Category Archives: Books

Color away stress and cultivate inspiration with nifty Inkspirations coloring books

Color us happy. Ever since “adult” coloring books came into vogue, we have been using a palette of favorites to create beauty . . . while reliving imagination and soothing anxiety, usually in shades of mauvelous.

We have just discovered  a beautiful and inspiring line of coloring books and greeting cards from HCI that are the perfect antidote to a chaotic and troubled world.

Inkspirations coloring books offer a way to turn off negativity while healing the spirit. Art therapy has long proven its effects as an aid in emotional and mental restoration, and it is not news that coloring as active meditation reduces stress and quiets thoughts. From the original publishers of Chicken Soup for the Soul now comes a line of coloring books ready to encourage, inspire and help worries fade.

Whether coloring with friends, family or on your own, it doesn’t take much to color your day a little brighter. With moving quotes alongside unique and graceful images, Inkspirations coloring books include a wide array of themes to help express creativity and enjoy therapy through coloring.

We love ’em all, but were happy to see Inkspirations in the Garden.
bk-4370-garden-1-231x300Anyone blessed with a green thumb knows that a garden is nature’s haven, and when properly tended can transform a patch of ground into a place of splendor that abounds with intoxicating colors, scents and wildlife. Inkspirations in the Garden celebrates gardens in all their glory, from images of delightful cottage gardens to well-manicured rose gardens, from lush tropical gardens to relaxing Zen gardens. The original designs feature exquisite floral patterns to color and customize, plus heartwarming scenes of lovable backyard critters, like ladybugs and bumblebees, and even the squirrels and rabbits who sometimes become our garden nemeses. Inkspirations in the Garden pays homage to those who make weeds into wonders and have been enriched by gardening’s lessons about a life well-tended and nurtured.

Inkspirations for a Happy Heart shares more than 30 original designs to make your own, plus motivating mantras to help you relax, unwind, and greet each day with renewed optimism and creative energy. Whether you’re new to coloring or a gel-pen aficionado, you may have already admired the artistic creations of Diane Yi, whose stunning artwork has been shared, pinned or colored around the world. bk-4371-heart-231x300With Diane’s style of intricate details with exquisite flourishes, Inkspirations for a Happy Heart provides a perfect canvas that will inspire you to color your world a little brighter.

The cat’s meow? Inkspirations for Cat Lovers. Cats are curious, regal, intelligent, and playful. They oblige us humans by allowing us to share our lives and hearts with them. Inkspirations for Cat Lovers celebrates the magic, mystery and merriment of cats throughout the seasons, from Siamese to the Sphinx, Abyssinians to Persians, Maine Coons to calicos, and more. From long-haired to short-haired and everything in between, you will find more than 30 original designs that celebrate the many ways in which cats bring joy (and fur!) into our lives.bk-4373-cat-233x300 Inkspirations for Cat Lovers is a fitting tribute to our whiskered companions who color our world brighter every day.

Visit Inkspirations.com or amazon.com for more details or to order.

A chat with Barbara Cook: “If someone reads my book with an open mind, he or she can come back from dark places”

The tastiest cookbook this season? Make that Cook book, as in Barbara Cook’s autobiography Then and Now: A Memoir  (Harper, $28.99). The 88-year-old icon shares her life and career, the highs and lows, some of which are quite painful to read. There are warm memories of her golden years as Broadway’s newest ingénue and Broadway’s favorite soprano in the original productions of Plain and Fancy (1955), Candide (1956), The Music Man (1957) and She Loves Me (1963) and later into a sophisticated cabaret and concert artist . . . as well as much sadder, deeply painful memories.barbaracook01_1320848280
At the lowest point of her career, she was drunk and desperate, sleeping through the day and “I didn’t shower or brush my teeth for days at a time.” She confesses that she was “so broke I was stealing food from the supermarket by slipping sandwich meat into my coat pocket.”

