A few months ago I reconsidered the direction for my blog. With my current focus on completing my memoir and all that the word “completing” entails, I chose to center the core of my blog around writing, memoir, and creative nonfiction. With that decision came another change, the choice to move my reviews of others’ memoirs to my book review blog, Puddletown Reviews. So that no one misses out on a review they might want to see, I will be running what I call thumbnail reviews here. I will continue to list the memoir reviews under this blog’s tab, Book Reviews, with the link taking you to the full review on Puddletown Reviews.

Today is inauguration day for “Thumbnail Reviews.”


When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood

Monica Wood has written in poetic language a poignant and moving memoir. Beginning on an ordinary morning, like any other morning in her childhood home, Wood takes us through the routine. Family members are introduced to the reader with enough detail for them to become as real as our own family members.

Living in a small industrial town in Maine–Mexico, Maine–in the early 1960s, most heads of households worked at the local paper mill. Fourth-grader Monica is startled to learn her father has died of a heart attack on his way to work. What does this mean for her? For her family? How will each one cope? Wood’s reaction to this unexpected event, the realization anyone can be taken at any time, is a raw and moving scene.

“We were an ordinary family;” she writes, “a mill family, not the stuff of opera. And yet…my memory of that day reverberates down the decades as something close to music. Emotion, sensation, intuition. I see the day—or chips and bits, as if looking through a kaleidoscope—but I also hear it, a faraway composition in the melodious language of grief…”


An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski

Laura Schroff’s story could be my story, or yours, or the next-door neighbor, a school teacher. Her story could be anyone’s story. But for this book, it is Laura Schroff’s story to tell in her own way sharing her truth as she knows it.

Yet, her story is not hers alone. Her story involves 11-year old Maurice Mazyck, a homeless boy panhandling the streets of Manhattan. The first time he reaches out and asks Laura for money, she walks on. Something causes her to turn around and go back. And for Laura and Maurice life begins to change that day.


The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield

When I selected The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield from the publisher via NetGalley, I didn’t know what to expect. A memoir, yes. But about being an undertaker’s daughter, living over the funeral home, in a small Southern town? I thought it somewhat bizarre yet intriguing.

Kate Mayfield takes her reader on a strange, sometimes humorous, often dangerous tale of her life as the daughter of the one of only two white undertakers in Jubelee, Kentucky. The time period is the 1960s, a time when our nation was fraught with civil rights issues.

Kate’s family was guaranteed to a show of sorts each time the phone ring and someone needed to arrange a funeral. Funerals it seems created family feuds, arguments among family members, fetishes, and disagreements among funeral home owners.


Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

I resisted reading Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman for too long. Note the publication date of 2010, and it is now summer of 2015.

Why the resistance? I couldn’t find in me to believe that a book about a young woman’s misplaced choices landing her in prison was worth my time. Let me clearly state: I WAS WRONG!

Piper Kerman gives a realistic, personal look at the justice system from questioning through arrest and trial to incarceration. None of this is pretty. Kerman spares us nothing. She keeps our backs up just like hers is on the inside–watching and waiting to see what happens next.


My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

I debated reading My Life in Middlemarch having not read the book, Middlemarch, by George Eliot. Yet, as a student of creative nonfiction and memoir, I saw Rebecca Mead’s concept as unique and possessing a bit of genius.

Alas, I was disappointed. Not in Mead’s writing abilities, nor the uniqueness of her concept. I expected more, I suppose, of Mead’s own reaction to Middlemarch. After all, the synopsis refers to that work as “the seminal book of her youth. …

I say every man, woman, and bibliophile for him- or herself on this one!


Slow Motion: A True Story by Dani Shapiro


One of the few gifts of spending so many years doing the wrong thing is the clarity with which I can see when something is right.

Dani Shapiro brings to the page unflinching truths about herself in her early to mid-20s. Raised in the Jewish tradition, Dani was also raised with money and privilege. Now in her second decade, she has become the mistress of her best friend’s step-father. …

Imagine learning that the man who had been your hero was dead and an ambulance took your mother to the hospital with multiple serious injuries following an auto accident. You are now in charge of settling your father’s estate and caring for your mother. How do you do this and continue the lifestyle you have adopted?


And so ends the inaugural edition of Thumbnail Reviews. Following the link to my full reviews will offer you my recommendation on the above.

What have you been reading lately? Memoir? Fiction? Something good? Please share below.