Recommended Reading, Educated: A Memoir

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover was one of the books that kept appearing on recommended reading lists during 2018, including The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018. Some say it was the Best Non-Fiction of 2018. In fact, it won the Goodreads reader’s choice.

Recommended Reading Based on Awards

In the Goodreads Choice Awards, it received 5,027,741 votes in the Best Memoir & Autobiography section. It was a finalist or winner in many other book awards, including Oprah’s Best Book of March 2018.

Verified purchasers on Amazon reviews gave Educated  4.7 out of 5 stars; ninety-two percent rated it either four or five stars. Including Drew Mecham, Tara’s Ex, who gave it five stars.

Susan Amara, a Top 500 Reviewer, says, “A powerful memoir of family drama and those who twist the reality of the past. The memoir becomes a story of her internal struggle—to believe her own version of her life and to have the strength to break away from her past.”

Recommended Reading, The Backstory

Tara Westover learned from a young age how to make hard choices. Born in the 1980s into a strict religious family, she was not allowed to attend public school or go to the doctor when she was sick. While her parents said that she received homeschooling, she spent much of her time helping the family in their scrap metal business.

Westover relied on her personal journals to recount many graphic events from her childhood and mentions that she tried to collaborate with her siblings as much as possible.

Although money was tight, and it was against her parents’ wishes, she managed to purchase study materials and spend the time studying to pass the college entrance exams.

The author shows the reader a different side of American life than most mainstream people know. MS Westover demonstrates how important her family is to her. But, also how difficult it was to make the choices to leave home and go to school.

While she used her education to leave her home and create a new life for herself, other siblings did not. There is a strong theme that a person must make an effort to educate themselves to build a life.

Recommended reading because it discusses complex themes and exposes readers to a different lifestyle. Although off-the-grid family life also gets explored in The Glass Castle, this author found strength in education. Likewise, she had to make the difficult choice to leave her family behind.

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10 Great & Gripping Novels by Stephen King

10 Great & Gripping Novels by Stephen King

King’s Great & Gripping Novels Were My Gateway Drug to the Written Word

Stephen King’s books were like a gateway drug for me. Introducing me to a world of reading that I hadn’t explored before I discovered his novels. While his books often get labeled horror or suspense, he has written many that do not fit those categories. King’s great & gripping novels create and explore fascinating worlds, some of which contain horror and suspense, but are imaginative beyond the scare.

This process was actually much more difficult than I could have imagined, but these are, for me, the ten best Stephen King books. King has a substantial body of work (somewhere around 70 books). Getting into his books can be overwhelming, and many readers start by choosing books that got adapted into movies, so they have a sense of if they will like it or not. However, some of his best novels have made poor film adaptations. A lousy film shouldn’t scare a reader away from his novels, which might take a very different turn.

I’ve added one other partial review by an Amazon verified buyer. I don’t trust critics because I believe many get paid to say what the publisher wants them to say. That may not be true, but it’s my opinion. One thing to bear in mind is that a lot of readers now criticize King’s book because his political stance doesn’t align with theirs, so take it with a grain of salt.

#10 Great & Gripping Novels – Carrie:

Starting with King’s first book is as good a place as any. This is a book that touches on religious fervor, teenage acceptance, and handling embarrassment. In Carrie, King takes a hard but intriguing look into the world of a teenage girl who suddenly obtains the power to destroy with her mind.

Nine hundred and seventy-two (972) verified Amazon buyers gave Carrie 4.5 out of 5 stars, 86 percent gave it either four or five stars.

“Still stands up well today. I hadn’t read this book in more than twenty-five years, but I’ve seen the movie countless times since, so I had to pick up the novel and read it again after all these years. I had forgotten that King’s Carrie was NOT Sissy Spacek, and his Margaret White was by no means a Piper Laurie.”Trent St. Germain verified Amazon purchaser December 30, 2016

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#9 Great & Gripping Novels – Elevation:

Another quirky story set in Castle Rock. This one, however, will not give you nightmares and chills or have you seeing clowns in every drainage ditch. It might, however, make you fear to step on the bathroom scale. But, not because of gaining weight but rather from losing it. Scott Carey is losing weight without getting thinner.

One thousand, three hundred, and thirteen (1,313) verified Amazon buyers gave Elevation 3.8 out of 5 stars, 62 percent gave it either four or five stars.

