Borrow eBooks for Free through Your Digital Library

If you love to read books digitally and want another resource for obtaining them for free, you’ve come to the right place. Just like your local library allows you to borrow print books for free, your digital library allows you to borrow eBooks for free to read on your Kindle, phone, or computer. For most digital libraries, all you need is a local library card before thousands of eBooks are available for your reading pleasure.

I’ve compiled a list of the digital libraries in all fifty states. While a few states do not have digital libraries, most have libraries with thousands of titles. Those with libraries only require a library card (which is usually free to get at your local library) for the covered counties. Find your library, and happy reading!

 

AlabamaThe Alabama Virtual Library contains access to journal articles and other scholarly works, along with some eBooks. To gain access, an Alabama library card is needed.

Alaska – The Alaska Digital Library has about ten thousand eBooks for users to borrow. To gain access, an Alaska library card is needed.

Arizona – The Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records has a section for eBooks. One section is available for free to all readers (regardless of location). Another section has more eBooks. To gain access to that section, an Arizona library card is needed.

Arkansas – Arkansas has both the Central Arkansas Library System and the ArkansasLibrary2Go. Arkansas users are able to use one of these two libraries based on location. To gain access, an Arkansas library card is needed.

California – California has both the Southern California Digital Library and the Northern California Digital Library. California users are able to use one of these two libraries based on location, although some users in central California may be left without coverage. To gain access, a California library card is needed.

Colorado – The Across Colorado Digital Consortium has over seventeen thousand titles. To gain access, a Colorado library card is needed.

Connecticut – None

Delaware – The Delaware Division of Libraries has over fifteen thousand titles for Delaware residents. To gain access, a Delaware library card is needed.

Florida – The Florida Electronic Library has a limited selection of eBooks, along with other resources. To gain access to eBooks, a Florida library card is needed.

Georgia – None

Hawaii – The Hawaii State Public Library System has over forty thousand digital titles available for Hawaii residents. To gain access, a Hawaii library card is needed.

Idaho – The Idaho Digital Consortium has eBooks available for Idaho residents. To gain access, an Idaho library card is needed.

Illinois – None

Indiana – Indiana has the Indiana Digital Media, Indiana Digital Download Center, and Northeast Indiana Digital Library. Indiana users will use one of these libraries, based on the location of their library. To gain access, an Indiana library card is needed.

Iowa – None

Kansas – The Kansas State Library has eBook lending. To gain access, a Kansas library card may be needed.

Kentucky – None

Louisiana – None

Maine – The Maine Infonet allows Maine users to borrow eBooks. To gain access, a Maine library card is needed.

MarylandMaryland’s Digital eLibrary Consortium contains over twenty thousand eBooks for Maryland users to borrow. To gain access, a Maryland library card is needed.

Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Libraries has a large collection of eBooks and other digital materials. Although many of the digital materials are freely available to online users, a Massachusetts library card is needed to gain access to the eBook collection.

Michigan – Michigan has both the Southwest Michigan Digital Library and the Michigan eLibrary. Michigan users can use these based on location. To gain access, a Michigan library card is needed. The Michigan eLibrary will also accept a Michigan driver’s license for identification.

Minnesota – The Minnesota Digital Library has digital resources freely available for online users and eBooks available for Minnesota residents. To gain access, a Minnesota library card is needed.

Mississippi – None

Missouri – The Missouri Libraries 2 Go has nearly thirty thousand eBook titles for Missouri users to borrow. To gain access, a Missouri library card is needed.

Montana – The Montana Library2Go has over twenty-five thousand eBook titles for Montana users to borrow. To gain access, a Montana library card is needed.

Nebraska – The Nebraska OverDrive Libraries has thousands of eBook titles for Nebraska users to borrow. To gain access, a Nebraska library card is needed.

Nevada – None

New Hampshire – The New Hampshire Downloadable Books Consortium has nearly twenty thousand eBook titles for New Hampshire users to borrow. To gain access, a New Hampshire library card is needed.

New Jersey – The eLibraryNJ has many eBook titles available for New Jersey users. To gain access, a New Jersey library card is needed.

New Mexico – The New Mexico Library to Go has over six thousand eBook titles available for New Mexico users. To gain access, a New Mexico library card is needed.

New York – The New York Public Library has nearly one hundred fifty thousand eBook titles available for New York users. To gain access, a New York library card is needed.

