Monday, December 21, 2015

Relax and Reflect

Whatever is Lovely: A Coloring Book of Reflection and Worship – WaterBrook Press (WaterBrook Press)

I am amazed by the meteoric rise in popularity of the so-called adult coloring book. In a world that finds itself delivering a fire hose of information to the average person on a daily basis to think that busy adults would take a time out to work within the boundaries and color within the lines seems a bit confounding.

A visit to your favorite book store will find you confronted with a huge assortment of these books ranging from flowers and animals to Dr. Who and Star Wars entries. Taking the phenomenon in a different direction is Whatever is Lovely: A Coloring Book of Reflection and Worship, which mixes hand drawn images with words of reflection, inspiration and worship.

It is an ingenious mix that catches busy folks at a point where they take a breather and offers them the opportunity to reflect on their Christian values and themes. This seeming double dip in the relaxation pool hits on all the right cords.

For those who a rushing to run down that thoughtful last minute gift, but don’t want to get caught in the last minute gift trap, pair this with a pack of colored pencils and you are good to go; it is a gift that friends will remember every time they crack it open.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Curiouser and Curiouser

The Thing Explainer – Complicated Stuff In Simple Words – Randall Munroe – (Houghton Mifflin)

A few words of advice upfront: as much as you may love your Kindle or Nook, or e-reader device, DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK IN THE ELECTRONIC FORMAT! Yes, I feel better now. This book clearly deserves to be viewed in all of its big, bold, hardcover glory.

I love these kinds of books and have spent hours hunched over the how things are made or how things work style books and Pete Frame’s rock music family trees still hold a fascination for the music fan in me. So it’s only natural that I would be attracted to Randall Munroe’s The Thing Explainer – Complicated Stuff In Simple Words.

Picking up where his wildly popular web comic xkcd leaves off, Munroe, the former NASA roboticist churns out explanations for things ranging from “boxes that make clothes smell better” to the bags of stuff inside you…you’ll have to read to see exactly what he’s talking about, Munroe utilizes his blueprint style drawing, doodles and do-dads combined with the “ten hundred” words people most commonly use to explain…well…things!

Deep, impenetrable science? Not hardly. I think Munroe’s goal here and in his other vehicles, or should I say methods of information delivery…is to take the often complex and make it understandable and even throw in a dash of fun/humor. While some deep thinkers may be put off by Munroe’s simplicity and decidedly non-serious approach, I think he truly achieves what he set out to accomplish. This one is perfect for the budding scientist on your list or those whose curiosity you want to inspire.

A Flash of Magic

The Spy House – A Spycatcher Novel – Matthew Dunn (William Morrow)

A special team of spies, gathered from four different security/spy services from around the globe, are tasked with getting to the answer; did Hamas kill the Israeli diplomat to France and push the Jewish state onto a wartime footing. The team is conducting surveillance from a specially constructed, basement vault that can only be opened from within. When communications break down, the group who designed and built the vault cut their way in and discover all four members of the team are now dead.

Did someone snap, did a gun battle break out and why are fingers pointing in the direction of one of his former cohorts in the CIA; those are the questions that Will Cochrane is tasked with finding answers to in the new Matthew Dunn thriller, The Spy House – A Spycatcher Novel.
Dunn, a former MI6 field officer in his own right, brings a level of authenticity to latest installment in the ongoing Spycather series that seems to be missing from other purveyors in in this realm of fiction. While others tend to sound forced when it comes to the action a tools of thrill, Dunn delivers a lean, spare approach reminiscent of the masters of the field.

The locked room mystery is a classic storyline in the world of magic, so it is fitting that Dunn uses a little bit of illusion to tie the storyline together. The Will Cochrane character continues to evolve, at once brutal to the point of ruthlessness and the next a seemingly contradictory, carrying, normal guy which makes him a full-fledged human being.



A View from the Front

The Death of Cancer – After Fifty Years on the Frontlines of Medicine, a Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer is Winnable – and How We Can Get There – Vincent T. DeVita Jr, M.D. (Sarah Crichton Books)

It is a pretty safe bet to say that everyone has been impacted by cancer. A family member, a friend, a neighbor, or you personally have been diagnosed by cancer. The mere diagnosis can be devastating and often the treatment can be worse; decimating the body and the mind of the patient. Now imagine what it must be like to having to deliver that diagnosis and make it your life’s work to trying to defeat cancer.

You no longer have to imagine what that is like, because Dr. Vincent T. DeVita Jr offers up The Death of Cancer – After Fifty Years on the Frontlines of Medicine, a Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer is Winnable – and How We Can Get There. Dr. DeVita is a pioneer in the field of searching for a cure and treating the disease; along the way he partnered in the development of a combination chemotherapy protocol that put Hodgkins lymphoma patients disease into remission.
Signs that treatments have cancer on the run are all around us; survivals rates are up, many forms the disease that were once a death sentence are now treatable and yet the disease and the dread that accompanies it persist. DeVita spells out his take on the progress we have made in the fight and why he believes there are roadblocks in the way of further progress. DeVita makes the case for bold action in the face of scientists and physicians who are often restrained or timid when it comes to taking big risks that could offer big results.

