Category Archives: Non-fiction

A Review of Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Concussion

by Jeanne Marie Laskas

5-stars

I didn’t know what to expect from this book. After all, how often does a book and a movie come out at the same time. Maybe a Star Wars movie and a novelization of the film, but that isn’t the usual timeframe. Now I understand. The movie is based on an article that Ms. Laskas wrote for GQ magazine. The article was titled “Game Brain”. It was published in 2009. Here is a link to the article on GQ.com, Game Brain.

Ms. Laskas expanded that article, and made it into the story of the man, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered that there was something seriously wrong with the brain of a star NFL football player, Mike Webster. This book, Concussion, is more than just a summary of evidence of the brain damage that occurs to professional football players. It is the story of one mans struggle to be heard, when one of the most powerful organizations in the United States, the NFL, wanted to bury what he had found.

Ms. Laskas puts Dr. Omalu’s discoveries into perspective. She tells the story of his life, starting in Nigeria, coming to America, and then what happened to him once the NFL wanted to discredit him. She fills the story with direct quotes from Dr. Omalu. But she tells the story behind the quotes. She lets you see the struggles, and feel the pain, and the excitement that his discoveries bring to his life. He feels that he has heard “Iron Mike” talk to him, and needs to tell the world what he said. We all need to listen to this story.

This is an important story that crosses the boundaries of American Professional Football. After reading this book, I wonder if athletes in other sports are suffering from the same sorts of brain damages. Do soccer players do damage when they use their heads to knock the ball into a net. What about rugby and hockey players? Then there are the obvious sports of boxing, wrestling, and MMA fighters. Are these people losing their brain functions? Do they have trouble remembering? Do they have personality changes? Is this what they signed up for? Is sport that important?

I give Concussion 5 Stars out of 5, and Two Big Thumbs Up! If you know anyone who plays football, soccer, hockey or any other sport that may cause head trauma, you need to read this book. If you don’t, well read it anyway.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

Concussion by Jeanne Marie LaskasSoon to be a major motion picture starring Will Smith, Concussion is the riveting, unlikely story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist who made one of the most significant medical discoveries of the twenty-first century, a discovery that challenges the existence of America’s favorite sport and puts Omalu in the crosshairs of football’s most powerful corporation: the NFL.
 
Jeanne Marie Laskas first met the young forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2009, while reporting a story for GQ that would go on to inspire the movie Concussion. Omalu told her about a day in September 2002, when, in a dingy morgue in downtown Pittsburgh, he picked up a scalpel and made a discovery that would rattle America in ways he’d never intended. Omalu was new to America, chasing the dream, a deeply spiritual man escaping the wounds of civil war in Nigeria. The body on the slab in front of him belonged to a fifty-year-old named Mike Webster, aka “Iron Mike,” a Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the greatest ever to play the game. After retiring in 1990, Webster had suffered a dizzyingly steep decline. Toward the end of his life, he was living out of his van, tasering himself to relieve his chronic pain, and fixing his rotting teeth with Super Glue. How did this happen?,Omalu asked himself. How did a young man like Mike Webster end up like this? The search for answers would change Omalu’s life forever and put him in the crosshairs of one of the most powerful corporations in America: the National Football League. What Omalu discovered in Webster’s brain—proof that Iron Mike’s mental deterioration was no accident but a disease caused by blows to the head that could affect everyone playing the game—was the one truth the NFL wanted to ignore.

Taut, gripping, and gorgeously told, Concussion is the stirring story of one unlikely man’s decision to stand up to a multibillion-dollar colossus, and to tell the world the truth.

Book Details

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 1 edition
(November 24, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0812987578
ISBN-13: 978-0812987577
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces

About the Author

Photo: © Scot Goldsmith
Photo: © Scot Goldsmith

 

Jeanne Marie Laskas is the author of seven books, including Concussion, Hidden America, and The Exact Same Moon. Her writing has appeared in GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, and many other publications. Laskas serves as director of The Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh, where she teaches creative writing, and she lives on a horse farm in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

A Review of Mojo And The American Female by SW Hammond

Mojo And The American Female

by SW Hammond

4.5

I’m really not the target audience for this book. My son or daughter may even be slightly too old to get all the movie and television references, but they would get more of them than I do. Now I can connect to the music. I always keep current, so when Mr. Hammond is commenting about the Riot Grrrl movement, I get it. But those TV shows, I never did watch “Full House”, and who is John Stamos, and why should I care? Someone thirty years younger may get more of the topical items than I do, but I still relate to the actual message that this book is trying to convey.

