Review of Shut Up and Give Me the Mic by Dee Snider

I got Shut Up and Give Me the Mic because I like a few Twisted Sister songs and I like Dee Snider’s movie Strangeland. The fact that I found it at the Dollar Tree didn’t hurt. I wanted to learn more about how Twisted Sister got their start, which I did, but parts of the book were really boring. I had to make myself keep reading at some points. It’s refreshing to read about a rocker who didn’t do crack, didn’t drink a bottle of gin every night or sleep with every groupie available. That part was cool, but he had/has a huge ego (which he’ll mention repeatedly). It also ends sort of abruptly.

The book covers Dee’s career with local New York bands until he eventually ends up in Twisted Sister and everything took off from there. He met his wife, TS got a following and they got a record deal. Dee explains how things like royalties, making/promoting albums and tours really work and how much money the band actually gets, which is good information for anyone in a band. He also mentions all of the milestones he missed with his first son: most of his wife’s pregnancy, his son’s first steps, his first words, etc, because he was out on the road. You can tell how much he really loves his family and I liked that part.

After living the high life for so many years and then having the last Twisted Sister album and tour fail miserably and making some less than wise business decisions, Dee had to file for bankruptcy two different times. He lost just about everything except for his family and his wife’s hot pink jeep. Trying to pull himself back out of the hole was a humbling experience and it seemed to really open his eyes.  Then the book just ended! He mentions that to learn about what it was like for him to make Strangeland you’ll have to read his next book, but I don’t want to!

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Review of Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent by Anthony Rapp

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Without You is a very emotional book. It covers some of the happiest times in Anthony Rapp’s life (being in the musical Rent) and the saddest moments (watching his mother fight cancer). I felt bad for him because I can’t imagine how hard it is to watch anyone, let alone your mother, waste away.

I liked learning more about Anthony’s start in show business and I loved the parts about Rent. It’s one of my favorite musicals. You can tell how much he loves singing and performing. His joy radiates off the pages. It was great to learn more about the other people in the cast and the director too.

The parts about his mother and what it was like seeing her so sick were really sad. There are also some unresolved issues between them. He’s really hard on himself for expressing any kind of emotion and that often leads him to fits of rage or to snap at people. I’m happy that he found someone to talk to about that. It’s just not healthy for anyone.

Ultimately, the book is a celebration of his time in the play and of his Mom’s life. I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Anthony Rapp, Rent or biographies.

Go Big or Go Home: The Journey Toward the Dream by Scotty McCreery w/ Travis Thrasher

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According to Scotty McCreery, “Go Big or Go Home” is a travelogue, not an autobiography. He covers his life from childhood until now though.

He starts off talking about his childhood love for Elvis and how that influenced his music. He also talks about how the American Idol audition process really works. I thought they just sang in front of the judges, but apparently there are a few more steps that they don’t show on TV. It shows how determined he was. I liked learning how and why he chose the songs that he sang on the show.

Scotty comes across as a humble and down to Earth guy, despite the fact that he’s rich and famous now. He talks about his love of his home town of Garner, NC, sports (especially baseball) and music. It’s cool that he’s still such a fan of music even though he’s part of the industry now. You can tell he really appreciates all of the opportunities that he’s had. Another thing that I like is that he talks about the charity work that he does. He doesn’t brag about it, but he does promote some causes that are important to him. Maybe it’ll help them get some more donations.

Mixed in with the chapters are little blurbs from his fans, called “McCreerians,” from around the world. He has fans ranging from kids to grandmothers. My own Gramma was a fan of him, though she couldn’t remember his name and referred to him as the “cowboy kid” when we watched that season. While most of the book is positive, he talks about the time him and his buddies were robbed at gun point. He doesn’t really dwell on it, but he mentions how scared he was and how much more he appreciated life afterwards.

My favorite quote in the book is “We can’t ever get five minutes of our life back. We can remember them in the music, however. We can replay them and allow them to transport us in sound and lyrics. We can find comfort and joy in the melodies.” It perfectly sums up music’s ability to remind us of a time, place, moment or person.

I’d recommend this to anyone that’s a fan of Scotty. I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My review of Yes! My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania by Daniel Bryan with Craig Tello

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I really enjoyed this book. I liked getting to learn more about Bryan. He talks about his life before wrestling, his time on the independents, his relationship with Brie Bella and what it was like for him to get to WWE. The book was written before he was forced to retire due to his injuries.

