Tag Archive | Stories I Only Tell My Friends

Segnalibro Book of the Year 2015

In my first year of book reviewing, I have read some fantastic books. The ones that have stood out particularly have been made Book of the Month in the month that I read them. I’ve given myself the unenviable challenge of picking one of these books to be the Segnalibro Book of the Year for 2015. As I write this post, I have to admit, I think it is going to be a very difficult choice. However, to help me to decide, and to give you a chance to offer your opinion on what you think should be made Book of the Year 2015, here’s a recap of the books I’ve had as my Book of the Month throughout the Year.

March 2015 – Wicked Game by Matt Johnson

It was Matt Johnson who I have to thank for my decision to review books on a regular basis. When I set up www.segnalibro.co.uk back in March, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to write about. However, having been approached by Rob Sinclair (author of the fabulous Dance with the Enemy and the equally fabulous Rise of the Enemy) to read their books, I found myself wanting to tell everyone who was interested what I thought of their books. After reading Matt and Rob’s great debut novels, I realised that I could enjoy books that were not in a genre that I’d necessarily choose, and with some fantastic support and advice from Matt, not to mention a great introduction to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books, I decided to make the bulk of my posts book reviews. I have enjoyed every minute and that is in no small part to Matt Johnson. His debut novel, Wicked Game, is a brilliant crime mystery novel which has a multitude of twists and turns in the life of main protagonist, Robert Finlay. I was so enthused by his novel that it was made March Book of the Month, Segnalibro’s first. This book has recently had a rejuvenation following Matt’s signing to Orenda Books and I am really looking forward to seeing how this amazing book has been improved.

Twitter ID: @matt_johnson_uk

April 2015 – The Last Days of Disco by David F. Ross


As previously mentioned, I was introduced by Matt Johnson to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books, who has kindly sent me a number of novels for me to read and review since. One of those books was The Last Days of Disco by David F.Ross. This book is brilliant because it enticed me on so many different levels. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me nostalgic as I considered my own 80’s childhood.  I loved this book when I read it and have since recommended it as a must-read. The follow up, The Rise & Fall of The Miraculous Vespas, has just been released and I am very much looking forward to reading and reviewing it in the near future.

Twitter ID: @dfr10

May 2015 – One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie

One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie was the first book this year that floored me by how emotive the narrative was and how beautifully constructed it was by Steven Suttie to have the maximum emotional impact. I was a an emotional wreck when I finished this book, leaving my partner to wonder what the hell was going on to leave me so inconsolable! The combination of the subject matter i.e. a vigilante killing paedophiles and the journalistic style in which it is written leaves the reader to formulate their own opinions without the author pushing one opinion or another on you. I have since recommended this book to anyone who would listen and those who have read it have been just as floored as I was. It’s follow up, Neighbours from Hell, didn’t quite have the same impact, but I believe there may be a third novel in the making that may sort out some of the open ends in the second book. I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

Twitter ID: @stevensuttie

June 2015

Matt Johnson had a second month as Book of the Month in June with his follow up to Wicked Game, Deadly Game. I had eagerly anticipated the release of this novel, and there is always a sense of trepidation when you have enjoyed a novel so much and the sequel is released, as it has a lot to live up to. Deadly Game didn’t disappoint, as twists and turns ensued and Robert Finlay was a fascinating main protagonist. These two novels were so cleverly written and had a lot of political resonance too. What I loved most about this book, is Johnson’s portrayal of Finlay’s struggle with the symptoms of PTSD, something that Johnson has openly admitted to suffering with, his first book being written as a kind of therapy to combat his symptoms. The decision to use this approach with Finlay undoubtedly lessens the direct action so prominent in Wicked Game, somewhat of a risk on Johnson’s part, but one that certainly paid off. This was a brilliant sequel and again, I’m very much looking forward to Finlay’s future adventures.

