TLC Book Tours: GI Brides

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4 of 5 stars

Hi everyone!! There has been a very severe and sad decline in the amount of time I have had to read lately because of my new job, but I did have time to read this one after being accepted to join TLC Book Tours. I otherwise would not have even known about this new release, and I’m so glad that I did find out about it. So thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

GI Brides is the true and personal story of four very different brides of WWII veterans – Sylvia who was excited to serve the “Yanks” as a Red Cross volunteer, Margaret whose family was extremely suspicious of the yanks, Rae who was a tomboy and herself served in the English army, and Lyn who was a shy and naïve younger woman as the war began. All of these women fell in love with men who were stationed in England during the war and eventually followed them to America when the US government transported upwards of 60,000 GI Brides. The chapters switch back and forth between their stories of how their marriages and lives changed after moving to America. Ultimately, this nonfiction story ends up reading like fiction because of the details and dialogue included in each woman’s story.

I’m not normally a person who picks up non-fiction unless it is labeled as a memoir, and the only reason I chose to be on the tour for GI Brides is because I am a military spouse and thought I would be able to identify with it. I did not expect this book to be so narrative based and to draw me in the way that it did. By the end, I was so invested in these women’s lives and cried with them in the happy moments and the sad. This definitely is my kind of non-fiction!

I love how the authors took the time to seek out some of the GI Brides who had different experiences, who led very different paths after they left England, and chose to tell their stories in a way that a lot of women can identify with and can enjoy reading about. I’ve read several historical romance fiction novels written in the WWII era, and I think this book rates right there with some of the best of those. It’s insightful and afterwards heartwarming and inspiring because you know that you have read about real people’s lives. I actually learned a thing or two that I didn’t already know about WWII, how the Americans reacted to the influx of GI Brides, and the difficultly that some of the women had with transitioning cultures.

I would recommend this book to any of you who like to read about love stories, especially those set in wartime, and to anyone would also like to be surprised by a non-fiction story.

Check out the GI Brides website for more info on the brides in this story and some new brides featured in upcoming short stories, author bios on Nuala Calvi and Duncan Barrett, and pictures and blog posts from the GI Brides.

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2013 Top Five Countdown #1: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

After much contemplation, I picked my favorite five books that I read in 2013 (not necessarily published in 2013) and posted one review per week until we got to the top. So far, I have posted…

And now it’s time… my favorite book that I read last year is Wild by Cheryl Stayed. I loved it because I’m an adventurer at heart and it was more than inspiring. It put me back on a memoir streak, too.

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5 of 5 stars!

My original review:

We are in the mountains and the mountains are in us. -John Muir

Tell me, what it is you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life. -Mary Oliver

This book is phenomenal.. I mean freaking AMAZING. Everyone should read it. Even if you aren’t super outdoorsy and could never see yourself backpacking across 3 states, it still has a great message.

As for me, I’ve always loved to explore the outdoors. I’ve actually never gone full on backpacking though. This book really made me long to get away from life and just be in nature for at least a week – or at least go camping in some cold weather… although, that’s not so easy in Hawaii.

The story starts off with the explanation of Cheryl Strayed’s whole downward spiral after her mother died and how it led her to the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m not going to lie, the first chapter is extremely depressing, especially for anyone close to their mom. It honestly did not give me high hopes for the rest of the book. But the story picks up in the next chapter once she is on the PCT, and the adventure begins.

There are stories of all the awesome people she meets and all the miles she walked alone. There are stories of kindness from strangers. There are stories of beautiful nature experienced in the most serene places. Can you imagine walking thousands of miles by yourself, not knowing what you will run into? Talk about flying by the seat of your pants. Sounds like the ultimate adventure to me. Cheryl Strayed really made me feel like I could if I wanted to.

Mostly, this book is a discovery of self. The author believed that she would leave her life and just be alone in the woods for 3 months to contemplate her life, cry, and get over it. She actually was only able to think about her aching feet and body at first, then was just quiet with nature. What she found instead was the strength within herself that she didn’t know she had – to remember her hard times and still be able to live.

This is a strength that we all have if we only know how to find it. This was truly an inspiring and entertaining story that I could definitely go read again right now.

In hindsight:

I have read a lot of reviews of this book that talk about how Cheryl’s selfishness in her marriage after losing her mother or her stupidity with lack of planning for her backpacking trip really annoyed them. I did find myself judging her a little while reading, but I think they add to the lessons that she learned and provide an honesty to the story. After all, it is a true story, an amazing true story of redemption and adventure. I recently purchased this book for a re-read before the movie comes out in September? (I think). I can’t wait to see if Reese Witherspoon does the story justice.

 

My Gentle Barn: Inspiration on a whole new level

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5 of 5 stars!

