Category Archives: Memoir

New Yorkers: A Feisty People Who Will Unsettle, Madden, Amuse and Astonish You by Clifford Browder

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

When it comes to New York City, its dynamic environ and multicultural fusion of distinctive inhabitants, author Clifford Browder focuses his keen literary eye on his life and experiences as a seasoned resident there, as well as providing glimpses of the eclectic history of the city in his recent work, New Yorkers: A Feisty People Who will Unsettle, Madden, Amuse and Astonish You. Moreover, being no stranger to using the backdrop of New York as a setting for his previously published books, including a series set in nineteenth-century New York, titled Metropolis, author Browder once again provides an intriguing exploration of a very culturally distinctive locale.

Moreover, this is not your typical cut and dry biography, providing dry facts; instead, the read is a heartfelt memoir of a man and the city he lives, loves, survives and works in. The narrative keeps you rapt in its pages with a winning combination of information gleaned from Mr. Browder’s unique standpoint, research, and experiences from his many years as a resident. Consequently, author Browder does well with transfixing the mental eye with descriptions of his life as a longtime resident, including historical glimpses and insider tidbits of the better-known aspects of New York as well as the lesser-known and even the obscure.

Kensington: A Memoir About Friendship, Love and Life in a Small Town by Robert Haydon

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Kensington: a memoir about friendship, love, and life in a small town is a fascinating recollection of Robert Haydon’s life in the 40’s and 50’s that also includes enthralling ancestral stories along with entertaining anecdotes involving animals. Haydon’s family moved from Kensington, Maryland, to Dallas, Texas, in 1957. Haydon not only shares some of his unforgettable memories of Kensington through engrossing stories but also writes about the tough scenario the family faced that prompted the move to Dallas. During Haydon’s teen years in Dallas, music became an important part of his life, especially after he met Steve Miller, a fellow classmate, who shared his love of music. This friendship led to the formation of a band that included other fellow classmates, and the group named themselves “The Marksmen Combo.” This was the beginning of Haydon’s performing career, which brought him into contact with some of the greatest musicians of all time, who are mentioned in the book.

This memoir grabs readers’ attention from the very beginning with the wonderfully written prologue that sets up the story, which is told in the stylistic tradition of a novel. The Haydon and Mann families joined together through marriage and had different outlooks on life. The Haydon’s led a rural lifestyle, whereas the Mann were city folks. Haydon shares intriguing snippets about his ancestors along with more specific details about the lives of his grandparents and immediate family members. Pivotal and historical events in the lives of both families that are touched on by Haydon connect with readers’ emotions. Haydon also uses vivid, sensory details along with realistic dialogue to draw readers in and keep them invested in continuing to turn the pages. The black and white photographs sprinkled throughout the book not only help legitimize the story but also help readers visualize the people that are an inherent part of it and the places where events have taken place.

Haydon does an excellent job of using anecdotes that pull readers into the heartaches and celebratory moments experienced by individuals in this well-researched narrative that also provides readers with opportunities to form their own opinions about some of the material presented in this historical account. The honest and genuine telling of moments and events that encompass family and friends will appeal to readers, especially anyone who is interested in influential rock music icons and a real insight into what it was like growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. Kensington is an enjoyable, moving, and enlightening memoir that covers historical junctures and personal incidents of a time period in history that was far different than today’s culture.

Geraldina & the Compass Rose: One Woman’s Faith-Filled Journey To Find Love by Geraldine Brown Giomblanco

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Geraldine Brown Giomblanco’s compelling memoir Geraldina & the Compass Rose is an inspirational read that prompts to self-reflection and action. By telling her story in a most candid way, the book outgrows just one person and gradually reveals its reflective surface in which the reader’s own psyche is mirrored.

The novel closely follows the life of a woman along the major spheres of her life: faith, family, career, and love. Throughout the pages, Geri skillfully tries to find balance between all these which proves to be far from an easy task. However, even in the darkest hours, at least one thing remains constant and safely guides her through hardships – a strong devotion that springs from her beloved Grandmother. When least expected, but most needed, subtle divine interventions illuminate the right path.

Geri is a big personality who does not hesitate to rely on wits and instinct to propel her through career and guide her through personal matters. Even so, she is constantly reminded that the road to success is not easy. Often enough she hits the stop button and gathers all strength to restart hoping for a better outcome. The final payoff is well worth it, as she grows ever closer to her aspiration. After flicking through a magazine an image made a great impact on her and it served as a personification of a successful business woman. Striving to grow into that glossy image, she ends up becoming much more. Behind the aesthetics hides a savvy business brain and the courage to break the mold.

