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

Monologues by Eve Ensler, 185 pages, 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, 161 pages, 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, 244 pages, 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, 318 pages, 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, 244 pages, 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, 289 pages, 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, 209 pages, 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, 152 pages, 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, 232 pages, 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, 304 pages, 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, 325 pages, 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

20. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Memoirs, Tracy

Sixpence House by Paul Collins, 246 pages, read by Tracy, on 07/19/2012

There is a town in Wales called Hay-on-Wye that has forty bookstores. Paul Collins and his family visited it and decided to move there from San Francisco. Paul is an author and is writing a book called Banvard’s Folly.  This book, however,  is about their experiences at the “Town of Books”. He and his wife think it’s the perfect place to raise their son and search for a house to buy. Sixpence House was a pub at one time but is now for sale and falling apart. Anyone who loves books would want to live in Hay-on-Wye. Right? Is too much of a good thing bad? Maybe so.

19. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Inspirational, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, Bob DeMoss , 278 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/18/2012

A moving story about one family’s struggle to “stay the course” and follow God’s will for their lives and ministry despite dangerous opposition from one wealthy member of the community who is also their neighbor. Shootings, bombings, threatening mesages… none of this made the pastor and his family leave the church and community that begged them to stay until one fateful night when the author was 7 years old. The daughter of the pastor Rebecca tells us her story and fills in and verified her memory using court documents, interviews with adults who were also there, newspaper accounts etc. Despite the anger directed at them the parents continued to forgive their neighbor and young Rebecca learned that forgiveness is truly the only way to move on and heal. Honest but uplifting.

03. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Graphic Book, Memoirs, NonFiction

Smile by Raina Telgemeier, 224 pages, read by Angie, on 07/03/2012

Smile is the true story of Raina Telgemeier’s journey through orthodontia. It was not a pleasant or a short journey. It began with an overbite and a fall resulting in the loss of her two front teeth. The journey consisted of false teeth, braces, surgeries, headgear, and four years worth of visits to various dental professionals…all during junior and high school. Poor Raina! Throughout it all Raina is also dealing with boys, pimples, friends, mean girls, and all the other trials and tribulations of high school. She comes through it stronger and happier, but it is not an easy journey.

As someone who has had braces and retainers (thankfully not four years worth) I completely sympathized with Raina. They are an invented torture to make our teeth look perfect. They work but are definitely not pleasant. I winced with her when her braces were being tightened and when all she could eat was mashed potatoes. I think Raina definitely remembers this time of her life perfectly and she really captured it on the pages of Smile. The story and illustrations embody the torture of braces and the agony of middle and high school. I would recommend this to just about anyone.

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

The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner, Jon Winokur, with an introduction by Julie Andrews Edwards, 273 pages, read by Tammy, on 06/29/2012

Best known to people of my generation as Jim Rockford a detective with a big heart and a since of humor, here’s his life story from Garner himself. He left home at the age of 14 after suffering physical abuse at the hands of his stepmother and tried a lot of jobs and served in the Korean War before trying acting. He was part of the end of the studio system where actors “belonged” to a studio and were paid a weekly rate no matter how many movies, tv shows, appearances etc., you were doing that week or how much the studio made from your work. He worked alongside Julie Andrews, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, Audrey Hepburn and Steve McQueen. Garner became a star in his own right, despite struggles with stage fright and depression. He relates his acting career, family life and shares his personal beliefs including that he’s  “a card-carrying liberal—and proud of it,” and much more. Interesting stories from a man who overcame a poor homelife as a child … because what’s the alternative … and became a well-known movie and TV star.

02. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Memoirs, Tammy, Travel · Tags:

No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late by Ayun Halliday, 273 pages, read by Tammy, on 06/30/2012

Ayun Halliday shares her adventures and misadventures around the globe as a backpacking low-budget traveler. Besides humorous stories you can also can some insight into some things NOT to do when traveling overseas. I’ve learned I am definitely NOT a backpacking traveler. I value indoor plumbing, clean sheets and mosquito repellant. Yes, if the monkey steals your shoes it really is better to just let him have them than risk injury AND have to replace them anyway, though you may amuse your fellow travelers and your hosts while you and the monkey chase each other through the rooms and stairways both running and screeching at each other.

The memoir of a young British girl as she enters the world of work as a kitchen maid and works her way up to a cook serving in a variety of homes in England. Each house and the family “upstairs” is each different and unique. Kindness and generosity depending much more upon the individuals than on their economic means. An interesting look back at the day to day life of a household servant in very class conscious England.

11. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Memoirs, Tracy

I'm With Fatty by Edward Ugel, 244 pages, read by Tracy, on 05/11/2012

When Edward Ugel’s wife plays a recording of his nightly snoring he decides to go to a doctor. He realizes what he’s known all along that he is overweight and has sleep apnea. This book is about his decision to lose 50 pounds in a year. Edward has a happy family, a nice house and a sense of humor.  But his food addiction is ruining his health. Finally after going through denial he hires a personal trainer, a nutritionist and goes for a cleansing and a colonic irrigation. Things go pretty good for a while until his wife and kids go on a trip and leave him alone.  He can’t control himself and has a food bender. It’s an honest and amusing journey which eventually leads to a Weight Watchers meeting where he feels like he’s suppose to be there.