TLC Book Tour Review & Giveaway: Shadows in the Sun by Gayathri Ramprasad


Publication Date: March 4th 2014
Source: Publisher/ TLC Book Tours
Format: E-book
Pages:  240
Genre:  Memoir
“Everyone who struggles with a mental illness, or who knows anyone with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, must read this engrossing true story of courage in the face of heartbreaking adversity.”
—Dilip V. Jeste, MD, president, American Psychiatric Association

As a young girl in Bangalore, Gayathri was surrounded by the fragrance of jasmine and flickering oil lamps, her family protected by Hindu gods and goddesses. But as she grew older, demons came forth from the dark corners of her idyllic kingdom—with the scariest creatures lurking within her.

The daughter of a respected Brahmin family, Gayathri began to feel different. “I can hardly eat, sleep, or think straight. The only thing I can do is cry unending tears.” Her parents insisted it was all in her head. Because traditional Indian culture had no concept of depression as an illness, no doctor could diagnose and no medicine could heal her mysterious malady.

This memoir traces Gayathri’s courageous battle with the depression that consumed her from adolescence through marriage and a move to the United States. It was only after the birth of her first child, when her husband discovered her in the backyard “clawing the earth furiously with my bare hands, intent on digging a grave so that I could bury myself alive” that she finally found help. After a stay in a psych ward she eventually found “the light within,” an emotional and spiritual awakening from the darkness of her tortured mind.

Gayathri’s inspiring story provides a first-of-its-kind cross-cultural view of mental illness—how it is regarded in India and in America, and how she drew on both her rich Hindu heritage and Western medicine to find healing.

My Review:
This was an interesting read, as Gayathri writes about the challenges of acclimating to America, from India, where her faith, family, and teachings are deeply rooted.  It is learning opportunity for those not familiar with the Hindu faith and for those who are familiar, it’s a great homage. With a glossary at the end of the book, any reader will be able to understand the terminology used throughout the book.
I was most interested in the Indian culture and how the arranged marriage impacted Gayathri.  It was also quite shocking that in a country where women dress so beautifully and are educated, men still have an upper hand, as one man actually paid the college professor for Gayathri to fail-which was her first remembered descent into a deep depression.  Using their Hindu faith and traditional medicines, Gayathri’s parents try different ways to help her escape the traps of her mind.  However, she is unable to and hides her illness from everyone, feeling even more isolated.  In the midst of it all, Gayathri is at the expected age of arranged marriage, and she does her best to hide the depression that has truly affected every part of her life.
The most interesting part of the story is reading how Gayathri moves to America and the cultural differences she experiences and the ways she tries to integrate her faith and beliefs into an American lifestyle.  Married to a supportive husband, Gayathri continues to feel isolated, becomes quite thin (not by choice or anorexia), and describes the post-partum depression she experiences, the treatments she receives and how she not only improves, but vows to help others, too.
I would have liked the book to have focused more on the cultural assimilation to America, and to have had more pages to truly feel the author’s struggles.  However, it was also understandable there were times she was writing from second hand knowledge, as she had memory gaps-so there were times the writing did seem to gloss over  the demise she experienced.  Nonetheless, it is a great book to help break the silence people experience and the stigma depression has.  She breaks down many myths about depression: isn’t because one is weak minded (she is very educated), without family support (she has tremendous family support), isn’t because one is “wanting” attention (she would have done anything to remove depression from her life), and especially that depression isn’t a death sentence (she overcomes her mental illness, has a beautiful family, and is the founder of a wonderful organization).  This book provides hope to many and is a great tool for helping others understand the impact of depression.
great cupcake 4
About the Author:
Gayathri Ramprasad is the founder and president of ASHA International (, a nonprofit organization promoting personal, organizational, and community wellness. Gayathri received her first undergraduate degree in science from Bangalore University in India. At George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, she earned a second undergraduate degree in management and information systems and a master’s in business administration. She is a member of the Global Speakers Federation and winner of the prestigious Eli Lilly Welcome Back Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Voice Award for Consumer Leadership sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

For more information, visit the website for ASHA International, Gayathri’s nonprofit organization promoting personal, organizational, and community wellness HERE.

Gayathri Ramprasad’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, March 3rd:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, March 4th:  Bookfoolery

Tuesday, March 11th:  A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, March 12th:  The Whimsical Cottage

Thursday, March 13th:  Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, March 18th:  Lavish Bookshelf

Wednesday, March 19th:  Sarah’s Book Shelves

Monday, March 24th:  The Best Books Ever

Monday, March 24th:  Literally Jen

Tuesday, March 25th:  Bookish Ardour

Thursday, March 27th:  Books in the Burbs 

Friday, March 28th:  Good Girl Gone Redneck

TBD:  Booksellers Without Borders


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Win a copy of the book, courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours!

