“No Tears for My Father”, by Viga Boland – Review

The author, Viga Boland, does something akin to carving herself open for the reader. In a matter-of-fact way, she reveals the gripping account of her father’s controlling criminal mental and sexual abuse which persisted into her early adult life. She makes sure the reader doesn’t get too far by accident, there are numerous warnings before the story begins in earnest. She graphically spares herself very little in the account. I hope the telling provided some modicum of catharsis for her and her loved ones. By the time you’ve read to the titular passage, you applaud a recovery which took more than four decades.

As a father of a grown daughter, who becomes more beloved as time passes, I cannot imagine the thought process of the author’s father. We start with ‘narcissist’, but quickly run out of diagnostic labels for a true monster who never really paid society’s price for such crimes. The book doesn’t really get us to “why”, but it does depict the “what”. Monsters like this are out there, we need to watch for those signs, as I suspect most victims of such abuse don’t make it through to the sunlight without help.

This is an important book. Not all books are meant for entertainment, sometimes they must be read regardless.

“Red”, by Sammy Hagar – Review

This book fills in detail surrounding Sammy Hagar’s life and times up until about 2011. Don’t read the book expecting a rock star to write well; it isn’t what the book is about. If you read at an tenth grade level, it is about right. There is also a fair amount of inconsistency in terms of contradictory opinions, and either he’s changeable or he feels it necessary to compliment before criticising. I landed on it probably being the latter. 

I’m not especially a big fan of Sammy’s musical work, but I did find the detail interesting to read. He grew up a few miles from me and when he described the place I knew exactly what he was talking about; small one-industry California town doomed to slide even further into the abyss of poverty. I got out and never returned. Sammy got out and went back to become a local landlord after making it. Kudos!

Another note: I enjoyed reading his account of events surrounding the changes in Van Halen. Regardless of whether you’re “Team-Ed”, “Team-Dave”, or “Team-Sammy” his account is probably the most credible in my opinion. Over the years, he has consistently been the hardest working, most fun-loving, and quite likely the happiest of the group. If you are a fan, you’ll enjoy the book.

“Blood Prism”, by E.E. King – Review

Anytime an author starts chapters with character names, locations, and year you know the story will not be told in a time-linear fashion. I’m fairly easy to confound, as I treat characters kind of like variables when reading, until I’m connected enough to know their names. Names are hard, even in real life. So I confuse easy with a format like that, but all it means is an occasional retrench to pickup connections I didn’t on the first pass.

This book has it all, vampires, vampire-hybrids, vampire-cat (yay!), Greek gods, native American spirits, werewolves, ghosts, fates, and someone who wasn’t characterised so easily. As a story, the reader might feel this to be too non-linear for them. However, if you enjoy experiential reading, where plot arc is secondary to living within that world, this book qualifies with bells on!

Obviously, I inhabit the latter category.

“So Anyway ..”, by John Cleese – Review

Before anything else is said, if you are a Monty Python fan first and a John Cleese fan second, this book might be disappointing for you. The author covers his life from fetus through the O2 reunion show, but the section concerning the Pythons is very abbreviated (less than five pages). Who knows, maybe details there will be in a different book.

Regardless, this book is well written (and why wouldn’t it be given the author is first and foremost a writer?) plus an easy read. I very much enjoyed reading anecdotes about Cleese working with many of the UK’s premiere old-school comedy talent. I was familiar with their work but not that they had been affiliated with Cleese early in his career. It was also interesting to read that some of my favorite Python sketches were previously performed on other shows prior to the formation of Python.

One book scene I can definitely picture, Cleese and Chapman writing a sketch. Cleese not sure sketch is funny and keeps asking Chapman if it is; Chapman stating unequivocally that it is, with the dead certitude he showed on-screen many times in memory. Amusing mind video. It is one of the famous sketches, so I won’t spoil it.

All told, I would buy the book knowing the above, maybe you should too.

“Dirk Quigby’s Guide .. Afterlife”, by E. E. King – Review

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, with its abundant references to song lyrics and popular culture, both cited and uncited, with many Easter eggs to be discovered. I think being immersed within this author’s stream of consciousness would be hugely entertaining. 

