Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “memoir”

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #37 – Dalek I Loved You by Nick Griffiths

I got this one as a freebie for the Kindle (there’s a lot out there), and was immediately attracted by the Dr. Who theme.  Nick Griffiths is a TV reviewer and journalist, who fell in love with Dr. Who long before I had any idea who or what that was.  He saw his first episode when he was about four years old.  He’s about my age, but I guess he was closer to it by virtue of being in England. I’d heard of the show, and kinda remember Tom Baker (he’s the one with the scarf, right?), but never really paid much attention.

Unlike Nick Griffiths, who seems to remember every episode he ever watched, and has definite opinions about which Doctor is his favorite (and why some of the others were rubbish). Interestingly, his first episode involved John Pertwee as the Doctor and Autons as the bad guys.  My first episode involved Chris Eccleston as the Doctor and Autons as the bad guys.  Coincidence?  Yeah, probably.

The book isn’t just about Griffiths’ love for all things Doctor, it’s more about growing up in the 70s and 80s, and the impact that had on the way he turned out. It’s not just the TV, but the music, and the rapid way the world was changing at that time. Just about everything he says in the book struck a chord with me, difference in country of origin notwithstanding.

This is a great book for those of us of a certain age, as well as Dr. Who fans.  In fact, it’s not even necessary to be a Whovian to enjoy this book.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #83 Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay

If you read only one book based on my recommendation, then make it this wonderful wonderful memoir.

Jackie Kay is a black, lesbian poet who was raised by her adoptive, communist parents in a small, predominantly white town in Scotland.  This memoir covers her journey to find her biological parents. But that description does not adequately capture Jackie Kay’s warmth, wisdom and humor in taking on issues of identity, of nationality, of ethnicity and, most importantly, of what constitutes family.  This book is by turns laugh out loud funny, heartbreaking and heartwarming.  I am now officially in love with Jackie Kay and I think if you read her book, you would fall in love with her, too.

It’s not even possible for me to do justice to how amazing this book was, to how it made me laugh and cry, to how it made me feel just a little bit wiser, to how enriched I feel for having read it.  All I can do is urge you to read it.

Here’s are two of my favorite quotes from the book:

“It is not so much that being black in a white country means that people don’t accept you as, say, Scottish; it is that being black in a white country makes you a stranger to yourself.”

“[You] can find yourself being touchy or defensive, even when someone does not mean [to be racist], or does not know that he is being offensive. […] Where are you from, people have asked all my life. I used to just say Glasgow. Then they’d say and where are your parents from? And I used to say Glasgow and Fife, which was the truth, but not the one they were looking for. Sometimes I’d say, I’m adopted, my original father was from Nigeria, and they’d nod, with a kind of a ‘That explains it’ look on their face.”

Goddess of Apathy’s #CBR4 Review #13: My Cross to Bear, by Gregg Allman

04book"My Cross to Bear" by Gregg Allman

I am a Southern girl, born and raised in Georgia. If you are like me, and have that distinction, there are many singers and bands that are Southern and Georgian. The Allman Brothers Band is one of those bands and I have been a fan as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is when Gregg Allman married Cher, their picture on the cover of People magazine. Then there is the time in history when we were learning about the blues, and my teacher played “Statesboro Blues” on her guitar on front of the whole class. Then she asked each of us to write our own blues song to the same tune of that iconic melody.  I’m pretty sure I have been in love with Gregg Allman since I was that little girl. His beautiful blonde hair, soulful voice and that hint of danger has long intrigued me, even as I have grown up and he’s grown older. I have seen the Allman Brothers Band in concert many times, and had the pleasure of seeing Gregg Allman & Friends on a couple of occasions. I’ve visited his brother Duane’s and their friend and band mate Berry Oakley’s graves at Rose Hill Cemetery.  I’ve made a trek to the Big House, in Macon, the old home of the Brothers, now a museum. So of course, it was my duty and pleasure to read his autobiography, even though he might tell me secrets that might make me question my blind adoration after all these years.

