2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #6

 

Welcome to the Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’m highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2021ReadNonFic

===================

In June…

[BIOGRAPHY]

“Michael Haag’s The Durrells of Corfu is an absorbing read, celebrating lives lived large and with passion and their lasting legacies.” writes Jo of Booklover Book Reviews

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[TRAVEL]

In EPIC: An Around-the-World Journey Through Christian History  by Tim Challies Barbara at Stray Thoughts explains, “Each chapter gives a brief background of the person or situation the object represents, then shares what that object tells us about God’s movement through the ages. None of the chapters are very long, and they include a few pictures each. It’s easy to pick up the book here and there and read a chapter or two at a time.”

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[WARTIME EXPERIENCES]

“[Agata] Tuszyńska’s Family History of Fear is an elegy for both a family and a nation.”, writes Maphead. This memoir focuses on the experience of the author’s Polish Jewish grandparents during World War II.

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[PUBLISHED IN 2021]

Veronica of The Burgeoning Bookshelf had mixed feelings about The Women’s Doc by Caroline De Costa which she describes as, “…a no holds barred look at women’s health; the highs, the lows, the triumphs and the tragedies.”

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[PUBLISHED IN 2021]

Of actor Andrew McCarthy’s memoir Brat: An 80s Story Laurel-Rain at Curl Up and Read writes, “I read the book in a day and couldn’t set it down. For me, it earned 5 stars”

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What will you be reading in July?


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In case you missed it…

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #5

Review: Written in Bone by Sue Black

 

Title: Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind

Author: Sue Black

Published: 1st June 2021, Arcade

Status: Read June 2021 courtesy Arcade/Edelweiss

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My Thoughts:

 

Internationally renowned forensic anthropologist Dame Sue Black offers a rather poetic definition of her profession in the introduction to Written in Bone.

 

“The forensic anthropologist’s job is to try to read the bones of our skeleton as if they were a record, moving a professional stylus across them in search of the short, recognizable segments of body-based memory that form part of the song of a life, coaxing out fragments of the tune laid down there long ago.”

 

Less fancifully, a forensic anthropologist’s job is the examination of human skeletal remains for law enforcement agencies to help with the recovery of human remains, determine the identity of unidentified human remains, interpret trauma, and estimate time since death. It’s a professional discipline that requires scientific rigour and the ability to interpret the science for others.

Black proves she has mastered the skills of her trade in Written in Bone, sharing her detailed knowledge and understanding of her field, and presenting the science in a clear and accessible manner for someone with a basic understanding of anatomy. Crucially though, Black never lets us forget that the bones were once the essential framework of a human being.

Written in Bone is organised in sections that move down the skeleton from the head through to the foot. In each chapter Black explains the development and function of specific bones, how those bones may, or may not, be affected by natural or unnatural means, the process a forensic anthropologist uses to examine and then provide a scientific assessment of the bones, and case examples that demonstrate the role of forensic anthropology in the investigation of legal and criminal cases.

It is astonishing how much information even a fragment of bone may be capable of providing in the hands of a skilled forensic anthropologist. Not only sex, age, ethnicity and height, but also diet, history of disease, cause of death, and even a history of emotional trauma. Black describes the need, “…to squeeze every single piece of information out of whatever parts we do have in our pursuit of the answers to questions about identity, life and death.” and the fascinating, sometimes disturbing, case examples that show just how important those details can be in an investigation.

I felt like I learnt quite a bit from Black. I hadn’t known that the bones in the hand can be a reliable indicator of age in living people, or that disease and emotional trauma can leave a mark called a Harris line on long bones while they are growing. I’m left curious as to what my bones may tell a forensic anthropologist, and if they hold enough of a record to help identify me if they are all that remains.

Written in Bone will interest a range of curious readers from students of related fields to true crime buffs and fans of TV’s ‘Bones’. Educational, intriguing, and surprising, I found this to be an absorbing read.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository I Booko 

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #5

 

Welcome to the Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’m highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2021ReadNonFic

===================

In May…

[PUBLISHED IN 2021]

Kathryn’s interest in reading Sex, Lies and Question Time by Kate Ellis was “piqued in part by the recent, disgraceful scandals that have rocked [Australian] Parliament…”. She opines it is, “…written in an intelligent, conversational style, this one isn’t always the easiest of reads due to the heavy subject matter. Still, it’s an important subject and one well worth educating yourself about….”.

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[SELF-HELP]

Rennie from What’s Nonfiction? admits she generally avoids the self-help genre but she highlights three titles in this post she has found helpful. The Obesity Code by Jason Fung MD, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

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[PUBLISHED IN 2021]

 

The Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe is an expose of the Sackler family, whose fortune was made by the making and marketing of OxyContin. Laura of Reading Books Again wasn’t entirely convinced by the author’s assertion that the Sackler family were wholly responsible for the opioid crisis, but she recommends it, giving it five stars.