North Carolina – The North Carolina Digital Library has nearly forty thousand eBook titles available for North Carolina users. To gain access, a North Carolina library card is needed.

North Dakota – North Dakota’s Library2Go has nearly thirty thousand eBook titles available for North Dakota users. To gain access, a North Dakota library card is needed.

OhioThe Ohio Digital Library has nearly one hundred thirty thousand eBook titles available for Ohio users. Users are able to check out ten titles at a time for twenty-one days each. Additionally, they are able to put fifteen titles on hold and five thousand on a wish list. To gain access, an Ohio library card is needed.

Oklahoma – The OK Virtual Library has nearly twenty-five thousand eBook titles available for Oklahoma users. To gain access, an Oklahoma library card is needed.

Oregon – The Oregon Digital Library Consortium has nearly forty thousand eBook titles available for Oregon users. To gain access, an Oregon library card is needed.

Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania appears to have partial digital coverage with their Central PA Libraries, which has over ten thousand eBook titles. To gain access, a Pennsylvania library card from select counties is needed.

Rhode Island – The Ocean State Libraries eZone has over sixty thousand eBook titles available to Rhode Island users. To gain access, a Rhode Island library card is needed.

South Carolina – The Jasmine Digital Library covers select areas of South Carolina and has over twenty-five thousand eBook titles. To gain access, a South Carolina library card from one of the covered regions is needed.

South Dakota – The South Dakota Digital Consortium has nearly fifteen thousand eBook titles available for South Dakota users. To gain access, a South Dakota library card is needed.

Tennessee – The Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. has nearly eighty thousand eBook titles available for Tennessee users. To gain access, a Tennessee library card is needed.

Texas – The Central Texas Digital Consortium has over five thousand eBook titles available for users in select areas of Texas. To gain access, a Texas library card from one of the covered regions is needed.

UtahUtah’s Online Library has over thirty thousand eBook titles available for Utah users. To gain access, a Utah library card is needed.

Vermont – The Green Mountain Library Consortium has over ten thousand eBook titles available for Vermont users. To gain access, a Vermont library card is needed.

Virginia – None

Washington – The Washington Anytime Library has over thirty-five thousand eBook titles available for Washington users. To gain access, a Washington library card is needed.

West Virginia – West Virginia has both West Virginia DELI and the West Virginia Reads available for West Virginia users, based on region. To gain access, a West Virginia library card from one of the covered regions is needed.

WisconsinWisconsin’s Digital Library has nearly seventy thousand eBook titles available for Wisconsin users. To gain access, a Wisconsin library card is needed.

Wyoming – Wyoming’s GoWYLD has thousands of eBooks. They allow users to check out five eBooks at a time for fourteen days each. To gain access, a Wyoming library card is needed.

 

If you use any of the digital libraries listed and are able to provide additional details, please feel free to comment below. I would like to keep this resource as comprehensive and up-to-date as possible.

I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur is a fascinating alternative look at one of the most hated men in history. In his memoir of his time in service to Hitler, Erich Kempka reflects on the work he did and the man he thought Hitler really was.

I Was Hitler's Chauffeur by Erich Kempka
I Was Hitler's Chauffeur by Erich Kempka

In his twenties, Erich Kempka became one of Hitler’s drivers. After some time in his service, Kempka gained Hitler’s trust and moved up in rank to become his primary chauffeur. It was in Hitler’s service that Kempka got a closer look at the man Hitler was. Kempka shares several stories of Hitler’s kindness to him. Often Hitler would bring a snack along for Kempka to make sure he had plenty to eat on longer rides. When Kempka’s father died, Hitler showed compassion and care for his grief.

Kempka, who wrote his memoir in 1950, stood in alliance with his employer. His support of Hitler’s work is apparent throughout the pages, although any mention of the violence done in his name is conspicuously absent. Kempka’s memoir is not without a villain, though: Martin Bormann, who he believes manipulated and used Hitler’s kindness for political advancement. After Hitler’s suicide and the end of the war, Kempka writes that time will likely show that Hitler’s biggest flaw was that he was too trusting and too kind to those who would use him.

Was Hitler saintly, evil, or somewhere in the middle?

Kempka was a devoted follower of Hitler. After his cultural upbringing and then having Hitler treat him so well, one can hardly blame him for his devotion to Hitler and his causes. However, Kempka paints Hitler as a saint who did everything he did for the sake of others, rarely thinking of himself. Unlike Kempka, history has painted Hitler as one of the most evil men to ever live. Hitler’s kind actions toward those who followed him confuse a “black or white” look at the man we know to be responsible for so many deaths.

