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. 

Judenstaat by Simone Zelitch (3 out of 5)

•September 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I got this copy from Anne, our St. Martin rep. It appealed because it’s world history AND alternate history. I am a fan of both, so if I can find both in one fell swoop, I’m in. The book is out now. I didn’t fall head over heels like I normally do, but it was pretty good regardless. I would say there is one functioning part of the book that made it feel like Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I don’t love that book, the author, or the literary device used that makes an appearance in Judenstaat. Having said that, the writing is clean, concise, and only slightly misshapen, and it is all due to that one thing. It would make a great gift for fans of alternate history, but with a touch of inadvisability. 

April 4, 1948, the sovereign of Judenstaat is created in Saxony, with Poland and Czechoslovakia bordering it. 40 years forward, and a historian named Judit Klemmer (ironically, the same name as a character on All In The Family in the late 70’s. The wife of Edith Bunker’s friend who harbors a crush on her. My association as thus made it hard for me to read the lead character without picturing the classic 1970’s show. It also shows from my level of distractible thinking that I wasn’t totally buying into the book. Sadly) is making a documentary on the History of Judenstaat. The widow is also battling the ghost of her husband Hans, who was murdered while conducting the National Symphony. Judit has no idea what to think when she is alerted…by the most unique of ways…that something is fishy in Denmark (which doesn’t border Judenstaat, incidentally). She begins replaying the footage and delving further into not only the mysteries of that history, but to her husband’s mysterious murder. What she finds? Well, it’s certainly something. And there’s a reason we call it alternate history.

I really liked the idea of a post-WWII Jewish state in Germany rather than in Palestine. What I didn’t love was the delivery of it in this format, and bookended with the plot. I really did not like the Dickensian plot device. Where that came from? No idea, but it sends the book into a slight tailspin from which this reader never quite recovered. The possibility of there being more to the state of Judenstaat is an interesting premise, but once executed, turns into a whirling dervish with no end in sight. The end really does not justify the plots. I thought it was a fantastic idea, but the frayed ends that are to be tied by the end were so muddled that the reader stops giving a crap. At least this one did.

Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick (3 out of 5) 

•September 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I am not big on fairy tales. Or books based on fairy tales, so I should not be surprised that I didn’t care for it. It just wasn’t my cup of bloodshed. The year is 1917 and the world at large is fighting G dreadful wars. The Russian Revolution has just begun its descent into carnage. Arthur Ransome is a young British journalist in the middle of it all. This is where the fairy tales come into it. His original trip was to collect fairy tales. Interestingly enough, this book is divided into three novellas that tell the story. The first part is written as a Russian fairytale, dark humor and all. The second story is a spy story. Covering one evening. The third is, inevitably, a love story. For it seems in this day and age that it’s near impossible to have a young adult story that doesn’t have romance in it. I could do with just the bleak horror and dark humor of the first two novellas here, and do without the third story. Just not my cup of blood, as I said earlier. Overall, an effective blending of all three parts in telling the story of Ransome and this horrifying period of history. After Lenin and Trotsky leave the paper, I lost all interest in what happened to our journalist. All interest. Therefore, the book wavered and waned in the concentration zone. I also thought it was new, until one of my friends on Goodreads emailed me to inform me it came out in 2007 originally and they rebranded it, gave it a new cover, and are re-releasing it! Uh, thanks. Overall, it is a decent book. Just not a favorite. 

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (5 out of 5)

•August 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Chances are pretty fair that you know Amy Schumer. Or rather, you know her show Inside Amy Schumer. But do any of us REALLY know her? This may be our best bet to get a glimpse. The book is exactly like and yet different from what you see on her television show. As she points out, everyone expects people in Hollyweird to be “on” at all times, which is hard for a self-declared introvert. Yes, Amy Schumer is an introvert. That’s just one of many surprises contained in her autobiography. My eye-opening moment was reading that she had her heart broken by a guy the EXACT way I did. Shit, if I loved the woman before that reveal, I was ready to get a lower back Amy Schumer tattoo after the fact! But the public Amy and private Amy, as much as her fans would like, while keeping large parts of that persona we see on the show, are two different people. And isn’t that so true on most cases? Those who live and work in the public eye DO, more often than not, put on a different face while dealing with the public in a private sector. I felt bad for Amy reading some of the stories about her private time meeting her public time. But more than that? I admired her MORE! Reading about her upbringing, from the thoughts rolling through her head at her bat mitzvah, to realizing her parents were divorcing, up to her father’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, was coated in her trademark sarcasm, but with a touch of realism. This woman can be snarky and make you cry til your butt plug comes out, but she is a very real person with real emotions, and that’s pretty fucking refreshing in a memoir. She touches on her love life, her vagina, her close relationship with her siblings, her show and those who help her write it, as well as her movie from last year, Trainwreck. I don’t think any of us will ever truly know Amy Schumer, but this is the best bet we have to come close. So, yes, if you love the show and her comedy, pick up a copy and read it! Don’t leave it to read in the bathroom while you’re taking a dump. No, wait, maybe you should…she would probably love that shit! Literally! Wickedly funny and also heartwarming in parts, THIS is the real Amy Schumer, vagina and all. The book is out now.