“A Good American” #BHBC Review

I’ll admit it, I am a huge nerd for historic fiction, especially the kind of fiction that takes me through the Midwest. You know I am not a Midwest girl, but I just love the allure of plains. Anyhow, as a good American myself, I connected well with “A Good American” (by Alex George), the latest book I got to review through BlogHer.

Source: Blogher

George presents quite the journey of a Germany immigrant family (the Meisenheimers) starting with Jette and Frederick’s “snap” decision to leave their home country and make America their own. You see, their son was conceived out of wedlock, and Frederick was not the man that Jette’s mother would have chosen for her to marry. They hid their pregnancy for about 7 months then upon being discovered, decided to flee to America for the freedoms we know (and love). Once arriving in America, Jette and Frederick have to make the new country their own, and just like their happenstance meeting in a garden, destiny and fate have complete control over the events that happen to them and their family in the free world.

The journalistic narration by grandson James travels with the family from “love at first sight” through generations of cultural change (tied mostly to the family’s bar turned burger joint, a town staple) and drama. Every chapter stirred my emotions—laughter, anger, sadness, laughter again—because I could relate to many of the trials and triumphs the family encounters in their years as Good Americans. There are secrets that you won’t even learn about until the very last pages, leaving you on the edge of your seat. Every family has their secrets, right?

Speaking of secrets…I know I am being super secretive with this review, but you have to trust me—you don’t want the surprises spoiled. I love, love, love stories like this. George was so descriptive and I could literally see the novel unfold as I read it (all in one day—I loved it so much). Add this book to your 2013 “Must Read” list, and you will not be disappointed. In the meantime, you can check out the conversation from myself and others over at BlogHer.

Disclaimer: I participated in this review for BlogHer. While it’s a paid review, all opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

Mapping My Future with “My Life Map” #BHBC #spon

If you asked me what I wanted to be when I was 5, I would have said a veterinarian. When I was 18, that changed to a teacher. Now at 29, I am happy in a job measuring technology issues. Just last night, however, I told Greg, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up”. Throughout life, I’ve had a number of jobs, dreams, and life situations that got me to where I am today. Each experience led up to the present and the present will lead to the future. Kate and David Marshall have the perfect book for me (and others) trying to figure out the “what’s next” question in  My Life Map: A Journal to Help Shape Your Future.


Photo Courtesy of Penguin Books

This journal serves as a tool to look at where you’ve been and what you hope to do. It’s good for people at all life stages (because, obviously, life changes from day to day, year to year). There are prompts throughout the book that have you look (workbook-style) at experiences, patterns, and ambitions. It’s a great tool for doing some self-examination and finding a purpose in the next steps.

 “When should you start mapping your life? Start at any time, at any age, whether you’re in your twenties or in midlife contemplating the second half of life.” (page 8)

I appreciate the types of questions within the prompts about the past because they got me thinking about parts of my life I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to include in an exercise of thinking about my future. For example, the prompt “What was your favorite room in the home you grew up in? Why?” got me thinking about how this room made me want to be a teacher. (My favorite room was our attic play room, a space where I could “teach” my stuffed animals arts and crafts, songs, numbers, and letters.) I wouldn’t have thought about the connections unless I was asked, and I am glad I was asked! It also is serving as healing from some of the significant experiences in my life (losing my best friend to cancer, dealing with an abusive relationship) and helping me think about how those things will drive my next chapters.

(How much do I love this included quote? “Turn your wounds into wisdom.” – Oprah Winfrey, page 31)

This book will be a great guide for me as I figure out the next steps in my life—do I want to crunch numbers every day for the next 40 years, no, but do I know for sure what the next big thing is? No! My Life Map will hold the secrets of my hopes and dreams—including family, friends, learning, work, service, and playing. These things will eventually (throughout the years) come to fruition if I continue to aim for my ambitions.

What are you waiting for? Are you ready to take a stab at mapping your past, present, and future? My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future is available for $16 from Gotham Books (and will definitely be on my holiday gift idea list).

Disclaimer: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

#BHBC Review: “You Have No Idea” #spon

One of the things I often wonder is, “How would my life have been different if I would have just…” (listened to my mom?). Sure, some things would have been a lot different, but maybe some things turned out the way they did because I chose not to listen.

Helen and Vanessa Williams (from BlogHer)

One of my childhood idols, Vanessa Williams, and her mother, Helen Williams, teamed up to write “You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other)”. The two tag-team Vanessa’ biography…Helen sprinkles in the advice that she gave Vanessa, and Vanessa gives her take on what the life moments around that advice. From as simple as not riding with someone else on the back of her bike to not posing nude, they tell it all.

While I am not normally one for biographies/memoirs, I have to tell you, “You Have No Idea” had me captivated from the beginning. As a child, I loved singing along to “Save the Best for Last” and “Colors of the Wind”, and we all know the story about the photos that ended her reign as Miss America. But, there are so many things I didn’t know about Vanessa, like that she has four children and was married twice (Rick Fox was one of her husbands). Oh, and Vanessa and I connect on a level–traveling with a breast pump and no baby. You’ll have to read the book to hear about the time she was in an airport and got called out by security…oh, do I know the feeling! Vanessa and Helen each gave their own side of the story (there’s always two sides, right?) and this makes the biography feel light–something I appreciate.

Helen and Vanessa write about the pageants, the music, the Broadway dream. Through it all, the theme of surviving what life hands you sticks out. While reading Vanessa’s story and hearing Helen’s advice, I laughed, I cried, and most of all, it made me connect with my past on another level. I can look back at things my mom has told me and say, “Oh! She was so right”…and it makes me think of things that I will have to tell my daughter.

This book was a fun read, and I highly recommend you pick up a copy of it. It is almost Mother’s Day, after all, so perhaps pick up a copy for your own mom and pen a note about some of the advice she gave you in life.

Want to join in on the fun that BlogHer is having around the release of “You Have No Idea”? Head over to their Book Club page. You’ll be able to hear more about the book, and join in the discussions, and even read an excerpt from Chapter One. There will be a new question each week, and I encourage you to share your thoughts. The first question will be, “Did you follow your mother’s rules? Did you listen to her advice?“. So what are you waiting for? Go share!

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Disclosure: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

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Want to hear more from Vanessa? Follow her on Twitter (@vwofficial) or like her on Facebook.