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Between A Heart And A Rock Place by Pat Benatar

Between A Heart And A Rock Place

Between A Heart And A Rock Place: A Memoir; co-written by Patsi Bale Cox

I finished this book very impressed with Pat Benatar as a person. She gives equal credit to her Husband/Co-songwriter/Producer/Guitarist Neil ‘Spyder‘ Giraldo. You don’t reach the levels Benatar reached without a lot of work. “Crimes of Passion” sold five million albums and won a Grammy. She and Neil had to fight a lot stereotypes, sexist behavior, and even flack from her record company and management. But Benatar is a fighter, and smart too; she rarely backed down when it mattered. The book is a fun read, and after reading it, the Pat Benatar Band, is one of the few bands I would actually like to be part of: more of a family and less of a war.

259 pages

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Jukebox Hero by Lou Gramm

Juke Box Hero

Juke Box Hero: My Five Decades in Rock ‘n’ Roll; co-written by Scott Pitoniak

In my opinion Lou Gramm has one of the finest voice in Rock. I’ve been a Foreigner fan since their first album and even bought Lou’s solo albums. So I was interested in this memoir and enjoyed the behind the scenes look at his life. Hard to believe he wasn’t interested in singing when he grew up. He was a drummer. It was only later he became a singer. When Mick Jones (Formerly of Spooky Tooth, not The Clash) asked him to join his new group Foreigner, it was as a singer. Gramm had also written some songs in his previous band, so he and Jones wrote most of the songs for Foreigner together. The theme of the book is Egos, Alcohol, and Drugs destroy another band. But this story has a happy ending as Gramm finds Jesus and the Hazelded Treatment Center.

I was surprised to learn Thomas Dolby played keyboard on much of “4“. I was also surprised that Jones and Gramm fought over the direction of the band. Gramm thought they were playing too many ballads. This seems unusual for a singer, as the ballads really show off his voice. Weird too as “Inside Information” and “Midnight Blue” (Gramm’s solo album released in the same year: 1987) sound pretty much the same. A brain tumor nearly ended Gramm’s life in 1997. Gramm’s recovery story is remarkable. I enjoyed reading this book, it had a light tone, and Gramm covered all parts of his life. I left with a list of albums to track down, which is always a bonus for me.

249 pages

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Comic Book Nation by Bradford Wright

Comic Book Nation

Comic Book Nation: The Transformation Of Youth Culture In America

There was a period of time before I was 13, when I read my fair share of comic books. I was thinking about this the other day and plan to write in some detail about the role of comics and cartoons had in my life. I picked up this book to get some history on the topic. Wright has covered the history of the comic book in America during the Twentieth Century. It’s a short book so he only covers the popular titles and houses (mostly DC and Marvel). He shows the role comics played in our culture and how that role has expanded.

285 pages

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How Music Works by David Byrne

How Music Works

How Music Works

I’m checking them out, I’m checking them out
I got it figured out, I got it figured out
Good points some bad points
But it all works out, I’m a little freaked out.
“Cities” by Talking Heads

350 pages

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Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon

Girl In A Band

Girl In A Band
It is as if Gordon was trying to write a memoir without mentioning Sonic Youth. She spends the first half of the book describing her upbringing. I didn’t find this interesting, but I kept reading waiting for the day she becomes a musician. Even this seems more like an accident than a plan. In the many other ‘Rock Biographies‘ I’ve read the musicians are driven by an unquenchable thirst to make music. Not Gordon. Throughout rest of the book she discusses writers, fashion designers, and other musicians, but not much ink is wasted on Sonic Youth. When I got to the chapters where she discusses “Daydream Nation”, “Goo”, and “Dirty” I had to wonder if she was even in Sonic Youth. This book was very disappointing as a Rock Biography and not much better as a personal memoir. I can only hope Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo or Steve Shelley writes a book about their experiences in Sonic Youth.

293 pages

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Edge Of Dark by Brenda Cooper

Edge Of Dark

The Edge Of Dark: The Glittering Edge has an interesting theme about what it means to be human. I looked forward to reading Cooper’s novel on this topic. The plot starts well but I found as it progressed, it left me with questions. Cooper’s characters acted in ways that seemed unexplainable. Especially the Next. The Next are humans that have uploaded their consciousness into computers and/or cybernetic beings. Many have cloned their consciousness. For this crime they have been exiled into the Dark. (The outer limits of the solar system, not Earth’s but Lym’s.) Now they want to come back because now they have the firepower to make it happen. But I don’t understand why they were exiled in the first place because the biological humans don’t seem to have any issues with robots, so why the issue with cyborgs? There’s almost infinite room in a solar system so why the exile? Cooper makes the Next almost more-human, and more ethical in some parts of the book, but then the Next kill everyone at the first space station they stop at, seemingly for no reason. Rest of the plot doesn’t make much sense either. It might be okay if Cooper worked the theme of book (what it means to be a human) harder. I thought the characters were pretty good. I had no problem with her writing style. Even the jumping around cause me no problem. But the weak plot means I won’t be reading any more books in the series.

402 pages

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Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler

Oracle Bones

Peter Hessler was an English major turned journalist, when he returned to China and wrote, what would eventually be, this work of narrative non-fiction.  He had spent time in Fuling years earlier, in the Peace Corps, and wrote a wonderful memoir of that experience called River Town.  One the things that makes Hessler’s writing so compelling is his ease of storytelling.  You feel like you are right there beside him as he immerses himself in China circa the year 2000.

The perspective has changed with this work.  As Hessler explains, in River Town, he was the teacher and his writing covered the reactions of the students to his teaching.  In this book, he is the journalist, and it’s his interpretations, rather than the students that are being relayed.

In a piece for National Geographic, Hessler journeys to Anyang to research the Oracle Bones.  Anyang is the site of an archeological dig where ancient turtle shells were found. The shells were found to have writing on them from the Shang Dynasty, and were used for divination.  I enjoyed how Hessler researched these bones and the men who were important in bringing this find to light.  Through his research, the author brings an amazing tale of the importance of culture and language, and the consequences of advocating one’s own ideas in the age of Mao.  Somehow, he managed to show, through the Oracle Bones, the path China has taken.

We are reintroduced to his former students (now older, with families and jobs), and that is a marvelous way to see the changing country.  Since this memoir took place fifteen years ago, I can only imagine what it must be like now, given China’s rapid changes.  I’ll just have to look for more Hessler memoirs…

5 stars (out of 5)
528 pages
Published in 2007

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