jennifer's wayThe National Foundation for Celiac Awareness estimates that as many as one in 133 Americans has celiac disease. This includes my 7-year-old niece who was recently diagnosed after almost a year of unexplained severe stomach pains. People with celiac disease are unable to process gluten which is found in wheat, rye and barley and many everyday items you wouldn’t think of such as some brands of toothpastes. The gluten triggers there body to mount an immune response that attacks the small intestine causing pain and preventing the body from receiving nutrients and being able to process some other foods often dairy.

Unfortunately, 83 percent of people who have this disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed—suffering through years of pain and misunderstanding.Actress Jennifer Esposito received an accurate diagnosis only after decades of mysterious illnesses and myriad misdiagnoses.

Now Jennifer shares her personal journey—from her childhood in Brooklyn to her years as a young actress, all the while suffering from unexplained ailments. Jennifer’s struggle to finally receive an accurate diagnosis is one that anyone who has a chronic disease will share.

Not only will you learn Jennifer’s personal story through her diagnosis to healing, but you’ll find recipes she uses at home, along with recipes for some of the delicious treats she offers at her own gluten-free bakery, Jennifer’s Way, in New York.

For anyone with a chronic illness or friend or family member with a chronic illness this is an encouraging and uplifting read about getting through the daily struggles.

download (1)Let the hilarity ensue!  This humorous look at one person’s life is as funny as it is interesting.  I am not a dog owner, but I could still relate to the chapters about life with her dogs simply from knowing other people who live with dogs.  The chapters on depression, while also funny, are very poignant and hit close to home for anyone who suffers from or knows someone who suffers from depression.  I would recommend this book just for those chapters alone.  At times, I felt like the author had stepped out of her life and into my own when she was describing the “flawed coping mechanisms” part of the book.  It will definitely make readers giggle even if they don’t see themselves in the events the author is describing.  I couldn’t get enough of this one.  Hope she publishes a second!

11. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Autobiographies, Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, read by Lisa, on 10/10/2014

“We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.” —Harriet Tubman

In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth—and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.

09. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Katy, Memoirs

The Big Tiny: a Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams, read by Katy, on 10/08/2014

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After being diagnosed with a heart condition, Dee Williams decided to downsize and de-clutter her life, and build a tiny house to live in. This is the story of how she designed and built the house, and the benefits and difficulties of living a minimalist lifestyle.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Memoirs, NonFiction

Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life by Tom Robbins, read by Courtney, on 09/18/2014

I’ve been a Tom Robbins fan since the age of 15, when I picked up a copy of Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas at an airport gift shop. It was the only thing that wasn’t a thriller/mystery/romance and I’d heard of Robbins before, so it seemed like the thing to do. As it turned out, that book was something of a revelation; it was unlike anything else I’d ever read. So I began acquiring his other novels. And read and reread them. Naturally, when I heard that Robbins had a memoir/autobiography out, I felt almost obligated to read it. I felt I owed it to myself and to Robbins to meet the brain behind the fiction. I was not disappointed. Robbins has lived a fascinating life and his anecdotes are laced with his trademark wordplay and sense of humor. I’m not sure that someone who had never heard of Robbins would enjoy this particular book, but those who are fans will find this quite entertaining. My only real issue with this memoir is the lack of a structured narrative. Each chapter is more a short story or vignette detailing a specific period of time in Robbins’ life. They’re more or less arranged chronologically. It’s best not to go into this expecting the traditional memoir/autobiography format, because, much like Robbins’ novels, experimenting with the form is par for the course. The stop-and-go nature made it very difficult for me to read this in a short period of time. Rather, I just read a few chapters and would then put it down for a few days. Needless to say, it took me an eternity to read and, while I more or less enjoyed the process, it did get tedious from time to time. For those wanting to know more about Robbins’ early life and works, this is an ideal place to start.

02. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Graphic Book, Humor, Kristy, Memoirs, NonFiction

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, read by Kristy, on 09/29/2014

SistersWhile I think I liked “Smile” a tad better, I had a blast reading “Sisters.” I love how Raina’s graphic novels are so humorous but realistic at the same time. I can relate to many of the situations her characters encounter.