July 2015 – Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

I got a little bit of stick from those who know me for making this book my July Book of the Month, as I am known to be a big Rob Lowe fan. Having made a massive deal out of getting a tweet from the man himself following my review of Love Life,  I can understand why this may have been an easy assumption to make! However, I can honestly say, hand on heart, that there was no favouritism involved in my decision to make this book my July Book of the Month. It is genuinely a fascinating, wonderfully written autobiography, that contains an intelligence not often found in celebrity autobiographies. There are plenty of celebrity tales, but it would have been impossible not to, mainly because Lowe has spent most of his life in and around celebrity circles (he used to play at Martin Sheen’s house with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez as a child!). However, what struck me about this book, and it’s sequel Love Life, is that Lowe is not a name dropper for the sake of it. Every tale he tells are about people who have influenced his life, good and bad, decisions he has made, for better or for worse, and most importantly, how he holds the same values dear to him as many other people who do not have his celebrity status. His family are his strength, in particular his wife, Sheryl, and he portrays that so beautifully in both his autobiographies. Stories I Only Tell My Friends is not a self-obsessed celebrity boast, it is a moving tale of a boy who worked hard to make his dreams come true and he has embraced every moment with enthusiasm and awe of how incredibly lucky he is to have achieved his dreams professionally and personally. Read it if you don’t believe me! smile,emoticon,face,fun,happy,smiley,emotion,funny

Twitter ID: @RobLowe

August 2015 – Breaking Faith by Joy Eileen

Breaking Faith by Joy Eileen was the first release blitz and blog tour I was involved in and it was great experience, as have all the blog tours I’ve been involved with since. Although it was a bit of a slow starter, this was a brilliant debut novel that had me gripped. Eileen treated her readers to a chapter of the next in the JackholeS series at the end of this book which was a good job too considering the cliffhanger that she leaves the first book on! Whilst there is still enough anticipation left for the reader what happens next, without that first chapter of the next novel, it would have been unbearable to wait, a true testament to Eileen’s abilities. This is another sequel that I’m really looking forward to reading.

Twitter ID: @heyitsmejoy

September 2015 – The Demon of Darkling Reach by PJ Fox

PJ Fox’s novels have been a prominent feature on Segnalibro since I read this book back in September, the first book in The Black Prince tetralogy. As someone who enjoys classic novels as much as I enjoy more modern books, this series was a revelation to me when I first read it. The Demon of Darkling Reach is not only a wonderful novel that takes the best features from classic and modern novels but it has some of the richest characterisation I’ve read in a novel in a long time. Also, to read a PJ Fox novel is to educate yourself as she uses her location and time period to give the reader an insight into life in that time/place, in this series, medieval England in beautifully explicit detail. The narrative is wonderfully intelligent and her characters engross you from the start. I read a lot of books in September but this book stood out a country mile ahead of the others.

@Twitter ID: @pjfoxwrites

October 2015 – The Prince’s Slave Trilogy by PJ Fox

While I was waiting for the release of the final two parts of The Black Prince tetralogy, I wanted to read another PJ Fox novel to see if I’d enjoy her other books as much as I enjoyed The Demon of Darkling Reach and The White Queen (the second book in The Black Prince series). I downloaded The Prince’s Slave trilogy in it’s entirety and I was once again enamoured by Fox’s characters and her writing style. A modern re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, The Prince’s Slave is completely engrossing and I could have read about Belle and Ash for more books than the three in this series. I have still to make my way through Fox’s back catalogue but I am sure it will be an amazing journey. I have also had the great pleasure of chatting with Fox on a regular basis and I am extremely pleased to have made her acquaintance.

Twitter ID: :@pjfoxwrites

November 2015 – Dear Mr You by Mary-Louise Parker

Dear Mr You fascinated me when I read it as an ARC copy via NetGalley. This uniquely written autobiography is one of the best autobiographies that I have ever read. It could actually read as a work of fiction due it’s style – a series of letters written to the men in Parker’s life who have knowingly or unknowingly had an effect on her life and her decision making over the years. Men who were close to her heart, men who she met only once in passing and imaginary men who she may meet or could have met. No name dropping, no big celebrity scoops, just a beautifully written series of letters that illuminate the highs and lows of Parker’s life.

