Showing posts with label autobiography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label autobiography. Show all posts

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Jan Arden's Feeding My Mother Book Review

Jan Arden's Feeding My Mother Book Review
I do it too often. That is, pick up a book without a true appreciate of what I am about to read. Jann Arden's Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss definitely fits that bill. I picked it up because it was written by a wonderful Canadian music artist and because my mother is experiencing some memory issues right now.

Feeding My Mother turned out to be a series of diary or journal-style entries written over a period of a few years while Arden tried to continue working in the music industry and care for her ailing parents. What I expected was information about memory loss; what I did not expect was the diary style of writing or the recipes. I did expect and receive heartbreak, which is definitely on the menu when a loved one disappears in this manner. It is not really a book to turn to for information about Alzheimer's disease but rather one to read to understand one family's struggles to deal with their situation.

It is a nicely put together book with pictures; caring and sharing; family, pets and lots of love; tears but also much laughter; and with a few simple recipes, some of which I may return to. This book was crafted from (apparently) popular Facebook and Instagram posts that Arden wrote during her journey. I believe that she handled her parental situation as best as she could, something we can all aspire to do if and when we become caregivers for our parents. As Arden says, it is not easy becoming a mother to your mother.

Jann Arden


Arden is an accomplished Canadian singer songwriter who has won eight Juno awards and been nominated for a total of eighteen. She has also written three books. This one plus If I Knew, Don't You Think I'd Tell You and Falling Backwards: A Memoir. Another couple of books for our reading lists.

You can hear Arden discuss Feeding My Mother on CBC Radio by clicking right here. They call the book a cookbook, which I disagree with though it does have a few recipes. If you picked this book up thinking it was a cookbook, you would be disappointed. It is more correctly categorized as a biographical book about Alzheimer's disease and patient care.

Do I Recommend Feeding My Mother? 


Yes, I do recommend Feeding My Mother. It is definitely of interest to someone who is dealing with a family member with memory loss or who sees that coming in the future, as I do. However, I am uncertain if it is a book that my mother should read. I know she would appreciate the humour and the love that is found within the covers but not sure that she needs to really think and worry about all of the situations found in this book. What do you think? Should I give my mother this book to read or not?  Have you read Feeding My Mother? Have you been a caregiver for someone with memory loss?

You can get your hands on a copy of Jann Arden's Feeding My Mother by ordering it from Amazon here.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Circling the Sun Paula McLain Book Review

Circling the Sun Paula McLain Book Review
Another trip! This time my armchair travels took me to colonial Kenya, Africa via Paula McLain's historical biography Circling the Sun. Set in the 1920s, it is totally engaging, a fictional account of the real Beryl Markham's life. Beryl lived in what is now known as settler-era Africa. She was definitely a woman before her time and her story is very interesting. 

It starts in England but is mostly set in Kenya where Beryl's mother abandons her with her father. Beryl embraces the local African culture and in the long run becomes a record-setting aviator. That is, after a a life spent conquering the male-dominated equestrian world and loving a man she could never have.

Do I Recommend Circling the Sun?


I do. I highly recommend Circling the Sun if you enjoy historical fiction and are intrigued with the idea of visiting Africa. This book sheds light on the life of a woman and a country that we have not heard much about.
I thought it was an enjoyable read but New York Times' writer Alexandra Fuller found it a bit fluffy. However, in her review she agrees that "the settlers who used Kenya as their hapless playground did so at catastrophic expense to those who called Kenya home long before the whites arrived." It is an interesting peek into the history of Africa.

As Julie McDowall said when she reviewed the book for the Independent, it it is filled with "vigorous, swift, and spangled with spectacular imagery." I came away wanting to visit Africa though of course I wanted to visit that country before I read this book. I also agree with McDowall when she said the story quickens near the end and that not enough time is spent on the one thing Beryl is famed for, her flying. If you want to read this book for the aviation, prepare to be disappointed.

