Tuesday, April 14, 2015

GIRL IN A BAND

GIRL IN A BAND

The Book - and a tea...not punk rock at all!

Kim Gordon, from Sonic Youth! Remember them? Remember her? She has a book out!

I loved Sonic Youth in my teens. It was the 90's. The heyday of Grunge, Punk, Alternative music. Sonic Youth was one of the bands caught up in the scene...but, they were different. Some people called their sound 'noise'. Others called it 'art'. I just thought it was cool b/c it was different. I felt cool for liking something 'different'. Also, the cassettes (yes, you could still buy cassettes in the mid 90's) were cheap. Every magazine article I read on Sonic Youth made them sound even cooler - they labelled themselves 'independent', they didn't care if their music was 'commercial', a couple of the band members were married (Kim Gordan & Thruston Moore), they experimented on their guitars to make interesting noises (taking a drills to them, or looping back the distortion to create an endless feedback loop - which really just sounds like a dying squirrel). This was all perfect fodder for a rebelling teenage mind like mine.
When I started playing guitar and making my own music I pictured myself as the next Sonic Youth (even insisting on calling our band Sonic Goo). When I listen back on the stuff I recorded it is full of feedback, distortion, and 'noise'...a Sonic Youth copycat if I ever heard one.
So, almost 20 years later when I hear Kim has a memoir out I got excited. I rushed down to the library and put a copy on reserve. I was #2 on the list - they didn't even have the book in yet! That meant I had time to get out the one old Sonic Youth CD I had left and revisit the noise. Ahh, it was awesome.
The much anticipated book was awesome as well. Not for the music reminiscing, but, for all the other stuff I didn't know about! Turns out I was a very ignorant fan of Sonic Youth and Kim Gordon.
Kim starts the book recalling one of her worst days ever. A recent reunion concert of Sonic Youth. Why was it so bad? Turns out she had to perform with Thurston Moore...who is now her ex-husband! I had no idea they were divorced. I had this vision of them being the ideal rock and roll couple. They were in the same band, making music together, they bought a house in the country where they rock out all the time. Well, it turns out their marriage was not so great. It sounds like they were very disconnected and had different life goals and values. It ended when Thurston cheated on Kim. Ouch. How did I miss this story?
As I read through this book I realized I knew absolutely nothing about Kim Gordon. I didn't realize how deep into the art scene she was, or that she was even an artist for that matter. I only knew the music side of her - the punky rock chick who played a mean bass! Turns out she doesn't even consider herself a musician.
I kept turning page after page learning more and more about Kim, completely changing my impression of her. It was an addictive read.
My only criticism of the book is the writing in the middle section. This could actually be considered more of an editing problem. Around the middle of the book Kim talks about the different albums Sonic Youth released - a chapter an album. It felt a bit repetitive, and especially when the phrase, 'at that point...' kept coming up. You'd think an editor would have caught that too?
My small critique shouldn't stop you from rushing out and grabbing a copy though. Gordon's writing is honest, raw, passionate (all those buzzwords) and interesting to read. All you Sonic Youth fans that are now in your 30s and 40s now, come on, relive your youth a bit!

RATING: READ






Monday, March 9, 2015

TENDERFOOT

TENDERFOOT




Found this vintage book at the local Bibles for Missions store. I believe it was only $1...which, since it was originally only $.75 means it has increased in value about 30% in the past 30 years. Maybe these old paperback westerns are a good investment opportunity?
Tenderfoot has a blurb on the front cover describing itself - Red Anthony had the lazy look of a tenderfoot and the lighting draw of a devil.
My invented blurb - Red Anthony is a naive newbie on the Western frontier. Although, he may appear to be a no-brained dunce he is in fact a smart, fearless, fast drawin' gunslinger who takes no time at all to unseat a long time bully of a two saloon town.
The story is a take on the classic unlikely-hero-saves-town-from-tough-as-nails-outlaw. Anthony is the unlikely hero, raised in the circus he picks up many useful skills from knife throwing to horse stunt riding. Great things to know if you ever find yourself in a tight spot with some dusty cowboys about to turn you into pigfeed. He follows a girl, who has stolen his naive young heart, out to Dodge city. His first day searching for her he inadvertently makes a few enemies with the local criminals. His good natured kind heart manages to get him into all kinds of trouble with these fellows. In no time flat they are ganging up to find him and 'shoot him dead'. Unfortunately for these outlaws Anthony does not know the customs of the West, or criminals, so he does some surprising things - like casually walks into the Badguy's hideout and tells off the big boss, he breaks his friend out of the well guarded jail, he makes friends with a band of rebel natives...stuff like that.
The story slowly progresses, as I find Max Brand's writing to do, until the last dozen pages of the book when all of the fast paced action happens. It ends on a cliff hanging moment when Anthony meets Diamond Jack in the final showdown - you don't know what unconventional thing Anthony will do. Will he die? Will he kill? Will he strike a deal? I'll let you find out.
Personally, I found the book lacked much action, save the end. It progressed slowly and predictably. No great literary work, but, for a $.75 paperback what do you expect? The ending saved the book. You are left with your blood racing and a slightly shocked feeling running through you...that's worth the $.75 and the couple of hours put into reading the book. If you are a fan of western books, go ahead and give this one a try. If you are not a western fan, or not sure if you are a western fan...there are better books to read first.

