Dual #Autobiography The Backpack Years by Stefanie And James Wilson.

The Backpack YearsThe Backpack Years by Stefanie Wilson

3.5 stars

The Backpack years is a dual autobiography from the authors of this book and is about their early adult years spent travelling in Asia, Australia and parts of Europe.

It begins a couple of years into the 21st century with separate accounts of how Stef and James came to be backpackers and where they met. Following chapters detail their times together and their struggles with work, relationships and travel.

The book is written in alternate chapters from Stef and James, so at times there is an overlap of a situation or a tale. These are the memoirs of two young people making their tentative steps into adulthood and all the frustrations and responsibilities that a life as a couple brings.

As a memoir about an important era in their lives, I believe that this works well and I’m sure that close family and friends may well enjoy reading this as it will fill gaps in their knowledge of the couple.

However, if you picked this up for its backpacking and travel content, do remember that events took place 15-20 years ago. I’m not sure that I was the right audience for this book, I enjoy armchair travel, but some of the things that these young people saw and took part in made me quite sad.

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Part travel, part romance, part failing at life, The Backpack Years intertwines two memoirs, charting Stef and James’s six-year journey from happily wandering to miserably settled and back again.

Straight-laced Stef left America to study abroad in Spain, letting loose and falling head over heels for two things: a handsome local and travel. Travel won out.

James had a future in England he felt he’d already destroyed. Fueled by debt and a deteriorating relationship with his father, James fled to Australia and found something better.

After language mishaps in France and a topless night in Tenerife, an awful offal job in Warrnambool and a kidnapped manicure in Bali, Stef and James meet at an Irish pub in Sydney.

Though their adventures are pulling them in different directions, they ditch the single life to forge a path together.

Can the two navigate their way through red-tape, relocation, miscommunication, and a last ditch, make-or-break trip to try to save their relationship, or will this be their last adventure as a couple?

Spanning thirteen countries and four continents, The Backpack Years is a story about how far we’re willing to go to be with the one we love.

Rosie’s #BookReview of #Memoir A Young Lady’s Miscellany by Auriel Roe

A Young Lady's MiscellanyA Young Lady’s Miscellany by Auriel Roe

3 stars

A Young Lady’s Miscellany is a book written in the style of a memoir about a young woman’s experiences of growing up. Instigated by the discovery of a Victorian self-help guide in her Grandmother’s belongings, the author loosely uses ‘advice’ in the book as she weaves her way through life.

I believe that this reflection is about the author’s life rather than a work of fiction which took me a while to work out and to settle into the narrative. The writing pace skips along— never letting up— as we gallop through a vast amount of past history from the narrator’s early teen years to her twenties. Most of the writing is linear in time but sometimes the author dots back to an earlier episode in life.

Memoirs can be an awkward genre to review as their content needs to appeal to enough readers; some are more suited to friends and family who already know the writer, while others have a subject matter within that is interesting to a wider audience. I found this story hard to warm to, although I did become more engaged with the characters the further I got into it and it was the last third which I found most interesting. My main disappointment, however, was that I thought that the book was going to be a Victorian story featuring the lady implied by the book title and part of me kept waiting for that story to begin.

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What’s a girl of fourteen to do when she finds herself alone in the world with no one to guide her? Why, follow the Victorian self-help guide, ‘A Young Lady’s Miscellany’, of course! The trouble is, the advice it offers proves less than helpful in a contemporary context. Muddling through, often with disastrous results, she finds a friend in her recently widowed grandmother, the door to whose small house is always open. Inept at any job she is able to get and pursued by a slew of unsuitable suitors, she must instead spend a decade navigating her own miscellany in order to come of age.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview of #Memoir ONE MONTH IN TOHOKU: An Englishwoman’s memoir about life after the 2011 Japanese Tsunami by @CarolinePover

One Month in Tohoku: An Englishwoman's Memoir on Life after the Japanese TsunamiOne Month in Tohoku: An Englishwoman’s Memoir on Life after the Japanese Tsunami by Caroline Pover

4 stars

One Month In Tohoku is an Englishwoman’s memoir about life after the 2011 Japanese Tsunami. 

