Category Archives: Memoirs

Narrative of a person’s life or experiences. A true story about a real person. Includes biographies, autobiographies and memoires.

Fresh off the Boat by Huang

Eddie Huang is best known as a rising chef, a blogger provocateur, and the founder of Boahaus in New York. Eddie Huang is an Asian-American who has defied every “model minority” stereotype. This book is an inspiring story about family, identify and finding a place to belong.

Fresh off the Boat
by Eddie Huang
Spiegel & Grau
January 2013

He was a kid who did not respect authority. got into trouble easily because of his attitude, and did not get along with his mad family. His father always seem to put him down and his mother yelled a lot. He was/is a bright person, but did not always use common sense. The book is a lot about food. Food seemed to be Eddie’s anchor – lifeline.

The book was interesting, but I didn’t like it. The language is very filthy – too much – did not need. This foul language seems to distract from the real story. Eddie appears to be a person with a large chip on his shoulder and a very filthy mouth. Let’s hope his blog is a lot cleaner than his book.

Not recommended.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is an 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top..

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Sweet Hell on Fire by Lunsford

Let me begin by saying, Sara Lunsford’s Sweet Hell on Fire: A Memoir of the Prison I Worked In and the Prison I Lived In is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. In her writing debut Lunsford details a year long account of her role as female officer in the male prison system and her dangerous decline into alcoholism. A gritty depiction, Sweet Hell on Fire leaves little to the imagination chronicling how her violent exchanges with inmates seem to seep into her daily life and behavior.

Sweet Hell on Fire
A Memoir of the Prison I Worked In and the Prison I Lived In
By Sara Lunsford
November 2012

Sara Lunsford notes in the foreword that when she originally scripted her memoir it spoke only of her life on the job, leaving out personal details that would inevitably reveal any mistakes or shortcomings. As a reader I am so thankful that she decided to re-evaluate this decision. By disclosing her imperfections she was able to make it not only a collection of frightening battles of bravado between herself and the inmates, but instead a profound, hear wrenching account of her personal evolution. I do feel, however, that there are certainly times where Lunsford’s writing style should have been a bit more descriptive, focusing less on profanities and more on prose.

Overall, for a first time reviewer I am certainly satisfied with my decision to read such a compelling story written by such an honest author.

Lindsay Green is a Midwest gal spending her twenties in South. While she doesn’t read as often as she should thanks to Netflix, she mostly enjoys memoirs and all types of fiction. Most of her time is spent with friends playing board games or discussing the best, new television series.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Goose by Siragusa and Yeager

Tony Siragusa, “Goose,” is all over the place since retirement. He’s got Man Cave on TV, is on the sidelines for Fox for football games, and now he’s getting in to books. The question is whether we want this much of the guy. The answer is likely, “yes!”

The Outrageous Life & Times of a Football Guy
by Tony Siragusa and Don Yeager
Crown Archetype
September 2012

Goose goes through the obligatory upbringing stories and how he overcame challenges to get to the NFL from college. But what you and I want to know has everything to do with the behind the scenes stuff in the NFL. We want to know what really goes on. And frankly, we get it. To the point where I wondered if the author understood the bridges he was burning in sharing this info.

For fans who want the dirt, you’ll get info on how players would pass urine testing in the NFL with clean urine and a catheder, and you’ll get what really goes on under the pile fighting for a fumble. You’ll also get a ton of Siragusa’s wit, charm and (unfortunately) his pride and arrogance.

In fact, it is in these “I’m so awesome I can walk in to the workout room and pick up 400 lbs just to show I can” stories that the book really bogs down. This author is hilarious and doesn’t need to tell us how great he is, and when he spends time doing it I can’t help wonder if he is simply bragging because that’s the kind of person he is or if he is trying to “build his brand.” He also had a full chapter on cheating and seemed to relish in how he took advantage of the refs and other players by pushing the boundaries as much as possible to win. It seemed like the same rational was used by those who used steroids (which he never did): Everyone else is doing it so to compete I gotta do it. I’m not sure why he put so much into these parts of the book. Whatever the reason, I skipped over these after a while and got to the more funny parts.

