Through The Eye Of The Tiger: The Rock N’ Roll Life of Survivor’s Founding Member by Jim Peterik (5 out of 5)

•October 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Jim Peterik is a member of The Ides of March and Survivor, among others. This is his story. Jim has a very easy, laidback vibe to his story. Moments of great excitement, great musical achievements, downward spirals, family happiness and heartbreak, and the ups and downs of success known as rock and roll, tempered with a number of funny vignettes about other well known musicians, make it a quick, easy read. You can feel the positive vibes emanating off of every single page. Even when the sunny skies darken somewhat and mercurial other parties start trouble within the musical fort that is Survivor, you can feel that it’s not Jim’s scene. He admits multiple times in the book that there were moments in his career and life where he backed down and internalized his anger, to not create disharmony. The music business would be a hell of a lot nicer if there were more Jim Peterik’s in it. More than that, I learned a lot about some well known bands that I grew up with- Survivor mainly. But I also grew up loving and listening to REO Speedwagon, Styx, and 38 Special. Not only has Jim written some very recognizable chart hits for 38 Special, but he’s close friends with REO Speedwagon and Tommy Shaw of Styx (Kevin Cronin, lead singer of REO, writes the foreword to the book), and they, among others, get the royal treatment in the book. The man has a lot of friends, and there’s a reason, kids. He’s not a pompous jackass. He’s human, he’s made some mistakes (who hasn’t?), and he owns up to them honestly and with a positive spin on learning from them. Not many rock biographies have I read where this was the case! Perhaps more importantly than the human factor that is such a large part of the book, is the love. The love for the music. He speaks about falling apart at several times in his life, and if the music hadn’t been present, well, this story may not have had a happy ending. Thankfully for all of his fans and the music industry in general (which can use all the help it can at present moment!), he continues to rock on. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book and give it a shot. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to read about someone who isn’t a douchebag and whose love of music is so encompassing that no matter how bad things get, he never loses sight of his vision. And that, my friends, is more than some musicians can claim.

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp (4 out of 5)

•October 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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What a delightful read this was! I have to admit, the cover got me first. Then it invoked pleasant memories of my growing up watching Adam Ant videos (Stand and Deliver, among others, in which he plays, well, a dandy highwayman). I won’t lie; for a portion of this, as I read it, I did hear “Stand and Deliver” in my head. If you have a semi-childlike spirit, you’ll enjoy this. Those who enjoyed “The Princess Bride” or “Robin Hood”  will love this. If you like adventure, fun, and a little adventure dashed with a side of romance, this is a great little place to start.

Christopher “Kit” Bristol is servant to Master John Rattle. He awakens one night to a disturbance in his master’s quarters and comes upon the gravely wounded body of his master on the kitchen table, dying. Rattle tells him to flee, take the dog and horse, and ask no questions. Kit does this, donning his master’s clothing, and quickly finds himself chased by all sorts of doubtful ruffians. He also finds out quickly that his master was the infamous highwayman “Whistling Jack”, who roamed the roads, holding up carriages and robbing the patrons of their valuables, and in the process, is a wanted criminal across the lands. They see Kit in the clothes, they mistake him for Whistling Jack, and his life is never the same. He sees magic happen right in front of him, meets magical creatures that he thought were the things of legends, and meets the beguiling Princess Morgana, whom he’s supposed to protect, according to ancient lore. Morgana is a little firecracker, Kit is a little scared, his enemies (rather, the victims of Jack, the actual highwayman) are on his tail, and we’re all provided with quite an entertaining ride. Does Kit ever get to be Kit? Does he outrun the redcoats? Does he win the heart, or at least the respect, of Morgana? Does he ever find shelter, clear up his identity? Does the reader stop having fun? No, the reader has fun throughout the entire book. That’s why you need to read it.

What else is wonderful? The illustrations throughout. Reading level recommended for this is 12-18 years old, but fear not, this 41 year old loved it, and you will also!

