Pandemic Winter Book Review: The Cobbler

I recently finished The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever by Steve Madden. I ran across this book on a library shelf. I was familiar with the brand and owned some of the product but I had never thought of Steve Madden as a person. This book is Steve Madden’s life story. For the most part it is an interesting read and I would recommend it.

First off, I enjoyed the conversational tone of the book. The language was very direct and blunt. Madden is from New York and this book was written the way New Yorkers tend to talk. The author did not try to be deep, woke or intellectual. Reading this story was like talking to a person in a bar.

The Cobbler is fairly short but it touches on a few different subjects. I’ll start with what the book is not. The book is not primarily about fashion, design and trends. Those things are discussed but it’s not the focus of the book so if that’s what you’re looking for this book isn’t for you.

This book touches on family ties, addiction, business, a possible personality disorder the stock market, marriage, divorce, parenthood, incarceration and social injustices. There is a lot going on which can probably be said for all of our lives.

Steve Madden’s story starts in Long Island, NY with his mother, father and two brothers. He talks a bit about his family dynamic and childhood. In his teen years he begins his career as a retail sales person in, you guessed it. A shoe store. He expanded his career in the shoe business as a young adult as a designer, manufacturer and sales representative in New York City.

Steve started his shoe company with $1,100 in 1990. The company did relatively well but he knew the company couldn’t grow without additional cash flow. Steve had a childhood friend named Danny that lent him money to to take his company private. It was a part of a scheme to flip stocks.

Danny worked with a man named Jordan who inflated and sold stocks. The deal was that Steve had to sell his stocks after they were inflated. This deal was depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Wolves of Wall Street. Steve served about two and a half years for stock manipulation, money laundering and securities fraud.

Steve Madden’s incarceration is the most interesting part of the book. If you enjoy programs like Lockup or Locked Up Abroad you may enjoy The Cobbler. Steve describes prison life and some of the characters he might while locked up. Incarceration gave Steve an understanding of inequities in society and how racist and inhumane the American prison system is.

Steve employed several people that he met while he was incarcerated. He knew that he was fortunate to have a business to return to while other inmates had no opportunities. I really appreciate the author did not get sappy and all kumbaya (which is getting on my nerves) while discussing these matters. He was very matter of fact. Steve Madden supports a non profit organization that helps ex prisoners and homeless people.

Steve got engaged in prison which was cute. He married one of his employees that was with him since the early days of his company once he was released. After his incarceration Steve Madden returned to work and his company grew and became a global juggernaut.

This is an interesting book and inspiration can be gained from it in many different ways. It’s a short read and a little slow in parts but it picks up in the middle. There are heartwarming parts of the book as well as some laugh out loud moments. Overall, would recommend it if you have the time.

Lockdown Reviews: For Small Creatures Such as We

I finished ” For Small Creatures Such as We” by Sasha Sagan early on into quarantine. I spotted it in the library and thought it would be an interesting read. I don’t remember what I thought the book was going to be about but this wasn’t it. I didn’t care for the book at all. “For Small Creatures Such as We” isn’t terrible. I just have a completely different outlook on the world and I had a hard time relating to the author.

The author is an atheist woman with Jewish heritage that enjoys observing various cultural rituals, including religious rituals. Sasha feels that societal rituals add meaning to her life. I enjoy social activities, gatherings and decorating for holidays. To me it is just for fun and enjoyment so I would agree that rituals bring meaning to life. For me the rituals are not spiritual at all. That includes rituals and traditions inspired by religious holidays such as putting up a Christmas tree.

Sasha crossed my mind during the quarantine. Rituals mean a lot to her and all rituals that are performed outside of your own home and have more participants than a few people were cancelled. Easter, Mother’s Day and graduation rituals were all erased because of COVID 19. Just like that the things that gave her life meaning were taken away from her. I would be interested in hearing her thoughts on life during the 2020 quarantine.

Rituals are fine because they bring people together. I think that we all took a lot for granted before the COVID 19 quarantines. The rituals that we choose to participate in are more for the benefit of tightening social bonds which is important and enriches your life. I missed certain rituals but they are no substitute for having faith in Jesus Christ which isn’t a ritualistic act.

So “For Creatures Small as We” is interesting because it gave showed me a point of view that is very different from my own but I can’t say that I enjoyed the book because I couldn’t relate to the author because of her perspective.

