If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother
by Julia Sweeney
Sweeney is a very engaging memoirist. Her eye is clear and her prose is clean, and she’s just a fun and interesting person to read about. I really enjoyed getting to know her through these essays (the book reads more like a collection of essays than a linear memoir) and I’ll read whatever she writes in the future.
One Saint and Seven Sinners
by Ennen Reaves Hall
I picked this up at a rummage sale based on the author’s photograph, the jacket flaps and the fact that it was published by T.Y. Crowell, who rarely lets me down. I’m so glad I did, this was a delightful book. Hall’s dad was a preacher, an old school Baptist, and though she says that this is his story it’s much more the story of her indomitable little mother, who was a treat to get to know in these pages. Watching Mrs. Reaves face down the Ladies Aid Society is priceless. If you can find this, by all means, pick it up.
Ali in Wonderland and Other Tall Tales
by Ali Wentworth
My sister-in-law recommended this to me, so I picked it up. I had no idea who Wentworth was before I did so. She’s got a funny voice, and it didn’t matter that I didn’t know of her- I just went along for the ride and grinned. It’s mostly memoir, but not strictly chronological. Her mother is an interesting character, maybe more interesting than Wentworth herself. Fun book.
Chance of Sun
by Kim Cooper Findling
Slight and sweet, this memoir hints at the depths but never truly plumbs them. Riddled with editing errors including “creole” for “creel” and others equally mind-bending. It had a lot of potential but it never really got off the ground for me. I never felt like I got to know Findling, except just for a second there at the very end. I was left wanting so much more than I got.
A Day No Pigs Would Die
by Robert Newton Peck
This spare and harrowing novel/memoir is every bit as brilliant as I remembered. Listening to it was harsh and clean and beautiful. This particular book makes most coming of age stories seem watered-down. Rob grows from boy to man in a big hurry, but he never questions the rightness of becoming a man like his papa. Haven Peck was a hard man, because he had to be. He was a loving father who never had to say words about that love.
For me, this book epitomizes stellar writing for young people. There’s nothing soft, there’s nothing pandering, there’s only what is and what must be, with a rock-solid base of love.
The audio was very well-done, and the narrator’s tone and accent were perfect. Highly recommended, indeed.
The Ploughman’s Lunch and the Miser’s Feast
by Brian Yarvin
The photos are beautiful. The food in the photos, on the other hand, doesn’t look so great. I loved the narrative parts but most of the recipes didn’t make me excited. I do want to try the British Baked Beans (I’m a huge fan of beans on toast) and Yarvin made haggis sound seriously delicious. There are some soups I think sound good too, but the real strength of this book is Yarvin’s travelogue/memoir parts. It makes me want to move to Scotland and take day trips then retire to the pub at night for a spot of haggis & a pint. Well worth a look.
Wesley the Owl
by Stacey O’Brien
I loved the premise inherent in the subtitle, “The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl” and the blurb sucked me in. I checked out the audio version from my library and found the narrator’s voice to be pleasant enough. I was immediately sucked in to the story, only to be spat out again in relatively short order. For someone who works in a lab full of owls, the author seemed unduly surprised about some of the basic facts regarding their characteristics. I have never lived with an owl, so everything I say about this book is from a standpoint of profound ignorance. I really felt like O’Brien anthropomorphized Wesley- not so much when she ascribed reason to him, but more when she talked about his feelings and emotions. Also, the fact that she called herself ‘Mommy’ when talking to him was nausea-inducing. The writing was not even unexceptional, it was flat out bad. The story meandered all over and was full of discursive asides (which, to be fair, were for me the most interesting bits). I wanted to like this. I expected to like this. I hated it, from about the 3rd chapter on.