Facing the Music

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I was looking for another memoir to read when I stumbled upon Jennifer Knapp’s memoir, Facing the Music. Jennifer was a contemporary Christian artist who was popular when I was a preteen. After a few years of recording with TobyMac’s record label, Jennifer Knapp seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. Her memoir shares that story.

Facing the Music by Jennifer Knapp
Facing the Music by Jennifer Knapp

Jennifer Knapp’s early life was fraught with difficulty. After her parents’ divorce, she lived with her father and step-mother, who was an abusive force in her life. To escape the difficulties at home, Jennifer poured herself into her love of music. She learned to play multiple instruments and ended up with a music scholarship.

To cope with stress, Jennifer became steeped in alcoholism and promiscuity. A concerned Christian classmate eventually led Jennifer to Christianity. Shortly after Jennifer became a Christian, her talent for music put her in the spotlight. A Christian friend helped her get music gigs, although she did not especially enjoy performing music. After landing a record deal, Jennifer found herself on the road constantly, with little time off. The pressures of being a Christian artist continued to mount until Jennifer left it all behind.

In the aftermath of her experience, Jennifer admitted to herself that she was gay. She began a relationship with her road manager, Karen, and the two of them moved to Australia. After years of shutting music out of her life, Jennifer faced the painful memories and ventured back into the music industry, this time as a secular performing artist.

The Pressures of the Christian Music Industry

Any person in the public eye is going to face pressure. But in the contemporary Christian music industry, the pressure is intense and shrouded in spiritual language. Because Jennifer was a single woman traveling around the country, she was expected to stay in the homes of local Christians as a means of keeping her accountable to Christian purity standards.

Whenever she slipped up in the smallest of ways, she would receive criticism for “not being a good Christian.” In one instance, she was too tired after travelling to go rafting with her host family. They, in turn, contacted her boss to express their concern over her un-Christian behavior.

Jennifer took note early on that homosexuality would not be tolerated in the Christian community where she found herself. Because of this, she did her best to not feel attraction toward anyone. When she began to form feelings for her road manager, though, she realized she needed to get away from the Christian music industry. Although she still maintains faith in the teachings of Jesus, she struggles with some of the teachings of the institutionalized church.

I related to Jennifer’s experience of pressure from the Christian community. As a pastor, I am expected to act and behave in a way that is pastoral. To an extent, that’s a good thing: it wouldn’t be good if I were out getting drunk or sleeping around or acting violently. But the pressure and the criticism leave no room for mistakes, real or perceived. Over time, that pressure adds up.

Christian Communities: Lead with Grace, not Condemnation

I was recently listening to a lecture by Terry LeBlanc, who said, “The curse is destroyed by Christ, but the church has picked it up!” The divisions created by the world are abolished by Christ, but sometimes Christians become a plague of their own.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the church and I love my Christian friends. After all, I am a Christian! But the church has all too often led with condemnation and judgment when Scripture asks us to drop our stones and extend grace. There should always be room for hard conversations, but when we are constantly looking for failures or picking apart the actions of another person, we miss opportunities to build meaningful relationships.

The church values extroversion, to a point where we are doing a major disservice to introverts. We must have grace and understanding for our brothers and sisters who gain energy from time alone. In high school and college, the times I have received the harshest criticism were times that I showed my more introverted side. Although I am usually loud and outgoing, my hobbies are largely solitary ones. In taking this time away from people, I was met with condemnation. I often worry about the criticism my more introverted friends and family receive from church communities.

Review Breakdown

Writing – I loved Jennifer’s writing. It was laced with humor, which showed off the fun sides of her personality.

Story – This was an interesting story that had me captivated from the start. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at the contemporary Christian music industry. Jennifer’s retelling really allowed me to feel her emotions.

Mature Content – There was a small amount of profanity and non-graphic descriptions of promiscuity and alcohol addiction.

Likability of Author – I found Jennifer to be VERY likable. I liked her sense of humor and perspective.

BONUS Audiobook Review – The audiobook was read by Jennifer, so I got a better glimpse of her personality. I always enjoy hearing the authors’ inflexions as they reflect on the events of their lives.

Quick Review

This was an amazing, yet heartbreaking read. Jennifer forces Christians to think about their criticism of other believers, especially those in positions of leadership. Her love of music and her desire to share her heart come across throughout the entire book. For those disillusioned by the church, Jennifer’s book provides a voice to some of those frustrations.


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Last summer I read It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell and was incredibly inspired by her journey of losing over a hundred pounds. She found joy in cooking her own meals and living in moderation as a key to her success. When I read the summary of Cravings on Amazon, I thought I would find a similarly inspiring read. While still an interesting book, this book was not what I wanted it to be.

