Tag Archives: non-fiction

Book Review: Buzz Books 2021: Spring/Summer

By Publisher’s Lunch

Buzz Books 2021 Spring/Summer gives the reader an inside look at the “buzziest books” of spring and summer 2021. The first few chapters are a tantalizing taste of what is to come in buzz worthy books soon available at your library and bookstores.

This literary preview has sections with the reader in mind. First and foremost is fiction, which is broken down to these categories: The Notables, Highly Anticipated, Emerging Voices, Debut and Commercial Fiction. Then we move on to Nonfiction, categorized as follows: Biography & Memoir, Business, Politics, and Current Events, Essays, Criticism & More, History and Crime, Science & Technology and finishes with Social Issues. As you can see there is something for everyone.

Each book has a few chapters available to read. It is like having a bookstore and/or a library with all of the latest books just waiting for you to crack the spine and dive in. Like most bibliophiles, I began reading immediately, keeping a careful list of the books I want to read. My list is lengthy, and full of authors both bestselling and novices.

A few on my list include:

A Perfect Ruin by Shanora Williams – publish date 6/29/21

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline – publish date 3/23/21

The Letter Keeper by Charles Martin – publish date 6/8/21

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin – publish date 6/15/21

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – publish date 5/4/21

Finding Freedom – by Erin French – publish date 4/6/21

Last Call by Elon Green publish date 3/9/11

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim – publish date 5/4/21

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves to read. There is something from everyone’s favorite genre all packaged up neatly together. This smorgasbord of delights is a must read.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Stepping Stones – Easy to Read, Hard to Forget

Stepping Stones

A Memoir of Addiction, Loss and Transformation

By Marilea C. Rabasa

Marilea is a daughter, mother, teacher, former ambassador’s wife, bulimic and alcoholic. She also suffers from depression. The road to her recovery is complex and heartbreaking at times, but uplifting and encouraging. Family history of alcoholism, addiction and mental illness plays a part of her journey as well as the journey she and her children follow.

This memoir does not whitewash the pain and suffering of Marilea and her family, nor does it make excuses. She allows the reader into her world that is a contradiction at times. She is elegant and intelligent at functions as an ambassador’s wife, but after the party is over, she will binge and purge in seclusion. Like her mother before her, the problems with alcohol are hidden from her family – or so she thinks.

Her lifelong struggle is not easy, addiction often wins. Sheer determination and the will to survive gives her the courage to follow the program she finally embraces. Just like you and me, each day she must make choices that affect her as well as those around her. Marilea bares her soul about her previous and current choices without pulling any punches. Her honesty is refreshing.

Written in short chapters (some only a page or paragraph long), Marilea writes about the good, bad and the ugly. Her fast-paced memoir is easy to read, but hard to forget. From her childhood to her retirement she shares her joy and pain, love and losses with candor and true stories of her life.

I recommend Stepping Stones to all readers. Every person knows someone who has an addiction or suffers from mental illness. Marilea’s journey to the place she is today is heartwarming and encouraging. I loved this book.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Unexpected Spy: True Story Ripped from Today’s Headlines

The Unexpected Spy

By Tracy Walder; Jessica Anya Blau

Tracy Walder began life with hypotonia, known as a “floppy baby syndrome”. The odds of her walking were nearly impossible, and the odds of her becoming a dancer, a sorority girl, a CIA agent or an FBI agent were too crazy to consider. Yet, that is exactly what she did. But not without determination, hard work and confidence in herself.

Her mother can be credited with never giving up when doctors did. She worked with Tracy until she got stronger and finally walked on her own. Unfortunately, the kids at school were not kind to her. She had few friends and kept to herself. Her mind was and is brilliant, so it was no surprise that she entered USC and became a member of a sorority. What does come as a surprise to her and everyone else is that on a whim she filled out a card at a job fair for the CIA. Even more surprising is they called her back and recruited her.

The CIA was intense, but Tracy loved the fact that she was making a difference even if no one would ever be able to know the specifics of her job. But the intensity became too much, 9/11 weighed heavily on her and tracking terrorists left her sleepless. When she saw recruiting literature for the FBI she thought about having a home and family instead of the travel the CIA required. Again, she sent in her resume and was recruited. But the FBI has a different mindset when it comes to women operatives. After a few years, she decided to leave the bureau and begin the career she had dreamed about since she was a child, teaching.

