16. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Autobiographies, History, Mariah, Memoirs, NonFiction

The Family by Pa Chin, 329 pages, read by Mariah, on 04/04/2015

Pa Chin’s The Family explores the relationships and workings of a family living through the turbulent early 20th century in China. After centuries of rebellions, revolts, and hardships, China was beginning to embrace modernization. For a culture that built everything around an ideal that looked backwards, idolizing the past, this would be anything but easy.

The family the book focuses on is ruled in an authoritarian manner by the head of the household, the grandfather, the Venerable Master Kao. He is of the old regime that has held sway for centuries and believes in the Confucian principles based around filial piety. He expects no less than perfect and immediate obedience.

This causes many heartaches in the family. The reader mostly follows the journeys of the three main grandsons. The eldest wants to modernize, but feels that he cannot, that he must submit to Grandfather Kao. This passive attitude kept him from marrying the woman he loved. Instead, he married the women chosen for him, leading to sorrow from every party in the unhappy triangle. The lover he left behind ends up wasting away and dying.

The middle brother, who falls in love with a girl who is not his intended, decides not to allow this to happen to him. He runs away from home and refuses to return until he is allowed to marry who he wishes. This unheard of action turns the family on its head. The reader can see the family falling apart as, suddenly, nobody is certain what role they play anymore.

The youngest brother is the most fiery reformer of all. He falls in love with a girl completely out of his class, a servant to their family. He knows their union will never be approved and he spends most of the book ranting about the injustice of society. He, in fact, seems to be more in love with the idea of rebellion than with the girl. However, when the servant is sold to an aged, decrepit uncle as a concubine, he becomes frenzied. The servant-girl, who has no high aspirations, kills herself rather than go quietly to that fate.

To say the book is sad is an understatement. However, it is autobiographical and an excellent look at what the Chinese culture during this time period was like. The struggles between those clinging to the old ways and those pushing for modernization tore apart families, villages, and, eventually, the nation. It is not an easy read because it is difficult not to assign American values and reactions to what you are reading. It was very much worth reading, though.

13. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Autobiographies, Katy, Memoirs, NonFiction

The glass castle : a memoir by Jeannette Walls, 288 pages, read by Katy, on 04/12/2015

The-Glass-Castle-by-Jeannette-WallsThe Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

The Glass Castle is truly astonishing–a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.

From www.goodreads.com.

Loved this book!

08. April 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

Bettyville by George Hodgman, 279 pages, read by Madeline, on 03/25/2015

When George Hodgman leaves Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri, he finds himself—an unlikely caretaker and near-lethal cook—in a head-on collision with his aging mother, Betty, a woman of wit and will. Will George lure her into assisted living? When hell freezes over. He can’t bring himself to force her from the home both treasure—the place where his father’s voice lingers, the scene of shared jokes, skirmishes, and, behind the dusty antiques, a rarely acknowledged conflict: Betty, who speaks her mind but cannot quite reveal her heart, has never really accepted the fact that her son is gay.

As these two unforgettable characters try to bring their different worlds together, Hodgman reveals the challenges of Betty’s life and his own struggle for self-respect, moving readers from their small town—crumbling but still colorful—to the star-studded corridors of Vanity Fair. Evocative of The End of Your Life Book Club and The Tender Bar, Hodgman’s New York Times bestselling debut is both an indelible portrait of a family and an exquisitely told tale of a prodigal son’s return.

–from Goodreads.com.

02. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Humor, Memoirs, NonFiction

It Looked Different on the Model: Epic Tales of Impending Shame and Infamy by Laurie Notaro, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 03/01/2015

I had never read anything by Laurie Notaro before picking up this book, but I just might have to read more. She is hilarious and the situations she finds herself in are laugh out loud funny. Highlights of the book include her feud with the local post office where she was banned for wanting too many two cent stamps, being banned from the neighborhood Christmas party because she dared to mouth the words to Jingle Bells, and the dog bark translator. Really all the chapters were hilarious so it is hard to pick favorites. Read it and I dare you not to laugh!

01. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Graphic Book, History, Katy, Memoirs, NonFiction

Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac, 156 pages, read by Katy, on 01/31/2015

9781631490316_custom-44f320df1bb71b49adc8ec3a92b796701f9b1e66-s300-c15In 1975 Nina Bunjevac’s mother fled her marriage and her adopted country of Canada and took Nina back to Yugoslavia to live with her parents. Peter, her husband, was a fanatical Serbian nationalist who had been forced to leave his country at the end of World War II and migrate to Canada. But even there he continued his activities, joining a terrorist group that planned to set off bombs at the homes of Tito sympathisers and at Yugoslav missions in Canada and the USA. Then in 1977, while his family were still in Yugoslavia, a telegram arrived to say that a bomb had gone off prematurely and Peter and two of his comrades had been killed.

