One of the many great publishers putting out books right now is Jimmy Patterson Books. Not knowing much of the company, besides the name of James Patterson, the books they have sent for review have been unique and well written for the YA genre. Lyndsay Ely’s “Gunslinger Girl” ( JIMMY Patterson Books/Little, Brown and Company, 2018) is the latest product of the company.
Ely’s book is part western, part science fiction/dystopian , and lots of fun. The story involves a girl named Serendipty “Pity” Jones, who is great with shooting guns. She ends up in a city called Cessation where she becomes a part of the theater. At the end of certain shows, “The Finale” occurs, which involves the killings of criminals, thieves, and others that disobey the woman that runs the place, named Selene. Even though the city seems to have no real rules, Selene has the final say, and the residents obey by her rules.
While she trains her skills in the theater show, and trying to escape her past, Pity befriends several people in the theater, along with catching the eye of Selene, who promises her favors in return for her loyalty. The city deals with outside movements of political upheaval that makes its way into the story.
The book combines the old West ideas, such as using guns, knives, and rifles as weapons, while combining future and modern technology like trucks and video walls, to combine a new West setting. The theater aspect and its Finale, is similar to the idea of creations like the books The Running Man, or The Hunger Games, where the circus type acts perform the sentences of criminals in front of eager audiences, but with a nice twist in keeping the setting of the old western weapons. The novel combines romance, action, and character twists (no spoilers here, but several characters are not who they seem to be), while delivering the coming of age of Pity’s character, who is trying to escape her past while trying to be the best at her skill.
The only negative critique of the book is the names of the characters. Although , like any of the writers covered on this site, the respect of anyone writing a book and getting published (especially a big name publisher like this one) is always here with this page, but there seems to be too many character names starting with “S.” Although throughout the book Serendipity is called “Pity” ( the full name is still a great character name instead, in this opinion), other characters are named Selene, Santino, Siena (a bounty hunter), Sheridan, and a Dr. Starr. There are other characters in the book, including Max (who is involved in the romance aspect of the book), and Olivia, but there are over five characters (counting Pity) with the same letter name. If the reader is not paying close attention to who each character is in the book, they can get confused in the plot of who is doing what, as opposed to other books where the reader could just remember the first letter of the name of the character (which this reader has done before, when books are filled with characters with non regular names). However, that being the only complaint, that’s a remarkable achievement for Ely’s debut novel.
Lyndsay Ely’s debut novel is filled with many things: romance, action, character twists, and great character development, along with combining two different time periods (the West meets the future) to send the reader on a exciting trip that young adults, along with any age readers, will enjoy. The ending of the novel leaves the reader wanting more, which is a great thing in this situation. The publishers have chosen wisely in adding Lyndsay Ely to their roster of author. Good things are yet to come with this writer.
A special thanks to Jimmy Patterson Books, Hatchette Books, and Little, Brown and Company for the advance reading copy.
“Gunslinger Girl” by Lyndsay Ely (JIMMY Patterson/Little, Brown, and Company ISBN-13: 9780316555104) is available at bookstores everywhere and online. For more information about JIMMY Patterson, Little Brown and Company, and Hatchette Books, visit http://www.littlebrown.com or http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.
“Leaving Kent State” by Sabrina Fedel (Harvard Square Editions, 2016) is an interesting Young Adult book about a teen and her family living during the 1970 Kent State University protest.
Rachel Morelli is a seventeen-year-old whose father is a professor at Kent State University. Rachel is in love with her neighbor, Evan. Evan just returned injured from Vietnam and has to deal with the aftermath of coping with a normal life, along with his experience being a young man in the war. Evan was a great guitar player before going over to Vietnam, and returns home with a damaged hand with missing fingers. Rachel not only tries to get the old fun loving friend back that she remembers, but also has to hide her feelings for him. Meanwhile, Rachel’s dreams of going to Pratt University for art is in jeopardy as her parents want her to go to Kent State, which is deemed a safer, and cheaper, environment.
The book is filled with some great references to Kent, Ohio, from not only the university buildings, but also the places downtown, such as the bar JB’s, and Brady’s Cafe. There are also references to certain street names that residents of Kent would recognize. The author is knowledgeable with the Kent State sites, buildings, and cultures (including a reference about a local musician named Joe Walsh). Even though the book takes a while to get to the main themes of the stories (will Rachel go to Kent or Pratt and what happens with her and her family when the Kent shooting occur), the character development is well written where the reader is not anxious or bored with the slow build up of the story. Any reader or follower of the historical aspect of Kent State University officials calling in the National Guard, along with the shootings, knows that these events are going to happen, but Fedel’s build up makes the events more powerful with Evan, Rachel, and her family’s reactions of the events.
