02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, History, Memoirs, NonFiction, Pamela

I, Toto by Willard Carroll, read by Pamela, on 11/27/2013

I totoDuring the expansion of the Ventura Freeway in Los Angeles, Willard Carroll unearthed a leatherbound scrapbook from a site that was once a pet cemetery. To his amazement, its yellowing pages contained the rags-to-riches story of Terry, the cairn terrier who played Toto in the enduring film The Wizard of Oz. Reprinted here in its entirety, I, Toto traces the canine star’s tragic beginnings, her exhilarating film career, and her happy retirement in Southern California. Best of all, it offers the inside scoop on Toto’s signature role, her costars, and the making of The Wizard of Oz.

There are also some endearing passages about Terry’s (a.k.a. Toto) interaction with Clark Gable, Shirley Temple, and Spencer Tracy.  A book written from a dog’s point of view is not unique, but from this famous dog’s point of view it is unique.

Children and adults alike will like this book.  There are plenty of pictures to entertain the young ones while an adult reads the story.  It’s a very quick read and packed with lots of entertainment about a very special little dog.

25. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tracy

Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt, read by Tracy, on 11/24/2013

In this memoir, iconic singer Linda Ronstadt weaves together a captivating story of her origins in Tucson, Arizona, and her rise to stardom in the Southern California music scene of the 1960s and ’70s.

Born into a musical family, Linda’s childhood was filled with everything from Hank Williams to Gilbert and Sullivan, Mexican folk music to jazz and opera. Her artistic curiosity blossomed early, and she and her siblings began performing their own music for anyone who would listen. Now, twelve Grammy Awards later, Ronstadt tells the story of her wide-ranging and utterly unique musical journey.

Ronstadt arrived in Los Angeles just as the folk-rock movement was beginning to bloom, setting the stage for the development of country-rock. After the dissolution of her first band, the Stone Poneys, Linda went out on her own and quickly found success. As part of the coterie of like-minded artists who played at the Troubadour club in West Hollywood, she helped define the musical style that dominated American music in the 1970s. One of her early back-up bands went on to become the Eagles, and Linda would become the most successful female artist of the decade. She has sold more than 100 million records, won numerous awards, and toured all over the world. Linda has collaborated with legends such as Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Aaron Neville, J.D. Souther, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Bette Midler, and Frank Sinatra, as well as Homer Simpson and Kermit the Frog. By the time she retired in 2009, Ronstadt had spent four decades as one of the most popular singers in the world, becoming the first female artist in popular music to release four consecutive platinum albums.

In Simple Dreams, Ronstadt reveals the eclectic and fascinating journey that led to her long-lasting success. And she describes it all in a voice as beautiful as the one that sang “Heart Like a Wheel”—longing, graceful, and authentic.

I was so excited to read this that I did something I rarely ever do: read an entire ebook on my phone. For real. I hate reading on my phone, especially for extended periods of time, but I don’t have a tablet or e-reader, so there you go. I received an e-copy of the book via NetGalley and promptly downloaded it to my phone. I had intended just to begin the book and then patiently wait for a print copy, but couldn’t ultimately could not stop reading. And laughing. So much laughing. Allie Brosh’s book is painfully honest and laugh-out-loud-hilarious. And her mastery of MS Paint for dramatic effect is unparalleled.
Anyone who has ever read and enjoyed “Hyperbole and a Half” ought to pick this up right away and read it cover to cover. Anyone who has never checked out “Hyperbole and a Half” has serious deficiencies in their life and they need to start reading the blog and/or this book immediately.

While the library doesn’t own a copy yet, we probably will sooner or later.  Until then, check out the blog at: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

You won’t be disappointed.

29. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Autobiographies, Humor, Memoirs, NonFiction

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson, read by Angie, on 07/28/2013

One of the funniest books I have ever read! There I said it and it is true. I found myself actually laughing out loud during the reading of this book and have now become a huge Jenny Lawson fan. I want to hang out with her and hear more stories about her crazy taxidermist dad, her long-suffering but equally crazy husband Victor and Jenny’s crazy life and thoughts. I hope you are picking up the theme here…crazy! But in a good way.

This book starts with Jenny describing her childhood in Wall, Texas with her supportive mom and animal loving dad. We then move quickly through her school years; because really who wants to relive that! And we end with adulthood, marriage and motherhood. Jenny claims most of this book is true, and she does try to keep the reader informed of the not true parts. There are entertaining and unbelievable moments at every step of her life. From the magical squirrel hand puppet to the machete/vulture attack to the inevitable fascination with taxidermied animals, every moment is rife with crazy, funny incidents that will make you feel like your life is staid and boring in comparison.