Cravings by Judy Collins
Cravings by Judy Collins

Judy Collins struggled with food her entire life. Between her binge eating and crash diets, she estimates that she has gained and lost over a thousand pounds over the course of her life. After her music career began to take off, she began purging her meals in an attempt to balance her binge eating with her desire to keep the pounds off. In the midst of her eating disorder, she suffered from severe alcoholism. In the end, she found that extreme measured eating and elimination of grains, starches, and sugar could help her control her eating.

“I want to suggest to you that if you are at all inconvenienced by your relationship to food, you should find a plan that might help you live with joy around your meals and in your life.”

Judy Collins

Between chapters sharing her personal journey, Judy wrote about the lives of the “diet gurus.” These gurus were those who invented or tried different diets, many of which she tried. The gurus she wrote about ranged from those living hundreds of years ago to the creators of Weight Watchers. All of the stories she wrote about had her own experience with the diet sprinkled into the story.

Not the Diet Memoir I Anticipated

The Amazon description of this book says that Judy Collins had an overeating problem that “nearly claimed her career and her life.” It says that she started a strict diet that “allowed her to maintain a healthy weight for years,” among other things.

Without knowing who Judy Collins is, I assumed that she had been overweight at some point in her life. The Amazon description of the book makes no mention of her bulimia, which is a theme throughout the book. Although it mentions “compulsive eating” and a “fraught relationship with food,” it is easier for a reader unfamiliar with her to assume she had an amazing weight loss story.

Near the beginning of the book, she made the claim that through her compulsive eating and crash dieting, she gained and lost over a thousand pounds. At first, I still had in mind that she must have lost some large amount of weight at some point.

Upon closer inspection, I started to view that number with skepticism when I (1) found out her peak weight was 140 pounds and (2) when I started to think about how during the course of a day a person’s weight can fluctuate as much as a pound or two. Depending on how obsessively I was to weigh myself, I could make that same claim in two years, and that’s just taking into consideration food and water.

Judy Collins Still Had Eating Problems

While I’m probably being a bit too critical of this number, I am still skeptical of a person writing about weight loss who never weighed more than 140 pounds. According to a BMI calculator, she would have to be shorter than 5’3″ to actually be overweight at 140 pounds. While I am unable to find her height online, Judy Collins appears to be an average height and was unlikely in the “overweight” category.

But all of this does not negate the fact that she had real eating problems. Her cravings, binge eating, bulimia, and alcoholism are all serious problems. The problem I have with this book is its dishonesty in promoting her weight loss. Even the first half of the book makes great claims about weight loss (giving the “gained and lost 1000 pounds” number). It’s just frustrating to find out halfway through the book that her peak weight was only 140 pounds.

A Seemingly Unreasonable Solution

After spending most of the book writing about her disordered eating, Collins spent an unsatisfactory amount of time writing about the solutions to her problems. In addition, the solution she found seems inaccessible for the average person.

For Judy Collins, the answer to her binge eating and alcoholism is “Greysheeters Anonymous.” It is the most restrictive meal plan that “Overeaters Anonymous” uses. This plan does not allow gluten, starches, and sugars. All food is supposed to be strictly measured by weight.

In one chapter about the solution, Collins wrote that she owns several food scales. She travels with them so that she is always able to weigh her food. When she eats out, she weighs her food to make sure she is staying within the limits of her diet. While she claims that this diet brings her freedom, I cannot imagine taking a scale into a restaurant and weighing my food before I eat and thinking, “Wow, I’m so free now!”

I’m glad it works for her, but this book did not offer much hope for someone looking for a diet that might work with a busy lifestyle. Perhaps I have been unfair in comparing Cravings to Andie Mitchell’s It Was Me All Along, but had this book been more like Mitchell’s book I may not have been so disappointed.

Review Breakdown

Writing – This memoir was not terribly written. However, it was not very impressive either. I personally thought that the chapters about the diet gurus were written better. My husband suggested that perhaps her editor felt freer to edit chapters that weren’t about her life. However, different styles of chapters can also seem to have different “levels” of quality, too. It’s possible the difference I felt was all in my head.

Story – I found the short stories about the diet gurus very engaging. Although the author’s own story was interesting, I thought there were points where she was very repetitive. Reviewers who have read multiple books by Collins point out that there is overlap between this and her other books.

Mature Content – The author writes about her son’s suicide, her alcoholism, and her lifelong eating disorder. This book may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Likability of Author – Personally, I did not find Judy Collins likable in this book. I am unfamiliar with her music or any of her other work. Had this book’s advertising not been so deceptive I would have likely enjoyed it and her more.

