October 2023 Books – Part 3

Lab Girl by Hope Jaren

Narrated by the author. This was recommended a couple places and I found a trade paperback copy in a Little Library. As a way to spur me to read my TBR collection, I put a number of audiobook versions on hold on Libby. I thought I may switch but as sometimes the case, the narration by the author was so good I kept listening. This memoir is really well written. Often times, I felt like I was reading a novel. It’s not a surprise given how intelligent and well read Jaren is. I enjoyed her relationship with her lab partner and best friend Bill who himself could be a character in a novel. I liked how she narrated their adventures and struggles. In fact, the book had some heavy topics given the sexism of scientific academia and Jaren’s mental illness whether it was depression or bipolar disorder. It’s very reflective but so well narrated. She actually sounded emotional at certain parts which was effective. It was a slow narration so I went up to 1.75 reading speed but still great. I hope Jaren considers writing more prose or even fiction in the future.

4/5 stars. 1.75x. October 16-22, 2023.

The Woman in Me by Britney Spears

Narrated by Michelle Williams. I listened off and on by audiobook and read half on ebook. I grew up with Britney Spears. I remember watching the “Baby One More Time” music video and the zeitgeist of Britney. Her era for more than ten years. Watching her being vilified in the media for so many things and go through the conservatorship was heart breaking. None of it ever added up in terms of how they demonized her. She always seemed like a nice person who was a talented performer. I do not usually read celeb memoirs because the writing is usually quite packaged and rote. The prose in this book was straightforward but I think it did capture her style. It delivered her story. I liked Williams’s narration but I switched the ebook after 55% or Chapter 26 because that’s when she lost custody of the children and the conservatorship started. The book has a lot of tough subjects including intergenerational trauma and emotional abuse. A lot of it reminded me that society really shapes our view on public figures and celebrities especially women. Famous people can have their narrative spun by themselves or others and how they can be taken advantage of. I don’t know this woman and this is her story, so I can’t say what she didn’t say or what she embellished. However, her family and the media did her wrong for decades. This book was tough and sad. I am glad I read it. I hope Britney can heal with space and find stability and joy in her life.

3.75/5 stars. 1.3x-2x. Read half on Kindle. October 24-25, 2023.

Botanical Folk Tales from Britain and Ireland by Lisa Schneidau

Narrated by Joan Walker. A series of short folk tales with botanical and plant themes. I gave up listening before bedtime. I listened to it in the mornings after I woke up. It was actually very cozy. Great narration. Some of the stories are too short and forgettable but there were classics which I enjoyed.

3.5/5 stars. Listened October 15-29, 2023.

Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee

This has a very similar premise to Anya’s Ghost as it was also a middle grade graphic novel about middle graders struggling to grow up and becoming friends with a ghost. I enjoyed this one more for being more wholesome and gentler. It was also more relatable with its themes and the protagonist being Chinese. I really liked all the characters including the ghost Alexa. Very sweet.

4.25/5 stars. October 28-30, 2023.

Maid by Stephanie Land

Narrated by the author. I only listened to about one quarter of the book on audiobook. A friend who enjoyed this book lent it to me. I found the content morose for listening for long periods so I switched to the paperback. I could relate to things in this memoir. My mother was a cleaner. She was a janitor and a house cleaner. It was hard work for her but she enjoyed for the most part. I sometimes witnessed the strange relationships that often develop between people and their cleaners. As a result of my mother, I notice cleaning people a lot because they often ignored or worse, belittled. I could understand these stories. There were other things I could relate to including the anxiety of poverty. The author’s panic attacks and depression were difficult to read about as well. I felt sympathy for the author but I didn’t find myself moved or emotionally attached. I found the writing lacking in some ways, but I can’t explain why. I didn’t really care for the audiobook narration either. It was an okay memoir that I could even relate to but it didn’t hit the mark for me enough to say I liked it a lot.

3.25/5 stars. 1.5x. October 26-30, 2023.

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