Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: “The Meaning of Contentment” by Mary McGuinness

The Meaning of Contentment by Mary McGuinnessSome of you may remember me NOT reviewing a book called Mary’s Prayer several years ago because of my rule not to review books of people I do PR work for. Well, The Meaning of Contentment by Mary McGuinness is the follow-up book that was just released this past December 2018…And since Mary has been doing such a swell job of promoting her own books, she hasn’t needed my help in any way…so here’s a review of her latest book.

For those that haven’t read Mary’s Prayer yet, Mary McGuinness wrote the book to tell the story about her struggles when she developed depression and panic attacks in her mid 30s while working as an accountant in Glasgow, Scotland. She talks of being forced to drop out of the workforce and her need to make peace with the fact that things will never be the same for her. Mary talked a lot about how music, especially that of the Beatles and John Lennon, really spoke to her during this difficult time and helped her to understand what she was going through.

Now, Mary McGuinness has continued her personal story in The Meaning of Contentment. In this 256 page memoir, McGuinness continues the story of how despite her best efforts to return to the workforce after getting an Honors Degree in Psychology, the universe led her in another direction. It was though helping her elderly uncle John with his daily needs that Mary learned that sometimes life isn’t about working 9 to 5 and bringing home a paycheck and that maybe her focus should be about helping others who also struggle with the hardships of life. She learns that contentment is found in some of the most unlikely places.

It takes a brave soul to be as open as Mary McGuinness is in this new book (and in Mary’s Prayer). Combined, the books cover 20 years of her personal battle with depression and panic attacks. She also continues to tell the story of her love of The Beatles and John Lennon and how her trips to Liverpool and The Peace Tower in Iceland brought so much joy back into her life. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Lennon vs. McCartney: The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics” by Adam Thomas

Lennon vs McCartney The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics Adam ThomasI guess I was browsing around Facebook (or maybe it was on Twitter) a couple weeks ago when I saw the author, Adam Thomas, of Lennon vs. McCartney: The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics post about his book being half price on the publishers website, so I thought I’d give it a go since it seemed like a topic that I hadn’t fully delved into where the Fab Four are concerned.

This book was self-published in November 2014 but is able to withstand the test of time since it starts back at the very beginning of the Beatles career and because there are now only two original Beatles who are still with us here on earth. Paul and Ringo still may write songs about their heydays as Beatles, but most of it is reflective and nostalgic with very little, if any, controversy.

This book is only about 200 pages, but does a great job of pointing out the songs that Lennon and McCartney wrote about each other (both good and bad), both during their time as a writing team and after the split up of the band. The one problem that I found with Adam Thomas’ presentation of this material was that he very rarely quoted the lyrics of the songs and instead would just give his interpretation of what was contained in it. I can only guess that he did to avoid dealing with any copyright issues, but unless you know the words to every Lennon and McCartney song ever written, it can be a little trying. Still, he does do a great job explaining the meaning behind the songs. And…not only does he analyze John and Paul’s hidden messages, he also takes on Ringo and George’s work as well.

The first hundred pages of this book are about the songs in question and the second half of this book is a charted “Relationship Timeline”. I’ll admit that I haven’t read through the time-line yet, but I’ll get to it in the very near future. After reading the first half, I think it’s obvious that Adam Thomas did his homework for this book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

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Book Review: “Burning Down The Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall” by Tim Mohr

burning down the haus punk rock revolution and the fall of the berlin wall tim mohr

Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr was released on September 11, 2018. I’m not into punk rock, but my friend Jim Breslin is and he had posted on Facebook that this was a good book, so I thought I’d take the plunge and bought a used copy on Amazon.com

From the Introduction:

“The craze surrounding the Beatles – as well as demonstrations and a near-riot by hundreds of kids in Leipzig in October 1965 after authorities there banned almost all the local Beat bands – elicited commentary directly from head of state Walter Ulbricht during a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party: 

‘I am of the opinion, comrades, that we should put an end to the monotony of the Yeah Yeah Yeah and whatever else it’s called. Must we really copy every piece of garbage that comes from the West?'”