Kempka viewed Hitler as a hero.

He believed that Hitler truly cared for those around him, and for his country. While I read some passages with skepticism, he wrote about kind things Hitler did in response to hardship. For example, in one situation Hitler had heard about an area that had been suffering from hunger. He ordered that a large amount of grain be sent there for relief. My skeptical brain thought, “Yeah, but did you actually see the grain get delivered, Kempka?” However, Kempka’s belief in Hitler’s kindness in response to suffering was steadfast.

In the end, he believed that Hitler’s biggest flaw was how trusting he was. He watched as Hitler was manipulated by Bormann. After Hitler’s suicide, Kempka mourned him as a hero.

Most modern readers view Hitler as evil incarnate.

Hitler was responsible for the deaths of millions of people. Children who draw swastikas get in trouble because of the evil that the symbol represents. Nearly a hundred years later, we are aware of the damage that was done.

Reading about Hitler being kind is hard for a modern reader who knows about the evil that was done by Hitler. Every time I read about something kind Hitler did, my mind could not process it. My brain either pretended it was someone else or thought he was manipulating the person he was interacting with.

When I was talking to my (incredibly smart) husband about this, he reminded me that even evil people are good to their friends. “Isn’t that in the Bible?” he asked. We ended up discussing it some more, and it makes sense. And it is, like my husband asked, in the Bible. In Luke 6:33 it says, “And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” Hitler being kind to those in his care was necessary for him to gain influence and loyalty. Even an evil man can do good to those who do good to him.

Though evil, Hitler was human.

It is easier to paint Hitler with a broad brush and say he was all evil. I want to do that. And it would be so much easier for me to do that. The millions of lives he took make me want to stamp him with that label. However, like all of us, Hitler was still human. Although his evil was greater than the evil of most people we will ever hear about, to elevate him to a superhuman position is to give him more power than he deserves.

“Only later generations will be able to form a precise assessment of this man.”

Erich Kempka

Hitler was a real human. He fell in love and got married. His employees worked for and loved him. Hitler gained their loyalty by his kindness toward them. While we cannot lose sight of the fact that his kindness was in the context of a greater evil, we also cannot lose sight of the fact that a man as evil as Hitler was capable of kindness. I like to believe that the capacity for kindness that Hitler had means that those who commit evil deeds today are equally capable of kindness. Perhaps then there is also hope of rehabilitation for the most evil men and women of our day, since Hitler’s time has passed.

Quick Review:

I Was Hitler’s Chauffeur was an enjoyable read for a very different perspective. While I did not read the appendices, they are supposed to add additional historical and political context. Although some of the longer, German words made it slower to read, that is less of a problem except where it occasionally impacts comprehension and speed. While I am never going to say that Hitler was a good man, this was a good book to stretch me outside of my comfort zone. It forced me to humanize a figure that I have seen as superhuman for so many years. Because of this, I highly recommend it to anyone who loves history or anyone who is interested in stretching themselves.

 

What most surprised you about Hitler from Kempka’s memoir? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Discussion Topic: What Format do You Prefer to Read?

Books are readily available to use in a number of formats. However, all of us have a preference when it comes to how we read our favorite books.

What format do you prefer to use when reading? Some formats are:

  • Hardcover Print: These books are nice because they are sturdy. New release books are often easy to find in hardcover copies. Unfortunately, they are often more expensive because of the material cost.
  • Paperback Print: These books are lighter and easy to read. One disadvantage is that sometimes the binding makes them difficult to hold open.
  • Kindle eBooks: These books are available digitally and can be read on a phone, computer, or Kindle. They are convenient because they use very little space. Unfortunately a dead battery can leave you without your reading material when reading an eBook. The use of a digital book can also cause additional eye strain.
  • Other eBooks: Books not available through Amazon’s Kindle app provide extra reading opportunities. However, sometimes these prove to have formatting issues.

Personally, I prefer Kindle eBooks, as I am able to get them at a price that is competitive to paperback books. At the rate that I read, I am also able to have multiple books with me at all times, allowing me to start a new book right after finishing another.