Like what? I laughed out loud when he told the first story of when he lined up and messed with the offense by yelling out “Hut!” How he played pranks on people. Basically, the parts that showed that this man’s true brand is the funny, John Madden-light (if you can say that about him) guy on the sidelines. Not the cheating, self agrandizing guy he wrote about in the book.

With all the faults, I have to say that I was surpised by how much I enjoyed reading this book. I intended to pick it up for a few minutes and ended up reading it in one sitting. It was insightful, well written and very funny at times. NFL fans will want to grab this one.

Note: This book has a ton of cuss words in it ranging from basic all the way to F-bombs. It also has some derogatory terms that I won’t repeat. If this is something you are sensitive about you may want to avoid it.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Named by God by Van Norman

Named by God truly is an inspiring story. Kasey Van Norman shares her personal experiences as she attempts to strengthen our faith. Many young women face the same issues she faced and therefore many readers can relate to this story.

Named by God
By Kasey Van Norman
Tyndale house
April 2012

Kasey experiences many tough situations in her teenage years. She went through eating disorders, addiction to sex, date rape and others. Then as an adult, suffered a painful miscarriage, was rejected by friends, her church and the community. She also was diagnosed with cancer and she took it hard when her mother past away from cancer.

Since Kasey has endured more than I did and she came out strong, I would consider her an idol. She trusted her faith in God took it step by step and always found her way back. It is tough to not worry about what people think of you and to accept yourself for who you are. Kasey tells how she took that step and shows it is possible. There are so many situations I could relate to, could go on forever.

I would give Named by God two thumbs up! This story is a must read for young women, especially those who are high school age. I definitely recommend it to all women. Sometimes situations aren’t as bad as they seem or the blessing are hidden in the grayness but see things from a new pair of eyes and things usually are better.

Thank you Kasey for having the courage to share your background. Your story has helped me!

Brittney Dodson is a stay at home mom who also works from home. She find reading free her from reality and the worries it brings.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Yes, Chef by Samuelsson

Marcus is a young boy from a remote village in Ethiopia. He contacts tuberculosis along with his mother and sister. His mother dies, but he and his sister survive. After spending sometime in an orphanage, Marcus and his sister are adopted by a white family from Sweden. Marcus first learns to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen.

Yes, Chef
A Memoir
Marcus Samuelsson
Random House
June 2012

The book chronicles Samuelsson’s remarkable journey from the slums of Ethiopia to the streets of New York. The journey was a long and hard one. Marcus was not always accepted due to the color of his skin. He learned the hard way the protocol he must follow. His talent and ambition finally comes together at Aquavit where he earns a New York Times three- star rating. Marcus went on to open the highly acclaimed Red Rooster Restaurant in Harlan where presidents rub elbow with musicians, artist and bus drivers. . Harlan is a place where an orphan from Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, living in America, can feel at home.

Who would have thought that a young black boy from the poorest region of Ethiopia would go up to be the world renowned Chef Marcus Samuelsson. Only sacrifice and determination could achieve such a goal.

An interesting read. The author portrays all the frustrations and set backs he had to endure to reach his goal. Many would be chefs have fallen along the way, but Marcus never deterred from his chosen path. Through competition with other outstanding chefs, Marcus won the privilege of cooking President and Mrs. Obama’s first state dinner, he truly has arrived.

I liked the book.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is an 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top..

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

A Chance in the World by Pemberton

The true story of a young boy – age three – taken from his mother and placed in the clutches of a cruel foster home.

A Chance in the World
by Steve Pemberton
Thomas Nelson
January 2012

Steve cannot remember anything about his mother. He, however, hopes each day for her return to take him away from the horrible Robinsons. His young life is a living hell. The Robinsons, on the surface, seem to be a loving family, but people have never seen their dark side, Steve is forced to do chores, beaten daily by his foster father and nearly starved. He is a boy with great courage and determination. He will not let this family defeat him. He will someday find his family and everything will be all right.

Steve finds his only refuse in a box of books given to him by a kind stranger. He emerges himself in the books – discovers a world he can only imagine exists and dreams of finding his true home. He is a fair complexioned boy with blue eyes, an Afro, and a Polish name. Who is his father? What happened to his mother and his family? He dreams of finding them someday, If he does find them – will it be the happy reunion he so desperately wants it to be?