The tidbits of the the past added to this novel helped me to understand the

​unique ​

relationship that the sisters have. It also showed the struggles of the parents trying to raise 3 children in a tiny apartment.

Cute little novel. Can’t wait for the next!​

 

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Marsha, Memoirs, NonFiction, True Crime · Tags: ,

Last Day On Earth: a portrait of the NIU school shooter by David Vann, read by Marsha, on 08/21/2014

Hard to read, but absolutely fascinating, this book not only tells the story of a school shooter, but also is written by someone who considered it before his life got turned around.  The parallels between Vann and Kazmierczak’s early lives are staggering.  The line between mass murder and living a normal life is surprisingly easy to cross, a point brought up by the author.  Anyone interested in true crime, psychology, sociology and related fields will find this book difficult to put down.  It brings a very human element to a seemingly otherworldly type of crime.  Very informative.

15. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Fiction, Kira, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags:

Bossypants by Tina Fey., read by Kira, on 08/14/2014

Another downloadable title, that wouldn’t have been my first choice of something to read, but hey it was available and looked interesting.  It was a bit slow to start and I put it down, then didn’t have anything else on my tablet, came back to it, and it got better.  She details her life and experiences infused with her social commentary humor.The best piece was her SNL skit as Sarah Pallin, so funny!tfey downloadSNL_Palin_Clinton

11. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags:

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, read by Angie, on 08/09/2014

Wave is a book I couldn’t put down. I was enthralled by the story and wanted to read it without stopping. Wave is Sonali Deraniyagala’s memoir of the 2004 tsunami in which she lost her husband, two sons, her parents and her friend. This is a book about grief and loss and how those things make you a little crazy. It isn’t an easy book to read by any means. And Sonali doesn’t always come off as the most likable of people. However, her grief is real and visceral throughout the pages of this book. Sonali obviously suffers from PTSD after the tsunami (even though it is never mention); her actions are clearly those of someone who is not able to work through her grief for years. She harasses the family that moves into her parents house, she can’t return to her own home for two years, she treats her family who survived and his helping her with disinterest and disdain. I do wish there was more information or acknowledgement of the others who were suffering as well or the people who helped her survive or even more on her recovery. That is not what this book is about however. It is a personal memoir about what one woman experience during and after the tsunami of 2004. It is a compelling read but may not be for everyone. 

05. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Graphic Book, Humor, Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast, read by Lisa, on 07/30/2014

In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the “crazy closet”—with predictable results—the tools that had served Roz well through her parents’ seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.

While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies—an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades—the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.

An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast’s talent as cartoonist and storyteller.

05. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction

I Forgot to Remember by Su Meck , read by Lisa, on 07/07/2014

In 1988 Su Meck was twenty-two and married with two children when a ceiling fan in her kitchen fell and struck her on the head, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury that erased all her memories of her life up to that point. Although her body healed rapidly, her memories never returned. 

Yet after just three weeks in the hospital, Su was released and once again charged with the care of two toddlers and a busy household. Adrift in a world about which she understood almost nothing, Su became an adept mimic, gradually creating routines and rituals that sheltered her and her family, however narrowly, from the near-daily threat of disaster, or so she thought. Though Su would eventually relearn to tie her shoes, cook a meal, and read and write, nearly twenty years would pass before a series of personally devastating events shattered the normal life she had worked so hard to build, and she realized that she would have to grow up all over again.

In her own indelible voice, Su offers us a view from the inside of a terrible injury, with the hope that her story will help give other brain injury sufferers and their families the resolve and courage to build their lives anew. Piercing, heartbreaking, but finally uplifting, this book is the true story of a woman determined to live life on her own terms.

02. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff, Alex Tresniowski, Valerie Salembier, read by Madeline, on 07/14/2014

Stopping was never part of the plan . . . 

She was a successful ad sales rep in Manhattan. He was a homeless, eleven-year-old panhandler on the street. He asked for spare change; she kept walking. But then something stopped her in her tracks, and she went back. And she continued to go back, again and again. They met up nearly every week for years and built an unexpected, life-changing friendship that has today spanned almost three decades. 

