Wanderlush by David Robert (5 out of 5)

•October 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

images

I found out about David Robert’s book by reading a review on Goodreads. Have I mentioned lately how I love when I pick up on a random thread that leads me to a new author, a new book, a new adventure? Well, I do… and Goodreads is responsible for many of them. You have the old “Don’t judge a book by its cover” adage; in this case, the minute I pulled it up on screen at work and saw it, I did, and ordered it. I was not sorry! Nor will you be. You should order (or the dreaded- download! shudders.) a copy as soon as possible. It hasn’t been a fun last couple of days, so this book was the perfect antidote to the ails of life.

David Robert is a hypochondriac; he admits that immediately. He strongly suspects he’s got ass cancer (yes, you read that right) and decides to go on a series of “goodbye vacations” with his mother. The minute you read David’s description of his mom (a cross between Bea Arthur and Karen Walker, of Will and Grace fame) you know you’re in for quite a ride.  She doesn’t disappoint, folks. Neither does David with his retellings of the haywire adventures they find themselves in. “The Lavender Yeti” (David’s nickname for her, as she wears the same lavender tracksuit on all trips) is hilarious. She not only starts a great deal of these misadventures into being, but once cornered for the part(s) she has played in them unfurling, holds her own, and even if she’s caught onto (a good deal), she comes out the winner. Seriously, this woman deserves a fucking award. Or a case of Chardonnay( not Charldonnay. More on that in the book). Or some more Xanax for the next trip she takes with David, Pete (his partner), or the sisters (Kelly and Lisa, who take turns travelling with David and his mother, when they can). I can only hope they’re travelling soon and David is writing another book about it! If this is how armchair travel books were written, I would read nothing else. Seriously. Of course, just when you think you can’t laugh harder, Alta drops a bombshell on David that makes the reader’s heart seize up with fear. Somehow, you have the feeling this woman will be around after the rest of us are gone from this Earth. I would not be surprised, friends, if she is invincible. She is certainly irreplaceable.

David’s Goodreads author page asks what your (the reader) favorite chapter is. This, my friends, I cannot do just yet. I have to say that I was strangely happy to read that Pete has quite a fear of snakes- including garter snakes. That’s me, folks! I’m the person who told my coworkers the minute I saw one in my yard two years ago I ran screaming into my house, to the amusement of my neighbors. There is someone else who feels the garter snake is also poisonous, or rather, venomous (more on that in the book)- and it’s David’s partner Pete. Vindication is sweet, friends and fellow readers! There’s also the story of the all-day bank hell, Alta (David’s mom) trying to eat a man in Portugal, David’s near miss ride on a psychotic camel named Forrest Hump (I kid not!), the espresso drink-off with the local that ends with David the victor (wait until you read what the prize is.), the hotel housekeeping guy who goes nuts and does impromptu command performance of “All The Single Ladies”,  David and his sister wrestling to the death over climbing the hill from hell, I mean, really- it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to pick a favorite chapter. Maybe after I read the book again and have multiple friends of mine read it.

Prepare in advance. If you read it (and again- do it!), make sure you are covered well, because you’ll piss your pants laughing. No joke. Definitely the funniest book I’ve read this year.

Wild Tales: A Rock N’ Roll Life by Graham Nash (4 out of 5)

•October 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

 

 

 

 

untitled

Known and loved for many years as a member of the Hollies and as a member of the highly respected and adored Crosby, Stills, Nash, & (sometimes) Young, Graham Nash, much as David Crosby and Stephen Stills before him, has his fair share of memories, stories, and vivid recollections to share with his many fans. As I questioned with all memoirs written by the truly inebriated, drugged up, and tripped out rock stars of years past and years present, how can this dude remember this much? Compared to the wild children that were Motley Crue, I don’t ,or didn’t, expect to have questions about how he remembered. But I ask– how? Regardless, it doesn’t matter in the end because you have a truly engaging, wonderfully written autobiography here. I confess to liking the band for many years, largely due to an ex who really got me into them in a big way. However, when he left, so did my desire to listen to their records. Years later, I rediscovered them and when I’m in one of those introspective, sit on the porch and drink Angry Orchard days, they are the first band I turn to. Compared to Crosby’s book (no slouch on the drinking/drug taking/carousing troubadour days himself) which takes no prisoners and pulls no punches, and Stills’ book which was more of a reflective look back at some crazy adventures in his life, this book falls into the “simply a great read, not due to any one or two factors”. It’s well written, well thought out, and it isn’t written by someone who has an agenda in retelling his life story, that of his love of music, as well as tumultuous times with the band and the individual volcanoes that were involved in CSN&Y. His true love of music shines through the entire memoir.

