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Memoir / Autobiography

  • Finding the Bunny

    by Samantha Paris

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: Paris’s memoir is a great read. The book is structured well and the story flows smoothly and at a good pace throughout.

    Prose: The prose is smooth, clear, and readable. Paris's unapologetic voice is compelling and true to her story. Readers will find this an enlightening introduction to the fascinating world of voice-over acting.

    Originality: Finding the Bunny is truly an original work. Not only is the memoir refreshing and authentic, it also explores a relatively unknown industry.

    Character Development: Samantha Paris's character is engaging and vivid and evolves throughout the memoir. The secondary characters are also well developed.

  • How I Got to Yesterday A Fictionalized Memoir

    by Paul Sedlock

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot: This fictionalized memoir features a fast-moving plot. However, certain events in the first half of the book deserve more reflection and interrogation. Still, the final chapters go a long way toward making up for this deficit.

    Prose: Sedlock’s prose is clean and elegant, flecked with unique phrasing that fits with the book’s timeline.

    Originality: It’s not every day that readers experience a fictionalized memoir. We’re left wondering which parts of which events are real and which are fabricated—which ultimately lends a sense of mystery to this delightfully readable book.

    Character Development: Sedlock’s characters are fully formed—readers know their motivations without having to be told about them. This feat is accomplished by the author’s gift with dialogue, which, page by page, is true to life in the best of ways.

  • Plot: In his steadily flowing memoir, Wood recounts personal and professional achievements, relationships, and life altering moments. The author details his life experiences in a manner that is both accessible and intimate.

    Prose: Wood infuses his life story with witty anecdotes and a friendly narrative voice brushed with candor and light sarcasm.

    Originality: In addition to Wood's personal reflections, he provides a rich behind-the-scenes look at the sometimes brutal arena of legal work. Throughout the memoir, he inserts moments of council on life, death, law, and love.

    Character Development: Wood reconstructs a unique and full existence, while offering earnest advice: what matters most in private and professional life, he suggests, is forming meaningful interpersonal relationships.

  • Plot: Wienir's memoir unfolds as a story within a story; a work as much about the craft of writing as it is about Amsterdam and the sex trade it examines. The work is reflective, questioning, and at times nostalgic.

    Prose: The author crafts his story with elegent, well crafted prose that offers detailed observations and impactful use of figurative language.

    Originality: Wienir's approach to his topic is strikingly original, as it incorporates the author's personal development in tandem with a compelling, journalistic exploration of prostitution and its many nuances.

    Character Development: As a character within his own story, Wienir is authentic, self-aware, and shows willingness to have his perspectives challenged and to evolve. The prostitute Wienir befriends is also multilayered and genuinely conveyed.

  • Plot: This memoir features a familiar storyline—but one that is well plotted and well paced. The material is handled with an empathy that allows readers to relate to the story and characters.

    Prose: The prose invites readers to experience the story as if the author were a close friend. The style allows readres to feel the author's conflicts and fears.

    Originality: Despite a familiar storyline, this memoir feels original and vivid. The author has a strong voice, and she tells her tale in a way that readers will trust.

    Character Development: The central character in this memoir is skillfully developed. The author has enough distance from the material to allow for strong character development.

  • Plot: Schaper’s quickly-paced memoir details the author's struggle over the course of nearly two decades to help her brother recover from a life ravaged by mental illness. Schaper explores traumatic events with both an eye for detail and sensitive emotional awareness, detailing how many of these experiences were life-altering for her and her family.

    Prose: Schaper’s prose is both poetic and beautiful as she discusses the spiritual and emotional bond she shares with her family members, specifically, her brother Call. She describes Call’s mental illness and his battle with it, as well as mental illness in general, in a professional, informative, and empathetic tone.

    Originality: Schaper’s story is riveting and heart-wrenching—she acknowledges how mental illness is perceived in the public eye and how family members often perceive relatives struggling with mental illness. Through this text, she stresses that even a family's darkest times can contain some light, and even the most seemingly irredeemable or “unfixable” people can be helped, at times, with love and care.

    Character Development: Schaper’s memoir skillfully reveals the emotional growth of her family members as they grapple with each new crisis over the years. Schaper includes necessary details about peripheral, yet very important figures in Call’s life.

  • Please Stay

    by Greg Payan

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: This book is well structured, engaging, honest, and readers will keep turning pages until the very end. The use of actual correspondence from friends adds to the story, though the lack of background information about the correspondents makes their messages less compelling.

    Prose: The prose is solid, appropriate to the material, and full of emotion without ever drifting into melodrama.

    Originality: The story told here is unique and compelling. The use of actual correspondences gives the text a fresh feel.

    Character Development: Readers certainly get to know the author and Holly. Both of them feel real and vivid—and readers will care about them and their story.

  • Plot: Wyant's memoir moves along at a comfortable pace, engaging the reader with the author's journey through the Via Francigena as well as through her difficult past.

    Prose: Return to Glow, is a beautiful, well-written memoir that vividly captures the setting, whether it is Italy or Colorado. The author is able to capture the moment every step of her journey.

    Originality: Although tales of pilgrimages and conquering personal demons are not original, Wyant is able to tell her story in an authentic way, capturing history, religion, healing, and cuisine.

    Character Development: Wyant's tale of her pilgrimage through the Via Francigena, is truly remarkable and inspiring. The reader is able to see her journey from a broken spirit to a confident woman.

