Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More stories of love and fame can be found @ your library

From This Moment On by Shania Twain

Publishers Weekly

Country-Pop superstar Twain lets it all hang out in this moving and revealing autobiography. Having endured a childhood of poverty and ill treatment at the hands of her father, Twain turned to music at an early age. She began performing at eight, often playing the midnight show in bars, and appeared on Canadian television at 11. But, as much as her mother pushed her toward music, her father paid the bills, and, yes, Twain sang (for tips), but also worked on her father's reforestation crew. When her parents were killed in a car crash (an event predicted by a palm reader and foreseen in a dream), Twain, at 22, supported her siblings by singing six nights a week at a golf resort. Success in Nashville followed, and Twain recounts her romance with music producer Mutt Lange, their collaboration, and finally the betrayal of his affair with her close friend, whose husband Twain later married. Amidst such pivotal events Twain reveals who she is: a principled vegetarian with a great sense of humor; someone who avoids conflict, loves horses and dogs; most importantly, a strong woman inured by experience, who made it to the top in her own way. To immerse oneself in Twain's book is to meet an immensely likable person; her voice doesn't leap off the page, it infuses it warmly, like molasses.

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke

Kirkus Reviews

A song and dance man of the first order looks back.
Van Dyke breezily recounts his adventures as a straight-down-the-middle "square" and family man navigating the vicissitudes of show business in this slight memoir, which highlights the strengths and pitfalls of the performer's signature amiability. The author is unfailingly pleasant company on the page, and his low-stakes anecdotes and fond remembrances go down easily. But his unwillingness or inability to confront the uglier aspects of life (and particularly life in Hollywood) ultimately makes for a rather bland repast. It's not as if Van Dyke lacked material; his well-publicized battle with alcoholism and the dissolution of his longtime marriage would seem ripe for serious introspection, but this is not the author's style. He addresses the issues forthrightly but with a scrupulous lack of salaciousness or soul-searching or anything approaching a strong emotional response. Van Dyke is clearly happiest relating amusing anecdotes about his Midwestern boyhood, struggling early days in show business and his successes in such classic examples of all-American family entertainment as Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins and the deathless Dick Van Dyke Show, still a high-water mark in the history of TV comedy. Van Dyke heaps love and praise on collaborators like Carl Reiner and Mary Tyler Moore, who surely deserve it, but the unremitting niceness becomes numbing, to the extent that a couple of bawdy incidents involving actress Maureen Stapleton stand out as Caligula-like descents into depravity by comparison. The author's earnest, boyish persona anchored his astounding gifts as a physical performer—his rubber-limbed pratfalls, fleet dancing and instinctive genius with bits of comedy "business" are justly revered—but absent this physical dimension, Van Dyke here is earnestly, boyishly...dull.
Perfectly pleasant, mildly diverting and forgettable—kind of like an episode of Diagnosis: Murder.

A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother by Janny Scott

Publishers Weekly

The mother of a path-breaking politician was a quiet revolutionary in her own right, according to this vibrant biography. Former New York Times reporter Scott paints Stanley Ann Dunham (1942-1995) as a study in unconventionality: a white woman who entered an inter-racial marriage at a time when they were illegal in many states; bore a son at 18; became an expatriate who thrived in the alien culture of Indonesia after her divorce from Obama's father. In Indonesia, she remarried and bore a daughter but ultimately became a single mother who forged a significant career as an anthropologist and economic-development expert. Drawing on Dunham's personal and professional writings and reminiscences by friends, colleagues, and the president and his half-sister, the author sensitively portrays a woman of both the warm sociability and charisma and a sharp, strong-willed and sometimes prickly intellect. Scott links Dunham to her son's commitment to community organizing and public service and to her own mother's pioneering success as a banker. But what is most striking in this account is how much Dunham was her own woman, determined to follow a wandering star despite personal setbacks and social disapproval. Scott gives us a vivid, affecting profile of an unsung feminist pioneer who made breaking down barriers a family tradition and whose legacy extends well beyond her presidential son.

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