Friday, December 9, 2016

Book Review: Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone by Marky Ramone with Rich Herschlag

If you don't really know me, then you wouldn't know that I am a Ramones fan. If you do not know the Ramones, then I suggest you check them out on iTunes, or YouTube or wherever you listen to music. Now I got this book because I asked for it for my birthday about 2 years ago. I got it, but it was at the bottom of my stack of books I intended on reading, and of course classes and work get int he way sometimes of me reading. Sometimes it's a hard to choose whether to read or make sure my bills are paid,a long with getting an education. I have now found a better balance, so I am getting to that stack of books! When it finally reached the time for me to read it, I was so excited. I really like the Ramones, but I don't know too much about them and there history. Maybe one day there will be a movie about them, which I will be there to attend. Until then, here is my review on Marky Ramone's bibliography about his life in the Ramones. HI HO LET'S GO!

A Little Bit of Background

 First off, this is a book about Marky's point of view of the band, not everyone's, but he does get a good view of everyone else. Now Marky originally was a replacement for Tommy Ramone, who was let go of the band in the late 1978, which is when Marky, aka Marc Steven Bell, joined the band. Marky Ramone went on to play drums for the Ramones for the next 15 years. He is the only remaining Ramone left and is still doing what he loves, playing music around the world and on Sirius XM.

What was Enjoyable

  This book was very fun and enjoyable to read. Viewers will appreciate that Marky lets you into the life of everyone else. We get to see a little bit of everyone, good and bad. We also get to see a good portion of how Marky was doing during his whole Ramones life, such as his life long relationship with Marion, or when he is eating dog food. He does not cover up his messes or his addiction, but gives it to us in detail and in a way, reaches out to the audience for those who may be struggling with an addiction of there own.

There were lots of funny quotes and so much teenage angst from everyone. There's also funny things that they did back then that people would probably go crazy about now. An example of this is when Marky use to ride a hearse to nursery school:

" One strange thing about our nursery school was the school bus. We didn't have one. What we had was a Cadillac hearse converted into a kind of station wagon minibus. IT was big and black and came rolling up to the school like there was a funeral to attend. When the kids saw the hearse coming up the block, we would all run to try to get into the backseat first. It was roomy and padded back there, and it was cool to think this same compartment was once used for dead bodies. I loved riding down with the window down. We all loved looking out the back window and making weird faces at the cars behind us" (Ramone 8-9).
I just think that's kinda weird and funny and weird at the same time. This also reminds me of a type of story that my grandparents tell me. It kinda sets the timeline for you.

The book itself is very well-written. There are some celebrity books that come out and are completely fail. They talk about just themselves and not the interaction they have with other things. Marky gets a good glimpse into his reactions and his interactions with everyone around him. It's not just him, its everyone, because he knows that there are more people in his life than just himself.

What was least enjoyable

 If you happen to read this Marky, I'm sorry. There were two things that I questioned in this book.The first being that if this was going to be an autobiography of Marc Steven Bell and a good portion of his life before the Ramones, then maybe it should have been a different title. Though, I do agree that knowing Marky's past first and knowing how and why he got into the Ramones does tie in everything, I still think it should've been a bit shorter. We do not get to Marky being part of the Ramones until chapter 8. 

The only other thing that I have to say is WHAT HAPPENED TO MONTE!? In case you haven't read the book or really know too much about the Ramones, Monte was the driver, the the keeper, the glue and everything else in-between. At the end, we find out what happens to everyone else but Monte. I would really like to know.

Overall

 Overall, I was very pleased with this book. I didn't want to put it down and I was happy on learning new stuff that I didn't know about the Ramones. I even watched Rock n Roll High school again with my fiance who had never heard of the movie. I am also happy to find that Marky is still doing what he loves to do. I am a happy reader and I would recommend this book to any Ramones fan out there.

"A whole show was fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, and if that was too short? Fuck you" (Ramone 83).

 
Picture Courtesy of New York Times
 

 

 


Friday, November 4, 2016

Book Review: Seven Up by Janet Evanovich

Do you have a series that you have been reading for a couple years and absolutely love? Do you have a favorite writer who you would call in sick to work just do you could see them at a book signing? Is your favorite author the same person that writes your favorite books? Maybe not, but I have to say that my favorite series by my favorite author has to be the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich!

A Little Bit of Background

Janet Evanovich has been and still is a #1 New York Times best seller for multiple books she has put out over the years. Her first installment of the Stephanie Plum series is called One for the Money, which was released in 1994 (the year before I was born), and is still going with Turbo -Thirty Three coming out very soon! If you haven't heard of the Stephanie Plum series, it is basically about a young, bounty hunter from New Jersey just wanting to pay her rent and not wanting to have a regular 9-5 job, a.k.a not the button factory! Seven up came out in 2001, but still has lots of charm and handfuls of laughs.


