Archive for the Category » Book Review «

Book Review: According to a Source

According to a Source is about Ella who sometimes goes as Bella who works for a gossip mag getting all the latest dirt on all your favorite celebrities.  All the names of the celebrities in the books are what you might see in blind items on the internet but you can kind of get an idea of who they are based off of – “not so innocent oversexualized pop star” – yeah, thats gotta be loosely based on Britney Spears, right?  Ella manages to get all the dirt for The Life and even has managed to befriend actress and socialite Holiday Hall – who knows her secret, and her code that she only writes about things that happen in public.

When a new editor takes over at the magazine and tells the freelancers that there is only room for 4 of them and they will have to earn points based on what kind of stories they get, Ella struggles to keep up.  Her mother is very sick and she doesn’t want to tell anything about Holiday, even though she probably knows a secret or two.  When Ella finds herself in the middle of a scandal with Holiday and doesn’t report it to her editor, she pressures her for information and Ella cracks.

Can Ella make right after ruining so many careers, friendships and relationships?  She’s not sure, but she’s hit rock bottom and she is certainly going to try.

As someone who used to try and figure out all the blind items I read on the internet, this book was an interesting look at “behind the scenes” of how that information was sourced.  It also had a great storyline and just enough drama to keep things just over the top enough to keep me wanting to turn the page.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

We live in a society obsessed with celebrity, but have you ever wondered who is on the inside gathering the best celebrity gossip and how do they get access? According to a Source: A Novel by Abby Stern dishes on this behind the scenes world in a way that only a Hollywood insider could.

Ella Warren works for celebrity news website, The Life, as a club reporter. She’s assigned to stake out Hollywood’s hottest clubs and spy on the celebrities inside. When Ella is pressured by her Devil Wears Prada-type boss to find an exclusive story to keep her job, she has to decide if being in Hollywood’s elite inner circle is worth jeopardizing her friendship with actress Holiday Hall, her budding romance with Holiday’s agent, and her family.

A juicy, big-hearted novel about a young woman who loses herself in a fast-paced, glamorous world where finding your authentic self isn’t easy.

Book Review: Otis Redding

In addition to being a biography about Otis Redding, this book also talks about the area around him and what the times were like for everyone as a bit more of background so you can really understand what was going on at the time.  I was sad to see that only 1 photo had survived from Otis’ childhood.  Otis knew that Sitting on the Dock of the Bay was going to be his million dollar selling song, but I don’t think he realized that just days after recording it in 1967 he would be killed in a plane crash and it would top the charts becoming the first posthumous single to top the charts in the US.  Many used Otis’ death as a commercial opportunity to make money by selling his records.  This was a very interesting and very thorough biography and a very sad story.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

A definitive biography of Otis Redding, the musical artist who was widely regarded as the quintessential soul singer of the 1960s, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Redding’s iconic performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

Otis Redding remains a living presence in the canon of American popular music on the strength of such classic hits as “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now),” “Try a Little Tenderness,” and “Respect,” a song that Redding wrote and recorded before Aretha Franklin made it immortal.  As a singer, songwriter, bandleader, and arranger, Redding was the chief architect of the distinctly southern, gospel-inflected style of rhythm & blues associated with Stax Records in Memphis.  Yet, while Redding’s music has long served as the gold standard of 1960s soul, an aura of myth and mystery has always surrounded the story of his life, which was tragically cut short at the height of his career by his death in a plane crash in December 1967.

Otis Redding is the biography that finally does justice to the unfinished life of the man who was once celebrated as the “King of Soul.”  Jonathan Gould’s book draws on comprehensive research, the cooperation of the Redding family, and previously unavailable sources of information to present a fully-formed portrait of Redding’s background, his upbringing, and his professional career.   That said, this biography is not only a book about Redding and his music; it is also a social history of the time and place from which they emerged.  Rejecting the often sentimentalized view of race relations in the music business, Gould never lets us forget that the boundaries between black musicians and white listeners were becoming porous at precisely the moment when racial tensions were reaching a height throughout the United States.  His indelible portrait of Redding and the mass acceptance of soul music in the 1960s is both a remarkable look at a little-understood artist and a provocative exploration of the tangled history of race and music in America.