What format do you prefer to read? Do you read multiple formats? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Choosing to SEE

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Choosing to SEE made me both laugh and cry more than any book I’ve read in months. Mary Beth Chapman shares her story of life as the wife of famous Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman. She writes about the accident that took her daughter’s life and the grief that followed. Her exploration of life’s ups and downs is both hilarious and heart-wrenching.

Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman
Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman

Mary Beth met and married Steven in college, before his music career took off. Choosing to focus on his music, they moved to Nashville. There, they had their first child. It was after they began having children and Steven’s music career began taking off that Mary Beth saw a psychiatrist for her crippling depression. She was diagnosed with clinical depression and put on Prozac. Despite its stigma in Christian circles, treatment for her depression allowed her to be a better wife and mother. Their family grew to six children: three naturally born and three adopted from China.

On May 21, 2008, Mary Beth’s 17-year-old son Will pulled into the driveway of their home and accidentally hit their five-year-old daughter Maria. Despite efforts to save her life, she passed away. Throughout the pages of the book, Mary Beth paints a picture of grief in its rawest form. She writes about the shock, the pleading with God, and the anger. Her story also shows the amazing work of God in the lives of the Chapman family, despite the tragedy of May 21.

Mary Beth gives voice to mental illness and faith.

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, fellow Christians said some very damaging things to me. One friend said, “If you had more faith, you wouldn’t have bipolar disorder. And it’s funny, because your name is Faith and you don’t have any.” The stigma around my illness and my own denial about its severity led me to go years without treatment.

Yet it has been as I’ve grown in my faith that I’ve realized the difference between actual sin in my life and an illness I cannot control. Medication has been the best decision I have made for both my mental and my spiritual health. Now that the medication has put to rest many of my bipolar symptoms, I can clearly see areas of my life that I need to work on. I get angry too easily. I complain more than I should. Without being deafened by the ups and downs of the illness, I can hear God’s voice in my life a lot more clearly.

Mary Beth’s reflections on clinical depression as an illness reminded me a lot of my own experience with bipolar disorder. She wrote about how it’s an illness like any other physical illness. While she would love to be healed of it someday, Prozac helps her to live a healthy and happy life. She also is able to use her position as a prominent Christian figure to bring light to the issue of mental illness. Perhaps someday the stigma surrounding mental illness, especially in the church, will be gone.

Mary Beth grieved honestly and gracefully, all while in the spotlight.

Mary Beth did not have the luxury of grieving in private. While a lot of her grief could be done privately, her family’s spotlight meant that she had the public’s eye on her. Throughout her grief, she worried about the impact the accident had on her other children, especially Will, who had been driving the car that hit Maria. She experienced the full range of emotions during her grief, but did not linger in extreme depression or anger.

“I still trust in the One who gave us Maria to love for such a short time, but I am also a person who trusts while doubting at the same time. I am just being honest. I pray to God that He would build my trust and that my doubting would turn to rejoicing in time.

Mary Beth Chapman

The Chapman family used the spotlight put on them to glorify God. Although their grief was deep, they used every opportunity they could to bring good out of the situation. They went on to build and dedicate an orphanage in China, named after their Maria. The orphanage cared for disabled children and provided hospice care to those who were dying. Mary Beth used her writing to encourage those around her, despite her continued striving to live with the “new normal.” Through it all, the Chapman family did what they thought was right, despite their grief.

Quick Review:

Choosing to SEE was a fantastic book. Mary Beth’s humor was evident throughout, although she tackled many difficult topics. She shared embarrassing stories that had me laughing out loud. Then within minutes, I found myself crying with her as she shared the grief her family experienced. I can honestly say a book has never made me cry so hard. While it may be because I remember hearing about the accident on the radio in 2008, I also think it is because of Mary Beth’s excellent writing. Outside of a few minor formatting issues in the Kindle version (several words did not have spaces between them), I struggle to find anything I did not like about this book. It was an excellent read that will bring you a full range of emotions.

No Wall Too High

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Xu Hongci may be the only man to have ever escaped one of Mao’s prisons. Others caught attempting to escape were either killed on the spot or recaptured and put in chains. Despite two previous failed attempts in a less secure prison, Hongci escaped from Mao’s darkest prison. No Wall Too High is the fascinating account of his arrest, imprisonment, and freedom.

