Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book E: Fabookulous December 27, 2011

Scars and Stilettos: The Transformation of an Exotic Dancer by Harmony Dust

Book description:

Fear of being abandoned keeps nineteen-year-old Harmony Dust trapped in an abusive and cruel relationship. She thinks she has hit bottom-tens of thousands of dollars in debt, struggling to get by, and so controlled by her boyfriend that she doesn’t protest when he begins openly sleeping around. Things can’t get worse . . . until someone tells her how much money she can make as an exotic dancer. For the next three years, Harmony lives a double life as Monique, a dancer in a fully-nude strip club.
 
Ok, I didn’t plan my letters appropriately and needed to use “E” for this one, you know, EXOTIC dancer. A stretch? I think not…
 
Anyway, this may be my last review on here as I believe LibraryLove and I will be saying goodbye to our blogging days in 2012. Neither of us completed this year’s challenge, but hey, life got busy. And in case you forgot, we BOTH read 52 books EACH in 2010. I’ll pause for applause… HA!
 
Ok, back to the review. Scars and Stilettos is a true story of a friend of a friend of mine. Once consumed by her need of approval from her boyfriend, Harmony found herself misguided and caught up in a vicious, dark cycle. Having read this book after Shelley Lubben’s autobiography, this one is very G rated. Same messaging (Christ’s redeeming love and power), yet much gentler story telling. Surely, anyone can relate in the sense that we all find ourselves at times seeking validation from other people or things. Maybe it’s your spouse, partner, fiance; maybe you are married to your job, home, car, material things; maybe it’s an addiction you seek acceptance from. The fact is, we can all find something in our lives that hold us victim at one time or another.
 
For Harmony, it was her boyfriend who dominated her for YEARS. This cat even got another girl pregnant, moved her into the apartment Harmony was paying for (and they lived in together), and then had the audacity to ask her to get him his own place because “he needed more room as a father.” And all of this supported by her stripping career. Are you kidding me?! (Easy to say that as an outsider, but imagine the background and what gets one to that place of desperation) As I’ve read more than one memoir of those in the sex industry (Shelley Lubben, Jenna Jameson, etc) it’s a classic history of sexual abuse, neglect, rape, father issues, drug abuse, and/or abandonment. So it is with Harmony.
 
While very sad indeed, what is compelling, uplifting and encouraging is God’s faithfulness through the dark valleys. He remains committed to us even IN the dark places. I love when Harmony points out that we don’t have to “get our act together” before God loves us. He always has and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can get ourselves out of the muck and mire. Having been to Harmony’s church, Oasis, in LA, I understand how she felt God’s presence so powerfully. I attended a GodChicks conference there in 2007 when a friend of mine was living in LA. Pastors Philip and Holly Wagner have such an inviting presence to them that makes you feel loved, accepted and valued.
 
Which is precisely what Harmony is now doing with Treasures, her non-profit, faith-based support group and outreach for women in the sex industry. She is setting out to teach these women in the over 170 strip clubs they visit annually, that they are valued, loved and purposed. The Bible tells us that God never wastes a hurt. And Harmony’s testimony proves just that–she is an amazing woman of God doing wonderful things that she could only do having gone through her dark places.
 
Thank you for sharing your story and for committing to serve other women in the hopes of turning their lives around too.
 
5/5 stars
 
 

Book B: Fabookulous December 19, 2011

Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn: The Greatest Illusion on Earth by Shelley Lubben

Book description:

In Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn, former porn actress Shelley Lubben rips the seductive mask off of pornography and exposes the hardcore truth behind the “greatest illusion on earth”. Her spectacular journey from childhood to sexual abuse to prostitution to the deadly unglamorous realm of porn sets, Shelley is brutally honest about her past. But that’s not all. Having escaped the porn industry at 26, Shelley now shares her powerful story of redemption offering a message of hope to the entire world. The first ever book exposing the “secret” side of porn, Shelley wants you to know the hardcore truth. Pornography is modern day slavery for thousands of women and the millions of porn addicts who can’t stop clicking. But you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!