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started reading My Gentle Barn – I guess I thought it would be something that only farm animal lovers would identify with… just a Yay Animals!! happy story about saving the world. But I definitely got waaayyy more and was surprised with the first chapter starting off really heavy – the story of a childhood that you thought only existed in bad movies. I literally had to stop and take a few breaths before I continued.

In these pages is one of the most inspiring and beautiful stories that I have ever read. This is a vivid story of how Ellie Lak’s life comes full circle – she had a lonely childhood, she had a dream to save the animals who had saved her as a child, she chased her dream, and she found herself along the way. There is story after story of individual animals – their situation and their healing – and of individual children that the animals in turn come to heal.

But the most remarkable change took place inside of me… I was not alone after all; I was just a tiny current in the large, gorgeous flow of life.

It’s memoirs like these that keep me coming back for more and usually get me on a memoir train for a few months. There is so much emotion and so much honesty in this story of The Gentle Barn.. it’s overwhelming at times… but in such a good way – my soul feels cleansed. And I believe there is hope for humanity after all.

When I finished reading, I immediately found The Gentle Barn’s website and read more about Jay and Ellie and what they are doing now… I guess you could say I’m an instafan. I’m pretty sure I’m going to make a special trip to California just to visit  and see this place for myself one day – to be a part of the magic for just a moment.

My husband and I have a dream to build a successful farm and produce meat in harmony… to  be a small part of taking back the food industry from factory farms and to take care of the animals who in turn take care of us… so obviously I could be biased about this book. However, I don’t think you have to be an animal activist/hippy farmer to enjoy this story about a life that comes full circle and enriches other lives in return.

My Gentle Barn releases March 25th… prepare yourself.

Glitter and Glue: Hold on to your heartstrings

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4 of 5 stars

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Your father may be the glitter, but I’m the glue.

Whoa…when I say hold on to your heartstrings, I mean… really tight! This book is an emotional roller coaster – but a great read for anyone who has a mom… so EVERYONE. I found myself tearing up often with memories of my own mom. Glitter and Glue is a beautiful tribute to the mother-daughter relationship.

Kelly Corrigan is a really great writer. I’ve never read anything by her, and I picked this one up solely because I love memoirs about mother-daughter relationships. She writes the story in first person, so it reads like fiction and is very entertaining. Also, Kelly Corrigan must have (1) been keeping insanely detailed journals her entire life, or (2) exaggerated some details in this story, or (3) have superhuman abilities for remembering details. I’m going to guess it’s number one. So notes to self: KEEP JOURNALS, WRITE IN FIRST PERSON – if I ever decide to write a book. Although I think I’ll just stick with blogging.

The first 85% of the book is about her experience with nannying in Austrailia and how it made her appreciate her mother. It’s vividly written with details of the Tanner family’s loss and Kelly’s emotional responses. I LOVED this part. She struggles with winning the love of Milly who just lost her mother to cancer, and she realizes that she hears her mother’s voice with everything that happens and finds herself becoming her mother – like a lot of us do.

I thought she was going to have some splendid reunion with her mom… but she didn’t. The end goes into hyper speed mode and does not give much detail about how Austrailia actually changes her relationship with her mother. It was kind of a let down, but did not ruin the beginning of the story that was so beautifully told – It reminded me somewhat of the writing style of Cheryl Strayed in Wild.

Overall, a great read that I would recommend to someone who wants to reminisce about their childhood and have lots of memories pulled out that they forgot existed

All About Pigs: The Good, Good Pig by Sy Montgomery

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3 of 5 stars.

Did you know… that human flesh tastes like pig… according to Polynesian cannibals who coined the term “long pig” for human meat? Yeah, me either… but I’ll just trust them on that. Pigs are also extremely smart and kind. There were many random facts in this book… so naturally…

I WANT A PIG!!!! RIGHT. NOW.

That’s mainly what I got out of this book. Christopher Hogwood is truly amazing. I’ve never spent a lot of time around pigs, so I never realized how much personality they have. In The Good, Good Pig, Sy Montgomery tells a lot of heartwarming stories about Chris – how the entire community saved scraps for him, how he ended up bringing them lifelong friends they wouldn’t have otherwise known, how he loved his bath times, how he simply loved with his whole heart.

There were also a lot of historical tidbits about pigs and several side stories about Sy’s excursions for her wildlife research (She’s a freelance writer for sources like Nat Geo). There were a lot of facts, but what this story is lacking is emotion. There were a lot of times when I should have cried because of what was happening, but this book was written with such a lack of emotion that I was nowhere close.

I would only recommend this book to people who want to read facts about animals… a pig, chickens, dogs, tigers, etc. There’s a lot of animals and stories… but if you are a memoir lover because you want to read about someone’s emotional journey and life lessons, skip this one.