The Boston Globe said, "McLain will keep you from eating, sleeping, or checking your e-mail — though you might put these pages down just long enough to order airplane tickets to Nairobi."  Exactly.

Circling the Sun follows Paula McLain's hugely successful novel The Paris Wife, which I can also highly recommend. That book is set in jazz age Paris and follows the life of Ernest Hemingway and his second wife.

Are you intrigued by the idea of visiting Africa? Will you visit via McLain's book? You can find Circling the Sun on Amazon by following this link.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Michael Crichton's TRAVELS, A Book Review (1988)

Michael Crichton's TRAVELS Book ReviewI have just returned from a trip around the world. A few of the more exotic countries that I visited were Thailand, Maylaysia, Bonaire, Ireland, England, Tanzania, Jamaica, New Guinea and Pakistan. On these travels, I climbed mountains, swam in the seas and slept with fleas. I mingled with elephants, felt the breath of gorillas on my face and swam among the sharks. I travelled off the beaten path and in some very rough conditions.

This trip was another armchair travels trip that I took via Michael Crichton's nonfiction book, Travels. It was a book club book that I recommended to the group. Fortunately, most of the group enjoyed the book more than I did.

I did enjoy parts of the book though I expected something different than I received from within the pages of the covers. It turned out that the title Travels was a little more general than I took it to be. It was meant to encompass Crichton's life adventures, which included literal travel but also spiritual adventures and medical training.

eNotes.com called Travels a "patchwork of pieces salvaged from a writer’s bottom drawer" and that is certainly how I felt about the book and why I was not keen on it. It does a good job of sharing Crichton's experiences individually but I would have appreciated it more if it had flowed as a single story rather than a series of short stories. In terms of writings, I suppose one might consider it a journal or diary of sorts.

On Crichton's website, it says that the book started as a series of travel pieces though he never intended to write about his travels thinking of them as just "something he did for himself that wasn’t work-related and wasn’t supposed to amount to anything." I understand how an author would not always want to chronicle everything in his life. Anyway, when Crichton discovered that some of his most important experiences happened on his trips this book was born and, when the book became autobiographical, he added the medical stories.

I am sure you have heard of Michael Crichton. He was a very successful novelist, screenwriter and film director. It is interesting that he wrote and sold books while he was studying to become a medical doctor though perhaps odd that he made it through the entire training program before he decided he did not actually want to be a doctor. In his 66 years, he wrote eleven books and more than 200 million copies of them have been sold in the science fiction, thriller and medical genres. In 1994, he had an unbelievable trifecta that included a number one movie, a book and a television show. Namely, Jurassic Park, Disclosure and ER. I am sure you will have heard of a couple of those, too.

Do I recommend Travels?

I guess so, reservedly. I would not recommend this book to someone looking for a page turner or an engaging novel. This book is as I have said before, a group of stories.

If you like to travel, you might enjoy the unusual destinations in this book whether or not you would choose them yourself. If you do not travel, you might enjoy visiting these places via the pages of a book.

Whether or not you believe in psychic phenomenons like aura reading, spoon bending, out-of-body trips and exorcism, you might enjoy learning about them and the various experiences Crichton had in the metaphysical world.

If you are interested in the human body or in being a medical doctor, you might appreciate the first chapters more than I did. If you red the book, you will discover how medical students are assigned cadavers and what follows.

But do not let my lukewarm recommendation be the deciding factor about whether or not you read this book for I have read many reviews by people who really enjoyed it and the majority of my book club members found Crichton's adventures interesting.

Reviewer Patricia Bosworth said in a 1988 New York Times book review, "I was ultimately swept away (by this book), not just by Crichton's richly informed mind, but his driving curiosity. Satisfying your curiosity takes guts."

Shangri-La anyone? The Shangri-La Michael Crichton visited is not the one you might have in your mind's eye. I thought of Shangri-La as an earthly paradise of sorts. Apparently the version I was picturing comes from a 1933 book called Lost Horizon. The real Shangri-La, as experienced in Travels, is quite different from that pleasant image in my mind and a good example of the unusual destinations in this book.

