Category Archives: books
#Treatyourself: 365 Ways To Be Happy Every Day
by Gail Russell
Adams Media, 2014
The Bible says, “Do unto others and you would have them do unto you.” While Gail Adams does not want you to forget doing unto others, she believes that you should treat yourself; don’t wait for others to do unto you. She has come up with 365 ways to make yourself happy, from fairly innocent tasks to a few more risque suggestions.
This is definitely a book designed more for women. As a man, I found myself rolling my eyes at several of the suggestions, but I can certainly see how a female might think these are grand ideas and want to implement them. Many are common sense ideas, such as visiting the zoo, having a board game party, or decorating for the holidays, while others are a little bizarre (to my male mind), such as buying a star or taking a pole dancing class. Readers can take these seeds of ideas and find something that is more up their alley, though, even if they don’t want to take a tour of a factory.
Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents
by Jeff Herman
New World Library, 2014
The process of writing may end when you type “the end,” but if you want to share that work with the world there is much more to the process. Industry insider Jeff Herman provides authors with information to help them get a foot in the door, tips to get representation from agents and to get their hard work in the hands of publishers.
The first section deals with advice for writers, including query letters, book proposals,and the proper usage of social media. Then comes the listings, beginning with the publishers. Included are the “Big 5” conglomerates, independent presses, university presses, and Canadian publishers. The largest section of the book—over 300 pages—is dedicated to literary agents, while independent editors are examined and listed in the final section.
Aspiring authors have been using Herman’s Guide since 1990, and likely will for years to come. It is one of the best tools a writer has at his disposal once he is ready to begin contacting those in the business.
Star Wars Art: Posters
Few pop culture institutions have inspired as much creativity as George Lucas’ Star Wars. The universe is so expansive with diverse lifeforms, artists could spend years creating new paintings to depict them all. Star Wars Art: Posters features a collection of artwork from the very beginning through today. Concept artwork, promotional pieces, paintings for novelizations are some of the many highlights found within the pages of this 10.5 x 12.5 book.
If you are fanatical about Star Wars artwork, you will certainly recognize some of the artists’ names, such as Tom Jung, Roger Kastel, and Drew Struzan. Even if you are not familiar with those wielding their paintbrushes, you will be familiar with their stunning work, presented for the most part without logos. There are also several modern pieces featured, including Mondo and Acme posters by Tyler Stout, Steve Thomas, Mark Daniels and Mark Steele.
Star Wars Art: Posters is truly a fantastic book, covering the cinematic universe from A New Hope through Revenge of the Sith, television programs such as The Battle for Endor and Clone Wars, and video games like Knights of the Old Republic and The Force Unleashed.
If you need a last-minute Christmas gift for a Star Wars fan, you can’t go wrong here.
Singing To A Bulldog
by Anson Williams
Reader’s Digest, 2014
One of my favorite television shows as a child was Happy Days, so it was with great interest that I began reading Anson Williams’ memoir Singing To A Bulldog. Williams takes his readers through thirty life lessons taught to him by a co-worker at Leonard’s Department Store when he was only fifteen years old. Willie Turner was his name; each chapter begins with words that the uneducated janitor spoke to Williams, words that stuck with the young man who became Potsie Weber on the popular sitcom, words that encouraged him to stretch himself and become much more than just Potsie.
This is not a tell-all autobiography. Williams avoids any controversial stories that would embarrass Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, or his other co-stars, and it was a truly interesting read because of it. He had the utmost respect for his fellow actors, and speaks highly of them as he recounts his journey. Singing To A Bulldog is not a straight autobiography, but a collection of memories and events designed to teach lessons. Most chapters are only four or five pages long, so it makes for a quick read, and in many cases the anecdotes can be reworded and used as illustrations in your own writing or speeches.
