Category Archives: Biography

Sweet Hell on Fire: A Memoir of the Prison I Worked In and the Prison I Lived In by Sara Lunsford

41OIQG10bPL $14.99, 288 pages, Biography

Stories and memories of a former female prison correctional officer from Kansas.

Author’s Website

Herald Standard Review and, Killeen Daily Herald News

This book provides a fascinating glimpse into the real-life work of a prison correctional officer.  Sara Lunsford worked in a Kansas prison and details many graphic stories of life inside medium, maximum and segregated units.  The language is rough and the job is one she is unable to leave at work.  While she succeeds as a well-respected sergeant at work, life at home is anything but successful.  After her marriage fell apart, Lunsford began to drink more and more and see her children less and less.  Desperate to make a change, Lunsford must decide what is truly important in life.

I enjoyed some of the glimpses Lunsford offered into the Kansas prison.  While maintaining a solid work ethic and respect from the inmates, I was frustrated that Lunsford didn’t carry this level of performance over to her personal life.

Appeal Factors: Disturbing, High-Drama, Violent

This book appealed to me as I work in a correctional facility.  Many of the inmates I work with eventually head to prison.  I was able to relate to many of the stories.  I chose the book to learn how the career impacted Lunsford’s personal life.  I found the book at a local bookstore while perusing the true crime section.

Interesting Fact: After leaving life as a correctional officer, Lunsford did begin her career as an author.  Today, she writes paranormal romance, urban fantasy and erotica under the name: Saranna Dewylde.

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Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir by Bill Clegg

41w1F2RwQqL $23.99, 240 pages, Biography

Publisher’s Website

NY Times

The Independent

A raw memoir detailing a crack addiction that took over Clegg’s body, career and relationships.

Literary agent Bill Clegg writes of his escalating crack cocaine use in his memoir.  A successful entrepreneur in a relationship, Clegg learns the hard way that he cannot casually use drugs.  Holing up in hotels throughout Manhattan, Clegg subsists on crack and vodka while his partner and business friends fight to get him help.  The memoir continues as Clegg attempts to maintain his professional life while using.  The end result is another stint in rehab.

As a fan of memoirs, I enjoy reading stories where the writer has overcome hardships, addictions or struggles.  This memoir of crack addiction turned very ugly very quick.  The writing is very raw with incredible detail of drug binges, sex and a life spiraling out of control.  I found myself rooting for the author less and less as he continued to make careless and reckless decisions.

Appeal Factors: Character-driven, Graphic, Gritty, Disturbing, Fast-Paced

This book appealed to me as I often read memoirs involving addiction in an effort to connect with my patrons who also struggle with addictions.

If you like this book, consider: Tweak by Nic Sheff, The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll or Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs, according to (accessed March 3, 2013)

I chose to read this book after checking out Clegg’s follow-up book, Ninety Days, to patrons.

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Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza

2630c060ada012581b279110_L $14.95, 215 pages, Biography–Inspirational–History–Africa

An unforgettable story of faith during the 1994 Rwandan Holocaust that will forever change you!

Website for Left to Tell


Thinking Faith

Publishers Weekly

Imagine 91 days in a cramped bathroom with 7 other women fearing for your life.  This happened to Ilibagiza during the 1994 Rwandan Holocaust.  The Tutsis tribe in Africa was under attack from the neighboring Hutu tribe and government.  Nearly one million people were killed and the fighting continued.  Ilibagiza recounts her story of fear, faith and prayer.  This powerful memoir is filled with examples of friendship, faithfulness and forgiveness.  A story you will likely never forget!

This book blew me away as I was in awe of the courage, faith and devotion shown by Immaculee Ilibagiza.  For me, the book provided immense perspective for what I saw as my life’s challenges.  The book also demonstrated a very real and active demonstration of amazing faith!  Inspirational and life-altering moments packaged in this memoir.

Other books by Immaculee Ilibagiza: Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa, The Boy Who Met Jesus: Segatashya Emmanuel of Kibeho and Led By Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide.

Appeal Factors: Inspirational, Compelling, Hopeful, Impassioned

A movie was made based on this book and plans for a motion picture are in the works: The Diary of Immaculee (2006)

Discussion Questions

I chose to read this book after one of my dearest friends insisted I read it. She couldn’t put the book down and would not stop talking about it. I noticed the book on her Goodreads account with her glowing five-star rating. I later saw the book in our returns area at work and decided to give the book a try. I am so very glad I did!
The city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana chose this book as a “One Book One Community” selection and developed a fantastic discussion guide for its participants:One Book One Community Guide

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Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography by Rob Lowe

61dAlLVm3yL__SL1000_ $14.99, 320 pages, Biography

A fantastic collection of stories told by one of America’s sweethearts of the screen.

Warning: Reading this book may have you re-living years past by renting Lowe’s movies and watching seasons of “West Wing”

The Author’s Website


NPR Reviews

NY Times

Read or Listen to an Excerpt from Chapter 1:


A selection of stories from Rob Lowe that creatively and collectively present his life.  The vignettes are funny, real, heartbreaking and triggers for so many memories.  From bunking to Tom Cruise during rehearsals for “The Outsiders,” to posing on the final cover of George magazine for his role on “West Wing,” the reflection is filled with detail.   As a member of the infamous “Brat Pack,” Lowe was real when writing about his addictions, love interests and fight for valuable movie roles.

This book was a walk down memory lane.  I was impressed by Lowe’s writing skills and was drawn into his storytelling abilities.  I appreciated that Lowe did not “name names” in his memoir or drag people’s reputations through the mud.  He admitted his faults and struggles and claimed responsibility.  The way in which he nonchalantly wrote about acting, dating royalty and winning awards was refreshing.  I also appreciated his incredible love and devotion to his wife and two boys.

Appeal Factors: Conversational, Reflective, Nostalgic

Possible Read-alike Titles: Then Again by Diane Keaton, Bossypants by Tina Fey and Late, Late at Night by Rick Springfield, according to (accessed March 5, 2013).

Watch an Interview with Rob Lowe

Discussion Questions by another WordPress Blogger

A fan of Rob Lowe’s, I always wanted to read this book.  I saw Lowe in an interview with Oprah Winfrey and was really impressed with the interview.  I also noted several reviews of the book on Goodreads and all were quite favorable.

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