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Memoir / Autobiography

  • So You Love an... Alcoholic?

    by Grace W. Wroldson

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot: Wroldson draws readers into her tumultuous journey, sharing the wisdom of her experience with generosity, encouragement, and a spirit of can-do affirmation. Though the book would benefit from more specific and detailed real-life stories to illustrate lessons learned, the arc of those lessons is well-organized and resonant.

    Prose: Wroldson successfully strikes a tone of positivity, reassurance, and faith. Her prose is both personable and lively—a refreshing approach to a heavy topic.

    Originality: The struggle Wroldson describes is very common. But if originality is not a special strength of the book, this doesn't detract from the work's value or the importance of its message.

    Character Development: Wroldson invites readers to look closely at the private world of her struggle, candidly acknowledging her missteps along with affirming her own resilience and growth. The result is an inspiring narrative rich with both practical and spiritual wisdom, and her triumph acts as a call to action for readers just setting out on similar journeys.

  • Plot: This memoir is solidly structured if a bit predictable. Still, readers will enjoy this inspirational tale, which does include some literal cliff-hangers.

    Prose: The writing style is clear, heartfelt, and never preachy.

    Originality: This is an original story, told in impressive, relatable detail.

    Character Development: The author excels at character development. He allows readers to truly understand what he goes through, including the setbacks and disappointments.

  • Love Is the Answer, God Is the Cure

    by Aimee Cabo Nikolov

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot: Nikolov offers a hard-hitting and troubling memoir that offers little respite for readers. The author unflinchingly depicts sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, conveying the lasting impact of trauma.

    Prose: The prose style strikes a detached, journalistic tone that is often eerie and impactful, however, descriptions and sentence structure lack a degree of sophistication.

    Originality: This story of relentless abuse told through raw, personal reflections, is unique to the narrator. Readers will likely be particularly intrigued by the true story behind the confessional text.

    Character Development: The narrator is sympathetic, yet multidimensional, and her experiences are challenging to read. Nikolov brings honesty and realism to her characterizations.

  • To the Mothers of the Movement, With Love

    by Dianne Liuzzi Hagan

    Rating: 6.75

    Plot:  Although the author's recounting of several high-profile killings of black men and teens, along with her personal feelings concerning these acts, is told with vivid emotion and will spark discussion and high-level thinking among readers, the real meat of this memoir lies in Hagan's own story and experiences with her husband. However, the couple's 40-year journey is lost in the reporter-like overview of racism in America.

    Prose: This well-written book is a documentary of the racism, bigotry, fear, and frustration that permeates America today. The author's polished prose is easy to follow. The bits of memoir Hagan does include about her life as a white partner in an interracial marriage are compelling, leaving readers hoping for more. 

    Originality: This memoir's title suggests that the book is about how the Black Lives Matter movement came to fruition. However, the book veers from this expected storyline and takes a detailed look at the tragic, racist killings of innocent black individuals.

    Character Development: The author paints a vivid picture of her outrage and sorrow at the endless cycle of racial fear and hatred in America. However, the book lacks that "in-your-face" personal quality with which it teases the reader.

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  • Plot: Ziv's memoir is soundly structured and moves along at a good pace. At times, the narrative jumps a bit too quickly between scenes, but overall the author is effective in communicating his story.

    Prose: Ziv's prose is appropriately sparse and unadorned, effectively depicting the emptiness felt by victims of the Holocaust and their sense of isolation.

    Originality: While Ziv's story is engaging and features some original elements, it doesn't do much to set itself apart from similar holocaust survival stories. That said, this story is important and well told.

    Character Development: Ziv's development is very strong, and readers will get a vivid sense of his character and the ways he changes over the course of the book. Secondary characters in the camps are equally well rendered. Ziv describes them with an effective mix of compassion, clarity, and horror.

  • Seeking Oz: My Twelve-Year Journey in a Cult

    by Makena McChesney

    Rating: 6.75

    Plot: Makena McChesney’s heartfelt memoir offers a plot with clear scaffolding from the very first page, and the ensuing tale of submission, disillusionment, and realization, while at times slow, is nonetheless compelling and empowering.

    Prose: McChesney’s memoir strikes an honest and conversational tone throughout the book. Though her prose can be verbose, it is also raw, and packed with authentic emotion and thoughtful reflection. 

    Originality: Seeking Oz presents the view of a cult and cult leader as they consolidate power—rich and familiar territory for a memoir. However, this book is more than a cult story--it is the unique and relatable tale of a flattened and preyed upon woman claiming her physical and emotional space in the world. 

    Character Development: In the sharing of such a personal journey, the most layered and developed character is, of course, the narrator, who unflinchingly recalls her past with honesty and candor. While other characters do not always feel fully fleshed-out, their impact and effect upon McChesney is fraught and dynamic.

  • Plot: Honest and brave, the author sets a positive tone from page one and talks candidly about her past and present. At times the plot jumps around, but it always circles back to the author's cancer diagnosis.

    Prose: Lighthearted and spiced with humor, the writing here is clear, effective, and enjoyable.

    Originality: Using photographs and playlists throughout the text, the author tells her story in a way that is original.

    Character Development: Beverly Diehl is a strong, positive woman and a great role model for anyone facing cancer. She keeps her sense of humor despite her diagnosis.

  • Rambling Across America

    by Tommy Ray

    Rating: 3.00

    Plot: This memoir has plotting and pacing issues. The basic premise of the memoir will be familiar to readers, while the story itself is marred by repetition.

    Prose: The prose here suffers from cliches. Also, the tone can seem didactically positive at times, leaving readers wanting more.

    Originality: While this story certainly has some original elements, the narrative frame and message of the book will be familiar to readers.

    Character Development: Though readers get a sense of the narrator, they will want to go deeper—in a way the narrator's character is obfuscated by the cloud of positive affirmations that fill the text.