Williams made the most of his opportunities, humbly giving credit to those who helped him along the way, from Willie Turner to Garry Marshall to Sammy Davis, Jr., Aaron Spelling to Dolly Parton to Shailene Woodley. Happy Days fans will get a kick out of Williams’ memories of getting the part of Potsie Weber, while all readers can learn from Williams’ life experiences in Hollywood that taught him to be a better person.
Robin Williams: When the Laughter Stops
by Emily Herbert
John Blake Publishing, 2014
The tragedy of Robin Williams’ demise profoundly affected his fans, both here in the United States and abroad. Very few people knew of his struggles with depression, and news of his suicide opened many eyes. A man that was able to make so many laugh, but he was unable to find peace for himself.
Author Emily Herbert examines the comedian’s life in Robin Williams: When the Laugher Stops, bringing out the obstacles Williams faced throughout his life. Starting with his early encounters with bullies, and his attempts to gain his mother’s love and approval through his comedic personality, Herbert paints the picture of a tortured soul who many times used his comedy to mask his pain. Williams’ school days are briefly recounted, including his friendship with Christopher Reeve at The Juilliard School. Once Mork & Mindy comes around, Herbert relies heavily on reviews and interviews in publications to tell the story. Many of the actor’s films are treated similarly, showing both the critical and commercial response to his big screen career.
Herbert does not go into great depth on any particular aspect of Williams’ life, but points out several things that played a part in his life and ultimately his death. From the shock of overnight success and the disappointment of professional failures, to personal problems with drugs and divorce and the loss of friends such as John Belushi and Reeve, Williams had many things working against him. But there are many things his fans can remember him for as well, from his charity work to the comedic legacy he left behind on film.
This posthumous biography is written with his death on the writer’s and readers’ minds, and some may find it harder to read than a standard biography. Still, there is not a lot out there in printed form at the moment, and Robin Williams: When the Laughter Stops is a good overview of his career until a fuller history of the man’s life and work is made available.
Experiencing Led Zeppelin: A Listener’s Companion
by Gregg Akkerman
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014
I can recall when I first discovered Led Zeppelin. I don’t remember which song (probably “Stairway to Heaven”), but I do remember being floored by the power and grace of the music. It was the early 1990s, and in short order I possessed all the Zeppelin albums and listened to them time and time again, along with other new-to-me discoveries Jimi Hendrix and The Doors. Over time, I have expanded my musical taste more and more, but Led Zeppelin is one of those timeless groups that will always be central to my love for rock and roll.
Author Gregg Akkerman takes readers on a journey through Led Zeppelin’s studio recordings in Experiencing Led Zeppelin: A Listener’s Companion, breaking down each record song-by-song, with additional in-depth looks at two to three songs per album. His description of Led Zeppelin’s early live performances of “Stairway to Heaven” in eerie, and I could feel myself being transported back to 1971 to witness the genesis of what would become the greatest rock song of all-time. You may not always agree with Akkerman’s assessments of particular songs, but he gives a fair amount of ink to each. Led Zeppelin fans new and old will love this book.
Stuff You Should Know About Stuff
by Tripp Crosby & Tyler Stanton
BenBella Books, 2014
Let’s face it, we have all been in situations that we just don’t know how to act. Whether it’s in the movie theater, a restaurant, an airplane, or the public restroom, sometimes we just don’t know what we should do. Fortunately, Tripp & Tyler take care of almost every situation you could possibly find yourself in and more in Stuff You Should Know About Stuff: How To Properly Behave in Certain Situations. Going to the gym? Tripp & Tyler have you covered. Planning to attend a concert? Read Tripp & Tyler’s short section on “Concert Etiquette.”
The authors also give their humorous take on various communication issues, from handling dropped calls to e-mail no-no’s to awkward silences, as well as situations involving friends (helping someone move) and more than friends (ruining Valentine’s Day), and some other random stuff that they just couldn’t categorize (a poem about shampoo is among these).
This is definitely a comedy book designed for men. Not quite toilet humor, but somewhat risque at times. Appropriate for more mature audiences, mainly because most of the jokes would be over the head of younger readers.
