Pound For Pound by Shannon Kopp

  • pound for pound by Shannon KoppTitle:  Pound for Pound – A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs who Loved Her Back to Life
  • Author:  Shannon Kopp
  • Genre:  Memoir
  • Pages:  288
  • Published:  October 2015 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher via FSB Associates

Description:  “The dogs don’t judge me or give me a motivational speech. They don’t rush me to heal or grow. They sit in my lap and lick my face and make me feel chosen. And sometimes, it hits me hard that I’m doing the exact thing I say I cannot do. Changing.”

Pound for Pound is an inspirational tale about one woman’s journey back to herself, and a heartfelt homage to the four-legged heroes who unexpectedly saved her life.

For seven years, Shannon Kopp battled the silent, horrific, and all-too-common disease of bulimia. Then, at twenty-four, she got a job working at the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, where in caring for shelter dogs, she found the inspiration to heal and the courage to forgive herself. With the help of some extraordinary homeless animals, Shannon realized that her suffering was the birthplace of something beautiful. Compassion.

Shannon’s poignant memoir is a story of hope, resilience, and the spiritual healing animals bring to our lives. Pound for Pound vividly reminds us that animals are more than just friends and companions—they can teach us how to savor the present moment and reclaim our joy. Rich with emotion and inspiration it is essential reading for animal lovers and everyone who has struggled to change.  (publisher)

My take:  Pound for Pound is a deeply personal look at bulimia, the disease that dominated author Shannon Kopp’s life for several years. As hard as it was to read the details I found it difficult to put the book down as she explained how she went into the downward spiral of the disease and ultimately began to climb out of it.

If you’re an animal lover you’ll understand why it was her connection to volunteering at dog shelters that started her on the road to self-discovery and wellness. She also had people in her life who stood by her during the toughest days. Also important was learning when to ask for help. I’m impressed by the inner-strength she found to keep going.

I applaud Kopp’s willingness to share such private details in order to possibly help someone else on the same journey. If you have someone in your life who struggles with an eating disorder or you just want to learn more about it I highly recommend this memoir.


Author Bio
Shannon Kopp, author of Pound for Pound, is a writer, eating disorder survivor, and animal welfare advocate. She has worked and volunteered at various animal shelters throughout San Diego and Los Angeles, where shelter dogs helped her to discover a healthier, more joyful way of living. Her mission is to help every shelter dog find a loving home, and to raise awareness about eating disorders and animal welfare issues.

For more information visit her website www.shannonkopp.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Reviews
“Anyone who has ever loved an animal, battled depression, or struggled with an addiction of any kind will not be able to put down Pound for Pound . . . brave account of the healing power of shelter dogs is not only a page-turner, but a true inspiration.” — Laura Maloney, former Chief Operating Officer of the Humane Society of the United States, current COO of Panthera

“Every now and again a book comes along that can help millions of people deal with all sorts of difficult and challenging times and guide them to change their ways for a better and healthier life. Pound for Pound is one of those inspirational gems. Shannon Kopp’s personal story — the incredibly hard work she had to do and her opening her heart to the dogs with whom she worked — is a must read. She shows how compassion, trust, and love can open the door for people and dogs in need to heal and to grow together” — Marc Bekoff, author of Rewilding our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence

“Don’t miss Pound for Pound — a uniquely touching memoir about a woman bravely struggling with bulimia and self-judgment, ultimately healed by the miraculous power of the rescue dogs she devotes herself to.  It’s a story you’ll always remember, a testament to the healing energy of our canine companions, who ask only for love and then give it back in spades.” — Glenn Plaskin, Author of Katie Up and Down the Hall, The True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors Into a Family

Pound for Pound is an emotional reminder of the strength of the human spirit and how dogs are more than our best friend; they can also be guides, inspiring us to be compassionate, share joy, and live life in the moment.” — Booklist

A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim with Sébastien Falletti

  • a thousand miles to freedomTitle:  A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape From North Korea
  • Author:  Eunsun Kim with Sébastien Falletti
  • Translated by:  David Tian
  • Pages:  228
  • Genre:  Memoir
  • Published:  July 2015 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Eunsun Kim was born in North Korea, one of the most secretive and oppressive countries in the modern world. As a child Eunsun loved her country…despite her school field trips to public executions, daily self-criticism sessions, and the increasing gnaw of hunger as the country-wide famine escalated.

By the time she was eleven years old, Eunsun’s father and grandparents had died of starvation, and Eunsun too was in danger of starving. Finally, her mother decided to escape North Korea with Eunsun and her sister, not knowing that they were embarking on a journey that would take them nine long years to complete. Before finally reaching South Korea and freedom, Eunsun and her family would live homeless, fall into the hands of Chinese human traffickers, survive a North Korean labor camp, and cross the deserts of Mongolia on foot.