Author Caroline Pover was on a solo holiday in Saipan when the disaster occurred, though she had lived in Japan for several years and thought of it as her adopted home. The pictures and news from Japan were terrible and Caroline felt a deep need to do something for the victims, but she had no suitable rescue skills. Instead, she flew back to England, and began using her network of contacts to raise money and supplies for the survivors. 

This is an inspiring story of one woman’s idea which expanded across the globe. The fundraising campaigns and the generous support which Caroline received were brilliant. She then went on to take the supplies to the heart of the people who needed them. With a determination to raise spirit, Caroline initially filled two lorries with items and later she organised goods to be delivered to a local distribution point. 

Caroline went to the Oshika peninsula, a six and a half hour drive north of Tokyo where people had only the clothes that they were wearing when they escaped the tsunami. Their houses and businesses no longer existed and they were sheltering in cramped emergency conditions.  

This was more than a one-off plan. Caroline returned to the area as often as possible and she listened to what the people needed; she used financial donations for projects to help rebuild the communities. She kept all the sponsors informed of how their money was spent, and this built up a great relationship between the donors and the recipients. One of the main problems with many of the charities today is that people believe that their money gets used up in administration and transport costs, but Caroline made sure all of the money and sponsorship went directly to the people. 

This book is much more than just one month in Tohoku; this is the story of the people and the communities and how they rebuilt their lives, and about the kindness in the world for complete strangers. Caroline has returned to Oshika almost every year. Although so much of it is sad, there is also so much that is good and happy. I think anyone who has ever considered voluntary work would enjoy reading this, especially those frustrated by the red tape which often prevents the right donations getting to the people who really need them. 

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Book description

On March 11, 2011, one of the biggest earthquakes in history occurred off the northeast coast of Japan, triggering a deadly tsunami that destroyed much of the Tohoku coastline.

Driven by a desire to help the people of Tohoku, long-time Tokyo resident Caroline Pover embarked on a mission to collect emergency supplies from her native UK. Caroline delivered these supplies to an isolated part of Japan that even many Japanese have never heard of: the Oshika Peninsula. While there, she saw beyond the horror of the debris and destruction, and fell in love with the beauty of the landscape and the spirit of the people who had called the peninsula home for hundreds of years since their samurai ancestors first settled there. Compelled to do whatever she could to help, she promised to return, once more, just for a month …

“One Month in Tohoku” is the true story of what became the many months Caroline spent visiting Oshika. During extended periods of time over the course of many years, she lived alongside the people of Oshika, and they embraced her as one of their own — she still visits them to this day. This book tells us about a very traditional way of life in a remote community that cares deeply about all who are a part of it. It is the story of how, after a disaster took away everything they had, these seemingly forgotten fishing communities are still rebuilding their lives. It is also the story of how a network of people from all over the globe were inspired to donate millions of yen to support families, schools, and businesses, and to never forget the survivors of the world’s costliest disaster.

To commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the tsunami, Caroline has set out in words a deeply moving tale of the very human impact of a natural disaster. Readers will cry tears of laughter as well as tears of sadness, and be touched by Caroline’s surprising humour and honesty and that of her Oshika friends as they unexpectedly become so beloved to one another. This is the story of a beautiful friendship between a very determined Englishwoman and the incredibly brave and resilient fishermen, women, and children of Tohoku.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT DANGEROUS by Ian Probert @Truth42 #Boxing industry #Memoir

Today’s team review is from Chris, she blogs here http://cphilippou123.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Chris has been reading Dangerous by Ian Probert


An unexpected read that delves deep into the issues that athletes and fans face when things go wrong in sport.

A few decades after leaving the sport behind following a rather harrowing event, ex sports journalist Ian Probert returns to investigate boxing and all the changes that have occurred since his last foray into the sport. And change it has…

Based on the blurb, I was expecting a book on boxing but, instead, I got a memoir punctuated by meetings, memories, and the good (and bad) that the sport brought out in the author. This was an interesting story that delved into the depths of the human psyche, and charts the effects that wins, losses, and retirement can have on fighters and fans alike. It is not always comfortable or indeed pleasurable reading, but it is a very interesting memoir cum investigation that makes you think about the sport in very different ways.

