Category Archives: Biographies and Memoirs

Divinely Inspired

divinely-inspired-coverDivinely Inspired
Author: Jerry Pollock
Publisher: Shechinah Third Temple

Reviewed by: Cheryl Malandrinos


A candid and courageous memoir of one man’s spiritual journey can be found in Divinely Inspired: Spiritual Awakening of a Soul.

Jerry Pollock is born into a less than ideal family where his neglectful mother and neurotic father do not and cannot provide him with the love and nuturing all children deserve. It will not be until many years later, when Jerry begins Primal Therapy, that he will discover the repressed memories of his childhood.

Divorced from his first wife, now a full professor at Stony Brook University, and planning to marry Marcia, Jerry hears the words that will eventually change his life.

After being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder at age 50, enduring the collapse of his career, attempting suicide, and encountering a cult, Jerry returns to those words he heard a decade ago. His spiritual journey brings him past the memories, the hurts, and the disappointments of his earlier years, and moves him forward to a life of enduring richness and meaning.

If you read and enjoyed Pollock’s not-so-fictional novel, Messiah Interviews: Belonging to God you’ll want to pick up a copy of Divinely Inspired.

In true memoir form, Pollock shares his life in a candid way, holding nothing back, and the reader will be left amazed by some of the things that the author has endured. The dedication of his wife, Marica, that is also so lovingly portrayed in Messiah Interviews, also shines through in Divinely Inspired, as she supports and loves her husband through many difficult experiences.

The addition of an Epilogue that shares the author’s spiritual insights is a brave move. Having spent his life as a scientist, Pollock shares his belief that Evolution and Creation are not mutually exclusive because God is the Master Scientist. Divinely Inspired will also shed further light on the happenings in Messiah Interviews.

A true companion to Messiah Interviews, but also a book that will be enjoyed by those interested in reading how one man’s spiritual journey leads him to inner peace, Divinely Inspired by Jerry Pollock, is a unique way to discover the wisdom of God.


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CULLOTTA: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness

CULLOTTA: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness

Author: Dennis N. Griffin and Frank Cullotta

Publisher: Huntington Press

Reviewed by:  Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Intense, graphic, and action-packed, CULLOTTA by Dennis N. Griffin is a must read for all fans of true crime.

In this no-holds barred biography of Chicago criminal and Las Vegas Mobster Frank Cullotta, Dennis Griffin delivers a powerful and detailed account of Cullotta’s life. From his early days when he meets the man who would become known as Tony the Ant Spilotro, through his many years as a Chicago criminal and Las Vegas Mobster, and the events that led to Cullota’s decision to become a government witness, CULLOTTA brings the reader into the inner core of The Outfit and the life of organized crime through the eyes of a man whose life was connected to and revolved around many of the important Outfit players.

CULLOTTA is a first for me because I’ve never read any true crime books, nevermind a comprehensive biography of someone with ties to organized crime. I approached CULLOTTA with a fair amount of trepidation. Could I enjoy a book I assumed would discuss in detail the activities of mobsters and career criminals? I couldn’t even sit through one of the Godfather movies. But after reading the foreword by screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, who consulted with Frank Cullotta for the Martin Scorsese film, Casino, I had to know more about a man who could talk about murdering Jerry Lisner with about as much emotion as he would have if he were ordering his meal from a fast food joint.

The amount of research Dennis Griffin did for this biography and all the interviews he performed, in addition to, Frank Cullotta’s contributions to the project made CULLOTTA the excellent book it is. I’m ready to go out and purchase Griffin’s other books on crime and law enforcement in Las Vegas so I can know more about the other players involved.

CULLOTTA delivers a chilling and exciting glimpse into the life of Frank Cullotta. And despite all of the crimes that Frank committed over the years, the reader finds herself rooting for Frank’s life on the straight and narrow to succeed.

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The Dancer Returns: From Victim to Victory

The Dancer Returns:  From Victim to Victory

Author: Susan Lee-Titus

Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.

Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Gripping, powerful, and inspiring The Dancer Returns: From Victim to Victory by Susan Lee-Titus is a story of survival and moving on that you’ll never forget.

Titus brings the reader along on her journey through Post Tramatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), sharing the full gamut of emotions she went through as a result of the terrfying night when she was raped at a dance studio by two men while her helpless friends watched. The reader is then able to follow Titus’ road to recovery as she realizes the key lies in her ability to forgive the men who turned her life into a living nightmare and moves on to create The Joy Dancers, an outreach program for teaching incarcerated women how to release their anger through aerobic dance.

This is an amazingly powerful book. At points in my reading I was moved to tears; but this truly isn’t a sad story because Titus not only survived, she worked through painful emotions and nightmares to come out on top again. With a renewed sense of faith and forgiveness, Titus stopped being a victim and became a woman who reached out to other women in desperate situations.

Exquisitely written, moving beyond words, and full of hope for the future, The Dancer Returns reminds us all of the success story inside us. If you read only one book this year, make that book The Dancer Returns by Susan Lee-Titus!

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Forever Liesl: A Memoir of The Sound of Music

 Forever Liesl:  A Memoir of The Sound of Music

Author: Charmian Carr with Jean A. S. Strauss
Publisher: Penguin
Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

 A while back, I bought the book Forever Liesl A Memoir of the Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is my favorite family film and I’ve always loved Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Now that I am back into a regular reading schedule, I figured I would browse my bookshelves to find something interesting. And this certainly was it.

Forever Liesl is written by the actress who played the oldest daughter Liesl in The Sound of Music–Charmian Carr, with Jean A.S. Strauss. It talks about her experiences on the set of this famous musical–how she got the part, what the actors were like, how the role of Liesl changed her life–and had letters from fans all over the world who shared with Carr how The Sound of Music impacted their lives. It is also filled with over 25 photos from the movie and Carr’s personal life.

From the back cover text, I had high hopes for this book.

“It’s all here: from how she got the role (and why she almost didn’t) to romances on the set and wild nights in Salzburg; from the near-disaster during the gazebo dance to her relationships–then and now–with her six celluloid siblings. Charmian also reveals why she left acting, what she learned when she met the real von Trapp children, and how The Sound of Music has helped her get through stormy times in her own life.”

Carr shares a great deal about the people involved in The Sound of Music. And by that I don’t mean she gossips about them. She talks about the actors, Robert Wise, Saul Chaplin, Ernest Lehman, Richard Rodgers, and Oscar Hammerstein with the respect due them for being a part of a wonderful film that has touched so many lives. But I think when you love a film like I do The Sound of Music, you tend to have greater expectations of how things were than what reality was and we probably have a much more glamours view of what acting is like than those involved in the film.

I liked the letters that Carr used from fans around the world as an opening for each new chapter. Some seemed better fitted to their chapters than others, but it was a nice transition into each new section. I have to admit, however, that the closest thing I read to a romance on the set was Nicholas (Friedrich) Hammond’s infatuation with Carr. And while the back cover told me I could expect to hear of wild nights in Saltzburg, I didn’t really think drinking in the lobby of the Bristol Hotel was very wild. But, I didn’t buy the book to hear gossip. I bought it to learn more about my favorite film, so these things didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of the book.

What I can say ruined it a bit for me, was the way Carr’s personal life was woven into the chapters. Perhaps it is because her personal life is so evident in the book that I am turned off by it. I expected to hear about how The Sound of Music helped Carr through the difficult times in her life, but I didn’t expect so many things from the film to be related back to her life. I thought perhaps there would be one chapter dedicated to this topic, but it is present from beginning to end.

Sometimes you pick up a book and it entertains you, but you would probably never read it again. That’s how I feel about this memoir. I liked learning more about The Sound of Music through all the behind the scenes information only someone from the film would be able to share; but I know it now, so why would I ever pick it up off my book shelf again? The rest of the story just didn’t pull me in enough to make me want to dive into it a second time.

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