Category Archives: reads

Stay Driven (Motivation and Inspiration from a Rapper)

Stay Driven by D-O

Stay Driven by Duane D.O. Gibson

D.O. aka Defy the Odds is a rap artist who set a Guinness World Record for the longest freestyle ever, 8 hours and 45 seconds. He has released countless albums and dropped several music videos.

When I saw this book at the library, I thought it was worth the read. As I worked my way through it, it was obvious that it was written for teenagers who are looking for some motivation and inspiration. That makes sense since I found it in the teen section.

Here are a few of the takeaways I took from reading it.

Visualize 

D.O. tells the story of Biggie’s first album for Bad Boy. Apparently, Puff Daddy thought the album needed something else before he released it. It needed a single. So, he masterminded the idea of “Juicy” and asked Biggie to talk about making it big in rap. At the time. Biggie didn’t have all the riches he mentioned in this song. “It was all a dream” as he says in the lyrics. But it was a dream that came true. Puffy knew they needed a single. Biggie went along with it. And it was almost as if they visualized it into existence.

Play with Words

“Over the year I’ve created a rhyming database in my mind. It started when I created my own rhyming dictionary – this was before I found out there were actual rhyming dictionaries. The process of writing my own dictionary helped build my rhyming database.”

What a cool idea! D.O. also talks about how he would read the dictionary to help improve his vocabulary.

Don’t Coast

“I’ve learned that it’s not the talented people who success. Ironically, a lot of talented people don’t success. I’ve seen it time and time again.

These people think they can coast on their talent and not try as hard as everyone else. The problem is, hard workers pass them by.”

D.O. admits that when he started rapping, he wasn’t very good. But he worked at it. There were rappers out at the time that were better than him, but very few of them achieved the success he did. It all came down to work ethic. And D.O. had that in droves.

Be Respectful of Women

D.O. tells a story in the book about losing a rap battle to a female MC. The match was very close and the judges wanted to hear two extra rounds to determine the winner. He could have torn her apart by saying some sexual rhymes, making fun of her weight, or he clothes. These are all fair when it comes to rap battles. However, he said, “It just didn’t feel right to insult her. It just wasn’t my style. I decided that when I wrote songs about women, I’d tell stories from my perspective.”

D.O. lost that battle, but he got invited to an after-party where he made a very important business contact. When he looked around the party, he noticed that the person who did go on to beat that female rapper, wasn’t in attendance. It turns out that he wasn’t invited, because the female host didn’t like this style. She liked D.O.’s though.

Stay Positive

D.O. stayed positive and it opened all sorts of doors for him. He worked hard and achieved his dreams. That is something we can all learn from.

My List of 2017 Reads – a detailed reading log (continually updated all year)

Moo, a Flute, and a Moo-ve to Maine

Sharon Creech - Moo

Moo by Sharon Creech

I absolutely love the way Sharon Creech writes verse novels. The sound and rhythm of her words, jumps right off the page. This particular novel is filled with all sorts of sounds such as a flute melody travelling through the air from an upstairs window, to the sounds of rain and water dripping, to a grizzly, misunderstood neighbour, and of course, to a stuborn cow named Zora.

The story revolves around a family who uproot for no other reason than to find what’s next. The idea comes out of the blue one day as they are all in the car. The twelve year-old daughter of the family suggests that they go to Maine when the topic comes up. She’s not even sure why she suggests it. It just popped into her head at that moment. Of course, she starts to regret it almost immediately when she finds Maine isn’t exactly how she had pictured it to be.

Both her and her brother are a little scared of their neighbour. But they end up working at her farm and taking care of a stubborn cow. That cow ends up changing everything. Just like their move did.

This is a fun read and it was nice to see at the library last week. I have read close to half of her books now. And my all-time favourite book is Heartbeat by her as well.

My List of 2017 Reads – with links to each title I read over the course of the year

Moving Beyond Traditional Relationship Roles

Beyond Mars and Venus by John Gray

Beyond Mars and Venus by John Gray

John Gray has written some amazing books to help people understand and navigate their relationships better. Many of these books are based around the concept of differences. His brilliant metaphor, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, was meant to show that we have much to learn about the other gender.

I enjoyed his last book, Conscious Men. He, along with Arjuna Ardagh, gave us some words to live by. I think it is important to be conscious of our gender identity and how it does not have to be a static thing. We can grow and develop. We can be in touch with our feminine side, and we can strive to understand our partners better.

