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All Book Reviews by Genre: Biography/Memoir

84, Charing Cross Road
Hanff, Helene
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I really loved this book - a book of letters about books! With a little history thrown in about England after World War II. I like books that are composed of letters whether they are fiction or non-fiction. This particular book I enjoyed because just like Helene Hanff, I am a Anglophile and when I went to London, I just had to go to 84, Charing Cross Road. I knew the bookstore wasn't there, but I just had to still see the "spot". While reading this, I realized that there will never be another book like this. Not many people write letters anymore. Plus I don't think two complete strangers would connect like Helene and Frank did through letter writing. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves books!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Nikola Tesla: A Spark of Genius
Dommermuth-Costa, Carol
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Spark Of Genius is all about Nikola Tesla, and It explains the hardships of his life, along with his accomplishments. This book is non-fiction, but it feels like a action thrilled fiction fantasy, because this man did the impossible for his time. He was extremely passionate about his work, and loved it more than anything. I recommend this to everyone who needs to read a Non-fiction book! It is so good!

Reviewer's Name: Lucas L.
Book Review: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
Schumer, Amy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a very funny memoir. I enjoyed hearing about her childhood and her personal life because she was both forthright and self-effacing. I did, however, learn a bit too much about her lady parts. Also, the stand-up comedy sections didn't interest me as much. What you see is what you get. If you like Amy Schumer, you will like this book. If not, you won't.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
A Life in the Wild
Turner, Pamela
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A Life in the Wild is an engaging and well-written account of the research and expeditions of the great conservationist, George Schaller. Mr. Schaller's extensive research in some of the most remote areas of the world resulted in upwards of 9 nature reserves and national parks worldwide. Some of the creatures he helped protect are mountain gorillas, snow leopards, pandas, tigers, and many more. I enjoyed hearing about his adventurous expeditions, which the author recounts in a manner that makes you feel like you are really there with him.

This book is a juvenile nonfiction and best suited to higher elementary grade levels, but as an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Book Review: Yes Please
Poehler, Amy
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I don't recommend this book to anyone completely stressed out. Amy Poehler is crazy busy and manic in her daily life. That's fine for her, but I was reading it during a stressful/manic period of my life and it wigged me out. Although it's a bit scatterbrained, it is a good book about her life with some very famous improv groups and tv shows.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Brown Girl Dreaming
Woodson, Jacqueline
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This poem book is really well written. It has a unique poem style with just as a unique narrator. This book is about a girl named Jackie growing up in the 1960's-1970's. She has to deal with the hardships of not being treated well because of her skin color along with other things going on in her personal life. The author of this book did a really good job at putting these dilemmas that Jackie faces in the mind of a little girl. I would have rated this book 5 stars if it wasn't so dry in the middle. You get sucked in right from the start but then in the middle of the book, it gets a little boring. But don't give up on it, it picks up later on and has a fantastic ending.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Mikayla B.
Book Review: Weird Al: The Book
Rabin, Nathan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Let it be said, I love Weird Al. I didn't get into his 80s stuff so much as his more recent work. "The Saga Begins" reintroduced me to his work and I happily dove into his back catalog. But, in my opinion, the best thing Al ever did was "White & Nerdy", with "Word Crimes" as a close second. And then there's the understated but totally awesome "Aluminum Foil", which starts out so benign that you start writing it off as a softball and then turns so decidedly weird in the middle that you can't help but say, "Al! You're hilarious!" But this review should really be about the book. It was great. Read it if you want, but far more important is to listen to his music.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman
West, Lindy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you aren't familiar with Lindy West, she is most famous for being a feminist on the internet... which is a lot harder than it sounds. After writing for The Stranger (Seattle's version of The Independent), Lindy went to work for Jezebel, where she became internet famous for writing about women's issues unapologetically. Because the internet can be a terrible place, and because she is not only a woman, but a fat woman, this led to her getting trolled on an EPIC level. Google "Lindy West trolls" (or, you know, just read this book) and prepare to be horrified. Shrill is the story of how all of it happens.

This was, by far, my favorite non-fiction read of 2016. It definitely blows away any other funny lady memoir I've ever read (and I LOVED Amy Poehler's and Tina Fey's books). West talks about really important issues (body image, puberty, abortion, sex, love, feminism) in a frank but funny tone. I listened to the book with my husband, and the narration (done by West) makes the raw moments more powerful and the funny moments more hilarious - it was spot on. We found ourselves stopping the book every 15 minutes or so to discuss. Lindy takes on rape jokes, fat shaming and internet trolls with a touch of vulnerability and a ton of hilarity, and I DARE you to try to read this book and not learn something about humanity in the process.

