Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (43): Memoirs!

Simon and Schuster sent me some books recently, and two of them are memoirs. Since memoirs don't remotely fit my usual reviewing style, and I don't actually know what I'm doing with them, I thought I would just shove them into a post together and see what happened.

Where I Live Now by Sharon Butala

Published: April 4th, 2017 by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Adult Memoir
Binding: ARC (and I'm actually putting the review up when it's still advanced!)
Page Count: 167 plus the acknowledgments and bibliography in the ARC, but it says there'll be 208 in the finished copy.
Part of a series? The author has several memoirs, so if you count her life as a series... but not really.
Got via: As I said, it was sent to me for review consideration.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When Sharon Butala’s husband, Peter, died unexpectedly, she found herself with no place to call home. Torn by grief and loss, she fled the ranchlands of southwest Saskatchewan and moved to the city, leaving almost everything behind. A lifetime of possessions was reduced to a few boxes of books, clothes, and keepsakes. But a lifetime of experience went with her, and a limitless well of memory—of personal failures, of a marriage that everybody said would not last but did, of the unbreakable bonds of family.

Reinventing herself in an urban landscape was painful, and facing her new life as a widow tested her very being. Yet out of this hard-won new existence comes an astonishingly frank, compassionate and moving memoir that offers not only solace and hope but inspiration to those who endure profound loss.

Review: I don't read a lot of memoir or non-fiction in general besides research when I write books, and that's mostly mythology stuff, but I found this interesting. I live in Saskatchewan myself, and one of the places mentioned in the book is actually where I was born. Most of where she talks about is southwest Saskatchewan and I don't live exactly there, but it's a small province and I found it very interesting to read both about Butala's person history and what she had learned and shared about Saskatchewan's history. Like did you know in 1991 a nearly complete T-Rex skeleton was found in Saskatchewan? We named him Scotty. I've seen his head! A few years ago he was touring, and our musuem had him and I got to see him. (T-Rex heads are gigantic, by the way.)

I think my only complaint is just that the book can be a little disjointed. There's not really a strong narrative. I feel almost like it's a book meant to be read more as a chapter here and a chapter there than all in one sitting.

I'm also obviously not really the target audience for this either. I enjoyed it, but it's obviously aimed at different people than me, and that's not the fault of the book, so no points off for that. I actually think I might send a copy to my aunt - my uncle's not dead or anything, knock on wood, but it's probably a similar history to his family, and I think she'd enjoy readingit. Maybe her mother-in-law, too. The photos that Butala shared are also really neat.

So, a little disjointed in the narrative, but enjoyable still and I enjoyed it. It's a fairly quick read, but the Saskatchewan history is very interesting and I think the grief aspect would be very relateable to many. Glad I read this. Three out of four roses.

Gizelle's Bucket List by Lauren Fern Watt

Published: March 7th, 2017 by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Adult Memoir
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 239 plus the acknowledgements and about the author in the ARC, but it says 240 in the finished.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: It was also sent to me.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Lauren Watt took her 160-pound English Mastiff to college—so of course after graduation, Gizelle followed Lauren to her first, tiny apartment in New York. Because Gizelle wasn’t just a dog; she was a roommate, sister, confidante, dining companion, and everything in between.

Together, Gizelle and Lauren went through boyfriends, first jobs, a mother’s struggle with addiction, and the ups and downs of becoming an adult in the big city. But when Gizelle got sick and Lauren realized her best friend might not be such a constant after all, she designed an epic bucket list to make the absolute most of the time they had left.

Review: Like I said, two memoirs and they don't fit my full review style and I'm out of my depth a little, so we're going this. This is really enjoyable. I mean, I started crying like a baby at the end, but I kind of expected that when I started reading a book about a dog's bucket list. I saw Marley and Me. I know how these things end.

There's a lot of depth to this one and Lauren has a great voice. Apparently their story went viral and I can totally see why. Her voice is fun and relateable, and her memoir has a strong narrative carrying you through it. I thought it a strength that about half the book was about Lauren and Gizelle's life together so we could connect with them and really care about them, before getting to the actual bucket list and the sad parts.

I wasn't a real big fan of the running joke of one of Lauren's family's dogs being nicknamed "Fatty" because seriously thin people, you shouldn't. It's not funny from you. But otherwise I really enjoyed this, especially the time spent in New York and how vivid those descriptions were. And the pictures at the beginning of each chapter were a great addition, very cute and heart-warming.

I'm not actually a dog person - I don't really like them. But I still enjoyed this, and I think dog lovers would like it a lot. I have a friend, actually, I may give a copy of this to. I think she'd like it. Four out of five roses - points off for the fatphobia.

It's weird how both these kind of deal with grief, isn't it?? You okay, Simon? ;)

Peace and cookies,

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