RATING : READ

Monday, February 23, 2015

WAITER RANT

WAITER RANT:
Thanks for the Tip - Confessions of a cynical waiter




I judged this book by its cover - it stood out! On a shelf at the library, surrounded by mundane food related books, it caught my eye. I noticed the quote on the cover from Anthony Bourdain. I thought, if this book is anything like Bourdain's books I'll love it.
It was no Kitchen Confidential, but, the Waiter Rant was ok. It gave me the basics of what I expected - a behind the scenes peek into the life of the wait staff. I learned a lot about what holidays are like to waiters, how not to make and break reservations, and what the minimum level of tipping is required before you are called a bad name. The rest of the book was a mix of stories, highlighting the terrible behavior some customers exhibit. The running theme was that some diners thought themselves superior to the lowly serving staff. The way it was written could have come across as whiny, which most reviewers have commented about, however, I did not view it that way. I saw it as a working mans rant about the world he was throw into. 
If you like memoirs on anything foodie, you'll love this. If you cannot stand books with characters who complain, then do not order this book.

RATING : READ

Monday, February 2, 2015

SPARTAN GOLD

SPARTAN GOLD






A fast paced read that takes us on a treasure hunt across the world. It's overflowing with action and adventure - a book that lives up to the genre Action/Adventure. But, along with that comes some unbelievable moments. You know? The scene were the bad guys empty their guns and miss with every bullet, while the hero takes one shot that kills three of them. You have to take the good with the bad. In this book there was more good than bad.
A treasure hunting couple stumble upon a WWII German sub hidden in a swamp, while a local antique dealer attempts to sell a broken piece of an old wine bottle. These two events start a whirlwind adventure that takes a treasure hunting couple across the world. It also challenges them to become experts on Napoleon Bonaparte's obscure wine collection in order to solve riddles that lead them to the jackpot pile of spartan gold...sadly, there is no Dragon named Smaug sitting on top of the pile of gold.
This book reminds me of the James Bond collection, which I have been making my way through recently. They both give off the same attitude (if a book can do that?), where the main characters are invincible, have unbelievably good luck, and can solve obscure riddles with impossible ease. This could never happen in real life, but, it makes for some pretty good story lines. I don't know how many times the treasure hunters in this book outwitted the mafia type thugs that were hunting them down. Even in the few hand to hand battles, the smaller treasure hunters managed to win with a well placed judo kick or a spot on hundred yard throw of a brick that smashes into the thugs head while narrowly missing the other treasure hunters face that is only millimeters away. If you are reading this kind of book you have to turn off your logic/reality brain and just go with it. Accept that it is fiction and enjoy the fakeness of it all.
This is the first Cussler book I've read. It was a Christmas present from my daughter, who found it at a special event they have at their school where they can pick up free presents for family members. It is all donated stuff that allows the kids to bring home a surprise present for Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, whoever. She thought this book looked like other books I read. Good pick by her.

RATING: READ

Friday, January 16, 2015

STAR TREK - LOG TEN

STAR TREK LOG TEN




- Alan Dean Foster -

I found this retro book at the Bibles For Missions thrift store. A classic Star Trek, mint condition, written by Alan Dean Foster, and the best part - it was only 50 cents! See why I couldn't resist buying it. Unfortunately, I have to say the highlight of this book was the buying process.
I've read a bunch of Star Trek books and what I like about them is the action - the phaser shooting, the tension of an intergalactic warship standoff, the no named Redshirt who dies a dramatic/outrageous death. This book had very little of that. The main story was a war of words around a negotiating table...boring.
Also, the twist of this book was that during a transporter malfunction some of the crew switch bodies, ie Kirk is in Uhulas body, Sulu in Spocks body etc. Ok idea, except I kept getting the characters mixed up. It was hard to keep track or enjoy the 'normal' behaviour of my favourite characters.
The writing was also bad. A lot of awkward sentences. Choppy. One of those books where you find yourself trying to decipher a sentence every once in awhile. Perhaps the book was rushed. It felt rushed.
Overall, not good. Keep the cover, frame it, stick it in a scrapbook...throw away the rest.

