reading rainbow: memoirs

I always love reading, but there are times I devour books like they're coated in chocolate. This is one of those times. James made a comment to me recently that if someone saw the stack of books I just finished, they wouldn't be able to believe I'm also a mom. All I can say is that I've stayed up way past my bedtime lately. I spent much of the summer and fall reading classics I probably should have read years ago. I'll write about that sometime else, because I don't think I need to review books we all read (or in my case, should have read) in high school or college. I needed a change after the Bronte sisters, so I got my paws on these. I didn't mean to read five memoirs in a row, but things happen. Now let's talk about it.

Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker-4.5 stars: Sarah sent me this book because she knew it would resonate with me, and she could not have been more right. This book was exactly what I needed, like someone was hugging me and telling me my roller coaster of emotions was normal. She talked about the process of grieving pre-baby life even though you love your baby and wouldn't change anything about your current life. She's so honest about the feelings and emotions you go through right after having a baby, the ones no one talks about or prepares you for, because motherhood is the best thing ever, but sometimes it also sucks. My only complaint is that toward the end, she insinuates a bit that it isn't enough to just be a mother, but that we should also be working to change the world around us. She wanted to use her law degree to help stop human trafficking, which is awesome, but it felt a bit like she was telling us motherhood is not worthwhile enough, and we should also be doing what she's doing. It rubbed me the wrong a bit, but the book as a whole was so great that I can forgive her.

This passage is one I've read over and over and over:
     "Becoming a parent is a lot like breaking up with yourself. There are all these things you used to love about yourself and your life. Those late-afternoon naps. Those spontaneous movie nights. The tidy house and pretty things that could easily break. Lots of pretty things. Unbroken pretty things. Uninterrupted meals, sleep, bathroom breaks.
     Children arrive and blow through what used to be your routine. They huff and they puff and they blow your life down. You wake up at 2 a.m. because someone calls you Mom. Except they don't say the word at first--they only offer the wail, and you find yourself stumbling out of bed, groping for sense and the night-light, and in that moment it's over. The old you is left in the wake of washing out bottles and warming milk and walking five hundred miles of carpet." 

See? She just gets it, and that is so comforting to me.

For fans of: motherhood, solidarity, feeling hugged by a book

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini-4 stars: I've been familiar with Leah for years, since I'm married to The King of Queen's biggest fan (James wants to be Arthur Spooner when he grows up...help me). Also, I've become mildly obsessed with Scientology and all of its horrors. It's taking the place of my Amish obsession, which is a big deal. Before I get to the book, I must say that I think it would be helpful to read Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavage Hill first (I reviewed it here), because it gives such a thorough and detailed overview of the religion. I've read several books on it and watched all the documentaries, and I still think Jenna's book explains it better than anything else (though be warned, it's wordy and she desperately needed a better editor).  I saw Leah's 20/20 interview a few months ago about her time in Scientology, and I immediately requested her book from the library, and it is fascinating. I have not one thing in common with her and relate to her in zero ways, but I loved this book. The language is a little salty, but she has a perspective most people don't since celebrities are treated so much better in Scientology than normal people are, and she used to hang out with Tom Cruise, who is a nut job. I think she might be the first celebrity to speak out against it at this level. This book was terrifying but surprisingly hilarious. I just can't believe someone would willingly sign up to be a part of this.

For fans of: reading about cults and religions, King of Queens, snarky humor, hating on Tom Cruise

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling-4 stars: Tina and Amy are my favorite female comedians to watch on screen, but Mindy is by far my favorite to read. Some of her essays didn't really do anything for me, but others like the one on B.J. Novak and One of the President's Men had me completely engrossed. Some of her essays were hysterical and some were much more profound, like the one on losing a best friend, which really resonated with me. There were some spots where I thought she came across arrogant, which was a bit off-putting, but it was a great, lighthearted book that I read in a couple days. Read it if you want to giggle.

For fans of: wit and humor, The Mindy Project, The Office, dishy secrets, waking your husband up with your constant giggles

My Story by Elizabeth Smart-5 stars: THIS BOOK, YOU GUYS. I so vividly remember when Elizabeth was kidnapped. I was only one year younger than she was. We lived in the country at the time, and my room was at the back of the house with only grass and cornfields behind us. I remember lying in bed terrified that someone was going to climb up to my window and kidnap me. I remember watching the news in the living room the day she was rescued. I remember it all so well! I was eating dinner with Sarah and her mom in January, and they were telling me about this book. We talked about how many creepy people there are in the world, and then walked outside to find Sarah's car had been broken into. I finally grabbed it at the library a couple weeks ago, and I couldn't put it down. It was so well-written, and my heart was pounding through every chapter. There's so much I didn't know, and I'm astounded that she turned out to be a normal, functioning person. She is incredible. This book gave me so many nightmares, and whenever I heard a noise while reading it at night, I would run to Gracie's room to check on her. So much stress, but so worth the read.

For fans of: book-induced anxiety, kidnapping stories, reading about psychopaths, having nightmares

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard-1 star: I was very young when Jaycee was kidnapped, but it happened not far away from where we lived, so I grew up hearing about it, and I remember when she was found. After Elizabeth's story, I was dying to read Jaycee's. She was kidnapped when she was 11, held for 18 years, raped, and had two daughters as a result. Her story is nothing short of horrific, but the book was just terrible. I felt like it did a disservice to her story, and I was so disappointed. I know she only has a 5th grade level of education, but she did not have a ghost writer, which she desperately needed, and I'm really surprised it was published. The first half of the book was graphic descriptions of her rape, and I couldn't read it. She talked endlessly about the dogs and cats in the backyard where she was kept, but glossed over everything of interest. It felt more like I was reading a writing exercise she did for therapy than a memoir of her experience.