“Lately, it seems, Amazon Customer Reviews have been experiencing a spike in reviews that are not, in the traditional sense, reviews at all. Some are Stephen King haters complaining about the price being charged for King, and other writers. Other false reviews are posted to register their umbrage at King due to his left-leaning political views.”Andy Anderson Hall of Fame Top 10 Reviewer verified Amazon purchaser August 27, 2013

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#8 Great & Gripping Novel – Mr. Mercedes:
This is actually a trilogy with Finders Keeper and End of Watch, which is now a TV Series. Bill Hodges a retired police officer, Jerome (Bill’s neighborhood high school handyman/boy), and Holly try to stop Brady Hartsfield (whom they don’t know by that name yet). Mr. Mercedes stole a Mercedes and drove it into a crowd of people waiting for the job fair to open in the early morning hours, killing and maiming some even in sleeping bags. But, Mr. Mercedes has an even more diabolical plan for public notoriety, and this unlikely trio must stop him.

Twenty-six thousand, four hundred, and forty-eight (26,448) verified Amazon buyers gave Mr. Mercedes 4.5 out of 5 stars, 87 percent gave it either four or five stars.

“Surprisingly good ‘normal’ book from Stephen King. Well written and a very good read.”Great Grandma Top Contributor verified Amazon purchaser September 2, 2014

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#7 Great & Gripping Novels – The Outsider:

What could be more horrifying than a trusted member of the community, someone very close to your children, a Little League coach and teacher accused of defiling an eleven-year-old boy and leaving his corpse in the park? When detectives and the DA find witnesses, fingerprints, and DNA that point to the teacher and coach who has an ironclad alibi, how can both be right? A compelling yet unsettling story of unbearable suspense unfolds. You will want to keep turning pages until the shocking truth gets revealed.

Three thousand, seven hundred, and thirty-three (3,733) verified Amazon buyers gave The Outsider 4.4 out of 5 stars, 81 percent gave it either four or five stars.

“This is more in the Mr. Mercedes universe than the old Derry/Castle Rock/Things that go bump in the night universe of old. It starts out being a perplexing murder mystery, and it’s not until later in the story that supernatural elements start creeping in. By that time, though, you’re so involved in the story that the supernatural elements seem plausible…”Lisa Ann verified Amazon purchaser May 23, 2018

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#6 Great & Gripping Novels – The Shining:

A haunted hotel (The Overlook) and an alcoholic caretaker are slowly being taken over in a remote Colorado locale. Stephen King reels you into the trap and slams the door. Few novels are as scary as The Shining.

Four thousand, four hundred, and thirty-five (4,435) verified Amazon buyers gave The Shining 4.7 out of 5 stars, 93 percent gave it either four or five stars.

“Prepare for the darkest form of horror. I can’t with good conscience recommend anyone to read this book. It gave me nightmares every night that I read it. I woke up thinking about it and couldn’t get it out of my head. I’m reading something else as fast as I can…can’t wait to get back to the basic SK. Nothing else holds a candle to this.” – Matthew Ellis verified Amazon purchaser October 28, 2016

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#5 Great & Gripping Novels – The Stand:

Set in post-apocalyptic America. In a world depopulated by a government-created virus. The Stand explores these survivors’ fight between good and evil. It fleshes out in competing communities with the good residing in Boulder, Colorado and the bad in Las Vegas. A classic and compelling King novel that is long but a great read. You will either love this book or hate it, but you shouldn’t ignore it!

Three thousand, three hundred, and thirty-three (3,533) verified Amazon buyers gave The Stand 4.6 out of 5 stars, 88 percent gave it either four or five stars.

“I have always loved this book and the uncut version is by far the best.”Obsessive Cat Disorder Top Contributor verified Amazon purchaser August 24, 2016

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#4 Great & Gripping Novels – It, A Novel:

Clowns enter into this story with a significant scare factor. Pennywise, the Clown, is an incredibly scary character who haunts the childhood of the children of Derry, Maine and then returns in a 30-year cycle to haunt them as adults. A tale more about the bonding of children and overcoming adversity than a true monster tale. This book does contain both elements and is an incredible read. If you spend the rest of your life a little nervous around clowns – we understand completely!

Four thousand and ninety-six (4,096) verified Amazon buyers gave It 4.5 out of 5 stars, 87 percent gave it either four or five stars.