*Thank you to the author and to #RBRT for my free review copy.

Book Description

A quarter of a century ago journalist and author Ian Probert decided never to write about boxing again. His decision was prompted by the injuries sustained by boxer Michael Watson during his world title fight with Chris Eubank. Now, in common with so many fighters, Probert is making an inevitable comeback. Dangerous sees Probert return to the scene of an obsession that has gripped him from childhood. In the course of numerous meetings with a number of leading figures in the fight game, including Herol Graham, Steve Collins, Michael Watson, Nigel Benn, Ambrose Mendy, Rod Douglas, Frank Buglioni, Kellie Maloney, Glen McCrory and Jim McDonnell among others, Probert takes a look at how lives have changed, developed and even unravelled during the time he has been away from the sport. From an illuminating and honest encounter with transgender fight manager Kellie Maloney to an emotional reunion with Watson himself, Probert discovers just how much the sport has changed during his absence. The end result is one of the most fascinating and unusual books ever to have been written about boxing.

About the author

Ian Probert

Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager.

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THERE’S ALWAYS MORE TO SAY by Lynda Young Spiro #Memoir @lyndaspiro

There is Always More to Say: A Never-Ending Story About an Everlasting FriendshipThere is Always More to Say: A Never-Ending Story About an Everlasting Friendship by Lynda Young Spiro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three Point Five Stars.

There is always more to say reads as a memoir about a long friendship between two people who first met in London in 1984. The narrator had a job in a Soho café and met Alex when she swapped shifts one day. Alex was here from the States and the pair bonded and kept in touch sporadically throughout their later life.

This a pouring out of all the unsaid emotions, passions and frustrations the narrator felt about their relationship. The sub-characters all have suitable cross gender names which leave the reader guessing and double guessing as to who they really were; Sam, Charlie and Ashley are all cleverly written to give little away. Sometimes it worked and other times the lack of any real labels to attach them too became annoying. There were also some places where the narrative became repetitive which slowed the storyline. I did enjoy the quotes at the beginning and ends of chapters. This is an unusual book, but a quick read.

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Book Description

A heartfelt novel about the connections that bring people together.
Soho 1984: Two people meet and their worlds are changed forever. An unexpected meeting – a look that means their lives will never be the same again. 
In There Is Always More To Say Lynda Spiro chronicles the lives of the couple through friendships, marriage, fleeting moments and snatched time. It is a passionate account about a connection between two people that never dies even when tested by distance and when life throws the unexpected at their feet.

About the author

Lynda Spiro

Lynda Young Spiro is a mixed media artist whose love of textiles, found objects and recyclable materials are incorporated into her colourful work. Lynda was born in 1959 in Hampstead, London, where she now lives with her husband and two sons. Her previous book Latch-Hooking Rugs is published by A & C Black. There is Always More to Say is her first novel.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A MINGER’S TALE: BEGINNINGS by @rbnbookmark #Memoir

Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs at http://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading A Minger’s Tale: Beginnings by R.B.N Bookmark



There are many reasons why someone writes a book and for this author it was the death of his father that was the trigger for him to start telling his story which is in the form of a memoir, and this, as the subtitle promises, covers the early days of his life, from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.

I was a little behind on some of things this writer experienced for two reasons. Firstly, I am a few years younger so my terms of reference are a little off, and secondly, we grew up in very different worlds. Ribban, for that is what everyone calls him, was born to strict, hardworking Irish immigrants and was brought up on the harsh council house streets of Manchester, while I was not.

