Wild was a very frustrating reading experience and I’m having a hard time understanding how this book received such high praise? Based on all those ra...moreWild was a very frustrating reading experience and I’m having a hard time understanding how this book received such high praise? Based on all those rave reviews I’d been expecting a “soul-enhancing, inspiring story” not an infuriating exercise on what not to do. I mean what kind of idiot decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone with zero backpacking experience and almost no money set aside for emergencies?
This is the kind of person that first-responders (i.e search & rescue) hate. Unprepared, inexperienced, naïve, a danger to themselves and just plain stupid. Getting into situations that require those first responders to risk their own lives in rescuing them because they didn’t do a little research and preparation. Granted Cheryl Strayed didn’t actually need rescuing but that was just dumb luck on her part.
I also almost lost my mind with the overuse of the word PCT. I get it you’re hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I don’t need to see the acronym in every sentence, an average of 4-6 times a page, every page for the entire book. She also plugs “her bible” The Pacific Crest Trail volume 1 (and 2) writing the complete name of the book every couple of pages in case we forget what got her where she is.
“Was I on the PCT? All the while, I’d been searching for the small diamond-shaped PCT markers that were occasionally tacked to trees, but I hadn’t seen any. This wasn’t necessarily reason for alarm. I’d learned that the PCT markers weren’t to be relied upon. An hour later I saw a metal diamond that said PACIFIC CREST TRAIL tacked to a snowbound tree, and my body flooded with relief. I still didn’t know precisely where I was, but at least I knew I was on the PCT.”
Ultimately I had zero sympathy for this girl, in fact all she did was make me angry with her stupid decisions and (in the beginning chapters) depress me with the death of her mother, scattering of family members and dissolution of her marriage because she was sleeping around. Don’t even get me started on her lackadaisical, I’ve never tried it before decision to do heroin. I mean what could possibly go wrong there?
So after an abortion and with a fresh track mark on her leg from her last little experiment with H she decides to spend 3 months hiking from the Mojave Desert in California to Oregon in Washington State by herself.
This is still a hell of an adventure and I do have to give her full credit for finishing what she started and persevering through extreme conditions. I will also admit to actually enjoying the last 50 pages or so as Cheryl neared the end of her time on the PCT and seemed to come to terms with herself and find a sort of peace. The writing also improves in these chapters, becoming less repetitive or maybe I just got so used to seeing the word PCT I just didn’t see it anymore. PCT.
I’ll be honest (based on the blurb) this wasn’t quite what I was expecting; yes there’s punk rock, her...moreOpening Line: “I am torturing my father, Colin.”
I’ll be honest (based on the blurb) this wasn’t quite what I was expecting; yes there’s punk rock, heroin abuse and dysfunctional parents. But there’s also you Adam Sharp, and your life story is so much more than that.
Daddy Was a Punk Rocker is an inspiring, funny, horrific, surprisingly relatable and often sad memoir that at the core is a story about the child-parent relationship. This is little boy lost while he waits for his parents to get their shit together.
Adam takes us back to the very beginning with a mother who didn’t want him, refused to touch him or show him any form of kindness. His father Colin was a junkie, but more than that he was a disappointment, swearing that he wouldn’t abandon him yet continually doing just that. Subsequently raised by his grandfather and “Andrew” in Manchester England Adam grows up trying to be the bravest, smartest boy in the whole world so that his father will return and his mother Martine will visit more often and maybe not hit him as much. He tries not to cry, to lift the most weight in gym class, to never let a soccer ball into his net. Adam continually tries to prove himself while growing up. Eventually he comes to a sort of placidity about who his parents are and then it becomes all about escaping Manchester and who he is.
“His house smelled of cigarette smoke and violence.”
Throughout this Adam is always trying to escape; geographically from Manchester but mostly from himself. He relocates a lot; in Sydney, Melbourne, The Channel Islands, Spain, he recreates himself becoming funny and charming and successful and confident. It was kind of heartbreaking actually watching Adam try so hard to be someone else because he felt who he was wasn’t good enough.
I liked that this book followed Adam out of his childhood, I liked watching him attend college for a law degree he doesn’t want, meet girls, travel the world, be a stilt walker. I liked seeing him immigrate to Australia and live in a shed with spiders, be a “sexual experimenter” and then meet his wife Lee. I suffered with you while you bartended and served sandwiches in a casino. And attempted suicide. I watched you eventually find a relationship with your father and allow punk rock into your life. And the epilogue… the epilogue had me choking back tears. Oh No!
My only criticism would be that the beginning felt sort of repetitive, by putting us into the story in short form and then starting all over again with more detail. On the flip side there were certain sections of dialogue that were hilarious (like the nonsensical banter between Adam and his mates or when he first meets Lee at the wedding) I can only hope to read something along these lines in the future.