Today, Cook suffers from polymyalgia rheumatica, a disease that forces her to use a wheelchair. She may be slower, her voice much softer, but she refuses to give in.  As a recovering alcoholic she still attends her AA meetings. (She quit drinking in 1977.) For that we continue to applaud her. We caught up with Cook one summer afternoon at her Upper West Side apartment and had a lovely conversation, fraught with lots of coughing and short sentences, of the good and bad and both acts—before and after sobriety—of her life. Read her story, and enjoy performances we share.2016-06-27-1467056258-9031733-Cover_BarbaraCook-thumb

First things first: You have been asked to write a book for years. Why did you finally write an autobiography?
Yes, people have wanted me to write a book for some time. I kept saying, ‘Why? Who the hell cares?’ Then it occurred to me that I have had this up and down life, and if someone reads my book with an open mind he or she can come back from dark places and have a successful career. I wrote every word, mostly by hand, on white-lined paper.

And what dark places!
They were things I have lived with for so long. They were a huge part of my life. It’s the first time I am talking about them publicly . . . it was time to talk about the things I had held inside for a long time. It had always been easier not to discuss mother, my sister’s death, the shame and blame I had felt. I spent decades often thinking that I didn’t deserve the nice things that have happened for me. I drank and I ate. I found myself mad at my mother since she blamed me for my sister’s death from double pneumonia. I thought I could help people who have gone through or who are going through what I did. [Barbara’s sister died at 18 months; Barbara was three years old]

No wonder we didn’t like your mother after reading the book. She blamed you, as a child, for your sister’s death!
Yes. My sister had pneumonia, and then I got pneumonia and whooping cough. I gave her whooping cough on top of the pneumonia. (Pauses) When I was in therapy, my first therapist said something that was so smart ‘Did it ever occur to you that she caught it and that you didn’t give it to her?’ Wow. That really helped me because I grew up thinking I was responsible for my sister’s death. I started to think, well, if my sister hadn’t died father wouldn’t have left. I was five. (Pauses, quietly) I became responsible for my sister’s death and his leaving as well.

When I interviewed Liza Minnelli, she told me even recovering alcoholics must always refer themselves as alcoholics. Did Liza break rules by talking about AA? 
AA does not have rules. It has suggestions. They don’t call them rules. I supposed one can break one’s own anonymity which I don’t do.

What did you think went wrong with Liza?
I know Liza and have sat around talking with her. But I don’t think I know her well enough to talk about that.

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Cook with Leonard Bernstein, during the recording of the cast album of “Candide,” the comic operetta, based on Voltaire’s satirical novel

It’s sad seeing you in a wheelchair. Do you believe you will get out of that chair one day?
Well I guess if the condition gets good I will. My spirits are mostly okay, but nobody likes to be like this. There are days when I get down, but I don’t seem to stay down for long.

Many of your fans are gay. Your only child, Adam LeGrant, is gay. You and I are talking less than a month after the tragic massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando. When I say ‘homophobia’ . . .
(Interrupts) It affects me like everyone else. Homophobia is a stupid, horrible way of thinking. It’s getting better, but it’s still, oh God! awful.

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Cook with her son Adam at the opening night of “Sondheim on Sondheim” at Studio 54 on April 22, 2010. Photo by Bruce Glikas

Were you disappointed when you learned your son Adam was gay?
When Adam told me he had something to tell me, I had no idea he was going to tell me he was gay. I thought he was going to tell me he broke up with his girlfriend and was never going to marry her. When he said he was gay, I knew I would never have grandchildren—that entered my psyche immediately. I thought there’s something wrong. I have a son I don’t know. I was really upset and I screamed and cried like crazy for about five days. It occurred to me that  all my life I felt like a little girl with her nose pressed against the glass of a candy shop. I didn’t feel part of real life. But when I bore a son I felt more connected to the world. When Adam told me was gay, I didn’t feel connected anymore.   After crying, I thought, ‘Wait a minute. What on earth is going on with you? What the hell is wrong with you? He is your son!’

I asked Liza about why she has such a gay following. She told me her fans relate to her pain, just as they related to her mother’s pain. You are aware you have a large gay following?
Oh sure. I talked about it with friends a couple of times. But I don’t know what it’s about. Could I be they relate to my problems? Who knows? We all have problems.

