Strong, Courageous Women

Good morning, readers! Happy Mother’s Day weekend! Today on the blog I am writing about strong women. I have always loved the quote, “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” I am hoping to raise my daughter to become a strong woman and I know several of you wish the same for your daughters as well. I love to read books about women that have fought hard for where they are in life and haven’t taken no as an answer because in the midst of raising a strong woman, I’m still figuring out how to fully be one myself. I’m hoping these books are an encouragement to you just as much as they are to me.

Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains: Chambers, Cassie

Title: Hill Women: Finding family and a way forward in the Appalachian Mountains
Author: Cassie Chambers
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: January 2020
Page Length: 304 pages

Cassie Chamber’s mother grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. Her mother, Wilma, was the first woman in their family to leave the farm to attend college, which was always encouraged by Cassie’s grandmother. One of my favorite people in the book is her maternal Aunt Ruth. She wanted to attend college, but due to health reasons combined with needing to be on the farm, it was impossible for her to finish high school. Ruth could produce more on the farm than her brothers. She’s physically and mentally tough. Ruth worked odd jobs outside the farm in the community and took the money she saved to help send her sister to college. Cassie writes in the book that Ruth always remained strong outwardly, but wonders if she had difficulty coping internally with the fact that Wilma was able to receive an education to pursue a different job. Wilma attended Berea College, married a teacher’s assistant and they remained in Berea after graduation. I don’t want to spoil the book if you haven’t read it, however, I think the story of Ruth makes a lot of the book. Her grandmother also surprised me with how modern her thinking was for the time period by encouraging her daughters to attend school and work hard. She didn’t want them to be stuck in the mountains with lack of opportunities. She was a very smart women in that she knew not only how to manage a household, but also could take apart TVs and radios to fix them when needed. She didn’t read often because there was no time, but she listened to the radio frequently while doing household chores.

As a reader, I can tell that Cassie is still struggling about which world to belong in-the Appalachian mountains where opportunities are fewer due to location and way of life, and the Ivy League college she graduated from, that although full of possibilities, can seem intimidating when you are a second generation college student whose ancestors have primarily known life in the mountains. She writes about the close knit community she is from and that the people remain tough, hardworking and proud. She writes about attending an Ivy League college and adjusting to new social norms and how to dress for formal events. It seems that Cassie is coming to appreciate her family history more as she grows older and acknowledges how difficult it must have been for previous generations of women in her family to sacrifice their own dreams to earn a living. Cassie is an attorney who worked as woman’s advocate in the area for several years before turning to politics. She learned, as most of us do as we age, that people are afraid to leave the familiar and cross into the unknown, which means they can’t be forced to change. Leaving the mountains is leaving behind a whole way of life, family and community, that while may have its issues, is still in the realm of the familiar. Cassie decided to remain in Kentucky and currently lives in Louisville with her husband and son. She visits the Appalachian mountains often to see family. Hill Women is an encouraging read written by a strong woman about generations of strong women.

Author Interview - Cassie Chambers, author of Hill Women | BookPage
 Nathan Cornetet, Fusion Photography

From the author’s website:

Cassie Chambers grew up in Eastern Kentucky. Her earliest memories are of playing on her grandparents’ farm in Owsley County, Kentucky and exploring the campus of Berea College with her mother and father.

Cassie graduated from Yale College, the Yale School of Public Health, the London School of Economics, and Harvard Law School, where she was president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, a student-run law firm that represents low-income clients. Chambers then received a Skadden Fellowship to return to Kentucky to do legal work with domestic violence survivors in rural communities. In 2018, she helped pass Jeanette’s Law, which eliminated the requirement that domestic violence survivors pay an incarcerated spouse’s legal fees in order to get a divorce.

She is a lawyer and the current vice chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party. She lives in Louisville with her husband, Bryan, their dog, Brixton, and their cat, Spaghetti.
https://www.cassiechambers.com/

Further Reading:

Cassie Chambers on Hill Women and Finding Strength in Her Background
https://southernreviewofbooks.com/2021/02/04/hill-women-cassie-chambers-interview/

Cassie Chambers: Creativity, intelligence and grit in the Appalachian Mountains
https://bookpage.com/interviews/24755-cassie-chambers-biography-memoir#.YJVsrLVKgdU

Beyond Bootstraps: An Appalachian memoir that rejects the narrative of Hillbilly Elegy in favor of something more complicated
https://slate.com/culture/2020/03/cassie-chambers-hill-women-interview-hillbilly-elegy.html

Quirky Bookworm is reading:

Title: Maid: Hard work. low pay and a mother’s will to survive
Author: Stephanie Land
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication Date: January 2019
Page Length: 288 pages

