Book Club Mom’s recommended biographies and memoirs

Here are twelve fascinating biographies and memoirs of important historical and influential figures, and some regular people too. I like reading all kinds of life stories and recommend these:


Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb – an excellent collection of mini biographies of twelve famous personalities, explaining their known or likely battles with mental illness.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – a remarkable and amusing record of Franklin’s life in America during the mid- to late 1700s.

Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover – Westover’s account of breaking out of an isolated and abusive childhood, with a violent sibling, a controlling and paranoid father and a mother who deferred to her husband.

Helen Keller – The Story of My Life – the story of an American girl from Alabama who lost her sight and hearing as a baby and determinedly overcame these obstacles to become a writer, a social activist and an advocate for the blind and deaf.


Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske – the story of a dashing billionaire inventor, pilot, and a filmmaker who used money to and control his business and personal life.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – I avoided Lab Girl at first because I am not a science person. But this memoir is for all readers. Jahren writes beautifully about her lonely childhood in Minnesota, college life and early years trying to make it as a scientist.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – a great story about being different and making it anyway. In some ways, it is a classic success story about perseverance, but mostly, it’s a shout-out to anyone who’s not mainstream.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – Using notes stored away for nearly thirty years, Hemingway began working on a memoir of his days in Paris, where he was part of the expatriate community of writers, artists and creative minds, known now as the “Lost Generation.” He died leaving the book unfinished, but his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, edited the manuscript and the first edition was published in 1964.


Night by Elie Wiesel – Elie Wiesel’s memoir about being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War II. The New York Times calls it “a slim volume of terrifying power” and I couldn’t agree more.

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore – an in-depth look at the lives of two young men with the same name, who grew up on the same streets in Baltimore, Maryland and took two divergent paths.

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman – a young woman from West Virginia dreams of becoming a concert violinist and gets a job playing in a prestigious touring orchestra, only to discover that the microphones are turned off. Listeners instead hear music that sounds suspiciously like the score of the popular 1997 film, Titanic.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – a young doctor at the crest of a brilliant career as a neurosurgeon and scientist, Kalanithi was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. During the short time he had left, he was determined to live a life with personal meaning, so he continued working, fathered a baby girl and wrote this book.

What biographies and memoirs have you read? What do you recommend?

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Who’s That Indie Author? Lillian McCloy

Author name:  Lillian McCloy

Genre:  Memoir / Travel Literature / Espionage

Book:  Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant: Undercover and Overwhelmed as a CIA Wife and Mother

What’s your story and how did you become a writer?  I was always a writer, since I was six years old. I wrote stories on the middle pages of my notebooks in school. Sometimes I would add pictures to go with the stories. Genius.

I grew up in Canada. I became a big band jazz singer and also worked as a secretary and a paralegal.  After I moved to San Francisco, I became Melvin Belli’s secretary. That’s when I met my husband Frank.

I write for pleasure, but I don’t really know the answer to how I came to write my memoir. I may have felt the need to write my story down after my house and everything burned in the 1991 Oakland hills fire. I wrote my manuscript a year later.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  Well, I am 94 years old, so this isn’t an issue for me. I’m blind from macular degeneration. I have no other demands.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life:  Hmmm. I couldn’t answer that succinctly. I’d have to think about that for a while.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  I’m a planner. I’m a Capricorn and I’m very organized.

Could you write in a café with people around?  No, I like solitude and quiet.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it? No, I haven’t.

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  My favorite book is Little Women, which I read when I was seventeen. And it’s still my favorite book. I am not reading now at all, because I am disabled, but I’ve always loved reading and having stacks of books from the library. Unfortunately, I am not able to read anymore. I miss it terribly.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  I don’t even know what an eReader is. That was after my time. I prefer a hardcover. I like the smell of a book.

Do you think print books will always be around?  No. Sadly, I don’t think so. I think it won’t be very long before they just don’t bother anymore.

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  No, I wouldn’t.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else?  A standard phone (landline) does me just fine.

How long could you go without checking your phone?  Always. I never check my phone. I wouldn’t know how to check a phone. Mine just rings.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening? I don’t listen to audiobooks because I don’t enjoy it. I think there’s too much acting going on with the voice. If everyone read books in a plain reading voice, I probably would enjoy it. They’re always trying too much to dramatize, and I don’t like that.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform?  My daughter Johanna has done all of my promotion. She says she does it on a dedicated Facebook page.

