Who I Really Am: Diary of a Vampire by Alice Cooper (Author, Narrator)


Who I Really Am: Diary of a Vampire by Alice Cooper (Author, Narrator)
Audible’s Words + Music series
Publisher: Audible Originals
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Biography, Historical
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Rock and roll in the BC (Before Cooper) era was a tamer, milder world. In Who I Really Am, Cooper’s latest addition to Audible’s Words + Music series, we learn how the boa-wearing (not the feathered kind) maestro arrived at a show and sound – let’s call it AC for After Cooper – that has entertained millions of kids while terrifying parents in equal measure. Cooper drew inspiration from Saturday matinee horror movies, applied a “no such thing as too much” attitude, and hitched it to a kick-ass rock and roll band. The shows were incredible, but the offstage antics might have been even more entertaining. Cooper generously shares you-had-to-be-there tales of the band’s early days in Hollywood and mythic all-nighters with rock’s premier luminaries. Also included are new recordings of the hits “I’m Eighteen”, “School’s Out”, and “Poison”. Not many artists can claim credit for creating an entire style or genre. Don’t miss the chance to hear a consummate showman reveal that storytelling might be his greatest talent of all.

There’s nothing more fascinating than learning about someone you’ve heard about all your life but really never knew anything about the person until they took the time to introduce you to them. Imagine my shock to realize that Alice Cooper wasn’t the name of the man, but the actual BAND.

I started listening to this as a lark. I didn’t think I’d get much out of it. Wow, was I wrong! I was completely fascinated along with being stunned, shocked, impressed, astonished, saddened, amazed, amused and delighted. He even sang a few songs during the course of his story about himself, the band and the people he met along the way. And yes, he really called himself a vampire – but not in the way you expect. Certainly, in no way related to all the paranormal romances I enjoy so much. It’s a moniker more than anything, gifted by happenstance.

Alice Cooper, and I’m talking about the man, the artist, singer and all-around stunner of a talent, has a history that I never anticipated. His family background is not what I expected. When he shared the story about his grandfather and a 6-yr. old boy he tried to help, I got the shivers. I’m not going to share why or what it was all about because I in no way want to minimize or subvert the impact of that scene. It sure made me stop and stare for a bit. No way! But yes, I guess it really did happen and that fact floored me.

Alice, and I’ll stick to that name recognition, and his family moved around a lot. It seems like many artists that make it big have that kind of element in their backstory. Each move brought challenges that he had to overcome. His parents had unconventional lifestyles in the beginning, and that’s an understatement. Later on, they tried being ‘normal’. Somehow, I don’t think they pulled it off. Like their son, I think they were unique and had some interesting skills of their own to bring to the jobs they eventually did get.

I was expecting some name dropping and I wasn’t disappointed. What amazed me was that Alice Cooper was in the thick of things, when the music scene was in flux and a lot of amazing changes were taking place, many for the good and some for the bad. Drugs, alcohol abuse, hard living and crazy antics certainly played their roles but even through all of that, I found that Alice Cooper had his own HEA going on.

It wasn’t always happy, or easy or smooth, but I think how he described his wife and his relationship with her was quite telling. Even when he hit bottom with alcohol abuse, his wife, Sheryl, stuck with him every step of the way. He credits her influence in getting him back on his feet. How she did it, why and every other question a listener might have, I’ll leave the listener to discover for themselves. I found it to be enlightening, uplifting and in its own way, beautiful. Theirs is a marriage that survived because they both respected the other and worked to make it continue, to help it thrive; to help each other through those tough spots because they loved each other that much and wanted to do it. That’s why I thought that part of his story as incredibly romantic. It wasn’t a fantasy romance. It was gritty at times and rocky, but that’s what made it real – through all his struggles, she was there, and he didn’t take her for granted. She believed in him enough to stand by him. When you hear about so many other relationships in the rock n’ roll world falling apart, they stayed together, 40+ years, 3 kids and a few grandkids later and they’re still going strong. Alice Cooper may have been zany crazy on stage, but in real life, he matured throughout his career, enough to look back on things with a critical eye, and share with fans his take on his career, from the inside.

There was one thing he shared early on that stunned me. There was one moment in time when it was possible Alice Cooper and my favorite songs of the band’s would never have existed. Not to get preachy or anything, but I thank God that His plans included Alice Cooper finding success in this life, even with all the side roads and missteps and bad decisions, there was a reason he stayed on this earth. Yes, that statement is pretty deep, but nonetheless true.

