Abandon Me

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Thank You to Bloomsbury USA for providing me with an advanced copy of Melissa Febos’ memoir, Abandon Me, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- In her memoir, Abandon Me, Melissa Febos explores a range of topics; including a complicated family history, her Native American heritage, a heroin addiction, and her difficulty in fully committing to romantic relationships.

LIKEAbandon Me is lyrical and beautifully written. Febos weaves literature and historical information, into her personal story. Abandon Me is structured in a non-lineal style, and Febos writes in what I can best describe as a controlled stream-of-conscious. Her writing feels loose and free-form, but it never seems careless or without intention. Initially, I may not have know where she was heading with a thought, but it always came to a powerful conclusion. Brilliant storytelling.

Febos takes a hard look at her family, specifically her fathers, exploring the long term impact they had on her life. Her birth father, was a addict, who abandoned her as a toddler. Febos reconnected with him and meets family members from his side, as an adult. As a child, her mother remarried a sea captain, a loving man, who would go on to formally adopt Febos. As a sea captain, he would leave for months at a time, creating a series of mini abandonments in Febos’ life. As an adult, Febos admits to putting herself in the position of being the one who always leaves first in a relationship, and this becomes complicated when she meets a woman ( a married and emotionally abusive woman), whom she loves. Along with this difficulty in forming attachments with other people, Febos dulls her pain with drugs. She is able to hide her drug abuse, through managing to keep the other aspects of her life together. Febos is constantly trying to mask her pain and fears.

Febos also explores her Native American heritage and what it means to be part of a people who were systematically decimated, and who currently have high rates of poverty and drug abuse. Her Native American heritage is from her brith father, and although Febos was not raised on a reservation or with much knowledge of this part of her heritage, she looks at how it has impacted her father, and by extension, her.

DISLIKE– Not so much a dislike, but I thought that it warranted mentioning that it took me about fifteen pages to fully engage in Abandon Me. It took me a bit to become comfortable with Febos’ style of writing, rather than it be writing that immediately grabbed my attention. However, after those initial pages, I was hooked.

RECOMMEND– Yes. Febos is a gifted writer with a unique voice and perspective. Abandon Me is  richly layered and engaging. It would be a great pick for a book club or class discussion.

Quarterly Literary Box- Winter 2017

Yesterday afternoon, my Quarterly Literary Box for winter arrived. I had completely forgotten about my subscription to the Quarterly Literary Box, making it an even bigger surprise. Here in Portland, where it seems like winter will never end, I need books and coffee to keep my days sunny.

For those of you not familiar with Quarterly, they are a company that sends out seasonal subscription boxes on a variety of topics. I subscribe to the Adult Literary Box, but they also have boxes themed to YA lit, culinary, crafts, tech, et.. They have tons of different themes, and not all are book related.

What I love most about the Quarterly Literary Box, is each season, the box is curated by a different author. The fall 2016 box was curated by Brit Bennett, author of The Mothers, and this winter box was curated by Kayla Rae Whitaker.

Here is the included note from Whitaker.1486507718787

The featured item is an annotated copy of Whitaker’s latest novel, The Animators. The bad news is I have already read The Animators, having recieved an advanced readers copy. The good news is I absolutely loved Whitaker’s novel and I’m looking forward to reading through her annotations ( done specifically for Quarterly subscribers), before passing the book along.

Check out my review of The Animators.

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As curator, Whitaker picked two additional books by other authors to include in the box. I was not familiar with either book, however, I have read other books by Maggie Nelson. My Quarterly subscription is a bit like going on a blind date, but with books. I love it!

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The last inclusions were non-book items, yet related to the theme. For example, last month, Bennett included a mug with a quote from her book. Whitaker chose to include a bookmark and colored pencils. This works to the theme of her novel, with her main characters both animators. I’m not into crafts, but this was a fun addition, although I think I like how the bookmark looks in black and white. What’s a bit special about this bookmark, is its designer is  Julie Doucet, a cartoonist, or as Whitaker mentions in her letter “Trailblazing cartoonist”. I’ve never heard of Doucet, but it seems to be a well-thought out inclusion for her box. Besides, I can never have too many bookmarks.1486509181682

On a whole, I’m very happy with my winter 2017 Quarterly Literary Box. I can’t wait to read Whitaker’s picks and to see what comes in the mail for spring. I’m going to try to forget about my subscription, so that in three months, I have another “happy-snail-mail-surprise-day.”