 

December 2015 – The Black Prince Part One and Part Two by PJ Fox

These two books were so eagerly anticipated by me, there was a very real chance that I’d built them up in my mind to be better than they’d turn out to be. Not so in the slightest! The final parts of PJ Fox’s The Black Prince tetralogy were a very fitting ending to Isla and Tristan’s tale, as well as the other wonderful characters that the reader is introduced to over the course of the four novels. Fox manages to give plenty of page space to other characters, whilst still maintaining Isla and Tristan as the main protagonists and the focus of the novels. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and reviewing these two books, as much as I have with Fox’s other novels.

Twitter ID: @pjfoxwrites

So there you have it, the contenders for Segnalibro Book of the Year 2015. All of these books have connected with me one way or another and it will be a very difficult choice to pick one out of these ten books. Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know what you think of them in the comments below, or on Twitter or Facebook. I’ll announce my Book of the Year on 31st December 2015.

Six Months of Reviewing Novels: An Education

It’s been a while since I did a train of thought post so I thought I’d put the reviews to one side for an evening and do one now.  My first few posts on Segnalibro were about my thoughts on things that interested me in the literary world. However, two conversations with the brilliant authors Rob Sinclair (Dance With the Enemy, Rise of the Enemy) and Matt Johnson (Wicked Game and Deadly Game) inspired me to review their début novels, as I found myself surprised that I was reading, and enjoying, books in a genre that would never have appealed to me before. It is pretty safe to say that I caught the bug and I have reviewed books in more or less every genre since then. Six months after that first semi-review of Rob and Matt’s books, I feel that I have learned a few things about this reviewing lark.

One thing I have found is that it is much easier to review books you have enjoyed immensely or hated with a passion. I’ve been very fortunate that I have read some lovely novels which have been engaging from start to finish and I have loved waxing lyrical about some of the books that I really felt stood out among the others I was reading at the time. There are three books that spring to mind as books that completely floored me with their amazing narratives and wonderful plots. The first one is The Last Days of Disco by David F. Ross. I loved this book for its nostalgic reminders of my childhood in the 1980’s and the hilarious antics of main protagonist, Bobby Cassidy. Just when I thought that this book couldn’t get any better, by the end of the book, the flood gates were open. If a book can make me laugh and cry, it’s a winner for me, and The Last Days of Disco did just that. This was also the first book I reviewed from Orenda Books and it won’t be the last, that’s for sure!

The next book that had me stunned was One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book but after being contacted by Steven Suttie requesting that I tried his book, I thought I’d give it a try. Never have I had such an intense reaction to a novel. I broke my heart reading it. This gritty novel about a Manchester police department hunting down a paedophile killer left me reeling as Suttie, in true journalistic fashion, gives the reader an illustration of how a situation can escalate in a society that has 24 hour updates and constant social media feeds. Suttie merely gives the facts, leaving the reader to decide their own point of view, not to mention, his clever tactic of waiting until you are a several chapters into the novel before giving you the story of the man who is killing paedophiles and has become the hero of the nation for doing so. I implored everyone I know to read this book and if I’m ever asked to recommend a book, One Man Crusade is always one of the first I mention. A friend of mine read this recently on my recommendation and I was really happy that she liked it, so much so that she bought and read the sequel, Neighbours from Hell, which was released on Monday, which I haven’t even got round to reading yet!