I am halfway finished with Maid by Stephanie Land. I love her insight into the world of domestic housekeeping. Stephanie dated a man during the summer and became unexpectedly pregnant with her daughter. Shortly after, she and the man broke up and Stephanie found herself as a single mom with no formal education and in need of making a decent income. She writes about the brutal truth of being on government aid and the vulnerability and shame it brings. She shares the stories houses can tell about the people that live inside them based on messes left behind and objects scattered about. Stephanie had always wanted to be writer and how that dream was left behind for awhile. She, however, overcame the odds her writings are now published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and The Atlantic. Maid was on President Obama’s 2019 Summer Reading List and Amazon’s and The New York Time’s Top 100 Books of the Year. Maid is set to premiere on Netflix later this year and will star Andie MacDowell and her daughter, Margaret Qualley. Click here to purchase.

Title: All The Single Ladies: Unmarried women and the rise of an independent nation
Author: Rebecca Traister
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: October 2016
Page Length: 368 pages

I am really looking forward to reading All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister, who discovered that singlehood for women is not new and has been a growing trend for decades. Statistics show that only 20 percent of women marry by 29 in today’s society, compared to 60 percent in 1960. Traister looks at the history, economics, friendships and lifestyle of single women. Single Ladies is a New York Times Notable Book of 2016, Best Books of 2016 selection by The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, NPR and Chicago Public Library. Rebecca lives in New York with her family and is also the award winning author of Big Girls Don’t Cry. She has been a contributor for The New Republic, Salon, The Nation, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Vogue, Glamour and Marie Claire. Click here to purchase.

Title: Memorial Drive: A daughter’s memoir
Author: Natasha Trethewey
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: July 2020

Page Length: 224 pages
Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey has been on my TBR list for a few months. I discovered the book when I was compiling a list for Black History Month. Natasha writes about tragically losing her mother at the age of 19 in this intimate memoir. She writes of grief, love and loss and also how her mother’s legacy of resilience shaped her to be the prize winning author she is today. Natasha is a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Grolier Poetry Prize, and Pushcart Prize. She teaches creative writing at Emory University. Click here to purchase.

Title: The Right Kind of Strong: Surprisingly simple habits of a spiritually strong woman
Author: Mary A. Kassian
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 2019
Page Length: 224 pages

I discovered The Right Kind of Strong at the public library over this past week. I’m always wondering what does it mean to be a strong woman according to the Bible. Does this mean I have a “I can do it all by myself with no support, thank you very much” or does it mean maybe seeking advice from wise family members and friends? How much is asking too much? Award winning author Mary A. Kassian answers these questions based on Paul’s writings in 2 Timothy to the women in the church of Ephesus. Mary writes about how to develop healthy friendships, managing our emotions, confessing our sins, controlling our minds by taking every thought captive, embracing our human weaknesses, live out what we are learning, developing confident convictions and rely on the Lord. Mary Kassian was a professor at Southern Baptist Seminary for several years, and is now a women’s speaker and award winning author of Girls Gone Wise. Click here to purchase.

Title: The Women of the Bible Speak: The wisdom of 16 women and their lessons for today
Author: Shannon Bream
Publisher: Broadside Books
Publication Date: March 2021
Page Length: 256 pages

The Women of the Bible Speak caught my attention on NetGalley a few weeks ago. I was looking for a Christian book that would speak about the lives of women and I looked up reviews, which were positive. Shannon writes about 16 women of the Bible and how their lives are able to inspire us today. The Women of the Bible Speak by Shannon Bream is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a Fox News Book selection. Shannon is currently host of Fox News @ Night and the network’s Chief Legal Correspondent. Click here to purchase.

Mended hearts and fun reads for spring

Happy Monday! Today on the blog I have four books written by strong women. They have faced challenges and have come out on the other side willing to share their story to help other women. I hope you find encouragement from them just as much as I did. You can check out my additional reads on my Goodreads page by clicking on the link located on my blog homepage or click here.

Title: The Beauty of Broken: My Story and Likely Yours Too
Author: Elisa Morgan
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2013
Format: Paperback
Length: 256 pages

Elisa Morgan, the previous CEO of MOPS International for 20 years, shares her personal story. Morgan writes how we have bought into the myth of the perfect family, when in reality there is no family that is perfect. She writes “We all come from a broken family because God’s family is broken. The thing is, this isn’t the tragedy we assume. Broken is right where God wants us-and right where he can powerfully reassemble us,” (p. 30). She writes about her family’s struggles with alcoholism, drug addiction, infertility ,adoption, teen pregnancy, abortion, divorce, homosexuality and death. Morgan is relate-able in her writing and I found encouragement as a mom.

Five out of five bookworms. Excellent read!

