Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

Solo by Kwame Alexander Combines Everything I love: music AND books!

Solo by Kwame Alexander

There is SO much to love about Solo by Kwame Alexander!

…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.

The first thing you must know about this book is that it’s told in verse. And now as more books are written in verse, young readers will become familiar with it. Prose written in verse is just another way of catching the reader’s interest and teaching them to track words. Tricky teaching, I love it!

The best thing about the book is that it is a story of a Black family so it qualifies for the Diversity Reading Challenge but it is also a story that any YA reader will respond to. To imagine life as the child of a famous person? That must be the best life, right? We’ll see.

The third best thing about this title is that it includes a playlist! At the top of every chapter is a song with the artist information; so in theory you could load up your playlist and listen to a song as it relates to the chapter. Geniusness!!

Add this to your collection ASAP!

Categories
Young Adult

Re-visiting My Young Banjo Playing Friends Who Also Love BOOKS!

Do you love music? I have a real treat for you today! I have two young friends who are part of a banjo trio with their father called the Chiodi Trio.

chioditrio
photo courtesy chioditrio.com

I recently had the chance to interview them and talk about books, music, and how they got started.  At the end of the video we get to enjoy a mini music fest!

Check out my interview below:

 

Aren’t they great? I know what you’re thinking: banjos are supposed to be Bluegrass type music, right? Well the fact that they play 20’s jazz is EXACTLY why I love them. They are doing their own thing their own way; it’s unconventional!

You can follow the Chiodi Trio on FacebookTwitter, and their website.  These fellas are very busy and perform weekly down at Wholey’s on the Strip in Pittsburgh (my hometown!).

Have you read any of the books we chatted about?

Categories
Books

Perfectly Broken by Robert Burke Warren, a TLC Book Tour

When I read a book like Perfectly Broken, I’m reminded how old I am. (smile) I’m reminded of that nostalgic feeling I get when I watch The Big Chill or Dirty Dancing or even High Fidelity.  Music and musicians have a way of making you feel all mushy and warm or hot and excited about an era in your life.

Perfectly Broken by Robert Burke Warren

That’s what’s so great about Perfectly Broken. Regardless of your defining era (mine was the 80s) you can relate to the characters in this book.  Remember the time you had to stop wearing your concert T shirts for fear that the sour baby milk smell wouldn’t come out in the laundry? Or what about that time you stayed out too late attending a concert of your favorite band, only to struggle to get up for work the next day? How DID you do that when you were younger? These are the questions that the characters struggle with of a sort, in Perfectly Broken.

Jobs, mortgages, marriages, parenthood, etc, all get in the way when you’re trying to be a famous musician. Rock star even.

His rock star days may be behind him, but stay-at-home dad Grant Kelly’s life is getting more interesting by the day. It’s the beginning of the post 9/11 era, and he and his wife and four-year-old son have traded a New York City apartment for a Catskills farmhouse, where ghosts from the past, worries for the future, and temptations in the present converge to bring about drastic changes in their marriage, their friendships, and their family.

A gorgeously nuanced novel with unforgettable characters, Perfectly Broken is a story of human frailty, the endurance of the heart, and the power and possibility of forgiveness.

While I’m unfamiliar with any 90s music that might be referenced in the book, I can certainly drum up some feels a la Nick Hornby when Trip and Grant reminisce over their younger days.

Adulting can suck sometimes. But music always makes it better. Even when Adulting is super hard and you’re running low on Ambien or Zoloft. Especially when you’re running low on Ambien or Zoloft.

And why can’t you fit into that concert t shirt anymore? Who shrunk it in the wash?

This is The Big Chill or Friends for today. Fun!

I’m proud to be a TLC Tour tlc tour host

stop!

 

Categories
2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Adult Fiction

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s Time for Beyonce: Becoming Beyoncé: The Untold Story

So, I snagged this Beyonce biography on a whim. I’m not big into biographies but seeing as Beyonce is such a big star I thought perhaps there might be a few nuggets of wisdom about her work ethic.

Becoming Beyoncé: The Untold Story

I was not wrong. While this biography was informative, it did not feel like it was properly sanctioned from Beyonce’s camp nor did it feel like you were listening to the whole story. What it felt like was information gleaned from speculation, court documents, and old stories from people who knew here when.

