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M. J. Leake

Travel Writer & Blogger
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  • reviews
  • 19
  • helpful votes
  • 52
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  • The Soul of America

  • The Battle for Our Better Angels
  • By: Jon Meacham
  • Narrated by: Fred Sanders, Jon Meacham
  • Length: 10 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,826
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,530
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,512

Our current climate of partisan fury is not new, and in The Soul of America Meacham shows us how what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature” have repeatedly won the day. Painting surprising portraits of Lincoln and other presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and LBJ, and illuminating the courage of influential citizen activists and civil rights pioneers, Meacham brings vividly to life turning points in American history. Each of these dramatic hours have been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • He takes the long view, displays pattern,Hopeful

  • By zachary on 07-04-18

Powerful facts of history

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-29-19

Warning, I have always loved world history, and spend many hours reading historical novels and researching to confirm historical facts.

This John Meesham novel,
The Soul of America: The battle for our better angels is a recurring statement of ideology repeated and reflected by the American government that responds slowly to change by being dragged begrudgingly into doing what is right.

America is a very young country reflecting the age of a prepubescent teenager who was raised on European ideas until the age five then released to a continent they named.

Historical presidential quotes are spread throughout the novel identifying the past presidents who used the office for the prosperity of their kind, (white males.)
While others during their presidency transcended their position to represent all Americans while less than a dozen former presidents fought for the rights to represent all Americans.

The author uses facts glaring in details revealing America's hatred for indigenous people, the greed and horrible injustice on the issues of slavery, and the ongoing repeated demonizing of any group for the benefits and agenda of an American president to lead Americans for their vote.

Several glaring reassuring aspects about the voting people of America is how slowly change takes place usually punctuated with radical social protests demanding change for a better America.

The novel reveals how during Americas times of horrible historical calamity the soul of an American President sometimes sees fit to seek the better angels within themselves for the souls of the American citizen to transcend a country to do what is right.

The novel is incredible, to say the least, and should be a part of the curriculum at every level of education.
The teaching of American's historical facts is not mandatory or essential for the American public consumption at any level of the American education system.

However, if factual American historical knowledge was an essential part of the education system I can only imagine how many repeated atrocities America could have avoided for the better souls of our children's future.

Great Read! :-)

The War of Art audiobook cover art
  • The War of Art

  • Winning the Inner Creative Battle
  • By: Steven Pressfield
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 2 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10,712
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,246
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,188

Internationally best-selling author of Last of the Amazons, Gates of Fire and Tides of War, Steven Pressfield delivers a guide to inspire and support those who struggle to express their creativity. Pressfield believes that “resistance” is the greatest enemy, and he offers many unique and helpful ways to overcome it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A must-have for anyone creative (or not)

  • By kimberly on 02-01-12

Powerfully inspiring

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-20-19

In my opinion, Steven Pressfield's The War of Art is a motivational and inspirational novel for the procrastinating creative artist of any type.

From the forwards written by Robert McKee, there is so much wisdom that can be retained and used in all aspects of your art.

The recognition of the various forms of resistance is an eye-opening insight into why the procrastinating laziness within all creatives flourishes.

If you the artist read this short story monthly many works would be completed a lot sooner.

So, just do it! :-)

  • Becoming

  • By: Michelle Obama
  • Narrated by: Michelle Obama
  • Length: 19 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 59,268
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 54,119
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 53,810

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites listeners into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her - from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work to her time spent at the world's most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it - in her own words and on her own terms.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Didn't know what I was getting into

  • By Kenneth Woodward on 12-05-18

Becoming her best

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-19-19

The Michelle Obama Memoir/biography is a delightfully wonderful reading experience as she takes you through her life and background on the Southside of Chicago with her parents and extended families.

Her story expands into her experiences as a college student, successful attorney, the wife of Barrack Obama, mother, and First Lady, all the while giving the reader insight into her world of criticism heaped upon her covering every aspect of her blackness, and her body, as the wife of a politician and First lady.

She provides the details of the behind the scenes disrespect and disregard of her husband's politics as the First Black President yet their response and reactions reveal the wisdom of how education and intelligence overcome the ignorance of people with little minds.