About the author…

From the author’s website:

Elisa Morgan was named by Christianity Today as one of the top fifty women influencing today’s church and culture and is one of today’s most sought-after authors, speakers, and leaders. She has authored more than twenty-five books on mothering, spiritual formation, and evangelism, including The Beauty of BrokenHello, Beauty FullShe Did What She Could: Five Words of Jesus That Will Change Your Life, the NIV Mom’s Devotional Bible. Her newest release is The Prayer Coin: Daring to Pray with Honest Abandon

Her blog, Reallyplatforms both Elisa’s voice and the voices of a myriad of women who are committed to living out their influence in real life.

For twenty years, Elisa Morgan served as CEO of MOPS International (www.mops.org). Under her leadership MOPS grew from 350 to over 4,000 groups throughout the United States and in thirty other countries, influencing over 100,000 moms every year. Elisa now serves as President Emerita.

Elisa received a BS from the University of Texas and an MDiv from Denver Seminary where she now serves on the board. As a co-host of the syndicated radio program Discover the Word Elisa offers a daily fifteen-minute real-time conversation around the written and living Word of God. She also writes regularly for the Our Daily Bread Devotional. She is married to Evan (Founder and President of christianuniversity.org) and has two grown children and two grandchildren who live near her in Denver, Colorado. Wilson and Coach, her Rottie-wannabes, take her on walks in the open space behind her house.

Connect with Elisa on Instagram (elisamorganauthor), Facebook and Twitter (@elisa_morgan).

Title: Beautifully Broken
Author: Kimberly Jones-Pothier
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication Date: 2015
Format: Paperback
Length: 136 pages

Kimberly Jones-Pothier, a pastor and speaker, shares her testimony in Beautifully Broken. God called Jones-Pothier to be a pastor from a young age. She was raised in an evangelical family that was legalistic. Women were not allowed to sing, preach, wear jewelry, or slacks. She rebelled and didn’t want to be part of religion. God allowed healing in her life that eventually allowed Jones-Pothier to fulfill her dream of becoming a pastor. She shares how the broken pieces of our life and our trauma can be used to fulfill God’s will in our life. She has experienced rejection, abandonment, and divorce. She tells her story in a way that provides the opportunity for the reader to experience her own sense of healing. I have been following her FB page and have found encouragement as a believer.

Five out of five bookworms. Excellent read!

About the author…

From the author’s website:
Kimberly Jones‐Pothier, known as Real Talk Kim, travels the world fulfilling her passion and purpose of loving people back to life. 

She is a wife, mother, pastor, entrepreneur, best-selling author, entertainer and most importantly a worshiper after God’s own heart. Pastor Kim and her husband Mark Pothier are the Senior Pastors at Limitless Church in Fayetteville, Georgia and together have four sons.

She is a human rights advocate with a passion for giving back and believes in the compassion of the Holy Spirit, delivering it to those who need it most. Pastor Kim is an advocate partner with Rock Paper Scissors Foundation, a Non-profit Organization, which exists to foster healing and give a voice to those who have been silenced from all forms of abuse and human trafficking.

Pastor Kim has been featured on The Doctor Oz Show, Oxygen’s Network Series’ Preachers of Atlanta, Your World with Creflo Dollar on BET, ABC’s Nightline, The Word Network, CNN, Praise in the Park’ Atlanta and numerous magazines and radios shows. She is truly a living and walking testimony of God’s redemption plan in action. Follow her on FB and visit her website, RealTalkKim.com

Title: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: 2006
Format: Paperback
Length: 288 pages

Jeannette Walls shares her story of growing up in extreme poverty with parents that were eccentric. Her father was incredibly smart and well read on various academic subjects, but could not keep a job for long periods of time. The family was constantly moving and at times were homeless. Her mother had a degree in education and was a skilled artist, but refused to get or keep a job. She would rather spend all day working on her art. Walls and her three siblings were forced to take care of each other. Her years of growing up with an eccentric family was both a blessing and a tragedy. The Glass Castle is an amazing story of determination. Walls shares her family story in a beautiful way-not out of anger or bitterness, but of forgiveness and learning to understand what made her parents the way they were.

Five out of five bookworms. Excellent read!

About the author…

From the author’s website:
Jeannette Walls graduated from Barnard College and was a journalist in New York. Her memoir, The Glass Castle, has been a New York Times bestseller for more than six years. She is also the author of the instant New York Times bestsellers The Silver Star and Half Broke Horses, which was named one of the ten best books of 2009 by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. Walls lives in rural Virginia with her husband, the writer John Taylor.