Tracy’s fascinating story gives readers an inside glimpse of the CIA, FBI and what it is to be a woman in these male dominated professions. Part of her story has been redacted, there are many pages with ~~~~~~~~~~  in place of words. These signify information that is classified. Tracy submitted The Unexpected Spy to the CIA’s Publications Review Board. It was approved with the aforementioned redactions.

The Unexpected Spy reads like a spy novel, but is so much more impactful to the reader because it is based upon her life and the true events in our recent history. I loved it and am in awe of this courageous and adventurous woman.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: You’re Not Listening – When Was Your Last Real Conversation?

You’re Not Listening

By Kate Murphy

When was the last time you really listened to someone? Not just nodding while someone talks, but by putting down electronic devices, turning off the television or radio and actually listen to the person sitting across from you or on your phone. Ms. Murphy contends for most of us it has been a long time since we have really listened and participated in a conversation. This has reached crisis levels for both the listener as well as the person talking.

Humans crave interaction with others. Sadly, we are now interacting more with texts, emails and snapchats instead of talking with each other. Murphy reminds us that when we have conversations, we see the expressions on the speaker’s face as well as the inflection and emotion behind the words. Your phone or computer cannot give you the meanings behind the words. Emojis will never replace true human emotions. Her research shows as much as 38% of feelings and attitudes are conveyed by tone of voice and non-verbal cues make up for “more than half of the emotional content of the message…”. Just thinking about what we are missing by glancing at our phone or reading our email while talking to friends and family.

You’re Not Listening is profound in a gentle way. Behind all of the facts and research is the most interesting non-fiction book I have read in years. The tender nudging for all of us to become better listeners is the persistent message throughout the pages.

Instead of arguing a point during a conversation, actually listen to the speaker’s points of view. Per Murphy: “To listen does not mean, or even imply, that you agree with someone. It simply means you accept the legitimacy of the other’s person’s point of view and that you might have something to learn from it”. To learn is to grow, and how can we learn if we aren’t listening?

This book is interesting, easy and quick to read. But the information imparted to me is priceless. I find myself thinking of the listening recommendations and actually taking time to really talk to others, both people I know and perfect strangers and then actually listening to them.

If you only read one non-fiction book this year, choose You’re Not Listening. It will take you back to a gentler time when we actually spoke and listened to others. Humans by nature want and need to communicate. Start listening, really listening to others and you will not only enrich their lives, but you will greatly improve yours.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Bookish First in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Love From Boy – Roald Dahl’s Letters to his Mother

Love from BoyLove From Boy

Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother

Edited by Donald Sturrock

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in return for my fair and honest review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

This is a fascinating collection of letters Roald sent to his mother from 1925 to 1965. He begins writing to his mother from St. Peter’s School, followed by Repton School in Derby. He then traveled to Nova Scotia, Norway, Canada, Tanganyika, Kenya, Iraq, Egypt, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Texas, and New York and back to Buckinghamshire. From these posts the reader gets an inside look at historical events and Roald’s opinions of what he sees and experiences.

Before I read this book I pictured him as a writer, toiling away at his desk on some of my favorite books. He actually was a story teller in the letters to his mother, painting pictures with his words about the places where he lived and worked.

We also see his compassion. He was worried about his mother finding out how horrid the conditions were at the boarding school. Disease was rampant and the teachers were, in many cases abusive. He wanted to spare her from concern so sugar-coated many of the events when mailing her weekly letters home.

He was also concerned for his family’s welfare. Roald repeatedly implored his mother to move to the countryside so she and his siblings would be out of harm’s way once the inevitable bombings of the war began. She never left her home, but thankfully was okay. He had access to items that were unavailable in England due to the war and frequently wrote asking her and his sisters for lists of things they needed him to send to them.

He experienced sadness and loss in his personal life. One of his children died at a very young age from an illness and another was in an accident, leading him to become a co-inventor of a shunt for children with brain injuries.

If you haven’t read any of his books that aren’t for children, you may be surprised by the salty language in his letters. But if you have read My Uncle Oswald, you might not be. It is a very funny, and quite bawdy.

I truly cannot pick out one or two of my favorite letters, there are just too many. He met dignitaries and presidents. And he dined with movie stars and the owner of the famed Hope Diamond – who wore it to dinner which Roald found a bit too much. He worked with Walt Disney!

If I haven’t convinced you yet, Roald was a gifted photographer and many of his photos as well as some of his drawings are included in this book. It is an amazing compilation of newsy letters that were saved by his mother, enabling the reader to glimpse into life as Roald experienced it. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in history, Roald Dahl, WWII or Hollywood.

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