They Just Seem a Little Weird: How KISS, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, and Starz Remade Rock and Roll by Dough Brod

Amazon.com: They Just Seem a Little Weird: How KISS, Cheap Trick,  Aerosmith, and Starz Remade Rock and Roll (9780306845192): Brod, Doug: Books

A veteran music journalist explores how four legendary rock bands-KISS, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, and Starz-laid the foundation for two diametrically opposed subgenres: hair metal in the ’80s and grunge in the ’90s.

They Just Seem a Little Weird offers an original, eye- and ear-opening look at a crucial moment in hard-rock history, when the music became fun again and a concert became a show. It’s the story of four bands that started in the ’70s and drew from the same seminal sources but devised vastly different sounds. It’s the story of friends and frenemies who rose, fell, and soared again, often sharing stages, producers, engineers, managers, and fans-and who are still collaborating more than 40 years later.

In the tradition of books like David Browne’s bestselling Fire and Rain, They Just Seem a Little Weird seamlessly weaves the narratives of the mega-selling KISS, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith with . . . Starz, a criminally neglected band whose fate may have been sealed by a shocking act of violence. It’s the story of how the four groups-three of them now enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall Fame-went on to influence multiple generations of musicians, laying the foundation for two diametrically opposed rock subgenres: the hair metal of Bon Jovi, Poison, Skid Row, and Mötley Crüe in the ’80s, and the grunge of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Melvins in the ’90s. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on December first.

First off, let me just say: I’m not a huge fan of any of these bands, just because I only know them passingly well. They were just a teensy bit before my time. Of course, I don’t live under a rock, so I have at least heard their music. So, if I’m not an uber fan, why did I scurry to read this book? Because it sounded fascinating.

It is an interesting foray into the bizarre world of rock and roll. There were a lot of weird, random happenstances that let me know how small the world of professional music-making truly is. There’s a major “six degrees to Kevin Bacon” vibe that permeates the book. So many things that happened were connected in the oddest ways. About halfway through, I was ready to start singing, “It’s a small world after all…”

Despite this, I found myself getting confused at times because there were so many names to remember. Not only that, each person seemed to have several nicknames bestowed by several different people and the nicknames got a bit perplexing. Also, the way they were all connected to each other was very convoluted at times. Read this book with a pencil ready in case you get name confusion like I did.

That being said, this book is a very engrossing read. The beginning of these music giants was just so much fun to read about, and the little asides were flat-out strange. It made for an incredibly entertaining book. I now know more about these bands than I thought was humanly possible for someone who wasn’t already an obsessive fan.

My biggest gripe is that there was a lot of information but not a lot of emotion. There was a ton of “how” and “when” but not a lot of “why,” if that makes sense. I wanted a little more personality than I got. That’s just a small little complaint, though.

The writing is succinct and well-worded. It flowed well and there weren’t really any parts that dragged or felt superfluous. For those of you who love any of these bands, or are huge music buffs in general, you’ll want to add this to your collection. For me, I liked it but fell just short of loving it.

Kings and Daemons (The Gifted and the Cursed book 1) by Marcus Lee

Kings and Daemons by Marcus Lee

A tale of conquest, dark kings, and daemonic heroes. A spellbinding story that will enchant you with its plot of ambition, love, betrayal, sacrifice and redemption. Over fifty years have passed since Daleth the seemingly immortal Witch-King and his army conquered the Ember Kingdom.Now, with the once fertile lands and its enslaved people dying around him, the Witch-King, driven by his insatiable thirst for eternal youth, prepares his forces to march on the prosperous neighbouring Freestates. It will be the beginnings of a conquest that could destroy nations, bringing death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.Then, when a peasant huntress whose rare gift was concealed from birth is exposed, it sets in motion a chain of events that could alter the destiny of generations to come. (taken from Amazon)
Wowza, Kings and Daemons was fantastic! This book felt very old-school fantasy to me – and I loved it! It had so many of the elements that I love to see in fantasy. A group of characters to follow? Check. Inner conflict to match the external struggles? Check. Fantastical creatures? Check (daemons: need I say more). A terrifying Big Bad who is deliciously evil? Check.

Despite having these well-known and well-loved fantasy building blocks, this book is in no way a copy of other works. It is wholly original and incredibly creative. The characters were fantastic. I loved them all, but at the moment my favorite is Kalas. I reserve the right to change my mind, however. Each character has so much going on that not only provides fascinating backstories, but explains their personalities and the choices they make.

