Booktalking “The Girls” by Abigail Pesta

The lights, the glory… Olympic stars dances in these young girls’ eyes. It was especially dazzling and awe-inspiring when a doctor named Larry Nassar brought them souvenirs from the Olympic Games – pins or T-shirts. They loved all of it… the glitz and glamour were intoxicating. Larry was the nice guy to tough coach, John Geddert. The girls could complain to Larry about how hard John was on them. Injuries were not allowed. Gymnasts were ridiculed daily and worked beyond the point of exhaustion and light-headedness. Geddert brought athletes to the Olympics, but at what price?  

One girl stated that John let her fall when he was supposed to be spotting her as punishment for not performing a move correctly. Another claimed that he threw a springboard at her in anger. It was well known in the gym that injuries infuriated the well-known coach. It was better to pretend that mistakes did not happen than to be treated like trash. Young athletes practiced through broken bones and dislocated ribs. Sometimes, blood flowed freely while John screamed at them. Parents were not allowed in the gym, but they could observe practice through a sound-proof window. Few objected to what they saw and it was impossible to witness all of the mistreatment. For example, parents were not allowed at the infamous Karolyi Ranch, which has since closed.  

Olympic doctor Larry Nassar groomed his young victims with sweet words and gifts. He was distinctly fixated on a particular part of anatomy. In fact, the girls knew him around the Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Lansing, MI as the “crotch doc.” He would touch the gymnasts’ private parts while claiming to treat back and spine pain. Oftentimes, parents were in the room during these “medical examinations,” but the doctor obscured their view by wrapping a towel around the girls’ waists. Some girls complained to their parents and gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages, to no avail. They were told that they were misinterpreting the “medical treatment.” Nassar’s reign of terror lasted from the 1990s until he was indicted in 2016. Fear of him ran through Twistars, where he volunteered, and Holt High School and Michigan State University, where he worked. He also abused many more athletes, such as dancers and volleyball players. They were in awe of his Olympic status, and he blithely took advantage of them and took from them what they were not willing to give. The repercussions of such pain, abuse and violations will run rivers through some of the victims’ relationships with loved ones, co-workers and the public for life.  

An investigation into Larry Nassar’s harmful actions commenced around 2014 as a result of women becoming older and more vocal about the maltreatment that they suffered at the hands of the doctor. In 2017, Nassar, who had been stripped of his medical license, pled guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual misconduct. Kathie Klages was convicted of lying to police. At the sentencing hearing of Nassar in 2018, 200 young women spent seven full days in court giving moving victim impact statements at a length of their own choosing. Michigan State University paid $500 million to Nassar’s victims, while USA Gymnastics, which has filed for bankruptcy, has offered $215 million to victims of Nassar. No more will Larry Nassar be allowed to terrorize young women by gratifying his sexual proclivities. These girls and women are stronger than him and Nassar will spend 40 to 125 years in prison for his horrific crimes.  

The Girls: An All-American Town: a Predatory Doctor and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down by Abigail Pesta, 2019  

I was aware of the gargantuan sacrifice that Olympic hopefuls make in terms of giving up social lives outside of the gym, family vacations and the pain of injuries. The physical, psychological and sexual abuse that these gymnasts suffered is terrible. The fact that the abuse was allowed to continue for so many years is nothing but deplorable. I wish these women peace and happiness in their lives.  

Human Rights Watch

Champion Women


USA Gymnastics

Army of Survivors

Equality League


Booktalking “The Only Black Girls in Town” by Brandy Colbert

Ewing Beach, California. Surf, sun, and lots of fun. Alberta is an up-and-coming seventh grader who has the pleasure to live there with her fabulous dads. She loves everything about it, especially her bff, Laramie. The girls hang out much during the summer. They enjoy spending time on the beach and getting free ice cream at the Coleman Creamery where Laramie’s brother, Leif, works. They discuss all things: girl talk, school and life in their Californian paradise. Everything is going great for Alberta this summer.  

Then it gets even better.  

She discovers that another black family will be moving into the neighborhood. They will occupy the bed and breakfast across the street from Alberta’s house. The tween is beyond thrilled to have a black girl to befriend. It is a bit challenging for her to be surrounded by mostly white folks. She longs to have someone that looks like her and understands what it is like to be stared at just because she looks different, to have people assume that she doesn’t belong just because she is different. Alberta will finally have someone to commiserate with.   

That comes in the form of Edie. She is everything that Alberta hoped for… and more.  