Title: Girl Meets Change
Author: Kristen Strong
Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Company
Publication Date: 2015
Format: Paperback
Length: 224 pages

Kristen Strong writes about the stresses of expected and unexpected change in her book, Girl Meets Change. She writes about the several seasons of change that have been part of her life. The three stages of change according to Strong are acknowledgement, acceptance and adapting. Change can be a way for us to draw closer to God and allow Him to grow us an individual. Her book is filled with practical advice for women in how to deal with the changes life brings. She doesn’t preach or write in a condescending way-just as an encouragement for women that find themselves in difficult seasons life and are experiencing loneliness and heartache.

Five out of five bookworms. Excellent read!

About the author…

From the author’s website:

I’m Kristen, and I’m so happy to meet you. I’m wife to a U.S. Air Force Veteran, mama to three delightful teens, and your change mentor, belonging helper, and all around listening friend. I write to offer you fresh air encouragement for every season of your life by helping you see your specific season through the filter of God’s care and provision. I love to write stories that help you make sense of your own and help you see your season with more hope and less worry.  Visit Kristen’s website, Chasing Blue Skies.

Spring is around the corner…

Y’all, I am ready for spring. I want warmer weather and days where the sun is out longer. While the weather may not be our best friend right now, I have some authors that write lighthearted novels that will help chase away with winter blues.

Mary Kay Andrews
Robyn Carr
Dorothea Benton Frank
Jane Green
Elin Hildebrand
Debbie Macomber
Hannah McKinnon
Mary Alice Monroe
Wendy Wax

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel

Title: A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana
Author: Haven Kimmel
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: 2001
Format: Paperback
Length: 275 pages

A Girl Named Zippy is a fun memoir that I found while browsing the biography section at my local library. Haven Kimmel (born Susan Elizabeth Jarvis) writes about her memories from K-5th grade growing up in Mooreland, Indiana, a small town of 300 people. The memoir is humorous and witty as she writes about her surroundings from a young girl’s perspective. Kimmel’s mother struggles with depression and her father with alcoholism. She brings light to the family with her sense of humor and quirkiness. Kimmel’s sister, Melinda, was 10 and her brother, Daniel, was 13 when she was born. Kimmel writes in the book “My mother always cheerfully refers to me as “an afterthought,” which I consider a term of immense respect and affection, in spite of Melinda’s attempts to convince me otherwise,” (p.4). Kimmel had a big heart growing up. Her sister competed for Mooreland Fair Queen and Zippy emptied her piggy bank so Melinda would receive the most votes. Kimmel writes “The queen was decided by a process called “a-penny-a-vote,” which was modeled on democracy but confused with capitalism, and thus was successful, as processes go,” (p. 46). She spent time with her father fishing and went to church with her Mom every Sunday, even though she didn’t really want to go. She would hide her shoes and little pink Bible in an attempt to delay the process of going to church. If you loved the character Ramona Qumiby created by Beverly Clearly, you will love Zippy. A Girl Named Zippy was a #1 New York Times Bestseller and chosen as a must read by The Today Show’s book club.

five out of five bookworms
Haven Kimmel in her hometown of Mooreland, Indiana

About the author…

Haven Kimmel was born in New Castle, Indiana, and was raised in Mooreland, Indiana, the focus of her bestselling memoir, A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana .

Kimmel earned her undergraduate degree in English and creative writing from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and a graduate degree from North Carolina State University, where she studied with novelist Lee Smith. She also attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana.

She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Title: The Sound of Gravel
Author: Ruth Wariner
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: 2016
Format: Hardcover
Length: 336 pages


The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner is a memoir that truly stays with you long after you’ve finished reading the last page. Wariner grew up in Colonia LeBaron, a polygamist community in Mexico. Her grandfather founded the colony and her father, considered to be a Mormon prophet, helped with the church by recruiting members. Wariner’s father died when she was only three months old. Her mom remarried a man named Lane so he could support her children in LeBaron. Her mother was a devout Mormon and wanted all of her children to have polygamous marriages. Wariner’s stepfather was sexually and verbally abusive. He was not able to provide support for all of the children he fathered so the family grew up in poverty. Their house at LeBaron lacked modern conveniences such as running water and electricity. Wariner would shake mouse droppings off her pajamas before getting dressed. Her mother continued having children with Lane. Wariner helped with her younger siblings and when her mother passed away tragically, Wariner escaped LeBaron at the age of 15 with the assistance of another wife of Lane’s and her oldest brother. She took her three young sisters with her and raised them on her own.

Ruth Wariner’s mom and her siblings
Ruth Wariner with her sisters on her wedding day

The memoir is powerful and shows the strength Wariner had to leave the community she grew up in. She writes honestly and openly about her past. One of the most devastating parts of the memoir to me is when her mother escapes to her hometown in California and then decides to return to him when he shows up one day at the house. The kids become well adjusted to a good school across the street from their maternal grandparents, her daughter is getting assistance for medical issues and she is able to make it on her own living in a rental down the street from her parents. Wariner’s mom decides that the best decision is to stay with Lane and continue raising her kids at LeBaron.

