Category Archives: Memoir

This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aiden Chambers

Let me start by saying that This is All has been sitting in the purgatory that is my To Read list for at least a handful of years. It’s a fictional diary of sorts, detailing the life and writings of 15-19 year old Brit Cordelia Kenn. She begins the book as a sixteenth birthday present to her unborn child and it chronicles her first love, losing her virginity, her budding friendship with a beloved teacher, and the growing pains-strangled relationship that she and her parents struggled with. n232254

I absolutely loved it–thank sweet baby Jesus–because the massive tome is 800 pages long! (And, I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean when I say that there’s Harry Potter 800 pages and… well… everything else 800 pages.) A few months ago I read The Kissing Game by Mr. Chambers and I just didn’t get it. So color me surprised that a 70 year old man could capture the inner-workings of a teenage girl with such clarity!

“The demons of the Devil don’t use your weak weaknesses against you, they use your strong ones. If you’re rational and logical, they argue their case rationally and logically. If you’re loyal and faithful, they turn those against you. If you’re passionate and emotional, they make you passionate and emotional about your worse fears. Your weak weaknesses are no use to them…. They find the strongest weaknesses you didn’t know were yours and use those against you.”

The hugeness of it all is divided into several parts to digest more easily. I didn’t mind that, but for some reason Chambers felt it necessary to have a 150+ page book that required you to flip back and forth every other page A to B to follow two different strains of Cordelia’s experience at once. I understand that one is what she was writing at the time and the other was what she was living at the time, but spare me. It’s awkward enough to support such a heavy book for hours on end without having to keep track of where the hell you are every two pages.

(As a side note: I don’t remember if it was ever described, but I always pictured Cordelia and Will to be black. It doesn’t matter really, but did anyone else find themselves imagining the same thing? Also, the ending and the tampon scene… SAY WHAAAAT?!)

All in all, probably one of the best coming-of-age stories I have ever read. I just wish I had the clarity, strength of character, and insight that Cordelia had when I was floundering through my teen years.

5 mopes of 5

 

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Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah

falling leaves

I’ve seen Falling Leaves around a lot the last few years because when I worked at a bookstore, it was on the local students’ required reading list. I seem to have a thing for Asian authors and genres, so I decided to give it a go. Little did I realize, I kind of read the child’s version Chinese Cinderella more than a decade ago.

It’s been too long for me to remember much of Chinese Cinderella–all I can recall is my twelve-year old self sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of the night because of this damn book. It was good, but totally gut-wrenching.

So basically, that’s what I was expecting of Falling Leaves. I was pretty much ready to be really sad for a few days.

But that wasn’t so much the case.

AYM goes into detail of what her childhood and life was like, but she seemed much more factual and less emotional in this book than she was in CC. In fact, far from being devastated, I was actually kinda ehhh during the whole thing. I wanted passion, I wanted tears! It was just a little too chronological and dry for my tastes, especially after reading CC.

Damn public schools, always gotta pick the boring books to kill kids’ love of reading…

*le sigh*

3 ducklings of 5


Postcards from the Zoo by Darill Clements

Darill Clements stumbled into her job in PR and Marketing for Taronga Zoo almost on accident. She answered an add in the paper–and even though she’d never liked animals–she landed the job that would change her life. For 25 years she worked closely with people and exotic animals at one of Australia’s most famous zoos and now, after retirement, she shares her experiences.  postcards-from-zoo-darill-clements-paperback-cover-art

I just want to start off by saying how extremely jealous of her I am. I’d love to work at a zoo and I’ve always LOVED animals. It wouldn’t be like going to work at all, and would teach you a lot about life. (I’m still devastated that Steve Irwin will never be my husband/best friend. I cried for two weeks when he died).

I couldn’t really get into Postcards from the Zoo, though. It was one of those books where I’d find myself at the bottom of the page and not remember how I got there. I don’t know if there were just too many superfluous dates and places thrown in there, to where it read too much like a timeline and not enough like little anecdotes.

The stories were cute, but not very entertaining. Oh, the monkeys escaped, and oh the pandas came to visit. I’ve read similar books with funnier/sweeter/more touching stories. I did like her describing the transformation the zoo underwent through the years, from concert slabs and bars to more natural habitats. Not only is it more visually appealing to the guests, but also a much more pleasant place to live for the animals. Plus, she gained a newfound love and respect for animals that she never had before. The little blocks of text with animal and zoo facts were very informative, but also distracting.

It was an easy read, but I’d skip it.

2 blue giraffe tongues of 5

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Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea & Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler

Phew. That’s a lot of Chelseas. Especially when you consider these books are being reviewed by a Chelsea too! I’ve been casually following Chelsea Handler’s work since her days on the Girls Behaving Badly show. It used to really crack me up in my teen years. My roommate and I even enjoyed watching her show Chelsea Lately whenever we caught it, reveling in her sarcastic-bitch sense of humor. I love that. I find mean people hilarious. And she’s mean. And probably an alcoholic.  

I read My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands a few years back and found it pretty amusing. What’s not to love about a collection of casual sex stories? She should’ve called it, A Series of Unfortunate Decisions. Lmao. I recall a circus midget being in one of the stories. Really.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t so fond of either of these two books.

I read Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang in one day, because it’s a really easy read. I do appreciate that about Chelsea’s writing. Both of these books follow her traditional format of each chapter being a humorous story that stands alone. But, the stories in CCBB just seemed a little too self-appreciative and not as funny as the improv banter on her show. This book just kind of gave the impression of “I’m rich and funny, laugh at me!”

When I was finished, I remembered that I had Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea on my Kindle, so I promptly started that. I found this one slightly more amusing and less ego-stroking than CCBB. This one was written beforehand, so maybe she wasn’t quite as full of herself during this time. A lot of drunken craziness ensues, which I’m all for, but it somehow just isn’t that funny. I only laughed aloud a couple of times in each book, and it wasn’t ever because of the punchline of a story–more for random strange things like referring to her fat father as “Platypus.”