What was enjoyable

Everything! I underlined the everything, because I enjoyed this book very much. The first thing I want to point out are the jokes. If you read this, you will find yourself laughing out loud with people asking if you're okay. Janet Evanovich has done it once again! I always know that when I start another Stephanie Plum book, I am going to be happy and wanting to save almost one memorable quote from each chapter.

"Do you think I'm fat?"
Lula didn't look like she had a lot of fat on her. She looked solid. Bratwurst solid. But it was a lot of bratwurst.  
"Not exactly fat," I said. "More like big."
"I haven't got none of that cellulite, either."
This was true. A bratwurst does not have cellulite (Evanovich 47).

Another aspect that must be underlined, is that the characters and events that happened in the last book, came into this book. For instance, Bob, the golden retriever, is still alive and not forgotten from the last book! Also, Dougie and Mooner made it as well. I find this to be appealing knowing that Evanovich didn't just have previous characters disappear. This makes the main character, Stephanie, seem more real, her world more real. In real life, we usually interact with more than three people a day.

 What was least enjoyable

Nothing! I know that may seem a little bias, but I truly enjoyed reading this book. Maybe if the language was toned down, but that's more to each it's own. There were no boring parts, nor confusing and unrelateable parts. The story flows very well and the characters interact with one another on a relateable level.


Overall

Overall, I would recommend this book, or even this series to anyone wanting a warm hearted book, filled with laughs.There is so much shock and energy in every page you turn. Almost every chapter leaves you not wanting to put the book down. The cliff hanger, once again, will make you want to keep on reading the series, which is what I will be doing after very soon. Evanovich has done it again!


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Book Review: The Sting Man: Inside Abscam by Robert W. Green

Have you ever judged a book by its cover, and then bought it? I have plenty of times! I actually found this book when I was traveling at a local Dollar Tree. Yes, Dollar Tree has books for $1! They actually have a pretty decent selection and I have actually seen the Target sticker on some of the books on the shelf. That is how I found the book I am reviewing currently. When I saw the cover, it looked like something I would read, then I saw the small Penguin Books symbol on the top right and knew it was legit. What also intrigued my interest was the "True story behind the film American Hustle," wanted to see that  because I wanted to see that movie (which I did), and I have currently been in the whole 70's investigator movies mood.
WARNING: Spoiler Alert!

A Little Bit of Background

First off, this book was authored by a journalist who worked at Newsday, where he headed investigative teams and won the Pulitzer Prize Gold medal twice! Abscam stood for "Arabian Scam." Abscam was basically an FBI sting operation in the late 70's and early 80's, where they exploited political figures taking bribes for political favors and various things. They ended up convicting those political figures. Abscam was ended when the group became public and it was noted about how ethical the stings were done and that they were done by Mel Weinberg, a convicted con-man. There were lots of names that might ring a bell in this book and it can be really interesting.

What Was Enjoyable

All the recognizable names and places made this book more interesting. How the author gives Weinberg's voice is creative and hilarious, you almost wonder if Weinberg himself wrote the book. The various types of scams and how far Weinberg went to get what he wanted before and during Abscam was definitely interesting and made you want to know how much further he would go. What can also be point out as enjoyable are the quotes from Weinberg that enter each new chapter: "I'm a swindler. There's only one difference between me and the Congressmen I met on this case. The public pays them a salary for stealing"(Abscam p283).

The way that the book is structured is also noteworthy. All the chapters end with the recorded tapes that had been collected throughout the Abscam career. You will also find quotes from various documents. I find this a very creative way to tell a story. You can tell the author has done his research and really put an effort into making this book as truthful as he could. The author also sets up some of the larger scenes into a very detailed paragraph. For example:

                                                                         "SCENE
Behind Japanese lines in the steamy jungles of Midanao Mel Weinberg, in navy uniform, pushes his way out on foot through giant ferns. He has been searching for a native whorehouse that fellow sailors assured him was just the other side of a mountain that could be seen from shore. Now he is lost, soggy, insect-bitten, exhausted and a little bit scared. He is also unarmed and still horny. He pushes his way into a small clearing and pauses momentarily to get his bearings. He is startled by a sound on the opposite side of the clearing thirty feet away. Two Japanese soldiers, also unarmed, emerge from the ferns. Weinberg  stares at the Japanese soldiers. The Japanese soldiers do the same. They must be looking  for the same whorehouse, thinks Weinberg. He reports back for duty six hours AWOL. He is in trouble again" (Abscam pg.26).