Favorite Quote: I knew that my life would never be happy if all it amounted to was having several children by a shared husband. I couldn’t understand how love or adoration could be possible in that kind of arrangement, and I desperately wanted those. But I also knew that it wasn’t enough to want them. You had to know how to get them. Mom couldn’t teach me that because she didn’t know herself. She couldn’t show me how to be happy, only how to barely survive. ( The Sound of Gravel, p. 258)

five out of five bookworms

For more information about Colonia LeBaron and the history of polygamy, click here to visit Ruth Wariner’s site.

Click here to listen to Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love of Moxie podcast with guests Ruth Wariner and her cousin, Anna LeBaron, author of The Polygamist’s Daughter.

Ruth Wariner and her husband

About the author…

From the author’s website:
RUTH WARINER is an internationally renowned speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir THE SOUND OF GRAVEL. At the age of fifteen, Ruth escaped Colonia LeBaron, the polygamist Mormon colony where she grew up, and moved to California. She raised her three youngest sisters in California and Oregon. After earning her GED, she put herself through college and graduate school, eventually becoming a high school Spanish teacher. She remains close to her siblings and is happily married. The Sound of Gravel is her first book. www.ruthwariner.com


Educated by Tara Westover

Title: Educated
Author Tara Westover
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: February 20th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 352 pages

I was not familiar with Educated by Tara Westover until I saw a coworker reading the book. I asked him what the memoir was about and he explained that it was about a young woman that was isolated from society and had never been educated. She decided to educate herself enough to pass the ACT and attend college at age 17. She eventually received a PhD in history from Cambridge. Intrigued, I decided to check the book out from the library. I was picturing a story similar to the “living off the grid” shows on TV. This was similar to that, but with a father that most likely had bipolar, was not taking medication and made poor decisions that nearly cost his children their life several times. The children were not allowed to be homeschooled by the mother or receive any medical care from doctors.

Buck’s Peak, Idaho
Photo Credit: Idaho: A Climbing Guide

Westover was born and raised in Idaho in a home that overlooked Buck’s Peak. Her mother is a midwife/herbalist and eventually became the main provider of the family. Interestingly enough, her father is very strict in traditional roles. Women are not supposed to work outside the home or receive any form of education. The couple was not raised in this strict traditional way. Both of their sets of parents allowed them to attend school and work. The father chose this life as a way to not answer to society, specifically the government. Westover did not have a birth certificate until she was 9. She does not know the day she was born, only that the year is 1986. The couple have 7 children and all helped the father in his junkyard. When not assisting their father, they assisted the mom in the home.

Tara Westover
Photo Credit: Hill & Aubrey

Westover writes a beautiful memoir where she leaves the “off the grid” lifestyle in favor of being a member of society. I listened to an interview with Westover hosted by Oprah Winfrey. She describes the book as “liberating” and I have to agree. Westover chose her own life and escaped the abuse from her past. Her older brother, named Tyler in the book, helped her escape by encouraging her to attend college. He told her all she had to do was learn enough from textbooks to receive a 27 on the ACT. After receiving a high enough score on the ACT, Westover attended Brigham Young University. She asked her college history class what the Holocaust was. Her professor thought she was trying to make a cruel joke, but she truly did not know. She was also not aware of the Civil Rights Movement. College was a struggle in the beginning not only academically, but socially as well. Several years went by until Westover was fully acclimated socially and she eventually had a steady boyfriend. She keeps in contact with three of her siblings and is estranged from the rest of her family, including her parents. Her parents believe she is a danger to the family and that she is possessed by a demon. When Westover was attending Harvard for her PhD, her parents visited. Her father attempted to do an exorcism on Westover. She writes, “I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me,” (Westover, p. 304).

Note: Educated has caused controversy among readers. Many reviewers are saying that the “off the grid” lifestyle is not unusual and are taking offense. I don’t typically read reviews of a book until after I am done reading so other’s opinions will not be a reflection of my own. The author, Tara Westover, is not, in my personal opinion, criticizing the “off the grid lifestyle.” She is speaking of her own experience in dealing with feelings of isolation in an abusive family. I don’t believe her experience would have been negative if not for the abuse and the lack of homeschooling/public education.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

Purchase the book here.

From the author’s website:

Tara Westover is an American author. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. Taught to read by an older brother, her education was erratic and incomplete. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that first encounter with education, she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014.