One random winner will be selected on April 10, 2014.

Open to US/Canada.

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I Am a Reader Blog Tour Review: A Light in Dark Places by Jennifer Graves & Emily Clawson


In December, 2009, Susan Cox Powell was reported missing from her home in West Valley City, Utah. As law enforcement tried to piece together what had happened to Susan, her husband, Josh Powell, became the only person of interest in the case.

For Jennifer Graves, Josh’s sister, the nightmare started long before Susan’s disappearance. From her experiences growing up in the Powell family to the terrifying moment when she first started to believe her brother was a killer, she relied on her faith to stay strong. She devoted herself to the safety of Susan’s boys, Charlie and Braden, whom she hoped to be able to raise as her own. When the boys were murdered by their father in February, 2012, Jennifer was more than devastated, but she had to believe there was a reason for it all—including the deaths of her beloved nephews.

In A Light In Dark Places, Jennifer shares her struggles and her triumphs. In coming to terms with such tragedy she finally was able to embrace the truth that we all have the power to choose our own path—and there is always hope, no matter how dark things may seem.

My Review:

I am not a news person, so I don’t watch the news.  However, even this devastating story made its way into our home.  I remember reading the news online and being utterly shocked and heartbroken about Susan and her sons.  This story is told from Jennifer’s viewpoint, as she shares some childhood memories leading up to the horrific news about her nephews.

This story gives glimpses into the possibilities of why Josh would do something so horrible to his family, but it does not go into every gruesome detail.  Rather, it’s a book that shares how one family member’s choice impacts the lives of the rest of the family, how family secrets can divide a family, and the strongholds family can have on one another.

Told in a sequence of events, with some flashbacks, Jennifer details the events leading up to the deaths of Charlie and Braden.  However, it was really hard to truly understand the emotional impact it had on her parents and siblings.  Because the story is told through Jennifer’s perspective and some discussions with Susan’s family, there isn’t a lot of information aside from what Jennifer was privy to.  However, it still doesn’t take away from the storyline,  because of the hope Jennifer brings to her readers.  It’s also important to note that Jennifer wrote this book without the support of her parents and siblings, and she learned of certain events from Susan’s parents.

In writing this book, Jennifer broke through family rules and roles in her childhood, such as sharing family secrets and exposing lies her biological family told.  This just makes this story even more powerful because aside from Susan’s story, Jennifer is also freeing herself from the chains of bondage her family has over her siblings.  Jennifer choosing to write this story is a true testament to her faith, her strength, courage, and the love and support she has from her husband and Susan’s family.  It is my hope that this book will reach many people, all over the world, to not only give hope to those in abusive relationships, but also to those who don’t want to be part of such a dysfunctional family structure.  That everyone has a choice to do things differently, regardless of where you start!

Both Jennifer and Emily wrote a fantastic book that can be used in women’s shelters, church groups, book clubs, and organizations that help abused women and children.

*Thanks to Inspire Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer, for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this book, in exchange for an honest opinion.


About the Authors:

Jennifer Graves is the mother of 5 beautiful children, 2 girls and 3 boys.  She and her husband have been happily married for 19 years and together have been active in their community and church.

Jennifer is the sister of Josh Powell who killed his 2 sons, Charlie and Braden, as well as himself in February of 2012, and is also believed to have killed his wife, Susan Cox Powell, in December of 2009.

She is the recipient of the 2013 ChainBreaker of the year Award, given for breaking the chain of abuse and violence in her family.

She enjoys homeschooling their children and mentoring in classes for the commonwealth school they attend. She also loves reading, playing card and board games, and learning new things. Most of all she loves to spend time with her husband and children. They currently reside in West Jordan, UT.

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♦ ♦ ♦

Emily Clawson is an author, a mother and a mentor. She traditionally writes inspirational fiction. This book has been a life changing experience for her and she is grateful to have been a part of telling this story. She resides in Taylorsville with her husband and four children where they run their leadership mentoring programs for youth.

Facebook * Twitter * Website

Tour Giveaway

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Ends  11/21/13

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TLC Book Review: Mind Without a Home: A Memoir of Schizophrenia by Kristina Morgan

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Experience the inner world of a woman with schizophrenia in this brutally honest, lyrical memoir.

Have you ever wondered what it is like in the mind of a person with Schizophrenia? How can one survive day after day unable to distinguish between one’s inner nightmares and the everyday realities that most of us take for granted?

