Every Step You Take [Book Review]

“Sometimes a series of small steps will bring you to the biggest leaps.” p. 191*

Title: Every Step You Take
Author: Jock Soto
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 0061732389
Pages: 288
Year: 2011
Publisher: Harper
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5


I’ve said this before but I will once again admit I find it really hard to critique memoirs. It’s someone’s life and who am I to judge it? Jock Soto has had an interesting life. He’s a half-Navajo, Half-Peurto Rican, openly gay dancer who left his nomadic family at 14 to live on his own in New York City and quickly became a star of the New York City Ballet. That’s an interesting life. The book begins before he is born, when his parents are young, and ends as he figures out life in his post-retirement world.

As you know, ballet has also been a huge part of my life. But I never once thought I would dance professionally, so I really have little knowledge about the life of a professional ballet dancer. It’s a lot of hard work filled with a little bit of glamor, and it was enlightening to spend some time in that world.

Unfortunately, I struggled with the writing style a bit. Soto is not a writer (in fact, he left school at a very young age) so I try to cut him a little slack. But there is only so much past perfect tense (“I had [verb]ed”) that a girl can take. I also think I wanted a little more action and a little less reflection. But that may be an unfair criticism.

Despite these flaws, I did enjoy the book overall.  If you are a fan of dance, or of coming-to-terms-with-my-identity stories, you will probably enjoy it too.

Buy It Now: Amazon; IndieBound

For Fun:

Watch Jock Soto perform on Sesame Street.

*Page numbers are from the ARC and may differ in the finished book.


All My Life [Book Review]

All My LifeTitle: All My Life
Author: Susan Lucci (with Laura Morton)
Narrator: Susan Lucci
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 9780062087706
Pages: 336
Audio: 10.2 hours
Year: 2011
Publisher: HarperAudio
Source: Review copy from publisher
Rating: 4/5

My Thoughts:

I grew up watching All My Children. From a very young age, I knew that 1pm-2pm was time that we spent in Pine Valley. On the days that my mom was home with us, we planned our shopping trips, afternoons at the pool, and everything else around All My Children. When I went to college and I was home in the afternoons, I started watching it on my own. I even got my roommate into it. It wasn’t until law school that I finally stopped watching because I just wasn’t ever home.

I haven’t watched All My Children in years, and with last week’s announcement that after four decades the show would end in October, my chances to do so are limited. Although I am no longer a loyal viewer, this news greatly saddens me. I always thought I would be able to return to Pine Valley.

In one of those odd coincidences of life, I finished Susan Lucci’s audiobook, All My Life, two days before the announcement. And it was so good to be back with an old friend. Susan Lucci has played Erica Kane for 40+years, a feat few actors can match. Throughout it all she has maintained a private and successful family life. While Erica  went through husband after husband, Lucci has been with the same man. She raised two kids (largely out of the spotlight). Learning about her work-life balance was one of the more fascinating aspects of All My Life.

The book opens on the night Lucci finally wins her Daytime Emmy, after 18 nominations without a win. It is a great way to pull in the reader. After that, it largely goes in chronological order. Her childhood, college, the early days of All My Children, etc. Any fan of the show will enjoy the references to the different AMC storylines throughout the novel.

If you, like me, are in mourning over the loss of All My Children, pick up Susan Lucci’s memoir. You’ll enjoy the journey.

The narration, of course, is excellent. Lucci is so down-to-Earth despite her success and puts so much feeling into her story. I definitely recommend the audiobook.

Buy It Now: Powell’s; IndieBound; Amazon; The Book Depository


This Life is in Your Hands [Book Review]

“There are reasons why nothing lasts forever”

This Life is in Your HandsTitle: This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone
Author: Melissa Coleman
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 0061958328
Pages: 336
Year: 2011
Publisher: Harper
Source: Review copy provided by publisher
Rating: 4.5/5


We know all along that Heidi is going to drown. We know all along that this “idyllic” life is not going to survive Lissie’s childhood. Even before the book begins, the publisher’s summary spells it all out. But the journey to this inevitable end is very much worth reading.

Melissa (“Lissie”) Coleman’s memoir recalls the first ten years of her life. It’s the 1970s and her parents, Eliot and Sue, decide to leave their old lives behind and move to a farm in Maine to being homesteading (they purchase land from Helen and Scott Nearing – famous for their own book Living the Good Life). “Lissie” is born shortly after followed by her sister Heidi a few years later. The family spends summers farming and selling their produce with the aid of various apprentices interested in the back to the land movement. The winter is spent trying to survive the harsh Maine weather. They are successful with their organic farming, less so with their family life. Lissie is often ignored and the kids are allowed to run free most of the time.

The tragic event of Heidi’s death that finally breaks the family does not occur until the last 70 pages. The first part of the book describes the life – the reasons for it, the tools and methods, the way it made Lissie feel. At first it seems like a perfect solution to the problems plaguing society. But the work is hard and the family suffers for it.

Although we know it’s coming, Coleman does such a good job dealing with the tragedy and the aftermath that I found myself tearing up, trying to suppress that lump rising up like Lissie. Her father’s anger and stubbornness, her mother’s depression, and her inability to change any of it is heartbreaking. It’s a book that will make you evaluate the important things in life as you reflect on the Coleman’s attempt at homesteading.

This memoir is touching, well-researched, well-written, and honest.

Others’ Thoughts
: Sophisticated Dorkiness; 5 Minutes for Books

Buy It Now: IndieBound; Book Depository; Amazon

Everything I Never Wanted to Be [Book Review]

Title: Everything I Never Wanted to Be
Author: Dina Kucera
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 0982579438
Pages: 216
Year: 2010
Publisher: Dream of Things
Source: Review copy provided as part of the TLC Book Tour
Rating: 4.5/5

My Thoughts:

It’s always a little strange to review a memoir. I mean, I don’t really want to review this woman’s life. It’s her life. And it hasn’t been an easy one. But it certainly made a wonderful book.

Everything I Never Wanted to Be was heartbreaking and hilarious. I would laugh out loud at one paragraph and shed a tear at the next.

Dina Kucera is a standup comic and grocery checker. She is also a recovering alcoholic. Her husband is unemployed, her mother has Parkinson’s, her grandson has cerebral palsy. Her three daughters have a plethora of mental illnesses and addictions between them. She spends her days getting rid of imaginary people under her mother’s bed, checking her daughter into rehab (again), and smiling at customers who bring 67 items into the express lane. This is her life. Every day.

Kucera relates her often-painful history in such a brutally honest way. Instead of despair, this book offers hope.  It is full of humor and love and faith.

I wanted to quote passages, but they are all so wonderful I can’t choose. I really hope you pick up this book. You won’t be able to put it down once you do.

Check out the rest of the tour:

Tuesday, November 9th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Wednesday, November 10th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Tuesday, November 16th: Silver & Grace

Wednesday, November 17th: Knowing the Difference

Thursday, November 18th: A Fair Substitute for Heaven

Thursday, November 23rd: Lit and Life

Tuesday, November 30th: Suko’s Notebook

Wednesday, December 1st: {indie}pendent books

Thursday, December 2nd: my books. my life.

Monday, December 6th: Books Like Breathing

Tuesday, December 7th: Natty Michelle

Wednesday, December 8th: Literate Housewife

Thursday, December 9th: Lisa’s Yarns

Monday, December 13th: Reading on a Rainy Day

Tuesday, December 14th: Rundpinne

Wednesday, December 15th: Tina’s Book Reviews

Thursday, December 16th: Life In Pink

Buy It Now: Get 30% off Dina’s book at www.everythinginever.com by entering coupon code “Dina” at checkout.