I still love you, Chelsea, and I’ll continue to watch your show–but my girlfriends and I have been known to have more wild nights than your books illustrate, with a fraction of the money and only a drop of ego.

3 Ketel One and Lemons of 5


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Lisa See’s work is surprising fascinating. Previous to picking up her delightfully tragic novel Peony In Love, I never would’ve believed Ancient Imperial China could be so dang interesting. This confidence in See’s writing ability and historical accuracy drew me to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

The protagonist, Lily, is a lower-middle class second daughter to a quietly tense farming household. At a young age, a matchmaker realizes that Lily has great marriageable potential because of auspicious aspects of the girl’s signs. But the most unexpected thing of all–Lily discovers that she is to have a laotong (life-long sworn friend) with a little girl named Snow Flower. The excitement she feels upon hearing the news is nothing compared to the rich friendship that eventually develops over the course of a lifetime. But when Snow Flower’s future and status start going a much separate way from her own, how is Lily supposed to choose between propriety and deference to her in-laws and her much beloved friend?

I will say that Lisa See does a great job of painting a picture of what life was like (especially for women) in that ancient period. The way she describes textures and colors and scents really draws you into the story. However, I do with that she had explained the exact era in a bit more detail. (My guess would be the late-1800’s–it’s hard to say since the Chinese Empire lasted from 221 BC to 1912 AD).

Beautiful Moon was my favorite character, even though she had a very short role in the story. Lily seemed to strict and prim for Snow Flower to be friends with, and Snow Flower seemed so detached and strange to Lily. I never really felt an affection for Snow Flower, and it’s hard for me to swallow a culture where women had so little choice. 

I enjoyed reading SFATSF but not enough to read it again. It lacked the magic and myth of Peony in Love and while learning about the torturous foot-binding tradition was crazy–it wasn’t enough to carry a story about a half-hearted friendship. The friendship never seemed true to me, it just seemed like two lonely girls happy about finally getting some attention.

3 of 5 secret fans


How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson

I will say, that when I worked at a book store, Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star was certainly one of the most eye-catching titles on the shelf. (A tribute well spoken for by the oft dog-eared pages and bent spines found on every copy in any bookstore. Is it all about the boobs, people?) 

I won’t lie, the title is what caught my attention. Putting the words “make love” and “porn star” in the same sentence is very amusing. But, sure, I’m game to see what Jenna has to say.

HTMLLAPS is Jameson’s autobiographical (with the help of Neil Strauss) tale of her rather rough upbringing and multiple molestations. *cough* Surprise, surprise… She chronicles her various sorted relationships, both hetero- and homosexual with pretty much every crappy person you can imagine. Also, she details her rise to fame and fortune within the porn industry as one of the most touted members of their community. (She started stripping when she was 17 and evolved in the business from there).

Astonishingly, this book didn’t have as much shock factor as I’d initially anticipated.  I don’t know whether that means it was tame by porn star comparisons, or that I’m hopelessly jaded–but either way it was an interesting sneak peak into what life on the “dark side” is like. (Not only was Jameson stripping and doing porn–she was also addicted to meth, pain pills, and alcohol through various stages of her life). I was expecting some terrible cringe-fest that left me running to get an HIV test and take a hot shower. Not the case. There was a lot of sex talk, obviously, but most of it was described in a very professional manner and didn’t seem at all that provocative. In fact, I believe Jenna did a great job taking the mystery/glamour away from the porn industry, shining light on the fact that it isn’t just “easy” money–it’s actually pretty fucking sleazy money.

Of course, this book was published in 2004 and much has changed in Jameson’s life in the last 8 years, both professional, personally, and romantically. I would give this a go if you want a little cheap poolside reading material. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of reading it at work–it’s full of topless photos.

But, as much as I admire Jenna’s tenacity for picking herself up, dusting herself off, and starting over… You won’t catch me bringing my dad as my date to the AVN awards anytime soon…

3 saline implants of 5

If you’re interested in this book, you can buy it here.


Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara

Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay by Adair Lara was my poolside read of choice over the weekend. Sheesh. Holy long title, Batman. My roommate –whom I have been BFFs with for almost 10 years and lived with for 3–got me this book as a gift after I graduated college. She said she saw it and immediately knew she had to buy it for me. Hahah, very funny. She just knows me too well, I guess!

Although there really is no nudity or drunkenness between Lara’s pages (a fact that I was greatly disappointed about, I might add…) she has built a solid resource for those brave souls willing to display their dirty laundry for all to see. I like that fact that people other than celebrities are getting to share their life stories because–really–do we need to learn ANYTHING else about the Kardashian’s antics? Or Snooki’s? (A big resounding EFF NO is the answer I’m looking for here, people…) These are true stories, as true as a memory can be, that is. Philandering husbands, failing parents, pregnant teenagers, upsetting accidents–anything goes because THIS IS YOUR LIFE.

You just run the risk of everyone you’ve ever cared about hating your guts, that’s all. 

I did enjoy reading this book, and Lara’s writing style presented the facts in a much less boring way than I was anticipating. Most writing guides are so full of the technical stuff that it’s impossible to enjoy them after the first half. I am glad I read this book and am interested in reading her memoir of raising her hellion daughter (since she mentioned it so much,which I will admit became slightly annoying). I love gossip just as much as the next person, which is pretty much what a memoir boils down to. Dramatic, secretive, personal events that were turning points in your life. Now who doesn’t want to nose into someone else’s business, really?

For anyone aspiring to write their own memoir (and totally out their family in the process), this book is for you.

4 naked writers out of 5