Tag Archives: Nonfiction

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!

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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: Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster

plaid1Title: Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase

Author: Jen Lancaster

Genre: Nonfiction Memoir/Essay; 384 pages

Publication Date:  May 5, 2009

Publisher: National American Library (NAL)

Rating: 4 Bookmarks

If you’re anything like me, you have a Santa Claus-sized ledger in which you record book titles that other bloggers recommend.  If this is the case, please add Jen Lancaster’s Pretty in Plaid to the top of the ‘Nice’ list. 

Lancaster has been likened to “David Sedaris with pearls and a supercute handbag”, and her latest memoir weaves a hilarious retrospective highlighting fashion highs and lows over the last four decades.  Entire essays are devoted to size-5 Jordache jeans, odious Brownie uniforms, and the edgier Girl Scout uniforms.  (I donned both and can attest to the faux pas that was the Brownie Beanie.)

Lancaster takes the mundane and spins it into a giant, literary confection of equal parts humor, hubris, and habiliment.  This book should come with a Surgeon General’s Warning printed on it–Reading this book should be done only in private and may induce:

  • laughing until your mascara runs down your face in twin, black rivers
  • laughing until you snort (Swine flu be damned!)
  • laughing yourself into a wheezy, cartoonish fit
  • laughing yourself into hyperventilation (as your husband frantically dials 9-1-1 for help)

Maybe you’re in need of a good laugh or you’ve been meaning to pick up some nonfiction for a reading challenge–either way, here’s the perfect vehicle!

Lest you think I’m being paid to write such a glowing review, I will say that the book starts off with a few missives I wasn’t barking mad about. Additionally, the footnotes may get a bit tedious for some readers–having to glance down two or three times on one page–but beyond those minor quibbles, this book has already become one of my favorites.

You can catch Jen on her nation-wide book tour, kicking off tomorrow.  She’ll be in New York on Thursday and I hope to be there (with pearls on).  Thanks to Kate and Melissa for the galley!

Tears On My Pillow (and Pages)

Thanks to the creative writing (and wild imagination) of James Frey (and a few others), the memoir genre has been forever tainted.  Despite the scandals, I remain an unflagging and vocal supporter of nonfiction essays and memoirs.  Some of my favorite authors exclusively pen nonfiction–Bill Bryson and Jen Lancaster to name just two. 

Why do I love these authors so much?  Their writing can, in a single paragraph (or sentence), reduce me to silent, body-shaking laughter.  Or obnoxious, snorting laughter.  Or wheezing, cartoonish, Muttley laughter.  Or I-can’t-catch-my-breath AND I’m crying laughter.

Last night, I was cuddled up in bed whipping through Jen Lancaster’s new book, Pretty in Plaid, which is  due out May 4th–so be on the lookout for my review!  At one point, page 292 to be precise, her writing pushed me over the precipice.  I was ‘silent-laughing’ to the point that I couldn’t catch my breath.  My husband grabbed the phone to dial 9-1-1 because he thought I was having a seizure–that’s how hard I was shaking and crying with laughter.

In case you don’t believe me, after I calmed down (20 minutes later), I snapped a picture with my phone (thus explaining the fabulous quality of the picture!).  I submit Exhibit A. as proof to why YOU should be reading nonfiction:

tears-on-my-pillowYes, friends, that’s an actual tear.  And it was not alone.  There was an entire parade of them streaming down my cheeks.  So, if you have given up on the nonfiction genre, I beseech you to reconsider.  Just look at the hilarity you’re missing!