Review: Too Much Is Not Enough by Andrew Rannells

Too Much Is Not EnoughToo Much Is Not Enough by Andrew Rannells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was absolutely EVERYTHING a memoir should be.


All the stars for a star!

Andrew Rannaells grew up in Omaha, far from the glittering lights of Broadway, but he always felt he was meant for the stage. He felt a pull for a life outside of Nebraska and throwing caution to the wind, made that happen for himself.

This witty and candid memoir follows Rannells from his early days of community theater, through his first days in NYC, his attempt at college, friendships, turbulent relationships, successes and losses. Along the way you feel drawn in, like you are more of a friend than a reader.

I really enjoyed this. I giggled a lot, I shed a few tears, I learned some things, felt inspired and even a bit jealous at times. I mean, he had an apartment he designed to be just like Carrie Bradshaw’s! How could I not be a wee bit jealous of that?

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Andrew’s work or even people just looking to read something about a boy, from Nebraska, taking on the world and against all odds, crushing it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crown Archetype, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I had so much fun with it and appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern IrelandSay Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Very impressive, Radden Keefe, very impressive.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland is an intricate and moving piece of narrative nonfiction concerning The Troubles in the North of Ireland, particularly centered in Belfast, beginning in 1969 through the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Bookending Radden Keefe’s extraordinary compilation of these events is the story of a mother of ten, Jean McConville, who was kidnapped from her home in late 1972, becoming one of ‘the disappeared’ during this bitter conflict. McConville had been accused of being a paid informant for the British Army and it was common knowledge at the time that the IRA was responsible for her disappearance.

This book seems remarkably researched and indeed, Radden Keefe, provides copious amounts of notes at the end of the main story detailing where his information is coming from, etc. During the course of his 4-years of research, he interviewed around 100 people, although many more refused to speak with him, as talking about The Troubles can still hold repercussions.

I was so impressed with how he was able to bring such a sensitive and emotional topic to life on the page. Weaving together an immersive account of a time fraught with violence, betrayals and loss. There are descriptive accounts of the roles of various players at the time such as Gerry Adams, Brendan Hughes, Bobby Sands and the Price Sisters, Dolours and Marian.

One of the most interesting areas explored, for me, was the hunger strikes carried out by many of the volunteers captured and imprisoned by the British. I hadn’t really heard too much about that before and found it a horrifying and fascinating avenue of resistance; handled really well within these pages.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in 20th century Irish history or anyone interested in The Troubles in particular. I definitely have a couple of people in my own life that I will be purchasing this book for as a gift.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate having the opportunity to read this one. A big thank you as well to the author, Patrick Radden Keefe, for taking on this project as I feel this is a part of history that deserves to be remembered. Well done.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone. Read this book!

Slainte~

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Review: Insane Mode: How Elon Musk’s Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil by Hamish McKenzie

Insane Mode: How Elon Musk's Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of OilInsane Mode: How Elon Musk’s Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil by Hamish McKenzie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Even if it died tomorrow, Tesla has already achieved what it set out to do: accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport. It has convinced the world that electric cars can be great.”

I really enjoyed Hamish McKenzie’s overview of the pending electric revolution within the auto industry. I learned so much, particularly in regards to the progress various nations around the world are making to be rid of gas powered vehicles.

Full disclosure: I am a HUGE Elon Musk fangirl and Tesla shareholder.

This being said, my enjoyment factor for this book may be a bit heightened compared to an average reader who perhaps doesn’t have that love ((ahem, background)) in regards to Musk & Tesla. I believe in him and his passion for his companies and their products is absolutely contagious.

As far as the format and writing for this book, I think they were both very well executed. McKenzie has a journalism background and I think that definitely shines through in the best ways. His ease with explaining a fairly large and complex sector of the market was impressive and I appreciated the way he examined the big picture; aka. looked at the issue of transitioning to electric vehicles from a global perspective and the effects that it could have long-term.

If you are a gear head or a tech guru you should definitely check this book out. It is loaded with up-to-date information on where we stand in our transition away from the internal combustion engine into a more sustainable, as well as potentially autonomous vehicular future.

Whether you are a believer yet or not, it stands to reason that within a generation or two, the kids of the future will look at our current gas powered vehicles like my nieces and nephews look at rotary dial telephones. This concise book is a great start to understanding the history, scope and issues in a nonpolitical way and extends forth a positive outlook on the future while also questioning how these changes will affect our economy and society in future.