Those who have been closely impacted by the disease will be inspired by DeVita’s desire and drive to deliver on the promise of the cure. Some, myself included, will be frustrated by DeVita’s descriptions of the of protective nature that some cradle their fiefdoms and the associated finances often at the expense of promising, bold, steps in the search for a cure.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Pile of Rock 'n' Roll

Not sure if it’s due to the holiday gift giving season of just a chance of circumstance and timing, but recently there has been a gold mine of interesting rock music biographies and music related books. The tomes cover a wide spectrum of musical styles and an equally diverse approach to writing.

Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography – Fred Schruers (Three Rivers Press)

Having spent the first part of my career working as a radio disc jockey and working as a contributing reviewer and columnist for a daily newspaper I spent countless hours playing music, writing about music, seeing live shows and generally immersed in music. That said, I definitely have a skewed perspective on the subject of music that runs the gamut from an almost visceral hatred to pure joy at hearing certain sounds.

Billy Joel is tends to cut a swath across the entire spectrum; working in rock and classic rock radio, it’s nearly impossible to avoid his music. One more spin of Uptown Girl could put me over the edge, but the fact is I have been a huge fan of his music since I first saw him play live a local university for the grand sum of 50 cents.

Veteran rock writer Fred Schruers serves up Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography; while I’m not sure the book lives up to its gaudy title, it does give us some entertaining insight into Joel’s career and his personal life. I have to admit I tend to lean towards things musical in nature, while it was almost impossible to miss the details of his marriage to super-model Christie Brinkley, I was surprised to learn that Joel is a serial groom.

Schruers stacked his claim in rock journalism writing for Rolling Stone and other high profile magazines and at times the book takes on an articles quality; offering snippets of details on Joel’s career and the characters he crossed paths with, that don’t always hang together in the most cohesive fashion. Overall, I still found Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography to be an enlightening read.

Girl in a Band: A Memoir – Kim Gordon (Dey Street Books)

Rocker, artist, writer, fashion icon and renaissance women, Kim Gordon, a founding member of critics favorite, Sonic Youth offers up her self-penned tale; Girl in a Band: A Memoir, which takes along for the ride through her seemingly never a dull moment life.

As I previously mentioned, having spent so much time inundated with music, I bring a skewed perspective to what I like and dislike. For me, Sonic Youth was one of those bands that critics got all dewy and moist about as they waxed poetically about the band’s dissonant stylings; whatever that is. I remember seeing the band open for someone along the way and the only thing I can remember about their set was the fact that I hoped it would end soon.

Years later, I find it interesting that any number of bands that I do find entertaining, cite Sonic Youth as an influence, so I was intrigued to learn more about Gordon. Girl in a Band, reads like we are allowed to look over Gordon’s shoulder as she journal’s her thoughts on life. At times it’s a cut and dried slice straight out of a tour diary and at other’s Gordon delivers a caustic remembrance of a situation she finds herself dropped into.

The book is chronologically challenged at times as it bounces through various years. Clearly Gordon carries a boulder sized chip on her shoulder when it comes to her ex-husband and band mate Thurston Moore. While Moore’s philandering gives her good reason for hatred, the pathology of it is as striking as a gut punch. Gordon as clearly lead an interesting life.

Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits With The Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, the Faces… - Glynn Johns (Plume)

Flipping through the pages of veteran producer, engineer and sound mixer Glynn Johns life story, Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits With The Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, the Faces…, I was struck by a sense of familiarity in the stories. While I was familiar with much of his work, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why so much of the book was so familiar to me.

Then I realized, having read so many books about so many of the artists Johns has worked with over the years, I had heard many of these stories from another perspective. It is the early years of his story that Johns offers up some of the most interesting stories about his amazing career. It is astounding the number of times Johns was in the right place at the right time, picking up sessions engineering because someone took ill or didn’t work weekends that put him squarely in the path of some of rock’s future legends.

Johns’ willingness to experiment in those early days helped him to develop and hone the skills that he would bring to so many legendary recording sessions and albums. Along the way he details what amounts to the evolution of the music industry; a process he had a front row seat for.

Sting and the Police: Walking in Their Footsteps – Aaron J. West (Rowman & Littlefield)  

Not so much a biography of one of the most successful band’s of the 80s; Sting and the Police: Walking in Their Footsteps by Aaron J. West is a textbook look at the musical style and the careers of both the band and Sting as a solo artist. I guess it should come a no surprise that West in a professor of music history, as well as a professional musician when you take in the depth to which he delves to look at the band’s influential path.

