Category Archives: Nonfiction

Review: The Sitting Swing by Irene Watson

swing

Title: The Sitting Swing

Author: Irene Watson

Genre/Pages: Memoir, Inspirational/215 pages

Publication: LHP; July 16, 2008

Rating: 2.5 BOOKMARKS

A journey to find freedom from codependency and unhappiness, Irene Watson’s The Sitting Swing is one woman’s story of recovery.

Raised by Ukranian immigrant parents in almost absolute isolation from society until she was six, Watson recounts her stark childhood in the unforgiving Canadian province of Alberta and how her upbringing shaped her personality and perception of life and relationships.

After losing one child to illness, Irene’s mother isn’t about to let her second child wander too far from her vigilant watch.  As a result, Irene’s attempts at independence are stifled and her personality development is retarded by her mother’s domineering parenting.

The memoir recounts Irene’s struggles to learn English, make friends, and her numerous attempts to escape from under her mother’s thumb.  As an adult, she finds herself repressing her feelings and struggling with her marriage.

A few years shy of 50, Irene, a therapist herself, checks into a 28-day program with little hope of taking away more than just some rhetoric to pass on to her patients.  Initially, she works against the program and is high skeptical of its efficacy.  In the end, she opens herself to the lessons and counselors, finding the tools she needs to make peace with her past and change her present.

This book was a quick and interesting read, though I typically don’t read inspirational nonfiction.  Without minimizing Watson’s childhood struggles, I have to confess that I kept waiting for the big reveal–a major and catastrophic event that brought her to Avalon for help. 

Watson’s diction–chatty and conversational at times–detracted from her story.   Maybe she was aiming for candor, but this memoir could be markedly improved if she would have detached from her audience and relayed the story without casually addressing the reader.

Don’t ask me how, because I don’t know, and I’m not sure I would want to bore you with the details if I did…Let’s zip forward ten years… (Watson, 18-19)

Ultimately, Irene Watson finds the tools she needs and is able to recognize the past for what it is.  From there, she can let go and move forward in her marriage, life, and career.

Thank you to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion! for this review copy! 

PumpUpbanner111 

Review: Don’t Call Me a Crook! by Bob Moore

crookTitle: Don’t Call Me a Crook!

Author: Bob Moore

Genre/Pages: Memoir; 255 pages

Publication: Originally published 1935; republished by Dissident Books, Ltd. 2009

Rating: 2.5 BOOKMARKS

Originally published over 70 years ago, Bob Moore’s memoir, Don’t Call Me a Crook! is part sensation, part confession. 

Bob Moore lived a wild and wicked life–he was a cad and a scoundrel and who tried to rationalize his criminal hi-jinx. 

“…I thought of the guy waiting in the Shellman Hotel for me, and I thought how he had meant to fool me nicely by making me take all the risk, and then paying me off with a paltry hundred dollars while he made thousands of pounds (on loose, stolen diamonds).  I reckon he deserved to lose those diamonds…”  (Moore, 28)

He explained that when opportunity presented itself, he didn’t have to think twice about stealing.  I imagined him as a moustache-twirling villain who managed to charm most everyone–and was I ever right! 

I’m no Puritan over here, but even I was a tad scandalized by the blase manner in which Moore glibly told of swindling, bootlegging, and murder.  He amazed me by dodging one proverbial bullet after another.  He traveled the globe, often at a moment’s notice–especially when fleeing from the scene of a crime, something he did with alarming frequency.

The direction of Bob Moore’s life was led by the Grand Theft Auto moral compass–theft, adultery, and cheating were his cardinal directions.  Despite his shortcomings and criminal lifestyle (or maybe because of them), the book is an entertaining read.  As he goes from one improbable adventure to the next, the reader is left questioning how one person could live so many lifetimes in one life.

This book was not widely received after its original publishing in 1935 and was recently re-released with an introduction, afterword, and footnotes–some  superfluous and distracting.  There were many nautical references footnoted (crow’s nest, galley, stateroom, purser, list) and though I’ve never captained a ship, I’ve watched enough episodes of The Love Boat to understand the lingo.  Other footnotes, however, were necessary and helpful.

Perhaps because this book was penned so long ago (or because Moore just didn’t give a damn), prejudice is evident in a few of his interactions.  I understand that they aren’t themes of the novel, but intolerance turns me off.