In her brutally honest, highly original memoir, Kristina Morgan takes us inside her head to experience the chaos, fragmented thinking, and the startling creativity of the schizophrenic mind. With the intimacy of private journal-like entries and the language of a poet, she carries us from her childhood to her teen years when hallucinations began to hijack her mind and into adulthood where she began abusing alcohol to temper the punishing voices that only she could hear.

This is no formulaic tale of tragedy and triumph: We feel Kristina’s hope as she pursues an education and career and begins to build strong family connections, friendships and intimacy—and her devastation as the insistent voices convince her to throw it all away, destroying herself and alienating everyone around her. Woven through the pages of her life are stories of recovery from alcoholism and the search for her sexual identity in relationships with both women and men. Eventually, her journey takes her to a place of relative peace and stability where she finds the inner resources and support system to manage her chronic illnesses and live a fulfilling life.

My Review:

I remember taking an assessments class in graduate school and watching a video of a Psychologist with Schizophrenia.  It showed how she coped through each day and how she managed to take control of her life, or at least try to.  So, when I read the synopsis for this book, I was instantly intrigued.  Kristina Morgan, a woman who chooses to write so honestly and openly, as she struggles with the impact of schizophrenia is nothing short of extraordinary.  It wasn’t a long read for me, but it still left a great impact on my mind!  The book read at times like the struggles she has in her minds, sometimes fragmented, sometimes skipping from one subject to another, which was the beauty of it all.  This story, Kristina’s memoir, wasn’t meant to placate what this illness truly is and she invites you into her mind to see what it’s like for her everyday.  While Kristina navigates her way through life, she shows readers why mental illness is real, why it should be treated, and what it looks like if left untreated.  During a time with a heightened curiosity about Amanda Bynes, this book will certainly show the real and scary struggles people with schizophrenia live.  And hopefully, after reading this book, people will not only walk away with a little more insight, but also with a lot more compassion.


About Kristina Morgan

Kristina Morgan is a first-time author. She is currently married, working, and managing her co-occurring disorders, schizophrenia and alcoholism with the Twelve Step recovery. She lives in Arizona.

Visit Kristina’s blog at

Kristina Morgan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, September 30th: Book Hooked Blog

Thursday, October 3rd:  My Bookshelf

Monday, October 7th:  Books in the Burbs

Wednesday, October 9th:  Good Girl Gone Redneck

Thursday, October 10th:  Book-a-licious Mama

Monday, October 14th:  Love at First Book

Wednesday, October 16th:  A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Thursday, October 17th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Monday, October 21st:  Justice Jennifer

Tuesday, October 22nd:  Books Speak Volumes

Wednesday, October 23rd:  Bookchickdi

Thursday, October 24th:  Sara’s Organized Chaos

Monday, October 28th:  Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, October 30th:  A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, November 1st:  Bibliophiliac

Date TBD:  Peppermint Ph.D.


2 Memoirs-One from Someone Who Escaped a Cult and Another Who Part of a New Culture: Real Housewives of BH

Product Details

  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (February 5, 2013)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers


Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, was raised as a Scientologist but left the controversial religion in 2005. In Beyond Belief, she shares her true story of life inside the upper ranks of the sect, details her experiences as a member Sea Org—the church’s highest ministry, speaks of her “disconnection” from family outside of the organization, and tells the story of her ultimate escape.
In this tell-all memoir, complete with family photographs from her time in the Church, Jenna Miscavige Hill, a prominent critic of Scientology who now helps others leave the organization, offers an insider’s profile of the beliefs, rituals, and secrets of the religion that has captured the fascination of millions, including some of Hollywood’s brightest stars such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