While I am a huge fan of both the Police and Sting’s solo music, I was jolted when West mentioned the fact that the band released just five studio albums before they broke up. FIVE! Yet he makes the case that their collective of musical influences gave the trio such a compelling sound that they in turn have influenced a new generation of artists and bands that followed.

West makes his case and it seems almost impossible for a band that gave us Every Breath You Take, a song so widely played on the radio, that it was said theoretically you could drive from one end of the country to the other and tuning around the dial hear the song being played non-stop. If you’re looking for a written version of Behind the Music, offering up the band’s rise and fall, you won’t find it hear. If you’re looking for thoughtful analysis of the band’s music and career Sting and the Police: Walking in Their Footsteps delivers.

Listen Out Loud: A Life in Music- Managing McCartney, Madonna, and Michael Jackson – Ron Weisner (Lyons Press)

What the heck was up with that mullet?! Was one on the first thoughts I had diving into Ron Weisner’s memoir of his career in and around the music business. Photos included in the book show Weisner sporting not only a memorable bad hair day, but some early 80s Miami Vice style threads that left me chuckling.

While Weisner clearly has made a career out being in proximity of some amazing performers, some have raised questions of Weisner’s version of events. Of course when you offer up thoughts on the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna that don’t paint them in the best light possible, then you open yourself up to attack by fanatical fans.

One that I did take away from Listen Out Loud: A Life in Music- Managing McCartney, Madonna, and Michael Jackson, was Weisner’s thoughts on music and what separates those who have a hit record and those who have a legendary career. His take on today’s so-called artists and the current state of the music business are right on point.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tidy House: A Metaphor for a Happy Life

Life Changing Magic: A Journal: Spark Joy Everyday

Marie Kondo is a master organizer. Let me say that again to be perfectly clear…Marie Kondo is a master organizer. So…what is it about being a master organizer that has sparked a firestorm of followers and believers not only in Kondo’s proprietary techniques for whipping not just your closets and drawers into shape, but actually enhancing your life on many levels.

Life Changing Magic: A Journal: Spark Joy Everyday is the follow up to Kondo’ s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and the precursor to Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.

The journal collects and intersperses inspirational quotes among the numbered and dated pages spread over the course of the calendar year. No matter if you gravitate towards the tidying up, metaphor for a happy life or if your just looking for a sturdy journal to capture your days, this one should spark joy in your life.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Captured Beauty

Art Students League of New York on Painting: Lessons and Meditations on Mediums, Styles, and Methods – James L. McElhinney (Watson Guptill)

Need bona fides? The Art Students League of New York is an art school whose founding dates back to 1875 and along the way the artists who train artists have nurtured the likes of Georgia O’Keefe and Jackson Pollack among many others along the way. That should tell you everything you need to know.

Now James L. McElhinny takes you inside the classrooms and offers insights from the artists/teachers that carry on the traditions of the school in; Art Students League of New York on Painting: Lessons and Meditations on Mediums, Styles, and Methods.

This compendium offers a range of mediums, styles, techniques and artistic insights. The gamut is truly amazing and beautifully illustrated. The artists offer entertaining insights into not only the League, but into the city that it calls home.

While the range of styles is all encompassing and offers some amazing work, easily my favorite is the near photographic rendering of Fredrick Bosen, who offers up classic watercolor realism. Brosen’s works feature watercolor over graphite and capture a richness and texture of classic New York front porches.

Deeply detailed and widely varied, Art Students League of New York on Painting is perfect for the experienced and beginning painter alike or for those who simply enjoy works of stunning beauty.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Journey to the Center of the Mind

Trauma and Memory: Brain and Body in a Search for the Living: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Working with Traumatic Memory – Peter A. Levine, PhD (North Atlantic Books)

“I have this terrible headache and I’m seeing flashing lights” with that I sat up and reached for my office phone as I spoke with my wife on my cell and she began to slur her words. I had an assistant who had vividly described what she experienced when she had a stroke; so I suspected that’s what was happening to my wife. I quickly dialed 9 1 1 and started on a journey to try and understand what happens when someone suffers a traumatic brain injury.

It’s nearly impossible to pick up a newspaper or visit a website and not be confronted by stories of professional athletes, military personnel or average folks who are confronted by a traumatic injury involving the brain. Yet based on even the most advanced science our hard knowledge of the how the brain works is relatively uncharted territory. The impact of disease, injury, and drugs remains unclear and how to treat these injuries and chemical incursions into the cranium are still by in large guess work.

So it was with personal experience through my wife and a curiosity to learn more about the brain that I gravitated towards Trauma and Memory: Brain and Body in a Search for the Living: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Working with Traumatic Memory by Peter A. Levine, PhD. While Levine doesn’t directly address the impact of stroke on the brain, he did offer insight into the functioning of memories and the role they can play in the treatment of trauma to the brain.

