Category Archives: books
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.
It’s Been Said Before
by Orin Hargraves
Oxford University Press, 2014
An examination of clichés, It’s Been Said Before by author Orin Hargraves catalogs a large number of phrases that are sometimes overused or misused. He states in the introduction that the volume is not intended to be a dictionary of clichés, but the book reads like one.
Hargaves does not offer alternatives to the overused phrases, but simply groups them into categories: clichés that name things, adjectival and quantifying clichés, adverbial clichés, predicate clichés, framing devices, modifier fatigue, and clichés in tandem. It is dry and academic, but useful for writers that want to determine whether they are using common phrases effectively.
Cosby: His Life and Times
by Mark Whitaker
Simon & Schuster, 2014
Bill Cosby is one of the most iconic comedians in American history, but his life behind the scenes has not been as rosy as the characters he portrays on television. Incidents from his early impoverished life in Philadelphia, his affair with Shawn Berkes, the murder of his son Ennis and attempted extortion by Berkes’ daughter Autumn Jackson, author Mark Whitaker shows how Cosby dealt with personal tragedies and came out stronger for it.
Cosby’s success can be attributed partly to luck, being in the right place at the right time, and partly to having people who were loyal and confident in his future. But there is another part of Cosby’s success that is overlooked by many: hard work. The legend did not expect anything to be given to him for free, and has rebuked those today who expect such. “I heard a prize fight manager say to his fellow who was losing badly, ‘David, listen to me, it’s not what he’s doing to you. It’s what you’re not doing.’”
The book also details Cosby’s relationships—and more importantly, friendships—with his co-stars, such as Robert Culp from I Spy and Phylicia Rashad from The Cosby Show, and showed how he helped other programs, from the spin-off A Different World to Everybody Loves Raymond, a show he fell in love with long before the rest of America noticed.
Cosby: His Life and Times is a quick read despite the large page count. Fans of Cosby and his various projects will love Whitaker’s examination of the comedian’s life.
Not every story needs to be turned into a series.
Baltimore Baseball & Barbecue with Boog Powell
by Rob Kasper and Boog Powell
American Palate/The History Press, 2014
Short by baseball biography standards, the story of Boog Powell is still packed with entertaining stories and anecdotes of the slugger’s time with the Orioles. Baltimore Baseball & Barbecue with Boog Powell briefly visits the subject as a youngster, and only one chapter is devoted to the minors before digging into Powell’s major league career in Baltimore. Seventeen years are covered in a little over fifty pages, including his final tours with Cleveland and Los Angeles.
Then there is the second half of the book, and the second half of Boog’s passion: barbecue. The relationship that Powell still enjoys with Baltimore fans is made possible by his barbecue stand located at Camden Yards. Fans can feast on the food, and most nights can speak to the mastermind behind the menu. In addition to information about Boog’s Barbecue at the park, Kasper and Powell include ten pages worth of recipes in this book.
The final chapter is a collection of interviews with Powell’s former teammates, from Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson to Jim Palmer and Merv Rettenmund. Black and white photos are scattered throughout the book’s 160 pages.
Baltimore fans will love this book, while barbecue connoisseurs will devour the recipes. Baltimore Baseball & Barbecue with Boog Powell is a home run.
Close Encounters of the Fatal Kind
by Nick Redfern
New Page Books, 2014
Books about aliens and UFOs and government conspiracies always make for entertaining reads, and Nick Redfern’s Close Encounters of the Fatal Kind is no different. Whether you count yourself among the believers of intelligent life on other planets or not, Redfern tells such detailed stories about “suspicious deaths, mysterious murders, and bizarre disappearances” that will make you raise your eyebrows. The focus of this book is not so much on the UFOs and the lifeforms that pilot them, but the fate of those who tried to reveal their existence to the public.
An entire chapter is devoted to John F. Kennedy and his untimely assassination. Redfern also briefly discusses in another chapter the theory that UFOs are not extraterrestrial at all, but rather that “the flying saucer enigma is definitely demonic in origin and nature.” There is, of course, no conclusion drawn by the end of the book; none of the conspiracies are solved and no skeptics will be convinced to change their minds, but there is plenty to fuel the paranoia of extraterrestrial advocates. Redfern wraps up Close Encounters of the Fatal Kind with a warning to those who investigate the existence of unidentified flying objects to “tread very carefully, lest you tread no more.”