Anyone that is familiar with Kent State, or history in general, would like this book. The family’s thoughts of the events and the war itself, it is not preachy to those that may feel differently than the characters. The concept of creating a story through the point of view of a senior in high school during the events is unique and enjoyable. Being a Kent State graduate, this book was interesting, powerful, and entertaining all at the same time. Sabrina Fedel may have a slow build up to the events at times, but the developing of the characters makes the pay off well worth it.
Thanks to Sabrina Fedel for the copy of the book to review.
“Alone” by Cyn Balog (Sourcebooks, 2017) is not just another Young Adult Horror/Mystery book, but it an adventure that is enjoyable and full of twists and turns.
The book involves the character Seda and her family, whose mother inherits a old house in Pennsylvania that in the past was used for murder mystery parties. The house is filled with secrets, hidden passageways, and creepy rooms with props like dead bodies and broken mirrors. When her mother decides that she doesn’t want to sell the house , unless the buyer will use it as a horror attraction for the parties that used to be thrown there, Seda shows more hatred towards the house, along with being away from her friends and her old school. When a group of stranded teenagers show up during a snowfall, things in the house start to take a mysterious turn, where noises are heard, and people start to disappear.
Seda’s mother is a well respected college teacher who is loved by her students, and also a major fan of horror and slasher films. Even her younger siblings are exposed to her mother’s love for the genre at ages six and four. The four other children enjoy playing with the props found in the house and playing jokes on each other (and Seda) throughout the house.
The house is, of course, not only filled with dark, hidden rooms, but is also hidden away from most of civilization, with the only local general store being twenty miles away at Art’s General Store. The house is on top of a mountain, which is a perfect setting for mysterious things to occur.
The great thing about this book is that it has all the typical stereotypes of a horror/mystery tale, without sounding predictable where the reader can predict what is going on. This story is a perfect example of a classic Gothic novel from the 1800s or 1900s, with twists and turns in the plot, along with the complexity of the main character Seda. Throughout the reading, the reader will wonder if what they are following is real, an imagination, or both (As with my writings of book reviews, no spoilers will be given). The mother is a writer who likes horror films, the siblings are still young enough to be innocent, and the main character has issues she is dealing with being a normal 15 year old besides having to be isolated in a castle filled with a history of fright.
Balog creates wonderful settings and twists in her book, and it is well written that an adult can read this book and not feel insulted that it’s a YA book. The chapters are short and starts out with press media statements that would have been in the brochure for the house when the visitors were there for their weekend escape. Some of the statements provide a small history of the house, and the people that are associated with the place. The writing makes the reader believe that they are actually in the house reading the notices.
Even if you are not a fan of the Young Adult genre, but love a good classic gothic themed book, this is the book to get. The reader will get sucked into the tale that they will be wondering what (and who) is real and what is not. Just when the reader thinks they have the ending figured out, there is another twist to the plot (even to the end). Sourcebooks has a wonderfully (and sometimes confusing, but in a good way) book that will take the reader on a mysterious expedition. There needs to be more books in this genre as great as “Alone.”
A Special Thanks for Sourcebooks Fire for the Advanced Reading Copy.
“Alone” by Cyn Balog is available where you find books or at http://www.sourcebooks.com. You can find more about Cyn Balog at cynbalog.blogspot.com
” Roy Orbison:The Authorized Biography” (Center Street Publishing, 2017 ) by Roy Orbison Jr., Wesley and Alex Orbison, with Jeff Slate is a wonderful in depth collection of one of the greatest singers of all time.
The book is filled with photographs of Roy Orbison, his friends, and record covers, along with capturing the life of one of the early Rock Music pioneers. The book takes the reader through the early days of his life, when Orbison was influenced by musician Lefty Frizzell, his high school bands, and the day he discovered Rock Music by listening to Elvis Presley. Orbison’s story journeys through his heartbreaks, from his struggles with his record labels (where one label released older material of his when he was on a newer label to cash in on his success), to taking management to court, and his personal heartbreaks with the death of his first wife and kids.
This coffee table book is filled with beautiful glossy pages with photographs of his performances, some famous friends he met on the way (The Beatles, Johnny Cash), and album/single covers, and promotional events. The photographs are wonderfully put in order of the timeline of the story, which adds to the collection.
