Entries Tagged as 'Lisa Reads'

books & writing

Lisa reads Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975) by Ken Sharp

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I was a Kiss fan as a teenager, so I was really looking forward to reading Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975). Author Ken Sharpe has pulled together an amazing series of interviews with former band members, roadies, industry and media people. In addition, there are a host of more recognizable names: Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Iggy Pop, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Eric Bloom (Blue Oyster Cult), Neal Schon (Journey), Bob Seger, and Dee Dee, Joey, Johnny, Marky and Tommy Ramone. There are a lot of great quotes and interviews in the book – perhaps too many.

There are a number of things about this book that I loved. First, the interviews – it was fascinating to read the quotes from other musicians, people that liked Kiss and those who didn’t, bands who were more popular and those who were just starting out. Hearing what these bands had to say about Kiss, good and bad, gives you some context. Kiss was doing something very new and different, with the makeup and the theatrics. Some of their contemporaries embraced it, while others hated it; some were amused and others may have been a little jealous. But hearing them talk about the band – particularly those who said it was a gimmick and they would never make it – is definitely interesting.

The interviews with friends and industry people are a real look at what goes into launching a band. How difficult it is to get a label’s attention and then, once you have it, how to keep it. Getting signed certainly doesn’t guarantee success, and it is clear from each section of the book that if Kiss hadn’t had a few people who really believed in them, they’d have been doomed. Neil Bogart (Casablanca Records) and Bill Aucoin (their manager) did everything from manage, produce and promote the band to paying for their tours on their personal credit cards. Considering that they didn’t get a lot of radio airplay and they often had difficulty getting signed on as an opening act, they would never have gotten off the ground without their unflagging support.

It’s also clear that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons shared a dream for their band and were willing to work very hard to make it  reality. There is a sort of single-minded devotion to the band and a refusal to believe that they would be anything other than huge stars that is, by turns, endearing and annoying.

For me, the downside of Nothin’ to Lose is that it sometimes got a little tedious. There is a definite “us against the world” vibe to the book, and it can get a little tiresome. Perhaps it’s accurate – perhaps there really were almost no supporters for the band in the early days – but it is reiterated so often that it seems like overkill.

I was also disappointed that the book really glosses over the departures of Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. I was interested in reading about that, perhaps even getting some of the story right from the departed band members (a timely topic, considering the controversy surrounding the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions). Unfortunately, their departures are covered only briefly on the last two pages of the book. Still, the book is an amazing look at a young band, on its way to stardom and all the ups and downs of that journey. There are some great stories here for anyone who was a member of the Kiss Army, and anyone interested in a slice of rock and roll history.

My copy of Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975) was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

kiss

books & writing

Lisa reads Live By Night by Dennis Lehane

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There’s a bit of a story behind my reading of Live by Night: I picked up the audiobook from the library months ago – probably closer to a year ago. I sped through the first 9 cds and then…lost it. I brought it in from the car, set it aside, and it disappeared. I was furious! Ransacked the house, went through all my suitcases, the car, called the hotel I’d stayed at. No luck. Cut to this past week: I spent my vacation doing a thorough cleaning and decluttering of my spare bedroom, and guess what I found? Yep. I was finally able to finish!

Live by Night tells the story of Joe Coughlin, and it is a big story. [Read more →]

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Lisa reads The Punch Bowl: 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry by Dan Searing

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If you think of punch as something in bowl with ginger ale, melting rainbow sherbet and fruit juice, this book will change your mind. The Punch Bowl: 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry aims to take you back to the glory days of punch, when it was brewed from spirits, spices and not-too-clean water. Our sanitation has improved and so has our taste, which leaves me eager to try some of these recipes.

The book begins with a history of punch, which is actually more interesting than I anticipated.

“…in its golden era, punch embodied all things exotic and expensive: spice, sugar, fruit, imported spirits, and, if the imbibers were trult fortunate, clean water.” [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiran

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I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately, which is always a good time to catch up on my audiobooks. I’ve got a stack of great audiobooks that the good folks at Macmillan Audio sent me, and I’ve been putting them to good use.

