Memoir / Autobiography
by Joann Castle
Plot: This memoir is well structured and well written. The author focuses just the right amount of attention on each stage of her life and development, keeping her story moving and holding reader interest.
Prose: This is a memoir from a gifted writer. The prose is polished, eloquent, and concise. The author paints a vivid portrait of life in the '60s in Detroit, with apt, relevant descriptions featuring the perfect balance of detail, characterization, and action.
Originality: Although the subject matter is not new, this memoir feels fresh and original due to its fascinating protagonist and the author's deft storytelling.
Character Development: The author does a stellar job with character development. She offers insight into her own actions, but also provides context about the Civil Rights movement and the city of Detroit itself.
Blurb: Eloquent and engrossing, Castle's memoir is a must-read for all those interested in the Civil Rights Movement. Providing an honest, first-hand account of Detroit's racial divide in the 1960s, the author takes readers on an inspirational but harrowing journey through a painful time in the city's history.
by Russel Lazega
Plot: The author tells his tale to perfection. He adds just enough details and explanation without breaking the rhythm of the prose. A compelling read.
Prose: The prose is near perfect, reminding the reader of a beautiful melody. The descriptions are vivid and memorable.
Originality: The author has mined his grandmother’s stories and created a unique book about a familiar subject.
Character Development: Bubbie is a fully realized, rich character. The author has captured her voice from the first page—and this remains with the reader long after the book is finished.
Blurb: Managing Bubbie is a skillfully written memoir with an endearing cast of characters. The author brings to vivid life the struggles of an amazing woman.
by J.J. Maze
Plot: This memoir is skillfully plotted and perfectly structured. Readers will relate to and understand the author's decision to run away.
Prose: The writing here is very strong and one of the book's chief pleasures.
Originality: The topic of teen runaways has been done before. But this book is as strong as other volumes, or stronger. The author's prose elevates the work to a higher level.
Character Development: At times, readers will have to remind themselves that the protagonist is a teen, not an experienced woman. The author's dialogue and character insights are organic and believable.
Blurb: An honest, unflinching, tightly crafted look at the life of a teen runaway—from the inside. A stunning memoir of loss and redemption.
by Bernadette Nason
Plot: Nason’s experiences and adventures are thrilling and unfamiliar, and the pacing of the memoir is perfect—it begins with her moving from England to Libya and ends with her returning home, highlighting her experiences along the way.
Prose: Nason’s prose is carefully crafted and highly descriptive. She inserts humor into the story while also communicating the intensity of each anecdote. Nason's narrative voice is engaging and honest.
Originality: This memoir is absolutely original and authentic and reads like an artifact from another time. The use of journal entries, book excerpts, and photographs also enhances the unique qualities that make this memoir stand out.
Character Development: Readers will immediately become attached to Bernadette. Secondary characters are also written with great depth and detail. The characters, along with the setting, will captivate readers and immerse them in Bernadette’s unbelievable adventures.
by Susan Aranda
Plot: This memoir is well structured and full of tension, which moves the story along at a quick pace that will have readers turning pages.
Prose: This prose has it all: intensity, wit, intelligence, and what is often unique phrasing. Outstanding!
Originality: Memoirs about abuse and caregiving are common, but this one is different, unapologetic, thorough, and sassy.
Character Development: The characterization of the protagonist is perfect. Additional characters are also extremely well rendered.
by Hanna Perlstein Marcus
Plot: This memoir is almost perfectly plotted. The only issue is the ending, which drags on a bit too long with an epilogue and end notes.
Prose: The prose here is as excellent as the storytelling. A pleasure to read.
Originality: The author has crafted a compelling, emotional, and original story.
Character Development: The author has created vivid and memorable characters. Over the course of the book, the daughter comes to understand the mother in a way that will be rewarding for readers.
by Alba Castillo
Plot: This well-constructed, well-paced memoir reads like a novel. Readers will be engaged from the very beginning.
Prose: The prose here is no-nonsense and effective. This allows for compelling storytelling that draws readers into the story.
Originality: The author of this book tells her story in a reliable, truthful way that feels fresh and original. She tells awful truths with such brutal honesty and empathy that readers will keep turning pages until the very end.
Character Development: The characters are beautifully developed. The author's voice is strong, full of truth, humility, anger, and empathy.
by Amber Lea Starfire
Plot: This memoir is an engrossing, skillfully plotted insider's history of the counter-culture movement that will have readers turning pages.
Prose: The prose is strong; the voice is conversational and the writing features some lovely turns of phrase.
Originality: While this memoir treads familiar ground, the author's tale is original, unique, and fascinating.
Character Development: The characters in this memoir are well crafted and vivid. Even minor characters feel fleshed out and real.
Blurb: An unnerving reminder of how easily the mind of an intelligent, independent young woman can be stifled.
by Debie Monax
Plot: The memoir is skillfully structured and engaging. Readers will care about the characters and find themselves quickly turning pages until the very end.
Prose: The prose is conversational in tone and accessible. However, at times, there is too much telling and not enough showing. The author would do well to slow things down and create detailed scenes with dialogue.
Originality: Although the subject matter is not unique, the author's story feels original, fresh, and vital.
