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Manic Monday: What I’m Reading

Manic Monday: What I’m Reading

When you work in publishing in book sales, you have an awesome. Where else can you read for a living and tell people about great books? What’s more, I pick and choose the titles that appeal to me, and I read across a variety of genres, so if you’re looking for something different I can hopefully help.

It’s been a busy summer as far as books are concerned. Right now I’m halfway through Nothing to Lose: the Making of KISS (1972-1975), an oral history of the band. A detailed review will appear on Books That Rock Us, and I can tell you now it’s very detailed. Definitely one for the KISS Army.

What else have I read?

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil ReturnsRevenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I got into an argument once with somebody about The Devil Wears Prada. This person loved that book, and I enjoyed it up until a point. I never liked the climatic scene where Andy finally confronts Miranda – it played too weakly for me, and the denouement did little to save it. I have not seen the movie.

Nonetheless, sequels intrigue me, and I picked up Revenge despite the less than glowing reviews here. Seems this is not the book everybody hoped to read – readers wanted an actual revenge plot. I’ll agree with other readers that Andy’s character doesn’t appear to have grown since Devil, but I did like that she was determined not to go along with the resurrected interest in Miranda and the “devil’s” interest in her wedding magazine. Miranda is not a major player in the book (maybe in spirit, as she forever lingers as an evil specter in Andy’s mind), and people wonder “Where’s the actual revenge?”

My theory: it’s all mental. Andy had finally found success in her chosen field, had the man she loved, etc. Contact with Miranda after ten years, which led to the latter’s interest in acquiring Andy’s property, instigated the revenge. Just hearing the woman’s name sets Andy spiraling into anxiety and paranoia, to the point it eventually takes nearly everything from her.

That said, I didn’t hate the book. I still wish Andy had grabbed Miranda by the neck in the first book and plunged her head into a toilet. I don’t know if we can expect a third book.

Home to Whiskey Creek (Whiskey Creek, #4)Home to Whiskey Creek by Brenda Novak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ARC received from NetGalley.

This is the first Whiskey Creek novel I have had, as well as my first Brenda Novak book. I had previewed the book on Ms. Novak’s website, and the excerpt proved compelling enough to get me to read the book. If you start here I don’t think you’ll be lost – this story about a woman returning to her hometown years after a horrifying event is written in a way that you can follow the community easily. The tension between the emotional bruised Addy and Noah is palpable and you are pushed to read forward. There is an element of mystery involved, namely who is involved in scaring Addy out of town, and Novak managed to keep me guessing for a while.

Because I’ve read this book, I am intrigued to read the other Whiskey Creek novels.

Check back next week to see what else I’m reading. I’m getting close to my goal of 125 books this year!

View all my reviews

Guest Review: No Regrets by Ace Frehley

Guest Review: No Regrets by Ace Frehley

Guest Review by Joe M.

I became a huge fan of KISS in the sixth grade. I find it amazing that a band gets to such popularity on word of mouth alone. The entire first wave of KISS took place without MTV, without YouTube and with very little radio airplay. I was a fan of Ace’s, and I wanted to play guitar like him. He is the person who first inspired me to pick up the guitar more seriously. Later on they became too cartoonish for me, mostly due to the merchandising and Phineas T. Barnum-impersonating Gene Simmons.

I picked up Ace’s book, No Regrets, because I was looking for another rock bio and my Amazon preferences led me here, as they say. My dear friend Kathryn reads and reviews them here, and somehow these have always proven to be great late-night conversation fodder for us. We enjoy sharing details of bands and their books and do, like most people, discuss what we read, watch, and listen to.

Ace starts his adventure in his youth and spends a lot of time talking about his seemingly nice middle class upbringing. He came from a loving home, had hard-working parents, went to Lutheran school, and all was a nice time growing up in the Bronx until he decided to join a gang. Ace’s life moves more into juvenile delinquency, but all along he remains a student of the world and his surroundings. He can diffuse things with humor which he displays in abundance in this book with intelligence. Yes, I said it, intelligence. Ace is definitely a bright guy. Funny, too. He almost became a graphic artist instead of music, and even designed the KISS logo that we see today.

He takes us through the KISS story by letting us in on the early inner workings of the group. Gene and Paul were introverted, nerdy, and not the “ladies men” they would later turn into. Ace got his nickname by being the Ace, the one who got all the girls. He was a master at talking to girls. He had and still does have the gift of gab.

So does Ace let Gene have it in this book? I’d say he does, but he also is very kind. I won’t reveal how the “Gene issue” goes but I think it’s an interesting part of the book, but not all. Ace does not blame anyone for his misadventures except himself, and what misadventures! His drug use and abuse, alcohol, glue sniffing and car crashing is legendary. As someone who lives between where he lives and NYC we often heard stories by locals of Ace’s misadventures. All are documented here.