Book Review: Baseball Faith

Baseball Faith is about 52 baseball stars who reflect on their faith.  About 1/3 of the names from the table of contents I recognized.  There are several Mets and former Mets featured in the book – such as Murphy, Matz, Francoeur, Martinez and Rivera.  And of course, Albert Pujols was featured.  A book about Pujols and his faith was one of the first books I ever read in exchange for a review with this blog!  Each of the players has a writeup including their favorite verse, a writeup about them and some of their stats.  This is a very quick read but I found it very interesting to see which of the verses spoke to the players and why.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

Baseball Faith will inspire and encourage you in your faith journey, as 52 MLB players–past and present–share their stories and how they are chasing the success that only comes from being God’s man and following His plan. These men are committed to living their lives with eternity in mind. Empowered by God, they are looking beyond the competition to a larger goal: following God’s game plan for their lives as team players, as husbands, fathers, sons, and then using their influence to point others toward Him. Featuring personal stories from Hall of Famer John Smoltz, three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, former MVP Albert Pujols, perennial All-Star Mariano Rivera, and many more,

Book Review: Cheech Is Not My Real Name

Cheech is Not My Real Name is an autobiography by Cheech Marin, who you may know better as one half of Cheech and Chong.  The story begins with Cheech being on TV at age 6 and at age 7 being told that he will never be an artist.  After starting at a Catholic school he realized that he excelled at being a door to door salesman after being forced to do various fundraisers.  During the draft, he fled the US and ended up in Canada and got a job with a magazine.  Sometime around there he met Tommy Chong and they were doing performance troupe type work but ended up going out on their own as a duo.  He was able to get his status changed from a draft dodger to unfit for military service.  Cheech and Chong blew up and he talks about a few of the shows they did where there were so many people that they couldn’t even see where the crowd ended.  They got movie deals and were screwed by higher ups in the biz.  Eventually the duo went their separate ways and Cheech did work as a voiceover actor – appearing in Disney movies Oliver & Company and The Lion King (a couple of my favorites!)  Cheech has also competed on Celebrity Jeopardy several times and is often “on call” to fill in if any of the other celebs need to back out at the last minute!  A really interesting read about a really interesting and fun dude!

I received a free e-copy of this book I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

The long-awaited memoir from a counterculture legend.
Cheech Marin came of age at an interesting time in America and became a self-made counterculture legend with his other half, Tommy Chong. This insightful memoir delves into how Cheech dodged the draft, formed one of the most successful comedy duos of all time, became the face of the recreational drug movement with the film Up in Smoke, forged a successful solo career with roles in The Lion King and, more recently, Jane the Virgin, and became the owner of the largest private collection of Chicano art in the world.
Written in Cheech’s uniquely hilarious voice, this memoir will take you to new highs.

Book Review: Cornell ’77

I am not much of a Grateful Dead fan but I was intrigued by the fact that one of their shows could be so amazing that it warranted having an entire book written about it.  This book goes into depth about the May 8, 1977 show performed by the Grateful Dead at Barton Hall at Cornell University.  Grateful Dead eventually was wore down by their fans to allow them to tape their shows.  Due to the circulation of the tape of this show, it made it to the top of everyone’s lists of greatest Dead shows ever.  This book breaks down everything you could want to know about how the tape trading works and how they made shows more popular. I was also proud to see that one of their New Haven shows was in the Top 10! Go Connecticut!  The book also has a breakdown of the setlist and what songs were performed, some photos and of course, fan interviews.  Definitely an interesting read if you are a music fan and probably even moreso if you are a “DeadHead”.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

On May 8, 1977, at Barton Hall, on the Cornell University campus, in front of 8,500 eager fans, the Grateful Dead played a show so significant that the Library of Congress inducted it into the National Recording Registry. The band had just released Terrapin Station and was still finding its feet after an extended hiatus. In 1977, the Grateful Dead reached a musical peak, and their East Coast spring tour featured an exceptional string of performances, including the one at Cornell.

Many Deadheads claim that the quality of the live recording of the show made by Betty Cantor-Jackson (a member of the crew) elevated its importance. Once those recordings—referred to as “Betty Boards”—began to circulate among Deadheads, the reputation of the Cornell ’77 show grew exponentially. That aura grew with time and, in the community of Deadheads and audiophiles, the show at Barton Hall acquired legendary status.