The authors add great stories in the book within the telling of the biography, like when Johnny Cash told a young Orbison that he should lower his voice if Roy wanted to make it in the music business (which his signature voice later was one of a kind and separated him from other acts), to Sun Records Owner Sam Phillips told Roy, after Orbison called him for a record deal via the advice of Presley, responded by hanging up on Orbison and told him that he (Phillips) ran the label, not Elvis. For fans of the later years of Orbison, the tale of him joining the super group The Traveling Wilburys with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynn, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan is definitely worth the read alone (along with the story of how the band name and first single “Handle With Care” came about). There is also the story about how his smash hit “Pretty Woman” was created. The book follows how Roy’s Cinemax black and white concert in 1986 led to his major comeback in the U.S.
This book is a perfect mix of photographs and text, which is not seen in many Rock Music coffee table style books. They usually carry more photographs and little to no text, however there is a great balance of the two in the 252 page volume, along with a nice discography, with the record release dates and the label included in it.
“Roy Orbison” is not just a nice picture book, but one that has great stories as told ,and put together, by his family members. The text covers the story of Roy’s life from his early beginnings to his rise to stardom, and his return right before his death. The authors state that they put the book together so Roy’s story could be told, and to “put the record straight.” This is not just a book for Roy Orbison fans, but for fans of the history of Rock and Roll. The authors of this collection have compiled a wonderful tribute to a Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest singer in music history. There is so much to learn in this book that it should be a required use in any Rock and Roll History class.
“The Authorized Roy Orbison” by Roy Orbison Jr., Wesley and Alex Orbison with Jeff Slate is available by Center Street Publishing, an imprint of Hatchette Books (ISBN: 9781478976547). Visit Hatchette Books at: http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.
Thank you to Hatchette Books and Center Street Publishing for the reading copy of this book.
Christmas music. Some love it, some despise it. There are some classic songs, and there are some that are so bad they are good. Some favorites songs of mine include 1988’s “Christmas Without You” by Tommy Page (the B-side of his first hit single “A Shoulder To Cry On”), “Merry Christmas Darling” by The Carpenters (which was released several times in the 1970s), and Barry Manilow’s “River” (which is a cover of Joni Mitchell’s song from his 2002 Christmas album). One can not go wrong either with the Michael Buble 2011 Christmas CD, and last year’s Oak Ridge Boys “Celebrate Christmas” CD (which you can read the full review in the archives). But for every great song (Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” or the version by the Muppets), there is awful ones (“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”).
Just like in the early days of Rock and Roll, Christmas time brings out the novelty songs. Some famous Novelty, or Oddity songs, throughout the years have been 1976’s “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees (who later became a host on “Solid Gold”) , 1950’s “The Thing” by Phil Harris (which hit #1 on the charts), and Los del Rios’ 1995 “Macarena.” Ray Stevens and “Weird” Al Yankovic made a career of parodies and novelty hits. So, to celebrate the season, here are some of my favorite Christmas Novelty songs. You may remember these, may never heard of them, or may never want to hear them again, but these are some of my favorite novelties that does not include singing chipmunks or barking dogs (in no particular order).
“The Heat Miser” (1974). Everyone loves the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials (at least you should). These show were, next to Charlie Brown, was the anticipated shows to watch when Christmas time came around. Shows like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” are classic shows in animation. The best one was 1974’s “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” where Santa decides to take a vacation after getting a cold before Christmas. In order to make things right with a town called Southtown USA, Mrs. Claus needs some help from Mother Nature’s two bickering sons, The Heat Miser (who loves the warm weather) and The Snow Miser, who loves the cold. The Heat Miser was voiced by George S. Irving, who was a Broadway actor, and later voiced the narration of the cartoon Underdog. For those that do not like the snow and bad weather, this is the song to keep the cheer if you don’t live in warmer climates.
“Superstar” (1977). This song was a re-recording from a 1972 album “Snoopy’s Christmas” from the Peter Pan Record Label, which produced novelty records, along with records and book combinations, where kids could listen to the record while following along with the book. This album featured the Peanuts characters (although not voice by the actual actors) with a Christmas theme, sung by the Peppermint Kandy Kids. This album did not have the Snoopy’s Chrismas song by The Royal Guardsmen that was released on the label Laurie. I used to listen to this cassette all the time when I was younger , especially this song. Snoopy is missing from the rest of the group while they are getting ready for Christmas, but is actually outside in the yard planning his own backyard concert to perform. Some may listen top this song and think it’s awful, but it brings back childhood memories of me dreaming to be able to play in a band (which I was able to do later on). The song “Children of The World Unite Tonight” is another good song on the record, which lets kids know they don’t have to wait to be an adult to help others, but “Superstar” is the one that I remember the most from this record.
