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Memoir / Autobiography

  • everything in between

    by Caitlin Elizabeth

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot/Idea: Born into a privileged yet dysfunctional family, Caitlin Elizabeth searches the world for a sense of purpose and a meaningful life. Everything In Between is the story both of her travels and of her journey into spiritual evolution.

    Prose: The author's style is breezy, confidential and discursive. Many readers will undoubtedly identify with her struggle to live a more authentic life than the one of mere privilege and consumerism too often encouraged by upper middle class American society.

    Originality: If Jay McInerney's Alison Poole sprouted a conscience and a sense of social awareness, the sequel to Story of My Life might read like Everything In Between. The author's geographic migrations and her reflections on her experiences make for an interesting read.

    Character Development/Execution: Faced with the inequities and injustices that permeate the world, Caitlyn Elizabeth decides to take matters into her own hands and go off in search of self and opportunities to do meaningful service. Her sincerity and her commitment to the quest are embodied in the pages of this memoir. 

  • The Battle of Buffalo Wallow

    by James R Odrowski

    Rating: 7.00

    Idea: In The Battle of Buffalo Wallow, James Odrowski weaves tales of his father's experiences in the Pacific Theater during World War II into a broader historical narrative of the events preceding the titular battle. Part memoir, part historical text, the book leads up to and highlights one of the lesser-known battles in the WW II PTO.

    Prose: Odrowski writes a vivid and well-researched historical narrative in The Battle of Buffalo Wallow. Dialogue and quotations are authentic to the World War II period and contain pejorative terms for the enemy.

    Originality: Preserving history by recording the oral recollections of those who lived through times of war and crisis is an important task for historians of any era. Odrowski has written a valuable contribution to the archives of the Second World War.

    Character/Execution: The author's deep affection, gratitude, and respect for his father and for his service in the Second World War permeate every page of The Battle of Buffalo Wallow. Odrowski’s research into the military campaigns and the overall conditions of the settings of the time and place of which he writes has been painstaking and serious.

  • The Rembis Report: An Observation

    by Michael Rembis

    Rating: 7.00

    Idea: Rembis crafts a unique memoir told in newsletter dispatches that range from quiet observations to profound ruminations on circumstances beyond the author's control. The focus might be narrowed to decrease ambiguity and confusion across the text. Responses from other individuals are more tangential than fully edifying.

    Prose: Rembis’s prose is witty and his observations are frequently incisive. The piecemeal nature of the work may leave readers wishing for more substantial writing as the narrative progresses. 

    Originality: The Rembis Report is decidedly unique in its merging of diary-like entries with private, fractured correspondences. The vignette-like structure is refreshing, but the work’s overall intent and purpose remain somewhat vague and would benefit from a greater degree of intentionality. 

    Character/Execution: Rembis offers readers fine writing and some powerful moments, but the text also displays a tone of sarcasm, which may make it difficult for readers to fully connect with his storytelling.

  • Like Two Saplings: A Memoir

    by Margery al Chalabi

    Rating: 7.00

    Plot/Idea: A moving memoir that follows a relationship across time and space, highs and lows, and health and sickness, Like Two Saplings will make readers feel like they personally knew Margery and Suhail al Chalabi.

    Prose: This memoir is written in a digestible style, although the number of letters and emails included in the text, while interesting, can occasionally overwhelm the narrative.

    Originality: Al Chalabi pens a memoir that provides space to celebrate the life of her late husband and their life together.

    Character Development/Execution: Throughout the book, readers are provided with a deepening sense of the personalities of Margery and Suhail, as well as their shared relationship.

  • Field Horse

    by Paige Lammers

    Rating: 7.00

    Idea: Lammers's account of her struggle with a condition that impacts every facet of her being will intrigue and move many readers.

    Prose: Despite some isolated moments of unnatural prose, Lammers writes competently and crisply. She uses appealing metaphors relating to mental health and the experience of BPD that will deliver a powerful message to readers. 

    Originality: Field Horse is distinct from similar works because of the intimate perspective Lammers presents – a dynamic and effective angle that will open her readers’ eyes. 