What was less enjoyable

The biggest issue that I had for this book was all the names! There are so many names! Too many names, that if you are not paying close attention, you might forget who this guy is. There are also fake names for different people and there was a moment when I couldn't figure out which fake named person was on which side. I know that the operation was huge and contained a ton of people, but if there was some better way to organize the names, that would've been helpful. One shouldn't have to think to much on who these people are when reading for leisure.

The first chapter was, in my opinion, confusing and boring. The first chapter is set int he beginning trial for Abscam. If you are not a big court person, you might get confused with some of the technicalities and get thrown off by the multiple things going on in this chapter. After the first chapter finishes, you get transported back in time with a adolescent Weinberg and it becomes a less complex story all the way up until he actually gets into Abscam, then it starts getting confusing again with all the names and things going on all at once.

Then, there is the ending. One might not enjoy the ending, such as I did. The ending, again in my opinion, was awful! I did not understand why one of Weinberg's wife's suicide was what closed the whole book. She wasn't even a main character! Sure she was somewhat important to Weinberg, but I just don't understand!

 Movie Version

After I finished the book, of course I had to see the movie to get the whole gist of everything. American Hustle was made in 2013, with a whole list of familiar faces. Of course, like any other movie, they overly romanticized the side ladies roles. They did get some of the book, or should I say history right, but I actually enjoyed the movie a little more than the book. I think it was cause of the romanticism, but the movie was a little more clear on what was happening as well.

Overall

Overall, there were parts that I found enjoyable and parts I found to be honestly boring. I think the overall book is interesting and if you are into history and finding out about what went on behind Abscam and some other historical things during that time frame, you might want to pick up this book. Otherwise, I wouldn't want to re-read this again.


Picture Provided by NBC Philadelphia
 "...I have nothin' to hide. I'm an open book; if I can make a buck, I make a buck."
-Mel Weinberg, 1979






Sunday, September 11, 2016

Book Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

I was so excited when I heard that there was a sequel to the book, To Kill a Mockingbird. I was also excited when my fiance surprised me with this book, because I have been wanting to read it for a year now, but finally got some extra time! Here is brief review of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. (Warning! You may encounter spoilers!)


Brief Background:

Go set a Watchman is the sequel to Harper Lee's first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which first was published in 1960. Even though this book is the sequel, it was actually written before the first. Publishers rejected "Watchman,"and her editor wanted her to create a younger version of Scout, rather than older. Some have also said that Harper Lee may have not wanted the book to be published, but we can never know for sure. You can read a brief article about it from Today News. This book takes place about 16 years after "Mockingbird" in about the 1950's when the civil rights movement was occurring.

Things that were Good:

 The first thing that I and every other reader can really appreciate  from this book and the author, is that Jean Louise didn't change, but rather she grew up. For example, she still has her southern accent and still is rambunctious as ever, but we can see that she has grown not only as a woman, but as a person. She puts that rambunctious nature of hers, into something that she believes in, which is equal rights. She is all for the equality of people and no one can change her mind, not even her father.

The overall premise of the story is one that people can relate to right now, civil rights and equal rights. We still have this problem today, maybe not in the same way, but people can still relate to this book that was written over 50 years ago. I find it interesting how one problem back then is just a more broad problem now.

The feelings in this book are so real and so detailed that the reader will find it hard not to find an emotional connection, especially if they have read "Mockingbird." There are handfuls of moments where one can relate to, especially people coming of age. With relatable moments, comes likewise quotes:
"With her head on his shoulder, Jean Louise was content. It might work after all, she thought. But I am not domestic. I don't even know how to run a cook. What do ladies say to each other when they go visit? I'd have to wear a hat. I'd drop the babies and kill 'em" (page 80).
During this quote, Scout is getting overwhelmed on all things she might have to conform to if she gets married. I know that every girl and even guy has these thoughts at one point or another.

One last thing that I really want to address are the flashbacks. The flashbacks are not particularly from the last book, but they give more story to Scout and Jem when they were younger. Using flashbacks for this book was a nice aspect and one that a reader can appreciate. 


What was least enjoyable:

I would have to say that the only unappealing aspect to this book was one chapter in particular. Chapter 14, at least to me, was one that I wanted to skip. It did not make sense to me and I still could not figure out what Jack was trying to tell Scout. I felt that the text was too wordy and too much history that a lot of readers may not know or really care to know. I just did not find this part useful in any way.

