Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#21: Malibu Nanny: Adventures of the Former Kardashian Nanny (Pam Behan)

I have very little interest in the lives of the reality stars known as the Kardashians. Honestly, I probably couldn’t pick their pictures out if I was asked. I read Malibu Nanny because I know the author and felt our friendship deserved giving the book a read. What I thought was going to be a typical “tell-all” turned out to be a beautiful memoir of mistakes, loss, and love.

Pam Behan and I were both students at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where we studied music. Pam was a year ahead of me, but we got to know each other since we were both majoring in piano performance. I always knew Pam’s schedule was hectic because she was a full-time student, waited tables at a local restaurant, and was a nanny for the Jenner family (as in olympic gold-medalist Bruce Jenner), but I had no idea HOW crazy Pam’s life was. Now that I’ve read her memoir, I am shocked that Pam ever had time to complete her degree and maintain a semblance of sanity. Pam later becomes employed by the Kardashians when Mr. Jenner and Kris Kardashian marry.

Malibu Nanny is full of funny stories of the family as you would expect. The central character in the saga, however, is Pam herself. As readers, we watch as this young woman from Minnesota copes with the fast-paced, materialistic southern California society while trying to maintain her Midwestern values. Along the way, Pam faces the challenges associated with attempting to establish a career and start a family. Her difficulties with men throughout her life are tragic and explain why both Bruce Jenner and her father hold such important roles in her life.

As Pam’s journey takes her away from the craziness of Hollywood to Jackson, Tennessee and Aberdeen, South Dakota, Pam finds herself on a spiritual journey as well. Due to troublesome circumstances, Pam finds herself running to the God of her childhood and finds a renewed faith that is based in an authentic and personal relationship with a loving Savior. Pam tells the story of her life with such grace and honesty that her testimony of faith doesn’t feel preachy and comes along rather unexpectedly in the book. I have always known Pam to be a warm and loving person whose smile is infectious. It’s wonderful to see that the smile has grown because of Jesus.

Several passages in the later portion of the memoir spoke to my heart. In one of my favorite passages, Pam is reflecting over mistakes she has made in the area of relationships.  Pam states, “I reflect on some of my poor choices in men, and the years of heartache it caused. Yet, even the worst mistake of all — my choice to stand by Terry — was an integral part of the plan….God specializes in redeeming bad choices.  Now I look at all that pain, and where I am now, and I say this is why! Every bit of that horrible pain was worth it to have this most precious gift.” (p. 175) Isn’t it thrilling to know that “God specializes in redeeming bad choices?” Like Pam, I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes. I’m so thankful that they have been and continue to be redeemed by my loving Heavenly Father.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered where their life was taking them. While Malibu Nanny shares some stories about the famous people Pam has encountered over the years (including the time Pam was dating mega-star Sylvester Stallone!), the memoir is really one woman’s story of finding herself while chasing her dreams and ultimately finding herself in a place of perfect peace.

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#20: Do Yourself a Favor…Forgive (Joyce Meyer)

Being on sabbatical from the church job has been a good time to begin looking honestly at my life. I’m learning a lot about myself — both good and bad — and the things that are shaping my emotions. One thing that I have been forced to admit to myself is that I continue to harbor some anger and resentment against people who have hurt me over the years in my ministry role. Some of the attacks were vindictive, aggressive, and intended to destroy me personally. People knew what they were doing and willingly chose to become the very embodiment of evil. In other cases, the pain came from a thoughtless word or action that the person didn’t even realize had cut me to the core. I can’t change the fact that I have been hurt, but I can deal with my feelings after the fact. I suppose that’s why Joyce Meyer’s audiobook on forgiveness jumped out at me. It wasn’t an enjoyable read, but it was something I needed to begin addressing this week.

In Do Yourself a Favor….Forgive, Meyer begins by examining the characteristics of anger. Why does anger appear in our life? Is anger ever justified? Through sharing of personal stories, Meyer presents a clear portrait of anger that is honest, yet is completely non-judgmental and encouraging. In the second half of the book, Meyer speaks about the importance and freeing effects of forgiveness. Again Meyer’s stories (both humorous and life-altering) are coupled with Scriptural instruction that provides a clear map through the journey to forgiveness. Through all of the reading and powerful statements that were expressed, this simple truth was the most powerful for me:  “As long as we are talking about our wounds, we haven’t gotten over them.”