I pre-ordered the book as soon as I could from Amazon. I was looking forward to reading Gregg’s life story. When the book finally arrived, I was in the middle of reading another book for Cannonball Read 4, and my husband took it upon himself to crack the spine of My Cross to Bear. The entire time he read, he kept telling me, “You aren’t going to like this.” Or he’d mutter, “This is the worst book I’ve ever read.” He was serious about his opinions. He told me the writing was terrible and was ridiculously paced. He stated Gregg’s narrative voice was like that of an old, rambling man, going from topic to topic. I insisted I had to read it for myself, no matter how bad the storytelling was; no matter how circuitous the narrative. No matter how sad and disappointed I might be learning the truth behind the soulful music I’d listened to all my life, I was still committed to knowing all I could.

I do give my husband credit for his description of Gregg’s voice in the book. I am unsure of how much he actually “wrote” of this autobiography, with Alan Light.  I know he wrote a multitude of beautiful songs about heartbreak, longing, and love, but we aren’t all authors. The book reads like a long conversation, and Gregg meanders through each story in his life, like a lazy river, sometimes cool and refreshing, other times, lazy and hazy as it wanders around the bend. I imagined Gregg telling me the story of his life as he sits on an cracked and weathered porch, his languid voice lulling me into the time machine that takes us back to when he was a child, growing up in Tennessee and then in Florida. He tells me of being packed away to military school at age eight. But, as he tells me about those early years, anecdotes about the Sear’s guitar for $21.95 or the foot shooting party, sometimes, he suddenly changes the subject, discussing an event that happened just fifteen years ago. I really had to make sure I was paying attention, or else I would get lost in the shuffle of his life.

Gregg does honestly reveal all his missteps in love and drugs, but at the heart of this story, for me, was the deep love he had for his brother Duane and for writing and making music. Duane was Gregg’s tormentor, but Gregg seems to have the deepest love and affection for Duane, even after all these years since Duane’s tragic death in 1971. The music seems to come easy to Gregg. He doesn’t give any magical clues as to how he writes a song, admitting at one point, it might sound like he’s giving you a formula, but “it’s never that simple.” He admitted  the song “Midnight Rider” is the one song he is most proud of in his career.

I am sure some readers will be fascinated by all the lovers, baby mamas, six wives, five children, alcohol, and the never ending supply and demand of drugs from pot, to coke, to heroin. I admit I was fascinated by his relationship with Cher. She was such an icon of the 70s and I remember watching Sonny and Cher and thinking how unique she was, an inspiration to all those girls out there, like I was, who weren’t considered traditional looking. I still remember signing with heartfelt triumph the song, “Half-Breed” at the top of my little girl lungs! There is more to the story than just the salacious parts. Sure, Gregg loves women; he’s still just as enamored with them after all this time. Thankfully, his love of drugs and alcohol is under control and even with a liver transplant, he is trying to live a more healthy lifestyle these days.

In addition to the life story that he tells, the book includes posters from gigs for the Allman Brothers, and photographs and other memorabilia to accompany the different phases in Gregg’s life and career. It was like flipping through old photo albums. I had time to peruse the pictures, looking at all the details of Gregg’s adventures. It felt as if I knew him better after reading his story. He’s hardly perfect by any means, but I felt privileged to get to know him just a little better and understand his music all the more. I wouldn’t recommend reading this book to just anyone. You would at least require love and affection for his music first, and then need the desire to spend a little time with an old man as he reflects on a journey, with pride and curiosity, at just how far he’s come and just how lucky and talented he really is.

Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #29: Bodies in Motion and at Rest by Thomas Lynch

Thomas Lynch is an undertaker/poet in a small town in America, and seems to be very good at both his jobs. In these he ponders, with humour and sadness, the often-misunderstood business of burial and its large-scale takeover by faceless corporations, Western notions of death and ritual, and the ties that make up homes and communities. He also discusses how much he hates his son’s cat and what he does when he doesn’t like poets.

Lynch is a talented story-teller, even making statistics and business information interesting, but it is his musings on the Big Questions, fate and fear and life and death that make this book worth reading. It isn’t uplifting in the conventional sense, there’s far too much realism and occasional bitterness, but it’s an enriching read that exudes camaraderie, leaving you feeling as if you’ve had a great and rambling conversation with a very intelligent and funny person down at the pub (although Lynch quit drinking-alcoholism in his life and family are the subject of one essay).

“We must be steady in our wounds, loyal to our doom, and patient in the machinery of heaven.”