Creating Graphic Novels:
Adapting and Marketing Stories for a Multimillion-Dollar Industry
by Sarah Beach
Michael Wiese Productions, 2014
From The Watchmen to The Walking Dead, graphic novels and comic books are all the rage in the modern age. Many successful movies either started out as a graphic novel, or have been adapted into the graphic novel form in order to expand the audience and increase revenue.
Author Sarah Beach attempts to teach her readers how to adapt one’s own screenplay into graphic novel form. Despite the size of this book, it is more of an overview than a step-by-step manual to guide the adaptation process. Many topics are covered, such as finding the right art team, social networking to promote the material, and signing a contract with a publisher. It is a good primer to get one started in the right direction if he is interested in going the graphic novel route.
Inventing Baseball Heroes
by Amber Roessner
LSU Press, 2014
In this age of immediate news, cutural icons do not seem to last very long. As soon as a negative report is published, it is picked up by countless news organizations and available on cell phones and computer screens instantaneously. A century ago, however, news traveled much slower, and the gatekeepers of information were careful with the information entrusted to them; not every scandalous details of an athlete’s private life was broadcast to the masses. It was in this era that Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb became household names, thanks to sportswriters Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, and others.
Author and former sportswriter Amber Roessner revisits that simpler time when news was crafted to shed the best possible light on the superstars of the baseball diamond, when Mathewson and Cobb were two of the biggest names, not only in baseball, but in all of America. “They told their readers that real men were expected to take daring risks while at the same time behaving as proper gentlemen.” She examines how the reporters were encouraged to promote the positive aspects of the game and its players to the public, traveling with the team on the team’s dime and socializing with the players on golf courses and vacations. Roessner’s work begins scholarly, but quickly turns conversational and anecdotal as she reveals the relationships between Mathewson, Cobb, and the sportswriters.
Inventing Baseball Heroes is an interesting book that will appeal more to fans of journalism, but also sheds light on how baseball became an American institution at the turn of the twentieth century.
Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76
by Dan Epstein
Thomas Dunne Books, 2014
America celebrated 200 years in 1976, and baseball, as America’s pastime, played a central role in the country’s celebration. Author Dan Epstein chronicles the ups and downs of the season and the personalities that kept baseball in the headlines all year long in Stars and Strikes. From unassuming rookies like Mark Fidrych to sulking superstars like Reggie Jackson, over-the-top owners like Ted Turner and Charlie Finley, baseball had it all in 1976. The Yankees are prominently featured in Epstein’s book, with the booming personalities of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin making their mark throughout the season.
Each chapter shares its title with a popular song from the era, from artists such as Boston, Thin Lizzy, and Parliament. Epstein does a wonderful job of weaving the spirit of ’76 throughout the baseball narrative, including Rick Monday‘s finest play on the field in Los Angeles when he rescued the American flag from a would-be arsonist. Reliving the wacky (Chicago’s shorts) and the wonderful (Birdmania), Epstein covers it all starting in November 1975 through the Reds’ second straight championship and the escalating contracts following the 1976 season. Baseball historians will love Stars and Strikes.
Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle
by Keith Cameron
Voyageur Press, 2014
Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam. Those are the names most often associated with the Seattle music scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s. But there is another band, one that predated the explosion of Kurt Cobain in the mainstream and probably influenced him more than he would ever admit: Mudhoney, comprised of Mark Arm, Matt Lukin, Dan Peters, and Steve Peters. Largely forgotten by so-called fans of grunge music, Mudhoney never achieved the commercial success of their peers—which was never the band’s aim. “They’re four guys who got together and played music for fun, and the grand plan ended there.”
Author Keith Cameron’s definitive work on the overlooked grunge rockers covers it all, starting with each member’s upbringing and musical influences, early endeavors, and coming together to form the classic lineup. The band received critical accolades for their releases on Sub Pop, and disdain for the materials released by Reprise. Drug addiction and turmoil among the band members, dwindling crowds and IRS audits were among the many struggles the band faced during their career, ultimately leading to bassist Matt Lukin’s departure from the band. Soldiering on despite many difficulties, the band still exists today on a smaller scale, playing smaller venues, but still releasing new music for fans. While many of the grunge bands of the past have abandoned their roots, Mudhoney embraces them.