My parting words are, Elon, I love you…oh and I want to thank the publisher, Dutton, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to read a book early and provide my feedback. Cheers~

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One of the best memoirs I have ever read…

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected AdventureThe Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure by Shoba Narayan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adored this book! As memoirs go – top, top notch – super interesting and engaging!

The Milk Lady of Bangalore took me completely by surprise. I had no idea what this was going to be like and within the first few pages I was hooked. Narayan, a journalist by trade, writes in such a pleasing way. To me, it flows like you are sitting for coffee with a friend and she is telling you a very detailed story. I couldn’t put this one down and ended up reading it in three days.

This is a memoir – one of the best I have EVER read – but it is truly so much more than that. The basic gist is that Narayan decides with her husband to move back to their native-India after living for 20-years in the United States. They both have parents who are getting older and as they have two children, they want their children to know their grandparents and experience their culture. They move into a large apartment building in Bangalore and on move in day, Narayan, by chance, meets Sarala, the milk lady. This is how it all begins.

This book is a beautiful examination of culture, friendship, life, love, loss and growth. I laughed and I cried. You know you have found a special book when one brings out such a wide range of emotions – in my opinion anyway. It was interesting to read about Narayan really learning about her own culture for a second time. I could absolutely relate with a lot of her feelings having moved away from the area I grew up in, and being away for many years, going back, you see things with fresh eyes. You can appreciate how much culture varies from area to area and that can really bring forth a lot of self reflection about ones own beliefs, traditions, goals, wants, needs and really where one feels like they belong.

Now, COWS:

In this book you will also learn so much about cows – magnificent animals, they really are. This book felt to me like a microhistory of cows and their role/significance in India culture, particularly through different Hindu beliefs and customs. I absolutely adored that aspect of the book. If you are someone who enjoys that type of book, you will love this. Also, if you are a foodie, you will probably love this and should definitely read it. There is a lot in here about milk, the different types / properties of milk. I am telling you, fascinating.

Overall, I applaud Shoba Narayan for her efforts with this and I say, thank you, for sharing this part of your life with the world. It was beautiful! Also, a big thank you to the publisher, Algonquin Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity and apologize that it has taken me so long to get to this! One of my favorite and most unique reads of 2018 so far!

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Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Publication Date: 1966    |    Rating: 5-stars!

A classic! An absolute masterpiece of true crime literature. Gritty and intelligent. This should be on everyone’s ‘books to read in a lifetime’ list. As many of you may know, In Cold Blood is the true account of the heinous murders of the Clutter Family in 1959 Kansas. In my opinion, the writing style of this account is absolutely flawless. Through Capote’s words, you are transported to this small town; you get alternating accounts from the family, from the killers, from other residents close to the crime. The account of the actual murders is bone-chilling and can disturb sleep, believe me!

This is my second time reading this book and I found it just as impactful during my reread. To me it is interesting to think about Capote compiling his research for this. He actually went and lived in this town, along with one of his closest friends, Harper Lee, and they painstakingly interviewed hundreds of people associated with the events. Just the sheer amount of data compiled and how it was intricately woven together fascinates me – yes, I know that is what nonfiction novelists do but this was a truly groundbreaking piece of journalistic writing at the time and should be appreciated as such.

Another interesting aspect of this for me is how interested Capote was in the psychology behind the killers motivations and actions, as well as their complex relationship with one another both before and after the crimes. I think anyone who enjoys true crime, criminology, psychology and even sociology will find this book absolutely captivating. If you have been putting off reading this for any reason, please stop, read this…now!

Do you like nonfiction books? If so, what is your favorite sub-genre within nonfiction? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below and you can reach me through the contact links to the right >

Review: Endurance by Scott Kelly

Publication Date: October 19, 2017

Subtitle: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery

All the stars in the universe! As memoirs go, this is top-notch! If you like science, you need to read this book. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Scott Kelly himself, and was hooked from start to finish. For me personally, I find it very hard to critique a memoir. I mean, it is that person’s story, it is up to them how they choose to tell it. This being said, even if I was a better reviewer I would have a hard time finding anything to critique within this book. Detailing everything from his childhood, his navy pilot training and career, astronaut training and numerous space missions, this book is replete with interesting facts and stories. I didn’t want it to end – I flew through it and recommend it for everyone. Scott Kelly has lived one hell of a life and you should learn about it!

Do you enjoy reading memoirs? If you do, what is one you would recommend to everyone? I want to know – comment here or send me a message – I would love to hear from you!