From www.goodreads.com.

28. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes, Joe Layden, 259 pages, read by Tammy, on 01/26/2015

as you wish Cary Elwes, better known to The Princess Bride fans as Westley, shares his experiences filming the cult classic, The Princess Bride. He shares behind the scenes stories and quotes and comments from other actors as well as directors and stuntmen. Much more of a personal story than a technical making of the movie tale. I had forgotten that The Princess Bride was made without any kind of green screen or CGI affects. The story holds up well and carries you along perhaps in part because of the lack of modern special affects.

14. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Humor, Memoirs, Noelle, NonFiction

Yes Please by Amy Poehler, 329 pages, read by Noelle, on 01/08/2015

In a perfect world . . .

We’d get to hang out with Amy Poehler, watching dumb movies, listening to music, and swapping tales about our coworkers and difficult childhoods. Because in a perfect world, we’d all be friends with Amy—someone who seems so fun, is full of interesting stories, tells great jokes, and offers plenty of advice and wisdom (the useful kind, not the annoying kind you didn’t ask for, anyway). Unfortunately, between her Golden Globe-winning role on Parks and Recreation, work as a producer and director, place as one of the most beloved SNL alumni and cofounder of the Upright Citizens’ Brigade, involvement with the website Smart Girls at the Party, frequent turns as acting double for Meryl Streep, and her other gig as the mom of two young sons, she’s not available for movie night.

Luckily we have the next best thing: Yes Please, Amy’s hilarious and candid book. A collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, lists, and haikus from the mind of one of our most beloved entertainers, Yes Please offers Amy’s thoughts on everything from her “too safe” childhood outside of Boston to her early days in New York City, her ideas about Hollywood and “the biz,” the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror, and her joy at being told she has a “face for wigs.” Yes Please is chock-full of words and wisdom to live by.

Descriptive content provided by Syndetics™, a Bowker service.

 

06. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Madeline, Memoirs, NonFiction

The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum, 256 pages, read by Madeline, on 12/20/2014

Nearly fifteen years after her debut collection, My Misspent Youth, captured the ambitions and anxieties of a generation, Meghan Daum returns to the personal essay with The Unspeakable, a masterful collection of ten new works. Her old encounters with overdrawn bank accounts and oversized ambitions in the big city have given way to a new set of challenges. The first essay, “Matricide,” opens without flinching:

People who weren’t there like to say that my mother died at home surrounded by loving family. This is technically true, though it was just my brother and me and he was looking at Facebook and I was reading a profile of Hillary Clinton in the December 2009 issue of Vogue.

Elsewhere, she carefully weighs the decision to have children—“I simply felt no calling to be a parent. As a role, as my role, it felt inauthentic and inorganic”—and finds a more fulfilling path as a court-appointed advocate for foster children. In other essays, she skewers the marriage-industrial complex and recounts a harrowing near-death experience following a sudden illness. Throughout, Daum pushes back against the false sentimentality and shrink-wrapped platitudes that surround so much of contemporary American experience and considers the unspeakable thoughts many of us harbor—that we might not love our parents enough, that “life’s pleasures” sometimes feel more like chores, that life’s ultimate lesson may be that we often learn nothing.

But Daum also operates in a comic register. With perfect precision, she reveals the absurdities of the New Age search for the “Best Possible Experience,” champions the merits of cream-of mushroom-soup casserole, and gleefully recounts a quintessential “only-in-L.A.” story of playing charades at a famous person’s home.

Combining the piercing insight of Joan Didion with humor reminiscent of Nora Ephron’s, Daum dissects our culture’s most dangerous illusions, blind spots, and sentimentalities while retaining her own joy and compassion. Through it all, she dramatizes the search for an authentic self in a world where achieving an identity is never simple and never complete.

Description from Goodreads.com

29. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Humor, Inspirational, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret, Sophie Mas, 253 pages, read by Tammy, on 12/26/2014

how to be parisianFour successful and talented French women share their views on what it means to be French and a woman in 2014. Their careers span the worlds of music, film, fashion and publishing and they share their secrets to life and how their sense of style, fun and the meaning of life. The chapters are brief and give you each woman’s views on all sorts of topics including men, culture, beauty and attitude. The authors Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret and Sophie Mas are all unmarried but attached with children and have been friends for years. These ladies admit to be bossy and opinionated and sometimes snobs but also tender, romantic and reliable. This book was a fun read that may help you look at life in a lighter way and make you want to slip on your dancing shoes.

 

19. December 2014 · Comments Off · 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 · Comments Off · 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.