Born a Crime (Trevor Noah)

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The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humour and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

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I recently listened to Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, which is read by the author, Trevor Noah. His narration is smooth and his accent enchanting.

I found this collection of essays to be thoroughly engrossing. They completely changed my perspective of who Noah is, which was formed by admittedly minimal viewing of The Daily Show, which he currently hosts. Noah isn’t uptight the way I imagined him to be. Nor is he the shining example of his neighbourhood, to have risen out of poverty and oppression in Apartheid South Africa and made it big in America. Or if he is, he isn’t ‘the golden child’.

Noah was one naughty kid and I bet he still is a bucket full of trouble (and laughs) as a grown man. I also had no idea that he has a comedy show and just recently learned that he was in the 2018 film Black Panther.

The description pretty much tells you everything you need to read about this book. It is a collection of stories from his childhood. It was not as heavily focused on oppression in a police state as I expected. The stories flow together so smoothly that I didn’t realize it was considered a collection of essays until I finished the audiobook and was reviewing the synopsis on Goodreads.

If you like memoirs, this is definitely one that I would recommend.

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xx

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The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

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Most books about the environment build on dire threats warning of the possible extinction of humanity. Alan Weisman avoids frightening off readers by disarmingly wiping out our species in the first few pages of this remarkable book. He then continues with an astounding depiction of how Earth will fare once we’re no longer around.

The World Without Us is a one-of-a-kind book that sweeps through time from the moment of humanity’s future extinction to millions of years into the future. Drawing on interviews with experts and on real examples of places in the world that have already been abandoned by humans–Chernobyl, the Korean DMZ and an ancient Polish forest–Weisman shows both the shocking impact we’ve had on our planet and how impermanent our footprint actually is.

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The World Without Us is a far-reaching overview of the world before us, the world after us and how humankind have shaped the world we inhabit.

Author Alan Weisman takes the reader on a tour of how the planet would change if humans were to suddenly disappear from the earth tomorrow. How long would it take your house, your city to disappear. He draws upon a wide variety of sources and experts in this examination.

I have always wondered how the world would adapt and evolve without people to mess up its natural systems, and Weisman does a great job of explaining this. He blends the disciplines of ecology, paleontology, archaeology and modern engineering to create a comprehensive view of our effects on the planet, and in many ways, how fleeting they are in terms of geologic time.

I listened to this book and it was very interesting! However, the book is written with the use of many sources and it sounds like Weisman used MLA style citations. He often explains, “so and so said” and includes that individual’s credentials as proof to his claims. While this makes his claims credible, as a listener, it was annoying. That is the one thing about reading versus listening – when reading you can skip those parts! It would have been better to omit those bits in the recording, IMHO.

I also found that the narrative became repetitious as time went on. I had to really push to get through the second half of this book. I would have preferred a few less examples and random facts, such as the linguistic origin of a specific place name.

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A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

Mr. Comey served as Director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.

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I LOVED this book!

I listened to the audiobook during my commute this week and found myself lingering in the car in my driveway, or sitting in the parking lot at work to eat my lunch, just so that I could keep listening.

There is so much information and misinformation out there right now, especially in the realm of American politics, that I didn’t know how I felt about the firing of Director Comey. I knew I didn’t respect how it was done, but then Trump can always be counted on to show little to no class. But as to the substance behind the firing? I just didn’t know what to think.

This book has completely made up my mind.

Admittedly, I am only receiving one opinion – that of James Comey. However, his arguments are clear, concise and logical. In his book, he comes across as confident but still possessing of humility. He admits when he was wrong, and when he could see another person in his position making a different call, and still find it justified.

In the end, Director Comey was caught in the middle of the nasty crossfire of partisan politics in the lead-in to – and following – 2016’s election. There really was no win there.

Listening to this book makes me hope that in the near future, after the Russia investigation is completed, Robert Mueller will also write a book. And that it will be read by Mr. Comey. All else aside, the former FBI director has a very soothing voice and is a great companion during the daily commute.

