Sunday, March 30, 2014

Celebrating the Art of British Rock

The Art of British Rock – 50 Years of Rock Posters, Flyers and Handbills – Mike Evans (Frances Lincoln Limited)

Clearly rock ‘n’ roll is a unique musical form of art, but over the course of it’s history it has spawned a second, equally ambitious form of art in the form of album covers, posters and the visual representations that accompany the music.

Veteran music writer Mike Evans examines the form in his latest book, The Art of British Rock – 50 Years of Rock Posters, Flyers and Handbills; a historical archive of over 350 examples to illustrate not only the five decades, but the notable artists and the range of styles through the years.

Evans delivers an amazing journey through the changes that are part and parcel of the transition through the early sixties stacked poster style through the psychedelic era and on into the progressive giants like Yes, Hawkwind and Genesis.

The Art of British Rock showcases the a stunning array of artistic styles and development of the rock art form; ranging from the very simple concert bill to the complex, multi-layered, digital graphics of the current era. While certainly the Brits are to be recognized and celebrated for the musical British Invasion and later the Punk/New Wave movement; they should also be credited for offering up numerous easily recognizable, signature rock art styles highlighted here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Get Your Man Skills On

The Manual to Manhood – Jonathan Catherman (Revell Books)

Thumbing through Jonathan Catherman’s, The Manual to Manhood is an interesting mix of entertaining advice and sadness. This is a collection of 100  manly skills that will help the ordinary, average, guy in ten focus areas.

Call me old school, but I found some of these things a bit sad that we have come to the point where we need a book to guide us through things like changing a tire, properly tie a necktie or even the most basic hygiene things. It may be a statement about where we are as a society because most of this stuff, are things we should have grown up learning from our Dads.

Catherman covers the gamut from women to social skills and work and ethics to managing money and the basics of household and auto repair. He doles out the basics with a been there, done that level of experience and easy to follow diagrams.

The Manual to Manhood reads a bit like a souped up version of a Boy Scout Manual on steroids and would make a great gift for a father to a son

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Thriller Soup

Doing Harm – Kelly Parsons [Read by Robert Petkoff] (MacMillan Audiobooks/St. Martin’s Press)

Dr. Kelly Parsons is a board certified urologist from Southern California, who in his spare time has knocked out a winning first novel, Doing Harm. The book is a creative mix of the medical thrills of Tess Gerritsen and Michael Palmer, the intrigue of The Firm, with a dash of Fatal Attraction all shaken with very special skillset from Taken.

Steve Mitchell, a chief resident at Boston’s University Hospital seems to be on the perfect career trajectory; he’s a hotshot surgeon, wife a perfect family, in line for his dream job when suddenly things go spinning off course. Fatally. Off. Course.
A beautiful, sexy and a little too perfect med student enters Mitchell’s storybook life and before long reveals her true colors. Now Mitchell must match wits with this deranged psychopath to not only save his own happy existence, but also the lives of his patients.

Add to the mix a mysterious fellow resident, a former Marine who brings an interesting set of skills to the tale and you’ve got enough twists and turns to jockey yourself up to the edge of your seat. Michael Petkoff does a perfect job as narrator of the audiobook, giving Mitchell’s character just the mix of cocky surgeon and desperate doctor to drive the story forward.

This one may have you alternately talking back to the audio for the obviously glaring mistaken choices and reaching for the power switch when thrills go far off the rails. This one is a keeper.


Riders on the Storm

Storm Kings: America’s First Tornado Chasers – Lee Sandlin (Vintage Books)

The allure seems hard to not only understand, but also to explain; tornadoes hold a unique fascination, a spellbinding mix of wonder and fear in the hearts and minds of many people. Some give into the urge and try to seek answers and understanding of how tornadoes work and how we can get a better handle on how we can do a better job of warning people and saving lives.

While today’s modern day storm chasers roll out with hopped up recreational vehicles, loaded up with high tech weather gear, the early versions of these weather adventurists tackled things with simple observations and the most basic of gear as they tried to wrap their heads around the phenomenon that occurred in front of them.

Author Lee Sandlin turns his focus on those early pioneers in Storm Kings: America’s First Tornado Chasers. Having grown up in an era where there was a scientific understanding of tornadoes, what conditions caused there formation and how they work, it may seem hard to believe that it wasn’t all that long ago that tornadoes had an almost mystical quality.

Aside from the fascinating history that Sandlin details, it is the ongoing evolution of the science of tornadoes that is so insightful. Placed against the back drop of today’s ridiculous certitude that global climate change is not only occurring, but portends a growing doom scenario; the evolution of the science of tornadoes as gone through an amazing transition that proves that there truly is no such thing as settled science and our grasp of meteorological science is tenuous at best.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Never Again Story

The Girls of Atomic City – The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II - Denise Kiernan (Touchstone Books)

Most of us have heard or seen some variation of the story of the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb. Most often it focuses on the gathering of brilliant physicists to tackle not on the development of the nuclear material, but also the delivery system. It is the tale of Robert Oppenheimer.

The so-called “untold story”, until now, the one of the tens of thousands of women, and men, who left their homes, their families, their friends and on the promise of work and a steady pay check left for a mysterious destination of Oakridge, Tennessee.

It’s hard to believe that a story like this could ever be duplicated. Can you for one minute imagine that in today’s day and age, anyone would accept on blind faith the notion of being sent to a secretive location that really did not exist on any map, based on the simple promise of important work, that anyone in their right mind would line up to hop on a train. That is a driving tale in the story of The Girls of Atomic City – The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan.

