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BRING YOUR BAGGAGE AND DON'T PACK LIGHT

ESSAYS

Like her previous books, this one is darkly hilarious and nearly always on-point.

The author of American Housewife and Southern Lady Code cuts loose with uproarious observations on friendship, middle age, and her own life.

In this essay collection, Ellis considers her everyday world from the perspective of a quirky midlife Southern woman who sees the lighter side of everything, including dire situations. In the first piece, “Grown-Ass Ladies Gone Mild,” the author recounts a series of excursions with childhood friends. Just before the first trip, one friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through quasi-adolescent hijinks—including zany water park rides, an evening at a Smoky Mountain theater watching Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo, and a text-message celebration of the friend’s new breast implants—Ellis and her friends strengthened their “lady gang” bonds in defiance of death. Another essay, “Are You There Menopause? It’s Me, Helen” satirizes Judy Blume’s classic, Are Your There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Ellis observes how the unpredictable, sometimes embarrassing bodily changes brought on by the climacteric are just like puberty. The only difference is that women, rather than boys, are “the ones who get a mustache.” Other essays showcase the author’s deadpan humor, such as the mock-manifesto “I’m a Believer!” There, Ellis lets her “freak flag” fly and writes, “I believe in what goes around comes around, reincarnation, and time travel, so my idea of heaven is being Betty White on Match Game.” In “There’s a Lady at the Poker Table,” Ellis cheerfully details how the same Southern lady “primness” she undercuts throughout the book helped make her a formidable opponent in the all-male world of high-stakes poker. This smart, sassy, page-turning collection will appeal to fans of the author’s work as well as anyone who enjoys the quick-witted jocularity of a singular Southern woman who refuses to let anything—or anyone—get her down.

Like her previous books, this one is darkly hilarious and nearly always on-point.

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54615-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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THE BACKYARD BIRD CHRONICLES

An ebullient nature lover’s paean to birds.

A charming bird journey with the bestselling author.

In his introduction to Tan’s “nature journal,” David Allen Sibley, the acclaimed ornithologist, nails the spirit of this book: a “collection of delightfully quirky, thoughtful, and personal observations of birds in sketches and words.” For years, Tan has looked out on her California backyard “paradise”—oaks, periwinkle vines, birch, Japanese maple, fuchsia shrubs—observing more than 60 species of birds, and she fashions her findings into delightful and approachable journal excerpts, accompanied by her gorgeous color sketches. As the entries—“a record of my life”—move along, the author becomes more adept at identifying and capturing them with words and pencils. Her first entry is September 16, 2017: Shortly after putting up hummingbird feeders, one of the tiny, delicate creatures landed on her hand and fed. “We have a relationship,” she writes. “I am in love.” By August 2018, her backyard “has become a menagerie of fledglings…all learning to fly.” Day by day, she has continued to learn more about the birds, their activities, and how she should relate to them; she also admits mistakes when they occur. In December 2018, she was excited to observe a Townsend’s Warbler—“Omigod! It’s looking at me. Displeased expression.” Battling pesky squirrels, Tan deployed Hot Pepper Suet to keep them away, and she deterred crows by hanging a fake one upside down. The author also declared war on outdoor cats when she learned they kill more than 1 billion birds per year. In May 2019, she notes that she spends $250 per month on beetle larvae. In June 2019, she confesses “spending more hours a day staring at birds than writing. How can I not?” Her last entry, on December 15, 2022, celebrates when an eating bird pauses, “looks and acknowledges I am there.”

An ebullient nature lover’s paean to birds.

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780593536131

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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