Book Reviews Channel

Chuck Berry: The Autobiography – book review

Chuck Berry book cover

I’m often drawn to books that chronicle the lives and times of musicians. Specifically, I’ve read a lot of books that track the histories of bands. I figured I’d get something like that in this Chuck Berry autobiography. And I did. Sort of.

Chuck Berry wrote this book in the late 1980’s, when he was in his early sixties. The book begins with Berry tracing his ancestry back to the pre-Cival War era, bringing it forward to his parents and his birth. He then recounts his younger days, his high school years and how he eventually learned to play guitar. This part of the book was kinda slow at times.

From there, he moves into his late teens and early twenties where he runs down the first of three stints he had in prison. (In this case, he was busted for committing a series of robberies with friends while they were away from home.) After regaining his freedom, Berry went home to live with his family in St. Louis. He began working with his father, doing various kinds of handyman and maintenance work for property managers around the city. He also met his wife during this time and he began playing music more seriously, taking it to the point where his income from being a musician was starting to eclipse the other work he was doing.

One weekend in the late...

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Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn – book review

Star Wars Heir to the Empire book cover

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire is part one in a three-book cycle. It is also referred to as “The Thrawn Trilogy”. (Thrawn is a main character in the trilogy). All three books were written by Timothy Zahn.

There seems to be some debate over whether or not The Thrawn Trilogy is considered to be canon in Star Wars lore. Some say it is (or that it should be). Others point out that the upcoming Star Wars movies aren’t following closely to what happens in this trilogy, or that they may have thrown it out altogether. I haven’t done much digging into that whole debate, so I’ll simply note it here and move on.

The first book in The Thrawn Trilogy takes place shortly after the battle on Endor. It picks up where Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi left off and shows what happened next. As such, there are several easily recognizable characters in Star Wars: Heir to the Empire and some significant new characters that are introduced.

Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the ...

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Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher – book review

Wishful Drinking book cover

Carrie Fisher might be best known for her role as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars movies. Her mother is actress Debbie Reynolds, and her father is “crooner” Eddie Fisher. Each was independently famous and became more so after they got married. I suspect Carrie Fisher was a name people recognized from the moment she was born. In this book, she describes herself as “a product of Hollywood inbreeding”.

Wishful Drinking the book is based on Carrie Fisher’s show of the same name. Reading it feels like she is talking to you (and the audience you are sitting in). It is an informal discussion about some of the bizarre things she has experienced in her life. Some of the stories could be seen as tragic, but they are presented in a humorous way.

Can you imagine what it would...

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The Condition by Jennifer Haigh – book review

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

I’ve always found it interesting how siblings who grew up in the same home, with the same parents, can experience completely different childhoods. Parents, despite their best intentions, cannot possibly treat all of their wonderful, unique, frustrating, children in exactly the same way. The result is that everyone in a family ends up with memories of events that don’t quite match up. I think this concept is a good place to start from when you read The Condition.

Paulette and Frank got married, and had children, in the 1970’s. The book stars with Paulette and her sister Martine who are driving to to Cape Cod to spend some time in a cottage by the beach. It is the traditional vacation for this extended family. Paulette’s children, Billy (age 14), Gwen (age 12), are in the backseat. The youngest sibling, Scotty (age 9), has been relegated to the rear of the vehicle because he is so energetic and excited that he is impossible to sit next to.

In addition to Paulette and Martine, there is their brother, Roy, his wife and their children. Later, Frank joins them. What was supposed to be another idyllic vacation turns serious after Frank voices concern about Gwen’s health. He notices that her cousin, who is just a few months other than her, is starting to hit puberty. Gwen, however, still looks like a very little girl. This observation eventually leads to the diagnosis of Gwen’s condition, a situation that affects the entire family.

Paulette and Frank fight about whet...

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Waiting by Debra Ginsberg – book review

black and white photo of a waitress facing away from the camera and holding a tray of drinks

The full title of this book is: Waiting: the true confessions of a waitress.  It is the memoir of Debra Ginsberg as she looks back upon the years she spent working as a waitress.  If you are like me, and have never worked as a “server”, the book will give you an interesting glimpse into what that experience is really like.  She gives the reader an insider’s view of the job, of how various restaurants function (or dysfunction) and a lot of interesting social observations about both the waitresses and their customers.

Those of you who have worked as a waitress, waiter, or server, might find that some of her stories resemble something you have lived through.  Anyone who is interested in sociology will find the stories she shared about the people she worked with, or waited on, to be very insightful.