This book was an interesting and intriguing find for me. I discovered it when purchasing “Scars and Stilettos” by Harmony Dust on Amazon.com. Harmony is a friend of a friend and I’d heard about her powerful testimony as a redeemed stripper. When I ordered a copy of her book, Amazon suggested I purchase Shelley Lubben’s book with it. A redeemed porn actress? Intriguing. And talk about humbling.

So I ordered my package deal and waited for my delivery. Once these books arrived, I did not put Lubben’s book down until I finished it yesterday on my birthday. (Parties can wait–I was in the middle of a good book…)

A stripper, prostitute, and porn star, Lubben lived years of her life in a deep, dark hole struggling with alcoholism, drugs, unwanted pregnancies, abuse, neglect and a sense of desperation you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. In a nutshell? A classic porn star’s background. And I don’t mean that to be insensitive or cold. However, when women come from a past as broken as some of today’s porn stars and have this inner desire, inner NEED, to find validation from others (men or women) they can lose their sense of value and self and seek it anywhere they can. Shelley’s first “trick” paid her $35. And just like that, she began a destructive path of selling her body and trading her soul.

The star rating I gave this book is on the low side because to be perfectly honest, I’m still nauseous from the graphic detail of stories such as how she conceived her first daughter, her first filmed scene, and some of the rough abuse she and other porn actresses have suffered through. But similar to my thoughts on Precious (whether it’s true or not–that’s another story), maybe some stories can’t be told without the gritty detail. And I do mean grit. Like, eyes wide open, one eye closed maybe, holding the book away from you, wanting to take a shower and wash yourself from what you just read gritty. Like “women actually do this and suffer through this?” and “how does one get to this place–what must be going on in their mind?” Am I being too sensitive? I don’t think so…

The porn industry is a $70 BILLION DOLLARS a year industry. That is more than all professional sports combined. Is this for real?? This is our number one entertainment in today’s world? I don’t mean to get off on a soap box, but everytime you click on a porn site, buy a magazine, rent a video (gross–think of who else has “rented” them), you are contributing to the degradation of thousands of women stuck in a vicious cycle. What is hard to understand is how porn stars like Jenna Jameson can make no apologies for their career, show no signs of guilt, rather think they are quite the business women, and then there are others who are crying–literally crying. Crying in pain, crying in agony, crying for their souls, crying. Screaming. How do they deal with it? Drugs. Alcohol. Whatever numbs the pain to make it even a percent enjoyable so you can get through it and get your paycheck to cover your rent, or feed that unwanted baby, or, as sad as it may be, get that next high.

Shelley will take you through her dark experiences (and she’s got some dark ones– she contracted herpes, a non-curable disease that resulted in early cervical cancer where half of her cervix was removed), to the rejection of her parents, and her near deadly experience in a Mexican brothel.

But what is ASTOUNDING (and I mean ASTOUNDING–what word is better than that, I’m not sure), is how God proved faithful to Shelley even on set. Even in the dark alleys, even when prostituting herself. God was there. Whispering to her, protecting her from even WORSE consequences (and yes, there were some–wait until she recalls in hindsight toward the end of the book). God kept her near Him and proved the promise in the Bible when it tells us to raise a child in the way he/she is to go and when he/she is older they will not depart from it. Praise God that Shelley had childhood church experiences where she fell in love with Jesus early on! But hey, any Christian will tell you it’s easy to wander and stray as we get older, gain freedom, seek acceptance among our peers, etc. Some just take it a lot farther than others.

Shelley is herpes-free (can you attribute that to anything other than God?!), married and with 3 daughters. Her first-born (who was conceived during one of her nights prostituting) writes a chapter in the book as well about her pain from porn– including her mother’s boyfriends molesting her and attempts at suicide.

