There are many reasons why a reviewer may not like a certain book. For me, there are several, from just not being in the mood of the tone and style of the author, the topic sounded good at the time and then the writing goes into a different path, or it just doesn’t connect with the book at the time reading (there have been times that reading the same book later changes my view). I mostly read my books right before going to sleep, so whatever goes on during the day before that than can have an influence on it. Finally, reviews are just opinions, and I may just plain not like the book, but has nothing to do with the writing or author. I respect how hard it is to have the drive to not only write something, but find a way to put it out to the audience (either self publishing, or finding an agent and company).
Kingdom Come : Finding Holy in the Here and Now ,by Melissa Zaldivar, (Faithwords Books, 2019 ) is a book that did not resonate with me. The book seemed interesting to me at first, with the topic of looking at the Kingdom and Presence of God, how to find discernment between the two, and use it in the Christian walk.
The author defines the Kingdom of God as things that are under God’s rule, whereas the Presence is the reality of what happens when people encounter God. With that said, the writer takes the reader through certain aspects that are needed to know about the two, while encouraging the reader to dig deeper into their own hearts and embrace facts like learning to know God’s timing, the difference between kindness and niceness, finding time to seek the presence, and risk taking.
The writer gives great examples throughout the book (some Biblical ), such as asking how people in today’s society can get into God’s presence when we can’t get off our cell phones for two minutes without checking on it (even if it is on vibrate), using the examples of how blindness is symbolic in the Bible (both spiritual and physical), and how to view the fact that Christians do not let go of things; thinking the worst endings is the result, instead of trusting God.
While these are all great ideas, and written in ten chapters, the beginning several chapters were a struggle to get through, especially the first one, where I would keep staring at the words and wondering what it is I read. Zaldivar ‘s bio states she holds a Master’s degree in theology, which may present the first part’s problem of not being clear cut (at least to me) of the book’s goals. However, once the reader gets deeper into the book, the chapters and points flow nicely, such as the two chapters on risk taking (which is the best in the book), and the chapter on fear with an in depth look at Peter of the Bible, which was just as enjoyable.
Another problem for me is that many of the personal examples Zaldivar uses are vague and tended to turn me off. Maybe this book is geared more towards women, but after every other page of the examples such as ” I was dealing with something at this time of my life” (the quote is mine for example, not the hers), I got bored and agitated. I understand that the reader does not need to have total access about the writer’s life, and some things do not need to be known, which may be too personal for her to reveal, but other examples could be more entertaining and helpful in order for the reader to embrace the theme of the book. Also, after every situation, she writes that she would break down and cry, or give examples of “after this, I ended up crying” (again not actual quote). This may be where the female audience would get more out of the book, and this is not to sound judgmental of the emotions and passion the author has on the subject and her past experiences, but as a stranger reading the book, it, along with the vague examples, took my attention off of the points being made.
Zaldivar’s first book is for a select audience, and not for everybody. Her writing is down to earth and not over the head of readers (with exception of the first chapter which was a fight to get through). Her style is nice, and for a first time writer, she has some wonderful Biblical examples using Judas, Peter, Eve, and Ruth from the Bible, and would been better to use more of these , or use other people’s tales to help out with some of the points, instead of the vagueness of many of the situations. She knows her topic well, and at times, shows the emotion that she wants the reader to experience as well, which would be nice to see more of it to get her point across and add emphasis to the ideas being presented. Besides of these critiques, she will get her following with her writing style, and have a nice writing future if she sees fit.
This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.
Kingdom Come: Finding Holy in the Here and Now (Faithwords, 2019) by Melissa Zaldivar ISBN: 978-1-5460-1083-8 (hardcover) , 978-1-5460-1081-4 (ebook) can be ordered at : http://www.faithwords.com
For more about the author, go to: melissazaldivar.com
Geared To: Ages 15 and Up.
For Fans Of: Christian Living, Growth, Christian books, Spirituality, Women Studies
I am not going to write a positive book review just because one of the writers of The ProWrestling Hall of Fame : The Storytellers from the Terrible Turk to Twitter (ECW Press, 2019) is Greg Oliver, along with Steven Johnson. I strive, and take pride in writing honest reviews, where many of the publishers and writers have complimented me on with their books. Since I have written for Oliver’s wrestling site , Slam Sports, in the past, it will not sway my review.
I saw the book online, and the cover immediately turned me off , with the photograph of wrestler Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho from their New Japan match. I still like Jericho as a wrestler, a businessman, and a writer. I have never seen the appeal of Omega, where the internet darlings, who also helped many of the ECW wrestlers in the day think they were better in the ring than they really were, praise him constantly, yet don’t know anything about when wrestling was believable. I personally would not seek out a book with Omega on the cover period. When the book came in the mail from the company, I figured I might as well give it a chance, you know the old saying about a book’s cover.
I had no doubt that something with Oliver’s name on it would be well written, but this book was wonderful in detailing the early days of wrestling, to the territories days, and beyond, when it came to the various aspects of storytelling in the ring (and out of it). The early parts of the book describes the history of promoters taking wrestling from the carnival days, to the days of Ed Lewis and his promoter manager, and making wrestling a global attraction. There are stories about how several promoters in the business , before Vince McMahon Jr. ever did in the late 1980s-1990s, publicly announced the business was not legit, and was more entertainment.
The book tells tales about the early “first blood,” ladder, and blindfolded matches, along with the strange matches involving monkeys, bears , and yes, even fish. The first cage matches, and the first manager heel, Count Rossi, are covered in the easy to read, short chapters. Announcers such as Bill Mercer, Dennis James (who is considered the first national wrestling announcer), and the return of Tony Schiavone, along with the announcers’ roles in keeping story lines going, are also part of the book.
The text covers times in the 1970s and 1980s when wrestlers needed a crazy story to boost business gate receipts, such as throwing the title belts into rivers and lakes (which was done many times before The Rock and Steve Austin did it in WWE), to how important the wrestling magazines were in helping get wrestlers over to the fans.
There are many wonderful stories about classic characters like Jack Pfifer, Jim Barnett, Dr. Sam Sheppard (who was the inspiration for the TV show The Fugitive, and had ties to my hometown, near Youngstown Ohio), to wrestlers who went on to be actors in Hollywood, like Alex Karras (Mongo from Blazing Saddles) and Victor the bear. The writers used many interviews (the credits state over 200) from people like Tom Prichard, Court Bauer, Jim Cornette, Kevin Sullivan, Bobby Fulton, and Eric Bischoff.
