Flying Alone: A Memoir by Beth Ruggiero York – A Review

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Flying Alone: A Memoir by Beth Ruggiero York
Non-Fiction | Memoir
Self-Published
Released September 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

Note: I received a free copy of this book from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion.

Here’s a fun fact that very few people know about me:  I’m obsessed with planes. It started when I took my first flight on a small plane from Asheville to Charlotte, NC. As soon as I felt the plane take off from the runway I was absolutely hooked. I’ll take any chance I can to fly these days, and the thrill of being in the sky never gets old. When I’m unable to find a reason to fly, I’ll resort to watching cockpit videos on YouTube or, as in this case, reading about flying.

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Beth Ruggiero York

When FSB Associates reached out to me to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing York’s memoir, of course I said yes! I’ll never become a pilot myself, so I’ll eagerly live vicariously through their words. The book was also pitched to me as a memoir about a pilot being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and having to overcome that diagnosis in order to become a pilot.

While there were parts of the memoir that I genuinely enjoyed (basically every moment she was in the air), it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

Multiple sclerosis is mentioned only twice in the book – once when she is given the possible diagnosis and again, in the epilogue, when she finds out that she definitely has the disease (which is after she becomes a pilot). So while it’s not exactly a memoir about overcoming a debilitating disease (which I’m glad of, because she was able to do something she loved), it is instead a memoir about a woman learning to become a pilot, starting from the very bottom.

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The book can essentially be summed up into two parts:  First, some interesting stories about successes and trials up in the air, with airplanes that aren’t always functioning as they should. Second, the author’s account of a bad relationship with her very selfish flight instructor.

I learned a lot about how difficult it is to be a pilot. I had no idea that banner-pulling was so dangerous. She dealt with several hard situations very bravely, including essentially running out of gas and trying to land the plane in a snowstorm with an iced-over windshield.

Reading about the boyfriend that she had during the part of her life that she writes about was infuriating. Not towards her, but towards how uncaring and selfish he acted. There were times when I wished I could punch him through the page.

I feel bad about rating someone’s memoir only 3.5 stars, but I wish there had been so much more! I wanted to know more about her job flying with the airlines, and how she dealt with the multiple sclerosis diagnosis. I want to know that eventually, she was in a great relationship with someone way less douchey than her former flight instructor.


What’s your favorite memoir? Do you enjoy flying? Let me know in the comments!!




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Becoming by Michelle Obama – A Review

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Becoming by Michelle Obama
Non-Fiction | Memoir
Published by Crown
Released November 13, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

I feel the need to preface this review by admitting a bit of bias.

I have a massive crush on Michelle Obama.

When Barack Obama ran for the presidency in 2008, I was in college studying political science. I was surrounded by politics and I staunchly supported Obama. His presidency wasn’t perfect, but there was a great deal of good that happened during his eight years in office.

Michelle stole the spotlight from Barack, at least from where I was standing. I’ve always been immersed in food movements that promote local, healthy, farm-to-table ways of eating. Michelle was such a wonderful supporter of healthy eating as well as helping children to create healthier habits. She is also known for encouraging women and people of color to believe in themselves. For these things, I became a bit of a fangirl.

I tried to put those feelings aside when reading Becoming, although, if anything, learning about her life and her story made me appreciate Michelle Obama even more.

Michelle Obama was born into a normal family in a less-than-perfect part of Chicago. She wasn’t born into wealth. The main aspect of her story that impacted me was how the things that happened to her could happen to anyone. All of her success came from hard work.

However, she regularly recognized all of the people that helped her get to where she is now:

“I’d been lucky to have parents, teachers, and mentors who’d fed me with a consistent, simple message: You matter. As an adult, I wanted to pass those words to a new generation. It was the message I gave my own daughters, who were fortunate to have it reinforced daily by their school and their privileged circumstances, and I was determined to express some version of it to every young person I encountered. I wanted to be the opposite of the guidance counselor I’d had in high school, who’d blithely told me I wasn’t Princeton material.”

