'No More Mr Nice Guy: The Inside Story ...'
By: Michael Bruce with Billy James - Gonzo Multimedia, $16.99
Description: Written by Alice Cooper's guitarist and keyboard player, Michael Bruce, this is an anthology of the band that encapsulated the decadent spirit of the 1970s.
Verdict: Following the group on their journey from Arizona garage band to eventual rise to stardom, 'No More Mr Nice Guy: The inside story of the Alice Cooper Group' reveals the truth behind the drinking and the rock 'n' roll.
Indeed, this "true life" story includes the hangings, the executions, the ghoulish makeup, the egos and of course, the rock 'n' roll. Now revised and updated, it includes previously unseen photographs and memorabilia that all fans have to see.
Having now read this book front to back, I can honestly say that original Alice Cooper Group guitarist/songwriter Michael Bruce (along with the wonderful Billy James, of course) has not only laid his dirty tour washing out for all to see, but has also put them under a microscope and then proceeded to turn one massive spotlight on them at the same time!
Basically a 115 page anthology of the band that encapsulated the decadent spirit of the 1970s, it follows the group on their journey from Arizona garage band to eventual rise to stardom. Revealing the truth behind the drinking and the rock ‘n’ roll as it goes, it kicks off when Bruce first saw Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show (and got the urge to be a performer right there and then), and ends with him seriously considering/putting out there a 27-year anniversary tour of their infamous Billion Dollar Babies show.
In between is a true, and vast wealth of knowledge about his time in the Alice Cooper Group, and as much as it is all heralded as being "true life" stories, well, pardon me if I feel like some of it has been sprinkled with glitter at times!
Come one now, you read it and come out the other side not shaking your head at some of the antics that were undertaken and dealt out by these guys, let alone Bruce himself! I mean, seriously ... can they really all be "true life" tales, for if so, well, wow ... what a feckin' life this man, these men lived (and, for the most part, survived unscathed through!)
Revised and updated, as aforementioned, it now includes previously unseen photographs and memorabilia. In fact, about a quarter of the book is photographs, which is actually refreshing, as a lot of time, books like these can be two-thirds photos, and severely lacking in written substance.
“Its not often we get a chance to redo, remake or in this case re-release a book ... my book," Michael Bruce has acknowledged. "It is with much thought, great enjoyment, many thanks and heartfelt appreciation for family, friends and fans that I present the re-release of ‘No More Mr Nice Guy.’ A compilation of hilarious rock ‘n’ roll stories and life events that made me the man I am today.”
And so with Michael Bruce's words now having been heard, and the book having now been read, I can honestly say it is one of the best (re)reads of any book I've snuggled up with in a while.
Reading all these 'other-side-of-the-coin' views from Bruce, who, as I'm sure you all know by now, was a huge part of the Alice Cooper Group as a singer/songwriter, showcases just how instrumental in the creation of the group's biggest hits he truly was.
There were obviously some bitter feelings among some of the other group members, as related to their lead singer's popularity in the media, sure, but hearing things from Bruce such as when during a flight over to England, an old lady in the next seat to Alice passed away in her sleep, and you get this spine tingling feeling that Alice's reputation as an evil incarnation was well deserved!
Another insightful recollection is the creation of both 'Under My Wheels' and 'Be My Lover,' which were fascinating to read. The former was written when Leo Fenn came to work for the Group. The band were in Michigan for a week on a layover and Dennis was playing with this riff: "Telephone is ringing" stop, "you got me on the run" stop, etc. Those two then worked on that, whilst the latter was a song Bruce wrote about his girl at the time, Chip; the sister of their PR guy at the time.
There are other glorious stories, such as when Keith Moon came down to the Record Plant in 1974 when Bruce was recording his solo album (he had been invited to play on it by Dino Dinelli from The Rascals). He'd been so shit-faced drunk on two bottles of Napoleon brandy and yet still managed to play the drums for Bruce; albeit them completely out of sync with the song!
Not wishing to spoil this read by delving too deeply into the main crux of the book, of Bruce's stories, his tales recounted, just let it be known that 'No More Mr Nice Guy: The inside story of the Alice Cooper Group' was a thoroughly enjoyable (re)read. An informational source and one where we get a fresh opinion/viewpoint of what transpired within the group's creation and demise, it's a must have for all fans of the band/artist (old or new).
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'Big City Cat: My Life in Folk-Rock'
By: Steve Forbert w/ Therese Boyd - PFP Publishing - $16.99
Description: More than four decades have passed since Steve Forbert made his way to New York City from his Meridian, Mississippi birthplace in quest of a career in music.
It was the most unlikely time and place for a folk singer to leap into the fray in a burgeoning scene where new wave and punk were emerging while he took the stage as a the archetypal folkie, armed with just an acoustic guitar and sheaf of very personal songs.
Now, those life-changing experiences have been chronicled by Forbert in 'Big City Cat: My Life In Folk-Rock', co-written with Therese Boyd, that will be released September 14th by PFP Publishing.
Verdict: Reading this highly informative, and wildly entertaining new book, we quickly discover that as a young man from Meridian, Mississippi, Steve Forbert still managed to carve out a niche in New York City’s vibrant club scene.
Playing now-iconic venues like Gerde’s Folk City and CBGB’s during a time when rootsy rock was fading out and the Ramones, Talking Heads, and other New Wave and punk acts were moving in, it was in Mill's Tavern in Greenwich Village where Forbert was first able to get paying work.
An old bar that had seen better days, they still wanted live music to entice customers in, so Forbert dutifully applied. The fun part about this story is that to play there you yourselves had to physically construct the stage that you were to then sing and perform on!
Throughout this colorful, and no holds barred autobiography, we also travel with Forbert as he took his whirlwind tour of Alive on Arrival and Jackrabbit Slim on the road. Continuing to write songs along the way, he could sense the sea change within the industry. Especially the actual production of the records being physically recorded and created.
A fun story is one where Forbert recounts a gig in Hannover, Germany with Bryan Adams where he needed a digital tape to record his set and Bryan himself went out of his way to get one for him. That was when he was playing with the Bolt Uprights and followed on stage the band simply known as Texas.
Trust me when I say that there are many, oh so many more delicious stories captured here on these pages from Forbert and each one is seamlessly linked from chapter to chapter. Whether they be recollections of pain, stress, joy, heartbreak, heartache, triumph or even surprise, 'Big City Cat: My Life in Folk-Rock' is one of the best autobiographical reads of 2018.
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'The Weirdest Movie Ever Made'
By: Phil Hall - BearManor Media - $19.99
Description: On October 20th, 1967, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin emerged from a forest in Northern California with 59 seconds of grainy, shaky, silent 16mm film that supposedly offered documentary evidence of the Sasquatch, a creature of Native American folklore.
Although neither Patterson nor Gimlin had any previous experience in filmmaking or zoology, they presented their remarkable footage as the first motion picture confirmation of the existence of the elusive Sasquatch.
However, not everyone was convinced by the imagery on the Patterson-Gimlin Film.
Verdict: Reading this book is, and please know that I actually recall this "filmed fact" from back in the day rather all too vividly, without a shadow of a doubt, a guilty pleasure for us "believers."
The footage shot in 1967 in Northern California has since been subjected to many attempts to authenticate or debunk it, of this we all know, and yet, mysteriously, nobody has managed to disprove Bigfoot's existence in any way, (big) shape or form.
As we learn from reading Phil Hall's new book, 'The Weirdest Movie Ever Made: The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film,' the footage was filmed alongside Bluff Creek, a tributary of the Klamath River, about 25 logging-road miles northwest of Orleans, California, in Humboldt County.
Indeed, the film site is roughly 38 miles south of Oregon and 18 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, but for decades, the exact location of the site was lost; primarily because of re-growth of foliage in the stream bed (a segment of the creek informally known as "the bowling alley") after the flood of 1964. It was rediscovered in 2011.
So now we get Hall, the author of The History of Independent Cinema, The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time and In Search of Lost Films, giving his own thoughts on this still most wondrous of short films.
The book kicks in immediately re: 2012, when in Cornwall, Pennsylvania-based residents Jesse L. Wenrich and Robert E. Zimmerman II were minding their own business one night; until they collectively hear something strange coming from an adjacent forest.