And so it began, a crackdown on music in the Eastern Bloc. But that wouldn’t stop the kids in East Germany, where everything about their lives was controlled by the government, including their schooling, housing and professions. 

In 1977, Britta Bergmann saw a picture of the Sex Pistols from pictures in a magazine that had been given to her sister by someone who had visited West Germany. Immediately, she could relate to someone…anything! She began changing her look and attitude to punk. As time passed, she would find other punks (they stood out!) and they would form bands denouncing the government and their own personal lack of freedom.

This book is amazing. It tells the story of the creation of punk rockers in East Germany and their fight for freedom…freedom of speech and freedom to live their lives the way they wanted (it was against the law not to work in East German). It tells the story of the harassment and abuse by not only the Stasi, but by the ordinary people who would tell them Hitler should have killed them. And how Stasi snitches would infiltrate their illegal bands and organizations and report back (only government licensed bands could play in public). For over 12 years they fought with lyrics, with protests and their bodies when they would be arrested, interrogated, beaten and locked up. 

This is the book that they should have as required reading for high school students. If you want to know what was really going on before the fall of the Berlin Wall, this book will not only tell you through the eyes of the punk rock movement, but also through the environmental and peace movements that would eventually join them in fighting for change. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Thanks A Lot Mr Kibblewhite: My Story” by Roger Daltrey

thanks a lot mr kibblewhite my story roger daltreyI saw Thanks A Lot Mr Kibblewhite: My Story by Roger Daltrey listed on Amazon’s suggestion list for me last week and it was only $13.50 (compared to the $30 cover price). This book was just released 3 months ago on October 23, 2018, so it left me scratching my had as to…1) Why I hadn’t heard of it until now and 2) Why is it so cheap so soon? I’ve always loved The Who and Roger Daltrey, so I bought a copy to review for all of you.

First, let me explain my “Who” background. I first really developed a liking for The Who in 1980 while visiting a friend for two weeks who put a stack of albums on her stereo every night so she could go to sleep to music. One of those albums was “Who’s Next”. I also have a strange memory of seeing “The Kids Are Alright” with my brother and his friends at a midnight showing some time in 1981? (I don’t do drugs and it’s still a little fuzzy, but that seems about right). In 1989, while 8 months pregnant, my husband and I saw The Who on their first comeback tour after their first farewell tour.

In Daltrey’s brief autobiography (240 pages), Roger tells you all the details of his childhood that shaped him, literally, into the man he is today. Bullied, jaw broken, broken back, poor family, etc. It’s all in there. And so is his story of the ins, outs, ups and downs of the band we’ve all known and loved for five decades. I don’t recall all the  stories from the sixties and seventies of them busting up hotel rooms or the in-fighting amongst the members, so it was all new to me. At the same time, throughout the stories, he does say several times that his band-mate Pete Townsend remembers things differently. There’s a part of me that wishes he would have told Pete’s side of the story, but I guess this is just a great way to force us all to buy Pete’s autobiography (Who I Am: A Memoir by Pete Townsend at Amazon for $15.75!)

This book read like a combination of Phil Collin’s autobiography (my band is so great we’ll never break up!) and Rod Stewart’s autobiography (I spread my seed far and wide and now have 8 kids, half of which I barely know!). I was left feeling like there was so much more to tell. Sure, he tells the stories behind the unfortunate deaths of Keith Moon and John Entwistle, along with clearing up several stories that the press got wrong about the band throughout the years, but I think his fans deserve an apology, not only for never actually going on a farewell tour (despite all the times they called it quits), but also for the debacle of the movie Lisztomania…though, I must say, the story of what he did with the two giant penises after filming was done is a really funny story.

For the Beatles fans, the Beatles appear nine times in this book and then there is the story of how Ringo’s son Zak became their drummer after the death of Keith Moon (who happened to be Zak’s godfather).