In this book, Gray talks about how the traditional roles have changed and how we need to be able to adapt to this change to have healthy and happy relationships. He talks of how marriage used to have us fulfilling roles. The men were traditionally the providers and the women the nurturers. This division hasn’t been as black and white for years, however.

Gray argues that we have moved away from Role Mates to Soul Mates. He writes about how women can support men, how men can support women, how we often have different approaches to situations, and how we can work together to build a great marriage.

His thoughts are as relevant as ever and provide us with the wisdom we need to carry on productive relationships. However, this book seemed to be a little repetitive for me. Maybe, it is because he is preaching to the choir. I have been aware of my gender identity for some time now and am working to combat some of the misogyny I see in everyday life.

I also did not like the way this book is formatted. It is off-putting to see the text broken up with large quotations in the middle of the pages. If you flip through the book, you can quickly pick up some tidbits of wisdom, but it is ultimately distracting when reading it. I did not like seeing the sentence I just read in larger type on the same page. It threw off the flow of the text and made it hard for me to continue reading.

I don’t often abandon a book, but I stopped reading this one. I might get back to it in the future. Gray still has good things to say and his message is important. I’m just not impressed with how it is presented or written this time around.

My List of 2017 Reads – an organic reading log (continually updated)

Bif Naked Bears All

Bif Naked - I Bificus

I, Bificus – A Memoir by Bif Naked

I am a huge Bif Naked fan. I have been for a while. She is an amazing performer and a great songwriter, so when I heard she had written a memoir, I knew that I had to read it.

I was hoping I could find out how she got her name. A few chapters in, I thought it had it figured out.

I felt it was my duty to torture Kenny, and it was never long before I took all my clothes off and ran naked, yelling “Chase me!” and waving my arms madly.

She was a young child at the time of that incident and apparently, it wasn’t the impetus for the name. She earned that because of a flyer promotion. At the time, she had already had the nickname of “Bif.”

Few punk bands had female vocalists then. The concern was that switching to a female vocalist would be looked down upon by the male punk rockers, especially in Winnipeg. The guys in Gorilla Gorilla decided to go out large, making gig posters to advertise the upcoming show that read”Come see Bif Naked.” It was a double entendre that basically  baited the naysayers-peers, friends, and fans still disappointed about the previous singer’s departure – to come to the show, even if only out of curiosity to see if I really would be naked. The band plastered the posters all over the city, putting them on practically every street lamp post and mailbox, even gluing them on store windows. It was a massive street-level postering campaign, and it worked. 

I mentioned Bif Naked in my Grade 3 classroom a few years back and my students laughed. I told Bif about this via Twitter.

Bif Naked tweet

I saved that tweet notice in my email for the past four years because it was a memorable exchange from one of my favourite musicians. We tweeted a few more times since then too. (I just wish the logos still loaded properly in my email for this first message)

Part of me didn’t want to know all of the things I learned about Bif Naked in this book. I had to cringe a few times. I didn’t want to see her go through some of what she had to do. I didn’t like to see that she made some stupid choices when she was young. I wanted her to just be a sweet girl who grew into a great poet, musician, and songwriter. I guess she had to go through all of that stuff to become who she was.

I maintain that everything happens for a reason. This theory drove my dad crazy-he believed it was just a way to frame stuff and justify it. He said I am a “great justifier” and a “shamelss predestinist,” and that holding this theory enable me to find a reason for anything.

Maybe it’s best not to meet your heroes. Maybe just listening to the music and tweeting is enough.

If you are a super-fan, and want to learn more, check it out. Or buy a copy to support her if you have never seen her live or own all her albums. And then keep it on the shelf. Either way, let’s celebrate Bif Naked.

My List of 2017 Reads – continually updated all year long

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands (Book Review)

Close-Your-Eyes-Hold-Hands-novel

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Emily Shepard used to be a regular teenage girl. She had to deal with her parents who often drank too much, but her life was fairly average. At least, I gather it was from reading this story written in her own words. The problem is that she isn’t the most reliable of a narrator, and she isn’t even that great of a storyteller. In fact, she is rather troubled.

When we first meet Emily, she is homeless and living in an igloo made of trash bags. We soon find out that she has recently become an orphan due to a disaster at the nuclear power-plant. The tragedy has forced the whole town to evacuate and so, not only has she lost her parents, but she has also lost her home.

Even worse than that, her parents served as the scapegoats for the entire tragedy. The news blamed the meltdown on operator error and made reference to the fact that they were both alcoholics and had been drunk that day.

