Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis

Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Biography, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Stevie Nicks is a legend of rock, but her energy and magnetism sparked new interest in this icon. She’s one of the most glamorous creatures rock has known, and the rare woman who’s a real rock ‘n’ roller.

Gold Dust Woman gives “the gold standard of rock biographers” (The Boston Globe) his ideal topic: Nicks’ work and life are equally sexy and interesting, and Davis delves deeply into each, unearthing fresh details from new, intimate interviews and interpreting them to present a rich new portrait of the star. Just as Nicks (and Lindsey Buckingham) gave Fleetwood Mac the “shot of adrenaline” they needed to become real rock stars―according to Christine McVie―Gold Dust Woman is vibrant with stories and with a life lived large and hard:
―How Nicks and Buckingham were asked to join Fleetwood Mac and how they turned the band into stars
―The affairs that informed Nicks’ greatest songs
―Her relationships with the Eagles’ Don Henley and Joe Walsh, and with Fleetwood himself
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―Her dependency on cocaine, drinking and pot, but how it was a decade-long addiction to Klonopin that almost killed her
― Nicks’ successful solo career that has her still performing in venues like Madison Square Garden
―The cult of Nicks and its extension to chart-toppers like Taylor Swift and the Dixie Chicks

Stevie Nicks is a more complicated person than I ever imagined and she’d underrated, too.

I’ve been a fan of Stevie Nicks since I was a kid. My parents reared me on the classics, mellow gold, 70s rock and primarily Fleetwood Mac. My father once claimed he wanted to name me Stephanie, Stevie’s given name, but my mother outlawed it. Shrugs. I’ve seen Stevie Nicks’ videos and wondered about the person in the swishy skirts and flowing shawls. Now I know.

As I said above, she’s much more complicated than you might think. She had a decent childhood and was encouraged to be a musician, but once she got out on her own, she found out how hard it is to make it big. I liked the emphasis on her early musical career. She tried, fell down, tried again, got knocked down and never gave up. She went for her chance. Honestly, she’s the kind of rock star women need. She never quit.

There are tidbits about who she dated, when she dated them, her drug use, getting clean, getting hooked on Klonopin and other things that seem salacious, but really, this is the story of a woman trying to find her way, despite the crooked road, and making her career her own.


Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman

Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Biography, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Born Archibald Leach in 1904, he came to America as a teenaged acrobat to find fame and fortune, but he was always haunted by his past. His father was a feckless alcoholic, and his mother was committed to an asylum when Archie was eleven years old. He believed her to be dead until he was informed she was alive when he was thirty-one years old. Because of this experience Grant would have difficulty forming close attachments throughout his life. He married five times and had numerous affairs.

Despite a remarkable degree of success, Grant remained deeply conflicted about his past, his present, his basic identity, and even the public that worshipped him in movies such as Gunga Din, Notorious, and North by Northwest.
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Drawing on Grant’s own papers, extensive archival research, and interviews with family and friends, this is the definitive portrait of a movie immortal.

If there’s ever been a book written about Cary Grant, it only scratches the surface compared to this one.

I thought I knew a bit about Archie Leach, aka Cary Grant. He’s aloof, he’s sensual, but he’s also very GQ. Right? That’s him? I had no idea how much he struggled with his self-esteem, only to end up being rather full of himself. He could be quite generous, but also off-putting in his stinginess. He loved his friends dearly, but only had a few friends. He was the ultimate romantic, trying to find the right one…all while not being entirely sure what he wanted in that right one.

He’s a complicated man, but what really stuck with me about Cary Grant was him trying so hard to impress his mother, the woman who left him to be raised by his father. He wanted nothing more than to make her happy. Bought her houses, cars, made sure someone took care of her, but he never quite measured up to what she wanted and what he thought she wanted of him. Honestly, it was the most relatable thing in the book. I can understand not measuring up to what my mother thinks I should be and how I try only to fail quite a bit–like he did.

If you’re looking for a book that’s unflinching in it’s honesty and covers almost all of Grant’s life, then this might be the book you’re looking for. Be prepared–it’s a long book, so buckle in for the wild ride.

Rocket Girl by George D Morgan

Rocket Girl by George D Morgan
The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist
Publisher: Prometheus
Genre: Historical Biographical Fiction
Length: Full Length (336 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

LIKE THE FEMALE SCIENTISTS PORTRAYED IN HIDDEN FIGURES, MARY SHERMAN MORGAN WAS ANOTHER UNSUNG HEROINE OF THE SPACE AGE-NOW HER STORY IS FINALLY TOLD.This is the extraordinary true story of America’s first female rocket scientist. Told by her son, it describes Mary Sherman Morgan’s crucial contribution to launching America’s first satellite and the author’s labyrinthine journey to uncover his mother’s lost legacy–one buried deep under a lifetime of secrets political, technological, and personal.In 1938, a young German rocket enthusiast named Wernher von Braun had dreams of building a rocket that could fly him to the moon. In Ray, North Dakota, a young farm girl named Mary Sherman was attending high school. In an age when girls rarely dreamed of a career in science, Mary wanted to be a chemist. A decade later the dreams of these two disparate individuals would coalesce in ways neither could have imagined.World War II and the Cold War space race with the Russians changed the fates of both von Braun and Mary Sherman Morgan. When von Braun and other top engineers could not find a solution to the repeated failures that plagued the nascent US rocket program, North American Aviation, where Sherman Morgan then worked, was given the challenge. Recognizing her talent for chemistry, company management turned the assignment over to young Mary.In the end, America succeeded in launching rockets into space, but only because of the joint efforts of the brilliant farm girl from North Dakota and the famous German scientist. While von Braun went on to become a high-profile figure in NASA’s manned space flight, Mary Sherman Morgan and her contributions fell into obscurity–until now.

