Entertaining vignettes about an upbeat woman's life and its unusual cast of characters.

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STRANDED IN MONTANA; DUMPED IN ARIZONA

THE TRUE ROMANTIC ADVENTURES AND MISADVENTURES OF A GAL WHO WAS, INDEED, LEFT STRANDED IN MONTANA AND WAS DUMPED IN ARIZONA

In this debut memoir, a retired teacher describes her romantic and other adventures through a series of vignettes.

“I was married six times—to five men,” Shackett announces in the first line of the preface to this book. “One man I married twice. I was widowed twice and divorced four times.” How did all of this happen to a woman, born in 1940, who had what she calls a “very proper” upbringing that began in a 14-room Victorian house in Smethport, Pennsylvania? Shackett, a retired teacher, tries to explain what she calls “my soap-opera past” in this collection of vignettes about her world and that of her friends and family, which included distant relative “Buffalo Bill” Cody, a grandfather’s second cousin. Throughout the book, she writes conversationally, as though telling her stories to a best friend, as she gushes about her first loves, relationship dramas, tender moments with her sister, and vivid memories of her father's protective, loving nature. As the title promises, some stories lack happy endings, such as one involving a boyfriend the author had angered, who dropped her off outside a campsite with minimal supplies and who expected her to find her way home. Shackett seemed to have coped with such experiences partly with a chipper all’s-well-that-ends-well attitude and an intelligence that helps to make her memoir more than just a series of retellings of offbeat or colorful incidents. Often she pauses to reflect on and to try to understand why people she knew behaved as they did and how her choices have shaped her life. The reproductions of old photographs, postcards and newspaper clippings that accompany many of the vignettes provide colorful glimpses of the people she knew and their pursuits. The book touches on sad and even tragic events, such as the deaths of people the author loved, but Shackett stays positive and maintains a welcome objectivity about what happened, refusing to indulge in sentimentality or emotionalism.

Entertaining vignettes about an upbeat woman's life and its unusual cast of characters.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1434928559

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2014

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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