Kiernan paints a picture of not only a different era, but of the individual stories of those seemingly daring and often heroic people who dedicated a portion of their lives in the pursuit of contributing to the resolution of world conflict. It is laced with intimate portraits of these dynamic women, the seemingly overnight development of a facility that would be workplace and home to some 75,000 people as the project evolved. It is truly a remarkable tale.  

Terror Storm

Snowblind – A Novel – Christopher Golden (St. Martin's Press)

Growing up and spending most of my life in a Northeast snow belt, I always thought that a howling winter snow storm would be the perfect setting for a book. There is just something about experiencing a storm, the bone chill of the air kicked up a notch by the sounds made on a dark and stormy night; the way the snowflakes play off a car’s headlights and reflect back.

Author Christopher Golden does a magical job of capturing that eerie loneliness of being out in a blustering storm at night in the pages of his latest, Snowblind.

Set in the oh so familiar New England town of Coventry, a vicious storm of the ages, twelve years ago, saw friends and family members wander off into the snow, never to be heard from again. Now with every new storm the town is gripped with fear and the latest icy blast of winter may be bringing back more than just bad memories.

Golden’s writing style lends a comfortable as an old boot feel to the proceedings, with his classic chill inducing twists. A cover endorsement from horror master Stephen King may draw not only unfair comparisons, but also unfair negative reactions. Golden offers the requisites twists and shocks to the system to make Snowblind stand on its own two feet as a chill inducing classic that will be a memorable part of this long cold winter.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fiction Finds From a Snow Drift

Despite the popular notion that fiction strictly falls into the domain of the beachgoer, here is word from a mound of Northeast snow that fiction is alive and well even at the tail end of a too long winter. Here’s a selection straight from the snow drift:

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse – A Novel – Wayne Gladstone (Thomas Dunne Books)

Imagine…one day the internet just stopped working. Refresh if you want to, but you’ll be met with and endless loading signal that never connects. No warnings, no announcements; a few days in and reality starts to set in. Wayne Gladstone, our author and lead character starts to blog the events of the day the old school way, chronicling the comings and goings in a notebook in the form of Notes from the Internet Apocalypse.

A rumor that someone still has the internet sets Gladstone off on a search for answers; along the way he gathers up a collection of fellow travelers; folks who previously made their living via the world wide web. On this journey Gladstone concocts a downright funny tale as the group confronts a series of internet culture reference points including: Reddit circles, “live” Youtube videos, and hackers unplugged.

Gladstone’s debut is an entertaining Rickroll through the wonderful world of internet iconography.

The Amazing Harvey – Don Passman (Minotaur Books)

Don Passman is a music industry legal heavyweight and bestselling author of All You Need to Know About the Music Business, who serves up his third novel The Amazing Harvey a murder mystery with an unlikely hero/suspect.

Harvey Kendall is a part-time substitute teacher and magician who aspires to a Vegas showroom. Kendall is one the verge of breaking out to magic stardom when he is accused of a vicious murder; his DNA recovered from the crime scene.

Kendall is the perfect wisecracking schlub and Passman serves up enough twists and turns to satisfy any mystery fan and keep you guessing what is real and what is an illusion.

NYPD Red 2 – James Patterson and Marshall Karp (Little Brown Books)

Murder victims are being deposited around New York City, left in tableau settings and decked out in white Tyvek suits. When one of those victims turns out to be a politically connected, filthy rich daughter and wife of a pair of NYC’s wealthiest men; the call goes out to the elite NYPD Red squad to solve the case.

The “victims” all have one thing in common; crime. Even the rich broad was videotaped by her killer admitting to offing her lesbian lover. These “criminal/victims” are being cleaned up by the HAZMAT killer.


NYPD Red 2 serves up the typical Patterson formula, plenty of plot twists, fast pacing and colorful characters.

Runner – Patrick Lee (Minotaur Books)

Patrick Lee, author of The Breach series, is back with a new set featuring ex-special forces soldier Sam Dryden, which kicks off with Runner. Dryden thought he had settled in to the quite life of an ex-military man; but he is haunted by the violent death of his wife and child. Unable to sleep yet again, Dryden laces up for a run and along the way finds himself thrust headlong into a high stakes thrill ride.

Lee delivers the goods with a spare, economical writing style. He’ll send a chill down your spine with a look inside some of the powerful technology in the hands of the bad guys, that given today’s headlines, take on a very real feel.

As Dryden and the mysterious young girl with an interesting skillset literally take off on a runner, you’ll wonder how long they can keep up the pace. This one is a great mix that will have fans of Jack Reacher and Mitch Rapp cheering for more.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Cookbook You Can’t Refuse!

How to Use a Meat Cleaver – Secrets and Recipes from a Mob Family’s Kitchen – Renee, Lana, and Jennifer Graziano (Perigee Books)

Full Disclosure: I am not a fan of reality television in general and of these ladies in particular. I can’t quite muster what the appeal of these over-baring broads really is. That being said I am truly struck at how good this collection of old school, family recipes is.

In How to Use a Meat Cleaver – Secrets and Recipes from a Mob Family’s Kitchen by Mob Wives “stars”  Renee, Lana, and Jennifer Graziano collect a wide variety of classic meal recipes and new twist dishes. While the recipes are pretty straight forward and simple; the flavors are complex and delicious.

While many Italian Grandmothers and Mothers guard their secret family recipe for classic “Sunday Gravy” the foundation sauce of so many classic dinners, the Graziano's serve up their tasty concoction, that results in a monster pot of sauce that will serve a Sunday family-size dinner with plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week.

Warning! Vegans need not apply! The book serves up sections on sea food, beef, veal, pork, chicken and lamb recipes; many of which feature sausage, prosciutto, and mounds of cheese! While I’ll pass on their TV show, I will raise a glass of red and a thumbs up to this cookbook.