RATING: Do Not Read

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A COOK'S TOUR

A COOK'S TOUR



Bourdain pulled it off again! Another 'Must Read' book I'd recommend to anyone.
The concept is pretty basic - he travels the world in search of the perfect meal. From the refined tables of France to the dirty slums of some hideous sounding Asian country, he really does go everywhere. This is the book version of his TV show - No Reservations. Or, at least the first season. But, as any bookworm knows the book is always better than the movie.
Now, I liked No Reservations (the TV show), but, I really, really, really liked A Cook's Tour. Bourdain gives us the backstory, and the truth behind each episode he filmed. What you see on TV is not really how it happened, or at least how Bourdain felt it happened. He may be smiling to the camera, but, he was often homesick, filled with guilt, or wracked with depression.
This book is great because it is so honest. Bourdain is not a chipper chicken the entire time. If he doesn't like something he'll let you know. On the other hand, if he says the sheep testicles are one of the best things he's tasted - then they probably are.
I also liked that he revealed his true feelings about some of the places: That France did not live up to his childhood memories. That some Japanese delicacies almost made him vomit. That he sometimes felt like a stereotypical bumbling American that would never really be able to understand another culture.
He gave it a good try though. As a tour guide he was good. As a food guide he was excellent. His trip around the world was a true adventure. He didn't always stick to the beaten path. He has a good knack for describing things so well, in a somewhat crude way sometimes. It made for a fun read.

RATING : READ

Monday, November 24, 2014

ON WRITING

ON WRITING
A Memoir on the Craft



This book was not scary.
For all the hype about this best selling 'king' of horror...On Writing did not do much to incite any feelings of fear in me. By the time I was done this book I was feeling unscared (if that is even a word?). On the contrary, I was feeling motivated to take on the immense challenge of writing a novel!
King was very, 'ra ra you can do it', telling the readers that there is nothing to fear in the world of writing - it is in fact boundaryless, ruleless, and sets your mind free. That doesn't sound scary at all. Especially if you follow the writing tips he lays out - write for yourself, get a good editor, and practice practice practice. The only thing missing from the chapter on his personal writing process was a rainbow and a unicorn.
Really, the only part of the book that was the least bit scary was the ending when King gets hit by a van. But, it was not like the van was possessed by the devil, it was driven by some hillbilly guy with a bad driving record. I assumed by the novel's title that King would be eaten by a book he was writing, or it would take over his mind and make him kill the neighbours. But, none of that happened. Instead King wrote about typing away on a card table in the laundry room and being addicted to crack cocaine. Imagine that!
If you are looking for a decent book about writing for a living this would be up your alley. If you are looking for a book about a best selling author going insane, or a possessed book coming alive and driving vans over writers taking walks at dusk along the highway - not in the cards.

Rating: READ

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE LONELY END OF THE RINK

THE LONELY END OF THE RINK





- Grant Lawrence -

Grant has another book - Adventures in Solitude - which I really enjoyed reading, so when I heard he had this new 'hockey' book I instantly ran out...you thought I might say, ran out and bought the book. No, sorry, I'm kind of cheap. Instead I put the book in the upper half of my mental list of books to read at some point in life. Only a month or so later something clicked in me and I went to the library and found the book. Strangely enough it was in. I thought it would be on backorder, reserved by two dozen people, ETA of approx three years...guess I overestimated Grant's popularity. At least in my mind he is that high in demand. Why? Because, he is an awesome writer. An awesome Canadian writer!

What could be more Canadian than hockey? Boreal Forests you say? Maybe. Arctic stuff. Sure. But, let's stick with hockey shall we? Me, being a good ol' Canadian male, love to watch me a good hockey game - and even read me a good hockey book. However, this was not always the case. That is why this book resonated with me.

Grant's relationship with hockey is similar to so many non-athletic boys who grew up in the great white north. It's a Love/Hate/Love again kind of relationship. Like Grant, I was one of those kids who was more interested in looking at bugs or reading a good Tin Tin book then freezing my baguettes off playing hockey on a bumpy frozen pond. I was never involved in organized hockey, heck, I didn't even know what hockey was until I was five or six - shameful Canadian, I know.

Then, just like Grant, the time came when I discovered ball hockey. It is an almost universal school age rite of passage for little boys - becoming addicted to road hockey and playing every chance you get (mostly recess time at school). This one track thinking rules your pretween life and often leads you deeper into the world of hockey. You start paying attention to the NHL, and eventually you pick a team to support wholeheartedly. Vancouver was Grant's team, Toronto was mine.

Then you hit high school and things change. Just like in Grant's book, it seems the bullies are always those hockey jocks, wearing their hockey jackets with a number stitched into the shoulder. This tarnishes the image of hockey, or at least grassroots hockey. You still loyally support your NHL team, but, at the same time you despise the local AAA team. It is quite a juxtaposition.
Eventually, when you get to that comfortable adult stage, the idea of hockey changes again. Maybe you have a kid who wants to play, or you have new friends (not bullies) who play in 'beer leagues'...and now you secretly wish you had taken up hockey in your youth. Or, that you could even just have that same kind of fun like when you played road hockey with your school chums on the playground. Well, Grant did this. He found there are many, many, like minded people out there. The art and band geeks are forming hockey leagues where the focus is not on winning or losing, but, just having fun...and maybe winning a trophy. It sounds utopian, especially to a bookworm like me.