Her response to go high when your opponent goes low is a true testimony into their shrug off the shoulder issues they dealt with as a couple and a family.

A must read for all women and especially people who wish to succeed in public life.

  • The Diary of a Hounslow Girl

  • An Audible Original
  • By: Ambreen Razia
  • Narrated by: Ambreen Razia
  • Length: 1 hr and 36 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 2,371
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 2,170
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 2,163

You’ve heard of an Essex Girl or even a Chelsea Girl, but what about a Hounslow Girl? Definition of a Hounslow Girl: a young Muslim woman who wears hooped earrings with her headscarf and grapples with traditional values while hustling her way through urban London. The Diary of a Hounslow Girl is a bold and provocative one-person play, written and performed by Ambreen Razia. From the joys of traditional Pakistani weddings to fights on the night bus, this is a comic story of dreams, aspirations and coming of age, told through the eyes of a 16-year-old British Muslim girl. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Standard coming of age with Islamic slant

  • By Kingsley on 12-07-18

Coming of age

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-01-19

A powerfully insightfull look into the life of a young girl grappling with the traditional world as a Muslim Pakistani girl and the society she has grow up with, which goes against her family and Muslim traditions and teachings.

As a parent I wish more writing and expressions of generational differences were examined by all cultures educating all people that many of the world cultures deal with similar issues.

Recommending this novel to young men & women provides a simple eduction and encouragement that we are all one people.

  • New Family Values

  • By: Andrew Solomon
  • Narrated by: Andrew Solomon
  • Length: 6 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,401
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,162
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,166

Drawing on dozens of intimate audio interviews with families from all across the country, award-winning psychologist and writer Andrew Solomon redefines what it means to be an “ideal family” in America today. Solomon observes that America, led in large part by the women’s, civil rights, and gay rights movements, has undergone a radical social shift in the last few decades. Although the structure of family has changed, economic and legal structures lag behind and need to adapt to accommodate this explosive new reality.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Difficult subject handled well.

  • By Michael on 12-21-18

Great educational lesson on famlies

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-31-18

This novel educates and teachers with first-hand knowledge by the author who explores societies definition of family.
I have been exposed to many aspects of what he defines as a family, but there are several chapters like adoption which presented me to the significance of adoptions within the US.
This Kindle and Audible apps make for a quick read/listening using the which I genuinely love.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Color of Water

  • A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother
  • By: James McBride
  • Narrated by: J. D. Jackson, Susan Denaker
  • Length: 8 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 820
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 732
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 732

Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared "light-skinned" woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician, and son, explores his mother's past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut, The Color Of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Awesome

  • By Michael on 05-30-17

"Discovering who you are."

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-23-18

The author's novel is a powerful personal introspective of his mother's Jewish culture, and how her race and her religion effected and impacted her life growing up in a racist southern town in Virginia.

He revealed how she managed a lifetime of raising 12-biracial children with her faith and love steeped in her religious belief and the courageous love to marry outside of her culture and race in the 1940s.

The chapters alternate between the tales of the mother and the author's perspective of life's tragedies, and heartwarming events.

The novel provides teachable lessons for all to read and especially couples who desire to understand the essence of love for one another and the courage it takes to remain vigilant, forging a life together when the centerpiece of the relationship is friendship, love and a shared faith in each other to maintain their family.

  • Out of My Mind

  • By: Alan Arkin
  • Narrated by: Alan Arkin
  • Length: 2 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 5,716
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,214
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 5,191

In this Audible Original “mini-memoir”, the Academy Award-winning star of Little Miss Sunshine and Argo looks back on his life as a series of philosophical turning points, learning experiences, and a-ha moments. Drawn from a collection of seemingly inexplicable stories and encounters from Arkin's 84 years on this planet, Out of My Mind is a candid, relatable and delightfully irreverent take on how one man went searching for meaning and ended up discovering himself.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing journey into Alan's self!

  • By Amazon Customer on 12-09-18

Enlighten insight

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-16-18

Alan Arkin provides a narrative as an author, actor, father, husband and a man of humanity who's insights into meditation and his lifetime of learning about life spirituality.
He reveals insight into how he circumnavigated his life of many spiritual miracles he has discovered.