The third book that has surprised me by its brilliance is a recent read, The Demon of Darkling Reach by PJ Fox. Again, I wasn’t sure that this was going to be a book that I’d enjoy, again allowing myself to be put off by the genre. (I will never learn!) However, this is one of the most beautiful narratives I’ve read in a very long time. When I was studying towards my English degree, I read many classics, a number of them gothic novels, and I was reminded of the intricacy of these novels when I read Fox’s tale of Isla, a feisty, young daughter of an imprudent earl who has squandered his money away to the point where he has to offer the hand of his daughter in marriage to the enigmatic duke, Tristan Mountbatten, aka The Demon of Darkling Reach. The plot itself is magnificent but what I loved was that the narrative had all the beauty of a classic novel but with the features of modern literature that are only hinted at in their predecessors, such as swearing and direct sexual references. This book was also an education in the traditions and practices of mediaeval life, which I found absolutely fascinating. This is another book that I am plugging endlessly to anyone who will listen!

Of course, these all fall into the “Books I’ve Loved” category. There has only been one book that has left me so irritated that I felt the need to write an almost fully negative review, which was Gray Justice by Alan McDermott. I was completely frustrated by this book because it had all the makings of a really enjoyable novel, if only the writer could be bothered putting the time into his main protagonist. As a reader, it was expected that you would sympathise and champion Tom Gray, yet we know barely anything about him. McDermott focuses his attention on the wrong characters, has unfeasible plot twists and the final showdown has so many characters in so many locations that it is impossible to fathom who is where, at what stage and what the implications are of where the characters are located for the rest of the novel. I was frustrated because it could be such a better novel than it is with a bit more investment from the author into the main character’s emotions, perceptions and by building an affinity between the reader and Tom Gray.

What these four books had in common is that they were easy to write about. The paragraphs almost wrote themselves as I typed away, because, good or bad, the narratives were rich in elements to comment about. What I have found during this reviewing learning curve, is that it isn’t always that easy. I will always give my honest opinion and I will always try to focus more on the positive than the negative, but sometimes, when the narrative is distinctly average or it is a book that doesn’t particularly interest me although it may be enjoyable to others, it is difficult to find the words, which for someone who can normally talk/write until the cows come home (this post being a classic example), is a very strange situation to find myself in. There have been a few books which, to be honest, have just not excited me. They were okay and readable, but there is just not much to say about them. I probably just need more practice, but that would mean reading many more “okay” books and less time reading the “amazing” books as I have noted above.

However, I have found that I have really enjoyed reading and reviewing books from all genres and I have loved the conversations that it has led to with the various authors who I have reviewed books for. Special mention must go to my lovely guest reviewer, J.L.Clayton, who has become an amazing Twitter/Facebook Buddy and is, without a doubt, my biggest supporter as she retweets/shares everything I post, which is invaluable to me. She has also wrote two fantastic books with a third in progress (A Spark of Magic and A Blaze of Magic) and I really value her encouragement and her experience in writing and publishing her own books.

The fact that I have generated a review feedback page attests to my joy at the great feedback I have received over the last six months. The feedback has been so gratefully received by me while I have been finding my feet at book reviewing and I want to thank every author who has taken the time to thank me for my efforts. Of course, my feedback tweet from Rob Lowe, though short and sweet, will be forever etched in my memory (and in my phone photos, and on my website, Twitter feed, Facebook page…) although a “Thanks for making Stories I Only Tell My Friends Segnalibro’s July Book of the Month” would have been nice! (Just kidding – I love my tweet for Love Life and I will treasure it forever!) In all seriousness, another thing I have learned in this process is that the authors I have encountered are lovely and I have been very fortunate that I have had nothing but encouragement from the authors whose books I have reviewed. Long may this continue!