The world is grim and bleak, but not enough so that it killed my reading mojo. I know that sentence makes next to no sense, but sometimes a world is too dark for me to enjoy -this wasn’t the case here. The shades of despair in this book were nuanced and offset by the sheer waves of stick-to-itness that the characters possessed. Here was a group who had taken their hits and were still kicking. I love characters like that!

The pacing was fabulous. The story started moving and never stopped. I was immediately drawn in and I stayed enthralled from beginning to end. Everything unfolded with perfect timing and nothing felt forced. There was no dreaded info-dump. It was obvious that the author knew exactly what story he wanted to tell and confidently went about doing it.

The world was incredibly well-developed. The history was fascinating, and I’m excited to see it explored even more in future installments. In case you can’t tell, this is my long-winded way of saying Kings and Daemons was fantastic and I highly recommend it.

Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold- ARC Review

Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold
The name’s Fetch Phillips — what do you need?

Cover a Gnome with a crossbow while he does a dodgy deal? Sure.
Find out who killed Lance Niles, the big-shot businessman who just arrived in town? I’ll give it shot.
Help an old-lady Elf track down her husband’s murderer? That’s right up my alley.
What I don’t do, because it’s impossible, is search for a way to bring the goddamn magic back.
Rumors got out about what happened with the Professor, so now people keep asking me to fix the world.
But there’s no magic in this story. Just dead friends, twisted miracles, and a secret machine made to deliver a single shot of murder. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is the sequel to The Last Smile in Sunder City. You can find my review for that book here Dead Man in a Ditch will be available on September 22nd.

Dead Man in a Ditch picks up pretty much right after the end of book one. I expected this series to be rather episodic, to be honest, each book being a case that Fetch Phillips finds himself caught up in. Instead, the series has a continuing story-line, back stories are explored, new characters are introduced, and surprises are revealed.

Sunder City is full of grime, violence, and a fair hint of desperation. So is Fetch Phillips. They make for an excellent match. This city is full of once-magical creatures who are struggling to get by in a post-magic world. One of the many things I loved is how author Luke Arnold explores how it would feel for a being who is mostly magic to be bereft of it. His narrative voice is fantastic. There’s a Sam Spade feel to it, although Fetch has become much more introspective than he was in book one. This evolution of character feels natural and makes perfect sense in the story.

Fetch Phillips’ latest tangle (I’d say “case,” but it gets out of hand much too quickly to qualify as one) involves magic. It shouldn’t: it’s been established that all the magic is gone. However, someone seems to have missed the memo. Fetch finds himself trying to solve a murder and figure out if-  and how – the magic is actually returning.

I love how delightfully madcap this book is. Running through it is more of Fetch’s backstory, and some serious character development. We get a closer look at this new, messed up, magic-free world. I’m annoyed at the author: he had me tearing up over the fate of a unicorn.  Grr!  I became so invested in this book, I had to stop myself from rereading it as soon as I finished the last page.

I would say that the tone of this book is more serious than the first book, but not so much that reading it is a downer. Rather, it draws you in. The stakes are higher and the fate of many hinges on decisions made by a small few. It’s kind of messed up, actually. I’m sure Fetch would agree.

This is a fantasy like no other. It’s gritty and dark, but still has an undercurrent of hope running through it. It showcases how wonderfully broad the fantasy genre really is. I loved every moment of it.  If you haven’t started this series yet, you need to make it a priority. Just go ahead and shift it right up to the top of your “to be read” pile. I guarantee you’ll love it too.

Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore

20200813_105819

Set adrift by his pirate crew, Pocket of Dog Snogging—last seen in The Serpent of Venice—washes up on the sun-bleached shores of Greece, where he hopes to dazzle the Duke with his comedic brilliance and become his trusted fool.

But the island is in turmoil. Egeus, the Duke’s minister, is furious that his daughter Hermia is determined to marry Demetrius, instead of Lysander, the man he has chosen for her. The Duke decrees that if, by the time of the wedding, Hermia still refuses to marry Lysander, she shall be executed . . . or consigned to a nunnery. Pocket, being Pocket, cannot help but point out that this decree is complete bollocks, and that the Duke is an egregious weasel for having even suggested it. Irritated by the fool’s impudence, the Duke orders his death. With the Duke’s guards in pursuit, Pocket makes a daring escape.