Another interesting part of the book (besides the first 200 pages filled with the older history of wrestling) is the section on the importance of the current day writers. I agree that wrestling today is way too scripted when it comes to writing story lines and interviews (they don’t come off as legit and too rehearsed), but the interviews with former WWE and TNA writers taking the reader behind the scenes to what goes on weekly was an informative. Another entertaining part included the wrestling magazines section, where during the pre-internet days, fans had to visit to the local newsstand and buy wrestling magazines (which I have many from the late 1980s-1990s) to keep up with what was going on, because most newspapers did not cover wrestling.
The last 50 pages for me was the weakest of the book. These sections dealt with hardcore wrestling (from ECW to “death matches,” where everything from bats to light bulbs are used) , to how the wrestlers The Hardys’ used the TNA Deletion angle into a mini movie (along with Lucha Underground, which adds a science fiction flavor to the productions in filming), and interviewing Omega on his take on storytelling. Because I was not an ECW fan , or one of Lucha, this did not appeal to me, although the authors covered almost everything on the topic of storytelling to their credit. The Omega interview was laughable to me , because of the way he explains his matches to the writers, which makes it as if he is very serious about his role in wrestling, yet this is the guy that used blow up dolls, dressed up like video game characters, and he (along with another team I can not stand, The Young Bucks), average around 200 super kick moves in each match. His interview section made him look like Randy Savage, who was known at times to have pages of ideas and moves for just one match. I am not saying Omega is not an athlete, but I never understood the appeal of many who state him as one of the top wrestlers in the world, when he does the same move 15 times in a match. I am sure he is a nice person outside of the ring, but I am not a fan of his, and his take on storytelling sounded like he was the Charles Dickens of wrestling, with every little move and segment carefully planned months in advanced. However, if the only problem in the book is my personal dislike for certain type of match or wrestler, the writers did an amazing job with detailing the subject.
The best part of the book is the first 200 pages, with all the classic wrestling tales and history, from the early masked men (and possibly the first person to ever wear a mask that got major attention), to a wrestler in matches against alligators, fans will love the classic stuff. If you are a newer fan, there is about 50-70 pages on the newer style of wrestling, from the decline of WCW, the “Attitude Era” with Shawn Michaels, to the impact of Dave Meltzer’s dirt sheets. The book is sectioned nicely, with subtitles in each major chapter, basically in three parts. The writing is easy to understand ; telling the events with interviews woven in, to where it is entertaining and a history lesson combined, without a ton facts and dates cluttering up the pages. Regardless of the cover photo ( if you’re like me and not a fan of Omega or these newer gimmick matches that is covered in the last 50 pages), don’t judge a book by the cover, and enjoy great wrestling history with the first three fourths of the book.
This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher
The ProWrestling Hall of Fame The Storytellers from the Terrible Turk to Twitter (ECW Press, 2019) ISBN: 9781770415027 (softcover) 9781773054223 (PDF), 9781773054216 (ePub) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com
If you have followed professional wrestling as long as I have (I started regularly watching in 1986, but watched on and off since ’84), you will know that not everyone can be the champion or in the main event. Back in the territory days, there were the main eventers, mid carders and developmental talent (also called “jobbers”). Now days, with few television time considering as many are on the WWE roster , sometimes a wrestler may not been seen for such a long time, that many may not know they are still with the company. However, they are no less important in the shape of wrestling; just because a wrestler isn’t on the shows every week, doesn’t mean they are not working the house shows or dark matches before the cameras come on, working with the upcoming stars or those coming back from injuries.
I admit the few times I have seen WWE wrestler Titus O’Neil was when he was put in goofy comedy spots. Yes, at one time he was a WWE Tag Team Champion , but all I really know about him is how much work he does outside of the ring with various charities and WWE community events.
After reading There’s No Such Thing As A Bad Kid: How I Went from Stereotype to Prototype , along with Paul Guzzo (ECW Press/WWE Books, 2019), I have a different view on who the person is behind the WWE wrestler, even if he does not get a lot of screen time.
The following needs to be made clear; this is NOT a wrestling book. Yes, he is a wrestler, and there are a few wrestling-related stories (maybe 3-4), but this is O’Neil’s take on how to educate, and help succeed, children from at risk environments, and trying to get them on the road to a better life, escaping drugs, gangs, or whatever they may be a part of and encouraging them to graduate high school and college and , in turn, give back to others.
The title deals with the fact that even though some children lash out at others, either school teachers, social workers, adults, and other kids in general, the label of them being a “bad kid” is not just. O’Neil, born Thaddeus Bullard, uses his own life as being labeled a “bad kid” as example to show how he overcame the stereotype with help from patient adults who saw a future for him in a different way, and encouraged him to achieve it, although the road was filled with obstacles and set backs. I do not give out spoilers, but just reading about O’Neil’s childhood (especially the relationship between his mother and other siblings) is a powerful and admirable testament to where he is today.
Being sent to various camps for at risk children, after constantly being disrespectful to schoolmates and teachers, O’Neil was taught through hard work, goals, and the right people in his life, he became the first college graduate in his family, along with playing football for the University of Florida under Steve Spurrier, and the Arena Football League before ending up in wrestling.
The only wrestling tales are used as examples to the topic of the chapters, which could be read all at once, or by using one chapter at a time, to show his opinions (and his life experiences and struggles), from the “Titus Slide,” where he ran to the ring for a match in 2018, only to slide under the ring before getting in it, to finally getting to train in the FCW league (what is now NXT). This book is more about educating-both adults and children- to look at our at risk areas with a different approach. Although I may not agree with all of his suggestions (being in the educational field at times myself), it definitely got me to look at things a little differently from my normal viewpoint. For instance some of his ideas may be hard to implement , such as getting more time in schools for the arts, when the schools have to spend some much time getting the students to pass the state standard testing (which many schools already spend the time on pre-tests, testing, make ups, practice tests, etc just on those tests as it is). I do agree with his statements on making the students have uniforms, so those without the top of the line clothing do not feel ashamed (of course then the subject of who funds them comes into play).
The various charitable things that he does when not on the road is not only admirable, but shows a love for what he does, without sounding like a braggart in writing about the events. Just because this is not a wrestling book, does not exclude the fine writing (short and easy to comprehend explanations) , and unique commentary on a problem here in the United States. O’Neil comes off as a person that one would like to sit down with at a coffee shop or restaurant, and pick his brain on many topics, without him having a judgmental attitude when the other person asks questions. Hopefully this book does not go unnoticed, especially being a WWE related book, where many of the wrestling books in past have been suspect at best (with the superstars being “in character” the whole time), because some may look at the cover and see the WWE logo on it and think it’s about wrestling. It’s about changing goals, achieving dreams, along with a touch of forgiveness and spirituality added. This is a book that educators, politicians, and anyone that works with , or wants to work with, children should read. This will , hopefully, make the reader want to get more involved with their communities to address a problem in our education system.
