Music Playlist: Do You Have These Songs on Your Summer List?

Summertime is one of the most anticipated seasons , especially in the Northeast, where we deal with cold winters filled with snow and bitter temperatures. Summertime was filled with great memories as a child; hanging out with friends at the park pool, playing my drums to the radio, and in later years, going to concerts. In honor of the first day of summer on June 21, I thought I would list some of my favorite songs of summer.

There are a few criteria I use for this list. First, the song needs to have a summer feel, or mention summer in the song; it can’t be a song that was released only in the summer (like Huey Lewis and The News “The Power of Love,” which was released during the summer movie season). I first heard Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You) in the summer, and telling all the lifeguards at the pool that is was going to be a smash (they disagreed with me), but it doesn’t have a summer feel to it, even though I have summer memories of that song. Next, it has to have summer as the setting (Richard Marx’s “Endless Summer Nights” actually takes place in the winter time looking back on the summer-the same goes Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” in which summer is over which is why these are missing, or I’d put them on the list).      There are many summer songs that people associate with the season, such as “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Summer In The City,” “In The Summertime,” and every Jimmy Buffett or Jan and Dean song (“Dancing In The Streets” is another). As great as these songs are, I want to try and escape the obvious choices , although it is hard not to include a few of them on this list, but maybe suggest a few songs that some may not put on their normal play list. With that in mind, here are some of my best summer song choices from the 1960s-today (In no particular order).

  1. “Getcha Back” -The Beach Boys (1985). I constantly mention this album by The Beach Boys as my favorite album they have done. This album has so many memories for me as a youth when it was released; spending my summer days playing my drums to the cassette, along with spending time with my best female friend, who was a big fan of the band as well. Any summer list has to have a Beach Boys song on it, and this one is my pick because it talks about reminiscing about the past when the narrator breaks up with the girl and tries to see if they can re-connect. Even though it doesn’t have the summer themes of a beach or surfing, it talks about a guy in his fancy car wooing the girl with his money. Summertime in my youth was filled with the couples breaking up at the end of school to have their summer flings or be free. This has many summer for me.

2. “Cruel Summer”-Bananarama (1984). This song has a darker feel of summer to it, filled with the hot streets and being left all alone for the season. This song actually was released a year earlier, but gained momentum when it was played in the movie “The Karate Kid” in the U.S., although it wasn’t on the soundtrack. Several other acts recorded it after, but the original is still the best. This is for those that need a song that’s not all sunny and beaches.

  1. “Goodbye” -Night Ranger (1985). A summer play list needs a power ballad on it, and this was my choice by Night Ranger. It is actually about the death of a relative of Jack Blades, but mentions the 4th of July in the lyrics. People mistake the song for a failed relationship, which is how good the lyrics are, that it can be interpreted as a failed summer romance. I like the guitar solo at the end of the song as well. I can picture this song played at a beach party at night for a slow dance.

  1. “Summer of ’69”- Bryan Adams (1984). This is one song that’s an obvious choice for the list, but it has to be on a play list. The Adams/Jim Vallance penned song is filled with reminiscing about the best summer of their lives (among other themes to it). Playing in bands during the summer was a big part of my life, so trying to get a band together and play out in the clubs is a familiar part of the song I can relate to. The song hit #5 in the U.S. gave Adams a bigger success than his last album. The song is filled with Drive Ins, being young, and working in the summer. Summer is all over this song.


  1. “Summer Nights” -Olivia-Newton John, John Travolta (1978). Another obvious choice for some, but how can this song NOT be on the list? “Grease” is one of my favorite movies of all time (no I won’t watch the remade “Live” show that was on TV due to my loyalty), and this song is one of the most sung song for karaoke ever. The song hit #5 in U.S. and is filed with summer romance, going bowling, visiting the arcade, and being at the beach. If this is not on your summer play list, your list is not complete.


Van Halen’s 5150- the album “Summer Nights” is on.
  1. “Summer Nights”- Van Halen (1986). This track off of the first Sammy Hagar era Van Halen song is another song that must be on a play list. Hard Rock fans need to be represented as well, and this song has summer written all over it , with the lyrics “Summer Nights and my radio.” This was one of the first songs Hagar recorded with the band, according to his book. This song brings back the time friends and I would sit in the park and jam cassettes during the summer days, and this was one of the cassettes we always had on hand, just for this song.


  1. “Tender Years”- John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band (1983). This band is mostly remembered for the song “On The Dark Side” from the soundtrack for “Eddie and The Cruisers,” but this song was also released from the movie, and is a great summer ballad. The lyrics talk about a summer romance on the beach, or boardwalk (since the band is from New Jersey). A pop ballad with a great saxophone solo in it brings a throwback to the 1960s style music in ways without it sounding dated. I first heard the song when the band appeared on the TV Show “Solid Gold,” which was a favorite of mine, and it got a lot of local radio play where I live in Columbiana, Ohio. This is one of my favorite ballads form the 1980s and is one of the most overlooked from the time.

8.”Guess You Had To Be There”-Brian Wilson/Kacey Musgraves (2015). Most of this list has been from the 1980s, and I tried to get a few other decades in here as well. This song was from the Brian Wilson album “No Pier Pressure,” and has several interpretations to it- a relationship being failed, or just missing a great party (or both). Country fans will like this due to Musgraves’ singing (who is one THE best thing in Country Music today). Granted the song doesn’t mention summer directly, but the setting could be in the summer after a great beach party. This song may go against my criteria, but this is a great song to be played in the summer, with a swing feel to it that people missed when this album was released. A good feel good song with the melody.

  1. “Wasn’t That A Party”- The Rovers (1980). Another Country act (this song was a Country cross over hit) by the Irish/Folk singers The Irish Rovers, who had a big hit in 1968 with “The Unicorn.” This is a total party song, and I remember my uncle playing this song when deejaying at parties, and weddings. The song is filled with drinking, running down the road, and having the police called on them. The singer forgets half of the stuff that went on at the party as well. I’m not supporting these activities, but it has a good party vibe to it. The actions of the singers could usually be done in the summer (who has track meets and cuts down trees in the winter?). The song reminds me of a bunch of people hanging out by a bonfire trying to outdo themselves with crazy stuff. The song has humorous lyrics to it.