Whatever made me notice him on that street corner so many years ago is clearly something that cannot be extinguished, no matter how relentless the forces aligned against it. Some may call it spirit. Some may call it heart. It drew me to him, as if we were bound by some invisible, unbreakable thread. And whatever it is, it binds us still.

02. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast, read by Madeline, on 07/01/2014

In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the “crazy closet”—with predictable results—the tools that had served Roz well through her parents’ seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.

While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies—an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades—the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.

An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast’s talent as cartoonist and storyteller.

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman, John Shiffman, read by Madeline, on 06/29/2014

The Wall Street Journal called him “a living legend.” The London Timesdubbed him “the most famous art detective in the world.”
 
In Priceless, Robert K. Wittman, the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, pulls back the curtain on his remarkable career for the first time, offering a real-life international thriller to rival The Thomas Crown Affair.   
 
Rising from humble roots as the son of an antique dealer, Wittman built a twenty-year career that was nothing short of extraordinary. He went undercover, usually unarmed, to catch art thieves, scammers, and black market traders in Paris and Philadelphia, Rio and Santa Fe, Miami and Madrid.
 
In this page-turning memoir, Wittman fascinates with the stories behind his recoveries of priceless art and antiquities: The golden armor of an ancient Peruvian warrior king. The Rodin sculpture that inspired the Impressionist movement. The headdress Geronimo wore at his final Pow-Wow. The rare Civil War battle flag carried into battle by one of the nation’s first African-American regiments.
 
The breadth of Wittman’s exploits is unmatched: He traveled the world to rescue paintings by Rockwell and Rembrandt, Pissarro, Monet and Picasso, often working undercover overseas at the whim of foreign governments. Closer to home, he recovered an original copy of the Bill of Rights and cracked the scam that rocked the PBS series Antiques Roadshow.
 
By the FBI’s accounting, Wittman saved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art and antiquities. He says the statistic isn’t important. After all, who’s to say what is worth more –a Rembrandt self-portrait or an American flag carried into battle? They’re both priceless. 
 
The art thieves and scammers Wittman caught run the gamut from rich to poor, smart to foolish, organized criminals to desperate loners.  The smuggler who brought him a looted 6th-century treasure turned out to be a high-ranking diplomat.  The appraiser who stole countless heirlooms from war heroes’ descendants was a slick, aristocratic con man.  The museum janitor who made off with locks of George Washington’s hair just wanted to make a few extra bucks, figuring no one would miss what he’d filched.
 
In his final case, Wittman called on every bit of knowledge and experience in his arsenal to take on his greatest challenge: working undercover to track the vicious criminals behind what might be the most audacious art theft of all. 

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty by Diane Keaton, read by Madeline, on 06/21/2014

From Academy Award winner and bestselling author Diane Keaton comes a candid, hilarious, and deeply affecting look at beauty, aging, and the importance of staying true to yourself—no matter what anyone else thinks.
 
Diane Keaton has spent a lifetime coloring outside the lines of the conventional notion of beauty. In Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, she shares the wisdom she’s accumulated through the years as a mother, daughter, actress, artist, and international style icon. This is a book only Diane Keaton could write—a smart and funny chronicle of the ups and downs of living and working in a world obsessed with beauty.
 
In her one-of-a-kind voice, Keaton offers up a message of empowerment for anyone who’s ever dreamed of kicking back against the “should”s and “supposed to”s that undermine our pursuit of beauty in all its forms. From a mortifying encounter with a makeup artist who tells her she needs to get her eyes fixed to an awkward excursion to Victoria’s Secret with her teenage daughter, Keaton shares funny and not-so-funny moments from her life in and out of the public eye. 
 
For Diane Keaton, being beautiful starts with being true to who you are, and in this book she also offers self-knowing commentary on the bold personal choices she’s made through the years: the wide-brimmed hats, outrageous shoes, and all-weather turtlenecks that have made her an inspiration to anyone who cherishes truly individual style—and catnip to paparazzi worldwide. She recounts her experiences with the many men in her life—including Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Sam Shepard—shows how our ideals of beauty change as we age, and explains why a life well lived may be the most beautiful thing of all. 
 