Yes! is really an expanded version of the WWE 24/7 article chronicling what his life was like in the week leading up to his match against Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30 in 2014. Each chapter starts with a black and white photo, a date and time, and a description by Craig Tello from WWE.com. After that, Bryan starts his story. I liked the format, but there is a lot of text per page. Craig’s parts are kind of cheesy since he tried to fit as many of Bryan’s nicknames in there as possible(Yes Man, Bearded Superstar, The Beard, etc). There’s also a photo of Bryan on the bottom of the pages that does the Yes! chant when you flip them. I thought that was really neat.

Bryan comes across as being a very humble guy from modest beginnings who just really loves wrestling. You can feel how passionate he is about it and how much he loves going out there and having a great match, no matter how many people are in the audience.  The way he talks about his wife, Brie, is very sweet. I learned more about her through this book too.

There are some funny stories mixed in to break up the seriousness. The ones about traveling with Sheamus and Ted DiBiase are great. I laughed out loud while reading it on the bus.

I loved getting more insight into moments that I saw on TV, like his time in NXT and the Nexus invasion. I remember how excited I was when they asked him what he was going to do since he lost the NXT show and he said “Daniel Bryan might be done, but Bryan Danielson–God knows what’s going to happen to him.” I’ve been a fan of his since 2003 when I saw him in Ring of Honor, so it was very cool to me that he used his real name. That’s not something that wrestlers using a stage name really do. I figured he’d go back to ROH, but instead he ended up being part of the Nexus storyline on Raw. There were a few hiccup in his career after that, including being fired from WWE for  few months, but he gained a loyal fan base. When he started using the Yes! chant, it blew up and became a huge thing. Fans of other sports started doing it at basketball games and fans still do it today when they like something that they see in the ring.

Going into the WrestleMania match, you can really feel how happy he was. He was about to win the top prize in WWE and he was getting married. Unfortunately, his happiness was short lived. His father passed away and then he had a series of concussions that would lead to his retirement. The last chapter of this book was so sad that I almost cried.

I rated this 4 out of 5 stars. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars was Craig’s use of the same phrases and nicknames over and over. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson, professional wrestling, biographies and feel good stories.

Review of Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

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I really enjoyed this book. I love the choose your own adventure style that it’s written in. I could read this book over and over and get new results each time. Awesome!

I learned a lot more about Neil Patrick Harris and the way he writes is very entertaining. It has a fun, humorous tone to it. His photo captions were also entertaining. It’s great that he is still very humble even though he’s very successful. He seems like a very down to earth person with a great family.

I liked reading about how he got started in the business and what it was like filming Doogie Howser MD. My favorite part of the book was about him meeting David and their decision to have children. You can tell how much he loves David, the twins and being a father. It was very sweet.

I would recommend this to fans of Neil Patrick Harris, people who like being entertained and fans of the choose your own adventure books.

I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I like all of Anthony Bourdain’s TV shows and, since I had a free trial to Kindle Unlimited, I decided to read one of his books. He’s lead a pretty interesting life.

I liked reading about his life and how he got started in the business. He talked about working in some crazy places with some crazy people. It was great reading his stories abut how he was humbled in the kitchen and how he worked his way up to where he is now. He is also very honest about his past and his drug addictions. I’m happy that he’s clean now.

During some parts, such as what ingredients were in things, I got a little bored. Maybe it’s because I don’t cook much, but it just was not interesting to me at all. That’s what made the book just ok for me. For people who like to cook and/or are interested in all of the ingredients, it won’t be a problem.

Anthony gives some good advice to aspiring professional chefs and home cooks. He explains that you don’t need a ton of pans and fancy knives to make good tasting food.

If you’re a fan of Anthony Bourdain, his many shows or food you will probably like this book.

Review of De Niro: A Life by Shawn Levy

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I received this book from the Blogging For Books program in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

It took me months to get through this book because I couldn’t get into it. There was just too much information and it honestly bored me.

I liked learning more about Robert De Niro and the book shows how dedicated he is to acting and how he really immerses himself in his roles, no matter how small the part is. It was neat to learn about some of his earlier roles and I plan to watch a few of the movies.

I didn’t like how much info the author gives about various other people such as his acting teacher and Martin Scorsese. I really have no interest in who the acting teacher learned from or why she decided she wanted to act and if I wanted Scorsese’s life story, I would find a book about him. If you don’t mind that type of thing, then this book will be ok for you.