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[WARTIME EXPERIENCES]

Mapheads Book Blog found Andrew Nagorski’s Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power, “…a detailed and reveling look at Hitler and his fellow Nazi’s rise to power as seen through the eyes of those Americans who witnessed it firsthand.”

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[HOBBIES]

Journey & Destination read 84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff. She writes, “Both books are delightful reads for book lovers, letter writers and those who appreciate old classics.”

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What will you be reading in June ?


In case you missed it…

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #4

Review: The Menopause Manifesto by Dr. Jen Gunter

 

Title: The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism

Author: Dr. Jen Gunter

Published: 25th May 2021, Citadel Press

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy Kensington Books/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

“I demand that the era of silence and shame about menopause yield to facts and feminism. I proclaim that we must stop viewing menopause as a disease, because that means being a woman is a disease and I reject that shoddily constructed hypothesis. I also declare that what the patriarchy thinks of menopause is irrelevant. Men do not get to define the value of women at any age.”

After 38 years of regular but long, heavy and painful periods (minus 4 successful pregnancies and three miscarriages), I’ve actually been looking forward to menopause in some ways. At 48, I have now been experiencing the symptoms of peri menopause for about 18 months, and while I expected some of the more well known effects such as hot flushes, insomnia and irregular bleeding, I now realise, thanks to Jen Gunter and The Menopause Manifesto, that the inexplicable joint pain I have been suffering may also be related.

For the uninformed, menopause occurs when there are no more follicles in the ovaries capable of ovulating, meaning there are no more eggs, and menstruation ceases. The average age when this happens is 50-52 years. However the transition to menopause (often referred to as peri menopause) can start several years earlier, and the length, and the severity of symptoms, may vary significantly from woman to woman. There are dozens of common symptoms and conditions associated with menopause from an increased risk of heart disease to a decrease in libido, but they don’t just occur in a vacuum – they may be influenced by general health, age and lifestyle factors. Gunter provides detailed but mostly accessible medical facts about the biological process of menopause, its medical ramifications, and a comprehensive guide to treatment options. Useful chapter summaries in point form are provided if you are inclined to skim the denser scientific material. Personal anecdotes and blunt observations from the author ensures the material is rarely dry.

The Menopause Manifesto not only delivers the science but also explores how menopause is perceived (primarily in America and similar cultures). Gunter includes discussion about patriarchal medicine’s tendency to dismiss or minimise the experience of menopause, the culture of shame attached to the transition, and the lack of education surrounding the process. The feminist slant of the book is unapologetic as Gunter encourages women to empower themselves with knowledge so as to better advocate for their own health.

The Menopause Manifesto is a comprehensive, practical resource for all in possession of female reproductive organs. I wish I had read something like this five years ago and strongly recommend that women aged from in their early forties consider educating themselves about menopause well in advance.

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Available from Kensington Books

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository I Booko I Amazon

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #4


Welcome to the fourth Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’ll be highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2021ReadNonFic

===================

In April…

[BIOGRAPHY]

Rennie at What’s NonFiction?  enjoyed Three Martini Afternoons at the Ritz by Gail Crowther about poet’s Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, “Crowther impressively shows how these women defied (or sometimes struggled with) the standards and expectations of their time while making art from pain, art that has been so meaningful to so many people. But it’s more of a compare and contrast exercise than about their personal relationship.”

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[FOOD]

Of The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield, Tina at Turn The Page wrote “There were so many, “Oh I didn’t know that, how interesting” moments that I would stop and call out to [my husband], “Listen to this” and proceed to share parts of this book.”

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[BIOGRAPHY]

Outback Legends by Evan McHugh, “gives a quick overall view of some outback heroes; people who have been stalwarts in their community and made such a big contribution that they deserve any honours they’ve received….This book makes me want to travel around Australia and visit some of the places mentioned.” says Suz of Suz’s Space

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[HOBBIES]

“I highly recommend this for armchair explorers who want a glimpse of a world that few humans will ever see.” writes Jen of the Introverted Reader of Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth

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[SELF HELP]

Lifeofabookwormdoc thought Complete Guide To Self Care by Kiki Ely was excellent. “This is a beautifully photographed and laid out book which has good suggestions in each category of self care.”

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What will you be reading in May?

In case you missed it…

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3

Review: How To Fake Being Tidy by Fenella Souter


Title: How To Fake Being Tidy: and other things my mother never taught me.

Author: Fenella Souter

Published: 30th March 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

How To Fake Being Tidy: and other things my mother never taught me from feature writer, Fenella Souter (who also uses the non de plume Dusty Miller), is an essay collection primarily comprised of columns first published in the Australian newspapers, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Housework definitely not being my thing (I admit I prefer Erma Bombeck’s advice to Marie Kondo’s), I was lured by the title of this book, but was disappointed to discover that Souter doesn’t actually offer tips to fake being tidy.

