BOOK REVIEW ~ They Called Him a Gangster

They Called Him a Gangster: My Secret Life with Meyer Lansky, the Financial Genius Behind the Mafia


 

Synopsis:
A powerful memoir about a secret life with the head of the mafia.

Only few people are well acquainted with Meyer Lansky, known as the ‘Mob’s Accountant’ who, in his youth, managed the investments of the New York mafia and was considered one of the leading figures of the city’s underworld.

Most of the stories known to the public are related to his past illegal activities. But as we are all aware, there is more than one side to every story.

The Other Side of the Story is a captivating biography that sheds a positive new light on the character of the “Gangster”.
Zali de Toledo was a teenager who arrived in Israel into a new culture, wishing simply to make a fresh start in her beloved country.

While working as a waitress in the “Dan” hotel lobby, the two met, as fate would have it. Soon, an intimate relationship developed between them and their secret love blossomed and flourished.

In this riveting unique memoir, de Toledo reveals the powerful love affair she had with Lansky, the hundreds of letters he wrote to her over the years, the other personality and sensitivity of the man who was, in the eyes of many, a criminal, the little things between him and her, and the tough decisions they had to make.


 

My thoughts:  This isn’t your typical gangster memoir, I found. It has a whole different angle and flavor to it. Be prepared for something different from your usual mob book. This is more intellectual and political, dealing with current affairs of the time, and affairs of the heart too, you could say. I enjoyed reading this book because it was different from your usual shoot-em-up gangster title, and more of a love story, with the very-married Lansky trying to return to Jerusalem to spend some time with his mistress. His detractors have been keeping him away based on his former bootlegging reputation, while his health declines. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, the author Zali de Toledo, and publisher BooksGoSocial, for my unbiased review.


 

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Publisher: BooksGoSocial – 250 pages
Publication: Aug 2nd, 2020
My rating: 3/5 Stars


 

From the author– Meyer Lansky always said that the truth has three realities: mine, yours and the truth’s own. So many books and articles have been written and movies have been made about him, mostly based on the FBI files or hearsay. In the 70’s, Gabriel Bach, former State Attorney and then Judge of the Supreme Court of Israel, brought these files over, and they found their way to Prof. Walkaway, a historian at the Tel Aviv University, who told me there was nothing for which Meyer could be put on trial.

I have written here my side of the story, the other truth, from Meyer’s point of view, as per his own words in the many letters he wrote to me.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Gentle on my Mind

Gentle on my Mind: In Sickness and in Health with Glen Campbell


Synopsis:
The page-turning, never-before-told story of Kim Campbell’s roller-coaster thirty-four-year marriage to music legend Glen Campbell, including how Kim helped Glen finally conquer his addictions only to face their greatest challenge when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Kim Campbell was a fresh-faced twenty-two-year-old dancer at Radio City Music Hall when a friend introduced her to Glen Campbell, the chart-topping, Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated entertainer. The two performers from small Southern towns quickly fell in love, a bond that produced a thirty-four-year marriage and three children.

In Gentle on My Mind, Kim tells the complete, no-holds-barred story of their relationship, recounting the highest of highs—award shows, acclaimed performances, the birth of their children, encounters with Mick Fleetwood, Waylon Jennings, Alan Jackson, Alice Cooper, Jane Seymour, and others—and the lowest of lows, including battles with alcohol and drug addiction and, finally, Glen’s diagnosis, decline, and death from Alzheimer’s.

With extraordinary candor, astonishing bravery, and a lively sense of humor, Kim reveals the whole truth of life with an entertainment giant and of caring for and loving him amid the extraordinary challenge of Alzheimer’s disease. This is a remarkable account of enduring love, quiet strength, and never-faltering faith.


 

My thoughts:  This was a wonderful though ultimately sad read. I’d seen the documentary a few years back that I found so profound, and this was the perfect follow-up to it. So very moving, it shares a lot more about Glen’s background I didn’t know. Their love story is also rather amazing by itself, with some major challenges, but Kim was in it for life. I do think this really shined a light on Alzheimer’s and got people thinking and talking about it. Not to be missed by real Glen Campbell fans, or those with an interest in Alzheimer’s. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, the author Kim Campbell, and publisher Thomas Nelson for my unbiased review.


