No Apology

No Apology: The Case for American Greatness by Mitt Romney
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “In No Apology, Mitt Romney asserts that American strength is essential–not just for our own well-being, but for the world’s. Nations such as China and a resurgent Russia threaten to overtake us on many fronts, and violent Islamism continues its dangerous rise. Drawing on history for lessons on why great powers collapse, Romney shows how and why our national advantages have eroded. From the long-term decline of our manufacturing base, our laggard educational system that has left us without enough engineers, scientists, and other skilled professionals, our corrupted financial practices that have led to the current crisis, and the crushing impact of entitlements on our future obligations, America is over-leveraged, overtaxed, and in some respects, overconfident in the face of the challenges we must address.”
This is the first book I have ever read that was written by a politician. And, full disclosure, I voted for Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential election, and my brother worked for his campaign. I really liked this book. It scared me a lot in some regards, but it was engaging and interesting. I nodded my head in agreement at some points and shook my head in others. The statistics he gives are staggering though. For example, “In the 1960’s, when the War on Poverty was launched, 7 percent of American children were born out of wedlock. Today, almost 40 percent of our children are born to unwed mothers. As noted earlier, among African Americans, that figure is almost 70 percent…” Wow. I like a lot of his ideas to help make us stronger. Whether or not you agree with his politics, the statistics that he gives really make you think.
I would recommend this book. I think it’s good for all of us to start engaging in honest, good discussions (not screaming matches) about what we believe. If we all work together and really listen to each other I bet we agree more than we think we do. There is not enough listening and understanding going on right now. I am glad I read this book because it helps me think of my life in broader terms. I’m not just a mom, wife, sister, daughter, etc., I am an American citizen and I am proud of our country. Okay, there you go…if you don’t want to read his book I would recommend reading a book by a politician you agree with. If we get all these ideas together then we can come up with a solution that is good for all of us.
Rating: PG-13 (No language or violence, but the premise of some of it is too much for younger readers.)
Recommendation:  High School and up (It might be okay for a mature junior high student, it would be a parent’s choice.)

Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “A fascinating and deeply personal look at the lives of six defectors from the repressive totalitarian regime of the Republic of North Korea…[Barbara Demick] draws out details of daily life that would not otherwise be known to Western eyes…As she reveals, ‘ordinary’ life in North Korea by the 1990’s became a parade of horrors, where famine killed millions, manufacturing and trade virtually ceased, salaries went unpaid, medical care failed, and people became accustomed to stepping over dead bodies lying in the streets. Her terrifying depiction of North Korea from the night sky, where the entire area is blacked out from failure of the electrical grid, contrasts vividly with the propaganda on the ground below urging the country’s worker-citizens to believe that they are the envy of the world…[Her] six characters reveal the emotional and cultural turmoil that finally caused each to make the dangerous choice to leave. As Demick weaves their stories together with the hidden history of the country’s descent into chaos, she skillfully re-creates these captivating and moving personal journeys.”
This book is heart-wrenching. It is eye-opening and heart-wrenching. I have always known about Kim Jong-il and his father and their totalitarian regimes, but I had NO idea the effect on the people there. I knew they had food shortages, but I had no idea how many people died because of lack of food. And NO electricity. The satellite picture she shows of the difference between North and South Korea is very telling. Learning about each of these individuals and their families made me so emotional and  very attached. I cried when she described how the children lived and died. I am very glad, yet not so glad, that I read this book. I like being informed about the world and its happenings so that makes me glad I read it. However, now that I know the plight of the North Korean people I almost feel obligated to help. How can you know this is happening and just continue to look the other way? On the other hand, what in the world would I be able to do about it? This question kept me up all last night. I was so emotional after I finished that I could not sleep, so I thought about this for a long time. I decided that there isn’t much I can do besides maybe writing to my senators and congressmen, or maybe talking to a humanitarian aid program. What I can do, though, is to make sure this never happens here in the United States. I now feel more obligated to give more food to foodbanks and more help to homeless shelters. As a teacher I want to do more to help illiteracy. I would also like to become a bit more involved in politics to keep more of an eye on our government (no matter who is in charge). I hope I can do a little more of this because sometimes I get passionate and then two weeks later I forget. I don’t want to forget.  My husband gets mad at me for always taking on more than I can handle, and I do worry about that because I am already involved with my kids’ school, but I think if we all give just a little we can do a lot of good. Anyway, I got off track. I would definitely recommend reading this book. If nothing else it will give you such a sense of gratitude for whatever your situation may be, because even if you are poor in the U.S. that would make you wealthy in North Korea. I am very thankful to be here in this blessed country. Our government may not be perfect, but we have so much, and we can work to fix what we think is broken.
Rating: PG-13 (It is really hard to read. There is so much death, disease, and emotion. There is poverty and very blunt descriptions of the realities in North Korea.)
Recommendation: 18 and up. I think it would be great for an 18-year-old to read with his or her parents. It would be a good time to discuss our rights and privileges, and also to discuss how we can help those around us.