You made your Broadway debut in the 1951 musical Flahooley; you won a Tony for The Music Man. A far cry from growing up in Atlanta in such poverty you used to eat dinners of white bread and ketchup. You are a legend! A special survivor!
(Long laugh ) Oh God,  I don’t think of it as way. We all think we’re special. I know I am very, very grateful of the gift I have given. Singing is a wonderful way to move and touch people. I feel that I must sing because it feels so good to get all that out! I suppose it’s a gift from a  higher power.

Where do you keep your Tony?
I have a dining room and it’s kept in a bookcase in there.

After reading your book, I still cannot figure out if you liked Elaine Stritch.
(Laughs) I liked her, but not always what she did. Her behavior sometimes. Somewhere inside her was a very nice person.

Barbara+Cook+Roundabout+Theatre+Company+2016+Ligbg69Xb9flI am going to push you in a corner. What’s your favorite song?
(Laughs) Oh my goodness! The answer is no. I have no favorite.

How about a song you never sang?
I don’t think of things that way; I think of shows I wished I had done. I wanted to do The Most Happy Fella. I auditioned again and again for that and I really wanted to do it. But if I had done that, I wouldn’t have been able to do Candide.

You will be 89 on October 25. Ever think how you want to be remembered? What will be on your gravestone?
Oh gee. Wow. No one ever asked me that. (Pauses) SHE DID HER BEST.

 

 

Enter “ORBS”, a trio of books guaranteed to be a masterful blend of horror and science fiction

Ready to begin a new chapter in your life? Thinking of writing a book and self-publishing? Not everyone needs to convince a major publishing house to praise their prose . . .  sometimes a house will find you. Witness the success of Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s ORBS (Simon & Schuster/Simon451), a bestselling trilogy that is (according to those in the know) “a masterful blend of horror, science fiction and pulse-pounding thrills” as they follow the last survivors of an alien invasion. Not bad for someone who worked for Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management in disaster mitigation before switching careers to focus on his one true passion . . . writing.51T9CW+rFSL

When it was first released online, ORBS was a phenomenon of independent publishing. Selling tens of thousands of copies since its online release in October 2013, it reached as high as No. 71 on Amazon. Now, for the first time ever in print, this unprecedented and immensely popular trilogy is back. All are $12.99.

When the series begins, the year is 2061, and the planet is dying. Cataclysmic solar storms have forced leaders from around the world to finally put aside their differences and agree on one thing—to jump ship. The human race is headed to Mars.

Just days after Dr. Sophie Winston is hired by New Tech Corporation to help prepare for the three-year flight to Mars, things immediately start to go wrong. When she and her crew unlock themselves from their lab, they discover a changed world. Two things have vanished without a trace: Humans and all of the planet’s water.

One shocking discovery leads to the next, as Sophie and her team of survivors discover luminous blue orbs lining the streets. The orbs are not what they seem, and spur a nightmarish yet compelling journey for the crew, discovering a more startling universe than they could have ever imagined . . .

The trilogy includes ORBS; ORBS II: Stranded and ORBS III: Redemption.

A new book, “New Barbarians,” sheds the inside scoop on a little-known bit of Rolling Stones history

 

A rolling stone gathers no moss, but The Rolling Stones gathers honors and hosannas, awards and accolades. But did you know there’s a “secret” chapter in their long history? Let us roll out the news about New Barbarians: Outlaws, Gunslingers and Guitars, the first-ever history of a band that has attained cult status among Stones fans. In 1979, Rolling Stones lead guitarist Ron Wood founded the New Barbarians to tour behind his solo album Gimme Some Neck. The group’s all-star lineup included Keith Richards, jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, former Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, Stones confederate and saxophonist Bobby Keys, and drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste from the Meters. The band’s life was short-lived: It was formed  in 1979, toured only 20 dates and played its final concert in 1980  . . .  gone, but not to be forgotten.