Especially when discussing her extended family, she speaks about how policies of discrimination can have lasting effects on people of color and the areas in which they live. When the opportunities of one generation are hampered, the next couple of generations will suffer disadvantages as well. This is a point that is easily forgotten in this day and age, but there are still plenty of communities facing such latent effects of discrimination.

“This particular form of discrimination altered the destinies of generations of African Americans, including many of the men in my family, limiting their income, their opportunity, and, eventually, their aspirations. … These were highly intelligent, able-bodied men who were denied access to stable high-paying jobs, which in turn kept them from being able to buy homes, send their kids to college, or save for retirement.”

Obviously, much of her memoir involves Barack Obama, and the story of how they met and fell in love was heart-warming and eye-opening. I enjoyed the mention of the car Barack owned when they first started dating, which had a hole in the passenger side floor through which Michelle could see pavement. It’s just one more thing that makes the Obamas relatable to the average person.

This entire memoir is an inspiration for people that believe or feel as though they don’t belong. From her childhood on the south side of Chicago to her days as First Lady of the United States of America, she offers candid insights into her life, the life of her family, and how anybody can have the kind of success that she did.

Shelf Life by Suzanne Strempek Shea – A Review

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Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Bookstore by Suzanne Strempek Shea
Non-Fiction | Memoir
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Beacon Press
Released May 15, 2004
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars

As a book lover, I take a lot of pleasure in hearing other people talk about their love of books, which is why I always find myself picking up any book about books that I see at my local library. This is how I ended up checking out Suzanne Strempek Shea’s Shelf Life, which is about the author working at an independent bookstore.

I’ve always dreamed of owning a small bookstore, so I assumed I would love this memoir. However, I found it lacking in several areas.

First, I hard a very hard time connecting with the author and her writing style. The writing isn’t necessarily bad, it just seems unpolished and perhaps like it should have gone through another round of editing. There are also a lot of very boring lists, such as paragraphs (yes, more than one) where Shea literally just lists names of magazines that her bookstore stocks.

Another issue I had was that Shea frequently brings up the point that bookstore patrons shouldn’t be judged for what they’re reading or buying, while at the same time she becomes judgemental about what people buy. It’s hypocritical and left a bad taste in my mouth. No one should be judged on their choice of reading material. One example of this is when a woman buys two copies of The Dual Disorders Recovery Book and Shea starts making jokes as soon as she walks out. Luckily this behavior isn’t returned by her co-worker. This was actually the biggest problem I had with the book and a large part of the reason I’m rating it two stars.

Finally, there was too much self-promotion in this book, where she writes about how she’d always put her own book front and center so that customers would see it, and far too many parts of this book end with her talking about how she’s an author.

There are a few bits and pieces of the book that’s interesting enough, but it’s definitely not a book I would recommend for someone to get a good idea of what it’s actually like working in a bookstore.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle – A Review

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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle
Memoir | Non-Fiction
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Crown Archetype
Released October 2, 2018
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I don’t remember how old I was when I was first introduced to Monty Python, but I’ve been a fan for a very long time. Flying Circus, Life of Brian, Holy Grail… I love them all and have watched them too many times to accurately count.

Fun story: In tenth grade, I took European history, which at the time was being taught by the football coach, and it was very obvious that he didn’t have a background in history. When we got to medieval Europe, he showed us Monty Python and the Holy Grail to show us what England was like during that era. Obviously, we didn’t learn much during that class, but at least we got to watch a great movie.

Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is a hilarious and interesting look back at his life, his friendships with celebrities such as George Harrison and David Bowie, and a behind-the-scenes look at Monty Python.

I both read the physical book and listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Idle himself. Both are equally amazing. The audiobook is hilarious, and I found myself laughing so many times. The physical book is just as interesting, with tons of photos throughout it. If I had to recommend just one, however, go with the audiobook. It’s perfect.

At times, the celebrity name-dropping felt a little overwhelming and grew tired, but overall I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into the life of a member of a comedy group that I basically grew up watching.

I’ll leave you to watch this clip from Life of Brian (which, by the way, is my favorite Monty Python movie), in case you aren’t aware of where the title of this memoir came from.