 

What tugged at the heart strings: 

Everything! UGH! I had to make a category for this, that's how emotional this book was! Let's clear the air with Jem. I really was expecting him to be dead in this book. I was really excited to see how BOTH Jem and Scout grew up, but found myself sad to learn of his passing away so early in life. Another small, but sad aspect is the Finch house. They took it down and moved away from their land and the very place they grew up. Then there's Calpurnia, who hasn't worked for the Finch's since Jem's death. We see her in a more cooped up space in her house, with her fragile bones and white hair. One might find themselves shedding a tear in this scene. The last and most gut wrenching things,in my opinion, has to be Atticus. We know that he was already an older man back in "Mockingbird," but to see him now in this story is a little saddening. Where he once was a strong and tall, he now is cripple and showing his age:
"Jean Louise shook her head. She was too old to rail against the inequity of it, but too young to accept her father's cripplng disease without putting up some kind of fight"(Page 10).

 Overall:

Overall, I felt that this novel was well written and was a brilliant transition from the last novel, in terms of content and characters. This book made me happy and sad, but either way I could not put it down. There were funny quotes, such as, "Go away, the old buildings said. There is not place for you here. You are not wanted. We have secrets"(Page 111). I did notice a small typo on page 120:"Two solid hours and I didn't know where I was. I am so tired." It's not that I am a grammar nazi, it's just I found it funny. Maybe Harper Lee was actually tired in real life and put that in there. Maybe it took Lee a long time to publish this because it wasn't the right time. Maybe she knew that years down the line, society would need to read a book like this. I enjoyed this novel very much and I found it bittersweet when it ended, thought I feel that way with all the books I read.

For thus hath the Lord said unto me,
Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth 
Isaiah 21:6

 


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

I was thinking to myself one day, what do I want to a blog on? It dawned on me that since I read a lot of books throughout the year, why not start a book review type of blog? When I came up with this brilliant idea, I was in the middle of reading Phantom of the Opera, which is one of my favorite love stories of all time! I had never actually read the book, but I have seen the it on Broadway (and will be seeing it again this October! Eeep!) and I own the movie and the soundtrack and have lots of memorabilia! Even though I have been a fan for a long time, I went into Half Price Books one day and found that there was a book! I think I always knew that the story originally came from a book, but with work and college, I never got around to finding it. Now that I have it in my grasp and have finally finished it, I can give you a proper review!




A Little Bit of Background


I obtained the 1990 edition with translations from Lowell Bair. There were more up-to-date editions, but this cover on this one really enchanted me (as you can see above). The original copy was made in 1911 in Paris with the title: Le Fantome de I'Opera (Phantom of the Opera in French). The author, Gaston Leroux, was a suspense and mystery writer. He was also a crime reporter and war correspondent for a French Newspaper, which made him perfect for writing his types of stories. He eventually passed away in Nice, France 1927 and left his other works of art, The Mystery of the Yellow Room and The perfume of the Lady in Black

What I enjoyed



First off, I like the way this novel starts! The book begins through the eyes of someone from the opera going back and wanting to investigate what had happened in the opera during the time of the Phantom. The whole novel is a big investigation and it goes through the process of written accounts, interviews and other forms of C.S.I. I think that it's a fascinating take on storytelling and one that was probably completely different back then. I also liked that is was told differently from the other versions of the story, but we will get more into that later.


Another aspect that is admirable was the detail. There were so many questions that I had, and they were all  answered, leaving the audience no questions of doubt. The characters were well thought out and had their own personalities. The way Leroux described the Phantom completely changed my internal picture of him, at least the way he looked.

I would also like to include that the little history facts were delightful insights. Who would've known there was such a position as the opera "Rat-Killer."

The fiery face suddenly vanished into the shadows while the corridor ahead became lighter as result of what the rat-killer had just done with his shaded lantern. Before, so as to not frighten the rats in front of him, he had kept the lantern turned toward himself, illuminating hi own face; now, so that he could go faster, he was lighting the darkness ahead of him. He hurried forward, taking with him all the climbing, squeaking waves of rats, all the countless noises (pg.204)
 As you can see, rat-killers are like the piped-piper, but with bigger rodents and in sewers. Another job we have come to figure because of this book are the "Door-Closers." Door-closers were "decrepit former stagehands"(Pg. 199), that opened and closed door throughout the opera and cellars of the opera. They were also known as "Draft-Stoppers," because they were in charge of not letting drafts get in to the opera, for it was bad for the singing voice.