The content is broadly humorous, although it tackles a very serious issue. I am usually able to ignore the fact most religions declare themselves the only truth, with dire consequences for all others. It is appalling how many “heavens” allow for the righteous to directly view the ongoing suffering of those who weren’t. Kind of a Romanesque dinner theatre for the rest of time. With humor, it is easier to digest without a competing emotional reaction (anger, disgust, etc..)

I do think the book ended abruptly, I could have gone on. But then entropy was having its way with Dirk’s angelic relationship anyway, so it wasn’t long before something climactic happened. I’m just glad she didn’t kill the cat in a fit of pique! Destroying the world is definitely a better choice.

“Thanks .. Mr. Kibblewhite”, by Roger Daltrey – Review

Before saying anything on Roger Daltrey’s memoir, “Thanks a lot Mr. Kibblewhite”, you have to be a fan of The Who to get the most out of the book. It is well-written and accessible, perhaps due to excellent editors, and it represented a marked improvement over Pete Townshend’s effort. As a fan, it is great to learn some of the backstory which I saw only from the audience.

Mr. Kibblewhite was an school administrator who canes young Daltrey as a child and expels him with the classic sendoff “You’ll never amount to anything, Daltrey!” True to form, the insult provides the motivational power to propel Roger to the top. As stated in his interviews, he is actually very thankful to Mr. Kibblewhite. I think everyone in our generation (yeah I went there) had someone whose early skepticism spurred us on. The story is told with a warmth which seems very genuine as well.

It covers the time period from childhood to 2016. He backs up Pete Townshend’s take on Pete’s child pornography charges, and perhaps he knows best, but I didn’t find Pete’s account completely credible myself. 

I found it interesting Roger’s concert tour work with the Who didn’t make him much money over the years. To hear him tell it, touring was a crapshoot to walk away with any cash at all, especially while Keith Moon was alive. Although, after Peter Grant and Led Zeppelin broke the code on how to make touring a winner, The Who’s thieving management should have paid attention. It is very profitable when properly managed.

From his perspective, he had to tour to make money, while Pete and presumably John were able to clip coupons at home from songwriter royalties. I don’t doubt Roger made contributions in the studio, I’ve heard the demos Pete made, the Who’s band deal should have made a provision to share in the royalty stream, even if unequally. Or Roger could have written some songs on his own. Regardless, the read is an enjoyable ride and a must for any Who fan.

“Wolf Hall”, by Hilary Mantel – Review

The book is a historical fiction told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell during the realm of Henry VIII. The timeframe covered in this volume 1 of 3, spans latter days of Cardinal Wolsey through the execution of Thomas More.

I very much enjoyed the book and would have given it 5 stars but for the extremely distracting dialogue attribution style of the author. As one example, she constantly uses “he” to indicate Cromwell, but also uses it for characters in proximity even when confusing. Now there might be some arcane literary purpose in all of this but, for the rest of us mere mortals, it makes the book almost inaccessible. I found myself stopping, reversing tracks and parsing out who is actually speaking over and over again. I persevered because I enjoyed the story in spite of the annoyance. It took me more than twice as long to read this book than it should have.

Takeaway, I would recommend because the story is otherwise well-conceived and enjoyable. Just be forewarned reader frustration is part of the mix.

“Zelazny”, by Jane Lindskold – Review

For the die-hard Roger Zelazny fan, this book is very enjoyable as familiar content from his work is cited to illustrate the points made by author Lindskold. I especially enjoyed reading the back story elements which were shared about some of my favorite Zelazny stories/books. To think Creatures of Light and Darkness was at first not intended for publication is shocking from my perspective. It ranks as one of my all-time favorite Zelazny books. For those who have just discovered him, read his catalog before tackling this book, as it won’t mean as much to you otherwise.

“The Historian”, by Elizabeth Kostova – Review

A number of reviewers decry the slow pace of this book, but I really enjoyed the texture it created. For those who don’t remember, Stoker’s Dracula was an incredibly slow read as well, but again very rich. If you like to read another Dan Brown rehash of the same plot lines, with attractive female side-kick, this probably won’t appeal to you. If you enjoy a long book with true craftsmanship, The Historian definitely qualifies.