This is not a how-to guide, it’s a collection of genteel, undemanding stories that centres around the domestic. Souter does offer some simple household management tips, like how to remove labels from jars, wine stains from fabric, and how to organise your linen cupboard, but the essays are generally less prescriptive and more ruminative, reflecting on the pleasure of crisp bedsheets, the trials of holding your own against a tradie, or relocating a beehive, for example.

A number of the essays also focus on food. Souter appears to be an accomplished cook, with sophisticated tastes and a generous budget. She includes a variety of recipes offered within the context of the essay’s, including those for Orange Marmalade, Broccomole, Hummus with Spiced Lamb, and Passionfruit Creams, to name a few.

There were a handful of essays that resonated with me, but as a whole, I feel the collection is rather bland, reflecting a rather white, upper middle class perspective, and would likely have more appeal for the ‘boomer’ generation than mine. 

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3


Welcome to the Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’ll be highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2021ReadNonFic

===================

In March…

(BIOGRAPHY)

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe comes highly recommended from Gofita’s Pages, “I had a lot of fun reading this. I got to know a little more about Washington, good, bad, and the in-between.”

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(FOOD)

If you love Peanut Butter, then Tracey of CarpeLibrum suggests Peanut Butter – Breakfast, Lunch Dinner Midnightby Tim Lannan & James Annabel. She writes, “This recipe book is beautifully presented and contains a fun and innovative layout to extend the recipe options. It’s also full of enticingly delicious recipes and drool-worthy colour photographs.”

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(SELF-HELP)

Barbara of StrayThoughts feels that Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies is full of wisdom and good advice for Christian’s, laying down a biblical foundation with clarity about usefulness and purpose of productivity.

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(ESSAY COLLECTIONS)

Rennie at WhatsNonfiction offers a review for two essay collections, Festival Days by Jo Ann Beard and Leaving Isn’t Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough. Of the first she writes, “Beard’s talent is undeniable, and it’s worthwhile just to witness what she does with form – bending time, imbuing quiet moments past with breathing life, and putting so much into words about love and pain that’s both beautiful and heartbreaking.” Of the latter, essays written about the author’s experience growing up in The Children of God cult and the challenges she has faced since, Rennie opines this is a, “book that’s going to help a lot of people through understanding, acceptance, validation, and humor: those with stubbornly lingering depression or substance issues, or experienced discrimination for sexuality, “othering” factors, or in the broken American systems of poverty and imprisonment.”

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(INVENTIONS)

One of the titles I reviewed this month for the challenge was Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature by Angus Fletcher. I thought “Wonderworks provides a way to understand literature that moves beyond its construction and practicalities. It’s an interesting and thought-provoking study of narrative and the significance of fiction to both individuals and society.”

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What will you be reading in April?

In case you missed it…

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

Review: Wonderworks by Angus Fletcher

Title: Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature

Author: Angus Fletcher

Published: 9th March 2021, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Simon & Schuster/ Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

“It was barely sunrise. Yet even in the faint, rose-fingered light, there could be no doubt: the invention was a marvel. It could mend cracks in the heart and resurrect hope from the dark. It could summon up raptures and impossible days. It could chase away dullness and unlatch the sky. The invention was literature. And to catch its marvel for ourselves, let’s return to that dawn. Let’s learn the story of why literature was invented. And all the things it was invented to do.”

Angus Fletcher explains twenty five ‘inventions’ that underpin the appeal of literature in Wonderworks.

Stories have many purposes and Fletcher proposes thot these have evolved over time as authors have discovered techniques, from the plot twist to the happy ever after ending, for eliciting specific emotions and reactions from their audience. The emerging field of story science explains how different types of narratives, from thrillers to satire, have been proven to stimulate different areas of our brain and have the ability to affect our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour. Stories can not only educate, they can also encourage the development of empathy, alleviate depression, inspire creativity, and improve self-awareness.

In each chapter of Wonderworks, Fletcher examines a invention of literature, relating its history, and often that of its ‘inventor’, provides examples, and explores how and why the technique resonates with us as revealed by modern neuroscience. I thought Fletcher offered some astute insights, though much confirms what avid readers instinctively know about the power of all types of fiction has to enrich our lives.

“For whatever the power of truth may be, literature’s own special power has always lain in fiction, that wonder we construct. It is the invention that unbreaks the heart. And brings us into hope, and peace, and love.”