Ladies, this is a must read. Men who have ever met a woman, this is a must read. Trolls, THIS IS A MUST READ. As you've likely gathered, I feel that is a must read for pretty much everyone (though there is some "adult" content - see above re: sex, rape jokes, etc). If the best books make you feel something, then this is one of the best books: I laughed, I cried, I raged. 5 unreserved stars. I've already bought a copy for my mother.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
American Sniper
Kyle, Chris
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Chris Kyle was nothing more than a simple Texan man who loved hunting and rodeos. All that changed in 1999 when Chris signed up for the Navy SEALs and began BUD/s training. From that moment on, Chris Kyle vowed to protect and fight for his nation, even putting country before family. American Sniper is an autobiography written by Kyle himself, as he talks about his childhood, life before, and after becoming a SEAL. He records life on the battlefield of Fallujah and Ramadi, but also the relations he had with his teammates, both alive and deceased. Kyle is acknowledged to be one of the deadliest snipers’ in American History with a count of 160 confirmed kills. This is one of the most well-written and amazing novels I have ever read and for anyone who didn’t know, Chris Kyle was killed on February 2, 2013 on U.S soil by a former marine, which makes this book all the more honorable and, for lack of a better word, sad. When reading this, you can actually know what the life of a SEAL, or even a militant at that, was like but also that Chris Kyle was an amazing man who gave so much for so little.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
The Secret Rooms
Bailey, Catherine
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I really was intrigued by this book. It was promoted as a mystery and I love a good mystery. Especially a true-life mystery surrounding the death of John Manners, the 9th Duke of Rutland. In the beginning I was very intrigued and couldn't put the book down. But after awhile, I just couldn't take it anymore. Catherine Bailey took an interesting piece of British history and some how turned it into a tedious, uninteresting story. Plus, she never really delivered on all of the mysteries she found surrounding John Manners. I think this book could have been much more interesting with A LOT of editing. I do admit, I did learn some interesting tidbits. Not enough for me to recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Awards:
When Breath Becomes Air
Kalanithi, Paul
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This memoir by a brilliant neurosurgeon who contracts lung cancer movingly describes the anguish of terminal illness from the doctor and patient perspectives simultaneously. An accomplished writer with an astonishing grasp of literature, he side steps all the easy answers and leaves the reader in love with life and astonished by living, not intimidated by disease.

Reviewer's Name: David R.
Into the Wild
Krakauer, Jon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

September 1992, a young man named Chris McCandless is found dead in the Alaskan Wilderness and Jon Krakauer is determined to sniff out every clue as to why. Into the Wild follows the life of Chris McCandless, a young man who dropped everything and took to the road, and how he even ended up in Alaska in the first place; and although he is dead, the trail and influences he left behind live on in those he met. The story jumps around occasionally, but it is just extraordinary to me how a single young man was able to travel almost all of the United States by foot and hitchhiking, and then end up in Alaska where he lived in the Wild until August 1992. Krakauer interviews the people who Chris has interacted with, and all of them say that Chris changed their life for the better, even those who he only shared a car ride with. I personally enjoy this book because it makes you feel as if what he did was amazing and if you, too, need an adventure like that in your life. I definitely recommend this book to all readers since every single person can take something from this book, negative or positive.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Stitches
Small, David
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is an autobiographical graphic novel of the author, David Small. The book focuses on his early childhood to early adulthood. It shows the progression of his relationship with his father, a doctor, and his mother, a homemaker in a very reserved and controlling dysfunctional household. As a young man, he ends up with a tumor on his neck that is removed but damages his vocal cords, and doctors say he won't speak again. Along the way, he discovers who his family and himself are and finds out more than he bargained for.

This book is very dark and the color scheme is perfect for the tone of this book as well, using black, white, and shades of gray primarily. The art is contemporary in its quality and color scheme but has a more retro feel to its style of art as well, especially in the faces, which gives it the feel of the era the book was set in. This book is the type of book you would be able to, and due to its page turn-ability you likely will, finish in one sitting. It's easy to get invested and feel all the emotions and heartbreak of the author along the way. It can be a bit hard to read since it is darker in its focus and has a realistic feel. It also has a few twists and turns along the way which help keep you even more entranced by the book. I really enjoyed reading it as a change of pace for myself since I typically deal in a bit lighter fair in terms of topics. It addresses issues of mental illness and controlling behavior well without being preachy or self pitying. I might not read this book again but I certainly won't forget it either. If you like dark, realistic graphic novels, this just might be your next favorite book!

Reviewer's Name: Will
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
Schumer, Amy
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

For whatever reason, I've read a lot of comedian/actor memoirs in the last few years, and this one has pretty similar fare as to what you'd find in, say, a Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey offering. For me, it's in the middle of the pack in terms of quality (Bossypants > Lower Back Tattoo > either of Kalings's books), but was still an interesting, funny listen. It's part anecdotes, part advice, part social commentary, and part random page filler. For instance, one chapter is her fictional funeral rider, which, while it was kind of funny, was mostly a waste of my time. In this book, Schumer's at her best when she's a little raw - telling a sad/funny story and just letting it be what it is.

