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Memoir / Autobiography

  • Plot/Idea: LaPera recounts the harrowing tale of her father's descent into mental illness and her family's quest to help him in a direct, no-holds-barred approach that invites readers into the situation. Together, author and reader embark on the highs and lows of Joseph's journey, tugging away at a wide range of emotions.

    Prose: LaPera is a talented writer, able to convincingly characterize her father's mental illness and provoke frustration, compassion, and feelings of impotence in readers, similar to the emotions experienced by the author herself.

    Originality: While mental illness and complicated familial relationships are frequently explored in memoir, LaPera offers a uniquely powerful. deeply personal chronicle that will resonate with readers.

    Character/Execution: Characterization is top-notch and intimate, particularly her well-rounded, resonating portrayal of LaPera's father.

  • Plot/Idea: Readers will be swept into the ebbs and tides of Blue’s life, including her tumultuous relationship with her mother and her spot-on portrayal of society’s marginalization of certain communities. Blue eschews common stereotypes, bringing warmth and life to those citizens who are vilified and relegated to an inferior status.

    Prose: Blue writes with expertise and flair, and her polished style illustrates the stark differences between the homeless population of San Francisco and its posh neighborhoods oozing wealth. This is a nearly flawless memoir, written with grace and finesse. 

    Originality: Blue’s skillful development of underlying themes gives the book notable depth, and she relays those themes through edge-of-your seat storytelling and a stellar sense of timing.

    Character/Execution: Blue is unforgettable in her nimble treatment of a devastating lifestyle that is punctuated by beautiful moments, despite the harsh circumstances. Her personality flourishes, eclipsing the darkest moments in the memoir with a glimmer of hope that carries through to the end, and her purpose—to shed light on the resilience of disregarded populations—is unmistakable throughout. 

  • Angels on the Clothesline, A Memoir

    by Ani Tuzman

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot/Idea: Angels on the Clothesline is a beautifully rendered memoir comprised of striking autobiographical vignettes. Tuzman, a daughter of holocaust survivors, reflects powerfully on generational trauma, bigotry, the refugee experience, and the challenges of navigating the world as a highly imaginative, sensitive child.

    Prose: Angels on the Clothesline is written in startling and lyrical prose. The measured pacing of the vignettes and their graceful construction, provides a smooth and engrossing reading experience.

    Originality: The originality of Tuzman's memoir lies in its execution. She eschews chronological storytelling in favor of distilled reflections on pivotal moments of trauma and transformation, while the use of second person contributes a level of quiet poetic power to the narrative. 

    Character/Execution: Angels on the Clothesline is a powerful, raw, and unflinching story of family scars and formative emotional experiences.

  • Gifts From a Feral Cat

    by Tian Wilson

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot/Idea: Wilson presents an engaging and surprisingly true story of the bond between humans and animals, centered on her self-described "miraculous" experiences with a feral cat. The narrative will engross readers and capture hearts and minds alike. 

    Prose: Gifts from a Feral Cat is refined and polished, reinforced by Wilson's expressive, metaphoric prose. The writing carries readers into a magical world of hushed splendor and bucolic dreams, where animals and humans come together to spark miracles.

    Originality: This is a rare, heartwarming story that readers will drink in; its premise is distinct, and the feline protagonist makes this work truly stand out.

    Character/Execution: Wilson's skill with characterization is all the more impressive given the narrative's central lead is a cat. She does a beautiful job of merging reality with the unexpected, rendering an unforgettable narrative arc. 

  • Plot/Idea: Love's Legacy is an enrapturing story, in which Fallon follows a thread from a personal connection to unravel a centuries-old mystery. The book is a touching romance, a gripping biography, and a thoughtful family memoir.

    Prose: The writing is exceptional, at once alluring and erudite, with a confident narrative voice.

    Originality: While others could present a biography of Chateaubriand, the crux of Fallon's narrative lies in his family ties to the famous writer. By teasing out the connection of Mary O’Neill through Fallon’s own family artifacts, a unique and memorable work emerges.

    Character/Execution: Love's Legacy is an extraordinary example of nonfiction form. Fallon effectively structures the narrative to form a compelling plot as the story is revealed, and the blending of biography and investigation will enthrall readers. The supplemental materials and artifacts add a rich element to the book.

  • Finding Resilience: A Teen's Journey Through Lyme Disease

    by Rachel Leland and Dorothy Kupcha Leland

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: Finding Resilience chronicles the author's painful and horrifying experience with Lyme disease, exploring not only its debilitating impact on her physically, emotionally, and socially, but also sharing asides from her mother, in an effort to sketch the effect on her entire family. The content can be shocking as readers join Rachel and her family in their journey toward healing, but the end result is a compelling look at a devastating chronic illness. 

