Category Archives: Off Topic

OT Book Review: “Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted” by Sulieka Jaouad

Between Two Kingdoms Sulieka JaouadI made a trip to Target for a couple things and as I perused the book section, I came across Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Sulieka Jaouad. It’s far, far away from being anything music related, let alone Beatles related. Though, she does mention dancing with her circle of follow cancer patient friends to Beatles music at one point. It brought me a warm feeling to know that the Beatles could bring a bright moment into the lives of several people dealing with cancer, chemo and radiation.

Imagine being 22 years old, out of college with a new boyfriend and having just moved to Paris with your whole life ahead of you…when you’re diagnosed with leukemia. Suddenly, all those dreams, plans and the freedom you thought you had are taken away in a flash.

I could feel her pain, and I could feel the pain of her caregivers throughout this book. There were moments when I got angry with her and her selfish attitude towards those who were caring for her as she demanded their time and attention or didn’t stop to realize what they were giving up in their own lives to take care of her. I was the caregiver to both my parents during their cancer battles (which happened simultaneously) and it cost me. I developed panic attacks that would plague me for the rest of my life.

Then there were the moments while reading this book when I wanted to say out loud, “I get ya…I completely understand.” Those moments when you go through the ‘why me’ and ‘where do I go from here’…just like when I (yes ME!) was diagnosed with smoldering multiple myeloma. I will never go through what Suleika has gone through, but I could relate to lying on a table while having the bone marrow biopsy, the bloodwork that reminds you constantly that there is something inside of you that’s not right, and that feeling you get when you go to get a tattoo because it feels like you get to reclaim your body from the parasite within you. And that feeling of living between two kingdoms…the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick.

After her long battle with not only cancer, but a failed love relationship, Suleika sets out on a 15K mile road trip to visit some of the people who wrote to her during treatment…cancer patients, caregivers and even a man on death row in a Texas prison, journaling her trip along the way to create Part II of this book. But after publication of her story, Suleika Jaouad’s leukemia returned and she’s currently back in the hospital going through treatment again while watching her boyfriend Jon Batiste take home four Grammys in Las Vegas.

I wish her well…and I hope she writes a new book on this new chapter and what’s she’s learned about life so far. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!






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OT Book Review: “DeadStar: Who the Hell was Garth Tyson?” by Nick Griffiths

Deadstar Who the hell was Garth Tyson Nick GriffithsA couple times a year, I get emails from authors asking me to review their book. Most of the time the book has nothing to do with music, let alone the Beatles and I graciously decline for those reasons. As a part-time publicist, I understand how hard it is to get someone to notice your book, especially if it’s self-published. So when the request came to read DeadStar: Who the Hell was Garth Tyson? by Nick Griffiths, I accepted the opportunity. And hell, the author was very charming…even via email!

This book is due to be released on January 25, 2022 and I really hope it becomes a hit. It’s the oral history of a fictional defunct Punk/New Wave band who’s lead singer/songwriter, Garth Tyson, disappeared decades ago after walking off the stage at the Glastonbury Festival in the mid 1980s. (And just a heads-up: the Beatles are mentioned several times throughout and Garth shares his birthday with George Harrison.) The characters are quite amusing and you can’t help but see a resemblance between some of them to the members of Spinal Tap (Yeah, it’s that funny) as they tell a reporter the band’s history up until Garth’s disappearance.

It took me several pages to get the gist of the way this book is constructed into its conversational format…sometimes getting confused between the reporter’s inner dialog, thoughts, and the conversation with those he’s interviewing. But once you get used to it along with the various British accents and idioms, the story will flow and you’ll have a hard time putting it down until you find out…What happened to Garth Tyson?! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!





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OT Book Review: “Brat: An ’80s Story” by Andrew McCarthy

Brat an 80s story Andrew McCarthyAgain, while on Amazon, I was taken in by another of their suggestions. I was just a couple years younger than Andrew McCarthy and the rest of the Brat Pack in their heyday! So of course I had to buy a (used) copy of Brat: An ’80s Story by Andrew McCarthy and I also sent a new copy to by my bestie Lisa (we’ve been friends since 8th grade math class!). Who among my generation of young women of the ’80s didn’t have a crush on Andrew?!

