#BookReview: Trejo by Danny Trejo

A Hell Of A Life. Danny Trejo didn’t start acting – professionally – until he was almost 40 years old. Mostly because a large part of the rest of that time, he was high and/ or in prison, including some of California’s most notorious. Today, Trejo is known as one of the more prolific and high profile actors out there, with over 400 acting credits to his name + his line of Trejo’s Tacos restaurants.

Here, we see at least pieces of pretty much all of his 70+ years, from his early childhood as the only male in a house full of women and girls to his first time using various substances to his first robbery and the time he was worried he was about to face capital charges after a prison riot. Much of the front half of the story in particular focuses on his times in and around prisons during the first 2-3 decades of his life, and we see how he gained his “tough guy” persona. He lived it. It was either be tough or be dead.

Which actually makes the discussions of his confrontations with none other than (then *recent*) Oscar nominee Edward James Olmos over the movie American Me even more epic.

And yes, the back quarter ish is primarily about Trejo’s life in Hollywood and how that impacted him and his family. It is here that we see some of the things that will cause many of us to go “I remember that movie!” and “Oh Trejo was [insert opinion here] in that one!”.

In between, we get to see what Trejo was doing in between – which aside from a lot of personal mistakes, was saving a lot of lives and helping a lot of people recover from drug addiction – a passion he pursues to this day.

Serious yet hilarious throughout, this book doesn’t pull any punches. Trejo, an ex-con, openly admits to many things in this book that many would probably try to hide, including things that weren’t known world wide before now (at least to casual observers). And yet we also get to see behind the scenes of just how much good Trejo has been able to accomplish throughout his life.

Truly a remarkable man, and a memoir well written and told. Very much recommended.

This review of Trejo by Danny Trejo was originally written on June 30, 2021.

PS: Special thank you to the publicist at Simon & Schuster – they know who they are – who sent me the *hardback* version of this book! First one of those I’ve read in at *least* 2-3 years!

#BookReview: Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond

Read The DTE (Dead Tree Edition). This was an interesting one, in more ways than one. I had seen it on NetGalley and forgot to request it there… and then the publisher out of the blue sends me the paperback (DTE) version thinking I might like it. And y’all, the book itself really is excellent. More detailed in the childhood/ teen years than the more adult period, which is perhaps more understandable as someone trying to maintain *some* sense of privacy over newer relationships.

But this book is also very disturbed. The is one truly dysfunctional family whose particular dysfunctions actually led to quite a few rare experiences that combine to make a truly unique life. For example, Diamond and her family were at the 15th Maccabiah Games in 1997 when the bridge collapsed – the very bridge her brother Frank was supposed to be marching across. But the reasons they were there, and the events in later years… they’re so sensational the reader almost can’t accept them as nonfiction!

And then there is the reason you need to read the DTE. If you look at the DTE side-on, you will notice that the front third (ish) of the pages are pure white while the back two thirds (ish) of the pages are more of a cream color. I noticed this about halfway into the book, and when I went back to look… yep. The colors change exactly at the point of a particularly devastating event – and any description would be a spoiler, so I’m only noting the overall position. This is just one of those minor print details that actually makes a *genuine* case to read the DTE over my (far preferred) eReader edition, as on the eReader edition this detail couldn’t happen. 🙂

Overall an interesting and compelling story, if truly disturbed. Very much recommended.

This review of Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond was originally written on June 27, 2021.

#BookReview: Running From COVID In Our RV Cocoon by Gerri Almand

Real Life Disaster Movie Memoir. This is one of those memoirs from someone who was “on the ground” at an event that so very many of us have lived through and with, and thus someone whose experiences are at least worth exploring. That noted, Almand and her husband are both 70 ish yr old seniors with comorbidities (including Type 1 Diabetes in her husband) that make them more susceptible to COVID-19, and this does in fact inform much of her own thoughts on the issue. Still, as a memoir of a sort of Gilligan’s Island – where they went out expecting one thing and got something dramatically different that cast them into a survival situation – this is quite remarkable. From being at Mardi Gras 2020 to being at some of the last NBA games to be played outside the “bubbles” to piecing together where to go in light of confusing, conflicting, and scant data to the various experiences of coming to terms with the new life and reality, this is truly an interesting memoir. Recommended.

This review of Running From COVID In Our RV Cocoon by Gerri Almand was originally written on May 20, 2021.

#BookReview: Eloquence Of The Sardine by Bill Francois

Poetic Narrative More Memoir Than Hard Science. This is a memoir of a man who was afraid of the sea as a small child and who had one chance encounter that turned his life around… and inspired his life long study of the sea. This book really is as much about the author’s own experiences and thoughts as it is the actual scientific facts he states throughout, which is seen perhaps most glaringly in the extremely short bibliography (at least on this advance copy I read). But truly poetic and beautiful regardless, one is almost inspired to pursue a career (or perhaps second career) in something that gets one out in, on, or under the water just from the sheer awe Francois shows here. All of this noted, I do have a bit of a bone to pick with the actual title: “eloquence” is “a discourse marked by force and persuasiveness”, according to Webster. And while I found quite a bit of beauty, wonder, and awe within this narrative, I found little truly forceful or persuasive. Francois doesn’t seem to be making any major point or trying to persuade anyone to any particular position other than the sheer wonder of all that exists under the seas. Truly an excellent work, even with the quibble over a part of the title. Very much recommended.