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #13: True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life by Kevin Sorbo

True Strength coverOK, I admit that I kind of had a crush on Kevin Sorbo during his Hercules: The Legendary Journeys days. I’ve always had a weakness for tall guys with long hair – but, he also seemed like a decent guy when giving interviews. I hadn’t really thought about him in years, but was extremely disappointed to find out recently that he is now into some of the more extreme Christian fundamentalist propaganda. It didn’t seem to fit with his past public image, so I was curious. In looking him up, I discovered that he had a serious illness and had written an autobiographical book about it. “Aha!”, I thought. “That might explain the extreme religious views.”

I was pleased to discover that my online library had the audiobook of  True Strength, narrated by Kevin himself and his wife, Sam Sorbo. I hoped to find an explanation for this fundamentalist approach in this book. I was disappointed in that respect, but really enjoyed and connected with the book in other ways.

We all know we are mortal, but many of us like to forget about that at different times in our lives. Kevin Sorbo probably wasn’t thinking of it too much when he was in peak physical condition and playing the half-god, Hercules on one of the highest rated syndicated television shows in the world in the 1990’s. But, he was was forced to confront that in a sudden, terrifying way. Unknown to all but his closest family, friends and co-workers, at this peak time, Kevin suffered three strokes after an aneurysm in his shoulder caused clots to travel through his body. These resulted not only in damage to his arm, but both long lasting and permanent symptoms such as partial blindness, dizziness, weakness, headaches and ringing in his ears just for starters.

This struck while on hiatus from Hercules, between the 4th and 5th seasons, just after the release of Kull the Conqueror (1997). It was at a crucial point, both in his career and for the continuation of Hercules where a lot of other people depended on Kevin as the star to keep the show going.  Hercules hadn’t yet reached that magic 100 episode number for the best syndication deals. But fortunately, everyone had a little time to figure things out before filming began again – and it took a lot of creative solutions.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Hercules, but I still can remember when the writing suddenly changed with Kevin missing in strange ways – like one episode where he had been turned into a pig or was missing altogether. At the time, I was annoyed at the writing. Now, after reading True Strength, I’m amazed they pulled off hiding Kevin’s recovery and disability so well! I found it really interesting to hear about all the little tricks they did to make it look like he was there more than he was and what they used to hide his weakness. He went from doing many of his own stunts to needing a body double to even lift a sword for awhile. He was never able to return to doing even many of the previously easy-to-him stunts.

Besides relating to True Strength as a fan of Hercules and then Andromeda, I very much connected with the personal struggle Kevin went through with his sudden disability…

Read the rest of my review at Loopy Ker’s Life

pyrajane’s review #47: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

This book exhausted me.  Writing this review exhausted me.

I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it.  It’s not my bible, but I understand why other people worship it.

If you’re in the  mood to read an enormous review of my thoughts about a book’s reputation and then read about the book itself, make sure you’re super comfortable, and then head on over to my blog.

For those of you who love this book, I welcome you to comment and explain why I’m an idiot.  For those of you who hated it, add your comments as well.  Let’s get into a book fight!

Idgiepug’s #CBR4 Review #37: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure Edited by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith

I picked up this book at the conference a couple of years ago, and I like to pull it out and re-read it every so often.  I found myself with some Sustained Silent Reading Time at school this year and with no book to read, so I grabbed this off my shelf and read it again.  It’s perfect for our reading time because we only have these little 20-minute units three times a week, and Not Quite What I Was Planning was easier for me to bookmark and walk away from than a novel.  The book is, as the title suggests, a collection of six-word memoirs sent in to Smith magazine.  If you’ve ever set yourself to the task of saying something significant about your life in exactly six words, you’ll really appreciate the memoirs gathered here for their insight, humor, and tragedy.  These writers, both the “Famous” and the “Obscure,” manage to convey something meaningful in their six words.  Some of my favorites include Mario Batali’s (“Brought it to a boil, often”) or Sabra Jennings’ (“Extremely responsible, secretly longed for spontaneity”), which may cut a little close to home.  Some of these little memoirs gave me a brief glimpse into a life completely different from my own, and others some of them feel almost too familiar.  This is a nifty little book which makes me think about life and language in new ways.

Petalfrog’s #CBR4 Review #48: Kidowed by Jessica Kenley

Official description (taken from Goodreads):

In this book you’ll find the the struggles, sorrows, and triumphs of the author after she has two children with a rare and universally fatal genetic disease. As she travels through her hellish journey, you will experience unexpected humor, endless love, and learn how strong one family can be while they walk beside her.