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Publisher: Thomas Nelson – 304 pages
Publication: June 23rd, 2020
My rating: 5/5 Stars


The Author- Kim Campbell was married to legendary country/pop star Glen Campbell for thirty-four years until his passing in August of 2017, following a long and very public battle with Alzheimer’s. The award-winning documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, shared their family’s journey with the world and opened up a national conversation about the disease. Kim’s work as an advocate for people with dementia and for their families has taken her to Capitol Hill and the United Nations, and she is the creator of a website called CareLiving.org that encourages, informs, and inspires caregivers to take care of themselves while caring for others. She also established the Kim and Glen Campbell Foundation to advance the use of music as medicine to unlock forgotten memories, restore and rebuild neural pathways, alleviate depression, manage behaviors and boost cognition. Kim is an honorary faculty member of the Erickson school of Aging Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, holds a BFA from East Carolina University, and studied interior design at UCLA. To book Kim for speaking engagements, go to apbspeakers.com.


BOOK REVIEW ~ Cali Girl

Cali Girl how did you make it in the Treacherous Streets of Detroit


Description: Through the eyes of the author, this Autobiography is a very inspirational read.
A young woman shares her journey with the world, to help them relate to her experience. She took a chance and wore her heart on her sleeve. This stories unique twist involves a young woman who crosses the country as a “Cali Girl” and then steps in the treacherous streets of Detroit. There she finds herself living different life styles that are similar to millions of reader’s stories. The similarity will help connects the world with this beautiful woman’s testimony.

At first she couldn’t see what her journey had in store for her. It wasn’t until her life changed for the better, a young woman started to see the truth from her experiences. This woman’s started to see the truth from her experiences. This woman’s true story helps people heal from sexual, physical, mental, verbal abuse, as well as death loss, addiction issues, abandonment issues, and any transitional change that may affect a person.


 

My thoughts: This is a different kind of biography that follows this young lady as she goes from one place to another, one city and state to another, trying to find where she fits in and belongs. Never really feeling wanted, because of her childhood, she moves herself on at times, after she’s an adult if things don’t feel comfortable. It’s a tough way to live, especially when she goes to Detroit, Michigan to meet a female, hoping for a relationship to blossom. One did for a while, but ultimately it doesn’t work out and she has to find somewhere else to stay.

Once again, she finds herself where she really knows almost no one, and is unfamiliar with the streets, the bad areas, etc. I enjoyed the book as I’m from Michigan (near the Flint area) and wanted to see how her time went in Detroit of that time. I found it interesting of course, as a snapshot of her experiences of that time and place. The writing needs the guiding hand of an editor to do a bit of massaging, but it is an honest read.  Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tianna Jones, and the publisher.


 

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Publisher: URLink Print & Media – 264 pages
Publication: Oct 8th, 2019
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ The Silver Swan

The Silver Swan:  In Search of Doris Duke


 

Such a mysterious person, this Doris Duke. It’s almost like she didn’t want anything much of herself left behind for posterity, as she was going to live as she pleased. And she certainly had the money and will to do so. The author was granted free rein to go through Duke’s papers for this book, but she just didn’t write letters much, and shunned publicity, as she was hyper-private. Doris was a very tall, athletic woman, at least six foot in her prime, and she enjoyed physical activities like swimming in the ocean and tennis. I’ve read a previous book about her years ago, but I don’t recall much from it. Much seems to be made of her being expunged from the Social Register, but it seems to have meant nothing to Doris herself, who probably made light of the fact.

I enjoyed reading about her life, her marriages, her parents and brother, along with the power company and university and offshoots that the family left as their legacy. I’ve always enjoyed reading about philanthropists and imagined being able to do that and how it must feel so wonderful to help others and leave behind something that will live on and do good things for people long after you are gone. It’s just too bad Doris Duke didn’t leave more of herself behind for us to get to know her better. It doesn’t really feel like there’s much of her in the book, despite all of the paperwork that was used to research her, she still seems quite ephemeral and out of reach.  Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Sallie Bingham, and the publisher.