Devastating most of the time, readers cannot deny the power of God in Shelley’s life. And the biggest takeaway message for me? If God can prove faithful to Shelley during her years stripping for strangers, sleeping with strangers for money, and engaging in rough sex acts on film that will stay forever, and then redeem her and give her a powerful ministry because of it… well, then God is faithful to ALL of us and can use ALL of us. How could anybody read this book and NOT take that message away? However, if this isn’t the message you hope to receive, I’d advise to tread lightly–this book is not for sensitive readers.

Sometimes the very thing we work hardest to escape is the very thing God can heal us from and call us BACK to to minister to others still trapped in the vicious cycle. And that’s exactly what He did and is still doing in Shelley’s life. Bravo, Shelley, for sharing your painful story. I know that couldn’t have been easy, but God is the perfect Healer and Redeemer. Praise Him for rescuing you and keeping you near! Praying for you and your family this holiday season to know a joy and peace you’ve never felt as you bask in the glory of His presence.

3/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book C: Fabookulous

The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel

Book description:

‘The more I looked, the more I found Christian Atheists everywhere.’ Former Christian Atheist Craig Groeschel knows his subject all too well. After over a decade of successful ministry, he had to make a painful self admission: although he believed in God, he was leading his church like God didn’t exist. To Christians and non-Christians alike, to the churched and the unchurched, the journey leading up to Groeschel’s admission and the journey that follows—from his family and his upbringing to the lackluster and even diametrically opposed expressions of faith he encountered—will look and sound like the story of their own lives. Now the founding and senior pastor of the multicampus, pace-setting LiveChurch.tv, Groeschel personal journey toward a more authentic God-honoring life is more relevant than ever. Christians and Christian Atheists everywhere will be nodding their heads as they are challenged to take their own honest moment and ask the question: am I putting my whole faith in God but still living as if everything was up to me?
 
A phenomenal read–I agree with a quote on the cover–this book is a classic in the making! The Christian Atheist will challenge you to wake up and LIVE like you actually believe in God. Some of the chapter highlights include “Believing in God but Still Worrying All the Time”, “Believing in God but You Can’t Get Over Your Past”, “Believing God but Seeking Happiness at Any Cost”, etc…Stop going to church for the formality of it and explore a rich relationship with God! We allow ourselves to grow so numb and so used to “our way” that we never REALLY change our lives. Live every part of your life as a follower of Christ, Sunday-Saturday. This book will wake you up, challenge you with some (hard) truths (at times). For me personally, this one just earned a spot on my top 5 list of all time! (And considering I read 52 books in 2010, that’s an exclusive list to be on….just sayin) 😉

 
5/5 stars
Fabookulous
 

Book M: Fabookulous November 26, 2011

My Life, Deleted by Scott Bolzan

Book description:

Scott Bolzan went to work on December 17, 2008, like any other Wednesday. By that afternoon, he’d lost every memory of his past.

Awakening in a hospital with no memory of who he was or how he got there, the forty-six-year-old didn’t know that the petite blonde at his side was his wife of twenty-four years, Joan—or even what a wife was. He couldn’t remember the births of his two young-adult children, the daughter he’d lost, his time as an offensive lineman for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, or his flourishing aviation career.

Scott’s life and the lives of everyone who loved him were forever changed when he slipped, hit his head, and lost consciousness in his office bathroom, suffering one of the most severe cases of permanent retrograde amnesia on record. With heartrending honesty and no shortage of humor, the Bolzans share their remarkable journey as Scott navigates his way through a now-unfamiliar world. The challenges are initially overwhelming: Scott’s debilitating headaches, his relearning of social etiquette (taking cues from The Sopranos!), Joan’s grief over the loss of the man she married and their shared history, the financial burden of Scott’s lost income, his mounting medical bills, and the agony of their twenty-year-old son’s struggles with drug addiction.

But remarkably, My Life, Deleted is above all else a celebration of extraordinary perseverance, and of the enduring love that emerges when we are most tested. Scott learns to trust his intuition in a way few people ever will, while Joan taps into a well of patience and resourcefulness she didn’t know she had. Throughout it all, what unfolds—against all odds—is an enviable romance as Scott and Joan fall in love all over again.

