REVIEW – Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous

“We have to love other people regardless of their actions and without any hope of reward. Even our enemies deserve our grace.”

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt was the first book I read after the 2020 presidential election, and it was 110% the correct choice. Before you even consider picking up this delightful memoir, you need to first become acquainted with Duchess Goldblatt on Twitter – you have to have a very particular sense of humor to enjoy this one.

“There are hidden benefits to being a fictional person. If people can’t find you, they can’t break your heart.”

The author makes it a point to differentiate herself from her fictional, online persona, but you slowly begin to realize that our dear author is more like Duchess Goldblatt than she originally believed.

That being said, this book is SO lovely. We follow the journey of the person behind Duchess Goldblatt, and what events in her life motivated her to create the account. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and also very emotional (you’ll have a lot of feelings about Lyle Lovett after you read this).

If you’re looking for something heartwarming and hopeful and hilarious, i’d like to officially welcome you to Crooked Path. The Duchess is waiting for you.

“The world is broken, but you are not broken. Things may not be okay, but you’re okay, and you will be. I promise.”

REVIEW – All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

“We are not as different as you think, and all our stories matter and deserve to be celebrated and told.”

All Boys Aren’t Blue is a deeply personal memoir that should be required reading. George Johnson just has an impeccable way with words – we follow their story from childhood to high school to college and beyond. Johnson and I are around the same age, and I loved some of their stories about growing up – it was so easy for me to picture those moments in time.

“Symbolism gives folks hope. But I’ve come to learn that symbolism is a threat to actual change – it’s a chance for those in power to say, “Look how far you’ve come” rather than admitting, “Look how long we’ve stopped you from getting here.””

Johnson touches on the importance of representation – from teachers to politicians alike. A lot of Black kids (and kids of all races) don’t have Black teachers. (I mean, think about it – when did you have your first Black teacher? I don’t recall having a Black teacher/professor until I was in college.) Queer representation is important too – especially with LGBTQ+ youth being high-risk for suicidal thoughts, homelessness and abuse.

Johnson often mentions the dual struggles of being both Black and queer – and how lucky they are to have a family who supports them as they are. I think Johnson’s story would be much different without the support of their family. Johnson’s grandmother, Nanny, is a strong presence in this book – what an incredible woman! She is the embodiment of pure, unconditional love for her family.

All Boys Aren’t Blue deals with some incredibly heavy topics but the book never feels weighed down – there’s always hope, always growth, always forgiveness.

Note: When this book was released, Johnson used he/him pronouns and has recently switched to using they/them pronouns (just something to keep in mind if/when you write a review for this book).

REVIEW – Chasing Space by Leland Melvin

“Seeing the world without geographic boundaries really puts things into perspective and makes one wonder why there is so much division, hatred, and malice.”

Chasing Space was a highly anticipated read for me. Leland Melvin (you may know him as the NASA astronaut with the best official portrait!) is a former NFL football player and retired astronaut. His memoir is smart and uplifting, and I would call this a must-read for football fans and space lovers alike. Melvin’s personality pops off of the page – you can tell he’s intelligent, compassionate and friendly. The way he writes about his friends and family is heartwarming – this is a man full of love and joy.

“Working at NASA had never crossed my mind. I mean, who work at NASA? Certainly, nobody who looked like me.”

Melvin touches on the importance of representation – particularly in STEM fields and professions. When he joined NASA in 1989, only four Black astronauts had ever been to space. It’s no surprise that NASA has a history of being overwhemingly white (and male, for that matter) and Melvin does cover that a bit in his book.

After experiencing a pretty horrifying setback, Melvin does eventually make it to space (twice!) I loved the section of the book about his time in space – as someone who both loves and is terrified of the idea, I loved his (sorry…no pun intended) down-to-Earth approach of sharing his experiences. Chasing Space almost feels like you’re chatting with a friend. His writing is approachable and conversational, and flows perfectly for a book that exceeds just beyond 250 pages.

Content warning: brief mention of sexual assault of a minor, description of a racially motivated police encounter, hazing.

REVIEW – Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit by Eliese Colette Goldbach

{Available March 3, 2020} There’s a lot to say about Rust – this story hooked me right from the beginning. Goldbach is from Cleveland, a resilient city with an industrial past (and present, and future).

I connected with a lot in the beginning of this book. Goldbach and I are both graduates of Catholic all-girls high schools. We’re both from cities in northern Ohio (her from the northeast, me from the northwest). Our cities both have strong foundations in industry – hers in steel, mine in glass and cars. Goldbach and I are roughly the same age (I believe she’s a few months older than me).

I’ve never worked in a factory. I’ve never had to and, honestly, have never considered it an option. Reading Goldbach’s account as a woman in her late twenties (at the time) navigating life as an employee in a steel mill was fascinating. I think many of us can agree that when we picture a “factory worker” or a “steelworker” we do not picture a young, college-educated woman. Goldbach’s account dismantled my idea of what a typical factory worker is like (which makes me sound like an idiot, but i’m not afraid to admit I was biased and I was WRONG).

I felt that this book lost its way a bit at times – it meanders from topic to topic, timeline to timeline, with few line or section breaks (but this could be something that is remedied in the finished copy). However, it’s difficult to place a “review” lens on someone’s life experience. There are moments where I forgot I was reading nonfiction (Goldbach is a great writer! And this memoir felt more like a novel sometimes).

