Review of Sober Stick Figure: A Memoir by Amber Tozer

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Amber Tozer is super-funny, brutally honest comedian who has bravely chosen to share her story of alcoholism and recovery with the world. If you’re thinking this is another super-heavy memoir that will leave you feeling  nothing but depression and pity, just take a look at the cover. That sick figure version of Amber makes frequent appearances throughout the book…

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In a very real and funny way, Amber Tozer shares how and why she first began drinking, how her drinking became out of control, her struggles to gain control, and finally, how she was able to get sober. And there are also several funny stories about urine. And a few other funny (funny haha and funny odd) stories that have little or nothing at all to do with urine.

It’s refreshing to hear another human being share their insecurities and worst moments with such candor and humor.There’s no blame game being played here (though the author did have some difficult moments in her childhood). And though I got the sense that she definitely had some regrets about some of the things that occurred while she was drinking, this isn’t a preachy book about redemption or regret and self-loathing.  I got the sense that she was sharing her story to make people smile and to help others who may be having a difficult time.

Sober Stick Figure was a quick, page-turning, one-day read for me.

4.5/5 stars

Thanks to Running Press via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review of “Free Days with George: Learning Life’s Little Lessons from One Very Big Dog” by Colin Campbell

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Full disclosure: I own a Newf. Therefore, there was little to no chance this book was getting less than five stars no matter what. But I’m happy to say those five stars are well-deserved! I read this book in less than a day. It’s a fast-feel good read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Colin Campbell was a man who’d hit a rough spot in life. His wife, the love of his life, left him suddenly and with no explanation. Truly devastated, he buried himself in work and picked up a few bad habits. He was still having a great deal of difficulty moving on when, months later, a coworker suggested he get a dog. Fortunately for all involved, this coworker was quite persistent (a role I myself have played many times), pointing him to Petfinder to find his doggie love match. And there he finds Kong (a name change was obviously in his future), a one hundred forty pound Landseer  Newfoundland who’d had his own share of bad luck. Everything was about to change for both of them.

Without giving too many details of the story, I’ll say it’s a beautiful one, told with humor and honesty. The classic who-saved-who story that happens so frequently in rescue mixed with some very George/Colin-specific  elements that are quite unique! I thought I knew what a “free day” was but I’ll never again hear the expression without thinking of how it is defined in this book, as told to the author by his beloved grandfather. I highly recommend this book, especially to dog lovers.

And for those of you who are not fortunate enough to own an oofa-newf, and who may think the author is exaggerating in his telling of George’s compulsion to “save” everyone in the water, here is a little video of my girl Belle. (She’s ashamed of her short haircut so please, if you see her, don’t mention it.) In it she is “saving” Jerry, the Labrador Retriever who DOES NOT NEED SAVING. Labs, as you may know, are very competent swimmers. It’s a little long so if you want to fast forward, the “BIG RESCUE” comes at about 20 seconds prior to the end.

5/5 stars

Many thanks to Penguin Random House Canada, via NetGalley, for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Review of “I’ll See You in Paris” by Michelle Gable

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Thanks to St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Beginning at a their horse farm in Virginia, then alternating between 1970’s and 1990’s Paris and England, I’ll See You in Paris is the story of a mother and daughter reconciling the past with their present. Though it is narrated in alternating time periods, and there are many twists and turns in the plot, the author makes the transitions smooth and easy to follow.

Annie Haley is a young woman who is not going to let anything stop her from finding out the truth about the missing Duchess of Marlborough – or herself. Her mother Laurel has been hiding many things, including her paternity, from her. While in Banbury, England to settle an estate her mother recently revealed she had inherited, Annie sets out to link the missing pieces together. She finds help in Gus, a regular at the local pub. They strike up an unlikely friendship and that’s when things become very, very interesting.

The story is told with a nice balance of seriousness and humor. The characters are well-drawn and all likable in their own way. That goes for the fictional characters as well as the Duchess herself. Though I admittedly didn’t know was a ‘real’ person until the end of the book.But it makes perfect sense. Some of this stuff you really couldn’t make up…

Michelle Gable does an equally great job describing the setting and locations. Reading this book certainly made me want to get on the next flight to London so I could make my way to Banbury, bike to the George and Dragon, and have a pint with Gus! Followed by a trip to Paris, of course.

My rating: 4 stars

 

 

Review of “Avenue of Spies” by Alex Kershaw

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Thanks to Crown Publishing via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Avenue of Spies is the story of the Jackson family during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Sumner Jackson is a well-respected physician working at the American Hospital. He and his wife, Toquette and son, Philip reside on the Avenue de Foch, one of the most prestigious avenues in Paris. They are forced to watch as many of their neighbor’s homes are overtaken by the the highest-ranking and most ruthless leaders of the  Nazi regime. Dr. Jackson uses his position at the hospital to help where he can. His contribution to the French resistance involves helping fallen Allied pilots to safety in Spain. For her part, his wife agrees to help by coordinating  a central location for resistance members to exchange information within their home – directly under the noses of their Nazi neighbors . Sadly, it all comes to an abrupt halt when they are finally discovered.

My thoughts:

Though not an easy read, this was a very interesting story. It differed from some of the other books regarding the occupation of Paris that I’ve read in that it focused primarily on one family, their heroic efforts, and willingness to risk everything. There were several interesting historical facts that I either didn’t know or had forgotten – including the unwillingness of some of Hitler’s officers  to follow his order to reduce Paris to rubble when defeat was imminent. Though there were obviously some parts of the book that were difficult to read, I found that it read more like a novel and was hard to put down. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about that period in French history.

My rating: 4 stars

Review of “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Many thanks to Spiegel & Grau, via Shelf Awareness, for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

In a letter written to his fifteen year old son, which is part memoir and part narrative, Ta-Nehisi Coates shares his powerfully written and very relevant thoughts, experiences, and perspectives on race, history and American culture. From the Civil War to the present day, we gain a deeper understanding of what it means to inhabit a black body in the United States.

My thoughts:

This is a beautifully written book. It is a very quick read. This is not because the subject matter is light, of course. It’s because it’s so compelling, engaging, and most importantly, honest. Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most introspective authors I have read in a long time. Though the book is only 156 pages long, I dog-eared 18 pages with what I felt were especially important, beautiful, poetic statements and sentiments.

I agree with several other reviewers (including Toni Morrison) that this book should be required reading. It is bound to inspire an important and necessary dialogue.

My rating:

5 Stars