“Even A Miracle Needs A Hand”-Joel Grey (1974). A song from another great Rankin/Bass production “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” about a family and their mice friends who offend Santa by writing him a letter saying he is a fraud. This song is sung by Joel Grey, who was a singer, actor, dancer, and stage talent (You can see him on the early Muppet Show TV Series). He voices a clock maker who tries to convince his children that even though it is close to Christmas Day, they can still help miracles occur. Another great childhood memory with a great message. Too bad this song isn’t play much during the Christmas Season on my local radio stations.
“Yelling at The Chrismas Tree”- Billy Idol (2005). This song was off his “Devil’s Playground” CD (which is not a Christmas Album) and was written by Idol and Brian Tichy, who has played drums for many bands including Foreigner. The story tells young Billy in London during Christmas time, where his father comes home drunk from his favorite English Pub. Just like Idol’s other work, it has a punk-ish feel to it. This is one of my favorite rock original songs and is not played , but it is still a great beat with humorous lyrics to it.
5″Rusty Chevrolet”- DA Yoopers (1987). I first heard this song on my local Youngstown Radio Station years ago, but don’t hear it much anymore. The band from Michigan, makes novelty and parody songs, along with running a gift shop, whose website claims to have the “World’s Largest Chainsaw.” Some of their songs have been played on the Dr. Demento” radio show. Anyone driving an older vehicle during the winter season can appreciate this song.
“What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb)- 1980.
Star Wars and Christmas? Today that is not unheard of with all the Star Wars Christmas sweaters and clothing that are released now, but in 1980, Christmas meant getting the new Star Wars figures or play sets. RSO Records decided to release a Christmas Album based on Star Wars characters (called “Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album”) where droids were working in a factory to help Santa. Anthony Daniels gave his famous C3PO voice to the recording, and there was even a Star Wars Christmas TV Special in 1978, with the cast of the film, that many die hard fans still have nightmares over.
Most people will remember this album for being a young Jon Bon Jovi singing on the sing “R2D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas” (Jon’s cousin had a hand in producing the album). The album actually sold well at the time, and had several different printings with different covers, due to the Star Wars references being removed for a time being. This song actually reached #69 on the U.S. Charts when it was released in 1980. Die hard fans may not appreciate this song, but it’s a funny novelty song that mentions several of the original characters. I remember playing this 45 single over and over when I was younger.
If you are tired of hearing the same old Christmas novelties, like “I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas,” or ” I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” these are some fresher, and borderline strange, songs that you can add to your play list!
I have not read a Young Adult book in several years (the last one being Jay Asher’s “The Future of Us” before starting doing more reviews for this page), and was excited when I read the synopsis for Jared Reck’s “A Short History of the Girl Next Door” ( Knopf Books For Young Readers 2017), however the book is as disappointing as losing the championship basketball game that the main character may encounter.
The book is about Matt , who is in love with his best friend, Tabby, and has yet to tell his feeling for her. They have been friends since childhood, hanging out watching Star Wars movies and eating his little brother Murray’s Nerds candy after taking him Trick or Treating. But when Tabby starts to date the star player on the basketball team, a senior named Liam, her freshman year, Matt starts to feel jealously and wonders if he is losing his friendship that he grew up loving.
There are plenty of basketball descriptions in the book, since both Liam and Matt are on the basketball team(and live for the game), which is reminiscent of the television show “One Tree Hill” (which I loved), but once something tragic happens in Matt’s life, he has to struggle with dealing with his feelings while handling his other pressures, like school, assignments, and basketball.
There are some good things about the book, like the humorous titles that start each chapter, and Matt’s English Teacher, Mr. Ellis, is not your typical teacher that a person on the basketball team would find amusing, but Matt enjoys the writing and jokes that happen in his class (once again, a possible nod to “One Tree Hill’s” Lucas character). Another humorous part is when Matt’s mother decides to match his Halloween costume with Murray, who is four at the time, which gives the reader a flashback to the classic movie “A Christmas Story.” Without giving spoilers, there is a part towards the end of the book that captures a touching interaction with Matt and his Grandfather. Also, many o have dealt with the struggles of having feelings for their best female friend growing up either in high school or junior high and whether or not to tell that person.