And that gives me mixed feelings. But here’s what I learned from Beyonce:

  • You have to believe in yourself
  • You have to work hard
  • You can’t trust everyone (not even your father)
  • You can be nice to people
  • Sometimes it’s best not to look back

Not rocket science, for sure, but certainly interesting. While I’m kind of out of the Beyonce loop, I respect the brand that she’s built and the following she has. Her fans (the B hive…?) are crazy, love her unconditionally, and come from all walks of life.

And she’s worth like 400 skajillion dollars.

Not too shabby. Perhaps when her real biography comes out I’ll read it too. After all, we both lived in Houston at about the same time.H-town in the HOUSE!!

This book is suitable for teens, although there are a few f bombs as the author recounts conversations with various hip hop and rap artists. Full of diversity, Becoming Beyonce should inspire little girls of any color to follow their dreams.

Categories
2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Books Children

Giveaway: Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews and Bryan Collier

Friends! You KNOW how much I love sharing books about African Americans? Well, even more favorite is sharing about kids. I love love love kid musicians the best!

Watch this video to see who I’m excited about today:

Enter the giveaway and you could win this adorable autobiography of young Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

p.s. if you’ve read this book, it qualifies for the Diversity Challenge!

Categories
Young Adult

Banjos Plus Books Equals Mini Music Fest!

Do you love music? I have a real treat for you today! I have two young friends who are part of a banjo trio with their father called the Chiodi Trio.

chioditrio
photo courtesy chioditrio.com

I recently had the chance to interview them and talk about books, music, and how they got started.  At the end of the video we get to enjoy a mini music fest!

Check out my interview below:

 

Aren’t they great? I know what you’re thinking: banjos are supposed to be Bluegrass type music, right? Well the fact that they play 20’s jazz is EXACTLY why I love them. They are doing their own thing their own way; it’s unconventional!

You can follow the Chiodi Trio on FacebookTwitter, and their website.  These fellas are very busy and perform weekly down at Wholey’s on the Strip in Pittsburgh (my hometown!).

Have you read any of the books we chatted about? Do you play a musical instrument? Tell me what your special talent is in the comments.

Categories
Blogging from A to Z Challenge Books

I Heart Band #AtoZ Challenge

I

 

Hey there all you alphabet lovers! Today is dedicated to the letter I. The book I’d like to share with you is I <3 Band. That sideways stuff is supposed to be a heart, y’all! Anyway, there is a series for all of us former and forever band geeks!

IHEARTBAND

 

FINALLY a series for us! Here’s what the series is about:

Holly Mead’s first day of seventh grade isn’t going as planned. Her brother ruins her carefully chosen outfit, she’s almost late, and her new band director has some surprisingly strict rules. Worst of all, it seems like her best friend, Julia, has replaced her with Natasha, the pretty, smart, new French horn player! Holly is determined to get first chair, but Natasha is turning out to be some pretty stiff competition—and not just in band. Band might be a competition, but friendship isn’t—and Holly needs to figure it out before she loses Julia for good.

Sounds just like middle school, doesn’t it?  So, if you have a little bandie at home, get this series for them, surely there is something they can relate to!

I bet you’re wondering if I’m going to share a pic of me as a former band geek, aren’t you?

Well…..

I’m not.

Just kidding.

Here I am

Pam Band Geek

circa 1980 something. After a parade.  Can you tell I’m saying “Hurry up and take the picture already!”?

Confession time: where you a bandie? What did you play?

Categories
Books

A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Phillip Sendker, a FLTW Book Club Pick

A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Phillip Sendker

 

A Well Tempered Heart

I just finished reading A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Philip Sendker which is February’s pick for From Left To Write virtual book club.  I think you’ll laugh at the irony of how I came to read this book: Last year Thein-Kim (of FLTW) and I met Jan-Philip Sendker at a party at BEA, Book Expo America.  Kim was familiar with the author because the club had read his other book, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. I somehow had missed reading that book and since I’m always keen to connect with an author at a party, I tagged along with Kim to say our hellos. We made our niceties and as Kim and Jan-Phillip chatted I found his German accent and his personality appealing.  In a party of suits and ties, his suit was pretty appealing as well; he looked like a priest.

Anyway, as I listened to the two of them reminisce about The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, I felt like perhaps A Well Tempered Heart might make a nice addition to the books we read at the book club I host at work.  Kim and I chatted about the first book and I thought that perhaps I would need to read the first book before picking up the second.  I was disheartened because I know how busy my reading schedule gets and I doubt if I would have time to read a backlisted title. Onward and upward!