There is, as necessary, some jargon to contend with but Fletcher embraces the style of nonfiction narrative so Wonderworks is rarely dry. It can be dense however and, in my opinion, occasionally veers into the pretentious, so I found it difficult to read in one sitting. I think enthusiasm for Wonderworks will be higher among those interested in literary analysis and study, students of psychology, philosophers, and writers looking to hone their craft, but it does have value for the simply curious.

Wonderworks provides a way to understand literature that moves beyond its construction and practicalities. It’s an interesting and thought-provoking study of narrative and the significance of fiction to both individuals and society.

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Available from Simon & Schuster

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository I Amazon I Booko

Review: One Last Dance by Emma Jane Holmes

One last dance quote


Title: One Last Dance: My Life in Mortuary Scrubs and G-Strings

Author: Emma Jane Holmes

Published: 3rd March 2021, HQ Nonfiction Australia

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Harlequin Australia

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My Thoughts:

One Last Dance is a unique memoir by Emma Jane Holmes, who for a time was employed in both the taboo industries of death, as a funeral assistant, and sex, as an exotic dancer.

In the wake of a bitter separation, Emma Jane Holmes has to start again and so decides to fulfil a life long dream by finding employment at a funeral home. Whether it’s collecting the body of a deceased person, assisting with burial preparation in the mortuary, or standing graveside she revels in her new role, she describes her activities with candour in this fascinating memoir. Facing death is uncomfortable for most of us, especially if it’s our own, so some details might be confronting, but I agree with Emma Jane that demystifying the subject is beneficial. The squeamish may not appreciate the details of a decomposing corpse, or the processes involved in preparing a body for viewing but I did find it interesting, though it’s cemented my wish to go directly from the morgue to a crematorium oven, leaving my loved ones to choose what they wish to do with my ashes.

While Emma Jane loves her job, she finds she is struggling to pay her bills, and to supplement her income, answers an ad for an agency that supplies scantily clad/topless waitresses. In the second half of the book, she explains how she came to be an exotic dancer under the the alias Madison, working nights at a Sydney strip club, while continuing to work at the funeral home during the day. Emma Jane enjoys dancing, not just the extra money, but also the friendships she forms with her colleagues (though to be truthful they seem pretty shallow). She feels strongly that like death, sex work should be de-stigmatised, and I agree with her advocacy. Emma Jane does find it difficult to juggle the two jobs though, and eventually has to make a choice between them.

Written with sensitivity, humour and a casual, confiding tone, One Last Dance provides insight into two very different worlds few of us have access to.

Though I’ve read several nonfiction memoirs about the funeral industry including Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Dougherty, and The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield, this is the first from the Australian experience. It’s not the first memoir of an Australian exotic dancer I’ve read though, having recently finished Sunshine by Samantha C. Ross, who may well be the ‘Samantha X’ Emma Jane refers to in her Acknowledgements.

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Available from Harlequin/HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

Welcome to the second Monthly Spotlight for the 2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’ll be highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #2021ReadNonFic

===================

In February…

(PUBLISHED IN 2021)

About One Last Dance by Emma Jane Holmes, Denise of DeniseNewtonWrites has this to say, “As I read this debut by Emma Jane Holmes, it occurred to me that perhaps everyone should read a book like this. Not necessarily this exact book, but a book that confounds and challenges a closely held belief about some aspect of the world.”

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(PUBLISHED IN 2021)

Laurel-Rain Snow at Curl Up and Read, considered Consent by Vanessa Springora (Translated by Natasha Lehrer), an intimate and powerful memoir of a young French teenage girl’s relationship with a famous, much older male writer, to be “a brilliant read”.

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(PUBLISHED IN 2021)

Veronica of The Burgeoning Bookshelf picked up Gone To The Woods because her son was a fan of Gary Paulsen’s fiction novel, Hachet. She writes, “Gone to the Woods is a harrowing and moving true life story of resilience, perseverance and the healing power of books. Narrated with warmth and humour it is touching and informative.”

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(TRAVEL)

As a fan of Irish actress Carol Drinkwater, Tina from TurnThePage, really enjoyed, The Olive Farm, the first book in her bestselling trilogy, which is about the purchase of an abandoned Olive Farm in Provencal, Appassionata, by Carol and her husband, and their work to restore it. “Combining a favorite genre (expat-lit genre) with Drinkwater’s writing style makes for a winning combo.”, she writes.

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(WARTIME EXPERIENCES)

In 1989, teacher and community leader Mecak Ajang Alaak assumed care of the Lost Boys, thousands of South Sudanese refuges, in a bid to protect them from being forced to serve as child soldiers. After reading Father of the Lost Boys by Yuot A. Alaak, Claire of ClaireReadsandReviews wrote, “I feel honoured to have read Yout and his father’s story, and that of the thousands of people who shared that journey.”

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What will you be reading in March?

—————-

In case you missed it…

Join the challenge!

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #1

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #2

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #3

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Inspiration Part #4

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

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