No Wall Too High by Xu Hongci
No Wall Too High by Xu Hongci

Hongci lived his early life in exuberant support of communism, studying to become a doctor under the regime’s orders. He met and fell in love with Ximeng, despite her relationship with another man. When the regime began looking for counterrevoluntionaries in their midst, Hongci was accused of counterrevoluntionary activities and multiple affairs (because of his unseemly relationship with Ximeng). He was sentenced to an undefined period in prison, where he would be reformed through labor.

After two unsuccessful escapes from prison, he was given a six year sentence. When the end of his six years approached, he was forced to remain as a “post-sentence detainee.” During this time, he was convicted and given another twenty year sentence. He was sent to Mao’s worst prison. It was from there that he escaped permanently.

Hongci was right to become disillusioned about communism under Mao.

Hongci loved communism and believed that it could still work. However, he saw so many things that were wrong with it under Mao’s leadership. Many of the prison convictions given out were complete fabrications. The prison systems that were meant to reform those who were convicted were ineffective because many prisoners had done no wrong. There was widespread violence and starvation in China, despite the regime’s insistence that they were providing abundance to everyone. In fact, some were so starved that they resorted to cannibalism.

Hongci’s desire for life is inspiring.

In an environment that supported the decision to commit suicide, Hongci chose to live. During his escape, he made a concentrated nicotine liquid to kill himself with in case he got captured. However, he fought as hard as he could to escape because he wanted to live. He knew that the prison was planning his execution, and that staying in prison would mean death. Refusing to accept his fate, he chose to take a small window of opportunity and escape. During his trip from the prison to Mongolia, he walked for hours at a time in bad conditions. His refusal to surrender and die kept him moving.

This book gave me a lot to ponder.

Books are great entertainment. There were a lot of things in this book that were fascinating. And while I was certainly entertained, I was also stimulated by information about a world I can hardly fathom living in. No Wall Too High has given me plenty of things to think about beyond the hours I spent reading it.

It made me think about the ways in which power corrupts.

Mao’s communism allowed those in power to do unspeakable horrors. The prison guards abused those in their care. In all of his years in prison, only one prison guard he encountered helped Hongci do anything to better himself. Unfortunately, even that small good was short lived because other prison guards saw that Hongci and the other inmates were talking and learning from each other. They used their power in a way that hurt and killed the prisoners.

It made me think about the ways I use my own words.

Hongci reflected on an incident where several men were forced to carry a heavy piece of equipment over a hill. While resting, the equipment began to slip and would have fallen to where it could not be retrieved. One of the prisoners jumped in front of it and used all of his strength to prevent it from falling. However, he did not receive a single word of affirmation for his good work. During Hongci’s years in prison, the guards only used their words to tear down the prisoners instead of building them up.

That made me really think about the ways I use my own words. While it may seem “helpful” when I instruct someone else about something that may have gone wrong, if all they ever hear from me is negativity, they may lose their desire to do anything for me. If all I see (in their perspective) is what they’ve done wrong, then what motivates them to do anything right? I can motivate more with positive language than negative.

It made my “first world problems” seem pretty silly.

I have had a dreadful cold all week. My husband can attest to the fact that I have been the whiniest person in the world. Yet, I’m not suffering from a cold while living in a prison cell. I don’t have to work hard labor for nineteen hours, whether I’m healthy enough to do so or not. On Thursday I was able to go to the doctor and the pharmacy to get antibiotics to treat the infection that has developed, something that Hongci would have been unable to receive. And as much as I whine for more, I’m receiving more than enough sympathy for my cold, something Hongci would not have received any of during his imprisonment. While my cold is still annoying, it is rather cozy when I compare it to all of the problems Hongci endured.

Quick Review:

No Wall Too High was a fantastic book. Xu Hongci’s perspective of life under Mao’s dictatorship was valuable and raw. Despite my liking it, this book contained pervasive violent material. However, I do not see how Hongci could tell his story without the descriptions of violence. There was some profanity and crude language. With its different perspective, this book will make you think. Although it is a longer book, it is worth taking the time to read.

In the Key of Genius

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Against all odds, Derek Paravicini developed an extraordinary skill for playing the piano. Born premature, the treatments that saved his life also left him blind. Learning disabilities that left him largely non-verbal in his formative years also made teaching him a challenge. In the Key of Genius is his story as told by his lifelong piano teacher, Adam Ockelford.

