Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, & Double Lives by Tina Alexis Allen (3 out of 5) 

•December 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’m telling you right now. This memoir is full of exactly what the post script promises…if you cannot move past Debbie Macomber books, this is NOT for you. There is incestuous sexual harassment, gratuitous partner swapping, scenes of lesbianism, etc. In addition to the secrets the author’s Dad is hiding in the book. So if you can’t handle it or are of a prudish nature, forget it. This is not the memoir for you. If you like an upside down on a motorbike wearing only heels and a smile book, then THIS is for you! 

Tina Alexis Allen grows up in a big Catholic family, the youngest of thirteen kids. I have parents who come from huge families, so I have heard stories about how hard it is to get attention in a family that big. Allen does mention that, and I have to imagine that in a culture of familial repression that was present in the 50’s and 60’s, there are more stories that aren’t told to the world. Hers is quite a tale. She spends the early part of the book trying to get get her bellicose, overly dramatic dad to return her affections. After one of her birthdays, her Dad notices and figures out her sexual orientation, and drunkenly confesses that he, too, is gay. And then they get drunk and go dance in gay clubs. Quite often. Tina is suddenly her dad’s favorite, and she takes to helping him with the family business, which books tours to the Vatican for families. Tina’s dad always seems to have a suitcase full of cash, and some of the stories he tells and the company he keeps don’t always match up with a business on the up and up. You feel that huge revelations are coming, but they don’t measure up with the end times. I felt as if there were some shady mafia stuff going on, but that’s not quite what happens. There is a build-up on several angles, but close to the end, Allen shifts her focus somewhat and those lively characters lose their vitality to the reader. Big time. Enough that this reader lost a lot of her interest. Highly disappointing because up until that point, she had me. She really had me. This is still a good memoir, but it lost a lot of steam in those last two chapters. This book is out in February, 2018.


13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough (2 out of 5) 

•December 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

One of two books that I have read in the past four days that have been beyond reproach in giving multiple characters reams of human cruelty that tied up the entire story into a knot that couldn’t be undone. No, this isn’t an adult suspense thriller. It is a young adult/teen novel. This same author wrote one of my favorite books this year, January’s “Behind Her Eyes”. This was not that. 

Tasha is rescued from a cold lake by a passerby who sees her body floating in cold weather. Somehow, despite being dead for 13 minutes, she is brought back. Her best friends Jenny and Hailey (known as “The Barbies”) aren’t acting the same since she came back from the dead. Tasha feels a need to reconnect with her former best friend Becca (who had been frozen out as best friend by Tasha when the other two came along), and does so. This leaves Becca’s quiet and shy best friend Hannah feeling worried and she tries to warn Becca to be careful, for she does not trust the Barbies. Throw in Becca’s boyfriend, who once asked Tasha out, only to be publicly rejected and humiliated. The school play leads into all sorts of situations, from drug use to thinking of the hot teacher whom the girls would love to sleep, and the bullying that goes on between all of them. For as much as I enjoyed the character of Becca, her insecurities cloud her judgment way too much for my liking. Tasha is quite a puzzle, as are the other girls. I’m also not sure I should have solved the puzzle. The main goal of the book is for Tasha to recover her memory of what happened to her leading up to the 13 minutes when she died. Becca tries to help, but things take one strange turn. And then another. And yet another. And while I’m as fond of Chinese logic puzzles as the next person, this is illogical torture. In the way of moving plot along, yes, bring it on. This was not the case. It was complete chaos, this book. The cover likens it to “Mean Girls”. Maybe with the bullying and cliques, sure, but I LIKED that movie. This book was full of spinning hatred, ulterior motives, and pure evil. When the big reveal happens, well, let’s just say it was the final straw. When you have people in mortal danger and you hope they go the way of the Reaper, then you know you’ve disconnected from the book entirely. The two stars are for the characters of Becca and Hannah, who saved some of this. Some, not all. 

The book is out in hardcover now. 

I Love My Computer Because My Friends Live In It: Stories from an Online Life by Jess Kimball Leslie (5 out of 5) 

•December 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The irony here is that many around me eschew the joys of technology. Despite multiple blogs and my supposedly “successful” social media follower numbers, my computer died almost a year ago and I haven’t had it replaced yet. A few years back, I had to replace one that had dive-bombed suddenly. I do all of my writing (that memoir/essays collection is happening, people) and blog stuff on my shitty phone. I would probably have kept the Internet/laptop thing going, except the person I fancied as a potential writing partner disappeared from my life into a sconce of nomadity somewhere. So why keep a PC at home? I don’t. I’ve gotten more productive as a result. Coincedence? I fear not. 

