Old Book Reviews

Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir by Dave Mustaine, with Joe Laden
Grade: B+

Dave Mustaine is the frontman and founder of Megadeth. I haven’t listened to Megadeth since the ’80s, back when I was a rebellious teenager. But I have always thought that Mustaine sounded like an interesting person, so when one of my Facebook friends suggested the book to me, I couldn’t resist borrowing it from the library.

Those who follow heavy metal will already know that Mustaine was kicked out of Metallica (one of the most popular bands ever) just before they got their big break. It would be a tragic story except that Mustaine recovered from the setback almost immediately by forming his own successful metal band, Megadeth. This memoir covers his youth briefly, then takes the reader through about 2009.

Readers are subjected to bad language and vulgar descriptions, and stories of rage, violence, death, drug dealing, and drug use. Mustaine and almost every member of the band (in its many iterations) struggled with drug addiction. So this book is not for anyone who’s likely to be offended or disgusted easily.

I was able to handle all of that. It reminded me of the behavior I witnessed in the heavy metal crowd of my teens. The story rang true true in many ways, making me almost nostalgic for that very difficult time of my life.

One thing that bothered me, though, was that Mustaine told cruel little stories about so many of the people he encountered along the way. It was as if he felt the need to take almost everyone else down a notch, just to give himself a boost. But he reserved a special dose of venom for Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield of Metallica. There’s one grudge that won’t die!

I’m afraid that to many Mustaine will come across as arrogant and petty, perhaps worse. But, in spite of his egregious behavior and unkind story-telling, or perhaps because of those things, I saw him as someone struggling with his own insecurities. He seemed very human to me, even likable in his own way, and consequently I enjoyed the book. Recommended for metalheads, past and present.

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
Grade: B+

I loved the first chapter of this book. It was such a great setup. A young man with a suitcase is about to take a bus. You get the feeling that this trip is a big deal for the young man, that his whole future will be riding with him.

Enter the strange giant of a man with a Talent for tying knots. He tells the young man to hold on to his suitcase, because it’s something special. And of course, the young man has to let it out of his sight to board the bus. You get this dreadful feeling that the suitcase will not be there when he reaches his destination. And you just know that the consequences will be terrible.

But then the story shifts away from that young man, who will not be seen again for some time. Instead, we learn about a slew of other characters, the most important of which is Cady, a girl with a Talent for knowing exactly which type of cake a person will like and the ability to make every cake perfectly. Eventually the tales of the young bus rider and Cady come together, but it’s a complicated journey.

I wanted to love A Tangle of Knots. It was so wonderful in so many ways. It was just too convoluted and contrived to earn my love and an “A” grade. But I salute the author for writing a beautiful book.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Grade: A-

In this story, the ancient Egyptian gods have returned. The god Set is hellbent for destruction. The only people who might stop him are the Kane siblings, two teenagers with mystical powers. But the Kanes don’t understand how to use those powers yet, and time is running out.

The Red Pyramid is the first book of this second series by Rick Riordan to feature mythical gods. I wasn’t expecting much, because it seemed like such a bad idea to go to that particular well a second time. But wow! It was a lot of fun and different from The Lightning Thief series. Recommended.

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