart, author of the beloved bestseller The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, now in its 21st printing, which the San Francisco Chronicle raved would “lure the rustiest plunker back to the piano bench and the most jaded traveler back to Paris.”

FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU (On-sale: May 17, 2016; $27.00; ISBN: 978-0-525-42880-0) recounts the adventures of Carhart and his family—his NATO officer father, his mother, four siblings, and their dog—in the provincial town of Fontainebleau, France, in the 1950s. Dominating life in the town is the beautiful Château of Fontainebleau. Begun in 1137, fifty years before the Louvre and more than five hundred before Versailles, the Château was a home for Marie-Antoinette, François I, and the two Napoleons, among others, all of whom added to its splendors without appreciably destroying the work of their predecessors.

With characteristic warmth and humor, Carhart takes readers along as he and his family experience the pleasures and particularities of French life: learning the codes and rules of a French classroom where wine bottles dispense ink, camping in Italy and Spain, tasting fresh baguettes. Readers see post-war life in France as never before, from the parks and museums of Paris (much less crowded in the 1950s, when you could walk through completely empty galleries in the Louvre) to the quieter joys of a town like Fontainebleau, where everyday citizens have lived on the edges of history since the 12th century and continue to care for their lieux de mémoire—places of memory.

Intertwined with stories of France’s post-war recovery are profiles of the monarchs who resided at Fontainebleau throughout the centuries and left their architectural stamp on the palace and its sizeable grounds. Carhart finds himself drawn back as an adult, eager to rediscover the town of his childhood. FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU imagines a bright future for this important site of French cultural heritage, as Carhart introduces us to the remarkable group of architects, restorers, and curators who care for and refashion the Château’s hundreds of rooms for a new generation of visitors. Guided by Patrick Ponsot, head of the Château’s restoration programs, the author takes us behind the scenes and shows us a side of the Château that tourists never see.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About Thad Carhart Thad Carhart

Twenty-six years ago THAD CARHART moved to Paris with his wife and two infant children. He lives there now, with frequent visits to New York and Northern California. His first book, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, appeared in 2000, published by Random House. Across the Endless River, a historical novel, came out in 2009 with Doubleday.

Connect with Thad

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’ve always loved memoirs and over the last several years, I’ve become addicted to memoirs of people living in France. (In truth, this addiction probably started decades ago when I read Peter Mayle’s first book). For some reason, I kept thinking Finding Fontainebleau was a novel, until I finally sat down to read it, and then I was delighted to find out this engaging, sometimes funny, often poignant book was actually a memoir.

I haven’t read any of Thad Carhart’s earlier work, but I found myself completely drawn in by his words, and the way he worked the profiles of historical figures into his personal narrative. I also appreciated the way he balanced historical travelogue with his own experiences in post-war France.

If this review feels short, it’s because memoir doesn’t involve plot or characters, and I always feel as though I’m judging someone’s life, rather than merely a specific piece of work. The book itself is satisfyingly long, and the perfect read for a stormy summer day, where you can let yourself be drawn into the vivid imagery created by Carhart’s words.  (It’s also, minus the very first section, the perfect book for a plane trip.)

I felt like was in a bubble of past-France, as filtered through someone who is living in contemporary France, and I enjoyed the experience so much that when the bubble burst at the end of the book, I was a bit let down.

This is a fascinating, compelling memoir, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Goes well with Nutella and banana crepes, and a cappuccino.


Giveaway Finding Fontainebleau

One lucky reader (no geographic restrictions)  will win a print copy  of this book.

Three ways to enter (one entry per person for each choice, so if you do all three, you’re entered three times).

  1. Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse).
  2. Find  my  Facebook post about this book  and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse).
  3. Leave a comment here on this post telling me what foreign country you’d love to spend six-twelve months exploring.

Contest is open until 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, July 22nd.

 

 


Thad Carhart’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, July 6th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Friday, July 8th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, July 11th: Books on the Table

Tuesday, July 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, July 13th: Girls in White Dresses

Thursday, July 14th: Building Bookshelves

Friday, July 15th: Bibliotica

Monday, July 18th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, July 19th: The French Village Diaries

Wednesday, July 20th: Quirky Bookworm

Thursday, July 21st: Wordsmithonia

Friday, July 22nd: BookNAround

Monday, July 25th: Back Porchervations

Tuesday, July 26th: An Accidental Blog

Wednesday, July 27th: Lit and Life

Thursday, July 28th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Friday, July 29th: Musings of a Writer and Unabashed Francophile