Rush : Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart.


  1. “Lakeside Park”- Rush (1975). Classic Rock fans need their summer songs as well, and this is a Rush song that fits nicely. The song is not a 20 minutes epic, like some of their other songs, and talks about hanging out in the summer at parks (this one being in Canada where drummer Neil Peart hung out as a child). Even though singer Geddy Lee has stated he does not like the song , it’s a great slow grooving song that deserves on a summer play list. It even talks about the month of May, referencing Queen Victoria’s birthday.


  1. “Palisades Park”-Freddy Cannon (1962). The 1960s was filled with summer-filled songs, and this song gets overlooked at times. Written by Chuck Berris (yes the host of “The Gong Show”) this song talks about amusement parks, rides, and falling in love at the local festival. The song has references to roller coasters, hot dogs, and dancing to a local band-all things needed for summertime. The song was also recorded by The Beach Boys, Gary Lewis, and the Ramones, but Cannon’s is the best version. Berris wrote in his book that the money he received from this song helped him finance the TV shows he created. This was Freddy Cannon’s biggest hit, but he had other good songs as well.


  1. “Saturday In the Park”-Chicago (1972). What other season can people have picnics and parties in the park than summer? This song hit #3 in the U.S., written by Robert Lamm, who was watching film footage that he shot years earlier and created the song by what he saw. Sung by Lamm and Peter Cetera, the song talks about bands playing, people singing, ice cream, and more. This list covered pop, country, musicals, oldies, so why not throw in a song with lots of horns? The song is not a rocker, but a peaceful, mellow song (the listener does need a break time to time). The setting in this song is totally summer and filled with enjoying the outdoors.

13. “Anything But Mine”-Kenny Chesney (2005). This is a perfect song for either the end of summer or during, with all the fairs and festivals that go on. The song was written by Scooter Carusoe, who has worked with Rascal Flats, Dierks Bentley, and other acts. The video is focused more on the end of summer (the single was released in January) , but unlike Henley’s or Richard Marx’s songs about summer, this song’s setting could be at anytime. Even though us in Ohio like the line about the city of Cleveland, it’s actually the Tennessee city, not Ohio, but we can claim it anyway. Just like the John Cafferty song, this has the boardwalk carnival theme to it, along with the summer romance. This is one of my favorite Chesney songs, where I couldn’t see another act giving the song the special touch like Chesney, especially since he is known as the summertime guy in Country.


There are many other summer songs that I could have put on the list, from Country, Pop, and even Rap songs (which I will not do-I’m not a Rap fan, so no Will Smith songs here). These are a few songs that are obvious choices, but a few suggestions that you may not have thought to add. I tried to show a variety of genres as well. Maybe some of these will make it on your play list for this summer!


Feel free to send me your summer play list songs here, or follow me on Twitter @lovelylancel




Rare Rick: Songs From The Original Teenage Idol


Rick Nelson has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.



I knew the early career of Ricky Nelson growing up from my love of studying Pop music and playing as a drummer in local bands. I knew of the hits like “It’s Late” and “Hello Mary Lou,” but it wasn’t until I was playing in a band in 1996 that I truly dug deeper into his later years. I was a big fan (and still am) of his twin sons, Matthew and Gunnar, and it was due to my band’s guitar player bringing in Rick’s song “Easy To Be Free” that I had to start getting more of Rick’s CDs. I loved playing that song in the band, and it was a thrill for me to hear the Matthew and Gunnar play the song in 2010, when I saw their “Ricky Nelson Remembered” tour in Kent Ohio.

Rick (he started going by a more older name than his teen “Ricky” ) was an actor, songwriter, musician, and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He had a great smooth voice, especially in the later years. I want to share my some of my favorite lesser known songs that he recorded that I think people should check out.