My Review: 
Wow!  This book is detailed into the life of Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece to David Miscaige (CBO).  Jenna is so brave as she delves into the darkest and most corrupt system that claims to be a church.  It is harrowing to read that at the age of 2 she was raised at a camp of sorts for children, whose parents had dedicated their lives to the Sea Org.  With Jenna’s parents away, somewhere within the organization, Jenna is indoctrinated into the beliefs and different levels within Scientology.  There are so many moments that Jenna truly wants to embrace the lifestyle and sacrifice she has made as a Sea Org member (signing the billion year contract), however she soon can’t ignore or excuse the red flags that keep popping up.  Over time, Jenna loses family members who are classified as “SP’s”, and she is alone with only the guidance of her Aunt Shelley and a few other higher-ups.  However, there comes a point where Jenna truly wants her life, her independence, and sees the organization’s corruptions, abuse of power, and leaves the organization.
There were many times I was just shocked by the depravity and isolation Jenna and others like her, experienced.  Scientology isn’t a religion, it’s a way to gain higher power based on the money you give and who you are (star power).  The sheer torture of working non-stop for little to no pay, the separation from family and friends, the cut-offs from those who dont’ support Scientology, and the paranoia surrounded by those in higher ups who fear that the organization’s image will be tarnished, motivates those in upper positions to abuse their power, demote people from their level, and really becomes more man based than God based.  While Scientology doesn’t believe in God, they really look to LRH as the man with the plan.  With some basic psychology 101 and e-meter readings, individuals are coerced through fear, removal of benefits ( like making a phone call), and falling behind a level (even if you already reached a level, you can possibly be stripped of it to start all over).  Education is primarily centered around the teachings and not formal education (traditional schooling).  So, there is a catch.  If a person moves through all the levels, which costs thousands of dollars, by the time the highest level is reached to Clear-the person may feel rather stupid learning about the aliens and Xenu that they stick with it b/c of all the money invested.  Likewise, with education-if a child is raised in Scientology, he/she will be behind educationally and may not feel useful in the outside world.  So, in many ways this religion does cause a sense of learned helplessness and a person becomes dependent on someone in higher position to be validated.  With so many secrets and trying to keep people in control, those in the Sea Org don’t want tv, interact too much with the outside world, and become truly dependent on the organization.
Reading all the Jenna endured, I am amazed and inspired by her courage, tenacity, and willingness to ask questions-even when others didn’t want her to.  Jenna brought great points to the forefront and one can only hope that people will look more deeper into the secrets and abuse that Scientology has done to its members.
Overall, this was an incredible read and Jenna wrote this book in terms that non-Scientologists could understand, but that Scientologists would also understand and know that her experience is true.  I hope that her book opens eyes and creates changes within the organization and the individuals that make up the “religion”.

Product Details

  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1476707626
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (February 12, 2013)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
She’s the brutally honest breath of fresh air on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, known for her dramatic divorce, her barely-there clothing, and her inability to keep her mouth shut. So why should she change now? Brandi Glanville tells all in this hilarious, no-holds-barred memoir.Fans have been waiting for Brandi’s scoop on one of the biggest divorces of the decade, since her husband of eight years abandoned her and their two sons to marry country singer LeAnn Rimes. Not only does Brandi spill the beans about her side of the split, the lovable housewife shares the incredible wild ride that took her from a life in the ghetto to Hollywood’s most elite circles. For the first time, Brandi talks about how she escaped a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Sacramento and stumbled into a successful modeling career that swept her into a world of Paris Fashion Weeks, private jets, and uncircumcised penises. Before she knew it, Brandi was the perfect Hollywood trophy wife—at least until her marriage exploded.Today, the refreshingly filter-free housewife and unapologetic mom is the newest full-time cast member of Bravo’s juggernaut franchise, where she often elicits raised eyebrows and gossip from her costars for her refusal to be the scorned ex-wife, to be bullied, to change her sarcastic sense of humor, or—on most occasions—to wear a bra. Sassy, raunchy, and compulsively readable, Drinking and Tweeting perfectly captures Brandi’s open-book attitude, as she dishes about everything from her DUI, her cheating ex, her one-night stands, and the secret plastic surgery that made her “seventeen” again. You’re sure to enjoy every page of this funny, upbeat, honest tale. Clear your schedule for an afternoon and grab your favorite cocktail, a comfy seat . . . and maybe a Xanax. But that’s for later.
My Review:I love Brandi’s crude sense of humor and she is so smart.  So, put together beauty, talent, smart, and wit, and mix it with an ugly divorce, and you’ve got this great book.  Brandi is quite honest and very brutal at times.  There were moments I cringed, but just as quickly, her wit shines through.  If anyone reads this book, they will forever remember these two words: Vaginal Rejuvenation.  Her ex lost some jobs, got a woman that is trying to morph into his Brandi, and Brandi got a new vjayjay and a book!  Love that.  While she is quite honest about the heartache, postpartum depression, anxiety attacks, and life rebuilding, I would have loved more detail on how she overcame PPD and about her post divorce.  She has admitted that this book was written shortly after her divorce, so her emotions were raw and she was filled with anger, however it would be better had she added some chapters on her “happily ever after”.  It would have also been so much more personal had she included some photos of her early modeling years, her married life, and her life post divorce. All in all, this is a great book and one that many will enjoy, especially if you love RHOBH like me!4 rating

Review: Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo

Product Details

  • File Size: 1566 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (August 14, 2012)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • ASIN: B007BCG9N2
  • Genre:  Memoir


“My family doesn’t do happy endings. We do sad endings or frustrating endings or no endings at all. We are hardwired to expect the next interruption or disappearance or broken promise.”

