Tag Archives: memoir

The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell *Book Review*

12 Nov


Format – Audiobook

Synopsis – In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.

My Thoughts – I downloaded this book as it was on the daily deal and I’d already got this book on my wishlist. This book is basically a year in the life of a man who owns a bookshop in Scotland. I found this book funny, sad, interesting, compelling all in equal measure. As a self-confessed bookworm I could see myself spending lots of money in a shop such as his. I found all of his anecdotes about his various customers and staff really funny.

It has made me think a lot about how I use Amazon though. Currently if I feel like ordering a book I tend to go on Amazon and order it through Amazon Prime. Having read this book I’m going to hunt out some local bookshops to me (I’ve just moved to a new area so not too sure whats about yet!) and browse their shelves more. He also runs The Random Book Club and I’m really tempted to join this too!

We are planning a trip to Scotland and I think that The Bookshop is definitely a place that I want to visit while we are there!

Overall an absolutely fantastic book that I was very sorry that had ended. I could have listened to many more years of this!

Rating – 5/5


Don’t Shoot! I’m Just The Avon Lady – Birdie Jaworski

15 Aug

Started – 5/8/12

Finished – 12/8/12

Format – Kindle e-book

Synopsis – For Birdie Jaworski, life as an Avon Lady was a bittersweet mix of embarking on gossip-worthy adventures, searching for Mr. Right, and making emergency lotion requests in the middle of the night… while managing as a single parent.

Birdie hawks Avon at a strip club, a bowling alley on Men’s League Night, and of course door-to-door. She meets customers who answer the door naked, who want to buy wrinkle cream for their pet monkey, or who are harboring dark – and funny – secrets. She even sells Avon to celebrities who want to keep their zits a secret!

The book reveals a surprising and touching account of her personal life when Catholic Charities calls her and tells her the daughter she gave up for adoption is now an adult and wants to meet her. This book follows Birdie’s journey during one summer while she decides whether to meet her daughter while selling Avon cosmetics door-to-door. A funny and beautifully touching read.

My Thoughts – I downloaded this book because it was free on the kindle store for a day. My mother in law did Avon for a bit and i thought it would be a good idea to read this book and have a bit of a comparison.
This book is about Birdie Jaworski and her life. She has two young sons, a single parent and is trying to sell Avon. There is also a side plot to the book, she gave up a daughter for adoption many years ago.
I did try to get into the book and really did try to like it, but i just couldnt. I didnt really like all the name dropping of the Avon products. One or two would have been ok, but it seemed to be every other page at times and i just didnt like it much. It felt like i was reading an avon book at times.
I did like parts with her sons, i did find out lots about the author through this. I particually liked the part when they adopted a pig and the havoc that this caused.
I would have liked more focus on her daughter that she gave up for adoption. At times it felt like the avon side come before this. While i found out a fair bit of information about the situation she was put in, i would have liked more of a focus on this part.It is a memoir, and it comes across in that way. It was a little disjointed at times and i would have liked it to flow a bit better. I suppose if you are an avon lady you might enjoy this, but unfortunatly i just didnt. I ended up skimming parts too.

Rating – 2/5

My House Looks Like A Fairyland Crime Scene – Ed Ergenzinger

24 Jul

Started – 8/7/12

Finished – 14/7/12

Format – Kindle e-book


Synopsis – The female to male ratio in my house is 3:1. I am reminded of this fact every time I empty the lint trap of the dryer – the wad of lint is always some shade of pink. Light pink, hot pink, grey-pink … pink is always in there.

In addition to being a dad, a husband, and a general goofball, I am a former scientist turned attorney who likes to write, paint, draw, and cook. I am overnourished, athletically challenged, and crowd-phobic. I have been known to do Wii Fit with a bourbon and coke in one hand. I check Facebook like a junkie takes a hit.

These are my stories.

My Thoughts – I downloaded this book as it was free for a day on the kindle store. This book is about a dad of two young daughters and this book is his memoirs. To me this book was very raw in the way that it was written. It seemed that he had poured everything into writing this book and as it is about his life it seems like he has spent an awful long time writing it.

At times this book was very funny, the author went into detail about his life with his young daughters and how he explained it, it came across very funny. For example he lists a chapter on top tips to cope with young daughter and this part was quite funny.

This book was quite short and to be honest id have liked it to go on a bit more. Also, it did jump about a little bit, i would have thought that it would have read a little bit better.

I dont really have all that much to say on this book, i enjoyed it, but im glad that i downloaded it when it was free.