  1. “Easy To Be Free” (1970). In the opening I discussed that this was the song that got me really into Rick’s music again, from the album “In Concert: Live at The Troubadour.” I am not a huge fan live albums, but this album is one of my favorites live releases. The famous Troubador club was a hotspot in LA that helped launch people like Elton John, The Eagles, Linda Rondstadt, Jackson Browne, The Byrds, and Steve Martin among others. This album was the debut of Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, where he started merging the Country-Rock sound that Don Henley and Glen Frey took to mega success with The Eagles. The Stone Caynon Band featured Randy Meisner on bass, who played in The Eagles and Poco as well. I argue that Nelson helped start that genre, even though he’s never really credited when it comes to that sound.The song has a poetic feel to it (in fact I used the lyrics when teaching poetry when I taught English), with lines like “Did you ever want to fly/over rainbow skies so high/Did you ever wonder why/people tell you not to try.” The song has a positive message to it, going against what others say about you and your dreams. This song is one of my all time favorite songs that Rick performed. Here is the footage I shot at the show of the song form my camera (pre-smart phones) that I posted on youtube.  (A funny side note about filming the song was it was the first time I figured out the video function on the camera, and the two brothers were smiling and got into the fact that I was trying to film it while rocking out the the song, which many people there did not know the song).
  1. “You Tear Me Up” (1959). I discovered this song after buying the DVD collection of Nelson’s performances on the Ozzie and Harriet Show, called “Ricky Nelson Sings.”. This was an early hit for him, and was written by Baker Night, who also wrote “Lonesome Town.” The song was on Nelson’s 3rd album, “Ricky Sings Again,” and had The Jordanaires on backing vocals. The song is a typical love song that was common during the time in music, but the guitar work and lyrical phrasing of the song is different than the love songs on the charts. This has the classic early 1950s rock sound to it.
  1. “I Can’t Take It No More” (1981). Some people forget that Nelson was still recording throughout the years and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was prepping for a comeback. After he hit with “Garden Party,” and a minor hit with his cover of “Dream Lover,” Nelson was (if it wasn’t for his record company dragging their feet on the release of “Dream Lover” after his Saturday Night Live appearance which stalled the momentum of the comeback), still touring around the U.S. This song was off his “Playing To Win” album, which is one of my favorites he ever recorded. It is hard to pick just one song off that album, but this song could have been played on the radio at the time with anything else being released at the time. I love the lines “When you’re lost in all your dreams/ and it seems so hard to please/ and things don’t work out the way you planned.” The album broke the Top 200 in the U.S., and according to his website, it made Nelson the only artist to have an album of original music from the decades 1950-1980s.
  1. “Life” (1971). In the 1970s, Nelson was writing his own music, along with recording songs by Bob Dylan. When I saw his sons in concert years ago, they made the comment that Rick really started enjoying writing his own music during this time. Right before he’d hit with “Garden Party,” he wrote this song called “Life,” off of “Rudy The Fifth” album (which also has a great song called “Sing Me A Song” on it). The song hit #15 on the AC Charts and features the Stone Canyon Band. The song is about a guy writing to Life, which as a literary lover, the personification of Life as a person is great. Lines like “Life, before you’re over/I want something to show for/All my trouble” and at the end of the song “Life, if you keep goin’/I’ll try to throw in/a little love” has more depth than just a normal Pop song. No matter what life throws at us, we still keep going on.
  1. “Stay Young” (1976-1978). The dates here may be confusing, but this song was written not by Nelson, but by Benny Gallagher and Gordon Lyle (Lyle also wrote later the hit “What’s Love Got To Do With It”). The song became a #1 Country Hit for Don Williams in 1983. This song was recorded sometime during the few years that Rick was working with Epic Records, which has been released several times on CD, and has some wonderful work on it. The song seems autobiographical for Nelson, where his spotlight fame was pretty much over, but he was still playing and doing what he loved to do. The opening lines of “don’t lose you that light in your eyes/never to late to love, never to late to try” is a great opener. The lines of “Don’t you feel like you’re playing the fool/ step out of line break all the rules/Don’t let them tell you it’s not for you/Don’t go growing old before you do” is perfect example of Nelson’s career when the critics told him he was done after his teen years.
  1. “One X One” (1976-1978). This song was another one from his Epic Record years of recording. How many Pop Songs start off with lines like “Have you ever been so down /every time you looked around/despair is like a silently cloud beside you” back at this time? (It sounds like lyrics to a Grunge era song). But the song isn’t a dreadful song because it actually give hope with the chorus line “ You can’t look back, what’s done is done/and the time you spent on yesterday/today is halfway done.” I also used this song in studying poetry in music when I was teaching English, and loved the second verse opener “Have you ever loved so hard/you opened up and dropped your guard/and fell to earth your feelings burned and branded.” Dennis Larden’s writing and Rick’s voice is a perfect combination for the song, that I could picture being played in coffee houses.

Rick Nelson had 35 Top 40 Hits in the U.S. and was the original act to be termed “Teen Idol.” However, his work went far beyond a teen act whose parents had their own TV Show. Nelson is still considered underrated in my opinion (how many books or releases are made of him anymore compared to Elvis and other early Rock Acts-not many). I love his later years maybe more so than his early work, with his more mature voice and attempts at writing his own songs. If you are not familiar with Rick’s later work, hopefully you will check it out-there are many hidden gems that most have not heard or discovered (other songs like “You Can’t Dance,”  “So Long Mama,” and his version of “She Belongs to Me” are some) My love for his music all started with a guitar player who I looked up to, and will be forever grateful that he turned me on to his music.


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Book Review: Young Adult Horror Book Not To Be Read Alone Near Campfire

Campfire will be released in July 2018


#sponsored by Jimmy Patterson Books


The Jimmy Patterson series for young adults has brought out several great books and writers. Reviews of several books in this series have been reviewed on this page, and have been positive so far. Shawn Sarles is another writer in the Patterson books with his book “Campfire” (Jimmy Patterson 2018), which is a mix of horror and mystery.

The cover of the book is attention getting with a face and an image of a campfire in the eyes of a girl, with the subtitle “Be Careful What Stories You Tell Around The Fire.” Since covers sell books, this should grab readers off the bat.

The story follows the main character, Maddie Davenport, along with her family and friends who go on a camping trip scheduled for a week. The families and friends have been close for many years, being introduced years earlier by Maddie’s mother, who has since passed away in a fire accident. The group includes Maddie’s father and brother, her best friend Chelsea (who has also lost her mother), Kris (who has taken over Maddie’s mother’s real estate business) and her husband and children. Maddie’s Aunt and Uncle, with their son, along with their guide in the wilderness, Caleb, who Maddie starts to feel attracted to, is also in the party.

The families decide to tell scary stories around the campfire one night, which ends up having parts of the tales come true. The two major stories that are told at the fire are good tales and descriptive, especially for a horror fan like me. Several events unfold (NO SPOILERS HERE), which ends up having similarities to the stories, that shows a horror and mystery of who is doing certain things to several family members.

“Campfire” has a few flaws to the book. First, the ending was predictable with the person behind the mystery, maybe because I have seen many horror and mystery films (along with read many books in the genre), and since this was a Young Adult book, this reviewer figured out what was going on. Another part that helped figure out what was going on was a few of the writing segments seemed rushed, which had this reader asking “Why didn’t (this person) do this?” By the end of the book , it made sense once the big reveal happened. Second, the language is geared for the ages 16 and up. This is not for, say a 13 year old, due to some material in the book. It is not vulgar by any means, but some language and innuendos may not be for everyone. Even with these two flaws, the book keeps the reader engaged, which is what a good horror/mystery should do. Also, once again, the stories told at the fire are great enough that the reader would want to pass on when they are sitting at the fire, or just want to tell a neat story. Although I thought the Maddie character was not as strong a person as she tended to be made out to be, it was kind of hard for me as a reader to give her sympathy. The book has a unique theme to it, and the writing is as good as the other Jimmy Patterson writers. Fans of R.L. Stine would like this book.



“Campfire” by Shawn Sarles (Jimmy Patterson Books, 2018 ISBN: 978-0-316-51506-1 ebook: 978-0-316-51507-8) is available in July 2018.


