Book Review: My Not-So-Ordinary Life

*I received a free e-copy of My Not-So-Ordinary Life to review.*

My Not-So-Ordinary Life Book Cover


According to the author:

My Not-So-Ordinary Life is an autobiography that tells the author’s life story up to age 28. The book reminisces about her innocent times in childhood, reveals the difficult experiences she faced in adolescence, and shows how she persevered and changed her life as an adult. The final message of the book is: Life will have its ups and downs but, ultimately, you will be okay, and maybe even good, in the end.

This book deals with the author’s experiences with mental illness, addiction, an eating disorder, and homelessness.

My Thoughts:

This book is written in vernacular and quite short. The PDF I received had 17 pages, so I was basically just given an outline of the author’s life. Unfortunately, I really couldn’t relate to the author or the experiences she described. This autobiography is about overcoming obstacles and succeeding in the end, but I didn’t agree with the author’s philosophy.

Rice made numerous immature decisions as a teenager and young adult- no surprise there…we all did, right? The difference is that Rice implies there was nothing wrong with her choices. For example, the last words of the book are in reference to obtaining a college degree: “After all I’ve been through, I know I deserve it.” But the majority of the unpleasant circumstances the author experienced were of her own doing, so she just came across as egocentric to me. I didn’t feel much personal responsibility emanating from this book. Perhaps part of the reason I inferred this was due to the book’s brevity. I think it’s difficult to convey meaning and really expand a character without detail and length.

On a different note, I was in contact with Christine Rice regarding downloading the book, review dates, etc., and she was very polite, professional, and pleasant in all correspondence. I should also point out that others may not have my worldview and may feel completely different about My Not-So-Ordinary Life. The fact that it’s a quick and interesting read may actually be a plus for busy moms, since we don’t get a lot of free time!

You can purchase a paperback or Kindle version of My Not-So-Ordinary Life below (affiliate link). Barnes& also has an e-version available for the Nook.

Note: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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Book Review: Spirit of Lost Angels

Spirit of Lost Angels Cover

Spirit of Lost Angels tells the story of a peasant girl named Victoire Charpentier. The daughter of the local village midwife and healer, she learned to read in the hopes of bettering her station. After her parents were murdered – her mother by the villagers and her father by a nobleman – she leaves her town for Paris. Through a series of misadventures, she finds herself widowed, estranged from her children, and a revolutionary.

My Thoughts:

First, this book has no grammatical errors. Well, there may have been some typos, but if so…there were so few, they didn’t stand out to me. I’m not an expert on the French Revolution, but the background information in this book fits the little that I do know. The book seems well-researched. I found the historical aspects fascinating, but it’s a sad book. It was a time of violence, debauchery, extreme poverty, injustice, and superstition. However the story was speckled here and there with people doing the right things- characters showing kindness amidst the wrong in the world.

I didn’t always relate to the character, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t often empathize with her plight. There were a lot of things that happened in this book that saddened and angered me, but they also made me thankful for my own life.

To me, the story’s only negative aspect is that the plot seems contrived. A peasant girl of no consequence learns to read, becomes the maid of an impoverished noblewoman, and ends up a wealthy woman. It’s not a likely story, but that doesn’t make it less entertaining.

When it comes down to it, if you like historical fiction and/or are interested in the French Revolution time period, I recommend Spirit of Lost Angels (keeping in mind that it’s not a light-hearted read). Currently, you can purchase the Kindle version on Amazon for $3.99 (affiliate link):

Do you like historical fiction? Who’s your favorite author?

Note: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. The opinions expressed above are my own, and you may disagree!

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Book Review- “The Tender Soldier: A True Story of War and Sacrifice” by Vanessa M. Gezari

Simon & Schuster sent me a copy of The Tender Soldier by Vanessa M. Gezari to review.

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On the day Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008, a small group of American civilians took their optimism and experience to Afghanistan, then considered America’s “good war.” They were part of the Pentagon’s controversial attempt to bring social science to the battlefield, a program, called the Human Terrain System, that is driven by the notion that you can’t win a war if you don’t understand the enemy and his culture. The field team in Afghanistan that day included an intrepid Texas blonde, a former bodyguard for Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and an ex-military intelligence sergeant who had come to Afghanistan to make peace with his troubled past. But not all goes as planned. – from The Tender Soldier by Vanessa M. Gezari

My Thoughts:

Due to my experiences as a U.S. Army public affairs specialist in Afghanistan, I’m already familiar with Human Terrain Teams and aware there is controversy surrounding them. Yet, I didn’t know the full story or understand exactly what the issues are from an anthropological view…until now.

I first heard about Paula Lloyd’s death in 2009 from the Soldiers who worked with her and her team. I could see the horror in their eyes and hear the pain in their voices. The story stuck with me these several years. I researched about Lloyd when I returned home in 2010, but I could never find much information about her. She died in service of her country, but seemed to make little impact in the media.

The Tender Soldier opens with the ill-fated story of Paula Lloyd, Don Ayala, and Clint Cooper. Gezari drew me in with this tragedy, and I wanted to know more. Why was this team there? What events led to this horrific conclusion? What happened afterwards? After the opening, the book goes back in time by a few years and discusses the different men and women whose influence led to the creation of the teams. Then Gezari goes on to recount personal experiences and conversations she shared with such teams while in Afghanistan. Annamaria Cardinalli is one such social scientist who influenced Gezari. I met Cardinalli in 2009 on Forward Operating Base Ramrod:

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Elisebet Freeburg
Human Terrain Team senior social scientist, Annamaria Cardinalli
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Elisebet Freeburg/RELEASED

This book was fascinating. It’s almost an information overload. You probably won’t sit down and read the entire book in one sitting, at least I didn’t. The characters are hard to keep track of, and there are a great deal of moving pieces. I did feel that it was organized, though; each piece of information was in its logical place, and the book flowed.

It’s easy to say this book criticizes the Army. But I think the bigger picture here is an intent to expose a serious flaw in past military and political thinking that the U.S. has tried to remedy. We pluck men and women from suburban Texas and inner city New Jersey, send them overseas, and expect them to be 18-year-old diplomats.

If you’re interested in learning more about U.S. military culture, counterinsurgency operations, the war in Afghanistan, and Human Terrain Teams, I recommend picking up a copy of The Tender Soldier. Find it here:

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