Hope Solo is the face of the modern female athlete. She is fearless, outspoken, and the best in the world at what she does: protecting the goal of the U.S. women’s soccer team. Her outsized talent has led her to the pinnacle of her sport—the Olympics and the World Cup—and made her into an international celebrity who is just as likely to appear on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars as she is on the covers of Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, and Vogue. But her journey—which began in Richland, Washington, where she was raised by her strong-willed mother on the scorched earth of defunct nuclear testing sites—is similarly haunted by the fallout of her family history. Her father, a philanderer and con man, was convicted of embezzlement when Solo was an infant. She lost touch with him as he drifted out of prison and into homelessness. By the time they reunited, years later, in the parking lot of a grocery store, she was an All-American goalkeeper at the University of Washington and already a budding prospect for the U.S. national team. He was living in the woods.

Despite harboring serious doubts even about the provenance of her father’s last name (and her own), Solo embraces him as fiercely as she pursues her dreams of being a world-class soccer player. When those dreams are threatened by her standing within the national team, as when she was famously benched in the semifinals of the 2007 World Cup after four shutouts and spoke her piece publicly, we see a woman of uncompromising independence and hard-won perseverance navigate the petty backlash against her. For the first time, she tells her version of that controversial episode, and offers with it a full understanding of her hard-scrabble life.

Moving, sometimes shocking, Solo is a portrait of an athlete finding redemption. This is the Hope Solo whom few have ever glimpsed.

My Review:

This is a book that shares very intimate details of the struggles Hope experiences from childhood through adulthood.  I must admit that not being an avid soccer fan, I had never heard of Hope Solo before Dancing with the Stars.  When I saw how Hope was portrayed on the show as very defensive to criticism, it just seemed in stark contrast to the jovial look I saw on her face when the soccer team for TEAM USA won gold.  This is why I purchased her memoir. I wanted to know what was underneath all the costumes, whether soccer or dance, and learn more about her.

Hope Solo’s memoir bares it all on the floor for you to see. She shares every triumph, challenge, and personal journey through it all.  As I was reading the book, I not only learned more about her, but also about the sport of soccer.  It was amazing to see the hurdles she had to literally jump, the criticism she had to take from the national team under Greg Ryan‘s leadership, and how a woman must still break barriers to be successful.

Contrary to the media and all the hype her book has received for “throwing ‘so-and-so’ under the bus”, this is about Hope’s journey…nothing else.  There is no hidden agenda in this book, she isn’t trying to make anyone out to be the “bad guy”, nor is she trying to justify her own actions.  She is who she is and she gives it all to her readers….take it or leave it, you will walk away with a better understanding of the person behind the accomplishments and criticisms that come with it.

I walked away from this book with so much respect and admiration for a young woman who defied what critics had said, what statistics said based on her family issues and where she lived, and what others in her sport had expected her to be.  Hope is not a “solo” act. She depended on her family for emotional strength and on her body for physical strength.  She depended on her team to do their job and wanted them to know they could depend on her.  Hope lives in a man’s world of sports, but through her sport and experience, she has allowed other young dreamers to follow in her place.  The goalie position, known as the unpopular place soccer players want to be….Hope made it the place that demanded respect and deserved it.

She may come across as tough, uncaring, and she is when she needs to be.  However, she is also very sensitive and loves to laugh, be with those who enjoy life, and who know that she is more than a soccer player…she is a woman with heart and passion.  This is a book I highly recommend for anyone who wants to be inspired, who has been told “no” one to many times, and who obviously loves soccer.  However, more than that, this is book that deserves to be read because it’s got pure heart and she holds nothing back.

Meaningful quotes that I loved:

” ‘Hope is, by definition, defiant.  It is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.’ ” (p. 31)

“….my goalkeeper coach, Amy, handed me a note that said, ‘A goalkeeper cannot win a game.  A goalkeeper saves it.’ ”  (p. 95)

“Only a daughter cries like that for her father.’ ” (p.124)

“Out on the field, I put my right hand over my heart for the national anthem and held my left glove carefully by my side.  When I walked into the goal, I made the sign of the cross, kissed my closed fist, then opened my glove and let the ashes drop, saying a little prayer to myself.” (p.141)

“I was far beyond caring who judged how I celebrated something I had worked for my entire life.  Never again would I worry about what others thought.”  (p.184)

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Review: Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu

Product Details

  • File Size: 4394 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (June 12, 2012)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0061Q13V2
  • Genre:  Memoir


AT FOURTEEN YEARS OLD, Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the 1996 U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, the first and only American women’s team to take gold at the Olympics. Her pixyish appearance and ferocious competitive drive quickly earned her the status of media darling. But behind the fame, the flawless floor routines, and the million-dollar smile, her life was a series of challenges and hardships.