There’s No Such Thing As A Bad Kid: How I Went from Stereotype to Prototype by Titus O’Neil with Paul Guzzo (ECW Press/WWE Books, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-77041-491 (hardcover), 978-1-77305-425-4 (PDF), 978-1-77305-424-7 (ePUB) can be found at : http://www.ecwpress.com
For information about the authors: check out @TitusONeilWWE and @PGuzzoTimes.
Geared For: Ages 12 and Up
For Fans Of: Social Services, Autobiography, Self-Help, Children and Youth, Biography
When it comes to horror film companies, the causal fans think of the two most successful ones; Universal and Hammer. But many may not know that just like Universal, Hammer did not only focus on horror, but created many films in the genres of science fiction, kung fu, mysteries, and comedies. Hammer even had television shows and album records. Howard Maxford covers all things Hammer in his wonderful HammerComplete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company (McFarland, 2019).
Let me preface this review with a flashback to my college days at Kent State University. As an English major, one of the classes we had to take was a Shakespeare course, who is not one of my favorite writers (even when I taught at a high school for a few years, much like the students, I dreaded this part). As many readers here may know, walking across college campus with your backpack filled with books, especially during the winter , was not an enjoyable experience. The Shakespeare class was actually bearable , as opposed to some of the other teachers who taught the subject at the campus, because my class looked at the work more from a theater aspect than looking at the plays as just literature.
The textbook we had to use for the class was The Wadsworth Shakespeare book, which is a hardback (and heavy) , book that had over 2000 pages filled with poems, plays, and all things Shakespeare . When going to the class, many of us only carried that book (with a notebook) due to the heaviness and size of the book. The book was at a hefty price as well for us students (like many text books), so when it was time to decide whether or not to keep the book at the end of the semester, it was a no-brainer for many of us to sell it back and try and get at least $50 bucks back from the $150 we paid for it.
The reason I bring up this story is when Hammer Complete showed up at my door, after requesting a copy for review, I immediately thought of that Shakespeare textbook when I unwrapped the packaging. At first glance (and this rarely happens to me, maybe with the exception of the KISSTORY book I purchased in the 1990s), I was in awe of how beautiful the book outlook was. I do not get emotional about books by looking at the covers, besides the comments of “I like that” or “that’s a neat cover.” This was an exception. The cover features Christopher Lee as Count Dracula from the 1968 DraculaHas Risen From The Grave, ready to sink his teeth into Veronica Carlson. The hardback cover, with the solid binding made me state out loud , although I was by myself, “WOW!”
I started thumbing through the thin pages, just admiring some of the pictures and text, which has three columns on every page. I was amazed at how well put together, along with the sturdiness of the binding.
With all this amazement with the visuals of the book, is the book actually good? Because it was uncomfortable to read in bed, I had to settle for browsing and reading at the kitchen table. I started to read the book from the beginning with the Introduction, where the author states that this project took him 14 years to put together, and that the text is not meant to be read cover to cover, but for “browsing.” I started to try it anyway.
Unlike other McFarland books I have reviewed on this page like Universal Horrors and Bela Lugosi And Boris Karloff (where you can find in the archives, or type in the search engine), it is difficult to read every little thing cover to cover, as the author warns. There is so much information here, from the actors, films, crew members, and anyone associated with the movie company , that I’d still be reading this book for years, and only get so far into it. I suggest following the writer’s advice and look up the topics you are wanting to read about and go from there.
Since this is about Hammer, there are many great topics and stories from the history of the company, from the obvious Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing films, to the television shows and magazines, to some of the rarer known films (at least for me) in the history. For instance, I did not know that special effects legend Ray Harryhausen helped on the Hammer film One Million Years B.C. ,that Patty Duke was featured on an episode of the television show Journey To The Unknown, or that James Bond girl Ursula Andress was in the Hammer film, 1965’s She.
The book also supplies interviews with several of the people who were a part of the film, and gives an entertaining look at some of the behind the scenes tales that is normally absent in an normal encyclopedia, such as the story during the 1966 Dracula Prince of Darkness, where Christopher Lee’s eye contact fell out during filming while he was standing on a salt block. The make up man picked up the contact and put it back into Lee’s eye, with salt still in it.
The Draculas, Frankensteins, Mummys, and the Karstein triology are all covered here, including one of my favorite films (where many dismiss) 1964’s The Gorgon. There are comedies, magazines, and just odd films featured in the text as well. The book even covers the newer Hammer films, like the underrated Woman In Black from 2012, and other films like Let Me In and the bad Woman In Black sequel.
I very much enjoyed browsing through this book, and reading all of the tales about the actors, and films. Die hard fans of the Hammer films will need to add this to their collections. The book holds up very well, as opposed to a few others I have received with huge page lengths, where the pages fell out towards the end of the book. At almost 1000 pages of three columned print (the text is small too), there is much to enjoy in this book, including the photographs of movie posters, and on the set shots. The only question remains is would the casual horror fan be willing to shell out the price of the book to use as only a reference, since it is hard to read cover to cover, to have sit on their shelves? I can not answer that question, as honest as I like to be with my reviews here. All I can say is that I was amazed at the quality of the book , and after reading it for several months, I kept a notebook beside me with a listing of films that I want to check out that I never heard of, thanks to going through this piece. The book may not be for everyone, but don’t dismiss it either. It may surprise you.
A review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.
HammerComplete: The Films, the Personnel, the Company by Howard Maxford (McFarland, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-7466-7007-2 (hardback) , 978-1-4766-2914-8 (ebook) can be found at http://www.McFarlandbooks.com
While growing up in churches near my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio during my youth, many pastors and preachers would dispute how people in the church should pray. Is it alright to ask God for something, or are you to just go with the flow and thank God for whatever comes your way? Is there a right or wrong way to pray? What about if you prayed for something , and it didn’t come out the way you wanted? Was it a problem with you, or was it just that God wanted something better for you?
Throughout the years, the subject seemed to get more and more confusing, with different answers and writers weighing in on the topic. In her latest book GangsterPrayer: Relentlessly Pursuing God with Passion and Great Expectation (Worthy Publishing, 2019), Autumn Miles digs into several types, and results, of prayer.
The book starts out by Miles telling a story about her being under conviction after watching a television series about gangsters where she felt God informed her that criminals are more passionate in their law- breaking lives than she was in her prayer life. She then decides to dig into the several different categories of prayer, and how it has affected her life since that day. Miles defines prayer as talking with God and not at him, while claiming at the beginning that she does not claim to be a expert on the topic of prayer.