Truly, there is a lot more to say about what I heard in Who I Really Am: Diary of a Vampire, and every bit of it is well worth listening to. I tried to tell my husband about all the things I learned about Alice Cooper and his eyes kind of glazed over. I guess it’s not the same as listening to the actual person tell the story. Alice Cooper has a great talent for narration and storytelling, even if it’s about his own life. I also believe it’s why I liked it so much. A true story, enhanced by a little music and some serious giggles and smiles along the way coupled with awesome name dropping and famous shenanigans, makes this memoir one worth spending time with.

Reaching for the Moon by Katherine Johnson


Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson by Katherine Johnson
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography, YA
Length: Full Length (256 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The inspiring autobiography of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who helped launch Apollo 11.

As a young girl, Katherine Johnson showed an exceptional aptitude for math. In school she quickly skipped ahead several grades and was soon studying complex equations with the support of a professor who saw great promise in her. But ability and opportunity did not always go hand in hand. As an African American and a girl growing up in an era of brutal racism and sexism, Katherine faced daily challenges. Still, she lived her life with her father’s words in mind: “You are no better than anyone else, and nobody else is better than you.”
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In the early 1950s, Katherine was thrilled to join the organization that would become NASA. She worked on many of NASA’s biggest projects including the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first men on the moon.

Katherine Johnson’s story was made famous in the bestselling book and Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Now in Reaching for the Moon she tells her own story for the first time, in a lively autobiography that will inspire young readers everywhere.

This woman got to the moon without ever leaving the ground.

I’m fascinated by those who can do math. I don’t mean the 2+2 kind. I mean the kind that sorts out how to get a rocket off the ground, geometry, high level algebra… you know, the people who can get things to the moon and back. Katherine Johnson is a bit of an unsung hero. Sure, she’s the subject of the movie Hidden Figures, but there’s a lot more to this woman and the best place to learn about her is from the woman herself.

I didn’t realize right away that this was a YA book. It’s listed in the library as YA, but it reads more like a conversation. Katherine Johnson’s autobiography talks about many parts of her life and doesn’t pull punches. She mentions her first marriage and how Jimmy passed. How it was hard to be a woman in the computing industry and how hard her family fought to get her an education. I loved how she taught her brothers to read because she thought they were behind, but it was more that she was so far ahead!

If you’re looking for a book that’s delightful and reminds the reader what’s important in life–getting an education and being happy while doing your work because you’re doing what you love, then this is the book for you.

In Pieces by Sally Field


In Pieces by Sally Field
Publisher: Grand Central
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction, Autobiography
Length: Full Length (417 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In this intimate, haunting literary memoir and New York Times Notable Book of the year, an American icon tells her own story for the first time — about a challenging and lonely childhood, the craft that helped her find her voice, and a powerful emotional legacy that shaped her journey as a daughter and a mother.

One of the most celebrated, beloved, and enduring actors of our time, Sally Field has an infectious charm that has captivated the nation for more than five decades, beginning with her first TV role at the age of seventeen. From Gidget’s sweet-faced “girl next door” to the dazzling complexity of Sybil to the Academy Award-worthy ferocity and depth of Norma Rae and Mary Todd Lincoln, Field has stunned audiences time and time again with her artistic range and emotional acuity. Yet there is one character who always remained hidden: the shy and anxious little girl within.

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Haunting, beautiful and tragic.

I picked up this book because I’ve loved Sally Field since I saw her in Smokey and the Bandit. She’s been great in many films and my favorite role of hers has to be her portrayal of Mary Todd in Lincoln. Picking up this book and giving it a read made her seem more real. There’s a lot more to Sally Field than the simplistic image gleaned from her roles in family shows and movies.

She puts her heart and soul into this story—and she should. It’s hers. I couldn’t put the book down and being over four-hundred pages…that’s something. Her writing is like talking to a friend and telling stories. She is engaging.

My quibbles though have to do with how she handled things. I can completely understand her separation anxiety with her children. Many moms, me included, didn’t want to leave their kids with someone while they work. I get it. But she alternates between feeling guilty and demanding to have time to work. It’s relatable, even if a tiny bit irritating sometimes. The other quibble concerned how much she packed away. By that I mean, she went through some tough stuff. Things done to her, the way people acted…and she compartmentalized. It was almost like she didn’t want to deal so she left without leaving. Again, it irritated me and might be a trigger for some—she talks about abuse and sexual abuse—but it’s relatable. We’ve all been through some cruddy stuff.

When she talks about dealing with the death of her mother, then playing Mary Todd losing the president…it made me respect her more as a person and actress.

If you want a book that will make you think, laugh, cry and want to hug someone, then this is the book for you.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography by Rob Lowe


Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography by Rob Lowe
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Autobiography, Contemporary, Non-Fiction
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A wryly funny and surprisingly moving account of an extraordinary life lived almost entirely in the public eye

A teen idol at fifteen, an international icon and founder of the Brat Pack at twenty, and one of Hollywood’s top stars to this day, Rob Lowe chronicles his experiences as a painfully misunderstood child actor in Ohio uprooted to the wild counterculture of mid-seventies Malibu, where he embarked on his unrelenting pursuit of a career in Hollywood.

You need to cease with the habits of men rx tadalafil and even women nowadays has long been considered 1 great factor for the development of erectile dysfunction. It has been seen that people are finding ways for penis enlargement in order to tadalafil generic india improve their sexual life. The erection brand viagra fades away within a short period of time. Get more details about this medicine via ukkamagra Erectile dysfunction or male impotence is defined as a critical area until just appalachianmagazine.com viagra canada overnight recently – natural male enhancement. The Outsiders placed Lowe at the birth of the modern youth movement in the entertainment industry. During his time on The West Wing, he witnessed the surreal nexus of show business and politics both on the set and in the actual White House. And in between are deft and humorous stories of the wild excesses that marked the eighties, leading to his quest for family and sobriety.

Never mean-spirited or salacious, Lowe delivers unexpected glimpses into his successes, disappointments, relationships, and one-of-a-kind encounters with people who shaped our world over the last twenty-five years. These stories are as entertaining as they are unforgettable.

This guy has lived a lot in a short period of time.

I’m a sucker for biographies of Hollywood players and rock-n-rollers. This one fit the bill. I’ve been more than a little in love with Rob Lowe since I saw St Elmo’s Fire. I liked him and felt sorry for his character, even if he was a pistol. I still liked Rob Lowe despite the weird video debacle in the 90’s and the disastrous Snow White performance.

This book gives a glimpse behind the facade and proves there’s more to the pretty face than just a pretty face.

I liked how Lowe brings in his childhood in Ohio, how he struggled with being cool and fitting in as well as the breakup of his family. He name drops, but it’s okay. I kind of liked seeing how he navigated through Hollywood. I can’t imagine being in a situation where Martin Sheen is my neighbor and for fun I hang out with Princess Stephanie. He struggles with self-identity and finding his way. The story about the isolation tanks and Andrew McCarthy is especially funny.

If you want a book that’s honest, raw and entertaining, then this might be the book for you.

Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder

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Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Biography
Length: Full Length (261 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Gene Wilder was one of the great comic actors who defined the 1970’s and 1980’s in movies. From his early work with Woody Allen to the rich group of movies he made with Mel Brooks to his partnership on screen with Richard Pryor, Wilder’s performances are still discussed and celebrated today. Kiss Me Like A Stranger is an intimate glimpse of the man behind the image on the screen.

In this book, Wilder talks about everything from his experiences in psychoanalysis to why he got into acting (and later comedy-his first goal was to be a Shakespearean actor) to how a Midwestern childhood with a sick mother changed him. He writes about the creative process on stage and on screen, and divulges moments from life on the sets of the some of the most iconic movies of our time. He also opens up about his love affairs and marriages, including his marriage to comedian Gilda Radner. But the core of Kiss Me Like A Stranger is an actor’s search for truth and a thoughtful analysis of why the choices he made-some of them so serendipitous they were practically accidental-changed the course of his life.

There’s so much I didn’t know, but I do now… since I’ve read the rest of the story.
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Gene Wilder is more than just a mildly eccentric comic with fantastic timing. There’s the cynical side and the manic side, but he’s more dimensional. This book showed the good, the bad and the human side of him.

I’d loved the work of Gene Wilder since I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as a child. For the longest time, I thought of him as Willy Wonka and the man who helped Gilda Radner while she battled cancer. Trust me, there is so much more to him.

I loved how he told the stories of his childhood. It wasn’t all roses and comedy. He spent time in a military school and worked hard to make his parents proud. He dealt with the death of his mother and trying to find his way as an actor. Talk about taking the long road…he certainly did.

He shows his human side as well in this book. Some actors don’t want their past revealed. He talks about his struggles with women, his adopted daughter, balancing his acting life with his inner demons and finding real love in his life. Wilder holds nothing back. I could relate to some of his experiences and respected him more as an actor.

The stories about his movies injected a human quality to them, as well. He’s not just an image on the silver screen but a person. I gained a lot of respect for him.

If you want a book that will make you laugh, cry, think and love…then this might be the book for you.

Lost in Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor by Eldonna Edwards

LOST
Lost in Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor by Eldonna Edwards
Publisher: Whole Heart Publications
Genre: Autobiography, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (249 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

One Gently Used Kidney, Free to a Good Home.

When 48 year-old single mother, massage therapist and returning student Ellie meets a young woman with kidney disease, she decides to make it her mission to save the girl. Unfortunately, outdated rules made it difficult for altruistic donors, and besides, the woman doesn’t want a savior. Does this stop Ellie from her quest to “be the change” one seeks in the world? Not a chance.
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Told with humor and self-reflection, this inspirational memoir of courage and compassion is interwoven with anecdotal stories that help the reader identify what kind of person commits the selfless act of organ donation. Ellie,a self-described devout agnostic, is kind but often irreverent. She is generous, but she is no saint. Ultimately, becoming a kidney donor has given her a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment. Lost in Transplantation asserts that we are all capable of altering a human being’s life for the better, including our own.

How much would you risk to save the life of someone you’ve never met? It’s easy to talk about altruism as an abstract term, but it’s much more difficult to live in out in such a personal manner.

Ms. Edwards decision fascinates me, but it is her honest, wry sense of humour that made this story so enjoyable for this reader. She has the uncanny ability to find the light side of even the most serious topics. Nowhere is this more evident than in the beginning of her journey when she realizes that a classmate has kidney disease. Her spontaneous offer to give her classmate one of her kidneys gave me an early glimpse into the author’s character as well as provided some of the funniest moments in this tale.

As interesting as it was to read about everything else that was going on in the author’s life while she was in the process of donating her kidney, all of these subplots bog down the gist of her memoir. This is especially true when it came to all of the information I learned about her childhood and young adulthood. The tales were interesting, but some of them were off-topic for this particular book.

With that being said, Ms. Edwards descriptions of the donation and recovery processes are absolutely fascinating. By far my favorite sections focused on all of physical and mental health tests one must pass in order to be considered as a candidate. I wish more time had been spent discussing this part of the donation process because, at least for me, the risks weigh heavily on my mind when I think about the possibility of being a live donor. While the vast majority of donors recover without any complications, there is always a chance of developing an infection or having a bad reaction to the anesthesia with any surgical procedure.

Lost in Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor is a thought-provoking look at one woman’s unorthodox decision to save a stranger’s life. I’d recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest whiff of curiosity about this subject.

Secrets of the Velvet Closet by Lena Rai

CLOSET
Secrets of the Velvet Closet by Lena Rai
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Autobiography, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (284 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Secrets of the Velvet Closet starts with the tale of a young girl who struggles with abuse and must somehow manage to find her way into adulthood, as well as find herself, through hardships, questionable choices, trials and tribulations, humor, and of course, love. A true coming-of-age story with heartfelt memories and laughter. This autobiographical account is truly an emotional roller-coaster with a highly inspirational message to follow your dreams, and most of all, your heart!

Terrible secrets lose power when they’re exposed to the light of day.

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The narrative jumps around a bit, and sometimes I found it hard to keep track of what was happening. The inclusion of anecdotes about such a large list of friends and family members was also occasionally confusing because there was so little space to get to know these individuals better. Ms. Rai has had such an interesting life that this tale could have been easily split up into a series. This would have also given her more time to delve into the backstories of the men, women, and children who have emotionally impacted her.

There are plenty of colloquial expressions in the plot that I’d never heard of before. I really enjoyed the author’s use of them as well as of slang terms in order to paint a vivid picture of her social circles. Ms. Rai has a wonderfully creative way with words that makes it very easy to envision exactly how her adventures take place.

Grammatical and punctuation errors did occasionally make it difficult for me to understand what she was saying, though. While most of them were easy to decipher there were a few instances in which I was stumped. Had this not been the case this book would have earned a higher rating as the anecdotes themselves were quite entertaining!

What I liked the most was Ms. Rai’s ability to pick herself up and try again no matter what happened to her. As a small child she was exposed to a lot of things that are extremely harmful to children, yet she seems to harbour no ill will against the people in her life who should have been protecting her from those experiences. It takes a lot of courage to reach this point, and I admire her honesty about the painful times as well as as the happy ones.

Secrets of the Velvet Closet made me laugh and cry. This is a good choice for anyone looking for an uplifting autobiography.