You can learn more about Michael Crichton's Travels on Amazon by clicking right here. If you do read the book, be sure to come back and let us know what you think of it. You might also let us know what your perception of Shangri-La was before you read this post.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

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More armchair travel book reviews.
Travel with these movies.








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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls Book Review

I don't ordinarily open a book review with a negative thought but that is how I felt when I began reading Lauren Graham's 2016 autobiography, Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between.) I was disappointed. The book was not what I expected.

I should have known by ALL THOSE WORDS on the cover.

What did I expect? Well, an ordinary autobiographical book about Lauren Graham's life to date.

What did I get? A book that almost seemed to move as quickly as the dialogue on the Gilmore Girls.

According to Graham, The Gilmore Girls series featured some of the longest scripts in television history. While another television show script might have 50 pages, the Gilmore Girls were known to pack 80 pages of dialogue into their one hour less commercial breaks time slot. Yes, that means they talked almost non-stop. Verbal diarrhea comes to mind. Graham has actually been asked if she can talk normally.

It turned out that I also had a book in my hands that was not overly serious with paragraphs that were frequently disrupted by a witty comment from the author, which I could have done with out. Lauren Graham is a brilliant comedic actor but, at least at first, I would have preferred a more serious approach. I agree with Entertainment Weekly when they said that as an author Graham is "much better in the honest, earnest passages where she’s not trying to entertain us. We like her already!

As Katherine on Women's Post said, it takes a while to get used to Graham's style, which is "conversational and as scattered as a Gilmore Girl." If you are a fan, you will know what that means. If not, well...carry on. Graham befriends you as she jumps from a thought to some song lyrics to a discussion on the telephone. "It’s through this writing style the readers are truly able to get to know Graham." Perhaps that is true.

Of course, it is helpful and the book makes more sense once you know that the book is meant to be a series of essays.

So...did I like the book?


I did.

Is it recommended?


Yes, it is particularly if you are a fan of the Gilmore Girls and/or Lauren Graham and you approach the book in a less than serious manner. The book deals with Graham's childhood and adulthood through to the remake of the Gilmore Girls and it is interesting.  It is just not particularly serious. The back cover says that this book contains details about Graham's, "awkward growing up years, confusing dating years, fulfilling working years; and what it was like to be asked to play one of my characters again." I think that gives you a sense that this book treats Graham's life in a light manner.

I do like Lauren Graham and I will be checking out her novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe, which is about a young actress trying to make it in New York, a subject about which she definitely has firsthand knowledge. I would also like to revisit the Gilmore Girls series and watch the new movies though with seven seasons and four movies that is a whole lot of viewing! Meanwhile, you can find Talking As Fast as I can and Lauren Graham's other works on Amazon by clicking right here.

If you have read Talking as Fast as Fast as I Can, be sure to let us know what you thought.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of Talking As Fast As I Can here on Amazon. It's available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats.

Read about Graham's co-star Alexis Bledel in my Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie review.

If you are a big Gilmore Girls fan, you might like to follow the Gilmore Girls News.







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Saturday, September 9, 2017

I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau

Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet) Autobiography
Image and Review by Lou16
Let's review 'I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau', an autobiography of Gary Kemp, lead guitarist, song writer and heartthrob of 80s New Romantic band Spandau Ballet.

If you just want to know who the song True was written for then this is the book to read! "Why do I find it hard to write the next line?" because you're tongue tied in love Gary! Who to? Well trust me this book reveals all which could be why Gary has used a line from his mega hit as the book title - I Know This Much.

If you're not interested in the song, but want to reminisce about the 80s and the New Romantics especially then you'll love to read this memoir from Spandau Ballet's Gary Kemp. Gary Kemp has a knack with words and I found myself laughing as he described the first time he saw a wok and cringing when he mentioned certain fashions.