And another thing! The blurb about Mojo and the American Female seems to indicate that this book is a collection of short stories. I don’t think so. This is more a print version of articles that were  published on Mr. Hammond’s website. If you call something a short story, that implies that it has some sort of a plot and a character or two. Short stories also mean fiction. But these articles are more autobiographical. Mr. Hammond may have distorted the truth, but that still doesn’t make this a book of fictional short stories. He may have changed some facts to fit the story that he wanted to tell, but I think it strongly follows his own life.

And speaking of story. This book really does have an underlying message. Even a 66-year-old guy can relate. If fact, I might get more out of this story than Mr. Hammond intended. He has one section of this book where he is talking about me. He figures that the only thing I have left is to wait until I die. I’ve got him fooled! My life is everything he is looking for in this book, and more. I found my perfect mate. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore. I just get to have fun and that includes spending time with my family that I love and with my children and grandchildren who love me too! I’ve got what he only wishes he could find.

But back to the book. What is it? I think that this is a collection of semi-autobiographical stories that Mr. Hammond has written over the past dozen years. He discovered that he really was growing up in these stories, and thought that his struggles might be worth reading. Well, he was right. This collection is thought-provoking. You can zip though it in one day, but take a little time to let it stew in your brain. Maybe you can hear it speak to you, like it did to me.

I give Mojo and the American Female 4 1/2 Stars out of 5, and a Big Thumbs Up! If you are ready to take a little mind trip, join in, you really might learn something about your life, while reading about his.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

MojoAndTheAmericanFemale_400x533A collection of short stories spanning more than a decade woven together to create the misguided anti-love story of a young man learning about relationships and the opposite sex through music, movies, and television.

From music and baseball industry professional Sean Hammond, comes Mojo And The American Female, a collection of provocative short stories on his life as a Lost Boy in search of Winnie Cooper.

Raised on rock n’ roll, with a particularly strong affinity for women who rock, Hammond blends an unparalleled view of pop culture and philosophy that follows him from his early twenties through his early thirties. Mojo And The American Female is rich with photography capturing Hammond’s days as a tour manager on Warped Tour and working for Sony Music Entertainment, as well as bringing to life the music, movies, and television that has plagued his rational sense of love and relationships. From childhood viewings of Full House leading to his lifelong hatred of John Stamos, his introduction to the Riot Grrrl movement and Kathleen Hanna, and to a questionable infatuation with The OC’s Summer Roberts – each story blends a reflective Kevin Arnold-like inner monolog with Wild Turkey.

Mojo and the American Female is the byproduct of one too many romantic comedies. Inspiration, enlightenment, and delusion fuel Hammond’s quest as he searches for a bit of meaning to life and someone to share it with.

Book Details

File Size: 30091 KB
Print Length: 81 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Surf Star Media (April 7, 2015)
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00VU3QMLW

About the Author

seanaboutSW Hammond is a freelance writer and fiction novelist. His contributions can be found in music zines, athletic periodicals, and technical publications throughout the world. He has worked in the music industry for Sony Music Entertainment, Warped Tour, WAR Records / United Interest, and has managed and consulted a variety of artists. He has also worked in the baseball industry for the Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels / Diablo Stadium, and in the Commission’s Office of Major League Baseball.

Hammond’s writing style, particularly within his commentary, is often compared to Chuck Klosterman-esq with countless references to pop culture, especially music. His brazen and honest approach creates camaraderie with the reader, then tests the boundaries with sensitive subject matter. Philosophy, ethics, and nobility square off against a materialistic society driven by instant gratification, with Sean treading water right in the middle.

His fictional writing makes a conscious effort to blend perception, rumor, and fact leaving the reader to question reality. His stories often taking place in historical settings or playing on modern headlines, Sean uses common themes to drive home critical points about the human condition. Though often grand, epic, and futurist, the backbone of his novels hinge on honor and virtue, or lack thereof.

A Review of Entertain Us: The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the Nineties by Craig Schuftan

Entertain Us: The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the Nineties

by Craig Schuftan

I wasn’t as engaged with Alternative Rock in the nineties as someone who was born in the seventies would have been. Many of the band names in this book were unfamiliar, but since I had the advantage of a paid membership to a streaming music service, I was able to listen to these groups and hear their music as I was reading about them.