Overall, Don’t Call Me a Crook! is an entertaining, albeit scandalous, read.  Moore can really tell a story–and he has the details to support his tales.  People who enjoy this genre and are interested in reading about the life and times of this Glaswegian shouldn’t hesitate to pick up this book! 

Thanks to Lisa from Online Publicist for sending me this memoir!

Celebrity Bios: Hot or Not?

Hello, my name is Natalie and I read celebrity biographies.  (Hello, Natalie!)

A genre that often reads like fiction is the celebrity bio/autobiography.  Some readers eschew this genre because they aren’t interested in celebrities.  Others avoid it because the writing can be appallingly bad.  Still others know that buying these books hurts real writers because the publishers pay obscene sums of money for the celebrity tell-alls, leaving virtually no budget for the rest of the authors.  All of those reasons are valid yet I still find myself reading these books.  

I’ve read more than a few celebrity bios over the last year or so–14 readily come to mind.  A few were really good and rest were abysmal.  I’m not a celebrity watcher–we don’t even have television at my house–yet the list below is damning evidence proving my mini-addiction to the genre.  I’ve blazed through books about:

  • Sidney Poirtier
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Rosie O’Donnell
  • Martha Stewart
  • Tori Spelling 
  • Michael Hutchence (of the Aussie band INXS)
  • John Steinbeck
  • William Shatner
  • Eric Clapton
  • Patty Boyd
  • Paula Deen
  • Harper Lee
  • Madonna
  • Maureen McCormick (Marsha Brady)

Has your opinion of me plummeted?  My only defense (aside from the insanity plea!) is that this genre is my guilty pleasure!  I don’t read tabloid or celebrity magazines but can’t quite keep my paws off of these.  

When I go to the library to borrow these books, it’s like I’m renting a dirty movie or something.  I put them in the middle of a huge pile of literary masterpieces, hoping to hide the shame that is the tell-all bio!  I’m not sure why I even read these books when most are a monumental waste of my time and aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.  Curiosity, maybe? 

So, is it only me or do you read this genre too?  Did you also remove the dust jacket while reading sTORI Telling by Tori Spelling, or was that just me? 

Review: Last Call at the 7-Eleven by Kevin Cowherd

711Title: Last Call at the 7-Eleven: Fine Dining at 2 A.M., The Search for Spandex People, and Other Reasons to Go On Living

Author: Kevin Cowherd

Genre/Pages: Nonfiction Essays/pages 226

Publication: The Bancroft Press; 11/22/1995

Rating: 3 BOOKMARKS

I thoroughly enjoy nonfiction, especially humorous essays and memoirs.  Last Call at the 7-Eleven is a collection of selected columns written by Kevin Cowherd, a nationally-syndicated humorist and sports writer for The Baltimore Sun. 

What a hilarious read!  Kevin Cowherd’s essays run the gamut and had me laughing out loud as I zipped through this snappy number.  Each essay is only a few pages–originally published individually in a newspaper column format in The  Baltimore Sun–and were like snack-sized bits of humor.

I giggled my way through columns with titles like “That Barney is Such a Reptile” and “Real Men Don’t Wear Pajamas”.  One of my favorites, “Surgeons Good Enough for Celebrities”, brought up a salient point–the American public tends to “measure surgeons…(by the) famous patients they have cut open.” 

I’m a huge fan of nonfiction humor writing and really enjoyed this book.  Cowherd is witty and hyper0bservant.  He’s still writing for the newspaper, though his focus seems to have shifted to a more sports-based column, I still had a chuckle while reading a recent column. 

Some of the references in this book are pretty dated–it was published back in 1995 and the columns were culled from over 1200 written from the late 80s to the mid-90s.  Cowherd also has a tendency to repurpose some of his favorite sayings and metaphors, but I’m guilty of that myself. 

The book is a breezy read that packs a humorous punch on scores of topics.  You can read a few columns here and there without a huge committment; the book lends itself to that reading style.

Kevin Cowherd, like many others, built his career writing for newspapers. With the advent of the internet (and other factors), many newspapers have seen their revenue and readership steadily decline, forcing some newspapers to cease printing.  The Rocky Mountain News in Denver and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer are some of the more recent victims of the downtrending readership and economy.  

What I’d like to know is:  Do you still get a daily paper delivered to your front door, or are you like me–an online newspaper reader?  Sometimes I’ll spring for the Sunday New York Times, but typically I only read my local (NJ) paper online.  And you? 

Thanks to Harrison at The Bancroft Press for providing me with this book.