For me, I think the best line of the entire book is right there on the opening page, for Zimmerman explained to all that would subsequently listen that the noise sounded like, and I can't even begin to make this up (although, sure, he might have done, of course), "Jennifer Love Hewitt being stabbed in a horror movie!"
Come on now, how brilliant is that of a verbal description of a supposedly animalistic sound! It's made even more profound when you learn that straight after Zimmerman made that statement, Wenrich added that the source of the noise HAD to be a Sasquatch! Of course it did. Stands to reason.
Filmed on location by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, we learn from Hall that neither had any professional training or experience in film production. Indeed, they were both simply military veterans who first chose to be rodeo riders, before getting tired of being tossed from their saddles each night.
But after filming this entity, lurking, then walking, nay striding past them, even turning to look them in the eyes, the final 59.5-second film, which the men would airmail back home to be developed, would soon become the world-famous film Hall discusses so adeptly in this book.
Indeed, and arguably, one of the most scrutinized pieces of video footage ever made.
Back to the story itself, and sure, additional doubt was generated by the strange story behind the film’s creation and over the years, odd rumors emerged about the film; including the story of an Academy Award-winning make-up artist’s alleged role in assembling the creature seen on camera!
As Hall winds his way through the facts and figures of the story, the meat and potatoes, if you will, he ultimately concludes that if these two men were indeed fabricating the whole thing, and faked the Bigfoot itself, why? What had they to gain from such a stupid, and easily-caught-out venture?
And therein lies the true undercurrent to this film, to this tale: What had either Patterson or Gimlin to gain from making this short film? Did Patterson go to his grave knowing he was a big, fat liar or did he go sad, knowing that he still hadn't managed to convince any one of what he truly believed he had really seen that day?
While the debate over the authenticity of the Patterson-Gimlin Film continues to percolate, few would question the effectiveness of how this piece of celluloid brought forth an unlikely sensation, lovingly dubbed the Bluff Creek Sasquatch.
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'World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story'
By: Gillian G. Gaar - BMG Books - $21.99
Description: Founded in the late 1980s by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, Seattle-based Sub Pop Records released early recordings by then-upstart regional bands such as Green River, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Tad, Nirvana, Flaming Lips, Afghan Whigs, and Screaming Trees.
When the world went grunge crazy in the 1990s, Sub Pop was suddenly the epicenter of Seattle cool. 'World Domination' takes you deep inside the chaotic early days of the label’s founding, all the way to the present.
Verdict: Dedicated to Tom Kipp, "record collector extraordinaire," it opens with a Prologue (The Twentieth Anniversary) and based around the recollections of July 10th, 2008, Gaar begins her journey with a flashback to when the Sub Pop Records logo was to be found on a flag ... rippling in the breeze atop Seattle's Space Needle (in celebration of the aforementioned company-achieved twentieth anniversary).
As we quickly learn, founded in 1986 by Bruce Pavitt it was actually in 1977, on a lovely summer's day, when Pavitt had an experience that would alter the trajectory of his life.
He was attending a BBQ in Park Forest, Chicago when the DJ started playing the brand new single from the Sex Pistols, 'God Save the Queen.' Pavitt looked around and saw how everyone listening had been instantly hooked and realized, instantly, that it was a life-changing event for him.
Cut to 1988, when Sub Pop Records was actually formed by Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman in Seattle, Washington and the music world was about to experience an audio wave quite like they have never experienced before: Grunge.
In early 1988 Pavitt and Poneman quit their jobs to devote their full attention to Sub Pop. Raising $43,000, they incorporated that April. "Of course, that was spent in, like, thirty days", Pavitt recalls. "We almost went bankrupt after a month"!
But they didn't and as you read through this thoroughly entertaining new book from Gaar, you will learn things about the label that, perhaps, you had taken for granted down the years.
It turns out that both Pavitt and Poneman studied earlier independent labels ranging from Motown to SST Records and decided that virtually every successful movement in rock music had a regional basis.
Ergo, the pair sought to create a cohesive brand identity for Sub Pop with the label's ads promoting the label itself more than any particular band.
The label also sought to market a "Seattle sound", which was accomplished with the help of producer Jack Endino, who produced 75 singles, albums, and EPs for Sub Pop between 1987 and 1989.
Endino recorded cheaply and quickly; in order to operate this way, he utilized some consistent studio techniques, which gave the records a similar sound.
Achieving fame in the late '80s for signing Seattle bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney, all central players in the grunge movement, they are often credited with helping popularize grunge music.
Around those formative years the label's roster also included Fleet Foxes, Foals, Beach House, The Postal Service, Flight of the Conchords, Sleater-Kinney, Blitzen Trapper, Father John Misty, Shabazz Palaces, METZ, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, and The Shins.
The evolution of the record label is detailed by Gaar, but moreover, she allows the story to breathe and to organically be told through soundbites from most all the people involved at the time.
Trust me, by the time you reach the end (Going Silver) you will be headed out to your local record store, or searching online to buy Sub Pop Records vinyl albums (the only way to listen to good music).
As a foot note, in 1995, the owners of Sub Pop sold a 49% stake of the label to the Warner Music Group. Poneman and Pavitt had a disagreement about the direction the label should take, with Poneman wanting the label to become larger and make more money.
In 1996, unable to take the new corporate culture following the Warner partnership, Bruce Pavitt left the label and was able to spend more time with his family.
Oh, and in 2006, Sub Pop Records became the first Green-e certified record label. Through work with the Green-e program and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Sub Pop "greened" their label by purchasing enough renewable energy certificates to offset 100 percent of the electricity they use in their office; showing their commitment to putting renewable energy in the mainstream as a way consumers can take action to do something about global warming.
About the Author: Gillian G. Gaar is the author of over fifteen books, including 'She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll', 'Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback', and 'Entertain Us: The Rise of Nirvana'.
She was a senior editor at the Seattle music paper The Rocket and has also written for Mojo, Rolling Stone, Goldmine, and Seattle’s Museum of Popular Culture, among many other publications and organizations.
Gaar, who lives in Seattle, also served as a project consultant on Nirvana’s With the Lights Out box set.
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High in the Mid-'60s: How to Have a Fabulous Life
By: Rick Levy - Crossroad Press, $9.99
Description: Written by Rick Levy, High in the Mid-'60s: How to Have A Fabulous Life in Music Without being famous! is all of the following - a memoir, a life journey, a rock n roll “everyman” story, a spiritual discovery, a fathering experience, an absolute music business survival manual, and an anecdotal treasure chest of life on the road.
Verdict: For those not in the know, Rick Levy has created a unique position in the entertainment business.
A performer for more than 4 decades, Levy was bandleader for Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone from 2000-2002.
Currently, Rick is guitarist and tour manager for two legendary '60s artists, The Box Tops and Tommy Roe. He also spearheaded the reunion of his first Lehigh Valley, PA. band, The Limits and licensed their recordings worldwide.
As a nationally and internationally known manager and musician, Rick Levy understands the needs of both clients and artists.
In 2014 Rick Levy was awarded the Pennsylvania Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award in the Music Industry, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Lehigh Valley Music Awards (affiliate of the Philadelphia Grammy Chapter).
In late 2018, Crossroad Press released Rick's memoir, the brilliantly entitled 'High in the Mid-'60s: How to Have A Fabulous Life in Music Without being famous!' and as someone who admittedly knew not all that much about Levy, I have to say that this book is so very hard to put down once you start reading it.
Divided into chronological sections, starting with childhood, and culminating in an ongoing epilogue, High in the Mid-'60s details Levy's life; including his time involved with various aforementioned groups such as, but not limited to, Herman's Hermits, Jay & the Techniques, and The Box Tops.
After a brief intro page that runs from 1965 ("I was 15.") to 1971 ("I'm 21"), to the Mid-'90s in Atlanta, to 2014 (Pennsylvania Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award in Music), to 2018 (The Box Tops are inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame), a Heartfelt Dedication page to Levy's mother, Myra, his father Mort, his son Jonah, et al, an Acknowledgment page to his attorneys, An Invitation To Enjoy page by Lloyd Zane Remick Esq. (an entertainment lawyer and manager), and finally a Foreword, we are off and running.
From the very off, November 1949, we learn so much about Levy that you'll wish you had cottoned on to who he was much earlier in life. The book showcases a man that although he may not recall all his childhood memories, he side steps what could have been an issue for an autobiography, by making us aware it was because he was raised in a loving, tender, supportive family atmosphere.
