The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee

Growing up, Hyeonseo and her family could look across the river into China and could not even imagine what life was like on the other side. It might as well have been another planet, so different were the two countries. 

What began as a simple act of teenage defiance set her feet on a journey she never expected to take through China, Laos and finally as a refugee to South Korea. Each leg of her travels forced Hyeonseo to assume a new identity. The name she has chosen for herself in the end, Hyeon (sunshine) and seo (good fortune) is the woman she discovered she was after facing such insurmountable odds.

Hyeonseo Lee presented a TED talk about her experience which you can find here. She also spoke at the United Nations Security Council meeting in New York in 2014 about human rights violations that happen as a matter of course in North Korea. She did an interview with Time in 2015 entitled Freedom, Sanctions and North Korean Ice Cream as well. 

I found The Girl with Seven Names a little difficult to read, not that it was complex, but there seemed to be an emotional reserve in the writing that made it challenging to connect with the author on a personal level. However, given all that this poor girl went through, it is only natural that the retelling is repressed emotionally. How else could she have gotten through it?

The author’s descriptions about the insidious government regulation that rewarded informing on your neighbors, coworkers and family members was detailed. The stories of other refugees she met along the way was eye-opening. I had never before considered North Korea in that light and can never return to ignorance again. The Girl with Seven Names was a powerful story that everyone should read in order to understand the complexity of North Korea just a little bit.


A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Over the years, I’ve heard much of A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. I agreed with oft-quoted passages. I thought the idea of Shakespeare’s literary sister Judith intriguing. But I never took the time to read it. I was a bit put off by the very feminists quoting dear ol’ Virginia. I didn’t consider myself THAT radical.

Now that I’ve entered middle-age, I decided that I was that radical after all and reading it proved that I was indeed without a doubt.

Ms. Woolf wrote this extended essay in 1929 and the thoughts contained herein were undoubtedly shocking at the time. She maintained that women didn’t have the means nor the time to be able to pursue writing of any kind with a few notable anomalies. She mentions the Bronte sisters, Dorothy Osborne, Jane Austen, George Eliot and Lady Winchilsea as exceptions having both the education and means to become writers. 

She also proposed that the best writers were androngynous, although I wasn’t entirely convinced by her argument on that topic. I believe that a talented female writer is better able to write about experiences unique to women than an equally talented androngynous male writer. 

So how much of what Ms. Woolf wrote is true today? Certainly we’ve progressed to the point where women have the time and income to devote themselves to writing books, haven’t we?

It seems there are still some gender bias when it comes to publishing. (See Bias, She Wrote:The Gender Balance of The New York Times Best Seller list) Books about women win fewer literary awards. (See BOOKS ABOUT WOMEN DON’T WIN BIG AWARDS: SOME DATA) The majority of literature studied in high school was not written by women. (See Here’s The Problem with White-Male-Centric School Reading Lists

So even though there are more women writers, I can’t say that all things are equal yet.  Would you?

Whether you consider yourself radical or not-so-radical, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf is well-worth a read.

How many of the women writers on this list have you read? (See 50 Great Women Writers) I’ve read 21. 

Resilience Road: Exploring Your Authentic Life Path by Beth Koritz

I had high expectations of positive motivation when I began Resilience Road: Exploring Your Authentic Life Path by Beth Koritz. Unfortunately, there were some issues that I couldn’t get past initially, although I did find some redeeming value towards the end of the book.

First, I felt like the author began with a sermon full of trite clichés. I hadn’t made a connection with her as a person yet, so I was unwilling to hear her advice without seeing how she applied these bits of wisdom in her own life. 

From the advice section, we jump right into a major turning point in her life. The author describes being paralyzed from Guillain-Barré Syndrome as a wake-up call. She talks about that experience as well as others beginning from when she was a child of seven. She really did meet adversity head-on!

Mid-way through her life story, there is another sermon meant to be inspiring. Honestly, I would have preferred if these segments were all grouped together after the personal narrative comes to a conclusion. The jumping back and forth between the viewpoint of a counselor and a woman in need of counseling was abrupt. I also didn’t feel like the clients she referenced were helpful in self-analysis, if that was the intent. The points the author was trying to make would have been more powerful when drawn from her own life experience rather than her clients’.