Imagine my surprise the next day as I’m roaming the conference floor at BEA and I come across Jan-Philip’s book signing booth!  The night before Jan-Philip and I had spent a few moments chatting about traveling or Germany or Austria or something which left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling, although it could have been the wine.  I stood in line to secure a signed copy of the book and what do you know, he remembered me and called me by my name! I was smitten all over again.

A Well Tempered Heart

Can you read his handwriting?

It says For Pam! I hope you will like it! yours jPS

Isn’t that great?  With those memories freshly unearthed I plowed into the book; fearful that, based on my chat with Kim, that I might not be able to follow the story because it’s the second in the series.

How pleasantly surprised I was.  Reading about Julia reminded me about my own wanderlust; always seeking that next adventure, that next place to discover a bit of myself in other foods (mostly) and cultures.  Kind of like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love without Javier Bardem and all her  whining.  The first item of business was to discover where Burma was (it’s in SE Asia near Thailand and now called Myanmar).  The second was to discover what a longyi was.  It’s an item of clothing , much like a sarong, that’s worn by both sexes, although for the life of me I cannot figure how they stay on!

But back to wanderlust. Perhaps it’s a romantic ideal but the thought of living longer than 6 weeks in another country is appealing.  Especially given that we are having a very snowy winter in the Northeast, my thoughts think of nothing but warm climates. I’ve heard it said that in order to truly appreciate something, you should live in another country for longer than a week to 10 days.  I’ve been fortunate enough to experience that: I lived in the Southern Czech Republic for approximately 6 weeks.  I traveled in and around Prague and some of the smaller provinces, learning Czech (difficult), accidentally learning German (easier than Czech), and immersing myself in their culture by devouring Czech writers:

  • Milan Kundera
  • Karel  Capek
  • Josef Skovercky
  • Jaroslav Hasek

Since I’d grown up as a musician I was already familiar with Czech composers Dvorak and Smetana but developed a deep love for Smetana’s symphonic poems Ma Vlast, which means my country.  When my brain needs quieting, these musical pieces sooth my nerves and settle my need to wander.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to Burma. I hear it’s not too safe to visit and I’m sure they don’t carry Zyrtec there for my allergies but you never know. Thailand is nearby; and “we are responsible not only for what we do, but also for what we fail to do.”

So there’s that.

Have you ever lived in another country?

 

This post was inspired by the novel A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  Feeling lost and burned out, Julia drops her well paying job at a NYC law firm. After hearing a stranger’s voice in her head, she travels to Burma to find the voice’s story and hopefully herself as well. Join From Left to Write on February 4 we discuss A Well-Tempered Heart.

Categories
Books Reviews Young Adult

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne

I’m going to tell you a secret:  I LOVED The Love Song of Jonny Valentine.

Unconventional Librarian

It’s a story about a tween (yes, 11 yrs old) heartthrob and his life as a superstar.  I remember my early years drooling over secret copies of Tiger Beat dreaming about MJ, Donny Osmond (call me, Donny!) and all the other teen heartthrobs of the 15th century. That’s why I loved Jonny Valentine so much. It took me back to those dreamy days  and allowed me to have a little fun. Wayne’s  Jonny Valentine reminds me alot of Justin Bieber, who’s so, like OMG. I think?

Unconventional Librarian Bieber

To be sure, I never imagined back then how difficult the life of a celebrity must be.  As an adult, I can totally appreciate the difficulty.  I don’t feel sorry for them but I still appreciate it. That’s where Teddy Wayne is so effective. Wayne brings you the intimate details of a celebrity’s life without making you feel sorry for them.  At times, I actually felt pity for Jonny.  I wonder if that was Wayne’s intent?  Sure, Jonny Valentine is rich and super famous but he’s also snarky, jaded, and has no real life outside the touring bus and no friends outside the staff who is on salary.

I’m not sure who the intended audience is for this title, I’m sure teens would appreciate all the pop culture references which were lost on me, but be advised parents, that there are some situations and language you might find uncomfortable.   Other than that caveat, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is a fun romp through the life  mega superstar Jonny Valentine.

I give it 3 paws.

Unconventional Librarian 3 paws