He calls it his Before Music (BM) spell of unknown time and as he tells it, even his friend, the late Alex Chilton (lead singer of The Box Tops) suffered from the very same childhood BM loss.
Moving on though the book though and we quickly discover that BM memories are not necessary for Levy to spin his musical yarn for there's a rich, royal wealth of wisdom, honesty, fun, sharp observations, great stories, and good advice in these pages.
Levy explains, and with true low brow honesty, that his life didn't exactly change overnight, but that life simply got in his way (perfectly, so it seems now looking back).
Sure he knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a musician, but it was actually a phone call he received during his RockRoots years that changed things the most for him.
Kenny Rogers and other entertainers had put together a huge national charity campaign called Hands Across America and Jay & the Techniques were on the Allentown bill of the local touring entity.
That said, if his time in Jay & the Techniques marked the aforementioned turning point in his career, it was in 1987 when they first backed Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits (in Baton Rouge) that firmly set him on his new path.
The book grows in depth and storytelling as it progresses, his memories of his musical rise solid and very colorful. Seemingly enjoying all he went through as a struggling musician on through to his life now, reading between the lines you just know he not only wrote this memoir with a smile, but also lived it in much the same vein.
In closing and simply put, if you grew up in the '60s and love the music of that era - let alone the fact that it's also a story of perseverance and the willingness to chop and change, alter musical stylings and adapt accordingly with the times - then this is the book is most definitely for you.
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By: Daniel Ryan Day - Discovery House, $14.99
Description: Stuck in a dead-end job and not sure what to do next? Confused by the options — or lack of options — for a career path? Desperately trying to hear God’s voice and frustrated by His silence?
Daniel Ryan Day can relate.
From struggling to find direction for college, to doors slamming shut on his dream job, to getting fired from a job he was finding success in — all Day wanted was to answer God’s call on his life. If only he could figure out what that was.
Verdict: Well, cutting to the chase and Day did indeed find the answers in Scripture — where they had been all along — and finally God’s will made sense.
As we learn from this highly insightful, thought provoking new book, Day had expected that the “dream job” and “God’s call” were the same thing.
What he discovered set him free from frustration so he could confidently step forward in God’s will. It allowed him to thrive. And it will do the same for you.
Once the Introduction - a warm greeting of a hand that calms you and gently explains not only why Day is here (writing this book) but moreover why you might have found your way here also - the opening chapter ('What's Next') truly starts at the beginning re: How Day was thirty years old and had still not figured out who he was going to be.
Of course, as we get older the age-old question of ponderance What's next for me? is more profound, but as we are all only human, we tend to push that to the back of our minds to deal with more "pressing" daily "issues."
In 'What's Next,' Day tries to guide us through that mental barrier of ours and have us to try and concentrate on what it is we're actually looking for - from within our lives currently and for our future.
In the opening chapters Day doesn't overly imbue his words in the Spiritual aspects of his life, of his world, simply pointing out that the things we actually want are 1) A sense of purpose, and 2) A level of fulfillment within our lives (at all times).
The book goes on to detail how our search for the so-called "dream job" might have always been an elusive one and how we tend to shy away from those jobs that we were always so sure were not for us (when they could have been perfect for us all along), and then the chapters unfold their Spirituality thereafter.
Without giving away too many more secrets from this honest, passionately-written new book, one of the chapters ('Fight, Fight, Fight!') that stood out to me was further on where Day instructs us (suggests, moreover) to live with intentionality.
He explains it as the step beyond all good intentions is actually beyond just the desire to help. Where, and which makes great sense to all those tuned in, so to speak, most of us have that inert desire to help others.
For as it relates to this book, let alone the Bible, most of us want to live out God's calling on our lives, but the actual living-it-out part - now that's hard (although, perhaps now made a little easier to comprehend and put into motion now this book is in our lives, of course).
'What’s Next' also includes discussion questions to help you process what you’ve learned through Scripture and guide you toward your next steps.
About the Author: Daniel Ryan Day is an author, speaker, blogger, co-host of the nationally syndicated radio program, Discover the Word, and fellow believer who spent quite a few years trying to figure out God’s call on his life.
His search for answers—accompanied by earning a master’s in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary—led him to discover that God reveals every Christian’s broader calling within the pages of Scripture. Day lives in North Carolina with his family.
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'Letters To Sarah'
By: Corky Laing with Tuija Takala - Waterside Productions, $10.77
Description: 'Letters to Sarah' is a rock autobiography with a difference. In addition to the exceptionally honest and endearing voice of Corky chronicling the ups and downs of his life, there are excerpts from dozens of letters (out of the c. 200) that Corky wrote to his mother, Sarah, between the years 1963 and 1997.
She had saved them all. The letters were a way for Corky, away on the road for years on end, to keep in touch with his mother and also, to make sense of his life.
This continues in 'Letters to Sarah', as Corky relives the first 50 years of his life, up until his mother’s passing in 1998.
Verdict: Well, for those not in the know, Corky Laing is best known as the drummer of Mountain and West, Bruce and Laing and over the years he has performed, recorded and written with the who’s-who of rock.
Furthermore, he has received multiple gold records, several Juno awards and was given the Bonzo Bash Legend Award in 2014.
Released this past May 7th, 2019 via Waterside Productions, in my humble opinion 'Letters To Sarah' is one of the most open, honest and heartfelt books (from this genre of being a rock autobiography) that I have had the pleasure to read in the past decade.
With a foreword from Richard Samet "Kinky" Friedman - an American singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist, politician, defender of stray animals, and former columnist for Texas Monthly who styles himself in the mold of popular American satirists Will Rogers and Mark Twain - and a preface from Tuija Takala - Academy research fellow, philosopher, producer, songwriter, driver, roadie and dear friend and musical colleague of Laing's - the book then launches into the first chapter 'Going Down' … a story of seven passengers on a Learjet about to unexpectedly experience an emergency landing!
Family Matters brings us more into the youthful world of Laing and aside from bringing to us the real reason he obtained his nickname "Corky" also allows us to grasp just what the wee man went through at Herbert Symonds Elementary School and his very first inspiration for a collaboration re: George Gardos.
As we progress through this eye opening and highly personal book, during Formative Years we follow Laing on his journey within a Canadian band living in Montreal, Quebec and yet recording in the USA into the self explanatory Music Takes Center Stage chapter.
It's obvious reading along and reading between the lines that growing up with his triplet brothers had incorporated a lot of challenges. None more so than when it's revealed in Sofa Tour that the four boys used to sleep in a small room that used to be a dining room where four beds were set up as two bunks against the wall.
But memories like that seem to only serve to inspire and propel Laing as his touring schedule became bigger and better in and around Spring of 1970. Playing with Mountain on the East Coast and West Coast, Texas and the mighty Midwest, he soon found himself in England and so in Hello Britain he details how he was soon "... beating the shit out of my kit in front of my first UK audience"!
The book goes on and details much more - good, bad and ugly - about not only Laing's touring days, but also his letters to his mother, Sarah, of course.
But it's safe to say that as you proceed onward, heading for the finale of the Over The Mountain chapter, reaching it will feel like you have gotten to know a man deeply that you might never have taken the time to had it not been for his insightful and always endearing 'Letters To Sarah.'
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Corky Laing @ Facebook
'What About Tomorrow?'
By: Alexander Herbert - Microcosm Publishing, $19.95
Description: Punk arrived in Soviet Russia in 1978, spreading slowly at first through black market vinyl records and soon exploding into state-controlled performance halls, where authorities found the raucous youth movement easier to control.
In fits and starts, the scene grew and flourished, always a step ahead of secret police and neo-Nazis, through glasnost, perestroika, and the end of the Cold War.
From its origins in St Petersburg and Moscow to uniquely thriving punk scenes in the provincial capitals, this glimpse behind the iron curtain feels immediate, real, and more relevant than ever. [Includes never-before-published photographs of many of the bands].
Verdict: Despite a few albums smuggled out of the country and released in Europe and the US, most Westerners had never heard of Russia's punk movement until Pussy Riot burst onto the international stage.
A Russian feminist protest punk rock group based in Moscow and founded in August 2011, it has had a variable membership of approximately 11 women ranging in age from about 20 to 33.
