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Bobby Rydell: Teen Idol on the Rocks

Bobby Rydell, with Allan Slutsky. Doctor Licks, $16.95 trade paper (248 pages) ISBN 978-0-9973851-0-6

Rydell was one of the many young pop singers who were marketed to fill the void left in pop music when Elvis Presley joined the Army in 1958. Unlike most of those singers, Rydell was a talented performer. His first hit record, 1959's "Kissin' Time," started a four-year period of success that generated 14 albums and 10 Top 40 and seven Top 10 hits, including the smash "Volare." Thanks to a still-loyal fan base, Rydell has enjoyed a strong career through the present day, and this entertaining memoir—written with the aid of musician Slutsky, author of Standing in the Shadows of Motown—will satisfy them all. The first half of the book follows Rydell's rise from the streets of Philadelphia and his pop success, which included almost constant touring and a well-received acting role opposite Ann-Margret in the 1963 film Bye Bye Birdie. Then came the arrival of the Beatles and the "British Invasion that ended pop music as we knew it." The second half chronicles his ongoing work with other former teen stars such as Frankie Avalon and Fabian, as well as his struggles with alcoholism. But the earlier section is the most fascinating, serving as a well-sourced account of a time when young pop stars had to have more in common with Frank Sinatra than Elvis and providing pop historians with an inside look at Rydell's record company, Philadelphia's famed Cameo-Parkway Records label. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism

Ashton Applewhite. Networked Books, $19.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-9969347-0-1

In this lively, entertaining book, Applewhite mixes her personal experiences and opinions about growing old with an exploration of society’s attitudes about age, debunking myths and exposing ageism. Author (Cutting Loose) and blogger (Yo, Is This Ageist?) Applewhite uses an enormous number of sources, including books, interviews with experts, and research studies, to examine aging in America. She uncovers quite a few problems—“I see ageism everywhere”—and tempers them with recommendations for changing the conversation and inciting social change, suggesting ways to “push back” against, for example, antiaging rhetoric. She covers topics of all kinds, such as isolation (a fertile environment for disease), sex and intimacy, and the role of work and how companies can better accommodate older workers. She works hard to discuss and correct common misperceptions about aging. Her humor, high-energy writing, and emphasis on positive ways to view and experience age contribute to making this a valuable resource, an agent for social change, and an enjoyable read. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Dirty Sexy Saint

Carly Phillips and Erika Wilde. CP Publishing, $3.99 e-book (268p) ASIN B016YIRT9Q

New York Times bestselling authors Phillips (Dare to Take) and Wilde (Playing with Seduction) pack plenty of sizzle into the first in their contemporary Dirty Sexy series. Socialite Samantha Jamieson refuses to marry a man she doesn’t love—and in reaction her incensed father cuts her off from his financial support and the only home she’s ever known. Samantha ends up in Clay “Saint” Kincaid’s bar. Clay’s gotten his nickname from his habit of rescuing those who need it, and boy does Samantha need it. After one too many shots, Clay takes Samantha home to ensure her safety—but it’s his heart that is in danger. When someone from Clay’s rough past reappears, things abruptly change. Can Clay and Samantha hold on to their love, or will they lose it forever? The bad man/good woman trope is used endlessly in romance, but Phillips and Wilde manage to make it fresh, hot, and endlessly appealing. The erotic scenes live up to the “dirty” in the title and the heroine is sympathetic and real. Readers will be salivating for the next book in the series. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Home: Interstellar

Ray Strong. Impulse Fiction, $2.99 e-book (330p) ASIN B012CS64U2

The reader will struggle through the exposition-filled first half of Strong’s uneven debut, but the action eventually picks up. In 2177, humankind has outgrown Earth and colonized a nearby galaxy. Meriel was 12 when her home, the merchant ship Princess, was attacked by pirates. Only she and the other children aboard the ship escaped. Ten years later, Meriel is on antipsychotics and said to become unstable if she goes off them, the children are in hiding, and the government claims the Princess was smuggling drugs. Meriel promised her dead mother she’d reunite the children so they could be a family again, but in order to do that, she has to prove the Princess wasn’t breaking the law. All she has to go on is a sim-chip with unreadable information and her mother’s nursery rhyme about Home, the only Earth-like planet ever found, which would be valuable property in the ongoing Immigration Wars. As powerful forces squelch Meriel’s attempts to discover the truth of what happened to the Princess, she begins uncovering an intricate conspiracy, but others scorn her as mentally ill and delusional. Corrupt government officials in the United Nations of Earth and evil corporations make predictable villains. The capable protagonist thrives despite one-dimensional supporting characters and confusing points of view, and the complex mystery is resolved with satisfying closure in a self-contained adventure. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Last Light: A Beacon Falls Novel

C.J. Lyons. Edgy Reads, $25.99 (344p) ISBN 978-1-9390-3839-5

Thriller Award–winner Lyons’s taut sixth Beacon Falls novel (after Bad Break) finds astute and determined Lucy Guardino retired from the FBI due to injuries sustained in the line of duty. She is now the director of a newly established field investigation team for the Beacon Group, an organization specializing in cold cases. On her first day on the job, after a cursory introductory meeting with her small staff, Lucy heads for Texas to investigate the 1987 torture murder of Lily Martin, her husband, and their eight-month-old baby. Lily’s son, Alan, then six years old, survived, but he suffered brain damage from his horrific ordeal. Lucy’s expert eye examines the case and finds that it’s anything but straightforward: facts are obscured by small-town gossip, fear, and maternal love. Her cold case heats up when she uncovers other crimes that are all too current, including fraud and evidence of a series of murders. Readers will eagerly look forward to Lucy’s next outing. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Sidekick: The Red Raptor Files, Part 1