Both gut-wrenching and brimming with optimism, the Bolzans’ captivating story makes a powerful statement about commitment—and the possibility of finding extraordinary opportunity in life’s greatest challenges.

On a recent flight to Florida, I opened my guilty pleasure for my in-flight entertainment. Yep, I was ready to go armed with the latest edition of People magazine. One of my favorite sections of People has always been the Book Reviews and that is where I discovered My Life, Deleted. Once on the ground, it wasn’t long before I made my way to the nearest bookstore to purchase my copy because I was too impatient to wait until I got home to get to the library and I figured I’d have that in-flight time on my return trip to relish this story that fascinated me for some reason.

Can you EVEN imagine? To lose ALL of your memories– both happy and sad, painful and exhilirating, times of growth and times of weeping. To forget what you do for a living, what you’ve done in the past, who your family is and how you fell in love to begin with, where you live, historical events, your role as a human. That’s where Bolzan finds himself after a mere accident of slipping, falling, and suffering a severe brain injury. What is most endearing (in my humble opinion) in this story is Bolzan’s DRIVE, his desire to remember himself, to relearn what he knew and to make a comeback, if you will. In a situation where it could be so easy to become bitter and suffer through your pain, both physical and emotional, Bolzan has a will to not only survive, but to thrive.

Once a successful business owner, Bolzan was enjoying a luxurious lifestyle prior to the accident. It’s refreshing to read of his selling big-ticket items, such as numerous watches that earned the family over $20,000 to apply toward medical bills. Frugal at my core, I rolled my eyes at some of the name dropping such as labels, brands of cars, and other expensive frocks the family had. I kept looking for the epiphany where Bolzan would mention how his brain injury made him realize the important things in life rather than the collection of material goods. While glimpses of that realization were apparent in the story, it seemed more out of necessity rather than a change of heart.

Then can you even imagine on the OTHER side of the story? Joan, Taylor and  Grant. Wife, daughter and son, respectively. Joan is an amazing woman who stood by her husband, familiarized herself with his situation and medicines, and talk about the patience of a saint! What an incredible load she carried as the matriarch of her family during this world-flipped-upside-down season. Thank goodness she had the support of a loving, courageous and faithful daughter, Taylor, who baked Christmas cookies with her dad and taught him all over again how to share in one of their  holiday traditions.

A heartbreaking twist in this story is the drug addiction their son Grant battles, before and through his dad’s recovery. How frustrating for the family! Grant exhausts his resources: financially, emotionally, physically, while he seeks out his next high and drains his parents’ strength one by one. Understandably, Bolzan is beyond frustrated because not only is he fighting his own battle, he doesn’t remember the stress of Grant’s addiction and can’t share in Joan’s pain, and now he is dealing with it firsthand. And Joan…words can’t even express how phenomenal she is to stand by her husband, support her son, and stick with her family.

My favorite part is when Joan and Scott take Taylor to college to begin pursuing her dream. I won’t even dive into the details but let’s just say this is a heartwarming scene that would be impossible to read without a smile on one’s face and maybe a tear falling down your cheek. This family is an incredible example of unconditional love and one who believes their marriage vows through thick and thin, for better or for worse.

Thanks to Scott for opening up and sharing his story. And you know what? I don’t feel guilty anymore for buying this book rather than waiting patiently for the library. Why not? Because at the end of the book it says “A portion of the authors’ earned royalties from sales of this book will be donated to the Brain Injury Association of Arizona and the Phoenix Children’s Hospital: Neuro-NICU Department.” And what good are these life experiences if they can’t be used together for good and to benefit others?

4.5/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book I: Fabookulous November 8, 2011

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

Book description:

The beloved Fannie Flagg is back and at her irresistible and hilarious best in I Still Dream About You, a comic mystery romp through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, past, present, and future.