  • Risk a Verse: A Year in Daily Sonnets

    by Libby Weber

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: Sonnets remain a popular way to express powerful feelings and reflect on the world and can also humorously elevate less refined subjects. Weber manages to do all of this, many times over, within the space of 14 lines. Rarely has such an impressive feat been this much fun. Detailed annotations provide context for each sonnet, which makes this memoir-in-verse an accessible, unique, and engaging read. 

    Prose: The poet's playful style lends freshness to each of her sonnets. Her insistence on using proper grammar and punctuation—even in sonnets meant to perplex—is appreciated.

    Originality: The wide array of topics covered—classical music, current events, the mechanics of grammar, a pet's inner monologue, etc.—challenges conceptions of what a sonnet is and should be. At the same time, the poet’s liberal references to contemporary culture make this collection accessible.

    Character Development: The collection's introduction reveals a lot about the poet's process and approach to her project. Moreover, the notes accompanying each title and the poet’s quirky way of explaining references offer further insight into her character. 

  • Born Fanatic

    by Michael McCormack

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: McCormack’s memoir is a well-structured and poignant story that explores the lasting impact of a father's obsession on a family. 

     

    Prose: McCormack's prose is clear and eloquent. The author writes with elevated diction, a witty narrative voice, and a tone that is wistful and nostalgic, yet attentive to the flaws of a revered American institution.

    Originality: McCormack infuses his memoir with well-researched references to sports, early childhood development, and psychology. The result is a knowledgeable and insightful look at the toxic effects of growing up in a family that revered sports to the point of religious fervor.

    Character Development: The small, centralized cast in McCormack's memoir is described in detail throughout the progression of years. The author thoughtfully writes about the impact of his father's parenting style on his mental and emotional development.

    Blurb: McCormack's memoir is a bittersweet reflection on a childhood steeped in the often toxic fanaticism of football.

  • The Doughnut Boy

    by Michael Dennis

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: Dennis's book is an absorbing, searching chronicle of a man's life, which raises many questions—most notably, concerning the veracity of the memoir itself.

    Prose: The prose is journalistic in tone, documenting the life of the subject in a manner that calls to mind scrupulous note-taking. At times, however, the language slips into poetic rumination.

    Originality: Dennis's account of his father's life is highly unique, quietly calling into question what it means to know another individual. The narrative is made from snapshots left behind, which leads to a powerful if incomplete portrait.

    Character Development: The author is effectively a character in this work. All characters, including the book's subject, remain (perhaps purposefully) opaque.

    Blurb: A highly unusual, subtly moving, and deeply reflective work of creative nonfiction.

  • Plot: Considering the memoir's subject matter, the plot's lack of focus—that is, the way in which time periods are muddled—is fitting, if sometimes hard to follow.

    Prose: Any frustrations regarding the sequence of events in the book are eclipsed by a clear and accessible style.

    Originality: Though the events portrayed in the memoir are essentially ordinary, the author's retelling of his lifelong struggle with ADHD—and how his disability shaped his life experiences, leading him to countless self-discoveries—is fresh, thoughtful, and compelling.

    Character Development: Readers certainly get a clear picture of the author. However, the stubborn characterizations he assigns to his family members are repeated throughout the book, making it difficult for readers to see them as anything other than what the author says they are.

  • Mustard Seeds and Water Lines

    by Karen Milioto

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: Milioto’s memoir is an emotional, finely crafted story of an individual’s grief and recovery in the aftermath of a traumatizing event.

    Prose: As the story’s primary character, the author authentically conveys to readers how trauma and despair nearly broke her, but eventually led to a renewed spirit of self-acceptance and faith in God.

    Originality: Milioto writes about a highly personal experience, expressing a full range of emotions that are unique to her circumstances.

    Character Development: The author powerfully reflects upon her healing process, conveying how faith provided her with a renewed sense of hope and meaning after significant loss.

  • One More Moon

    by Ralph Webster

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: This book is well structured and moves along at a good pace. Readers will be engaged throughout.

    Prose: The prose is clean and crisp, but fails to distinguish itself. Additionally, the author is prone to moralizing, which at times takes away from the story.

    Originality: Webster creatively mixes historical storytelling with a personal story. Also, the first-person narration is original and compelling.

    Character Development: The character development here is strong, particularly that of Josef and Kaethe, both of whom are vividly drawn.

  • Plot: Dennehy’s timely memoir recounts the author’s disillusionment with American nationalism and subsequent travels to Ecuador. Dennehy provides an intriguing perspective on national borders, the impetus that drives individuals to risk illegally immigrating, and the experience of doing so.

    Prose: The author writes with candid hindsight, polished structure, and unadorned prose.

    Originality: Dennehy offers a unique perspective on immigration, as he presents his story of leaving the U.S. in search of greater belonging and personal truth.

    Character Development: As a character within his own story, Dennehy writes with compelling honesty about his past ignorance and evolving understanding of country, borders, and identity.

  • After the Darkness

    by Rev. Candace Nadine Breen

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: In her moving, well-paced memoir Breen reflects upon life-altering, traumatic events that the author experienced across childhood, adolescence, and early to mid-adulthood.

    Prose: Breen’s prose is poignant and often heart-wrenching, as she provides detailed descriptions of her verbal, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of her parents and partners. Breen writes with clarity and honesty about her evolving understanding of the trauma she endured.

    Originality: Breen offers a painfully authentic perspective on the abuse she suffered, telling a story that readers may find relatable. However, she also focuses the narrative on her unique experiences, allowing the memoir to stand as a powerful and personal testament to survival.

    Character Development: The author candidly, yet thoughtfully conveys how her mistreatment impacted her psychological well-being—and how she has continued to evolve. Abusers are also portrayed with nuance, as are other family members impacted by the reverberating effects of trauma.

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