The other side of suffering : the father of JonBenet Ramsey tells the story of his journey from grief to grace

From Jackie Cantwell
Author:  John Ramsey 
The other side of suffering : the father of JonBenet Ramsey tells the story of his journey from grief to grace
John Ramsey has suffered more loss in his life than most could bear.  You may know him as the father of the murdered child, JonBenet Ramsey. You may not know that he also lost his oldest daughter from his first marriage, Beth, in a car accident.  He also lost JonBenet’s mother, Patsy, to cancer in 2006. He shares the real story of the aftermath of JonBenet’s murder and why he “lawyered up” quickly. He tells of the nightmare of living under suspicion by the Boulder, CO police and of the paparazzi chasing him, his son Burke, and his wife. He also found kindness in unlikely places, when strangers would approach him with comforting words. He also had a supporter in the detective Lou Smit, who posited the intruder theory, and later became friends with John.

 This is a heartbreaking memoir as well as a spiritual biography.  John regrets that he had practically no relationship with God when his life was going well. He went to India recently as part of his spiritual quest, which was life-changing. He shares the mistakes he has made: “Our ability to make good decisions is damaged after tragedy, because we are not thinking clearly. The best thing I could have done was to put my life in park for a while. I was eager to start climbing again and didn’t realize I hadn’t stopped the fall yet. Here are some suggestions for stopping the fall, the first being, and if you get no other point of advice from this book, please hear this one: After you have suffered a tragic circumstance in your life, press the pause button and put your life on hold. Do not make any big decisions or moves. Focus on stopping the fall first. Realize also that this ‘life hold’ will be necessary for longer than you think.”

 A friend of John’s told him that “Hope is the belief that your best days lie ahead of you”. After grieving for 15 years, John finally has hope.

To Selena, With Love

From Jackie Cantwell
Author:  Chris Perez
To Selena, With Love
Chris wants you to know that he is more than “the widower of the Queen of Tejano music ,Selena Quintanilla Perez.” Chris was the guitarist for Selena’s band. This is a loving tribute to the Latin music superstar who was gunned down by her fan club president in 1995. Selena won Grammy awards and was poised to be a crossover artist in the same way as Gloria Estefan when she died. But her fans loved her not just because of her music. She gave so much of herself in each concert. She spent lots of time signing autographs after her concerts and made a special effort to reach out to her young fans and those who were sick or disadvantaged. She also adopted animals, including several dogs. Chris tells of her adventurous and daredevil side, where she learned how to ride a motorcycle, went bungee jumping, and loved to drive her cars fast.  She also loved celebrating Christmas and the simpler things like cooking and cleaning the house.  As a child of divorce, Chris never thought much of marriage. But Selena broke down his defenses and taught him how to love.  She had the most exuberant spirit and loved to try new things. He says her laughter was contagious. Chris’s first love was rock and roll and heavy metal music, which he has returned to since Selena’s death. This book is a rare glimpse into the life of a multi-faceted performer.

The Diary of a Young Girl

From Catherine Costanzo
author: Frank, Anne
 The Diary of a Young Girl
A true story as you know — but a classic tale of a young girl and her family as they are “hidden” during world war II.  Anne keeps a diary about their day to day trials and events, and one can see the young girl that she is, as well as sometimes an adult insight into what is happening to the family.

Just Kids

From Ellen Druda
author: Smith, Patti
 Just Kids
Patti Smith’s evocative memoir recounts her early days in New York City and her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. This National Book Award winning work is an accessible, easy read, yet full of imagery that stirs the imagination.  From her childhood in New Jersey, we follow her across the river to a bohemian city life in the psychedelic 60’s, mingling with soon- to- be famous painters, writers, and musicians.  This book will especially appeal to baby-boomers and music fans.

Growing Up

From Helen
author: Baker, Russell
Growing Up
This is an autobiography of the two time Pulitzer Prize winning author, Russel Baker.  Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down.  It is a warm, likable and funny account of growing up in America during the Depression years and World War II.  Very well written, the book immediately pulls you in and takes you through his life experiences, both tragic and comic; a very enjoyable, informative, quick read.

Night

From Nicole Marsh
author: Wiesel, Elie
Night
Night, written by Elie Wiesel is an autobiographical account of his life during the Holocaust. The novel is a short read with easy to understand wording.  Wiesel gives a very vivid account of the heinous and unimaginable acts of cruelty committed by the Nazi’s.  It shows the dehumanization of a population and how easy it is to lose faith and to question God.  It made me feel physically sick when I read about the beatings, crematorium, Dr. Mengele’s medical practices, hangings, Death March and hunger.

Every person should read this novel as it is an important lesson to be learned….”we shall never forget.”  It is a lesson to future generations that we must be respectful and tolerant of all mankind and these events shall never occur again.

A parrot in the pepper tree

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Stewart, Chris
 A parrot in the pepper tree
This is book two of the Driving over lemons trilogy. Now Chris and Ana are
the parents of a daughter named Chloe. Getting her to school every day is
an adventure in itself as they try different forms of transportation to
cross the river.  We follow the budding romance between Domingo, his
multi-talented neighbor, and a Dutch sculptress.  The author takes time to
smell the roses; sometimes he ditches his farm chores and goes on day-long
hikes. Picture the scene as he and Ana take a 6-hour, 5000 foot climb to
see a field of blue gentian flowers under a deep blue sky.  I enjoyed the
chapters where he reminisces about his past. We find out exactly how he
came to be a member of the band Genesis and how later he became a drummer for Sir Robert Fossett’s circus in Britain.  Read with astonishment as Chris drives over a frozen sea in Sweden to shear sheep on remote farms. Chris tries to learn flamenco guitar in Seville as a young man and is
still a novice when he goes to guitar school in Granada some twenty-plus
years later.  We fear for Chris’s safety when he interferes with a
friend’s domestic dispute, and the husband vows to come after him.  You’ll
laugh as Chris falls for the sales pitch of an “ecological engineer” who
builds him a swimming pool that is supposedly in harmony with nature.
Chris learns to love Ana’s green parrot, who steals all the cutlery and
attacks anyone who tries to use the bathroom.  For an update on where
everyone is now, read the interview with Chris at the end.  If you want to
read the third installment, The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society,
you’ll have to buy it from the UK, as it is not published in the U.S.