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (3 out of 5)

•October 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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This is the best image of the advanced reading copy that I could find. This book, the sequel to the debut novel The Rosie Project, isn’t out until December 30, 2014. (according to the back cover of the ARC). Thank you, Wendy, at Simon & Schuster for my copy. If you haven’t read The Rosie Project before you dive into this, you’re going to be completely lost, not to mention bereft. Read that first, then give this one a whirl. Overall, I wasn’t as thrilled with this as I was with the first book; regardless, I still laughed, I still read on, and I still gave a shit. You will too, although there is a more serious tone with this book than the first. It has to be that way, because Don and Rosie are infanticipating. Don and Rosie with a baby? Holy shit. Right? Right. Read on.

Don and Rosie have settled are going on over a year of marital bliss when she drops the bomb on him; they’re pregnant! Don’s detail-oriented, logic-thinking at every crossroads allows him to process this; one detail at a time. As a result, he appears to Rosie (and the reader) to have not embraced the idea with a lot of joy. Now, if you read the first book, you know that he has Asperger’s and that’s not out of the norm. Rosie also knows this- normally. You throw some pregnancy hormones in and that emphatic nature appears to have disappeared. Don does what Don normally does and makes some real big errors in judgment; letting Gene, his cheating friend who is in the process of being divorced by his estranged wife, live with them. Rosie’s not a fan of Gene’s, and Don seems to be more worried about his friend having a roof over his head than concerned about his wife and their impending arrival. Don ends up getting fired from the second job, the cocktail job, and Rosie continues to work on getting her thesis done. Don ends up in all sorts of situations in which he has to scramble to find solutions that work in his logic bank, but often he ends up making it worse. Before long, Don has gotten himself involved in a research project for lesbian mothers, in an attempt to identify more with the plight of the mother, but that leads to more madcap capers. Rosie moves out of the bedroom, and the marriage becomes more strained. Don is also attempting to get Gene’s kids in Australia to communicate with their dad via Skype, and he ends up building a touching friendship with Eugenie, his daughter. The thing with Don’s world is this- he’s trying but failing on multiple levels, to connect with Rosie that yes he is happy about the baby, but spends a good portion of the book helping others with their family/children issues. He’s also trying to get George, his friend, landlord, retired rock star, and the “Beerlord” (hilarious part of the book) to reconcile with his estranged son. This is how it is with Don, and Rosie knows this. Normally. However, the pregnancy has changed her. The patience has run out. Don has to face the music when he finds out Rosie has fallen in love with another and she’s leaving him to go back to her family in Australia and have the baby there. What does Don do? Well, let’s just say that he does it up in spectacular fashion, trying to stop Rosie and baby from leaving him. Does he succeed? You have to read to find out.

What didn’t I like? The tone of the book is far more serious from the Rosie side. Don is still hilarious as hell, as he attempts to process the news and reality that he’s going to be a father. The usual suspects are present and accounted for, as the circle of friends rally round the couple and try to help them through their rough patch. Anything that Don tries to do to help him get his head around the ‘baby project’ ends up as a hilarious endeavor that goes wrong in a monumental fashion. But there’s something missing here. It feels like their love story has taken a back seat to the baby, which is not something that should happen when you’re welcoming a child into the world. Rosie seems to have forgotten the genesis of her relationship with Don, and who he is. That made me terribly unhappy reading the book. Otherwise, you can count on a funny, warm look at how impending parenthood can tilt everything upside down. Often it’s funny, often it’s heartbreaking. I felt like the heart of the book had been ripped out and stomped upon. The ending justified much of that feeling, although you are left with some hope for what’s going to happen to them now that Baby Tillman has arrived. I can hardly wait.

Dancing With Myself by Billy Idol (4 out of 5)

•October 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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For those who wonder- no, this isn’t the book cover. It is, however, a great image of Mr. Idol holding the actual book. Yes, I’m a Billy Idol fan. Yes, I’ve been waiting for it to come out since earlier this year. Thank you to Meredith and Lauren at S&S for sending me a copy- a finished one- to read and review before it was released. It was worth the wait.