Known for staging unauthorized provocative guerrilla performances in public places, performances that were subsequently filmed as music videos and posted on the Internet, the collective's lyrical themes included feminism, LGBT rights, and opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin; whom the group considered to be a dictator, and his policies.
But, as you will soon find out by delving into this quite eye opening and extraordinary oral history of lives (perhaps) led outside of your daily peripheral, 'What About Tomorrow? An Oral History of Russian Punk from the Soviet Era to Pussy Riot' is that throughout the past four decades of the scene's evolution music has always been the mainstay of challenging the regime and of acquiring political self-empowerment.
From the early bands like Avtomaticheskie Udovletvoriteli (“Automatic Satisfiers,” a play on the Sex Pistols) and Naive to more contemporary bands like Distress, Ricochet, and the anti-fascist Proverochnaia Lineika (Straight Edge), this is more than just an oral history: It is the first English book about Russian punk subcultures, featuring never-before-published photographs and interviews, bringing all you never knew (or even thought you actually knew) to the comfort of your American home.
Focusing on Western Russia, and in particular Moscow and St. Petersberg (although there is the one chapter donated to the punk scene within the provinces, combined with another chapter compiled by Vladimir Kozlov on Siberian Punk), 'What About Tomorrow?' forgoes the punk tales heard from Russia east of the Ural Mountains and all the post-Soviet space to bring a more concise and bolstered tale to us.
For in telling these stories of a nation's punk history, author Alexander Herbert does everything within his power to resonate through words just how the subculture of punks resonated through Russia and what it actually meant to the country over time.
The conversations found with the book, a fair magnitude of them previously published interviews or texts, but some never-before-published, span 2013-2017 and are as wondrously tale-telling as you would have hoped they would be.
The joyous amount of black and white photographs included all represent and showcase the exact time period perfectly. Most all live shots, some backstage too, there's even exclusive photography of young and upcoming, raw and inexperienced Russian bands playing their first gigs in their parents living rooms!
For sometimes concerts were organized in casual premises, such as schools and libraries, and yes, even front rooms (when parental permission was given, of course), because it was a unique time, full of idealism and enthusiasm.
And that is what this brilliant book is all about: A written and photographic documentation of a time where all the members of the growing Russian punk scene were young, naïve, and thoroughgoing, and who gave their all for its development.
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By: Reid Chancellor - Microcosm Publishing, $14.95
Description: Punk rock and mental health have been intertwined since the very beginning.
Nervous breakdowns, anxiety, seeking acceptance, attempting to overcome internalized demons, and reacting to harmful and oppressive systems—punk rock embodies and emboldens all our feelings and experiences, positive and negative.
Told from the point of view of a young man (Reid himself) discovering punk and working through mental illness in Evansville, Indiana, this stunning nonfiction graphic novel gives punks the most important advice of all: "You aren't alone. You're going to make it through alive".
Verdict: In what has fast become on of my favorite books of 2019, the open, honest, revealing and downright hand-on-your-shoulder for guidance and nurture new book 'Hardcore Anxiety' charts and tracks punk movements from the '70s till today, from small towns to stadiums, from the struggles in our heads to the people actively harming us in our communities.
'Hardcore Anxiety' opens with Reid about to go on stage with his band in a bar in Evansville, Indiana. However, and out of nowhere, some writing on the bathroom wall sends him into a downward spiral that results, ultimately, in this thoughtful, well-researched story of the connections between punk rock and mental health; in his own life and for well known bands.
In graphic novel form, he brings to life punk's ability to express the rage, anxiety, depression, and insanity we experience is matched only by the power of music and community to make life worth living after all.
This captivating new non-fiction graphic novel features a bunch of bands like Black Flag, Fugazi, The Clash, Ramones, and so many more, but its the eye opening, brutally honest, and at times blindingly raw tales of Reid's struggles with mental health that openly course throughout.
With 157 backers who pledged $4,386 to help bring this project to life on Kickstarter, Reid’s trough of self esteem issues as a young teenager soon began to take on a much larger form as he got older.
As he tells it, his disordered mood “... was beginning to take over” as he slowly, but surely began to descend into acts of self-harm. Backed by the music of Punk’s go-for-it-screaming pathos, 'Hardcore Anxiety' - and containing a slew of black and white art, all hand drawn by Reid - is not really a "guide," per say, but moreover a deeply personal diary of a punk fan’s troubled mind.
From the moment where the book opens with Reid putting on his first basement punk show, having painted it in the form of a skeleton with rib cages and skulls around the stage (which he then assimilates it to something that comes alive when the room fills; as if they were the organs that made everything come to life), to the recognition that the longer they played how the world just started to fade away, through to the book-ending revelation of how a giant chalk board of negativity in a bathroom culminated in eventual positivity, this is truly a book for the ages to behold.
About the Author: Reid Chancellor is an artist, writer, and musician from Evansville, Indiana. You can follow his work on all social media platforms @reidchancellor. He currently lives in north-western Kentucky with his wife Kristan and two cats Buffy and Willow.
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By: Neil Ratner MD - Rock Doc Entertainment LLC, $19.99
Description: The highly engrossing 'Rock Doc' will take you from backstage at a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon concert in the early seventies, where Neil's production company, Circus Talents, Ltd. was providing production services, to the office operating rooms of elite New York surgeons where Neil Ratner MD was Director of Anesthesia.
Verdict: Well, for those not in the know, author Neil Ratner quit college in the late sixties and traversed the Hollywood celebrity world as a successful road manager for names like Edgar Winter's White Trash and tour manager for Emerson Lake and Palmer.
He established a full service production company (a pioneering approach at this stage) to support the artists on tour and worked with T-Rex, Genesis, Pink Floyd and many others.
Later in his career he managed the successful songwriter Denise Rich and built Dream Factory studios in NYC.
After his successful career in the music industry he decided it was time to follow his heart and pursue his other childhood dream of becoming an MD.
Even though not a single American school wanted to take him, he didn't give up and moved to Mexico to get his medical degree. He made it back into the American system and after many years of residency Neil became an anesthesiologist.
In what can only be described as a series of If you didn't read it here you would never have known moments, Neil's story combines not only the highs and lows of both music and medicine, but also intertwines rabidly with celebrity friendships, high profile meetings and a downward spiral that would have brought many lesser men to their knees.
Picking things back up though, when Propofol became available in the U.S. in the late 1980's Neil was one of the first to become expert in its usage as it was a perfect drug for office use.
His relationship with the top plastic and reconstructive surgeons in New York allowed him to treat a number of high profile patients. That's how Neil met Michael Jackson. He became his personal doctor and a close friend.
They had a lot in common and Neil accompanied the star from late 1997 until his last performance in 2001. Indeed it was during Michael Jackson's tour in South Africa, Michael introduced Neil to Nelson Mandela.
They would meet again a few years later when Neil went with Michael to present Mandela a check for Mandela's Children's Fund. A meeting that would have a great impact on Neil's future charity work.
For Neil's world of fame and fortune, good times and even greater times was about to come crashing down when he was convicted for insurance fraud and sentenced to jail.
As you can well imagine, this was a turning point in his life. Power and greed were no longer perfectly acceptable ways of exploiting his personal position.
Thus Neil served four months in federal prison and 4 months of home confinement. Worse than that he lost everything: money reputation, job, and even his (so-called) friends.
But Neil refused to be defeated and became more focused on improving the lives of people in deprived areas around the globe. He knew it was time to make a difference.
He knew life was not just about money and material things and so this is when his relationship with Nelson Mandela began to play a role in how he was going to make a contribution to humankind.
It wasn't that Neil hadn't tried before. He began with solo charity work in Samburu, Kenya, where he established a bush clinic. A few years later after the US Embassy bombings in Africa in 1999, he co-led a team of doctors that operated on over 300 people that suffered deforming injuries.
But Neil knew that wasn't near enough. Going to prison and losing everything showed him a different side of life. It was time to start something new.
Thus he established a charity project called International Community Bakeries. Its purpose was to create community based, community supported, self-sustaining micro bakeries which produce fresh, high quality, healthy breads.
The charity started with creating a bakery in South Africa at a place called Nkosi's Haven a home for very poor single HIV positive Moms and their kids.