 

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Publisher:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux – 338 pages
Publication:  Apr 7, 2020
My review:  3.5/5 Stars


 

The Author- Sallie Bingham is the author of several memoirs, short-story collections, novels, plays, and poetry collections. Her work has been widely anthologized and has appeared in the Atlantic, New Letters, Southwest Review, and other publications. Sallie’s books include Passion & Prejudice and The Silver Swan.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Undaunted

Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back


 

This book really drew me in. Some parts are rather slow compared to other more exciting parts, but that’s how her life went. She became a lawyer and went to work for Leo Ryan as his legal counsel. She made up her mind on something and then she followed through. A very determined lady, which likely is what saved her life at Jonestown. There is much about her early life and her life post-Jonestown, it’s the majority of the book really. There is quite a bit about her long career in public service, she’s really quite inspiring. I give it a good 4 of 5 stars.


 

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Written by Jackie Speier
Publisher: Little A – 199 pages
Publication: Nov 4th, 2018.
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author- Jackie Speier is a California congresswoman. She is a recognized champion of women’s rights, privacy, and consumer safety—as well as an avowed opponent of government inefficiency and waste. In 2012, she was named to Newsweek’s list of 150 “Fearless Women” in the world and is included in the 2018 “Politico 50” list of top influencers transforming American politics. She is coauthor of This Is Not the Life I Ordered. Jackie received a BA in political science from the University of California at Davis, and a JD from UC Hastings College of the Law.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Know My Name

Know My Name: A Memoir

 

This is the disturbing story about the sexual assault that was all over the news a few years back about the Stanford student who was discovered attacking a woman who was unconscious and partly unclothed outside near a dumpster. A pair of bicyclists came to the aid of the woman, giving chase when the man ran off on seeing them. They first checked to see that the woman was ok before going after him. The victim’s identity was shielded by being known as Emily Doe for a long while, up until trial when her first name was used. She later outed herself with this excellent book. And of course the perpetrator is the creepy Brock Turner of former swimming note.

Miller does a wonderful job of sharing her experiences and trauma of the aftermath following waking up in the hospital after the attack, and the ordeal of getting to and then through the trial. Recommended. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Chanel Miller, and the publisher.


 

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The publisher: Viking – 367 pages
Publication: Sep 24th, 2019
My rating:  5/5 Stars


The Author- Chanel Miller is a writer and artist who received her BA in Literature from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She lives in San Francisco, California.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Williams’ Gang

Williams’ Gang: A Notorious Slave Trader and His Human Cargo of Black Convicts


This is a very thorough history of slave trader William H. Williams of Washington, DC who ran the infamous Yellow House. It was a boarding stable of sorts for slaves who were being held between points of transport, and some were viewed for possible sale. This is also the place where Solomon Northup found himself after being drugged and kidnapped, and where he was later sold into slavery, despite being a free man from New York. He later wrote about his experiences in his autobiography titled Twelve Years A Slave.

Williams’ Gang is filled with information on the state of the slave’s situation in the US and also for various dealers in human chattel, aka bondsmen and women in the 1800s. When in 1840, Williams gets involved in buying 27 convict slaves, who were only to be sold and taken outside the US territory. He had even been made to put up a bond to that effect. But that’s not quite how it worked out, and legal matters ensued that went on for decades. A good read for anyone interested in slavery in this time period of history. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Jeff Forret, and the publisher.


 

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press  –  450 pages
Published: Jan 16th, 2020
My Rating: 4/5 Stars


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher: A Life On the Edge

This is a book for Carrie Fisher fans or for those like me who are really wanting to know more about her since her passing. I remember how huge her death was, on a return flight from London, just a bit before Christmas in 2016. It really was kind of a shock, as she wasn’t that old and seemed pretty healthy. Sheila Weller covers Carrie’s life here, going back before she was even born to show the makeup of her parents’ Hollywood celebrity marriage. It’s a good bio of a life that had quite a trajectory, I’m trying to imagine having the parents she had, then being in Star Wars, among other movies, AND being married to singer Paul Simon. Sure, that happens every day.

Carrie really must have been quite something as a friend and a person to have such an amazing list of people as friends. Real friends, not just acquaintances. Oh, and let’s not forget to throw in becoming an author too, of multiple best selling books, not to be sneezed at either. And all of this done in spite of dealing with some serious bipolar problems that were more than a challenge, and a lifelong problem with drug addiction. She later began speaking out on being bipolar and being open about mental illness. This was a really good book, almost perfect, for learning about Ms. Fisher as the author seems to have done some great research with many of the people who knew and loved her best. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Sheila Weller, and the publisher.