Edie is goth girl through and through. The tween is adorned in all black and purple clothing, complete with combat books. All of the decor in her attic bedroom is black, down to the rugs and curtains. Edie is a bit of a fish out of water in the small Californian town since she comes from Brooklyn, New York. She misses the people and the corner bodega, where she could get absolutely everything. However, she likes Alberta very much, and she wants to give the bed and breakfast thing a try with her mother.   Edie, Laramie and Alberta begin hanging out together. They face the challenges of seventh grade as a cohesive team. Laramie is soaking up the Californian life. Alberta is adjusting to living with her pregnant surrogate mother, along with her dads. Edie is being called Wednesday Adams at school; she is a bit of a sensation, being the new kid in a small town. The three girls can take on anything with the support of each other and their families.  

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert, 2020  

I love diverse books, and Brandy Colbert is a talented author.  

Brandy Colbert’s web site  

by Miranda McDermott


Booktalking “Crossing the Line” by Kareem Rosser

Work to ride is the name of the game… because that’s exactly what you do at Chaumounix Equestrian Center in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. This treasure, located near “The Bottom” was a treasure trove for Kareem and his siblings during their youth. His older brothers Dee and David, discovered the barn while on an exploratory bicycle foray through the park. The boys were entranced by the horses. When Lezlie, the barn owner,  approached them and inquired as to whether they wanted to ride, they immediately agreed. Kareem loves equines just as much as his siblings, and he pined to join his brothers. So…  after much poking and prodding, his mother ordered the older boys to allow the horse crazy youth to tag along.   

Six kids. The first was born to a 14-year-old mother, the second to a 15-year-old mother. Kareem grew up in “The Bottom,” a gritty, depressing part of town where one’s foremost goal every day was to dodge bullets. Drugs, prostitution and poverty littered the sidewalks there as far as the eye could see. The boy’s mom worked many jobs to try to support the family; she even became involved with abusive men who gave her money for food, rent and drugs. The kids were pretty much given free rein to go whichever way the wind blew. Fortunately, the youngsters happened upon Lezlie and the relative safety of the barn.  

Lezlie was obsessed with horses from the time she was a little girl. She tried a conventional life by obtaining a BA in psychology, then a record store job. But equines were her passion, and they kept calling her back to them. She knew she had to find a way to spend her life with horses. One day, she met a young boy named Clay who pined to get involved with the large mammals. Unable to resist his charming whimsy, the lady took him under her wing and taught him all that she could about the animals and riding. Then, she was able to scrape together her money to found the organization Work to Ride, a not-for-profit devoted to helping urban kids find a better way in life. Donated horses that no one wanted and off-the-track horses populated the barn.   When Kareem first saw the barn, it was overrun with kids. Small humans were everywhere, coming out of the stalls, riding horses, leading horses around; it seemed like a dream. Not an adult in sight that he could recall. An older brother, David, took him for a pony ride. Young Kareem was terrified that he would fall, that the horse would bolt, any sort of calamities could occur… but none did.  The ride merely consisted of his elderly mount walking carefully and slowly trotting in circles. Although the boy’s muscles were sore when he dismounted, Kareem was overwhelmed with the urgent desire to do it all over again.  

Crossing the Line: A Fearless Team of Brothers and the Sport That Changed Their Lives by Kareem Rosser, 2021  

The cover of this work is priceless, though I would not recommend riding shirtless and in shorts. I lived in Philly for 4.5 years, and I love Fairmount Park. I was fascinated by Work To Ride, but I never visited the barn. I love that Lezlie is giving low wealth, urban youth a chance to choose a life other than violence, drugs and crime.  

Work To Ride

Books on horsemanship 

by Miranda McDermott


Booktalking “Hope: a Memoir of Survival in Cleveland” by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus

Ariel Castro brought three women home a sculpture from the Rescue Mission that said Hope. They decided to keep it.

The man was notoriously cheap. He fed them a little bit of junk food from chain fast food establishments. Sometimes, he would not feed them for a week. All of the women are approximately five feet tall, and they weighed under 100 pounds while being held hostage at his home. They endured deplorable living conditions, and he kept them chained to their beds. Stultifying heat filled their rooms in the summer, and it was freezing there during the winters. He locked the doors to their rooms when he left the house. They ate, cooked food, slept and went to the bathroom in their rooms.

2207 Seymour Ave in Cleveland, OH was their prison for a decade.

August, 2002: Castro kidnaped and imprisoned 21-year-old Michelle Knight.

April, 2003: He did the same to 17-year-old Amanda Berry.