Certainly not something for the casual reader, Trauma and Memory, covers a wide range of traumatic injuries and their impact on functional memory. It is perfect for clinical professionals and those who want to garner a better, deeper understanding of what they or a loved one may be going through in the wake of brain injury or illness.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Sum of Its Parts

The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting: Techniques for Rendering Sky, Terrain, Trees, and Water – Suzanne Brooker (Watson-Guptill)

The late, great, and very mellow Bob Ross amazed a generation of PBS viewers with his ability to dab, daub and swipe color on canvas and seemingly magically transform that blank slate into a beautiful painting. At the heart of the Ross “magic” was breaking down the overall painting into its most basic elements and in the end it is the sum of those elements that end up in the final painting.

Artist, teacher and author Suzanne Brooker offers up insights into how to break landscapes down to the basics and build things up step by step to the finished project in The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting: Techniques for Rendering Sky, Terrain, Trees, and Water.
Brooker certainly has the skillset to demonstrate the techniques she describes with her own brush, but she delves deeper into demonstrating the  skill by utilizes other artists work as examples. By stripping things down Brooker can help the beginner to develop basic skills and the more advanced painter to refine and hone their skills.

Both beautiful and useful, The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting: Techniques for Rendering Sky, Terrain, Trees, and Water makes for a great choice for painters at all levels of skill.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Life Lessons of the Navy SEALs

Unbreakable – A Navy SEAL’s Way of Life – Thom Shea (Little Brown)

As I delved into Unbreakable – A Navy SEAL’s Way of Life, by retired Navy SEAL Thom Shea I could quite shake the feeling of familiarity that the book brought to mind. There was just something about Shea offering up not only stories of his life in battle, but his desire to tell his story to his children why he chose the path he did and why he fought the battles he did to keep not only his children, but all of us safe.

And then it struck me, Shea had authored a Navy SEAL’s version of Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. While Pausch was dying from terminal cancer and wanted to leave behind life guidance for his kids, Shea was a warrior on the frontlines of war, facing not only enemies with total disregard for human life, but also the very real possibility that he might not return.
Shea not only takes us inside those frontline battles in a memoir, but he offers personal insights into his thought process and the things he did to protect the men in his command, but to offer advice to his children and us all how we could apply his training and actions to our life. The result is a very personal story and a great insight into the mind and actions of a warrior and what makes them tick.

The Making of a Navy SEAL - Brandon Webb (Griffin/St. Martin’s)

Retired Navy SEAL Brandon Webb has literally been the man who tells the story of the Navy SEALs. While many other former operators have taken up the pen, Webb has truly told the story of these special men from just about every possible angle; personal, historical, and clearly insider in action and in training some of the deadliest snipers in the history of warfare.

Now, he re-visits his personal story that he first told in The Red Circle, which was part autobiography and part story of his training of SEAL snipers; in The Making of a Navy SEAL, which he adapted for the young adult reader.

Webb writes with economy and delivers a sense of adventure that is sure to appeal to the young reader. His story of overcoming hardship and setting/achieving goals could easily inspire not only the next generation of warriors, but translates well to setting a path to a successful life, without coming off preachy or like a bad self-help book. If you have a young adult in need of direction in your life, I can’t think of a better Christmas gift.

Extreme Ownership – How the U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (St. Martin’s Press)

For me, the goal of any leadership book should be to impart not only practical, but also actionable information that I can put into play today. The question posed by Extreme Ownership – How the U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, a pair of former SEAL commanders is can the battle hardened leadership skills of been there done that warriors, translate to the to the work place?

Anyone who has ever tackled a leadership book (and I have shelves full) will know that it is easy for these books to stray off course and end up in the weeds of minutiae. Not the case here; Willink and Babin set the table for a series of leadership principles by relating a real life (at least their real life) battle field tale, the decision making process they went through in the moment and how you as a leader can apply that to your team/business.

The result is a very impactful approach to leadership and team building. The good news is you don’t have to go through the hell on earth of the Battle of Ramadi to apply these processes, Willink and Babin have done that for you; you gain from their experience, no body armor necessary.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Total Package

Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count…Without Stressing Out – Giada De Laurentiis (Pam Krauss Books)

I have developed a simple, fool proof way to judge a cookbook; it boils down to one simple question, would I actually eat that? The question takes into account a variety of variables:

·       Is it something I can make?

·       Food is a very visual experience, so how does it look; which takes into account the photography and design of the book.

·       Are the recipes clear, understandable and executable?

·       Is the book fun? Cooking (and eating for that matter) what I do for fun to get away from the day to day work grind, so I have to enjoy the experience or why bother doing it.

Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count…Without Stressing Out by Food Network celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis really hits high marks on all of those fronts. Giada is one of those folks who consistently churns out cookbooks and recipes on her TV shows that are actual things that I would make and eat.

