Title: The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh
Author: Candace Fleming
Performer: Kirsten Potter
Length: 9 hr, 41 min, 36 sec
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2020 by Listening Library
Review: This was a difficult book to rate because it was very well written, organized, and researched, but I did not care for the story at all. If I had rated it for the former rather than the latter, this book would have received a much higher rating from me.
This was another committee book assigned for the Mock Printz at work, so I felt compelled to finish it despite the fact I was very bored nearly the entire way through. Charles Lindbergh was a pretentious, controlling, and manipulative human being that I could have gone my whole life without knowing about. I would catalog this in adult fiction, so I am not even sure why it is being considered by my committee. I did my due diligence, however, and finished it before passing judgement. I’m glad to be done with it, and look forward to moving on to the next book on my TBR list.
Kirsten Potter was a great performer, and I do not hold the story of this man against her.
Title: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
Author: Patrick Radden Keefe
Page Count: 445
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2019/Doubleday
Review: This was beautifully written and researched. Not being from Ireland, I’ve never had a full understanding of the Troubles and what happened during that time between the Catholics and the Protestants (or Republicans and Loyalists). It dives deep into the history of the IRA and their crimes and motives. It gives a human side to it, detailing the lives of the people involved and their trials, convictions, time in prison, all of that. It talks about how Gerry Adams went from the head of the IRA to the head of a political party and his time as a political prisoner.
It was a very fascinating book, and I recommend it to anyone interested in this part of Irish history.
Title: A Secret Life: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland
Author: Charles Lachman
Performer: Joe Barrett
Length: 12h 24m
Publishing Date/Publisher: Feb 8, 2013/Skyhorse Publishing
Review: This can really be summed up as follows:
Grover Cleveland- bad
I knew going into my presidential reading list that Grover Cleveland was a horrible man and I refused to read (or listen to) a book that applauds his time as president and governor, so I picked a book that deals specifically with the most horrendous moments of his life. Before he ran for public office, he sexually assaulted a woman, who then became pregnant. He kidnapped the boy (multiple times), gave him to his friends to raise, publicly humiliated the woman, and tried to get her committed to an asylum. This book dives into all the horrid details and describes the history behind why Maria Halpin would not have felt comfortable coming forward with her story.
If you, like me, are trying to read a book about every president, I recommend reading this one, as it doesn’t heap praise upon a man who is undeserving of it.
Title: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told
Author: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Performer: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Length: 6 hr, 40 min, 10 sec
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Penguin Audio
Review: This was a love story that tackled many topics other than a love story. Megan and Nick talk about how they met, fell in love, and continue to stay in love, but they also talk about things like achieving fame, past relationships, and their childhoods. I listened to this book in audiobook format, and I don’t know how this story could have been read in print format. There is a lot of banter between the couple and I am curious as to how this was accurately captured. At some point I may check out the hardcover and flip through it just to assuage this curiosity. I also want to see the photos that were described in some detail by the authors that are apparently included in the book.
There isn’t a lot of depth to this book, so if you are looking for something pleasant to have playing in the background while accomplishing other tasks, this is a good option. I had some familiarity with these two actors, but I really did not know much about them prior to listening to their story. A lot of what they include is mundane and boring, if I’m being perfectly honest, but it’s refreshing to hear from a famous couple that is still very much in love after 18 years together. Nick’s worship of his wife was over the top in some chapters…we get it, Megan Mullally is great…however I found these were good times for my attention to drift off without feeling like I needed to rewind and re-listen. I never felt like I missed much when I tuned back in, which is nice when you have a toddler screaming commands at you from the backseat of your car.
Title: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician
Author: Michelle Williams
Page Count: N/A
Publishing Date/Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Review: The dead deserve respect, and this author says as much, and then promptly calls the body of an obese person a ‘monstrosity’ and then writes a whole chapter about all the laughs they got out of a man who died while dressed as a woman. Absolutely unacceptable. It also serves no purpose in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t teach anyone anything and it’s basically just the sticky-note version of what happens in a morgue. I couldn’t finish this book, nor do I want to, and I wouldn’t recommend to to anyone. That half star is me being generous.
Title: Ordinary Girls
Author: Jaquira Díaz
Page Count: 336
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 29, 2019 by Algonquin Books
Review: Every so often I get in the mood to read memoirs. I am especially interested in coming-of-age stories, so this one immediately appealed to me when I read the synopsis. I did enjoy the book, especially the parts that took place in Puerto Rico, but I found that Díaz jumps around too much in the chronology for my personal taste. As a reader I found myself getting frustrated by the tangents she would go on in the midst of telling a story. I find that a lot memoirs take place in snapshots of a life; however in this case it was just too many things at once and it was difficult to get a clear picture.