Other Books by Judy Collins – Trust Your Heart (1987), Amazing Grace (1991), Shameless (1995), Singing Lessons (1998), Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival and Strength (2003), The Seven T’s: Finding Hope and Healing in the Wake of Tragedy (2007) and Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music (2011)

Quick Review

Cravings was not the diet book that I was expecting at all. I was skeptical of her claims after finding out that her peak weight was only 140 pounds. Judy Collins did have an unhealthy relationship with food between her bulimia, crash dieting, and alcoholism. However, the book’s claims that her diet helped bring her to a healthy weight seems like a stretch. Had this memoir been more upfront about Collins’ specific dieting issues, it may have reached its intended audience better. The story was interesting, though repetitive with average writing. With all of these things considered, I would only recommend this book to those who are fans of Judy Collins or who are interested in reading more about eating disorders.

For the Right Reasons

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When I picked up For the Right Reasons, I was more excited to read it than I am most books. I’ve been watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette for the past two seasons, and have become familiar with Sean Lowe’s live Tweets during the show. My husband said that if his book was anything like his Tweets, I’d love it. And I did!

For the Right Reasons by Sean Lowe
For the Right Reasons by Sean Lowe

Sean Lowe grew up in a Christian home. His parents nurtured his interest in football from a young age, and he earned a scholarship to college to play football. Unfortunately, in college he did as little as possible to get by both academically and athletically. He was eventually dropped from the business program because of his grades. After that, he sabotaged his potential for a football career by not investing in practice as much as he should. At the beginning of his career, he and two friends began a debt consolidation company. New regulations changed how they could conduct their business, though, and they lost all of their investors’ money. Sean did what he never thought he would: he became an insurance salesman like his father.

Sean’s sister and brother-in-law nominated him for The Bachelorette. After the long application process, Sean was surprised to be selected, but excited to see what could happen. He was more interested in winning than in falling in love, but found himself taken with Emily. When he was sent home, he was completely shocked. However, he was invited back to be on The Bachelor. He took the opportunity to express more of his sense of humor, which he didn’t feel he showed when he was with Emily. Sean remained indecisive until the very end of his season, but realized that it was Catherine he couldn’t live without.

Sean’s Convictions in an Unconventional Scenario

Sean kept to his Christian faith throughout The Bachelorette and The Bachelor. During The Bachelorette, he did devotions each morning. Eventually, he had several of the other guys join him for devotions. Although they were all competing for the same woman, they were able to have this devotional time together.

During The Bachelor, Sean was looking for a woman who shared the same faith that he had. Although he did not want to have sex until he was married, he decided to have the overnight dates with the women to have the opportunity for off camera time. He wanted to ask them serious questions so that he could make the decision with all of the information he needed.

After The Bachelor ended, all the media wanted to talk about with Sean and Catherine was the fact they were waiting until they were married to have sex. Interviews were consumed with the topic, ranging from curiosity to disbelief. Sean writes that although sexual purity is important, it is not the central belief of Christianity. It was unfortunate that the media made his beliefs all about his sexual purity and not about the whole of what they are.

Sean’s Sense of Humor

Reading this book was a lot like reading Sean’s Tweets. The main difference was that I got to see the more serious side of him as well. Most exciting was that I got to see the side of him that shares the same Christian faith and convictions that I do. To me, that made the humor even funnier.

Sean’s sense of humor was prevalent throughout the book. His journey had some serious hurdles: self-inflicted troubles in college, losing half a million dollars of investors’ money, and having his heart broken in front of millions of people. Yet even in the midst of telling these stories, his sense of humor makes it an enjoyable read.

Quick Review

For the Right Reasons was a great book. Sean Lowe’s convictions and faith shine throughout the pages. His troubles in college, business failure, and heartbreak make him easy to relate to. Sean’s story of finding love with Catherine is charming and surprising. And even amidst the charm, he doesn’t sugar-coat anything. His honesty about the realities of post-reality show life and making a real relationship work are refreshing. The sense of humor he has throughout his story make the entire book an exceptionally enjoyable read. Overall, this has been one of my favorite reads in a while.


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Unashamed is the powerful testimony about God’s transforming work in the life of Christian artist Lecrae Moore. Lecrae writes about growing up without a father, his mistakes, and his transformation into the artist he is today.

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore
Unashamed by Lecrae Moore

Lecrae was abandoned by his father, who he never met. His mother worked hard to provide for him. Because of the emptiness left by not having a father figure in his life, Lecrae looked up to rap artists and uncles who were not always good influences on him. After being molested by a babysitter, he gained a distorted view of sexuality. He used drugs and women. However, he earned a full scholarship to college for theater and continued his lifestyle on campus. It was there that he had to opportunity to go to a conference where he accepted Jesus as his savior.