In the Key of Genius by Adam Ockelford
In the Key of Genius by Adam Ockelford

After Derek’s mother had already had several miscarriages, she was not hopeful that her premature twins would survive. After labor, the doctors laid aside both children, assuming they were dead. When a faint crying was heard from one of them, they jumped into action, saving Derek’s life. Unfortunately, the oxygen therapy they used to save his labored breathing caused him to lose his eyesight. The family had a woman they called Nanny help with Derek’s extensive care needs. Realizing his need for playthings with sound, Nanny moved a keyboard into the nursery. By the time he was two, Derek’s seemingly aimless playing turned into music. Members of the family began to recognize the tunes he was playing. They were amazed by the skills this toddler displayed in front of a keyboard.

“How could it be that this little boy, just over two years old, totally blind, virtually unable to speak and apparently able to understand very little of what was going on in the world, had taught himself to play the keyboard – something that she couldn’t even do herself?”

Adam Ockelford

When it came time for Derek to begin attending school, he visited Linden Lodge School for the Blind in London, where he met Adam (the author). Although Derek did not attend Linden Lodge for a couple more years, Adam began to tutor him. Derek’s unique mix of disabilities made him a challenge to teach, but Adam wanted to nurture his natural musical abilities. Despite some hesitancy from his mother, Derek took his first major concert at the age of nine. He received opportunities to appear on TV and in documentaries. As Derek outgrew Adam’s scope of abilities, Adam helped find tutors to stretch him. Adam helped Derek grow into the gifted pianist he is today. Derek now travels around the world and performs for varied audiences.

Derek had an incredible genius for music.

Although there is sheet music with raised notes so that those who are blind can read it, Derek listened to songs and then reproduced them from hearing alone. He learned them over long periods of time, filling in the pieces as he became more familiar with them. Once the song was in his long term memory, he could recall it to perform for listeners. Derek memorized thousands of songs, all of which he learned by ear only.

Derek’s disabilities only made what he accomplished musically more extraordinary.

Without any of his disabilities, his musical accomplishments are extraordinary. If a person with perfect sight and no learning disabilities learned to play the way he did, they would be praised for their talent. Adam Ockelford stresses throughout the book that Derek is not a “blind pianist” but a “pianist who is blind.” Leading with his gifts instead of his weaknesses is important.

Derek and Adam’s story reminded me of the importance of long-term mentoring.

At the point of publication, Adam had been mentoring Derek for nearly two decades. He was not just Derek’s piano teacher, but a dear friend to the family who helped Derek in all areas of his life. Adam helped position Derek’s career as a concert pianist. He worked with Derek through very turbulent years. When Nanny grew ill, he took Derek to visit her for the last time and then helped him after her death.

While I certainly won’t mentor someone into becoming a concert pianist, being a mentor like Adam is something I have a strong desire to do. Pouring into the life of another person and nurturing them to be their very best could add richness to my life. I have mentored some students over shorter periods. But the idea of mentoring someone over a period of years, or decades even, is exciting. The potential for growth on both our parts is extraordinary. There would be challenges, but the growth would be worth it.

Quick Review:

This was a great story with good writing. It was a quick read, which was especially nice after reading a few longer books. While there was some heavier content, there was also a lot of humor sprinkled in, keeping the pace and the tone of the book overall easy to read. My only real complaint were a few strange features in the writing, like several places where the author used two of the same word in a row, like “that that.” Other than that, it was well-written and enjoyable.

 

Do you have a mentor? Do you mentor someone? Share your stories below!

A Daughter’s Deadly Deception

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After her father discovered her habitual lying, Jennifer Pan orchestrated the murders of her father and mother in a home invasion. What she didn’t expect was for her father to survive the attack and bear witness to the fact that she seemed to know their attackers. Jeremy Grimaldi writes about Jennifer Pan’s lies, murder plot, and undoing in A Daughter’s Deadly Deception.

A Daughter's Deadly Deception by Jeremy Grimaldi
A Daughter's Deadly Deception by Jeremy Grimaldi

The product of a Vietnamese immigrant family, Jennifer Pan was pushed to excel at everything she put her hand to. After school she was expected to participate in extracurricular activities that would allow her to expand her skill set. She was gifted at piano and enjoyed ice skating. After not winning any recognition for her achievements at her eighth grade graduation, Jennifer was crushed. Failing to see the point in trying as hard as she had before, she let her grades slip in ninth grade. Rather than facing her parents with the truth, she began forging her report cards.