She truly gets it when it comes to the fun part of cooking; there is a level of authenticity that you can get from the way she cooks and the way she explains the process of making the recipes in the book. I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t mention that it doesn’t hurt that she is absolutely an ultimate women; a gorgeous lady who can cook. In my book, the total package!

Happy Cooking covers a lot of ground, serving up everything from tasty, healthy breakfast ideas, main course meals and even special occasion tips. She also offers up ways to de-stress holiday and special event meals so that anyone can deliver the goods that will get rave reviews.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

The cliché “familiarity breeds contempt” has been thrown around for years indicating that with the passage and repetition of time, sooner or later even things that you like will take on an air of being tired, shop worn, threadbare and deserving of scorn. Writers who dabble in the ongoing series run the risk of storylines becoming a bit too familiar or even reaching the point of being so redundant that you swear you’ve read this story before.

The Golem of Paris – Jonathan Kellerman & Jesse Kellerman – (Putnam)

I have to admit, I tried to read and like the first outing in what apparently will be a series of books from the father and son pairing of Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman, The Golem of Hollywood, but it left me a bit flat and more than a little confused. After reading the new installment, The Golem of Paris I find myself pondering dusting off the first to have another go.

This became a more intriguing prospect due to the fact that this is truly a genre busting read. There is a crackling level of suspense that is injected into the storyline and LAPD special Projects Detective, Jacob Lev is every bit as dark and possessed of a whole bag full of issues all his own that you can’t help but be drawn into character.

Don’t feel that you have to start at the beginning, because The Golem of Paris truly does stand on its own and will be a solid change of pace from the very familiar characters of the gentlemen Kellerman.

Depraved Heart – A Scarpetta Novel – Patricia Cornwell (William Morrow)

Depraved Heart is the 23rd installment in Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. While 23 books based on a long running character is certainly an almost unparalleled achievement, only Sue Grafton’s alphabet series comes to mind, this series has started to take on lived in, been there done that feel.

While Scarpetta’s medical examiner solving crimes evolved into some amazing and classic psychological thrillers, recently for me they have become a little too similar, a little too familiar and bordering on redundant.

For a book billed with the line “In the most terrifying 24 hours of her life” the storyline here moves at a ploddingly slow pace. With that billing you’d expect things to move with a little more velocity.

It certainly raises the question, at what point do you put even a successful character to rest and move on in a new direction? Or will diehard fans continue to gravitate towards the tried and true.

One Killer Force – Dalton Fury (St. Martin’s Press)

While from a distinctly different genre than the other two, One Killer Force by former Delta Force commander Dalton Fury, a guy with all the been there done that credibility of a warrior who was among the ranking officers at the battle of Tora Bora; there is one thing that drives me nuts about Fury’s ongoing series featuring Kolt Raynor, the ongoing, inter-service rivalry gags and comments.

Alright already, we get it. The Delta gang thinks the SEA/Ls are a bunch of wet behind the ears swimmers. The snide remarks and “inside” jokes really don’t add anything to the storyline, especially when the plot includes the Joint Chiefs pondering the unthinkable and combining the special forces into one…you guessed it…Killer Force.

It’s easy to see why Raynor earned the nickname “Racer” as the story moves a break neck pace. One Killer Force is the perfect mix of authentic feel action, brazen fly by the seat of your pants and worry about picking up the pieces later, that might drive traditional military discipline types over the edge. But hey, that’s what this great fiction is all about!




Monday, November 9, 2015

The Sixties Comes Alive

On the Road with Janis Joplin – John Byrne Cooke (Berkley Books)

Live at the Fillmore East and West: Getting Backstage and Personal with Rock’s Greatest Legends – John Glatt (Lyons Press)

Just when you thought that the 60s rock era has been examined from every possible perspective along comes another author who dusts off a different perspective on a familiar story line.

On the Road with Janis Joplin penned by John Byrne Cooke who acted as tour manager for Joplin from 1967 until her untimely passing at the ripe old age of 27. Cooke first crossed paths with Joplin when he was part of the film crew assembled by D A Pennebaker to capture the historic Monterey International Pop music festival and the legendary performances of not only Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, but the landmark Jimi Hendrix set. Six months later, Cooke signed on to manage the group’s tours.

Joplin had moved on from Big Brother to strike out on a solo career by the time Woodstock rolled around and he offers an amazingly intimate portrait of life on the road with one of rock’s most legendary performers. It is from that close up perspective that Cooke offers up the amazing cast of characters, both musicians and music business types that were in Joplin’s orbit at a heady time period in music history.

It is that cross pollination that is the focus of John Glatt’s Live at the Fillmore East and West: Getting Backstage and Personal with Rock’s Greatest Legends. Glatt weaves the tales of legendary music impresario Bill Graham, one of the most bombastic and combative figures in the history of the music business, with the likes of Carlos Santana, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead at the genesis of their careers.

Aside from outsized personalities, Glatt also details the historic Fillmore venues in New York City and San Francisco, which became synonymous with landmark performances. These two halls play a huge, star-making role in so many future hall of fame performer’s careers, that it can’t be understated.

In the end it is those outsized, over the top personalities that Glatt captures so well the propels the entertaining tale. While Graham is either beloved of outright hated, Glatt captures the promoters enterprising genius, and willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed. Along the way it amounted to stellar successes, world famous tantrums, and rock bottom lows.  


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Shinning a Light, Before the Lights Go Out

Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath – Ted Koppel (Crown Books)

It has been called a warning, a wakeup call, a must read and the scariest story of 2015.  Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath, by veteran newsman Ted Koppel is all of those things, plus an education about exactly how hooked we are on the power grid teat and how unprepared we are as a nation at many levels should the plug get pulled.

Think about your house and your life; one minor disruption, say a storm causing the power to go out for even a couple hours or even less, something your internet connection to unexpectedly go offline and how quick we and our families are to overreact. Seemingly minor inconveniences become, cue REM here; the end of the world as we know it.

Koppel delves much deeper in to the not if, but when scenario of a cyberattack or electro-magnetic pulse (EPM) knocking out the power grid. Suddenly we aren’t just in the dark, we’ve lost the ability to communicate, in many instances to cook, to have potable water, to commute, to in the worst cases to be safe in our own homes. How will you react? Your family members, your neighbors as the recovery stretches on to days, or weeks, or months?

Store shelves quickly empty, drinking water is in short supply, sanitation is a pleasant memory. Koppel does an in depth examination of the multiple layers of the problem in both the personal and public sectors; along the way illuminating how woefully unprepared the government, that so many have become dependent on, to take useful action to offer assistance.

Koppel also takes a look at folks who are preparing themselves and their families for this type of disaster and many other form of disaster that could come our way. If you came here hoping that Koppel might offer up some sort of prepper handbook, you will be disappointed; there are plenty of useful books on that topic available if you choose to pursue that route.

Like any good warning shots, Lights Out in the end is only as useful as those who take the wakeup call and actually do something with it. Unfortunately for our sakes I have my doubts about the government/politicians looking beyond their own self-interests and I know that the reality TV and selfie obsessed general public are likely to end up the first victims of any disaster that comes our way.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fruits, Nuts and Seeds Oh My

Everyday Super Food – Jamie Oliver (Ecco/Harper Collins)

Jamie Oliver hit the food world like a bolt of lightning just a few short years ago and he quickly became a worldwide sensation and a massive success with his popular cooking shows and his bestselling cookbooks.

Success and acclaim gave Oliver the high profile platform he thought he needed to launch the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and begin to campaign against obesity and for healthier eating habits. In the process he became the British equivalent to Michelle Obama, evangelizing healthy eating. The impact was probably on par with the first lady; insert the sound of crickets chirping here.

I’ll at least give Oliver credit to taking his own advice to heart as part of what he describes as a personal journey to explore his relationship with food, which resulted in his latest book, Everyday Super Food. Oliver’s stated goal was to explore recipes for a healthier, happier you.

Having started out cooking at a very early age, I think of myself as an adventurous eater and since I do the vast majority of my families cooking, I have dragged the gang along on being willing test subjects. While I tend to dabble in cookbooks, I have been known to stray from the exact recipes and varying ingredients along the way. I have also become a very visually oriented eater/cook; so my starting point is often “does this look like something I would eat?”

Based on that, I had to dig deep into Everyday Super Food before I found something I found visually appealing enough to try. Much of the book leans heavily on nuts, seeds, fruits and grains, which is fine, but often the results have a rustic, rough look. It may be my heartfelt status as a protein guy and not a bunny rabbit. Many of these recipes take on the visual look of a deconstructed casserole, with ingredients mixed and matched in a interesting pile on the plate.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hints, Lies and Allegations

Unlikeable – The Problem With Hillary – Edward Klein (Regnery Publishing)

Bestselling investigative journalist Edward Klein has pulled together another collection of stories about Hillary and Bill Clinton, Unlikeable – The Problem With Hillary, that while focused on Mrs. Clinton, really raise the same question about this interchangeable duo. That question is best summed up in a quote from NBC News correspondent Leslie McFadden’s interview with Bill Clinton where he insisted, “All I’m saying is the idea that there’s one set of rules for us and another set for everybody else is true”

While even Klein contends that Bill was off his game and mis-spoke, I contend that he actually spoke the truth and I have to ask why that is? Klein while offering up numerous examples of hints at what goes on behind the scenes with the Clinton’s; the outright lies the Clinton’s continue to get a pass on and the clear allegations at wrong doings by the Clinton’s that need to be investigated and would preclude practically anybody else from public life if not take away their freedom; as it stands today Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner for the Democrat nomination for the Presidency of the United States.

I’m not sure even someone as deft as Klein at tracking down answers can explain why the American people continue to give the Clinton’s a free pass. Klein details that while Hillary continues to campaign as a women of the people, fighting for the little guy, she and her family live the exact opposite. The Clinton’s are a shining example of the so-called 1%, with all the mansions, penthouses, private jets and cash that goes along with it. Accept, as Klein spells out, the questionable way they got to that lofty status.

While Klein certainly serves the information up in easily digestible chunks, that even a liberal should be able to understand, Unlikeable is really just a digest of what of what so many other books, including many of his own, has already served up. Here’s hoping that Klein’s contention of deep hated for the Clinton’s by the current resident of the White House leads to an indictment or ten for the Clinton’s.

Friday, October 30, 2015

6 Million Doodlers Can’t Be Wrong

Doodletopia: Cartoons: Draw, Design, and Color Your Own Super-Fun Cartoon Creations - Christopher Hart (Watson Guptill)

Christopher Hart has sold over 6 million copies of his books on cartooning and doodling. 6 Million! If that doesn’t make him the reigning master of cartooning instruction I don’t know what would.

It’s easy to see what Hart is so popular with the doodling set after a quick flip through the pages of his latest effort, Doodletopia: Cartoons: Draw, Design, and Color Your Own Super-Fun Cartoon Creations. Hart has an easy to follow teaching style that work for many levels of experience with drawing; whether you’re just starting out or have already developed some skills, Doodletopia will offer great guidance, but also serve up some direction on refining already existing skills.

Doodletopia offers a hands on, (or maybe pencil on is a better way to put it) experience as Hart offers a series of what I can only describe as half drawings, that allow you to follow his guidance while completing the other half of a drawing. This gives an easy to follow method for using similar techniques and lines based on what he starts you off with. For beginers this a great way to develop a steady hand and some basic skills.

While so much of cartooning and animation has moved over to the digital realm, Doodletopia will offer you the ability to develop some great basic skills that you can grow and expand over time.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Skills for the Average Joe

100 Deadly Skills – The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation – Clint Emerson (Touchstone Books)

Okay…let’s get something straight right from the start; no you will not come away from reading this book with the skillset of a Navy SEAL. No the 100 situational skills that retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson lays out in the book, 100 Deadly Skills, are not all deadly. Can you learn some pretty cool things that will help you if you encounter some difficult or dangerous situations; heck yeah!

As you work your way through these 100 skills a pattern starts to emerge; Emerson seems more focused on getting to think, rather than get physical. Many of these skills train you to utilize common items that you might find around the house to create tools or weapons that you can use for self defense, to elude dangerous situations or protect your family.

Will you put to use newly acquired skills to steal a car? Probably not, but if you happen to lock yourself out of the car or your house or need to disconnect an electric garage door opener so you can enter the garage during a power outage; Emerson gives you an introduction to the skills you need.

Given the seemingly regular news of active shooter situations, Emerson offers up some skills and insights into how to not only survive one of those scenarios, but also how to safely take to the offensive and take down the shooter. This is a real world skill for a real world situation.

While some wannabe super secret agents who live on a steady diet of Bond films and action thrillers may find 100 Deadly Skills “too basic” I found the skills to be useful and Emerson delivers them in an entertaining fashion.



Sunday, October 18, 2015

Rustic Cooking Classic

This is Camino – Russell Moore, Allison Hopelain, and Chris Colin

In the evolution of cooking we have reached a point where disruptive thought is to take us back in time, to the roots of scratch cooking. We have reached the point where the simple process of thinking about how we use ingredients has somehow become revolutionary.

Enter Camino, a Northern California favorite; a restaurant know for it’s rustic approach to cooking and it’s big flavors. Russell Moore, Allison Hopelain, and Chris Colin, serve up This is Camino that walks you through not only a recipe, but extols the virtues of thinking about how we use ingredients and food.

It used to be that our grandmothers spent has much time canning and preparing ingredients for future use as they did actually making the family meal; this was real, pre-Wonderbread stuff and the trio from Camino point to the economic collapse of 2008 for inspiring them to spend time and effort to develop a back to basic approach to cooking.

There’s a bit of self-admitted hippie in these folks, but also a nothing goes to waste bit of old school cooking. They detail everything from butchering to building that pantry chalk full of great things for future reference. Add to the mix that they cook everything in a giant wood fired hearth and you can almost taste the huge flavors jumping off the pages.

While you may not be blessed with a giant, open hearth cooking surface, they do offer up what I’ll call campfire alternatives that you can use at home, even offering up details on building a good fire and how it’s the hot coals where the magic happens. They offer up a true soup to nuts gamut covering every possible main dish meat right on through to cocktails and dessert.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fall Fiction Finds

Duplicity – A Novel – Newt Gingrich with Pete Earley (Center Street)

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, even if you disagree with his politics, there is no denying that former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich is a smart guy. The consistent bestseller has done it again delivering an intelligent thriller in, Duplicity.

Long time Washington Post reporter Pete Earley lends a hand and may have infused a bit of the ripped from today’s headline quality to the outing. Duplicity is an interesting bit of fact-ion as Gingrich laces not only real world actions and players into the story, but also takes the Koran and Hadith ( a collection of narratives that supposedly quote the Prophet Muhammed verbatim) at face value.

Based on the classic invisible, controlling, hand story model, Duplicity has a chilling, worst fears realized quality that will have you burning through pages.

Patriot – An Alex Hawke Novel - Ted Bell (William Morrow)

Ted Bell serves up the ninth installment in the Alex Hawke series; which finds Hawke at odds with some guys who want to do him harm…in fact they want him dead. While so many thriller writers have moved on from the Cold War, in Patriot Bell heats things up with some bad guys courtesy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

While the cognoscenti may scoff at the thought of Russia being one of our most difficult threats (see the reaction to Mitt Romney’s Presidential debate comment to that effect) Bell delivers a convincing fictional case that Putin would dearly love to elevate Russian back to superpower status.

Spies are dying all over the world. Hawke is on the hunt trying to tie these seemingly disparate events together with a common thread. If you are one of those folks who feel the need to latch on with a death grip to reality, the you may find this tale wholly unbelievable. For those that are so tightly bound to reality and just want to be entertained, then release the grip and enjoy the ride.

Mycroft Holmes – Kareem Abdul Jabbar with Anna Waterhouse (Titan Books)

Yes it is that Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Some may forget that the NBA Hall of Famer, multi-time MVP and Champion actually earned his degree in English and history at UCLA; perhaps it was the guidance of legendary coach John Wooden.

Jabbar is a bestselling author of numerous non-fiction books and a lifelong aficionado of Sherlock Holmes, so it’s not such a stretch that he would take a shot at telling the untold tale of Sherlock Holmes older brother Mycroft, in his fiction debut Mycroft Holmes.

Jabbar has a clear grasp on not only the period in history that book is set, but also in the style storytelling and setting of the day in which it takes place. While Mycroft played a role in many of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes tales, Jabbar adds much more meat to the more bare bones, government official in the Doyle stories.

While it is certainly a daunting task to dip into the realm of one of the most admired fictional characters of all time, Jabbar does an admirable job of spinning an entertaining tale that even Sherlockian purists will find entertaining.

Front Runner – A Dick Francis Novel – Felix Francis (G P Putnam & Sons)

Speaking of daunting tasks…imagine the challenge of taking the reins of one of the most successful mystery/thriller writer’s catalogs and continuing those series. Now add to by ratcheting it up a notch and make that masterful writer your father. That is the task faced by bestselling author Felix Francis who picked up where his father Dick Francis, the author of more than 40 books left off.

The one benefit that Felix had was the opportunity to work side by side with his legendary father, co-authoring several books before his father passed. While they are big shoes, Felix continues to do an admirable job of carrying on the family name.

While Dick Francis developed a very lean approach and spare writing style Felix does a nice job of weaving a nice level of detail into what have become a dependably entertaining series of books. He does a nice job of telling Jeff Hinkley’s story and mixing in some familiar Francis faces along the way.

The Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander Novel – David Lagercrantz (Knopf)

A few years back, Steig Larsson burst onto or depending on who you believe created the thriving Swedish fiction scene and rocketed to worldwide acclaim first with the book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and a couple of bestselling follow ups. The wave in his wake included Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund, Ake Edwardson and a handful of others who spun fantastic, intriguing tales.

The Lisabeth Salander trilogy went on to sell a reported 80 million copies worldwide and almost as quickly as he became successful, Larsson died of a heart attack at the age of 50, with a legion of fans hungry for more of adrenaline fueled tales. Into the proverbial breach stepped David Lagencrantz, to take the mantle and carry on the saga.

While many authors have been tasked with continuing storylines and characters by the likes of Robert Ludlum, Robert B. Parker, Clive Cussler, Vince Flynn and many others; those prolific writers had a much larger catalog than three books for a writer to better know the characters and style, which can be an advantage or possibly a disadvantage.
Lagencrantz does a spectacular job of locking into the tone, style and steady pacing of the storyline for The Girl in the Spider’s Web, ala Larsson’s handy work in the trilogy. Like Larsson, Lagencrantz does not grip you by the throat right from the first page, but builds the foundation of the characters and the story until you can’t stop turning pages. He perfectly meshes the new players in the story to the usual suspects from the prior books and just enough twisty turns to keep you guessing.