America’s Prophet

America’s Prophet by Bruce Feiler
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “The pilgrims quoted his story. Franklin and Jefferson proposed he appear on the U.S. seal. Washington and Lincoln were called his incarnations. The Statue of Liberty and Superman were molded in his image. Martin Luther King, Jr., invoked him the night before he died. Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama cited him as inspiration. For four hundred years, one figure inspired more Americans than any other. His name is Moses. In this groundbreaking book, New York Times best-selling author Bruce Feiler travels through touchstones in American history and traces the biblical prophet’s influence from the Mayflower through today. He visits the island where the pilgrims spent their first Sabbath, climbs the bell tower where the Liberty Bell was inscribed with a quote from Moses, retraces the Underground Railroad where “Go Down, Moses” was the national anthem of slaves, and dons the robe Charlton Heston wore in The Ten Commandments. One part adventure story, one part literary detective story, one part exploration of faith in contemporary life, America’s Prophet takes readers through the landmarks of America’s narrative–from Gettysburg to Selma, the Silver Screen to the Oval Office–to understand how Moses has shaped the nation’s character.”
I really enjoyed this book. It reads easily, yet is very informative. He uses a lot of great vocabulary words, some that I had to look up. Feiler brings up things I had no idea happened in America’s past, and I loved it. I love American history, so this book was great for me. I also love the Moses story, so it fit in perfectly with my train of thought. I loved all the little-known details he puts in the book. He did a lot of research and it all comes together very smoothly. I didn’t realize how much our country was influenced by Moses and his story, and I found it interesting and intriguing. Anyway, I would definitely recommend this book. You don’t have to be a believer in Moses to enjoy it because it discusses America’s history, and whether you believe or not, our history was influenced by Moses.
Rating: PG
Recommendation: This would be great for any history class to reference. I think high school students and up would gain a greater understanding of our country’s heritage by reading this book. It is lighter than a text book but is still history. His style of writing is very engaging.

Shattered Silence

Shattered Silence by Melissa G. Moore
(Summary taken from the back cover) “What would you do if, as a teenager, you found out that someone you loved had committed the most horrific of acts? Worse, what if he had done it again and again? Could you ever learn to forgive him? Would you ever want to? In Shattered Silence, Melissa Moore shares the true story of her life as the daughter of the notorious “Happy Face” serial killer. In this inspiring story, Melissa grows from a confused child to an outraged adolescent to an accepting adult. As she slowly connects the dots and realizes the full extent of the terrifying and gruesome crimes her father has committed, Melissa also begins to realize that she cannot change her father–all she has control over is her own life and deciding how she will react to everything that has happened. Told with heartbreaking sincerity, this uplifting story of optimism and discovering joy, even in the face of overwhelming adversity, will inspire you to face your own challenges with a similar attitude of hope.”
Wow. What a story. This woman is amazing. I know people who have had bad things happen to them and they fall apart and decide not to find joy in anything, which is understandable. This woman, Melissa, does not let that happen. She realizes that we are what we make of ourselves, and it is a choice to find joy and happiness. Oh, to have a dad that commits murder, that could destroy you and your future. Her courage to overcome that is heroic. I was skeptical about this book. I didn’t see how it could be uplifting, but it is.  It is well written and surprisingly inspiring. It makes you realize that the problems you have may be hard but are nothing compared to what others deal with. I would definitely recommend this book. There are some parts that are hard to read because of the content, but it is worth finishing.
Rating: PG-13 (She talks about the horrific crimes her father commits, her rape, and domestic violence.) Borderline R.
Recommendation: High School Senior and up. It also depends on the level of maturity of a high school senior. It may be too much for them also. I do recommend reading it though because it puts things in perspective and shows you how you can choose to live your life and not be a victim for the rest of your life.

