Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Madilyn Paige CD (as seen on TV)

This stunning self-titled debut EP features a set of tunes notable for their raw emotion and beautiful soundscapes. Madilyn wrote or co-wrote every song on the album, drawin from her own struggles as a teenager and her heartfelt expressions of the joy she finds in life. The first track, "Irreplaceable," begins with aching introspection and soars to an assurance of self-worth; the folloring track, "Foolish Game," was written right after Madilyn left the TV show The Voice and gives insight into the inevitability of discouragement in life and the realization that you can rise above the games that people play. An epic movie score string section combines with powerful rhythms on "Undercover," a breathtaking song about overcoming sadness and seeking the light all around you. The final track, "Little Things," playfully reminds us that the little things in life are the source of true joy. 

Just in case you are not keeping up with NBC's The Voice, she chose Usher to be her coach (there's a spoiler!). Oh, she is a flawless performer that hits those high notes like they are as easy as middle C. Her songs are uplifting, beautiful, and relevant to youth today. Her melodious voice has an amazing range and her overall performances are humble with a huge stage presence due to raw talent.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes

The Distance Between Lost and FoundThe Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This may be my favorite YA book this year. In fact, in a long time. It's a simple read about a Christian youth camp that Hallelujah didn't want to go to because the preacher's boy told some lies and ruined her reputation. But she goes and meets Rachel, the new girl, and ends up on a trail with Rachel and a former friend, Jonah. They get lost. It's a bad lost. For days. The author details the lostness and the hunger, the lack of shelter and warmth. It's quite well written.

Within this story of being lost, getting injured, trying to be found, another story is taking shape. The lost and found is both physical and metaphorical. Hallie was a victim of bullying which led to mobbing. During the time she is lost and experiencing the things she experiences, she finds a different perspective. Having gone through an experience of this sort, I found a lot of deep meaning and truths in this process. Hallie's story is one of any of us who has felt helpless in a situation and eventually identified with the role of helpless victim. She examines her part of the problem and how she has contributed. Even though it is mostly a Christian fiction, the author examines the process and the solution much more deeply than simply turn the other cheek and forgive. She examines the damaged relationships from gossip, rumor, and how those relationships may be changed forever, particularly if the victim plays the victim role.

The book was empowering to me as I reviewed my own situation and found the silver linings, examined my silence where I needed to fight, yell, and make a scene but feared the mindset was already set. Maybe it was but what if it wasn't?

There were metaphors in the scenes with Jonah and the fish, the injured bird, and so many others. What could have been a simplistic "love your neighbor" story, took it deeper by examining the wounds, looking at the irritants that kept it infected, resolving to do differently, and loving yourself.

Clean read. I'll pass it onto my children.

Monday, February 9, 2015

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine AwayMy Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the best written books I have read as the author is an amazing writer, segueing one scene into another with easy transitions. He remembers well the details of adolescent thinking patterns before the prefrontal lobes are developed and decisions are made based on a reaction.

With incredible clarity, the protagonist recalls the details of his childhood, explaining to the audience how and why things were the way they were due to the years in history. How phone calls were so important yet lacked real privacy. There was no internet so teenagers talked on the phone for hours if they could which was difficult. Others wanted their turn and call waiting had begun its ascent. Additionally, many phones were still tethered to the wall by cords of varying lengths.

The rape of Lindy Simpson begins the recollection and that and the protagonist's obsession of Lindy is the central theme of his adolescence. It is the years of his coming of age and the way Lindy and her rape impact him so deeply. His thoughts are deep and age appropriate and the reader watches the slight shifts and maturing of his thought processes as he becomes slightly less egocentric (he is just a teenage boy, remember) and finally to the present day when he realizes his part in Lindy's pain is his to carry unless it would lessen Lindy's.

The reading is, at times, somewhat laborious as the POV meanders through and explores side memories which often do play a part of the main mystery or aspects of those pivotal summers. I almost felt like I had to relive my own long and confusing adolescence via reading about his. Except that, with his obsession of loving Lindy, his own family tragedies, my own adolescence was much less complicated. Admittedly, the adolescence of those recalled in this book is what parents dread and fear. It is not a feel good read. It would most likely resemble a diary kept to cleanse a conscience. It is not a book I would suggest to a book club.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've loved all of Kristin Hannah's books. The ones I've read have been contemporary fiction. This is the first historical fiction I've read by her. To be honest, I found it difficult to connect for the first bit of the book. The book begins the 1990's as an unidentified elderly woman is preparing to move into assisted living. She climbs the stairs of her home and opens an old trunk before her son finds her. At this point, the flashback begins.