Throughout the short chapters Miles walks the reader through several different types of prayers such as: the Wrestling Prayer, Scared Prayer, Working Prayer, the Fighting Prayer, and the Thanksgiving prayer among others. Each chapter gives not only examples in the author’s life when she was struggling and experiencing each type of prayer, but also gives some Biblical examples as well to help detail the points being made.
Miles also discusses her thoughts on deeper parts of prayer, such as what does the Christian do if the prayer has not been answered (do they give up after a certain amount of time), what does it mean if God says “no” to the prayer request, how to make sure the person’s prayer is not just for selfish reasons, and more.
One of the great parts of this book, especially in the beginning, is how the writer does not tip-toe around the topic and her views on the subject. For instance, she bluntly states that in today’s society, the church seems to have their minds on other things than on prayer or creating valuable prayer sessions, and how many churches are more concerned with fancy stage shows for the praise and worship portions of the church, instead of the non-glitzy prayer meetings.
In another insightful section of the book, Miles brings the topic of prayer firstly to its basic core, and then goes into the deeper parts of the issues. For instance, she writes about who God is (and his characteristics), before getting into the touchier portions like “why doesn’t God answer me now?”
Gangster Prayer is an easy to read book that has short chapters (always a plus with me) , and is packaged so that a person can read one chapter a day as a devotional, or several chapters at a time. At the end of each section, several deeper questions are asked, so the reader can reflect on what was just discussed in order to apply it to their lives. The different categories of prayer was insightful and informative, which makes the readers think about how they approach prayer in general. Although most of the personal examples Miles uses in her writing are focused towards women (by talking about her love of getting her nails done), this book is not totally geared towards females, which seems to be her ministry target audience. I have never heard of Miles before this book (she has a podcast , radio show, and other writings in her portfolio), but I still took away quite a bit of information from this title. A few times throughout the book she states that she prayed for certain things, such as a bigger house, a book deal, and dealings with other businesses, which made me (and maybe some readers) wonder if praying for those things (which some label this as “prosperity preaching”, where some think God gives any worldly possessions because he wants people to be happy on earth) are in conflict with the Bible. Nonetheless, this only occurs once or twice in the book. I am not disputing that prayer should be an everyday part in a Christian’s life, but a few examples like these made me stop and think for a minute.
Overall the book was very informative, and insightful, without having a writer with a PHD in Christianity try to write over the reader’s head, which I have read in some books while reviewing in the past. I do think the book is geared towards Christian women, but it should not stop men from reading it (I can read many women writers in the Christian genre, in fact, my favorite writer in the genre is former recording artist Rebecca St. James, who geared her writings heavily towards women). The book may help some who are struggling with the prayer aspect in their lives get more on track in a non-judgmental way.
This review copy was sent courtesy of Hachette Book Group and Worthy Publishing.
Gangster Prayer: Relentlessly Pursuing God with Passion and Great Expectation by Autumn Miles (Worthy Publishing, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-6839-7312-6 (trade paperback), 978-1-5460-1522-2 (ebook), 978-1-5491-5089-0 (audiobook download) 978-1-5491-8123-8 (audiobook CD) can be found at :
I do not watch the Dr. PhilShow very often, in fact I may see two episodes in three months if that often. On top of that, I have never been a major fan of books in the self-help departments, for many reasons: one is that the people that write these books assume all things are equal and anyone has the same resources to everything in the world, second, the authors (most of the time) make readers feel so guilty about your current life that they feel worse after reading them, and finally, a lot of the books are just to promote the writer’s facilities that they work at, so they don’t reveal all the things in their books, so that the reader has to go out and either buy more of their books, or have to pay to go to their facilities.
With these points out of the way, one day I was actually watching the Dr. PhilShow at my parent’s house when I became intrigued by a person who was on his team of associates plugging his new book. For some reason, the book resonated with me, where I had to seek out a copy to check out. Best Self : Be You Only Better by Life Coach Mike Bayer (Dey Street Books, 2019) changed my opinion about these types of books.
Bayer’s book deals with having a better outlook in every aspect of life, from the workplace, relationships, and hobbies, in order to be your “Best Self” (which is not only the title of the book, but a description of the ideal character the person intends to be).
If you are a follower of Bayer, or Dr. Phil, you may have seen him on this show using some of these techniques that he uses in the book. The early part of the book shows a technique where the reader creates a character, which is the ideal “Best Self;” the person he or she wants to become. The second is the “Anti-Self,” the person who is the opposite of that person, almost like the villain , and the person that the reader does not want to get out and take over their lives. Being a fan of role playing games growing up, I thought this was an interesting, and original idea to incorporate, especially where the person is encouraged to be as detailed as possible (regardless of their art skills), describing the Best and Anti-Self ‘s characteristics and goals, weaknesses etc, just like creating a game character.
From there, Bayer walks through little tips that the person can use to encourage more of the Best Self, and less of the Anti-Self characters, using everyday situations, (along with some of the stories from previous clients) from work situations to dealing with things like road rage, and not having fun in the workplace. Throughout most of the chapters there are exercises that stretches the thinking, as well as getting the reader more acquainted with who they are in their lives, and where they want to be heading. This book is not to be read straight through like a normal novel, but is more effective having a notebook beside you, and experiencing these exercises and quizzes during the chapters (especially if you are like me, who does not like writings in my books, and as the author states, the goals will change throughout the months as you head towards being the Best Self). The exercises enhance the 7 SPHERES where the person’s best self needs to be looked at, and how they are part of the overall goal. The SPHERES are an acronym for the different areas in life, such as the workplace, health of the person, and education among other things.
The only problems I had with the book was during the Education chapter of the SPHEREs, where the writer assumes all things are equal. For example, Bayer encourages that the Best Self should want to be educated in something, always wanting to learn something. Although I agree with this statement, the writer states that if the Best Self wants to learn a new trade, or is being passed over at work due to lack of technology, he states that the person go out and find the tools to improve that. All things are not equal here, because some of the things cost money, and if the Best Self is living in a situation where funds are not available, or the techniques are not offered, it may make the reader feel a little down. For instance, not everyone lives in New York, where many libraries may offer many computer classes (some smaller towns only offer “How To Use The Internet” as a course), or due to license fees, they are not offered. Or if saving money to get out of debt is part of the person’s Best Self goal, how are they going to afford to be able to pay for the computer program to help them move on? Granted , heading towards your Best Self is not going to be easy, but I thought these points were missing in his writing, which also goes into the workplace section, where he encourages people to incorporate an enjoying atmosphere in the workplace, as opposed to just punching in and getting a paycheck.