Thank you Adam Sharp for allowing me this intimate look into your life, what a brilliantly entertaining memoir you’ve put out there into the world.~4.5~
** A copy was generously provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. 366jb45(less)
About a quarter of this bio is a really good, super interesting read. Unfortunately once Bill Tarmey’s life catches up to when he takes the role of Ja...moreAbout a quarter of this bio is a really good, super interesting read. Unfortunately once Bill Tarmey’s life catches up to when he takes the role of Jack Duckworth on Coronation Street it becomes Jack’s biography and hardly includes anything else from the rest of Bill’s life.
Instead we get a complete breakdown of Jack’s adventures and follies on The Street. How many episodes he was in per year based on appearance charts, which cast members, left the show or died or were added. How he and Vera’s volatile on screen marriage was holding out. Basically it’s a rundown of Coronation Street for the past 31 years. I will admit that these behind the scenes moments and story synopsis became way more interesting once it got to the point that I started watching the show and knew the characters and storylines. But still, I wanted to read more about Bill Tarmey not the character Jack. I guess I should have surmised from the title “JACK DUCKWORTH and me (the “and me” is written in tiny letters) that this was going to be a bio about a fictional character. Shouldn’t I? Anyways.
Born in 1941 in a rented terrace house in Manchester England, Bill’s early life was one of poverty, food rationing, tragedy and a close knit family that all lived a stone’s throw from each other. His biological father was killed in 1944 while serving as an ambulance driver in the Second World War and Bill has no memories of him. What I found interesting here is that despite the adversity of his childhood, he only has happy memories of the time. Everyone was in the same boat. Young widowed mothers, air raid sirens and playing in bombed out buildings were the norm. You were often hungry and there was no time to be idle, everyone worked at what they could which often included factories. He admits to being hopeless in the classroom but gifted when it came to music. This entire early section really took me into postwar England and the struggles the country faced.
“There was never a turkey for Christmas lunch. It would be a chicken and most of the breast would go to my dad because he was a working man and needed to keep up his strength. For me, whose only experience of meat was corned beef or Prem (a cheap version of Spam) a chicken wing was a real treat.”
Bill met Alice, the woman he would spend the rest of his life with at the age of 14 and married her at 18. At the time of their marriage in 1962 he was working as an asphalter and had .37p in his pocket. There is very little insight into his marriage or personal life, except for his children being born, but it seems to me like theirs is a real love story.
Bill talks a lot about his singing career which started in the church, and continued into the pubs and club scene. It’s my opinion that this is the career path he would have preferred and his true passion. His real life eerily mirrored that of his alter ego he played on screen, with lurches into fortune and fame and just plain luck. “I feared that some new producer would recognise my failings and wonder what Bill Tarmey was doing pretending to be an actor. I could never relax because I always thought the bubble was going to burst at any moment. I’ve had a wonderful time playing him it’s just that for a long time I felt a bit of a fraud.”
Sadly The Cobbles lost Bill Tarmey (Nov 10/12) and with his passing Coronation Street loses a true legend. I will miss Jack Duckworth; his last Corrie episode still brings tears to my eyes, as he dances with his Vera. Cheers Jack! 374jb3. (less)
Opening Line: "Damn, I think I’m dying, dying for sure."
Or what you'll read when you're bored and trapped at a fishing cabin without power
Okay first...moreOpening Line: "Damn, I think I’m dying, dying for sure."
Or what you'll read when you're bored and trapped at a fishing cabin without power
Okay first off this is not my usual reading fare (the cartoon skull at the beginning and end of each chapter should have clued me in) I’m not a Wrestling fan, I only knew who Stone Cold Steve Austin was because he was everywhere in the late 90’s and I have two younger brothers. In going over this book for my review I realized it was going to be very hard not to rip it to pieces what with all the skulls and awesome little quotes like this one:
“DTA, you stupid piece of trash. Don’t ever trust anybody. You ain’t gonna be my partner…never! ‘Cause you are a longhair freak, and you suck! -Austin to Mankind, after giving him the ‘stone cold stunner’ -which I now know how to do should I ever feel the need.
Why did I read this you ask? Well you see I was trapped at a secluded fishing cabin for a week without power, in the rain and I ran out of stuff to read. This just happened to be lying around (I guess its good fishing material?) Anyways due to the short chapters, cold weather, absence of television and amount of cool pictures involved here, before I knew it I was done. So I’m going to try to review this impartially, from the point of a 12 year old boy and wrestling fan. Which is I’m sure who it was aimed at, not a forty year old romance reader. Oh in case you were wondering the fishing was great.
We begin with Stone Cold preparing for his final fight in WrestleMania against The Rock (yum!) Steve’s having a bit of an episode from the amount of energy drinks and coffee he’s been ingesting and may just be having a heart attack. (FYI Chapter one is 8 pages long and contains 2 skulls, 3 almost full page photographs and a POV from his mentor Jim Ross) Then for Chapter two (which is 4 pages long) we go way back to the beginning, briefly following Austin’s childhood, growing up in Texas. He talks about his family, his brothers and love of sports; football and tennis in particular. Repeating often how important it is to respect and listen to your parents and stay in school. About 30 pages in Steve drops out of college and goes to Wrestling school and the rest as they say is history.