Website and social media links:
Website: bordertownpublishing.com
Facebook: bordertownpublishing

Awards/special recognition:  Certificate of Recognition from the California State Assembly 2017


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

On YouTube today – books coming up and what I’ve been doing

Hi Everyone – I’m back on YouTube today talking about what I’ll be reading soon and what I’ve been doing. I hope you’ll pop over and see me!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Indie Author? Marian Longenecker Beaman

Author name:  Marian Longenecker Beaman

Genre:  Memoir

Book:  Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl

What’s your story and how did you become a writer?  I am a former professor at Florida State College in Jacksonville, Florida. My memoir, Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl, records the charms and challenges of growing up in the strict culture of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference in the 1950s.

Now in my Third Act, I have embraced blogging, which led to re-purposing blog posts to craft my memoir. I share my story to preserve early memories and to leave a legacy for future generations. I live with my artist/designer husband Cliff in Jacksonville, where my grown children and grandchildren also reside.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  Just like everyone else, I have appointments and to-do’s: dentist, haircut, grocery shopping. Even so, I sit on my writing chair every day: It’s a habit now. Today is dreary, so I have white string lights glowing and a candle burning in my writing space.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life: Opening the box containing my Advanced Reader Copies. I made a video of it!

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  I’m generally a planner, but sometimes ideas for blog posts come to mind whimsically: walking in the woods, taking a bath. Usually, I make a messy draft on WORD and then copy it to WordPress where I tweak it.

Could you write in a café with people around?  NO! Silence is my friend. If I’m stuck, I turn on music – classical or country.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it?  Dialogue, even in English, has been tricky for me. Scales fell from my eyes a while ago when I read somewhere that writers don’t need to be stuck with the clichéd “He said – She replied” formula. Let the reader know that your characters can be scratching their backs or opening mail while the dialogue is taking place. Just switch to a new paragraph when the speaker changes.

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  When we moved over three years ago, I gave away so many books. A sampling of the remaining: Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Zora Neale Thurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Also: Anything by Dani Shapiro, most recently Inheritance. Now I’m reading Ann Napolitano’s A Good Hard Look, a fictional version of Flannery O’Connor’s life. I’d give it five stars!

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  Hands down, paperback – lightweight with “turn-able” pages

Do you think print books will always be around?  Surely in my lifetime, but beyond that I don’t know. Most of the articles I’ve read say, “Yes.”

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  Ha! Unless the phone is 4” by 6” probably not.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else?  My smartphone has always been an iPhone.

How long could you go without checking your phone?  It depends on the day. Wednesdays my blog posts publish, so I check my phone often so see if there are comments needing response.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening? Although my husband listens to audiobooks exclusively, I never do. However, I listen to teleseminars while I’m doing something else. For instance, my friend Kathy Pooler promoted her book via Linda Joy Myers’ Virtual Book Club. I’ll probably listen to the hour-long broadcast while I’m making a salad today.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform?  Facebook, by far because most of my friends pick up my blog post on Wednesdays there, unless they find my feed elsewhere. I use Twitter too, but don’t really understand how it works: It’s easy to click LIKE and not actually read any content. Also, I opened my Twitter account years ago with a nickname @Martabeaman before I began writing seriously, so I would change my handle to my real name, but then I’d probably lose earlier connections.

I’m getting used to Instagram – quick and easy – but sometimes I forget to include hashtags. Remember: I’m a digital immigrant, not a native, like my children and grandchildren.

Website and social media links:
Website: marianbeaman.com
Facebook: Marian Beaman
Twitter: @MartaBeaman
Instagram: marianbeaman
Amazon: Marian Beaman

Awards/special recognition:  February 18, 2020, Amazon reviews (almost all 5 stars) hit the 30-mark. The review from Mee Mee was short and sweet: “Absolutely charming memoir! I can go back again and again and even skip around just for a lovely escape to a different world. So well crafted and readable. I love when you can fly through the chapters because the writing is so fluid.”


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Audiobook Review – Maid by Stephanie Land

Maid
by
Stephanie Land

Rating:

This is going to be one of those reviews that goes against a popular and well-received book. But it also raises an important question that readers should consider when they’re reading a memoir.