I love this concept of the workplace, but once again, not all things are equal. Bayer gives a quiz where the person decides if the problems at the workplace is you or the other people around you, along with sometimes having to decide to leave that job for something else. He does encourage the person to look at their finances before just walking out of a job, but sometimes (from my own experience) the problem can be the co-workers, and yet the HR people don’t care at all. There (in my opinion) is a myth in the writing that the HR people at businesses are all out to help each other create the best possible outcome for the business. There are many HR people who are unqualified and could care less about what goes on in their workplace, and are not always there to help out. Also, if my Best Self wants to get paid for his writing in the future, but can’t find that avenue (especially where all the local papers are owned by one company and have the same staff for years that don’t accept freelancing), it’s not as easy as the writer makes out to just go out and find the other avenue and freelance, where most of the online freelance sites are scams. And if everyone who wanted to be their own boss could do it, there would be no employees, and only bosses, which is not realistic either. Keep in mind that I have just started this journey of the book’s suggestions, and maybe he sees something down the road that I am not seeing yet, as opposed to a new person just discovering the ideas (I am not knocking Bayer or his achievements).
Another great aspect of the book is that Bayer uses his own life story as illustrations, from his past with addictions, to the fact that he does not have 15 Master Degrees and is a higher up in academia. His down-to-earth approach, along with his easy to read writing comes off as non-judgmental which is a relief, as opposed to other books in the genre that I have read. Finally the fact that he encourages the importance of spirituality and religion in a person’s life is a breath of fresh air, where many of these books refuse to allow people of faith to use the skills along with their values of a higher being. Christian readers do not have to fear that the book is filled with New Age theology, or vice versa.
I enjoyed this book, especially doing the quizzes and exercises throughout the chapters. I encourage those that want to read this book to have a journal or a notebook beside them and actually participate in the book, as opposed to just reading it (stop by a local dollar store and buy a small notebook on the way home- it doesn’t have to be anything fancy). Even if you are not a Dr. Phil watcher, this book can help those looking to change certain aspects in their lives by using an unique and creative way. The writing is not judgmental nor stereotypical in the genre; I am reminded of the joke I heard one time that says “I just bought some self-help cassettes. After listening to them I felt inadequate because I didn’t have the CDs.” Anyone can take something away from this book without fears of not measuring up.
Best Self : Be You, Only Better by Life Coach Mike Bayer (Dey Street Books, 2019) ISBN : 978-0-06291173-5 can be found at bookstores and online at Amazon.com or at : deystreet.harpercollins.com
There were certain wrestlers who I just did not like in professional wrestling, regardless of how they were portrayed by the different leagues. A few of them were The Fabulous Freebirds (especially the WCW era with Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes), Bam Bam Bigelow, Stan Hansen, The Ultimate Warrior, and most of the ECW roster were some of the names I never got behind. Another one was Vader (also known as Big Van Vader).
I remember following him in the AWA as “Baby Bull” Leon White, and just couldn’t get behind the character; he seemed over pushed to me at the time fighting for the AWA title a few times against Stan Hansen. I was a big Nick Bockwinkel and Curt Hennig fan in the AWA, so whenever White started getting a bigger push in the league, I longed to see Hennig or Bockwinkel in a classic match instead of the “Awe Shucks” persona with a trucker hat in title matches, which was what “Baby Bull” came off as at the time (along with it was hard to get behind a 300 pound man with the nickname “Baby,” thanks to promoter Verne Gagne). Of course, when White signed WCW in the 1990s, Vader was put against my favorite wrestler Sting, who was one of the top stars of the league. Vader came in so strong against Sting as the unstoppable monster, even beating him for the WCW title, really ticked me off as a young teenager. I cheered for some heels (bad guys) in wrestling, but having someone dismantle Sting as Vader did, was just too much for my taste, making Sting not as tough as he originally was in my eyes at the time.
It’s Vader Time: The Story of a Modern Day Gladiator by White, along with Kenny Casanova (WOHW Publishers, 2019), tells how White became an international wrestling star, along with his life outside the ring, with tremendous health struggles along the way. Casanova , who was mentioned at the 2019 WWE Hall of Fame (thanks to Brutus Beefcake), also helped write books by Kamala, Brutus Beefcake, and ECW’s Sabu (You can read my review of Beefcake’s book, along with a Q&A with Casanova, on the Slam Sports Wrestling site).
After the Foreword from Mick Foley that starts the pages off, the book grabs the reader immediately with White telling the story about the match in Japan against Hansen, where Vader’s eye popped out of its socket (among other injuries during the brawl). The hardcore matches pile up from there, along with the many injuries from his college and pro football and wrestling careers. Tales such as knee and shoulder injuries, along with concussions, are all detailed in the book.
White discusses how he started training in the AWA after walking into the locker room one day as a fan straight into the locker room, coming face to face with Bruiser Brody, along with how being trained by Brad Rheigans led him to the world of wrestling to avoid going back to his life of small crimes in Compton, CA which he lived in his youth. After several football injuries, (including a gruesome story where a college teammate had to have a doctor’s assistance with making a hole in his head with a power drill) White learns his stiff style of wrestling by working with some of the toughest wrestlers at the time, including Brody, Hansen, and Otto Wantz in Germany.
White , after leaving the AWA, goes to Japan where he receives the Vader gimmick from promoter Antonio Inoki. This part was informative in the reading, due to the detailed description of how the character was created from a Japanese comic book, to how the horned headgear that he wore to the ring was created. The back story about the helmet headgear and its symbolism in culture was more than just a gimmick that was given to him; details on how the helmet’s steam blowing out of it worked , and the other wrestlers who were originally considered to be the Vader character was also insightful.
The book covers Vader’s WCW and WWE careers as well, including great behind the scenes stories about Sting, Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Ron Simmons, and Mick Foley. There are signature events in his career that are covered too , such as The White Castle of Fear, the 1993 Beach Blast mini movie (where the executives at Turner Home Entertainment decided that wrestling heels blowing up a boat with a spy little person was a great idea), the WCW title reigns, Foley losing his ear in a match with him, and the time he injured preliminary wrestler Joe Thurman, which ended Thurman’s career. Tales about backstage politics by Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Eric Bischoff, and Hulk Hogan are also discussed in the writing. Vader’s take on the 1997 Montreal Screw job between Bret Hart and Michaels, from his point of view, to his appearances on the TV show Boy Meets World are also featured.
The book isn’t all about his wrestling career in the American, Mexican, German, and Japanese leagues. The publication covers the emotional tales about the injuries White accumulated throughout his career, which made for serious health problems toward the end of his life, from his battles with sleep apnea, arthritis, breathing problems, and being in a coma. The emotional diagnosis of his heart and the last year of his life is covered by his son, which gives another aspect of the events. One meeting with a doctor discussing his health issues gives a special meaning to the subtitle of the book , using the term “gladiator”, which ties the cover to the theme of the book, gives the complete package its fullness (no spoilers here, but the title wasn’t just randomly chosen).