With that said, the biggest distraction from the book is its language. There is not a page that goes by where there is not some sort of cuss word on the page, and most of the time, it is not in a humorous way. The cursing is overdone to the fact that it just gets annoying, and offensive, after a few chapters. Yes, I know kids today cuss more than usual, but in this case, it’s almost used as a way that the author couldn’t come up with a creative way to get the characters to say anything. High school kids can (and do) drop F -bombs from time to time (my years in education can attest to that), but it’s totally useless to have something along the lines of “What the F#@*’n F,” or “F&$*’n F%ck Me” (the exact quotes are not used but are similar in nature, due to the fact I am using an advanced copy for this review, but it’s very close to this on a constant basis). This book is geared for ages 12 and up, but I wouldn’t let a 12-15 year old get a hold of this book just because of the language. This is geared for a more mature teen reader, closer to 18 year olds.
The story is nice overall, but the ending becomes a let down, and leaves the reader hanging with wanting to know how the characters end up, but even that made me not really care about the characters that much, due to the excessive language throughout the book. I ended up not caring or feeling sympathetic towards Matt, or his problems, with his massive use of cussing so much. I have much respect for any writer who gets a book published, along with getting their book on a major publisher, and as much as I wanted to like this book, due to the language and story ending, the overall book falls flat in my opinion.
(A Special Thanks to Random House Teens and Knopf Books for Young Readers for the Advanced Kindle Copy for this review).
“A Short History of The Girl Next Door” by Jared Reck (ISBN: 978-1-5247-1607-3) is available where you get books. You can download it as well (EBook ISBN: 978-1-5247-1609-7) or go to: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com , along with their other book titles.
Sometimes readers will stumble upon a book that has an interesting plot, and takes the reader on a path that they are not sure where it is going, but they have to keep reading to find the end of the journey. Ramcy Diek’s “Storm At The Keizer Manor” (Acorn Publishing , November 2017) is such a book.
It is described as a “Time Travel Romance,” which involves Annet, who lives with her boyfriend Forrest, and works at the local museum, named The Keizer Manor, where the art work of 19th century painter Alexander Keizer is featured. While Annet works her way up the ladder at the museum, Forrest struggles to find work , while living with her.
Finding out she is pregnant, Annet deals with her plans for the future, Forrest’s intention of marriage, and trying to balance the 200th Anniversary party of the Keizer Manor, which involves the descendant of Alexander Keiser, Mrs. Caroline Rothschild, who will display her collection of dolls at the event.
After an argument at the event with Forrest, Annet leaves the Manor, with Forrest chasing after her. They get caught up in a thunderstorm that separates them, and Annet wakes up in a monastery in the 19th century, while Forrest stays in the current era. Annet tries to find her way back to her normal life, while carrying her future child.
The book takes the reader through situations, much like a Back to The Future plot, where Annet ends up trying to adjust to the 19th century, where there are no cell phones, showers, or other modern advances that she is used to. She also is stuck in an era where women are not vocal about opinions, yet Annet is known to blurt out anything without thinking. This part of Annet’s character ends up being humorous at times in the book. The only difference about this book compared to the Back to The Future stories, is that neither Annet (or the author) deals with the fact that every person she runs into in the past could affect her future, or theirs (there are one or two references in the book, but it’s not a major theme but is only brought up towards the end).
Diek’s book is well-written, and keeps the reader involved in the characters so they can find out how Annet and Forrest will end up at the end. She creates entertaining characters with Annet’s mother and her boyfriend, Chuck, who moves in with Forrest after Annet disappears.
Although romance books are not a favorite theme for this reader, Diek’s book gives a unique slant of the genre that satisfies, with some complex (and not so complex) characters, mystery, and a partial setting for those that wonder what it would be like settling down in another time period, without the everyday distractions of today’s modern society. Although the ending is a little bit sudden (no spoilers here, but it may shock some), it does not detract from the journey getting there. Diek’s book show why there are some great independent books that readers may enjoy, with a twist on a genre that at times seem trite.
Thank you to Acorn Publishing for the Advanced Reading Copy for the review.
“Storm At The Keizer Manor” by Ramcy Diek is available November 15, 2017 (ISBN -13: 978-0-9983098-0-4) by Acorn Publshing.
Tim Hanley’s wonderful book “The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of A Feline Fatale” (Chicago Review Press, 2017) shows that not all cats just have nine lives.
When she first appeared in DC Comics, she was called The Cat, but throughout the years she has been a major part of the DC Universe, which Hanley walks the reader through in a great historical journey, without bombarding the reader with date after date.
The character got her first start in 1940, and became the first female in the Batman world (besides a few women who were only used to show off Bruce Wayne’s playboy image) to have speaking lines. Mainly known as Selina Kyle, the character has changed her costumes, her background story, and even her careers, throughout the years, as different creators got their hands on the characters, which is covered in the book.