April, 2004: The same to 14-year-old Georgina DeJesus.

All three women were friends of his daughters.

Ariel Castro had a history of domestic violence. He put an ex-wife, Nilda, into the Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital. He beat her so badly that her jaw was fractured, and teeth were dislodged. He was a violent school bus driver. One day, he terrorized a four-year-old by leaving him on the bus for hours. He stalked his victims before he abducted them, then he kept them as sex slaves, raping them multiple times per day. The women were terrified of him, and they hated him; they were also paralyzed by their fear of the captor.

Michelle and Gina shared a bed in the same room, and Amanda lived in an adjacent room. At first, the women did not communicate much with each other, since Castro warned them not to. He did not want them to unite against him. However, once they spent some time together, they ended up talking. They talked about TV and their families and the fervent hope that they would once again be free. They showed support for each other by helping each other cope with the abuse. They all knew what it was like to face Castro’s wrath, brutality and carnal desires. They got through the long days by laughing with each other and attempting to find joy in the small things.

Hope: a Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, 2015

Gina, Amanda and Michelle are an inspiration to us all. They survived a horrendous situation, and they have such a positive attitude, despite the horrid treatment that they endured.

Books about sexual assault

Fluff and Fuzz knitting by Amanda Berry


Booktalking “My First Time in Charge” by Danielle Matteucci

Becoming a new manager can be a process filled with trepidation… but it does not have to be. In order to get things done well, a manager must become competent at a varied skill set. The managerial job is fundamentally different than being a line worker… and it can take a bit of getting used to. Instead of taking care of customers and following the directions of a supervisor, now you are the supervisor. People come to you with problems, comments and questions. You must make your own goals and priorities, and market them upward to the board of trustees or upper management and downward to your subordinates. No one else will manage your time for you; you have to figure out what you want to accomplish, determine which tasks will achieve those goals, and delegate them to others.

You are in charge now. What kind of manager do you wish to be, and what milestones will you achieve, with the invaluable assistance of your team? 

Managing your employees will be a large, very important component of your new career. You will need to learn how to conduct effective business meetings, both group and individual, and how to motivate staff to perform well. You will begin to decipher when meetings will be helpful towards achieving a goal and when emails or other measures would be a time-saving way to achieve the same objective. No one enjoys wasting time at fruitful meetings, so keep your meetings focused, on track, and be mindful of peoples’ time.

Collecting and analysing statistics can be a useful method of measuring a company’s success or lack thereof. You can then utilize this data to make changes to help the staff and company improve their performance. However, it is easy to get mired in endless numbers and lose sight of what they all mean. You will need to determine which statistics are useful and how to interpret them correctly. Numbers can serve as a tangible measure of success that everyone can celebrate, but you must understand them first.

My First Time in Charge: Stop Worrying – Start Performing: Practical Guide For New Managers by Danielle Matteucci, 2019

This guide will help you became an adept new leader. I have read many management books, and I searched for some of this ilk in preparation for my new job. None of them quite hit the spot. Then I got lucky. A family member picked this one up for me, and it is perfect.

Books on business management


Booktalking “Investing Success: How to Conquer 30 Costly Mistakes and Multiply Your Wealth!” by Lynette Khalfani

Ever made a mistake with your hard-earned cash? Have you impulsively bought a high-priced item on credit? Failed to build an emergency savings fund? Wasted much money on convenience food in order to save time? Allowed your dollars to depreciate in value while staying in a low-interest money market account? We have all made mistakes while investing money. Just like anything, investing skillfully takes practice and many attempts. The important thing is to cut your losses when necessary, learn from the experience, and move on to greener pastures. Following are some mistakes that are not hard to make.

Holding on to a losing stock until the bitter end.

Possessing too many funds that you do not understand.

Relying on “hot tips” about the market.

Not investing on a consistent basis.

Not setting realistic, specific, and measurable investing goals.

The author, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, takes readers on a whirlwind ride on how to become a successful investor. She has interviewed financial planners, stockbrokers and other money professionals over a decade. She has communicated with countless investors through her column. Her insights on economics and the stock market are relayed to the reader in a clear, compassionate manner. She fully explains 30 foibles that people commonly make while investing, how to avoid them, and how to become a prudent, confident and profitable investor. 

Investing Success: How to Conquer 30 Costly Mistakes and Multiply Your Wealth! by Lynette Khalfani, 2004

I love this book; it will surely spur better investing decisions that I can feel comfortable making.

Books about personal finance

Books about investing