Vader, along with Casanova, combines humor with the inner workings of wrestling on top of an emotional backdrop which many wrestling fans should enjoy. Usually self-published books are filled with grammar errors and unchecked facts, which sometimes makes it hard for me to review. Although editors sometimes miss errors here and there, it should not be so evident to distract from the overall book. The writing here does just that, by keeping the story going, in which I kept reading page after page, because the tone kept me wanting to read more.
After reading this book, I started to go back and watch some of the highlighted matches that are available online to re-watch Vader’s matches. I think one reason I disliked him so much against Sting (looking at it now, knowing more about how wrestling is presented) was that White was just that good at being the monster heel, which was his job. Dusty Rhodes’ booking of him as unstoppable worked big time, and also made his WCW title loss to Ron Simmons more shocking because no one could beat Vader at the time, even the top star Sting. By the time he got to the WWF, he was not only injured (as told in the book), but , in my opinion, was limited in what he could do, which weakened him after the dominate years in WCW and international tours that made him outshine everyone on the rosters (with help from the boost of the wrestling magazines, like the ones owned by Stanley Weston). I did get to see him live in 1997 in Youngstown , Ohio verses Kane at a live event with the WWF (he was scheduled another time, but wasn’t there).
I was hoping for a part about Vader returning to the WWE as a part of the Table For 3 show, where he was with Sting, and Diamond Dallas Page, or maybe why he agreed to do it. The only part he discusses here is his brief returns in matches against Heath Slater, and inducting Stan Hansen in the WWE Hall of Fame. Being a Sting fan, many wrestling books briefly mention him in passing, so the more stories about him I can get is good with me , and this book is one of the books with several stories about The Stinger, especially how much he helped Vader in his WCW matches (which as a Sting fan, I figured it was the office making him look bad by getting destroyed in matches at times- this book dispels that myth, by stating how Sting helped plan out the matches and took Vader under his wing to teach him a different style of wrestling that he wasn’t used to). At almost 400 pages, the book does a great job covering Vader’s life, without missing much.
This was a very enjoyable book, especially since I was not a huge Vader fan. The cover of the book is amazing , with Vader standing in front of the Rocky Mountains with the helmet and skulls below his feet. When the book came in the mail, and I opened the package, I was in awe of how well done the packaging covers (both front and back) were designed, which again, sometimes self published books tend to ignore. Don’t let not being a Vader fan prevent you from checking this book out (if you weren’t a fan of his gimmick), because there are great tales about the AWA (which tends to get overlooked in books), WCW, WWF, and the Japanese leagues and stars. Being not a huge fan of Japanese wrestling, I thought the extended tales about his time in Japan would drag and lose my interest, however this was not the case.
Along with the touching tales of forgiveness throughout the book, from White’s problems with certain wrestlers to reconnecting with his son (after years of being on the road) before Vader’s 2018 death, the book gives a new look on the person who was a dominate monster in front of the audiences, yet a different man when he was away from the cameras.
This review copy was sent courtesy of Kenny Casanova and WOHW Publishers.
It’s Vader Time : The Story of a Modern Day Gladiator (WOHW Publishers, 2019) by Leon White and Kenny Casanova (ISBN: 978-1-941356-08-1) can be ordered at http://www.wohw.com. You can also find out more about the author at :www.kennycasanova.com
Geared For: Ages 12 and up
For Fans Of: 1980s-1990s Pro Wrestling, Autobiographies.
During the mid 1980s, one of the biggest country music acts was Randy Travis. Travis was hitting the charts with songs like “On The Other Hand,” “1982,” and “Diggin Up Bones,” among others. In the book, along with Ken Abraham, Forever And Ever, Amen (Nelson Books, 2019) ,Travis takes the reader through his musical, and personal journey from the top of the charts, along with his health and financial problems.
Travis discusses how he got his start in music playing in a duo with his brother, performing in clubs until his brother was sent to prison, where Travis ended up having to go solo. Several years later, he describes how every country music label turned him down (some of them several times) for being considered “too country” to them, arriving just after the boom of the Urban Cowboy era. The John Travolta film made country music more popular, where a more pop sound was wanted in Nashville to appeal to the masses, where acts like Kenny Rogers, Juice Newton, Dolly Parton, and The Oak Ridge Boys were crossing over on the pop charts.
While working at a club, where he was also the cook, the owner , Lib Hatcher, took a liking to him and helped him avoid his own personal troubles with the law, by taking over as his guardian. Travis eventually made Hatcher his wife and full time manager, who he ends up decades later seeing the controlling nature she had over his life and finances.
Travis used three name changes and struggled to get a major label deal, which came about in 1985, and in 1987, topped the charts with his most famous song “Forever And Ever Amen,” written by Paul Overstreet, which became Travis’ third number one single at the time. Travis then started topping the charts with successful albums and singles.
The book tells some interesting stories, including his friendship with George Jones, Josh Turner, Jimmy Dickens, and other country acts. Entertaining tales about when he played pool with Minnesota Fats, and the time he stood up Mick Jagger for dinner in London, were also very entertaining.
Throughout the book Travis talks about his faith in Christianity, along with his personal struggles involving alcohol, and the stress of non-stop touring on the road being one of the top music acts at the time. He covers his film career, along with his funding to help create Pure Flix movies, which released the successful God’s Not Dead series, among other Christian films.
Many readers may want to know if he covers the 2012 incident , which Travis was arrested after crashing his car, which made all the tabloid shows after the video was leaked out. Travis tells what happened that night, the arrest, and the aftermath of the incident. Travis also talks about how his divorce from Hatcher made him see similarities in his life with the relationship between Elvis Presley and his manager Col. Parker. This part of his life, is somewhat similar to the character in the George Strait 1992 film Pure Country, where the female manager starts shoving the new boyfriend into the spotlight, using the current star’s success, which Travis explains Hatcher did with an European singer.
In what is the most emotional aspect of the book (not counting the aftermath of his divorce, where he finds out that money and insurance payments were all misused), is the ill health, which led to him to flat line and have a stroke that took years to recover from (which he is still doing). For a person who made his living in music and with his voice, the sudden health issue , and his struggles in rehabbing just to be able to walk and talk, is not only emotional, but gives me a new respect for the man as a person of faith, along with the willpower to keep moving on.
The book is easy to read, with short chapters (another plus for me), and is filled with some great stories on country music, the road, and a man struggling with health and money issues in his later years. This is one of the better music related books I have read. One does not have to be a major fan of Travis to enjoy the book (I liked several of his songs, but honestly was not considered big fan of his music) to find time well spent on an inspiring writing filled with hope, faith, struggles, and the power to keep moving forward.