Fans will finally learn the untold story of this legendary cult band and how it helped Keith get through his heroin addiction following his infamous drug bust in Toronto, but they have to wait until Rob Chapman’s opus is released by Voyageur Press in October 1.  The inside scoop is all recounted through never-before-seen photography and in-depth, behind-the-scenes interviews. The book offers an intimate look at the brief history of a band that built a cult following in record time. In addition, included with the book is a 10-track New Barbarians CD, featuring tracks from their 1979 tour.usethis

Though Wood put together the band in 1979, in a roundabout way, the Barbarians’ story begins with Keith Richard’s infamous drug bust in Toronto in February 1977. Unlike Keith’s other brushes with the law due to drugs, this time it looked highly likely that Canadian authorities were going to put him in prison for a very long time–possibly for life. In the end, after nearly two years of limbo, hand-wringing and legal battles, Keith was allowed to serve his sentence by enlisting both the Barbarians and the Stone into playing two charity shows in Oshawa, Canada, on April 22, 1978.

Ultimately, the Barbarians helped pay Keith’s debt to society, but the band and tour did more than that, according to author Chapman. “The Barbarians were more than a band for Ronnie to tour with–they were a sanctuary for Keith,” he says. “In addition to the legal limbo he was also in the midst of kicking heroin.” Indeed, as Keith once said, “the Barbarians saved my life.” From the tour rehearsals in Los Angeles to each of the tour dates, Ronnie and the Barbarians provided the perfect vehicle for Keith to recover and revive himself.

The band became known for it’s members and music, but it also gained notoriety for events such as the riot at the New Barbarians’ first concert in Milwaukee-when the “special guests” did not appear during the show—to craziness at their last show. This and more wild, rollicking stories are detailed with behind-the-scenes anecdotes, interviews with band members and crew members, as well as dirt about its famous tour,  plus background on how the group  influenced future Stones music.

In addition, there are more than 300 amazing photos by over a dozen noted rock photographers. Included are behind-the-scenes and candid shots of the rehearsals, the shows and backstage babble.

 

 

 

An alien-eyed pussycat? A man eating sheep poop? Yes sir . . . Believe It or Not!

There’s a way of getting teens, tweens and reluctant readers to devour a book . . . believe it or not! The key? Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Unlock the Weird! ($28.95), the newest and perhaps oddest book in the bestselling series from Ripley Publishing.
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The book is a mind-blowing collection of fantastic, fun, and even freaky stories from around the world. Sections include Animals, Pop Culture, Feats, Art, Food, and Beyond Belief. What they all have in common is that they’re all true and handpicked by Ripley’s Believe It or Not!—the authority on all things unusual and incredible!
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Here are some of the stories that await readers when they Unlock the Weird!
• Read about one man’s attempt to take a break from reality, spending three days climbing the Swiss Alps on all fours as a goat!
• Soar on jetpacks above the deserts of Dubai with breathtaking aerial imagery.
• Meet Birdman Ted Richards who had his ears removed and his face and eyeballs tattooed to look like his pet parrots!
• Savor the flavor of sheep dung spitting, an Irish event that is just as unappetizing as it sounds!
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•  See double with Twin Strangers’ Niamh Geaney, who has found multiple doppelgängers that look exactly like her!
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Get off your Uranus and discover the starry plight of planets

Jupiter, Pluto and two stunning sets of U.S. postal stamps. In recent weeks, the solar system and certain planets have been  taking center stage, even if Jupiter’s stage (when the Earth and Jupiter are at their closest point, 365 million miles) and Pluto’s stage is 4.67 billion miles miles away.

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Anyone can take a journey from your doorstep into outer space with A Journey Through Space ( QEB Publishing, $16.95). Zoom through the solar system, discovering satellites, comets and asteroids along the way. Explore craters on Mars, do the moonwalk around Jupiter and get a close-up view of Saturn’s amazing rings. You’re even warned not to travel too close to the Sun.
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The book, packed with lively illustrations to reveal our amazing universe, is perfect for a parent and child to read together or to explore independently. Bonus: The book includes a dust jacket that unfolds into a poster.

QEB Publishing has released a second book that’s outer space! Get ready to explore the magical night sky. Find out everything there is to know about what you can spot in the sky, such as how explorers used constellations as a form of navigation. Discover the best time to spot comets and why the Moon’s appearance has changed over time. Night Sky Watcher ($12.95) includes everything from the Sun to the Moon, to the stars and planets.
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Symbols are used within the book to show what can be seen in the northern and southern hemispheres, allowing readers to view exactly what they can see in the sky, regardless of their location. The book comes with a zipper slipcase, so you can take it on all your adventures!