Even though I mostly enjoyed the book, the editing was not so great. Schumer calls part of the female anatomy by the wrong name for the entirety of the book. I can't believe that no one noticed that. Also, she was constantly saying "remember earlier in the book when" which you know, yes, we do remember, we're capable of basic memory recall. The persistent references to earlier chapters made me think that she maybe thought this book was going to be read by 8-year-olds or something when they were clearly not the target audience.

I mean, if I learned anything from this book about Schumer herself, it's that she's kind of a ridiculous person. For example, in one chapter, she talks about her "genetic predisposition" to black out whilst drinking, and then she lists the drinks she would normally have on a night out in college:

2 beers while pregaming followed by
4 vodka martinis straight up or a little dirty
Various other drinks

It's not genetics, Schumer, it's the martinis.

With that being said, I do admire her courage in telling stories that were real and painful for her, especially since those stories might offer some solace for people in similar situations, or may help young women avoid those situations entirely. I also like that she's found a cause (gun violence, particularly as it pertains to women), and she isn't shy about sharing the facts or her opinions in the book. Overall, I found the book to be an enjoyable listen, and it helped pass the time on a longish car trip. 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)
Lawson, Jenny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jenny Lawson’s memoir is heart wrenching and laugh-out loud funny, especially if you have been touched by friends or family dealing with mental health challenges. I listened to it in the car and nearly drove off the road laughing.
Jenny knows she has problems and this is her story of how they carved out the details of her life – from her taxidermist father to Victor, her husband, and everything in between. Her stream of consciousness storytelling style is perfect. I could relate to, and actually picture, the absurdity of many of her stories. It was enlightening to see life through the eyes of the person dealing with the severe anxiety, depression and other quirks, and not just from an outsider’s viewpoint, thinking “What’s WRONG with you?”
I felt better knowing there are others that are dealing with the same mental health issues and that my family and I are not alone. You will probably put your family back on the normal and sane spectrum after reading this. I didn't care for some of the language that was strewn through the book, but it is part of the culture.

Reviewer's Name: Robin
Awards:
I Like You Just the Way I Am: Stories About Me and Some Other People
Mollen, Jenny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

By far the funniest book I have ever read. I laughed out loud throughout the entire book. I can not wait to read her new book and also watch her upcoming series about this book. Hilarious!!!!!!

Reviewer's Name: Shannon
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Strayed, Cheryl
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I finished this book about 3 weeks ago so my review is clouded by the passage of time. This book is written from the perspective of an inexperienced hiker embarking on a harrowing adventure. I often found myself wondering why she didn't just give up; how she could possibly have survived hiking in the snow and ice without succumbing to hypothermia or sustaining injury; how she could continue hiking on severely damaged feet; or how she could have hiked for an extended period of time without encountering the powerful thunderstorms so prevalent in the high country. Also, it was a bit long for my taste. Still it was very good and I recommended it especially to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Night
Wiesel, Elie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I’ve always loved learning about the holocaust and people’s stories. Elie Wiesel's story is the best one I’ve heard yet. He puts so much emotion into his story and his writing and it makes you feel like you’re in the holocaust. Elie starts his story off by talking about his religion and the church he went to. His instructor, Moshe the Beadle had been gone for so long, and when he returned he had a story of a near death experience with the Nazi's. Of course, no one believed his “story” and they carried on with their lives as normal. One night they got real news that the Nazi's were coming the next morning and that’s when everything bad started happening.
All the walking, traveling, and suffering he went through was very interesting to read. My teacher read this book to the whole class in 8th grade and I instantly fell in love with it.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Layla P.
Awards:
In the Country We Love: My Family Divided
Guerrero, Diane
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Diana Guerrero is a well known actor for her features in Orange is the New Black. Wanting to know more about an actor's background is what a normal person loves to find out, but Guerrero's family background is lonely and sad. Brave isn't the only word you can call Guerrero because she is more than that. Only being 14 when her family was deported, she had to live her life without any care from other people. This book isn't about her funny and stern character in Orange is the New Black but about how real the world actually is. She breaks down the wall most people don't see and shows her audience how tragic the world actually is. She wants to fight and succeed. She wants everyone to know that each individual is human and we all have feelings. She wants justice for her family.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Jade D.
Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog
Grogan, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Marley and Me is an amusing nonfiction novel that captures all of the adventures of John Grogan as he gets his dog Marley: a canine intent on misbehaving and causing as much destruction as he can. Marley raided the trash, stole and swallowed a gold necklace, closed a public beach, got kicked out of obedience school, and was the Grogans' best friend. Marley and Me is filled with humor, compassion, and love for the chaotic and affectionate dog. It's a very well-written book, and now I feel better about my own dog, who enjoys chewing the couch.

Reviewer's Name: A.M.
Awards:

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