When Mandela heard about the project he helped Neil raise the necessary funds for the bakery. The bakery opened in 2009. A second bakery followed in a township outside Cape Town two years later and last year they opened a third bakery in one of the worst slums in Port Au Prince Haiti.
Phew! Well, it's hardly an understatement to say that 'Rock Doc' is a uniquely personal opus that reveals the incredible beginning, middle and end (as of today) of a man embedded in the world of music on minute, of medicine the next, and then bounced through the justice system, only to come out the other end a better, stronger, and more whole person intent on giving his newly-cleansed heart and soul to the most deserving.
Instilled with honesty, even to the point that Ratner admits that the events portrayed inside are to the best of his memory from those days and that whilst all the stories in the book are true, some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved, his words just continue to showcase a man not out to besmirch or step on others as he takes his new path forward.
In a heartfelt, well-scripted, and scenically told to perfection book, one dedicated to all those that have been told by others, "You'll never," and also to Michael Jackson, whose presence was with him for much of the writing, and also his soulmate and partner for the last 42 years, Leann, the book begins with the MD in the house and about to meet the aforementioned King Of Pop in his office.
Not giving much away here, but as we head into the four-part photograph section midway through the book, just prior to the opening of the Rock section (the others being Doc, Michael Jackson and Rock Doc) it is revealed that it was actually the King Of Pop himself who gave Ratner his "Rock Doc" moniker!
In conclusion, chapter by chapter of this amusing and painfully life-lived book reveals a new facet of Neil Ratner that not only colorizes the man himself, but adds to the history of others re: MJ that perhaps we didn't even know had a correlation.
Ergo, 'Rock Doc' is an incredibly honest reveal of a man who, layer by layer, chapter by chapter, presents to us, arms open wide, Ratner's most personal tales of his intimate friendships with average joe's to mega stars, from loved ones to a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, from drugs to court rooms to jail, and yet who encases it all sublimely within a magnificent transformation tale.
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'Curse of the Mudchalk Devil'
By: Phil Lanzon - Pegasus Publishers, £8.99.
Description: When an inquisitive and determined young girl discovers she can see music as well as hear it, she uses this power to destroy the curse of disharmony engulfing her world.
Elin is to assist in her father's illusionist show, but the disastrous events of that night sets her on a journey that would test the stamina of any human.
Reluctantly, she accepts the persistent help of a boy from her class and they enter a wondermus, fantastical world from which they may never return the same.
Will her gift change anything?
Verdict: Well, for those not in the know, author Phil Lanzon is a musician (keyboardist for Uriah Heep since 1986) who writes songs and stories, forever searching the far corners of imagination to find unchartered waters.
He's toured the world with his music many times and seen much of life in all its diverse, deranged, endearing dimensions. He has three children, nine grandchildren, and two GREAT granddaughters and lives at the edge of the universe in east Kent with his partner, Patina.
Here in his first novel, 'Curse of the Mudchalk Devil,' Lanzon brings forth the transcription of an earlier screenplay he had long ago written.
During a Scandinavian tour in February 1999, Lanzon began to write short stories to kill wasted time on the road and even self-published a collection entitled 'Strange and Wondermus Stories.'
Over the new decade he would go on to perfect one of those stories which he turned into a screenplay. He even got it read by a Hollywood producer, but as with most things Hollywood nothing came of it.
However, the story itself has now raised it's Devilish head once again in the form of this debut paperback novel, 'Curse of the Mudchalk Devil.'
This fiction book is about a young girl who can see as well as hear music and who ultimately uses her gift to combat her biggest troublemaker … the aforementioned Mudchalk Devil!
Specifically written for children and teenagers, renaissance man Lanzon (who has also just released a stunning new sophomore solo album entitled 48 Seconds) not only wrote the novel, but has also illustrated it (complete with a vibrant cover art designed by Tony Mayor) has created a magnificently compassionate story chock full of both adventure and suspense.
With an opening Dedication to all the mistreated, unloved and unlistened-to children of the world, the story opens with Elin Boneti daydreaming through her math class.
Wondering aloud to her teacher If you could see music what would it look like?, together with her teachers concerns for her mental health along with derision from her class mates, Elin resigned herself to the fact that maybe she didn't belong.
The book quickly picks up pace with the discovery of an old book ('A Broughtonsea History') that reveals a local shrine where once an immortals' battle had taken place between good and evil, mysterious visions at her local seaside lookout (aptly named Devil's Lookout), and then come some most fantastical adventures for both teens and young adults to enjoy.
Personally, and being an avid reader (of actual paperback books rather than anything Kindle associated), I found 'Curse of the Mudchalk Devil' to be engrossing from the very off.
It doesn't labor in the slightest on the quiet moments, such as the initial origin story of Elin, nor the subsequent build up to her self discoveries, nor during the what-can-be always dangerous lead into the last quarter run in, and for that alone I found that the story line together with the readers sense of vicarious adventure never wavers either.
At its heart a tale of a good soul with something precious (Visible Music) beholden to them that is desperately wanted by a bad entity (the Mudchalk Devil), Lanzon's debut novel may well have been 20 years in the making, but trust me when I say that reading it is like a breath of fresh air within this industry.
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'Gehring Lost & Found: Selected Essays'
By: Wes D. Gehring - BearManor Media, $25.00)
Description: “Gehring remains supreme in film comedy scholarship” – Choice.
In a 1979 Frank Capra letter to the author, the director wrote, in part, “ I thoroughly enjoyed your ‘McCarey vs Capra’ article [included in the anthology]. I must also tell you that we were intimate friends."
Verdict: I first learned of the author – a distinguished professor at Ball State University – a few years ago when I took my first online course. It was on Slapstick Comedy and he provided many of the lectures. He impressed me with his knowledge and with a half dozen previous books to his credit, mostly on film comedy, he certainly knows his stuff.
So, whether or not you have had the opportunity to read Dr. Gehring’s other books, this brand new one entitled 'Gehring Lost & Found: Selected Essays' is a wonderful quite collections of essays spanning his more than 40 years working in field of film studies.
After a page entitled "Film Comedy Is …" along with a page and a half of acknowledgments, and then two and a half pages of an Author's Preface, the book then opens with a chapter on Comedians - in this case, the brilliant pairing of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
As Gehring rightly points out off the bat (subtitled: Comic Antihero Extremes During the 1920s), one couldn't find two more either unique or different antiheroic types in American cinema than these two during the '20s.
He goes on to bestow them in righteous platitudes, before we next get his thoughts on both Johnny Bunny and, once again, Buster Keaton (subtitled: Beyond Just Bookends To Silent Film Comedy).
Me personally, I had never heard of the 260-pound Johnny Bunny before so I was immediately drawn in and so found this chapter alone to be very informative.
I won't go through each and every chapter like this or we'll all be here for the better part of the week, but a few of my favorite chapters included The Marx Of Time (all about the growth of, of course, the infamous Marx Brothers), America's Misunderstood Patriot (that focuses on a young Charlie Chaplin), and Fields & Falstaff (which talks about America's greatest native-born comedian, W.C. Fields and the many, if not fleeting, comparisons between his work and that of Shakespeare's Falstaff).
Another is The Last Patriotic Days of Carole Lombard (which includes a rather haunting photograph of Lomabard posing - having spent the day selling war bonds in Indianapolis - which was also the day before she passed away!), and the chapter Lived Issues vs. Raised Issues (which examines the links between mainstream genres - such as romantic comedy, horror, sci-fi, etc. - and art house movies - like Ingmar Bergman's 'The Seventh Seal').
And toward the end, the magical, absolutely wonderful chapter read, Red Skelton: The Gift of Laughter is a true diamond to behold, as it is a recounting of Gehring's keynote address at Ball State University in 1986, when the University conferred on honorary Doctorate of Humanities upon Red Skelton.
A quite prolific, funny, endearing and totally mesmerizing take on Hollywood and all those that make us laugh and cry through the years, simply put, 'Gehring Lost & Found: Selected Essays' addresses comedians, controversy, and decoding the details found in film, incorporating key historical insight along the way.
Highly, oh so highly recommended.
About The Author: WES D. GEHRING is the Distinguished Professor of Film at Ball State University and associate media editor of USA Today Magazine, for which he also writes the column “Reel World.”
Author of 40 film books, their reception has resulted in speaking engagements from the Paris-Sorbonne University, to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
Since 2017 he has also been one of Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM) on-screen scholars for their summer online classes.
