Audiobook Review, Nonfiction, Reese Witherspoon's Book Club, Self Help

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand AloneBraving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We’ll keep this review short because… well… the book is short.

I snatched this audiobook from the library in my quest to read all the Reese Witherspoon Book Club picks. This is her pick from January of 2018.

Don’t let the title or the cover deceive you. I thought this was going to be a book about a woman out in the wilderness trying to survive. Wrong. Well at least not in the literal sense.

Braving the Wilderness is about the quest to belong. What does that really mean? The author would tell you, “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” And Brown take us on a quick journey through her research surrounding this topic.

While I didn’t find this book awe-inspiring, it did give me a lot to think about. About my thoughts and actions and how I respond to people. Why our society is so divided, particularly in the political realm. This book does have lots of political undertones (although I would not say it is overtly political in nature). And I think it applies to folks on both sides of the political fence and everything in between. How can we be nicer to each other? How can we take opportunities to listen to understand rather than listen to respond? How do we bridge the enormous divide in our country and stop judging those who aren’t in our “political corner?”

You may not agree with everything Brown presents in this book, but I guarantee you will walk away with at least a few ideas for improving yourself as a human being. And at a short 4 hours on audio (a little over 200 pages in print), it is an extremely quick read you could tackle in one afternoon.

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Memoir/Biography, Nonfiction

Educated by Tara Westover

EducatedEducated by Tara Westover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you enjoy nonfiction, you HAVE to read this book.

If nonfiction isn’t really your thing, you and I should be friends because it’s not my thing either. But this book was so darn good that I might have just turned a corner on my feelings about nonfiction.

This story is unbelievable. No, seriously. There were times when I could not believe somebody could have gone through so much in life and persevered through it all. It is truly something special to read this book and gain perspective on how some children are raised, and the obstacles they have to overcome in life that many of us take for granted.

Educated is a memoir written by author Tara Westover about her life growing up in a devout Mormon family. Her father is somewhat of a survivalist (with a touch of bipolar). Her mother is a midwife and naturalist. They believe in modesty and traditional gender roles. She is the youngest of seven children. And Tara never stepped foot in a classroom. That is, until she turned 17 years old.

This book is about Tara’s journey of self-discovery through education. The juxtaposition of what she learned via her family’s teachings about morality and religion with the formal education she received in college was so interesting. I could not believe some of the things she had to learn at such an advanced age in relation to your typical school age child…. how to use a scan-tron, that you actually had to read the textbook instead of just looking at the pictures, and the definition of the Holocaust. Things most people would consider common knowledge were foreign concepts to a young girl living a sheltered life.

I honestly could not listen to this audiobook fast enough. The first half of the book was somewhat slow moving and I wasn’t quite sure how all of the small stories told along the way tied in together. But by the second half of the book, I was fully on board and was able to see how every story was a piece of a larger puzzle that shaped Tara’s journey.

Cannot recommend this one enough. It is so interesting and inspiring. Looking at the obstacles that Tara was able to overcome and the many accomplishments she achieved along the way, I can confidently say that this book exemplifies that age old saying, “You can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

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I’ll Be There for You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller

I'll Be There for You: The One about FriendsI’ll Be There for You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out October 23rd!

I think it’s only fair to disclose before this review that I’m a complete and utter Friends freak! My cat’s name is Chandler, my Roomba-knock-off vaccum’s name is Gunther, I rescued a cat and named her Phoebe, I have the Friends picture frame that I hung over my apartment’s peephole, and I have watched all of the seasons too many times to count. I make references on the regular and expect that everybody around me is going to *get* them (they usually don’t…). You get the point.

Okay, back to the review. How could I give any book about Friends anything less than 5 stars? Honestly. But low and behold, this books stands on its own merits! I can truly give it 5 stars because it’s just a great book.

Kelsey Miller did a great job portraying the history of the series, the producers’ journey to get there, how the show was cast, the challenges they went through to keep it on the air, and the overwhelming influence it had on pop culture. It tries to explain why Friends was and still is such an overwhelming presence in American households and why people continue to gravitate towards the characters and their stories.

The unique thing about this book is that it references current events that were taking place while the show was airing (i.e. September 11th and its impact on the show). It also at times toes the line into political territory so be prepared to be open minded about political viewpoints that May differ from your own. For the newer generation that were young while it was airing live, it is interesting to get fresh perspective on the happenings in the 90’s.

The quality of the writing is great for a nonfiction book. It reads very smoothly and has a conversational feel which makes for a quick read.

Funny sidenote… I kept watching the completion percentage at the bottom of my Kindle as I read and was surprised at how long the book was while I was reading it. I kept thinking, “Holy cow is this book long!” But, when I got to about 70% in the ebook, it ended. The last 30% is footnotes and references. So it may seem long but it is an illusion! I actually devoured it in two days.

Speaking of footnotes, Kelsey Miller added little morsels of information throughout that didn’t necessary fit in the body of the book but we’re interesting tidbits. And at times she added bits of humor that were appreciated.

Highly recommended for all my Friends freaks out there (you know who you are). But also is relevant for those who even have a marginal relationship with Friends.

Could this book BE any better?


-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Kelsey Miller, and HARLEQUIN for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, Nonfiction, True Crime

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State KillerI’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm I’m not sure how to feel about this book. I feel like I’m going to be an outlier here with an unpopular opinion. I didn’t hate it but I also didn’t love it.

A few notes about this book:
1. Michelle McNamara died before the book was complete.
2. Much of the book was pieced together by her colleagues prior to publication.
3. The Golden State Killer was not identified prior to this book being published so if you’re looking for a conclusion where an identification is made, you aren’t going to find it here.
4. A 74-yeard old man named Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested after this book was published (April 2018) and charged with many of the crimes depicted in this book. He is assumed to be the Golden State Killer although the trial is still pending.

Ok so all of that being said, my biggest issue with the book was the fact that it was very disjointed and all over the place in terms of timeline and content. It jumped around from the 1970s to the 1980s to 2010s back to 1970s… You get the gist. Which might not have been a huge problem if the story was more cohesive. However, I felt like the bulk of the book was a compilation of mini-stories or random thoughts that didn’t real tell a complete story. I found the discussion of the various crimes committed to be extremely repetitive as the killer’s MO didn’t deviate a whole lot. I’m not sure why each crime needed to be rehashed.

I guess I was expecting more “investigation” and less victim back story. And I feel like I finally got that 8 out of 10 hours into the audiobook. The last 2 hours were probably my favorite because there was more discussion about creative ways in which Michelle and other investigators dissected the known information to formulate theories. That part was superb. I would have appreciated more of the latter and less of the former.

I feel like it’s a little unfair to judge this book too harshly considering the author passed away while the book was still being written, had to be pieced together posthumously, and likely wasn’t edited in the way the author would have edited it. I’d like to think that had Michelle McNamara had an opportunity to finish it herself it would have been better.

Lastly, the entire time I read this book (having known the killer was allegedly in custody) I wanted so badly to compare the theories in the book with known information about Joseph James DeAngelo to see if the investigators’ theories were accurate. Guess I’ll have to wait for the HBO documentary that somebody will undoubtedly produce one of these days to find out!

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