I finished this novel sitting at home, warm and cozy with a cup of coffee — a great way to listen to a book about a blizzard. Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron is the story of Maine game warden Mike Bowditch. He’s been sent into exile, Down East, a remote outpost on the Canadian border. He’s lonely, frustrated, and not making friends. Game wardens aren’t popular with the hunters in the area, making it a very tough assignment.

Having dinner with the local veterinarian (what passes for his social life, these days), Bowditch is called to the cabin of a local couple. In a raging blizzard, a half-frozen man has appeared at their door, raving about another person, lost in the swirling snow. After a long, cold search they find the body — but it’s not the storm that did him in. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Something Red by Douglas Nicholas

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Sometimes a book tells you things about the author. Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, and some of that poetry seeps into his novel, Something Red. There is a certain lyrical quality to it that I appreciated, and I found that quite interesting, mixed as it was with a tale of murder and mayhem.

The story is told through the eyes of Hob (Robert), a 13-year-old orphan apprenticed to Molly (Maeve). a musical troupe crossing the Pennine Mountains of Northern England during a particularly brutal winter. Although the stop at many of their usual haunts, visiting old friends, there is clearly something lethal along the trail. There is an ominous presence in the forest and there are many who will not survive the journey. It may be that only Molly, her granddaughter, Nemain,  her lover, Jack, and young Hob will be able to save them all. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Lake Country by Sean Doolittle

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Lake Country, for me, was about a young man who had lost his way and wanted to do something. Darryl Potter left the Marine Corps, but now he’s just drifting — no job, no prospects, and none of the sense of purpose that the Marines gave him. He latches on to a story about the death of a young woman, the younger sister of a man he served with, and decides that this is a wrong he can put right.

Wade Benson, a successful local architect, killed a girl. He was driving home one night and fell asleep at the wheel. He wasn’t drunk, just tired. Becky Morse was severely injured in the accident he caused; she lingered in a coma for two days in the hospital before she died. As part of his probation, Wade Benson spends two days every year in the county jail, the anniversary of the days that Becky spent in her coma.

Potter decides that’s not enough, and that Benson should suffer more for what he’s done. He decides to even the score by kidnapping Benson’s twenty-year-old daughter, Cheryl. His friend, Mike Barlowe, is the only person with a chance to set things right before they turn tragic. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Redshirts by John Scalzi

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Redshirts may be the most fun I’ve had with a book this year. It made me laugh…and it made me go out and load my Kindle with other John Scalzi titles. I love the mix of humor and seriousness in the book, and I am looking forward to reading more of Scalzi’s work.

Are you a Star Trek fan? If you’ve ever watched the old episodes, it didn’t take long to notice that there was always some poor schmuck of an ensign in a red uniform shirt who ended up getting killed on the away missions. In fact, the term “redshirt” became a stock phrase in the sci-fi world, referring to a character who dies soon after being introduced. But what about those disposable characters? Don’t they have stories of their own — friends and family and ambitions? John Scalzi’s Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas pays homage to those characters while he pokes fun at science fiction conventions. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Those in Peril by Wilbur Smith

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Oh hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.
– William Whiting, For Those in Peril on the Sea

I start off every book wanting to love it. You don’t choose books to review because you think they’ll be bad. But sometimes they are.

Wilbur Smith’s Those in Peril would make a pretty decent spy novel. The problem is, he tries to make it more than that. He tries to add a romance that just doesn’t work; his female characters are painful to read. And there should be a law: that he never writes another sex scene. The other problem for me was that this was an audiobook, and the reader, Rupert Degas, did not enhance the experience of this book.

