RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksDe Visé ably chronicles how, in the mid-1960s, when the blues had fallen out of favor with Black audiences, the British blues revival—led by Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Peter Green—brought King’s music to white listeners ... Daniel de Visé has produced here a biography befitting B.B. King’s status as the premier blues guitarist of all time. He tells the story in straightforward prose, is sympathetic but not uncritical of his subject, and focuses on what is important: the music. You could search fruitlessly to find a better way to while away a few hours than to read King of the Blues while listening to some B.B. King.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksTaylor has crafted a heartwarming portrayal of his friendship with Roth that is clear-eyed and largely unsentimental. He writes that Roth often used to say, \'Two things await me, death and my biographer. I don’t know which is to be more feared.\' Taylor’s memoir provides little Roth need have feared.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... a psychologically intricate and suspenseful book that should appeal to readers (regardless of gender) who love a well-written tale involving complex characters and engaging plotlines ... readers must stay on their toes to keep the plot and timeline straight ... Adding to the disorientation are the shifting tenses and points of view: Charlotte’s and Rocco’s stories are told in the third-person present, while Ruth’s is told in the first-person present. This takes some getting used to but is eventually overcome by the engine of the story ... All of these characters have secrets that could be life-shattering or life-ending. But in the end, there is a startling moment of compassion that feels wholly satisfying.
PanThe Washington Independent Review of Books... a literary thriller, an oxymoronic hybrid that wouldn’t seem to satisfy readers of either parent genre ... proves that the two forms shouldn’t interbreed. The central plot element is a serviceable foundation for a thriller. But the story unfolds at such a slow place, with so little excitement and a protagonist so unengaging, that the reader may well lose interest by page 100 ... Bohjalian’s literary touches include 10 pages of backstory on Alexis and her mother. Two paragraphs of each would have sufficed. Austin’s parents and Alexis’ horribly awkward interactions with them get far too much attention without moving the plot along ... If the reader sticks with the book until the end, there is a satisfying resolution, but then the author tacks on an epilogue that completely ruins any goodwill he may have generated with the preceding story. His editor should have applied the same principle to this epilogue that the great Elmore Leonard applied to prologues: Don’t write them.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksKushins ... has written a sympathetic but unflinching portrait of Zevon. His musical background enables him to write about Zevon’s art with authority and insight. But he does not spare the reader from the unpleasant aspects of Zevon’s alcohol- and drug-fueled behavior that placed tremendous strains on his relationships, many of which did not survive the assault ... Kushins is unsparing in his detailing of the many instances of Zevon’s excesses.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksToo often, reading about people performing music is as unrewarding as reading about people performing sex. Readers generally would prefer to be engaging in the act themselves. Most authors simply cannot capture and convey the passion that makes such acts so vital. David Rowell’s Wherever the Sound Takes You is a happy exception ... somewhat oddly, considering his primary focus on unknowns, Rowell includes two acts — Peter Frampton and Yes — that were tremendously popular in their day but who have since fallen out of the pop conscience, yet continue to record and tour. I suspect they’re here because they are among his personal favorites ... One can imagine our ancient ancestors picking up two pieces of stone and smacking them together to obtain a fine cutting edge, only to realize that the rhythm they produced was pleasing to the ear and the soul ... David Rowell does a superb job of reminding us of this universal and basic truth.
RaveWashington Independent Review of Books\"The climatic battle once again demonstrates Cornwell’s unparalleled skills at writing such scenes, and readers are assured a pulse-pounding and thrilling experience. Cornwell excels at conveying the brutality, ferocity, and sheer terror of warfare in the early Middle Ages, when warriors stood face-to-face in shield walls armed with swords, spears, and axes ... Among longtime Cornwell readers, Uhtred has attained the same level of affection as his other renowned warrior, Richard Sharpe, of Wellington’s army. The author follows in the tradition of a long line of British adventure writers that stretches back to Scott and his Waverly tales. No one currently plowing the same field does it better than Bernard Cornwell.\
MixedWashington Independent Review of BooksBurning Down the Haus is frustrating in that its story is fractured and disjointed as it follows the paths of more than two dozen central characters, jumping back and forth between their stories in a series of short chapters. It is sometimes difficult for the reader to follow so many threads ... ultimately it is a rewarding read that documents the courage of a small group of like-minded people to change an oppressive government.
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksMemphis Rent Party is a personal, affecting collection of short pieces ... One could argue that Gordon has omitted some of Memphis’ biggest stars. Although Elvis is invoked many times, he does not receive his own piece. Nor do Al Green, Isaac Hayes, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, Booker T. Jones, Chips Moman, or many others. But it would be an unfair argument. Gordon has chosen those artists who made a personal and lasting impact on him — those that gave him something different ... Regardless of the level of fame, each musician gets his loving due from Gordon. He has the rare ability to convey the power, emotion, and depth of feeling that music can produce. In piece after piece in Memphis Rent Party, the author does what only the best music journalists can do: motivate readers to run out and find the wonderful music they’ve just read about. I’ve already picked up some from several of the artists profiled in this captivating book. You should, too.
PanThe Washington Independent Review of BooksBernard Cornwell’s 55th book is something of a departure. True, it’s an historical novel, but it is not concerned with military adventure. Rather, it tells the highly speculative tale of William Shakespeare’s initial production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as recounted by his younger brother, Richard ... The first half or more of the book is taken with setting the scene for the little action in the second half. We get plenty of background on Elizabethan theater and the politics of the time ... Cornwell brings his usual penchant for historical accuracy in setting his scene, but there isn’t much incident or excitement in the book to hold the reader’s attention. While all of the detail about the workings of Elizabethan theater is mildly interesting, it’s not enough for a nearly 400-page novel ... I suspect Cornwell’s fans, who seek thrilling historical action and adventure, will be disappointed with Fools and Mortals, while new readers drawn by the Shakespeare connection will be disappointed by the shallowness of the characterizations and plot.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksStephen Davis’ new biography sets the record straight and gives Nicks her due ... The author also covers (sans tabloid sensationalism) Nicks’ numerous romantic affairs inside and outside of the Fleetwood Mac extended family. Most noteworthy among these lovers are the Eagles’ Don Henley and Joe Walsh (the latter the love of her life), and record-industry mogul Jimmy Iovine. He doesn’t hide, however, his bemusement at the spacey and mystical side of Nicks’ personality, her 'girly-girl' fascination with makeup and clothes (at times, her fashion sense has been as important to her female fans as her music), and her immersion in Welsh mythology following the success of 'Rhiannon' ... Davis has written a compelling and fascinating account of her life. If you’ve been touched by Nicks’ music, you’ll enjoy this book.
Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books[Wilson] tells his story with incredible intensity, candidness, and humor ... Co-author Ben Greenman has done a superb job of capturing Wilson’s voice — the childlike wonder at the process of music-making that comes across so clearly in his interviews. It is as if we are having an extended and intimate conversation with Wilson ... There has been a veritable avalanche of autobiographies and memoirs from aging rockers in recent years as they begin to contemplate their place in rock history. I Am Brian Wilson takes its hard-earned place in the front of these books. It is not to be missed.