Book Review: FIERCE: The History of Leopard Print

TITLE: FIERCE: The History of Leopard Print
BY: Jo Weldon
PUBLISHED BY: Harper Design, An Imprint of HarperCollinsPubishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-269295-5
Review copy provided by author

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This book is dedicated to “the BIG Cats, the people they INSPIRE, and the people who work to preserve their lives and HABITATS.” But it’s intended for all you wild things out there who love to wear leopard print. It’s a historic study of the vivid, spotted fur of a beautiful beast whose strength and independent nature inspired women, who are usually the downtrodden, powerless members of society, to be strong and fearless too.

Being a livelong lover of leopard print myself, I have worn it in every way possible. My favorite loafers and sneakers are leopard print; so is a well-worn pair of high heels, along with one of my mock turtleneck tops, a short-sleeved blouse and a pair of stretch pants. Of course I have a leopard print nightgown, and a sleepshirt, as well as pajamas. I also have a leopard print bra, for which I have yet to find matching undies. I laugh to scorn the conventional notion that women over fifty shouldn’t wear leopard print. I’ve worn it more often since I turned fifty. I use it as an accessory, to set off my favorite clothes. I don’t think I’d have the nerve to wear head to toe leopard print, though certain celebrities, from Peg Bundy of “Married With Children” to Pat Benatar, who regularly performed in a leotard or catsuit, are not shy about doing so.
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BY: Bernard Cornwell
PUBLISHED BY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-06-225087-2
Review copy purchased by reviewer
Review by Ida Vega-Landow

I was pleasantly surprised to find this book as one of my selections in the Doubleday Book Club. I was also surprised to find that I knew the author from one of his previous works. Bernard Cornwell is the creator of the Saxon Tales, which served as the basis for “The Last Kingdom”, a TV show I was fond of about the dawn of the British Empire, when the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes were still fighting over England.

The story is about William Shakespeare’s younger brother, Richard. He is an actor, or player as they called it back then, in his brother’s company at The Theatre, a forerunner of the Globe. (In real life, the Bard of Avon was the third of eight siblings, so it’s possible he might have had a brother who was as talented an actor as he was a writer.) You’d think that being related to the head of the company, who’s also its scriptwriter, young Richard would be one of the stars. But alas,‘tis not so.
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Book Reveiw: “Indigo”, a mosaic novel

Indigo, a mosaic novel
By Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Jonathan Maberry, Kelley Armstrong, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James A. Moore, and Mark Morris.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-07678-6
Book supplied by publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This is the second book I’ve read that was written by a committee. The first one was “Naked Came The Stranger”, back in 1969, written by Penelope Ashe, which was a pseudonym for a group of twenty-four journalists led by Newsday columnist Mike McGrady. He wanted to write a book that was both deliberately terrible and contained a lot of sex, to illustrate the point that popular American literary culture had become mindlessly vulgar. McGrady was convinced that any book could succeed if enough sex was thrown in. He was right; the book became a bestseller. After the hoax was revealed, it sold even more copies. This proves that you can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, according to H.L. Mencken, renowned author and cynic.
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Book review: Joe Steele by Harry Turtledove

I’d like to publish the following guest review by my favorite collaborator, Pet Leopard, as a warning of things to come after the nomination of Donald Trump on January 20th. God help America.

“Joe Steele” by Harry Turtledove
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication Date: 12/01/2015
ISBN-13: 9780451472199
Book supplied by Reviewer

Guest Review by Pet Leopard

Well, according to a popular old saying: “The more things change, the more they stay the same. Harry Turtledove’s thought provoking masterpiece, “Joe Steele”, is a testament to the truth of that line of reasoning.

As a child of the early 1960’s, I have lived through both Kennedy assassinations, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Gulf War, the attacks on the World Trade Center, and a horrible decade-long period of warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although Mr. Turtledove references an alternate history that’s set well before the earliest of those events had taken place, there are many parallels that resonate very closely.
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Book review: “Do You Want to Know a Secret? The Autobiography of Billy J. Kramer

BY: BILLY J. KRAMER with Alyn Shipton
PUBLISHED BY: Equinox Publishing 2016
ISBN: 978 1 78179 361 9
Review copy sent by publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

The British Invasion didn’t just bring The Beatles to our shore. It also brought a great many young British bands eager to follow in their footsteps. Some went on to become big stars, like The Rolling Stones and The Who. Some were one hit wonders who just came and went. But one enduring presence was a lad who befriended the Fab Four when they were all just aspiring young musicians in Liverpool. His name was, and is, Billy J. Kramer.
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Book review: My Kid Brother’s Band a/k/a The Beatles!