Life is a Hit; Don’t Strike Out
by Al Oliver
VIP Ink Publishing, 2014
An eighteen-year career, seven All-Star games, 2743 hits and a .303 batting average are impressive achievements, and many believe they are enough to warrant Hall of Fame induction for Al Oliver. Oliver’s autobiography Life is a Hit; Don’t Strike Out, gives an overview of the ballplayer’s life from a very young age to the present day. Oliver played from 1968-1985 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays.
The book is poorly written with choppy sentences and numerous typographical errors that should have been corrected by an editor. It is difficult to follow the series of events as Oliver seems to jump around from subject to subject without much transition. There are several testimonials from former ballplayers (Pete Rose, Dave Parker, Andre Dawson), friends, and family members throughout supporting Oliver’s induction, or at least consideration, for the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, many of those testimonials could have used an editor’s guidance as well. The book ends with a short section dedicated to Oliver’s work with his local denominational church. Over 100 pages of black and white photographs are tacked on at the end; they are not arranged chronologically, and several are low-quality photos that should not have been included.
Oliver is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate who received less that 5% of the requisite support to remain on the ballot in his first year of eligibility. His induction would do no harm to the integrity of Cooperstown, but this book is unlikely to change the mind of those who might have the power to induct him.
Starting At Zero: His Own Story
by Jimi Hendrix
Bloomsbury USA, 2014
No one asked Jimi Hendrix to write an autobiography while he was alive. No one expected him to die when he was only twenty-seven. One of the most innovative guitarists of all time never sat down to write his life story, but by pulling quotes from interviews, letters, lyrcis and journals, we have the left-handed rocker’s life presented to us in his own words. The collaboration by filmmaker Peter Neal, record producer Alan Douglas, and fan Michael Fairchild is the closet we will ever have to an authentic Hendrix autobiography.
When reading through this book, one wonders how the man was not locked up in an insane asylum. The things he says are so off-the-wall that any normal person would certainly be evaluated on his mental status. But as a celebrity, and one who was usually under the influence, his words were seen merely as eccentric. He took his music seriously, though, and was affected by its public and critical reception. He wanted to be heard, and he wanted to be remembered. The editors present these words as the final words of the autobiography: “When I die, just keep on playing the records.”
An interesting book, one that Hendrix fans will appreciate. There is not much revealed here that has not been stated in other biographies, but it is enlightening to read them from the guitarist’s own thoughts.
Rickey & Robinson
by Roger Kahn
Rodale Books, 2014
The story of baseball’s integration has been told time and again, and the latest release from legendary sportswriter Roger Kahn adds even more to the narrative in Rickey & Robinson: The True, Untold Story of the Integration of Baseball. While much in the book is old news, and several of the passages and quotes were even seen in the 2013 movie 42, Kahn also reveals intimate stories about Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey that had not yet been made public. He explains the support Robinson received from Jewish sportswriters like himself, hoping that his success would also lessen the discrimination in the press box against Jews and other minorities.
Some of the best parts of Rickey & Robinsons are the reproduction of past articles, including “The Branch Rickey They Don’t Write About” from a 1953 issue of Our Sports, a magazine Kahn and Robinson developed together. There was also a threat of a strike by National League clubs, including the St. Louis Cardinals, that was reported by that New York Herald Tribune writer Stanley Woodward, and prevented by NL president Ford C. Frick. Kahn also reprinted an article by Jimmy Cannon that appeared in the New York Post titled, “Lynch Mobs Don’t Always Wear Hoods.” Add those other voices to Kahn’s own insightful writing, and baseball fans have an in depth report of not only the happenings of the mid-1940s, but some of the attitudes and opinions that accompanied those events.
You may have read a lot about Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, but there is certainly more that can be learned from Roger Kahn. Baseball fans owe it to themselves to become acquainted with this story once again.