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#19: Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)

Amy and Nick have it all — the perfect marriage, the perfect jobs, and the perfect family — until everything starts to unravel. Both of them lose their jobs as journalists from prestigious New York City publications. Amy’s parents have lost their fortune and need to borrow money from her trust fund. Nick’s father is demented and his mother is battling cancer. The only thing they can do is return to Nick’s childhood home in Missouri to help care for his parents and together face their challenging financial situation.

While they are enjoying a simpler life, Nick receives a disturbing call from a neighbor: there seems to have been a disturbance at his house. Nick rushes home to find the front door open, the living room in absolute disarray, and his wife missing. As the hours turn into days, the investigation into Amy’s disappearance turns into a murder investigation with Nick as the prime suspect. Let the reader beware! Don’t assume you know what’s ahead….you’ll find yourself surprised.

Flynn’s novel explores marriage, infidelity, and family relationships under the light of “truth.” Gone Girl is an excellent novel intended for a mature audience due to graphic adult themes and strong language.

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#18: The Forgotten (David Baldacci)

John Puller is back in this exciting novel.  We first met the character of Puller in Zero Day. This time the Army special agent finds himself in Paradise, Florida to visit his aunt because of a mysterious letter she sent John Puller, Sr. Puller arrives in Florida to discover that his aunt has died, tragically drowning in a shallow pool in her backyard. As Puller investigates his aunt’s death, he discovers that things are not as they seem in Paradise and that several other senior citizens with connections to his aunt are also dying.

Opposite powerful, witty, and insightful John Puller is the character of Mecco, a Bulgarian giant-of-a-man who is in Florida defending the honor of his family and village. The two men’s paths cross in a most unexpected turn of events. Is Mecco a friend or foe?

Once again David Baldacci provides an intelligent thriller with plenty of exquisitely developed characters and enough plot twists and turns to keep your head spinning while you read this fast-paced thriller. You won’t be able to put it down without knowing what happens next! Wonderfully written as usual, Mr. Baldacci!

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#17: The Chance (Karen Kingsbury)

I tend to avoid Christian fiction. It’s not that I don’t like the morality and presence of God. Generally I just find that the books are poorly written. I have discovered that I can LISTEN to these books with greater appreciation.

The Chance tells the story of two teenagers growing up in Christian homes in Savannah, Georgia. The two have fallen in love.  The boy constantly proclaims that he’s going to marry her; her response is always the same:  laughter!  Tragedy hits both families and the two learn they are going to be separated by thousands of miles. On their last night together, they write letters to each other and bury them in a tackle box beneath an enormous oak tree, vowing to return in eleven years to read the love letters.

Life happens to both of them and the idea of marriage seems impossible. He has become a professional basketball player, enjoying all the success that it brings. She, on the other hand, is a single mother that is estranged from both of her parents and struggles just to make ends meet.  What follows is a beautiful story of healing, restoration, and second chances. I’ve never been a fan of Kingsbury’s writing, but this story along with The Bridge have made me think it’s time to reconsider my opinion of the author.

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#16: The Paris Wife (Paula McLain)

Let’s start with the reason I postponed this post for a few hours. Even after I finished the novel, I can’t decide how I feel about it. The writing was okay. The story was interesting. I don’t know what the problem was though….

The Paris Wife is the story of Hadley, the first wife of novelist Ernest Hemingway. While filled with historical figures and accurate events from the author’s life, the work is a fictional development of these larger than life characters. Much of the work centers around the writing of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (which just happens to be a book that holds a special place in my heart). I suppose it is this seamless movement between fact and fiction that was troubling about the book for me. I am a fan of historical fiction, but I always like to know where fact ends and fiction begins. I thought I knew a lot about Hemingway’s life. This novel just reminded me of how little I actually know and how terribly interesting and tormented Ernest Hemingway actually was.

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#15: The Rembrandt Affair (Daniel Silva)

Lots of driving again has resulted in lots of reading…..of audio books, that is! I had to insert the humor right away as I don’t have a rave review of this book.

In Daniel Silva’s The Rembrandt Affair, the story revolves around a newly-rediscovered painting by the renown artist. The work’s history leads us back to the Nazi invasion of Holland and the atrocities enacted against the Jews of the nation. The painting is now being sought by international thugs who want to use its hidden secrets. The story was fast moving and intriguing. Sadly, I’ve just read a lot of works in this vein recently and it didn’t stand up to the other novels in keeping my attention.

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