Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Biography/Memoir

Crazy Enough
Large, Storm
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This raw and honest memoir is a great mix of entertainment and powerful introspection. Storm Large has spent her wild life with a deep seated fear she will turn out like her mother, who was institutionalized many times for mental illness. Then there's her sex addiction. Definitely not a book for kids or teens. Overall, I recommend this quick read to those who like to read about the wilder side of life and are interested in mental illness.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Book Review: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape
Hill, Jenna Miscavige
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book is very informative, albeit slow paced. I learned a lot about Scientology and its disturbing practices. If you're looking for a fast-paced nail biter of a memoir, this isn't it, but if you want to learn about what Scientology really is, then give this book a try.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Jet Girl
Johnson, Caroline
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is an insider's look at the military establishment, particularly the elite Navy forces. Johnson overcomes so much to become a fighter pilot only to be alienated by the Navy's most elite squadron. Told with honesty, Johnson's grit is something to be admired.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood book jacket
Noah, Trevor
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Not bad. I was expecting more on his move to Los Angeles and the establishment of his career and time on the Daily Show but the memoir doesn't cover that. I guess I should have known that judging by the title. There was a little bit of jumping around and muddling of incidents in his life, but overall it was educational and entertaining.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Girl with Brush and Canvas
Meyer, Carolyn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Learn about artist Georgia O'Keeffe in this fascinating novel about her life. Beginning with her early life in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin when she announced her plans to be an artist and following with family hardships where she refused to give up her dream, you'll learn about where she found her inspiration and how she persevered. Girl with Brush and Canvas, is a well-written, entertaining story about one of the most interesting artists of the 20th century.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Book Review: Guts
Telgemeier, Raina
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A graphic novel with heart (and guts). Raina is a fifth grader with crippling anxiety. Sweetly told, the story unfolds to her going to a therapist and getting help. In the end, she learns to cope and trust her friends. Thumbs up!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The Sun Does Shine
Hinton, Anthony Ray
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. I didn't think there is still rampant racism in America but boy was I proven wrong. In 1985, Ray Hinton was unjustly incarcerated in Alabama and will held in Death Row for 30 years. The prosecutor, police, jury, and judge were all white and despite his clear alibi he was found guilty. The police officer who arrested him said he believed Hinton was innocent but was still going to arrest him because if it's not him, it's someone 'like him.'
Throughout his heinous unjust incarceration on death row, Hinton never lost hope that he would be exonerated. His spirit helped the most hardened criminals shoulder their last days.
Eventually Hinton was exonerated, but not before the prime of his life had been stolen from him. He dedicates his life now to abolishing the death penalty, calling it a broken system. According to statistics, 1 in 10 inmates on death row are innocent.
This is a powerful memoir about survival, hope, and resilience. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The Slave Across the Street
Flores, Theresa L.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This is a highly disturbing but about a teenager that gets caught up in a sex slave ring in the Detroit suburbs. It's a very graphic depiction about the trauma she endured for 2 years, trying to protect her family. It's hard to imagine that this could happen in the American suburbs, but it does. Leaning heavily on her faith, she overcame the trauma and terrifying memories, and starts working to help other girls like her.

Not expertly written and too preachy for my taste, I was riveted and disgusted by the graphic scenes of her repeated torture. It made me angry that her parents didn't notice something was wrong, and that teachers and security officers at her school who saw what was happening didn't do anything because they were afraid of her captors. Overall, a good but highly disturbing read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Last Girl book jacket
Murad, Nadia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. Just wow. Nadia takes us through the miasma of Iraq sects and their competing values. She also talks about the Iraq war and the birth of ISIS from the rubble of the American occupation. However, in the most intimate way, she tells us about her sect, the Yazidis and their religion, persecution, and relationship with the Islamic State. And it's here that the real story begins.

In August of 2014, Nadia's village was occupied by ISIS, ending in the genocide of her people. She and other girls we sold into slavery and were considered less than human to their captors. Nadia pulls no punches about what she endured. It's brutal. In a series of fortunate events, Nadia embarks on a dangerous escape.