Billy Idol has been around many years. He started out in Siouxsie and the Banshees before they were officially known as thus, then formed a band Chelsea, before that splintered off into Generation X, one of the first punk bands to appear on Top of The Pops. He tells a lot of their roots in Gen X coming from some well known punk bands, but leaning more toward 1960’s pop acts. I learned a lot of background on the punk scene from that era. I’ve always tried to read as many punk rock histories as possible, as I do enjoy a number of punk bands and the history in general is fascinating. It’s equally fascinating to read about that era starting out, from the viewpoint of one who was smack in the middle of the punk rock revolution unfurling. Idol doesn’t mince words, sharing his own experiences at trying to find the right sound to fit in and the right song to break through the wall, along with his observations about seeing many of the punk movement’s pioneers in concert for the first time. Definitely an enjoyable part of the autobiography, for me, at least.

Idol’s early childhood and memories aren’t anything special; per se, he had a normal childhood with a hardworking father and a loving family. Born in England, the family did end up moving to the states when his father gets a new job. Reading Idol’s thoughts on the US vs. the UK aren’t only funny, but also quite accurate. The family ends up moving back to the UK, where Idol stays, until he gets into the punk rock game, and then it’s off to New York City. The Gen X days morphing into his solo   career is a pretty wild ride, but one that has been widely chronicled through his career and through the press. Not a lot of the 1980’s part of the book shed any new light on the Idol chatter, and that part didn’t terribly enchant me as a reader. I did, however, greatly enjoy the stories of how some of his most famous (and some not so famous) solo hits were crafted and brought into the sonicsphere for the rest of us to enjoy. Idol’s long-time relationship with Perri Lister gets the complete treatment, including nothing but praise and love for her from Idol, and complete and total disclosure about what went wrong (it’s probably what you think) and how he moved on past the heartache after it was done for good. There’s no question reading this book that Lister is the one who got away, and some part of him will never forgive himself for losing her. Gut wrenching stuff, that love stuff. I give him major points for not taking the wussy way out and sugar-coating the beginning, middle, and end.

Idol’s career after the 80’s? Well, no sugarcoating that either. His drug addictions are covered in detail, including the good, the bad, and the truly ugly. No excuses, no fancy terminology, and no apologies- only the truth. I love that. He admits that shit didn’t go well after the “glory days” of the 1980’s pass and things get quiet. The discussion of his involvement in the Doors movie, including that rascally Oliver Stone man, are pretty entertaining. The end of his relationship with Lister coinciding with his almost losing his leg and his life in the motorcycle accident in February, 1990, is some tough stuff. Fighting his way back, while also confronting his addictions and trying to get sober and get back on the map with his sidelined career, is the stuff that really makes you realize this guy is a tough motherfucker. The extent of the injuries from that accident, as well as the scars that aren’t as easily seen, are eye opening and inspiring. Because he did it, and although it took him 14 years before he rose from the ashes again to take over the world, he’s back and badder than ever. The book ends with a poignant chapter talking about his father, and it goes full circle, as the book begins talking about his father. That part choked me up, as you guessed it would. The only part of this book that I had a problem with? Was the 1980’s part, which is something I normally would love, but it didn’t capture my attention as much as the beginning and end did. As I said, perhaps because I’ve read so much about the decade of excess that much of the detail brought forth has already been read by me? Still entertaining as hell. I encourage you to read this and give it to someone who will enjoy it and recommend it to someone else. Because it really is a kickass autobiography.

The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer (5 out of 5)

•October 12, 2014 • 1 Comment

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This was a fun little book to read. I wish I had gotten to it sooner, but it’s been a tough past few weeks, so my reading has suffered somewhat. I am playing mad catch-up. This one only took a couple of hours to read. You really think when you start that it’s going to be a bummer because it starts off with the death of Rachela Karnokovitch, world renowned mathematician, and mother of Sasha, our narrator and sympathetic hero of the book. Rachela is a tough bird who goes out the way she came into this world- fighting, tough as nails, and insisting that a priest at the hospital needs to quit screwing around and take down that damnable cross above her bed before she’ll leave this world (hilarious scene, although the truly devout may have a  hard time finding it funny). But the death of Rachela opens up the world into this novel, because the math world that loved, admired from afar, and yes, fought bitterly with Rachela, are coming to pay their respects. All of them. Imagine a small house that’s now empty of much of its light, overflowing with eccentric mathematicians who are there to sit shiva and pay memorial to Rachela. Now imagine Sasha, a quiet man, having to deal with the dual swords of grieving the loss of his mother and all of these oddball math geeks staying there..and boom! You know things are going to happen.