My Prison, My Home

My Prison, My Home by Haleh Esfandiari
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “This stunning arrest was the culmination of a chain of events set into motion in the early-morning hours of December 31, 2006–a day that began like any other but presaged the end of Esfandiari’s regular visits to her elderly mother in Iran, and her return to the United States. That morning, the driver arrived on time. Her mother held the Quran over her head for blessing and luck. From the car, Haleh waved good-bye. She checked for her passport and plane ticket. But as the taxi neared the airport, a sedan forced them to pull over. Three men, armed with knives, threatened her and her driver while going through her pockets and stealing her belongings–including her travel documents. She was left unharmed but would not fly home to the States that day. “An ordinary robbery,” Esfandiari insisted to friends and family. She took steps to secure a new passport and book a new flight. But it would not be until eight months later that she would leave Iran. Esfandiari became the victim of the far-fetched belief on the part of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry that she, a scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C., was part of an American conspiracy for “regime change” in Iran. In haunting prose and vivid detail, Esfandiari recounts how the Intelligence Ministry subsequently ordered a search of her mother’s apartment; put her through hours, then weeks, of interrogation; tapped her phone calls, forcing her to speak in code to her husband and mother; and finally detained her at the notorious Even Prison, where she would spend 105 days in solitary confinement.”

To start off, I am so thankful for our country and the freedoms we enjoy. Our government is not perfect, but we are so blessed to be here with a government that at least follows the rule of law. This book is well written and compelling.  I learned a lot about Iran and it’s history and government. At times it was difficult to keep track of all the different Iranian leaders and what purpose they have in the government, but Esfandiari writes so well that even though I wasn’t 100% sure of who was who, I understood what was going on. She has led a very exciting life, compared to mine. She has lived in Austria, Iran, and the United States. Unfortunately, I do not remember hearing her story when it happened, but I am glad I read the book. It helped me to learn more about world affairs and how different countries rule. It also gave me a personal side to Iran. To me Iran has always been about Ahmadinejad and not allowing him to have nuclear weapons. I have been one to suggest using every option to stop him. After reading this book I still believe, now even more, that Iran should not be allowed to have nuclear weapons, but I worry more about the citizens of Iran and how they will be affected either way. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to be more aware of what can happen in our world, who wants to learn more about Iran and it’s history, and who wants to become more grateful for the country we live in and the freedoms we enjoy.

Rating: PG-13  The only reason I added the “13” was because it is difficult to understand and her interrogation and prison life are not happy. She was not physically harmed, but I think it would be too much for younger teens. There is little to no language and no “physical intimacy,” but it is about prison life.

Recommendation: I think it would be a great book for high school seniors to read while they learn about world history. I don’t know if I would go younger than that. So high school senior and up would benefit from reading this book.

Organizing for your Brain Type

Organizing For Your Brain Type by Lanna Nakone

(Summary taken from the back of the book) “Let your natural inclinations guide you toward gaining control of your environment and learn to live life on your own terms. Drawing on the science of brain function and her experience as a professional orgainizer, Lanna Nakone offers tailored and specific advice that will actually help you tame your desk, unclutter your closet, manage your time, and save your sanity. Take the Brain Style quiz to determine which of the four parts of the brain you rely on the most to process information, and which organizing style complements your brain function. If you rely on the :
1. Frontal left section of your brain, you’re a Prioritizing Style. Adept at analyzing data, you prefer to delegate organizing.
2. Frontal right section of your brain, you’re an Innovating Style. Artistic and creative, you have a unique stacking system that no one else understands.
3. Posterior left section of your brain, you’re a Maintaining Style. You develop and follow routines well and adhere to traditional organizing methods.
4. Posterior right section of your brain, you’re a Harmonizing Style. Valuing interconnectedness with your family or coworkers, you need your environment to be peaceful.
Chapters specific to each type offer practical tips and strategies for implementing an organizing system, maintaining your system, and coexisting with different brain types.

Some of you may be laughing right now….hahaha. Why an organizing book? Well, I have children, a husband, a house, food storage, financial records, a dog, a fish, and a bird.  I also have more that I have not listed, and they are all out of control right now. Now, if you know me well you would probably guess that I am a Maintaining Style. I’m fairly good at organizing, and I love purchasing containers and shelves and boxes and such, but it’s time and how to do things more efficiently that I hoped for. Her Maintaining Style had me to a tee, but it didn’t do all that I hoped for. I’m already pretty good at the paper files and paper trail, but it’s the other stuff I wanted help on. She goes into a lot of detail about paper organization and some closet stuff, but it wasn’t quite what I wanted. I did think it was helpful and I would recommend it, but I’m still searching for the information I want.

Rating: G

Recommendation: Good for all who want to be more organized! 14 years and up. I don’t think a 14 year-old would really want to read it, but, he/she could!