Wryly observant and as fiercely original as Diane Keaton herself, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty is a head-turner of a book that holds up a mirror to our beauty obsessions—and encourages us to like what we see.

30. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney, read by Madeline, on 06/05/2014

The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.

In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Autobiographies, Graphic Novel, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney , read by Tammy, on 05/21/2014

marblesCartoonist Ellen Forney tells her personal story of confronting that she is bi-polar the best way she knows… through comics and sketches. She openly shares about her struggles to accept the she is bi-polar and the difficulty of finding just the right blend of medication and therapy so she can still be creative.

28. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: How To's, Humor, Inspirational, Marsha, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags: ,

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, read by Marsha, on 05/27/2014

birdLamott gives us an inside peek at her writing processes and the advice she gives to her workshop students.  Hilariously written, as one reviewer notes, the book is “a warm, generous and hilarious guide through the writer’s world and its treacherous swamps.”  Lamott is not shy about telling her students and readers that writing is hard work and what we think of as reward, publication, may not ever happen.  And yet, we should keep on writing about ourselves, our lives, our very ups and downs.  She encourages us all to just keep writing day by day.  A good dose of humor is thrown in to keep us from getting too despondent.  Lamott tackles libel, beginning writing, taking classes, and finding writing partners with a good dose of reality and fun in her text.  I highly recommend it for any creative person who needs a good laugh.

 

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, read by Lisa, on 04/25/2014

The New York Times bestselling author of State of WonderRun, and Bel Canto creates a resonant portrait of a life in this collection of writings on love, friendship, work, and art.

“The tricky thing about being a writer, or about being any kind of artist, is that in addition to making art you also have to make a living.”

So begins This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, an examination of the things Ann Patchett is fully committed to—the art and craft of writing, the depths of friendship, an elderly dog, and one spectacular nun. Writing nonfiction, which started off as a means of keeping her insufficiently lucrative fiction afloat, evolved over time to be its own kind of art, the art of telling the truth as opposed to the art of making things up. Bringing her narrative gifts to bear on her own life, Patchett uses insight and compassion to turn very personal experiences into stories that will resonate with every reader.

These essays twine to create both a portrait of life and a philosophy of life. Obstacles that at first appear insurmountable—scaling a six-foot wall in order to join the Los Angeles Police Department, opening an independent bookstore, and sitting down to write a novel—are eventually mastered with quiet tenacity and a sheer force of will. The actual happy marriage, which was the one thing she felt she wasn’t capable of, ultimately proves to be a metaphor as well as a fact: Patchett has devoted her life to the people and ideals she loves the most.

An irresistible blend of literature and memoir, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a unique examination of the heart, mind, and soul of one of our most revered and gifted writers.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Book, Memoirs

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney, read by Courtney, on 04/19/2014

Art and madness. Do the two always have to go hand in hand? Is there a reason so many artists/writers/creative types struggle with mental illness? If they had been alive today, in the age of modern medicine and therapy, would they still have been able to create their masterpieces? Ellen Forney finds herself having to deal with this very issue as she, a long-time comic artist, is diagnosed as bi-polar. Forney doesn’t just tell her story; she does her research as well. Forney tells readers about the illness itself, the medications, side effects and so-called “mad” geniuses. Early on in her treatment, she worries about the medication taking away or diminishing her creativity. By the end, she has found a middle ground. Things aren’t perfect and never will be, but readers can tell that Ellen is going to wind up OK.
Marbles is a fantastic graphic memoir. Forney, who is an Eisner-Award winning cartoonist (and the artist for Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) does an excellent job of demystifying this potentially devastating mood disorder by putting forth her story in a clear and concise narrative. It is abundantly clear that much of her progress is due to a talented doctor/therapist and a large support network of friends. Even so, it still took years to find balance and which serves as a good reminder to readers that these issues will not go away overnight or on their own. At times humorous, but always honest, this memoir is an excellent example of what the comic medium is capable of.