    Character/Execution: Lammers provides a moving journey for her audience and utilizes the first-person perspective as a conduit for a penetrating narrative. Her unflinching honesty gives readers the opportunity to experience her emotional arc throughout the text, while her enduring connection to horses is deeply felt throughout. 

  • Idea: A woman shares her experiences as the mother of a child born prematurely, in a memoir that doubles as a love letter to her infant son.

    Prose: The book is easy to read, written in a familiar and friendly tone. The stress and emotion of the author's experiences translate well on the page, and readers who pick up the book for commiseration will find a warm companion in these words. The book's closing with a letter to the author’s son is particularly affecting.

    Originality: The book recounts the author's experiences and as such appears original and personal. The book is linear and succeeds in sharing an emotional family experience, though does little new or original with form, structure, or theme.

    Character/Execution: The book is structured and written with competence, telling the story of the author’s experience. There is little here outside the relation of the experience. Readers in similar circumstances will find comfort and strength, and perhaps some edification, here; readership will likely not extend beyond this set.

  • Idea: A memoir telling of a woman finding her place in the world, moving between relationships and careers before ultimately finding the values and family she didn’t know she had been searching for.

    Prose: The writing is engaging and welcomes the reader into the author’s story and thoughts. The book effectively slows the exposition down to dramatize important moments through dialogue.

    Originality: The book is based on the author’s life and recollections, telling a story that is unique to her yet in which readers will recognize the ebbs and flows of tragedy, challenges, and joy we all experience in life.

    Character/Execution: The book is structured linearly, but does not merely recount the author’s life chronologically. The narrative effectively builds to a thematic payoff.

  • Plot/Idea: This alluring memoir chronicles the experiences of 19 explorers who have conquered high peaks, caves, river voyages, and much more. Several maps and a list of terms prove most useful to readers.

    Prose: Tagliapietra's prose is vivid and evocative. The short sections effectively capture both a sense of the locations being explored, as well as the potential danger faced by the individual subjects. 

    Originality: While the presentation and format is not entirely novel, readers will likely be unfamiliar with a number of the adventurers Tagliapietra features. 

    Character Development/Execution: As the individual passages are brief, readers will not gain an in-depth perspective on the subjects, but this work serves as a engaging resource for casual reading, and offers inspiration for readers seeking adventure themselves.

  • Extended Horizon Reflections

    by Jeff Jackson

    Rating: 6.50

    Idea: Extended Horizon Reflections chronicles author Jeff Jackson's life story from 1958 to the present, covering numerous subjects from love at first sight, to becoming a pastor, to working with refugees. Some of these sections are more interesting than others, but overall Jackson's book tells a compelling story of a full life.

    Prose:  Author Jackson's prose is wonderfully descriptive and cleanly edited. Poems serve as a smart way to break up the narrative and offer variety in the modes of storytelling.

    Originality: Extended Horizon Reflections is original in its focus on identity labels and its candor about a number of weighty and challenging topics. 

    Character/Execution: Jackson excellently establishes his relatable character on the page, and he writes movingly about life-changing events. Despite individual circumstances, however, the work is somewhat lacking in an overall sense of tension.

  • Never The Gentleman

    by Yvonne Ash

    Rating: 6.50

    Idea: Plotting past trauma and the subsequent healing process is a difficult undertaking for many writers, and this author’s memoir thoughtfully tracks Ash's journey.

    Prose: The writing style is digestible, even, and logical for a memoir format.

    Originality: Like many survivors of abuse, Ash explores the trauma of her past and where the healing process has taken her in this personal account of her journey.

    Character Development/Execution: The people central to Ash's story become familiar throughout the memoir and are given the attention necessary to see their impact and changes on Ash's life.

  • The Darkness Within Drew Paige

    by Drew Paige

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot/Idea: Paige's story sheds a light on the intensely personal and often isolating journey of coming to terms with one's mental illness. It is this journey that makes the story of her career in social work all the more powerful and interesting to read.

    Prose: The Darkness Within Drew Paige is written like a journal, in that there is much telling, and there could be more showing. Attention to the details surrounding a person or event, rather than a statement of the thing itself, would greatly improve the reader's experience.

    Originality: This decade-spanning memoir illustrates the myriad ways mental illness can impact one’s day-to-day life. The descriptions of family trauma are heart-wrenching, and some of the most powerful points in the work.