Towards the end of Gary Kemp's autobiography I found myself in tears - his writing of a particularly sad event was so good I could feel the emotion jumping off the page at me.

 I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau by Gary Kemp
Confession time - I'm a huge Spandau Ballet fan and I thought I had quite a lot of knowledge about them and the beginnings of the New Romantic moviement. Even with this background I learnt a lot from Gary Kemp's Memoirs

I Know This Much is definately a book that brings back memories of names that you'd forgotten about. I loved the trip down memory lane.

Gary Kemp is also quite brutal about himself and some of his actions - it's a no holds barred autobiography from trying to murder his brother (anyone with a younger sibling can probably relate to that!) to being a total snob and a control freak.

The book also contains a few pages of photos which also help take you back in time - oh the fashions!


Who Was True Written For?


Spandau Ballet's worldwide hit ballad True really was the love song of the 80s, but who was it actually written for? I had heard Gary Kemp say that he had written True for a girl who never realized how he felt. I've never known who he was talking about until I read the book where all is revealed. I won't ruin it for you here, you can read the book instead!

From Islington to Highgate 

Gary Kemp's I Know This Much Autobiography 


I Know This Much by Gary Kemp starts off with his very working class East End upbringing and an unwanted Christmas gift - a guitar. It continues through his chid acting and early foray into music before moving onto the Blitz Kids and Spandau Ballet. The story of Gary Kemp's own contribution towards the break-up of the first New Romantic band is told in blunt honesty.

Gary's life past Spandau Ballet, the reformation and the death of his parents are all dealt with extremely well. if Gary Kemp ever decided to write fiction I think he would be consistently on the bestseller list.

A quote from I Know This Much by Gary Kemp (the 80s defined!)


There were so many lines in this book that stuck with me, but this was my first laugh out loud line as it struck me that back then a wok wouldn't have been something I knew about either. We tend to forget that things we use so often and can be found in many homes around the world were an unusual thing to have in your English home back in the 70s and early 80s.

Gary Kemp Reads Excerpts from I Know This Much



Other Spandau Ballet Autobiographies 


Other members of the band have also written their autobiographies. Martin Kemp (Gary's younger brother) was the bass guitarist for the group and was the first to write his autobiography.....

   True: The Autobiography of Martin Kemp
Martin Kemp's autobiography was called True and was written after he survived two brain tumours.

The book was written in part as therapy for himself and also because he wanted to write something for his children who were babies when he was first diagnosed with brain tumours.

 To Cut a Long Story Short: My Autobiography
Tony Hadley was Spandau Ballet's lead singer and the next member to write his autobiography.

Tony choose to use a different song title for his autobiography - To Cut A Long Story Short.

Gary Kemp was Spandau Ballet's lead guitarist and songwriter and is the latest one of them to write an autobiography which is what I have just reviewed for you.

Let me know what you thought of the book, did you cry near the end like me, or are you made of sterner stuff?

An 80s pop idol's autobiography, inside the life of Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet


Spandau Ballet had five members in total which means that two stories have yet to be told. John Keeble and Steve Norman let me know when you've started your memoirs and I'll be more than happy to read them!


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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Skeletons in the Closet, Life is Unfair

My Secret Sister: Jenny Lucas and Helen Edwards' Family StoryMy Secret Sister: Jenny Lucas and Helen Edwards' Family Story
It seems to me that many people use the quote "Life is Unfair" in a very flippant way! Usually when they don't get their own way about things. In the True Life story titled My Secret Sister, this quote really means what it says. I'd like to share this book with you and some thoughts of mine along the way, come along on my Review of My Secret Sister.


Jenny and Helen

Let's be clear, this is an autobiography of two women, who only recently became aware of each other. Their stories are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Jenny Lee Smith and Helen Edwards only found out about each other recently. Through lots of lies, half-truths, and wanton disregard for their feelings, these two sisters are finally putting all of the questions about themselves and each other to rest. They are busy making up for 44 years of searching that finally brought them together.


