Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Clapton: The Autobiography" by Eric Clapton

After finishing "Miss O'Dell" I felt an overwhelming need to learn more about Eric Clapton.  Chris O'Dell painted the guitar legend as an abusive, chauvinistic asshole (sorry - there is no better word) and I wanted to hear his side of the story.  And who better to hear from than the man himself?

Summary:  Eric Clapton, guitar legend and drug addled playboy, penned his autobiography at the close of his 2007 world tour.  Spanning decades of fashion, music and copious substance abuse, Clapton holds very little back, although at times glossing over the people his addictions hurt most.

Starting from his days as a boy growing up in the working class neighborhood of Ripley, Clapton goes into great detail of his childhood - focusing on the root of his sexual fear of women and how he self-taught himself to play guitar by emulating the greats.  Clapton also spends considerable time on his early career and the start of his many addictions - some of the stories he tells are completely outrageous.  Clapton then skims over the retelling of his lost years (I assume because to him they really are lost).  The subsequent chapters speak to Clapton's rock bottom, his redemption through fatherhood, terrible losses and finally finding his place in the world.

My Thoughts:  I'm honestly a little confused regarding my feelings towards this book.  Like contemplating making a flowchart or spreadsheet confused.

I started off curious:  can the man who wrote Layla and Bell Bottom Blues really be such a self absorbed asshole to the ladies?  It's claimed her did massive amounts of heroine and booze...how was he even capable of basic adulting much less writing his own music?

Once I got into the story, I felt pity:  well shoot, he really had an uncle/brother, no wonder he's confused about his relationship with women!  His family was so poor they had an outhouse, no wonder he squandered 8K a week on drugs!

Followed closely by shock and disgust:  wait, you mean he squandered 8k/week on drugs?!    He actively pursued one of his closest friends' wives....after dating her sister?  Not one but TWO love children?  For the love of God, stop name dropping!

Then more pity:  his son died in a horrible and tragic accident and my heart aches for you.  He's lost just about everything, including his self respect, wife and a shit ton of money.  He fakes rehab....think of all this squandered potential.

And ending with bemusement:  well you old hooligan, you did it.  Got sober and ended up marrying a woman 25 years younger than you.  Now you're a bit of a homebody who goes on tour to pay the bills.  And to top it off you're still kicking even though you've taken enough drugs to fell an ox.

Rating:  While this book lacked humor and warmth (or was maybe just British), it's a fascinating read that I recommend to any music fan.

Also Read By:  N/A - but his discography is pretty stellar.

Reviewed By:  Tami

Note:  For those interested, Clapton notes Chris O'Dell once...as being one of Pattie Boyd's wedding attendants.  So now I'm off to read Pattie Boyd's tell all.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Miss O'Dell" by Chris O'Dell and Katherine Ketcham

Have I mentioned how much I love the library?  I'd shout if from the roof tops if I could.  (Or if I had been drinking like a frat boy...and not scared of heights...)  My library puts together several different displays each month and if I have time I try to peek at them every so often.  I found "Miss O'Dell" on a Grammy Awards display and picked it up on a whim.  I'm glad I did.

Summary:  Chris O'Dell spent the golden era of rock and roll as a cross between a super groupie and an inside man for some of the biggest rock groups of the 60s, 70s and 80s.  After a chance meeting with a music bigwig at a party in LA, twenty something Chris O'Dell packed her bags, moved to London and finessed her way into a job working with the Beatles at their Apple label.

O'Dells's appetite for drugs and alcohol combined with her self-described inability to say no catapulted her into the inner circles of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other high profile bands of the 60's through the 80's.  "Miss O'Dell" is a collection of O'Dells more shocking memories of life at home and on the road with rock's greatest.

My Thoughts:  Do you ever read Perez Hilton or watch an episode of TMZ, thoroughly enjoy it, then feel sort of greasy for enjoying it as much as you did once its over?  That's exactly how I felt about this book. "Miss O'Dell" is a rock and roll tell all on the big bands of the past, going into the lurid and absolutely entertaining history of who slept with the most groupies (the Rolling Stones), who did the most drugs ( the Rolling Stones) and who was a total asshat behind closed doors (see: every one, but mostly Eric Clapton.)

While I'm not convinced that the stories in the book were 100% accurate (O'Dell imbibed an amazing amount of coke and liquor during most of the story) I think that the author believes the stories are accurate and told them as she remembered them with only minor twisting to make herself look better than perhaps she was.  This made the book feel genuine to me, which in turn led me to see Chris O'Dell in a sympathetic light.  She may have been a ruthless social engineer who used any means necessary to get into the inner circle of rock's elite, but she was an endearing social engineer and I ended up rather liking her even when she did something awful (sleep with her BFF's Beatle husband), stupid (piss off her other BFF's alcoholic guitar legend husband over and over) or really stupid (allow her doped up husband to drive the car with her infant son in the back).  On second thought, maybe I didn't like her....maybe I pitied her so I tried not to judge her quite so harshly.

"Miss O'Dell" focused on the people behind the legends and was at some of musics most historic events.  The story telling method of writing was very cleverly done and let the reader feel as if they were experiencing the momentous events as Chris did.  Sing in the chorus of Hey Jude?  Sure!  Snort some blow with Freddie Mercury?  Ok!

I also enjoyed Chris' personal story woven in and out of the famous ones.  Chris didn't shy away from admitting to her problems with drugs and alcohol, nor did she shy away from detailing her multiple rock bottoms.  Her honesty about herself in these moments had me rooting for her to come clean and make something of herself at the end.

Overall I enjoyed this book.  It was easy to read, seriously entertaining, and kept the celebrities just mean enough that I wasn't bothered by their darkest moments being aired by someone they once trusted.

Rating:  If you're at all interested in celebrity gossip or rock and roll, check this book out.

Also Read By This Author:  N/A

Reviewed By:  Tami

Side Note:  After reading this book I'm curious to read "the other side" of the stories.  Look for a review on autobiographies by Eric Clapton and Patti Boyd coming soon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"The Traitor's Hand" by Sandy Mitchell

This is the third book in the Commissar Cain series. I can't get enough.

Summary: Adumbria is a curious planet that is tidally locked with its home star. This creates three main zones, a hot and bright hemisphere always facing the sun, a cold and dark hemisphere always facing away, and a shadow belt in between. The majority of the population lives in the belt, with small settlements in the desert and tundra regions.

This story is chronologically after the first two books and during the time Cain is with the 597th Valhallans (who happen to be cold climate specialists). A significant time has passed and Cain's unit is urgently being sent to Adumbria in anticipation of a Chaos fleet headed towards the planet. Some of the Imperial fleet arrives before the Chaos cultists and is able to prepare. Unfortunately, travelling through the Warp (the only form of faster than light travel available to the Imperium of Man) is a complicated business and the bulk of the fleet is delayed.

Cain and his regiment originally assume that the Chaos fleet is the danger they need to be ready for, but even as they are deployed on the surface, they realize that a homegrown Chaos thread is already there. As they gather clues, the picture becomes clear as to what the cultists are trying to do on the planet and why the Chaos fleet is headed right for them.

While Cain is trying to maintain his heroic image, an old acquaintance from the Scola Progenium is picking up an old rivalry. Commissar Beije is assigned to the very pious regiment of the Tallarn 229th (who happen to be desert fighters). Beije sees through Cain's legendary reputation and knows him to be the selfish opportunist that he is. He takes it upon himself to bring down Cain during the mission and it is up to our clever protagonist to parry the challenges while simultaneously working to save the planet (and himself) from destruction.

What I Liked: This book has fresh enemies that are at first glance simple, but reveal a more developed identity as the story progresses. I like how it slowly dawns on Cain and his peers what is really going on. 

What I Didn't Like: It has become clear to me that some of the events in this book and previous books reference short stories (The Beguiling, Fight or Flight, and Echoes of the Tomb) I have not yet read. I found them now and will read them before moving onto the 4th book.

Rating: Love it! I am still reading the series.

Also Read by this Author: Scourge The Heritic, Innocence Proves Nothing, For the Emperor, Caves of Ice.

A side note, Sandy Mitchell is a pseudonym for Alex Stewart.

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Agatha H and the Airship City" by Phil & Kaja Foglio

I was first introduced to these characters through the award-winning Girl Genius online comic. When I saw their book for the first time, I needed to read it. 

Summary: This book follows the first part of the online comic, in which Agatha begins as an ordinary lab assistant at the university of Professor Beetle. The professor is a Spark, a title which denotes individuals who have an especially sharp minds. Sparks can take a pile of discarded parts and build a fully functional vehicle in a day, they can rewire the brains of animals to give them human intelligence, and they can do it in a steampunk universe where computers and circuits have never been invented. Most sparks are very dangerous and mentally unstable. They bring terror and ruin to the people of Europe with their armies of combat squids and war klanks constantly fighting. Professor Beetle is peaceful by comparison and has found himself working for Baron Wulfenbach, the most powerful spark who presides over the continent with a fleet of airships.

In this book Agatha's life is totally turned upside-down and she meets a cast of characters pulled from across the continent and across species. She can no longer stay in the home she has always known, and must make do with strangers in the airship city of Castle Wulfenbach, where she finds herself again as a lab assistant. But this time things have gotten a lot more complicated. After reading the comics, this book feels like it is entirely exposition for the adventures that follow, but it is compelling in its own right.

What I Liked: As the comic updates three pages a week, it can be slow going to follow along. It was a fun look-back to recall how the stories began. The Foglio's inject everything with a joke, keeping the story light-hearted even when it's serious. Also, the steampunk theme is exciting and interesting, with monsters, talking animals, robots and zepplins!

What I Didn't Like: I am biased to like this book, not sure what to put here.

Rating: Must read.

Also Read by this Author: Girl Genius online comic.

Reviewed by: Nick