What I Least Liked


The very first thing that I would like to point out is Raoul's character. He is, for lack of better words, weak. He stalks Christine the majority of the book, such as sneaking into her dressing room to listen to her conversation with the Phantom, twice and he follows her into the graveyard with the Phantom. Raoul is also too obsessed with Christine, as we can see in the stalking and next with barging into her house and demanding her to give up Phantom's name. He is willing to runaway with a girl that has pushed him away a couple of times after only a month of "pretend engagement." The last thing about Raul's character that I am going to point out, is that he is weak minded. When he is trapped in a torture chamber with the Persian, he goes mad way before the Persian gives up hope.
The torture was beginning to have its effect on a mind unprepared for it. I tried to combat it as much as possible by calmly reasoning with poor Raoul...And I promised him that if he let me act without distracting me with his shouts and frantic pacing, I would discover the secret of the door within an hour. He lay down on the floor, as if he were resting under the trees and said he would wait till I found the door of the forest, since he had nothing better to do(pg. 241).
His character is weak-hearten and even though they are in a torture chamber, they were not in there long before he went insane. We can also get the sense of feeling that he is lazy because, like the quote states, he has nothing better to do, and lets the man that lead him to where he wanted to go do all the work.

Besides Raoul, there is a chapter that a reader might find fatigued. Chapter 17 was about Richard and Moncharmin finding out how the Phantom was taking there money and replacing it with fake money. Though, this is a nice detail to have, I did not find it necessary, nor intriguing enough to have this concept dedicated in being a whole chapter.

One last thing was that even though I liked Christine's character, the audience may find her to be bit childish at times. For instance, she made up the whole fake engagement with Raoul and even though it was so that Phantom would not find out, I still thought it was a bit too grade-school of a move.


Classic vs. Current


I felt that this had to be necessary, because the whole time I was thinking of Andrew Lloyd Webber's version of Phantom of the Opera. Now, as I admitted before, I watched the play and movie before I read the book (sorry!). That's something that I do not usually do, but I was like 9 at the time and I didn't know there was a book at that point! Anyways, there are four main aspects that a die-hard Phantom of the Opera would notice is a little bit different, but an find solace in things that got to be part of today's Phantom.

1)One big thing that I want to point out first, is that the Phantom actually has a name! It's Erick! Not Phantom! I feel that the reason that they do not give him a name in the current version, is because i makes the Phantom more of a phantom. You don't know his name and he automatically becomes a little more mysterious.

2)The torture chamber that Erick has is not in the newer version, but one might think that it might have been a good idea to include it. Though, including the chamber might change Raoul's character in the newer version. The torture chamber is remarkable in the sense of detail and how creative it is. Okay, so this chamber is suppose to be for ultimately killing people through a way of illusions, but it is so interesting, you cannot say that it was bad. The whole chamber plays mind games on you, such as thinking you're in a forest at first, then when your thirst starts to quench, it turns into a desert.

3)Erick's background is another difference from the two versions. In the classic version Erick had a mother who didn't like his deformity, ultimately making him leave to join the circus. He then grew up to fight in a war and when he went to Paris. When he was in Paris, he helped build the architect of the opera and made the countless under passages that only he knew about. He ended up staying down for the remainder of his life, acting as the Phantom of the Opera.

4)The last major difference is Phantom's character. In the newer version, Phantom, or if you prefer Erick, is portrayed as this strong, misunderstood man that is mysterious in a seducing kind of way. In the classic version, he is a old, skeletal, misunderstood man that is mysterious in a frightening way.

There are other little differences here and there, but these are the ones that can be stood out the most. While there are a variety of different aspects, there are a few that remained the similar. Though, I could make a list of similarities, I just wanted to point out one that is found to be the pinnacle of every version.

In both versions, Erick realizes that if he truly loves Christine, he should let her go. Christine is doesn't love Erick in a romantic way, but merely a sorrowful and forced way. At the end of both books, Erick unclouds his vision and lets Christine run off with Raoul.
And...and I...kissed her! I kissed her, I!...I went to the young man and freed him...And they left together...Christine wasn't crying anymore, only I was crying...(pg.263,264.)

 Conclusion 


Overall, I enjoyed this and would completely recommend reading it, especially to a Phantom fan. Yes, the book may be a little different from the version we've come to know and love, but it is still a beautiful story. There may be some instances where you may not understand something, but there are cliff notes that are starred and put at the bottom of the page for you. This was not a hard read, but I found some moments where I wanted to skip a chapter (chapter 17), but wanted to make sure that I didn't miss anything worth knowing. I found myself not wanting to put down the book, even though I already know how it's going to end. If you would like to read this version of the story, here is link.

The next time you get a chance, put on something comfortable, put on some candles or incense, pick up a copy of Phantom of the Opera and remember to pour some wine!

Red or white liquor,
Course of fine!
What can it matter,
So we have wine?