Rating – 3/5

Just A Kid, A Guard At The Nuremberg Trials – Emilio DiPalma

6 Jul

Started – 23/6/12

Finished – 30/6/12

Format – Kindle e-book

Synopsis – “I was just eighteen years old when I was drafted in September of 1944, and taken into the infantry….” Just a kid, Emilio DiPalma found himself at center stage of one of the most dramatic trials of the twentieth century. He stood guard over the most notorious war criminals, and watched in horror as their atrocities were described in detail throughout the Nuremberg Trails.

In May 2000, his daughter Emily accompanied him to Germany and the site of the Trials. At that time, he began to dictate his memoirs to her. Here, in his own words, are the recollections of one member of the Greatest Generation.

My Thoughts – I downloaded this book as it was free for a day on Kindle. I am really interested in the second world war, however i havent read much about what happened in Germany after the war had finished.

Emilio DiPalma was a soldier in the armed forces during the second world war. The first part of the book goes into detail about his experiences during the war. He lost one of his comrades from a ‘flesh wound’ which for me was quite shocking, That sort of thing shouldnt happen, but it often did and this experience stayed with him for the rest of his life.

The majority of the book goes into details of the Nuremberg trials.I had heard of the trials but i wasnt too aware of what went on during those, so reading a first hand account was really fascinating for me. For example, i didnt know that a lot of ‘higher ranking Nazis’ including the commander of the Luftwaffe, Goring was put on trial here.

The authors photograph appeared in the newspaper back at home, much to the shock of his family back home as they didnt know what was happening to him, so i guess that for them it must have been a bit of a relief for them to see him in a safe environment.

I also didnt know that Goring killed himself the night before he was due to be executed. I thought that this was a bit of a way out for him, dying under his own terms other than being executed. However maybe i am looking at it from a modern perspective, as in this country the death penalty doesnt exsist anymore, but in other countries it does for war crimes.

At the end of the book there was a list of all the people put on trial and what the verdict was. So many of them were committed to death or put into prison for life. I wasnt aware that this happened after war. I hadnt really thought what would have happened to those that ordered and took part in those horriffic acts before.

What stands out for me the most is that in a couple of decades their wont be anybody left that fought during the second world war. They must not be forgotten, nor what their experiences were and this type of book is perfect for keeping the memory alive.

I enjoyed this book, its a fairly short book and its one that will stay with you for a long while.

Rating – 3.5/5

The Opposite of Fate – Amy Tan

4 Jul

Started – 5/6/12

Finished – 26/6/12

Format – Hardback Book

Challenges – Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge


Synopsis – Unbearably moving, intensely passionate, deeply personal account of life as seen through the eyes of one of America’s best-loved novelists

When I began writing this history, I let go of my doubts. I trusted the ghosts of my imagination. They showed me the hundred secret senses. And what I wrote is what I discovered about the endurance of love.

So writes Amy Tan at the beginning of this remarkably candid insight into her life. Tan takes us on a journey from her childhood, as a sensitive but intelligent young Chinese American, ashamed of her parents’ Chinese ways, to the present day and her position as one of the world’s best-loved novelists.

She talks of beauty and how she was perceived as a teenager in a country where Marilyn Monroe was the ultimate sex symbol. She describes the daily difficulties of being at once American and Chinese and yet feeling at times like she was truly neither. Most significantly, and heartbreakingly, she tells the history of her family: the grandmother who committed suicide as the only means of defiance open to her against a husband who ignored her wishes; her remarkable mother, whose first husband had her jailed when she tried to leave him; and the shocking deaths of both her father and husband when Amy was just 14. How this weight of history has brought itself to bear on the adult Amy looms large in her own story. Ghosts, chance and fate have played a part in her life, and The Opposite of Fate is an insight into those ancestors, the women who ‘never let me forget why these stories need to be told.’

My Thoughts – This book was picked as a group read for the Rory Gilmore challenge on the BCF. I really enjoy reading memoirs and this book was no exception. This book is about the authors life in China, America and many other countries in between.

Amy Tan grew up in China to start with in her life and had a very traumatic start to life. She lost her father and brother within six months of each other, and they both died of brain tumors. Her mother was also challenging at times and Amy had to also deal with this. Then they moved across to America and started a life their. This began a spate of moving across countries to other homes under her mums request.

In fairness she had a very trumatic life. One of her best friends was killed, on a night that she could have stayed in the house that he was in that very night. She also had to deal with her publisher dying of cancer and her mum being diognosed with alzheimers.

I found the differences in cultures very fascinating. Considering how her grandmother and mother lived in China and how Amy lived in America, it was all very different. In the book Amy goes back to China to visit her family and the differences in cultures was so apparent.

I wasnt aware of this author before i read her memoir, which is quite shameful considering how well known she is in America. I think i would have enjoyed the book even more if i had read some of her works, epecially The Joy Luck Club before reading the book.