This review of Eloquence Of The Sardine by Bill Francois was originally written on April 11, 2021.

#BookReview: An Anatomy of Pain by Abdul-Ghaaliq Lalkhen

More Memoir Than Hard Science. This was a memoir-based look at the field a man has made his career in, what the science he uses is, his thoughts on his field and his practice, and ultimately a bit of a guide on the general issues of the topic at hand. For what it is, it is very well written and easily readable. But those looking for a more “hard science”, heavily referenced examination of the topic… won’t find that here. But from a perspective of “I’ve been in this field for decades, and here is what the field is, what I’ve done in it, and where I think it should go”… yep, this book is exactly that, and a very good general overview of the field from that perspective. Very much recommended.

This review of An Anatomy of Pain by Abdul-Ghaaliq Lalkhen was originally written on October 15, 2020.

#BookReview: Full Circle by Andrea Barber

Amazing Story. Barber is obviously known to millions as Kimmie Gibbler, but here for the first time those same millions meet Andrea. And Andrea is full of the dichotomies that plague many of us. An introvert who happens to be a “celebrity”. Someone plagued with anxiety who is known for portraying the zany neighbor that always has a plan. The mother that slipped so far into anxiety and depression that she couldn’t take care of herself and nearly lost everything. Barber does an excellent job of easing the reader into the darkest moments of her life and explaining how she was able to come out of them and come… Full Circle. Very much recomended.

This review of Full Circle by Andrea Barber was originally written on November 15, 2019.

#BookReview: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Greatest? Maybe. Most Hilarious? Quite Possibly. What happens when you get two very busy comics who each have one breakout role on television and who happen to be married to each other get together to discuss their nearly two decade long relationship? Hilariousness ensues, that’s what. They get into controversial topics from time to time, and this is definetly not a book you want to listen to with kids around (and you need to actually listen to this one, rather than read it, even if you know their voices precisely… which would be kind of creepy anyway… moving on…), as there is a fair amount of… colorful… language used (though nothing XXX rated, just to be clear). Overall, a truly hilarious tale about their lives together and their thoughts on relationships, fashion, celebrity, and all kinds of other things. I actually got my Closer badge on Audible with this book, thanks to a 6 hr drive – and it is absolutely worth reading in one sitting. 🙂

This review of The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman was originally published on October 21, 2018.

#BookReview: Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew

Interesting, But Flaky. In this memoir, Kate Mulgrew – known best, depending on age and interest, for 70s era show Ryan’s Hope, 90s era show Star Trek: Voyager, or 2010s era show Orange Is The New Black – describes her life from being literally born with teeth up until around the turn of the Millenium, when she was still filming Voyager.

And she does a remarkable job of keeping the reader interested in what happens next. Her prose has the qualities of the poet she once wanted to be.

But she plays with the timeline too much, often skipping around or losing threads entirely, only to pick them up later with no explanation. And what she makes seem in the book as merely days in some cases appears to have actually been years.

But the biggest sin, and the reason this 2015 memoir feels incomplete, is the abrupt ending. Wherein she sets up a particular meeting that had been years in the making… and then ends with a literal closed door, never revealing anything beyond the moment she stepped into that particular room.

This review of Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew was originally published on October 20, 2018.

#BookReview: Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

Fast and Funny. In this memoir, Graham talks about her life in general and some of her more famous/ long-lasting projects: Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. And she does it in what seems to be her style on the shows – fast and hilarious. The chapters are short, and the book overall is a very quick read. If you’ve ever seen any of her projects at all, this is a very worthy read. And if you haven’t, you’re probably not interested in this book anyway – but if you haven’t seen any of her work and *are* interested, go ahead and pick this up. If nothing else, you will be entertained.

This review of Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham was originally published on October 9, 2018.

#BookReview: Facing the Music by Jennifer Knapp

Unapologetic – In all the best ways. In Facing the Music, former contemporary christian music star Jennifer Knapp tells her story, from her earliest memories growing up as a twin in rural Kansas through college into her public years as a turn-of-the-Millenium CCM star to her retreat from that life and its special hell of a rat race and ending with her triumphant yet messy return. And through it all, she maintains her honesty and integrity. Utterly captivating and soulful, just like her music. And in the end in particular, resonating very much with where this reviewer is himself right now. If you like memoirs generally, musician memoirs a bit more specifically, or were around the CCM scene at the turn of the Millenium in any capacity – or even just a generic Christian now- you’ll want to read this book. Knapp has a very powerful message that we all need to hear.

This review of Facing the Music by Jennifer Knapp was originally published on September 30, 2018.