Thankfully, this book doesn’t suck. You think that with a death taking center over much of the story that there’s a chance that it will stink up the plot. The exact opposite occurs. There’s also controversy- because Rachela had promised the math world that before her death she would solve the infamously stubborn Navier- Stokes equation. Then…nothing. These mathematicians who are convening to pay their respects to Rachela are not without ulterior motives- namely, to find out if anything exists that proves she did (or didn’t) solve this equation. This, my friends, is where you find out that those who wrap their lives in numerical equations, are not without cold-blooded determination in uncovering proof of equations being solved. This is, in essence, the mother lode of all math, this equation. And yes, if you like math in any way, shape, or form, you will enjoy this book. It gave me and Dan an excuse to discuss math equations at work during the last two busy days at work. It also gave us some pause, because some of the equations discussed were unfamiliar. So yes, grasshopper, prepare to learn about some pesky equations. Prepare to laugh when you read and see the havoc wrought by those mathematicians trying to get to the bottom of the last mystery Rachela left behind. Not to mention the dialogue and interaction between the mathematicians and Sasha. And prepare to laugh.

I should say that Sasha is a great male character. You wonder how this is going to work, because it’s shown through flashbacks, not to mention the scenes leading up to Rachela’s passing, that she and Sasha have a close relationship, but are total opposites. Rachela, after her rough childhood and having to make her way and earn respect in the largely male-dominated math world, is a hurricane force to be reckoned with. Sasha, not so much. He goes along and lives his life and tries not to let it take him away into rough seas. You see, though, the more you get into the book, that he has some quiet strength, as well as his fair share of heartache, and you want so badly to see how he fares without the light of his mother no longer around. Heartbreak, yes, it’s here, but it’s greatly muted by the larger-than-life characters that inhabit this novel. And let me tell you, I couldn’t put my finger on what this book reminded me of. At 5am, it came to me. Rojstaczer’s way of writing, character interactions, and wit really reminds me a lot of one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Tropper. This book reminds me a lot of This Is Where I Leave You. And when I say that, it’s with great affection. So do yourself a favor- go out, pick up this book, read it, laugh, and pass it onto someone who will enjoy it as much. I intend to!

Vault of Dreamers by Caragh O’ Brien (2 out of 5)

•October 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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I told my coworker that’s been wanting to read this book since I got it last month that I would gladly give it to her when done. I also told her that I was 70 pages in and it was not at all rousing my interest. I did my typical and had to finish it. I did not, however, find it recovered enough to be more than a 2 star book. I wrestled with the 1 star rating, but didn’t end up doing it. It had such promise, but it just didn’t grab me, nor did it really deliver anything to the reader’s plate except more questions. I mean, really, what is it all about?????

Another young adult dystopian novel. Some are fantastic, some are middling, some are flat. This was…flat. The concept, as usually the case with dystopian novels, was interesting, but the execution of it, not so much. And yes, to those who read and liked the book, this is the start of a series. So if you read this one and think it sucks, don’t go further. If you do like it, well, time warp to you and there will be more.