    Prose: Rachel and her mother are vibrant storytellers, able to sweep readers into Rachel's experience. The writing is accessible and focused, with readable, precise prose. 

    Originality: This is a deeply personal story that readers will find enlightening and original; Rachel's course is singularly heartrending and inspiring.

    Character/Execution: Finding Resilience highlights Rachel's experience with Lyme disease, alongside her family's quest to nail down her diagnosis and find a cure. The narrative is bursting with information, offering surprising perspectives on the effects of the disease and its potential treatments, as well as advocating for medical advancement at the same time.

  • Plot/Idea: The author presents a soul-searching exploration into her relationship with her much-older brother whom she lost in a tragic accident. Although the work is a memoir of sorts, it's also a quest meant to truthfully answer the complicated titular question, "were you close?" 

    Prose: The author is a skilled writer, able to share her mission with the reader as she sorts through memories to find the answers she seeks. Her approach is absorbing, tinged with longing and regret, but also with love and appreciation. 

    Originality: This is a touching and original work that is at once highly personal and deeply relatable to readers.

    Character/Execution: Pinkerton vividly and lovingly describes her brother David and the vacancy he leaves in her life after his accident. Readers will readily grasp the complexity and nuances of their relationship as Pinkerton also explores the broader question of whether any individual is truly knowable. 

  • The Gift Shop at the DMZ

    by Maureen Hicks

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: The author offers up an intimate and soul-searching exploration of her time as an "MRC," spent counseling soldiers while grappling with her own challenges. Her story is rich and introspective as she reconciles her preconceptions with eye-opening encounters and circumstances.

    Prose: Hicks's prose is candid, straightforward, and immediately engrossing. Her self-reflection and insights into human nature, belief systems, and mental health, are impactful. 

    Originality: Hicks's narrative as a therapist who counsels soldiers worldwide is decidedly unique and fascinating. She offers honest reflections on her own growth and pain, while approaching her patients and their struggles with sensitivity, nuance, and clarity.

    Character/Execution: The author intriguingly integrates her own Buddhist beliefs and worldview with a burgeoning understanding of the the military experience and the lasting impacts of trauma. Hicks's awakening is as compelling as the journeys faced by those she counsels. 

  • HOW MUCH ARE THESE FREE BOOKS

    by Judy S. Hoff

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: This is an entertaining, reverent memoir devoted to all things literature. Hoff recounts her time as a bookstore owner, delving into the mechanics of the field while cementing the crucial role that books play in our collective communities. 

    Prose: Hoff shapes tender reminiscences of her bookstore, in fond—and oftentimes funny—language that will evoke the smell of dusty pages and the texture of a new hardcover for readers.

    Originality: Readers will appreciate Hoff’s candid memories and her celebration of a bookseller’s life, from the growing pains of her business to the thrill of helping customers discover new reading material to the eventual closing of her store. 

    Character/Execution: Hoff’s love for literature seeps through the pages of her memoir, as she details the history of her bookstore ownership, the eccentricities of the business and her customers, and her affectionate recollections of book-related events throughout the years.

  • Face Value

    by Christine Macdonald

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: This striking memoir is raw, honest, and candid, delving into the gritty backstreets of adult entertainment through the eyes of a young woman searching for empowerment and self-acceptance.

    Prose: Macdonald possesses sharp storytelling skills, though at times the writing feels overdone. Her strengths shine in the sections that recount life events, often painful to hear, in unreserved sentiment.

    Originality: Macdonald's dedication to opening the past and sifting through its contents is admirable; she allows herself significant vulnerability, sharing even the most tender moments with readers.

    Character/Execution: Macdonald 's innermost thoughts and feelings are on display throughout, gifting readers an intimate window into her life and a clear understanding of her perspective during pivotal moments.

  • The Real Gatsby: George Gordon Moore

    by Mickey Rathbun

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Determined to find out more about her mysterious and illustrious grandfather,  Rathbun goes on a quest to discover the secrets behind a fascinating family figure. The book not only offers an intriguing premise and a fitting tribute to her grandfather, but an exploration of one of literature's most celebrated characters.

    Prose: Rathbun's text is focused and accessible, full of historical verisimilitude and a fascinating family history. 