The next part has two protagonists, Vianne, the older sister, and Isabelle, impetuous, impulsive, and fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants sister. Vianne is married in a country house in France. Isabelle is ten years younger at 18 and has just been expelled from another finishing school. The year is 1939. Hitler has declared war and begun the German march across Europe. This part of the story covers the whole of France under seige until 1945. The first portion is building the story and the setting, developing the characters and establishing personalities.

Cut back to the more recent day of the unidentified woman moving into her assisted living home and settling in. She receives and invitation to Paris to be a recipient or represent a recipient of one who was a resister during WWII. It upsets her to return to the past. And then we return to the story of the past.

The reader is never completely certain which sister is the old woman until the very end. The story brings another perspective of the citizens of France during Occupation. One joined the active resistance. The other lived in her home while German soldiers requisitioned it, allowing her to stay. It's not a difficult stretch to know which sister is which at this point. Both sisters, although separated most of the war, experience harrowing and horrific lives. Both rise to the occasion in their own way.

Hannah keeps true to her talents which is connecting the reader to her characters so completely that I forgot that there was other other conflict of the old woman deciding whether or not to go to the reunion. By the end, I almost didn't care which sister was the old woman, if,indeed, it was one of the sisters. But I did. In the end, I really did care. I was moved greatly by the sacrifices both women and the peripheral characters made. I loved them as if they were my own relatives.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Solitaire by Alice Oseman

SolitaireSolitaire by Alice Oseman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really liked the message of this book and I connected with Michael Holden. Tori was too whiney to like and self absorbed, although that was kind of the point, each of the supporting characters had an element of interest to add to the story. I would have preferred better closure by the end of the book. The message is communicated well in theory but Tori is still kind of just there for me. I neither liked her nor didn't like her. Sorry about that double negative.

I enjoyed the references to literature without feeling lost in it. I actually quite enjoyed the different perspective on the essay about Pride and Prejudice. Well done.

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

The Silence of Bonaventure ArrowThe Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

I love the novel that introduces unique characters then surrounds those with the people I know in caricature. Such is this book. Additionally, many of the scenes are written in such a way that I couldn't help but completely immerse myself in the scene. I loved the way the book was paced, the characters progressed, and the way they lived and died.

The book begins with Bonaventure's birth. Although mostly expected in nature, there is an odd foretelling that his birth is surrounded by loss. The author quickly establishes that the baby is also exceptional as he never makes a vocal sound. Bonaventure happens to have the extraordinary gift listening and hearing sounds like colors, heartbeats, and the coming of his dreaded grandmother Adalaide 10 minutes before she arrives.

Going further in the past, the reader is treated to his parents meeting, their courtship, and his beginning. The tragedy that occurs is not only the rending of time but also the beginning of Bonaventure's giftedness. It is also the beginning of pain but also the beginning of healing, forgiveness, and stitching together past and present. The novel has flavors of good Christianity, Hoo Doo of New Orleans, as well as self righteousness and vindictiveness. Spoiler here is that good Christianity and positive root work win out and not without humor or karma.

This is a unique book with unique characters, sparse prose, humor, and feel goods.

We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride

We Are Called to RiseWe Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well written, causing me to think and feel. Loosely based on an event in Las Vegas, the story tackles the difficult subjects of PTSD of returned soldiers, Vegas culture, homeless youth, accountability, and discrimination. On the other hand, the story ends with hope.

I also found a lot of excellent phraseology that I can't recall at the moment because I finished this book last week. Well written description of Vegas is included. A short historical lesson on Las Vegas is given that includes the weird marriage of Mormon bishops, mobsters, and casinos. I enjoyed the different perspective of choosing Vegas to raise a family. The author describes how the parents build neighborhoods, develop relationships, and have a little village within the city limits. They are soccer moms who sometimes change into a cocktail waitress outfit at night or on weekends. They are dads who wear a suit and tie to work but work at a casino. But when they come home, their homes and neighborhoods are insular in nature. The children grow up knowing about casinos and shows, nudity and and nude shows, but it is merely background noise to their soccer games, their school plays, their bike rides.