Now, in A Thousand Miles to Freedom, Eunsun is sharing her remarkable story to give voice to the tens of millions of North Koreans still suffering in silence. Told with grace and courage, her memoir is a riveting exposé of North Korea’s totalitarian regime and, ultimately, a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit. (publisher)

My take:  A Thousand Miles to Freedom is the memoir by Eunsun Kim. She is now 29 years old but was a young girl when she and her mother and sister first fled North Korea to find a better life. Their escape took much longer than expected.

The description from the publisher reveals quite a bit about the journey to South Korea. What impressed me most was Eunsun’s optimism in the face of frightening circumstances – for anyone, much less a young girl. The challenges she and her family faced were daunting but they were determined to get to South Korea. And once there they faced different challenges. I found her observations of life in South Korea interesting. It had to be very difficult to fit in with contemporaries who had no idea of the life you’d left behind.

Eunsun’s determination to get a good education was impressive. I have no doubt she will make her mark on the world. She’s started to make a difference with this memoir. It’s simply written and took just a few hours to read. Recommended to anyone who wants to read a first-hand account of a young person who escaped life in North Korea. I’m glad I had the chance to read it.

Spotlight/US Giveaway: A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim

a thousand miles to freedom cover

About the book:

Eunsun Kim was born in North Korea, one of the most secretive and oppressive countries in the modern world. As a child Eunsun loved her country…despite her school field trips to public executions, daily self-criticism sessions, and the increasing gnaw of hunger as the country-wide famine escalated.

By the time she was eleven years old, Eunsun’s father and grandparents had died of starvation, and Eunsun was in danger of the same. Finally, her mother decided to escape North Korea with Eunsun and her sister, not knowing that they were embarking on a journey that would take them nine long years to complete. Before finally reaching South Korea and freedom, Eunsun and her family would live homeless, fall into the hands of Chinese human traffickers, survive a North Korean labor camp, and cross the deserts of Mongolia on foot.

Now, Eunsun is sharing her remarkable story to give voice to the tens of millions of North Koreans still suffering in silence. Told with grace and courage, her memoir is a riveting exposé of North Korea’s totalitarian regime and, ultimately, a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit.


Eunsun Kim author photo master credit Jeong YiAbout the author:

EUNSUN KIM grew up in North Korea, the most secretive country in the modern world. At the age of eleven, she fled the country with her mother and sister, and they began the harrowing nine-year journey that would ultimately lead them to South Korea and to freedom. Today, Eunsun works at an NGO promoting human rights in North Korea. She lives in Seoul, South Korea.


US GIVEAWAY (3 copies)

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a thousand miles to freedom cover


The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen

  • the year my mother came back (Algonquin)Title: The Year My Mother Came Back: A Memoir
  • Author:  Alice Eve Cohen
  • Genre:  Memoir
  • Published:  March 2015 – Algonquin Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  In one year Alice is diagnosed with breast cancer, her 8-year-old daughter undergoes surgery to lengthen her leg and her 18-year-old daughter decides she wants to find her birth mother. One of those scenarios would be enough to cause anxiety in a mother but all three have Alice wishing her mother Louise was around. But she’s been dead for thirty years.

When Alice begins radiation her mother appears in the room and talks to Alice while she lies perfectly still for the duration. Once she gets over the shock of these visits Alice starts to appreciate the perspective she gains of and from her mother.  Their relationship underwent significant change following Louise’s own breast cancer experience. She became depressed while, at the same time, Alice was a blossoming adolescent who didn’t understand what happened to the woman who’d always shown her unconditional love.

The Year My Mother Came Back is a memoir that many readers (particularly women) will find relatable. It’s a loving homage from a daughter to her mother that I found meaningful and genuine.