Off Balance vividly delineates each of the dominating characters who contributed to Moceanu’s rise to the top, from her stubborn father and long-suffering mother to her mercurial coach, Bela Karolyi. Here, Moceanu finally shares the haunting stories of competition, her years of hiding injuries and pain out of fear of retribution from her coaches, and how she hit rock bottom after a public battle with her parents.

But medals, murder plots, drugs, and daring escapes aside (all of which figure into Moceanu’s incredible journey), the most unique aspect of her life is the family secret that Moceanu discovers, opening a new and unexpected chapter in her adult life. A mysterious letter from a stranger reveals that she has a second sister—born with a physical disability and given away at birth—who has nonetheless followed in Moceanu’s footsteps in an astonishing way.

A multilayered memoir that transcends the world of sports, Off Balance will touch anyone who has ever dared to dream of a better life.

My Review:

I absolutely loved this memoir!! Everyone remembers the petite size gymnast bringing the house down with her floor exercises at the 1996 Olympics, dancing to “Devil Went Down to Georgia”.  However, to read about the dark secrets and her struggles that went behind closed doors is so daunting and traumatic for any child to experience.  We’ve all seen the news reports and watched the interviews about her long lost sister, Jennifer, which certainly added another whole element to the book.  However, you haven’t seen it or heard it all from those medial outlets, so you have to read this book!

In her memoir, Dominique really pours her innermost thoughts, fears, and questions about discovering she has a sister and what that meant for her (lost dreams of having a big family, family secrets, acceptance).  She also writes very openly about the traditional Romanian family she lived in and how that also added to some of the abuse she experienced while training as a gymnast.

While there have been gymnasts trying to dismiss some of Dominique’s claims to the darkness and lack of support that goes on behind closed gymnasium doors, no one can take away from her own experiences.  As a licensed marriage and family therapist, it is quite common for family members to express different opinions and have completely different experiences to the same situation.

So, no one can dismiss Dominique as she paints a very real and vivid picture into the struggles she endured, how she overcame them, and what she is doing now to help future gymnasts.  This is her story, her voice, her struggles and triumphs, and I truly appreciated her authenticity and genuineness in writing this memoir.

I highly recommend this book for anyone that enjoys reading memoirs, enjoys the sport of the gymnastics and the Olympics, as well as those who like reading about family structures and roles within each family.

Connect with the Author




Aloha from Hawaii!

My family and I went to Maui for 10 gorgeous days!  It is everything people say it is: mesmerizing, calming, gorgeous, breathtaking, and the list can go on.  Being on the plane for 8 hours allowed me to read quite a bit!!  En route to Hawaii, I read a really great and easy book:

It was a free book that I had downloaded onto my Nook a while back, but decided to read it.  Having made the decision to be pro-active about my health and lose weight, I thought it was a perfect book to get started.  Aside from discussing weight issues and her time on The Biggest Loser, Michelle shares her struggles with rejection and deeper rooted issues that impacted her choices and lifestyle. I was truly in awe of her courage to face those issues and even more appreciative that she chose to be so open about it in her memoir.  I’d definitely encourage anyone that struggles with weight issues, is at a plateau in their weight, and/or wants to learn more about the journey of a contestant on The Biggest Loser, I suggest you read this book!

After reading this book and landed in Hawaii, I had to take a break from reading. It was gorgeous!!

Isn’t the water just gorgeous?? We were on a dinner cruise and saw the sunset, which was also spectacular!

This is the beach we went to all the time!!! It was so peaceful there and next to us were these huge lava rocks with mini caves underneath…the perfect place to climb and play.  The sand was so clean and pure, so we just loved playing there. Of course, I lounged and read books!! :D

I loved the people there, too! It felt like the most safest place to be and we loved every moment.  We met wonderful Islanders, spoke to people who had up and left their homes to move to Hawaii, and talked to business owners about how they have managed there.  Yes, I’d love to move there, too!!  Their tap water was AMAZING!!! Seriously.  It tasted like Fiji Water without the expense.  I only drank tap water because of how delicious it tasted.  My daughter left her Nike sandals on the beach and someone was kind enough to put them to the side of the walk way and there they stayed the whole day!!!  People were just so kind and we met some wonderful people….I just can’t speak highly enough of that place.  The prices are high, so you just can’t go with love in your heart and no money in your wallet ;)  BUT…it was sooo worth it!  We hope to visit again next year!