A Chance in the World is the unbelievable story of a wounded-abused-broken little boy who overcomes all odds and becomes a man of strength and determination.

Steve Pemberton is Divisional Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Walgreens.

I liked the book. Readers will weep with this broken little boy – you will feel each and every hit of the belt; his fears; his hunger. You will dream his dreams and pray he will find his family.

Highly recommended.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is an 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top..

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Baby’s in Black by Bellstorf

Before the Beatles were the “Beatles” they were a club band playing in Germany in 1960. While playing one night Klaus hears them playing and the world changed.

Baby’s in Black
Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutclffe, and The Beatles
Written & Illustrated by Arne Bellstorf
First Second
April 2012

In the 1960’s there wasn’t anyone hotter than the Beatles. Their look. Their clothes. Their hair styles. Everything about them was different and enthralling. They are the original “it” guys. This book is sheds light on where the Beatles got “it.” Astrid Kirchherr.

Klaus was Astrid’s ex boyfriend and encouraged her to go with him to listen to the band. While the music was amazing, even more amazing to her was the bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. As the relationship grows between the Beatles, Astrid and Klaus, Astrid offers to take their pictures. (Those pictures can be found online at Beetle’s Source.) Along with the group pictures she focuses on ways to get Stuart alone and a romance blossoms.

Stuart, encouraged by Astrid, decides to pursue his love for art and enrolls at an art school and becomes a painter, leaving the Beatles for paintbrushes and love. Astrid and Stuart are soon engaged to be married. The Beatles are starting to heat up. Everything looks like it’s “it’s gonna be all right, all right, all right.” Then Stuart comes down with an illness he may not survive.

I’m not going to ruin the story for you if you don’t know it. Beatles’ fans may already know what happens, how Stuart is considered the fifth Beatle, how Astrid becomes a life long friend of the Beetles and how her photos of the band are some of their most iconic. I’m going to focus instead on the amazing work done by writer and artist Arne Bellstorf.

Look at the pictures above. The first is a photo of Astrid and Stuart from 1960 (from via Zimbio). The second is from Bellstorf’s graphic novel. And check out the detail in the artwork depicting the iconic photos below (considered the first ever of the Beatles). Notice the work Bellstorf has done to capture the look and the history in his art. The attention to detail is outstanding.

The story is interspersed with Beatles lyrics fitted into the narrative to push the story forward. This is a love story primarily and it is clear that it’s a labor of love for Bellstorf. Fans of the Beatles and fans of great graphic novels will enjoy this book.

Highly recommended.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on Christianity, Zombies, and anything else he wants to.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Secret Life of a Fool by Andrew Palau

He is in a club downtown Boston. Music and lights overwhelming his senses. With his family and past on the other coast, it’s not possible somebody would know him here. So then who was this guy asking him if he was a believer?

The Secret Life of a Fool
by Andrew Palau
Worthy Publishers
April 2012

Feeling strangely comforted that another was insinuating they may be spiritual brothers, he decides to tell him yes, he is a believer. Instantly the man grows excited, “I knew it, you’re a follower of Satan, right?”

Trying to scream “No!” to the man who is now laughing as he walks away, Andrew Palau races through his memory, trying to find what is was this man saw that would have caused him to believe he followed Satan.

But if given time to reflect, he knows, it won’t be hard to see what events may have led up to this mystifying encounter. Blowing up cars in his fraternity days, taking liberties with women, harassing helpless bums, and hitchhiking through Europe are only a few of the antics that color his past most unflattering.

It wasn’t until he ventured into Jamaica’s Blue mountains, that he began to see what is was he was missing. That the very thing he longed for, was the very thing he had spent most of his life running from. Making amends with his past, he moves into his future. One full of grace, and an everlasting love.

I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, but full of insight. I believe his story will be one many can relate to. It will show those, who have a past laden with mischief, that they are still very worthy of being loved and pursued by a merciful God. He proves that you don’t have to have a clean slate in order to move forward, and become the person you were truly called to be. I definitely recommend this book!

Heather Ring says that books are her plane ticket into another world, “I’d feel lost with out them. Reading is a part of me. However I am also an avid lover of the outdoors and pouring into my creative outlets. But I think my biggest passion, is spending time with my family and friends.”