All The Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen To Be Famous Strangers

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Thank You to Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a copy of Alana Massey’s,  All The Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen To Be Famous Strangers, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- In her essay collection, All The Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers, Alana Massey explores female icons, and their role in popular culture. She looks at how these celebrities influence us, and how society molds them, making the idea of celebrity a process of compartmentalizing and dehumanizing. She also explores how celebrities have impacted her own life.

LIKE– I like Massey’s concept for All The Lives I Want, how she doesn’t simply explore the idea of celebrity, but chooses celebrities that have made a direct impact on her. It’s often seen as bad taste to admit that you’ve been influenced, or even take an interest in celebrities, but whether people admit it or not, I find it to be a rare thing that a person is not at least a little affected or interested in celebrity culture. I find Massey’s willingness to admit this about herself and explore it, to be refreshing.

The last essay in the book, On Joan Didion and Personal Mythology as Survival, had my full attention. This essay is by far Massey’s most personal, as she recalls her love of Didion ( who doesn’t love Didion?), to a time in her life where she was in a toxic relationship with a drug addict. Massey also eloquently writes about Los Angeles and New York. Sure, some of the things she says about my beloved Los Angeles are not the most flattering, and I don’t agree with her assessment of it being a fake city. When I hear someone refer to Los Angeles as a false place, I know in my heart that they don’t understand my hometown. This aside, Massey writes poetically about the desert landscape of Southern California and juxtaposes it with the pulsing city of Manhattan. It’s beautifully written and made me slow down to fully absorb the impact of her rich descriptions.

When writing about female celebrity bodies, Massey does not hold back from sharing her own anorexia. Her descriptions of her obsession with thinness are grotesque, yet she does not make apologies for feeling this way. She owns her obsession. I was repulsed and saddened by her confession, yet at the same time, I admire the brazen quality of her writing. For better or worse, this is how pop culture has made an impact on her, and there is no need to apologize or feel shame.

DISLIKE– When I requested All The Lives I Want, on Netgalley, I requested it for the premise alone. I was completely unfamiliar with Massey and to be honest, even after reading her book and doing a Google search, I’m not sure that I know a lot about her. To this end, her collection read as if I should have prior knowledge of her, as if she is a well-know celebrity. She drops bits of information about herself, such as being a former stripper, her battle with anorexia, or that she went to seminary school; but none of this adds up for me to really understand who she is or why I should care about her essays. Either this collection needs context or perhaps I’m just out of the loop. The essays are uneven in regard to those that have a personal vibe, and those that are more academic in tone. All The Lives I Want would have been much stronger, if the essays had all been more personal.

All of the celebrities that Massey profiles are ones that will be well known to most readers, which works as it makes All The Lives I Want, accessible, however, it’s also material that has been done to death. Do we need another essay about Scarlett Johansson’s sex-symbol status, or another one explaining the mistake in vilifying Courtney Love? Massey adds little to the conversation. Again, if she had gone a more personal route, I think I would have found relevance, but her often academic approach was dull and off-putting.

RECOMMEND– No. I loved the concept of, All The Lives I Want, but I found it to be a tedious read. Massey didn’t leave me with a different perspective, and there isn’t enough personal content to make me interested in her as a narrator. All The Lives I Want, could have been a much more engaging read, if she had placed herself at the center of exploring her interest in celebrities.

Close Enough to Touch

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Thank You to Gallery Books for providing me with an advanced copy of Colleen Oakley’s novel, Close Enough to Touch, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT– Just a few months before her high school graduation, Jubilee Jenkins received her first kiss, and it nearly killed her. Jubilee has a rare allergy; she is allergic to other people. If she touches another person, she breaks out into a blistering rash, and doctor’s fear that it could also send her into anaphylactic shock leading to death.

After her brush with death, she becomes a recluse. Soon, her mother moves to another state, allowing Jubilee to stay in their home and mailing her monthly support checks. Jubilee takes college courses online and has all of her shopping delivered, so that she never has a need to leave the safety of her home.

Fast forward nine years; Jubilee gets a phone call that her mother has died. The house has been paid off and the deed is transferred to Jubilee’s name, however without the monthly checks, Jubilee must venture out of her home and find a job. She runs into a former classmate, who recommends her for a job at the local library. One night, on her bike ride home from work, Jubilee notices a little boy drowning in a river, and without thinking of her own safety, she rescues him. The little boy, Ajah and his father, Eric, befriend Jubilee and she begins to realize the impact of human connection, something that she had closed-off for so many years.