What started as forged report cards eventually turned into a forged college career. Dedicated to keeping up the lie that she was attending school, she went to the library every school day to research and write down notes in case her father asked to look at them. During these college years, she convinced her parents to let her live with a friend closer to campus so that she did not have to commute. Instead of staying with her friend, though, she used these nights off to work at a pizza parlor and stay with her boyfriend, Daniel. She used this freedom to build up her relationship with him. Then she spent the weekends with her parents, pretending she had been at school all week. Eventually, her father discovered her falsehoods and forced her to break off her relationship with Daniel and move home until she finished her education.

Jennifer Pan took lying to an extreme.

At an age when some students might be thinking about forging a signature, she was forging entire report cards. The effort she put into keeping up the lie that she was getting her education may have been more work than it would have been for her to go back to school. However, she instead chose to continue to lie and cover up her earlier failures. Her behavior during interrogation suggests that she may have even believed some of her own lies.

Jennifer’s desire to be with Daniel likely contributed to the murder of her parents.

When Jennifer’s father had her break off the relationship with Daniel, Daniel moved on. Heartbroken by his betrayal, it is suspected that she began sending anonymous texts to his phone. These texts threatened Jennifer’s safety, effectively manipulating Daniel into spending more time talking to Jennifer. However, even these texts did not garner the attention she desired from him.

Jennifer and Daniel had an extended phone conversation before any of the planning of the murder began. After that, Jennifer began texting him constantly. Eventually he agreed to help her plan the murder of her parents, something that would inevitably tie them together. In the weeks between that phone call and the murder, all of the texts between Jennifer, Daniel, and the other conspirators show plenty of evidence of their planning. Some of Jennifer’s final texts in the days leading up to the murder of her parents hint at the fact that she is greatly concerned over whether Daniel will choose her or his new girlfriend when her parents are out of the picture.

I was most moved by the victim impact statements.

It is hard to find places to relate in books like these. I absolutely love true crime books because of how interesting they are. But I find it difficult to find areas where I feel emotionally connected to the people I am reading about. I often feel sad for the families of those who were murdered. But in reality, true crime books often focus on the murderer. They speculate about reasons why the murder occurred. That makes it difficult for me to connect emotionally with the majority of the book when the majority of the book is analyzing the mind of a killer. I mean, I’ve never murdered anyone. So what is there to relate to?

While I didn’t relate to them, I was deeply moved by the victim impact statements from Jennifer’s father and brother. Four years after the murder of Jennifer’s mother, her father is still in constant pain. He cannot work or enjoy hobbies he once did. His house cannot be sold because the Vietnamese community is superstitious about buying a house where someone has been killed. Her brother had difficulty finding work because whenever a potential employer Googled his name, details of the crime were the first results. He also struggled with how to relate to friends in the midst of his grief. Seeing the varied and severe ways that this crime impacted them was eye-opening and emotional for me. They did not only lose a mother to death and a sister to prison, but their lives were altered in ways I cannot even begin to imagine.

Quick Review:

Although I enjoyed this book, the writing was mediocre. It was an interesting story, and I feel the author did an adequate job of tackling the complexities of the case. Unfortunately, some of the writing was unclear. In some areas where brackets were used to change quotes to add clarity, they were unnecessary or used ineffectively. Overall, though, I would still recommend this book. It gives an interesting look at how extreme pressure without parental affection may have caused one woman to murder.

 

What did you find most fascinating about Jennifer Pan’s case?

10 Questions to Ask before Getting Married

Are you thinking about getting engaged or married soon? Inspired by Courtney Robertson’s book I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends and some of my own experiences in dating, I decided to compile a list of questions to ask your significant other before taking the next big step in your relationship.

Some of the following questions are directly inspired by Courtney Robertson, and others are inspired by my own experience. While I am by no means saying your marriage is doomed if you do not ask them, knowing where you each stand on these issues will prevent any surprises from cropping up down the road.

1. What are your religious views?

For many people, religion is an important part of life. While it is likely you will know the religious views of your partner by the time you reach engagement, it is important to make sure there is clarity on what those views are before you go any further. While religious views may end up changing during the course of a relationship, knowing where you stand going into marriage is important.

2. What are your political views?

I would love to say it is as easy as asking what party they usually vote for in elections. Unfortunately, there is so much variety within each party that it is important to ask what political issues are important to your partner. If one of you is very interested in political activism while the other doesn’t vote at all, that may be an issue that needs to be talked through. Even if you have very similar views, it is likely you will find differences. Making sure you can differentiate between small differences you can live with and philosophical differences you cannot is something you will be wiser to do before you get married.

