This Summer Was For Reading!

By Cheryl Ryan

It has been a busy summer, starting in May with travels to Spain and Japan. Then came the arrival of two grand babies, a visit to see my Mom in Arizona, and an extended stay in Lake Tahoe. All of this travel has kept me moving more this summer than in the last five combined, which has facilitated some excellent reading!

I’m ready to spend some time at home, start fall planting, get ready for the holidays, and enjoy some cooler temps.

I’ve already got my fall reading lineup ready to go, but I want to share what I’ve read and listened to before moving on.

Here are my reviews:

Since I’m new to audiobooks, I will separate the two into separate categories. Mainly because the experience can be so different depending on the audiobook narrators.


The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin. This book review comes with a personal experience. I sat next to Lara on a recent flight, and, as is my new habit, we started talking. She said she was a literary agent and was returning from working on her most recent ghostwritten book (one of eleven). Of course, that piqued my interest. Furthermore, she noted that she had just completed her memoir. Wow, you must be a very fast writer, I exclaimed. 

Honestly, from the perspective of a slow writer, I was starting to question that she was for real. She didn’t want to tell me anything about her memoir, only that she had done a TedX talk and if I wanted to check it out I should give it a listen. It took me a day or two, but once I watched it, I was very interested. 

Her story takes place in Santa Cruz, California. She went from soccer Mom to addict to serving one year in Santa Cruz County jail. Ultimately, ending up a literary agent and accomplished author. 

At its core, this book is about trying to overcome our mistakes. Both in the eyes of society but also, and maybe most importantly, in our own eyes. But it also illustrates the dysfunction of our criminal justice system and how impossible the system makes it to re-enter society as a productive citizen. All odds are stacked against ex-cons. It shows how the system feeds upon these failures. Lara had many people who helped her and just as many, if not more, who did everything they could to thwart her success. It’s a great book and I recommend it.

Open an autobiography by Andre Agassi – This book was long for me. It’s interesting from the perspective a the lone tennis player vs. an athlete playing a team sport. There is nowhere to hide. It’s just them and their opponent for the world to watch and judge. The press, other players, and the tennis culture were challenging for a young Agassi to carry on his shoulders alone. His father was a brutal tennis stage dad, leaving him scarred. Agassi said he hated the sport, but what else could he do? He understandably had a complicated relationship with tennis.

Although I learned a lot and finished the book (which I don’t do if I really don’t like it), he spent a lot of time reviewing each match and opponent which seemed unnecessary at times. He dwelled on his losses with more emotion than his wins, which may be what it takes to make a champion. I don’t know for sure. I did enjoy the ending and finished the book glad that I read it even though it was, in my opinion, longer than necessary at times.

Some Good Ghostwriting

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton and Lara Love – This is Lara Love’s first ghostwritten book. When I met her on the plane, she said it was the one that she was most proud of. And I can see why. Anthony Ray Hinton was a wrongly accused inmate on death row for twenty-seven years. The description of the Alabama Holman State Prison conditions and what it took for him to survive is spellbinding, horrifying and a real life indictment into the failures of our criminal justice system. After gaining his release through the hard work of Bryan Stevenson, the famous civil rights attorney, resilience, and an uncommon ability to be there for others Hinton and Love paint the picture of Hinton’s exceptional fortitude and humanity.



Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver This is an excellent book. It’s so good she won a Pulitzer for it. It’s a fictional story of a boy called Demon Copperhead born in rural Kentucky into an impossible set of circumstances. The character development is outstanding, written from the perspective of an eleven-year-old; you can’t help but root for him every step of the way. That being said, this book was challenging for me to read during the first third. He lands in Child Protective Services and is subjected to the care of some horrific caregivers. But once again, resilience is at the center of this book. It’s a long book, but it’s worth it!


And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln by Jon Meacham This was a last-minute download for me. I was invited to Bear Valley for a quick 48-hour trip and was driving by myself. I searched for a book on tape as I walked out the door, none of my first choices were available. So, I went for it and began the seventeen-hour history book on my drive. I couldn’t stop listening. 

I must have been sleeping during this history lesson. There was so much I didn’t know. Much of his story is told through historical accounts and old letters. He was not a perfect man, but he completely changed the course of our nation.

In his two primary convictions, he was unwavering. He believed that another should own no man and that the United States should remain the United States, not divided as the South wanted. He met constant, fervent opposition, ultimately losing his life along with so many Union and Confederate soldiers. Hero came to mind as I ended this book. I can’t think of any leader today with so much conviction. The oversized monument to him in Washington, D.C. represents so much more to me now than it did before listening to this book.

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  • Reply Shana Moore October 2, 2023 at 7:10 am

    I enjoyed your reviews, Cheryl! I need to read Demon Copperhead and Mama Love!

    • Reply zestandplomb October 3, 2023 at 5:38 pm

      Wait…seventeen hours of Lincoln is too much for you 🙂

  • Reply Nicole Abbott October 3, 2023 at 11:02 am

    Thanks for sharing this Cheryl! I will read these as well! Hoping you are well. Chat soon.

  • Reply zestandplomb October 3, 2023 at 5:39 pm

    I am. Yes, lets chat!

  • Reply Julie October 7, 2023 at 1:12 pm

    Of the books you mention that I also read this summer, I totally agree with your summaries and recommendations! So I guess that means I’d better read the others too , right?

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