I highly recommend this book and have just passed it over to my Mum to read, as she and my Dad were both interested when I told them about it 🙂

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xx

Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

 

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What would cause an eighteen-year-old old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disobey and disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends (because the rest of them think she has gone off the deep end), and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person but didn’t know any of the language?

A passion to make a difference.

Katie Davis left over Christmas break her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved, so broken by the people and the children of Uganda that she knew her calling was to return and care for them. Her story is like Mother Teresa’s in that she has given up everything—at such a young age—to care for the less fortunate of this world. Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, has gone on to adopt 14 children during her time in Uganda, and she completely trusts God for daily provision for her and her family, which includes children with special needs.

To further her reach into the needs of Ugandans, Katie established Amazima Ministries. The ministry matches orphaned children with sponors worldwide. Each sponsor’s $300/year provides schooling, school supplies, three hot meals a day, minor medical care, and spiritual encouragement. Katie expected to have forty children in the program; she had signed up 150 by January 2008; today it sponsors over 400. Another aspect of the ministry is a feeding program created for the displaced Karamojong people—Uganda’s poorest citizens. The program feeds lunch to over 1200 children Monday-Friday and sends them home with a plate for food; it also offers basic medical care, Bible study, and general health training.

Katie Davis, now 21, is more than fascinating, she’s inspiring, as she has wholeheartedly answered the call to serve.

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I chose to read Kisses from Katie because I was initially intrigued by her experiences with adoption. As I mentioned recently in Instant Mom , adoption is near and dear to my heart. It is definitely a path that I feel called to in my life.

Katie adopted 14! children from Uganda, and she lives there with them in the ministry that she has built through her nonprofit organization. This is definitely a very different adoption path from what I would take – I’m not not proposing I move to Africa – however it was still incredibly inspiring to read about her joys and struggles.

This book is heavy on God, Jesus and the Christian faith. I am religious although my relationship with God is one I usually describe as “complicated”. I was raised in a family that believes in the Heavenly Father but did not attend church for anything other than weddings and baptisms.

At first, I was rolling my eyes at the amount of “God stuff” included in this book and was unsure if I wanted to finish it. But I pushed through because lately I haven’t been reading much and just wanted to get something finished. I am so glad that I did. Katie has inspired me to let go of some of the control that I try to exert over my life and trust that God will provide. I am such a stress case 98% of the time, but I have never been forced to go without life’s necessities. God has a pretty good track record of seeing me through hard times and I am going to just let go and trust that the means will come forth to provide.

Katie’s story is inspiring and one I would recommend to anyone interested in faith, missionary work, adoption from Africa and children’s advocacy. Many children in Uganda face unimaginable circumstances and it makes my heart ache to think of their suffering. This story has definitely inspired me to be a better person. There are opportunities everywhere you look to do a good turn.

Katie has recently published a second book called Daring to Hope. It will definitely be one I read soon.

You can learn more about Katie’s organization here.

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xx

Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

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Writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos firmly believed she was supposed to be a mom, but Mother Nature and modern medicine had put her in a headlock. So she made a choice that shocked friends, family, and even herself: with only fourteen hours’ notice, she adopted a preschooler.

Instant Mom is Vardalos’s poignant and hilarious true chronicle of trying to become a mother while fielding nosy “frenemies” and Hollywood reporters asking, “Any baby news?” With genuine and frank honesty, she describes how she and husband Ian Gomez eventually found their daughter . . . and what happened next. Vardalos explores innovative ways to conquer the challenges all new moms face, from sleep to personal grooming, and learns that whether via biology, relationship, or adoption—motherhood comes in many forms.

The book includes laugh-out-loud behind the scenes Hollywood anecdotes, plus an Appendix on how to adopt worldwide. Vardalos will donate proceeds from the book sales to charities.

Vardalos candidly shares her instant motherhood story that is relatable for all new moms (and dads!)