We drove up this mountain to watch the sunrise. It was spectacular!!

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Crazy Book Tours: “Holy Ghost Girl” by Donna M. Johnson


Donna Johnson was three years old when her mother signed on as the organist for Brother David Terrell, a hugely popular apocalyptic tent preacher during the 1960s and 70s. As a member of Brother Terrell’s inner circle Donna had a front row seat for the miracles, exorcisms, KKK face-offs and betrayals of the flesh that were common under the tent. As the faithful followed their prophet to backwaters across the South to await the end time, Donna left the ministry for good at age seventeen.

Recounted with deadpan observation and surreal detail, Holy Ghost Girl bypasses easy judgment to articulate a rich world where the mystery of faith and human frailty share a surprising and humorous coexistence.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (October 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592406300
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592406302

My Review:

I love memoirs, especially ones based on a child’s experience, written by the child turned adult.  The reason for this is because I often wonder when things happen and adults are talking and writing about their experiences, what happens to the child?  What is he/she thinking? How is she/he coping?  Where’s her/his voice?

Donna Johnson’s book, titled “The Holy Ghost Girl” gives a window to those who always wonder what happens at big tent revivals and healing services.  Most importantly, it sheds light into what happens when the people go home.  Donna’s experience is one not so different from those who grew up in the charasmatic churches of the South or went to the tent revials in small Southern towns…at least from my own personal experience.  However, it is still mind boggling how someone ( a leader) can call himself that and lead people into believing he is God, or at least God’s right hand.  As a Christian, I believe that the Holy Bible is the Truth and is infallible, however it can certainly get twisted when interpreted and taught for one’s own purpose.

Donna is very open in her journey, what she witnessed, how it impacted her life as a child, and how she came to understand what it all meant to her (as a spectator looking in).  This is a great read, one that should be read, and one that should be used as a tool to heed caution.  While we all want to be closer to God, sometimes the road to getting there can be the wrong way, but how do we know?  Donna shows this through examples of those who handed over their money to their leader, gave up everything they knew to follow him, and sacrificed who they were to have the “experience”.  Falling down, crying, screaming, being healed and being caught up in wanting to be healed not only changed the lives of those who had the experience, but those who witnessed it, too.  Reading this book, it’s easy to think, “how could these people follow this man?  Could it even happen today?”These are people who gave everything to be closer to God, to David, and to be followers of their faith.  Some did experience instant healing, while others felt they just needed to wait a little longer for their miracle to manifest…they just needed to pray harder, fast more, tithe more, etc.  We see them in our news today, we’ve heard of them (think Jim Jones or the Davidians), we even have people in our daily walks try to talk to us about how their religion is the one true religion and without it, we will go to hell.

I am thankful to have read this book and hope that Donna finds healing by sharing such raw and intimate moments with her readers to learn and hopefully realize that our children are our future and they should be heard.  I also hope that somewhere in all of this, she does realize that God (with the capital G) does exist, loves her, and condones those who abuse His word.

Side Note:

After reading this book, I began doing searches and found some blog entries that Donna Johnson submitted on Psychology Today. Psychology Today is a reputable online site that lists therapists available and the kinds of services they provide.  I was intrigued by her blog entries and it really gave another dimension to who the author is.  The book focuses mainly on her childhood and how it impacted her growing up, and the blog entries are highlights of how spirituality has shaped her and is a great teaching tool for others.

Finding Spirituality in That Old Time Religion

Becoming Woody Allen

Making a Case for God with a Little G

*This book was provided through Crazy Book Tours as part of a virtual blog tour.  No money or other forms of compensation were given.

Follow the Tour!

10/28/2011  —  Phantom Paragrapher
10/29/2011  —  Deco My Heart
10/30/2011  —  Laurie Here
10/31/2011  —  Colloquium
11/1/2011  —  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
11/2/2011  —  Practical Frugality
11/7/2011  —  WV Stitcher
11/9/2011  —  Books in the Burbs
11/10/2011  —  StephTheBookworm
11/11/2011  —  Hippies, Beauty, and Books OH MY!

Review: A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard


In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen.

For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse.

For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.

On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.

A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.

The pine cone is a symbol that represents the seed of a new beginning for me. To help facilitate new beginnings, with the support of animal-assisted therapy, the J A Y C Foundation provides support and services for the timely treatment of families recovering from abduction and the aftermath of traumatic experiences—families like my own who need to learn how to heal. In addition, the J A Y C Foundation hopes to facilitate awareness in schools about the important need to care for one another.