Rooted in dozens of interviews—including a conversation with Betty Cantor-Jackson about her recording—and accompanied by a dazzling selection of never-before-seen concert photographs, Cornell ’77 is about far more than just a single Grateful Dead concert. It is a social and cultural history of one of America’s most enduring and iconic musical acts, their devoted fans, and a group of Cornell students whose passion for music drove them to bring the Dead to Barton Hall. Peter Conners has intimate knowledge of the fan culture surrounding the Dead, and his expertise brings the show to life. He leads readers through a song-by-song analysis of the performance, from “New Minglewood Blues” to “One More Saturday Night,” and conveys why, forty years later, Cornell ’77 is still considered a touchstone in the history of the band.

As Conners notes in his Prologue: “You will hear from Deadheads who went to the show. You will hear from non-Deadhead Cornell graduates who were responsible for putting on the show in the first place. You will hear from record executives, academics, scholars, Dead family members, tapers, traders, and trolls. You will hear from those who still live the Grateful Dead every day. You will hear from those who would rather keep their Grateful Dead passions private for reasons both personal and professional. You will hear stories about the early days of being a Deadhead and what it was like to attend, and perhaps record, those early shows, including Cornell ’77.”

Book Review: Casey Stengel

Casey Stengel spent 39 years as a professional baseball player.  If he retired after he was finished playing, he probably wouldn’t have gone down in history at all, as a .284 outfielder.  But he went on to manage at age 44 and ended up retiring a legend after helping the Yankees bring home 10 pennants and becoming the Mets first manager. Splendid!  Casey is the only person to have worked in 5 New York ballparks!  He started his career as a ‘lunatic’, that is the nickname of the team he was playing for after leaving dental college!  In 1922 his team won the World Series and his share was $4,546.  The book is 4 parts, the first being his early life and career, the second focuses on his time with the Yankees, the 3rd his time with the Mets and then the final part is all about Cooperstown and his retirement.  Certainly an interesting book and Marty Appel is a pretty great author.

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

From the New York Times bestselling author of Munson and Pinstripe Empire, Casey Stengel is the definitive biography of baseball’s greatest character.

There was nobody like Casey before him, and no one like him since. For more than fifty years, Casey Stengel lived baseball, first as a player (he was the only person in history to play for all the New York teams—the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, and Mets), and then as a manager (for the Yankees and Mets, among others). He made his biggest mark on the game, revolutionizing the role of manager while winning an astounding ten pennants and seven World Series Championships (including FIVE STRAIGHT!) with the Yankees. Playing with and against a Who’s Who of Cooperstown—Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb—and forming indelible, and sometimes complicated, relationships with Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Billy Martin, Casey Stengel was, for an astonishing five decades, the undisputed, hilarious, and beloved face of baseball.
For a man who spent so much of his life in the limelight, he still remains an enigma. New York Times bestselling author Marty Appel paints an intimate portrait of a private man who was larger than life and remains the embodiment of the national pastime.

Book Review: Macho Row

Macho Row is about the 1993 Phillies and their Cinderella season. It focuses on former Met – Dykstra as well as Daulton, Kruk, Williams, Hollins and Incaviglia. Each of the six members has a bit of a bio and it talks about their seasons previously and then how they became a key piece of the 1993 Phillies puzzle.  They played by “The Code” which is the unwritten rules of the game.  They also made rookies life miserable, but they came out on top in the National League, winning the division and making it to the World Series where they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays who were too much even after the Phils caught lightning in a bottle.  Although 1993 was a bit before my baseball time, it was a lot of fun to read about this team and how they made their way to the top!

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

Colorful, shaggy, and unkempt, misfits and outlaws, the 1993 Phillies played hard and partied hard. Led by Darren Daulton, John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, and Mitch Williams, it was a team the fans loved and continue to love today. Focusing on six key members of the team, Macho Row follows the remarkable season with an up-close look at the players’ lives, the team’s triumphs and failures, and what made this group so unique and so successful.

With a throwback mentality, the team adhered to baseball’s Code. Designed to preserve the moral fabric of the game, the Code’s unwritten rules of the game formed the bedrock of this diehard team whose players paid homage and respect to the game at all times. Trusting one another and avoiding ideas of superstardom, they consistently rubbed the opposition the wrong way and didn’t care. William C. Kashatus pulls back the covers on this old-school band of brothers, depicting the highs and lows and their brash style while also digging into the suspected steroid use of players on the team. Macho Row is a story of winning and losing, success and failure, and the emotional highs and lows that accompany them.