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Going Gypsy – Q&A with authors David & Veronica James

Going Gypsy
About the Book:
Almost every couple faces a “now what?” moment as their last kid moves out of the house. There’s a big empty nest looming over this new and uncertain stage in their lives.David and Veronica James chose to look at this next phase of life as a beginning instead of an ending. Rather than staying put and facing the constant reminders of empty bedrooms and backseats, a plan began to develop to sell the nest and hit the highway. But could a homebody helicopter mom learn to let go of her heartstrings and house keys all at once?Filled with a sense of adventure and humor, GOING GYPSY is the story of a life after raising kids that is a celebration of new experiences. Pulling the rip cord on the daily grind, David and Veronica throw caution to the wind, quit their jobs, sell their house, put on their vagabond shoes, and go gypsy in a beat-up old RV found on eBay.On a journey of over ten thousand miles along the back roads of America (and a hysterical, error-infused side trip into Italy), they conquer old fears, see new sights, reestablish bonds with family and friends, and transform their relationships with their three grown children from parent-child to adult-to-adult. Most importantly, they rediscover in themselves the fun-loving youngsters who fell in love three decades prior.
About the Authors, by the authors:
David James was born in Wichita, Kansas, and grew up on the prairie and in the mountains of Colorado. He made his way in the music business as a performer, recording artist, songwriter, and radio personality in Nashville, Tennessee, and St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. After parenting and sending three kids out into the big wide world, he currently lives with his bride of thirty years, Veronica, in a state of perpetual motion. The couple writes about their travels since becoming empty nesters on their popular website, GypsyNester.com.Veronica James was born and raised in Southern California and was like, totally, a Valley Girl. Against any sane person’s better judgment, she ran off with a musician at age eighteen.Afterprocreating, she became Earth Mama, then Helicopter Mom, hovering over every detail of her children’s lives. Veronica has held approximately thirty-three different jobs including writer. She is never bored.


Q&A with David & Veronica James

Authors of GOING GYPSY: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All.

GypsyNesterAuthors

Most people become empty nesters when their kids leave home, but you left home too. How did that come about?

David: We were living in the Virgin Islands and were a bit separated from all of our family and friends in the US. Once our youngest went off to college in the states, like his sisters before him, there was nothing keeping us in the Caribbean. So we decided to sell the house and take what we called a “victory lap,” celebrating a job well done—getting our kids raised and successfully out on their own.

Veronica: One of the reasons I had to resort to drastic measures was that I worked at the kids’ school. I was the quintessential “helicopter mom,” hovering over everything my kids did. The idea of going back to the school without the kids there was heartbreaking. So we whittled our belongings down to sixteen boxes and took off in a beat-up old RV we bought on eBay.

What was the process like from when you decided to take off to when you started your adventure?

David: That’s what Going Gypsy is all about. We cover the year when our son left for college and we hit the road. We did not have this big plan in our heads at the start to live a gypsy lifestyle. It organically grew as we went along. Initially, we got the motor home as a way to take some time to visit with family and friends and see the country without going broke. Once we were out on the road a while, we realized how much we liked it and wanted to figure out how we could keep going. It’s been over six years now.

Veronica: A big thing that jolted us into thinking about a new approach to our lives was when we Googled “empty nest” and a big ad for an Alzheimer’s patch popped up. We thought, “holy cr-moley!” We have a good third of our lives left and that’s too long a time to be sitting around doing nothing. We see our book as a kick in the butt to get folks going and hopefully think outside the box.

How did you dispense with a lifetime’s worth of belongings?

Veronica: The stress of a big move is huge no matter what the circumstances. We gave away or sold a lot of stuff, keeping only the things we knew we couldn’t live without (like photo albums and family heirlooms). Those we managed to fit into sixteen boxes that we put in storage. Now I find I’m more organized the less I have with me. If I have too many things and too much space to spread out in, I get really scattered and disorganized.

How did you adjust to having “no nest at all?”

David: We replaced our nest with one on wheels. The RV became our new home. It’s remarkable how homey it became and how quickly. It’s obviously very condensed, and we do travel light, but when you think about what you really need, we have the basics—a bed, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a table to sit at to eat and write.

Veronica: And the view out the window is different every day, which is fantastic!

How did your kids react to you leaving home?

Veronica: Our son was horrified at first. I remember him saying, “you’re going to live in your car?!” But I think they’re happy for us. My guess is that they are also happy that Mom has things to do besides constantly bugging them about who they are dating or when they might make us grandparents.

David: I imagine what they’re thinking is a mixture of relief and what the heck are they doing? But a big plus in this process has been developing a new relationship with our children as adults. We wanted to make an adult-to-adult connection and not be helicopter parents any longer.

Don’t you miss seeing your kids regularly?

David: We see the kids more than we would have if we’d stayed in St. Croix because we can route ourselves through wherever they are on our way from one adventure to the next.

Veronica: Our daughters live in Manhattan so they are easy to see often. Our son is in Alaska but he is a pilot and has the flying privileges that come with that, so it is usually easier for him to meet up with us.

How do you handle holidays?

David: Our oldest daughter took over the hostess role fairly quickly, as soon as we didn’t have the house any longer. She’s not one to miss out on the holiday treats and I guess she knew that it’s nearly impossible to shove a turkey into a motor home oven!