Lockdown Reviews: A Father First, How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball

During the COVID 19 Lockdown I read the biography A Father First, How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball by retired NBA star Dwyane Wade.  The book was published in 2012.  It tells the story of Dwyane’s life while focussing on his relationship with his boys.  He is the father of two sons and he also raised his nephew who needed a home.

For the most part I enjoyed A Father First.  The book is a bit slow moving in parts but it was interesting and touching at other times.  I am an NBA fan and I followed Dwyane’s career for year but I didn’t know much about him personally.  Dwyane lived with his three sisters, two of which were from his mother’s previous relationships, his mom and his dad.  He was the baby of the family.

Wade stated that his family was far from wealthy but when his parents were together his life had stability and the family had what they needed even thought their lives were modest.  His parents, Dwyane and Jolinda, divorced when Wade was a young boy.  His mother admitted that the split was due to her controlling ways.  Everything changed for Dwyane and his sisters after the break up.

Dwyane didn’t see his father often.  His two older sister went to live with friends or other relatives.  Dwyane and his younger sister remained with his mother who developed a serious drug habit.  She had abusive relationships with men after her divorce.  His mother’s boyfriends were involved with drug trafficking and Chicago PD raided his home.  Young Dwyane Wade often went hungry.  His childhood trials made him decide as a young boy that if he became a father that he would be devoted, responsible and loyal.

Dwyane’s grandmother was the matriarch of his large extended family.  Dwyane had a lot of respect for his grandmother and she was always available to offer help.  He and his sister didn’t always seek her help because they didn’t want anyone to know about their mother’s struggle.

Wade went to live with his father, stepmother and brothers when he was in upper elementary school and his life improved.  His sister who he was closest with was not taken in by the dad.  His father and stepmother had another baby, a girl.  While living with his dad sports became a big part of Dwyane’s life.  His dad was his first coach and his brothers were his competitors.

He had a growth spurt in high school and it got the attention of coaches and recruiters.  Dwyane later went to Marquette University.  While he was a student he married his high school sweetheart and became a first time father.  He and his wife had a rocky marriage and later a terribly dramatic divorce after being drafted into the NBA by the Miami Heat and having another baby.

Jolinda had a religious epiphany while she was a fugitive of the law.  She turned herself in to serve her time.  While she was in prison she became free of her drug habit and studied her Bible.  She started a storefront church once she was a free woman and her son later bought her a church with his NBA fortune.  The other details of the book were about his college and NBA career.  I skimmed through those pages because neither were very interesting to me.

I would recommend the book if you’re an NBA fan.  The book can be a bit dry but it kind of mirrors Dwyane’s personality.  He’s never come across as very dramatic or talkative.  Jolinda’s story is inspiring even though I resented her for the way her children suffered due to her shortcoming.  Dwyane’s decision to be a committed family man at a young age is also inspirational.  It’s a good read if you have the time.

Hot Girl Summer: “Darkness to Light”

Summer 2019 is behind us and you know what, I didn’t do a darn thing.  I didn’t visit one beach, pool or amusement park this year.  My “Hot Girl Summer” consisted of going to work, going to church going to brunch a few times.  All of my adventures and drama came from reading.  That’s a good and bad thing at the same time.  Ice could have been covering the ground and it would not have made much of a difference to me.  I’m going to share and review what I read this summer.

My first review is “Darkness to Light” by Lamar Odom.

lamar odom

 

This was a good read.  I think you’ll enjoy it if you’re an NBA fan or a person that enjoys celebrity gossip.  I enjoy both.  This story is about the life of NBA champion Lamar Odom.  The book begins with the Lamar’s parents’ star crossed love story.  Then we learn about his experiences as a basketball phenom.  He wrote about his college days and his early years in the NBA.  That lead into his prime years in LA, his marriage into a reality TV family, his decline and then the day he ODed in a whorehouse in Nevada and near death experience.

Lamar is mild mannered and non assuming.  In interviews he came across as having a passive personality.  I felt like he was being bullied by some of the female entertainment journalists that interviewed him while he was promoting this book.  But man, Lamar has had a wild, glamorous and fabulous life.  The man has been to parties where Prince and Whitney Houston were in attendance.  He’s been to Hollywood movie premiers and he’s been in an NBA champion victory parade, twice.