Let’s get real. This description is kind of some bullshit. It gives the sense of a heartwarming novel, filled with platitudes, where our girl Jessica has an epiphany over the course of her “journey.” If you’re looking for that kind of memoir, you’re in the wrong place. This memoir, told in diary form, is RAW RAW RAW and ANGRY. Jessica, for the majority of the memoir, is pissed off as all hell and quite frankly, I don’t blame her one bit. When Jessica starts writing her diary her first child, Ethan, has been dead for two years and her second child, Kaylee, is only a few weeks old. Both of Jessica’s children had the same fatal disease, Epidermolysis Bullosa. This disease, based on what Jessica writes and my own research, is AWFUL and completely heart breaking. Jessica’s experience is different than many other parents whose kids died of terminal illness because no one knew what to do with her kids, and, to top it off, insurance would not cover much of the non-traditional “medical” supplies she needed (e.g., special diapers and blankets). Her babies lived in pain (or in Kaylee’s case, she got to have some meds to help out with that), and there was nothing Jessica could do. Medical care made matters worse because it, by its nature, damaged her kids’ skin even more. No wonder she was so pissed. There are no special walks for EB, or little colored plastic bracelets, or months of the year dedicated to raising awareness. She was totally alone, and already prone to depression. Plus, she had quite a fair amount of guilt about Kaylee being conceived and born, given the genetic risk of her also being an EB baby.

I don’t know if this was done deliberately, but I was surprised to see Kaylee’s (heartbreaking) death happen so early. I assumed that the book would revolve around Kaylee’s illness, and it did for about the first third, but the book is truly about Jessica and how mad and sad she is. It’s about her trying to figure things out, and make sense of her life as a mom of deceased babies, a friend, a sister, and a worker. There are some truly heart-warming moments and Jessica tells the story with a fair amount of humour (as much as possible in this situation), and a real ballsy tone, yet it is not a doom and gloom book. On the contrary, she is simply a pissed off lady and doesn’t care who knows it. Jessica does eventually work through her depression, anger, and depression, but that happens mostly “behind the scenes” as there are huge gaps in her diary where her healing takes place.

I read a review on Amazon where the person was all “oh she’s so mad, why wasn’t this more heart-warming, I couldn’t even finish it” to which I argue that I appreciate that this memoir was not all kittens, unicorns and ponies. This is a book, not only about death, but also about guilt, shame, injustice, and moving on. I am glad Jessica did not censor her anger or try to make the reader comfortable. I was uncomfortable for most of it, but that does not compare to Jessica’s life, or her babies’ lives. Why should she have to cater her memoir to the reader’s comfort? I wish more memoirs were this raw. Then, I had my own moment of judgment in the very last paragraph of the book, and I felt like such an asshole, because who am I? I thank Jessica for writing this book, and putting her raw, open, bleeding heart out there for public consumption.

Read more of my reviews here.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #43: Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg

Cannonball Read IV: Book #43/52
Published: 2000
Pages: 298
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

I was a waitress in college and I LOVED it. It’s such a hard job, but so satisfying to walk away every night with a wad of cash. I’ve always thought the world would be a little bit of a better place if every person had to spend six months of their life as a waiter or waitress. You literally learn to deal with every type of person whether as a customer or as a co-worker.

I picked up this book at a used bookstore and was hoping it was better than the behind-the-scenes book I read last year about the cruise ship waiter. It was okay, but focused more on the writer’s personal life than his actual job. Waiting was the waitressing memoir I’d been looking for.

Read the full review in my blog.

Katie’s #CBR4 Review #49: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Title: Eat, Pray, Love
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: A humorous and relatable story with such great characters it’s hard to believe they weren’t invented just for this book.

What do you do if you have everything you “should” want and are still unhappy? In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert shares her story of leaving it all – a promising career, a comfortable home, and even her marriage – to travel the world in search of happiness. Like Cecilia Ahearn, I expected Elizabeth Gilbert to be too “girly” or emotional of an author for me and was pleasantly surprised. Of course, the book includes many emotional topics, such as the author’s agonizing divorce proceedings, but she describes everything in a relatable, humorous way. She comes across as very down-to-earth and comfortable laughing at herself and never became too angsty.

Read more on Doing Dewey.


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