First, though, a quick summary of Maid by Stephanie Land. It’s Land’s story of how, as a single mother, she found herself homeless and had to turn to public assistance in the form of grants, food stamps and similar programs to help her find a place to live and provide daycare while she worked. In an eye-opening explanation, she lists the programs and specific requirements she needed to meet in order to qualify. As a former coffee shop worker and part-time landscaper, she had only a high school degree and struggled to find regular work. She took on jobs cleaning houses, working for herself and also through a maid service. But for a long time, there were never enough hours for her to earn a proper living

It’s also her success story of how she was able to pick herself up and get a college degree in creative writing and eventually write this book.

I’m all for this kind of success story and that’s why I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by the author.

The problem I have with the story is that the author is whiny, chippy and judgmental about the people she interacts with, including her family, who do not support her. I’m not going to get into the details about these relationships, her actions and the decisions she makes, except highlight a couple that really bugged me.

I thought her attitude towards the people in the homes she cleaned was hypercritical and downright shocking. Looking at receipts, going through papers, trying on clothes, snooping through their prescriptions, and the worst, opening up the urns of one family’s ashes and imagining how they died – that stuff is appalling. So much complaining about their bathrooms and the dirt in their homes. It was tiresome.

My other chief problem comes from a highway car accident in which the author left her daughter alone in their pulled-over car to a retrieve a toy that had gone out the window. There were many more things that rubbed me the wrong way, including major facts that were left out, that seemed to spin her story the way she wanted it.

But I want to raise a question about how readers are supposed to react to another person’s actions, when they’re put out there in a memoir, particularly the overcoming adversity type. As I said before, I like inspirational and uplifting stories and I don’t begrudge anyone’s success and happiness. As many other reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads have noted, I’m glad she dug herself out and found success. And if the book gives others in her situation the hope to do that, I’m for that.

I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoyed reading or listening to Maid. As I said above, I’m glad she found happiness. But if readers feel something else, along with that message, something that doesn’t ring right, can’t we say so? What do you think?

To be fair, I’m sharing some positive and a couple skeptical WordPress reviews of Maid. And you can also click on these Amazon and Goodreads links for a full selection. It’s clearly the reader’s right to like the book, even though it wasn’t for me. Even Barack Obama liked the book, so what do I know?

Visit these blogs for a variety of reviews:

Becky’s Books
Hit or Miss Books
Ink Drinker Society
Arguably Alexis
The suspense is killin’ me—

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Indie Author? Stevie Turner

Author name:  Stevie Turner

Genres:  Romantic Suspense, Memoir, Dark Humor, Women’s Fiction, Family Dramas, and Paranormal

Books:  A House Without Windows; The Pilates Class; For the Sake of a Child; The Daughter-in-law Syndrome; Repent at Leisure; The Donor; and many more titles available here.

What’s your story and how did you become a writer?  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing.  Since childhood I’ve always made up stories and poems, and won an inter-schools’ writing competition at the age of eleven.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  I work as a medical secretary three days per week, and write as a hobby in my spare time.  Until I earn more royalties than working as a medical secretary then my work will always have to come first.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life:  My wedding day. Also the births of my two sons.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  I’m definitely a ‘pantster.’  I make it all up as I go along.

Could you write in a café with people around?  Absolutely not. I need to be on my own and in a totally silent room so that I can think.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it?  Yes, in Examining Kitchen Cupboards, I needed one of my characters to speak Portuguese.  I looked up the words on Google Translate.   

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  The one I could read over and over again is L.P Hartley’s The Go-Between.  It was written in a different age, without computers and iPhones etc.  Sometimes I wish we could go back to that foreign country, the past. What am I reading now?  I’m just about to start I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  My Kindle is my preferred choice, but I do read quite a few paperbacks too.

Do you think print books will always be around?  Yes, I think so.  Not everybody prefers eReaders.

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  No. My phone is for making phone calls or reading text messages.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else?  I have an iPhone, but I’m not always going to it!

How long could you go without checking your phone?  All day, and I sometimes do.  At work it lives in my rucksack, and when I get home I sometimes forget to take it out.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening?  No, as I find them rather expensive to buy.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform?  I’ve given up Facebook and LinkedIn as I wanted to cut down a bit. My favourite social media platform is WordPress followed by Twitter.

Website and social media links:
Website: stevie-turner-author.co.uk
WordPress Blog: steviet3.wordpress.com
Twitter: @StevieTurner6
YouTube: Stevie Turner
Amazon: Amazon.uk; Amazon.com; Amazon Author Page (worldwide)
Goodreads: Stevie Turner

Awards/special recognition:  Several Indie awards, which you can find here


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Fiction or nonfiction? Twitter reading poll results

The results are in on my small Twitter poll. Eighty-seven percent of those who responded on Twitter prefer fiction over nonfiction. And I had six write-ins on my blog. One for fiction, one for nonfiction and four readers who say it’s kind of even.