For fans of: you know what, just don't read it

What are you guys reading? What should I read? Tell me everything. I'm currently in the throes of The Royal We and shamelessly in love with it.


  1. I just finished a memoir by some girl who hiked the PCT. I was hoping it would be super interesting and insightful and educational since I'd love to take on the challenge someday. Instead, it was terribly edited, extremely repetitive (she talked about eating/buying/loving/thinking about "icecream" at least ten times per chapter, not even kidding), and came across much too arrogantly introspective to be enjoyable ("What does life even MEAN!?1!!!?!??!!!!111!?"). Almost like she was trying to be the next Cheryl Strayed but without the drugs and with more lesbian hook-ups, which I was NOT warned about prior to reading this book. FAIL, Goodreads reviewers, FAIL.

    I need to get my hands on that Leah Remini book!

  2. If you like stories like Jaycee Dugard's and Emily Smart's, I would recommend the novel ROOM by Emily Donaghue. I know from reading your blog that you don't always enjoy fiction, but I thought that this book had an interesting premise and perspective (it is written in the voice of a five year old who has never experienced life outside of "Room", which happens to be where he and his mother have been held captive for the past decade). It is a hopeful story, though (I can say without spoiling it). And it will definitely touch a nerve with a mother of a young child. It wasn't the best book I have ever read, but it was definitely different.

    However, I only mentioned that because it seemed related to your current post. I could talk about books all day- hell, all month, long. While I will, and have been known to, read absolutely anything- I also happen to share your love of all things British, historical, and memoir-ed. So...I feel like we should be friends on Goodreads is all I'm saying.

    1. You know, I've heard of that book but I wasn't so sure what I would think. I will definitely give it a try. I've been pushing myself lately to read things I wouldn't normally read.

      ME. TOO. I wish I could get paid for all the books I read. It's my obsession.

    2. DO IT. Read Room. It is fascinating and sad and unbelievable and I couldn't put it down. I finished reading it the week the three women were found captive in the home in Ohio and it was so similar I almost thought the news was trying to play a trick on.

  3. I think I own that Jaycee Dugard book- if not, I definitely read it, and I was equally unimpressed. Now I really want to read Elizabeth's Smart book, though!

    I haven't read Mindy's second book, but I did like her first! I have to be honest and say that she's not my favorite actress (STAND DOWN, KELSEY) but I do really love her writing.

    I always say I'm going to do a book post, but I never do. I'll update my Goodreads page, though. That counts for something, right?

  4. Loved, loved, loved The Royal We! You need to read Movie Star By Lizzie Pepper. It is pretty much a fictionalized account of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' relationship (or is it? ). Also, I really enjoyed Everything, Everything.
    Thanks for the recommendations! I will have to check out the Elizabeth Smart book.

  5. you have now made me feel completely like I need to pick up a book. Mister Man and I have just been in a TV mode lately, so no reading for us. Maybe that'll be my January goal...read one book. that sounds so sad.

    1. So are we! As in, we're watching The Office again for probably the 7th time. But I've been making a point to find time to read, and it makes me so much happier.

  6. Man, I'm jealous! I am just falling into bed these days. No time for reading. But I actually did just finish a reread of Little Women. I have read that book a lot but not for a long time! It took months to finish, but I read a book! Go me! :) you would be shocked by some of the ridiculous books I have edited for publication. Often there's only so much an editor can do if the book is that bad. I have stories.

  7. First off, I need to say that I miss you!

    And second, I'm adding all of these books to my list. ESPECIALLY Jenna's book. I read Leah's PEOPLE interview last week about it all, and her book sounds so fascinating. Plus, I love how she rips on Tom Cruise. Is that guy for real?!?! ;)

    1. I MISS YOU TOO! How are you? What's going on?

      Jenna's book will stick with me forever. It's so horrifying, and Leah's just adds to it. Tom Cruise is INSANE.

  8. You made me want to read all of these except the last one. I just finished Operating Instructions. It's the book I wish I wrote. Needless to say, I loved it! I think you'd like it because it's a very real perspective on motherhood and her faith is beautifully expressed.

  9. MINDY!!! I loved that book. And it shouldn't surprise you that "One of the President's Men" was one of my favorite chapters, too-- it made me feel like I was secretly dating West-Wing era Josh Lyman, which is not-so-secretly one of my wildest dreams.

    I am so, so intrigued by your description of that Elizabeth Smart book. I need to add that to my to-read list!!

    I was just telling Alissa and Kate this weekend how much I LOVED the book I just finished called "Maybe In Another Life" by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It starts out as the story of a girl in her late 20s who bounced around to city after city after college looking for "home", and decides to move back to LA to live with her best friend. On her first night out in the city, she meets an old high school flame at a bar- and from that point the book splits up. Every other chapter is either what would have happened to her if she went home with him that night, or if she went home with her friend. It sounds weird but I loved it SO MUCH.

  10. The Elizabeth Smart book is horrifying, isn't it? I literally read it in one sitting and bawled through the entire thing. I remember when she was kidnapped too. Especially because it' happened right down the road from me and I couldn't sleep for months. I remember my mom telling me that if anyone ever came in my room to scream and kick things over and make as much noise as possible. Even if the intruder had a weapon or threatened to kill my family- just make as much noise as I could.

    I also remember the posters with her face EVERYWHERE. It was all over the news the entire time she was gone. That family never gave up hope, and I'm sure they are a large part of the reason she was able to recover. That and her solid faith in God. And isn't she just the classiest thing now? Ugh. I love her. And I love how she is doing so much good with all of the sick, demented torture she had to endure.

  11. The one on BJ was SO GOOD. So many emotions!


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