My Life In Parts by Bryan Cranston (5 out of 5) 

•October 14, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Two back to back 5-star reads. One an upcoming suspense title out in January, and this autobiography. I was familiar with Bryan Cranston’s work BEFORE “Breaking Bad”. And yes, even BEFORE “Malcolm in the Middle”. Because I was raised…wait for it..a soap opera child. I remember him way back when as Professor Doug Donovan. My mom watched all of them. She was a serial channel flipper. It didn’t register much at that age….I began to enjoy his work more when Malcolm became a Sunday night staple, and I thought he was hilarious. “Breaking Bad”? Phenomenal. Just the sort of role that shows layers of range that was previously suspected and then confirmed. And this man has IT.

You never know what to expect when an actor… or anyone in the industry…writes a book. I have read some that were okay, others that were fantastic, and still others that should have been sold at Citgo gas stations and not made it to a bookstore. Happily, Bryan Cranston has delivered a fantastic memoir. I liked the formatting of it, I liked the personal yet affable tone of it, and I loved the honesty of it. It is immediately clear from multiple passages that Cranston not only enjoys his craft, but exalts in the chances that he has had to do acting for a living. His joy of the job permeates every page. From his original choice as police officer leading to the acting gig (he needed to fulfill his electives before they would let him move on) to having Vince Gilligan remember his work on an X-Files episode and calling him in to audition for Walter White, Lady Luck has had his number. There are some tough times with not having his father present in his life for many years, with a stalker during his soap opera stint, and a failed young marriage. But Cranston takes the hard times with the same level-headed approach as he does the rest of his life, and that’s an admirable trait. Again, not often seen in other memoirs I have read lately. (I’m looking at you, Norm MacDonald and David Spade!). This is a quick, enjoyable look at the life and craft of one of the best actors out there today. It’s out now. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy. Or better yet, gift someone with it this holiday season. 

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia (5 out of 5)

•October 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Wow. THIS book was another revealation. January is going to be a great month for new releases if this is any indication. I am still shaking my head over this book and NOT in a bad way, my fellow readers. It’s out January 3rd, 2017, and brought to us by Emily Bestler’s Books. Let’s talk about that cover first. Creepy! I am pretty sure it isn’t meant to be, but…I shudder looking at it. Kind of like when I see old pictures of Chucky, come to think of it. Something about this cover? After having read the book…. makes my skin crawl and I get the chills. And in that regard? Absolutely perfect to accompany the story that Ms. Mejia tells.

Hattie is a 17 year old girl with ridiculous acting talent, above average intelligence, and a burning desire to take herself out of her small town and to the big stage in New York. Those plans never come to fruition. Hattie disappears and her body is found in the corner of an abandoned barn. Through three narrators- Hattie, Del (Pine Valley’s police chief), and Peter (Hattie’s married English teacher with whom she is infatuated), a tale about Hattie’s life leading up to the time of her death is told. Accusations run fast and far in this tiny town- from her football jock boyfriend to whispers of a curse because at the time of her death, Hattie was starring in a production of “Macbeth”. I have to say, my fellow readers, I am not usually a fan of more than one narrator. This is one of the exceptions! There is no way the reader could grasp the many sides of this without Hattie’s unflinching honesty, Del’s emotive logic, and Peter’s shameful cowadice. Because try as I did, I really would have smacked Peter across the head with a gigantic pickle. Then I would have smacked him again…for making me waste a pickle on him! This is a story that had me shaking my head, going “WTH” and “WTF” at various parts, and still rattled me and made me terribly bereft at the end. Bereft? Yes. Because it is….in my opinion… a story of misplaced affection, human frailties and ferocities, and the dark corners that all of those pinwheel emotions can take us to in the name of love. Also bereft because it is the end! I really had hoped there was some magical plot device that our author was going to whip at us and find a way to keep it going. But alas, all good things (like Hattie) have to come to an end. I really can’t give more of a specific review than this. I rewrote the damn thing five times already…every draft before this, I felt I was giving away more than I should. The way that Ms. Mejia writes this is one curve ball after another, and in the end, she really hits it out of the park!