Emily learns that her name isn’t an asset. People angrily lash out and accuse her parents of ruining their lives. So, she adopts the pseudonym of Abby Bliss, after a friend of her favourite poet, Emily Dickinson, and tries to survive on her own.

She is a likable character so it is a little hard to see her go through all of the hardships she does. She is a troubled teenager, and might very well have been one had this tragedy never occurred. But she would, most definitely, had more ssupport and probably not had such a terrible year.

I haven’t read a book like this one in a while. It is told completely from Emily’s point of view and bounces around a lot. It feels like it was written by a teenage girl and is a first hand account of her troubled life.

Here’s an interesting fact about this book. The audio book is read and performed by the author’s daughter. In the afterword of the CD, we hear an interview with Chris Bohjalian and Grace Blewer. It was a really great way to end the story and learn more about how both the text and audio were created.

My List of 2017 Reads – a detailed reading log (made to share)

Second Adulthood Makeover

Blue Satin Nightgown by Karin Crilly

The Blue Satin Nightgown: My French Makeover at Age 78! by Karin Crilly

I have been doing some reading about how women need to reinvent themselves in second adulthood. It’s a very interesting concept that has adults trying to figure out what to do now that they find themselves with a significant amount of time after retiring. Their children are grown and self-sufficient too. A new world of possibilities open up and it is like starting all over again in a new phase of life.

So, when I was approached to review this book for my blog, I thought it would be a nice companion piece to the other material I had been reading for a school project I had been working on.

Karin Crilly had once wished to live in France. She had her honeymoon there so many years ago. Now at the age of 78, and widowed, she decided to return there to live for a year. She didn’t know the language or anyone there, but still set out alone on this new adventure. This memoir tells her story.

The first chapter won a writing contest in 2014 and motivated her to continue the story and complete this book.

Crilly starts off every chapter with a recipe and then fills us in on her adventures in a foreign land. It is interesting to see the cultural differences as well. We see that she navigates this new world quite effectively, even though she still doesn’t have much figured out. It’s a journey of discovery that will help her define who she is in this new age of adulthood.

It’s Karin Crilly’s French Makeover at Age 78. Perhaps she will even find love and get to use the blue satin nightgown referred to in the title. But I won’t give away any spoilers. You’ll have to read it for yourself.

My List of 2017 Reads – with links to every title I read this year

The Smart One – Is She Though?

Jenniger Close - The Smart One

The Smart One by Jennifer Close

The title character of this novel was labelled by her parents as “the smart one.” However, she is not feeling very smart at the moment. Her three adult children don’t quite have it together the way she had expected them to. Her oldest, has left the profession of nursing and is working in retail. She knows that she doesn’t have things together, but doesn’t know where to turn. She runs out of money and is forced to move back home to figure things out and catch up financially. The middle child has just called off her engagement and dumped her fiance. And the baby of the family is in college and getting into a pretty heavy relationship.

This is family drama much like you would see in prime-time television. It would actually make a good series. It’s interesting to see how the labels we put on children can ultimately put limits on their potential. The title character rebelled against her label and “married well” whereas her sister, the so-called “pretty one,” wasn’t able to do that.

The situations of each of the characters bring them back to their childhood home and the mother is left to cope with a very busy household once again. She reflects on her life as we get to explore each of the characters lives in detail through the prose.

The Smart One is a well-written novel that I enjoyed right up to the end. I say that because the end seemed to come up out of nowhere. The book ended in midstream. Maybe that is another reason this would make a good television series. It surely could have continued on. That being said, the novel could have had a better ending too. I much prefer to have closure at the end of a story, even though this is the kind of ending  a lot of stories have these days.

My List of 2017 Reads – my not-so-personal reading log for the year

Spider-Woman – Revamped and Styling!

Spider Woman - New Duds

Spider-Woman: New Duds

Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman has quit The Avengers in order to live a normal life, something she has never really known. Her plan to just be an everyday investigator is turned upside down when Ben Ulrich helps her out of a tough spot and motivates the reluctant hero to take on a missing persons case.

I try not to give away much in my written reviews but if you don’t want to know anything more about this book, skip the next paragraph.

Spoiler Alert ahead

I really enjoyed the premise of the first story.  It revolves around a group of women who have come up with a very creative solution to leave behind their husbands, ex-boyfriends, and lovers of the super-villain variety. Even with good intentions though, they might be going about things the wrong way.