I really enjoyed the reminiscences of his family and of a childhood growing up among the regeneration (or as he calls it disintegration) schemes that gave the local children an unusual playground of empty houses awaiting demolition to play in. Ribban was a naughty child who struggled to settle into school, and later into work, and he was in and out of hospital which set back his education. He talks candidly about the corporal punishment he endured (something seen as perfectly normal at the time) and about being rubbish at maths and with women, although that became more apparent later on. I have to add that I absolutely loved his mother – her defence of him when he started at St Iggy’s was priceless and the time when she went to get a job – I could picture her perfectly.

The things I did not enjoy so much was the author putting himself down all the time by using the term minger. As we are told at the beginning of this book the British slang definition of this term is someone who fell out of the ugly tree at birth and hit every branch on the way down. I suspect some readers will also find some of the one liners a little cheesy. But you know what this is an honest book, telling things like they are so I guess these are pretty true to life.

There is so much to comment on as you read this book, unemployment, riots, the effect the Thatcher era had on the North that it’s well worth a read if only to compare lives and experiences during this time.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

THE SECRET PIANO by Zhu Xiao-Mei #Autobiography #Memoir #China Revolution #TuesdayBookBlog

The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg VariationsThe Secret Piano: From Mao’s Labor Camps to Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Zhu Xiao-Mei
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Secret Piano by Zhu Xiao-Mei is an autobiography or true-life memoir of a talented Chinese pianist. It deals in detail with the Cultural Revolution in China which took place between 1966 and 1971 and how extreme it was.

Mao Zedong’s vision was of a China fee of Capitalism, Imperialism and with a victorious Communist way of living; no rich, no poor, only well fed workers and peasants. The reality was very different.

Xiao-Mei’s family pre-revolution were given opportunities, her mother was a music teacher and at times the sole bread-winner. A change from traditional Chinese upbringing where wives were often seen as being “useful wife” or “wise mother”. Ziao-Mei’s mother had gone to school and been the best student, she stood up to the proposal of an arranged marriage and married the man she loved. They had five girls and no sons which was disapproved of in Chinese society.

As a child Xiao-Mei fell in love with music and her mother taught her to play the piano. she got a place in the Beijing Conservatory a music school where she was intensely taught piano. However Mao’s Cultural Revolution soon caught up, a campaign against culture, and anyone seen as having any connections to a once privilege lifestyle. The people were forced to look inside at themselves and self-criticise first themselves and then others in daily self-denunciation and enforced brain-washing. It seemed that no one was allowed to feel more important than the lowest person in China.

Demonstrations, public humiliation and violence spread out of control, splitting up families, pitting everyone against each other. Millions of Chinese were uprooted and sent to re-education camps which in reality were imprisoned labour camps. Xiao-Mei spent five terrible years suffering in such prisons.

With Mao’s death the harsh grip on China dissolved, but the people were left dazed and disoriented years behind other world cultures. Throughout it all Xiao-Mei’s love of music kept her strong enough to survive. She left China, first for Hong-King , then America and finally found a home in France. The second half of the book tells of her struggles to understand the “free” society first in America and then in France, but she found many helping hands and her music saw her through. Xiao-Mei’s renditions of Bach’s Goldberg variations are very well known in the music world and this book is her life-story.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com available free from Kindle Unlimited

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT RUNNING IN HEELS by Mary A Peréz @MarysReflection #Memoir

Today’s team review is from Aurelia, she blogs at http://mcneilsreviews.com/book-reviews/

#RBRT Review Team

Aurelia has been reading Running In Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace by Mary A Peréz


In Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace Mary A. Peréz tells her life story – a Puerto Rican girl who experiences severe poverty as a niña, teenage marriage and subsequent divorce, single parenthood with cuatro niños, and a second marriage in which the finally proves to be satisfying. But, it’s not just the story line that makes this book alluring, it’s the way the story is told. Every word is rich and carefully selected. Every page grasps the readers’ attention. Every chapter demonstrates the fine art of writing. The dialogue, the letters, and the descriptions evoke imagery. Indeed this book reads like a movie. And, without being preachy in the slightest bit, Mary A. Peréz shows how God-given principles shape her decisions. For instance, she writes:  “My kids happily camped out in their backyard in a tent under a full moon. Out of respect for Mark’s Jehovah’s Witness family, I slept on their couch while Mark spread out nearby on the floor.”