Many readers will broaden their knowledge of life to feel comfortable to think for themselves beyond societal expectations.

Personal beliefs are often in conflict with what is expected while learning and discovering a world filled with many opportunities of simple ways to live a life spiritually on ones on terms.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Nature Fix

  • Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative
  • By: Florence Williams
  • Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
  • Length: 8 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 623
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 566
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 559

For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams sets out to uncover the science behind nature's positive effects on the brain.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Yes!...and No!

  • By Paul on 03-18-17

Natures Healing

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-12-18

Ever since I witnessed the beauty of the Grand Canyon, I was awestruck not only with its magnificent but it was a moment that allowed me to discover something enriching about absorbing Nature.
Honestly, I found religion with Nature, that day on the north rim looking into the canyon below and across the surrounding landscape of beauty that somehow healed all of whatever stressors were in my life.

Florence Williams novels, "The Nature Fix," and "The Three Day Effect," are essential reading for all humans who are stressed out, mentally and physically.
She identifies specific studies in Japan, and Korea, along with American researchers discovering and describing the effects of absorbing nature.

Florence Williams herself participated with others on various backpacking and hiking outings to reveals why it is essential for the body to absorb nature, no matter what your background or history of trauma, or, your social, economic environment.
More importantly, it is a simplistic and easy way for humans to heal, by merely taking a walk in the woods for three days if not three days straight return visit, in my opinion, several times weekly.

As an aspiring, unpublished author, the novel has strengthened my belief that I will continue my outdoor travels around the world focusing on the absorption of nature because creativity flows easier and more precise for the mind while healing the soul.

  • The 3-Day Effect

  • By: Florence Williams
  • Narrated by: Florence Williams
  • Length: 3 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 54
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 45
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 43

Does nature really make us feel better? The 3-Day Effect takes a look at the science behind why being in the wild can make us happier, healthier, and more creative. Whether it’s rafting down Utah’s Green River, hiking in Utah’s wilderness, or walking through Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, scientists are finding that the more exposure humans have to nature, the more we can benefit from reduced anxiety, enhanced creativity, and overall well-being.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This Ecotherapist loved this series!

  • By Megan Delaney, PhD on 10-15-18

Absorbing Nature

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-12-18

Ever since I witnessed the beauty of the Grand Canyon, I was awestruck not only with its magnificent but it was a moment that allowed me to discover something enriching about absorbing Nature.
Honestly, I found religion with Nature, that day on the north rim looking into the canyon below and across the surrounding landscape of beauty that somehow healed all of whatever stressors were in my life.

Florence Williams novels, "The Nature Fix," and "The Three Day Effect," are essential reading for all humans who are stressed out, mentally and physically.
She identifies specific studies in Japan, and Korea, along with American researchers discovering and describing the effects of absorbing nature.

Florence Williams herself participated with others on various backpacking and hiking outings to reveals why it is essential for the body to absorb nature, no matter what your background or history of trauma, or, your social, economic environment.
More importantly, it is a simplistic and easy way for humans to heal, by merely taking a walk in the woods for three days if not three days straight return visit, in my opinion, several times weekly.

As an aspiring, unpublished author, the novel has strengthened my belief that I will continue my outdoor travels around the world focusing on the absorption of nature because creativity flows easier and more precise for the mind while healing the soul.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • In Pieces

  • By: Sally Field
  • Narrated by: Sally Field
  • Length: 10 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,506
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,217
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,200

In this intimate, haunting, literary memoir read by the author, an American icon tells her story for the first time, in her own gorgeous words - about a challenging and lonely childhood, the craft that helped her find her voice, and a powerful emotional legacy that shaped her journey as a daughter and a mother. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Riveting Life Story of Sally Field's

  • By Doris Anna Wright on 09-20-18

A life's Journey of wisdom learning.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-02-18

This Sally field's memoir is an emotional introspective historical account of her life describing how she drew strength from the characters she played.
She reveals a childhood of disappointments, fraught with relationships that are lessons for all to read and learn from.

This memoir is filled with wisdom for everyone who could not ask the questions of parents about their past but will give insight on developing a dialogue to begin that conversation.