A Memoir of
My Early Years
"Home" was the first word that toddler Julia Wells -- soon to become Julie Andrews -- spoke. Though it was denied her as a young girl, a normal home life was important to Andrews from the beginning. The embodiment of a class act, Julie Andrews tells the story of her impoverished upbringing in London with grace and candor. She recounts what must be painful memories in a straightforward way, never whining or asking for pity. She holds nothing back.
Stories of her alcoholic stepfather -- and his obvious efforts to molest her -- left me shaken. When she was 9, he insists he show her "how I cuddle with Mummy." At 16, he shows up in her bedroom and demands that he "really must teach you to kiss properly." Her uncle installs a padlock on her bedroom door. Julie's two younger brothers are regularly beaten and abused. When her 3-year-old brother has a potty-training accident, the stepdad rubs the little boy's nose in it.
Andrews began performing to support the family while still very young. She tells fascinating stories of learning to sing properly and working the shabby vaudeville circuit. The result of her first screen test? "She's not photogenic enough for film." To combat the stress the 12-year-old would go to a nearby cinema to watch Mickey Mouse cartoons between her two
performances of the night.
The fact that Cinderella is her door out is almost too perfect. Later, when Walt Disney picked her to play Mary Poppins, she gets a whirlwind tour of Disneyland by Walt himself, riding the Jungle Cruise and seeing the Swiss Family Treehouse. "Mary Poppins" author P. L. Travers even calls her, complaining: "Well, you're much too pretty, of course. But you've got the nose for it!" The memoir ends there, with Andrews on the cusp of real stardom.
by Julie Neal
A Life Out of
SKYWRITING begins with the 2001 bipolar episode, a side effect of a heavy dosing of steroids for persistent hives. If the news stopped me, just a television viewer who does not know Pauley personally, imagine what it did to her, a person who always seemed to be sailing forward in her busy public life. As she healed, she began experimenting with what she calls "skywriting," starting out with an image or memory and seeing where the pen took her. When she was done, she had revisited her childhood, adolescence, career in television and family life. She invites readers along on her journey to self rediscovery.
Pauley's writing is clear as a bell, and the chapters on the bipolar experience are delivered without overdramatization. Once the book turns to her life, it measures out in segments reminiscent of "Dateline" pacing, with segues fraught with foreshadowing. Those looking for hot gossip will not find it. There are several personal revelations but none that will change the way Pauley is received in
the world: warm, smart and genuine. Few journeys of the self are as downright decent and ultimately as reassuring as this one.
Reviewed by C Ebeling
The Same River Twice
"The Same River Twice" was a very good book and it gave so much insight into who Alice Walker is as a person. I never knew that Ms. Walker has Lyme disease and that she loved to garden. The casting of certain individuals in certain roles shocked me it never dawned on that Tina Turner was their first choice in playing Shug Avery and that Lola Folana and Diana Ross were also considered for the part. Also I did not know that Ms. Walker had a problem completing the screenplay for the actual movie due her disease. Ms. Walker is one of the best authors of our time and it is a shame that people cannot see the beauty in her work.I do remember all of the controversy surrounding "The Color Purple" when I was a teenager and how I was forbidden to see the movie. When I finally saw the movie after it had been out on video cassette three years later I was shocked and enlightened all at the same moment. I was shocked at seeing two women kiss and enlightened to see Celie break away from her abusive husband and flourish as person. The book and the movie are different and people should read the book before passing judgement on Ms. Walker's character if they have only seen the movie. I know now Ms. Walker had somewhat of a different vision of her book being made into a movie than Steven.
Reviewed by PA Lewis
Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist from Cafe Society to Hollywood to HUAC
Hazel Scott's compelling story writtten by Karen Chilton captures you mmediately through adventure, extraordinary perseverance and determination exhibited by the female characters. Karen has woven this narrative of history, culture, gender and explicitly demonstrates how a black woman was brave, courageous and determined to fight for her ideals
and beliefs. Hazel Scott endures pain and obstacles, yet remained steadfast and purposeful exhibiting her talent as a child prodigy, an unselfish wife, a devoted mother and a fierce civil rights fighter.
Karen Chilton weaves the threads that will conquer the attention,applause and vicarious experiences with an anticipation that keeps you reading and wishing for more as the story concludes. Book clubs will be able to have enlightening, meaningful chats after reading "Hazel Scott, The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist from Cafe Society to Hollywood to HUAC". A must read!
Reviewed by Yvonne.
Sissy Spacek: My Extraordinary Ordinary Life
As a long time admirer of Sissy Spacek, I couldn't wait to listen to her autobiography. It was simply wonderful ! If I found myself back home before a section ended I would sit in the car and listen until I got to a stopping point. Sissy's story is not a gossipy Hollywood tell-all, so if that's what you're looking for, look elsewhere. This telling of Sissy's life, from her birth in Texas to New York and Hollywood and finally to her serene life in the horse country of Virginia is a open, honest and unvarnished as any autobiography I have ever read. Sissy makes the reader feel that she could be a friend telling her story while sitting together on a big front porch sipping iced tea and reminiscing about good times and some sad ones. I too grew up in the South about the same time Sissy did, but in a city, not a small town like Quitman, TX. She made me long for a small town childhood. The book is open, honest, and well-written. It captures the reader's attention from the first few words makes him/her wish for more when it ends. In a world where children of celebrities are dressed to look like mini adults, have every wish granted, and are indulged to a ridiculous extent, it is so refreshing to read that there is someone Like Sissy Spacek who had the good sense and enough concern for her family to move them away from all the trappings of Hollywood and rear them in a truly family-oriented environment. She has been married to the same man for over 30 years and makes no bones about how much they love each other. The bottom line is this: Sissy Spacek is for real and so is her book.
