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GripFrom Goodreads: Set in San Francisco in the 1970s, Grip: A Memoir of Fierce Attractions is the true story of how a teenager fends off an armed intruder with only her wits, then goes on to become the toughest female martial artist in her karate school and an early advocate for women’s rights. Yet in private this five-foot fighter forms one disastrous relationship with men after another. Ultimately, Nina Hamberg finds her real battle is an internal one. She has to bond with a different kind of man and allow herself to be vulnerable. Winner of the Maui Writers Conference Rupert Hughes Award and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association Book Award for “Best Memoir,” Grip reads like a novel. It is by turns riveting, funny, poignant and wise.

Hamberg has woven a memoir with wide appeal. She traces her emotional journey while providing such fast-paced action that reviewers call Grip a page-turner.

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This is the true-life account of Nina Hamberg, a woman who experienced violence at the hands of others, and though she struggled, did not allow it to ultimately define her. Beginning in her teenage years, Nina learns true fear and doubt when a stranger breaks into her house in an attempt to rape her. Though she defends herself, both a physical and internal scar remain—an outward reminder of her trials and tribulations of that night, and an inward reminder of all those around her who did nothing to help. From the police who didn’t take her call seriously to her very own mother, who tried to brush it all under the rug, Nina found herself alone and ashamed, and through this memoir, she bares her soul as a way to finally lay her demons to rest.

Abusive relationship after abusive relationship, Nina struggles to remain in control, and watching her spiral downward, only to finally come out on top, was harrowing but rewarding. Though I don’t usually read memoirs all that often, I found Nina’s story to be one that kept my attention, especially with its ups and downs. This is a triumphant tale of survival, and though Nina experiences many hardships, her memoir is one that teaches readers a lot about what it is like to live a life haunted by a traumatic experience. Three stars.

3 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Dancing With DualityFrom Goodreads: Betrayed at the age of 21 by the first love of her life, Stella Vance embarks on a life of fearless adventure. She travels the world, adding notches to her lipstick case with lovers from all over the world, and surviving harrowing experiences, including abuse, addiction, abortion, date rape, and cult involvement. Along the way, Stella undergoes a spiritual transformation. Once awakened to the reality of nonduality, she gradually realizes that life is just a game, that death is just another dimension, and that nothing “out there” can really hurt her. This inspiring page-turning memoir begins in the 1970s, with Stella as a Christian zealot. Subsequently questioning all religious dogma, Stella’s mystical quest leads her to delve deeply into the realms of dreams, psychic readings, astrology, tantric yoga, reincarnation and her own past lives, the entheogen ketamine, Indian holy men and women, revolving-door relationships, the seeker culture of southern California, and finally, the ultimate path of Advaita Vedanta. At the same time, she deals with anorexia and bulimia, addictions to cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol, unwanted pregnancies, teaching in public schools, the death of several loved ones, foreclosure, and emigrating to South America. The life of Stella Vance embodies all the adventure, drama, romance, humor, and philosophy of a free spirit set loose in the ’70s and finding its way into the new millennium. Reading Dancing with Duality provides evidence that life is meant to provide entertainment, as well as to teach us how to be grateful, forgive, and heal from all its vagaries. In the end, Stella’s free spirit journey takes her on the path to the ultimate freedom: freedom from the mind with all its fears, judgments, limiting beliefs, and worries.

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Though Stella’s viewpoints on life are indeed vastly different from my own, this was a beautiful memoir full of enlightenment and truths, such as, “be careful when you judge someone; you may end up doing a similar thing.” This statement shows up time and time again, and it carries a very heavy weight not only within the story, but within all our lives. While we may not always agree with Stella’s choices, she shows readers that her own judgments came back to haunt her, and she did, indeed, end up doing similar things, even though she may have told herself “never in a million years.” It’s a very interesting look at like growing up in the 60s and 70s, and how free spirited she really was. Stella lays it all bare, discussing both trials and triumphs, and it’s such a conversational, beautiful tone that I was taken with her story from the get go. We have all made mistakes, but it takes an extremely strong individual to write a book about them and showcase it to the world. What Stella has done is shown how she has become a free spirit, and how her life decisions ultimately brought her to where she is now. It’s a great read, and even if you feel like you might not have the same mindset as Stella, I suggest you pick up this memoir, because it’s extremely enlightening and very interesting.  Beginning with her parents divorce, her onset of an eating disorder, her love of foreign men (who doesn’t!), and her time an University, Stella wraps the reader up tight in her life, gluing us to the pages until the very end. Four stars.

4 starsI received this memoir from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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