I love Roger Daltrey, especially in a loincloth in Tommy or in a tub full of baked beans…but I digress. Read this book because it’s the story of one of the greatest rock singers of all time, but I know that I will definitely be ordering Pete’s book, which at 560 pages hopefully will fill in some details. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “The Beatles in India” by Paul Saltzman

Beatles in India Paul SaltzmanThe Beatles in India by Paul Saltzman is 104 pages of the author’s unplanned encounter with the Beatles, their wives, girlfriends, Donovan, and Mike Love at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India in 1968. This book was originally published as a limited edition in 2005, but was revised and rereleased on February 13, 2018. I picked this book up while I was at the Beatles’ White Album Symposium at Monmouth University in November. Paul Saltzman was also there and I must admit that I’m sorry I didn’t get him to sign this when I had the chance.

Though mostly a picture book, the first 16 pages of this book are a Foreword by Pattie Boyd (along with a couple of her photos from the same time at the ashram), an Preface by Tim B. Wride (a photography curator for a museum) and an introduction by the author who talks about how he ended up at the ashram with the Beatles. Mr. Saltzman’s story about how he ended up in India and at the ashram at the same time as the Fab Four is actually quite interesting. The author could have chosen to just put out a collection of photographs, but instead invited us into his life and also the life of the Beatles while they were trying to escape the press and pressures of fame. His casual conversations with John, Paul, George, Ringo and their significant others shows us another side of the people we think we know from the stories we’ve read before.

I’m sorry to say, I wasn’t as impressed with the photos as I thought I would be. Don’t get me wrong…they’re beautiful photos, but I’ve seen them before. Now they’re just larger and not on a computer screen. The author/photographer also seemed to spend a lot of time photographing John and Paul, but I guess we need to also cut him some slack because he wasn’t actually a photographer, just a guy who happened to be in the right place at the right time with a camera.

The book ends with the Afterword by Donovan Leitch and anyone who knows me or read my review of Donovan’s autobiography knows I’m not a fan of his and as I suspected he seemed to have a hard time not making the whole thing about himself…again! Paul Saltzman says he was a soft spoken guy, but if you ask Susan Shumsky, the author of Maharishi and Me, she’ll tell you a different story about meeting Donovan during her time at the ashram. But I digress…

All in all, this is a beautiful book with a great story of a heartbroken man with a camera stumbling upon the biggest celebrities in the world in 1968 and becoming their friends for a short time. If you’re a collector of Beatles books, you can buy the special limited edition for $325 on the authors website…or you can buy the super deluxe limited edition for $875. I think I’ll stick to my $35 copy. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Maharishi and Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru” by Susan Shumsky

On September 3rd, I received an email asking if I’d be interesting in being part of a Blog Tour for a new book. The subject line of the email was “NEW BOOK: The Beatles’ India – sex scandals & mental breakdowns (Inside Story)”. As a publicist who works with authors, a book that was released seven months earlier is not considered a new book…but what the hell. Also, I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Susan Shumsky, last week at the Beatles’ White Album Symposium at Monmouth University in New Jersey. I introduced myself and told her I would be reviewing her book. We had a brief conversation, I attended one of her talks and then said our goodbyes at the end of the seminar.

Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru by Susan Shumsky was released on February 13, 2018.  It’s a 300+ page book about the author’s experience with the same Maharishi that the Beatles spent time with in 1968. The book is very well written and an easy read. Of course, you may get tripped up on all the Hindu terminology, but not enough to distract too much from her personal story of following and living at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and practicing transcendental meditation for over 20 years.

Now for the more personal side of this review…and strictly my opinion: There are many times throughout Susan’s story that the word ‘cult’ would come to my mind. Even the author herself brings up the topic along the way, but easily finds ways of dismissing it at times. It can become almost disturbing to the reader and I still haven’t come to terms with her justification of some of the things that she brings to light about the Maharishi’s organization. Even after being kicked out of the TM organization, she still supports the Maharishi to the very end.