Meet Maggie Fortenberry, a still beautiful former Miss Alabama. To others, Maggie’s life seems practically perfect—she’s lovely, charming, and a successful real estate agent at Red Mountain Realty. Still, Maggie can’t help but wonder how she wound up in her present condition. She had been on her hopeful way to becoming Miss America and realizing her childhood dream of someday living in one of the elegant old homes on top of Red Mountain, with the adoring husband and the 2.5 children, but then something unexpected happened and changed everything.

Maggie graduated at the top of her class at charm school, can fold a napkin in more than forty-eight different ways, and can enter and exit a car gracefully, but all the finesse in the world cannot help her now. Since the legendary real estate dynamo Hazel Whisenknott, beloved founder of Red Mountain Realty, died five years ago, business has gone from bad to worse—and the future isn’t looking much better. But just when things seem completely hopeless, Maggie suddenly comes up with the perfect plan to solve it all.

As Maggie prepares to put her plan into action, we meet the cast of high-spirited characters around her. To Brenda Peoples, Maggie’s best friend and real estate partner, Maggie’s life seems easy as pie. Slender Maggie doesn’t have to worry about her figure, or about her Weight Watchers sponsor catching her at the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. And Ethel Clipp, Red Mountain’s ancient and grumpy office manager with the bright purple hair, thinks the world of Maggie but has absolutely nothing nice to say about their rival Babs “The Beast of Birmingham” Bingington, the unscrupulous estate agent who hates Maggie and is determined to put her out of business.

Maggie has heartbreaking secrets in her past, but through a strange turn of events, she soon discovers, quite by accident, that everybody, it seems—dead or alive—has at least one little secret.

I Still Dream About You is a wonderful novel that is equal parts Southern charm, murder mystery, and that perfect combination of comedy and old-fashioned wisdom that can be served up only by America’s own remarkable Fannie Flagg.

Have you wondered where the Bookworms have been?? It’s been a busy year! LibraryLove had a baby girl (yay!!!!!!!!) and I’ve been busier than I could have imagined with other things, challenges, and changes in my own life. However, I was able to steal away to read a book and just haven’t posted the review yet. Alas, here I am…

This was my first Fannie Flagg book and what an enjoyment it was! Flagg is a natural storyteller and I soaked up every word! Granted, this was my first time to sit down with a book and actually read it cover to cover in a long time. But I am glad I picked up I Still Dream About You. Part mystery, part humor, I Still Dream About You will keep you turning the pages as you try to figure out what is going on in Maggie’s head.

The story does have a gloomy dark cloud over it for the majority of the novel and you’ll know why if you read it (I don’t want to give anything away) but it does come together to make sense. Each character will come alive for you and each memory will play like a movie in front of you. Flagg is beyond gifted at storytelling. If you pick this title up, stop back by and let me know your thoughts. Happy reading!

4/5 stars

~Fabookulous~

 

Book F: Fabookulous July 13, 2011

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Book description:

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn the conventional wisdom on its head.

Freakonomics is a ground-breaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple, unasked question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study ned in this book: Freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of … well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.

Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

Not a book I would typically read, this one came recommended by a friend of a friend (you know how it goes.) So when I hopped onto Amazon.com for a description, all of the above questions seemed interesting and when the library had several copies available, well, everything just lined up. So I got it. To be honest, I did get a little bored about half way in with all of the statistics. The chapter discussing what, if any, link there is between abortion and crime rates seemed to drag on and on. There were pages of names, popular and not, among different races, economic status and other variable factors.

Freakonomics will make you think, that’s for sure. And it’s interesting to see the world in a new way, where there are links between things that are seemingly unrelated. For example, when the description asks what’s more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool, it’s interesting what they discuss. For example, parents may choose to send their children to a friend’s house with a pool rather than to a friend’s house where the parents own a gun, for fear of their safety. When in actuality, more children drown in pools each year due to negligence and the fact that it only takes seconds to happen rather than in a gun accident. Yet there is a bigger fear of guns than pools. Is that because of our familiarity with one over the other? It’s similar to the fear of flying versus driving. A lot of people are more scared to fly on a plane rather than drive their car, when the reality is there is a higher chance something bad would happen in your car rather than on the plane.