“I’ve had to learn that my natural responses aren’t normal, that the only way to live a future that’s better than my past is to cling to God in the present.”

Lecrae Moore

Unfortunately, in his zeal he also became legalistic in his approach to his relationship with God. He believed he could do enough good to wipe away all of the wrong things he had done. When he started to slip, he gave up. He began a sexual relationship with a woman who got pregnant with his child. Not wanting to be a father, he told her to get an abortion. Not long after that, they separated and he continued his lifestyle. After checking into rehab, he realized his need for God’s grace. He moved in with a Christian friend and turned his life around completely. It was then that his career as a Christian artist began to take off.

Lecrae’s abandonment by his father severely impacted his life.

Lecrae hungered so much for a male role model that he clung to any male who invested in his life. Even the rap artists he listened to became role models to fill the void his father had left. The emptiness he felt left him eager to prove himself to everyone.

Even after becoming a Christian, the scars from being fatherless still remained. While they were not being filled with drugs and women, the hunger for approval was still there. The lack of a father in his life impacted the way he saw God as a Heavenly Father.

“Because I felt like my dad valued drugs more than having me as a son, I’ve constantly wrestled with my self-worth and craved the approval of others.”

Lecrae Moore

Although I was not abandoned by my father, my complicated relationship with my father has also left its scars on my life. It has left me starved for male role models. I often crave words of affirmation from the older men in my life, especially those I have labeled as role models. Words of criticism can be taken as outright attacks. However, I have been able to work through some of these issues because I am aware of them. As I read Lecrae’s story, I connected with his emotions. I found his honesty about the journey to be healing.

Lecrae has learned to become “okay” with the tension his music creates.

Lecrae’s testimony and his outspokenness about being a Christian have led to him being labeled a “Christian artist.” While a lot of his music does talk about things related to Christianity, he has started taking a direction away from being overtly Christian in his music in order to reach more people. His conviction is that in order to reach people, he needs to be an artist who is a Christian instead of a Christian artist. He wants to write music that will speak to the boy he was growing up so that he can allow doors to be opened to conversations about faith.

“Being an outspoken Christian in the music industry means always feeling out of place. It’s like whatever you have accomplished is less credible because of your faith. You’re in the circle, but you’re not really in the circle. You fit in, but you don’t really fit in.”

Lecrae Moore

While Lecrae is never going to fit in with the non-Christian crowd, he’s also been shunned by some segments of the Christian crowd as well. When he began to shift his focus in his music to follow his convictions, he did not communicate with his fans what his intentions were. Some fans accused him of chasing money. Others claimed he wasn’t a Christian anymore. And although the path he believes God has put him on has left him in a place of tension, he is staying there.

Quick Review:

Unashamed is a powerful and emotional memoir. It is an absolute must-read for fans of Lecrae. Even for those who are not his fans, I highly recommend it because of the powerful testimony that he writes in this book’s pages. This book contains mature content like sexual abuse, drugs, and abortion. However, Lecrae handles his past mistakes and his background in a tactful away. His book gives readers a raw, yet redeemed look inside what life looks like for a young black man in America. Overall, this may be one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Her Again

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Her Again is the charming and emotional biography that details Meryl Streep’s early life and rise to fame. Michael Schulman artfully weaves together her story in a way that will enchant readers.

Her Again by Michael Schulman
Her Again by Michael Schulman

Meryl Streep grew up in Bernadsville, New Jersey. In high school she developed her talent and passion for acting. She left high school and entered an all girls college, where she flourished without the distraction of boys. However, in her junior year the school started allowing boys to enroll, causing tension among students. Meryl continued to act, and enrolled in acting school at Yale. Her fellow students looked up to her talent and versatility in the roles she played. This versatility would follow her throughout her career, as she slipped easily in and out of roles.

After college, she began to act in more plays. She took many Shakespearean roles, and in one of those roles she met John Cazale. They fell deeply in love, and continued to act together. When John fell ill with lung cancer, Meryl stood by his side until the end. In the aftermath of his death, her career as a movie actress began to take off. Only six months after his death, she married Don Gummer. Although the wounds of losing John had not healed, she found something enduring in Don that she knew was right. She and Don have four children and remain married to this day.

Schulman painted a bright picture of a brilliant woman.

Schulman’s excellent writing made it easy to be impressed by Meryl Streep’s talent. He wrote about her acting skills and their development in a way that made them come to life, even without a screen. Most interestingly, he wrote about Meryl’s shunning of method acting. Instead of conjuring up her own pain to get to a certain place while acting, Meryl preferred to act as a reflection of life as she saw it.