I knew the major players such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Oasis, and Smashing Pumpkins. I had listened to many of the other groups on the radio back then, but didn’t really pay much attention to their stories. I was 41 in 1990 and had to go to work everyday. This book taught me a lot about what was happening in music back then.

Since I’m an American I knew more about the Seattle music scene than what was going on in Manchester, England. Much of the British music never made it here, and I’m sure that most of the lesser known American bands never were popular in Europe. So even if you grew up during the nineties, to really appreciate the book that Mr. Schuftan wrote, you will have to listen to some of the music that he writes about.

Entertain Us goes into depth discussing the role of Alternative Rock. Mr. Schuftan talks about grunge, and how fame affected the way that Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder thought, how they tried to make their music less accessible and therefore less popular. He talks about other movements in music, how female musicians revolted, and formed groups that pushed back against the sexist role of women in rock. How MTV used the music of everyone in rock to sell hamburgers and toothpaste. How some bands couldn’t justify the money they made, when they wanted to change the world. Then some people went the other way, and took whatever was up for grabs, and said that it was only rock and roll, not revolution. There was a lot more going on behind the music than I ever knew about,

Entertain Us is a thoroughly enjoyable book about music in the nineties. If you think that none of it will be new to you, you will be surprised, because there was such a separation of music between the US and the UK. Many bands never became popular because there was such a big difference in what was going on in music in their own countries. I can’t emphasize enough that you will have to spend the extra time and effort to listen to the music that Mr. Schuftan talks about as you are reading about it. If you don’t, you will just be reading a bunch of words that won’t make a connection in your brain. Entertain Us needs to come with a soundtrack. Maybe someone can put up a playlist on Spotify or Beats Music, so that we can more easily listen along. It would have helped a lot.

I give Entertain Us 4 1/2 Stars out of 5 and a Big Thumbs Up! If you grew up during the nineties and claim the music from that time, read this book, because you will like the trip down memory lane, and also because you will learn more about what was going on at the time. If you are older, you probably don’t know most of the back story, but unless you are a real music fan, you may not care.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from the publisher.

Book Description

9780733328848In 1990 alternative music was where it belonged – underground. It left the business of rock stardom to rock stars. But by 1992 alternative rock had spawned a revolution in music and style that transformed youth culture and revived a moribund music industry. Five years later, alternative rock was over, leaving behind a handful of dead heroes, a few dozen masterpieces, and a lot more questions than answers. What, if anything, had the alternative revolution meant? And had it been possible – as so many of its heroes had insisted – for it to be both on MTV and under the radar? Had it used the machinery of corporate rock to destroy corporate rock? In ENtERtAIN US! Craig Schuftan takes you on a journey through the nineties – from Sonic Youth’s ‘Kool thing’ to Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’, NEVERMIND to ODELAY, Madchester to Nu-Metal, Lollapalooza to Woodstock ’99 – narrated in the voices of the decade’s most important artists. this is the story of alternative rock – the people who made it, the people who loved it, the industry that bought and sold it, and the culture that grew up in its wake – in the last decade of the twentieth century.

Book Details

Trade Paperback
ABC Books
400 pages
6.2 in W | 9.3 in H | 1.1 in T | 1.2 lb Wt
Status: Forthcoming
Announced 1st Print: 20K
On Sale Date: July 1, 2015,
Ship Date: June 11, 2015
9780733328848
0733328849
$17.99 USD, £14.99

About the Author

Muso and pop philosopher Craig Schuftan has written two previous books: CULTURE CLUB and HEY NIETZSCHE! LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE. He broadcasts his program Culture Club each week on Triple J. Last year curated The Eighties exhibition for the Powerhouse Museum. He has a fervid online following.
http://www.craigschuftan.com

A Review of The Special One: The Dark Side of Jose Mourinho by Diego Torres

The Special One: The Dark Side of Jose Mourinho

by Diego Torres

How much of this book is true? I don’t know. Does Diego Torres have some secret sources inside of Real Madrid that gave him information that nobody else has? I don’t know that either. Could this picture of Jose Mourinho be true? You will have to decide for yourself.