Along with this psychiatrist inducing rehash of memories, Grant also gives us a great history of his team - the Vancouver Canucks. Everything from their fashionable flying V jerseys to their game seven Stanley Cup Final losses (yes, plural. They have lost the game seven final twice...ouch). Even though I was not a big Vancouver fan in the 90's, I do remember some of the more memorable moments...like Pavel Bure's game seven double overtime breakaway goal against Calgary. I was babysitting some neighborhood kids and their Mother must have been out partying hard b/c that double overtime game went into the wee hours of the morning, 2 or 3 am my time...and I remember watching it and cheering (I was a big Pavel Bure fan - I had so many of his hockey cards).

What I really love about Grant's writing is all of the pop culture references, and I really love how most of them are Canadian. Where else can you find a reference to Mr. Dress Up? Or a wish to hear some Raffi. Or, stories based on the life lessons learned from Coaches Corner? It's Canadiana at it's best.
Great book Grant. I really hope you put out more...I'll be sure to buy, er, I mean borrow them from the library. Sorry, like I said, I'm cheap.

RATING: READ

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

HOMBRE

HOMBRE



A stagecoach trip gone sour.
Why? Bandits hold it up.
Why? There is a bag of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Why? That is the part of the mystery.
The mystery and suspense were the best part of this book. This seemingly random bunch of people, on a stagecoach ride to nowhere town in the middle of the desert, all have hidden secrets or strange connections to one another. The more I read the more I found out. I started to wish I could speed read and just get to the end already! There were lots of surprises that popped up and I really had no idea what was going to happen next. Very well written in that way.
The first person narrative, from a somewhat naive sounding clerk, helped with the suspense - he didn't have the life experience or the brains to really have any solid predictions, which made everything a surprise.
Also, the way this clerk built up other characters was great. He stereotyped everyone; the Doctor (who could do no wrong), the cute girl (who could do no wrong), the ruffian (who could do wrong), but, best of all the 'Hombre'. He build up this man to be a bigger than life superhero and made it seem like everyone was in good hands...but, were they?
All of the characters were different and showed their true colours as the story progressed. It was very entertaining to see them all 'break down' at some point. Another part of the book that was very well written.
I've heard Elmore Leonard mentioned over and over again in the Western circles, but, I've never gotten around to reading anything by him. Now that I know how great he writes I will be sure to look into more of his books.

RATING : READ

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

RIFLE RIVER - BUCKSKIN #1

RIFLE RIVER
Buckskin #1







Well this book was a surprise...in a couple of different ways. I picked this up at the library on a whim. I was rushing through on my lunch and wanted a quick, small, western. Saw a series called Buckskin, randomly picked one, glanced at the cover and saw a tough looking cowboy (not sure how I missed the half naked lady!?) and was on my way. Later, when I actually took another look at the cover it reminded me of a James Bond book - with the guy and the seductive lookin' lady. I started reading it.
It started off as a typical macho type western, where the protagonist is described as this larger than life gunslinger who is always good with the ladies and has a bit of an edge or a criminal history to him. Then, as with most good westerns, there is a scene or two that shows just how tough this guy really is. Usually it is a saloon fight or some fast gun draw...well in Buckskin's case it was to do with two saloon gals! There were some pretty rough words used, words that you do not see very much in life, or at least I don't. It was a bit of a shock. What was I reading!?
I finally noticed the small print on the front cover - his guns were hot, but his woman were hotter!
Turns out this Buckskin series is some sort of 'erotic western'! Luckily, forgive the pun, those scenes were quick (and badly written to boot) and I could get back to the story about ranching and cowpokin'. Luckily, the rest of the book was pretty good. A standard western about this Buckskin guy trying to start a new life and leave the fighting in the past. However, he is just too good hearted and ends up being drawn into a fight when some lumberjack is beating up a saloon girl. This leads to all sorts of trouble in the town and they eventually find out about his past. There are gun fights, fist fights, horse chases, and near death experiences. All the action one could want...plus more, if you are interested. It ends on a high note too, a cliffhanger kind of thing, that makes you want to rush out and get that next book.
I was surprised this 'pulp' would be so entertaining and that I plan on getting the next book out of the library asap. I just hope the librarians do not look at the cover while I'm checking it out. They might get the wrong impression of me!

RATING: READ

After doing a bit of research, I found out the author is really Mitchell Smith (Roy LeBeau being his pen name). Pen names are always strange to me.