Schulman also gave the reader a glimpse at Meryl’s fire. Meryl was influenced heavily by second-wave feminism, and has always been vocal in those beliefs. She believes that both men and women should be able to step out of the roles society puts them into. Meryl has also been an advocate for herself and her acting. On one film she was offered, some scenes called for her nudity. Instead of merely turning it down, she asked if the male lead would also be showing the same amount of nudity. The part was offered to someone else.

Schulman captured her fun personality along with her strength.

Meryl has a lot of quirks, and Schulman captured them beautifully within the pages of the book. He wrote about her vocal desire for personal space and privacy, especially after having her first child. She loves pearls and a jacket she’s had since college. If she could do anything, she would act in plays instead of movies. And despite her fame, she still has some insecurities about her appearance.

Most interesting to me, though, was her marriage to Don Gummer. She had met and married him in a six month period. Although her friends and family wondered if she had lost her mind, she had fully thought through the marriage and it has become one of the most enduring marriages in Hollywood. Because I also had a hasty marriage, I am always fascinated by what goes into those decisions. Ultimately, I believe that when you know you’ve met the person you’re meant to be with, you know it’s them and you know when the timing is right. That timing might be mere months (to the dismay of family and friends) or that timing might be years. I do know that it didn’t feel fast to Grant and me, and I doubt it felt fast to Meryl Streep and Don Gummer.

Quick Review:

Her Again was a great read with great writing. Michael Schulman brings to life the story of Meryl Streep’s rise to fame in a very lively and linear way. My only complaint is that it did not cover more of Meryl Streep’s life, although it is a very good “rise to fame” tale. Although I have seen Meryl Streep in a few movies and enjoyed her performances, I would not call myself a “fan,” although this book certainly did a good job convincing me that I should be. For those who love her, this is a must read.

I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends

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If you’re watching Nick’s season of The Bachelor right now, you may find yourself rolling your eyes at Corinne’s antics throughout each episode. She has certainly been painted as this season’s villain. In her memoir I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends, Courtney Robertson gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at The Bachelor and life as one of its villains.

I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends by Courtney Robertson with Deb Baer
I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends by Courtney Robertson with Deb Baer

When Courtney Robertson began her journey on Ben Flajnik’s season of The Bachelor, she immediately made enemies with the other girls. Although her intentions were to befriend them, her flavor of humor and the unique dynamic of being on The Bachelor created tension. Ultimately, she was there to build a relationship with Ben. She wanted to see where it would lead, and her friendships with the other girls did not take priority. As her relationship with Ben began to blossom, her relationships with the other girls continued to get worse.

“Ben and I mistook the constant drama for passionate love. We had some great moments, but they were flashes of happiness, and quickly came and went.”

Courtney Robertson

After receiving the proposal from Ben, the relationship between Courtney and Ben quickly dissolved. They found that they had no common interests. He enjoyed risk-taking adventures, while she wanted to enjoy quiet mornings relaxing. While those differences could have been worked through, Ben’s lack of support for her goals and her career became a serious problem in their relationship. Their many differences ultimately lead to their breakup.

Courtney Robertson was not as bad as producers made her out to be.

While her memoir may very well be dishonestly painting herself in a better light, I try to give authors the benefit of the doubt. I read with the assumption that what I am reading is at the very least mostly true. From what Courtney has written, it is clear that the producers really put her into the role of a villain once they saw the tension she created in the house. While she was not completely innocent, she was not as bad as she appeared to be.

Creative editing made her look worse.

After a rose ceremony, Ben announced the next destination. When it actually happened, he asked if anyone had been there, and Courtney replied something along the lines of, “I was just there a few months ago.” When that scene aired, the producers had cut out Ben’s question, showing only his announcement of where they were headed, her comment, and shots of all of the other women glaring. They made what was not actually a tense moment look incredibly tense.

She was attempting to be funny, but her humor came at the expense of the other girls.

During her interviews with producers for the show, she often tried to say funny things about the other girls. However, these things were often mean and her humor was not really taken for what it was. When communicating with the other girls, her attempts at humor were often misunderstood.

The dress she wore for the proposal was (mostly) chosen for her.

The women have to provide their own wardrobe for the entire show, up until the proposal. The producers provide the dresses that they will wear for that last episode. Unfortunately for Courtney, that meant she had her choice of about eight dresses, all of which she claims were horrible. The one she ultimately chose made her look like Cruella DeVille. It felt more like a Halloween costume than like a dress to get engaged in. Her costuming for the episode only added to the audience’s perception that she was the villain.