Forever And Ever, Amen by Randy Travis with Ken Abraham (Nelson Books, 2019) ISBN: 9781400207992 (ebook), 97881400207985 (hardback) can be found on Amazon and at : http://www.harpercollinschristian.com.
If you have read any of my reviews when it comes to professional wrestling, you would know how I prefer the days of the territories, where many different promoters ran particular areas, and bred their stars, as opposed to today’s product where the wrestlers only have NXT or a few other choices to learn their characters and skills. Places like Florida, Texas, and the Carolinas had their own regional promotions, which some were placed under the National Wrestling Alliance banner (also known as the N.W.A.). One of the most respected, and historic promotions was the St. Louis area, run by Sam Muchnick, which is detailed in the book Wrestling At the Chase by Larry Matysik (ECW Press, 2005).
Matysik was a key member of the St. Louis territory, starting his work as a writer and press person, all the way up to helping Muchnick develop the league as a booker ( a person who sets up the matches and the endings). Stories throughout the book are told about many of the top stars of the day, from Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Bobby Heenan, Dick The Bruiser, and other legendary wrestlers. Each chapter is (almost) based on the author’s experience with the particular wrestler, along with other chapters that detail his friendship with Muchnik and what made that St. Louis area popular with not only the fans , but the wrestlers as well.
What were some of the reasons that wrestlers respected Muchnick? Not only did he give out respectable payouts to the workers (one time even paying them when there was not even a show), but the booking was unique; there were mostly clean finishes in the matches, where other territories were constantly booking controversial finishes every month, which left fans angered and (finally after so many of them) refusing to come back to the matches. The author writes how Muchnick valued the sport aspect of the wrestling that made the fans respect his television and live events. Muchnick also didn’t like “swash” matches, where the star would get all the offense in his television matches against a younger wrestler with little experience. Sam thought that the enhancement wrestler should make the match seem like a legit fight, and have some offense.
The writing relays stories that are entertaining, such as the time a bunch of local guys wanted to fight the wrestlers in a hotel, and 7-foot tall Andre The Giant decided to challenge the men, to how respected Bobby “The Brain” Heenan became , who ended up being the first and only manger in the territory. Stories are told about stars like Jerry “Crusher” Blackwell (who walked out on Vince McMahon Jr. right during his start of the 1980s boom), Joe Garagiaola (who was an announcer for the promotion at one time), and Dick Murdoch.
Another great aspect of the book is the author’s telling of some of the political behind the scene lobbying among the N.W.A. brass in determining the champion at the time (the N.W.A. Champion would travel to each territory to defend the title as an added attraction). One story deals with how then champion Dory Funk Jr. was injured and may not have been able to defend when he was scheduled to be in St. Louis, where the fear and rumors were that he just did not want to drop the title. Muchnick responded by getting Bruno Sammartino from New York’s WWWF to come to St. Louis to show that Muchick could work with the “rivals” of the N.W.A. The political sections of the book also covers when Vince McMahon Jr. started his 1980s run in buying out the territories to create his World Wresting Federation (WWF), after taking over his father’s league, and later, conquering the world.
Matysik covers his friendship with the late Bruiser Brody, a wrestler who became one of the original independent wrestlers. Brody would pick and choose who he worked for, and sometimes refuse to follow the actual finishes of matches. Since Brody was tragically murdered at an event in Puerto Rico, fans of the wrestler would enjoy these stories about the writer’s and one of the original hardcore wrestler’s friendship, which brings a touching aspect to the book. Not only is the friendship with Brody emotional, but also Matysik’s and Muchnick’s evolution over the years is also touching.
Wrestling At the Chase is a wonderful, easy to read book about the bygone era of territory wrestling. This is a collection of great tales involving the classic stars, what made that area different from the others, and several tales of a few long lasting friendships on top. There are some pleasing black and white photographs throughout the book of the great wrestling stars, such as Harley Race, Terry Funk, Andre, and more. The author, sadly, died in 2018, but this book is a testament to his contribution to wrestling history.
This book was sent courtesy of the publisher.
Wrestling At The Chase by Larry Matysik (ECW Press, 2005) ISBN: 978-1-55022-684-3 can be ordered at http://www.ecwpress.com
Geared For: Teens and Up (12 and Up)
For Fans Of: Classic Wrestling, Sports , St. Louis History
Women’s wrestling has become a major player in the past few years, especially in the WWE with their Women’s Revolution. Although many wrestling critics have scoffed at the sincerity of some of the choices made, it has given women wrestlers more of a spotlight in the mainstream.
The book Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling by Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy (2017, ECW Press) follows the years of women’s wrestling that have led us to this point. The authors have been followers of wrestling for years, with Laprade writing the great book on Mad Dog Vachon (a review can be found here in the archives), and Murphy was a writer for the wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which was THE major magazine in the 1980s and 1990s.
The book starts with a forward from WWE Superstar Natalya Neidhart, discussing how her uncle Stu Hart always had wrestlers at his home, which she became acquainted with, along with the two author’s support of the women wrestlers, where many promoters viewed them as a side show.
The history begins covering how women wrestlers dated back to the Amazon warrior days (even questioning if the Amazons even existed) and in the 1800s, where women took part in boxing, wresting, and bar room fighting. Names like Marie Ford, who participated in what could be an early form of MMA, to Josie Wahlford, who may have been the first women’s champion of wrestling are discussed. These early women fought both men and women on carnival shows and the burlesque circuits. The authors take the reader through names like Cora Livingston, who in 1910 became the first to carry an actual belt as champion, and Clara Mortensen, who claimed to be champion and went on to be a Hollywood actor, along with her part in helping the transition from the carnivals into actual sports arenas.
The book covers mini-biographies of many of the wrestlers, separated by eras, such as the 1980s Rock ‘N” Wrestling era, with Wendi Richter, Leilani Kai, Candi Devine, and Sherri Martel. One of the great stories about this section is how Richter was a part of a screw job (long before the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels event in 1997), with the backstage politics of The Fabulous Moolah, who ran most of the women’s wrestling for decades. Each wrestler gets a several page biography stating some of their wrestling history, along with how they got into the business. I personally enjoyed Candi Devine’s work in the AWA, although the writers seemed to just pass her off as nothing special.
The Attitude Era from the WWE (with stars like Lita, Trish Stratus, and Chyna), TNA’s Knockouts Division (with Gail Kim, Awesome Kong, and Angelina Love), to Japanese and Australian stars are all covered in this writing. The process of going from “women” to “Knockouts” to “Diva’s” are all transitioned here.