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'F**k, Now There Are Two of You'
By: Adam Mansbach - Akashic Books, $11.49
Description: The third installment in Adam Mansbach’s international best-selling 'Go the F**k to Sleep' series addresses, with radical honesty, the family implosion that occurs when a second child arrives.
FYI: Larry David is lending his voice to the audiobook version of this popular children's tale. The comedian will narrate 'F**k, Now There Are Two of You,' the third installment in the 'Go the F**k to Sleep' bedtime story series by Adam Mansbach.
Verdict: Writer Adam Mansbach famously gave voice to two of parenting’s primal struggles in 'Go the F**k to Sleep' and 'You Have to F**king Eat' — the often-imitated, never-duplicated pair of New York Times best sellers that ushered in a new era of radical honesty in humor books for parents.
But what could possibly be left?
Parents — new, old, expectant, and grand — of multiple children already knew the answer. Adam discovered it for himself by having two more kids, less than two years apart!
'F**k, Now There Are Two of You' is a loving monologue about the new addition to the family, addressed to a big sibling and shot through with Adam’s trademark profane truth-telling.
Gorgeously illustrated by Owen Brozman and chock-full of unspoken sentiments channeled directly from the brains of parents worldwide, 'F**k, Now There Are Two of You' articulates all the fears and frustrations attendant to the simple, math-defying fact that two is a million more kids than one.
Dedicated to Zanthe and Asa, and Olivia, the book isn't long at 28 pages, but it certainly gets directly to the worrisome core of all parents now embracing the arrival of a second child!
I loved the first two books and found them both to be rather cute and quite eye-openingly refreshing in their thoughts and connotations. However, and as much as this third one follows suit to the growth of the series perfectly, I also found it to be a wee bit harsher!
In truth, the book is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of those things that instantly divides people before even getting a third of the way though reading it!
For you are either on board with the whole swearing thing or you are not. Ergo, whether or not it's been purposely designed as such, you will either hate it, be disgusted by it, and have raging anger outbursts over it, or you will "get it" for what it's meant to be; and not only laugh with each page turn, but nod in complete understanding.
Personally, I use the "f-bomb" waaaaaay too much (even when nobody is a round), but here in 'F**k, Now There Are Two of You' it's as if the page-turning nods are now every other third page or so.
Some might call it wicked and/or even twisted humor, and that's just fine, but the undercurrent to these books has always been they were colorful bouts of parental expression tinged with the fire that burns inside us all toward things out of our control ie: small children!
Although definitely not for children, author Adam Mansbach has, yet again, brought forth a new chapter in this growing epidemic of our human nature and captured it perfectly; albeit slightly more sterner, more aggrieved this time round.
For as a parent, and as frustrated as we can get with our small children, sure we say and do things that outsiders without children might raise an eyebrow too and such, but whatever the kids are doing (or not doing), we always make very sure we don't step over the line.
I mean, yes, all kids are rotten, mischievous and downright annoyingly puerile at times, and Mansbach pays attention to this too. For he expresses the true frustration of parenthood without ever being mean to the children themselves.
As for the artwork by Owen Brozman, well, it is wonderful, very colorful and perfectly becomes the visual aid for the rant that accompanies it on the page!
About the Author: Adam Mansbach is a novelist, screenwriter, cultural critic and humorist. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller 'Go the F**k to Sleep,' which has been translated into forty languages, named Time Magazine's 2011 "Thing of the Year," and sold over two million copies worldwide.
The 2014 sequel, 'You Have to F**king Eat,' is also a New York Times bestseller.
Mansbach's 2013 novel, Rage is Back, was named a Best Book of the Year by National Public Radio and the San Francisco Chronicle. Adapted for television by Mansbach and Danny Hoch, it is currently in development at USA as an hour-long drama.
Mansbach's previous novels include The End of the Jews (2008) which won the California Book Award, and the cult classic Angry Black White Boy, or the Miscegenation of Macon Detornay (2005), which is taught at more than eighty schools and was adapted into a prize-winning stage play in 2008.
Mansbach also writes in several other literary genres. His debut thriller, The Dead Run was published by HarperCollins in 2013, and the sequel, The Devil's Bag Man, in 2015.
The first book in a middle grades series co-written with Alan Zweibel and entitled Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in my Ass, was published in September 2015 by Hyperion.
Jake the Fake Keeps It Real, the first title in a middle grades series co-written with Craig Robinson, came out September 4th, 2018 with the sequel, Jake the Fake Goes for Laughs coming out his past March 26th, 2019.
He is also the author, with Zwiebel and Dave Barry, of For This We Left Egypt?: A Passover Haggadah for Jews and Those Who Love Them, a parody Haggadah, which came out March 7th, 2017 via Flatiron Books.
Mansbach lives in Berkeley, California, and is a frequent lecturer on college campuses.
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Heal Your Soul History: Activate the True Power ..
By: Tracee Dunblazier - GoTracee Publishing, $16.95)
Description: Is Reincarnation ruining your life?
Your past lives could be affecting the current one.
This national award-winning book will change how you look at your life and the lives of others from now on.
Even if you don’t believe in reincarnation, understanding the spiritual imprints of your unique soul and how they’re impacting your life today can help you gain power over the negative forces that hold you back.
Verdict: Whether what's to come here is your cup o' tea or not, there's no denying that Tracee Dunblazier's 'Heal Your Soul History: Activate the True Power of Your Shadow' (a Demon Slayer's Handbook) is chock full of viable, applicable and usable denotations for our everyday lives.
For simply understanding the basic elements of reincarnation and all that tracks with it, allowing yourself to become more fully aware of your soul, and beginning to register as to how things you take for granted each day are negatively impacting your life, can only be a good thing, right.
Myself, I went into the book with an open mind. I hadn't heard of Tracee's work before now, nor knew anything about this latest book of hers (or even what a Demon Slayer's Handbook' really meant outside the world of Buffy, in truth.
Tracee, herself a Los Angeles-based spiritual empath, shaman, author and speaker, who specializes in teaching others to address and embrace their energy dynamics through "soul excavation" opens by informing us that (and to answer my previous question), "A shaman's handbook focuses on overcoming the demons of daily life". Ergo, a Demon Slayer is born.
We further learn that Tracee styles herself as this aforementioned Demon Slayer, a spiritual warrior with survival skills honed over many lifetimes.
Here in her latest book, 'Heal Your Soul History,' Tracee only really touches on reincarnation and is moreover a self-help guide for both believers and non-believers alike.
For her overall message that winds its way casually throughout is that no matter what negativity you are dealing with, and even if there's a soul out there trying to contact you or even mess with you, within these pages you can find a new perspective on the mysteries of life.
Dedicated to all the c"courageous demon slayers who came before …." anyone interested, or just mildly curious, about past lives should definitely invest (time and money) in this book.
Beginning with the adage to Fight the Devil and Win: One Demons at a Time, sub chapters reveal our mutually assigned bouts of both Fear and Courage, and that no matter the state of our personal darkness or even light, everything has a purpose; and that those who seek it to understand this purpose will find an easy justice.
Importantly, Tracee also talks about abuse, whether it takes the form of physical, sexual or emotional and how to complete the event by bringing said abuse to the fore for all to hear and see; thus beginning the cleansing of your soul and the surrendering to the demon within you that might well have been holding you back all these years due to those dark times in your past.
She even tackles what happens when we die and details how she herself had had a conversation with a fifteen year-old who just wasn't getting it due to her obvious grief and lack of understanding on the subject matter, as a whole.
In truth, the book is a wonderful resource for self-healing and one that I simply couldn't put down (finished it cover to cover in 3 days). I learnt things along the way too, things that I have a feeling will stay with me until I pass on.
But Tracee doesn't just put up her side show table and expect you to be mesmerized by your own reflections, far from it, for she reveals a deeply personal, and moving account of her and others' spiritual experiences too.
Talking a lot about self-acceptance, love, and healing, Tracee's words are very moving and trust me when I say that each reader who ventures into the midst of this book, will definitely come out the other side a more alert, open, and big-eyed and bushy-tailed willing observer of life through self-reflection.
In closing, 'Heal Your Soul History: Activate the True Power of Your Shadow' is HIGHLY, oh so highly recommended.
Fight the devil and win, one demon at a time:
Become a Slayer through your own spiritual process.