“When Mountain Lions are Neighbors” . . . coexisting with wildlife

Did you know that a mountain lion, known as P-22, lives in the middle of Los Angeles? Did you know that on the Facebook campus in Silicon Valley, Mark Zuckerberg and his staff have provided a home for an endearing family of wild gray foxes? Or that wolves have returned to California after a 90-year absence, led by the remarkable journey of the wolf OR-7? The important book When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors: People and Wildlife Working It Out in California (Heyday, $18) shares dozens of stories highlighting the work of individuals, groups, organizations and communities throughout California that help foster place-based connections for wildlife to thrive alongside people, even in highly urbanized areas. The author receives no royalties from this book, and proceeds will benefit the National Wildlife Federation’s conservation work in California.
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The book, created in partnership with Heyday and the National Wildlife Federation, written by National Wildlife Federation’s California Director, Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, is an entertaining read of true tales about people and wildlife championing a new paradigm for conservation: coexistence.
“The truth is that we can each play an important role in ensuring a bright future for wildlife, no matter where we live, and these California stories serve as examples of how we can each take action, from anywhere across our country and around the world,” says Collin O’Mara, President, CEO, National Wildlife Federation.

Many do not realize that California, with its many successful wildlife stories, provides a great example in understanding ways that people can conserve and better co-exist with wildlife that can function as a model worldwide. This “new nature” is personal, urban, social, and diverse, and California has given birth to it.

“When the number-one threat to wildlife worldwide is loss of habitat, we can no longer think of our cities or towns or neighborhoods, or even our backyards, as exempt from the natural world—or as off-limits to wildlife,’ says Beth Pratt-Bergstrom. “We need to expand our view and realize that our shared spaces are as essential to conservation as our traditional protected lands. We need to create a new model of suburban and urban wildlife refugia.”

Pratt-Bergstrom has worked in environmental leadership roles for more than 25 years, and in two of the country’s largest national parks: Yosemite and Yellowstone. As the California Director for the National Wildlife Federation, she says, “I have the best job in the world—advocating for the state’s remarkable wildlife.” Indeed! Connect with Beth at BethPratt.com.
Books will be sold in bookstores, libraries, museums, parks and other retail locations. It will also be sold on IndieBound.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com, as well as on the National Wildlife Federation’s site (NWF.org) and Heyday’s (HeydayBooks.com).

Yearning to learn more about the Vietnam War? Enter here.

Most people called it a war. Most still do, except for the more than three million people (including 58,000 Americans) who were killed in the Vietnam War; more than half were Vietnamese civilians. The war was actually a costly armed conflict that pitted the communist regime of North Vietnam and its southern allies, known as the Viet Cong, against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. It began in 1954 (though conflict in the region stretched back to the mid-1940s), after the rise to power of Ho Chi Minh and his communist Viet Minh party in North Vietnam, and continued against the backdrop of an intense Cold War between two global superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union.  The video is graphic!

People who still yearn to learn about the event will find out how it developed, learn about the main battles and meet the key figures involved in 50 Things You Should Know About the Vietnam War (QEB Publishing, $15.95). This new title from the 50 Things You Should Know About series is packed full of infographics, illustrations, maps and color photographs from the Vietnam War.
9781609929619Not only identifying major political and military figures from both sides of the conflict with the ‘”Who’s Who” pages, this title also documents the significance of medical workers, protesters, and civilians who were also a part of this tumultuous time. Photos of memorabilia, such as patches, pins and bracelets, add a personal aspect to the war. Yes, it’s much less graphic that the footage seen here.

Remembering Lenny Bruce, a fucking genius

Joan Rivers worshipped him. Many people hated him. Fighting for freedom of speech was nothing new to foul-mouthed Lenny Bruce, whose raw language often got him in trouble. Or fired. Or arrested. During a 1964 obscenity charge for using foul language in a Greenwich Village nightclub act, Bruce fired his lawyers and botched the appeal. The conviction on the misdemeanor obscenity charge made it almost impossible for him to get work; he declared bankruptcy and was found dead on August 3, sitting on the toilet with his pants around his waist, a needle in his arm, and his lifeless body surrounded by drug paraphernalia. He was 40 years old.

