There Are No Grown-ups: A Midlife Coming-Of-Age Story by Pamela Druckerman (3 out of 5)

•April 15, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This was a pleasant surprise. I tried to read Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bebe” years ago, when I worked at BAM, but I couldn’t get into it. Maybe because the advancement of years is upon me, or maybe just because I’ve “matured”(loaded word) and I can connect to the author and subject matter more. This book is about turning 40 and the decade of forty. I identified with everything that Druckerman writes about, except for the parenting observations. That was a good portion of the second half of the book. I skimmed through a bit of that, because I am single and childless, and a lot of her musings didn’t ring any bells. I thought the title was great; the subtitle a bit misleading. Druckerman’s story would not qualify to me as a midlife coming-of-age story. She handles most of all of her hiccups with humor, aplomb, and determination. Not at all how I have handled some of the crap I have gone through the past five years. Her brand of realism doesn’t quite match my brand of realism. I did laugh at quite a bit of this, and I did shake my head and sigh heavily at some of this. But the lengthy bits about parenting in your forties was largely lost on this formerly captive audience. There are a lot of bon mots here; some applied; some did not. I think anyone with a family in the 40’s would enjoy most of it. A single gal like myself only really identifies with the first half or so. The book is being released on May 29, 2018, by the folks at Penguin Random House.

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Homey Don’t Play That! The Story of In Living Color and the Black Comedy Revolution by David Peisner (5 out of 5)

•April 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I loved this show. My brother and I would sit and watch it every Sunday. It’s testimony to the open minds that our parents had. More likely, my Dad was busy having beers and dinner and Mom was cleaning up after dinner, so they weren’t paying much attention. My Mom is the same woman who had issues with me playing certain songs on the Prince album “1999” that she got me in the first place. Irony is sometimes stronger than the person(s) carrying them out. I’m just happy that Peisner sat down and wrote this book, so there’s a record of it for anyone who wasn’t around for it. It must not be forgotten!

Keenen Ivory Wayans had more than one vision floating around in his head. As the oldest child of 12 growing up in a tough neighborhood, he tried his best to get along day by day. His life is transformed forever when he watches a Richard Pryor comedy special. He knows that he wants to do the same thing with his life, but how? Peisner provides a detailed account of the Wayans family, their neighborhood, black culture around the time things are starting to happen, and black history to paint a comprehensive portrait of what Wayans and the country were up against. Wayans fought a long and hard battle to bring his dream into existence, and anyone who grew up loving the show will end up loving it even more after reading this in-depth look. What more can be said? Amazing cast, edgy commentary comedy, musical discoveries, and far-reaching evolution as far as the development of future black comedy showcases. P.S. I really don’t believe there will ever be another comic showcase as influential as “In Living Color” was. I further enjoyed the interviews with the principles of the show, and the shock that came with realizing how many celebs were connected to the show in some fashion. As things are wont to happen, Fox pulled some dirty deeds on Wayans, and he pulled out of the show not long before the end. All good things come to an end. Unfortunately, also true with this book. A fantastic look at a fantastic show. It’s currently available in hardcover, brought to us by the fine folks at Atria (an imprint of Simon & Schuster).

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl (5 out of 5)

•April 8, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I have read Marisha Pessl’s first two books. “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” was good, but it didn’t send me into throes of ecstasy. “Night Film” was great (I still love the format!), until the end. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. My assistant manager told me months ago that he saw on her Twitter feed that she had a new book coming out. It took some doing, but I requested two copies. Many thanks to Tim Mooney at Penguin Random House for sending the advances! The book is out in June 2018, and it’s supposed to be marketed toward the teen set. Believe me when I say that it could be taken as a read for adults, as well.

Beatrice heads back to the lumbering estate known as Wincroft. She’s summoned by a note from Whitley asking her to come back. Beatrice hasn’t seen her other 5 friends in over a year; since the death of her ex and group musician Jim Mason. No one handled his death well, but Beatrice took it harder than the rest. She fled to the sanctity of her parents and their unassuming lifestyle. This note dredges up all sorts of grief, but also unanswered questions Beatrice has over his death. She decides it’s time to see what her group of “friends” is up to. Quotes around friends because this group seem self-serving, self-destructive, and like a bunch of secretive jerks. The night yields no new clues, but it does yield a mysterious old man calling himself “The Keeper”. He then informs them that time, for all of them, has become stuck, and they can only come unstuck from this..if they come to a consensus about which one of them will DIE. If they agree, that person dies, and the others go back to the present time and place, and lives. This, my friends, is called a Neverworld Wake. The only good that Beatrice gets out of this is that she is determined to keep living the same day and time over and over again to interrogate her friends, interpret their actions, and try to figure out what happened to Jim. This is like the movie “Groundhog Day” meets some creepy, dark location with a doubtful suicide involved, and a more sinister, possibly undead “Rufus” from the Bill & Ted movies as the guide for the group of friends. Pessl writes at the perfect pace for the tale she’s unrolling for the reader. The characters are razor sharp, real, and so multi-dimensional that you can call them human trapezoids and get away with it. The plot is wholly original, which is something Pessl is known for. The only way for you to find out is to read it for yourself! It’s being released in June 2018, by Penguin Random House.

She Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah by Ann Hood (5 out of 5)

•April 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This was fun! Yesterday was pain-in-the-sinuses headache day. It hurt to even open my eyes. Reading? Seemed downright improbable. My music was playing low, which is not me at all. I found this with a bunch of books stacked on my headboard. Some people have notches; I have piles of books. This is a middle-grade book, tailored for ages 7-10. Obviously, a 45-year old can enjoy it as well. And did! This will be released in June of this year, by the folks at Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House. I encourage anyone who loves the Beatles to read it, or better yet- get the kids started young!

Trudy Mixer is the president of the Rhode Island chapter of the Robert E. Quinn Junior High Beatles Fan Club, which had 23 members, but it suddenly dwindles to 3 people, who also happen to be the biggest nerds in school. Trudy’s best friend Michelle stops hanging out with her overnight and decides to hang with the cooler, cheerleader squad. Trudy’s dad, a fan as much as she is, gets four tickets for the Beatles concert in Boston that summer. With everything changing around her, Trudy pins her hopes on the only good luck she can think of: meeting Paul, her favorite Beatle. Trudy’s luck gets worse- Michelle (no longer her belle) is blowing off the show to go to Acapulco with the cheerleaders, her Dad now has to ditch out to go to Japan for work, and her mom breaks her leg, so she can’t drive Trudy to the show. Pressed for time and a way to carry out her plan, Trudy invites the other 3 members of the fan club to go to the show with her instead. The day arrives, but nothing is going right. Will Trudy and the fan club get to the show? Even more importantly, will she pull off her plan to meet Paul McCartney?

What a refreshing change from the crappy world outside. It takes you back to a time when darkness is all over (JFK’s assasination, The Vietnam War, Nixon and LBJ), and the emergence of The Beatles radiated a message of hope to everyone with their music. It’s hard to pick favorite scenes in the book, but one of my favorites had to be the scene when Trudy and her dad get ‘Revolver’ and listen to it for the first time. The reactions are spectacular! You’ll have to read it when it comes out. And better yet, the media kit includes a Beatles button, which I shamelessly took. And the playlist, which also comes with, is something the author should put up on Spotify. And last but not least, the scene with George? Long overdue, you McCartney girls! Put this one on your TBR list for June. I loved it yeah, yeah, yeah.

I Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman (3 out of 5)

•April 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I bought this a couple of weeks ago when it was going back on a return. I was going to read it years back when it came out, but that million books to be read made sure it took me awhile to get to it. I know. The excuses never end when you keep buying and obsessively reading them. There are worse habits, people.

I had read a book about Brian Wilson years ago, at BAM. That one is called Catch A Wave: The Rise, Fall, & Redemption of The Beach Boys’ Brisn Wilson, by Peter Ames Carlin. That book is fantastic! I gave it to Richie after I was done, and he thought the same thing. That was the summer of 2006. It has been a long time since that book came and went, but I carried it around for a long time with me. Some books are like that; you read them and months and years later, they are still hanging out in your mind for no apparent resson other than they affected you that much. Brian Wilson’s story has flitted around the music industry for years, and many rumors along with it. Here, I thought, is his chance to set things straight. And he does, but not quite with the pinpoint alacrity one would hope for.

Wilson is, without a doubt, one of the legendary forefathers of 60’s music. Surfin’ safari, or California Beachcomber Rock, or whatever you would define The Beach Boys as. His fall, at the hands of a highly publicized breakdown, ongoing and undiagnosed depression, and a Svengali-Rasputinesque figure named Dr. Eugene Landy, brought him down for a number of years. He was eventually saved by his wife Melinda, brother Carl, and a number of lawyers intervening on his behalf. Wilson hinself tells the reader that a combination of the right people in his life, the right medication, and the right doctors make all the difference in his case. So…given that his story is nothing short of inspirational, why did his memoir leave me coming up a bit short (Height jokes never go out of style when you’re under 5 feet tall)? I’m not altogether sure, to be honest. He tells a very homogenized version of things in his life. Then again, you can’t expect more from a guy who was pumped full of who knows what pills at the hands of that nutty doctor. No doubt the years and the drugs have affected his memories somewhat. The hardest part to read was his grief at losing both his brothers and being the last Wilson left. But he seems determined to keep playing that music that keeps him going. And that is the most important part of this memoir that you walk away with. Music is the thing that stuck with him, kept him going in the darkest hour, and continues to inspire him to this day. And isn’t that the most important thing?