Despite these results, I feel as if readers are reading more nonfiction than ever. I’ve always preferred fiction over nonfiction, but I’m reading more nonfiction than I ever did in the past.

Here are some recommended nonfiction books I’ve read since I started my blog.


The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – I wasn’t sure I would enjoy reading this, but I was happily surprised to find Franklin’s memoir a remarkable and amusing record of time in America during the mid- to late 1700s. I also enjoyed refreshing my memory about the colonies before the American Revolution and the steps that led to independence.


Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. – Dedman was intrigued by two vacant but fully maintained mansions and two large apartments on Fifth Avenue in New York, owned by reclusive heiress, Huguette Clark. Clark, by choice, spent the last twenty years of her life in a hospital bed and gave away large amounts of money to her caretakers and advisers. When she died at age 104, who was to inherit her $300 million fortune?


Helen Keller – The Story of My Life – If you grew up in the United States, you very likely learned about Helen Keller in school.  She was an American girl from Alabama who lost her sight and hearing as a baby and determinedly overcame these obstacles to become a writer, a social activist and an advocate for the blind and deaf.


In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Many believe that Truman Capote was the pioneer of the nonfiction novel genre. In a 1966 New York Times interview with George Plimpton, Capote explains his decision to write a book about the brutal 1959 murder of a Kansas family: “The motivating factor in my choice of material—that is, choosing to write a true account of an actual murder case—was altogether literary. The decision was based on a theory I’ve harbored since I first began to write professionally, which is well over 20 years ago. It seemed to me that journalism, reportage, could be forced to yield a serious new art form: the ‘nonfiction novel,’ as I thought of it.”


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – Here’s a book I resisted reading because there was so much hype that I took a step back. I also avoided it because I am not a science person. But then my book club chose Lab Girl and I committed to reading it. So, wow. This book was excellent. Jahren writes beautifully about her lonely childhood in Minnesota, college life and early years trying to make it as a scientist.


Night by Elie Wiesel – I had read other books about the Holocaust, but never Night, Elie Wiesel’s memoir about being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War II. The New York Times calls it “a slim volume of terrifying power” and I couldn’t agree more. In 1944, Wiesel was deported by the Germans from his town of Sighet, Transylvania and sent by cattle train to Auschwitz and later Buchenwald. He was just a teenager. His account of this experience is a horrifying reminder of a terrible period of history.


Notes from a Public Typewriter – edited by Michael Gustafson and Oliver Uberti – Here’s a quick book that is guaranteed to put you in a good mood. It’s about the owners of the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When they set up the store, they put out a typewriter and paper for anyone to use. It wasn’t long before customers began to type random, sometimes whimsical and often heartfelt messages for all to see. Notes is a compilation of these messages.


Have you read any of these?  What are your favorite nonfiction books?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

Who’s That Indie Author? Matthew Williams

Author name:  Matthew Williams

Genre:  Memoir & Poetry

Books:  Something Changed: Stumbling Through Divorce, Dating and Depression; A Familiar Stranger

What’s your story and how did you become a writer?  I’ve always been a bookworm and I like nothing more than sitting in a café with a cup of tea and a good book, in my native north east of England.

In the aftermath of divorce, in 2015 I took to my tablet and I wrote. I’d never written anything outside of studies and work, yet I felt compelled to write about what I was experiencing. So I did. I wrote, I wrote, and I wrote. The words poured out of me and, before I knew it, in August 2017 I had my first book ready for publication.

I would never have imagined that I would be a published author, and now I have published two books. Writing has helped me to make sense of some difficult life challenges; through it I have learned new things about myself and have had some wonderful opportunities and met many inspirational people. I have discovered a love of poetry and have had a number of opportunities to share my story at various events.

More than anything, it means a lot to me that my writing has helped others to navigate challenges in their own lives, and I am grateful for the platform that writing has given me to raise awareness of mental health.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  With difficulty! Like most people these days life is very busy, I work full time for a mental health charity and I am a dad to two beautiful children, who I have shared custody of. So most of my time is spent running around from here to there and chipping away at an ever-growing to do list. I write when I can, I love it and I really feel in my element when I am sat at my keyboard and typing away. I’m not complaining, I’m lucky to have a life filled with things that I am passionate about. I could just do with a few more hours in the day sometimes!