My Kid Brother’s Band, aka The Beatles!
By Louise Harrison
Published by Acclaim Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-938905-52-0
Review copy sent by publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

I first saw Louise Harrison at this year’s Fest for Beatles Fans in Rye, N.Y. She spoke about her brother George with so much love and affection that I decided I had to read her book to learn more about the man we Beatles fans call The Quiet Beatle, but she called her little brother. I was half expecting a puff piece making George look more angelic than was humanly possible, like another Harrison bio I read (see my earlier review, “Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison” by Joshua M. Greene). Instead, I found an honest, in-depth history of the author’s life during World War II as well as before and after her little brother became famous.
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Book review: Here Comes the Sun. The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison

Here Comes the Sun. The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison
By Joshua M. Greene
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006
Review copy provided by publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

Let me say right from the beginning: I loved this book! Despite the obvious proselytizing on behalf of the Hindu religion—what used to be known as Krishna Consciousness here in the States—Joshua M. Greene, writer and producer for PBS and the Disney Channel (he also wrote “Justice at Dachau” and “Witness: Voices from the Holocaust”, which was made into a PBS-TV documentary), has written a tender, loving account of the life of George Harrison, before and after the Beatles, and how his faith in Krishna helped him to overcome all the emotional and financial setbacks in his life, ultimately allowing him to die with grace after losing his battle with brain cancer.
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Book review: Dark Money

Dark Money
By Jane Mayer
Published by Penguin Random House
ISBN: 978-0-7352-1033-2
Review copy provided by reviewer

Review by KM Warner

By now it’s well known that Charles and David Koch have been very busy in distributing substantial amounts of money in support of right wing causes. What wasn’t well known before the publication of Jane Mayer’s meticulously researched book Dark Money The Hidden Agenda of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right was that they and similarly minded economic libertarians have been embarked on a forty-year effort to remake the American economic, political and cultural system in their own image through the strategic establishment of tax-deductible philanthropic organizations that are little more than fronts for the funders’ business interests.
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Book review: Sadistic Pattern, by Michael J. Molloy

SadisticPatternBookSadistic Pattern
by Michael J. Molloy
Published By: Gypsy Shadow Publishing, 2015
ISBN: 13: 978-1619502758
Review copy sent by author

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

It’s been said by the philosopher George Santayana that “those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. I think that saying should be amended to “those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”. Such is the case with Professor Roger Lavoie, the central character of this new suspense novel by Michael Malloy, whose previous novel, “The Diamond Man”, gave us a look at love and baseball. Now branching out from romance to suspense, Mr. Malloy has given us a study of one man’s slow descent into madness as events from his past repeat themselves in the present.
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Book review: Citizen. An American Lyric

Citizen. An American Lyric
By Claudine Rankine
Published by Greywolf Press
Review copy provided by the publisher

Review by Ginger Mayerson

Racism is bad, insidious and ubiquitous, and nothing is ever going to get any better until the singularity when we no longer have bodies or something. Yes, and it makes me feel bad that there isn’t even a glimmer of hope for the situation to ever get microscopically better until the singularity or something. Alas, what else can one do but strike up the band, and pour out the wine, if that’s all, all there is. So I am silenced by Claudine Rakine’s “Citizen” because there is nothing for me to say about it because she says it all: racism is bad, insidious and ubiquitous, and nothing is ever going to get any better.

However, I’m happy for all the success Greywolf Press is having with this book. They are nice people who publish what they believe in and deserve all the success in the world.

I’m also happy for the Fountain Theater in Los Angeles for having their very successful readers theater interpretation of “Citizen” extended into October. I saw it tonight, and the acting, the staging, and use of the text is superb. Try to see it if you can.

Book review: The World Beyond Your Head

The World Beyond Your Head
By Michael B. Crawford
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374292980
Review copy provided by the publisher

Review by Ginger Mayerson

I mostly liked and agreed with about the first half of Matthew B. Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head (WBYH). We do live distracted lives in a distracting commerce driven world. I like part about jigs: how master craftpeople have optimal jigs for what they’re creating. But in this messed up world we live in, most people are not master craftpeople and the jig is something we work in. He quotes an old saying about assembly lines on page 34: “Cheap men need expensive jigs; expensive men only need to tools in their toolbox.” I suppose that applies to office workers, too, and there wasn’t much positive or constructive in this book for anyone but skilled craftspeople who never have to leave their workshops.
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Book review: Ruth’s Journey

“Ruth’s Journey: The Authorized Novel of Mammy from Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the Wind’”
By Donald McCaig
Published By: Atria Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-4516-4353-4
Review copy provided by publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

From the man who gave us “Rhett Butler’s People”, a version of “Gone With The Wind” written from Rhett Butler’s point of view, the creative mind of Donald McCaig has given us a plausible backstory for the faithful Mammy, Scarlet O’Hara’s beloved black nurse, who raised her and her two sisters. She was also mammy to Scarlett’s mother Ellen Robillard and her two sisters. But she wasn’t always the big, black slave woman in charge of a white woman’s babies.
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Book review: The Completely Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green

The Completely Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green
By Eric Orner
Published by Northwest Press
ISBN 978-1928720826
Review copy provided by the publisher (Thanks, Zan!)

Review by Ginger Mayerson

I liked The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green comics. I remember enjoying reading them in the 80s, but I’m not sure where I was reading them. The legendary, and greatly missed, Funny Times comics newspaper? I don’t know, I just don’t know. What don’t remember from that time was how many of these comics were about the AIDS epidemic or pandemic, I guess is what it finally ended up being called.
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Book review: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island
By Claire Prentice
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, by arrangement with Amazon Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-544-26228-7
Review copy purchased by reviewer

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

One of the advantages to living in Brooklyn, only a short subway ride away from Coney Island, is that you get to be a frequent visitor to the Coney Island Museum, located right above the Freak Bar on Mermaid Avenue, where they show movies on Saturday nights in the summertime (classics and B-movies, plus cinema suitable for MST3K fans). They also have private shows and book signings. One of these was held in December 2014, where a charming lady named Claire Prentice debuted her new book, “The Lost Tribe of Coney Island”. Being familiar with the Freak Show around the corner from the Freak Bar, I thought this book was about another of the curious peoples exhibited there. So I coaxed my husband to buy me a copy as an early Christmas present.
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Book review: The Church of Mercy

Church of MercyThe Church of Mercy
By Pope Francis
Published by Loyola Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8294-4170-3
Review copy provided by publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This slender philosophical book is a collection of speeches by Pope Francis, dating from April to November 2013. My impression of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is that he is a good, kind man with a genuine faith in God, and a genuine interest in the welfare of the poor, not just in saving their souls, but their bodies as well. He proves this in Part Eight, Chapter 30 of his book, “The Cult of the God of Money”, in which he deplores the wastefulness of this throwaway culture of ours and the rampant consumerism that leads to so much waste: “This culture of waste has also made us insensitive to wasting and throwing out excess foodstuffs, which is especially condemnable when, in every part of the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families suffer hunger and malnutrition…Let us remember well, however, that whenever food is thrown out, it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor, from the hungry!” Continue reading “Book review: The Church of Mercy”

Book review: All Joy and No Fun

All Joy and No Fun
By Jennifer Senior
Published by Harper Collins Ecco
ISBN 978-00620722221
Review copy provided by the publisher

Review by Ginger Mayerson

Modern parenting – duty or privilege? Or something else?

Full disclosure: I chose not to have kids.

I don’t have anything against kids or families, mostly I salute them for their bravery and grit when I’m not feeling sorry for them because they seem so stressed out and miserable most of the time. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s noticed this and wondered about it, but I didn’t write a whole book about it. Jennifer Senior’s book, “All Joy and No Fun,” is an entertaining read with the facts and research seamlessly and painlessly integrated into the illuminating anecdotes. It focuses mainly on the middle class family, divorced moms, and one grandmother raising kids in the 21st Century. These people worked hard to have these kids, work hard to raise them, and worry like crazy about the future of these kids. They worry in kindergarten about what kind of job the kid can get in the future job market when the kid graduates from college in fifteen years. They worry that the kid won’t be aggressive/assertive enough of a team player, so they have ’em in sports from soon after the kids starts staggering around on their little feet. In one family, the kid wanted to do sports, music, and a few other things outside of school. It seemed like it would be almost worth it for the mom to get a job just to hire a driver. And, yes, the parents know they’re exhausted, but raising a child is such an important thing that they’re working very hard at, so of course they’re exhausted because it’s a helluva lot of work because it needs to be a helluva lot of work in this tough future world that no one knows what it will be like yet, except that it will tough, maybe tougher than now. And, holy mackerel, it’s a tough world now so it’s more work to shield and prepare their children for it. It’s such a tough, exhausting, dangerous, economically dire, stressed, vicious, cold, insert-your-own-alarming-adjective-here world these wan and pale middle class people are preparing their children for, does it ever occur to the parents in this book to get out of the Suzuki violin class and make the world a better place so they can relax a little about their child’s future? I mean, it’s too late to consider what kind of a world you wanted to bring a kid into, but it’s never too late to do something to make it a better world you brought your kid into. But, oh well, that’s not what the book is about. This book is about how children affect parents, and it seems kids wear their parents out because parents are pouring their lives, souls, marriages, and happiness into raising their kids. And this supreme sacrifice is freaking exhausting! Continue reading “Book review: All Joy and No Fun”

Book review: The Boleyn King

The Boleyn King
By Laura Andersen
ISBN: 978-0-345-53409-5
Review copy provided by publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This book is an historic romance/reconstruction, in the style of Harry Turtledove, an author who enjoys rewriting history by speculating what would have happened if a well-known historic event had never occurred, or had occurred differently. The premise of “The Boleyn King” is: What would have happened if Anne Boleyn had not “miscarried of her savior”? Suppose she had actually given King Henry VIII the son he so desperately wanted?
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Book review: The Diamond Man

The Diamond Man
By Michael J. Molloy
Published By: Gypsy Shadow Publishing, LLC, May 13, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61950-099-0
Review copy sent to author

Review written by Ida Vega-Landow

This is one of the most charming books I’ve ever read. And I’m not saying that just because I know the author. Michael Molloy is the friend of a friend of mine, with the soul of a poet and a fondness for sports. He has managed to combine the two in a surprisingly sweet novel about a sportscaster whose life changes after he performs a heroic act and falls in love.
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