Courtney’s relationship fell apart after the show because of their shallow connection.

Courtney and Ben had very little in common. While they had a lot of passion, once she got past that and made an effort to get to know him, she realized that there were a lot of things that made them incompatible. In addition, she felt that she had been deceived by him on some points.

She felt their lack of shared interests made it difficult to spend time together.

Although they were interested in each other, they did not have things that they enjoyed doing together. He enjoyed going and doing things, while she enjoyed quiet activities at home. While he wanted to be around other people and other couples all of the time, she wanted to spend time alone with him. These differences in how they spent their time together made it difficult for them to enjoy the time they had together.

“It didn’t hit me while it was happening but his choice of activities was a major red flag. These were all things Ben wanted to do and it was incredibly selfish and immature. He never took into consideration that some girls might want to look sexy, not sweaty, wet, and/or scared”

Courtney Robertson

She did not feel that Ben supported her future.

When they had first talked about her being a model, Ben said that it was great. He had given her the impression that her modeling career was okay with him. However, when the cameras stopped rolling, his behavior showed her that he wasn’t okay with her career. He seemed to have problems with her making more money than he did. Other aspects of her career made him feel insecure, and she ultimately had to give up many jobs to appease him.

 Quick Review:

I enjoyed this quick, easy read. Despite her raunchiness and language, I found myself liking Courtney. The behind-the-scenes look at The Bachelor and how Courtney became one of its villains makes it a must-read for any Bachelor fan.


If you’re a Bachelor fan, what moments do you think are most edited for maximum drama?


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Confession: I did not expect to find myself relating to Carrie Fisher’s Shockaholic as much as I did. After reading and being somewhat critical of The Princess Diarist, I had low expectations for this book. However, after her death, I wanted to read more of her works to find out if I liked her other writings more than The Princess Diarist.

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher
Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher

In this book, Carrie Fisher started off writing primarily about her mental health and her experiences with treatments. She reflected upon the way her mental illness made her relate to people, and the treatments that did not work for her. After self-treating her illness with drugs and alcohol for many years, Fisher turns in desperation to electroshock therapy. Although she saw it as a last-ditch effort to be stable, she found that it helped with the bipolar symptoms. Unfortunately it also caused her to have serious difficulties with her memory.

In much of the rest of the book, Fisher mused about those she has lost and death itself. Most significantly, she reflected upon the death of her father. Despite being distant from her most of her life, Fisher gained a closeness with her father during his final years. He moved into an apartment near hers when his health declined so that she would be able to see to his care. His death haunted her in a way that the deaths of her other friends did not.

I found several places of emotional connection with Fisher’s Shockaholic.

Although I did not connect very well with her other book, I found myself finding emotional connections with Shockaholic. I found The Princess Diarist difficult to relate to because of its scattered writing and subject matter. Not having ever had an affair, I had a hard time relating to Fisher in that particular piece. However, in Shockaholic the writing seemed to be a lot more put together. In addition to what seemed to me to be better writing, I found several areas that I could relate to.

I connected with her mental illness.

Just like Fisher, I have bipolar disorder. While the way our disorder presents itself is different, having the same disorder is an easy way to feel connected to a person. The main thing that I found myself relating to, was her treatment. No, I have never undergone electroshock therapy. However, the frustration of feeling forgetful because of the treatment for mental illness is one that I know all too well. Although the medication I am on has done wonders for me (making it so that I do not feel “ill” at all), I have quickly become the most forgetful person I know. I struggle to find things I had in my hand a minute ago (or might still be in my hand). My calendar is a necessary companion, since anything not written down will be quickly forgotten.

I connected with her dysfunctional relationship with her father.

Fisher reflected heavily in her book about her difficult and dysfunctional relationship with her father. She wrote that although it was a difficult relationship, she had a ton of love for him. I found myself reflecting throughout her book on my relationship with my own father. Although the epitome of dysfunctional at times, I cannot help but love him. He’s still my dad. As she described her father’s death and the grief she felt, I could not help but cry. I do not look forward to or want to think about my own dad’s death. No amount of heartache he may have caused makes me wish him dead.

I connected with her grief.

A friend of mine recently died, and I found Fisher’s book to be cathartic for working through my grief. Fisher reflected on the grief she felt at the loss of several friends. She wrote about how she had dreams about them. The world looked different after they were gone. Since my friend’s death, I have had several dreams about her. When I see things I think she’d like, it gives me a pause. Yesterday at the store, I saw a woman who looked so much like her from a distance that it stopped me in my tracks.

“I found myself looking two and three times, again and again, at these glories that I was continuously stumbling across, looking once for myself and once for the one who had gone missing.”