I also liked how the book jumped about on the timescale. I found that this made the story a bit more interesting as you found out different parts of information as the story went on. My favourite part of the book was the chapter about What the Library Means to Me. This was a brilliant chapter and just shows how much books can mean to a person.

This is a wonderful book, it was fascinating to read about the authors life and also her works. I am now going to try and read more of her books.

Rating – 4/5

Marine At War – M. Michael

3 Jul

Started – 10/6/12

Finished – 23/6/12

Format – kindle e-book

Synopsis – In 2001 I was twenty seven years old, and about to go to war in far off Afghanistan. Ten years later, I finally have told the story. Here is a true tale of Heroes and Villians, of Young Men fighting and dying for a pure cause-the defense of their country. I have been part of something truly great in my life, and now, I hope I can pass that experience on to you.

My Thoughts – I downloaded this book as it was free for a day in the kindle store. I’m quite a fan of true life books and war books so i thought this would be the kind of book that i would enjoy.

In it the author tells his story of being involved in the war in Afghanistan and all the horrors that go with it. I did enjoy the basic story of what went on during his time in a warzone, and his emotions on missing his wife and child and wondering if he would ever see them again.

However, the formatting of the book made it quite difficult to read. I dont think this is the authors fault, but for me it made the reading of the book quite stuttery and it kept making my attention drift away. Also, there were a lot of spelling mistakes. I know that this is part and parcel of kindle books, but for me this is also something that puts me off.

There was a scene with a young boy in, which i wont go into detail on but i am hoping that this was exergerated and didnt actually happen. It was horrific and horrible and i nearly stopped reading the book because of it. This is the most horrible thing i have ever come across in a book ever.

There was also some racist comments in this book. i hate, hate, hate racism and for me that was another reason why i didnt like this book. I am aware that these comments happen in real life, however i dont think its right and it really shouldnt happen.

In one scene he speaks to his daughter on the phone and i felt that this was a very good scene. It kind of brought back how much he was missing and the horrors that he was exposed to, and all he wanted to do was to get back home to his wife and daughter.

I also felt that the story didnt flow and there was too much conversation and not enough description as to what was actually going on. It made the story quite hard to follow at times.

This book is a real life account of a marines life during the war in Afganistan. It had so much potential to be a good story, however at times i just felt that poor formatting and spelling let it down. Along with some horrible scenes too i just felt that it wasnt the book for me.

Rating – 2/5

One Child – Torey Hayden

29 Mar


Started – 14/3/12

Finished – 27/3/12

Format – paperback book


Synopsis – This beautiful and deeply moving tale recounts educational psychologist Torey Hayden’s battle to unlock the emotions of a troubled and sexually abused child who, with the help of Hayden, was finally able to overcome her dark past and realise her full potential.

Six-year-old Sheila was abandoned by her mother on a highway when she was four. A survivor of horrific abuse, she never spoke, never cried, and was placed in a class for severely retarded children after committing an atrocious act of violence against another child. Everyone thought Sheila was beyond salvation – except her teacher, Torey Hayden. With patience, skill, and abiding love, she fought long and hard to release a haunted little girl from her secret nightmare – and nurture the spark of genius she recognised trapped within Sheila’s silence. This is the remarkable story of their journey together – an odyssey of hope, courage, and inspiring devotion that opened the heart and mind of one lost child to a new world of discovery and joy.


My Thoughts – This isnt my normal type of book that i choose to read, but it was recommended to me by a local bookshop owner and i thought i might as well give it a go. I am glad i did read this book. It has opened my eyes up to the genre and i think i will read more books like this.


This is a real life book. I think that is what made it so shocking for me in the end. This story is about Torey a teacher, who looks after children with severe mental and physical conditions. Now this would be a challenge for most people, but then she has to take on another child, Sheila. Now Sheila has not had the best start in life, abandoned by her mother on a highway, living with a father that doesnt know how to care for her and unfortunately she has committed an awful crime. As she is only 6, she cannot understand why the world is such a horrible place for her.


Now the child that arrives in Toreys class in unresponsive, wont talk, badly behaved and hurts other people and animals. It is up to Torey to teach her right from wrong. I liked the progress in Sheila and how she slowly becomes part of the class.


Now one event in the book did actually upset me. Sheilas uncle did something truly and disgusting and disturbing to the poor little girl. I found this part so upsetting and it actually made me feel physically sick. This was because it was a real life book and this actually happened to her.


I really got into this book and the authors style of writing. She made it feel real and kept my interest in the book all the way through. It read well and followed the story well as i have found some memoirs dont always do that.


The author has written at least one more book that i know of, if not more and i think i’ll keep a look out for it. I liked this book, but it should come with a warning, it is very shocking.


Rating – 4/5