This 215 page memoir was released May 2021. It’s takes a bit to get going and I had my doubts about it for the first 40 or so pages. For some people Andrew’s growing up in the burbs of New Jersey may be interesting, but as a former Jersey girl it was a bit of a yawn for me. Dysfunctional family? 🗹 Bad grades? 🗹 Pain in ass the brothers? 🗹 Middle child? 🗹

But Andrew did something I didn’t do…left home for college. Despite his father’s objections, he set out to become an actor…and well, we all know how that turned out. I wouldn’t call his life story dramatic or different in anyway for other famous people. He did the drugs and drinking like many youngsters of the ’80s when everything was BIG and done to excess (I mean seriously, I tell every young person, “It was the best decade. So. Much. Fun!”), but Andrew did it with an aloofness, loneliness and no real desire to ‘fit in’ despite being labelled as one of the Brat Pack. He preferred New York City to Hollywood, but is still able to tell some really amazing insider stories during his time in Tinsel Town and behind the scene info on Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, Less Than Zero and Weekend at Bernie’s. And…of course, as is required of all books by the rich and famous, we get to hear how he lost his virginity! (Has anyone written a book yet with all the lost virginity stories of the rich and famous?)

I swoon every time he appears on screen…and making me kinda sorry I didn’t get a signed copy of this book at Premier Collectibles, but I think my children would have a “Who the hell is Andrew McCarthy?” moment after I pass I away! He belongs to my generation…it was the ’80s…we were all BRATS!

andrew mccarthy and James Spader pretty in pink | Andrew mccarthy, James spader movies, James spaderMcCarthy has moved on to TV directing in shows such as Orange is the New Black and Blacklist. (The Blacklist connection with his old pal James Spader from Pretty in Pink is interesting because unlike McCarthy, Spader will not talk about that film!) If you’re interested (maybe not?), Andrew McCarthy has actually written two other books (one on travel and one a young adult novel) that were New York Times bestsellers (who knew?!). You can find them on Amazon.

Ya know…who cares about the book…

I rate Andrew McCarthy, 4 Beetles + the Golden Beetle!






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OT Book Review: “A Quiet Madness: A Biographical Novel of Edgar Allan Poe” by John Isaac Jones

A Quiet Madness: A Biographical Novel of Edgar Allan Poe" by John Isaac Jones

It’s been a while since I did a Beatles related review, but I just couldn’t resist buying and reading A Quiet Madness: A Biographical Novel of Edgar Allan Poe by John Isaac Jones when I heard about it! I had to put down my Beatles book and dive into this.

If I haven’t said it before (and I’m sure I have), I have a strange addiction to biographical fiction written about Edgar Allan Poe. At the end of this review, I’ll list the books I’ve read in case any of you are interested. And if any of you know of any good ones, I’d love to hear about them.

Unlike a lot of the novels about Poe, this one is more focused on Poe himself. The others have mostly been stories that fit his life into their fictitious story. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. While keeping 99% of the dates correct for major occurrences, it leaves the reader to guess what’s fact and what’s fiction. Obviously, the conversations are conjecture, but how about the characters?

Author John Isaac Jones portrays Virginia Poe as a healthy and happy girl while others have said she was a gangly, sickly girl. He kills off Edgar’s friend/colleague Rufus Griswold before Poe dies, even though history tells us that Rufus wrote a scathing obituary of after Edgar’s death. When you change history, misinformation and rumors are spread.

Note: this book is also self-published and could have used a really good editor to fix the typos!

Even though I couldn’t put this book down because I’m such a Poe addict, it did leave me scratching my head a bit. I’m all for historical fiction, until you change history. Then it becomes fan fiction…of which I’m no fan! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!