The character started out as a minor character, who was a thief, but grew throughout the years having her own series multiple times, from being Batman’s enemy, friend, and lover in the complicated history.
Hanley takes the reader through the history of comic books as well, dealing with the 1954 critique by Dr. Fredrick Wertham. who deemed comic books a bad influence for children due to the violence and gruesomeness, along with sexual innuendos, which ended up creating a comic book council to watch over what was being published. One funny story is how Wertham accused the characters in the books as being Nazis, homosexuals, and lesbians, which was shocking to accuse in the 1950s.
Hanley’s book takes the reader through the early days of the Catwoman character in the comics in the 1940s, to her appearances in movies, television, videogames, and her many disappearances and re-appearances in the comics all the way to 2015 when DC Comics created The Rebirth Universe (which does not feature Catwoman).
The book walks the reader through the success of Catwoman on the ABC TV Series, to the presence she had in the movies (good and bad). All of the actors are covered here, from Julie Newmar to Halle Barry, and the few times that Selina Kyle was not Catwoman in the books, along with the others who took on the role in animation.
Hanley’s history of the character is entertaining and informative, especially for those that may not know all the different arcs that Selina Kyle was in, from being a thief, a prostitute, a mob boss, and a mother who gives up the Cat suit. With the many different writers and artists throughout the years, like many comics, Selina’s image changed as well, from different looking hair styles to outfits, which some emphasized her sexuality, while others were plain and drab to some critics.
Hanley’s history of Catwoman gives the reader plenty of knowledgeable information, but is done so in an entertaining way. The book could easily be written as a date after date history book, but Hanley gives the audience back stories and information for readers that are not familiar with the names of certain artists and writers or those that do not known some of the comic book arcs (He doesn’t just drop the names of the arcs, he explains what is going on, and how it affects the Catwoman character). He also gives a brief history throughout about comic books in general, as mentioned earlier, from the attempted censorship on early comics, to how the certain stories affected comic book sales (whether good or bad). His background on the history of Bob Kane and the myth that he created many of the DC characters he is credited with in the early chapters is one section that keeps the reader engaged.
“The Many Lives of Catwoman” is a must have manual for any fan of Batman or comic books, not just for fans of the Catwoman character. DC Comic readers will love the many plot lines that are covered here. This book is hard to put down, and will keep the readers purring.
(A special thanks to Chicago Review Press for the reading copy for this review)
The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale by Tim Hanley (ISBN 9781613738450) is available at bookstores everywhere, and through IPG through the order number 1-800-888-4741 or at ipgbook.com. You can also find it, and other titles, by Chicago Review Press at: http://www.chicagoreviewpress.com
“Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life ” by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush (Grand Central Publishing 2017) is an entertaining and pleasant read, regardless if the reader has a sibling or not.
The 236 page book takes the reader through the lives of the former First Daughters, from when their grandfather and father journeyed into politics, to their current lives with Jenna being a correspondent for NBC’s “Today” Show, and Barbara’s work with her charity foundation, Global Health Corps. The book is split into each of the authors writing separate sections in each chapter, along with each writing a chapter by themselves, for instance, Jenna will discuss politics in the first part of the chapter, while Barbara’s view is in the second part. The book is wonderfully split, so you know which girl’s thoughts the reader is viewing.
The great thing about the book is that even though the girls have lived in the public eye most of their lives, and had media publicity the whole time, the book is not all about politics. The main theme is about family, and how each sister has been there for each other, even when they were separated during their college years, along with working on other ventures in their lives on opposite parts of the world. They discuss topics like Barbara being with her sister during the birth of Jenna’s one daughter (while Jenna’s husband thought they were pulling a joke on him when they called to tell him Jenna was in labor), to protecting each other when they were younger from the “ghosts” in the White House, along with how they learned to lean on each other growing up in a political family being scrutinized by the media.
The sisters write some heartwarming stories about their family (the book is a family affair, with Former First Lady Laura Bush writing the book’s forward section), like when Jenna describes her Grandfather Welch patiently stopping the car while driving to retrieve the box of Kleenex he kept on the car’s dashboard every time Jenna tossed it out of the car window, to when her father was told by the elder Barbara Bush to get his feet off of her coffee table, regardless if he was the President of the United States. Barbara tells a funny story about when she and friends went to see a World Wrestling Federation event in New York and ended up losing the secret service, due to a situation involving an EZ Pass problem.