Spoiler Free Section below

Spider-Woman gets a new costume and new sidekicks in this collected edition of the on-going series. We all knew that she wouldn’t have been content with a normal life. It’s not in her. She is Spider-Woman after all.

My List of 2017 Reads – a continually updated reading log for the entire year

One More Douglas Adams’ Trip Through Space and Time

Doctor Who - Shada by Douglas Adams

Doctor Who: Shada by Douglas Adams (novelization by Gareth Roberts)

Douglas Adams never completed Doctor Who story has finally seen the light of day in a novel that does justice to the story he likely would have told.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story. There were moments that were laugh out loud funny. The dry with and humour of Adams was able to shine through with the dialogue and some of the prose. Roberts wasn’t able to write in Adams’ voice the way that Eoin Colfer did, but I doubt anyone else really could.

The story was originally meant for the 19th season of the classic series and parts of it were filmed with Tom Baker. Unfortunately, it was never completed. Or maybe, this was the form it was meant to take all along. I’m not sure.

All I know is that, as I read it, I found myself thinking, “I wish they had shot this,” and “This could really work with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.” There were a few moments where I could picture Christopher Eccleston clearly in my mind as well.

Doctor Who fans, no matter the era, will enjoy this book. You can picture your favourite Doctor as you read it, or a combination thereof like I did.

My List of 2017 Reads – a continually updated reading log

My List of 2017 Reads

2017 ReadsFive years ago, I decided to start blogging about every book that I read over the course of the year.

This is an exercise that I would encourage anyone to do. Not only does it give you a chance to share what you read with an audience, but it gives you some pretty interesting data to look at.

I love having this collection of posts to look at, to compare what I read the last few years with what I am currently reading, to see any trends that appear, and to check to see that I am reading a variety of different material.

Here are some of the stats from the last five years.

2012 – 65 books total.

(16 novels, 33 Graphic Novels, 4 Hip-Hop, 4 Teaching-Related, 3 Memoirs, 2 Non-Fiction, and 1 on Writing)

2013 – 61 books total.

(14 novels, 37 Graphic Novels, 2 Memoirs, 2 Non-Fiction, 6 Teaching Related)

2014 – 78 books total.

(11 novels, 50 Graphic Novels, 3 Teaching-Related, 8 Non-Fiction, and 5 on Writing)

2015 – 60 books total.

(12 novels, 31 Graphic Novels, 2 Teaching-Related, 3 Hip-Hop, 9 Non-Fiction, and 3 on Writing)

2016 – 65 books total.

(6 novels,  51 Graphic Novels, 1 Teaching-Related, 3 Music-Related, 1 Non-Fiction, 1 Memoir, and 3 on Writing)

It looks like I should try to read more novels this year and maybe a few less comics. Maybe.

Either way, this post will be updated throughout the year every time I finish reading a new book. So, bookmark this page and come back often to get some information on some titles you can add to your own reading list.

Happy Reading!

NOVELS

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands
Doctor Who: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams – Shada
The Martian
The Smart One

Children’s Books

Moo

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Spider-Woman – 1 title (New Duds)
Star Trek: The Next Generation – 1 title (IDW Omnibus)

TEACHING RELATED BOOKS

coming soon

WRITING BOOKS

coming soon

MUSIC RELATED

I, Bificus
Stay Driven

NON-FICTION

Beyond Mars and Venus

Memoir

The Blue Satin Nightgown: My French Makeover at Age 78

Total Books Read in 2017: 11

Now Reading – Star Trek: The Next Generation

startrek_tng_omnibus

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Omnibus

Later this year, Star Trek: The Next Generation will celebrate it’s 25th Anniversary. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long since this iconic sequel to Star Trek took over television and changed the shape of what was to come. That’s no small feat for a little science fiction series many people thought wouldn’t work.

It’s nice to be able to jump back into the crew’s adventures without missing a beat. This 400 plus page omnibus lets us do just that with some beautiful artwork and amazing storytelling.

I especially liked the mirror universe saga in this collection and how it bridged the original crew from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, told some more of Worf’s personal story, and involved the Next Generation crew including Tasha Yar and Ensign Ro. And wait till you see who makes a surprise appearance.

The first story in this collection starts off a little slow, but fans who like Picard going on archaeological missions in his spare time will appreciate it.

This collection brings some old foes from the television series back and really captures what we all loved about the series. It was a a good read that I am sure all Trek fans can get behind.

