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.




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.




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.



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.




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.


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,, 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.



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.


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.


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.

Queen: Album by Album

Queen: Album by Album

This is an awesome retrospective book on Queen’s 15 studio albums where each album is discussed by a panel of nineteen comprised of Queen experts, rock journalists, musicians, music industry people and superfans put together by author Martin Popoff. Filled with tons of great rare photos and artwork from live performances and candid shots of the band. “Just in time for the 45th anniversary of their debut LP and biopic.” This was really enjoyable to go through and check out all of the albums and read the comments from the various panel members while looking at all of the pictures from back then.

It’s making me want to go see the new movie now. Hard to believe it’s been nearly 50 years since the band was formed. It’s a great choice for any Queen fan, with all of the pictures and commentary of the music experts and fans mixed in. I think most rock fans of this era would love it.  My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Martin Popoff, and the publisher for my fair review.

Voyageur Press   224 pages
Pub: Nov 13th, 2018

RATED: 4/5 Stars

The AuthorMartin Popoff has been described as the world’s most famous heavy-metal journalist, though he has covered plenty of Punk and New Wave albums in his career of 7,000-plus album reviews. He has penned many books on various bands, genres of rock, and record collecting, including Voyageur Press’ Rush: The Illustrated HistoryMetallica: The Complete Illustrated HistoryThe Art of Metal; and The Big Book of Hair Metal. He has also worked on film documentaries about Rush and ZZ Top. Popoff lives in Toronto.

The Inheritance

The Inheritance: Poisoned Fruit of JFK’s Assassination

When Christopher Fulton buys a gold Cartier watch that belonged to JFK and was part of the original assassination materials, it sets in motion something he never saw coming. A real page-turner. This book and the information in it is simply explosive. It changes everything I thought I knew about this period in time of American history. It was shocking to me.  A must read. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, authors Christopher Fulton, Michelle Fulton, and the publisher for my fair review.

Trine Day 528 pages
Pub: Nov 22nd, 2018

RATING: 5/5 Stars

The AuthorsAt the height of his success in commercial construction in Canada, Christopher Fulton was extradited and sent to U.S. federal prison for his possession of physical evidence in JFK’s assassination. He currently resides in California. Michelle Fulton was born in Vancouver, Canada. She earned her Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of British Columbia. She resides in California with her husband, their two children, and their rescue dogs.

Let’s Go!: Benjamin Orr and the Cars

Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars

This was a well-researched book about The Cars and Benjamin Orr, born Orzechowski aka “Benny 11-Letters” because so many of his friends and acquaintances had trouble pronouncing his name. He was almost universally liked as he was making his way in the music business, seemingly a genuinely nice and caring man. Ben was also quite talented when it came to singing and drumming, and learning other musical instruments from what many of his friends had to say in the book. You certainly could use a scorecard for this one to keep up with all of the band incarnations and band member rotations. I was amazed at the number of times the name of the band changed, and it didn’t always depend on whether any members were moved in or out. There were some interesting anecdotes in the book of things that happened to the band members.

The Grasshoppers dissolved in 1965. Orr joined a band called The Proof Sets, playing for about 6 months before changing the name to The Mixed Emotions, playing extensively all over Ohio. Then that band ended in 1967. Then they were The Rush for a while. Then near the end of 1967 several of them got back together again and became the band Colours with Ben and Wayne Weston, John Matuska, and a new manager, a local promoter named Bob Bobchuck They stayed busy with gigs and even cut a single, “You Came into My Life.” Things were going well and they had some interest from Roulette Records in Florida. They were driving down to meet with them when they called home and got a message that Ben had to fly back immediately because he’d been drafted. Everything stopped right then. It took a year before he could get out on a hardship discharge, being the only son. By this time it was 1969 and he had mixed feelings about a music career, as he’d be starting all over basically.

I do however confess to being a great fan of The Cars back in the day, I just loved them and listened all the time. I was surprised to learn in the book that Ric Ocasek also modified his name. It was Richard Otcasek struggling as a draftsman for Ohio Bell, starting out. He also had a band called ID Nirvana he formed in 1967. He met Ben in 1968. They started playing together after Orr joined the band, and they began opening for shows for such Ohio notables as The Bob Seger System, Alice Cooper, The Lemon Pipers and The Strawberry Alarm Clock. To make ends meet, Ric also managed a clothing store called Family Britches, hiring Ben too. They would later become The Cars and famous, The rest is in the book and history. This would be a good read for fans of The Cars or Ben Orr. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Joe Milliken, and the publisher for my fair review.

Rowman & Littlefield 216
Pub: Nov 11th, 2018

RATED: 3.5/5 Stars

The AuthorJoe Milliken has been a music journalist, editor, and website publisher for 20 years. A life-long rock music fan with a degree in visual arts, Joe would turn to writing as his creative outlet, starting as a local reporter, then a Sports/Arts & Entertainment editor, while also freelancing for various national publications. In 2014, he launched Standing Room Only, a website dedicated to promoting music, the arts and specialty food on both a local (Boston, New England) and national level. Originally from Boston, he now resides in southern Vermont with his family. Let’s Go is his first book.