Choose Your Own Nightmare: Blood Island
by Liz Windover
Choose Your Own Nightmare: Eighth Grade Witch
by C.E. Simpson
I fondly remember “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from the 1980s, and was pleasantly surprised that they were still being produced today. I was even further pleased to learn that there are horror-themed editions styled as “Choose Your Own Nightmare.” The first two are Blood Island and Eighth Grade Witch, and they hold as much charm as their “Adventure” counterparts. While difficult to explain the plots of the books—because they change each time you reread the book and make different decisions—it is easy to say that these books are engaging and entertaining. Blood Island features 15 different endings, while Eighth Grade Witch gives 28 different possible conclusions.
CC Claus: A Baseball Christmas Story by CC Sabathia with Ray Negron, illustrated by Laura Seeley (2014)
CC Claus: A Baseball Christmas Story
by CC Sabathia with Ray Negron, illustrated by Laura Seeley
A letter for Santa is mistakenly delivered to CC Sabathia, and at the urging of his son Carsten, Sabathia sets out for the North Pole to make sure Santa gets the Christmas request. When they arrive, they find that Santa is behind schedule and is worried that all the toys might not get finished. Sabathia pulls out his telephone and calls George Steinbrenner, who shows up to save the day. Recruiting the help of baseball stars and legends such as Billy Martin, Roberto Clemente, Babe Ruth, Bob Feller and others, the toys are built and ready to go. Unfortunately, Santa is ill and unable to make the global delivery. Sabathia again steps up, and he and Carsten take the toys to their destinations all around the world.
A cute story, illustrated beautifully by Laura Seeley, CC Claus: A Baseball Christmas Story is a great way to introduce youngsters to baseball stars who have passed on. In addition to those already mentioned, Paul Blair, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Elston Howard, Catfish Hunter, Tetsuharu Kawakami, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Jackie Mitchell, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Satchel Paige, Phil Rizzuto, Jackie Robinson, Willie Stargell, and Ted Williams also appear. In the back of the book, each player is given a small blurb that could kindle the curiosity of a child to learn more about the greats of America’s pastime.
Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith
by Joe Perry with David Ritz
Simon & Schuster, 2014
Aerosmith is one of the greatest American rock bands, led by singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry. The group has seen many ups and downs over the years, playing through drug addictions and inner turmoil, but today are still regarded as one of the most legendary acts to come from the United States and has a feverish fan base. In Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith, Perry relives his early years and influences that led him to a relationship with Steven Tallarico, on through the gigging and recording and eventual touring. Financial problems, leaving Aerosmith and creating the Joe Perry Project, and his return to the group in the mid-1980s, renewed success, and renewed band infighting are all focuses of the book.
Perry doesn’t pull any punches, especially when it comes to his tumultuous relationship with Tyler. The guitarist paints the picture of a front man with severe lead singer disease, who seems to be out for himself instead of the best interests of the group. From his constant addiction struggles to his secret audition with Led Zeppelin to his role on American Idol, Tyler kept information from his bandmates that would affect their future. It seems those problems will never go away, but Perry and the rest of Aerosmith continues to put up with the erratic behavior.
Perry’s autobiography may be a tell-all book, but there is not really a whole lot to tell. Aside from the drug abuse, he did not live the stereotypical rock star lifestyle. He stuck with one woman at a time, had major financial troubles because of mismanaged money, and focused on his work more than might be expected of someone who has fame thrust upon him. The most interesting parts of the book, for me, are Perry’s recollections of the 80s comeback albums Permanent Vacation and Pump albums, as well as the 70s classics including Toys In The Attic and Rocks.
Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith currently sits at #8 on the New York Times’ Best Sellers list for Hardcover Nonfiction. It is a well-written autobiography from one of rock’s greatest guitarists, and will be enjoyed by fans of Aerosmith and Joe Perry.
by Nathaniel Tolle
No holiday lends itself to movie marathons more than Halloween. Horror movies are released year-round, and it is difficult to keep up with what is worth watching (and what is worth watching again). Film buff Nathaniel Tolle helps out with Pumpkin Cinema: The Best Movies for Halloween. For more than a decade, Tolle kept track of every movie he watched and gave it a rating. Then, in preparation for this book, went back and wrote down every horror movie he awarded three or more stars, and supplemented that list with other films released in the past several years.