“There’s an evil lurking in Derry, Maine. It lurks in the storm drains and the sewers. The scary part? The entire town is affected by evil that lives under the city wreaking its havoc upon the town, but only the children can see It.”Danielle verified Amazon purchaser May 1, 2017

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#3 Great & Gripping Novels – The Green Mile

The Complete Serial Novel: A non-horror story set in Cold Mountain Penitentiary in a depression era America, which follows a prison guard as he oversees a prisoner with the ability to heal. Touching and compelling as a book, a great read, and one of the best film adaptations of a Stephen King book ever.

One thousand and two hundred (1,200) verified Amazon buyers gave The Green Mile 4.8 out of 5 stars, 96 percent gave it either four or five stars.

“If you’ve seen the award-winning movie with Tom Hanks, then, by and large, you know exactly what to expect from this book. That’s not to say you shouldn’t read this book for fear it will be redundant. In fact, I would almost advise you to watch the movie first, then read the book.” – AustinTiffany verified Amazon purchaser August 27, 2013

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#2 – 11/22/63

A fantastic story based around a man’s discovery of a portal that can transport him back to the same day in 1958. Everything he does back then affects the future world and changes if he goes back again. “In an Open Letter from Stephen King” he relates, “I’d like to tell a time-travel story where this guy finds a diner that connects to 1958… you always go back to the same day. So, one day he goes back and just stays. Leaves his 2007 life behind. His goal? To get up to November 22, 1963 and stop Lee Harvey Oswald.” Well, that was 2007, he finally published it in 2011. The story is a “real page-turner” to use someone’s cliché, but it is. It’s another of his stories where he pulls you in, and you don’t mind. In fact, you’d be OK just staying there as Jake does. This is not a horror story; it is historical fiction with plenty of real-life facts about those times in the early ‘60s.

Twenty-six thousand, four hundred, and ninety-two (26,492) verified Amazon buyers gave 11/22/63 4.5 out of 5 stars, 87 percent gave it either four or five stars.

“Some books I rate with 5 stars just because of my pleasure in the story. These aren’t always well-written or creative, or something someone else would like. Then there are those books that are so well-crafted, not just with character development or storytelling but in the writing itself. This is one of those books.”Tanya Oemig verified Amazon purchaser July 10, 2017

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#1 Great & Gripping Novels – Dark Tower:

Not one novel but a serious of books, the Dark Tower transforms the reader into the worlds of Roland that has “moved on” from civilization. The series starts with Roland chasing Walter, a character from his youth. It then picks up steam as he draws several characters from other dimensions into Mid-World including Jake, Eddie, and Susannah. They set off on a quest for the Dark Tower. A story that connects many of the books in King’s universe, the Dark Tower is King’s opus, his LOTR if you will. Well worth reading even if you are just getting into Stephen King. You will say “Thankee sai” later!

King says about the Dark Tower, “I have written enough novels and short stories to fill a solar system of the imagination, but Roland’s story is my Jupiter—a planet that dwarfs all the others…”

Two thousand, eight hundred, and sixty-eight (2,868) verified Amazon buyers gave The Gunslinger 4.0 out of 5 stars, 73 percent gave it either four or five stars.

“Fascinating book starts King’s Epic Series – The Gunslinger, the first in the series, opens, appropriately enough, with “the gunslinger” chasing an unidentified man across a nameless desert: ‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.’”Frank Watson verified Amazon purchaser August 27, 2013

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Stephen King, The Master Storyteller of Great & Gripping Novels

Stephen King has created some incredibly interesting novels that traverse more than just one genre. If you haven’t read King, choose one of these eight books, and start on a fantastic journey. Get the insight into a profound and influential writer who creates incredible worlds for you to explore.

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Eight Must-Read Grisham Novels

Eight Must-Read Grisham Novels

John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. His books hold my attention from beginning to end. He has several novels which have courtroom drama, but almost all contain suspense. Get your no spoiler recommendations and buy the book here.

#8 Must-Read Grisham Novel – The Racketeer

If you are looking for courtroom thrills and suspense, then John Grisham is the right choice. And, The Racketeer is a good first Grisham novel. It is riddled with plot twists and will leave you longing for another John Grisham book, the very best of which are listed here.

The Racketeer is guilty of only one thing: keeping us engaged until the very last page.”—USA Today

Eleven thousand and eighty-one (11,081) verified Amazon buyers gave The Racketeer 4.2 out of 5 stars, 70 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#7 – The Chamber

This novel was one of the very few John Grisham did not outline before he began writing. However, it does have courtroom drama and suspense like many of his other books. The opening of this book is strong, which brings the reader into the story quickly so that they want to continue to find out what happens. Set once again in Clanton, like several of his other novels, The Chamber is a must read for Grisham enthusiasts.