Reviewed by K Coxwell
Life in Motion:
An Unlikely Ballerina
Misty Copeland's story is an inspiring tale of overcoming a difficult childhood of poverty and rising en pointe to become a brilliant soloist with American Ballet Theater.
Misty's drill instructor (she was captain of the drill team at school) advised her to study ballet at the Boys and Girls Club, which became her salvation. She started at the late age of 13. But she was a prodigy, with natural strength sufficient to graduate to toe shoes after just three months of instruction. Ballet was her element, she became devoted to the art form, and was given unstinting support from the owner of the studio. She went to live with her teacher and her husband for two years, in the only stable and prosperous home she had known. But a custody struggle between her mother and her ballet teacher ended with Misty being returned to her mother.
However, her talent and hard work won out, and she was accepted at every summer ballet intensive ballet she auditioned for (with the exception of New York City Ballet!). She moved from the San Francisco Ballet's intensive summer to American Ballet Theater's, and was immediately encouraged by the director of the studio company, a feeder to the professional company.
The story of how Misty overcame the instability of her childhood and teenage years is told sensitively and with compelling interest. She is the first and only ballerina of color to reach soloist level in a classical ballet company, especially one of ABT's importance. All along she must overcome obstacles - of lack of confidence, of prejudice in favor of "white swans", and the universal ballet rule to have a boyish figure, while Misty was attractively feminine.
In the end, Misty is victorious, chosen to play the Firebird on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in a new ballet choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. After surgery for a serious injury, she is back at ABT and her future is still open before her. Her story will inspire teenage dancers. Graciously, she acknowledges the help her early dance teachers gave her and the past "black swans" she met and befriended during her career. I eagerly look forward to her sequel, when she becomes a principal at ABT.
Reviwed by Eileen Pollock
They're Playing our Song
Carole Bayer Sager
Once upon a time there was a fearful little girl who thought she was too short, too fat, and that she would never find Prince Charming. However, she was blessed with an amazing talent that enabled her to put words to music. She was also blessed with intelligence, spunk, an amazing ability to roll with the punches, no matter how painful, and a delicious self-deprecatory wit. All that is evident in this engrossing memoir by one of the great names in pop culture. Carole Bayer Sager did not have an easy childhood, beset as she was with fears and a mother who was the opposite of nurturing. Her Prince Charming, in the guise of Burt Bacharach, turned out to be not so charming. However, Carole recalls all the ups and downs of her incredibly successful life with understanding and humor and a great deal of forgiveness and graciousness to those who hurt her (Mom and Burt included). She writes with humor about events and situations that were undoubtedly not funny when they occurred and with warmth and affection for her many friends and the musicians with whom she worked. What a wonderful life she has led and is evidently still living with her family and her late career as an artist. This is one of the best memoirs I've read in a long time.
Reviewed by Galla
I have to say, this book was FAR more engaging than I had ever hoped for. I can easily say I loved every page and found myself thinking about it often during the day when I'd put it down. I'm a long-time fan of Ms. Streep, but the book is not just a great account of her life and development, it does a terrific job of bringing to life an entire era of AMerican social, political and dramatic revolution. The details are both funny and yet often intimate; you gain insight into the actress yes, but as well all of the "cast" of people who have been around her. So fans of recent history will be as rewarded as fans of Meryl Streep.
What stands out the most to me is just how much Ms. Streep worked to bring her amazing gifts to life, never taking anything for granted, never settling.
Reviewed by Doug bowker
I could NOT put this book down. The more I read this book the more I thought I was reading about myself. Aside from the meteorologist part....Ginger has had some incredible experiences both negative and positive and this book shows you that everyone is dealing with tha right own struggles. Nobody is perfect and she highlights this beautifully. It’s very well written, a little sporadic and all over the place and keeps you wanting to know what happens next. I think I’ll be re-reading this a few times.
reviewed by Kristen B
I read this in two days, Doris lived a life that was risque & daring. It baffles me how she was able to lure & charm all the different employees at various jewelry stores to show her more jewelry than they should have, and be able to steal right under their eyes. I definitely see Kerry Washington or Halle Berry playing Doris in a movie version of this book. A great read!!
reviewed by Gloria Serrano
Just started reading Todd's book and it's one of the best biographies I've read. The flow is great, feels like we are sitting one and one and having a conversation. It's a very intimate portrait of a life lived with two amazing, legendary women. I appreciate his candor, and Todd sharing his perspective with us, even allowing us a more in-depth glimpse into their lives by granting access to his personal archives of photos and videos (available on his website). You can tell he is a very genuine, caring person who was trusted implicitly by his mother and sister. What an incredible, unique life this family lived. I can't imagine the devastating loss and tremendous void left with their deaths so close together. I highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by Darlene Smith
A great book with lots of photos, and such a personal story. I'm from Tennessee and have followed Tina and loved her music for so long. It was nice to catch up with her since her retirement by reading this memoir. It's amazing what she has gone through and overcome, even since her days with Ike.
This book starts with her second marriage in 2013. It dwells a bit in the past and covers her days with Ike and on tour, eventually walking away from that and reinventing herself, and then retiring and finding love again. From there, we learn of her struggle with cancer, a stroke, and a kidney transplant! The book even ends with one last tragedy that just happened earlier this year!
I really enjoyed the personal stories she shared, like about her friendship with David Bowie or her farewell tour or why she became a citizen of Switzerland. There's lots of little things like this sprinkled throughout the book that really make it an enjoyable read.
Great read! Tina really is simply the best!
Reviewed by Shannon Yarbough
Tina Turner: My Love Story.