Category Archives: Reviews

Sex Tips from Rock Stars by Paul Miles

I’ll say this much for Sex Tips from Rock Stars – you may not learn anything new from the book, but you’ll sure as hell be entertained.

From Almost Famous to Spinal Tap, Penny Lane to Connie Hamzy, we’re taught that “rock god” and “sex god” are interchangeable terms. There’s no doubt that musicians have a certain power when they perform that’s an aural aphrodisiac. The question is, are there any actual bedroom tips and tricks these rockers have to back up the appeal?

That’s the question that Miles sheds some light on in Sex Tips from Rock Stars. In the new book from Omnibus Press (a publisher better known for serious biographies than sex guides), 23 different musicians give their tips, “in their own words” on groupies, fetishes, romance, marriage and everything in between. I say musicians because, lets face it – “Rock Stars” is a bit relative. Though the fame of some of the interviewees might be questionable, the range of ages and musical styles makes for a good cross-section of the rock world. The book is pretty phallocentric, but does include the female perspective of The Donnas’ Allison Robertson. Continue reading

Wells Banana Bread Beer

wells21When I was growing up, one of the best baked treats we could have in our house was some of my Nana’s banana bread. The bread, the result of some alchemy I couldn’t understand that involved bananas that looked way past their prime, was a perennial favorite. Though Nana isn’t with us any longer, my mom still makes a mean loaf of banana-y, nutty, rich and tasty bread. I imagine that someday the recipe will be passed on to me.

I’m not trying to say that I’m some sort of Zen master of baking, or that my family’s name should be on the side of bread trucks across the country. All I’m saying is that I know from banana bread. So, of course, I was incredibly intrigued when I came across a bottle of Wells Banana Bread Beer this weekend.

Even if you aren’t familiar with the Wells name here in the US, you’re probably familiar with more than a few of their brands. Wells and Young’s Brewery, based in Bedford, brews the popular Young’s Bitter, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, and the Courage line of beers. The brewers also contract brew and import Red Stripe, Corona Extra, Negra Modelo and Kirin Ichiban. Despite the brewers’ global reach, this weekend was the first time I came across the attention-grabbing Banana Bread Beer. Continue reading

Andy Crouch’s Great American Craft Beer

This week, my column over at is devoted to a review of Andy Crouch’s new beer book Great American Craft Beer. Not only is it an excellent book, but it’s a wonderful love letter to the craft brewers of America.

On the first page of his new beer guide Great American Craft Beer, Andy Crouch writes “with the bounty of amazing beers available in every corner of America, never before has there been a better time or place to be a beer drinker.” Thus begins one of the best cases for American exceptionalism that I’ve read in years – not in the traditional political or social sense, but in the realm of brewing and beer. Great American Craft Beer isn’t just a new book to add to the increasingly crowded family of “beer guides.” The compendium is a love letter to craft beer in the US of A, and that there’s enough to fill a 300+ page book is a testament to a brewing movement that’s barely thirty years old.

Check out the full review over on’s Hop Press.

Dieu Du Ciel Aphrodite

How good is Dieu du Ciel‘s Aphrodite stout? So good the FDA almost didn’t let it into the United States.

Okay, so that’s not quite true. However, there’s a kernel of truth in there that makes for one of the most interesting pieces of trivia about the beer. Also, the Aphrodite is that good – good enough that no one would blame you for thinking there’s some kind of illegal substance inside.

First, the trivia. Our friends up in Canada are probably familiar with a cocoa and vanilla beer brewed in Montreal called L’Aphrodisiaque (that’s aphrodisiac in the King’s English). When Dieu Du Ciel made plans to export the beer – with name intact – to the US, they ran smack-dab into a wall. A wall called the Food and Drug Administration.

Apparently marketing a elixir as an aphrodisiac might give some people the wrong idea. Though I trust the American consumer enough to distinguish between marketing and actual love potions, I suppose there is a reason that Moxie is no longer called “Nerve Food.” Luckily, there was a Greek God of Love-shaped loophole that Dieu du Ciel could pour the luscious stout through. Rechristened “Aphrodite” in the US of A, the love potion is now available throughout Dieu du Ciel’s distribution area.

Continue reading

Penguin 75, edited by Paul Buckley

Sometimes, we receive a book at the store that piques my curiosity. Sometimes, we get something I’m excited about, and occasionally there’s a book I’m ready to immediately shuffle onto the shelves. On some rare and wonderful occasions, we get a book I’m so excited about that I push it  on anyone and everyone who will listen to me.

Penguin 75 is that last kind of book.