Book Review: The Uncommoners #1: The Crooked Sixpence

I think that this book bit off more than it could chew with saying that it was a must read for anyone with a Hogwarts-shaped hole in their lives. I love me some Harry Potter and the whole time I was (trying to) read this book I kept comparing it to the Wizarding World – and it was paling in comparison.  In fact, I got about 1/4 through the book before I decided it just was not for me.

If you decide to read this book – go in with an open mind and ignore any similarities it may have to Harry Potter and perhaps you will have a better go with it than I did.  The problem could also be that I was a kid when Harry Potter first came out so I was more easily wrapped up in that world and now as an adult I can’t really get that same feeling.  I had hoped I could have finished it, but if I try 2-3 times and can’t get into it, I just have to move on. Too many books, too little time 🙂

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

Anyone with a Hogwarts-shaped hole in their lives can’t miss this fantasy series opener. Dive into a secret underground city below London where ordinary objects are capable of extraordinary magic!
“Part Tim Burton, part J.K. Rowling! A terrific debut.” —Soman Chainani, New York Times Bestselling Author of the School for Good and Evil series
Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems…
When their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to the hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her annoying big brother Seb cannot imagine what adventure lies in store. Soon their house is ransacked by unknown intruders, and a very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush.

Ivy and Seb make their escape only to find themselves in a completely uncommon world, a secret underground city called Lundinor where ordinary objects have amazing powers. There are belts that enable the wearer to fly, yo-yos that turn into weapons, buttons with healing properties, and other enchanted objects capable of very unusual feats.

But the forces of evil are closing in fast, and when Ivy and Seb learn that their family is connected to one of the greatest uncommon treasures of all time, they must race to unearth the treasure and get to the bottom of a family secret . . . before it’s too late.

Debut novelist Jennifer Bell delivers a world of wonder and whimsy in the start of a richly uncommon series.

“An auspicious trilogy opener.” Kirkus Reviews

Book Review: Rasputin’s Supernatural Dating Service

Rasputin was one of my favorite people to learn about in History class, so when I saw that this book was about him, I had to check it out! It ended up being one of the strangest books I think I have ever read.  For me, it kind of missed the mark, I think that the humor was a bit off – maybe over my head?  But if you’re looking for a quick really weird read about Frankenstein and Werewolves and all other sort of mystical and sci-fi characters, then this would be the book for you!

I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

Monsters, ghosts, dead, undead, and Frankensteins still unsure if they’re depressed because they’re abominations against existence or if it’s just been forever since they’ve been laid, all can find love with Rasputin’s Supernatural Dating Service!
Eli Kowalski has seen his share of freaks as a Certifier for Rasputin’s Supernatural Dating Service. It’s his job to weed out the real monsters from the weirdos with too much black lipstick. While on a routine certification, he comes across the Tablet of Nicaea. A powerful witch and self-proclaimed “Men’s Rights Activist” wants to steal the tablet and use it to kill all supernatural creatures so that “nice guys” like him can have a better chance with women. Eli must unite with the supernatural policing agency, the witch’s ex-girlfriend, and the constantly-naked Rasputin to save supernatural creatures in the name of love. He’ll probably excuse himself from Rasputin’s victory orgy, though.
Rasputin’s Supernatural Dating Service casts a humorous, silly light on romance in the paranormal community. Fans of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens and Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job will find similarities in the book’s comedic treatment of the supernatural.

Book Review: WPA Buildings

I love architecture and books that include lots and lots of pictures of really cool architecture are some of my favorites.  This book features WPA Buildings – buildings that were funded by the Works Progress Administration.  I’ve seen some buildings in this style before, so it was nice to learn some more about them and how they came about and some of the murals and details inside of them.

I received a free e-copy to review this book, I was not otherwise compensated.

About the Book

In this fully illustrated, well-documented study, a historically underappreciated, uniquely American style gets its due. This survey explores the often-overlooked social impact of imposing government buildings in American cities, large and small, that were funded by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. It was The New Deal’s attempt to restore America’s self-confidence during the Great Depression. Art deco and modernism morphed into a style that broadcast the idea of the “new” and inspired civic confidence, as represented in structures such as the Federal Reserve in Washington, DC, and the Solomon Courthouse in Nashville. Eventually labeled WPA Moderne, this all-American streamlined classicism became the public face of an era defined by progress and a sense of security. An extensive chapter on the murals within these structures features elaborate, government-commissioned paintings depicting epochal events in US history and American citizens laboring tirelessly in hopes of a better, brighter future..