Cheers~

Review: The Stowaway by Laurie Gwen Shapiro

Publication Date: January 16, 2018

‘Wherever you’re from, there’s always somewhere more exciting.’

Excellent – a rollicking, fun ride to the edge of the earth and back!  The story of Billy Gawronski is one that I had never heard before but I feel like now, it will be one that I never forget. A true tale of perseverance and adventure. Young Billy dreamed of traveling to far off places and saw his dreams become a reality when the infamous Admiral Byrd planned an excursion from NYC, where Billy lived with his immigrant parents, to the last unknown frontier of Antarctica. Billy was willing to do anything to be a part of this expedition – including stowing away – which is exactly what he did.

This book takes us on a journey to the far reaches of the earth filling in history, geography and science along the way. This is actually a fairly quick read for a nonfiction book – not as dense as many tend to be. Because of this fact, I would think this would be a great book for YA-readers, as well as adults. The Author’s Note at the end sealed the 5-star review from me. If you read this book – make sure you read all the way through. I would like to thank the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing me with the opportunity to read and share my thoughts on this amazing story!  If you love true tales of adventure I would highly recommend picking this one up!

Nonfiction Recommendations

Do you read nonfiction books?  I do, quite a bit, and always enjoy them! As you may recall, a while back I posted that The Radium Girls by Kate Moore was my favorite nonfiction book this year and I am definitely sticking to that.  However, today I thought I would write a little about two other great nonfiction books I read in 2017 – both of which I gave five stars and both of which relate to Labor relations in America – much as The Radium Girls did.

The first, Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle, tells the harrowing story of the disaster at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in the Greenwich Village industrial area of New York City back in 1911.  The fire, that started close to the top of the building swept through three floors and ultimately took the lives of close to 150 people – mostly young, immigrant women. This book tells their stories, the events of that infamous day and the results that such a catastrophe set into motion. An amazing and tragic story- one with lasting effects for worker and workplace safety. Somewhat surprisingly, I had never come across this historical event before and I am so glad to have read this book. Best described as an in-depth examination of the Labor movement, immigration and politics of the time; this book is intimate and startling, as well as fiercely moving. I loved it and learned so much!

The next, Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles into Darkness by Neil Swidey, focuses on the waste treatment plant project on Deer Island in Boston Harbor back in the 1990s. Due to a massively polluted Harbor the Commonwealth of Massachusetts undertook this enormous project that required multiple different companies, teams and specialties. This is mainly the story of the tunnel under the Harbor and the 5-men sent in at the end to remove plugs prior to use. I really enjoyed this book although I found it depressing – the truth is sometimes depressing. I think it is an important read, especially for the people of Massachusetts (of which I am one). I think the author did a great job of memorializing the “ordinary heroes” -the men who took on this project; two of whom didn’t make it out alive. A classic David versus Goliath tale but unfortunately in this one, Goliath wins. I loved the engineering and science aspects of this story as well. A good reminder to us all that behind the infrastructure of our country, that we often take for granted, are the lives of thousands of men and women who risk their lives to make it possible.

Review: The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Publication Date: May 2, 2017

Hey book babes!  This morning as I was getting ready for work, I was thinking about The Radium Girls.  Is this odd?  I mean, I finished this book in July!  Why am I still thinking about it?  Because it was incredible, that’s why.

This is easily one of the best books I have read this year; if not, the best. I am still not even sure that I can adequately express how much I enjoyed reading this story. Firstly, I am a huge science nerd but I do not think you need to be in order to enjoy this book; in the end it is a human story. The writing is so smooth, the story so unbelievable and heartbreaking that I would find it hard to believe anyone would not be intrigued by it. I think the author, Kate Moore, did a great service to these women by writing their stories and in such a way that their full humanity, suffering and indeed strength and courage soars through the pages.

I read a lot of non-fiction; I love it.  I love learning and books that provide a narrative feel to history or social issues are truly compelling to me but this book takes that to a whole new level.  It seems to me, a lot of books in this genre are written with more of an outside-observer approach.  Ms. Moore’s writing is full of empathy and true feeling for these women’s plight that one would think she knew them personally.  Reading this, one cannot help but think her research must have totally engulfed her; I cannot imagine how long it must have taken her to pull all of these facts together into such a gripping account.  If you have not read this one yet, you should definitely check it out.  Even if you do not normally read non-fiction, step outside that comfort zone and give this one a chance – it deserves it!