LIKEClose Enough to Touch is a beautiful and imaginative story. Oakley has a keen sense of empathy and is able to create characters with deep emotional lives. I didn’t realize until I had finished the story, that an allergy to humans doesn’t exist, at least not in the way that Jubilee experiences her affliction. This is where I felt Oakley brought her story-world to life, giving Jubilee a substantial fear in her life threatening situation, and also inflicting her with abandonment issues. Jubilee’s stakes are high. Since she cannot allow people to come near her, she creates what she thinks is a good life, filled with her books and communicating online with her college courses. She’s not simply sitting in her home, depressed, or at least she doesn’t realize that she might be depressed, because in her eyes, she has purpose and fulfillment. It’s not until she is forced out of her home, that she realizes that her life can be bigger, that she can dare to dream bigger.

This scenario rattled me on a personal level. Although I don’t have an allergy to people and I’ve never spent years without leaving my home, I do get into ruts, where I stay inside. Currently this is happening due to our relocation to Portland. I feel somewhat unsafe in my downtown neighborhood, so I rarely leave our apartment building. I have groceries delivered, and unless I’m going out with my husband, I generally stay inside. On this small level, I could understand Jubilee’s anxiety and wanting to stay in her comfort zone. It made me realize that I should try harder to do things outside of that comfort zone.

With the addition of Eric and Ajah, Oakley has brought together an unlikely trio. Eric is recently divorced and desperate to reconnect with his teenage daughter. Eric is a bit awkward and has a tendency to be attracted to unavailable women. He has adopted his best friend’s son, Ajah, who is a bright, inquisitive kid, but having trouble coping with his parent’s death. In his mourning, Ajah becomes fixated on the X-Men comics and with the idea that he might have super powers. The growing romance between Eric and Jubilee is beautiful and complicated. It’s filled with devastating blows, cringe-worthy missteps, and moments that will make your heart explode with the warm fuzzies. It’s also really sexy. This isn’t at all erotica, but Close Enough to Touch, has some very erotic scenes.

DISLIKE– What about Michael, a man that enters Jubilee’s life at the very end of the story. Michael seems like a really great guy, who loves Jubilee, but he gets screwed over. I wish the little bit about Michael at the end had been left out, it cast a shadow over the last few pages of the story, which I otherwise loved.

RECOMMEND– Yes! Close Enough to Touch is a beautiful, affecting story with memorable characters. I enjoyed it so much, that I immediately purchased Oakley’s first novel, Before I Go. I needed more Oakley!

The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches From the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA

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Thank You to W.W. Norton & Company for providing me with an advanced copy of Doug Mack’s The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT– Doug Mack’s The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA, is part travelogue and part history lesson. Mack travels to Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands, America Samoa, The Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam, to meet the people who inhabit these lands that are “not-quite part of America,” and to better understand their history and culture.

LIKE– I consider myself fairly knowledgeable when it comes to US History, but Mack has opened my eyes. I had no idea that the United States still has so many territories or that it is so darn muddled regarding the rights of the people living in these areas. I felt a little relieved, when early in his book, Mack, a travel writer, admitted to also being unaware of the full extent of these territories. This made me feel less clueless and in good company. I enjoyed tagging along with Mack, as he visits these islands. Mack’s sense of humor and his interactions with the locals, blends well with the history and politics of each island.

Admittedly, some of the politics and legal talk of territories can get a little dry and very confusing, however, Mack puts it out in layman terms, so if I read it carefully, I felt like I was gaining an understanding. My overall impression of the situation is that it is complicated and there is no one solution. I was surprised by the high number of people from the territories serving in the US armed forces, yet depending on where they live, they may not have very many rights. I was shocked by how the rights can vary dramatically from each territory, depending on status ( incorporated/ unincorporated, commonwealth, organized/ unorganized). Seeing how messy this all is, coupled with a general lack of interest or knowledge that most US Citizens have towards the territories, I doubt we will be adding any new states in the near future. It’s even presumptuous to think that people in the territories necessarily want statehood. Mack is perceptive with his noting how the idea of colonization is very distasteful and not politically correct, yet colonies are essentially what America still has, even if we call them territories and try to play “out of sight, out of mind.”

Some of the history, for example the connection between World War 2 and Guam, was familiar. Currently, with North Korea ramping up its nuclear capabilities, and other nations in the Pacific, feeling on edge, these small islands are becoming more valuable for their strategic positioning in future wars. Each country wants to grab what they can in the Pacific for their own security. Mack speaks of this towards the end of his book and it gave me the chills. Speaking of chills, I was gutted when I read about the thousands of Japanese citizens, including families with small children, committing suicide off of a cliff in Saipan (Northern Mariana Islands) after learning that they had lost WW2. I’m sure that story will forever stick with me.