Beyond the ups and downs, Geri’s career seems to have a general upward trend, something that cannot easily be said about her love life. She seems to be a lucky love charm to many of her friends at playing a hand in matching them up with a Mister Right but she is having trouble finding the same kind of luck. Geraldine Brown Giomblanco takes us behind closed curtains and reveals some of her most intimate thoughts and actions in a frank and considerate tone. She does not shy away from hurt and heartache nor from passion and blind love. Trying to balance emotions and rationality in romance is a challenging task, but she relies on both in trying to undo some of the more difficult relationships.

All in all, it is Geraldine Brown Giomblanco’s honesty and courage to unravel her life story that makes the novel so appealing. Whether it is in the big picture or the smallest of details, certainly every reader will find a piece of herself or himself in the pages of the author’s life.

Surviving the Survivors: A Memoir by Ruth Klein

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Surviving the Survivors: A Memoir is a heart-wrenching life story that will touch readers in deep, emotional ways. Ruth Klein is a second-generation survivor of the Holocaust, and she candidly shares the story of her turbulent childhood in a brutally honest way. Ruth was born in a displaced persons camp in Europe, and the family emigrated to the United States when Ruth was a toddler. A number of factors affected the Klein family and made it far more challenging for the household members to integrate themselves not only into American life but also into a cohesive and loving family. Things such as the psychological trauma that haunted Ruth’s parents because of the Holocaust, the post-war treatment of Jewish refugees, the difficult transition to a new country that included poor living conditions and social rejection, and their father’s struggles with mental health problems.

Dancing with Death: An Epic and Inspiring Travel Adventure by Jean-Philippe Soulé

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Dancing with DeathOffering an intensely evocative and aptly titled narrative, Dancing with Death both guides and inspires, armchair adventurers as well as venturesome travelers to the jungles, seas, people and cultures of the world’s “roads” less traveled within the beautiful panoramas of Latin America. Co-authored by co-adventurers Jean-Philippe Soulé and Luke Shullenberger, this dynamic read memorializes not only their experiences during their expansive sea kayaking journey, but also serves to help bring awareness to the cultures and history of the seldom seen or noted native peoples they encountered.

From the start, the story treats the mind to the emotions and visages entwined in this thrilling narrative which memorializes the unforgettable and awe-inspiring expedition by sea touted as a one of a kind undertaking. Author, guide, and adventurer Jean-Philippe Soulé accompanied by fellow adventurer and able friend Luke Shullenberger find themselves and their kayaks sorely tested by weather, tides and their bodies as they paddled thousands of miles braving often life-threatening conditions including near drowning, malaria, shark attacks, crocodiles, guerillas, armed bandits and corruption during their one of a kind undertaking. The overall journey spanning three years, 3000 miles and seven countries included Baja, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. The expedition fully titled as the Central America Sea Kayaking Expedition 2000, but also known as the CASKE2000, was a quest intended as an effort to connect with, learn about and preserve in writing the history of the self-reliant, indigenous peoples and their respect for and relationship with the earth.

Rickles’ Letters: A Memoir by Don Rickles

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Rickles' LettersVery good memoir by one of the favorite comedians from back in the 50’s thru 80’s. I never realized how many movies that Don Rickles was in during his career. Also tons of television shows (he even had his own show for several years).

Suppose it was easy for him to get work after he got started because he became friends with all of the top names in the entertainment industry during those days. Some folks were not always happy with him because his type of humor usually picked on or made fun of someone in the audience. But I suppose if you realized it was all being done in good fun it was alright.

Although Don’s mother, Etta, always believed in him and would tell everyone that he was going to be a great entertainer some day, he had a very slow start and wasn’t accepted very quickly.

Bound by My Choices: How a Death Nearly Broke Me But the Navy Saved Me by Keshawn A. Spence

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Bound by My ChoicesThis illustrated memoir is a modern fairy tale of how a troubled young boy managed to overcome the many obstacles thrown his way and how he continues to do so as an adult. Keshawn A. Spence claims that he is bound by his choices, but as his story unfolds, the opposite message seems to emerge, one of freedom and possibilities.

Bound by My Choices is mostly rooted in the childhood of the author, focusing on the influence of the external factors over his life. The book debuts with a series of photos immortalizing some of the most important events throughout his life, but also some that are precious precisely because they mirror the nakedness of real life. So, ever since the beginning, the intention of the author to create an intimate bond with the reader on his journey of self-discovery is quite clear.