Finally, I have learned that book reviewing is an addictive hobby. If I’m not reviewing, I’m reading (although I did a lot of this anyway) and it is a lovely way to enjoy my spare time. I have got myself into a little routine now: day job, time with the children, reading/reviewing, with a few meals and chores in between. I never thought when I started my website that I would be enjoying writing posts as much as I do. I wish I had more time to spend on it but nonetheless, setting up www.segnalibro.co.uk is one of the best things I have done and I am immensely proud of it. Here is to many, many more book reviews, train of thought posts, Golden Book Ratings, Segnalibro Book’s of the Month and to making contact with some amazing people. I hope this indulgent, not-so-little post hasn’t put you to sleep, and if it has, I hope that was the intention when you started reading, in which case, the post is a success! Thanks for reading and thanks for your support over the last six months. Lisa xx

 

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Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

A few weeks ago, I re-read and reviewed Love Life by Rob Lowe, inspired after I read an extract from the book in an article and reminding me of what a fantastic book it was. I loved reading this book and I really enjoyed reviewing it. So, after a predictably disappointing read  of the new EL James book, Grey, I wanted to read something I knew I would enjoy from start to finish. As it occurred to me that perhaps I should have reviewed Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe before I reviewed Love Life, I thought that I would make things right and guarantee myself a great reading experience.

I was bought this book by my better half for my birthday in June 2012 after leaving very explicit hints about what I wanted as a present ( I added it to his Amazon basket) and I read it in two sessions. I couldn’t put it down. This time, it was three sessions, but only because I couldn’t read it while I was at my day job! Before I read Stories I Only Tell My Friends, my knowledge of Rob Lowe was limited to the films and shows I’d seen and enjoyed. I was absolutely blown away by this book, not least because I got an insight to what a fascinating life he has led so far. Having only been born in 1978, I wasn’t aware of a lot of the events in the book, being more familiar with his career from Wayne’s World onwards, so I had been interested to learn what came before.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends could be described as a real-life bildungsroman of sorts. Lowe describes scenes from his life so far that he regards as turning points and indicators of where his life would lead him. Interestingly, however, he chooses to start his autobiography with a chapter mainly revolving around someone who he considered a hero of his, John Kennedy Junior. Effectively, our first story is Lowe describing his relationship with someone who he admired from afar and was fortunate enough to meet on a couple of occasions and who had a desire to showcase Lowe as the figurehead for the new political drama, The West Wing, against the wishes of everyone else involved. Lowe uses this particular story to great effect – he juxtaposes  John Kennedy Junior’s fame as a direct result of being a dead president’s son, albeit one of, if not the most influential president of the 20th Century, as a pre-cursor to telling tales of how his own parents influenced him over the years. Lowe describes how “[John Kennedy Junior’s] whole world has been shaped by the office, the service to it, and the tragic sacrifice in its name,” and is in awe of his “steadiness in the harsh, relenting spotlight, his quest for personal identity and substance, for going his own way and building a life of his choosing.” As the reader finds out in the coming chapters, this is exactly the process that Lowe goes through himself, when he chases, and achieves his dream of becoming an actor. Show-business isn’t always what it seems and while he learns his craft, he becomes well acquainted with its highlights and pitfalls.

Lowe enlightens the reader on his childhood that, whilst wasn’t necessarily unhappy, was tumultuous at times. He pinpoints key occasions in his early childhood that he feels had a significant effect on his future; a chance question to his mother in a hardware store, an often-absent father following his parents divorce, a move to Los Angeles and a mother who was fighting her own battles with her health and wellbeing that as a young boy, were beyond his understanding.  However, not all the stories he tells are negative. Far from it, in fact. Whilst Lowe relays these stories and his feelings at the time, he always finds the positive aspects of the effect that they had on him and while these events may have profoundly affected his outlook at the time, he shows an infinite determination to make his own way in life and create his own success throughout.

We are given a brief family history prior to Lowe’s birth and he writes of his mother and father with great affection. His tough lawyer father and his English teacher mother have obviously given Lowe his strength of character, his fight to obtain his career goals and his natural skill for writing. Lowe writes with incredible wit, clarity and a true storytelling style. I can imagine him sat in his office reliving each moment of the stories he has opted to write about, good and bad, and writing a train-of-thought account of these events and the effect they have had on his life. Obviously, I have no idea if this is how he wrote this book, but it is an image that his writing style invokes.