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Publisher:  Farrar, Strous, & Giroux – 432 pages
Published:  Nov 12th, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars


The Author- Sheila Weller is a best-selling author and award-winning magazine journalist specializing in women’s lives, social issues, cultural history, and feminist investigative.

Her latest book, “The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour – and the Triumph of Women in TV News,” is a lively and detailed story of three very particular lives and a testament to the extraordinary character of women everywhere.

Her sixth book was the critically acclaimed “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — And The Journey of a Generation.” On the New York Times Bestseller list for 8 weeks, it has sold over 170,000 copies, is featured in numerous Women’s Studies programs at major universities, and was chosen as one of the Best Books of 2008 by Library Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, Amazon.com, and Tina Brown’s DailyBeast.

Her previous books, including the New York Times bestseller “Raging Heart,” have included well-regarded, news-breaking nonfiction accounts of high profile crimes against women and their social and legal implications.

She is a writer for Vanity Fair, a Senior Contributing Editor for Glamour, a former Contributing Editor for New York, a reviewer for The New York Times, and has written and writes for numerous other magazines.

She has won nine major magazine awards, including six Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page Awards and two Exceptional Merit in Media Awards from The National Women’s Political Caucus, and she was one of three winners, for her body of work, for Magazine Feature Writing on a Variety of Subjects in the 2005 National Headliners Award.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Tillie

Tillie:: A New York City Girl: 1906-2001

 

This was a wonderful look back at life in New York City for a group of some Jewish immigrants, written by the son of one, Tillie Goldman, based on her memoirs he found along with many family photographs from that time. The photos really make the story stand out, as it fleshes out the places described where they lived and worked, and the many people involved. I just love looking at old pictures anyway, so that made this even more enjoyable for me, along with the memoir. It’s such a lovely way to honor your mother and tell the story of the family at the same time. An interesting piece of history at the same time. I’d recommend for memoir readers interested in this time period, area, and/or immigrants from the Romania area. Very good non-fiction with tons of pictures. Advance electronic review copy provided by author Mark Goldman.


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Publisher: City of Light Publishing ~ 108 pages
Publication: May 1st, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars


The Author- An historian, Mark Goldman is the author of City on the Edge, City on the Lake, High Hopes, and the award-winning Albright: The Life and Times of John J. Albright. With Tillie he focuses his trained researcher’s eye on his own family. “This is the first book that I have written that is not set in Buffalo. I, like Tillie, am a New Yorker born and bred and it is there that so much of who I am resides. Tillie is as much a tribute to New York City as it is to Tillie.”


 

Wild Bill

Wild Bill: The True Story of the American Frontier’s First Gunfighter

I enjoyed this book on Wild Bill Hickok very much as an updated biography. Tom Clavin does a great job of sorting between hype and facts to get to what is more likely in the real story of James Butler Hickok and his exploits. Apparently, there had been a sibling named Bill that hadn’t survived, and James and his brother Lorenzo both were fond of calling themselves ‘Bill’ at times. When James went out on his own away from the family, the name stuck, along with various descriptors like Wild Bill or Shanghai Bill.

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The book does a good job of telling about his short but exciting and event-filled life as a farmer, gunslinger, and lawman. After serving in the Civil War, Hickok made his way to Springfield, Missouri and was enjoying a spell of gambling. He’d met and become friends for a time with Davis Tutt another gambler, but the friendship soured. .Hickok was in a duel where he shot and killed Tutt in July 1865, displaying his lightning-fast quick-draw set his reputation. Unfortunately, it also made him a target for every wannabe gunslinger in the West who thought he was faster and wanted to prove it My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Tom Clavin, and the publisher for my fair review.

Publisher: St Martin’s Press – 336 pages
Publication: Feb 5th, 2019

RATED: 4/5 Stars

The AuthorTOM CLAVIN is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and has worked as a newspaper and web site editor, magazine writer, TV and radio commentator, and a reporter for The New York Times. He has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, and National Newspaper Association. His books include The Heart of Everything That Is, Halsey’s Typhoon, and Reckless. He lives in Sag Harbor, NY.