But was John Lennon correct when he called the Maharishi a fraud? Well, this is also left open to interpretation. Ms. Shumsky spends several chapters in the middle of her book discussing the Beatles involvement and visit to India to meet with Maharishi at his ashram. She draws the stories from other sources since she wasn’t there to obtain any first hand knowledge. She also draws upon stories from people she knows who were there. In a court of law, a lot of this would all be considered hearsay. My thought is to take what she says, along with any other sources you may have read and develop your own opinion. Or…maybe not, because in the end, does any of it really matter? I think it’s up to the reader to decide what’s right for them when it comes to their personal religious beliefs and not be influenced by celebrity endorsements…or condemnations. Even Susan says in her book that you have to find the right guru for you, so you’ll either find her story about TM impressive or disturbing.

Susan Shumsky does a great job of opening the readers eyes to the making (and life) of a guru by someone who was actually there to witness it. She tells both the good and bad. The stories of her experiences are heartwarming, funny, disturbing and told with a lot of strength. Yes, I would highly recommend that you read this book if you’re a true Beatles fans or just someone considering TM or just wants a first hand experience of what it’s like inside the ashram. It’s a book that can create a lot of discussions about gurus, religion and God. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

***For more information on Susan Shumsky, go to www.DivineRevelations.org

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Book Review: “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking” by Chris Anderson

TED Talks The official ted guide to public speaking Chris AndersonSo, your first question is: Why isn’t this listed as a “Bonus Book Review”? Obviously, it has nothing to do with the Beatles! True, but TEDTalks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking does mention Pete Best and the Beatles, and if you hang with me through this review, you’ll understand how I’ll tie this book into something very Beatle-y!

A couple months ago, I noticed that there will be a TEDx event in Delaware. TEDx events (with the x at the end), are off-shoots of the original TEDTalks. I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring and try for a spot to speak at this event in November. I submitted my speech proposal and 1 minute video…and got the rejection email like thousands of others. But one of the things they suggested, should we wish to try again, was to read their book on how to give an official 15-18 minute TED talk.

TED was founded in 1984 by Harry Marks and Richard Sullivan and is an annual conference that is held as a way to spread ideas about Technology, Entertainment and Design. The founders believed that these three fields are actually all intertwined and they wanted a new way for people to help spread the innovative and ground breaking work they were doing. It costs $10,000 a ticket to attend a conference, but you will get to see notable speakers like Bono, Bill Clinton, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, etc. (It was never my intention to speak at the main conference, but a satellite TEDx would be cool.) There is so much to these events that it would take up too much room here, so if you want to know more about TED, click here.

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking was published in 2016 by Chris Anderson, the new owner of TED. The book is only about 252 pages and a quick read. But it’s filled with a lot of powerful information for anyone that needs or wants to speak in public. It covers just about any topic you can think of, right down to what to wear. Should you stand or sit? Should you use a slide presentation, props or just speak? Rehearse the speech ahead of time or read from a script? Podium or walk the stage? How to fend off stage fright?

Even though I’ve given speeches and lectures before (nothing major or mind-blowing), there was still a lot for me to learn from this book. It really is a must read for anyone who needs to get up in front of a crowd and talk, whether solo or on a panel. Anyone…no matter how confident you are, could learn something new. In fact, I would say that anyone speaking at a Beatles festival, conference or symposium, could enhance their stage presence really quickly. Which brings me to the next reason I read this book…

On Sunday, November 11th, I will be speaking at The Beatles’ White Album Symposium at Monmouth University in Long Branch, NJ. It’s a three day event (four days if you could the concert the night before) and some of the great keynote speakers include: Mark Lewisohn, Ken Mansfield, Mark Lapidos, Scott Frieman, Robert Rodriguez and Bruce Spizer. There are really too many to list, so just go to the website to check it out! It’s hosted by Kenneth Womack, author of the two book series on George Martin. Tickets for the general public cost $75 for each day and includes keynotes, films and meals.

And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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