Readers may take more exception to the movies omitted from Tolle’s list rather than those included, but he gives his reasons in the introduction for excluding classics such as Dracula, The Shining, and Pet Sematary. The suggestions offered range from the truly scary (The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street) to the legendary (Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon) to the obscure (The Midnight Hour, Dark Night of the Scarecrow). There are also plenty of selections for the kiddos to enjoy, such as The Halloween Tree and Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie. A separate section examines “Fun-Sized Films and Creepy, Crawly Compilations,” while special Halloween episodes of your favorite television programs are included in part three.
Tolle wraps up Pumpkin Cinema with several top five lists to satisfy your movie marathon cravings. “If you want” vampires or zombies or gore or witches or killer dolls or outer space…whatever your desire may be, Tolle gives five suggestions for thirty-five different categories.
Next time you are browsing Netflix late at night, grab Pumpkin Cinema to help you select the best movie to fit your mood…whether it is October or July.
Idiot’s Guides: Creative Writing
by Casey Clabough, PhD
A very basic overview to the task of creative writing, this Idiot’s Guides entry defines the simplest of terms and gives pointers on various forms of the craft, from poetry to flash fiction to novels. Not content at stopping with the writing, however, author Casey Clabough explains the importance of research and editing one’s work, as well as how to seek out a publisher.
Each chapter of this book has been dealt with extensively by other authors, and if there is a specific area of writing that appeals to a person, he would be better served seeking out materials devoted to that area. For those still getting their feet wet in writing, Idot’s Guides: Creative Writing might be useful to explore some different areas before committing to one. This is a basic, dumbed-down version of what one might learn in a creative writing course, and should not be the last book consulted on any topic, but it may be beneficial as a primer.
Becoming Mr. October
by Reggie Jackson with Kevin Baker
Anchor Books, 2014 (paperback)
Before Derek Jeter, the Yankee most associated with postseason glory was Reggie Jackson. Nicknamed “Mr. October” for his offensive prowess in the World Series, particularly with the Yankees (8 home runs, 17 RBI, .400 batting average in 15 games), Jackson epitomized superstardom in the Big Apple. In his memoir Becoming Mr. October, the slugger recounts his 1977 and 1978 seasons in New York, including his feuds with teammate Thurman Munson, manager Billy Martin, and owner George Steinbrenner, and the infamous interview with Robert Ward that set him at odds with his teammates right off the bat.
Jackson begins his memoir as a college athlete at Arizona State University, then quickly moving through his time with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles to set the stage for his debut with the Yankees. The first four chapters of the book deal with his pre-New York baseball career, while the final twenty-one chapters recall the events of just two seasons; there is no mention of playing for the California Angels or returning to Oakland at the end of his career. The writing style is extremely casual, almost to the point of distraction. This includes the use of text lingo such as “LOL” in some instances.
Overlooking that flippancy, though, Becoming Mr. October is a valuable resource as it presents Jackson’s side of the story. He had been villainized by the press and Yankee management, but was mot at the time afforded the opportunity to present his version of events. Further upset with his portrayal in The Bronx Is Burning (“the whole way they portrayed ‘Reggie Jackson in New York’ was a huge disconnect for me”), the Hall of Famer offers his take on what really happened during his first two seasons in pinstripes.
Stephen King, Wes Craven, and George A. Romero are three of the most recognizable names in modern horror. In Beyond Fear, author Joseph Maddrey takes a look at some of the most iconic works of each and explores their deeper meanings, drawing on each creator’s personal history and worldview. The book, however, is not too highly intellectual, making it accessible to the average fan who is interested in learning more about their favorite scary storytellers.
