Thursday, June 26, 2014

Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-for-TV Band - Eric Lefcowitz

Alert hearth-myth readers know by now that I was a huge fan of the Monkees when I was growing up. I was eight years old when the TV show hit the airwaves on Monday nights (yes, kids, "The Monkees" was originally a prime-time show). I had a huge crush on Davy; Peter was my second favorite.

Then the show went off the air and the band broke up, more or less, and I kind of grew out of them. But everything old is new again, if you live long enough. I attended a Monkees concert last summer, and that rekindled my interest in the Prefab Four. So I picked up a copy of Lefcowitz's book. It's billed as the definitive biography of the band -- with good reason: it's just about the only one out there. Lefcowitz does a pretty good job with fleshing out the backstory behind the Monkees. I was somewhat disappointed to learn that Davy was a bit of a jerk in real life (the show was conceived as a star vehicle for him from the start) and that he and Peter never really got along. I guess it's just as well that I never made to Hollywood to meet them.

I was saddened, but not surprised, to learn how the band mates were kicked to the curb by Bob Rafelson and Burt Schneider after the TV show made them a fortune. Jack Nicholson has the Monkees to thank for his career; Rafelson and Schneider used money they made from the show to produce "Five Easy Pieces" and "Easy Rider" -- movies that made Nicholson a star.

This edition has been updated through Davy's death in 2012 and the subsequent reunion tour featuring the three surviving Monkees.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Appalachian Justice (Cedar Hollow) -- Melinda Clayton

Appalachian Justice begins in the present-day, as an old mountain woman is breathing her last in a nursing home in Huntington, WV. Billy Mae Platte's mind drifts back to the events that shaped her life in 1940s Cedar Hollow, WV.

Life was never easy for the half-Irish, half-Cherokee young woman. Orphaned young, she finds herself irresistably attracted to her best friend Corinne. An ugly incident involving Corinne's brother and some of his buddies, all of whom have just returned from World War II, forces Billy Mae to flee up Crutcher Mountain. There she lives alone -- until she learns that one of the men who raped her is sexually abusing a young girl left in his care. Billy Mae must find the strength to protect the girl and herself, and enact justice in her own way.

Some readers who are unfamiliar with Appalachian speech patterns might have trouble with Billy Mae's narrative voice, but as someone who has lived in the Mountain State, I can tell you that Clayton got it just right.

I found Appalachian Justice to be a gripping read. The 1940s storyline ended satisfyingly, and in the only logical way. Good stuff. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

In the Absence of Light - Susan M. Strayer

(Full disclosure: the author is my editor, and I was a beta reader for this book.)

Shiloh is an autistic boy with a knack for solving puzzles. His father works for the government on a top-secret project. His best friend, Calliope, wants to be a Shakespearean actress.

Just a normal family, right? But then Shiloh's world turns upside down. His father is captured by government troops that behave like an invading army. Their laser-like weapon renders Calliope almost catatonic. Shiloh believes the only person who can help his friend is his dad, so he takes her along on a cross-country trek to rescue him. Their only guide is a book that Shiloh's dad filled with puzzles that only Shiloh knows how to solve.

Before it's over, Shiloh will come to doubt everything he thinks he knows -- including his own memories.

In the Absence of Light should please anyone who enjoys reading YA dystopian fantasy. I can't wait to read the sequel.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lions and Tigers and Bears: The Internet Strikes Back (Oh Myyy! #2) - George Takei

Who doesn't love George Takei? The guy's everywhere on social media these days. His Facebook page has millions of fans (including me), and his hilarious posts on everything from Star Trek puns to Amazon product reviews often go viral in a matter of minutes.

And what do you know -- Uncle George is an indie author, too.

This book is a sequel to Oh Myyy! There Goes the Internet, which was about his first year on social media. In this one, Takei talks about some of the lessons he's learned in his second year on Facebook. He devotes chapters to the causes to which he's lent his considerable star power: marriage equality, LGBT rights, and awareness about the US internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. And he laments that fans complain when he posts an occasional plug for one of his enterprises -- this book, for example.

He also doles out some secrets to his success that other indies could take to heart -- to wit: Post stuff that will keep people coming back to your page; don't beat your fans over the head with promotional posts; and police your page -- try to keep the discussions civil, and don't feed the trolls. (Of course, unlike most indies, Takei has a staff to help him with all of this. And his fame precedes him; Star Trek gave him visibility that most of us can only dream about.)

If that's not enough, Uncle George reprises many of the memes that have graced his Facebook page over the past year or so, and a lot of them are still funny. For that, if no other reason, I thought Lions and Tigers and Bears was worth the price.