My List of 2017 Reads – coming soon!

The Martian – Book vs Movie

the-martian-andy-weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

During an intense storm on Mars, the crew of Ares 3 are forced to cancel their mission and evacuate. As the astronauts battle wind and the elements, Mark Watney, is struck by debris. His suit is punctured and the life-sign readings fall flat. The escape rocket is starting to tip over and if they don’t act fast, the entire crew will perish. Believing Watney to be dead, they launch and leave him behind.

Watney regains consciousness and makes it back to the base. Apparently, whatever impaled him had allowed his blood to coagulate around it and form a seal in his space suit. The only problem is that he cannot communicate with his crew or with N.A.S.A. He is utterly alone on an alien planet with little hope of rescue.

It doesn’t sound like a comedy, but this book is full of hilarious moments. Watney uses humour to help himself get through the tough times. There is plenty of suspense as well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

The Movie

The film makers did a good job of adopting the story. They managed to keep the tone of book and include much of the humourous moments. Unfortunately, they did lose a lot of the life and death  moments that had me flipping pages and not wanting to put the book down. The few that were in the movie didn’t have me on the edge of my seat as much as I was in my initial reading. The final rescue scene was brilliantly shot and I was on the edge of my seat for every second of it.

The Verdict

Read it and then watch it. Or if you have already watched it, read it and get even more in-depth with the story and all of the suspense and comedy it holds. You won’t be disappointed.

My List of 2017 Reads – coming soon!

Looking Back to help Look Forward

launching-a-new-yearIn order to truly accomplish a goal, you need to work at it regularly, keep it in the forefront of your mind, and make small steps to reach the intended destination.

This is something I am not good at. I write a list every year, and then it gets buried in the archive.

I decided not to make resolutions at the start of last year. Instead, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish.

The post still got buried in the archive and I didn’t think much about it till now as we launch a brand new year.

That being said, let’s look back at what I was thinking last year at this time and see how I did and what I really need to work on in 2017.

Here it is

“I want to . . .

  • be more creative
  • DJ all sorts of events (weddings, rap concerts, dances, etc)
  • get my fiction published
  • produce quality radio
  • build a life with the woman I love
  • find a way to support myself financially
  • find a job that not only pays the bills but makes me happy
  • sharpen my DJ skills
  • make a few mixtapes to highlight my DJ skills
  • run more than 300 kilometers
  • write a new work of fiction
  • write a non-fiction book (I have two great ideas for this too)
  • keep this blog regularly updated
  • read for enjoyment, self-improvement, and personal education”

Why?

Why did I write that first one? I have always been creative and don’t think I slowed down in that arena.

Wins

I did DJ a lot this year as you can tell from my #2016bestnine posts on Instagram.

2016bestnine-chase-march

Six out of these nine pictures are DJ related. It shows me deejaying on the radio, at a night club, at a stag-and-doe party, holding it down for the Rel McCoy and Cquel tour stop in London, and for being an official DJ for Sons of Boombap.

I did produce lots of quality radio programs including my annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular, All Women’s  Voices Day, Christmas Special episode, and tons of great in-depth interviews.

I made two mixtapes this year that were events. I mixed one-third of the collaborative mixtape from the Sons of Boombap collective. I also teamed up with DJ Hullewud to drop The MIX(ed)TAPE. I am very proud of both of these projects.

I didn’t track my running with an app this year but I did get out at least three times a week every week all season. I have to have cleared close to 300 km. I wish I knew for sure though.

I didn’t read as many novels in 2016, but I still did read a lot. I didn’t include the stuff I read for school either as I started working on a masters degree at Western University.

Fail

I didn’t write any new works of fiction or non-fiction this year. I did write and work on projects for the four university classes I took though. I hadn’t planned on going back  to school, but I am glad I did.

Win

Returning to university to pursue a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science.

I am very excited about this new career path and can’t wait to finish.

Set-back

I worked at a fast food spot as a survival job and kind of got stuck there. The good news is that I did get promoted twice.

Launch-forward

I have moved on from that job and will be teaching high school this winter term. That doesn’t start until Tuesday, but it’s a great way to kick off a new year (also featured on my Best 9 picture above)

The Biggest Win

The biggest win of 2016 is my engagement to Diana. She is an amazing woman and I am really looking forward to our wedding this winter and building a life together.