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I have been very interested in listening to adoption related true stories lately. Adoption is something that calls to my heart. One day, when I am ready to start a family I will adopt. Hopefully I will be able to have biological children as well.  But I know that I will become a Mum through adoption.

I had no idea before coming across this book that Nia Vardalos, of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame, had adopted and was the celebrity face of the national adoption campaign in the US. It seems natural now that she has written a book about the adoption process and her personal stories, even though she and her husband do not live the glam Hollywood lifestyle and seek to protect their daughter’s innocence and privacy.

Nia Vardalos is Canadian-born, which added a warm perspective for me. As a fellow Canadian, I could relate to a lot of her anecdotal stories, like wearing a snowsuit under her Halloween costume.

Instant Mom is a funny and poignant story of womanhood. I love Nia’s perspective on life. Her brand of feminism feels organic; it isn’t “ra-ra sisterhood” or anti-man. She doesn’t try to tell you what you should do. I found her story superbly easy to relate to and felt like she would be someone I could easily be friends with if she were to move in next door.

In a world where we all seem to take ourselves too seriously, we could use a little more light-hearted comedy and a few manners reminders from Nia!

This audiobook is read by the author.

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The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport

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They were the Princess Dianas of their day—perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses—Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov—were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle.

Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it.

The Romanov Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, World War I and the Russian Revolution. Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections. It is a book that will surprise people, even aficionados

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I listened to this audiobook on the advice of my friend, Ewa, who has been talking about it since Christmas. And I am using it as one of the categories on my 2018 Reading Challenge 🙂

The Romanov Sisters is a clearly written and detailed account of the lives of the four sisters and the little Tsesarevich from the time of their births until their deaths during the Russian Revolution.

Listening to their story changed many of the perceptions that I had – and clued me in to how many of those stemmed from the Disney film Anastasia – but also created duelling portrayals of Tsar Nicholas II in my mind.

Nicholas II and Alexandra lived rather modest lives in terms of possessions. Their daughters shared bedrooms with single size beds, and were not over-run with presents, although what they did have was of very high quality. Alexandra was much more heavily involved in her children’s upbringing than was common among the aristocracy of Europe at the time, even breastfeeding her children which was unheard of. The main theme throughout the entire book is the deep love shared between these seven people, and it is tragic that it eventually led to their deaths.

The Imperial Family was not well suited to governing the country. Nicholas and Alexandra would have been far more content to remain minor royalty and retreat into a quiet, idyllic life with their children than to be on the international stage. Their love for each other and their family led them to make many decisions that sacrificed image, popularity and power in Russia, further destabilizing an already tumultuous autocracy. Their ends certainly indicate the necessity of Royalty to remain visible and (at least somewhat) accessible to the masses, even at the sacrifice of privacy at times.

The last Tsar of Russia was pious, deeply religious and professed a deep and unfaltering love for his wife and children. Many accounts point to his being a moral man who was just unsuited to ruling. And yet, he showed little understanding of, or compassion for, his suffering peasantry and is the man behind mass jailing of political dissidents, pogroms and Bloody Sunday.

Whatever decision Empress Alexandra made, it was the wrong one. She was either too formal and withdrawn from the Russian people; too heavily involved in raising her children; too pious; too unwilling to open herself up to the innate mysticism of Russian orthodoxy and everyday life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Russian culture, yet too willing to accept the mystical and mistrusted Rasputin into her inner circle. During WWI, when she and her eldest daughters became nurses and worked daily in hospital with wounded soldiers, many considered it sacrilegious and a betrayal of Russian Imperialism for the Tsarina and Grand Duchesses to be working so closely with those of lower stations in improper circumstances.

The environment was poisonous and it is hard to imagine whether there could have been any other outcome for Russian Imperialism, even if Nicholas and Alexandra did everything differently.