Two thousand, four hundred, and eight verified Amazon buyers gave The Chamber 4.2 out of 5 stars, 74 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#6 – The Rooster Bar

In 2017, The Rooster Bar hit the shelves. This novel seems to examine many areas of social injustice that would interest millennials, like for-profit colleges, lying or exaggerating college recruiters, fake law firms, immigration, and the student loan hustle. It is about four friends who are graduating from law school; they are loaded down with student debt, each with around $150,000 and no job prospects, or more appropriately, no good job prospects. Soon, they hit the streets hustling jobs without having passed the bar or having a license to practice law. They hang a fake shingle and take DUIs and simple traffic ticket cases…until they get caught. But they have a way out of that too. Read it now.

Five thousand and twelve verified Amazon buyers gave The Rooster Bar 3.7 out of 5 stars, 59 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#5 – The Reckoning

Published October 23, 2018, The Reckoning takes us back to Clanton, Mississippi (the author’s favorite fictitious southern town). The story’s plot centers around the ‘46 murder and trial of the town’s prominent patriarch Pete Banning, who is a war hero recently returned from the Philippines and World War II. Grisham’s fictional Ford County has been the site of six Grisham novels, A Time to Kill (his first novel), The Summons, The Chamber, The Last Juror, and Sycamore Row. If you like historical fictions, this will be more to your liking than Grisham’s usual courtroom dramas.

Four thousand and eighty verified Amazon buyers gave The Reckoning 3.7 out of 5 stars, 57 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#4 – The King of Torts

Published in 2003, The King of Torts deals with too much greed and too much excess in the life of an attorney. Once a person gets an excess of something, they will become greedy with the pursuit of more. Greedy lawyers, needy clients…a classic combination.

Eight hundred and thirty-four verified Amazon buyers gave The King of Torts 4.0 out of 5 stars, 58 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#3 – The Pelican Brief

1993. In this book, two supreme court justices got murdered. The circumstances surrounding their deaths, as well as the deaths themselves, shock and confuse a politically divided nation. A law student believes she knows why the justices got killed. This is Grisham’s third novel after A Time to Kill and The Firm.

Five hundred and seven verified Amazon buyers gave The Pelican Brief 4.5 out of 5 stars, 82 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#2 – A Painted House

2001. Gossip and suspicion surround a murder – and a young boy knows some of the secrets about the crime but does not know if he should tell anybody about them. Set in late summer and the early Autumn of ‘52, it is a story told through a seven-year-old, Luke Chandler’s eyes. His family is cotton farmers, struggling to take in their crops to earn enough money to settle upon debts. The novel depicts the experiences which bring him out of an innocent world into the harsh realities of life.

One thousand, six hundred, and eight verified Amazon buyers gave A Painted House 4.4 out of 5 stars, 78 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#1 Must-Read Grisham Novel – The Firm

If you want courtroom drama, savvy lawyers, and brilliant villains, and why wouldn’t you if you are reading John Grisham? Isn’t that basically what we all seek from his work? From the first few pages to the very end – it is well-written and robust. The Firm also became a multimillion-dollar film starring Tom Cruise. It’s a remarkable story. If you haven’t read it for a while, try again.

Two thousand, four hundred, and eight verified Amazon buyers gave The Chamber 4.2 out of 5 stars, 74 percent gave it either four or five stars.

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John Grisham weaves his crafty stories in the courtroom in most of his stories, some like Playing for Pizza, Calico Joe, and a few others are sports stories. All of his novels have suspense in them, some more than others. Besides being a novelist, John is also an attorney, activist, and politician.

Many of the must-read Grisham novels are sold worldwide and translated into 42 different languages. As of 2018, John’s net worth has been said to be around $350 million. He has attended Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi School of Law School, and Delta State University.