Background

Jenny:
Jenny Lucas had a charmed life. Oh she wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but her parents doted on her and she was the center of their universe.  The only child in a family where mom and dad were on the "older" side, she was the apple of their eye.  When her father took up golfing, he brought his daughter along and taught her how to golf too.  He even made her the very first golf clubs she used because she was only a little more than a toddler. Golf became her driving ambition. She was such a natural with the clubs and it gave her precious time with her father, whom she adored. When her father died, she really felt lost.  Cleaning up after his death, Jenny comes across a birth certificate.  It's the first inkling that she has about the possibility that she is not who she thought she was.  Not wanting to hurt her mother, she files this information away.  

Helen: 
Helen on the other hand was abused physically, mentally and emotionally most of her life. Her mother and father were either hateful, selfish and self centered at any given time. If any of those two characteristics came together at once, Helen paid the ultimate price for their mental state. Always told she was at fault for any and every turn of bad luck, she quickly learned to steer clear of her parents or do their bidding, whatever that may have entailed. Beatings at the hand of her father were not uncommon and her mother would just watch in a state of indifference, lest she also become a target of his rage.  Helen has an older half-brother who doesn't live at home anymore, but comes around trying his best to save Helen from his step father's wrath.  He is her "knight in shining armor." 

For years these two girls each wanted a sister, a confidant, to share their stories, troubles and tribulations with. Each in their own way was longing for some sense of belonging that wasn't being fulfilled in their own lives.  It would be years though before they would find each other.
I don't want to give away too much of the story, but want to encourage you to read it. 
my secret sister, siblings, sisters and friends,  family secrets
There is nothing like having a sister in your life.


Insights from my perspective:

If you know of anyone who is adopted, or if you are part of a circle of "Family Secrets", I want you to understand that those secrets can be very destructive and divisive.  They hurt people who are looking for answers.  If someone in your family comes to you with questions and they are old enough to know the answers, I would encourage you to talk to the parents, but if they are no longer alive, then tell them the truth.  Don't sugar coat the truth, don't make excuses, don't embellish the story, just tell them what you know to be truth.  

I am so grateful for the opening up of adoption records, so that children who want to know about their birth parents have that opportunity.   It doesn't mean that everything will be rosy and perfect, there is no such state in life, but it gives the person seeking answers, a hope that could fill in a lot of blanks.

From my own experience, I have an adopted grandson and I'm so thrilled that he is in our lives. He came to us at 2 days old.  He knows he's adopted and he also knows that we love him dearly. When and if he wants to know more he will be told the truth by his parents (my daughter and son-in-law).

 I also have a niece that was given up for adoption 40 plus years ago.  We (our whole extended family) became reunited 3 years ago.  It was a most joyous celebration of lost family, found. She was able to express to her birth mother that she was happy, and the birth mother had a hole in her heart filled. We have her in our lives again and it's wonderful. 

Unwanted pregnancies are as old as time itself.  It is high time that we take the stigma off of being born "out of wedlock" or "not wanted" and realize that when children are given up for adoption, the mother and/or father are trying to make the best decisions for their child.  They should be applauded for understanding that they may not be equipped to be the best parents, but they should also be ready to possibly meet that child again when they are all grown up.

My Secret Sister was not an easy book to read, maybe because of our family dynamic.  In the end, there is still longing and heartbreak, but there is also hope and joy.  It was a very interesting and enlightening book!

Picture from Pixabay.com





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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes ~ A Book Review

Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes Book Review
This book came into my hands quite by accident!  We (the grandpa and I) had been babysitting our lovely little ones for the weekend.  My son an avid reader left for the weekend with the heads-up that there was a pile of books on his desk and to help myself.

Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes, by Martha Long would not have been a book that I would have purchased for myself. I am more of a mystery book, suspense book reader.  But the title of this particular book intrigued me.  It is an autobiography, one that is very difficult to read, both for the content and the language idioms it is written in.