Nothing more to offer except this: the storyline is incredibly real. It really felt like something that could happen in this crazy world. And Hattie? I have SO many mixed emotions with this girl. You like her ambition, spunk, quick wit and her ability to make things happen. But the way she went about things? You want to knock common sense into her when you see how she handles things. Then again, how many of us acted rationally at 17? I sure didn’t! So. Many. Feels. I was thrown about like a load of laundry on the back of a missionary truck in the middle of Cambodia. I had no idea what each character was going to play a part in this. And they all play a part. That’s amazing to me. I have read a ton of books this year with many supporting characters that really had no reason to be on the road to the end. Not the case here! And that is quite refreshing. I like a good character (main and supporting) novel. Overall, all the way around, a win for the reader. Pick up a copy when it comes out in January! 

Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3) by William Ritter (5 out of 5)

•October 2, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The third book in William Ritter’s “Jackaby” series finds our unusual detective wrestling with his personal demons..many which are alluded to in the first two books of the series. Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghost of 926 Augur Lane, asks her fellow friends and residents to dip into her murder. Abigail Rook, Jackaby’s assistant, and the quirky detective find out the mayor may have known a bit more than he let on, and that’s when things start to get cagey. They begin by searching for Howard Carson, who has been missing since that fateful evening. The trail of bodies grows deeper, and before they know it, the “cold case” that was Jenny’s murder may not be so cold when a grisly murder mirrors her own. Abigail finds herself in a situation that is not the least bit enviable and finds she may hold the key to unlocking not only the murderers of Jenny and the others, but to Jackaby burying some of his demons as well. There is resolution on several fronts here, and Ritter does a fantastic job of tying up the ends for the reader and explaining what happened with the current situation as well. A truly fantastic and gruesome walk into the darkness and the underworld. If your young adult or adult likes a quirky series based somewhat on Sherlock Holmes with a touch of welcome madness, give them this series! 

The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics by Maureen Dowd (5 out of 5)

•September 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I will tell you motherfuckers to read this to get a neutral look at the madness currently known as the election for our next President. The cesspool of repugnancy known as the Republican party, in tatters over a pool of highly illogical candidates, end up with a semi-orange zigot as their candidate. And the Dems aren’t much to write home about, as their candidate is on her third go-round and it seems there is a lot of unspoken doubt about her abilities to beat the orange misogynist. We won’t forget about the socialist meteorite known as Bernie. Dowd also brings us back and forth to the overcrowded lunch table, full of has-beens like Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Carly Florina, Jen Bush, and Ben Carson. Our current Pres’ tour of duty is examined, as is the Bill Clinton presidency. No shortage of material here; Dowd did her homework, as well as share her columns, most of which are gathered here, starting back in the 90’s and going up to now. There are a lot of ups and downs, but I particularly loved this book because she has done what no one else has managed to do in this madness…stayed unbiased and on neutral ground. Her interviews with all of the parties involved are calm, well thought out, and some bordering on outright funny (Sarah Palin, a number of the Trump interviews, the Lewinsky lunch, and the Lorne Michaels interview are standouts). A little bit of everything, but with professional and journalistic grit to the nth degree. I love reading about politics, minus the muckraking. This is an excellent book in every regard. You would be hard-pressed to find a more worthy source to go to. Whatever you do, don’t get your info off of Facebook! Grab a copy of this from your nearby bookstore. 

All These Things That I’ve Done: My Insane, Improbable Rock Life (Music, Mayhem, & MTV) by Matt Pinfield (4 out of 5)

•September 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I would start a memo to this mofo with the following: “Dude, did you have to make the title so long?”. Yes, it IS the Killers song, and he has a very good reason for naming it this. One of many entertaining stories. If you lived in any part of the 90’s, you will recognize Pinfield from his long run as host of MTV’s 120 Minutes. There is, as oft is the case, more there than meets the eye. He was a music director and DJ of the official Rutgers University radio station, followed by a stint at a Jersey Shore alternative station, one of the first. The man has paid his dues and then some. Unlimited access to rock stars of all caliber and party quotient brings a wealth of new problems; in the forms of sex, drugs, and spirits. Pinfield doesn’t shy away from his fondness for all, further endearing him to the curious reader. And curious I was. There are some really great stories in here, but Oasis would have to be my favorite of the stories that is shared here (Uncle Lou Reed is a close second).I wish this were a bigger book and Pinfield gave us some more stories… I feel like there is more and he held back from us a bit. He certainly does NOT hold back from his love and knowledge of music. I enjoyed reading his thoughts on the music scene in the past few decades to where it stands today. As well as his adventures as a DJ early on, when the NY/NJ radio markets sound as if they were as easy to penetrate as a horny chicken to a skunk. So, all in all, no complaints except that it was so short. I expected more from a man with his depth of knowledge and musical Rolodex. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in any area of music or anyone who loves music. It would be a great stocking stuffer for the music fan in your life. 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (5 out of 5)

•September 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

One night in Chicago, a man’s life changes. For the better? Not sure if this is a question that can be answered without giving the book away. Definitely not. This entire book is a gigantic head trip, minus the pharmaceuticals. Jason leaves his wife and son at home to go to a nearby bar and congratulate a friend who is celebrating. He wonders aloud if he is happy with his life, then goes to pick up ice cream to take home, when he is ambushed and forced- at gunpoint-into his own vehicle to take his captor to a seedy side of town. What happens next is where things get completely bent backwards, forward, inside, and out. Jason’s life will never be the same. This is a book where I have to stop short at this description. It is one of those books where if one more word is said, something will be figured out and there goes the whole book! Honestly, I have not read a book like this in a long time. Half the time, I had no idea what was going on. It didn’t matter, though. I was hooked, and hooked bad! Jason is one of those rare lead characters… full of humanity, regrets, and steely determination to get back to his wife and son. Every single scenario that develops leads you further and further into a super quantum physics parallelogram that leaves you more confused than before. On the flip side, this is one deep book. Imagine if you asked a question or wondered how your life would be different, and in a flash, it was? How would you handle it? Crouch will keep you up late with this book. And that ending? Prepare to be floored. Definitely one of the best books I read this year. Go get a copy! 

Mo’ Meta Blues by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (5 out of 5)

•September 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I bought this book months ago. I don’t know why the fuck it took me so long to read. I finally had enough after it took me a week to read an absolutely fantastic book. I am not sure if it’s the oft-spoken of depression or what, but it has been a struggle the past two weeks. I am back in the swing of things, though. I apologize in advance.

If you have no idea who Questlove is, I fear for you. He is the drummer for The Roots, a long respected funk and R&B groove band. By the way, that’s my own terminology. I didn’t borrow or tweak it from anyone. If you don’t know him from The Roots, perhaps you know him from being onstage nightly as Jimmy Fallon’s in-house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Or his side band The Soulquarians. Or a producer of the hit Broadway play Hamilton. He wears many hats. And all fashionable. Quest’s story of a humble beginning in Philly with a family that encouraged music, and even had him on drums in the family band,to his struggles in the music business, to creative differences with Tariq of The Roots, to musical collaborations all over the soundboard, to the art of being a DJ, all of these things color this memoir as soulful, funny, and best yet- intelligent in the ways of the musical crosswalk. Not a dull moment is found here. His life and love of music in any and all forms transcend any difficulties in his life, and every page turned reads a positive message. You have to love this book. I loved the dude before I read this, and more after! What a wonderfully candid trip through Questlive’s wires. And even more heart-rending was the idol worship of Prince throughout the book, made even more so by the recent death of the legend. I would not be surprised to see an updated version of the book come out addressing the death of his idol. So, if you want a thorough, interesting, and candid memoir to give someone who loves music, this is a great start.