Named Book of the Year by the American Booksellers Association
Winner of the 2018 Goodreads Choice Award for Memoir
Finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Award
Long listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
Finalist for the Leonard Award from the National Book Critics Circle Award
Finalist for the Autobiography Award from the National Book Critics Circle Award
Winner of the Audie Award for Autobiography/Memoir
Winner of the Audi Award for Best Female Narrator
(because Julie is fab)
Alex Award by the American Library Association
Finalist for the LA Times Book Prize
One of New York Times’s 10 Best Books of 2018
Amazon Editors’ #1 pick for the Best Book of 2018
Indigo #1 Pick for Best Book of 2018

#1 LibraryReads pick by American Librarians
Audible’s Best Memoir of the Year
Apple’s Best Memoir of the Year
Hudson Group Best Book of the Year
President Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of the Year list
Bill Gates’s Holiday Reading List

Author’s Website:

https://tarawestover.com/book

Additional readings/interviews on Tara Westover:

Interview with Ellen DeGeneres
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is635n6RNR0

Interview with Bill Gates
https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/Educated

National Public Radio Interview
https://www.npr.org/2019/01/18/686527909/memoirist-retraces-her-journey-from-survivalist-childhood-to-cambridge-ph-d

Vanity Fair Interview
https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2018/02/tara-westover-memoir-educated-interview

Interview with Oprah Winfrey
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/tara-westover-educated/id1264843400?i=1000437295457

How to Not Get Away With Murder

Title: Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered
Author: Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Length: 266 pages

I wish this book would have been available 10 years ago. THIS MEMOIR IS A MUST READ FOR TEENAGE AND COLLEGE WOMEN. Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered has a whole chapter on red flags to look for in relationships and not apologize for keeping yourself out of risk. “Little girls are taught to be polite, to smile pretty and sit up straight, to be nice and accommodating. And then those little girls turn into grown-ass women who’ve spent years being polite to the detriment of their own wants, needs and safety,” (Kilgariff and Hardstark, p. 29).

Kilgariff and Hardstark also discuss the cult of booze and the cult of perfection. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “But when you get older, you learn the shittiest, most ironic life lesson: “perfection” is not a guarantee for happiness,” (Kilgariff and Hardstark, p. 109). Amen, sisters.

If you have dealt with addiction, cults, wrong choices, bad relationships or have been caught in the cycle of abuse, this book is for you. Even though I haven’t experienced addiction with drugs or alcohol, I know what it’s like to sit still, look pretty and try to be perfect, but not feel good enough. Countless women have gone through this exact same experience. We need to break the cycle for our daughters, sisters and friends. We are worth more than that. YOU are worth more than that.

From the author’s website:

My Favorite Murder is the hit true crime comedy podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Since its inception in early 2016, the show has broken download records and sparked an enthusiastic, interactive “Murderino” fan base who come out in droves for their sold-out shows worldwide.

A top 10 regular on iTunes’ comedy podcast chart, My Favorite Murder has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, The Atlantic, Nylon and Rolling Stone magazine.

Aside from being avid true crime enthusiasts, Karen Kilgariff is a stand-up comedian and television writer and Georgia Hardstark is a writer and host for the Cooking Channel.

Find out more at https://www.myfavoritemurder.com/

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

Title: An Unwanted Guest
Author: Shari Lapena
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 290 pages

An Unwanted Guest is the cliche of murder mysteries. The setting is a cozy yet luxurious inn out in the middle of rural New York with no cell or internet service. The guests decide to arrive for their stay despite warnings of a huge blizzard over the weekend. The storm causes the power to go out, of course, and mayhem ensues. An Unwanted Guest reminds me of the game Clue. A little cheesy, but fun to play, or in this case, fun to read. I enjoy Shari Lapena’s thrillers, but I could also see her as an author of domestic fiction.

3 Bookworms (Good Read)

From the author’s website: Shari Lapena is the internationally bestselling author of The Couple Next DoorA Stranger in the House, and An Unwanted Guest. She was a lawyer and an English teacher before turning her hand to fiction. (Her newest book release, Someone We Know, is available starting today, July 30th.)
She lives in Toronto. Find out more at https://sharilapena.com/

Growing Up by Russell Baker

Title: Growing Up
Author: Russell Baker
Publisher: Plume
Publication Date: June 1982
Format: Paperback
Length: 278 pages