The story centers around Hector Cross, owner of Crossbow Security and his boss, Hazel Bannock. Hazel is the head of Bannock Oil; Crossbow provides security for their oilfields, shipyards and personnel, in dangerous Middle East locations. Hector is tough and worldly-wise. Hazel is beautiful and tough, worth millions, and absolutely devoted to her daughter, Cayla. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

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I am a firm believer that kids should have a lot of books, and this is a book that I would choose for my nieces and nephews. It’s funny, but I’ve seen the Nutcracker ballet, but I don’t think I’ve ever read the story before. Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann and illustrated by Maurice Sendak is wonderfully written, perfect for some of the older kids in my extended family and it definitely made it onto the Christmas list.

The story is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. It is the story of seven-year-old Marie, who falls in love the with handsome Nutcracker. The characters are fantastical: the seven-headed Mouse King, Princess Pirlipat, and the Queen of Mice. There is romance and adventure, battles and curses, ungrateful princesses and court astrologers. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Father Night by Eric van Lustbader

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Father Night is the fourth book in Eric van Lustbader’s Jack McClure/Alli Carson series. These are spy novels with a bit of a supernatural twist. Jack McClure, Department of Defense special agent, has some curious abilities. He’s dyslexic, which has to be a detriment for an agent, but his unusual way of thinking lets him see things others miss.  He can solve puzzles that require thinking not just outside the box, but inside, outside, under, over and through the box. Occasionally, when things are particularly tough, he gets some help from his daughter, Emma.

Of course, Emma has been dead for a number of years, but she can still lend a helping hand from time to time. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Buried on Avenue B by Peter de Jonge

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I wanted to read Buried on Avenue B as soon as I read the premise:

When a home health attendant, Paulette Williamson, appears at Homicide South in Manhattan, she’s introduced to the NYPD’s Detective Darlene O’Hara and skeptically reports the confession of a senior citizen struggling with Alzheimer’s. Gus Henderson, a former junkie and petty criminal, claims he murdered and buried his former partner-in-crime in a park off Avenue B more than a decade ago, a lowlife who fell off the grid and hasn’t been seen since. The city agrees to excavate the alleged scene of the crime, and the police find a body—just not the one they were looking for. The cops unearth the skeleton of a ten-year-old boy, neatly dressed and buried ceremoniously with a comic book, a CD, some pot, and booze.

There has to be a great story there! And it turns out, there is. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Whiplash River by Lou Berney

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Shake Bouchon was livin’ the dream.

For years, he’d been a wheelman for the Armenian mob, but he’d gotten away clean. He bought restaurant on the beach in Belize, where he hoped to start fresh. The location was postcard-perfect: sea breezes and tiki torches and tourists with credit cards. It should have been everything he needed for a perfect retirement in Lou Berney’s Whiplash River. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Exponential Apocalypse – Dead Presidents by Eirik Gumeny

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Okay, this one is just weird. Bizarre, a little gory, pretty funny. You’d sort of like to have a drink with the sort of guy who comes up with an idea like this, but you’re a little afraid the drink might be grain alcohol, or maybe absinthe.

In Eirik Gumeny’s Exponential Apocalypse: Dead Presidents, Thor, the former Norse God of Thunder, has returned to his day job at the Secaucus Holiday Inn. He’s hanging out there with his friends, Queen Victoria XXX and Chester A. Arthur XVII.

“After the world ended for the sixteenth time, the Aussichtslos Drogensucht Gesellschaft mit beschrankter Haftung, a frozen sausage company out of Germany, manufactured an absolutely absurd number of genetic reproductions of political leaders from across the globe, hoping to land a profitable contract with the United States government, either as a steady source of on-demand experienced political minds or as a supplier of a new kind of lunch meat. They weren’t picky.” [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads The Code by G.B. Joyce

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This is a tough review to write. The Code, by sportswriter G.B. Joyce, has a lot of things that I love — a good mystery, a flawed hero, and a bit of action. But it is all somehow a bit awkward.