Well sort of. We also get tidbits from his early career when he was on the road and didn’t have any money, surviving on potatoes. Theres lots of stories about promoters and other wrestlers he met along the way into the WWF. He talks a bit about drugs and friends lost, feuds in the business and what really went down. We meet his first wife, second wife and third. We learn the story behind the “What?” gimmick, “Hell yeah”, the middle finger salute and why its more fun to be heel then a baby face (even though you’ll sell less merchandise) He also discusses his numerous injuries and what he would change about the wrestling business.
In the end I think one of my biggest problems with this book was that it was just assumed that you knew all the background behind any of the stories he was telling, so he only ever told half the story. As a wrestling fan I’m sure the half you get is awesome but as someone reading it just for the biography aspect it was a little confusing. Can anyone tell me what he was on probation for? I also never felt like I got to know the real Steve Austin as there wasn’t any insight given into his personal life. As I said theres a ton of freaking photos, like every page, as well as wrestling quotes, letters and documents all interspersed with commentary from his mother, father and good friend Jim "J.R” Ross. oh and all the skulls.
And that’s the bottom line cause Stone Cold said so. Cheers(less)
Opening line: “Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that makes you smile.”
Rea...moreOpening line: “Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that makes you smile.”
Reading about rock stars and their insane lives of excess is one of my guilty pleasures. I find the rise to success intriguing and then there are always the drugs, the girls, the inevitable rehab, more rehab and the stories behind the story. You know, how a song originated, what the lyrics really mean, why he fell off the stage. Then there’s also the feuds with band mates, personal relationships and dirty little secrets of other stars they party with.
Steven Tyler's bio is no different, all the goods are here, and he doesn’t hold anything back (understatement) the only thing is in order to get to “the goods” you have to wade through utter randomness to find them. Yes Steve the noise is your head does bother me because most of the time I can’t keep up with what you’re talking about.
This is written exactly how Tyler talks (and sings) with a what-will-he-say next, conversationally feel to it. And while its fun it’s also bizarre, crazy and at times difficult to follow. Jumping all over the place without a logical timeline and obscure song lyrics and poems thrown in whenever he feels like it. He wants to sniff J.Lo, he’s doing lines on tour, he’s driving around in a yellow convertible with some hot babe, suddenly he’s back in school, he’s married, he’s in rehab, it’s all Joe Perry’s fault, this is what black tastes like, I like to walk naked in my garden and talk to the fairies.
Page 90-“I sat down at the drums and wrote the drum line for Walk This Way. You want the story now or when we get to Toys in the Attic? Hey, I never said this was gonna be a completely linear read. How could it be? (Ha!) But we’re on DRUMS so… what the f---”
Anyways maybe if I were a true Aerosmith fan I would have appreciated this more, I don’t know? As it was though once I was able to turn the noise down there was a lot of interesting stuff here because at 63 and with 40 years in the business Steve has seen and done it all with everyone.
As expected theres a ton of drug use here which actually gets kind of boring after a while I will admit though at being surprised when after 12 years of sobriety, a slew of health problems (Hepatitis C, false brain tumour diagnosis, torn ACL, broken blood vessel in throat and all the problems with his twisted feet) sent him spinning out of control with an addiction to post surgery pain meds and back for an 8th stint in rehab in 2009.
He goes into great detail about his wardrobe and scarves which I’m sure will interest some and although his “brother” Joe Perry’s name is mentioned throughout we learn little about their ongoing love/hate relationship. We also hear about his wives (3 and counting), his children (4 and counting) and how Aerosmith always came before his family. I personally found the sections on song writing super interesting; the process, what the lyrics mean or in his case don’t because sometimes he just likes how the words feel on his tongue.
With 32 pages of great photos fans will lick this up however I could only give it 3 stars because it took me ages to finish and at times drove me mad. (less)
Opening Line: “This is the one thing that stays the same: my husband got hurt. Everything else changes.”
Stephen King is quoted (on the cover) of this...moreOpening Line: “This is the one thing that stays the same: my husband got hurt. Everything else changes.”
Stephen King is quoted (on the cover) of this book as saying “The best memoir I have ever read.” Well I wouldn’t go that far but this was pretty good; honest, moving, funny heartbreaking and literary –the author is a writing teacher, so yeah. Oh and then there are the three dogs and her observations on them, (which are brilliant) and the main reason I decided to read this.
Abigail Thomas lives with her husband Richard in a cosy house with pretty furniture. She has children and grandchildren, and her telephone rings often. She likes to knit and is useless at gardening. Richard takes care of that. Richard also takes the dog for its evening walk. One night the dog comes home and Richard doesn’t. The doorman phones from the lobby, your dog is in the elevator, you better come and get him. Where is my husband? Richard has been hit by a car, his skull shattered; his brain severely damaged, their dreams of old age on the front porch with the comfort of each other taken from them in an instant.