DISLIKE– Nothing. The Not-Quite States of America has left me a better informed citizen, it has given me a new perspective.

RECOMMEND- If you’re an American citizen, you should definitely add The Not-Quite States of America, to your reading list. Mack is an entertaining writer and his book is important.

The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran

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Thank You to Twelve Books for providing me with an advanced copy of Jennifer Klinec’s memoir, The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT– Canadian Jennifer Klinec has always had wanderlust. She moves to London, working a high paying corporate job, yet she spends all of her money and time traveling, taking off to far-flung destinations every weekend. Another passion is Klinec’s love of food. She makes a bold decision by quitting her job and marrying her passions; Klinec starts a culinary class in her home where she teaches exotic recipes from around the world to small groups of curious Londoners. As part of her on-going education, Klinec books a trip to Iran to learn about Persian cooking. Soon after she arrives, she meets a young man named Vahid. Vahid invites her to his home, where she cooks alongside his mother, learning family recipes.

Vahid and Klinec come from completely different backgrounds; they have differences in age, religion, culture…yet, they develop a romance. It is very dangerous for them to have an open relationship in Iran, and when keeping secret proves difficult, they come up with another possible solution, a temporary marriage. In Iran, they can arrange to be legally married for a pre-determined amount of time, which will allow them to be a couple until Klinec’s visa expires. This solution should stop police harassment, but will also allow Vahid, an unmarried-virgin, to save-face in the eyes of his family and community. Can this arrangement really work?

LIKE – Klinec’s memoir is half food-porn and half a love story. She has these lush sensory filled descriptions of food and cooking. Your mouth will water for things that you’ve never even heard of, let alone tasted. I have friends from Iran and I enjoy Persian food, but Klinec’s memoir gave me a much deeper look into the country and its culture. I was mesmerized by all of the ingredients that are not normally used in American cooking, such as rose water and dates. On the flip side of this, there are also rather grotesque descriptions of a camel slaughterhouse. I was intrigued and repulsed at the same time. It made a big enough impression that after reading that chapter in afternoon, the beef on my dinner plate went untouched. Steel yourself. My biggest impression with food and Iran, is that it’s a culture where things are still made by hand and with great care, the opposite to our fast-food/convenience culture in America.

The love story was unexpected, even though it is stated right in the title of the book. I think it may have been unexpected for Klinec as well, as Vahid does not come across as an immediate romantic prospect. Their obvious differences aside, the initial impressions of Vahid are of someone who is moody and aloof, contrasting with Klinec’s open and friendly demeanor.  The turning point comes when Vahid understands her love of food and delights in planning a day for her that is a food tour of his city. He is chivalrous and romantic. I felt the constant danger in their romance, such as when they are harassed by the police on multiple occasions, or when families picnicking in a park call the police, because a couple alone is a suspicious activity. Vahid’s initial behavior becomes more clear as we learn more about his culture. Klinec speaks of many aspects of Iran that she loves ( stunning architecture, welcoming people, the food), but the fear is also always present.

From my western perspective, the idea of an official temporary marriage seems very backwards and outrageous, but I was mostly intrigued that this concept exists at all. There is a fear mentioned by authorities that Klinec has come to Iran to marry, and Vahid’s parents, although they like Klinec enough as a visitor, are not happy with the relationship that has developed. However, once the temporary marriage has taken place, there is a resignation that their relationship, including sex, is acceptable. It wasn’t easy for them to obtain this marriage, but I still wondered how it happened at all, or how common this even is in Iran? Vahid and Klinec end up marrying and living in London, but there was a chunk of time between their temporary and permanent marriages, how was Vahid impacted during this time? Love aside, if he had not continued his relationship with Klinec, would this have ruined his chances at a good marriage in Iran? Although Klinec felt some danger while in Iran, I think the bulk of the consequences fell on Vahid’s shoulders.

DISLIKE- Perhaps only that I had those lingering questions about Vahid and the impact of the temporary marriage. I would have liked a statistical comparison to put the temporary marriage in context. Although the title of the book is The Temporary Bride, the portion dealing with the temporary marriage is relatively minor. Food is the real star of the memoir.