This book made a few impressions on me.  First of all, Lamar Odom is a lucky duck.  He was a drug abuser for years and dodged punishment for his habit.  He was a high functioning drug addict who didn’t suffer repercussions professionally and managed to have a wildly successful career.

lamar odom

His personal relationships were what paid the price for his addictions.  He lost the relationship he had with his high school sweetheart and mother of his two children.  His relationship with Taraji Henson was destroyed.  And he famously divorced Khloe Kardashian.  Lamar suffered the loss of his mother to cancer while he was a young boy and he continues to struggle with her death.  But drug and sex is what ruined his romances and marriage.

khloe and lamar

Secondly, this book taught me that pro athletes are basically raised by recruiters and coaches.  The influence and place that these men have in the lives of young athletes is significant.  As a sports fan there are certain things that make sense to me now as an observer.  (I’ll keep those things to myself)  Coaches and recruiters play a father like role to up and coming young men.  In Lamar’s story they looked out for his interests but they also viewed him as a product to be protected so their motivations were not purely altruistic.

I also learned that Kris Jenner is a huge B word.  This woman is willing sell her own children out for fame and a payday.  That Kardashian/Jenners are opportunistic and take their family business very seriously.  The business is more important than the family.  Perhaps you all already figured that out but I am a little slow and naïve.  I’ve honestly always admired Kris Jenner but I’m sure a lot of people admire Judas for a while too.  I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil things for you.

phil jackson

NBA fans will get a kick out of Lamar’s behind the scenes stories.  He drops names throughout this book quite a bit.  Of course he mentions Kobe.  He grew up with Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace.  He had a terrible relationship with Mark Cuban while he was in Dallas and Phil Jackson was a hero to him.  I wish the booked focused on his NBA career more.

If you are interested in NBA, Hollywood glamour, the Kardashians, overcoming addictions or near death experiences.  You might enjoy “Darkness to Light”.  There’s something in it for just about everyone.  I certainly enjoyed the book.

This Review is Going to be Pretty Short: Bird Box

I learned of about the movie “Bird Box” because of Twitter.  I was minding my business scrolling through tweets and I read all the buzz about “Bird Box”.  In the following days I saw “Bird Box” memes all over social media.  The movie was a sensation.  I bought into the nonsense.

I don’t use Netflix so the movie is not available to me so I got a copy of the book when I saw it at the library.  I finished reading “Bird Box” by Josh Malerman over the weekend.  The book is pretty short but it took me a long time to get through it because it was boring.

I was waiting for the plot to build and live up to the social media hype but it never delivered.  Perhaps this is one of those anomalies where the movie is better than the book (like “Divergent”).  I’ll never know because I’ll never spend my time watching “Bird Box”.  I don’t even know how to describe this film; suspense, horror, mystery, science fiction, family drama.  I don’t know because nothing happens.  Seriously nothing happens.

The story is flat the entire time.  The book blindly meanders to an anti climatic ending that just added to the confusion.  I rushed through the ending of the book because I was sick of it but I was tempted to reread it because I couldn’t quite figure out what happened.

It seems like the writer was trying to leave things open ended so he can write a sequel.  However the sequel to watching grass grow would be watching paint dry.  I promise you that no matter where you live you will be more entertained by putting a chair in front of a window at your house and looking outside.

The premise is ridiculous.   I don’t understand what Twitter got so excited about.  I only saw three bad reviews of “Bird Box” one of which came from Cardi B.  Cardi was as confused as I was by the story.  I’m glad I wasn’t alone.

Warning:  This clip contains expletives, racial slurs and general vulgarity.  But she’s not wrong.

 

I’m mad a Twitter too for getting me to read that.  This is the third time that the media has sold me on a book and it was garbage.  Actually, probably more than that but I digress: 1. “The Host” by Stephenie Meyer.  (It was an unoriginal snoozefest.)  2.  “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James (The protagonist made women look stupid because that relationship should have ended very soon after she met Christian.  And the sex scenes in the book are over hyped.  Harlequin romances are kinkier than “50 Shades of Grey” and I was reading those in middle school) and now this.

I wish I could say I’ll never fall for this type of media hype again but I take book and movie recommendations seriously.  What can I say?  I like to stay on top of the trends.  This won’t be the last time I have egg on my face due to buying into hype.  It’s just how I live.