Diego Torres writes about events that happened inside of the Real Madrid locker room that have never been talked about. He talks about a Jose Mourinho that nobody has seen. He tells how Jose Mourinho would use mind games to try to enhance his own image, while tarnishing his players. He says that Jose Mourinho would favor the players that had Jorge Mendes as an agent. He says that everything was manipulated so that Jose Mourinho would come out looking good no matter how badly he was at coaching Real Madrid. There are so many interesting stories in this book about what went on during the time Jose Mourinho was at Real Madrid, I just wonder which ones are true and what is fiction. Did Diego Torres make up some of the stories, or was he fed misinformation by his moles? Or maybe it’s all true.

If you check out the opinions that have come out across the internet about this book, it seems that the majority of people think that Diego Torres has an ax to grind. Most people take this book as a work of fiction with a few facts thrown in for good measure, but if they are wrong, and Diego is telling the whole truth about Jose Mourinho, then he is one crazy SOB. We will have to see what comes out from his time at Chelsea.

How can I rate this book? I’m not sure how much to believe. Do I rate it as an expose or as a novel? I think that I will give it 3 Stars out of 5.

If you follow football (soccer), especially the European leagues, then you probably would like to read this, just so that you can discuss it with your friends. If you couldn’t care less, then just move on, because you won’t have any interest.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the publisher.

Book Description

The Special One- The Dark Side of Jose MourinhoAn explosive and shocking biography of Jose Mourinho – revealing the dark side of ‘the special one’.

When José Mourinho announced his return to English football, it sparked celebrations from fans and press alike. As one of the most charismatic figures in the game, his reappearance could surely only be a good thing…

But is there a darker side to the Mourinho? A mischievous, scheming, even tyrannical quality to the man beneath the veneer of charm?

As part of El Pais, Diego Torres is one of the premier investigative journalists in Spanish football, and in this explosive biography of ‘the special one’ he uncovers secrets and lies that will change the way we see Mourinho.

From dodgy dealings to assassinations of players both outside and within his own team, and other shocking revelations, Prepare To Lose reveals Mourinho as a man far removed from the hero so many people consider him to be.

Book Details

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: HarperSport (January 20, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 000755303X
ISBN-13: 978-0007553037
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces

About the Author

Diego Torres is the journalist that uncovers Real Madrid’s most hidden secrets. The man assigned to cover the Merengues for Spanish newspaper El País, has a close relationship with key members of the club’s locker room and executives and is always one step ahead to reveal the well kept secrets of the team that divides the world of soccer.

Born in Medoza, Argentina, law student during his first years in Madrid, Torres surrendered to his passion for sports journalism and since 1997 has been a special collaborator for SER, BBC and Canal Plus. (Quoted from “The man who uncovers Mourinho’s secrets” by Fernando Céspedes.)

The book description and details are from Amazon. The Special One: The Dark Side of Jose Mourinho

A Review of A Banquet of Consequences by Jake Rohrer

A Banquet of Consequences: True Life Adventures of Sex (Not Too Much), Drugs (Plenty), Rock & Roll (of Course), and the Feds (Who Invited Them?)

by Jake Rohrer

BoCJake Rohrer has a story to tell. It’s a story dominated by prison. It starts as he is going to prison on drug charges. He has been ratted out by an associate and will have to spend his time in a Federal prison. This is how A Banquet of Consequences begins. He tells us how he was arrested and then sent to prison.

Then Banquet of Consequences switches gears. He tells about his time in high school, and how he met the founding members of Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). This short period in his life has some consequences. He lives well, but when CCR ends, so does his high life. He ends up selling cocaine, which is why he ends up in jail.

Then the book jumps back further, to his childhood. Mr. Rohrer gives us some interesting glimpses into his actions and their consequences.  Consequences, as Mr. Rohrer uses it really means the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier. It doesn’t mean that result is bad, just that it happened because of something that you did earlier in life. All life has actions and consequences. Everything is related. Whatever you do will catch up with you. 

This book was full of interesting stories, jail stories, music stories, drug stories, coming of age stories, stories of life and what happens as a result of his actions. He tells us that his life has been good through these stories. He sounds like someone who always has an interesting story to tell. Like one of those guys who always has a group around him, listening to his tales. He wants you to take his life as a lesson, whatever you do there will consequences. Mr. Rohrer makes a valid observation, I just don’t quite buy it.