RECOMMEND– Yes, The Temporary Bride is a great pick for foodies and readers who love to be transported to different worlds. Klinec is a beautiful writer and has an unique story to share.

My (Not So) Perfect Life

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Thank You to Random House Publishing Group for providing me with an advanced copy of Sophie Kinsella’s novel, My Not So Perfect Life, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT – Country girl, Katie Brenner has followed her dreams of moving to London to begin her career at a prestigious branding agency. She loves the excitement of London and the potential opportunity for creativity at her new job, but things are less than perfect. She struggles to make rent for a tiny flat that she shares with difficult roommates, and Katie’s boss, Demeter, is a tyrant. Katie tries to reinvent herself as “Cat” and uses social media to create a fictitious life of fabulous events and dining in amazing restaurants. When Katie is downsized at her firm, both her real and imaginary worlds start falling apart. Can Katie manage to keep it together or will she find a new way to reinvent herself?

LIKE – I’ve read many of Kinsella’s novels and I usually find her stories light-hearted and charming, classic chic-lit. My Not So Perfect Life, isn’t her best novel,  but it was a nice read for a rainy afternoon.

What I thought worked best, is the way Kinsella captured office politics and the “mean girls” attitude that unfortunately doesn’t get left behind in adolescence. I’ve seen the same cliquish behavior in every job I’ve ever had, and it gives me anxiety, especially as I’ve previously been a target. I felt anxious reading these parts of My Not So Perfect Life, which although not pleasant, was affecting. If a story is affecting, I know the writer is doing their job!

I liked Katie as a protagonist. It’s easy to root for the plucky heroine, who is chasing her dreams. Katie is smart and creative. She may be a bit in-over-her-head, but she’s also not a push-over. I liked that Kinsella took the story in a different direction than I was anticipating, making Demeter a fully realized character, rather than just the “evil boss”. At one point, I thought the story was heading in the direction of giving Demeter early on-set Alzheimer’s, which would have made for a dramatic turn, possibly a stronger story. It would have been a less obvious twist. My Not So Perfect Life has a bold message about not judging someone’s life based on their social media accounts. It’s relevant.

I liked how the title ties with Katie’s social media. It’s creative and an extra play on the theme of the story.

I read Kinsella’s books long before I married a Brit, but now I can read them and understand geographical references and British terminology. I don’t know how I felt previously, but now I feel much more clued in, “I’ve been to Somerset” and “I know what Limsip is”. et…there many examples, but now that I’m married to a Brit and have become somewhat immersed in his culture, I have clarity when reading British authors. I think there was a lot that I previously glossed over.

DISLIKE– You must have a huge suspension of disbelief while reading My Not So Perfect Life, the coincidences are outlandish. I did not like the love story between Katie and Alex. It felt rushed and didn’t enhance the story, which is really about staying true to yourself and sticking up for others. The story between Katie and Demeter is the real heart of My Not So Perfect Life, it didn’t need a love story. Plus, I just didn’t like Alex. He seemed slimy and not right for Katie.

RECOMMEND– Maybe. I like Kinsella and would recommend her books, like the Shopaholic series. She’s the perfect vacation-read author with her comedic, fun stories. My Not So Perfect Life, was enjoyable, but not memorable.

Juliet’s Answer

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Thank You to Gallery Books for providing me with an advanced copy of Glenn Dixon’s memoir, Juliet’s Answer, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- Glenn Dixon has spent nearly two decades in love with his college friend, Claire. They have a deep friendship, but Claire does not return his affections, and Dixon watches from the sidelines as she falls in and out of love with several men. As he holds out hope for Claire, Dixon throws himself into his work, as a high school English teacher. Although he has found joy and satisfaction from teaching, he yearns for a change. Dixon decides to spend a summer volunteering in Verona, Italy with the Secretaries of Juliet, a group that sends handwritten responses to love letters left at the home of Juliet, the real life inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. As Dixon writes these response letters, he begins to gain clarity in his own life, giving him the courage to let go of Claire and move on from teaching.

RECOMMENDJuliet’s Answer is absolutely delightful. There are so many different components of this story that blend together beautifully. Let me break it down:

First, I had never heard of the Secretaries of Juliet or even that people left letters for Juliet. I’ve not been fortunate to travel to Italy (It’s at the top of my travel bucket list), but I’m aware of the significance of Verona, and that you can visit Juliet’s house. However, just knowing that there is a group of people that volunteer to respond to love letters, is a lovely thought, especially in our modern world. I love the idea that strangers are taking the time to impart wisdom and encouragement to other strangers via snail mail. Isn’t that wonderful? It makes my heart warm.