Jess Kimball Leslie is the opposite. She grew up with a dad who was a tech tinker and encouraged Jess and her siblings to surround themselves with the wonders at the time…Dell computers and AOL Messenger, among other cyclical time warps. This is a fun trip through Kimball’s life, delivered with witty banter and my favorite bed partner…NOSTALGIA. We travel with her from a kid who tried to figure out life as dial-up Internet was the main thing, to Windows, to Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We visit the hallowed halls of Yahoo!, Match.com, Palm Pilots, Blackberry’s, to anything golden by our buddies at Apple (Kimball has clear favorites). And we get to hear about how things are going with Jess, too. Including her struggle to find her place in this world, and the perfect person to stand with. I laughed my way through this, and you will, too. 

Currently available in quality paperback at your local indie bookstore, you won’t mind spending your life online with Leslie and her many friends down the technology highway. 

What Does This Button Do? An Autobiography (5 out of 5) by Bruce Dickinson 

•December 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

My apologies for the lack of posts. It is December and I am a retail manager. Enough said. 

I was very excited to see that this was coming out when I spotted it in an article earlier in the year. I ordered it in February, because when your memory regarding books is constantly spitting new entries into your split pea brain, this is how you keep up. Bruce Dickinson has been lead singer of Iron Maiden for over thirty years. He’s also not limited to roles as author of humor books, fencer, actor, history buff, aviation entrepeneur, motivational speaker, beer brewer, airline captain, solo artist, cancer survivor, among other roles not addressed in the book (family man). The one thing I walked away from is that while this is an autobiography of one of the best singers to grace heavy metal, it doesn’t rustle the pages of the Iron Maiden handbook much. There aren’t soul ravaging paragraphs about leaving Iron Maiden, or rejoining. It’s a very matter-of-fact document, and told with a lot of wry, tongue-in-cheek humor. Other areas of Dickinson’s life are laid out and recounted, with humor and it reads seemlessly throughout his adventures. Because Bruce Dickinson is a guy who doesn’t like to remain idle, and this memoir is a great example of his squeezing so many different travels into his life so far. The thing that is absolutely amazing to me is that when I finished reading this, I had almost forgotten who Bruce Dickinson is. That he is the lead singer of Iron Maiden, because he so seamlessly invites the reader into the carousel of his life, and you never have any idea what door you will open next, and what will be waiting on the other side. And what an absolutely wonderful thing that is, in a year of many disappointing memoirs. I would highly recommend this not only to the music fan in your life, but to someone who will appreciate the kaleidoscope that has been Dickinson’s life this far. 

“What Does This Button Do?” is a current New York Times bestseller, and currently available in hardcover. 

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson (5 out of 5) 

•December 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I had two friends who requested my company yesterday, my other day off this week. I had finished a very funny bio about growing up with technology through the years (review coming) Thursday night and found this beauty sitting on my new cleaned off third bookshelf. (THREE? Yes, I have a problem). I was eager to start it, and got 40 pages knocked off in the first hour of the morning. Then I came home, cleaned out my room because it was horrid, my other friend came by, and then we went to a late lunch. That was a long lunch; such was the state of her discontent and my advice to help it. I got home and immediately went back to reading. It took two hours, but I finished it. Oh boy. It’s creepy, fatalistic, and fantastic! I should also mention it isn’t out until next April, 2018. I got this from Kaitlin at William Morrow, aka Harper Collins. I’m going to say it once. If you want a comparison to another book, the VIBE throughout this was similar to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but with one major difference. I loathe that book. I LOVE this book. The level of sheer creepiness that runs through it reminded me of when I read Flynn’s book years ago. I have not read Peter Swanson up until this, but I will have to invest in his backlog. Get this book when it releases next spring! 