Carrie Fisher

Sadly, my friend is gone. I don’t see her at church like I did before. I try to give her sister-in-law and her niece extra hugs when I see them. An awkward smile for her other family members. Fisher’s book reflected on the memories she had of the friends she lost, and I found myself thinking of the memories I have of my friend’s kindness. I thought of her smile. Her laugh was so genuine. She really was one of the best people I knew, and she really is gone too soon.

Quick Review:

Despite having low expectations for this book, I found myself really enjoying it. Carrie Fisher’s writing was better in this book than in The Princess Diarist, and I connected with its subject matter better. She gave an interesting perspective on mental illness, its treatment, and the way it has impacted her relationships. I recommend it over The Princess Diarist if you’re looking for a Carrie Fisher memoir.

It’s Not Okay

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In Andi Dorfman’s memoir It’s Not Okay, she writes about her relationships on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. She wrote this book after breaking off her turbulent engagement with Josh Murray. Dorfman focuses the bulk of the book on how that relationship blossomed and the things that were wrong within it.

It's Not Okay by Andi Dorfman
It's Not Okay by Andi Dorfman

Andi Dorfman gained the hearts of Bachelor fans when she broke up with Juan Pablo Galavis near the end of his season. It was because of this that she was eventually chosen to become The Bachelorette. She had the opportunity to choose from twenty-six men to find a relationship that could last. From the beginning of her time on The Bachelorette, she found herself drawn to Josh Murray.

“You’d have thought I’d learned my lesson the first go-round, but an unusual optimism told me this second time was going to be different.”

Andi Dorfman

During filming, she caught one glimpse of his temper. Their fight did not air, but she was worried about what this temper he showed over something as trivial as a date she did not plan could mean for their future. Despite her anxiety about the issue, she decided her love for him was more than her fear of his temper. After the show ended, though, she found that his temper was unbearable. She found herself walking on eggshells to avoid his outbursts. Finally, she left the apartment they shared and began an extended stay with a friend until she could get back on her feet.

I would not recommend this as the self-help book it is trying to be.

Written (presumably) from the first day after her breakup, Dorfman sets this book up as a self-help book for any woman going through a breakup. There is some good advice hidden within the pages of this book: get out and exercise, don’t stoop to his level, compromise is important in relationships, learn from your relationship, and move on. Wrapped within this self-help is the unique story of Dorfman’s experience.

“If you think about your past relationships in the same chronological way, I guarantee you can find at least one valuable lesson that you carried with you to the next relationship, right?”

Andi Dorfman

However, despite some of the good advice, there is some bad advice and too much alcohol. I almost never read the reviews of books I read, but found that the reviews of this book on Amazon were brutal. Several people agreed that you could practically smell the alcohol coming from the pages of this book. Some of the pages seemed like drunken rants about her pain disguised as advice. It was the “don’t ever get engaged to a jerk” type of advice you’d expect to hear from someone drunk and hurt.

Quick Review:

I would never recommend this as a self-help book. Ever. However, for fans of The Bachelor, I think it is a moderately interesting read. There are some things in it about Nick Viall, who is the bachelor for season 21, which airs tonight. However, I still withhold a full recommendation because of the amount of language, alcohol, and the attempt at being a self-help book. For those looking to read a book about The Bachelor, I would recommend I Said Yes as a first read. I would only recommend this as a follow-up to I Said Yes for those who still want more.

The Princess Diarist

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Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist gives readers a look behind the scenes of the filming of the first Star Wars movie. It also allows fans to get a feel for who the young woman who played Princess Leia really is. Fisher’s quirky (and sometimes plain bizarre) personality shines through the pages of this memoir.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Fisher tells her story as she remembers it, despite having told parts of it in other venues. Fisher grew up the daughter of a famous actress and never wanted to be famous. Despite these wishes, she ended up auditioning for a movie she did not think would amount to much. She ended up being cast as the lead woman, Leia, with the stipulation that she lose ten pounds. She signed away her rights to merchandising, not thinking that it would be much income or that Star Wars would become the phenomenon that it did.

In this memoir, Fisher opens up about one thing she has been too ashamed to admit openly for forty years: her affair with Harrison Ford. For three months of filming, she spent the weekends with him. They did not discuss a future together or the fact he had a wife and kids at home. And at the end of filming, the affair ended and they went their separate ways. Somehow, they managed to remain friends and worked together amicably on future films.

Carrie Fisher shows readers her conflicted feelings over her affair with Harrison Ford.