This review copy was given courtesy of Jimmy Patterson Books/ Little, Brown & Company, and Hatchette Books Group, Inc. For information about this book, and other titles, go to:

For information on the author, visit his Twitter site at: @shawn_sarles

Book Review: A “Lovely” Look At The World by Designing And Faith

Cover design by Aaron Campbell & Faithwords. Cover photography by Trina McNeilly.

#Sponsored by FaithWords


Trina McNeilly’s “La La Lovely: The Art of Finding Beauty In The Everyday” (Faithwords, 2018) is a Christian Living book geared towards woman, filled with wonderful pictures and ideas about decorating and in life.

McNeilly is a blogger and decorator whose web page, “La La Lovely,” shows creative ways in designing homes. The creativeness is shown just in the book alone, which is beautifully put together, with glossy pages and artistic photographs throughout the easy reading. The writing encourages the reader to find beauty in everyday life, while McNeilly uses her past life experiences to help the reader go through their own dark times. She writes about trying to juggle motherhood while continuing her creative goals and dreams, her past heartbreaks in health related problems, and also discusses handling the divorce of her parents during another difficult time in her life.

“La La Lovely” gives decorating ideas throughout the book, as well as life lessons, where the writer uses symbolism of redecorating a living space with the human mind and body. A great story used by McNeilly is when she writes about how people in France used to walk turtles just to slow down their lives. Other interesting suggestions include people finding their own quiet place in their homes and asking God into that place, clearing mental clutter everyday (just like when a person’s home is filled with clutter) using bookshelves as a symbolic tool in dealing with past issues, and that a person must be “lost before they are found.”

Since the book is a Christian Living writing, McNeilly uses Bible verses and stories of her faith to help out in her journey. However, there is not much in depth detail in most of the Bible references, which is neither good or bad. If the reader is looking for detailed Biblical analysis, this book is not for them, however, if something lighter is wanted, along with down to earth examples, this is a good book for the reader. “La La Lovely” can be read as a whole, or as a devotional, reading one or two chapters a day. The writing is easy to read, with humor (at times), along with heart-filled tales added.

The layout of McNeilly’s book is artistic and creative. The reader can go back after reading and just look at the photographs throughout the book, or re-read the redecorating tips at the end of some of the chapters. This book is geared towards women, especially mothers. The Biblical aspect is not mind blowing academia based , which can be good for those looking for a lighter devotion. Overall “La La Lovely” is nice book geared for the specific audience it sets out to reach. Take the time to look for this book at the store, even just to admire the layout it.



Thanks to Faithwords Books and Hatchette Books for the reading copy.


“La La Lovely” by Trina McNeilly (Faithwords, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-4789-2076-2 eISBN: 978-1-4789-2077-9) can be found at : .


For more about the author, go to: or at   

Book Review: Book Covers All Things KISS


Front cover image c. 2016 iStock

“The Encyclopedia of Kiss” by Brett Weiss (McFarland, 2016) is a well-researched guide of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Kiss. The book covers all things Kiss, including facts that even die hard fans may not have known, or have forgotten about.

The book was written, as Weiss details in the opening, because he could not find a detailed book on facts and all things Kiss (besides a book from Japan), being a fan of the band. The research Weiss puts into the book, is remarkable, and it lives up to the subtitle “Music Personnel, Events, and Related Subjects.” It covers names such as merchandise managers to guitar techs, along with the all the members of the band and people who helped out along the way.

The Preface of the book tells how Weiss grew up being a Kiss fan, but unable to afford all of the merchandise that the band bombarded the public with throughout the years, even having to make his own toy Kiss van by putting Kiss stickers on a van. Weiss focused spending his money on the albums and the magazines that the band was featured in, along with telling the story when he and a friend were anxiously waiting for the TV movie “Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park” debut on the television in 1978. Weiss also details the time, after the 1970s when being a Kiss fan “wasn’t cool” among other people , but still kept his love of the band (something I can relate to). The Preface proves that the author is not just writing a book to be published, but shows his love for the band in a touching background of his youth.

The book itself is easy to read , just like a normal encyclopedia. The topics are in alphabetical order, and easy to find throughout. Weiss covers all the eras of the band, not just the original lineup, so there is information on members Eric Singer, Eric Carr, Tommy Thayer, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick, and Vinnie Vincent, as well the other bands they were in before (and with some of the members) after their time in Kiss. The collection covers the solo albums of the members, tribute albums (official and unofficial), and the concert tours listed under the name of the tours. Opening acts are mentioned briefly as well as the equipment the band members used during their time.

A Kiss book would not be complete without the merchandise that the band has put out during the years, and Weiss covers them just as well as the other information. The Kiss pinball machines, toys, trading cards, books, are all in here. A surprising topic is the Kiss comic books, and named in the book is Youngstown, Ohio’s Chris Yambar, whose work is in the Simpson’s “Tree House of Horrors” comic that featured Kiss (who also contributed to my ode to the Batman TV Show in this page’s archives). The book covers the Kiss WCW wrestler, and even lists the band’s connections to people like George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The Gene Simmons appearances are listed as well, from his movies to game shows and reality shows to interviews. The appearances of the other people in the Kiss universe, including the “fake” Peter Criss.

Being a Kiss fan, I thought I knew tons of information about the band, but this book had several things that I learned; including some of the tribute CDs that were released in other countries (one including the music geared to the baby friendly audience) to high schools creating musical productions of the band’s album “Music From The Elder,” and the tour that Gene did not spit fire on (“Hot in the Shade” Tour). I also forgot about the TV Show “PM Magazine,” which I used to watch all the time, where the band made some appearances.

There are a few errors in the book, where the author mentions the song “Dirty Livin” from 1979’s “Dynasty” album and then a few pages later, mentions the song again as “Dirt Livin,” and states that Eric Carr’s “only lead vocal with Kiss” was 1989 “Little Caesar,” but then mentions Carr singing “Beth” in 1989 on “Smashes Trashes and Hits.” Also, there is a note that Eric Carr sang on the song “All For The Glory ” on the “Sonic Boom” CD, when it was Eric Singer. Given all of the information that is listed in the book, a few errors can be overlooked, because it is very far and between. With all the research in the book, a few minor mistakes is expected, and doesn’t take away from this 236 page gem of a writing.