He soon stumbles into the wooded realm of the fairy king Oberon, who, as luck would have it, IS short a fool. His jester Robin Goodfellow—the mischievous sprite better known as Puck—was found dead. Murdered. Oberon makes Pocket an offer he can’t refuse: he will make Pocket his fool and have his death sentence lifted if Pocket finds out who killed Robin Goodfellow. But as anyone who is even vaguely aware of the Bard’s most performed play ever will know, nearly every character has a motive for wanting the mischievous sprite dead.

With too many suspects and too little time, Pocket must work his own kind of magic to find the truth, save his neck, and ensure that all ends well. (taken from Amazon)

I am both surprised and excited to say that I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. It is available for purchase now.

Funny, witty, and a bit heavy on the raunch, this is Christopher Moore in top form. Shakespeare for Squirrels felt like having a conversation with someone while incredibly sleep-deprived: not much makes sense, and it’s all hilarious anyway.  While this book is technically a continuation of a storyline (Pocket the Fool is a recurring character), you don’t need to read any of the previous books to enjoy this one. All you need is a healthy appreciation for the absurd.

This isn’t a satire of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; it’s a full-out mugging. If you have a deep respect for Shakespeare in its original form, this might be a bit too much for you. Honestly, though, the Bard had a dirty mind himself, it seems to me. It’s about time someone pointed that out.

Pocket is still very much Pocket, meaning he’s a delightful mess. I love that character, and it was a blast to see him again. The author’s train of thought sometimes jumped its track, going from odd to utterly ridiculous, but in the very best way. If Monty Python wrote books of their skits instead of performing them on TV, the results might be something similar to this.

If you don’t care for dirty humor, this book won’t be up your alley. If you like books that lovingly mock Shakespeare, if you like irreverent humor, and if you find yourself cackling at risque comments, this book is for you.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic' Review: Silvia Moreno-Garcia Reinvigorates A ...

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.   
 
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
 
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. 
 
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind. (taken from Amazon)

I don’t usually give trigger warnings in my posts. However, I’m going to give one here because I really wish I’d been given one. This book contains more than one instance of sexual assault. If I had been aware of that going in, I would not have read this book. So. There’s that.

In many aspects, this is a typical gothic novel. It contains many of the things often found in creeptastic books. Isolated rundown mansion? Check. Help staff that has been there forever and is eerily silent? Check. Possible mental illness? Check. Tragic, violent past? Check. Hallucinations-or are they hauntings? Check.

However, Noemi is a fresh take on the heroine. She’s a little spoiled and quite used to getting her way. Being thwarted at every turn only serves to increase her determination to figure out what’s going on. I liked that it explained why she wouldn’t cut and run when it became clear that something wasn’t right.

The other cast of characters were original spins on the usual tropes. There’s Virgil, who personifies the word “vile”; Florence, a strict woman who really dislikes Noemi; Howard, the old and wizened patriarch; Frances, the pale tortured young man; and Constance, the cousin who might be having a nervous breakdown.

In case you haven’t realized it by now, I didn’t care for this book. I was disgusted by the sexual aspects in this book, I was not surprised by any of the “twists,” and the final reveal bordered on the ridiculous. That being said, the descriptions were well done. The author made sure to use all the sense when describing the setting, which made it feel much more real.

If you can handle harsher content, you might enjoy this book. As for me, I was underwhelmed.

 

Impostures by Al-Hariri (translated by Michael Cooperson)

Impostures (Library of Arabic Literature Book 65) - Kindle edition ...

Fifty rogue’s tales translated fifty ways

An itinerant con man. A gullible eyewitness narrator. Voices spanning continents and centuries. These elements come together in Impostures, a groundbreaking new translation of a celebrated work of Arabic literature.

 Impostures follows the roguish Abū Zayd al-Sarūjī in his adventures around the medieval Middle East—we encounter him impersonating a preacher, pretending to be blind, and lying to a judge. In every escapade he shows himself to be a brilliant and persuasive wordsmith, composing poetry, palindromes, and riddles on the spot. Award-winning translator Michael Cooperson transforms Arabic wordplay into English wordplay of his own, using fifty different registers of English, from the distinctive literary styles of authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf, to global varieties of English including Cockney rhyming slang, Nigerian English, and Singaporean English.

