Monday, October 23, 2017


SoloAuthor: Kwame Alexander
Info: Blink, copyright 2017, 320 pages

Solo, a YA novel in poetic verse, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true.

~Goodreads Description

Blade is the son of a famous, aging musician.  His life has been road trips and cameras, rehab and spectacle, and with the loss of his mother, "normal" no longer exists.  When he discovers a long-held secret about his birth, Blade travels across the world to better understand who he is and, through music, begins to grow and heal.

I both liked this one and didn't.  I liked the language, the poetry, the voice.  Kwame Alexander is a beautiful storyteller.  And I liked Blade.  He was kid trying to become a man and a human desperate to better understand where he comes from.

But the format felt lacking, which I feel is often the case with novels in verse.  You substitute character and plot development for form, choosing to focus more on poetry than story.  (I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge fan of yes, I'm a bit biased.) This went even a step further adding musical elements as well.  Those moments were quality and interesting but took me out of the story for some reason.  Blade's life is so far removed from anything I understand - adopted son of an attention-grabbing rock star - aspiring musician just kind of pushed it over the edge for me.

All that aside, I liked it.  I didn't love it, but I liked it, and recommend it for Kwame Alexander's voice if nothing else.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

These Shallow Graves

These Shallow GravesAuthor: Jennifer Donnelly
Info: Random House Delacorte, copyright 2015, 488 pages

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

~Goodreads Description

When a teenager stands in front of you at the reference desk, hugging a book, and frowning because she doesn't want to give the book back, it's basically a librarian's duty to check out the title.  Usually this teen is reading paranormal romances by the armload.  I've taken to asking her to read particular titles that I have on my list just to see if they are worthy of my time.  She gladly has taken up the challenge.  So when said teenager stood in front of me that day, insisting that I read the book, I was a little surprised to find that it was a historical mystery.  Just not usually her cup of tea.

While I wasn't hugging the book at the end, it did move toward the very top of my favorites so far in 2017.  Why this is my first Jennifer Donnelly title, I don't know...actually, I think I do.  The size of her books usually intimidates me.  Thankfully I had the audiobook for this one and didn't have to have a constant reminder that I was lugging around an almost 500 page book.  This won't, however, be my last Donnelly.  If all goes according to plan (which it never does, so I'm not holding my breath), I'll take the rest of her bookography this year.

I think this was the right one for me to start with for one very important reason - it is set toward the turn of the century and sort of reminded me of Newsies.

Hopefully that's all you need.  If it's not, then 1) you probably haven't watched the 1992 production or recent Broadway release enough or 2) you just have really poor judgement.

In case you need a little more to entice you - Jo dreams of becoming a journalist like the great Nellie Bly.  She is working on a particularizing scandalous news article at school when she receives news that her father has committed suicide.  Upon returning home, Jo quickly determines that all is not as it seems, and with the help of another budding reporter, the mysterious and street-wise Eddie, goes in search of the truth.

Jo is stubborn, intelligent, feisty for a girl in the late 1800s.  She dreams of a life much bigger than the one the world says is appropriate, and she decides to fight for what she wants instead of sitting meekly on the sidelines.  While Eddie is a predictable romantic lead, he's also confident in her abilities, and equally stubborn, fighting for his own future and wanting more than the poverty he grew up in.  Together they make an awesome team, and my only complaint is that this was a stand-alone.  (What did she just say?!  Did she just say she wanted a series?  Now that is scandalous!)

Donnelly writes relatable and exciting historical fiction that is led by fantastic characters that you cheer for from page one.  She's a talented storyteller who takes you away to a time and a place without struggle, and I can't wait to read her other titles.  (Or listen, cause that's just how I roll these days.)

This one comes highly recommended.  And if you read it and feel the need to hug it afterward, go right ahead.  There's a teen in my neck of the woods who would appreciate your affection.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top 10 Tuesday and a Random Conversation about Podcasts

Top 10 Yummy Books

When Broke and the Bookish took a short vacation from Top Ten Tuesday posts, Jessica over at The Broke and the Bookish and I started making up our own lists.  One of them fits really well with today's topic, so instead of creating a whole other Top Ten, I thought I'd just link to that :)

Here it is, for your reading pleasure - Top 10 Books that Made Me Hungry

Which leaves me without a list one!

When I'm not listening to audiobooks or listening to the 90s country channel on Pandora, I'm usually catching up on some of my favorite podcasts.  When I navigated my way to my podcast library I realized that I have some very weird tastes.  I seem to hop between pop culture conversations, to uplifting Christian discussions, followed by morbid and gory radio theater.  I mean - the stuff gets pretty gross.  So I usually follow it up with another sermon or two to make myself feel better.  Weird.

Here's a list of the "Top 10" podcasts I'm currently tuning in to on a regular basis:

That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs
"Christian author and speaker Annie F. Downs shares with you some of her favorite things: new books, faith conversations, restaurants, travel stories, musicians not to miss, interviews with friends. Pretty much, if it sounds fun to Annie, you're gonna hear about it."

The Popcast With Knox and Jamie
"A weekly pop culture podcast seeking to educate on things that entertain, but do not matter."
Darkest Night
"Darkest Night is a binaural audio drama that places you, the listener, at the center of a recovered memory that sounds as though it’s happening around you in real time. Each chapter delves into the last memories of the recently deceased, slowly revealing a horrifying master plan. Who is weaving this master conspiracy, and what is their ultimate goal?"

The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe
"All good stories have a twist, and all great storytellers are just a little twisted. Join Mike Rowe for a different take on the people and events that you thought you knew -- from pop-culture to politics from Hollywood to History... The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe -- short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span."

Truth For Life Broadcasts
"Truth For Life is the Bible-teaching ministry of Alistair Begg. The ministry's mission is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance so that unbelievers will be converted, believers will be established and local churches will be strengthened."

Sword and Scale
"The Sword and Scale true-crime podcast is an immersive audio experience covering the underworld of criminal activity and the demented minds that perform the most despicable and unthinkable actions, proving that the worst monsters are very real."

TED Talks Daily
"Every weekday, this feed brings you our latest talks in audio format. Hear thought-provoking ideas on every subject imaginable -- from Artificial Intelligence to Zoology, and everything in between -- given by the world's leading thinkers and doers."

Pop Culture Happy Hour
"Pop Culture Happy Hour is a lively chat about books, movies, music, television, comics and pretty much anything else that strikes a nerve, all in a weekly roundtable from NPR. Features "Monkey See" blogger Linda Holmes and an occasionally rowdy cast of characters."

Your Move with Andy Stanley Podcast
"In this weekly 30-minute message from Andy, you will discover how to make better decisions and live with fewer regrets."

"The first scripted series from Gimlet Media, starring Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, David Cross, Amy Sedaris, Michael Cera, Mercedes Ruehl, Alia Shawkat, Chris Gethard, and Spike Jonze. Homecoming centers on a caseworker at an experimental facility, her ambitious supervisor, and a soldier eager to rejoin civilian life — presented in an enigmatic collage of telephone calls, therapy sessions, and overheard conversations."

***And there are a few I'm trying to get into my rotation - Astonishing Legends, S-Town, Exploring My Strange Bible, Deadly Manners, and Dirty John.

What are you listening to?
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