The text also has the author’s views on several of the track listings of the songs, along with some reviews from magazines and websites. The opinions are not offensive for those fans that love certain songs , and some may hate (and vice versa), which makes Kiss fans so unique in their love of certain albums and songs (and members) as opposed to others (This page constantly praises the “Crazy Nights” release which many Kiss fans goof on). There are some nice black and white photographs throughout the book as well covering some of the toys, comics and rarities that is worth the price of the book.

I heard about this book when the author was on the Mitch Lafon “Rock Talk” podcast, and had to seek it out. Even though it is not an official Kiss book, this book is a must have to add to the Kiss collection. The research and easy to find topics, makes the book a great go-to text reference for Kisstory fans. McFarland Publishing has had many wonderful writers and books released that have been featured on this page, and “Encyclopedia of Kiss” is another wonderful piece of work. A Kiss fan’s collection is not complete without having this book on their shelf.



Thank you to McFarland for the Review Copy of the book.


“Encyclopedia of Kiss” by Brett Weiss (2016 McFarland pISBN: 978-0-7864-9802-4 eISBN: 978-1-4766-2540-9) can be found at or at their order line at 800-253-2187.


For information about Brett Weiss, go to


Book Review: Caddyshack Book will Make Readers Feel Alright

Cover design by Henry Sene Yee

“Caddyshack” is not just one of the best comedies of all time, but it is also one of the best sports movies ever. With a cast that features Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, and Ted Knight, (along with a mechanical gopher) the film is a wonderful moment of one liners, and goofy experiences that one does not have to be knowledgeable on the sport of golf to enjoy this masterpiece of comedy. However, just like any movie, there were problems on the set of the film, which Chris Nashawaty details in his book “Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story” (Flatiron Press, 2018).

A film critic for the magazine Entertainment Weekly, Nashawaty takes the reader through the early days of the National Lampoon magazine, which gives a historical feel of the satire of the magazine, and how some of the writers and owners of the magazine ended up at Saturday Night Live, and also worked on “Animal House” – the model for which Hollywood went looking for the next version of “Animal House”- where “Caddyshack” was given birth. This history of Lampoon also details how acts like John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Harold Ramis, and more became involved with the radio show of the magazine that led these stars to their own comedy movies.

One the great things about books like these is reading about who was rumored to be cast for each part of films, and then how the directors or studios decided on the stars that ended up making the movie. There are several unique choices that were considered for the “Animal House” film, such as singer Meatloaf, and once the characters for “Caddyshack” came together, there are some strange (to some viewers) choices of character considerations after seeing the final version, such as Don Rickles, Mickey Rourke, Michelle Pfeiffer, and even Bo Derek, who were all considered for the movie.

Once the concept of “Caddyshack” was approved and casting was set, the film had problems such as finding a proper golf course, trying to work around several actor’s other film projects, and of course, the fact that there was a small script that kept changing throughout the filming, and at most times, ad-libs for most of the movie, having a first time director in Harold Ramis (and tons of drugs on set among the cast and crew). According to the book, there wasn’t even a part written for Bill Murray until after he signed on.

The book also tells wild tales during filming, such as golf cart races, how Rodney Dangerfield would freeze when the word “action” was said, and how the studio made Ramis find a part where Chase and Murray had to be in the same scene, once they found out that the two biggest comedy stars were not even in a scene together (which Nashawaty takes the reader back a few years before where Chase and Murray had problems with each other on the set of Saturday Night Live). There is also stories of how the Orion studio (which was financing the film) was in competition with Universal Studios, who were working on “The Blues Brothers” at the time.

This making of “Caddyshack” also covers how the famous gopher got placed in the film after shooting was finished, and how Kenny Loggins was picked to create the famous opening theme song, where the gopher does his famous dance.

The book is a nice read, with short chapters and a nice flow, once the reader gets through the early stages of the National Lampoon history. When first reading this part, the reader may think “What does any of this have to do with the movie,” but with some patience, Nashawaty fits it all together so the reader can understand how the Lampoon history ends up with the crew of ” Caddyshack.” If you think the movie was a crazy, wild scene, the behind the scenes that this book creates, is even wilder. Although the book just ends with a tragic story of one of the crew members (No Spoilers on this page!), which makes this reviewer think the book just ends without a summary (the next several pages just has a glossary of a “Where Are They Now” theme), and very few Rodney Dangerfield stories (which I can not get enough of) the book still has some great tales, along with a nice insight of how this movie ended up being made (which is shocking it even ended up getting done!)



Thanks to Flatiron Books for the Advanced Reading Copy.


“Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story” by Chris Nashawaty (Flatiron Books, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-250-10595-0 eISBN: 978-1-250-10597-4) is available at


For information about the author, go to : @chrisnashawaty

Book Reviews: Two Different Approaches to Success

Cover Design by Jody Waldrup.

Reading Self-Help books are like buying Greatest Hits or Live CDs-they are not for everyone, and sometimes only die hard fans can relate to them. Most Self-Help books are geared to business savvy people , or are written by people who are already rich via given the family business to run or given a heavy inheritance to start off. Some of the books are filled with ideas that are not available to every reader, such as working 2-3 jobs to be successful (most employers in today’s society will not work around any other schedule), or are geared to only the people that live in a bigger city where opportunities are everywhere (not everyone can pack up and move, and if they did, those cities would be overcrowded and the jobs would still be slim due to all the people taking them).

Skip Prichard’s “The Book of Mistakes” (Center Street Books, 2018) is a different kind of Self-Help book where the tips given are not only simple to incorporate, but is told in a fiction setting that makes the reader want to learn more.