3. Is your career or future career compatible with mine?

This question is probably not applicable for many people. However, in some cases it can be a major question with serious implications if the answer is “no.” Because I am a female called to be a minister, this question was at the top of my list when I was dating seriously. Unfortunately, it ruled some people out. When I was dating my husband and asked him if my being a pastor would be a problem, he answered something along the lines of, “My mom’s a pastor, so no.” Conflicts other couples may face are jobs that require moving around like the military, or jobs that require the spouse to be in the spotlight. Even jobs that may not seem to pose any conflict are worth discussing.

4. Do we like each others’ families?

I used to hate when my grandma told me, “When you marry someone, you marry their family.” I hated it so much because it was usually said when I was dating someone whose mother despised me. It felt like her subtle way of telling me my relationship was doomed and I may as well move on. As much as I hated it, though, it is important that you are able to get along with the family of your spouse. While there may be some minor conflicts or even a few family members you don’t like, it is important that you’re able to get along with the people you’ll be spending holidays with.

5. Do you have the same ideas about raising children?

This question opens a whole can of worms. Do you both want children? How soon? One child or more than one? How do you plan to discipline them? Will you home school them or send them to public school? While children may not be on your mind for many years, it is a good idea to make sure you and your partner have the same ideas in this area.

6. How will housework be divided?

While it may just fall into place naturally, making sure you have a discussion on how housework will be divided is important. Will it depend on who is working more hours? Will both spouses take equal amounts of the housework? It is worth a discussion before getting married to avoid any misunderstandings later on.

7. Are we compatible?

Even if you’re in a relationship, it does not mean you’re compatible. In one of my longest-lasting relationships, the main problem we had was that we were completely incompatible. We really cared for each other, but we were different in ways that drove each other crazy. When you take a step back from a relationship and look at it, you can usually see whether or not you’re compatible.

8. Are you addicted to anything?

When you ask this question, your partner may answer with something as benign as caffeine or video games. However, it is important to know if there are addictions like alcohol, drugs, or pornography in your partner’s life. And maybe your partner will tell you he or she is addicted to naps. Guilty! Discussing what addictions you’re okay with and which ones you’re not is important. I’m sure my husband would have liked to have known about the naps before we got married…

9. What do you like to do for fun?

It’s important to have something in common with your significant other beside liking each other. While you may have a good idea what he or she likes at this point, take some time getting to know what all they enjoy doing. Even if you only have one thing you like to do together, make it your thing. My husband and I have very different hobbies. While I love to read and read all the time, he hasn’t read a book in over a year. However, we’ve found that we love watching movies together. We’ve also worked at stretching ourselves to at least try things the other enjoys from time to time so that we can do more together. If you have more hobbies in common with your partner, it may be even easier to find things to do together as the years stretch on.

10. How did your previous relationships end?

We all have our biases when answering this question. But it is good to hear your partner answer it and talk through their previous relationships. If they’ve been significantly hurt by a previous partner, you’ll know. If they were cheated on, you’ll know. Whatever baggage they’re bringing into the relationship, you’ll know. While we all use some degree of “my crazy ex” language, how your partner describes his or her exes will also speak volumes about your partner’s character.

 

What questions would you add to this list? Leave your feedback in the comment section below.

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?

Discussion Topic: Which New Memoir Interests You?

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I’m going to review a new release book, and you get to choose which one! While I try to make sure I read a variety of different types of memoirs, I want to make sure I am reading what you want me to read. Below are four new release memoirs. I will read and review whichever memoir receives the most positive feedback.

  • You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden: Melissa finds out as a teenager that she was rescued from a botched abortion. This is the story of her struggle to forgive, understand, and move forward.
  • No Wall Too High by Xu Hongci: Xu describes his imprisonment and escape from Mao’s labor reform camps.
  • Rise by Cara Brookins: Cara uses YouTube videos to build a home for her four children after leaving an abusive marriage. With no experience building anything and only her children to help her, it was an extraordinary challenge.
  • How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell: Cat was an associate beauty editor at a top fashion magazine with a secret addiction to prescription medication. She also suffered from bulimia and insomnia, which threatened to wreck her career.

All of these books sound so interesting to me! Be sure to comment with your preference by February 10 and stay tuned for my review of the “winner” on February 17!