First, the story: Brad Shade is a former hockey player with a sad-luck story, now a scout for the team in L.A. While scouting a particularly hot young prospect, a beloved coach and team doctor are brutally murdered, and while Shade isn’t a suspect or even a witness, his scouting duties keep leading him back around to the investigation. To get the story on his prospect, he may have to solve the murder. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know by Kate White

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Sometimes, a book comes along for review at just the right time. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know by Kate White comes along just as I am doing going through a bit of personal career evaluation, so there are definitely tips and tricks in this book I can use.

I like the structure of the book. It’s broken down in three chunks related to success: how to get it, how to go big with it, and how to savor it. Each chapter has bullet points, breaking down key concepts. Makes it a very fast read and easy to remember the most important bits of information, and there are plenty of important bits. As I’m considering what’s next for me in my career, contemplating job hunting for the first time in a decade or making a big change within my company, it’s helpful to think back and look at what I can do differently this time around. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads The Carnival of Death by L. Ron Hubbard

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When I received the offer from the folks at Galaxy Press, I was a little reluctant. Great writing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name L. Ron Hubbard. But the audiobooks sounded like fun and I love old science fiction, so I figured I would give it a try.

The books are a hoot! This is cheesy, old-school adventure writing. The characters and dialogue are so old-fashioned and over-the-top that the stories are unintentionally hilarious. Add in some dramatic music and sound effects, and you’ve got the audiobook equivalent of those Saturday afternoon movie shows. The writing is so florid, it should be printed on purple paper: [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Triburbia by Karl Taro Greenfeld

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I think I’m over the whole “novel told in stories” idea. I tried not to let that influence me when I read Triburbia by Karl Taro Greenfeld. It’s a decent novel. It meanders a bit, tells the stories of the lives of a group of Tribeca residents. The stories are identified by address, with a lot of overlap and some surprising revelations about their residents.

The novel starts with a group of fathers, an informal breakfast club that meets after walking their kids to school. There has been a incident involving a young girl and a child molester, and one of the fathers feels singled out. The police sketch looks a bit like him, if you squint the right way, and suddenly people are staring. They’re too polite to come right out and say anything, but he is certain of what they’re thinking. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Killing Them Softly by George V. Higgins

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This is definitely a vintage crime novel. It’s got an old-fashioned feel to it from the very first chapter. No cell phones, no computers, no fancy hardware, just guys with guns figuring out what other guys are gonna do. In general, I like those kinds of stories and there is a lot to like about Killing Them Softly by George V. Higgins (originally titled Cogan’s Trade). I picked this up in the airport bookstore and figured it would be a good way to pass the time on the plane. (I admit it. I had three other books in my carry-on, but this one appealed to me right off the shelf. Don’t ever let anyone tell you cover art doesn’t matter.) [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Blind Goddess by Anne Holt

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Last week, I reviewed 1222 by Anne Holt, the first book in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series. Blind Goddessjumps back in time, back before the shooting the left Hanne in a wheelchair. This gives us more background on Hanne and what she was like as a detective, before she became the bitter woman we met in the first book.

There’s an interesting mystery at the heart of this, though I admit I got a little mired down in the middle. A drug dealer is found battered to death in a part. A deranged man, covered in blood, is found wandering in the middle of downtown Oslo. He insists on having Karen Borg as his court-appointed attorney — the same woman who discovered the battered body of the man he apparently killed. And then things get really strange. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads 1222 by Anne Holt

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The first thing I thought when I read the blurb for 1222 was, “Oh! It’s a Norwegian And Then There Were None.” I love a good mystery, and a good locked room mystery? Even more fun. Put that locked room in a snowed-in resort high in the mountains? Love it.

The interesting thing about this is that Anne Holt’s detective, Hanne Wilhelmsen, is about as unpleasant a main character as you have read lately. She has good reason to be cranky — she’s been injured in a train wreck, she can’t get around the resort all that easily in her wheelchair, people keep turning up dead and the folks in charge expect her to help. Hanne doesn’t feel like helping. She left the police force after the shooting that left her disabled and she has been something of a hermit since then. Now, she has no choice but to lend a hand, whether she wants to or not. [Read more →]

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