Anyone can benefit by obtaining and reading a copy of Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace. (5 out of 5) I highly recommend it.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT BREADLINE by Alain Dizerens

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs at http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Terry has been reading Breadline by Alain Dizerens


Breadline by Alain Dizerens

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by me as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team

Hmm – a strange one! It’s not very long, probably novelette or short novella length, a memoir of the jobs taken on by the author, from experience of Vietnam, to a distributor for washing powder samples, a nightwatchman, and time on a kibbutz.

The whole presentation is quite ‘experimental’, a series of memory snapshots with little to link them together. It needs editing, for sure, and the style is eccentric, but it’s not without charm. I liked some parts, like the author’s take on pretentious art critics, while working as a caretaker at a Picasso exhibition, and of the banal attitude of the masses who passed by the works of art as if they were wallpaper or worse, and I very much liked his observation about how, when returning from Vietnam, even things like being able to switch on a light or sit in a comfortable chair felt like luxuries, but how quickly one got used to them, and began to complain about stuff that didn’t matter, again…

This books reminded me of the early days of self-publishing on Kindle, before writers were urged to make their books conform to professional standards, and to be aware of their market; I imagine that with some re-drafting, more detail and a more enticing cover this would appeal to the reader who seeks the unconventional.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT BREADLINE by Alain Dizerens #WeekendBlogShare

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs at http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Noelle has been reading Breadline by Alan Dizerens


Book Review: Breadline by Alain Dizerens

It took me a while to get through this book, mostly because it is so descriptively rich that it was like eating a double chocolate fudge cake with dark chocolate icing: you can only digest a little at a time.

This is an autobiographical novel of a man trying to experience, and find his place in, the world – while trying to support himself. He is a self-proclaimed “adventurer of dreams” and his first adventure is in Vietnam during the war there. He experiences the conflict first hand, never expecting to see the next day’s dawn, until he decides he’s had enough and returns home.

He wallows in the comfort of western civilization for a few weeks, before the feeling of well-being wears off. There follows a series of experiences that leave him discouraged: a distributor of laundry powder samples to housewives, never being able to fulfill his quota; an assembler of tiny components in a sewing machine factory; a hunting guide who’s never fired a gun in Cameroon; part-time custodian at a Picasso exhibit; a night watchman who’s afraid of the dark; a volunteer in a kibbutz after the Yom Kippur War, where he works in a brush factory while reading the Torah at night – all of these jobs are described with great wit and not a little humor.

His descriptions of being a custodian at the Picasso exhibit resonated profoundly with me; as a tour guide I experienced many of the appalling and curious tourist behaviors he did, but was never as sanguine. I certainly couldn’t describe them with as much fun.

His descriptive paragraphs are vivid, if composed of one long run-on sentence:

“On miniature stuffed wicker stools in front of small bistros with a single, naked light bulb and walls painted in absinthe green of Sahara blue, unshaven men in the black and white checkered keffiyeh drink coffee in tiny dirty glasses while others, wearing turbans and wrapped in old coasts, string their sup’ah absently to the sounds of lamenting Arabic music.”

Home again in Europe, he takes a dream job (good pay, nights off, and the use of his creative skills) in a professional training center with several thousand, minority apprentice mechanics, masons, electricians, fitters, butchers, hairdressers and florists. There he teaches a bit of law, accounting, correspondence, French, civics and economics. More laughs, this time out loud.

Unfortunately, he runs into the brotherhood of ‘sworn-in methodologists,’ which make his job a nightmare. And more laughs, this time based on my own personal experience.

And then, he writes a book…

To read Breadline is a unique experience, and one I recommend everyone try. Part philosophy, part humor, part captivating prose – this book has it all. The one minor flaw was the tendency of the prose to assume a shade of purple in some spots, a little over the top. Perhaps because this book is a translation from the French?

In any event, I recommend Breadline. I know many of Rosie’s followers will enjoy it, even in small bites.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com