Lowe is self-deprecating a lot of the time but not in a way that is intended to make the reader feel sorry for him. He relays these stories to show that he is human, that he has made good decisions and shocking decisions and how his desire to “people-please” almost caused him to self-destruct. After all, Lowe was only a teenager when he acted in his break-out movie, The Outsiders, and he admits he had no-one to guide him in the world he had opted to be a part of and in a desire to get the next big part, he worked hard and played harder. He recalls words of wisdom by people such as Cary Grant, Liza Minnelli, Lucille Ball and John Belushi, to name but a few, and describes these meetings with a sense of incredulity, much like any other fan meeting a famous person that they have looked up to. I think that this is what makes Lowe’s stories so endearing. He often writes as if he is just as surprised as the reader that he is the main protagonist in these stories. No airs and graces, just the events as the happened, how they made him feel and what he thinks with the wonderful gift of hindsight.

There are great stories of romantic liaisons and friendly banter among Lowe and his “competition”. The “frenemy” relationship he relates with Michael J Fox is a particularly funny chapter. However, I loved the stories that involved the Sheen/Estevez family. As Lowe made friends with Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen as a young teen, who were to be up and coming actors in their own right, inevitably he developed a relationship with their father, Martin Sheen, who he was to eventually co-star with in The West Wing. Lowe calls him his surrogate father, and being a massive Martin Sheen fan, I love the idea of the two of them chewing the fat and Sheen imparting his experience in the industry to a wide-eyed young Rob Lowe as he embarks on his dream career. Also, Lowe gives the reader an insight into some of the big actors who were rising up the movie ladder with him. A young, but uber-focussed Tom Cruise, an eager-not-to-ride-on-his-father’s-coat-tails Emilio Estevez and an enthusiastic, generous Patrick Swayze are all regulars in Rob Lowe’s early career stories and the stories are often funny and always interesting.

However, the hero of this book is actually a heroine, Rob’s wife Sheryl. She saw in Rob what he couldn’t see in himself and, without any drama on her part, she made him see clearly where he wanted to be as he searched for the answer in a continuous alcoholic, sex-fuelled haze. She was his friend, first and foremost, and promised that this would always be the case whatever happened between them romantically. She didn’t make demands of him, just provided the support as best she could. She backed off when he overstepped the mark, making him realise what he stood to lose and she stepped up to the plate when he needed her the most when he took the brave step of going into rehab. It is easy to see why their marriage has stood the test of time when so many stars are married then divorced in quick succession. Sheryl Berkoff saw Rob Lowe at his worst and bore the challenge of being his shining light with integrity and grace, helping him to put his life back on track with her love, support and determination as he recognised that the excesses of his life had to be eradicated so he could fulfil his true potential as a husband, father and in his developing career. Their marriage and the birth of their two sons have undeniably made Lowe the man he is today and he seems more than happy to give her the credit.

The candidness with which Lowe has written these stories is truly commendable and I would love to be sat in a room with him listening to him tell more tales with the passion he puts into this book. I can picture a Rob Lowe of the future in Cary Grant style, advising young actors and actresses of the pitfalls of show-business whilst encouraging them to work hard and look after themselves. Perhaps this book, and Love Life, are his way of passing on his knowledge to those wanting to follow in his footsteps in the same way that he received little nuggets of advice along the way. To my mind, these potential stars couldn’t have a better role model. Rob Lowe has lived the dream, suffered the nightmare and has been awoken by a woman he loves and who loves him to become the man, husband and father he always hoped to be. It will be a crying shame if Love Life is the last book that Rob Lowe intends to write. He engages the reader so well with his stream-of-consciousness, honest, intellectual writing style and I would absolutely be first in line to read and review it. I suspect that there are plenty more stories where these came from and I, for one, would be fascinated to read them.