From his low-class childhood in England, to becoming a member of the Hollies, a lover of Joni Mitchell, and finally, to his brightest shine- as a member of CSN&Y, Graham Nash tells it like it is. You can feel his love of the music burning through every single page. From the wild days, full of addictions, sex, and rock n’ roll (of course), there’s a feeling that for Nash, it goes beyond that into the more important things in life- life, love, family, and of course, the music. I haven’t read a book like this in a long time where there’s a fair deal of importance placed on those matters, and not just on the wild side. Which is ironic, because he titled the book WILD TALES. There are some, but nowhere near the David Crosby bio. The David Crosby bio also never addressed the most important thing- what’s with the walrus mustache???? Sorry, I got sidetracked there. When I got through with Nash’s book, I had a number of questions about things I had read. I didn’t have that with the other biographies. I would have to put his autobiography up there with Keith Richards. Yes, THAT notorious riff-raff himself. Because as I tell everyone who asks about the Keith Richards book, there is a fair share of excess, political activism (another thing that Nash was very heavily involved in, and which I had forgotten about until reading this), etc. However, there is also a lot of musical knowledge in those pages. I was completely stunned by how much of the Keith Richards bio was about musical blues and its history, not to mention how to play some of those infamous guitar riffs. In Nash’s book, you walk away learning a hell of a lot about music. There is a lot of of knowledge imparted to the reader by Mr. Nash. Another bonus!

Overall, I can’t give it anything less than four stars. I really expected it to be a three star book, until one of my regular customers and friends told me it was amazing. So I gave it a try. And I agree. Amazing eye into the whirlwind of the sixties and beyond (yes, there are some never before told stories that are eye-opening and some are just wild, maybe that’s where the title is from). Prepare to read an articulate, absorbing look at an oft turbulent musical career and personal life as well. Definitely worth the read.

*I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS, in return for a honest review*.

 

The Future For Curious People by Gregory Sherl (4 out of 5)

•October 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

untitled

Two people meet in the office of a Chinese doctor who’s also an “envisionist”, someone who can put your intended’s name into a computer and shows you a film of your future life together. Armed with such knowledge, what would you do? Rather, what wouldn’t you do? This quirky, charming little novel gives you a good idea. At points hilarious and alarming, there isn’t a moment in the book where the reader doesn’t go “What if?” There are other parts where you’ll go “What the hell?” and yet others where you go “Is that possible?” To me, that calls about a great little book. I won’t lie to you, I could not get into the idea at first, but the more the reader gets to know Evelyn and Godfrey, the more you want to read on and see how this futuristic sha-bang works out.

You meet Evelyn, a young lady who’s obsessed with visiting Dr. Chin’s office to undergo this procedure. Evelyn’s a bit quirky and insists upon knowing that someday she will be happy and in love with someone. The young librarian enchants you immediately, especially the parts where she gets the library to hire her kleptomaniac friend Dot, who has a problem not just stealing what isn’t hers but is also medicated to the gills at parts (or drunk, take your pick). I thought Dot was going to annoy me, but once she gets somewhat sobered up, she’s an invaluable part of the book. Godfrey, our other main character, is more or less forced to go to Dr Chin for this “envisioning”, at the behest of his oddball “fiancée” (but not really. That’s another story.). Godfrey gets Madge, his longtime girlfriend, a ring and proposes. He doesn’t expect her reaction at all, especially when she whips out this “envisioning” nonsense. He does go to Dr. Chin to placate Madge, although he has questions and serious doubt (why does this guy work this practice out of an old Chinese restaurant? Why does he have a PHD in just about everything and also claim to be an accountant? Why does his receptionist only move you ahead with a bribe, regardless of your appointment? Why do they play cards for money and drink after hours?). In the waiting room, he meets “gorgeous” Evelyn and immediately wants to know her better…but ignores his gut and goes ahead with the envisioning. Evelyn keeps thinking about Godfrey after she leaves, and confides her thoughts to Dot. The two continue to see each other in odd ways. Godfrey chugs along with Madge’s crazy pre-proposal acceptance rituals and after she basically tells him his vision of an art experiment prove they are incompatible, he goes crazy, gets drunk, starts major trouble with Bart and Amy (Bart is Godfrey’s best friend; although since hooking up with Amy, completely unrecognizable as the best friend that Godfrey had all these years. Which raises another set of questions- do people you know many years change when coupled with someone who changes them completely??), and after a strange wake-up call at a liquor store, Godfrey manages to find Evelyn’s address in a phone book. He staggers out, in the winter subzero temps, no less, and gets her attention by throwing rocks at her window, elementary school style. Dot is at Evelyn’s getting drunk, and she manages to talk Evelyn into letting Godfrey come up and talk to her. What happens? Well, I’ll tell you this, what does- isn’t expected, it’s gloriously bizarre, and you can’t stop til you get enough (or to the end).

The basic gist of the book is this- if you can’t let go of your past romantic pitfalls, how can you open up your heart enough to possibly see true love standing right in front of you? Haven’t we all been there? I have, and there were parts of this book where questions arose, and oh boy, for such a quirky love story, you certainly have your mind spinning like an emotional top when you’re done reading this gem. I had a difficult time getting into this book at first, mainly because I thought it was too far-fetched of a concept to spin into a plot, much less a love story, but Sherl does a tremendous job not only making it happen, but also making you question your choices in love. And if such technology were available (in this day and age, I choose to believe even this is possible), would you use it? Or would you pooh-pooh it and hope that the fickle hand of fate deals you a winning hand? Godfrey has plenty of emotional vultures that show up in the novel, as we’re allowed to see when he gets a chance to go through his past mistakes and envision where they would have led. In fact, two of the vapid soulsuckers he remembers bare startling resemblances to exes of mine! As I said, a great book to make you laugh, scratch your head, and overall, think. But more importantly than that, it makes you go “What If?” The best thing you can do is get out and buy a copy of this book and give it a whirl.

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

untitled

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

untitled

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

untitled

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

untitled

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.

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,886 other followers