This hefty collection, edited by Paul Buckley and with a forew0rd by Chris Ware, is a look at 75 of the good, bad and ugly covers Penguin Group has produced over the last decade. Each of the 75 books is accompanied by prospective and final jacket artwork, along with commentary from a member of the design staff (either an editor, art director or the actual artist) and the author. Many people judge books by their covers, and it is absolutely fascinating to read about all the thought that goes into every book’s final design.

There’s a fantastic variety in the authors whose covers were picked for the collection, as well as the artists who have done work for Penguin. Among the choice comments in Penguin 75 are thoughts from Garrison Keillor, Paul Auster, Tony Millionaire, Elizabeth Gilbert, seth, TC Boyle and Art Spiegelman. Though the covers in the book are only from the last decade, the books include some Penguin Classics and other less recent books that were re-released since 2000.

I’m a sucker for book covers, and great and terrible artistic choices entrance me equally. Not every jacket is beloved by everyone involved, and that’s where some of the most engaging entries in this book come from. Take Garrison Keillor’s novel Love Me, for example. The illustrator’s comments are short and sweet; basically, Jamie Keenan thought that the original scribble he did for the book worked the best as a cover. Keillor, on the other hand, really spends some time tearing into the cover. His commentary starts “This cover gives me a bad  case of the yips” and ends “it’s a funny book, but you’d never know it from this.”

It’s tough to sell this book virtually, if only because the real fun of Penguin 75 is picking it up and flipping through the dozens and dozens of covers you’ve probably seen on the shelf. If you trust me enough to bite the bullet and buy the book sight unseen, you won’t be disappointed by the wealth of great art and remarks on books from Please Kill Me to Eat Pray Love. If you’re not yet convinced, check out the preview below or look at the book at your local bookstore. If you happen to shop at my store, don’t worry about finding Penguin 75 – it’ll be the book I push into your hands when you walk in the door.

Penguin has a lengthy preview of Penguin 75, which includes Chris Ware’s foreword, on their website.

Great Lakes Brewery 666 Devil’s Pale Ale

20071126-devilsale666Everyone loves a gimmick.

In a recent international beer trade with [name redacted], one of the prizes I got my hands on was a can – that’s right, a can – of Great Lakes Brewery‘s 666 Devil’s Pale Ale. And devilish the beer is, arriving in a black pint can that declares “The Devil Made Me Brew It.”

So, why 666? What makes this beer so … eeevil? The back of the can offers a few clues. The Devil’s Pale Ale was brewed with 666 kilograms of malt, 6.66 kilograms of hops, boiled for 66.6 minutes and boasts a 6% ABV. It was first brewed on, you guessed it, 06.06.06. Number of the beast, indeed.

If you’re looking for a little less of the number six and a bit more about how the beer is supposed to taste, here’s a bit of the marketing copy from the back of the can;

Brewed with 6 select malts and 4 premium hops, it has a rich mahogany colour, reminiscent of early English pale ales. The wonderful hoppy aroma is revealed even before your first sip, followed by a hearty malty body, and culminating with a pronounced bitterness. Prepare yourself for a devilishly good time…

Select malts? Premium h0ps? Damned if it doesn’t sound downright heavenly. Continue reading

Troublemaker by Janet Evanovich, Alex Evanovich and Joëlle Jones

triublecoverJanet Evanovich’s Troublemaker is a strange graphic novel for a whole bunch of reasons.

The book is the first work in comics by Evanovich, an established and well-loved novelist. The author has collaborated before, but often writes as a sole author – this graphic novel script was her first fiction writing with her daughter Alex. Though it is Evanovich’s first graphic novel, Troublemaker is actually the third book in a series, following the Barnaby and Hooker books Motor Mouth and Metro Girl. Well, that’s not entirely true; it’s the first half of the third story in a series.The art is by Joëlle Jones … kinda. Jones is credited as the artist, but Ben Dewey did what looks like a lot of legwork to earn a credit for “background pencils.”

So, there are a lot of factors in play behind the scenes of Troublemaker. Unfortunately, these pieces ever coalesce, the whole thing is a bit of a mess.

Set in Miami and South Florida, Troublemaker is the third adventure of NASCAR mechanic Alex Barnaby and driver Sam Hooker. At the beginning of the story a mutual friend of theirs named Rosa is kidnapped, the only clue to her whereabouts an explosive Voodoo doll with a cryptic note attached. Fearing that the police won’t find Rosa before it’s too late, Alex, Sam and his dog Beans decide to track her down in Miami. Picking up some clues and taking some absurd logical leaps along the way, the trio tracks Rosa through the swamps of South Florida and the streets of Miami, with fan boat and car chases aplenty. Continue reading