Monday, July 23, 2012

Funny AND Inspiring... How can you go wrong with these true stories?


Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

Kirkus Reviews –

A humorous, sage memoir from the Pulitzer winner and acclaimed novelist. Like having an older, wiser sister or favorite aunt over for a cup of tea, Quindlen's (Every Last One, 2010, etc.) latest book is full of the counsel and ruminations many of us wish we could learn young. The death of her mother from cancer when she was 19 had a profound effect on the author, instilling in her the certainty that "life was short, and therefore it made [her] both driven and joyful" and happy to have "the privilege of aging." In her sincere and amusing style, the author reflects on feminism, raising her children, marriage and menopause. She muses on the perception of youth and her own changing body image--one of the "greatest gifts [for women] of growing older is trusting your own sense of yourself." Having women friends, writes Quindlen, is important for women of all ages, for they are "what we have in addition to, or in lieu of, therapists. And when we reach a certain age, they may be who is left." More threads on which the author meditates in this purposeful book: childbirth, gender issues, the joy of solitude, the difference between being alone and being lonely, retirement and religion. For her, "one of the greatest glories of growing older is the willingness to ask why, and getting no good answer, deciding to follow my own inclinations and desires. Asking why is the way to wisdom." A graceful look at growing older from a wise and accomplished writer--sure to appeal to her many fans, women over 50 and readers of Nora Ephron and similar authors.





Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir by Kelle Hampton

Kirkus Reviews –

A mother's optimistic account of the first year of life with her daughter, Nella, who was born with Down syndrome. Photographer writer Hampton is the author of a popular blog, Enjoying the Small Things. The Florida-based mother of two has received national recognition and media attention for her blog's personal writing and, reflected in it, her perpetually glass-half-full disposition. In her debut, she provides expanded versions of stories from her blog and other details about her life, marriage and parenthood. In 2009, the 31-year-old author and her husband, Brett, already parents of a two-year-old girl, Lainey, welcomed their second daughter, Nella. Hampton describes her immediate shock and distress at Nella's diagnosis, but those feelings were quickly replaced by an overwhelming sense of gratitude. "I feel there is a plan so beautiful in store…and we get to live it," she writes. "Wow." The author's positive attitude and enthusiasm remain unchanged throughout the book, which may illicit admiration in some readers and mild irritation in others--Hampton rarely reveals her own vulnerability. The author's descriptions of people and events are clear and easy to follow, but it's her beautiful photographs that bring them to life. A few of Hampton's summations--e.g., "I not only hugged Fear and Sadness that night at the computer, but I let them unpack their bags and stay awhile--come across as slightly disingenuous, if not simplistic. However, the author's mostly appealing optimism will make this book a comfort to other parents facing difficult circumstances. Sunny and inspiring.




Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

Kirkus Reviews –

A mostly funny, irreverent memoir on the foibles of growing up weird. In blogger Lawson's debut book, "The Bloggess" (thebloggess.com) relies entirely on her life stories to drive an unconventional narrative. While marketed as nonfiction, it's a genre distinction the author employs loosely (a point made clear in the book's subtitle). On the opening page she defends the subtitle, explaining, "The reason this memoir is only mostly true instead of totally true is that I relish not getting sued." Yet Lawson also relishes exaggerative storytelling, spinning yarns of her childhood and early adulthood that seem so unbelievable they could hardly be made up. Nearly every line is an opportunity for a punch line--"Call me Ishmael. I won't answer to it, because it's not my name, but it's much more agreeable that most of the things I've been called"; "And that's how I ended up shoulder-deep in a cow's vagina"; "there's nothing more romantic than a proposal that ends with you needing a tetanus shot"--and while the jokes eventually wear thin, by that point readers will be invested in Lawson herself, not just her ability to tell a joke. The author's use of disclaimers, editorial notes and strike-thrus leaves the book feeling oddly unfinished, though it's a calculated risk that serves well as an inside joke shared between writer and reader at the expense of the literary elite. While Lawson fails to strike the perfect balance between pathos and punch line, she creates a comic character that readers will engage with in shocked dismay as they gratefully turn the pages.




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