I give this book 3 1/2 Stars out of 5. I enjoyed reading Banquet of Consequences, but I had hoped for more. I had hoped for a bit more insight into the music business, what really goes on behind the lights, but I guess that wasn’t this book. This book had a lot of interesting stories, that were told very well, and it had a message behind all the stories. Mr. Rohrer wants you to know that even though life is full of actions and consequences, you can survive and work though them, and then have the good consequences.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Book Description

On A Banquet of Consequences: “A moving story full of entertaining characters, experiences, conflicts and triumphs. Offered in a decidedly unpretentious and conversational style, the stories go well beyond the author’s association with a famous rock & roll band.” ~ William Greenleaf, Greenleaf Literary Services, Inc.

On the author’s association with Creedence Clearwater Revival: “No one has told the Creedence story as eloquently.” ~ Russ Gary, CCR recording engineer, independent TV producer (Los Angeles area)

On the business of drugs: “… [This is] beyond good. I’ve never read a clearer, more graphic account of the mechanics of the dope trade.” ~ Bruce Anderson, Editor/Publisher The Anderson Valley Advertiser

On Federal prison: “Colorful characters loom large on the page. Physical settings are vivid and detailed, and are smoothly woven into the memories, musings, and anecdotes.” ~ William Greenleaf, Greenleaf Literary Services, Inc.

From the author: “My life story (first half), at once confessional, embarrassing, and proud. Irreverent in some places, humorous in others, a little drama here and there.”

Book Details

Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Inkwater Press (September 15, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 162901138X
ISBN-13: 978-1629011387
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces

About the Author

Jake Rohrer lives with his wife in rural Upcountry Maui where they farm the land, maintain a recording studio, and administer their music label featuring the traditional music of Hawaii.

A Review of The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

The Innovators

by Walter Isaacson

If you have read any of the previous books by Mr. Isaacson, you know how thoroughly he researches and combines everything that he finds into a massive book with an underlying theme. In The Innovators, he gathers substantial amounts of information that deals with all aspects of the growth of computer technology. He combines it to tell the story of the growth of information technology, starting with Ada Byron (aka Ada Lovelace) and Charles Babbage.

In 1834, Babbage conceived a general purpose computer that he called the Analytical Machine, and Ada saw that this was programmable, and could be used for anything, even composing music. She published a paper in 1843. In Note G of that paper, she laid out, step by step, an algorithm that could be used to compute Bernoulli numbers. She showed the use of subroutines and a recursive loop. So she has to be considered the first computer programmer. But she also had a vision that computers would be used for so much more than calculating numbers. She thought that they could be used for nearly everything.

Mr. Isaacson continues to tell the story of individuals with brilliant ideas, and more importantly the groups of hard-working people, lead by somebody with ideas, but supported by people who could take those ideas and make them work. The collaboration factor seemed to be one of the most important parts of a successful project. Mr. Isaacson stresses that without a varied group most of the advances in hardware or software couldn’t have happened.

Another topic that runs though Mr. Isaacson’s book is the vision and “thinking-outside-the-box” that women contributed to the development of IT. Starting with Ada Lovelace, and continuing with the women who figured out the code and connected the wires that allowed some of the early computers to run. One of these women, Grace Hopper, ended up writing the first computer guide and programming manual for the Harvard Mark I computer. Most of the programmers were women, while most of the hardware people were men.

Once the book hit the fifties and sixties, everything was much more familiar. I lived through these events. I had taken college level programming classes in the late sixties. I knew what batch processing and punch-cards were all about. I understood the ideas and events. Not as history, but as memories. So The Innovators really hit home.

Mr. Isaacson is a great researcher and writer. He tells the story behind the facts. Teamwork is the best way to further knowledge, but your team needs diversity to be truly successful.

I give The Innovators 5 Stars out of 5, and a Big Thumbs Up! If you have any interest in what shapes the technology that controls the world around you, and how it came to be, you should read this book.

I received this book for free from edelweiss and the publisher, Simon & Schuster, in return for an honest review.

 

Book Description

innovators-9781476708690_hrFollowing his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens.

What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail?

In his masterly saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page.

This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.

For an era that seeks to foster innovation, creativity, and teamwork, The Innovators shows how they happen.

 

Book Details

Hardcover: 560 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 7, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 147670869X
ISBN-13: 978-1476708690
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds

 

About the Author

Photograph by Patrice Gilbert
Photograph by Patrice Gilbert

Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He lives in Washington, DC. – See more at: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Walter-Isaacson/697650#sthash.8ck3Bo70.dpuf

Book Description and Details from Amazon.  The Innovators