Russell Baker’s memoir, Growing Up, is a heartfelt memoir that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. Baker writes about growing up as a young boy during the Depression and his experience fighting in World War II as a Navy pilot. He was raised in poverty by a single mom for a majority of his childhood. He felt the pressure to be the “man of the family.” His family lived with aunts and uncles because that is the only way they could survive the Depression. Baker describes his relationship with his paternal grandmother, Ida Rebecca, a strong, domineering woman that raised 13 children in rural Virginia. She never accepted Baker’s mom, Lucy, and the two fought continuously over how to raise children. When Baker’s father passed away, Lucy moved her son and daughter to New Jersey to live with her extended family until their move to Baltimore. Uncle Harold and Aunt Sister, Ida Rebecca’s only daughter, lived in Baltimore as well in an apartment across the street from them. Uncle Harold was a huge influence in Baker’s life. He entertained Baker with stories about his time in the war. Lucy eventually met her second husband through Uncle Harold. Herb, Lucy’s second husband, was a good man who took care of the family. Baker was 14 when his mother remarried and he did not take to it kindly. He felt Herb was an intruder. Herb was a gentle, loving man who always had patience with Baker. He accepted Baker and ended up being a primary influence in Baker’s life. Herb purchased a home for the family in the 1940’s where his mother lived for 35 years.

Baker struggled in school and had no interest in the business world. His mother told him he would make a great writer, but he was embarrassed by his skill because he did not view writing as real work. Baker viewed writing as a skill for those that had other ways of making a living. Lucy didn’t think Baker “showed enough gumption.” She forced him into a job selling newspapers to help the family earn additional money. He didn’t think he would be good at sales. He complained to her once that the extra papers he was given weren’t selling and that people didn’t want to read the news anyways. His mother said, “For God’s sake, Russell, show a little gumption for once in your life. This is a world war. An idiot could sell newspapers today.” Another one of her favorite sayings was “The Lord helps those that help themselves.” He wasn’t able to collect money from clients that owed him for newspaper deliveries. Lucy became frustrated and collected every penny from them herself. She had no time for laziness or complaining.

Baker didn’t think he would be able to attend college due to lack of financial resources. One of his best friend’s from high school told him about scholarships. Baker tested into John Hopkins and was able to attend on scholarship tuition free. He eventually found success as a published author and journalist. His first Pulitzer Prize was for his column in the Observer. He was also a contributor for The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, The Saturday Evening Post and McCalls.

Read more about Russell Baker here.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

List of Memoirs

I am a fan of memoirs because so much can be learned from people’s life stories. I went through a major depression last year and read the following memoirs. I gained strength and knowledge, even if I hadn’t been through the exact experience myself that the writer lived through. For more of my favorite memoirs that I do not list here, visit my Goodreads site at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5567790-brittany

Title: Don’t Stop Believin’
Author: Olivia Newton-John
Publisher: Viking Australia
Publication Date: September 10th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 366 pages

Olivia Newton-John shares her life story for the first time in detail in her new memoir. She chronicles her journey to stardom and her personal battles. Newton-John founded the Australian retreat center, Gaia, and the ONJ Centre (Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre). She is currently battling metastatic breast cancer and discusses this in detail. She is married to John Easterling and has a daughter, Chloe, from a previous marriage to Matt Lattanzi. 
Her book is a perfect read for those that are fans of Olivia Newton John. I love Grease and it was interesting to read what happened on the set of the film.
Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: Loving Natalee: A Mother’s Testament of Hope and Faith
Author: Beth Holloway
Publisher: Harper One
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Length: 256 pages


“This is the inside story of what occurred during the most horrific and tragic event any family could ever imagine. It has to be told because I represent every parent, and Natalee represents every young. adult. No one else should ever live this nightmare. If the words that follow will help another parent, child, young adult, or travel of any age stay safer, then it will have been well worth the writing of this book.”

-Beth Holloway, Loving Natalee

Loving Natalee is a beautiful memoir written by Beth Holloway. I remember hearing about the disappearance of Natalee my freshman year of college. I was broken hearted for her and her family. Beth Holloway writes candidly about the emotions she went through after her daughter’s disappearance and how her faith sustained her. She is a strong and courageous woman who fought so hard for Natalee against a government that covered up many details related to the case.

Beth Holloway founded the Natalee Holloway Resource Center to assist families in locating their missing loved ones. She currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama and works as a speech pathologist.

Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love and Overcoming
Author: Kerri Rawson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: January 29th, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Length: 336 pages

Kerri Rawson’s story is one of the most beautiful and life changing that I have ever read. She grew up in Wichita, Kansas with a seemingly normal childhood. Her family was active in the community and their church. Rawson was very close to her father, Dennis Radner. The memoir includes memories of vacation with him and how he shared her love of the outdoors. Rawson leaves to attend college where she meets her future husband. Her dad walks her down the aisle at the wedding. Her family seems happy and thriving with plenty of friends to support and love them.

A few years later, Rawson moves out of state for her husband’s job. She is sitting in their apartment one afternoon by herself when there is a knock on the door. The man is an agent with the FBI. He tells her that Dennis Radner, the man she knows as her loving father, is BTK, the notorious Wichita serial killer the police have been trying to track down for years.