Learn what a spiritual imprint is and why you attract the things you do.
Understand how the culture you live in impacts your health on every level.
Develop your psychic and spiritual awareness and learn how a home altar can help.
Discover karmic life patterns and potentially resolve them forever.
Examine addiction, depression, and mental illness from a spiritual perspective.
Receive a new framework for healing, from the soul to the body.
About The Author: Tracee Dunblazier is a Los Angeles-based spiritual empath, shaman, and national award-winning author-publisher, who specializes in teaching others to address and embrace their energy dynamics through excavating the soul.
As a multi-sensitive, Tracee creates a unique healing experience for every client and reader. Her compassionate, humorous, down-to-earth style supports and empowers others to accept themselves while addressing vulnerabilities and uncomfortable topics.
Writing is a natural expression for Tracee's stories and experiences with her ability to break down complex spiritual and emotional dynamics into their simplest form.
Her books focus on the relationship dynamics that we all have to ourselves, our world and each other. And, the powerful theme that every person can heal on all levels.
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'Me and Mr. Cigar: A Novel'
By: Gibby Haynes - Soho Teen, $18.99)
Description: From the wild and wonderful mind of Gibby Haynes — world famous Butthole Surfers front man/lyricist and self-proclaimed eternal Texan adolescent — comes the surreal tale of seventeen-year-old Oscar Lester and his trusted dog, Mr. Cigar.
Verdict: Oscar and his dog have made a pretty good life for themselves, despite the fact that Oscar’s family has all but vanished — his father is dead; his mother has a new boyfriend. His older sister, Rachel, fled five years ago ... right after Mr. Cigar bit off her hand!
Despite the freak accident, Oscar knows his dog is no menace. Mr. Cigar is a loyal protector: a supernatural creature that can exact revenge, communicate telepathically, and manipulate car doors and windows with ease.
So, when Rachel — now twenty-two and an artist living in New York — calls out of the blue and claims she’s being held hostage, Oscar sees an opportunity to make things right between them.
He races north, intent on both saving Rachel and fleeing the mysterious evil forces targeting his dog. And it’s only by embarking on this dual quest that Oscar starts to untangle his own life and understand the bizarre reality of Mr. Cigar.
The book opens with a piece written by Gibby first hand that explains how the power of being read to at night by his father held sway with him as he grew older. How books like Pecos Bill and even Charlotte's Web were instrumental in instigating curiosity for the written word within him.
Gibby also talks about his theory that when a person is born they are given three dogs. The first one shows that you have to live and die. The second one teaches you how to cope with it. And the third one comforts you. As he himself puts it, "It's a three dog life and Mr. Cigar is definitely number one."
In a book with chapter titles such as The Battle of the Locusts, The Lion-Trainer Dudes That Got Creedled, The Peanut, The Chicken and The Thundercloud, White Sport Coat / Pink Crustacean, and both A Carrot from the Wheelchair Guy and both The Chocolate Chainsaw and The Girl with the Drug-selling Eyes, amongst a plethora of other fancy titles, not one of them is long, but all of them are powerfully invigorating; one way or another.
Reading it, the first thing that it does is transport you, via a lyrical first-person style, into Gibby's created world. Without muss or fuss, you are quickly there, following alongside the adventures, never questioning where you now are, what extraordinary thing has just happened, or why you are still reading it!
I guess in the real world, if these words were put to music you would call it psychedelic prog rock, but here on the pages of Gibby's debut book it's safe to say that his stories come across lathered in magical wonderment.
One in which you have one foot firmly on the ground while the other is magically freefalling upward toward the skies at a steady pace!
Inclusive of unadulterated delves into Gibby's own upbringing in Texas and those awkward teen years we all go through, his ability to seamlessly meld swashes of distinctive reality that we can all acknowledge with complete and colorful bouts of surrealism, whilst still allowing a base line of joyous heartbeats to reverberate throughout, makes 'Me & Mr. Cigar' a God's honest delight of a read.
About The Author: Gibby Haynes is a musician, visual artist, writer, and filmmaker best known as a founding member of the Butthole Surfers, whose outrageous concerts spawned a global cult following and whose albums have sold millions worldwide. He lives in Brooklyn with his family. 'Me & Mr. Cigar' is his first novel.
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By: Sterling Watson - Akashic Books, $16.95)
Description: In the late 1950s, Gainesville, Florida, seems to be a sleepy university town. Its residents live, by outward appearances, ordinary lives.
And yet the town is far from ordinary.
The most private acts of professors, students, townspeople rich and poor, and politicians are under the close scrutiny of a shadowy group of men — the Committee — who use the powers of government and the police to investigate, threaten, and control this increasingly fearful community.
Verdict: In truth, books like 'The Committee' are my go-to for a Sunday, rain falling afternoon in. At around 350 pages, and with mid-sized print, I sat down to read the book at 1pm this past Sunday and come 6pm had finished it!
The reason is simple: It's just such an engrossing, if not at times dark tale in which at the end of each chapter you simply cannot afford to put it down long enough to let your mind run riot on what you believe to be happening!
Set in 1950s Florida, 'The Committee' pits friends against friends and threatens careers and lives in a struggle for the soul of a town, a university, and an ideal.
Based on actual historical events and set against the backdrop of political, cultural, and class turmoil, this is a story of love — both licit and hidden — war, friendship, betrayal, compromise, and finally the necessity to stand firm against the encroachments upon freedom by men who believe they are doing God’s and the government’s righteous work.
Sure, that sounds heavy, I'll grant you that, but the way Watson writes, composing his sentences and their inclusion within the sanctity of some enthralling paragraphs means the reading is never labored.
Furthermore, 'The Committee' will teach you things along the way, will definitely open your eyes to multilayered "facts" - both old and new - that you may or may not have known, and will always enlighten, enrapture and provoke your little grey cells - to the point, much like me, that you simply cannot put the book down until the full picture has been revealed.
About The Author: Sterling Watson is The Peter Meinke Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at Eckerd College. He and Dennis Lehane are Co-directors of the Eckerd College Writers' Conference: Writers in Paradise.
Watson is the author of six novels: Weep No More My Brother, The Calling, Blind Tongues, Deadly Sweet, Sweet Dream Baby and Fighting in the Shade.
Watson is the recipient of three Florida Fine Arts Council Awards for fiction writing. His short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Southern Review.
His main professional interests are fiction, play and screenwriting, American and British and European short and long fiction, and the theatre. He served for five years as the fiction editor of The Florida Quarterly, and taught secondary English and later fiction writing at Raiford Prison.
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'The Schrödinger Girl'
By: Laurel Brett - Kaylie Jones Books, $16.95)
Description: Garrett Adams, an uptight behavioral psychology professor who refuses to embrace the 1960s, is in a slump.
The dispirited rats in his latest experiment aren’t yielding results, and his beloved Yankees are losing.
As he sits at a New York City bar watching the Yanks strike out, he knows he needs a change.
Verdict: Not my usual go-to for an afternoon's read, I sat down with Laurel Brett's new book 'The Schrödinger Girl' and page by page let it work its typeset magic on me.
Running at 330 pages, it's not a short read, nor an overly long one, so for those akin to the writing of Brett I'm sure you will find it very nourishing.
Set in the '60s, where our central character, Garrett Adams is seated at a bar, staring up at a picture behind it of Miss Rheingold, a Hitchcock blonde elected by twenty-three million votes in 1964 (just before the contest ended), Garrett is already tired of the decade; let alone still hearing about the one before it.
However, at a Columbus Circle bookstore he meets a mysterious young woman, Daphne, who is in the children's aisle reading softly aloud to two enthralled young girls.
Soon Daphne has drawn Garrett into the turbulent and exciting world of Vietnam War protest politics and the music of Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Amongst other things, Garrett then begins to emerge from his self-induced numbness and grief over his father’s death in World War II.
When Daphne evolves into four separate versions of herself, Garrett’s life becomes complicated as he devotes himself to answering questions about character and destiny raised by her iterations.
His obsession threatens to upend his relationship with Caroline, a beautiful art historian, destroy his teaching job, and dissolve his friendship with his old pal Jerry.
The Daphne's seem to exist in separate realities that challenge the laws of physics and call into question everything Garrett thought he knew.