 

Love Life by Rob Lowe

Okay, so in the interests of full disclosure, I should start by saying that I’ve been a Rob Lowe fan for some time now. I wasn’t so keen during the 80’s to mid 90’s – he was a bit too perfect looking and I found his characters just that little bit smarmy – but from The West Wing onwards he became the epitome of the Hollywood heart-throb in my eyes. Of course, this is a terribly shallow way to view someone who is, above all, just another human being. However, as fans, this is all we have to go off; the characters that these actors play and the snippets of their personalities that we get during interviews and press releases. I completely appreciate that I couldn’t possibly know what Rob Lowe is actually like and nor should I, unless I were among his inner circle of friends. Actors and actresses are entitled to private lives as much as they are able and that is exactly how it should be. That being said, fans will always wonder what these celebrities are like “in real life” and these autobiographies, apparently (but not always) written by the stars themselves, provide us with a glimpse into the personal lives of those we adore from afar. I loved Stories I Only Tell My Friends, where Lowe described his childhood in light of his parents divorce and his subsequent relocation from Ohio to Malibu, his ascendance into fame and fortune following his role in The Outsiders and how he almost threw his career away as a result of his alcoholism. When I heard that he was writing another book called Love Life, I pre-ordered it as soon as I was able and looked forward to gaining further insight into this extremely handsome man.

Released on 25th April 2014, I read the book in one sitting. I loved it. I fully expected to. Had Segnalibro.co.uk existed then, I would have written a review and posted it. However, as I didn’t, I tweeted my enjoyment of the book and left it at that, feeling like I knew Rob Lowe just a little better than I did before. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when Rob Lowe announced that he had been sober now for 25 years, quite an achievement by anyone’s standards. Then www.slate.com published a particularly poignant excerpt from Love Life, where Lowe is preparing to take his son to college. As I read this excerpt, I was reminded of the myriad emotions I felt when I read this book and decided to read it again in its entirety so I could review it.

Before I read this book the first time round, prior to seeing any reviews, I expected to read about Rob Lowe’s love life; I thought that perhaps it was an exposé on those wild years of his life. However, what I found in actuality was a reflective look on his life so far, a low-down on the acting profession, his experience as a husband and father and a number of sometimes funny, sometimes poignant stories that he feels will give the reader some understanding of who Rob Lowe is. His outlook is positive yet realistic and he uses his wealth of experience to unpack the celebrity lifestyle.

The book has a similar feel to Stories I Only Tell My Friends, in that it doesn’t quite run in chronological order and it reads like Lowe has literally written down his train of thought, but with extraordinary eloquence. Whereas in the first book, Lowe gave us details of his upbringing and his first acting experiences, in this book Lowe is keen to draw on his years of acting experience to give us tips of the trade, so to speak, and also his thoughts on those who mean the most to him; his wife Sheryl and his boys, Matthew and Johnowen. He tells us of his acting successes and flops, what a day in the life of an actor actually entails rather than the imagined “easy life” the general public probably imagine and he describes his own approach to the “entertainment business”. He also describes how he has juggled his professional life with his personal life, in particular, his hands-on approach to bringing up his two boys.

I wonder if Lowe is having a bit of a mid-life crisis, as he re-evaluates his life and career, his personal relationships, his political views. Yet, he is quite philosophical about success and enjoys the process of completing a project as much as the outcome. That is not to say that he isn’t competitive; he really does give his all to everything he attempts and his determination to succeed is quite something to behold; his approach to his alcohol addiction proves this unequivocally. He is no longer the “people pleaser” that he once considered himself to be earlier in his career, now choosing his projects out of his own passion for them, not because others wish for him to take a particular path. He mentions that Rashida Jones (his Parks and Recreation co-star) describes him as a “benevolent narcissist” and it seems quite an appropriate description given his admissions throughout his two books.