This book was provided by the author as a review copy.

Nearing Home by Billy Graham

Written with Billy Graham’s beloved simplicity, here is a book full of hope, advice, experience and insight into a life long lived. Having lived into his 92nd year, much longer than he anticipated, Graham Offers wisdom to the young, and reaches out to the elderly in a sense of kinship. He graces these pages with much wisdom to be gleaned by all generations.

Nearing Home
Life, Faith and Finishing Well
by Billy Graham
Thomas Nelson Publishers
December 2011

What must it be like to have seen the world 90 years ago, and see what it has come to be today. How has technology changed things? Cars? Are relationships different? Has society rejected or embraced God’s teachings? Graham has extracted much insight and shares the blessings and aches of this time, and more specifically, his current time here on earth.

What are we living for? Do we have our hearts set on eternity, or are we living for the moment, never caring what our future holds? These are questions he addresses in his attempt to secure your place in front of the pearly gates. True to form, Graham speaks with gentleness, simplicity and peace, but not without urgency.

In this semi-autobiographical work, he shares about the loss of his much loved wife, his rigorous Evangelistic work schedule and cherished friends he met along the way. He encourages the old to love the young,and the young to treasure the old. He shares what it’s like to grow in age. But most of all, he shares his passion and love for Jesus Christ. And his zeal doesn’t stop in his own relationship, he extends and invitation to share what he has spent his life teaching about.

I thought this book was simple and peaceful. An easy read to provoke thought. And while I, as a young person, I don’t particularly like the idea of growing old, much less reading about it, he did well in presenting the idea of growing old gracefully. I will say, this book did not wow me, but I can’t say that’s what I was looking for in it either. Billy Graham is like and old favorite sweater, always cozy and warm. I can think of many people who would really enjoy this book.

Heather Ring says that books are her plane ticket into another world, “I’d feel lost with out them. Reading is a part of me. However I am also an avid lover of the outdoors and pouring into my creative outlets. But I think my biggest passion, is spending time with my family and friends.”

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

A Good and Perfect Gift by Amy Julia Becker

Every good and perfect gift is from above… James 1:17

A Good and Perfect Gift
Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny
Amy Julia Becker
Bethany House
September 2011

Every woman traversing her first pregnancy has similar worries.  They range from the immediate:  What if we don’t get to the hospital on time? What if I can’t handle the pain?   To the long term:   What if I’m not good enough? Strong enough?  What if I do something wrong? What if I don’t teach him/her the right way?  To the ones specifically about the baby:  How am I going to take care of this little bitty person?   I’m going to break him/her.  And in the end:  Everything will be fine…as long as the baby is healthy.

The birth of Amy Julia Becker’s first child, Penny, brought those questions and more.  In the face of an unexpected diagnosis, Amy Julia must both care for a newborn with an unknown future while sorting through her own doubts, fears, and hurts.  She does what is to be expected: she wonders if she will be able to care for her daughter, questions what she might have done to “deserve” this, and struggles with maintaining what had always been a strong relationship with God.

What I like about Becker’s condensed memoir is how very honest and transparent she is.   Many others of faith I know who have been faced with adversity will simply talk about how they were able to get through it by relying on God.  For those of us who might temporarily be lost in our own haze of grief and anger, that response only serves to add guilt to the mix of emotions.  We wonder why we can’t mange to make it beyond our own feelings to see God waiting for us on the other side.

Becker details an experience just like that.  She talks about how during the early days of her daughter’s life, she struggled with coming to terms of the new “normal” for her family.   She expresses those moments of feeling stronger, only to have someone’s words bring her back to the realization that life would now be completely unlike she expected.   After she is able to wade through that grief and anger and able to move through some of those doubts, Becker is then able to make her way back to God…who has always been waiting.

This book really spoke to me because of personal experience.  After enduring something I never thought would happen, I too had to wade through my own feelings to get to God on the other side.  Becker’s story is one that I really could have used in those early days.  Days when I had really grown tired of people telling me to rely on God and that it would all “be okay.”

In the end, it was okay.  And in the end, I did find my way back.   But I had to get there on my own.  Reading Becker’s story made me feel a little less guilty for not being there right from the start.

Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.