The Authors note inside the front cover sealed the deal.  She writes, "This is a true story of my early childhood.  Originally, I did not write it for publication.  Instead, my intention was to rid myself  of the voice of the little girl I had once been."

So what made me pick up this book from the stack of many others?

All I can say is I picked it up, read the Acknowledgements and moved onto the Author's Note.  It was that note quoted above that sealed the deal.  I knew I was going to read it and see where it took me.

Written in the vernacular language of the Irish slums, it really is hard to get used to the cadence of the writing. But and this is a big BUT, it is a necessary evil along with all the swearing and blunt realities of this child's world.
  

An In-depth Look at "Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes" 


There are parts of this book that will make you laugh and parts that will make you cry. The realities are something that we (middle-class people) would have a hard time wrapping our heads around.  What is evident is the character strength of this young girl.  Her mother (I give her that title only because she bore Martha) is a young girl herself, who hasn't fully developed her own character or had much opportunity to develop her mind.  She is at the whim of any man who will pay her some attention.  She is a teen with a baby.  Her family can't help her and she can't seem to help herself.  Her own self-worth seems to be wrapped up and dependent on having a man in her life.  Any man will do, she's not fussy. Before long she has two children and hooks up with yet another man, who preys on her and her children.   She finds herself pregnant again, Martha is only 5 years old and already taking care of her brother and more. "Jackster" the "father-figure" and I use that term very loosely too, beats up on the mom and Martha.  He is a drunkard, down on his "luck" and totally abusive when life doesn't go according to his plan.

This story is one that will leave you shaking your head at the brutality and yet admiring the strength of character in this little girl. Things go from bad to worse, she's angry with God, she's angry with her mom, she's angry with Jackster.  She is very angry at the whole world.  Yet through all this anger, she comes to be the strongest one.  She sees with eyes that are so much more mature than her years.

This book is a reality I had known nothing about and had a hard time understanding.  I was fortunate to grow up in a country that made it easy for my parents to look after us.  There were jobs and work for anyone who wanted to earn their way through life. There was also a moral compass, there were lines that would not be crossed.  Not so much in Martha's life, with poverty and no drive to make life better, the moral compass goes out the window.  Anything and everything in life is negotiable, for a few slices of bread or a few cigarettes.

So many people today, are still in the midst of the same downward spiral of  what life must have been like for Martha in Ireland.  There are those in places that are being destroyed by factions that want power over the people at any cost.  This book made me pause and think about all the young girls in the world. The girls in Africa and India, where they are married at 7 or 8 years of age.  They will endure the same bonds that held Martha captive for so long. We are not a better world today than the world Martha lived in back in the 50's.

"Slum City" Picture courtesy of Pixabay.com:https://pixabay.com/en/street-scene-slum-city-apartment-19941/



At the end of the day,

I'm really glad that this book grabbed my attention.  It is an emotional rollercoaster ride that will take you out of your comfort zone many times.  Martha Long in trying to get that little girl out of her mind, has opened up a window to a world that I never knew existed.  For that,  I would like to thank her.  I'm sure that it was not an easy book to write and I pray that she has found some peace.  

This book gave me reasons to be Thankful for where I live, for food, friends, and family that protect and hold me dear. It makes me stop and realize that not everyone is so blessed and that I have every need to be totally Thankful for all the blessings I have in my life.


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The Review This Contributors

Cynthia SylvestermouseCynthia SylvestermouseDawn Rae BDawn Rae BMary Beth - mbgphotoMary Beth - mbgphotoBrite-IdeasBrite-IdeasBev OwensBev OwensWednesday ElfWednesday ElfBarbRadBarbRadOlivia MorrisOlivia MorrisRenaissanceWoman2010Renaissance
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Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
We may be apart, but You Are Not Forgotten

Susan DeppnerSusan Deppner