On one hand, Fisher felt like she wanted the affair. She writes that she had planned to have an affair with someone on the set of this movie because an affair was a very adult thing to do. At the age of nineteen, she wanted so badly to feel like an adult. Despite being intimidated by Harrison, she was also attracted to him.

“My affair with Harrison was a very long one-night stand. I was relieved when it ended. I didn’t approve of myself.”

Carrie Fisher

On the other hand, Fisher was so embarrassed by the affair and did not share what happened with anyone for forty years. She did not want Harrison’s wife to find out about their affair. At times she also realized there was no substance to their relationship. They had a physical attraction, but would sit in silence for hours without having any conversation. Beyond that physical bond, there was nothing to their relationship.

This book was difficult to read because of Carrie Fisher’s scattered thoughts.

While it might be considered part of her charm, I found it difficult to get past her writing style. I frequently found myself engaged in pages of good writing about life behind the scenes of Star Wars, followed by a few paragraphs that were so crazy and scattered that it left me confused about everything else I had just read. Throughout the book, there were passages where Fisher rambled about things completely off topic. Sometimes those things seemed completely outside of reality.

In several passages, Fisher confesses to drinking and having smoked marijuana in her younger years. While these may account for some of her strange ramblings, they may not account for all of them. In one passage from a diary she wrote at the age of nineteen, she writes about a fish that came to her on a flaming pie and sat on her window, laughing at her. While this is by far the strangest example, smaller pieces of her writing seem completely divorced from reality (or even reality within Star Wars). While I could probably stand to lighten up and enjoy her quirkiness, passages like this kept me from believing the more “real” feeling passages.

Quick Review:

Despite her sometimes rude language and seemingly loose grasp on reality, I would still recommend this book to any Star Wars fan. Carrie Fisher shares her insecurities as a young actress starring in a role that became bigger than she ever dreamed. She writes about the struggles of becoming famous. Her humorous stories and wit are found throughout this memoir of the making of Star Wars.

I Said Yes

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While he would be hesitant to confess this, I am not as embarrassed to confess that my husband and I enjoyed watching The Bachelor and the Bachelorette this season. Bachelor in Paradise just ended, so the timing seemed right to read and write about the memoir of a former Bachelor and Bachelorette star (even if I didn’t actually watch all of Bachelor in Paradise).

I Said Yes by Emily Maynard Johnson with A.J. Gregory
I Said Yes by Emily Maynard Johnson with A.J. Gregory

Emily Maynard (later Johnson) tells her heartbreaking and inspiring story about how the events in her life did not leave her too far out of reach from God’s hands. She describes her relationship with God not as a sudden conversion, but as a frog jumping from lily pad to lily pad. Emily gives readers a glimpse into each of her “lily pad” moments, allowing them to become immersed in her journey.

Barely out of high school, Emily became engaged and moved in with her fiance. They began planning a future together when he was killed suddenly in a plane crash. Shortly after his funeral, she finds herself pregnant with his daughter. Emily finds some solace in the beliefs of his Christian family.

After raising her daughter alone for a few years, a friend nominated her to be on The Bachelor. She was surprised when she not only got a call, but made the cast. Despite her reluctance, she went on the show to give love a chance. After being the final contestant and finding herself engaged to the bachelor, her relationship with him ends because of personality differences.

Throughout her description of the process of being on The Bachelor, I was shocked at how much of it did not seem scripted. She was told very little about what was going on. With no access to the outside world, emotions ran high between the women (explaining a lot of what viewers see on camera). While it makes sense that the women cannot be sharing what is going on with all of their friends and family, it probably doesn’t lead to good decision-making.

Not long after that, she was asked to become The Bachelorette. She asked that she be able to have a suite with her daughter there, so that she did not have to be away from her daughter during the entire filming time. To her surprise (and mine) the network agreed. She also was adamant that she did not want to get engaged at the end of the show, but only wanted to have the chance at a serious relationship. With a fledgling relationship with God and a desire to find a man with the same beliefs, she went on the show. When she chose the last man to receive a rose, he proposed to her. With cameras and eyes on her, she said “yes.”

What surprised me most about her perspective from The Bachelorette was that things seemed a lot more scripted from the bachelorette’s side of things. When conversation was slow, her producers would give her talking points (based on personality and background assessments given to all of the men). When I watched The Bachelor this past season, I sort of wondered how much the bachelor was acting off of a script or talking points on some of the dates. This part of the book made me feel like this side of it is a lot more scripted, even if the person may genuinely be looking for love.

After her relationship with the “winner” of her season on The Bachelorette failed, she ended up falling in love with and marrying a man she met at church. They have two children and her relationship with God has continued to grow. Her story is one that inspires young people to remember that before they can focus on finding romantic love, they should find and be confident in God’s love.