Name one of the happiest moments in your life:  Like most parents I would say the two happiest moments of my life were the births of my children. Outside of that, and the smiles and laughter they bring into my life each day, holding my first book in my hands for the first time was a very special – and quite surreal – moment.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  With what I have written to date I have been a pantser. I tend to get a word or an expression come to mind and the rest flows from that. I usually don’t know what will come out and that’s the real thrill of writing for me. My goal is to write a novel; I’m curious as to how I will approach the challenge and whether my writing approach will need to adapt.

Could you write in a café with people around?  Absolutely, there are few greater pleasures in life! A lot of my first book was written in cafes. When I’m focused on what I am doing and the words are flowing I tend to be in my own little world and am quite oblivious to what is going on around me.

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  That’s so difficult to answer! It’s very difficult to pick just one. There are a few authors that I adore – Louis de Bernieres, Haruki Murakami, Tolstoy, Michael Chabon, Salman Rushdie, Donna Tartt, Thomas Wolfe – but if I had to pick one I would say War and Peace. All human life is there and Tolstoy has an incredible understanding of the human condition.

I usually have a few books on the go. At the moment I am reading Dead Men’s Trousers by Irvine Welsh and 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  I tend to get lost in whatever it is I’m reading, regardless of the format. I like the convenience of an eReader but you can’t beat the feel of a paperback in your hands.

Do you think print books will always be around?  I hope so! Reading print books is about so much more than the words, it’s the experience too and I think that there are enough readers that feel the same way to ensure that print books are with us for a good while yet. With so many high street stores closing down I do wonder about the future of physical book shops, but I hope they are around for many years to come.

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  Short and simple – no!

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else?  My iPad; I do the majority of my writing on it, as well as the social media, promotion etc. that follows.

How long could you go without checking your phone?  Not long enough! It’s something I’m conscious of. I think I’m pretty good at not playing about with my phone in company, especially at meals. I don’t have social media apps on my phone either. That said, it’s too easy to reach for your phone when walking for instance, and more and more I am resisting the impulse to check it when there is no good reason to.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening?  No. I do think that they’re a good thing but, for me, I love reading so much that if there’s something that interests me I will always want to read the book.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform?  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I like it, but it’s necessary. I like the opportunity it gives to engage with readers and I think it’s a fantastic tool for getting your work out there. That said, it can be very time consuming and I’m not a natural self-promoter so it can feel a little uncomfortable for me at times.

Website and social media links:
Website: A Familiar Stranger www.afamiliarstranger.co.uk
Twitter: @3DMathW
Facebook: @mwfamiliarstranger
Instagram: math_williams


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Book Club Mom’s great reads of 2019

I read some great books this year. Here’s a list of my favorites!


Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Is it good luck to survive a plane crash over the Atlantic? Most would think yes, but Scott Burroughs, after a heroic swim to safety, with four-year-old JJ Bateman clinging to his neck, may wonder. Because he will soon find himself caught between competing government agencies searching for a cause and the media’s ruthless pursuit of a story, any story, even if it’s unfounded. Winner of the 2017 Edgar Award for Best Novel and the 2017 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel.


In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Fantastic nonfiction novel, the first of its kind and considered Truman Capote’s masterpiece. The chilling depiction of a senseless 1959 murder of a Kansas family. Capote and his childhood friend, Harper Lee, went to Kansas to research the story and compiled over 8000 pages of notes. They were granted numerous interviews with the murderers, who by then, had confessed and were in jail awaiting trial. They moved to death row after their convictions, where Capote continued to interview them until their hangings. He became particularly attached to Perry Smith and related to his unhappy childhood.


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Fantastic memoir about Hope Jahren’s experiences as a scientist. Jahren’s field is plants, especially trees, and her interest in them is contagious. She explains the fascinating way in which they grow, reproduce and adapt. Jahren writes beautifully about her profession, its challenges and about her lonely childhood in Minnesota, college life and early years trying to make it as a scientist.


Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Arthur Less is turning 50 and he’s at the edge of a crisis: his writing career has stalled and his former lover is getting married. To guarantee he’ll be out of the country on the day of the wedding, Less accepts a string of unusual writerly engagements that take him around the world. His goal? Forget lost love and rework the novel his publisher has taken a pass on. In a comedic series of travel mishaps, Less bumbles through this symbolic journey in search of happiness. Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.


Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Set in New York during the Depression and World War II, the story begins with Anna Kerrigan as a young girl whose father has ties to organized crime. She accompanies her father on an errand and meets a mysterious man with powerful connections and won’t fully understand the impact until years later. I highly recommend Manhattan Beach to readers who like historical fiction and big stories with strong female characters.


Notes from a Public Typewriter – edited by Michael Gustafson and Oliver Uberti

Guaranteed to put you in a good mood, about the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, owned by Gustafson and his wife, Hilary. When they set up the store in 2013, they put out a typewriter, with paper, for anyone to use. It wasn’t long before customers began to type random, sometimes whimsical and often heartfelt messages for all to see. This book is the combined story of these messages.


Refugee by Alan Gratz

Terrific Young Adult historical novel about three refugee children, caught in different periods of conflict, who flee their countries in search of safety and a better life. In alternating stories, the children face unpredictable danger as they desperately try to keep their families together. Each discovers that, by being invisible, they escape many dangers, but miss chances for others to help them. Published in 2017 Refugee is now included in many middle and high school curriculums. A New York Times Notable Book, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, and both Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year.


Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

Great memoir about a woman who is hired to play violin in a prestigious touring orchestra, only to discover that the microphones are turned off. What’s turned on is a $14.95 CD player from Walmart, playing a recorded version of a composer’s music, performed by other musicians. The music sounds suspiciously like, but a strategic note or two different from, the score of the popular 1997 film, Titanic.


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Kya Clark is six years old when her mother walks out of their shack, a place hidden in the marshes of North Carolina, where racial tension and small-town prejudices are firmly in place in the nearby coastal town of Barkley Cove. Soon her father’s abusive rages drive Kya’s older siblings away, leaving only Kya and her father. Then one day it’s just Kya, known in town and shunned as the wild Marsh Girl. The story begins in 1952 and jumps to 1969, when a young man has died. In alternating chapters, readers learn Kya’s story of survival and how she becomes part of the investigation into his death.


What books were your favorites in 2019? Leave a comment and share your best!

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My Friend Anna – The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams

My Friend Anna – The True Story of a Fake Heiress
by
Rachel DeLoache Williams

Rating:

In 2017, Rachel Williams, a young woman working for Vanity Fair magazine in New York, made friends with a 26-year-old woman named Anna Delvey. Delvey was living in a swank hotel and claimed to be a German heiress. The two became fast friends and Anna brought Rachel into her world, treating her to expensive restaurants, nightclubs, workouts, saunas, and pedicures. Anna claimed to be negotiating a big idea – a private art club, housed in the historic Church Missions House on Park Avenue. A couple months later, Anna invited Rachel and two others to join her on a lavish, all-expenses paid vacation in Marrakech, Morocco.

That’s where it all went south. When Anna’s credit cards didn’t work in Marrakech, she persuaded Rachel to put the charges on her own cards, including a Vanity Fair American Express expense account, assuring Rachel she’d pay her back as soon as she talked to her bank. The charges totaled over $62,000 and Anna began to drag her feet. After two months of promises (my favorite line from these conversations: “Would Bitcoin be okay?”), Rachel began to understand that she’d been conned.

My Friend Anna is the story of how Rachel, 29, dealt with being duped out of a large amount of money, which included providing authorities with information and evidence that led to Anna’s arrest. The charges were grand larceny and theft of services from Rachel and others of more than a quarter million dollars. Rachel testified at her trial and wrote this book.

This story has gawkers’ appeal. You read it because you want to know how anyone could fall for a scam like this and you’re glad it’s not you! The author fell for her friend’s tales of wealth and billion dollar trust fund. And her fatal mistake was taking out her own credit card to cover the costs of their vacation. I didn’t feel too sorry for her, however. The book deal and HBO’s purchase of the story have probably taken the sting out of this friendship gone wrong.

That said, I tore through the story and enjoyed reading how it all unraveled. I especially liked the text message exchanges, which while they were repetitive and a bit whiny, reflected Rachel’s desperate attempts to get her money back. I would have liked to know more about Anna, whose past is revealed late in the book. For most of the story, she’s an enigma.

Of course, when I finished, I wanted to see just who these people were. To round that out, here’s a good interview from ABC Nightline:

So all in all, a good, fast read, a little light on substance, but entertaining.

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