The book is well-written, and he had help via Joe Layden and John Ostrosky, but having heard Ace speak in interviews the voice appears to be his. The events in the book, any of which could have taken his life, are described in vivid detail. He takes responsibility, and yes, this is a rehabilitated individual who chooses not preach about it. He’s surprisingly sensible throughout and values his relationships and honors his family as much as humanly possible for a person in his state. There could have been more detail about KISS and his relationships in the band. This book is heavy on Ace and somewhat light on the rest of the band. There is great detail on the early days, and it gets lighter about the band as the book goes on. He does take the high road here, in a lot of places.

There is plenty of dirt, as these books are made for it, but there is not a lot of dirt on other people in here. Sure you’ll get a good back story of the infamous Tom Snyder appearance (YouTube it, Ace was drunk and on fire!) but you won’t get a lot of detail about Peter’s departure or Gene’s money-making schemes. Even with the lack of KISS dirt, this is a great read and I highly recommend it. It went fast, too fast, and was hard to put down. You don’t have to be a KISS fan to appreciate it, the story of Ace is enough to carry the book because there is just so much story to tell. Amazing he has lived to tell it.

Rating B+

Makeup to Breakup – My Life In and Out of Kiss by Peter Criss

Makeup to Breakup – My Life In and Out of Kiss by Peter Criss

I didn’t become aware of KISS through the radio as I did with other bands, but through other kids during after-school care. Their older siblings had the records and merchandise, all of which trickled down to younger listeners. My earliest memory of seeing the band in the pre-MTV era was a television airing of KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, much talked about the next day among the elementary school set. Perhaps it’s fitting, considering the direction of the band’s early marketing efforts – it’s no wonder that the band’s original drummer expresses frustration in his memoir that he preferred to work as a musician in a band like the Stones rather than a commodity in a group like The Monkees. I don’t profess to be a member of the KISS Army (I don’t own a single album or compilation), so at best I’m a casual listener and often captive observer, considering how expansively the KISS brand is still advertised.

I picked up Peter Criss’s book, Makeup to Breakup, after my closest friend told me he was reading Ace Frehley’s book (look for a guest review on that one soon). He went into Ace’s book already knowing much of the story, being perhaps a more avid fan, and from the notes we’ve compared it may be safe to say Criss’s book delves a bit deeper into the “KISStory.”

The story opens with a jolt more intimidating than any full makeup live show, where Peter briefly contemplates suicide after riding out a rough California earthquake. While an unwavering faith in God and devotion to family ultimately pull him back, this event seems to symbolize the shaky ground on which Criss has walked through much of his life, from early beginnings running with gangs to false starts with fledgling bands until his first meeting with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

Criss and co-author Larry Sloman paint a rather vivid picture of the drummer’s youth and pre-KISS days. As with other musician memoirs I’ve read in recent years (Sammy Hagar’s for one), the requisite juvenile delinquency sets the stage for an interesting life. George Peter Criscuola stood out in school and in the neighborhood, and not necessarily in a good way. A stint in a gang helped toughen him for life on the road as a drummer, yet he left his tenure with KISS a victim in many ways.

Criss notes here that Simmons has painted him as the complainer in the group, and if Criss’s word is to be accepted over the other band members he has good reason. Criss’s desire to play in a band apparently conflicted with Simmons’s desire to play up a brand – profits from the KISS-logo condoms, coffins, underwear, etc. aren’t likely to hit Criss’s bank account, and the resentment is strongly felt in this book. It’s interesting to note, too, that Frehley had designed the iconic logo that the band markets with fervor.

But this is a review of Makeup to Breakup, not a critique of the band’s marketing strategy. I find that as I read books like Criss’s I become torn emotionally. The guy had millions at one point, and one might find it challenging to feel for him when he hits a low point personally and professionally, especially when you read of all the coke snorted, the women banged and tossed away, etc. In some chapters Criss appears unapologetic for certain actions, and when you come to the point where you want to close the book and leave him to reap what he sowed, you read about how the KISS machine drew him back in so they could make more money off the Catman, and you feel insulted right along with him.

What may win you to Criss’s corner, KISS fan or not, is his unwavering appreciation for his fans. Criss may never see a dime from sales of lunchboxes and t-shirts, but at the end of the day he knows the KISS Army formed for a love of the music, and his contributions are no less important than the other members’.

I imagine hardcore KISS fans will debate over whether Criss is entitled to his financial share of the legacy or if Simmons and Stanley acted with benevolence in giving Criss a “second chance” after years of drug abuse on the job. Either way, fans now have a third point of view of the KISStory to consider, and it’s worth reading.

Rating: B+

Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and book blogger.