Featuring picaresque adventures and linguistic acrobatics, Impostures brings the spirit of this masterpiece of Arabic literature into English in a dazzling display of translation. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available for purchase now.

When I read the description of Impostures, I immediately thought of a comedic play and I think that colored my expectations a little. It was far from what I expected, and I feel very lucky to have read this enthralling book.

One of the fascinating things about this book is the number of styles translator Michael Cooperson uses: from Shakespeare to Twain, and everything in between. It was so very cool! I don’t know anything about the original text, aside from what is spoken of in the introduction, so I don’t know how closely Cooperson stuck to the original, but I could tell he put a lot of effort into keeping the spirit of it, so to speak.

It did take me a while to get through this book. It’s what I call a “smart read,” meaning it was difficult for me to focus on it during the noisy parts of my day (I have a toddler tornado). Much of what made this an intriguing read was the brilliant way language was used throughout.

Readers who like the feel of language as much as the dialogue in a story will like this book. There’s something about it that feels very special. I’m struggling to put what I mean into words, but it’s more than just a collection of stories. It’s incredibly unique and I wish I could have read this with other (smarter-than-me) people, just to have the opportunity to discuss its nuances.

This is one of those books that I’m glad I read, but will probably not read again. Some books are like that. I fully enjoyed it,  and recommend it to anyone who likes to stretch their reading muscles and try something different.

The Last to Die by Kelly Garrett

See the source image

Sixteen-year-old Harper Jacobs and her bored friends make a pact to engage in a series of not-quite illegal break-ins. They steal from each other’s homes, sharing their keys and alarm codes. But they don’t take anything that can’t be replaced by some retail therapy, so it’s okay. It’s thrilling. It’s bad. And for Harper, it’s payback for something she can’t put into words―something to help her deal with her alcoholic mother, her delusional father, and to forget the lies she told that got her druggie brother arrested. It’s not like Daniel wasn’t rehab bound anyway.

So everything is okay―until the bold but aggravating Alex, looking to up the ante, suggests they break into the home of a classmate. It’s crossing a line, but Harper no longer cares. She’s proud of it. Until one of the group turns up dead, and Harper comes face-to-face with the moral dilemma that will make or break her―and, if she makes the wrong choice, will get her killed. (taken from Amazon)

This was an oh dear book for me. The premise – a small group of friends, and the murderer is one of them – seemed interesting, but it lacked something in the execution. I’ll try to put my issues with this book into words, but please bear with me. My train of thought often jumps its track.

I will say that the author made a gutsy choice: not a single character is remotely likeable. I’m pretty sure that was deliberate. It was tough to read a book filled with horrible people, though. The closest thing to a decent character is the main character’s sister, Maggie. Unfortunately, she was side character who wasn’t in the book nearly enough to balance the feeling of ick the other characters ooze.

As horrible as the characters all are, the main character is the absolute worst. Her internal dialogue is filled with scathing insults of her “friends,” she starts fights, frequently thinks about ways she can make people mad, and is flat-out horrible. One line in the book reads, “Nah, she wouldn’t kill herself. No way. She’d find some other way to get revenge.” How flipping awful is that? I think that line was the breaking point for me. I can’t stand when books imply suicide-as-revenge. That trope needs to go. I kept reading in the hope that one of the characters would grow a moral compass, but it never fully happened.

In this book, a group of privileged, bored teens take turns breaking into each other’s houses on a dare. They steal from their rich parents and get a rush out of it. Eventually, that starts to bore them too, so they decide to steal from someone outside their clique. That leads to murder, and suddenly anyone in the group could be next. The final motive felt a little forced to me. I couldn’t figure out what the impetus was, everything switched up so quickly.

I will say that the author’s idea was an interesting one. It just really didn’t work for me. As much as I can understand why this book might be enjoyable for many people, there were too many things that rankled at me. I won’t go out of my way to read anything else by this author, although I wish her the best of luck with this book and her writing career.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper - Kindle edition by Gilman, Charlotte Perkins ...

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is told as a series of journal entries written by a woman who has gone to a country manor to recover from what is assumed at this time to be postpartum depression.  Her loving husband, John, follows the recommendation of doctors of the day (he is also a doctor), and sequesters the woman so that she might rest and recover. She is not supposed to exercise or write,  instead letting repose heal her. The woman (whose name is never learned) is not allowed to leave her room, which has yellow wallpaper. As time progresses, the woman becomes convinced that the wallpaper moves and there is someone in the wallpaper trying to get out.