The most interesting parts of the book for me was the early history of the women, from names like Cora Combs, Penny Banner (who dated Elvis Presley), and Ethel Johnson (who was one of the early popular African American wrestlers). The detailed story about Mildred Burke and Billy Wolfe’s influence on women and wrestling is a plus, along with the backstage influence of Moolah, which to this day has controversy among those that worked with her. There is also an interesting story from 1951 that details the death of Janet Boyer Wolfe at a card in East Liverpool, Ohio (which is around a 30-minute drive from my hometown of Columbiana, Ohio.
The biographies of the other stars are limited to a few pages at best, depending on how big of stars they were, and several are omitted from here from recent times- the writers mention Stephanie McMahon’s influence on the current product, and there is a chapter on Ronda Rousey, but no Alexa Bliss, covering only NXT wrestlers like Paige, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair. Throughout the book there are comments from Dave Meltzer, who is considered a historian in wrestling by some, and not so by others (Meltzer created dirt sheets newsletters, where he would expose the business by giving so called backstage “news” about contracts, storylines, and the paid arena incomes, although many in the business claim his stories were all made up, some claim he is correct). I personally, would have liked a little less of his opinions, and maybe more of the writer’s view.
It would been nice to have the writers state a little of their personal opinions into the book, such as some of their favorite matches from the stars, but overall the book is a nice reference guide for looking at some of the women and their biographies. Names like The Jumping Bomb Angels, Judy Grable, and Velvet McIntyre may not be well known with today’s fans (but neither are current wrestlers like Tenille Dashwood or Tessa Blanchard) that may only follow the WWE, but they are featured in this time capsule. True fans will enjoy the early history of the pioneers and the Moolah stories. It is interesting to see how far the women’s world has evolved, regardless of opinions of those that see the WWE’s division with skepticism.
This review copy was sent courtesy of the publisher.
Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History And Rise of Women’s Wrestling by Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy (2017, ECW Press) ISBN: 978-1-77041-307-0 (paperback), 978-1-77305-015-7 (PDF) , 978-1-77305-014-0 (Epub) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com
Geared For: 12 and Up
For Fans Of: Women’s Wrestling, Pro Wrestling, Wrestling History.
In the 1970s and 1980s, there was not a bigger female star on the music charts than Olivia Newton- John. John was near the top of the rock and country charts throughout this time, and was considered the world’s sweetheart after her movie role in the musical Grease (which is one of my top three favorite movies, next to The Wizard of Oz and Cocktail with Tom Cruise). In her memoir, Don’t Stop Believin’ ( Gallery Books, 2019) John takes the reader through her life on and off stage, detailing some of her work and struggles.
The book starts by John describing her childhood in England, along with stories of her family and some of their famous friends; her grandfather was a Nobel Prize winner who was friends with Albert Einstein. John tells about growing up at her various schools, even getting a “F” grade in music . It wasn’t until a few friends of hers started singing at a coffee shop that her music career started, along with appearing on several television shows, where she won a talent contest with the prize being a trip to Great Britain.
John’s music career started rolling when she and her duet partner, Pat Carroll, started singing backup with Cliff Richards. John later went solo and started hitting the country and pop charts with several singles. Her songs topped the charts, like the AC charts, and in 1975, she won a Grammy for her song “I Honestly Love You,” which the record label did not want to release as the first single, according to the book, and when she was the ACM award for Country Vocalist for “Have You Ever Been Mellow,” she states that many members of the committee split and even quit because they did not feel the song , nor she, was a true country.
John takes the reader through her time when she ended up being in a lawsuit with her record label, based on the label stating that she owned them more albums, although her contract was based on years. John ended up winning the suit, which set a precedent from the recording industry at the time.
The most anticipated parts of the book is her time on the set of Grease, where she had to be convinced by co-star John Travolta to play the part of Sandy, which moved her career onto a different level than where she was. The stories of directors having a sock hop the first day of shooting to get the cast comfortable with each other, to the broken air conditioning throughout the shootings, to Sandy not being originally in any dance scenes at the time, makes the book very enjoyable. One could read a whole book on the making of the movie alone. John tells the reader about why there wasn’t a sequel to the movie, with Danny and Sandy (instead Hollywood made the dreadful Grease 2 film).
The section of John’s movie career in the middle gives the book its most enjoyable parts. After Grease, she discusses turning down certain films, along with making others that did not do as well as Grease at the box office. The book takes just as much detail is telling the behind the scenes of Xanadu, which she claims many people still come up and tell her how much they loved that film (I remember seeing it in the theaters with my father at age 7, and even at that time, I didn’t know what I was seeing). The author seems to make the film out to be better than it was during this time. It is her book, and she has every reason to like the film and the good memories of it (and be proud of the work for being something different), but in my opinion, the writer tends to boost the film up as better than it really was. But her tales on filming the movie while injured, may give her more respect as an actor, which may require another watching of the flick.
The rest of the book covers John’s passion for her charity causes, and her fights with cancer. There is a small part about her thoughts on her boyfriend Patrick McDermott, who disappeared in 2005. For readers that are looking for juicy information, there are not any here; only a few sentences about the situation. The second half of the writing is more about John’s thoughts on health, charity, and other views, which turns the book into a New Age /healing genre book.
The first part of the writing is the best part for me, reading about her career and her filming of the two major movies. However, for a memoir, there are many parts that just fly off quickly. There is not much information on her behind the scenes of recording some of her albums, only the craze that her video for “Physical” and how she had double thoughts about the song after she recorded it. Other than that, there is not much take on her thoughts on recording the albums or songs. The same goes for her filming Two Of AKind with Travolta, except a brief plot line of the film, and how it disappointed at the box office. There is not much gossip stories about filming with Travolta and her co stars, which some may want to get out of the book. Maybe the author didn’t have great stories to tell, but the reader will be misled thinking there will be some funny pranks or mishaps on the film set. I’m not advocating a TMZ style book, but some more background stories about the recording of the music and films would be more entertaining for me as a reader than several hundred pages on the many charity and New Age thoughts (But then again, the die hard fans of John who follow her career after the “Physical” stage will enjoy this-it wasn’t for me).
Regardless of my thoughts politically on the writer’s views, the book is covered with class; which is not to be surprising considering it’s Olivia Newton-John, who seemed to have a classy outlook throughout her career. The most interesting parts of the book (with the exception of the Grease and Xanadu ), seem too brief and glossed over. Maybe it was because of the publisher or editor’s decision, or just that’s they way she wanted to cover the book, but music fans may be a little let down by this. I really was looking forward to reading this book, being a fan of her career up through the 1980s, but parts fell flat for me, especially with the lack of entertaining tales during her major run in the spotlight. However, those who are true die hard fans of hers, they will enjoy the writing and her insight on her life.
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Olivia Newton-John (Gallery Books, 2019) ISBN: 978-1-9821-2224-9 (hardback), 978-1-9821-2226-3 (ebook) can be found at: