Showing posts with label Book Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Review. Show all posts

Monday, November 12, 2012

Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die - A Book Review

Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die (Musings from the Road) - Willie Nelson

God bless you Willie Nelson. Who else would name their autobiography Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die (or course there is a song of the same name off his latest album Heroes which Willie also recorded with Snoop Dogg, probably the only other person who would write a book of the same name). Although thanks to all the smoking Willie has done in his life, this is not your normal autobiography and really reads more like a diary.

The book starts off like a normal autobiography with Willie talking about growing up Abbott, Texas including his first couple memories. You get stories about Willie and his buddies punching bees and his first couple jobs before he started making money playing music. Then out of nowhere he goes on a diatribe about Occupy Wall Street (Willie is not fond that the same people that complain about welfare are quick to put their hands out for subsidies) and from there it is a hodgepodge of anything that crosses Willie’s mind for 169 pages.

There are stories throughout Willie’s life, song lyrics, diary like entries of the last couple months while writing the book, short thoughts of the day, and more than a few joke, most of them dirty. There are even entries buy friends and family of Willie’s, most of which end up being longer than some of the segments that Willie wrote. The book also features plenty of photos of Willie with his family. The book is so family oriented that there are even illustrations by Willie’s son Micah.

The shortness of the stories is a plus and a negative. It is nice for people like me who have only a short time to read thing and do not get stuck in a chapter when he needs to start doing something else. But when he gets to some interesting stories you are left wanting more. Personally I would have like a lot more on his time in The Highwaymen. Thanks to his proclivity for the greener things in life, we may never get a proper autobiography where Willie goes in depth into these stories, but Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die should give a good insight to the man to any Willie Nelson fan. And of course if there are any of those people on your Christmas list, this will make a great gift with almost a month until the holidays.

Full Disclousure Notice: This book was given to me by William Morrow / Harper Collins Publishers for review.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's a Shame He Wasn't a Wanted Felon so I Could Shoot Him He Resisted

Raylan Gibbons did not just return to our television screen yesterday for the new season of Justified, but he also saw his triumphant return to the bookshelves (or virtual bookstand as the brick and mortar versions are hard to find these days) in Raylan. For those unfamiliar, Justified is actually based on the Elmore Leonard short story Fire in the Hole where a cowboy hat wearing US Marshall is demoted back to his home country after a questionable shooting in Miami.

The characters may mostly be the same, Raylan does not play in the same timeline that Justified. Though the book does read as if the writers of the television series got a hold of an outline of the book and made it the basis of the second season, because both feature heavily a storyline about an evil coal company coming to town in the form of an attractive lady by the name of Carol (but with a different last name). But the surrogate Ma Bennett is now a guy by the name of Pervis Crowe but retains sons Coover and Dickie (and Dewey turns out to be his nephew).

And Elmore clearly was watching the television series because Loretta McCready makes a quick cameo as well as Wynonna who was just mentioned in the short story. And the Boyd and Ava relationship seems to be progressing much like it did in the early part of season two, but she only quickly shows up in one chapter and disappears. Missing in Raylan is Arlo who just gets a quick mention along with a little sister for Raylan who I do not remember ever getting mentioned on the show before (but for some reason whenever I was reading about Pervis I saw Arlo in my mind).

Naturally Raylan is tasked to hunt down some bad guys whenever he is not escorting Carol around. One case finds him hunting down some criminals who are taking kidneys out of people and then try to sell them back to the patient. More humorously is someone from Raylan’s past who devised a plan to get strippers to rob banks for him and stupidly makes a video tape for Raylan telling him he knows Raylan is coming for him and he will get Raylan first. Hopefully the Justified writing staff turn this plotline into an episode because I would love to see how the plot played out in living color.

With the themes similar, but outcomes different, it is a little hard for a Justified watcher to get into this book, but once you do, it is filled with everything you love about the series. And it may have been a while since he written about him but Elmore Leonard still has an amazing grasp on the character and Kentucky as a whole. The series inspired Leonard to start writing about Raylan Gibbons again and after reading Raylan, hopefully he has a couple more stories about the US Marshall in him.

Raylan gets a Terror Alert Level: Severe [RED] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

You and Me and All Our Friends, Such a Happy Human Race

So Much to Say: Dave Matthews Band - 20 Years on the Road

Back in April, the Dave Matthews Band celebrated the twentieth anniversary of their very first performance together. Ironically to commemorate the occasion, the group decided to take the summer off for the first since that very first show in the band’s hometown of Charlottesville. Dave and the boys are playing four festival shows in Atlantic City (June 24-26), Chicago (July 8-10), New York), August 26-28), and their annual Labor Day weekend at The Gorge in Washington (September 2-4). Head over to DMBCaravan for more details for full lineups (act ranging from Ray LaMontange to The Roots to The Flaming Lips performing Dark Side of the Moon at different sites) and tickets.

If you cannot make it to one of the show but still need your Dave Matthews Band fix aside from all the Live Trax concerts you own, writer and DMB enthusiast Nikki Van Noy is celebrating the band’s vigintennial with her book So Much to Say: Dave Matthews Band – 20 Years on the Road. And if you are going to one (or more) of the festivals, the book makes for a great read in between sets as you brush up on your DMB history before the band writes its next chapter.

After starting off the book with her own history with the band (An Evening Spent Dancing) where she went from a reluctant concert goer to an instant fan, Nikki goes into a chronological history of the band starting with their formation (Getting Started) to the start of heavy touring schedule (The Little Red Van). The book then veers into the studio with their best known music (The Big Three), then the Lillywhite Sessions and the two albums born directly out of it (The Album That Wasn’t), and the following album Stand Up (Searching for the Sound). Then there is the tragic death of the band’s saxophonist (LeRoi Holloway Moore) and the album that was born from his death (LeRoi’s Legacy).

Yes the band’s history is the core of the book, but So Much to Say is as much about the band is it is about the fans of the Dave Matthews Band. Van Noy included personal accounts from every stage of the band’s careers from those that were there at the launch and talk about the shows from their weekly engagement as the now defunct Trax to fans as far flung as Australia where the band has only visited twice in the band’s career. The book even includes more than thirty-five original fan photos.

What really becomes clear throughout So Much to Say is there is no band out there that harnessed the internet better than the Dave Matthews Band and their fans. In the early years, word of mouth traveled easy from the early users of the new electronic-mail: college student. Then came mailing lists, message boards, blogs to today (seriously, type “Dave Matthews Band” in YouTube and see just how many performances have been uploaded); Nikki pulls quotes and talks to users and the people behind the sites frequently in the book. She even makes an apt comparison that the stat heavy national pastime is similar to DMB fans, just go to sites like DMBAlmanac to see just how true it is. Really the final two chapters in the books are pretty much just about the fans.

Some great tidbits throughout the book include a section on how some of the song titles came about (like how Dave liked to number the songs he wrote in order yet #27 was actually the 133rd song he wrote) to a part on wrong names that were dubbed by soundman Jeff “Bagby” Thomas (I’ll Back You Up labeled Let’s Get a Beer and rarity Heathcliff’s Haiku Warriors actually keeping its wrong name). There is also plenty of mythology sprinkled by fans during the book (a couple pages get devoted to the holy grail of DMB songs: Machead) which reminds me of the time my college roommate told me a tale of how his sister who went to Virginia saw Dave Matthews Band and Hootie & The Blowfish at the same frat house on the same night. And of course a good portion of the book is devoted to the band’s taping culture, which may have as much to do with the band’s success than anything else, and how it evolved over the years.

It’s hard to recommend So Much to Say to anyone not already a fan of Dave Matthews Band because there is no deep introspective passages of the band or even any new interviews with band members themselves. So Much to Say is a book written by a fan for fans and about fans. A newbie can read the book and have a deeper appreciation for the band and the fandom while longtime fans will enjoy the trip down memory lane even if they know all of the stories behind the band. Here’s hoping after this summer off we will get another twenty summers worth of shows where we can eat, drink, and be merry.

Full Disclosure Notice: This book was given to me by Simon and Schusters for the purpose of reviewing it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Everytime that Flags Unfurled, They're Coming to America

America: The Story of Us: An Illustrated History

In a story I broke last week, History’s twelve part series America: The Story of Us is on Blu-Ray (see They’ve All Come to Look for America) and for those history buff out there that are not a fan of the boob tube, I have some good news, there is also a companion book, America: The Story of Us: An Illustrated History by Kevin Baker.

Like the series, the book opens with an introduction from President Obama and follows the same structure of the series, dividing it down to the same twelve chapters (Rebels, Revolution, Westward, Division, Civil War, Heartland, Cities, Boom, Bust, WWII, Superpower, and Millennium) but goes into much more depth at 416 pages with segments that were just touched on or not even mentioned in the televised version. Also helpful is that each section is given a date range so you get a sense of when things were happening.

As the title An Illustrated History suggests, the book comes with an abundance of glossy pictures that depict the country’s history from the first pictures taken during the civil war to the high resolution of citizens today. The compilation also includes many story factoid and graphs that didn’t make it on television like did you know that a male Colonist in the eighteenth century had a life expectancy of fifty-four, eighteen years more than a British man?

Some of the complaints of the book are the same as the special, like do we really need quotes by Michael Strahan? Luckily the book includes much less talking head quotes, and of course it is much easier to ignore them on paper than on the glowy tube. And like the series, the book completely ignores how Americans entertain themselves, no sports, music, and the only mention of a theater includes Abraham Lincoln.

But just like the series, the book is definitely worth a look as it is well researched and well put together. And if you know someone who is like me and would read his history textbooks for fun, America: The Story of Us: An Illustrated History would make for a great Christmas gift with only fifty-nine shopping days left until the holiday as this would make for the most entertaining history textbook you can find.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It Is Easy Being Green

Generation Green

I started going green a couple years ago mostly because it saves you money and helps you live a healthier lifestyle, the whole saving the Earth thing is just an added bonus. So I am always on the lookout for ways to better myself which is why I picked up Generation Green (even if the subtitle The Ultimate Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life puts me a little out of the target demo). The book comes from the mother-son team of Linda and Tosh Siversen.

As someone that goes out of his way to learn about living green, there really isn’t much in the book that helps me, but the book is perfect for those who are just getting into the Green movement no matter the age even if the book skews young with how to balance the new technology with living healthy so people of any age can come away with plenty of good practices to lower their carbon footprint with moving into a shack and growing their own organic food.

The book is also well arrange with plenty of attention grabbing blurbs and interviews for those that only have little spurts of time to read or just short attention spans. And if you do end up buying the book, be sure to pass it around to anyone who could learn something from it so it doesn’t just end up in a landfill when you are done.

And to start you novices on the right foot, here are five of my favorite hints:

1. Change Your Lightbulb: You don’t have to exchange all your bulbs now, but when they start burning out, replace them the energy efficient kind and even jungle them around so the lights you use the most are changed first. You can make back the extra price of an energy efficient back in one month for bulbs you use the most.

2. Turn off the Water when You Brush Your Teeth: Same goes for shaving and washing the dishes. In the summer when it is warm, I even turn off the shower when I wash myself to conserve water.

3. Turn the Thermostat Down When You Leave: Natural this is a suggestion for the upcoming winter, but when summer comes around again, turn the thermostat up when you leave. No need to heat/cool you habitat when you are not there.

4. Unplug Things You Are Not Using: Everything associated with my computer is plugged into one power strip and when the computer isn’t on, the power strip is turned off. Same for the TV (my cable box keeps the correct time, if your VCR keeps the time you may want to plug that into the wall so you don’t have to continually set it). These are called vampire appliance that still run even if they are turned “Off.”

5. Run Your Dishwasher at Night: Nighttime isn’t just for sunglass wearing anymore. But again, this is more for the summer as the heat from the appliance will make your air conditioner run harder and longer. Same goes for your washer/dryer. Then in the winter use the extra heat to your advantage. I even leave the oven open after I am done baking to use the extra heat.

Five easy way to cut your energy bill (and help the environment), four of which won’t cost you anything.

Generation Green gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The More You Love Music, the More Music Loves You

1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die

For any music fan, you know a title of the 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die is worth a look. For novice fans, the book makes good suggestions ranging every musical genre you can think off. For the music fanatic you can read it to pick it apart, because even with a thousand entries, certainly everyone can come up with a least of a hundred recordings that should have been included in the list and a few that you make you scratch your head at their inclusion.

From his picture on the back of the book, it should be noted that author Tom Moon is of the Baby Boomer generation so naturally there is an overabundance of music from the sixties while Bob Dylan and the Beatles are more than represented. Okay old people, we get it, you really loved the Beatles, but really eight albums featuring the band members? Dylan landed four while a few ranked twice. Keep in mind Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run) and Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon) and U2 (The Joshua Tree) only made the list once. I would really like Moon to justify just how Usher’s Confessions, Britney Spears’ Toxic and No Doubt’s Rock Steady (which isn’t even the band’s best work) rank higher than Born in the USA, Wish You Were Here and Achtung Baby.

I also am not sure if I should complain about the exclusion of any Eric Clapton album (seriously, no Slowhand), he does show up with Derek and the Dominos, Cream, John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, The Yardbirds, and Blind Faith. Where the sixties is well populated, looking at this book it is as the nineties didn’t exist unless you were a grunge band or a dead rapper. That did lead to possibly the best write up in the book for Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chamber) where Moon bizarrely starts up the review quoting poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. But enough with the complaints of the selections because if I continued to nit-pick I would write a review that rivals the book’s 1007 pages.

116 of those pages are just indexes. But with indexes for Genre, Occasions (like Parties, Romance), Composers, and Performers. Although it would have been nice if they would have thrown in an extra five pages to list the recording chronologically. But each write up is well done even if Moon doesn’t seem to really understand any the music he included that release after 1980. Each recording also include Key Tracks, Catalog Choice, other works by the artist worth listening to, as well as Next Stop and After That, two recording that are related musically to selection worth checking out.

Easily the most interesting inclusion has to be The Grey Album by Danger Mouse considering that to listen to it you are technically breaking the law. For those unfamiliar, The Grey Album a mash up between The White Album by The Beatles (which of course is also listed) and The Black Album from Jay-Z (which is conspicuously missing from the list) that launched Danger Mouse into a succesful producer and one half of Gnarls Barkley.

But whatever type a music fan you are, there is plenty of gems to find in the book. And the short segment are perfect to have laying around when you only have short spurts of time to kill, as it is currently taking up space in my bathroom. Just keep in mind the 1007 page thick frame is a little cumbersome to hold at time, so the short spurts of reading is really ideal.

1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Well it's About a 17 Year Old Girl Who Happens to Be a Detective

Neptune Noir - Rob Thomas

Be sure to check out my contest to see how you can win a copy of Neptune Noir.

In my adult life, I can count on one hand the amount of books I have read. In fact I could have lost a couple in shop class and still be able to count them. (Before you write me off as having an aversion to reading, I do subscribe to two magazines, Newsweek and Rolling Stone.) And those few I read took me literally years to finish. But when the good people over at BenBella Books sent me a copy of Neptune Noir: Unauthorized Investigation into Veronica Mars, I went threw all 212 pages within a week.

The book is a collection of eighteen essays, most seemingly written between the second and third seasons, dissecting every aspect of the show and no matter why it is you watch the show, whether it be for the noir, the girl power, or the Veronica/Logan relationship, there is an essay for you. Well unless you are like me and watch the show for the latest Dickisms as only survivor still left in Neptune only gets fleeting mentions. And oddly a whole essay is devoted to the cars of Veronica Mars and what they tell you about the show and the characters that drive them, but no one devolves fully into Ronnie’s love life instead the writers side with Logan or Duncan with Troy and Deputy Leo left as footnotes.

The book starts of with an introduction from the show’s creator, Rob Thomas, which even at seven pages makes the book worth the price of admission as he recounts his professional life between moving out to Los Angeles up to the point of Veronica Mars getting picked up. Most interesting of this part was the pilot he wrote for Fox in-between Cupid and Veronica Mars, but of course since Fox is allergic to quality programming, they passed.

Thomas then also gives an introduction to each essay sometime discounting the essay in its entirety like the one about the cars (Full disclosure: I’m not a car guy) and seemed a little uneasy that someone devoted a whole essay about the campy side of the show (When something on Veronica Mars feels, campy, it means we have failed). The title of the review came from what Thomas said when the network asked what the show was about, but as anyone who has watched the show, it is much more as seen in the essays complied for the book. It would take too long to review each individual but here were the most interesting to me.

Chris McCubbin devoted his essay, The Duck and the Detective, on why Veronica Mars plays better in Red States than Blue. This piece stuck me as a resident of a Red State and life long Republican (well up until my brethren elected the most inept president ever, twice). My television schedule has never been influenced by my political beliefs, I even loved the unapologetically liberal Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, yet it still fascinated me especially after when a few liberals were up in arms because of the abortion pill episode. McCubbin liked to bring up the South Park republicans, but the big difference between South Park and Veronica Mars is that that Matt Stone has said, “I hate conservatives, but I really (expletive deleted) hate liberals” while Thomas readily admits, “he is “part of the Hollywood Loberal Media Elite.”

The other essay that caught my eye was the one from John Ramos, Couch Baron of Television Without Pity, I Cannot Tell a Lie. And if You Believe That… Ramos dissects the level of lies, from the white lies that help her solve a case to the big fat ones that have major consequences like when she played her father while helping Duncan get out of the country with his baby in tow. Add to that The New Normal by Kristen Kiddler where she looks into Vee’s vigilantism and it interesting to see people complain in season three that Ronnie has gotten so mean. The first season was all about making people pay, the person who killed Lily, the person who raped her and anyone who was an accomplice, even if inadvertent will be in her crosshairs. She still to this day harbors deep hatred for Madison Sinclair for handing her the drink that led to her rape.

Even though there is plenty of great essays for every type of Veronica Mars fan, there will be certainly a few that will not be as good as others depending on what brings you to the show. For me I could do without the essays on the cars as well as the one devoted to the “epic” love. But this is definitely a must read for anyone who has watched the show. You can order Neptune Noir: Unauthorized Investigation into Veronica Mars at the BenBella Books website. Also any television fan who is dreading the upcoming summer without your favorite shows should check out other books in their Smart Pop Anthology Series including books dedicated to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Simpsons, Gilmore Girls among others. And do not forget to check out my Win a Copy of Neptune Noir Contest.

Neptune Noir: Unauthorized Investigation into Veronica Mars gets a Terror Alert Level: Severe [RED] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day Salute

Why Courage Matters - John McCain

I have been a huge John McCain supporter for a while now and last year he wrote a book, Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life, that I have recently finished reading. McCain, with help from Mark Salter, never exactly answer the question directly, instead they explain by example, profiling different people from all part of life that have exhibited courage. This also helps McCain avoid writing a self help book listing how you can live a braver life.

McCain most obviously starts with a type of courage he has the most experience, those of which he saw first hand in Vietnam. But since this is not an autobiography, Special Forces master sergeant Roy Benavidez is the first person of courage that McCain talks about. His helicopter was shot down after a mistake, many of his comrades were wounded. Benavidez then helped everyone onto the helicopter meant to rescue them to the point where he collapses and presumed dead.

But this book is not a book about war stories as the story of Angela Dawson is next. Dawson was a mom in East Baltimore who tried to keep drugs and other bad elements out of her neighborhood. McCain also touches on people who fought in the Civil War, Civil Rights activists, athletes, and political prisoners among others.

For anyone who has heard John McCain speak knows that isn't the best orator out there and that translates into his writing style. There were many passages in the book that had to read a couple times to fully comprehend what McCain was getting at. But overall, the message is there and is worth reading, even if you have to read it more than once. One passage that struck me:

People lie because, more often than not, it works. More often than not, lying doesn't attract unwanted public attention, it lets us escape it. For every public figure caught in a lie, many more have avoided public disgrace by lying.

Apparently Tom DeLay and Barry Bonds have taken this to heart and makes you wonder how many Congressmen and baseball players that haven't been caught in their lies.

The book, thought up by McCain's editor post-9/11 when people were afraid to ride elevators of tall building or to get on airplanes, is a good read for profiles of courage on this Memorial Day. Also, make sure you check out the movie based on his other, Faith of My Fathers tonight on A&E.

Why Courage Matters gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Goodnight Mogadishu

Black Hawk Down

A couple years back I saw an amazing movie, Black Hawk Down. I was so moved by the movie that once I heard it was based on a book I eventually went out and bought the book. Before I go into the book, I should make a not that I count the number of books I've read that I wasn't required for school without having to take off my shoes. Even though I'm not a big reader, I knew this would be something I'd enjoy. It did take me a while to finish with the book clocking in at 430 pages. Not to mention my penchant of reading my magazine subscriptions before getting back to my place in the book

As for the book itself, everyone should know the story by now. Like the movie, it chronicles the failed 1993 mission in the Somali capital of Mogadishu that ended with two Black Hawk helicopters being shot down by Somali insurgents that left many Americans solders dead or wounded. The movie itself did a very good job keeping with the spirit of the movie, but with the book at 430 pages, there were plenty of things that were left out of the 144 minute movie. Where the movie focused almost exclusively on the actual battle, the book covers more of led up to the conflict and goes more in depth analyzing the outcome. The movie also depicted only a handful of the solders that were involved the book profiles about three times more. The movie spent almost of the screen time focused exclusively on Somalia, but the book also looks into the families of the soldiers back home and also looks in on some of the response from Washington.

Included in the version of the book I bought (the
Movie Tie-In Edition) was an eight page Afterword by author, Mark Bowen, written in 1999 as it was interesting to hear Bowen talk about the impact his book made (even before the movie was made), even being embraced by the military itself. It would be interesting to see what else he would say about the impact now that the movie has been released.

The Back Hawk Down incident is even relevant today as we are currently fighting a primarily urban war in Iraq. Many of the problems the soldiers were facing in Mogadishu, the current soldiers are facing in places like Baghdad and Fallujah with not being able to tell the difference between insurgent and civilians, the opposition carrying rocket launchers and other high-tech weapons, and questions of "why are we there?" from a portion of the population back home. Interestingly enough, Bowen said in the book that not finishing the job in Mogadishu would make the United States look week opening us up to attacks abroad thinking we would retreat like we did in 1993. And it looks like he was right with the Embassy attacks, the attack on the USS Cole, and later the September 11th attacks. Many experts even point to Somalia as the inspiration for Osoma bin Laden and Al-Quada.

Black Hawk Down a Terror Alert Level: Severe [RED] on my
Terror Alert System.