I like things that make you go hmmm, so for that reason I enjoyed this book. I’m not sure if I am going to read the sequel, Super Freakonomics just yet but if you are into these sort of titles, I’d recommend this for you.

3.5/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book K: Fabookulous June 6, 2011

King of the Road by Alex Debogorski

Book description:

Between bear hunting, drag racing, doughnut spinning, cattle rustling, gold prospecting, and too many near-death experiences, it’s amazing that Alex Debogorski ever found time (or lived long enough) to spend twenty-five years hauling freight over frozen lakes to the most remote ouposts of the arctic. In King of the Road, Alex jams his storytelling into overdrive for a memoir that’s equal parts action-packed, outrageous, tender, and hilarious. You’ll find out how he once caught fire in the middle of a brawl, how easy it is to get killed driving a coal truck, how the sound of cracking ice is something you can never get accustomed to hearing, and what it’s like being the improbable star of a hit TV show. The true tales of this larger-than-life ice road trucker are not to be missed.

Having never watched the show Ice Road Truckers I came across this book when it was advertised in People magazine. I kicked back at the pool, opened up to page one, and all I can say is “Wow” from the first word. Alex Debogorski has lived quite a life and has many a tales to share about the hair raising ways of his youth through life as a family man. I could have done without the stories of life on the farm and the rough treatment of some of the animals. Sure those things happen, and it’s part of farm life, but I am a sensitive reader and love the animals, so personally could have done without those stories.

My dad has owned and operated his own trucking company for 25+ years and I used to work for him full time (though now it’s just a few nights a week). I’ve always been fascinated by the Peterbilts, all the buttons, knobs, controllers. I’ve enjoyed learning about the permit process, the heavy loads, weight requirements, DOT requirements, etc. And while reading Debogorski’s stories, I can just imagine riding along the highway listening on the CB radio as he tells crazy tales, some sad, some funny, some mind-blowing, and some heartwarming. In fact, after reading about some crazy driving escapades of a teenage Alex, I could hear the hootin’ and hollerin’, I felt the wind blowing and I thought I was watching a movie screen. I caught myself afterwards and even read the story again because it felt so real. Debogorski is quite the story teller and I enjoyed every minute of his wild days.

Stories of sleeping behind the wheel, speeding, and not paying attention are careless and dangerous. But thankfully Alex points out he is not glorifying irresponsible driving (particularly if young audiences are paying attention) but he is just telling it like it happened. But when he talks about a trip to visit Louise (his high school sweetheart and now wife and mother of their 11 children), he was tired and closes his eyes for a few minutes. Upon opening them, he is moments away from running into the train up ahead and sure enough, he hits the train. With all the danger Debogorski has faced and all of the “mishaps” that he’s endured, it really is a wonder (by the grace of God) that he is alive to tell about them.

With a new season of Ice Road Truckers just beginning, I spent time this weekend watching some episodes of the show to see what it was all about. I’m pretty sure it’s my new favorite show. It’s unbelievable the conditions these drivers haul through and deal with. But one of the more striking things is that they probably just view it as all in a day’s work. A dangerous day’s work. The banter between Alex and his rival, Hugh “the Polar Bear” Rowland, is comical and after researching more into the show and merchandise available, I realized Hugh has a book as well: On Thin Ice. Is it a coincidence that the two drivers on the series who have books out are rivals on the show, in constant competition? HA! Fine by me, I’m already in line wishing for a copy of Hugh’s book on PaperBackSwap.com. 🙂

Thoroughly enjoyable, King of the Road will keep your interest from start to finish. Cheers to Alex for surviving himself and sharing about it!

5/5 stars

Fabookulous