Told with honesty and forthrightness, this book kept me on the edge of my seat. I was highly disturbed by the sex slave recollections, which was her intention, and fascinated by her explanation of the regions, sects, and politics of Iraq, something I knew very little about. Despite the intense subject matter, I highly recommend this book. It was fantastic.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Becoming
Obama, Michelle
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Fantastic memoir about the life and times of Michelle Obama, from her early upbringing in South Side Chicago to her time as First Lady. I loved the descriptive quality of her experiences and was amused by the meeting and falling in love with Barack. The anecdotes of life in the White House were particularly interesting. I would recommend listening to this book instead of reading it, if possible, as she is the narrator.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
My Journey to the Stars
Kelly, Scott
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This Biography Reader tells us the story of Scott Kelly, one of the two brothers that have flown in space for NASA. He tells stories of growing up and how problems and experiences in his youth prepared him for his travels into space. He tells us about his year at the International Space Station including how he lived and the work he did. Be prepared to be inspired to reach for your own dreams!

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös
Heiligman, Deborah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Once there was a boy who loved math. He loved math so much that he spent all of his time thinking about numbers. He spent so much time with math that he couldn’t do many things that ordinary people do. The biography tells the story of Paul Erdos, one of the greatest mathematicians, and how he found his way in the world sharing his ideas and love of math.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau
Berne, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This biography of Jacques Cousteau uses beautiful pictures to illustrate the text. It introduces us to the tiny baby born in France and names Jacques. It chronicles his love of water and how his passion for the ocean developed. It shows us how he dreamed to becoming a “manfish” with the ability to breathe underwater and explore. He grew to be one of the greatest oceanographers in the world and a champion of the sea. The book is both inspiring and magical.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Awards:
Racing to the Finish: My Story Dale Earnhardt Jr. with Ryan McGee
Earnhardt Jr., Dale
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Many know the name Dale Earnhardt Jr. but you don’t need be a fan of his or even a race fan to enjoy (or listening to, as I did) this book. It’s an eye opening perspective of cause, effect, and recovery from concussions of a driver who suffered many in his career. Athletes of all ages and every contact sport and our military are suffering concussions every day and are struggling with the symptoms. Mr. Earnhardt frankly discusses his stubbornness over admitting he had an issue and the inner struggle between his career, family, fans and team. He brings up the advances in concussion recovery over a time and the advances in the therapies to aid in the recovery.

Reviewer's Name: Robin H.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin
Mosca, Julia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Do you ever feel different from the people around you? Are you struggling
with figuring out how you fit in? If so, read the story of Temple Grandin.
Although struggling with autism, her unique way of thinking allowed her to
become an amazing scientist who invented farm improvements used around the
world. This biography, set it rhyme, encourages all to STAND TALL.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Book Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Thompson, Hunter S.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was fantastic! It takes you on a drug-fueled, depraved, whirlwind tour of Las Vegas with Raoul Duke (Thompson) and his attorney. The sheer amount and variety of drugs ingested was enough to blow my mind, not to mention the shenanigans that occur as a result. There were some instances of depravity that curled my toes, but the ride was well worth it. Gonzo journalism rocks!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Holidays on Ice
Sedaris, David
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I listened to this book, most of which was read in a nasally, whiny voice. The initial stories about working as an elf at Christmas-time had tears of laughter pouring out of my eyes, Unfortunately, the book rapidly went downhill. This satire started out funny, but it kept going too long as if the author didn't know when to end the story. There were also some disturbing images that added absolutely nothing. The stories were sarcastic, but the bitterness in them really turned me off. Can't recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Robin
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Noah, Trevor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Trevor Noah's autobiography, which focuses on his childhood in South Africa, gives audiences a funny yet insightful look into life in South Africa before and after apartheid. The book is also a compelling mother-and-son love story. Noah's astute and comedic storytelling makes "Born a Crime" is a very smart and enjoyable read.

Reviewer's Name: Melina
Awards:
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler
Freedman, Russell
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Russell Freedman's book chronicling the White Rose Resistance Movement is a brief but enlightening overview of the resistance to the Nazi's in WWII that will sure to spark interest in history for teens and adults. Freeman's work is always well researched, well written and he includes many interesting historical photos as well as an index, notes and a great selected bibliography for further exploration. Spoiler alert to parents, readers will encounter gruesome facts about the execution of the movements members, so parent pre-reading is advised. For ages 12 - 18.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout
Grace, Laura Jane
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I love this book with all my heart. As a longtime fan of Against Me!, it was so exciting to read about how the band started off, the positive and negatives of touring and recording, the growth, decay and rebirth of the band and how the entire time the primary figure that has driven Against Me! from the very beginning was struggling with her identity. I'm utterly in love.

Reviewer's Name: Cassie

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