Her maturity and grace show through this memoir. She speaks of how her faith helped her during some of the darkest days. Rawson has not visited with her father in jail. She has communicated to him through letters, but has not had any contact with him in a long time. She writes that she knows him as two different people. One is the loving father that would have done anything for his family. The other is the man with an evil past that she has no desire to communicate with. She prefers to remember him as the father she once knew.

Follow Kerri Rawson on Facebook.

Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: For Laci: A Mother’s Story of Love, Loss and Justice
Author: Sharon Rocha
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Publication Date: December 5th, 2006
Format: Paperback
Page Length: 335 pages

Sharon Rocha, mother of Laci Peterson, writes in detail about the loss of Laci and her unborn grandson, Connor, in 2002. Rocha writes truthfully about the emotions the family dealt with when there at one time beloved son-in-law, Scott Peterson, was convicted. She mentions in the memoir that she had doubts about Scott at first. He seemed too charming and too good to be true. She loved him because Laci did.

Rocha is a remarkably strong woman. She helped pass the Unborn Victims of Violence act in 2004, which makes it a crime to harm the fetus of a pregnant woman during an attack. She currently lives in California and works as a real estate agent.

Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch
Author: Alison Arngrim
Publisher: It Books
Publication Date: June 15th, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Length: 302 pages

Nellie Oleson was the character everyone loved to hate on the beloved tv show, Little House on the Prairie. What many may not know is that Alison Arngrim is the exact opposite of her character. She is funny and down to earth. Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls Wilder and the girl Nellie loved to bully, and Arngrim are best friends and stay in touch with many of the characters from the show.

Arngrim’s memoir is filled with humor and cherished moments from Little House. She also discusses the hardships she endured in her private life with her dysfunctional family and how playing her character was a form of therapy. Her brother sexually abused Arngrim for years and she was too afraid to tell anyone. She learned to be strong by playing Nellie Oleson and the cast became a second family to her.

Percival Dalton, Nellie Oleson’s husband on the tv show, passed away due to AIDS in 1986. Arngrim currently works as an AIDS activist for the organization ACT UP in honor of her friend and castmate. She also is an activist for the improvement of child protection laws and a founding board member of the National Association to Protect Children.

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch was a Goodreads Choice Nominee for Memoir and Biography in 2010.

Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: Where There’s Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up
Author: Elizabeth Smart
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 27th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Page Length: 288 pages

Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home at the age of 14 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was held captive by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee for nine months until she was rescued by authorities.

Her memoir, Where There’s Hope, discusses her life since the abduction and how she healed from the trauma she endured. Smart interviews those that have faced their own challenges and have overcome. She helps individuals make peace with their own past and move forward with healing.
Smart currently works as an American child safety activist
and is a contributor for ABC News. She is the founder of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation which provides resources for victims and their families. Smart is married to Matthew Gilmour and they have three children. For more information, visit elizabethsmart.com
Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Whoa Susannah

Title: Can’t Make This Stuff Up
Author: Susannah B. Lewis
Publisher:Thomas Nelson
Genre: Christian Humor, Biographies & Memoir
Paperback: 224 pages

I have followed Susannah B. Lewis on Facebook for several years and she has become a favorite comedian of mine. Can’t Make This Stuff Up! is Lewis’s long awaited memoir and I downloaded the Kindle version when it became available this month. If you are looking to read a book from a gifted storyteller with a love for the South, then you’ve found it. Picture sitting on a front porch with a glass of sweet tea as Lewis shares her favorite childhood stories filled with humor, grief, loss, love and encouragement. Her writing style is genuine and warm. I related to Lewis’s early years of marriage, young motherhood and her feelings of grief.

About the Author

Susannah B. Lewis is a popular comedian, author and blogger. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and three children. Follow her on Facebook and visit her blog.

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

Title: Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me
Author: Adrienne Brodeur
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

“As any magician knows, it is not the smoke and mirrors that trick people; it is that the human mind makes assumptions and misunderstands them as truths.” Adrienne Brodeur, Wild Game

I have always loved a good memoir and this one does not disappoint. Adrienne Brodeur was raised in Chestnut Hills, Massachusetts with all of the comforts a wealthy lifestyle affords. Brodeur adores her stepfather, Christopher, and is torn when her mother, Malabar, begins an affair with Christopher’s best friend of over 50 years. Keeping the affair hidden from her stepfather consumes Brodeur’s young life and she becomes enmeshed with her narcissistic mother.

Wild Game is a heartbreakingly beautiful account of family relationships. Brodeur writes with elegance about her childhood and her journey to find herself as an adult woman. Brodeur’s ability to view Malabar as a broken, lonely woman that shows strength in the midst of many dark times is one of the reasons this book was fought over by 14 publishers and movie rights already purchased. Wild Game will be available for purchase on October 15, 2019.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.