These issues aside, I found that I developed a deep admiration for the author by the end of the book. She had overcome many obstacles to find her place and tribe. Having traveled with her through her memories, I felt more open at the conclusion of the book for the recommendations she made to better my own life. The list of Tools To Create Your Resilience was concise and practical. Everything recommended in this section, from focusing on what you can do and control to the idea that asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness was spot on. 

In the end, I felt that the book was certainly worth the time I invested in reading it and rate it a 4 out of 5 stars.  Get your copy from Amazon here.

I received an advanced review copy from Reedsy Discovery, You can read my review here.

Life Coaching: The Key to Your Future by Alexander R. Davis

There were a lot of good tidbits in Life Coaching: The Key to Your Future by Alexander R. Davis. The author provided his own enthusiasm and easy to follow steps to help the reader manifest the things that are needed, whether it is financial or otherwise. 

Despite all the inspirational information, there were a few issues I had with this book. First, I believe there was a section missing. Each of the steps to manifesting the Law of Attraction had its own section except Inspired Action, which I believe to be the most important step. If someone does not take action, no matter how much he or she wants something, it will never happen. I think that the author meant to include a section on this since it is a step listed in the full example, but someone it wasn’t included in the book. 

Update: After an email conversation with the author, this section is now in the book.

Then were some word choice errors that must not have been detected by the spell checker like barrow for borrow, marry for merry as well as a few capitalization mistakes. Plus there were a few sections that were redundant, especially in a book this size. Another proofreading pass through seems to be in order. 

Update: These errors and a few others have been fixed and the book updated.

Now, here are the parts I most enjoyed about the book. There was quite a bit of emphasis on overcoming self-imposed limitations, the beliefs that are holding you back. Not only was the information clear and concise, the author provided several coach/student example sessions so the reader could see how this process played out.  

Another aspect I really appreciated about this book was that although the author referred to successfully obtaining your heart’s desire as manifestation, there was nothing magic about the process. Goal setting, actionable steps, and hard work are the keys to manifestation. Anyone who says anything differently is just blowing smoke.

So there you have it! Life Coaching: The Key to Your Future by Alexander R. Davis is a great little book that provides a short and understandable introduction to the Law of Attraction through life coaching. 

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, and Miracles by Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.

When Bruce Lipton resigned somewhat spectacularly from his tenured position at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and accepted a position at an offshore medical college in the Carribbean, he had no idea how transformative it would be. Teaching students that didn’t fit the typical medical student profile and long afternoons gazing at the sparkling blue sea helped Dr. Lipton make new connections and ground-breaking discoveries in the lifecycle of cells. 

This book introduced a new term to me, epigenetics. Briefly, this is the idea that cells are not constrained by their makeup but are constantly evolving to best survive their environments. Therefore, the environment plays a huge component on gene expression. 

As a stem cell researcher, Dr. Lipton shared scientific proof of the concept of epigenetics. Some of these descriptions are quite complex. However, Dr. Lipton’s revelations didn’t stop there. He proposed that the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to environmental signals and that furthermore, this could be changed by changing our beliefs. 

If we were honest with ourselves, we’d admit that many of the beliefs we hold most dear are self-limiting and even false. Imagine what we could do if we freed ourselves from them! 

I can’t do justice to all the evidence Dr. Lipton describes in his book. It is amazing how the fundamental basis of all life, a single cell, can teach us so much about ourselves. Pick up your copy of The Biology of Belief and risk being awe-struck!

World Water Week

World Water Week begins on August 25 and August is National Water Quality Month. Looking at just one country’s problems might help bring the overwhelming world wide water crisis down to manageable numbers.  Then again, maybe not.

Water is a dwindling resource in Mexico. More than 12 million people in Mexico do not have access to potable water. Approxiametely 21% of Mexico was suffering from severe drought in May.

You can Lookat how just one family has adapted to water shortages in Mexico in A to Z Reasons Why La Yacata is the Place to Be in Any Disaster: A Prepper’s Guide to Mexico which is FREE for the next few days. So pick up your copy today and consider how you can improve your own water conservation efforts!

Happiness Happens Month

In honor of Happiness Happens Month, Surviving Voluntary Exile: How to overcome common obstacles to making a successful life transition ebook is FREE for the next few days. If you are an expat having difficulty making the transition to your new culture, then this is the book for you!