Edgar Allan Poe historical fiction books that I would recommend:

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

For Edgar by Sheldon Rusch

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OT Book Review: “These Five Words Are Mine” by Jennifer Lynne Croneberger

These five words are mine jennifer cronebergerA little over a month ago, I attended a local women’s event called Lifting Your V.O.I.C.E. (don’t ask me what the acronym stands for…I don’t know). I had heard about this event for a couple of years and in fact, I worked through a temp agency as a server at the country club where the event was held in previous years. I had hoped that I would be called up to work the event, but that never happened, so this year, I decided to cough up the money and go it alone. The event is hosted by local news anchor Tracy Davidson and motivational speaker Jennifer Croneberger. I decided to get a copy of Jenn’s book –  These Five Words Are Mine: Conversations With Life. My Journey to Awareness . . . Five Words at a Time after spending the morning listening to her speak.

It’s taken me a couple days of thought to figure out how I want to approach reviewing this book. That’s not a bad thing…and it’s not necessarily a good thing. I can’t even think of what category to put this book in…autobiography? self-help? enlightenment? Let’s just go with ‘all of the above.’

Jen Croneberger knew from a very young age that she wanted to write and publish a book and finally in her 30s she got around to achieving that goal. The book is a collection of 60 posts from her personal blog where she explores and examines her life experiences from the past and present.

Is this a feel good book? Yes, but it also made me angry at times. I’d put it down for days and eventually pick it back up again and only to find another beautiful story from her life’s journey.  The book will make you reflect on your own life choices and how you approach various situations in your own life.

Confused? I can’t find the right words to tell you about Jen and what she stands for, so here is a video of her giving one of her TEDx talks:

These Five Words Are Mine is a book you will read and then want your friends to read and probably like me, you won’t know why…but you’ll just know that more people need to connect with Jennifer Croneberger and her work. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!






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Off-topic Reviews: Hemingway & more Hemingway

This review is written by Jenn Vanderslice…

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway 5Well, as you may have discovered by now, I can’t get enough of reading about Ernest Hemingway and so it should be no surprise that I’m going to review The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 5 (1932-1934). This series of books is published by the Cambridge University Press with authorization from The Hemingway Society. I was just reading on their website that this series of books is going to be a seventeen volume set of over 6000 letters written by Ernest Hemingway. I guess Ernest wasn’t much for making phone calls, huh?

Hemingway never bores me. His letters are truly fascinating, though at times he can talk a little too much about the details of hunting or trying to catch a marlin off the coast of Cuba. But the letters make it incredibly obvious where he got the details to write his Nobel Prize winning – The Old Man and the Sea, which wasn’t published until 1951. He continually says, “Write what you know” and he does just that as he details his life in letters to everyone from his family to F. Scott Fitzgerald to his editor.

While reading this series of letters, you’re introduce to each of Hemingway’s short stories, articles and novels as they are developed, rewritten, edited and published. This led me to my next book…

the complete short stories of ernest hemingway the finca vigia edition The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition. (Finca Vigia was the name of Hemingway’s hacienda in Cuba). I love that the intro to this book was written by Ernest Hemingway’s three sons (by two different wives). I read this book to familiarize myself with the short stories that I was reading about in his letters. The bonus is that there are a couple unpublished stories and a few unfinished stories that he had written before committing suicide in 1961. As was said early, Hemingway only wrote about what he knew, so a lot of the stories are based on his real life experiences and people he knew. Anyone that got on his bad side (which apparently wasn’t that hard to do), could possibly find some of their most embarrassing personal experiences written in a short story. This is proven in the letters that he exchanges with his editor when they discuss changing names in the stories and the disclaimer in most of his books that all the names and people are fictitious and any resemblance to living people is just a coincidence!

Earlier this year,  I was glued to my TV set when PBS aired the three part series – Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. It was an incredibly informative 6 hour program, but at the same time, it seemed to project a different Hemingway than his letters would make him out to be. I have no doubt that Ken Burns thoroughly and tirelessly researches every topic he makes a film about, but I had to ask myself, “I wonder if he’s read the letters?”

But then again…I don’t know if anyone knew the real Ernest Hemingway…even himself!

Still…I’d rate all three of these, 4 out of 4 Beetles!






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