Good bye 2016

2016 wasn’t a terrible year. It felt like it was a transition year and that even better things are on the horizon. That is why I wrote this tweet.

chase-march-tweet

Hello 2017

I am ready for all the good things that will happen this year. I don’t plan on making any goals or resolutions just yet. Perhaps I will make shorter goals and work hard towards accomplishing some of the things I didn’t get to this year.

Happy New Year!

Star Trek Revisited and Reinterpreted

startrek-new-adventures-vol-2

Star Trek: The New Adventures – Volume 2

The first volume of this graphic novel series didn’t sit right with me. I was pretty harsh in my review of it. In fact, I recommended skipping the title altogether. It was advice that even I didn’t take. I saw the second volume at the library and decided to give it a try. I am glad that I did.

Spoiler Free Review

The first story in the collection revolves around a minor character from the first rebooted movie, Hendorff. It sounds like a weird start to the collection, but it works. I like how much he takes pride in wearing the red shirt uniform for the Enterprise. A lot of us in the fandom know what that might mean, but to see it taken so seriously in this story and have it not be a joke is a really nice touch.

One-off Stories

We also get a one-off story from Scott’s associate, Keenser. We see the challenges he has serving on the starship due to his diminished stature. It’s the only time in the Star Trek universe that I am aware of where this issue has been tackled.

Scotty, Bones, and Uhura each get their own one-issue story in this collection, but for some reason Sulu and Chekov have to share one.

Mirror Universe

We get a Mirror Mirror story in this volume that isn’t simply a retelling of the original television series episode. In this one, Kirk is the bad guy and Spock is the reasonable one. We even get old Spock in the story, which was pretty cool.

Pon Farr Troubles

I also really like the reinterpretation of the classic episode “Amok Time.” This is the one where Spock goes through a mating cycle that requires him to return to Vulcan. Of course, in the first movie, his home planet had been destroyed, making this impossible. The Enterprise diverts to New Vulcan only to find that the Pon Farr ritual is not effective for many of the Vulcans. It seems that the ritual was tied to the solar system and planet of the original Vulcan. It looks as though Spock might be lost to insanity, along with many others.

The Verdict

I can’t believe how effective this second volume of the comic series was. It seems that writers and artists have grown into knowing exactly what this universe is about. They are respecting the source material while bringing something new to it. It feels like Star Trek and I will be happy to read more.

My List of 2016 Reads  – nearly done now

The King of Rock-Bottom

dmc-memoir

Ten Ways to Not Commit Suicide by Darryl McDaniels (DMC)

I am a huge Run-DMC fan. They are my all-time favourite group. So when I saw this book at the public library, I knew I had to pick it up.

I had heard DMC talking about this book on the radio, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t that interested in reading it. Maybe it was the awkward title. Maybe it was the fact that Run-DMC disbanded when Jam Master Jay died over 10 years ago and I haven’t paid much attention to the solo carreers of Run or DMC since then.

When I saw that this book was available for me to read for free, I knew I had to check it out. I found out a few things I didn’t know about Run-DMC. I thought they were cool with each other and made music together in a creative partnership. DMC doesn’t paint that picture in this memoir. He writes of his unhappiness with the group often. He also has nothing positive to say about Run. He doesn’t blame Run for anything and he doesn’t air any of his dirty laundry. This isn’t a tell-all book. It isn’t a self-help book either. It’s simply a memoir from an artist who almost fell victim to the music industry.

DMC writes how he drank to relieve the anxiety he felt when performing live. It quickly became a problem for him as he slid down to alcoholism. It’s almost hard to believe that any one person could drink as much as he did. And it almost killed him.

He tells us of his childhood passions and how they took a backseat to his rapping career. He is working hard to fulfill some of the dreams he put on hold when he became the King of Rock.

I am glad to see that DMC made it through the dark times and that he is still here in this world. Run-DMC are an historic group that deserve all the praise and recognition that they get. I wish things could have ended better for them. I wish Jay hadn’t died. I wish that they had released the 20th Anniversary album and launched the tour that was speculated just before Jam Master Jay’s untimely passing.

We won’t likely see a Run-DMC reunion, but we can continue to play their music and sing their praises. And we can read this book.

My List of 2016 Reads – just about complete now

Failure Breeds? Doesn’t it?

life-lessons-mj-dougherty

Life Lessons from a Total Failure by M.J. Dougherty

M.J. Dougherty has certainly had his share of ups and downs. He’s not afraid to open up and tell us about them in his new memoir, Life Lessons from a Total Failure.