This memoir isn’t just about a young woman finding her way in the steel industry. It also focuses heavily on her struggle with mental illness, and is supplemented by observations and events surrounding the 2016 presidential election.

Content warnings: mental illness, rape, discussion of suicide/suicidal thoughts.

Thank you Flatiron Books for the NetGalley ARC.

REVIEW – The Less People Know About Us by Axton Betz-Hamilton

“Slowly, our tether unwound, until it felt as if all we had left in common were the crimes committed against us.”

This is an INSANE story and tough to get through. It’s about a family facing identity theft, but it goes so much deeper (and so much more sinister) than that. Nothing in this book is simple or as it seems – there are so many layers to get through and every single one is more shocking than the last.

“All of it was an elaborate illusion, a magic trick we never stopped perfecting. On the outside, our lives looked solid and well put together, but on the inside, everything was falling apart.”

This book also examines the desperation of keeping up appearances – spending money you don’t have, buying things you can’t afford. The theme of “perception” runs throughout the entire book, and it gets so incredibly dark at times. Betz-Hamilton also outlines how insecurity can be passed down through generations. It’s also incredibly sad – the isolation Betz-Hamilton felt as a child, and the effects she carries with her to this day.

“…I learned that the most basic, fundamental truths about us were nothing more than masterful illusions.”

The Less People Know About Us provides a raw and uncomfortable look at betrayal, financial abuse and compulsive lying. Even after the facts are laid out in front of you, it’s still hard to fathom how one person can so deeply and irrevocably harm the people they are supposed to love.

Thank you Grand Central Publishing for the free book!

TRUE CRIME REVIEW – Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen

”The murders in the shadows add up to a hell of a lot more than the murders in the spotlight. The blood of the forgotten was just as red as the “famous” victims.”

Chase Darkness with Me is an absolute must have for true crime fans. Billy Jensen is an incredible writer. He pours so much of himself into this book – from explaining why he’s interested in helping solve crimes, to his honesty about the sacrifices he’s made to be 110% dedicated to seeking justice. (Spoiler: being a citizen detective is HARD. It’s an enormous commitment and not for the faint of heart.)

The sections about Jensen’s dad are some of my favorites. He was an interesting man (with a somewhat checkered past) and it sounds like he was a dedicated, loving father. If he were alive today, I’m pretty sure he’d be a Murderino.

There are so many emotional ups and downs in this book – from catching the bad guys, to frustration over dead ends. But the lowest and highest points are definitely the loss of Michelle McNamara and the eventual capture of the Golden State Killer.

Jensen’s chapter about learning of Michelle’s death is a tough one – he’s an expert at transferring his grief to the page. (Sidebar: if you have not yet read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, I would recommend picking it up before you read Chase Darkness with Me. It will make the chapters about Michelle and GSK all the better.)

We think of superheroes as vigilantes in flashy costumes that shove the law out of the way and take matters into their own hands – that’s not true here. Jensen is compassionate, driven and dedicated to seeking justice and helping grieving friends and family find closure. He doesn’t step on toes. He works with local authorities. He asks for permission from the families before he takes on a case.

In a world that sometimes feels full of bad guys, Jensen is a good one.

“It’s chaos. Be kind.”

REVIEW – Little Sister: A Memoir by Patricia Walsh Chadwick

“Happiness is finding peace, joy and inspiration in the array of things one does in life. It is also moving on from what cannot be undone.”

Little Sister is vivid, heartbreaking and, ultimately, joyful.

Patricia Walsh Chadwick does an incredible job of illustrating how intelligent, kind people can get sucked into a cult (especially a cult tied to religion). It seemed like a noble idea at first – but then, bit by bit, freedoms were taken away. Identity was stripped from adults and children alike. Families were separated. The brothers and sisters in the community suffered physical and psychological abuse. The leaders of the community were manipulative hypocrites; it was frustrating and sickening to read about the ways they abused the members of the community (especially the children) in the name of God. (It has some Handmaids Tale vibes for sure.)

And yet, Chadwick’s story is one of resilience and triumph. Of the strength of a family’s love for one another. And ultimately the love of a community despite (or maybe because of) their shared trauma.

If you love memoirs, you have to get your hands on this book.

Thank you to Get Red PR for providing me with a free copy of this book.

TRUE CRIME REVIEW – Stay Sexy and Don`t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

“You start out with an idea you like. You write that idea down. You let it sit for five days, and when you come back to it, the words have rearranged themselves on the page. Now it’s shape-shifted into the dumbest idea you’ve ever seen.”

SSDGM is the perfect companion to My Favorite Murder. It’s best enjoyed by people who have been MFM fans for a long time (or at least have listened to a sizable chunk of episodes) – there are a lot of references to the podcast, inside jokes, etc.

Karen and Georgia have managed to write one of the funniest/saddest books I’ve ever read. It feels like you’re sitting down with your two cool, older sisters and getting valuable life advice.

Overall, totally worth the wait and the hype.

“We barely get any time on this planet. Do not spend it pleasing other people. Fuck politeness. Live life exactly how you want to live it so you can love the life you make for yourself.”