Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape (Review)
reviews* / January 7, 2015

Title: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape Author: Jenna Miscavige Hill Narrator: Sandy Rustin Publication Year: 2013 Pages: 416 (audio length: 12 hours) Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com From the cover: Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, was raised as a Scientologist but left the controversial religion in 2005. In Beyond Belief, she shares her true story of life inside the upper ranks of the sect, details her experiences as a member Sea Org — the church’s highest ministry, speaks of her “disconnection” from family outside of the organization, and tells the story of her ultimate escape. In this tell-all memoir, complete with family photographs from her time in the Church, Jenna Miscavige Hill, a prominent critic of Scientology who now helps others leave the organization, offers an insider’s profile of the beliefs, rituals, and secrets of the religion that has captured the fascination of millions, including some of Hollywood’s brightest stars such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta. If I wasn’t already skeptical about Scientology when I started reading this book, it would have completely won me over. Beyond Belief is a terrifying story about how an…

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife (Review)
reviews* / January 6, 2015

Title: Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist Wife Author: Irene Spencer Narrator: Laural Merlington Publication Year: 2007 Pages: 432 (audio length: 14 hours 10 minutes) Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com From the cover: Irene Spencer did as she felt God commanded in becoming the second wife to her brother-in-law Verlan LeBaron. When the government raided their community – the Mormon village of Short Creek, Arizona – seeking to enforce the penalties for practicing polygamy, Irene and her family fled to Verlan’s family ranch in Mexico. Here they lived in squalor and desolate conditions with Verlan’s six brothers, one sister, and numerous wives and children. This appalling and astonishing tale has captured the attention of readers around the world. Irene’s inspirational story reveals how far religion can be stretched and abused and how one woman and her children found their way out, into truth and redemption. Listening to this book was painful. Not because it was poorly written, or because the narration was bad. Not at all. It was painful because I just wanted to shake the author and everyone around her throughout pretty much the entire story. It was like watching a disaster happen and not being able to stop it….

The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family (Review)
reviews* / November 25, 2014

Title: The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family Author: Dan Savage Narrator: Paul Michael Garcia Publication Year: 2006 Pages: 304 (audio length: 9 hours 49 minutes) Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com From the cover: Dan Savage’s mother wants him to get married. His boyfriend, Terry, says “no thanks” because he doesn’t want to act like a straight person. Their six-year-old son DJ says his two dads aren’t “allowed” to get married, but that he’d like to come to the reception and eat cake. Throw into the mix Dan’s straight siblings, whose varied choices form a microcosm of how Americans are approaching marriage these days, and you get a rollicking family memoir that will have everyone — gay or straight, right or left, single or married — howling with laughter and rethinking their notions of marriage and all it entails. The only writing of Dan Savage’s that I’d read before this book was a bit of his Savage Love column, though I’d obviously heard his name around a lot. He’s famous in certain circles for a lot of things, namely writing no-nonsense responses to reader questions (primarily about sex or relationship issues), and more recently for creating an…

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (Review)
reviews* / March 10, 2014

Title: Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison Author: Piper Kerman Narrator: Cassandra Campbell Publication Year: 2010 Pages: 352 (audio length: 11 hours 14 minutes) Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com From the cover: With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money 10 years ago. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to 15 months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424 – one of the millions of women who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules, where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Orange is the New Black offers a rare look into the lives of women in…

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot (Review)
reviews* / October 7, 2013

Title: American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot Author/Narrator: Craig Ferguson Publication Year: 2009 Pages: 288 (audio length: 7 hours 24 minutes) Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com From the cover: In American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson delivers a moving and achingly funny memoir of living the American dream as he journeys from the mean streets of Glasgow, Scotland, to the comedic promised land of Hollywood. Along the way he stumbles through several attempts to make his mark — as a punk rock musician, a construction worker, a bouncer, and, tragically, a modern dancer. To numb the pain of failure, Ferguson found comfort in drugs and alcohol, addictions that eventually led to an aborted suicide attempt. (He forgot to do it when someone offered him a glass of sherry.) But his story has a happy ending: in 1993, the washed-up Ferguson washed up in the United States. Finally sober, Ferguson landed a breakthrough part on the hit sitcom The Drew Carey Show, a success that eventually led to his role as the host of CBS’s The Late Late Show. By far Ferguson’s greatest triumph was his decision to become a U.S. citizen, a milestone he achieved in…