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I’ve been on a kick to read as much as I can about the space program. I’m not sure why. I’m not going to become a rocket scientist (I can’t balance chemical equations) and I don’t like heights. That said, I do love reading about the women who helped create the space program and got it where it is today.

Mary Sherman Morgan is an interesting case. She did a lot to get herself to the point of working on the chemistry involved in rocketry. I liked Mary, despite the things she’d been through. Odd thing to say, don’t you think? If something bad could happen, it happened to Mary–a child born out of wedlock, having to get a job to pay her way through college, having to keep huge secrets because of her various jobs, then the unkindest cut of all: not getting credit for her work on the chemicals used to take rockets to space. No credit!

I have to say, though, this is her son’s retelling of her life. There is some creative license taken. He recalls conversations from when she was a child and going through school. He probably knew OF the conversations but I doubt he knew the exact wording as Mary was very hesitant to speak about her life. I guess that’s why I liked her so much. I had a grandfather who refused to talk about certain parts of his life and could be very particular when he did speak. He tended to keep to himself, like Mary and wanted things just so. Honestly, the author’s creative license with some of the incidents was what took away from the story. I wanted to know what Mary created and how she got to that point, but some of the side stories, while they helped know her better, seemed to be just that…side stories.

Still, this is an interesting book and it’s written with love. The author might have been a tad estranged from his mother at times, partially due to her choosing, but he loved her. Grab this book if you’re looking for something for a few afternoons and want to step into someone else’s life.

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Biography, Non-Fiction
Length: Full Length (512 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Peter Ames Carlin’s New York Times bestselling biography of one America’s greatest musicians is the first in twenty-five years to be written with the cooperation of Bruce Springsteen himself; “Carlin gets across why Mr. Springsteen has meant so much, for so long, to so many people” (The New York Times).

In Bruce, acclaimed music writer Peter Ames Carlin presents a startlingly intimate and vivid portrait of a rock icon. For more than four decades, Bruce Springsteen has reflected the heart and soul of America with a career that includes twenty Grammy Awards, more than 120 million albums sold, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award. Peter Ames Carlin masterfully encompasses the breadth of Springsteen’s astonishing career and explores the inner workings of a man who managed to redefine generations of music.
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A must read for fans, Bruce is a meticulously researched, compulsively readable biography of a man laden with family tragedy, a tremendous dedication to his artistry, and an all-consuming passion for fame and influence.

Fans of the Boss, take notice. This book delivers the details.

I’ve loved Bruce Springsteen, aka the Boss, since I can remember. I have a special affinity for Born to Run. So when I saw this book, I had to read it.

I have to admit, the story is great. I learned about the life and times of Bruce Springsteen. He’s the embodiment of the working man. He really did put in his time to get where he is. That said, the author, while telling a fantastic story, gets bogged down sometimes in the details. I don’t mind a few footnotes, but this one is peppered with them. I’m the type, I just want to read the story. But the footnotes do help.

I’ve read other biographies of Springsteen and this was by far the most complete. I learned new things and felt like I was there when Springsteen wrote his iconic albums. I was engrossed, despite the moments I had to reread because of the footnotes.

If you’re looking for a biography of Bruce Springsteen that’s high on details and story, then this is the book for you. Grab a copy today.

Love Life by Rob Lowe

Love Life by Rob Lowe
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Biography, Non-Fiction
Length: Full Length (272 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

After the incredible response to his acclaimed bestseller, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe was convinced to mine his experiences for even more stories. The result is Love Life, a memoir about men and women, actors and producers, art and commerce, fathers and sons, movies and TV, addiction and recovery, sex and love. Among the adventures he describes in these pages are:

· His visit, as a young man, to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion, where the naïve actor made a surprising discovery in the hot tub.
· The time, as a boy growing up in Malibu, he discovered a vibrator belonging to his best friend’s mother.
· What it’s like to be the star and producer of a flop TV show.
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· His hilarious account of coaching a kid’s basketball team dominated by helicopter parents.
· How his great, great, great, great, great grandfather may have inspired everything from his love of The West Wing to his taste in classic American architecture.
· His first visit to college, with his son, who is going to receive the education his father never got.
· The time a major movie star stole his girlfriend.

Like talking to a friend.

I’m a fan of Rob Lowe. I liked him even during the Snow White debacle. So when I was given the chance to read the second, continuation, autobiography he wrote, I jumped at it.

The writing flows well. It’s like talking to a friend. Really. He writes the way he speaks and I could almost hear the lilt in his voice as he told the stories. I was drawn in right away and couldn’t put this book down. He talks about the highs and lows of Hollywood, addiction and raising children. I liked that he sprinkled in stories about his kids. It made me feel like I got to know him better because I saw how he felt less than cool trying to be a dad in Hollywood. I also liked that he didn’t mince words. Maybe these stories aren’t exactly how these things happened, but he told them in a way that made me think he was telling the truth.

If you want an autobiography that’s got some dish and a lot of heart, then this might be the book for you.

Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder

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.