The book follows several people in different time periods who get a hold of a manuscripts with the key to a successful future. The book starts off in the 1400s, and then jumps to current day time, following David, who is struggling through his job and life, barely making ends meet while working for a big time business firm. One day David sees a woman dropping a piece of paper on the street which has a time and place to meet. David decides to go to the meeting, hoping to find out what the secrets are, and if things go wrong, he can just state he was returning the paper that the woman dropped. David finds out that he was meant to get the paper and meets several different people (a bartender, a bodybuilder, a playwright, a banker, and some other people) during the next several months by “chance,” who end up telling him what the common mistakes are made by these people who wished they knew these tips when they were younger.

The mistakes given can be used to the normal everyday person (I won’t give out spoilers to all of them), with one being not letting someone else determine your value in life (the person’s value is more than they seem). This , along with the fictional setting, is something that makes the book unique, as opposed to others in the genre that write things like, “This is how I was successful. Follow these tips and here’s why it worked for me.”

The book jumps back and forth at times to the 1400s in following a girl whose uncle is trying to protect the manuscript from getting in the wrong hands. This brings an action theme to the book, which makes the reader keep wanting to know how the book ends up into those that teach David many years later.

Prichard’s book would draw fans of Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven, ” which brings random people along David’s journey in order to help him, while he meets them during everyday encounters. However, those readers that like business books, can also enjoy the book, with action thrown in as well.

“The Book of Mistakes” is a different type of Self- Help book that combines action and lessons (almost in parable style). This book can reach many genre of fans. One does not have to be a business guru to learn some of these lessons that can be used in any aspect of life, even those that just want to make themselves feel better and do some good in their lives. The book is a surprisingly good read for those that are looking for something different.


“The Book of Mistakes” by Skip Prichard (2018 Center Street Books ISBN : 978-1-4789-7090-3 ebook ISBN: 978-1-4789-7093-4) is available at and at


For other information on Skip Prichard, go to

Cover copyright 2018 by Hatchette Book Group, Inc.


Cal Turner Jr. and Rob Simbeck, in the book “My Father’s Business” (Center Street, 2018) walks the reader through how Turner’s father started a small store and turned it into the Billion-Dollar Dollar General stores.

Turner Jr. discusses his early childhood growing up, while his father started purchasing department stores in Kentucky. The first Dollar General was in Springfield, Kentucky, at a store that was struggling in sales. Cal’s father decided to take the idea of putting all items at a dollar once he saw how well other stores sold merchandise during their “dollar days’ sales. His father thought why not have a store that kept all items at a dollar? By 1957, his father owned 29 stores that equaled $5 million dollars in sales.

The book discusses how Turner Jr. wanted to go into the ministry, but was talked out of it, his stint in the Navy, along with his college years. In 1965, he started working at his father’s stores, working at stocking and opening the stores, where he claims he found his mission in life by helping people in a different way, which filled his need of a calling when he considered the ministry.

“My Father’s Business” is a leadership/business book that details how the family each had a role in the managing of the stores, how the company branded into a corporation and public traded business, including how they handled a Teamster/Union strike in the 1970s, which included threats on Cal Jr’s family, as well as a kidnapping attempt of his young son. The book also follows Cal Jr’s rise to become the president of the company and having to fire one of his brothers along the way. His rise to CEO and dealing with his father’s old ways of handling business is covered as he becomes conflicted on keeping a company successful while dealing with family members.

“My Father’s Business” is geared more for those that known something about the business world, and is not just a normal biography. There are parts in the book that lost me as a normal reader with no idea what the writers were discussing in terms of sales, profits, and percentages. There are sections about his faith, along with some Bible quotes, which gives a picture of what his family values were growing up in the business world.

Turner writes in a way that is not all business jargon, but those that are reading it as just a biography may fight through a few parts. For those that study economics and business related topics, this book will be a good read to find out how the small general store turned into a booming business.


“My Father’s Business” by Cal Turner Jr, with Rob Simbeck (Center Street, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-4789-9298-1, eISBN: 978-1-4789-9299-8, special edition ISBN: 978-1-5460-7619-3) is available at


Both review copies were given courtesy of Center Street and Hatchette Books.

Author Q&A: Author Gary A. Smith Talks Horror Films and Writing.

Cover of Gary A. Smith’s “Vampire Films” book. Cover photo Robert Quarry in “The Deathmaster”, 1972, R.F. Brown Productions/World Entertainment Productions.


One of the great things about doing this page is that not only do I get some great books from awesome companies, but I get to interact with some of the authors as well. A while back I wrote a review on a book by Gary A. Smith, entitled “Vampire Films of the 1970s: Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between” (MacFarland, 2017) Not only was it a great book, but Mr. Smith and I got to emailing each other after the post, discussing our love for horror films.

Gary A. Smith was a regular contributor for Little Shoppe of Horrors magazine from 1980 to 2013, and has authored 7 books on various aspects of film history. He was also generous to agree to a Q&A for me on not only horror films, but some of the book writing process.


Q: What made you become a horror film fan, and also, what motivated you to write books on the genre?

A: I’ve been a fan of horror movies since I was about seven years old. That’s when they started showing the old Universal films on TV. I wrote a paper for a college film class comparing the Universal horror films to the Hammer remakes and my professor said I should consider writing books on similar subjects some day. 


Q: Do you have favorite horror actor (s) and why?

A: I would have to say Vincent Price. I love him in anything, especially the Corman/Poe films. 


Q: Do you have a preference in studio films (aka Universal, Hammer, AIP), if so why?

A: I love them all but I have to say “my heart belongs to Hammer.” The first Hammer films I saw was a double bill of Horror of Dracula and Revenge of Frankenstein. I was eight years old and I was instantly smitten. Why? Even at eight I was an anglophile. 


Q: What is your “Top 5” horror films that you think everyone should see?

A: Yikes! That is a tough one. It’s easier to say which are my top 5 favorites. There are better horror movies out there I’m sure, but these are my favorites. Not necessarily in any order: Brides of Dracula, The Mummy (1959), Pit and the Pendulum, Circus of Horrors, and Son of Dracula. 


Q: What (in your opinion) are the qualities that make a great horror film?

A: The actors must approach the material seriously. Tongue in cheek ruins a horror movie for me. Stylish direction can make a horror movie, even if the material isn’t that strong. I watched Baron Blood the other day and that was certainly a triumph of style over substance. Most of Mario Bava’s films are.