Jenny narrates the audiobook herself and I would recommend reading it this way. She is hilarious and give little asides that may or may not be in the printed book. There is even a bonus chapter! As a disclaimer: there is a lot of cussing in this book. So if you don’t like bad words this may not be for you. But, it is really funny, super witty and just plain crazy…so read it!

If you were wondering what it would be like to open a used book store, this book is for you. Wendy and her husband Jack found a house for sale in Big Stone Gap Virginia and they both thought it was perfect for a used book store. A lot of the townspeople thought they were crazy but it turned out to be a good location. With big chain book stores and on line retailers as competition they found that a used book store is still in demand. I agree.

28. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags:

The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson, read by Lisa, on 03/27/2013

hw7.plI read this for book club or I would never have chosen it, but that’s one reason I’m in a book club–to make myself read outside of my comfort zone. It was interesting as far as it goes but I had to make myself pick it up in order to finish it because it just wasn’t that compelling.

This is the story of the spiritual journey of G. Willow Wilson, raised by atheist parents, who in her early twenties, decides to convert to Islam. A fact she doesn’t fully admit even to herself until she has traveled to Cairo, Egypt to teach in an English-language school in order to make use of the Arabic she has been studying at Boston University.

Even for a newly converted Sunni Muslim, life in Egypt is difficult. It’s a very dirty, loud, harsh city, under strict government control. (9/11 happens while she is still studying in Boston and the story takes place throughout the early to mid-2000′s).

Thanks to her friend Ben, who left Egypt just before Willow and her roommate Jo arrive, they have a place to live but they don’t eat much beyond olives for the first several weeks because they can’t figure out how and where to shop for food. Help arrives in the form of Omar, a friend of Ben’s who had promised to check up on the two women. He teaches them many important things about living in Egypt.

Although Willow eventually falls in love with Cairo, (as well as Omar, whom she marries), it was difficult for me to understand her love for such a difficult city. From a purely historical point of view, of course it has to be amazing, but to live there day-to-day, as she describes it, is incredibly difficult.

I did enjoy getting glimpses of a very different way of life and society. I also enjoyed the interactions between Willow and the very large extended family she marries into. But in the end, perhaps because the book is the story of her very personal spiritual journey, and I’m a religious skeptic,or perhaps because the story felt somehow shallow and superficial, her story did not resonate with me.

 

13. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Melody, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags:

Let's Pretend This Never Happened ( A Mostly True Memoir) by Janny Lawson, read by Melody, on 03/11/2013

Confession: Growing up, my very best friend’s father was a taxidermist.  There were two house rules, the squeamish should not go into his work shed in the back and never look in the black trash bags in the freezer.  Even so, sometimes when you dug for strawberry ice cream a small frozen paw would peek out and wave at you like a lost drowning soul.  Given that childhood horror, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was so the book for me.  The author is a blog writer from Texas who grew up trying desperately to fit in but always thwarted by her taxidermist father, maniacal turkeys, roadkill excursions, and dead animals as decor.  Lawson’s writing is very intelligent and irreverent and to use a much overused cliche, laugh out loud funny.  The very best summation about perhaps the funniest book I read in a very long time is a blurb on the back cover “There’s is something wrong with Jenny Lawson-magnificently wrong.  I defy you to read her work and not hurt yourself laughing.”  There was actually a blurb that suited even better from Jesus but it had the f word so I thought perhaps not to offend others.  And perhaps to give a heads up if you have issues with the f word, you most likely won’t enjoy this book as much as I did.  Otherwise, read, read, read.  And yes, that is a mouse corpse dressed as Hamlet on the front cover.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Kira, Memoirs

Monologues by Eve Ensler, read by Kira, on 02/15/2013

vmMonologues on various themes examining women’s relationships to their bodies and their sexual selves.  These themes include women’s discomfort with their sexuality and bodies, rape, child birth, power dynamics in a relationship, genital mutilation.  Though the topics are mature and graphic, they are not presented in a salacious way -  beautifully written, moving and very thought provoking.  Eve Ensler interviewed hundreds of women on their feelings, their thoughts, their experience of their bodies and their sexuality and wrote these monologues.  These monologues create a space for women to feel comfortable talking openly about their sexuality.

 A book about losing a place, finding a purpose, and immersing in a community. Welch and her husband had always dreamed of owning a bookstore. When the opportunity to run to a struggling Virginia coal mining town presented itself, they took it. And took the plunge into starting their dream as well.

05. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Janet, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags:

Missouri Slave Narratives : A Folk History of Slavery in Missouri from Interviews with Former Slaves by The Federal Writers' Project, 1936 - 1938, read by Janet, on 02/02/2013

Missouri Slave NarrativesThis is a compilation of interviews with people who were once slaves and now live a free life.  The stories are written in the dialect of the speaker.  They tell of the ghosts and haunts they saw or heard about in stories and how scared they were of them.  The Ku Klux Klan were also frightening to many.  Most were not educated at all as white owners were against it, however, after gaining their freedom some learned the basics.  They tell of poor clothes and being barefooted all year round.  Many tell of being whipped by their owners and others.  They usually had to doctor themselves – using turpentine on sugar for stomachache, goose grass twigs, black root for constipation, scraped turnip bound to a frost bitten foot, and many other home-made cures.  Pensions for older folks were very small, if anything.  Many had to live with younger famiy members.  One told an old riddle:  “I rode over the bridge and yet I walked.”  (“Yet-I” was a dog.)

 

I try to live by the maxim “It isn’t so much that we are disappointed by people but that we are disappointed by our expectations of people.”   Thus if I set realistic expectations, I will be let down less often.  Easier said than done of course, as with most pithy mottos, but none the less a truism.  “Why,” you ask “am I spouting Zen babble in a book review?”  Is is indeed, dear reader, relevant.  The reads that most disappoint me are the “you gotta read this” or books that I have high expectations for.  I wanted to love the book Driving the Saudis. The subject matter is so timely with the continuing tremors of Arab Spring and the clamoring for women’s rights across the world.  An inside look from a Western woman into the closeted world of the immense wealth, leashed women, and sharia, details on the fight for women’s suffrage and education under one of the world’s worst human rights abusers.  What I got was how much Prada and La Perla the royals bought and what plastic surgery procedures they had done.  Given, I expected the book to be somewhat dishy, the cover photo is palm trees and sexy blue eyes peeking from a veil, but the author is Harvard educated and an independent film maker.  I should have thought TMZ, not NPR.  The people in her memoir could almost be cardboard cutouts, the royals are spoiled snobs and the servants are longsuffering victims.  There were glimpses of real substance there, Larson recounts how a young princess mourned that she would never be able to attend college like her brother but instead she would return to Saudi Arabian to be the third wife of an powerful elderly man or that the American security hired by the Saudis kept the passports of all the help so they could not flee.  The book that I read was passable but the book that I wanted to read would have been fascinating.  Should have remembered the maxim.

16. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags:

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler, read by Angie, on 01/15/2013

Chelsea Chelsea Bang BangThis book is very typical Chelsea Handler. I really enjoy her humor and her personality. I can’t imagine the craziness that always encircles her. She is wild, crazy and hilarious and this book is a reflection of that. Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang is a collection of interludes in the life of Chelsea Handler. There are stories about her childhood, her relationships, her friendships, and her family. She pulls no punches about herself or those around her. If you like Chelsea Lately you will probably enjoy this book; I did.

05. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Memoirs

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson, read by Courtney, on 10/18/2012

I’ve been a long-time reader of “The Bloggess”, so when I found out that its author had a book coming out, I was pretty excited. I put it on hold and then waited. And waited. And then finally I got my hands on a copy and was not disappointed. I was a bit surprised, though, to find that it was more of a straightforward memoir than I was expecting. I had assumed that it would be mostly entries from her blog, so I figured I would have read most of the book already. I was wrong. But in a good way. Lawson takes it all the way back to her rather unusual childhood in Western Texas and reveals the numerous speed-bumps along the way. From her experiences with her eccentric taxidermist father, to her struggles with OCD and anxiety, all the way to raising a child with her long-suffering husband, Victor; nothing is held back. The result is a hilarious, if painful, tale of acceptance and healing.

31. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Memoirs, Tracy

One for the Books by Joe Queenan, read by Tracy, on 10/31/2012

People read books for a lot of different reasons. Joe Queenan feels most people do it to escape from reality. In this book he reveals to the reader why books are so important to him and why he usually doesn’t read books that people give him. Also that he is usually in the middle of reading over 20 books that he may not finish in several years. I may start 2 or 3 and put them down for a day or two but if I don’t like it I won’t finish it. Joe didn’t get a drivers license til his 50′s mostly because he likes to read in a bus, train, or plane. I can relate to a lot of his musings because reading is like breathing to me. You just have to do it!

04. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Book, Memoirs

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel, read by Courtney, on 09/22/2012

We’ve heard about Alison’s father in her other memoir, “Fun Home”. Now it’s her mother’s turn. Bechdel uses this book to explore her relationship with her mother who is an interesting character in and of herself. Both mother and daughter are writers and intellectuals and their relationship is as complicated as you might expect from such individuals. Bechdel uses a variety of psychological theorists to explore the nature of the mother/daughter bond.
This is not a graphic novel for lightweights. It’s something of a ponderous tome, with extensive reflection on child psychology, feminism and the writing process. This book could keep a Women’s Studies class busy for quite awhile. Plenty of food for thought, particularly for mothers and daughters.

01. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Graphic Novel, History, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

American Widow by Alissa Torres, read by Tammy, on 09/14/2012

A moving story of one woman’s day to day life after losing her husband in the 9/11 attacks. This graphic novel backs the events of September 11th a personal tragedy rather than just a national tragedy. Gripping and beautifully told but difficult to read at times. But how could any true story accurately depicting that day not move one to tears?

15. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Graphic Novel, History, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon, read by Tammy, on 09/14/2012

Drawing on the unique historical sites, archives, expertise, and unquestioned authority of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, New York Times bestselling authors Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón have created the first authorized and exhaustive graphic biography of Anne Frank. This is a concise introduction to not only Anne Frank and her family but history of Nazism, concentration camps, general history of WWII and how the conflict spread as well as the years immediately after the war. I had not realized prior to reading this the first concentration camp built and opened in Germany was to house German citizens who opposed the Nazi parties new policies.

06. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Graphic Novel, Memoirs

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, read by Andrea, on 09/05/2012

This was an interesting book. A memoir of her life, Fun Home describes what it was like in Alison Bechdel’s life from around age 10 to when she was in college. From discovering she was a lesbian and coming out to her parents to understanding her relationship with her father and his death, Bechdel weaves a story of self-discovery and -acceptance. It is kind of graphic at times (she is not shy about describing, very specifically through words and illustrations, her personal life), but I really thought it was well written and illustrated, and had a nice, almost philosophical feel to it. She describes her relationship with her family in such a cold and distant way, but then shows how her and her father become close in their own, rather odd way. The memoir she writes and draws is quite a detailed account of her life and really makes you connect with her and want to understand the process she went through to learn how to trust herself so she could start trusting others. I could not relate to her coming out problem, but the ideas she had of self-acceptance and understanding was beautifully written.

30. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell, read by Tammy, on 08/30/2012

Bruce Campbell is probably best know for his “sidekick” roles in Burn Notice, Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules tv series. He also starred in a couple of short-lived action comedy series: The Adventures of Brisco County Jr and Jack of All Trades. In this autobiography, Bruce Campbell takes you along on his journey from a kid in Detroit, Michigan who loved to make 8mm movies with classmate Sam Raimi to his “blue-color” career in Hollywood. Detailed chapters take you along for the ride as he and other Detroit “boys” make their first feature-length horror film, they produced, Sam directed and Bruce acted in, Evil Dead. If your a fan of his tv career you won’t be surprised that Campbell opts for humor over deep reflection in his descriptions of his work in Hollywood. 

29. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

Silver Like Dust: One Family's Story of America's Japanese Internment by Kimi Cunningham Grant, read by Tammy, on 07/26/2012

Moving story of one Japanese families experiences in an internment camp in Montana during WWII. Author Kimi Grant wanted to learn more about her families history and especially about her quiet grandmother while an English major in college and this begins her informal interviews with her grandmother while visiting her each summer. She took several years to learn all she thought her grandmother could tell her, without intruding on her grandmother’s privacy or disrespecting her in any way. The story is told mainly from the grandmother’s memories but is fleshed out with historical research by the author. She also tries to relate how this heritage has affected her family and how being in her 20s the way the majority of the Japanese accepted internment as showing loyalty to their new country. Two of her great-uncles served in the U.S. military during WWII. One in the all Japanese Unit that has the distinction of having been awarded the most medals of any single unit during WWII. From geographic clues given in the grandmother’s memories this appears to be the same camp that Sandra Dallas used for her novel Tall Grass told from the viewpoint of people living between a Japanese camp and a small Montana town. Since I just read that novel a few months ago that made the story seem even more special to me… to be able to learn some more history and to read the memories of someone from the other side of the barbed wire and armed guards