    Originality: Rathbun's evocative descriptions really bring the characters and history to life, the text beating a steady rhythm that is endearing and captivating. For those interested in early 20th century aristocracy and the literary works of the time, it's a compelling read, beautifully enhanced by impressive historical newspaper clippings and photographs.

    Character/Execution: The author's grandfather George Gordon Moore is the key character in Rathbun's text, who was arguably the inspiration for one of the most revered literary characters of all time, the great Gatsby. The idiosyncrasies of the main players are effectively rendered, largely focusing on the tantalizing enigmas of both Gatsby and Moore.

    Blurb: A fascinating and encapsulating insight into an intriguing figure.

  • By Accident: A Memoir of Letting Go

    by Joanne Greene

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Greene navigates a horrific accident, a cancer diagnosis, and other notable events—including a hurricane while on vacation. She proves to be a testimony to resilience, and the changes sparked by her life's tragedies will comfort readers and give them hope.

    Prose: Greene’s straightforward approach is honest and relatable. She draws readers into her world from the first page, keeping them invested in her story until the very end. The narrative tone matches her personal growth, shifting from panic and frustration to an inner calm and understanding as she relays a clear, heartfelt message to readers.

    Originality: The overarching theme in Greene's memoir—that adversity can ignite positive change—is uplifting and noteworthy, told in a clear, distinctive voice.

    Character/Execution: Greene enlightens and inspires readers by sharing her experiences—candidly detailing her painful moments alongside the more heart-warming events in her life. The end result feels like a therapeutic journal as Greene shares her healing process.

  • The Wrong Calamity

    by Marsha Jacobson

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: This fast-paced, insightful survey of a young woman's trials and successes is, at its heart, a stunning story of resilience that will resonate with readers. Jacobson's personal history is riveting, from her troubled childhood to a controlling marriage to a sudden, debilitating health issue. Readers will be infused with empathy and admiration as Jacobson rises from the ashes each time.

    Prose: Jacobson is a talented writer and particularly strong storyteller. Her tone is relaxed and informal, but it's her narrative approach that draws readers in, offering up a perfect amount of detail paired with expressive wording.

    Originality: The Wrong Calamity is a survivor's story filled with distinctive challenges and a determined, unique protagonist.

    Character/Execution: This is Jacobson's personal story, and as such, her character shines through, but she fully conveys qualities about others in her life that immediately transport readers into the center of her experiences. 

  • Plot/Idea: Retired DEA agent Pevarnik shares his experiences tackling the 1990s drug problem in Worcester, Massachusetts. This wild ride takes readers from Northeast America to Panama, Puerto Rico, and more, creating a gripping narrative of what goes into bringing down major players in the world of drug trafficking.  

    Prose: Pevarnik notes the importance of the language ringing true throughout the text; as such, he is careful to avoid excessively cleaning up the dialogue. The descriptions are far gentler than may be anticipated, given the tendency for drugs and violence to co-exist, but the prose is concise, clear, and to-the-point. 

    Originality: A Peek Under the Hood affords readers inside access to the ups and downs of hunting the most notorious drug traffickers, making this a riveting book.

    Character/Execution: Pevarnik emphasizes plot over characterization, and there are some key players whose outcomes lack closure, but ultimately this proves to be a compulsive read.

  • Paris for Life

    by Barry Frangipane

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: This is a delightful work that will entrance readers and allow them to view Paris through the author's eyes and memories. The result is a fully enamoring portrait of the City of Love. 

    Prose: Frangipane is an fine storyteller, crafting descriptions that will capture and hold readers' interest even when describing the most mundane situations—such as trying to get change for a bus or tasting local cuisine. Frangipane's excitement and affection for Paris is palpable through his vibrant experiences painted across the pages.

    Originality: Though travel memoirs and loving homages to the world's great cities are familiar, the author's portrayal of 1970's Paris is memorable. 

    Character/Execution: Frangipane himself takes a backseat to the book's main star: Paris in all of its glory. His writing brings the city to life for readers, with sparkling descriptions and stirring imagery.  

  • Field Horse

    by Paige Lammers

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: In this stirring memoir, Lammers takes the reader through her struggles with her mental health and her battle to save her beloved horse, Tiny, while simultaneously dealing with severe external and internal stress.

    Prose: Lammers's prose is generally excellent, especially her visceral descriptions. Dialogue is weakened by occasional repetition. 

    Originality: Lammers uniquely blends a story about mental health struggles with a tale of loving and caring for horses, to striking effect.

    Character/Execution: The author is candid, reflective, and unsparing in her writing, as she addresses the darkness of depression and suicidal ideation. Her devotion to horses shines through on every page.

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