Whether you are a fan of the musical output or not, the story of Mudhoney deserves to be told. A story of realistic expectations and resilience through adversity. Cameron’s Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle leaves nothing out, and is a worthy addition to any rock fan’s bookshelf.
1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever by Bill Madden (2014)
by Bill Madden
Da Capo Press, 2014
The Brooklyn debut of Jackie Robinson in 1947 ushered in a change in the way baseball owners thought about race, but it took several years for the impact to be seen. In 1954, baseball fans saw for the first time an abundance superstars at the top of their game who were not white. Larry Doby with the Cleveland Indians, Willie Mays with the San Francisco Giants, Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, and Minnie Minoso of the Chicago White Sox all impacted the game in their own ways. Doby and Mays starred in the World Series that year, Banks thrilled audiences as a rookie, and Minoso was selected as an All-Star for the fourth time.
Author Bill Madden looks back through history in 1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever. A recipient of the Hall of Fame’s J. G. Taylor Spink Award, the New York Daily News writer brings the pennant race to life, and shows how those black players provided a spark to their respective teams. Madden also writes about Yankees general manager George Weiss and his reluctance to sign black players, Bill Veeck and his shenanigans and feuds with other owners that ultimately cost him his St. Louis Browns franchise, and a handful of anecdotes about Casey Stengel‘s antics with the Yankees that season.
Madden’s style is part journalistic, part storytelling. The journalistic tone is difficult to get through at times in this longer format, but when he becomes conversational in tone the book reads very quickly. Baseball historians will love 1954 and the perspective presented as it relates not only to our national pastime, but to the subject of race relations in the game and how much those relations have changed in the past sixty years.
Full Count: Four Decades of Blue Jays Baseball
by Jeff Blair
Vintage Canada, 2014
The only major league baseball team currently playing outside the continental United States, the Toronto Blue Jays are often overlooked by the average baseball fan. With a history full of underrated players like Dave Stieb and a wealth of disappointment—save 1992 and 1993—the Blue Jays just don’t hold the fan’s imagination like their division rivals, the Yankees or Red Sox. The premise of Full Count by Jeff Blair, to present a history of the franchise, is a good one. But it fails in that it barely mentions the team or its players prior to the championship teams of the 1990s. Some of the franchise’s most recognizable names from the 1980s—Jimmy Key, Jesse Barfield, Lloyd Moseby—are mentioned only once, and that in passing. Instead of “Four Decades of Blue Jays Baseball,” the focus is more on 1992 to the present.
Blair closely examines a lot of the business dealings, almost to a fault. There are excellent chapters on Roberto Alomar and his Hall of Fame career, Joe Carter and his home run off Mitch Williams, and Blair wraps up the book with a look at the team’s current Canadian talent, Brett Lawrie. Those are some of the most enjoyable chapters in the book, written in an easy-going, conversational tone. In between all that, however, the managers, general managers, and other administrative personnel are profiled. Trades are picked apart, and front office hiring decisions are dissected. A lot of good background information, but I for one would have rather read about the product that took the field more than the men behind the scenes.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens &
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens Personal Workbook
by Sean Covey
240 pages (Pesonal Workbook)
Originally published in 1998, Sean Covey’s groundbreaking The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens has been adapted and updated to reflect the technological age that is the 21st century. Covey learned from a master; his father Stephen’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold over fifteen million copies. Sean’s motivational work for teenagers is not far behind, having sold five million so far.
Covey encourages young people throughout the book to think positively and be proactive, and to look for solutions to problems that will benefit all who are involved. Examples and anecdotes are sprinkled in with practical applications and actionable ideas. The Personal Workbook complements the work, giving teenagers questions to answer about how they deal with situations, and actual tasks to help them build confidence in themselves and be more productive.
An excellent book and workbook, highly recommended for those who fall in the age range. Parents would do well to purchase The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and the Personal Workbook for their children as they enter the confusing teen years.