I have a number of personal favourite stories in this book. Firstly, I found myself giggling uncontrollably as Lowe describes an overnight school trip with his son in the manatee viewing enclosure at Seaworld. I loved the idea of Lowe waking up to this potentially nutty “soccer-mom” staring at him maniacally as she suggested that perhaps they had some kind of romantic history that he could not remember. Not that the situation itself would be funny, but the way Lowe tells it left me highly amused. All in a days work for a superstar dad! I also found the excerpted chapter from Slate.com’s article a beautifully poignant chapter. Lowe rationally describes his irrational emotional state at the thought of his eldest son leaving for college. He eases his son’s fears whilst trying to put on a brave face for his wife, whilst hiding in a corner or behind newspapers and sunglasses whilst he cries like a baby. However, the most poignant story in this book for me was the story of “Buck”, Lowe’s fellow rehab patient. I wept like a baby myself when I read this chapter the first time. I managed to compose myself a little better this time but nonetheless, it almost feels like you are intruding into the most intimate, hidden details of a person’s life. I sincerely hope that whoever this person is has found some kind of inner peace.

In terms of Lowe’s highs and lows as an actor, he seems to be at ease with the fact that not everything has worked out but at least he gave things a go and took risks that perhaps other actors/producers may not have taken. He describes all the elements involved in making a movie/tv show and gives us information on all the ways that a production can go wrong. He talks from experience and it feels like he wants to advise those in the business or thinking about going into the business that whilst it is wonderful when it all goes right, there are a lot of things that will probably go wrong in the often arduous process. However, there is no doubt that Lowe loves his job. He takes his career very seriously and he gives many examples of the good and the bad, the advantages the business gives you and the disadvantages. He also describes the people who have helped him (and hindered him) along the way.

There are a couple of stories in here that I must admit, I do wonder if there has been some embellishment going on to make it sound much more of an experience that perhaps it was, if it happened at all. However, as I am unlikely to ever know one way or another, and as Lowe tells his tales so convincingly, I am inclined to leave that to someone else to investigate.

Lowe has spent a large part of his life mixing with the glitterati, right back to when he used to play with Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen in their family pool, while Martin Sheen looked on. However, he doesn’t name-drop for the sake of it. Every chapter in both of the books he has written appear to be honest accounts of situations with people who happen to be very well-known. He speaks of his awe in meeting Warren Beatty and his incredulity at his first visit to the Playboy Mansion. He describes himself in a way that if we were to be faced with these situations, our reactions would be exactly like his. He is very self-deprecating a lot of the time in these two books and he plays down any sense of him being the massive star that he is. There is no sense at all that he is bragging about who he knows or where he has been, more that he is an extremely lucky guy who has worked hard to get to where he is.

If I could make any kind of criticism of these two books, it would be that there are not many stories of the really successful projects that he has been a part of. I’d have liked to have heard more about his time on Brothers and Sisters, Parks and Recreation and of course, the iconic The West Wing. We do get some insight into his time of the The West Wing, more so in the first book, but as a massive fan, I would have loved to have heard some more little known facts.

In writing this review, I am well aware that I am waxing lyrical about a guy who until not so long ago graced the screen saver of my iPhone, so you may think that this is a particularly indulgent review where I was unlikely really to have anything bad to say anyway. I concede on the indulgent part, but if I had anything bad to say, I would undoubtedly say it. However, this book is a really lovely, well written book. Lowe writes in a particularly sophisticated style and articulates his stories beautifully. I would read Stories I Tell My Friends first otherwise you may miss a bit of context to some of the stories in Love Life, but it really is an insight into the life of someone who has seen the good side and the bad of being a Hollywood superstar. This book has a slight feel of a self-help book, telling his readership to “love life”, enjoy what comes your way and if you want something, you can achieve it if you work hard enough. Lowe knows his flaws and is confident enough to admit them and work at them. He is a loving husband and doting father who, whilst sad that his son’s are moving on to a more independent chapter of his life, is looking forward to the next chapter of his, spending time with the wife that he loves and reveres (his description of his relationship with his wife towards the end of the book is particularly moving).  I  hope that there is another book on the horizon because I have really enjoyed these two books immensely. Thanks for indulging me by reading this review!