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts college in the country. Every student enrolled at Forge has every waking moment of their lives taped and run live on “The Forge Show” . The students must sleep 12 hours a night to enhance and induce heightened creativity. (I guess more sleep means more heightened productivity and better ratings?). This magical sleep, as most would guess, is accomplished by taking a sleeping pill. Rosie Sinclair is a freshman who does the unthinkable crime of skipping the pill and observing more than she would by, well, sleeping due to the pill. Something is off… and she suspects evil going on behind the cameras mounted everywhere. Rosie’s subconscious is off, though, so her suspicions may be correct and this sleeping pill may be messing with her chemical balance, her thoughts, emotions, and worse yet, mind. Will rhyme and reason escape, thanks to her prolonged usage of the pill? How is she supposed to find out what’s going on, if she is off somehow? How will she go about finding out what the hell is really going on? She keeps at it, as a diligent investigator would, and what she finds out is quite something. There’s a little romance going on, despite the fuzziness in Rosie’s consciousness. That comes to an odd end, as do a number of things in this book. At the end of this whirly ride, I had no flipping idea what was going on. The ending is anticlimactic, at best, although this reader wasn’t moved..only even more puzzled. Even worse? Despite the fact that I was puzzled by a great many things in this book, I still managed to guess the ending. THAT is the worst. I give this 2 stars because I like the uniqueness of the concept for the series. I also like the cover and the pace at which the plot is revealed, but even at a good pace, if there are notable plot points, devices, and entire characters that don’t add up, then what is a good pace worth? I hope she can figure out a way to salvage it before the end of the series, but I won’t be picking the next installment up to find out.

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (4 out of 5)

•October 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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I had this advance for many, many months. I finally read it a couple of weeks back (I am way behind on my blogging book reviews!) and enjoyed it immensely. It’s been out since April and I’ve only started digging out the older books to try to get some of them read and reviewed. I feel guilty asking for a galley if I’m not going to read it, so even if it’s months later, I’m going to read it and review it. This one made me wish I’d read it a lot sooner!

Dark Eden takes place on a sunless, distant planet called Eden. Currently inhabited by a small population of beings called The Family, legendary tales of the past are recounted where sunshine shone, where boats were crafted and people living on Eden were able to cross the stars in the boats, and those people (travelers) made living more possible on Eden. Now those living on Eden must sit on the planet and wait for the fated day when those people will return and Eden can return to that glorious state. In the meantime, the dark permeates everything, the mountains of the Snowy Dark sit uncrossed and imposing in the distance, where no man dares to tread, where the cold dark night is so unrelenting and vast that no one has ever tried. And then there was a young man named John Redlantern who dares to change the ways of Eden.

Ever so often in literature, as in life, there needs to be a profound change. And someone has to have the balls to do it. In the case of Eden and the tried and true ways, John is the one to shake things up, break the laws of the land, and find a way to rewrite the history of Eden. John Redlantern is another one of my favorite characters in a novel this year. Not just sci-fi, but any of the many things I have managed to read this year. Thankfully Redlantern has a few helpers in his quest to explore the untouched lands and to question why things are at a standstill on Eden, but it splinters the Family in ways that continue to recoil through the book. There is also a fair amount of determination in young John to have stories told about his heroic efforts after all is said and done on Eden, and that side of his personality gives the reader another angle, through the eyes of the Family that look upon him in sorrow for going against the grain. I really enjoyed the fact that you saw the efforts through both sets of eyes. I also enjoyed how everyone in this novel, whether you’re Redlantern, one of his followers, or one of the long-residing members of Eden got a fair shake, despite their stand in the shift on Eden. It’s a well crafted, interesting tale of survival and change, tears and triumph, then and the future.

The only thing in Beckett’s story that took some getting used to was the wording and phrasing of some things. Since I have this ability to spot misspelling, grammatical errors, and the like, it was hard for me to get through some of the rhetoric that Beckett employs in the tellings of Eden. For those who have no trouble not understanding the English language, you should have no problem getting where he’s heading with a number of scenes and occurrences in the book, but I had to stop several times and re-read to figure out what he was truly trying to get across. However- and that’s a big however- it is a whole new land and the people on Eden certainly may have their own dialogue and ways of speaking, and you have to respect that as a reader. It’s just hard when you write a lot and spend time re-reading and re-writing not only your own work, but others, and then you’re reading this fantastic little piece of literature and you have to stop and say “What?”. In this book, definitely worth it. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy and see how things turn out in Eden. You won’t be disappointed.

 
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