Veronica: She has done a remarkable job. New York City is an amazing place to spend the holidays. It’s very festive. So everyone is happy.

Was making this leap more exciting or scary?

David: I am a musician so I always traveled a lot and I love it. It was natural for me to explore. For Veronica it was more of a drastic change.

Veronica: The hardest part was the initial decision to make the leap. I was a homebody—I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. But I’m proactive, and a planner, so it was good for me to be able to throw myself into the planning phase. I did have to do quite a bit of fear conquering. I guess I just transferred the fear—now I’m more scared to stop moving than I was to start in the first place!

How many places have you visited?

David: We started in the RV by exploring the US, and then branched out to Mexico and Canada, following the weather like geese. As time went on, we broadened our horizons and added some traveling by air and sea. Now I think we’ve been to over 40 countries on five continents. Later this year we’re heading to Africa, making six out of seven, then our final continent will be Antarctica. We’ll get there!

Veronica: David has also been to all 50 states but I’ve only been to 48, so I need to cover my last two—Alaska and Hawaii. We’re very competitive so I can’t stand him being ahead of me.

What have been the highlights so far?

Veronica: There are so many amazing high points. But I think the Galapagos Islands were up there at the top. I love animals; I’m like a little kid around them. The islands have so many unique species, and they are completely unafraid of humans, so if you love animals put the Galapagos at the top of your bucket list.

David: I answer this question different each time it’s asked because I have so many favorites. Walking along the top of the Great Wall of China was a real highlight. But I could easily name dozens more.

What have been the low points?

Veronica: Yikes. Well, I locked myself inside a hotel room in Italy once. But a big one came when we had a blowout over our traveling styles. We had discussed the empty nest and all that it entailed, but forgot to discuss how we liked to travel. It ended up coming to a head in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Yellowstone National Park, in the middle of a herd of buffalo.

David: I have a go-go-go mindset. I always want to be moving forward. Veronica likes to really get a feel for a place and connect to it. In the end, I learned to adapt more to her style because it is a better way to see the world.

Veronica: I call him a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am traveler.

Have you inspired others to travel?

Veronica: I hope so. My favorite part of this journey so far has been hearing from folks who chose places because we said how much we loved them. But there are so many wonderful things people in our life phase can do if they aren’t interested in travel, you don’t have to be as crazy as we are to start going gypsy. Do that thing that inspires you, something that you’ve always wanted to explore. Write that book, volunteer in your community, go back to school. And don’t forget to reconnect with your partner, do new things together, and find that pre-kid couple who fell in love all those years ago. We are not self-help writers. We haven’t written a how-to guide. We just aspire to be the same kind of kick in the butt for our readers that we found when we first saw that ad for the Alzheimer’s patch.

David: We try to seek out the unexpected, and discover overlooked gems in our travels. Sometimes they are found in famous, bucket-list type destinations; often they are hiding well off the beaten path. Either way we enjoy relaying stories from out of the ordinary. Hopefully that inspires some people to venture down the road less traveled too.

How have you pushed yourselves?

Veronica: I made a decision to fear-conquer my butt off. As a mom I developed so many fears and it turned into a vicious cycle. I purposefully inserted myself into situations to overcome these fears. Just to name a few, I’ve paraglided off of the seacliffs in Lima, Peru, shot the rapids in Montana, and ziplined over a 300-foot waterfall in Newfoundland—I even went to roller derby camp; it took three days in bed to recover from that little escapade!

David: Veronica was all gung-ho about jumping out of an airplane in Australia. I see no need to abandon a functioning aircraft unless it is on fire. But once she threw down the gauntlet I accepted the challenge. Halfway up our attitudes had done a complete 180—she was looking pretty puny, scared to death, and I was excited at the prospect of freefalling from ten thousand feet.

Have you eaten any strange foods? 

David: Tons. We write about that a lot on our blog. I’m not sure if they were the strangest, but the worst by far was silkworms in China. For one thing, the smell made it nearly impossible to eat them. Oh, and the fact that they are bugs.

Veronica: A little clarification here, I ate silkworms, David spit his out. I won that one.

David: Let me just go on the record here: while I admit to spitting out the vile worm, I did eat a bug in Mexico, a cricket to be exact, and it was about a million times better than the silkworms.

Veronica: Yes, he did finally lose his bug virginity.

What’s next for the Gypsy Nesters?

Veronica: The more we travel the more we want to see; we’ve turned into very greedy travelers! We’d love to get to New Zealand. And we haven’t been to Scotland—we both have roots there—so we feel a huge pull to visit. I could name several dozen more… but you really don’t want me to pull out the whole list, do you?