Ergo, and as the book lovingly mirrors from the very same story that the original Daphne was reading upon their meeting, he must decide what is vision, what is science, and what is delusion before he himself falls down the Rabbit-Hole.
About The Author: Laurel Brett, a refugee from the 1960s, was born in Manhattan in the middle of the last century. Her passionate interest in the arts and social justice led her to a PhD and a long career as a community college professor.
She expanded her award-winning dissertation on Thomas Pynchon's work into a groundbreaking analysis, Disquiet on the Western Front: World War II and Postmodern Fiction, which was published by Cambridge Scholars.
She lives in Port Jefferson, New York.
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'I Am a Promise'
By: Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce - Black Sheep/Akashic Books, $15.95
Description: 'I Am a Promise' takes readers on Shelly Ann’s journey from her childhood in the tough inner-city community of Waterhouse in Kingston, Jamaica, through her development as a young athlete, to her first Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter sprint in 2008.
Verdict: In this short (24-page), yet agreeably enthralling new book, the story charts how Shelly Ann’s commitment to hard work as well as the encouragement of loved ones helped her achieve her dreams against great odds and challenging life experiences.
Most importantly, 'I Am a Promise' encourages young readers to believe in themselves and to maximize their own promise to the world.
First and foremost a colorful children's book, chock full of vividly wonderful, bright and brilliant illustrations from by Rachel Moss, we discover early on that Shelly loved to run as a little girl.
Then, as her love of running grew as much as she herself did, so too did her desire to not simply run, but run FAST!
She ran to school, to the shop, to the park. She ran like a rocket, ran to be free, because, well, that was who she knew she was born to be.
One day her grandmother saw her running and was the very first person to inform her that she was "... a promise." Confused by these words, her grandmother simply smiled and added, "Don't worry, child, one day you will see."
Even through he big school days she ran, harder and faster, still like a rocket, this time on fire and ready to soar. But times were hard for Shelly at home and sometimes there simply wasn't even enough money to pay bills or put food on the table.
But she never let her dream, her "promise" escape her and soon she was chosen to run in the Olympics for her country. Nervous before the race, her coach told her, "You represent the promise of our country. Go show the world what this promise is.
The race began. Shelly ran for her country. For her friends and family. Like that rocket she always knew was there inside her. The rest, as they say, is now history.
Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce is a six-time Olympic medal winner and holds several prestigious national and world athletic titles including the 2013 IAAF World Female Athlete of the Year.
In recognizing her contribution to sport and the country as a whole, the government of Jamaica awarded Fraser Pryce the Order of Distinction, and, in 2018, unveiled a statue of her at the National Stadium.
A UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Fraser Pryce is also the founder of the Pocket Rocket Foundation which assists promising high school athletes, the owner of a café, Shelly's Café, and a hair salon named Lady Shelly Beauty.
Ashley Rousseau studied creative writing at Lesley University's MFA program. Her short stories have been published in Calabash: A Journal of Caribbean Arts and Letters and Small Axe.
She was born in Jamaica, where she continues to live with her family and work as a designer with local artisans.
Rachel Moss is an illustrator in love with the bright colors and vibrant energy of the Caribbean. She was born in Jamaica and studied animation in England at UCA.
Moss now lives in Jamaica where she spends her days illustrating children's books such as Abigail's Glorious Hair, Milo & Myra Learn Manners with Mr. Mongoose, and The Happiness Dress.
Visit www.rachelmossillustration.com for more information.
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By: Peter Kimani - Akashic Books, $15.95
Description: Nairobi is a city of 3 million souls, so it makes sense as a setting Akashic Books' famed noir series.
14 new stories fill a collection with Nairobi old and new; authors range in age from 24 to 81, and many layers of the city and its complex subcultures will be revealed as the reader makes their way through.
Verdict: The quietly compelling short story collection 'Nairobi Noir' features brand new stories by: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Stanley Gazemba, Ngumi Kibera, Peter Kimani, Winfred Kiunga, Kinyanjui Kombani, Caroline Mose, Kevin Mwachiro, Wanjikũ wa Ngũgĩ, Faith Oneya, Makena Onjerika, Troy Onyango, J.E. Sibi-Okumu, and Rasna Warah.
'Nairobi Noir' - a book that leaves an indelible impression on you from just the opening sentences of the very first story - has three parts: The Hunters, The Hunted, the Herders.
Each story within each section takes place in a unique area of the city and not only shines a light into the darkness of Kenya’s capital city, but closely examines those living and working there; no matter which side of the law, which side of the darkness they find themselves.
Thus, 'Nairobi Noir' is an act of excavation, rediscovering the city’s ossified past and infusing life to preserve it for future generations.
That all said, sure it has a mighty impressive light shone on areas, and tales of Nairobi that one might never have heard before, but woven within the stories are acts of celebration.
They help remind readers of the brilliance of the best-known writers to emerge from this part of the world, and herald the birth of new writers whose gifts, we can safely predict, will shine brightly in the years ahead.
Edited by Peter Kimani, a rather well-known African author, who obviously knows Nairobi rather intimately, his own piece "Blood Sister” is also one of the stand out literary moments here.
Given that Kimani himself refers to Nairobi as a “concrete jungle” where "traffic jams are so bad, even lions come out of the wild to marvel at the snarl-ups," you kind of know going in what to expect from this vastly overheated jumping-off point for safari trips elsewhere in Kenya.
The oldest writer in this anthology is eighty-one, the youngest is only twenty-four; if there is any inference one can draw from this demographic it is that this anthology offers an entire spectrum of Kenyan writing: the past, present, and future.
If we can allow one extravagant claim, a collection of this nature is unprecedented in Kenya’s literary history.
In conclusion, although the range of issues explored in 'Nairobi Noir' is as diverse as its contributors, it all gestures toward a common theme. In this concrete jungle, the hunters and herders live on. As do the hunted!
If you read this and love it as much as I think you will, please check out other Akashic Noir books, including 'Montana Noir,' 'Vancouver Noir,' 'Lagos Noir,' and 'Milwaukee Noir.'
Peter Kimani is a leading Kenyan journalist and the author of, most recently, Dance of the Jakaranda, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
The novel was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in the US and long-listed for the inaugural Big Book Awards in the UK.
He has taught at Amherst College and the University of Houston and is presently based at Aga Khan University's Graduate School of Media and Communications in Nairobi.
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'The Freedom Artist'
By: Ben Okri - Akashic Books, $16.95
Description: In a world uncomfortably like our own, a young woman called Amalantis is arrested for asking a question. Her question is this: Who is the Prisoner?
When Amalantis disappears, her lover Karnak goes looking for her. He searches desperately at first, then with a growing realization that to find Amalantis, he must first understand the meaning of her question.
Karnak’s search leads him into a terrifying world of deception, oppression, and fear at the heart of which lies the prison. Then Karnak discovers that he is not the only one looking for the truth.
Verdict: From the off, the book - which is written in a postmodern style - posits the theory that we are all in an inescapable prison, adding in garishly chilling prose that the rhythmic "folk tale" that is 'The Freedom Artist' is a vision of the world as one infinite possibility.
On a lead in page all of its own, situation quietly at its base, Okri begs of us to "read slowly," but given that the book is broken down into six sections, each one containing bite size chapters, well, that's easier said than done, trust me!
That said, and as much as the book truly free flows with unflinching beauty and profound wisdom nd grace, you might find yourself a little lost at times come its midsection.
For it's around there that prose and collected thoughts and imagines from Okri can, to some, start to unhinge the reader from the authors raison-d'être. But luckily I would advise you to continue onward, perhaps even re-read that middle ground, for come the end the messages are not only subtle and thought-provoking, but loud and clear.
Simply put, 'The Freedom Artist' is an impassioned plea for justice and a penetrating examination of how freedom is threatened in a post-truth society.
In Ben Okri’s most significant novel since the Booker Prize–winning The Famished Road, he delivers a powerful and haunting call to arms that everyone should take notice of.
Ben Okri was born in Minna, Nigeria. His childhood was divided between Nigeria, where he saw firsthand the consequences of war, and London. He won the Booker Prize in 1991 for The Famished Road.
He has published eleven novels, four volumes of short stories, four books of essays, and four collections of poems. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. He also writes plays and screenplays.
He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a vice president of English PEN, and has been awarded the OBE as well as numerous international prizes and honorary doctorates.
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