Harry Ackerson is on the verge of graduating from college when he receives an anguished phone call from his stepmom Alice, telling him that his father is dead, having fallen off a path he liked to walk on. He leaves and heads to Maine, where he finds the police investigating, although they seem to be leaning toward suicide as a probable cause of Bill’s death. Harry is mildly put off by his stepmom, namely because she puts him ill at ease with semi-flirtatious vibes and her laid-back attitude. Yet she seems genuinely grief-stricken. Harry cooperates with the cops, and finds himself helping out at his dad’s bookstore, since that’s now up in the air. At the funeral, Harry notices a dark haired young lady and asks his stepmom who it is. Alice says she has no idea, and then admits to Harry that his father was having an affair with a lady named Annie who worked in the bookstore on and off. She then tells him that Annie’s husband found out about the affair and likely they killed his father. Harry doesn’t know what to believe but he tracks the young lady from the funeral down and finds out SHE is the one who had the affair with his dad, and Grace warns him to get careful of Alice. Grace then ends up dead. Her sister flies in from out of state, and she begins questioning Harry about everything. Harry ends up getting attacked and ends up in the hospital, with a worried Alice by his side. Grace’s sister…who Harry  has a chemistry with that can’t be ignored…is attacked in her hotel room and presumed dead. That’s what’s going on on the present, people. This doesn’t even touch on Alice’s past, which is told in then and now narrative, to give you more of an idea of the other side of this story. What a story! Twists, turns, and curveballs all over the place. I really had no idea what was going on! And when I got to the end and things were explained, well, unbelievable. Just the perfect psychological suspense story. Chills down the spine and the whole thing. Get this book when it comes out in April, 2018! 

A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard (3 out of 5) 

•November 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This was a sale book that came into the store. We get our salebooks from Daedalus (week.salebooks.com) and we get some good ones. Chances are good that I end up with the stranger titles…or in last month’s case, a bunch of Hunter S. Thompson that I hadn’t seen in decades. I was cleaning up some of the disaster known as the bedroom and this one was sitting under a bunch of young adult titles. So I tucked into it. Great reading for the tired retail worker. 

Kevin Hazzard is a writer who decides to take a new career path and become an EMT. For most of the book, he’s stationed in the ghetto part of Atlanta. His list of partners is almost as entertaining as some of the personalities who end up on the 13th floor at Grady Hospital. Kevin sticks with this gig for awhile, and the reader does indeed get quite a recollection of memorable experiences, from overdoses to the grandma who chokes on the broccoli to the dog choking to death on a bone (Yes, Kevin and his partner do end up assisting in that, despite it being a dog). If you say you have a crazy job, I dare you to give this a read. I also guarantee you don’t describe your job in that fashion anymore. Overall, a good read. Also, not overwhelming, as far as medical jargon goes. There are some descriptive chapters, but nothing as I had feared, from a medical point of view. So yes, you ARE safe eating dinner and reading this. Good stuff. Available from the folks at Scribner. 

Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis (5 out of 5)

•November 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I ordered this months ago, as a special order for Jim Peterik, one of my favorite customers. Our buyer had ordered one, so I bought that one right away. I was happy to see this was written by Stephen Davis, who wrote the best Led Zeppelin bio out there (Hammer of the Gods). I wish it had been written by Stevie herself, but most of us know Stevie is pretty private and not letting us into her lair anytime soon. This is going to have to do, my friends! As far as source material and fair mindedness in dealing with our subject, Davis is unfailingly accurate and objective. There’s no fawning over Stevie, and no judgment on some things that she has been toasted for in the press over the years. That was great to read. I have read Mick Fleetwood’s autobiography years ago, and enjoyed it. I also read Carol Ann Harris’ book “Storms”, about her eight year long romance with Lindsey Buckingham. Both of those books are referenced often in Davis’ rendering of our Welsh witch’s extraordinary life. 

What does this mean to a huge fan? Well, if you know Stevie’s career, romances, and story very well, this book may clock in more on the four stars side. I’m still learning things about Stevie, so I was awestruck by some of it, and yet not surprised by other parts of it. The back and forth romance of Lindsey and Stevie is recounted, discounted, racked, and rocked throughout the book, before settling into an uneasy truce by the end (aka ‘The Present’). Her myriad affairs, romances, and three month marriage to her best friend’s husband are all covered. The Fritz, Buckingham Nicks, Mac, and solo career are extensively laid out. Her family history is even set up for the reader. Seriously, Davis does a hell of a research paper on the Majesty of Ms. Nicks. It would do the reader well to get schooled in the trade of Stevie. This is an excellent treatise for the fan.