The Man Who Caught The Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras by Brantley Hargrove (5 out of 5)

•March 29, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It seems to me that every spring for the past five years, there has been a weather centric biography released in the spring. This spring is no different. This will be released by Simon & Schuster on April 3, 2018.

Tim Samaras was a very different sort of storm chaser. Many storm chasers are students of science, climatology, and college degreed. Tim was none of these things. He was a hell of an engineer with a growing fascination of the tumultuous skies every springtime. After seeing the devastation firsthand in one town, Tim decides there must be a way to gather data from inside the beast, which in turn, may be the lightning in a bottle that meteorologists need to begin figuring out the puzzle of tornado predicting and save countless lives. While it can he argued that weather has come far in the years past with the advent of more advanced Doppler radar, the European and GPS radar prediction models, the TOR con system, the tornado warning alerts every spring, as well as classes in preventative actions, it still had a long way to go. Tim recognized this need and was determined to find a way to gather more data. He tries to pitch his ideas, sometimes to a captive audience, more often than not to a group of like minded scientists who thought he was grasping at straws (or more accurately, invisible pesos to fund his group of dedicated storm chasers). Tim ends up getting a gig on the Discovery Channel and spends some time on the show “Storm Chasers”. In time, egos get in the way, and Tim moves on. But he never gives up, even when funding dries up and it’s down to just his small team of himself, his son Paul, and family friend Carl. He builds several important weather machines that do succeed at collecting data, but Tim is still chasing the ultimate tornado at the end of the book. I’m not a scientist by any means, but I love earth science and weather in all forms, and this book kept me informed without being confused. Hargrove does a wonderful job of not losing he reader with jargon that alienates; instead, he crafts a well-rounded narrative that rolls on and keeps you turning the pages to see what battle Tim is gearing up for next. The elusive tornado that he seeks for the penultimate data is the one that ends up almost taking the lives of Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Bettes and his team in El Reno on May 31, 2013. Sadly, this monster is the one that Tim and his small team cannot outrun. You may be a very sad reader at the end of this, but you’ll be all the more wiser (the phletora of information you learn) and glad that you got to know the story of legendary tornado Chaser Tim Samaras.

I should not end this review without starting that it’s refreshing in another way, and that’s the fact that Hargrove meticulously researched this and got to know not only the storm chasers who knew and worked with Tim, but also with his immediate family and friends. Hargrove went on chases himself to get in touch with the adrenaline rush that Tim was such a huge part of in his living years. It’s always great to read a book with so much heart and soul, where the author isn’t half-assing it. This is the case here. I absolutely loved this book. If you love science and real people, this is an excellent place to start.

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness And Recovery by Barbara K. Lipska (5 out of 5)

•March 25, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Barbara K. Lipska works with brains, studying them to try to find causes for suicides, addictions, and the like. She highlights her impressive career as a neuroscientist with alacrity and no small amount of pride. Let’s face it- if you did what she outlines here in painstaking detail, you would wave your own flag righteously. And you would also hope to have a strong stomach. I recommend you not read this while eating. Trust me!

Lipska is a two-time cancer survivor when she begins exhibiting erratic behavior. Her tight-knit loving family, colleagues, and friends are horrified when their loving friend, wife, and mother begins to snap at people, argue incessantly, and insist things are fine. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Barbara begins to forget remedial things, like operating her phone, where she lives, where she works, etc. A mounting list of physical symptoms convince her to get a battery of tests done. The MRI reveals a brain now housing not one, not two, but three different tumors. The prognosis comes back-cancer and it may be fatal this time. Barbara fights with all she has, continuing with her daily exercise routine, and continuing to go to work like normal. They begin treating the tumors with a new clinical trial and immunotherapy, which seems to work for awhile, but her symptoms multiply and the next MRI reveals 18-EIGHTEEN- tumors now in her brain. Her family and friends …not to mention her team of doctors, specialists, and surgeons…are devastated, and her primary tells her she has months to live. There is one more risky procedure to try, and the determined neuroscientist goes with it. To read about everything that she went through? Inspiring doesn’t cover it. You have a bad week, then come home and read this book over two nights, and I daresay you will have your insignificant shit put into perspective. What happened to Barbara is nothing short of a miracle. Her memories, for the most part, miraculously remain intact, and she forges ahead and writes of them daily. While dying. From 18-EIGHTEEN!- tumors in her brain. A book that was compared on the flyleaf to “Brain On Fire”. I had a harder time reading that book; Barbara’s inspired me more. What a courageous lady, and what an excellent memoir! Highly recommended.

This is out April 3, 2018, and brought to us by the fine folks at Houghton Mifflin. I got my copy from Mark, the Fuji rep. Thanks for the advance!