Q: In your book “Vampire Films of the 1970s” you list many different genres of vampire films, such as comedies, odd films, and even mention wrestler El Santo’s films. Do you have a favorite part in the book that you cover?

A: The Hammer films, of course. But the movie I most enjoyed writing about was Nocturna. I still haven’t recovered from that one! 

Compass International Pictures’s 1979’s Vampire Disco film “Nocturna,” stars Nai Bonet, John Carradine, and Yvonne DeCarlo, and Anthony Hamilton, with music by Gloria Gaynor.


Q: What is the most difficult part in the writing process that occurs for you in getting a book published?

A: Getting the publisher to do it the way I want it done. Some are very intrusive and want to change everything. McFarland was very good about the Vampire book but I have had trouble with them on past projects. 


Q: Do you have a regular writing process for your work? Do you write everyday?

A: When I am writing a book I do write every day. My most recent project is now at the publishers and I was fairly obsessed when I was writing it. I love doing research and this new book involved a lot of it.


Q: In the “Vampire Films” book, you discuss some odd films that are just guilty pleasures (for me it was “Love at First Bite” growing up as a kid seeing it all the time. Another is 1986’s “Trick or Treat” with Gene Simmons of Kiss for me.). Do you have a guilty pleasure film that is just fun to watch? Why?

A: Actually most of my favorite movies are probably guilty pleasures to other people. I suppose The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is my guiltiest pleasure. I never get tired of seeing it. Why? Because it is deliriously awful in every way. 


Q: Is there a film that you would like to see, but for some reason, have not been able to get a copy of? And why?

A: Without a doubt that would be the Italian film The Pharaohs’ Woman. I haven’t seen it in decades and, to my knowledge, a decent copy of it isn’t available anywhere. 

Q: In your opinion, which is the most scariest creature in horror, the slasher (Jason and Freddy), the vampire, or the monsters like Frankenstein and Wolfman?

A: The slasher types are the scariest because they are closer to reality. Michael Meyers in the Halloween films is terrifying to me, especially in the first film in the series. Now that’s a great horror movie! 


Q: Do you follow current horror films? If so, opinions on them, or what they lack?

A: I do see current horror films and, more often than not, come away feeling disappointed. All the fuss over The Shape of Water this year baffled me. Best Picture? Really? It was a B movie dressed up in A movie clothing. I’d rather see Creature from the Black Lagoon any day. The other horror movie up for Best Picture was Get Out; a retread of The Stepford Wives.  


Q: Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?

A: The book now at the publishers is about best selling novels that were made into films. No horror movies, I’m sorry to tell you. Some of the movies I write about are The Egyptian, Captain from Castile, and The Foxes of Harrow. These are books and films which are largely forgotten now and shouldn’t be. I hope my book helps to remedy that situation.


Q: Do you have any advice for those that are writers that want to write about film or writing in general ?

A: My way has always been to provide a detailed framework that I can send to prospective publishers prior to sitting down to write the entire book. I always include an Introduction to the project and several sample chapters. This eliminates the heartbreak of writing an entire book only to discover that nobody wants to publish it. And please do your research and provide the facts to the best of your ability. It seems that errors abound in film books in particular and these mistakes tend to be perpetuated. 


A very special thank you goes out to Gary A. Smith for taking the time to this Q&A.


My review on “Vampire Films of the 1970s: Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between” (McFarland, 2017 ISBN: 978-0-7864-9779-9 eISBN: 978-1-4766-2559-1) can be found here in the archives.

For information on ordering a copy of the book, visit McFarland’s site at

Book Review: “Boy Wonder” Looks at Dick Grayson’s History

Image c. 2015 Digital Vision.

McFarland’s book “Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder” (2015),edited by Kristen L. Geaman, is filled with essays celebrating the 75 years of DC Comic’s famous sidekick.

Throughout the many essays in the 360 page book, the history of Dick Grayson is discussed with an academic approach to the character. Not only does the book discuss the early days of Dick becoming the Robin character, but also his turn into the Nightwing creation. The essays also features how the character name “Robin” was possibly created (including a theory that Bruce Wayne was the original Robin) to the symbolism of the colors used in the designing of the costume.

There are some unique topics covered in the book, including when Grayson moved out of the Batcave and away from Wayne and teamed with Batgirl (but still under the “sidekick” shadow although he was trained by Batman, and was older than Batgirl). Also covered is how the creators of Robin were influenced by Robin Hood, and there are some brief references to the later Robins, Jason Todd and Damian Wayne.

Just like any academia themed book, there are subjects covered in the book dealing with a Freudian look at the Robin character, to a psychoanalytic criticism of Batman and Robin overcoming trauma in their lives, to the topic of the coming of age theme, when Grayson leads the Teen Titans, which he helps Superman and Deadman, all with quotes and story lines from the comic books to back up the theories.

Being a Batman fan, this book was interesting at parts, especially learning some of the story line ideas that has been used in the 75 years of the character. There is some information I was not aware of, including Dick Grayson actually becoming Batman for a time.

The McFarland company is geared towards the educational writings on the topics, but for this reviewer, some of the topics covered here were stretching the stories and the characters. Although one must respect the concept that comic books are now considered good enough readings for academic coverage in texts and even classes in colleges, some of the writings were just a bit too much for me, which seems to happen when some stuffy academia “know it alls” get their hands on topics. There are many great topics in the book (the essay on the colors of the costume, along with the writing suggesting that Robin’s costume was built from pieces of Batman’s suit are very interesting). The book even covers the influence of butler Alfred as a father figure type and his impact on Grayson.

This book would be best for those that are die hard fans of the Robin character, as opposed to someone who is a causal fan of the character. This is not a history book of the character, although the reader will find many references to the character’s past to create a historical timeline. “Dick Grayson: Boy Wonder “is a typical text book style that would be used for a college class- not that it’s a bad thing- it’s just a different feel for a casual reader. The packaging reminds this reader of the college criticism books that were read as an English Major in college, with some writings that are thought provoking, while others are just out there with the theories and read too much into the subject.