Abigail’s memoir is about the following 5 years after the accident as she slowly puts her life back together, collects a couple more dogs and learns to deal with the twists and turns it has thrown at her. Richard is now in a nursing facility, he won’t be getting any better, he lives in the eternal present with no future, no past no 5 minutes ago, subject to rages, terrors and hallucinations this is the only constant in Abigail’s life as she moves forward.
“Richard and I don’t have the normal ups and downs of marriage. I don’t get impatient. He doesn’t have to figure out what to do with his retirement. I don’t watch him go through holidays with the sorrow of missing his absent children. Last week we were walking down the hall to his room, it was November, we had spent the afternoon together. “If I wasn’t with you and we weren’t getting food, the dark would envelope my soul.” he said cheerfully. He never knows I’m leaving until I go.”
This memoir is both sad and laugh-out-loud funny which is an incredible combination to achieve. I also found myself constantly highlighting meaningful quotes or reading parts out loud to whomever would listen which often included my dogs :) Cheers
Opening Line: “He doesn’t wait until I’m awake. He comes into my unconscious to find me, to pull me out.”
I knew almost nothing about Portia De Rossi b...moreOpening Line: “He doesn’t wait until I’m awake. He comes into my unconscious to find me, to pull me out.”
I knew almost nothing about Portia De Rossi before reading her gripping biography. Sure I’d seen her years ago on Ally McBeal. I knew she was beautiful, I knew she was married to Ellen DeGeneres and I had just assumed she was another perfect movie star living the dream with a life to be envious of. This is so not the case here.
Unbearable Lightness is brutal, scary, well written and shocking in its honesty, chronicling Portia’s almost lifelong struggle with an eating disorder. We bare witness as she yo-yo diets through the ages of 12-25 binging and purging, basing her happiness on the number on the scale. Then finally (with the help of a nutritionist) we watch as Portia becomes successful at “dieting.” Starving and excessively excising her way down to 82 lbs. Sad, frightening, tortuous and just plain crazy, this was engrossing yet at times painful to read.
We are given some insight into Portia’s life however this does not read like your standard memoir, focusing almost exclusively on her eating disorder and shying away from any real understanding of her career or personal relationships. In a vague sense we learn of Portia’s childhood in Australia, her early modeling days, first marriage in Los Angeles and almost invisible, worthless feelings associated with Ally McBeal. The only behind the scenes we get there are regarding her fittings and the size of her power suits. Portia’s sexuality is discussed but again vaguely, mainly it’s as a fear of being exposed and her confusion living life as a closeted gay woman.
Throughout we get the feeling that Portia doesn’t feel she deserves anything, to say she has low self esteem would be an understatement, she has no self esteem. She is lonely, obsessed with food and calorie counting and her only real relationship is with her treadmill. Basing any happiness on losing weight, because everything will be perfect if she can just lose 5-10-15 lbs. As a warning; at the height of her disease this begins to read a bit like a how-to-guide for the anorexic and I would bare this in mind if you’re at all going to be using this book as a form of recovery tool.
During one Christmas Portia hits her lowest weight. At 82 lbs she’s consuming just 300 calories a day. She knows she’s too thin, she’s hiding her bony arms and her family is crying at the sight of her however she no longer knows how to eat, food scares her and she’s afraid of going back to the binging/purging and self hatred.
Eventually on a movie set DeRossi’s body can longer take the abuse; she’s sick, exhausted and her bones ache. She has also developed osteoporosis and lupus and has to start eating. Portia’s recovery process here is insightful, uplifting and beautifully done and I really wish her the best. Cheers
This was the scariest passage for me; “I hadn’t eaten for many hours and my calorie count was fairly low that day, I would allow myself to have a piece of Extra chewing gum. I always allowed myself to have gum, but at 5 calories a stick, I had to add it to my daily calorie allowance because it was these kinds of unrecorded calories that could build up and cause you to gain weight.”
-Portia proceeds to “pig out” in a self described “frenzied feeding.” Consuming the entire pack of gum in a matter of minutes. Then filled with guilt over what she’s done and terrified she’ll gain weight again she begins running sprints (in high heels) across the mall parking lot, in a desperate attempt to rid her body of the calories (from the gum!) and maintain control. (less)
Opening Line: “It was about nine o’clock one bleak November day that the key rattles in the heavy lock of my cell in the Lubyanka Prison and the two b...moreOpening Line: “It was about nine o’clock one bleak November day that the key rattles in the heavy lock of my cell in the Lubyanka Prison and the two broad-shouldered guards marched purposely in.”
Wow what an amazing story, epic is I guess more the word I’m looking for. I read this after watching the movie The Way Back and as is usually the case the book is much better, vastly different yet obviously maintaining the gist of the year long trek across an entire continent to freedom. As a point of interest (or not) Colin Farrell’s tattooed gang character does not exist in the book. Anyways…
Slavomir Rawicz wrote this memoir in 1959 as a form of therapy to escape the memories that still haunted him. It has lost nothing with time however and remains one of the most incredible journeys of strength, endurance and human spirit you’ll ever read.
Its 1941 and “Slav” has just spent two years in a Soviet prison. After multiple beatings and interrogations at the hands of the sadistic prison guard “the Bull” he is eventually found guilty of espionage (?) and sentenced to 25 years forced labour in a Siberian work camp. (These sections were actually some of the most brutal in the whole book)
Thus begins his journey. Transferred during the dead of winter Slav somehow survives the 3000 mile cattle car train ride and subsequent chain gang death march into inner Siberia and camp 303 in Yakutsk After enduring starvation, cold, illness and brutality he and six other prisoners escape.
Together they cross an entire continent on foot with nothing more than an axe, a knife, a weeks worth of food and an unbreakable will to live. Covering some of the most inhospitable conditions on earth they travel out of Siberia and through China, across the Gobi dessert into Tibet and finally over the Himalayas and into British India. This is where the epic part comes in because their journey is so brutal, so filled with despair and suffering its at times unbelievable and also impossible to put down.
The LONG WALK is written factually and Slav doesn’t ever tell us how he feels, he just gives a meticulous account of what is taking place. However for this type of storytelling it was perfect. Included in this 1997 version is an afterwards with some of the readers most persistent questions answered. What Slav’s life was like after The Long Walk, What happened to the other men? Did he ever see them again?
This is a story I won’t ever forget and I highly recommend. I mean they walked from Siberia to India, just think about that for a second.(less)
I really enjoyed this, a fascinating and inspirational read even if you’re not a cycling fan or into sports biographies. As the title states this is “...moreI really enjoyed this, a fascinating and inspirational read even if you’re not a cycling fan or into sports biographies. As the title states this is “not about the bike” well not completely anyways, of course the bike is always present (even on Lance’s sickest days when he could barely stand from the chemo treatments he still managed to go for a wobbly ride around the block) but I would say more than half of this story deals with Lance’s brutal battle with cancer and his miraculous recovery. We also learn about his childhood and growing up kinda poor in a single parent home, his early days as a triathlete, falling in love and his 1st marriage (this was written in 2002) and a surprisingly detailed account about the IVF that allowed for the birth of his first child.
It’s well written, honest and unflinching, as some of what we read doesn’t always paint Armstrong in the most favorable light. Other reviewers have mentioned his ego (huge) and his single mindedness when it came to racing and training, bordering on obsession. I am of the mind that you don’t become the best in the world without developing an ego, without becoming preoccupied. I mean it takes everything to get to the top so personal relationships are bound to suffer. On that note while Armstrong praises his (now ex-wife) Kit I was shocked at how he treated her, expecting her life to just revolve around him. At one point she gives up everything in the States and follows him to Europe to just “be there” while he trains, then on a whim Lance quits the tour and he expects her to just pack up the house and follow him back home while he sorts himself out and plays golf.
When Lance is diagnosed with cancer it’s the first time in his life that cycling is not the foremost thing in his life however he handles his treatment and recovery like a big race. Finding the right doctors and learning everything he can about his disease. We the reader get the story down to the smallest of details; from the day he just didn’t feel well, through diagnosis, gut-wrenching fear, denial, dealing with the backlash from his team and sponsors and then a single minded focus on beating cancer through his day to day struggle through operations, chemo and near death. I actually had no idea just how sick he was, not only was the cancer in his testicle but he also had tumors in his chest and brain, his odds of survival at one point were as low as 20%.
His fight to make a comeback into the cycling world is almost as grim as his cancer itself; no team would touch him so there was a political side as well as a physical side to his return. And just because he was in remission and well enough to race didn’t mean his mind was in the game either. I found it fascinating how he entered into a sort of survivor’s guilt phase where he didn’t want to ride, he just wanted to play golf, eat crappy food and be a bum, like he didn’t know how to go back to his life before cancer.
If you’re into cycling obviously this is a must read. The longest chapter here deals with his first Tour de France win and it’s exhausting and totally exhilarating, leaving me feeling like I was grinding up the Alps and Pyrenees amidst a mass of spandex. (Yay me) There is also a freakin ton of inside information regarding well, just about everything you ever wanted to know about “the Tour” and cycling in general, specifically covering European terms, customs, the training regime and accounts of competitions and what it takes to get there. Yup the doping issue is brought up as well, and because Armstrong was an American winning a European dominated race he was tested persistently,(always negative) with such claims as his cancer treatments had given him an unfair advantage!
Opening Line: “In late December 2007, life was looking pretty good.”
This was one of the better biographies I’ve read, and I kick myself now for puttin...moreOpening Line: “In late December 2007, life was looking pretty good.”
This was one of the better biographies I’ve read, and I kick myself now for putting it off for so long. However like a lot of people my age (40ish) who grew up watching and swooning over Patrick Swayze I felt I had to give myself time to get over his death before I was ready to read about his life. In my day he was just IT, that’s right “The sexiest man alive” (according to 1991’s People magazine) Actually I still have trouble believing that he’s gone, probably because he was just bigger than life in his movies, so vibrant and energetic and indestructible (Yes even in Ghost)
Ultimately I needn’t to have worried because this was not a sad memoir and Patrick’s battle with cancer takes up very little page space, this is about his life. With a ton of personal photos it becomes evident right off that this was a man that lived a full and adventurous life (outside of being a movie star) Patrick or “Buddy” as his family called him was also lucky enough to meet his lifelong love Lisa at the age of 19 (she was just 15) and spend 30+ years with his best friend. He experienced more in his 57 years than most of us can only dream of, but still…
I guess you could say I grew up with Patrick Swayze (again it’s a 40’s thing) so over the years I’ve managed to see most of his movies. This made reading his book super interesting, getting the behind the scenes info from all my favorites including; North & South, Uncommon Valour, Red Dawn, The Outsiders, Point Break, Roadhouse and of course Ghost and Dirty Dancing (which is actually my least favourite).
Born in Houston, the son of a champion rodeo cowboy and a choreographer Patrick inherited both of his parent’s passions equally. He was a star football player and aspired to be an Olympic gymnast before a serious knee injury sidelined those dreams. He continued to dance however, eventually moving to New York City where he landed a spot in the second company of the Joffrey Ballet. He married the girl he’d met at his mother’s dance studio in 1975 but for a long time felt like he didn’t deserve Lisa and that he loved her more than she loved him. (Aww) Sidelined by knee operations Patrick was finally forced to quit ballet (he counts this of as one of his lifelong regrets) and instead focused on acting. Moving to LA he and Lisa experienced some very lean years, working as carpenters at one point and surviving on peanut butter and oranges that grew in their backyard.
Swayze had to work for every role that he received (for some reason this surprised me) and had a hard time overcoming the dancer turned actor image. He was also a perfectionist and very insecure which must have made trying to “sell” yourself in auditions a nightmare and probably what led to his later battles with alcohol and depression. Their lives changed ridiculously when he skyrocketed to fame with his iconic roles in Dirty Dancing and Ghost yet through it all he and Lisa were a team. I had always been curious why they never had children and they describe it as missing their window after a miscarriage left them devastated. Patrick suffered some serious brushes with death, breaking both legs in a horse vs. tree collision and suffering hypoxia and crash landing his plane (yes he had his pilot’s license). Through it all Patrick continued to be cowboy (raising and showing Arabians) and to dance.
As Patrick describes his life throughout this book, I noticed that in every single instance he says "we" it is never "I" which made me realize just how incredibly joined he was to Lisa. I wish her the best. Sigh… 4.5(less)
Opening Line: "I am a fisherman, an Alaskan fisherman, and a Bering Sea crab fisherman with thirty-seven years on commercial boats."
As a long time fan...moreOpening Line: "I am a fisherman, an Alaskan fisherman, and a Bering Sea crab fisherman with thirty-seven years on commercial boats."
As a long time fan of TV’s The Deadliest Catch and an avid biography reader it was a given that I’d read Time Bandit, I just didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did or be given such candour into Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand’s lives. Now thanks to the boys I also know just about everything I’d ever want to about; Alaskan weather, rogue waves, hypothermia, what happens when you party naked, ice flows, never quitting, how many groceries you need to feed 7 hungry men for two weeks, the coast guard (coasties), eagles, seagulls, the Bering sea, red gold, flares, silly string wars, crab pots, survival suits, cod, salmon, the fishing industry in general and how to get out of jail in Mexico.
If you’re a fan of The Deadliest Catch then you’ll love this even though you will have already seen some of the stories played out on TV. However all the behind the scenes details and the intimate look into Andy and Johnathon’s lives really make this worthwhile. Exhilarating, anguished and often hilarious these modern day pirates give a first hand account on what its like to face death on the Bering Sea with stories that are in turn riotous and often sadly reflective. They talk here just like they do on TV too so expect the F-bombs, a general feeling of unruliness and a hell of a lot of fun.
Ghost written by Malcolm Macpherson, he cleverly takes an assortment of the Hillstrand brother’s tales, adds some facts and then layers them all within a gripping adventure. Starting with Johnathan drifting alone in his 38 foot fishing vessel 'Fishing Fever'. He has lost power, doesn’t have a radio and is quickly running out of cigarettes however by the end theres still 1 flare left and he hasn’t cracked the Crown Royal.
Jonathans narrative takes us through the Hillstrand brothers rough and tumble childhood, the tempestuous relationship they had with their father and onto the Time Bandit into 2008. He provides a great deal of humour throughout, none of which I can repeat here but sure made me laugh and is without a doubt the “bad boy of the Bering Sea” A couple of chapters in we switch to Andy’s POV on his horse farm in Indiana. He has just received the call that his brother’s gone missing while salmon fishing. Andy’s narrative is less personal and places a lot of emphasis on family, marriage and having a life away from fishing. And although the more reserved of the pair make no mistake Andy has a wild streak too
Macpherson takes us back and forth between the two brothers with Andy waiting and worrying at the ranch and Jonathan drifting into Shelikof Strait, eating raw salmon and rationing cigarettes. The ending of this true life adventure is well…just another day in the life of a Hillstrand.
This was an inspiring follow up to (From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava), tracing Jay Kopelman and his transplanted dog Lava’s transition back to civilian life in the US. Unlike the first book this is more about the man than the dog. We witness Kopelman struggle here with problems that many returning veterans face including anger management and control issues. In Kopelman’s case it’s through his dog (and under a pretext of research for this book) that he’s finally able to admit to having PTSD.
I enjoyed the first book so much and often wondered what became of Jay and his rescue dog upon their return to America so I was thrilled to be allowed a glimpse back into their lives here. FBTA is a short read and I enjoyed it despite the fact that at times it felt more like an extended epilogue than an actual novel.
There wasn’t really a whole lot of substance here, interspaced with letters from assorted military, each telling their own stories of dogs that influenced them and how they tried (usually without success) to get them back to America, copies of the code of conduct, step by step instructions on how to don a field protective mask along with several other pages of military rules and regulations and 50 pages of appendages at the end. He also does a fair amount of well, for lack of a better word ranting but I guess he’s earned that right. Actually we get very little insight into Jay’s personal life at all (which again as the author is his right) but I would have appreciated a little more than just randomly reading that he’s married and then suddenly has a year old son.
Lava does continue to influence Jay throughout, being the one responsible for leading him to the woman he marries and ultimately forcing Kopelman to address his own PTSD through his behavioral problems. I would say this is any interesting and touching read, nowhere near as engaging as the first book but probably an important and relatable piece of work for returning veterans.
In regards to Lava’s own PTSD, and don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that he doesn’t have genuine issues but Kopelman states “that to keep Lava balanced he has to keep him on a schedule, avoid surprises (like the cable guy dropping by) and make sure Lava is eating well, sleeping and exercising because if he doesn’t everybody pays” Well I’m sorry but this is the standard for all dogs. My golden retriever has had a pretty perfect life but he still goes crazy if his life isn’t on a routine, and if he misses a walk, look the hell out. He also doesn’t appreciate strange, unannounced cable guys on the property. This is just normal dog behaviour, but whatever I’m glad seeing through Lava’s eyes enabled Kopelman to focus on himself. Cheers 348jb35(less)
“I was aware that we are all stronger than we can possibly imagine and that strength is gained from pushing beyond what is known, what is comfortable”...more“I was aware that we are all stronger than we can possibly imagine and that strength is gained from pushing beyond what is known, what is comfortable”
Warren Macdonald was an avid outdoorsman, experienced Mountaineer and environmentalist when he set out for what was supposed to be a two day (there-and-back) climb up Mount Bowen on Hinchinbrook Island in Australia. Little did he know these would be his last steps he would ever take as a “complete” human being. His little jaunt up the mountain turns suddenly into a nightmare when a massive 1 ton slab of rock breaks free and in a “wrong place, wrong time” moment traps Warren beneath it.
Along with flashbacks into Warren’s life the majority of this memoir alternates POV’s between Warren’s 48 hour struggle for survival beneath the rock and his hiking companion Geert van Keulen’s harrowing 11hour race back down the mountain to find help. With a broken pelvis and barely able to move Warren manages to fight off drowning (as the creek bed he’s lying in fills with water) the elements, pain, fear, insanity and even death. And just when you think it can’t possibly get any worse, as Warren puts it “A bad movie gets worse”
Near the end of his ordeal Warren ends up using a stick to fight off yabbies (Australian crayfish) that have started eating his dying legs and feet. Not long after he feels a stinging sensation in his groin and chest area, and realizes a colony of ants has found a new and delicious home, “one with a steady food supply…him.” At this point I don’t know how Warren maintained his sanity, it was hard enough to read. I should add that his companion Geert’s journey back down the mountain is equally gripping and added a great perspective to the story.
I won’t be spoiling anything (he lets you know on the very first page) by telling you that Warren is rescued yet ultimately looses both his legs. A large part of this read also deals with his time in hospital, rehab and learning to deal with his new reality. Which I might add he exceeds. Warren’s road to recovery was equally as motivating and uplifting as his survival story.
I’m always amazed at what the human spirit is capable of enduring when it comes right down to it And this is a fascinating example of courage, strength of spirit and sheer determination. Now a motivational speaker Warren has since become the first above knee amputee to reach the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. He also swims, surfs and has learned to walk again.
The writing and editing here is good unlike a lot of survival memoirs I’ve read although towards the end we do get a ton of name dropping which is great for Warren’s friends I suppose but not so interesting for the reader. Also contains 4 pages of photographs and a map of Australia showing Hinchinbrook Island and Mt Bowen.(less)
Opening Line: “O’Byrne and the men of Battle Company arrived in the last week of May when the rivers were running full and the upper peaks still held...moreOpening Line: “O’Byrne and the men of Battle Company arrived in the last week of May when the rivers were running full and the upper peaks still held snow.”
Great cover on this, a haunting image and an equally powerful read. Written by Sabastian Junger (of The Perfect Storm fame) In WAR he spends 15 months following a single platoon based at a remote outpost in Eastern Afghanistan. His objective is simple, to convey what soldiers experience, what war actually feels like.
Divided into 3 “books”: Fear, Killing, and Love from the very first pages you are dropped right onto into the thick of it. Arriving on a remote hilltop in one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous outposts in the Korengal Valley. Here Junger gives insight into the truths of combat, how these soldiers live and what they see. He describes things that few civilians will ever witness or go through; the fear, the anticipation, the honor and the trust among men. Their outpost is inaccessible, hot, hilly, remote and mortally dangerous. It’s also home to (as I’ve come to understand) the ultimate testosterone filled boys club.
As with The Perfect Storm this is not so much a story or novel but a series of events (patrols/battles) tied together with the mechanics of war. How fast bullets travel, military strategy & history, studies on fear and courage and body armour. Lots of things you didn’t know you wanted to know. Junger also manages to get some fairly intimate stories from the men; and you do get a feel for them as they describe what it means to fight, why they’re serving, how they deal with boredom interspaced with sheer adrenaline, chaos and terror and how life will never be more pure or sharp than in that moment when there’s a good chance that you could die.
Between the sounds of gunfire and the agony of loss there are also some surprisingly funny moments, the jocularity and bromance of these guys who may not even like each other but would also die for their “brothers” It is the ultimate commitment not so much to their job but to each other.
Junger does spend some time (at the beginning and end) describing how the men are adjusting back to civilian life and I wish I could say something positive about that.
WAR is gritty, raw, eye opening, funny, adrenaline charged, futile and heartfelt. (less)
Opening Line: “The last time I talked to my dad was on a sweltering April evening in 2004.It was a lopsided conversation. He had died of a heart attac...moreOpening Line: “The last time I talked to my dad was on a sweltering April evening in 2004.It was a lopsided conversation. He had died of a heart attack almost thirty years earlier.”
Paradise General is the gripping personal account of Dr. Dave Hnida, an ordinary civilian doctor from Colorado who spent four months as a trauma chief at one of the busiest combat hospitals in Iraq.
Staffed by reservist medics this modern day M.A.S.H unit consisted of a series of rundown buildings connected by tents, cement blocks and sandbags in the middle of the desert. For this forty-eight year old volunteer soldier the working conditions may have been sparse, but he and his fellow doctors managed to maintain a 98% survival rate. Using a form of fast-food surgery, they put the mangled bodies back together in a “get em’ in get em’ out” method that then saw them being airlifted out of Iraq for more extensive repairs. Their wounded often including the very insurgents that placed the American soldiers within their OR and the Hippocratic Oath was common place. If you made it into Paradise General his team would take care of you.
Avoiding any political judgements "Dr. Dave" instead focuses on the care of his patients, his dislike of most things military and the diverse group of surgeons who become his new family. Told with a whole lot of self-deprecating humour we witness his frozen fear during his first shift and follow him through round-the-clock on call chaos, and inspiring dark hours. Throughout he manages to provide a level of humour and comedic relief to overcome the stress of putting IED maimed bodies back together, 130 degree heat, “foo-foo” coffee, threat of attack, and military madness that surrounds him. Hnida doesn’t shy away from the blood and gore here and in doing so the reality of war and death is brought home.
This book has been heavily compared to the TV series M.A.S.H and for good reason, as Hnida and his fellow surgeons use pranks and childlike misbehaviour as a prescription for sanity. His disdain for military acronyms and authority is another obvious comparison. Although (as another reviewer pointed out) it’s more like the final seasons of M.A.S.H, when the comedy held a dark edge and Hawkeye’s despairing introspection showed the true absurdities of war.
Often told on a case by case basis a couple of chapters really stood out for me; “Anatomy Of A Trauma” which takes the reader through a hurry up and wait timeline… “09:12:00 the radio crackles. A firefight has taken place after an IED attack. Estimate two urgent casualties -arrival by helicopter in 25 minutes. Condition unknown –so we prepare for four patients and arrival in 10 minutes. Information is often muddled from a thundering helicopter.“
And “Blursday” which parallels Dr.Hnida’s day in trauma with that of the missing “fifth guy” from a routine patrol, presumed dead after an IED blast took out their Humvee. Hnida finds him outside the OR smoking a cigarette in the moonlight without a scratch on him.
I also appreciated the personal look we get into why Dave volunteered and the relationship he had with his veteran father, who only in death (and combat) was he beginning to understand.
I honestly had a lot of trouble putting this book down; told with candor and boyish humour Dr. Dave manages to deposit you right into the heart of the 399th CSH and the hell that war creates and leaves behind. It will be a long time before I can forget what I’ve read here. 394jb5(less)