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Memoir / Autobiography

  • 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.

  • Managing Bubbie

    by Russel Lazega

    Rating: 10.00

    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.

  • Walk Until Sunrise

    by J.J. Maze

    Rating: 10.00

    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.

  • Waking up Human

    by Susan Aranda

    Rating: 9.75

    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.

  • 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.

  • The Greater Weight of Glory

    by Robin Farnsworth

    Rating: 9.25

    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.

  • Act Normal: Memoir of a Stumbling Block

    by Kristy Burmeister

    Rating: 9.00

    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.

  • Plot: The memoir is brave and thoughtful. The plot is compelling, and there is wisdom in every chapter. Readers will care about the author and her story.

    Prose: Bits of enlightenment are offered to the reader throughout the memoir. Readers will find themselves rereading passages that ring true and attempting to apply them to their own lives.

    Originality: While the premise here is a familiar one, the author's story and her journey is original and will speak to readers of every stripe.

    Character Development: The characters here are relatable and skillfully drawn. Readers will understand the author’s agitation, bravery, and frustration, while also empathizing with her husband.

  • Plot: This memoir is soundly constructed and, at times, reads like a novel. Readers will find the storyline engaging.

    Prose: The prose here is clear, well crafted, and simple. It is also appropriate to the story the author is telling.

    Originality: The author's story is fresh and fascinating. The narrative voice draws in readers and makes the text accessible.

    Character Development: The character development here is very strong. Readers will truly come to know and understand the author, and to identify with her struggles.

  • Clear Seeing Place

    by Brian Rutenberg

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: The author's story is engaging and keeps the pages turning, while the inclusion of information and advice about painting and art in general also draws in readers.

    Prose: This is a cut above much memoir writing; impressive turns of phrase and a confident, forthright, and often humorous voice keep readers engaged.

    Originality: Memoirs can often have an underlying theme of guidance, but the shared insights about creating art and working as an artist add to the unique quality of this work.

    Character Development: Rutenberg is thoroughly developed, but many of the supporting characters are static and in need of further development.

  • RECKLESS: A Memoir

    by Rebecca Allard

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Allard’s book features a fast-paced, tension-filled plot that will engage readers from the very start. Although this is a memoir, the book feels novelistic at times, with plenty of mysteries, surprises, and drama.

    Prose: Allard’s matter-of-fact, nostalgic but also regretful narrative voice is relatable and effective. And while there are some minor mechanical and grammatical issues throughout, these could easily be remedied.

    Originality: Allard’s tale certainly stands out in the world of memoir. She tells her vivid tale with brutal honesty, wistful nostalgia, and bitter, seething regret.

    Character Development: Allard reveals many intimate details about her motivations, relationships, and fears—and the result is a fully developed, real, and sympathetic character.

  • Finding the Bunny

    by Samantha Paris

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Paris’s memoir is a great read. The book is structured well and the story flows smoothly and at a good pace throughout.

    Prose: The prose is smooth, clear, and readable. Paris's unapologetic voice is compelling and true to her story. Readers will find this an enlightening introduction to the fascinating world of voice-over acting.

    Originality: Finding the Bunny is truly an original work. Not only is the memoir refreshing and authentic, it also explores a relatively unknown industry.

    Character Development: Samantha Paris's character is engaging and vivid and evolves throughout the memoir. The secondary characters are also well developed.

  • How I Got to Yesterday A Fictionalized Memoir

    by Paul Sedlock

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: This fictionalized memoir features a fast-moving plot. However, certain events in the first half of the book deserve more reflection and interrogation. Still, the final chapters go a long way toward making up for this deficit.

    Prose: Sedlock’s prose is clean and elegant, flecked with unique phrasing that fits with the book’s timeline.

    Originality: It’s not every day that readers experience a fictionalized memoir. We’re left wondering which parts of which events are real and which are fabricated—which ultimately lends a sense of mystery to this delightfully readable book.

    Character Development: Sedlock’s characters are fully formed—readers know their motivations without having to be told about them. This feat is accomplished by the author’s gift with dialogue, which, page by page, is true to life in the best of ways.

  • Plot: This memoir features a familiar storyline—but one that is well plotted and well paced. The material is handled with an empathy that allows readers to relate to the story and characters.

    Prose: The prose invites readers to experience the story as if the author were a close friend. The style allows readres to feel the author's conflicts and fears.

    Originality: Despite a familiar storyline, this memoir feels original and vivid. The author has a strong voice, and she tells her tale in a way that readers will trust.

    Character Development: The central character in this memoir is skillfully developed. The author has enough distance from the material to allow for strong character development.

  • Please Stay

    by Greg Payan

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: This book is well structured, engaging, honest, and readers will keep turning pages until the very end. The use of actual correspondence from friends adds to the story, though the lack of background information about the correspondents makes their messages less compelling.

    Prose: The prose is solid, appropriate to the material, and full of emotion without ever drifting into melodrama.

    Originality: The story told here is unique and compelling. The use of actual correspondences gives the text a fresh feel.

    Character Development: Readers certainly get to know the author and Holly. Both of them feel real and vivid—and readers will care about them and their story.

  • Plot: Wyant's memoir moves along at a comfortable pace, engaging the reader with the author's journey through the Via Francigena as well as through her difficult past.

    Prose: Return to Glow, is a beautiful, well-written memoir that vividly captures the setting, whether it is Italy or Colorado. The author is able to capture the moment every step of her journey.

    Originality: Although tales of pilgrimages and conquering personal demons are not original, Wyant is able to tell her story in an authentic way, capturing history, religion, healing, and cuisine.

    Character Development: Wyant's tale of her pilgrimage through the Via Francigena, is truly remarkable and inspiring. The reader is able to see her journey from a broken spirit to a confident woman.

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