Reading - September 2019

Confessions of a Menopausal Woman by Andrea McLean (2018)
This was lent to C by my sister, and I chose to read it partly to try and understand more about the menopause, and partly to see if C would like it. She won't. It seems churlish to criticise it too much, since it serves a genuine purpose and Andrea McLean is clearly well-meaning. It's just that the whole thing reads like an extended women's magazine article, with all the stereotypes and cliches that comes with it. The inconsistencies don't help either; my favourite one is when she takes piss out of how men having a "midlife crisis" buy an impractical new sports car, and then a few pages later explains how she cheered herself up after a particularly trying time by buying a new - deliberately impractical - car. But buried in the lazy generalisations and ludicrously media-world-centric viewpoint is some useful information - and if someone reads this because of its association with "TV's Loose Women star Andrea McLean" that otherwise wouldn't have had access to that information, then that can only be a good thing. 
Eric by Terry Pratchett (1990)
Possibly one of the shortest Discworld books, and containing the amusing idea of a demon-turned-bureaucrat whose idea of hell as a version of some inept council offices is apparently worse than the firepits and torture of traditional "hell". Rincewind is still an annoying character though. 
The Guitar Magazine (October 2019 / Issue 373)
Billed as "The Vintage Issue", this has some interesting stuff about vintage guitars but little about amps or pedals. I'm currently considering buying a new amp and wouldn't mind reading about vintage Fender Deluxes or Princetons.
First Man by James R. Hansen (2005)
I don't often leave books unfinished, but when something's been sitting right next to my reading chair for a couple of weeks and I find myself looking for other things to read instead, it's a sign I'm not interested. This is an important document of Neil Armstrong's life, written with his co-operation, and as such will be invaluable to future historian. However, for the casual reader, it's far too tediously detailed and as a result, much too long. And despite the many reviews on the back and inside, it's not particularly well written. Hansen has a very bad habit of referring to an event or a person in passing as if the main details had already been discussed, when in fact it's the first time this particular thing has been mentioned, which leads me to spend ages flicking back, trying to find what I've missed, when in fact I haven't. Ultimately, there's a really interesting story waiting to be told, but unless you particularly enjoy this kind of mind-numbing detail, just watch the film.
Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett (1990)
It's wrong to say that Terry Pratchett's novels are formulaic, because the does a gross disservices to the level of imaginative force in each book. Moving Pictures is obviously an affectionate satire on the golden age of Hollywood and the culmination, which involves a giant woman climbing a tower while holding onto an orangutan, is brilliant. But the story arc is very familiar and that's because it's what we get in every book. It's still funny and enjoyable but I think I need a brief break from Discworld!
Q: 50 Years of Rock 'n' Roll: From Elvis to The Beatles ... Part One: '50s + '60s edited by Mark Blake (2004)
Entertaining  Special Edition from (blimey!) fifteen years ago, containing a number of articles about key bands and events from rock 'n' roll's first twenty years. It's billed as covering the 50s and 60s but aside from a handful of the usual suspects - Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly - it's all about the latter decade, and mostly about the last five years of that. So, essentially, it accepts conventional rock wisdom, that things only really started in the late 60s. Such conformance aside, it's interesting, if a little lightweight. And marks subtracted for making a basic factual mistake when describing Jimi Hendrix's guitars as strung upside-down and claiming this is what made him sound so unique. WRONG! His guitars were strung conventionally, with the low E at the top; however, he used modified right-handed guitars which therefore looked upside down. The unique sound was because Jimi.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011)
Now on my fourth reading of what has become comfort reading (something easy and fun to read that I know I will like), I am struck particularly this time by how different the book is from the film, understandable in many ways since much of the key scenes in the novel are probably impractical to film - for example, the first-person participation in classic movies (although they half-did it in the film with The Shining). I like both, but the novel is probably more satisfying (as I think I said last time I read it!).


Dance Mania Vol. 1

Tito Puente & His Orchestra

About eight years ago I pledged to brush up on my knowledge of the music of the 50s by listening to all of the "must listen" albums from a couple of big list books. I'm still working my way through them (hey, there are nearly forty albums!), and here's one of the last to write up.

I knew nothing about mambo - let alone the Tito Puente, the "King Of Mambo" - prior to listening to this, and in all honesty I think I'd struggle to distinguish between it and,say, merengue (the latter is more of a "marching" beat, apparently).

Dance Mania probably serves as a good introduction, even if it doesn't include the song most rock music fans would know Puente for, "Oye Como Va" (as covered by Santana on Abraxas). Unfortunately, not being familiar with the intricacies of the style means that all the tracks here tend towards sameness. It's all a bit early-60s jazz club, like the Purple Pit in Jerry Lewis's The Nutty Professor -  jazzy and brassy, maybe a bit like big band swing, except more relaxed. Great if it really floats your boat, maybe a bit wearing after twelve tracks of what is broadly indistinguishable music.

A couple of the instrumental tracks stand out for me: "Hong Kong Mambo" is a great riff, and "3D Mambo" has a great feel. Overall, it's good for something a bit different in the background though, and as ever with these recommendations, I'm very pleased to have heard it and know it.