The book is not all lighthearted, and takes the readers through their experiences during the 9-11 attacks, the way the press handled their family’s political careers (how the media to other friends and schoolmates treated them), along with giving insights on how family members dealt with situations when they were in the White House and on the campaign trail. The sisters discuss the media coverage that they endured when they were young and thought the press was not around them, only to find out that they were there snapping photographs of them. Barbara even tells a story about a Yale Professor offering to change her grade if she would call her father, who was president at the time, and convince him not to go to war with Iraq.
Jenna talks about how she met her husband, Henry Hager, and how he courted her, including a humorous story about him going on a mountain bike adventure with Jenna’s father, President George Bush. Barbara also opens up about her past dating life, including her dealing with critics wondering why she is not married yet and why devotes her time to her charity projects.
This book is not a typical tell-all memoir, but a book that celebrates two sisters and the exploration of finding who they are throughout a life of constant exposure. It takes the reader through the maturity and honesty of some of the mistakes they made, as they look back on events as mature women discussing their childhood.
Regardless of the political stance someone may have about the Bush Family, this book is wonderfully written (like Jenna’s other books) and gives an insight of who Barbara is, who sometimes was seen as the other lesser known sister, although both are compassionate, and full of opinions and causes that they believe strongly about. This book is filled with emotional stories that celebrate family, with some political stories involved, and is an awe-inspiring story of the maturity of two woman who have overcome media scrutiny to become a leader of a charity organization, and a media personality with stories that inspire, respectively. Even if the reader does not have a sister (or any siblings), this writing will inspire, along with entertain the reader, regardless of the reader’s political stance.
(A Huge Special Thanks to Hatchette Books and Grand Central Publishing for the Advanced Reading Copy to review)
“Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life” by Jenna Bush Hagar and Barbara Pierce Bush (Grand Central Publishing, 2017 ISBN 978-1-5387-1141-5) can be found at bookstores and at http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com. It is also available in downloadable and e-book (978-1-5387-1143-9) formats. Also visit http://www.Sistersfirst.com for more information.
Even though I have recently been focusing on book reviews lately, thanks to the many publishers that have sent me review copies (more to come), it’s always been my annual topic on this page to focus on horror films during Halloween. My last post , if you missed it, was a book review on 1970s Vampire Films. I always like to pass along a few rarer, or missed films, that people should check out during the month of October, because I like watching a least one horror film a day during the month. If you want to check out some of my older posts for more suggestions, click on the link at the side of the page, or type in the search engine “Horror Films,” and you will find some great suggestions. The following is some films that I suggest that I have recently seen from the last time I posted movie picks.
“The Black Room.” (1939). This film, starring Boris Karloff, is more of a mystery/suspense film, but it is really underrated. I saw this film when I purchased a DVD Collection from WalMart called ” Boris Karloff 6 Movie Collection.” This film has Karloff playing the roles of twin brothers in the 1800s.
The film starts out years earlier, when two sons are born in a castle where a prophecy is stated that the younger brother will kill the older brother in the Black Room of the castle. Years later, the older brother becomes the baron of the castle and murders women in the land. The younger brother, who can not use his right arm, returns after traveling, and becomes popular among the villagers in the land. Jealousy ensues (I don’t give spoilers), and things go from there.
Karloff’s acting skills are unique here playing both brothers, especially for an early film like this. Today, and even in the 1960s, this is not a big thing, having the main actor playing two roles, but this is in the 1930s. The ending is a little predictable, but the film is still one Karloff fans do not talk about much. If you are not a horror fan, this film is still one to check out if you like medieval setting films. The run time is only 69 minutes, so it will not take much of your time.
2. “The Man They Could Not Hang” (1939 re-released in 1947). This is another film from the same Karloff DVD. Karloff plays Dr. Henryk Savaad, who is convicted to be hanged after the death of a student during an experiment. The doctor was studying a way to bring people back to life, and before his execution, he allows another doctor to try the experiment on him. Months later, the jurors who convicted Savaad start to get murdered. Lorna Grey plays Savaad’s daughter in the film, who worked with John Wayne, The Three Stooges, and was in the 1944 Captain America serials. This film had a suspense feel to it, although the ending seems quick, it is still a film that deserves viewing.
“The Blood of Dracula’s Castle” (1969). If you would like a more comedic feel to your horror films, this one may be for you. The film is about a young couple who inherit a castle, only to find out that the people currently living there are kidnapping young women who need their blood in order to stay young. There is a butler, a hunchback ogre-like man (named Mango), and a friend who is a criminal in the area. The couple living in the castle, under the name Count and Countess Townsend are actually Dracula and his bride. This B-Movie is actually funny, whether it was meant to be, directed by Al Adamson, who is mentioned in my book review about vampire films, who was known to just piece together parts of other films and throw it into one full movie. This is one of the films that you may find of Mystery Science Theater, but it is still enjoyable.