The reviewer is a huge supporter of the McFarland brand and the books. However, this book is not for everyone who is a comic book reader. If the reader is looking for a timeline Robin/Dick Grayson story, they may have to go elsewhere, but if the reader wants some intellectual thinking added to the Batman family, this will be the book for you. Kristen L. Geaman has compiled some great topics in the book, along with some others that are kind of strange, but that is the writer’s right to explore the topics.


Thanks to McFarland for the Review copy.


“Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder” Edited by Kristen L. Geaman (McFarland, 2015 ISBN: 978-0-7864-9788-1 eISBN: 978-1-4766-2085-5) is available at or at the order line at 800-253-2187.





Book Reviews: Maniscalco Books Great for Horror/Mystery Fans

One thing missing in today’s horror films and books is the art of building the suspense to the audience. Especially in the film industry, the horror genre tends to be missing the mystery aspect that draws the viewer in, keeps them engaged, and then brings the ending to a climax that keeps them talking. One person that has not lost this skill in the publishing world is Kerri Maniscalco with her book “Stalking Jack The Ripper” (Jimmy Patterson Books, 2016).

Maniscalco’s novel about a girl named Audrey Rose Wadsworth, who studies under her uncle the skill of forensic science in the Victorian Age, where young girls should be proper and social, is the type of horror/mystery tale that would be perfectly shown on classic horror TV shows like Boris Karloff’s “Thriller” show or any of the other 1950-1960s shows.

The story takes us through Audrey’s studies with her uncle, while her father and brother want her to be more of a socialite like many of the other girls her age. Even though Audrey likes training with her uncle and dissecting bodies for research, a local crime turns her into a sleuth trying to find out who is doing the murders of women in her area. Women start being murdered with their body parts being taken, which ends up being called the “Leather Apron” aka Jack The Ripper. Audrey and a young man who also studied under her uncle, named Thomas, start investigating the crimes, while also trying to help prove false accusations against some of the innocent people in their lives who are charged with being The Ripper.

Maniscalco’s writing combines great scientific elements with the horror and mystery of finding out who this murderer is, along with a plot that gives many false leads and turns among the characters. The reader is taken on a ride that not only is page turning, but makes them think they have the killer figured out, only to be swerved again. The author has definitely done research on the topic, along with the science of the time, with only a few changes in history (which she writes at the end of the book why she changed a few things here and there for the consistency of her plot). Even if one criticizes the few changes in the historical timeline, it doesn’t change the fact that the novel is well written and takes the reader on a suspenseful journey that those things can be overlooked.

Audrey Rose is a strong female character, one who speaks her mind among those in her life that expect her to act a certain way, while adding the Nancy Drew like inquisitive mind that makes her character wonderful. Although the Thomas character is extremely annoying, annoying, and unlovable, that does not deter from the theatrical mysterious chiller that makes the book so magnificent.

Maniscalco’s first novel is a gem, not only just for the Young Adult readers, but for the horror/mystery readers. Fans of old school mysteries, where the audience is slowly taken on a ride that has many accusations, false villains, and a shocking ending are advised to check out this book. If this book was a movie back in earlier days, one could see someone like the legendary Vincent Price of Christopher Lee playing a role in this story. Bravo to Maniscalco for not losing the great art of storytelling, along with the imaginative plot combining history, horror, and mystery.



Kerri Maniscalco’s second novel in her series, “Hunting Prince Dracula” (Jimmy Patterson, 2017) , takes the reader through another adventure with her character Audrey Rose Wadsworth.

The book takes place shortly after her last book, the wonderful “Stalking Jack the Ripper,” where the main characters Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell are sent to a university with other prospective forensics students in order to gain one of the top positions to stay at the school for future studies, which happened to be the one time home of Vlad the Impaler. After a series of strange deaths, including one of the train ride to the school, Audrey and Thomas decide that their investigated skills are needed to solve the mystery.

Much like the last book, there is banter between Thomas and Audrey, making the reader try and decide if Audrey really does have romantic feelings towards Thomas or not.   While the two characters are competing with the other students, and each other’s feelings, the townspeople start whispering that these murders could indeed be Vlad brought back to life.

The book has a more Harry Potter theme to it, with a gothic looking school with several students vying for one of the top spots in the studies. Instead of wizards, the book deals with historical rumors and myths about vampires and other undead creatures, along with many scientific references throughout the book, even more so than the first book in the series.

“Hunting Prince Dracula” has a more mystery theme to it than the “Stalking Jack the Ripper” book, where there was more of a horror feel to it compared to this book. The build up in this book seems slow, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The ending was a little predictable, revealing the person behind all of the antics (but that could just be because this is a Young Adult series, and this reviewer is much older). It is wise to read the “Jack the Ripper” book first, just to understand the interaction between the two main characters, along with understanding what Audrey Rose went through at the end of the first book. There are several references to incidents that happened in the first book that readers should know about and read the first of the series, although the reader could still get through the second without having read the first one, but it is advised to read it in a series.

Even though this book was slow build up, there is no complaints about the author’s writing style. Maniscalco has no sophomore jinx in her writing, although “Jack the Ripper” was a more enjoyable book overall for this reviewer. The great thing about Maniscalco’s writing in this book is that she leaves the reader wanting more, especially with her ending, where he hints yet another book in the series (NO Spoilers given on this page).

Overall “Hunting Prince Dracula” is a good read, especially for those readers that love science related themes on top of a mystery. The characters are strong, but if you are looking for a more horror/historical book, “Stalking Jack the Ripper” will be the best pick. Either book you choose, there is something good about Manicalco’s original characters and ideas.


Thanks to Jimmy Patterson Books and Little, Brown, and Company for the review copies.

“Stalking Jack The Ripper” by Kerri Maniscalco (Jimmy Patterson Books ISBN : ISBN-13: 9780316273503) is an imprint of Little, Brown, and Company, a division of Hatchette Book Group, Inc.

“Hunting Prince Dracula” by Kerri Maniscalco (Jimmy Patterson, 2017 ISBN: 031655166X) is available at .

For information on the author, go to: