Memories of John Lennon by Yoko Ono, editor

Memories of John Lennon by Yoko Ono, editor
Publisher: It Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

John Lennon . . . as much a part of our world today as he ever was

He touched many lives in his brief forty years, and continues to move and inspire millions more to this day. Now, invited by Yoko Ono, friends, family, and fans from all walks of life—including some of the great artists of our day—reminisce about Lennon as a visionary and friend, musician and performer, husband and father, activist and jokester.

In their own words and drawings, poems and photos, Lennon’s life from his childhood through the Beatles years to the happiness and tragedy of his final days become stunningly vivid.

Intimate glimpses gathered from musicians who knew John, such as Pete Townshend, Sir Elton John, Billy Preston, and Joan Baez; friends and relatives such as producer David Geffen, publicist Elliot Mintz, and cousin Mike Cadwallader; and artists who followed him such as Bono, Alicia Keys, Steve Earle, Jello Biafra, and Carlos Santana.

And, for the first time, renowned photographer Annie Liebovitz presents every frame of the historic last session with John and Yoko.

Memories of John Lennon is a rich and deeply felt appreciation of a truly great man.

How do you speak about a legend?

I picked up this book because I wanted to read what others had said about John Lennon. I know how I felt about him and his music, but what about his peers? This is a good way to see how they felt and what they thought. Ono adds her own special touches and the little drawings really added to the stories.

I liked the stories about how Lennon affected their lives, but also the court paperwork and the paperwork from the FBI. Lennon was a complicated man and it shows in these pages.

If you’re a fan of the Beatles, then you need to read this. If you like John Lennon, then you really need to read this.

Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity by Peter J Leithart

Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity by Peter J Leithart
Publisher: Nelson Books
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Biography
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Jane Austen is famous for such books as Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. Now learn about the author’s journey through a life spent making up stories that touched the lives of millions.

Jane Austen is now what she never was in life, and what she would have been horrified to become–a literary celebrity. “Janeia” is the author’s term for the mania for all things Austen. Dive into Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity and discover:

how it all began and Austen’s love of poetry
her early masterpieces and the inspiration behind the stories
her road to getting published and the health decline that led to her death
In this updated edition, you’ll also find discussion questions that work well for book clubs and ELA lesson plans. This biography is perfect for:

Jane Austen fans and collectors
men and women who have enjoyed Austen-inspired films and TV series adaptations
anyone interested in learning about the varied sides of Austen’s character and the characters she created
Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity is a fascinating look at a woman who never meant to be famous.

A decent overview about the life of Jane Austen.

I picked this book up because I wanted to get to know more about Jane Austen. She’s considered the titan of the romantic genre, but I didn’t know much about her. This was my entre into her life. I’m glad I read it.

I learned quite a bit about Austen and can now say I respect her writing even more that I know her. This book would be great for hardcore Austen fans and enlightening for those who want to know a little more.

The writing is utilitarian and serves the purpose of telling her story, but there were times it needed a bit more personality. I liked the story and liked learning about Austen, but there were times the author referred to her as Jenny. It’s not incorrect, but got a bit confusing, especially early on. I also got a little lost in the family tree descriptions early on. That’s not to say this is a bad book. Far from it. It’s a nice pocket read, but one has to read it with the notion there will be rereading involved.

If you’re a fan of Austen and want to know how her faith somewhat influenced her, how her life went and want something quick, then this might be the book for you. Give it a try.

Magnifico!: The A to Z of Queen by Mark Blake

Magnifico!: The A to Z of Queen by Mark Blake
Publisher: Permuted Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical, Contemporary, Biography
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Addressing the phenomenal success of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, acclaimed music journalist Mark Blake builds on the legend of Queen and their enduring audience appeal.

Providing a fresh, unparalleled take on Queen’s music, story, and legacy, Blake’s complete portrait covers not only the major hits and bestselling albums, but also the inside stories behind the music.

Via a series of essays, interviews, and biographies, the author shares a wealth of lesser-known details—gained from over thirty years of original material—and explores what the songs of Queen say about their creators.

Queen facts, Queen stories and Queen tidbits. How can you go wrong?

I picked up this book because of the band. Queen. I’ve been a fan for years and wanted to learn a little more. This book does that and more.

If you’re a fan of Queen, some of these stories are going to be old hat. There are legendary stories that go along with the band. But there are a few nuggets of info I didn’t know, which was good. The book is formatted as it states, in an A-Z manner, with everything according to their letter. I liked that it was like that because it made it easy to read, but also not necessarily chronological, which was different.

If you’re a fan of Queen, this book is a must. If you’re a casual fan and want to know more, then check this book out. I recommend it.

Unabashed Women: The Fascinating Biographies of Bad Girls, Seductresses, Rebels and One-of-a-Kind Women by Marlene Wagman-Geller

Unabashed Women: The Fascinating Biographies of Bad Girls, Seductresses, Rebels and One-of-a-Kind Women by Marlene Wagman-Geller
Publisher: Mango
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary, Historical, Biography
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History
#1 New Release in Historical Study Essays

A thrilling journey into the badass women whose non-conventional lives left their DNA on history. Discover words of wisdom from the women who found their voices, inspiring you to do the same.

Amazing women with a story to tell. Join Mae West as she shakes up the entertainment industry with her wit and wisdom or create colorful art pieces with Yayoi Kusama that are larger than life itself. These women in history defied the expectations of conventional society to live the lives they chose, regardless of what others thought.

Words of Wisdom. Society may have labeled these fierce femmes as rebels, bad-ass, wild, or uppity. But, these amazing women still dared to be different. With an out-of-the-box perspective, you’ll find inspiration from an array of fabulous females who will give you a lesson in being one-of-a-kind.

Unabashed Women offers you:

Lessons on how to break the glass ceiling
Biographies of trailblazing women from all walks of life
Empowerment through famous females who dared to go against the grain

Women don’t have to be one thing and they don’t have to be good all the time.

I picked up this book because I wanted to read the various biographies of the unabashed women and see who made the cut, but also see how the author handled the topic. I need not have worried. This book is quite multicultural, which was great, shows women throughout the most recent times, but went back over 100 years, which showed women have been trying to break the glass ceiling for a long time. I liked the variety of women, too.

These are the most influential women of our time and it’s nice to see such good biographies. They aren’t the most in-depth, but honestly, the book would be gigantic if that was the case. These are nice snapshots and I liked learning about the various people. Mae West, Nellie Bly, Jane Goodall are all among those chronicled.

If you want a book that doesn’t read like a textbook, but could be used as such, then grab this book. If you want to learn about women who are doing it for themselves, then this is the book for you. Pick it up!

Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop by Frankie Manning and Cynthia Millman

Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop by Frankie Manning and Cynthia Millman
Publisher: Temple University Press
Genre: Historical, Contemporary, Non-Fiction, Biography, Memoir
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In the early days of swing dancing, Frankie Manning stood out for his moves and innovative routines; he introduced the ‘air step’ in the Lindy Hop, a dance that took the U.S. and then the world by storm. In this fascinating autobiography, choreographer and Tony Award winner (Black and Blue) Manning recalls how his first years of dancing as a teenager at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom led to his becoming chief choreographer and a lead dancer for ‘Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers,’ a group that appeared on Broadway, in Hollywood musicals and on stages around the globe. Manning brings the Swing Era vividly back to life with his recollections of the crowded ballrooms and of Lindy Hoppers trying to outdo each other in spectacular performances.

Frankie Manning might not have been a total pioneer in the world of dance, but he’s right up there with the greats.

Now you might be wondering why I’d say he’s not a total pioneer. You might wonder who Frankie Manning is. Valid questions. Unless you’ve done any studying of jazz dance, you might not know this dancer, but you should.

Frankie Manning came of age in the swing era. He talks about going from ballroom to ballroom, club to club, learning how to dance. I liked this book because there are parts where he discusses dance and how he got as skilled at swing dancing, but also his simple love of dance. He’s done other things, but he sincerely loves dance, and it shows. I also liked that the book had other sections that discussed what the various dances were/are and how they evolved. That was so neat because I had no idea what some of them even looked like. Now I know.

Manning isn’t a perfect guy, but he loves dance and that shines through every page of the book. He not only talks about the heady swing days, but also his life after and how he came to teach.

It’s a fascinating look at swing dancing, the Lindy Hoppers and more. Grab a copy today!

Stompin’ at the Savoy: The Story of Norma Miller by Alan Govenar

Stompin’ at the Savoy: The Story of Norma Miller by Alan Govenar
Publisher: Candlewick
Genre: YA (Ages 10+), Historical, Non-Fiction, Biography
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Through extensive interviews with jazz dancer Norma Miller, acclaimed author and filmmaker Alan Govenar captures the vitality, wry humor, and indomitable spirit of an American treasure.

When she was just five years old, in 1924, Norma Miller knew just what she wanted to do for the rest of her life: she wanted to dance. It was the Jazz Age, the Harlem Renaissance, and Norma lived behind New York’s Savoy Ballroom, the only dance hall in a still-segregated America where blacks and whites could mingle on the same mahogany floor. It was in this majestic “home of happy feet” that twelve-year-old Norma first brought the house down, swing-stepping with Twist Mouth George, one of the premier dancers of the day. Before long, the feisty Norma would rise to fame as one of the first performers of the Lindy Hop, an acrobatic dance style named for Charles Lindbergh’s first solo flight (or “hop”) across the Atlantic. With the celebrated dance troupe Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, a teenage Norma would cross the Atlantic herself on a tour of Europe and even strut her stuff on the silver screen.

In this invigorating, humorous, and thought-provoking oral autobiography, Alan Govenar captures the sound and spirit of Norma Miller’s voice as she recalls her early years and coming of age as a determined young dancer during the heyday of swing. Augmenting her lively narrative are Martin French’s jazzy, single-color illustrations, evoking the vibrant style of vintage poster art.

A pioneer in the dance world and a fascinating person all-around.

I loved the Ken Burns documentary Jazz and was thrilled to find a biography of one of the dancers featured in the program. Norma Miller. First, she’s a fascinating person. Second, it’s impressive how she managed to pull herself up. Third, she’s a survivor. I can’t imagine how she managed to live her life and not get bogged down in some of the low points.

This story is a YA book, but really, anyone can read it. This is the story of Norma Miller. She was a Lindy Hop dancer who started out by watching the shadows from the Savoy Ballroom and listening to the music. She had some lessons, but most of her training is self-taught. I liked that she wasn’t just an overnight success. She had to work for it. The author spoke directly to her for this book and that shows. Her voice, just like in the documentary, really shines. She didn’t have an easy life, either, as she went on dance tours and often spent many months away from home, despite the tours only supposed to have been a few weeks.

I liked that she taught dance and works with young dancers to develop their love of dance and jazz in particular.

If you’re looking for a dance biography and want something fascinating, then this is the book for you. Check it out.

A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice by William E. Glassley

A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice by William E. Glassley
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Greenland, one of the last truly wild places, contains a treasure trove of information on Earth’s early history embedded in its pristine landscape. Over numerous seasons, William E. Glassley and two fellow geologists traveled there to collect samples and observe rock formations for evidence to prove a contested theory that plate tectonics, the movement of Earth’s crust over its molten core, is a much more ancient process than some believed. As their research drove the scientists ever farther into regions barely explored by humans for millennia―if ever―Glassley encountered wondrous creatures and natural phenomena that gave him unexpected insight into the origins of myth, the virtues and boundaries of science, and the importance of seeking the wilderness within.

An invitation to experience a breathtaking place and the fascinating science behind its creation, A Wilder Time is nature writing at its best.

A Wilder Time follows a small group of geologists to Greenland for surveys. William E. Glassley presents a lyrical description of his adventure into the frigid peacefulness of this world. It is so quiet, so cold, and so beautiful.

Glassley discusses what he sees from the ice and snow to the animal and plant life. One would not think that this book was written by a scientist though. It is not an overly technical report of events and sights but rather comes across as though Glassley might be a poet. The details are rich and smooth and flow beautifully.

As an added interest, he describes the mundane details of his day, which do not present as boring. Even the day-to-day details that we take for granted—like bathing—are an adventure in this setting, and we do learn a bit of science.

Being in such an immense place, isolated, gives this author plenty of time to contemplate life and the planet. He comes up with some profound thoughts. This is an interesting little book that is fun to read.

A Union Like Ours: The Love Story of F. O. Matthiessen and Russell Cheney by Scott Bane

A Union Like Ours: The Love Story of F. O. Matthiessen and Russell Cheney by Scott Bane
Publisher: Bright Leaf
Genre: Historical, Biography, Non-Fiction, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

After a chance meeting aboard the ocean liner Paris in 1924, Harvard University scholar and activist F. O. Matthiessen and artist Russell Cheney fell in love and remained inseparable until Cheney’s death in 1945. During the intervening years, the men traveled throughout Europe and the United States, achieving great professional success while contending with serious personal challenges, including addiction, chronic disease, and severe depression.

During a hospital stay, years into their relationship, Matthiessen confessed to Cheney that “never once has the freshness of your life lost any trace of its magic for me. Every day is a new discovery of your wealth.” Situating the couple’s private correspondence alongside other sources, Scott Bane tells the remarkable story of their relationship in the context of shifting social dynamics in the United States. From the vantage point of the present day, with marriage equality enacted into law, Bane provides a window into the realities faced by same-sex couples in the early twentieth century, as they maintained relationships in the face of overt discrimination and the absence of legal protections.

Two men who want to be together finding a way to make it work.

I’d never heard of activist F. O. Matthiessen and artist Russell Cheney until I picked up this book. I was intrigued by the way these two managed to navigate life and a relationship during the early 20th century. I can’t imagine being them, with the laws against LGBTQ people, the hatred and the harshness of trying to be authentic at the time.

I loved that there are pieces of their private correspondence in amongst the rest of the story because it made the men seem more real, not just a story to be told.

I liked, though that seems odd, that these men were human and struggled. I know that sounds strange, but it made them more human. There’s success, but there’s also the problem of healthcare at the time, how to handle depression and the general atmosphere of the world at the time. I liked seeing how they navigated these choppy waters and still managed to stay together. It was refreshing.

If you’re looking for a book that’s not like the rest with a couple that proves love is real, then pick up a copy today.

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.

Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II by Sarah Bryn Rickman

Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II by Sarah Bryn Rickman
Publisher: University of North Texas Press
Genre: Historical, Biography, Non-Fiction
Rating: Four Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

She flew the swift P-51 and the capricious P-38, but the heavy, four-engine B-17 bomber and C-54 transport were her forte. This is the story of Nancy Harkness Love who, early in World War II, recruited and led the first group of twenty-eight women to fly military aircraft for the U.S. Army.

Love was hooked on flight at an early age. At sixteen, after just four hours of instruction, she flew solo “a rather broken down Fleet biplane that my barnstorming instructor imported from parts unknown.” The year was 1930: record-setting aviator Jacqueline Cochran (and Love’s future rival) had not yet learned to fly, and the most famous woman pilot of all time, Amelia Earhart, had yet to make her acclaimed solo Atlantic flight.

When the United States entered World War II, the Army needed pilots to transport or “ferry” its combat-bound aircraft across the United States for overseas deployment and its trainer airplanes to flight training bases. Most male pilots were assigned to combat preparation, leaving few available for ferrying jobs. Into this vacuum stepped Nancy Love and her civilian Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS).

Love had advocated using women as ferry pilots as early as 1940. Jackie Cochran envisioned a more ambitious plan, to train women to perform a variety of the military’s flight-related jobs stateside. The Army implemented both programs in the fall of 1942, but Jackie’s idea piqued General Hap Arnold’s interest and, by summer 1943, her concept had won. The women’s programs became one under the name Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), with Cochran as the Director of Women Pilots and Love as the Executive for WASP.

Nancy Love advised the Ferrying Division, which was part of the Air Transport Command, as to the best use of their WASP ferry pilots. She supervised their allocation and air-training program. She proved adept at organizing and inspiring those under her command, earning the love and admiration of her pilots. Her military superiors trusted and respected her, to the point that she became Ferrying Division commander Gen. William H. Tunner’s troubleshooter.

By example, Love won the right for women ferry pilots to transition into increasingly more complex airplanes. She checked out on twenty-three different military aircraft and became the first woman to fly several of them, including the B-17 Flying Fortress. Her World War II career ended on a high note: following a general’s orders, she piloted a giant C-54 Army transport over the fabled China-Burma-India “Hump,” the crucial airlift route over the Himalayas.

Nancy Love believed that the women attached to the military needed to be on equal footing with the men and given the same opportunities to prove their abilities and mettle. Young women serving today as combat pilots owe much to Love for creating the opportunity for women to serve. Her foresight and tenacity nearly seventy years ago helped ensure their future. Now author Sarah Byrn Rickman, aviation historian, presents the first full-length biography of Nancy Love and her role in the WAFS and WASP programs. Her book will appeal to all with a love of flight.

There is so much to love about women pilots.

I had no idea who Nancy Love was until I picked up this book and that’s a shame. She’s quite an accomplished pilot and should be well-known. I had no idea there were women ferry pilots who took planes to the soldiers in WWII. It’s just not touched on in school. That’s a shame. Really. It should be taught.

Nancy Love knew she wanted to fly and her love of flying shows on every page. She wanted to make it possible for other women to fly as well. I liked how she believed there was no reason a woman couldn’t handle a plane, couldn’t make a difference and have a military career. She flew some of the biggest planes of the time and it was like any other day at the office for her.

The book flows well and engrossed me from the start. I learned a lot and I’m glad I did. This was a great book and should be read by everyone.