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Wife Honey, Bruce and their daughter Kitty

But in 2003, nearly four decades after the comic died, he got the last laugh when on December 23, he was posthumously pardoned by New York Governor. George E. Pataki, 39 years after being convicted of obscenity.. The governor said the posthumous pardon—the first in the state’s history—was “‘a declaration of New York’s commitment to upholding the First Amendment.”

No comment from the dead Bruce, but his daughter Kitty Bruce gushed, “Isn’t this wonderful? Isn’t this a great day in America? Boy, has this been nuts or what? This is what America is all about.”

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Lenny at rest

Visit Bruce at Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, California.

Want more Lenny Land? Da Capo Press is reissuing How to Talk Dirty and Influence People ($16.99), Bruce’s classic autobiography to mark the 50th anniversary of the comedian and counterculture icon’s death, with a new preface by Lewis Black and a new foreword by Howard Reich.

unnamedThe book remains a brilliant account of his life and the forces that made him at once one of the most important and controversial entertainers. “His scathing attacks on organized religion, politics, the death penalty, race and the ways in which we have chosen to live, made me laugh and made me think,” writes Lewis Black in a new preface. “This book gives us a solid context of what Lenny lived through and had to face. (We complain about the politically correct environment that makes comedy difficult? Are you kidding me?) We are talking about not even being able to tell your jokes without the threat of imprisonment.”

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Lenny’s death scene

In 1964, after being arrested on multiple occasions, Lenny Bruce was prosecuted because of his words and convicted of obscenity. In this book, “Bruce in effect is still arguing his case, unflinchingly pointing out what his accusers have done to him, even while they held great legal power over him. The bravery of that act should inspire us all,” Howard Reich writes in a new foreword. “If there’s a central lesson running through all of this, perhaps it’s Bruce’s apparently boundless respect for everyone else’s rights, even as his own were being so grievously violated.”

Assembling his musings in essayistic chapters, Bruce writes candidly of the drama of his childhood; his Navy service and the postwar boredom that led him to seek a discharge; his emergence as a comic and how he virtually invented stand-up comedy as we know it today; and the substance abuse that tragically claimed his life. “Equally important, though, is the heady range of ideas Bruce dares to take on in this volume,” adds Reich. “The man was hell-bent on proclaiming the absurdities he saw but others didn’t or wouldn’t.”

Thelma Adams’ “The Last Woman Standing” is an exciting meld of fact and fiction

There’s a great deal to be said about Thelma Adams’ book “The Last Woman Standing (Lake Union Publishing, $14.95) . . . and all of it good. Very, very good. A feminist western mixing real and fictional characters, and totally defiling the era and prevailing attitudes of the times is no easy trick to pull off, and Adams does it with humor and, lord help us all, charm.

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Adams has been writing features and criticism of the entertainment industry for quite a while. Her first novel, “Playdate”, a gossipy tale of a steamy community, won high critical acclaim. But here, in “The Last Woman Standing”, we have something special. Twenty years after the Civil War, a young daughter of faintly repressive Jewish immigrants escapes from San Francisco to Tombstone, Arizona to join wheeler dealer boyfriend Johnny Behan.

However, it is the legendary Wyatt Earp who steals her heart, aggravating Behan, and, well, we get a lady’s eye view of the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the bargain. Part of the enjoyment of the work is the combined epic and the immediacy and tenderness of the tale is extraordinary.

The era is plagued by the memories of the Civil War, the steal steam animosity between the Lincoln Republican and Democrats, and the discovery of silver (and millions) in Tombstone. It may seem like an enormous leap, but Josephine Marcus, our heroine here, is at least the cousin if not the sister of Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett. Spunkier (what an awful word!) and forced to deal with a bit more violence than the Austen heroine, her bravery, humor, and humanity shine forth in a novel well worth reading. Adams’ creation will stay with the reader for a good, long time.