Character Development: Debie is a brilliantly developed character who changes over the course of the book. Readers will care about her story. Secondary characters are also well rendered.
by Robin Farnsworth
Plot: Farnsworth’s memoir is well-paced and strongly written. The story is full of unexpected surprises and coincidences, both pleasant and horrific. Readers will be riveted.
Prose: Farnsworth’s prose is clean, clear, and well crafted. She recreates her story in ways that are always realistic and intriguing.
Originality: Farnsworth’s story is unique and interesting. The moments in which her world is turned completely upside-down are shocking and memorable.
Character Development: Farnsworth's memoir includes a colorful, well-developed cast of characters. The most interesting character is the narrator herself—and readers will root for her as they watch her grow and change over time.
by C.W. Lockhart
Plot: This memoir of healing travel has adventure, emotional tension, commonsense insights, honesty, and good humor. All of this helps to keep the pages turning. Overall, the book is well constructed, with some humor helping to offset more emotionally painful vignettes.
Prose: The voice is distinct and the prose moves the story along at a good pace. The straightforward, contemporary tone is augmented by some admirable turns of phrase.
Originality: There is no shortage of memoirs about physical and spiritual journeys, but this one is unique because of its protagonist. The Camino de Santiago trek will be different for every traveler, and Lockhart uses an excellent voice to capture that fact.
Character Development: All of the players—even the secondary characters—are vivid, engaging, and well rendered.
by Jennifer Lynch
Plot: This novel offers a well-balanced look at appreciating and enjoying life despite a friend's cancer struggle. The author skillfully depicts her experiences as an ally.
Prose: The author crafts the story in an informal, conversational tone that allows readers to relate to and feel comfortable during discussions of a difficult topic that hits home for many.
Originality: Although this book is similar to memoirs that explore soul-searching adventures, there are unique elements to Lynch's work, such as telling the story from the perspective of a supportive friend and connecting with a loved one's family and friends.
Character Development: The narrator is easy to become familiar with and relate to, as her candid nature reveals all facets of her personality. The peripheral characters, including the author's diagnosed friend, are warmly described.
Blurb: Jennifer Lynch's memoir discusses actively responding to a close friend's cancer diagnosis and serves as a reminder that while challenges may be intimidating, it is always worth the effort to fight through obstacles.
by Adam Siddiq
Plot: This is an extraordinary biography beginning in early twentieth-century Afghanistan that shares the gripping story of a political family that suffered greatly at the hands of a corrupt government. The element of surprise often keeps the pages turning.
Prose: Siddiq offers emotional narrative arcs that sometimes stray a bit from a journalistic feel, but this book proves to be a just-right blend of the facts and feelings involved in this story.
Originality: This is an utterly original, inside story of a family’s political imprisonment and their eventual freedom.
Character Development: The characters are detailed with an intimacy that enhances their individuality. Following what is nearly the entire life of Khaled Siddiq continually adds layers of insight into his personality and behavior.
by Becky Graham
Plot: A couple's struggle with infertility leads readers through hopeful trials, disappointments, and despair. The story ends in a tender and happy conclusion, but it is a hard-earned one; the emotional turbulence experienced by the author along the way, is riveting.
Prose: This author beautifully and viscerally conveys the heartache experienced by a couple longing for—and struggling to have—a child.
Originality: The parallel between Becky and Dave's story and that of Job in the Bible is apt. Their journey from infertile couple questioning God's plan to blessed parents is raw and original.
Character Development: Readers will come to know Becky and Dave as they would their neighbors or church family—this is thanks to the author's beautiful, revealing, and inspirational prose.
by Edward C. Larson
Plot: The passage of time in Ed Larson’s nostalgic memoir largely proceeds at a calm, tranquil pace in the wilderness of mountainous Montana. Larson, even through child-like eyes, speaks to the impermanence of structures, places, and even family members and friends, but the relative persistence of memories.
Prose: Larson’s prose is clean, evocative, and broad-ranging in style and form, from eloquent essays on growing up in Depression-era Montana to long, abstract poems, and even shorter poetic musing, lending a quirky and textured reflection on the past.
Originality: This labor-of-love project depends on his collection of memories to describe the fleeting nature of time as colored through perception. Larson integrates a variety of mediums, including family photographs, varied and stylized typography, original illustrations, and quotes from famous poets--to create a text uniquely personal to his life.
Character Development: The story centers around young "Eddie” and his adventures, but occasional minor characters make their way into the story and embellish the memory-world he is weaving. The author as narrator is omniscient, yet views his memories again with a sense of child-like wonder and discovery.
Blurb: Edward Larson takes a unique approach to the memoir through this multimedia ode to the past; poignant and nostalgic essays, personal illustrations, and heirloom photographs enrich his life story.
by Kristy Burmeister
Plot: Praise for Act Normal should include the following: it is so well-paced and plotted that readers may forget that it is not, in fact, a novel.
Prose: The prose is intensely readable—a side effect of the clean, well-constructed sentences from which the author seems incapable of deviating.
Originality: The author's ultimate treatment of her past is a familiar one. However, the content of the story feels new and original.
Character Development: The characters here—primary and secondary—are well crafted, unique, and feel like real people.