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xx

8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS (Dr. Fiona McCulloch)

8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS: A Proven Program to Reset Your Hormones, Repair Your Metabolism, and Restore Your Fertility by (Dr. Fiona McCulloch)

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A Unique 8-Step System to Reverse Your PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal condition in women. It affects ten to fifteen percent of women worldwide, causing infertility, weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, hirsutism, acne, and hair loss. PCOS varies from woman to woman, each experiencing her own unique presentation. In 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS, author and naturopathic doctor Fiona McCulloch dives deep into the science underlying the mysteries of PCOS, offering the newest research and discoveries on the disorder and a detailed array of treatment options.

In her book, Dr. McCulloch introduces the key health factors that must be addressed to reverse PCOS. Through quizzes, symptom checklists, and lab tests, Dr. McCulloch gives readers the tools they need to identify which of the factors are present in their bodies and what they can do to treat them. Readers will be empowered to be the heroines of their own health stories with the help of this unique, step-by-step natural medicine system.

Dr. McCulloch has worked with thousands of people seeking better health over the past fifteen years of her practice. She is committed to health education and advocacy, empowering her patients with the most current information on health topics and natural medicine therapies with a warm, empathic approach.

Dr. McCulloch has authored articles in publications for health professionals on a variety of topics, including PCOS, thyroid health, autoimmunity, and infertility. Her popular research-based blog receives a  readership of twenty thousand per month. 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS is Dr. McCulloch’s first book.

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This may be the first time the “blurb” is longer than my review!

I hesitated to write this review because it is a personal topic. Clearly I have PCOS (or someone close to me does but I’ll admit it is me) or I wouldn’t be reading this book. However, since it is such a common disorder for women to have and can often go un-diagnosed for YEARS, I had to write on this subject and hopefully help someone else.

My naturopathic doctor recommend this book to me when she told me that I have PCOS. It is written from the perspective of holistic medicine as the author is also naturopathic doctor and someone who has PCOS herself.

This book is very detailed and offers lots of amazing recommendations for herbal supplements. It would be a FANTASTIC resource for someone who cannot afford regular doctor’s visits, or naturopathic services, although I have to stress it should not be used as a substitute to medical supervision.

If you even suspect there is something wrong with your thyroid, hormones, or menstrual cycle, definitely go get checked for this and do some research before you go to your doc. Some of the tests are not routine which is why I had all the symptoms and still went un-diagnosed for years.

Back to the book.

It is incredibly in-depth and very “smart”. I am a decently intelligent individual, I have a university degree and a college degree. And I had trouble understanding it at times. If you have an interest in the medical sciences, this would be more helpful. I do not and definitely got lost at times.

However, I still gained a deeper understanding of this disorder and how to treat it. This enabled me to bring ideas and questions to my doctor that I might not otherwise know to ask. I was able to better understand how severe / not severe my disorder was (because there can be a huge scale with PCOS).

And the naturopathic treatments are helping. I feel better, my symptoms are decreasing and my test results are improving. My DHT level is not four times higher than it should be anymore!

Yay!

So I recommend this book if you are the type of person who is interested in medicine or were smart enough to pursue a post-secondary education. If you struggled in school, this book would probably be a waste of time and become a source of frustration, but there are other resources out there.

Additionally, I would recommend purchasing this book rather than borrowing it. I found it very helpful to highlight charts that scale blood test results so you know which category you fall in. This is great for referring back to in the future! Also, I highlighted sections I needed to ask questions about and supplements I wanted to try, to chat with my doctor about.

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(it would have been five stars if I understood more)

xx

P.S.

What are the symptoms of PCOS (to my understanding)?

persistent acne that doesn’t clear up with topical medications, birth control, etc

(especially along jaw-line/ face, chest, back)

difficulty losing weight

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fatigue

insulin-resistant or diabetic

irregular or non-existent periods, painful periods

otherwise unexplained female infertility

male-pattern hair growth

thinning of hair on head

dark spots on skin

low appetite

and many more!