Second, I had no idea that there is proof that Romeo and Juliet is based on a true story. How cool is that? Admittedly, it’s not my favorite of Shakespeare plays and unlike Dixon, I don’t think that I could find joy in teaching it to a new batch of high school students year after year, however I found it interesting that there is a historical significance. It gave me chills, especially the reference to Dante.

Third, Dixon is a likable narrator. I had hope for him that he would let go of Claire, and I was thrilled for him at the end of Juliet’s Answer, when he had found happiness. His is a story of leaving comfort zones and taking leaps of faith. His passion for his students and his love of Shakespeare jumped off of the page during the classroom scenes. As he was trying to engage his students during their reading of Romeo and Juliet, I felt tricked. I was starting to become swept away by his enthusiasm, giving me pause in rethinking my decades old disdain for the play.

DISLIKE– Nothing. Juliet’s Answer is entertaining and heartwarming.

RECOMMEND– Yes! I know it’s early in 2017, but surely Juliet’s Answer will be one of my favorite books of the year. Dixon is an affable protagonist and Juliet’s Answer is a combination of so many things that I love = lush travelogue, history, literature, snail mail, love story, et… An all-around winning memoir.

How to Murder Your Life

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Thank You to Simon and Schuster for providing me with an advanced copy of Cat Marnell’s memoir, How to Murder Your Life, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT– Cat Marnell has built a prestigious journalism career as a beauty editor under industry heavy-weights such as, Jean Godfrey June and Jane Pratt. Marnell’s talent soon becomes overshadowed by her problems; anorexia and a crippling drug addiction.

LIKE – Cat Marnell’s perfectly titled memoir, How to Murder Your Life, is like watching a train crash in slow motion. I quite honestly have never read a memoir, where the author was such a mess. Beginning as a teenager in boarding school, her drug addiction, alcoholism, and eating disorder have continued for over a decade. Marnell’s addiction started with Adderall, quickly expanding to whatever she could get her hands on. As a result of her addiction, she gets involved with abusive men, putting herself in risky situations. It’s a marvel that she has not died or become seriously injured. How to Murder Your Life is not a reflective memoir of someone who is now sober, Marnell admits that she relapsed while writing this book, and although she is trying to keep her sobriety, she confesses that she expects to slip up again.

You’d expect How to Murder Your Life, to be messy and incoherent, mirroring Marnell’s lifestyle, but it isn’t at all. Marnell is a talented writer and a hard worker, which is how she managed to keep jobs at prestigious magazines like, Lucky, for as long as she did. She admits that she has been given more chances and opportunities than she probably deserves, an attitude that manages to shine above her selfish behavior while in the thick of addiction. One of biggest take-aways is Marnell comes across as down-to-earth and likable. She truly loves her job at Conde Nast, she loves writing and editing. She cares about the people she has worked with, and has kind words for her previous employers. She feels guilty for screwing up. There is a great deal of appreciation for her life, which makes it even more difficult to watch her destroy it.

The bulimia and drug use are terrible, but I found the chapters with her “best friend” Marco, the most difficult to read. Marco is abusive and dangerous, yet Marnell keeps allowing him back into her life. I felt my heart race for the imminent danger, every time Marco appeared in the story. He’s despicable.

Marnell has a distinctive voice, filled with humor and pop-culture references. How to Murder Your Life, reads as if Marnell is sitting in the room with you, throwing back shots, and tell you her story. She offers an insiders perspective into the magazine and fashion industries, something I found fascinating. Marnell is a colorful personality with a crazy life to share. I thought it was outrageous that she made a name for herself as a “Dirty Beauty” blogger, that her not-so-squeaky clean image was actually a way for her to fill a niche. Her themes made me think of fashion in the mid-90’s, when the “Heroin Chic” was all of the rage. It’s almost unbelievable how unhealthy lifestyles become fashionable, however, I had to admire Marnell for capitalizing on this trend. She has become a celebrity, perhaps to her own detriment.

DISLIKE– It was difficult reading all of this, knowing that Marnell doesn’t feel stable in her recovery. I felt worried enough for her to look her up on social media. She has a big talent and I hope that she can keep herself safe. I had mixed emotions about reviewing this book and giving attention to Marnell’s deeply troubled life, especially when she is still unstable.

RECOMMEND– Yes. How to Murder Your Life is sure to be one of the most talked about memoirs of 2017.