    Character Development/Execution: Paige has a deep understanding of how her struggle with Bipolar II Disorder affects her interactions with others, and she is able to see herself in others who struggle with their mental health. However, Paige tends to speak in absolutes, viewing people as either inherently bad or good, and at times she struggles to find the nuance in others’ psyches.

  • Heaven Is a Long Way to Go

    by Joe Willey

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot/Idea: This faith-based memoir remains hopeful even in the face of immense hardships. Crossing multiple generations, the individuals portrayed here remain steadfast as Seventh-Day Adventists, rarely faltering in the face of adversity.

    Prose: The words have a steady flow throughout and the occasional dialogue breathes life into the characters involved in the story. Details and imagery add color and life to the narrative, and the author uses well-chosen words, making the story feel like a true memoir instead of a timeline.

    Originality: Whether the reader is a devout Seventh-Day Adventist or not, there is plenty to learn about this Christian faith as the text is well-executed. The author strikes an effective balance between daily life and a strong faith.

    Character Development/Execution: The author is knowledgeable and well-versed in his subject. Black-and-white photos scattered throughout the text expose more about this family and their experiences. The table of contents serves as an outline for the reader, followed by a necessary postscript from the author’s wife.

  • Walking on Ocean Floors

    by Mike "SPIKE" Mcgettigan

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot/Idea: The concept at the core of this memoir is refreshing and intriguing. Few readers will be familiar with the niche profession the author describes so vividly. 

    Prose: The writing, which somewhat resembles stream-of-consciousness, can muddle the storytelling and deflect from the sense of excitement and urgency. A degree of tightening and editing for clarity would benefit the prose.

    Originality: Mcgettigan's subject matter and focus are undoubtedly unique. Armchair travelers and diving enthusiasts alike will value this narrative.

    Character Development/Execution: The divers introduced throughout are quirky, of many nationalities, and temperaments. Mcgettigan creates a bright and lively portrait of his and others' experiences both in and out of the water. 

  • Idea: This memoir explores the life and times of its subject, Harry E. Watson, Jr. The narrative also encourages readers to think about the long-lasting tolls of warfare on communities, nations, and individuals.

    Prose: The prose tends toward a stream of consciousness style. While this style enables readers to gain insight into the thought processes of the subject, it can ultimately muddy the narrative.

    Originality: Written from the perspective of a transport pilot, this memoir offers up a distinctive take on WWII and the dangers involved beyond the ground combat trials and tribulations so often seen in relevant literature.

    Character/Execution: The author does a sound job of capturing the historical eras and events it recounts. The book's subject interacts with myriad characters, not all of whom receive the time, attention, and space to materialize.

  • Stalked by Demons, Guarded by Angels

    by Simone Yemm

    Rating: 6.25

    Idea: Yemm delves into her experiences with her own mental health and process of healing in this intimate memoir.

    Prose: The writing style employed by Yemm in this memoir provides a sense of ease in sharing these affecting experiences.

    Originality: While many memoirs focus on issues of mental health, body image, and emotional struggles, Yemm structures her memoir in an intriguing manner that allows it to stand apart.

    Character/Execution: Yemm's candor about her eating disorder and exploration of the underlying emotional and psychological causes, is refreshing and emotionally impactful.

  • Creatures of Habit: A User's Guide to Recovery

    by Shane Liston

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot/Idea: Creatures of Habit: A User's Guide to Recovery is a hard-hitting memoir of a drug addict who has recovered and who aims to pass on what he has learned to assist other addicts along their journeys.

    Prose: The prose is lively, but suffers from cliched descriptions and overwrought expressions.

    Originality: The first half of this work is a more free-flowing narration of the author's experiences of the prison of addiction. The second half draws heavily on the twelve-step program and Christian spirituality to uplift individuals who are seeking a way out of their own addictions. While not entirely novel, Creatures of Habit will likely speak to readers desiring to move forward free of drugs and alcohol.

    Character Development/Execution: The author writes poignantly and honestly about his struggles. Additional characters are somewhat lacking in their development and can often come across as sketches rather than fully realized individuals.