I really can’t accurately describe the creepy feel of this story. While it is ultimately a tale of the deterioration of the woman’s mental state (due to the absolutely absurd treatment of mental illness in the late 1800’s, when this was written), there is an eerie vibe to it. The writing is astounding. I was immediately drawn in. I can see why this story is considered a classic.

When I began the book, I thought it was odd that the color of the wallpaper was such a big deal. However, I soon found that it makes perfect sense. The metaphors found throughout are amazing, conveying the hopelessness the woman felt regarding her situation.

It isn’t a happy-go-lucky story, but it is a compelling one. And the ending! Holy terror, Batman! Gilman’s writing is excellent. I highly recommend reading this story.

Awenydd and Conversations with a Country Boy by J.R. Maston

20200603_115948

“Awenydd” is an exploration of the self, growth, and measuring our internal perspective against the world around us. “Conversations With A Country Boy” is a collection of memories, recollections and thoughts on the culture and lives of the people growing up in rural Northern California.From the author of “Velvet” and “The Jar Curse.” (taken from Amazon)

I don’t often review poetry, probably because it’s such a personal medium. I find poetry to either be beautiful and real, or trite and annoying. There’s really no in-between for me. J.R. Maston’s poetry is of the beautiful and real variety.

What I loved about this collection was how incredibly raw it was. There was no holding back, or shying away. This isn’t a book about happy trees, or cute bunnies. It’s more like a conversation held late at night, when people are too tired to quiet themselves and their hidden thoughts and fears come out. Some of the poems felt so brutally honest that they were tough to read. I loved them, though.

This collection felt like a journey: you can walk it with the author. Themes of nostalgia, love, regret, loss, and healing can be found throughout. I can’t really say that I had a favorite poem: more like lines and snippets that stuck with me. At the moment,  parts from “Little Gray Dove” are circling though my mind.

“You know sometimes grief is like a little gray dove
we take him into the cup of our hand
we take all the time we need
whisper into him our sorrow”… (excerpt from “Little Gray Dove”)

I highly recommend this book, as well as the other collections by Maston: Velvet, and The Jar Curse.  

The Garden of Lost Memories by Ruby Hummingbird


The Garden of Lost Memories: A heartbreaking page turner about ...

Just because you feel ordinary doesn’t mean you aren’t extraordinary to someone else.

Sixty-two-year-old Elsie knows what she likes. Custard creams at four o’clock, jigsaw puzzles with a thousand pieces, her ivy-covered, lavender-scented garden.

Ten-year-old Billy would rather spend his Saturdays kicking a ball, or watching TV, or anything really, other than being babysat by his grumpy neighbour Elsie and being force fed custard creams.

If it was up to them, they’d have nothing to do with each other. Unfortunately, you can’t choose who you live next door to.

But there is always more to people than meets the eye…

Elsie doesn’t know that Billy’s afraid to go to school now, or why his mother woke him up in the middle of the night with an urgent shake, bags already packed, ready to flee their home.

Billy doesn’t know that the rusting red tin he finds buried in Elsie’s treasured garden is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode her carefully organised life. And that when he digs it up, he is unearthing a secret that has lain dormant for twenty-eight years…(taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

This is such a sweet story! It’s one of those books where the characters jump off the page and wander around in your heart. Elsie and Billy both need each other. What starts as a begrudging babysitting blossoms into a beautiful friendship throughout the course of the book. I don’t like the term “all the feels,”   but in this case it’s appropriate: this book made me feel both happy and sad, melancholy and hopeful. I really can’t put my finger on why, but The Garden of Lost Memories reminded me a bit of A Man Called Ove. 

The writing is simple but pretty, which suits the story. The way the characters are developed is nothing short of brilliant. That Elsie’s character is explained perfectly just by sharing her daily routine is pretty amazing.

Billy is a sweetheart. He had a lot of difficulties that he was dealing with, and seeing him warm up to Elsie was heartwarming. I love that they bonded over gardening. It made me wish I could grow…well, anything (I actually managed to kill a cactus once: I’ve got special skills).

This book moves slowly, the way relationships grow. I recommend this to anyone who needs a literary hug.