I can relate to feeling like a failure. I think we all can. We might not have had experiences similar to Dougherty but we can still learn from him nonetheless. Each chapter starts with subtitles such as “It’s OK to keep things simple” , “Embrace change” , and “It can happen to anyone.”

Dougherty doesn’t hit us over the head with lessons. Instead, he simply tells his story and hopes that we get the message through the shared experience. In the final pages of the book, he sums everything up with “M.J.’s Top Ten Lessons from a Total Failure.” Each lesson is one paragraph long and gets straight to the point.

I like to write spoiler-free reviews, so if you don’t want to read this book without knowing any particulars stop reading now.

Spoiler Alert

It feels strange giving a spoiler alert for a memoir, but here we are.

I wanted to talk about my surprise of people’s expectations and how they can they can do a lot of harm. This happened to Dougherty shortly after he decided to get married. People had known that he was gay prior to this, but after his wedding, the public began to perceive his bar as being a “gay bar” even though it wasn’t. Ultimately, people stopped going there because of this perception and the business failed. I almost couldn’t believe that something like that could actually happen. Perception is powerful.

It’s interesting to see how some opportunities just presented themselves to the author as well. He was in the right place at the right time and was able to capitalize on them. Perhaps he needed to experience those failures and go through some low periods in life to ultimately find himself. Maybe we all do.

My List of 2016 Reads – just about done my reading log for the year.

Truth Found in an Ancient Manuscript

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Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

Words have power. They have the power to inspire, to educate, to entertain, and they even have a calming quality that can make a anxious time more bearable.

Perhaps that is why a group of people gathered around an elder back in the year 1099 as their city was being invaded and attacked. Fortunately for us, someone wrote down his words and they happened to survive all this time.

Here is some knowledge from the Manuscript Found in Accra.

Focus on Your Goal

“He focuses not just on the goal to be reached, but on everything happening around him. He often has to stop because his strength fails him. At such moments, Love appears and says: “You think you’re heading toward a specific point, but the whole justification for the goal’s existence lies in your love for it. Rest a little, but as soon as you can, get up and carry on. Because ever since your goal found out that you were traveling toward it, it has been running to meet you.”

Pour in the Love

“This second type of work we call the Offering. For example, two people might be cooking the same meal and using exactly the same ingredients, but one is pouring Love into what he does and the other is merely trying to fill his belly. The result will be completely different, even though Love is not something that can be seen or weighed. The person making the Offering is always rewarded. The more he shares out his affection, the more his affection grows.”

Be Yourself

“Don’t try to be useful. Try to be yourself; that is enough, and that makes all the difference. Walk neither faster nor slower than your own soul, because it is your soul that will teach you the usefulness of each step you take.”

Simplicity is Beautiful

“And what is simplicity? It is the coming together of the true values of life. Snow is pretty because it has only one color. The sea is pretty because it appears to be a flat plane. The desert is beautiful because it seems to consist only of sand and rocks. However, when we look more closely at each of these things, we discover how profound and complete they are, and recognize their qualities. The simplest things in life are the most extraordinary. Let them reveal themselves.”

True Fiction

This book is a work of fiction but it reads like a self-help book or even a religious text. It get into some topics that Holy books usually don’t, but the openness and honesty of the elder’s words ring just as true.

Recommended

I have enjoyed every Paulo Coelho book that I have ever read and highly recommend The Alchemist by him as well.

Keep Reading

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading is almost complete for this year

Little Women – The Next Generation

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The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly

Little Women was written by Louisa May Alcott and released in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. The story is a classic in every aspect. It has been reprinted countless times, translated into different languages, been made into more than one feature film, and is still widely read close to 150 years later.

I had no idea this sequel book existed until I saw it on the library shelf and immediately picked it up. I was intrigued.

The story revolves around the descendants of the original March sisters that we all got to know and love in the original book. We even get to hear from them again in this new story that is set in the present day.

Unfortunately, the March name didn’t survive as all of the remaining sisters got married and took on their husbands names. But some of letters that Jo wrote to Amy, Meg, and Beth did.

Reading those letters was like being transported back in time. I could hear Jo’s voice through them. It was like she had actually wrote them and I forgot that she was a fictional character.

The letters were the best part of this book. The modern day group of sisters didn’t capture my heart as quickly as the original March sisters did. I found this story to be a bit dry as well. However, it did seem to fit well in tone with the original novel.

If you love the March sisters, you will probably love this one as well. If you decide to check it out, I also highly recommend this young adult reworking on the story featuring a young lady who just happens to be named March.

Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

I asolutely loved this story and it is on my “to read again soon” list.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title

Planet of the Apes (Book vs Movie)

My father really enjoyed the Planet of the Apes movies. I vividly recall watching them together on television when I was growing up. I’m not sure I completely understood what they were about, but I remember enjoying them nonetheless.

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When the film series was rebooted in 2011, I was pleasantly surprised by how the filmmakers respected what I thought was the source material. There were all sorts of Easter Eggs and ties to the original 1968 theatrical film.

I brought the DVD over to my dad’s place and we watched it together again, all those years later. Unfortunately, he passed away and I can’t talk to him about my discovery of the novel that sparked the whole Apes phenomenon.

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Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Published in French in 1963 under the title of La Planète des Singes, the original novel is quite a bit different than the 1968 film adaptation. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As I read the book, I looked forward to rewatching the original movie so I could compare and contrast the two.

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Planet of the Apes (1968 film)

I hate that this poster shows the finale of the movie. I admit that it is an iconic image but it is also a spoiler and it bugs me that the film is still advertised like this. This shot was even on the DVD menu when I watched the film again last week. Even more pointed is that this scene doesn’t exist in the novel.

The astronauts in the film actually do visit an alien world. The monkeys speak a different language and it is up to the main character to find a way to communicate with them and show his intelligence. The human characters on this planet also don’t wear any clothes. They are completely naked. I can see how both of these points needed to be changed for the movie. It only makes sense.

It made sense for the monkeys to speak English, for the main character to be called Taylor as opposed to Ulysse. But the film version did need to find a way that Taylor couldn’t just talk right away. He had to be caged up like an animal and suffer through that. In the film, he is shot in the throat and it takes him some time to recover his voice.

The novel explores the notion that primates are good at imitating and that something must have happened for them to be able to imitate man so well. Both the film and novel explore the idea that apes derived from man. But the novel is able to explore this notion in much more detail.

The film and the novel both explore an archaeological dig that uncovers human artifacts that don’t make sense in a Simian society. In the movie, the native human characters are completely mute, but in the novel, they make animal utterances and noises. Not sure why they didn’t in the film version.

In the novel, the main character is a little more likable. He is not a know-it-all as portrayed by Charlton Heston in the film. Nova is also described as the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. That didn’t seem to translate so well to film.

Another theme in the novel is the one of rebuilding a human society. Ulysse feels like it is his mission to do so. He actually has a child with Nova. The authorities see this child as a threat though and a few monkey friends help him return to his spaceship. The three of them finally make it back to Earth, but due to the realities of space travel over long distances, they arrive thousands of years later . . . only to find that the same pattern of evolution has happened. It’s a scene that resonates just as well as the Statue of Liberty scene in the movie.

If you like the movies, I recommend giving the book a try. That is if I haven’t given away too many spoilers for you.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title

Always Reading Comics

I love reading comics. I pretty much always have a graphic novel on the go. Here are the latest ones that I have read.

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Powerless

I was pleasantly surprised by this story set in an alternate universe where there are no super-heroes. Peter Parker was still bitten by a spider but instead of becoming Spider-Man, he gets a limp arm instead. Matt Murdoch is still a blind lawyer, but doesn’t have his heightened senses. Wolverine doesn’t have retractable claws but he does have knives that are quite similar and he has been trained to kill.

These three characters are tied together by a therapist who has glimpses of their more colourful lives in an alternate reality. He feels as if he knows them somehow and he does his best to help them.

It’s an interesting read and well worth your time.

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Wolverine: Season One

This graphic novel is part of a series that focuses on the early days of the super-heroes we all know and love. It’s an origin story that sees Wolverine going head-to-head with The Hulk, Wendigo, and The Weapon X program. That’s exactly what I wanted to see and I liked the new take on familiar territory.

Old Man Logan

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Wolverine is an old man. He has a family now and has given up being a super-hero. The world is a dark place and he is doing his best to survive in it. So, when he suddenly finds himself back in the past, he believes he was brought there for a reason, to get the world back on track and avert the post-apocalyptic world that will surely come to bear if he doesn’t act.

To the outside world and the current superheroes though, he seems like a fanatic who is just on a killing spree. And it seems like he might not come from the same timeline as all of them either. This is part of an on-going series and it is interesting to see an older-adult charcater in mainstream comics.

My List of 2016 Reads  – a detailed reading log with links to every title