19. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Autobiographies, Children's Books, Memoirs, NonFiction, Poetry

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, 336 pages, read by Angie, on 12/18/2014

Brown Girl Dreaming is Jacqueline Woodson’s wonderful novel in verse memoir of her childhood. She moves from her birthplace in Ohio to her mother’s people in South Carolina to New York. It is a story of leaving things behind as she leaves her father behind in Ohio and her beloved grandparents behind in South Carolina. It is a story of love and loss and hope and dreams. Woodson dreamed of creating stories and being a writer from an early age but struggled with a learning disability. The book also shows the struggle of Blacks during the Civil Rights era. We are shown what it means to be Black in South Carolina and how that is different in New York. Woodson’s story is beautiful and lyrical and a wonderful story to read. I’m not sure how much traction it will get with the elementary/middle school readers as novels in verse are sometimes a hard sell.

18. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Autobiographies, Memoirs, NonFiction, Paula

Running With Monsters by Bob Forrest, 230 pages, read by Paula, on 12/17/2014

index.aspxCelebrity Rehab star and Thelonious Monster frontman Bob Forrest’s memoir about his drug-fueled life in the L.A. indie rock scene of the ’80s and ’90s and his life-changing decision to become a drug counselor who specializes in reaching the unreachable.

Life has been one strange trip for Bob Forrest. He started out as a suburban teenage drunkard from the Southern California suburbs and went on to become a member of a hip Hollywood crowd that included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Depp, and River Phoenix. Los Angeles was their playground, and they hung out in such infamous haunts as the Viper Room and the Whisky a Go Go.

Always one to push things to their limit, Bob partied the hardest and could usually be found at the center of the drama. Drugs weren’t Bob’s only passion. He was also a talented musician who commanded the stage as the wild and unpredictable lead singer of Thelonious Monster. They traveled the world, and their future seemed bright and wide open. But Bob’s demons grew stronger as he achieved more success and he sank deeper into his chemical dependency, which included alcohol, crack, and heroin habits. No matter how many times he went to rehab, sobriety just wouldn’t stick for him. Soon he saw his once-promising music career slip away entirely.

Eventually Bob found a way to defeat his addiction, and once he did, he saw the opportunity to help other hopeless cases by becoming a certified drug counselor. He’s helped addicts from all walks of life, often employing methods that are very much at odds with the traditional rehab approach.

Running with Monsters is an electrifying chronicle of the LA rock scene of the 1980s and ’90s, the story of a man who survived and triumphed over his demons, and a controversial perspective on the rehab industry and what it really takes to beat addiction. Bob tells his story with unflinching honesty and hard-won perspective, making this a reading experience that shocks, entertains, and ultimately inspires.

 

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado, 195 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/05/2014

We in America have certain ideas of what it means to be poor. Linda Tirado, in her signature brutally honest yet personable voice, takes all of these preconceived notions and smashes them to bits. She articulates not only what it is to be working poor in America (yes, you can be poor and live in a house and have a job, even two), but what poverty is truly like—on all levels.  Frankly and boldly, Tirado discusses openly how she went from lower-middle class, to sometimes middle class, to poor and everything in between, and in doing so reveals why “poor people don’t always behave the way middle-class America thinks they should.”

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, 256 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/01/2014

“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.

05. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Kira, Memoirs · Tags: , ,

Haatchi & Little B: the Inspiring True Story of one Boy and his Dog by Wendy Holden, 224 pages, read by Kira, on 11/01/2014

81LTSYB7-zL._SL1500_So I was looking for a the animal’s point of view story preferably a cat story.  What I found on our ebook listing was this dog story and Not from the dog’s point of view.  It is a story about lives who deal with disability and how the dog helps the little boy.  Owen the young boy was born with a rare genetic abnormality called Schwartz-Jampel Syndrome.  This syndrome shortens and tightens all his muscles limiting his mobility in the extreme.

Haatchi the dog, had been tied to train tracks and run over, consequently missing his tail and one of his rear legs.
haatchi-640x360 owen-haatchi Both need lots of special attention, physical therapy.  Owen had been withdrawing into himself, as he noticed his difference from fellow kids.  Haatchi brought him out of his shell, and 571151-24ab88ee-982c-11e3-ae2a-c06439f32ae2allowed him to blossom.  Haatchi won all sorts of awards it seemed almost improbably, but I guess, the grand prize has to go to someone.

Haatchi’s presence helped the fundraising effort for Owen’s new wheelchair.  It ends with a short glossary of special words used by Owen with Haatchi.

03. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Eric, Humor, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags:

A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett, 307 pages, read by Eric, on 10/16/2014

Fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels are no strangers to his unique form of satiric humor. In this collection of Pratchett’s non-fiction writing, we are introduced to Sir Terry’s real world, filled with speeches, articles, and never-ending promotional tours. In particular, the tours provide fodder for the most wry, grumpy, and amusing anecdotes. As Neil Gaiman brilliantly observes in the introduction, Terry Pratchett is not a jolly old elf. He does, however, produce some of the best satirical writing on the planet. He also doesn’t come across as mean spirited. This is a wonderful collection!

29. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tracy

An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland by Michael Dirda, 335 pages, read by Tracy, on 10/09/2014

The acclaimed literary journalist Michael Dirda recreates his boyhood in rust-belt Ohio. The result is an affectionate homage to small-town America, as well as a paean to what could be called the last great age of reading.

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 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, 256 pages, 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, 284 pages, 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, 384 pages, 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, 200 pages, 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, 184 pages, 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., 277 pages, 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, 240 pages, 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, 240 pages, 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 , 288 pages, 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, 274 pages, 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, 240 pages, 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.