Maddrey divides his writing into three parts: one essay on Romero and his Living Dead series, five chapters on Craven’s career in film, and twenty-seven entries on King’s material (including five entitled “The King of Hollywood”). Early influences and possible inspirations are cited for each story or film, and the impact they had on society is considered.
Beyond Fear provides an interesting overview, specifically when it comes to Stephen King’s prolific output and the struggles of his early career. The first 123 pages covering Romero and Craven are an interesting read, but even if they were omitted, Beyond Fear would still be well worth the reader’s time.
The 8th Annual “Books By The Banks” will be held tomorrow, Saturday, October 11, at the Duke Energy Center in downtown Cincinnati. The book festival is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is free. The book festival boasts 130 authors and publishing professionals, seminars, and events for teens and children. Jack Heffron and Joe Heffron, the authors of The Local Boys: Hometown Players for the Cincinnati Reds and Sports Illustrated’s Kostya Kennedy, author of Pete Rose: An American Dilemma are scheduled to appear and participate in a panel discussion on local sports. Teenagers can challenge authors in games of Battleship and Pictionary. Younger children will be entertained by the Hands Up Puppet Troupe and can meet costumed characters from their favorite books.
Several seminars are scheduled throughout the day for aspiring writers, including “Social Media for Writers,” “Writing Cincinnati,” “Pitching Your Book,” and “Pitching for Publication in the Magazine and Online Markets.” Michael D. Pitman is scheduled to host a “Flash Fiction Workshop” near the end of the festival.
More information, including a list of all authors scheduled to appear, can be found at http://www.booksbythebanks.org.
The Simpsons Family History
by Matt Groening
After two and a half decades on television, the Simpsons have become extended family to many Americans. Children can relate to Bart and Lisa, while parents can relate to Homer and Marge. They are far from perfect, just as we are. And perhaps that is the reason the show has lasted and remained fresh over a 25-year span.
But that’s not what this book is about. Nor is it about getting the show on the air, or the trials of writing and animating a weekly program. Rather, The Simpsons Family History by Matt Groening is, literally, the history of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, purportedly before the show begins. Using images that were presented as flashbacks on the cartoon, Groening looks chronologically at the family from shortly before Homer’s birth, through his formative adolescent years, to the courtship of Marge, to the birth of their three children. The book ends with Homer pitching the idea of a realistic television show based on his family to Fox, concluding with “…and the rest is history.” There are a handful of words per page to explain the illustrations.
The Simpsons Family History is a neat book, but there is nothing new or revelatory here for long-time fans. It is not a biography of Groening, but an illustrated bio of Homer Simpson, treated as a real and factual account.
Words For Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels by Brian Michael Bendis (2014)
Words For Pictures
by Brian Michael Bendis
I have read a handful of books about writing for comics and graphic novels, and each brings information that was not contained in the last. As of yet, there has not been one as thorough as Brian Michael Bendis’ Words For Pictures. Reading how-to books by unknown writers may or may not be helpful, but reading how-to books by individuals who are successful in their chosen field are almost universally inspiring and invaluable. In this book, Bendis accomplishes one of his goals: “Be Walt Simonson.” To him, that means to be as helpful and patient as possible with those who ask questions, who thirst for knowledge and guidance, who share a like passion. Bendis gives outsiders a peek into the world of creating comics, from the script to the drawing board to the editor’s room. Beautiful artwork from the pages of Marvel graces nearly every page.
The best chapter in this book, however, has nothing to do with comics. The world of comics provides the backdrop, but the thrust of the first chapter, “Why?”, has to do with passion. This chapter should be read by every young person, no matter what career they pursue. “Make it for you. And you only. Then, if by some miraculous turn of events someone ELSE wants to buy it too, that’s great. It’s all gravy after that.”
Words For Pictures is a book that needs to be a part of every comic book writer’s library, and the first chapter should be read at least once a month. Bendis is both honest and inspiring in his writing, and every aspiring writer and artist will benefit from this book.