Our motto is “Just Ask Yourself to . . . Care!”

A portion of my proceeds from this memoir will be donated to The J A Y C Foundation Inc.

My Review:

This is Jaycee’s story, in her words, as she recounts the moments leading up to her abduction and the 18 years she was held captive.  Her story is raw with intimate details about the sexual and psychological abuse she endured by the two people who kidnapped her.  I won’t say who they are because they don’t deserve any recognition for the pain and suffering Jaycee experienced.  In her memoir, Jaycee includes journal entries she kept regarding her cat, Eclipse, and her own personal entries about her dreams, her goals, and her longing to see her mother again.

Jaycee Dugard has slowly worked on rebuilding her life and transitioning into society with her daughters.  While she wants to keep her children’s names and pictures out of the public life, she does write about her pregnancies with them and her relationship with them as mom and later as sister (which her captors wanted her to be regarded as).  Her story was very difficult to read as she describes her first days being handcuffed and sequestered to a small room with locks.  When she was found, she had been living in a tent and using a hole she made to pee.  With a 5th grade education, she homeschooled her daughters, who are her saving grace. Despite the fact that her captor is their father, she loves them without any boundaries.  She loves them freely and has the same dreams for them that she has for herself: to be free.

Jaycee’s strength and hope shines through despite everything she has experienced.  I highly recommend this book and encourage you to also visit The JAYC Foundation, Inc. or on Facebook.  In her memoir, she describes the significance to pine cones and monies received for her jewelry goes to her foundation to help children and families impacted by abduction.

Review: History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky


“It is so nice to be happy. It always gives me a good feeling to see other people happy. . . . It is so easy to achieve.” —Kim’s journal entry, May 3, 1988

On the night of April 15, 1990, Jill Bialosky’s twenty-one-year-old sister Kim came home from a bar in downtown Cleveland. She argued with her boyfriend on the phone. Then she took her mother’s car keys, went into the garage, closed the garage door. She climbed into the car, turned on the ignition, and fell asleep. Her body was found the next morning by the neighborhood boy her mother hired to cut the grass.

Those are the simple facts, but the act of suicide is anything but simple. For twenty years, Bialosky has lived with the grief, guilt, questions, and confusion unleashed by Kim’s suicide. Now, in a remarkable work of literary nonfiction, she re-creates with unsparing honesty her sister’s inner life, the events and emotions that led her to take her life on this particular night. In doing so, she opens a window on the nature of suicide itself, our own reactions and responses to it—especially the impact a suicide has on those who remain behind.

Combining Kim’s diaries with family history and memoir, drawing on the works of doctors and psychologists as well as writers from Melville and Dickinson to Sylvia Plath and Wallace Stevens, Bialosky gives us a stunning exploration of human fragility and strength. She juxtaposes the story of Kim’s death with the challenges of becoming a mother and her own exuberant experience of raising a son. This is a book that explores all aspects of our familial relationships—between mothers and sons, fathers and daughters—but particularly the tender and enduring bonds between sisters.

History of a Suicide brings a crucial and all too rarely discussed subject out of the shadows, and in doing so gives readers the courage to face their own losses, no matter what those may be. This searing and compassionate work reminds us of the preciousness of life and of the ways in which those we love are inextricably bound to us.

My Review:
This is a true story and based on the research and diary journals the author, Jill Bialosky, has compiled together.  In doing this, she hopes to have a better understanding to the events that led to the suicide of her younger sister, Kim.  Most of all, it is an opportunity to bring closure from her sister’s  death that was not only untimely, but unexpected.  This story weaves diary entries, along with police records, interviews of family and friends, and Jill’s personal recollections of her sister’s life.
This book is by no means a “how to” book, rather it sheds light into the impact suicide has to survivor’s.  The series of losses both sisters experience is tragic and shows how differently they both coped.  Not minimizing Kim’s life story, Jill Bialosky shares her own struggles and bouts of depression.  This also is a way for Jill to not only honor her sister through telling her story, but it also shows that despite the finality of death, the soul and spirit live.
It is a book I would recommend to those working with suicidal clients and families, as well as those affected by suicide.  This is also a great book for those who love memoirs. While this book does deal with serious subject mater, there are moments where both sisters experienced some great memories.
*If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please reach out to someone.  You are not alone and suicide is NEVER the answer.  Contact the Suicide Hotline, talk to a family therapist, and/or meet with your pastor or spiritual leader.