David: When we started out we had a saying: the plan is no plans. We like to leave life open to reveal itself to us so we usually don’t know where we will be too far in advance. We have a river cruise coming up through Holland and Belgium, and we are going to Africa this summer, but beyond that we will see where the wind takes us. In the meantime, we are working on a second book that will cover our adventures after that first year of taking our initial leap into the life of Going Gypsy.


I think Going Gypsy sounds like a great memoir!

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Going Gypsy

Singing to a Bulldog by Anson Williams

  • Singing to a Bulldog (Nov11)Title:  Singing to a Bulldog: From “Happy Days” to Hollywood Director, and the Unlikely Mentor Who Got Me There
  • Author:  Anson Williams
  • Genre:  Memoir
  • Published:  November 2014 – Reader’s Digest
  • Source:  Publicist

My take:  Singing to a Bulldog is a slim memoir that packs a lot of inspiration within the 150+ pages. I remembered Anson Williams from the 70s sitcom Happy Days but hadn’t heard anything about him in recent decades. I don’t watch a lot of tv so I missed all the shows he directed. He’s been a busy guy who realizes how blessed his life has been.

He didn’t start out that way. He had a criticizing father who blamed Anson for all of his own failures. That had to be tough for a kid to live with! What ended up saving Anson was a janitorial job at a California store when he was in his mid-teens. His department boss, Willie Turner, taught him life lessons through brief adages he’d learned in his own life. Willie was an older, alcoholic man who was able to keep his job despite his issues.

In his own way, Willie provided the nurturing that had been missing in Anson’s life. Without realizing it he became Anson’s mentor and Anson listened and used those lessons. What he found out was that Willie knew what he was talking about.

I thought Singing to a Bulldog had a folksy feel to it. It’s chapters are very short (rarely going over five pages). That made it easy to pick up and set down. Each begins and ends with one of Willie’s lessons. The lessons may seem a bit simplistic to some readers but it’s Williams’ memoir and, given he had no parent willing to teach him, the effect of the lessons on his life was huge. It’s not a typical Hollywood memoir although Williams does share a few stories about other stars that all readers will recognize. One thing I found lacking in the book are photos. I would have loved to see a few.

Recommended to fans of the memoir genre, Hollywood memoirs, life advice books.


Click here for a video of the author on Access Hollywood

Author Bio
Best known for his Golden Globe nominated role as Warren “Potsie” Weber on the series Happy Days, Anson Williams is also an award-winning television director and writer as well as a singer and producer. He has directed more than 300 hours of television for a variety of series, including Beverly Hills, 90210, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. He won the prized Humanitas Award for his writing, has been honored by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and served on the board of the USO. Together with business partner JoAnna Connell, he founded StarMaker Products, an international product company. He lives with his wife and five daughters in Los Angeles, California.

Reviews
Singing To A Bulldog is such a meaningful, fun, and uplifting book. I have such sweet memories of Anson . . . like millions of others, I loved him on “Happy Days.” I am proud to be a little part of this wonderfully written, revealing, informative, and entertaining book. Praise and congratulations to Anson.”
— Dolly Parton

“I’ve always known Anson to be a great storyteller as well as a true and generous friend. Now he’s written the most important story of his life — about Willie Turner, the head janitor at one of Anson’s first jobs, whose words of wisdom guided him through a turbulent time in his life and gave him the confidence to move forward to a successful career as an actor, television director, and entrepreneur. Even better, he’s made it into a truly inspirational book of life lessons for the rest of us.”
— Ron Howard

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

  • can't we talk about something more pleasant?Title:  Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?:  A Memoir
  • Author:  Roz Chast
  • Genre:  Memoir; Graphic
  • Published:  May 2014 – Bloomsbury USA
  • Source:  Library

Synopsis:  #1 New York Times Bestseller; 2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLIST FOR NONFICTION

In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the “crazy closet”—with predictable results—the tools that had served Roz well through her parents’ seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.

While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies—an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades—the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.

An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast’s talent as cartoonist and storyteller.  (publisher)

My take:  Roz Chast’s memoir is a candid look into her life, her relationship with her parents, and their final days. An only child, the enormous lifelong responsibility was all hers. You may be familiar with Chast’s New Yorker cartoons which I’ve always found notable for portraying the human condition. Her illustrations in this memoir are equally remarkable.

At times uncomfortable, at times relatable I found Can’t We talk about Something More Pleasant? a compelling read and recommend it to fans of graphic memoirs, the author, and anyone who finds themselves in the position of caretaker of an elderly parent.