I purchased this ...

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Robot Visions by Isaac Asimov – book review

Robot Visions book cover

Robot Visions is a collection of 18 short stories, and 16 essays, written by Isaac Asimov.  The stories were originally published between 1940 and 1976.  The essays were originally published between 1956 and 1974 (with a big gap in the middle somewhere).  I had not read any of Asimov’s work before I picked up this collection.  I would recommend it as a good starting point for people who want a glimpse into Asimov’s robots (and the way humans interact with them).

It includes a story called Runaround which was published in 1942.  This story is significant because it is the very first one in which Asimov specifically describes the Three Laws of Robotics.  It is those laws that govern the behavior of all of his robots...

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Broken by Traci L. Slatton – book review

A fallen angel

Imagine feeling a deep and unending loneliness, one that is so strong that it compels you to leave everything you’ve ever known. This is where the main character, Alia, is at – emotionally speaking – at the start of Broken. The loss of a loved one, a person she was deeply connected to, is what started her extreme loneliness. This painful experience has caused her to question why God permits atrocities to happen. One might say she has lost her faith, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

Now, reread the first paragraph with the knowledge that Alia is a fallen angel. The emptiness and hopelessness she feels compel her to leave heaven in search of something that will fill her. She becomes a mortal woman and puts herself in a location, and time period, that is certain to evoke strong emotions. Alia is in France as World War II is starting.

Alia seeks solace in th...

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Diablo III: Storm of Light by Nate Kenyon – book review

An angel with glowing wings who is holding a spear glowers

Diablo III: Storm of Light is Nate Kenyon’s second book that was written in the Diablo “universe”. Like his first one, Diablo III: The Order, this book is about situations and adventures that take place just outside of the story you learn as you play through the Diablo III game.  If you ever wondered what happened in between Act IV and Act V in Diablo III, this is the book that has the answers you are seeking.

This book review will not include any “spoilers” from the book.  However, I am going to reference parts of the Diablo III video game.  If you are someone who has not yet completed the game through the end of Act IV, you may want to bookmark this review and return to it after you have seen the cinematic for Act V.

If you are someone who has no intention of playing Diablo III, but who reads books that are filled with the dramatic adventures of a group of heroes, you will like this book.  The book stands alone, while masterfully weaving in lore from other parts of the Diablo III “universe”.  Anyone can pick up Diablo III: Storm of Light even if they know absolutely nothing about the game or the lore that connects with it, and enjoy the adventure and characters in the story.  Those who are knowledgeable about the previous books in the Diablo “universe” are in for some special treats!

When players reach the end of Act IV in the Diablo II...

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne – book review

The Scarlet Letter book cover

The first time I read The Scarlet Letter, I was unimpressed. I was fifteen years old, and sitting in a stuffy classroom, dreaming of being anyplace but in my English class. Nothing can kill a great work of literature quicker than being forced to listen to the droning voice of an exhausted high school teacher as she dissects each word and phrase, laying out all the little pieces of meaning for us to observe. It was almost physically painful to sit through.  Decades years later, I came across a copy of The Scarlet Letter, lying on a “free” table in the laundry room where I live, and decided to give the book another try.

Most of us are familiar with the basic story. It’s the 1840s. The setting is Boston, which then was a very conservative small town. Hester Prynne was pregnant, but was not married, and this was absolutely scandalous. It was against the law to be an unmarried mother, so Hester spends time in prison. The book starts the day Hester is let out of prison, carrying her infant daughter in her arms, to a raised scaffold. Part of her punishment includes allowing the entire town to stare at her, the bright red letter A that is affixed to her dress, and her infant.

While standing on...

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Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss – book review

Green Eggs and Ham

Do you like green eggs and ham? This is the question “Sam I Am” asks, over and over again, as he strives to convince his friend to try the funny looking, but tasty, dish of green eggs and ham. Green Eggs and Ham is a favorite of many children (and adults love it, too!)

The words rhyme, and the language flows in its own rhythm. There are repetitive passages that help beginning readers figure out the words that are new to them. Preschoolers enjoy the repetition too, because of the way it sounds, and also because it allows them to “read along” with the adult who is sharing the story and reading out loud. There are crazy, cartoon-like illustrations (in the style for which Dr. Seuss is famous) on every page, and they go along perfectly with the action that is taking place.

Things get more and more outlandish as Sam I Am tries to discover the way that his friend might like to eat green eggs and ham. “Do you like them in a box? Do you like them with a fox?” It’s a fun read!

Most children go through a stage where th...

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