At the conclusion of this book, I couldn’t help but feel that it was unfinished. It is clear that at some point Díaz pulls herself out of the cycle of poverty and self-loathing she grew up in, but this is not really explored in this memoir. Each time I thought she was going to make it out of the tunnel of darkness, she would throw herself back in. Clearly she achieved her goal of becoming a writer and I just wanted to know more about that journey. I wouldn’t consider this book uplifting or particularly inspiring, but it was very real and didn’t sugarcoat anything. Díaz seems to have a lot of self-awareness in writing this memoir, so it was overall an interesting and revealing read.
Title: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
Author: Lori Gottlieb
Page Count: 432
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 2, 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review: This was an utterly engrossing read, and it really gave me a lot of food for thought. I am a huge proponent of therapy (I myself have benefitted from it greatly), but this book offered me a perspective I embarrassingly have never considered – that of the therapist. After reading this book, I couldn’t help but wonder, what does my therapist think of me? Does she like me? Does she talk about me in therapist work groups? Has she ever needed therapy? My therapist always seems so wise and put together, it is difficult to imagine what she might be like in the “outside world.” Lori makes the role seem so incredibly sophisticated, and at the same time so incredibly human. Here we get a multi-focal look at her life and work through the lens of her personal experiences, biases, and training. It was a very smooth read that universalizes therapy and gives us an insiders look at the dangerous traps we often find ourselves cycling in. I cannot recommend this book enough. Even if you think you don’t need therapy, you may find out that you do!
Title: The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money
Author: Chelsea Fagan & Lauren Ver Hage
Page Count: 208
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 26, 2017 by Regan Arts
Review: Money has always been a mystery to me. Though I understand the concept of budgeting and saving, I have always had a difficult time determining how best to save and invest my money in order to make it grow. I decided to get my feet wet in the world of finance with this beginner’s guide and found it surprisingly enjoyable. Fagan’s writing is relatable and humorous and Ver Hage provided adorable illustrations and an aesthetically pleasing layout. Of course not all the information was pertinent to me, but I was able to glean a few gems to get me started on the path to financial wellness. Overall, I really enjoyed the author’s frankness regarding finances, and it really made me wonder why we are not more transparent about it with our spouses and other loved ones. It really changed how I think about money and made me reevaluate my financial goals. I’ve already discussed some of these ideas with my husband, and put some of these ideas immediately into practice. Other strategies will require further research, but I feel confident now that I am moving in the right direction.
Title: The Lost City of Z
Author: David Grann
Page Count: 352
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2009/Doubleday
Review: I will read anything and everything written by David Grann. He has such an amazing writing style, so it’s very easy to get caught up in his work. In the Lost City of Z, he talks about Percy Fawcet and his multiple trips into the Amazon and then goes and tries to recreate the route he was taking when he disappeared. The book alternates between both tales: the past and the present, meaning you aren’t stuck too long on one specific part of the story.
I quickly got swept up in the exploration of the Amazon and the charting of the unknown, and it’s easy to see why Grann frequently writes about people obsessed: he can get into that mindset himself and tell their stories in ways that make the reader feel it too. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever suffered from wanderlust and loves to explore.
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Page Count: 304
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 12, 2019 by Penguin Young Readers Group
Review: Laurie Halse Anderson has been a powerhouse in the realm of Young Adult Fiction, so it was interesting to learn a little bit more about her through this poetry memoir. I like the format in verse because I think it will make the book seem less daunting to reluctant readers. I was able to breeze through it in a couple hours, and despite it’s brevity, there is still a lot to unpack.
I think this is an important book because it reveals the gap in education regarding consent, and really just sex in general. Because sex is still such a taboo topic, society is failing to educate youth about their own bodies and the importance of respecting others.
One of the most tragic aspects of sexual abuse/assault is that the victims often do not fully understand what has happened/is happening to them. They push down their shame and internalize their trauma, which often manifests itself in destructive ways. Because of this, it is so important that we talk through these issues with our youth, and let them know that it is ok to speak out if someone is doing something that doesn’t feel right.
I personally think this should be required reading in middle schools, because it is important to start this conversation early. It is not graphic, but it absolutely gets it’s point across, which I think makes it appropriate for both middle school and high school students.