The Dot on the Left: Life Lessons on Moving from Below Average to Ahead of the Curve by Dave Swanson

Reviewed by Ray Palen

The Dot on the LeftWhen readers turn to a self-help book they are looking for something new and different. There have been thousands of books written about overcoming adversity, striving to improve yourself, finding strength from within, etc… The question when promoting these self-help books is not only how to market them but finding something unique that no one else has written previously.

Dave Swanson’s self-help/inspirational book entitled THE DOT ON THE LEFT: Life Lessons on Moving from Below Average to Ahead of the Curve is not as much another primer or how-to book. Rather, Swanson simply tells his own story and how he overcame adversity, negativity and labels others wished to place upon him and instead listened only to his inner feelings as he pushed himself to succeed at every goal he set for himself.

This is a great start, but to really grab readers and keep them engaged you also need to have some credibility beyond just a good story. Swanson has that in droves. In addition to being a published author he is also a motivational speaker and former U.S. Army infantry platoon leader. He knows about real adversity as he survived over 100 firefights while deployed to Sadr City, Iraq. There’s an old adage that states ‘there are no atheists in fox-holes’! Well, to survive the type of warfare this man was faced with required much more than faith alone. Dave Swanson sounds like the type of person I want to listen to when he has something to say.

In the Time of Bobby Cox: The Atlanta Braves, Their Manager, My Couch, Two Decades, and Me by Lang Whitaker

Reviewed by Allen Hott

In the Time of Bobby CoxThis is a pretty interesting book especially if you happen to be a baseball fan and precisely an Atlanta Braves fan. Basically Whitaker has told the story of Bobby Cox and his journey as manager of the Braves through the most exciting period of baseball in Atlanta history. Whether or not you are a baseball fan I am pretty sure everyone knows of the tremendous run the Braves had from 1991 forward. They won 14 division titles in a row which is something that had never been done and has not been done since by any major league ball club.

Click Here for More Information on In the Time of Bobby Cox

Many believe that Bobby Cox was the catalyst for that impressive showing and it is probably pretty much true as is explained by Whitaker. However it was done it was quite a feat. Cox appeared to handle the players in such a way as to get
the most out of each of them as is described in the book. He treated each individually as best suited them and the team.

And that was quite an array of top flight players as it turned out. The author describes how Gregg Maddox came to the Braves and for the next ten years was one of the best pitchers in baseball. The incident when Maddox first joined the
Braves and how he and David Justice “collided” (actually in a nice way) is a neat piece by itself. He also gives interesting anecdotes about Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and others. Each of his pieces go together to make this an interesting read.
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Each of the top players basically gets a chapter or more and then he briefly discusses the entire listing of all the players who played under Cox during his reign. All of these pieces make up, for a real baseball fan, a very enlightening read.

The author does quite a bit of discussing his own life and how he has always been a huge sports fan. And using that as a starter is how he eventually became a journalist and then honed in on sports from that beginning. He played sports all of his young life and has followed all sports throughout his career. He also talks in detail about his living in New York City while working and yet he still constantly did and does follow the Braves.

He has woven an interesting book that zeroes in on Bobby Cox but expands in a fashion to do a great job of keeping the reader’s interest in other players and also shows a good look at life as a sports journalist. Excellent job!

No Surrender: Faith, Family and Finding Your Way by Patrick Bisher with Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

No SurrenderAfter 40+ books, writing about heroes is nothing new for Jon Land. What is new for him is writing about an actual warrior, instead of a fictional one, which is exactly the point of No Surrender and then some. This wondrously written tale, chronicling the improbable route Navy SEAL Patrick Bisher followed in becoming a true American hero, rings true as an inspirational catharsis of rare depth and pathos.

No Surrender is subtitled Faith, Family and Finding Your Way for a reason: Because that’s exactly what Patrick discovered were the true keys to surmounting obstacles life kept throwing in his way. He was only nine when doctors told him he’d likely never walk again due to a congenital hip condition, but you wouldn’t know that from his performance through Navy SEAL BUD/S training. Nor would you know that his decorated service in Iraq was performed with an artificial hip made necessary when a parachuting accident threatened to waylay Patrick’s dream yet again.

Those BUD/S chapters are among the finest I’ve ever encountered as a backdrop to military training, but this is no standard military tome, despite a sequence set amid Patrick’s deployment to Iraq. It’s a memoir rooted in Patrick finding his faith when he’d lost everything else and how that faith, along with God, carried him from the darkness of despair to the light of hope.