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Fall of an Angel by Billy Leland Review

The Fall of an AngelThe Fall of an Angel by Billy Leland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fall of an Angel by Billy Leland
I love reviewing nonfiction books because there are no spoilers. Almost everyone that knows Billy, knows what happened to Billy. In this book, you will find out why. Billy has a lot to say regarding how law enforcement, lawyers, and the DA can use — and misuse — the guilty’s deposition to persecute and indict a person of “conspiracy.” Compared to the others the DA made deals with after being caught in the act, what made Billy’s case more critical? What crime did he commit than those who were caught in the act and ratted him out did not commit? Was he just a convenient scapegoat who was supposed to lead them to the demise of the Hell’s Angels and other biker clubs in Maine? Or, was he a political stepping stone for some members of the prosecution?
Don’t get me wrong; Billy accepts guilt for what he did wrong. However, nothing ever got proven by the State. In Billy’s case, there was no “smoking gun.” Billy never got caught with any drugs in his possession; there was never a urinalysis that proved Billy was a user, no hard evidence that he was a dealer. Just the testimony of people who were supposedly Billy’s friends and confidants. Most of that testimony is hearsay. He said, she said, which is not admissible!
I wish I had a dollar for everyone that said in their deposition words to the effect of, “Tony told me…” “Missy said…” “Billy was the biggest meth dealer on the East Coast.” Or, the prosecutor leads them in the direction they want them to go or say what he wants the Grand Jury to hear.
What’s more, he was kept in prison for nearly two years without a shred of evidence — denied bail because of his “risk of flight,” even though Maine has always been his home.

Our Friendship
Billy and I were good friends in high school. We were on the swim team together and did some crazy shit. It is a time I will always remember. Lee and Shirley, and Billy’s brothers and sister were like family to me that one year we hung around together before joining the Army under the buddy system.
One thing I learned while reading the book, was that Billy and I both lived on Kellogg Street in Portland, ME. Though, we must have lived in Portland five or more years apart. I lived there when I was 12 or 13, and Billy must have been younger. Another coincidence about that is one of my best friends in Portland, was Paul, a 350-pound lobster fisherman who was a member of the Hell’s Angels. One of the kindest, most gentle people I ever met.
It seems I fought every single day I lived there. Munjoy Hill was a tough neighborhood, and although I was small, I never backed down. Billy and I participated in a few fights in high school too.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent
The only way they even got a confession from Billy was to offer a ten-year sentence and a promise not to arrest his son on similar charges. How is that even legal? Shouldn’t everyone they have evidence of committing a crime get arrested and have their day in court. Evidently not, “guilty until proven innocent” seems more our injustice system’s mantra.
Most of those “friends” who made deals with the prosecution only did it to either get time off or “time served” for their sins didn’t even know Billy personally. Crimes they were caught red-handed committing, some were even sanctioned by law enforcement. How is it OK for law enforcement to allow someone to keep selling drugs, hurting people, selling their bodies, and entrapping others who might not even be a criminal if not for the State’s tampering.

“Conspiracy” the Catch-All
Conspiracy is the term the Federal government uses to put anyone they want in prison, with or without physical evidence. This book is an eye-opener for those who believe in the American “Justice” System. The DA got Billy to plead guilty and accept a 10-year sentence. Instead, he got a 21-year sentence and five years of probation.
You did know that the prosecution can use “hearsay” in a deposition (sworn, written and recorded testimony), particularly when the defense lawyer is not even present. When there is no defense lawyer present, the prosecution can use whatever “coaching” method they need to get the attestor to remember what the DA needs them to remember, true or false does not matter if it supports the State’s case. Who will object? Chances are your worthless lawyer is laughing all the way to the bank with your money and won’t have time to sit through hours of depositions. What can you do?
I’m not trying to rewrite Billy’s book because he did an excellent job of doing that. I am merely trying to convince you it is worth reading and you will enjoy it as I did.

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Recommended Book for January 2019

The Big Bang by Linda Joffe Hull

Winner of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer of the Year Award

Melody Mountain Ranch is a gated, planned, suburban heaven for everyone but interior decorator Hope Jordan. As Hope struggles through the letdown of several unsuccessful fertility treatments, her cul-de-sac neighbors Will Pierce-Cohn, a stay-at-home dad and community activist; Frank Griffin, a minister–cum–homeowners’ board president; and Tim Trautman, a soon-to-be father of five, jockey for her attention.

When Hope has a few too many cocktails and inadvertently eats hash-laced brownies at the playground ribbon-cutting gala/Memorial Weekend poolside potluck, she falls into the arms of one of her three wannabe paramours. Maybe all three. She wakes up with only fleeting memories of the evening and soon discovers that her dream of getting pregnant has become a crushing reality. With all eyes on her, Hope is forced to watch as the walls holding up her picture-perfect neighborhood begin to crumble.

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