“The Gorgon” (1964). This Hammer movie’s billing says that it stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, but Lee has a minor role in the film for the first hour. He appears as a major player in the last part of the film, but it is still a great film considering the time period.
A son goes to a village where his brother and father died. The father leaves a letter stating that he, and others in the past few years, have died by being turned into stone. Due to the local legend that the lurking of one of the Gorgon Sisters from mythology scares the townspeople, the local authorities refuse to investigate. Lee shows up as a professor, to help his friend look into these murders, while Cushing plays a local doctor who tries to keep his assistant from leaving him (who he is in love with) especially during the full moons.
Lee is humorous in the film, wearing a brown trenchcoat/cape that makes him look more like Sherlock Holmes than a professor. The music in the film helps build the suspense throughout the film, which is only 83 minutes long. This film was part of the two-disc DVD package “Hammer Film Collection,” and is the best film in the collection. Even though the look of the Gorgon may look cheesy for today’s standards, keep in mind the time period it was released in. Also starring in the film is Barbara Shelly, who was Hammer’s #1 female actress.
“Madhouse” (1974). I can not suggest any horror films without mentioning at least one by Vincent Price. Although I love “Theatre of Blood” and “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (which is mandatory Halloween watching), “Madhouse” is a lesser known one later in his career.
Price plays Paul Toombs, who is a famous movie actor, known for his character Dr. Death. When his wife dies at a premiere party for his latest film, he ends up having to go to a mental hospital for several years. When he gets out (this is off screen), he is not sure if he had anything to do with the murder or not, even though he was acquitted by the courts. His friend, played by Peter Cushing, convinces him to bring back Dr. Death for television, since Cushing’s character was the head writer for the films. Several deaths start happening on the set of the movies, and some are based on his films, by a masked man. The ending is one that the viewer may or may not see coming, but it is an underrated film in the Vincent Price collection. Plus seeing Price and Cushing together in a movie is worth the viewing just to see two of the most known horror actors of all time.
“Trick Or Treat” (1986). This film is not to be confused with the other horror film 2007’s Bryan Singer’s film “Trick R Treat.” I watched this movie many times growing up, which features cameos by Gene Simmons of Kiss, playing a radio deejay, and Ozzy Osbourne, who plays a preacher that appears on a television talk show.
Marc Price (who was known as Skippy on the show “Family Ties”) plays Eddie, a high school outcast who gets bullied at school and takes refuge in his Heavy Metal Music, especially his favorite singer, Sammi Curr (played by Tony Fields). When Curr dies in a hotel fire, a local deejay (Simmons) gives Eddie an upcoming album of Curr that the station will play on Halloween night. When Eddie plays the record, he hears messages (when played backwards) to take revenge on his classmates that have bothered him.
This movie is interesting for many reasons. First, it was released during the time of the PRMC , which was a council lead by Tipper Gore to put labels on music due to the lyrical content in 1985, that summoned artists like Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and John Denver to appear in front of Washington Senators. Second, there were many artists being sued and accused of having hidden messages in their music, which many would listen to the records backwards to get hidden messages (also known as backmasting).
The music in the film is by the band Fastway, who had success with the song “Say What You Will,” and featured Motorhead member Fast Eddie Clarke and UFO’s Pete Way. The film was the first film directed by Charles Martin Smith, who played Toad in the movie “American Graffitti.” Fields, who played Sammi, was a Solid Gold Dancer, and appeared in Michael Jackson’s videos “Thriller” and “Beat It.”
Besides this film being a good movie, it is now filled with many Pop Culture themes from the 1980s; the PRMC had to been an influence on the film, backmasting, transferring albums onto cassette tapes, and the theme of Heavy Metal fans being outcasts in normal society at the time. Some people goof on the cheesy 1980s film making of the time, but I enjoy this movie, and watch every year in October. The fact that Gene Simmons does a good job with his Wolfman Jack-inspired character, makes the movie a Kiss collector’s must have, as well as the humorous casting of Osbourne playing a preacher who is against rock music, which was the exact type of people he was against in the 1980s . This film is hard to find, but is worth it. I am glad I found it in a bargain bin years ago. It also brings childhood memories of watching this movie with friends, and seeing the soundtrack album cover in stores.
These films are suggestions for those that want to see something more deeper into the horror genre that is not drawn out for 2 hours, like most of the horror films are today. Enjoy them and enjoy your own Halloween movie selections!