Christopher J. Valin. CreateSpace, $9.99 ISBN 978-1-5186-9862-0

Valin (Tres Puercos) taps into the spirit of Golden Age comics in this first installment of the adventures of the Red Raptor, more commonly known in school and out of uniform as Sawyer, a kid who keeps to himself. Outside of school, Sawyer serves as sidekick to a Batman-esque billionaire who calls himself the Black Harrier. Sixteen-year-old Sawyer has an exceptional memory and the preternatural ability to copy and master skills after seeing them performed only once. Now his mentor has gone missing, and it’s up to Sawyer to dodge his mother’s newfound interest in his life (she’s a recovering alcoholic), keep his secret identity hidden, and impress a young female hero, Osprey, with whom he occasionally crosses paths. While some of the touches are overly similar to the world of the Dark Knight (the Black Harrier’s nemesis is an “evil clown,” and another villain, La Cucaracha, uses a serum to gain super-strength à la Bane), Valin has a strong handle on Sawyer’s brusque, sarcastic voice, and the plot unfolds with rapid-fire action that should keep superhero-obsessed readers engaged. Ages 12–up. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Stone Circle

Anthony Tuck. Wheatmark, $12.95 paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-62787-307-9

Siblings fight ancient evil with help from mythological figures in Tuck’s engaging first novel. Telepathic 12-year-old twins Maisie and Jasper Tuck are spending the fall with Professor Winslop while their parents are away on an archeological dig. With nothing to do but listen to the Professor’s lectures on history and myth, the twins take to exploring the New Hampshire woods. After they find a circle of stones reminiscent of Stonehenge, the professor reveals that they are the Children of Gemini and they must use the stone circle to locate four jewels to complete the Crown of Seasons and defeat the Dark Ones. Tuck draws on a wealth of mythological elements from Norse, Greek, Native American, and other sources to create an appealing adventure, though the story can get bogged down in details and lore surrounding barrow wights, selkies, and other creatures and legends. While Maisie and Jasper are equally capable and important to the story, the characters as a whole are fairly one-note. Regardless, Tuck provides intriguing food for thought about the oral tradition of myths and the ways stories change as they’re told. Ages 9–up. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Song Birds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music

Heather Augustyn. Half Pint, $25 (423p) ISBN 978-1-5024-3604-7

In this engaging, well-researched book, Augustyn (Ska: An Oral History) states that women had almost no chance in the male-dominated Jamaican music industry in the 1940s–1980s; it was all “overt power and testosterone.” In the songs, women were “the playground for men” or “wrongdoers,” and the lyrics were “misogynistic and thus not very appropriate for female consumption, must less creation.” She shows that the women who pursued music careers in this setting were trailblazers. Augustyn profiles dozens of women who persevered through tough times, juggling child rearing, gender discrimination, and low pay. She includes Louise Bennett, who “brought the Jamaican patois, folklore, and culture to the stage [and] her talents to Harlem”; Millie Small, whose “bubbling” voice made her cover version of “My Boy Lollipop” an international hit; and Susan Cadogan, who went from “quiet library assistant to... superstar.” This is an exhaustive, if overlong, history of Jamaican music. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Sour Candy

Kealan Patrick Burke. Elderlemon, $2.99 e-book (66p) ASIN B017QCGW24

Horror author Burke (Kin) delivers an excellent terror-filled novella. Philip Pendleton is an unexceptional man, living a carefree life with his young son, Adam. No one who observes them has any idea that Philip has only known Adam for a short time, and this carefree life is really a living hell: after the two randomly meet at a store, Adam decides to make Philip his newest “parent,” using his terrible powers to completely rewrite Philip’s life so that everyone else thinks he’s always been there. Only Philip remembers the life he used to have, and those memories are no comfort as he becomes a prisoner in his own home, a slave to a demonic child. Bringing the evil-child trope to its devastating apex, Burke creates a horrific vision of what might happen if children utterly controlled their parents. Burke’s writing is visceral; Philip’s descent into madness is rendered in unnerving terms. Adding in a Lovecraftian pantheon of monsters, Burke creates a stomach-twisting ride through the depths of horror, breathing new life into an often-stagnant part of the genre. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Stay: Troubled Hearts, Book 1

Savannah Brooks. Amazon Digital, $2.99 ASIN B017EL0B24

This tender, uncomplicated love story has an old-fashioned happy ending, complete with a wedding—all the sweeter because it’s a pleasant 21st-century romance between two men who find love on an eastern Arizona ranch turned campground. When 23-year-old Blake Stevens wanders onto the grounds of Spirit Lake Camp, all he wants is a job, even if it’s temporary—maybe especially if it is. He just needs cash and a place to sleep. Ever since being thrown out of the house by a disapproving father, the former Marine has been trying to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Spirit Lake’s family scion Asher Collins decides the best thing Blake could do is share that life with him. The ensuing cat and mouse game comes with no earth-shattering surprises and few complications, but no matter. For fans of straightforward romance with a smattering of steamy lovemaking, this story will fit the bill nicely. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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