Book Review: Encore by Tara Kelly

Full disclosure: I’m 45. I’m far from a young adult, ergo, reviewing a YA book should probably be taken with a pound of salt. All of that said, I was more than happy to review my friend, Tara Kelly‘s latest book, Encore. I originally knew Tara as Miss Volatile from collaborating with her musically online. We worked together with Israeli darkwave musician, Skiza on Butterfly Dance, with Canadian electronic artist, Acumen on Gravity, Our Enemy, and she supplied a short vocal sample (I messaged her with a request to record herself saying “Oh My God” like she had just found a dead body in the woods… you know, typical recording request) for my song, Sugar Spider.

Since making lots of weird music, Tara went on to be a fairly accomplished YA author. Her first book, The Foxglove Killings was a Junior Library Guild Selection for December 2015. Her second effort, Amplified, introduced the character, Jasmine Kiss, and went on to win an Oregon Spirit Book Award, ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year, and named a Cybils Awards Finalist.

Encore, finds the band, C-Side about to embark on a risky, but once in a lifetime tour supporting a bigger name act. Jasmine Kiss is the 17 year-old lead guitarist with a strained relationship with her father, that really wishes she would skip the band and go to college. The journey leads the band into inner-strife, intra-band-romance, and even some life-threatening situations.

I couldn’t help but notice the parts of Tara that she writes into Jasmine – I remembered Tara asking me about my own Paul Reed Smiths, when she was about to get her own purple-sparkle PRS (just like Jasmine plays in C-Side). That said, I hope the self-entitled attributes of Jasmine aren’t true of my friend, there were points in the story that I wanted the tour bus to crash.

Encore is a quick read, for sure. The dialog moves the story along effectively, and I really appreciated the book tackling tolerance of LGBT lifestyles, body image issues for young women, and cyber bullying. To any parents considering this for your own YA reader, be sure to make yourself aware there are some adult themes in the book.

For a “quick read,” Encore has deceptive depth. I think my friend has created some characters that should provide interesting stuff for her readers for many books to come.

Funny/Interesting Links…


Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.18.45 AMI wanted to pimp my buddy, Scott Langdon’s new book Happiness is Nowhere, available now at Amazon. There are lots of types of bravery out there. From bad asses like first responders, to a kid raising his hand in the classroom. All kinds. Scott’s book is about happiness, but it’s also about his own bravery in confronting (and re-confronting) his own addictions.

I’ve known alcoholics in every phase of my life, and whether they are artists or not, I’ve found many alcoholics have that songwriters’ need to be loved drive buried deep within the ugliness that is that disease. This book unfurls itself the same way Scott found his path to clean… with kindness and love.

And right now, this is a really damn good message for all of us.

This is a great, uplifting read at a really easy price too. Go get it.

Oh and hey, just to show you what a nice guy Scott is (and what a great writer he is too), here is a post he wrote about Abbe and I from a few years ago… A Reason To Run, A Love Story.

Funny/Interesting Links…


Much to Abbe’s delight I have been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s a good read. I do tend to hold onto a lot of things and I purge the wrong way – I go room by room, instead of the KonMari method of “by category”. Purging the whole house removes the problems that will only re-establish themselves.

Clarifying by reduction reminds me a lot of this quote by Frank Langella during an NPR interview on the concept of growing older…

“I know I’m closer to the end than the beginning, so I’m trying to be far more conscious of any time wasted, which I still waste, as everybody does. But because it’s inevitable and because there’s nothing I can do about it, and I was taught at a fairly young age — not young enough, I wish I had learned earlier — that to waste any time on the inevitable or the thing you cannot control or fix is absolute nonsense.”

It’s true, and it extends beyond just how clean our homes might be. It’s about everything that is “a mess” in our lives. Managing our finances with a real budget. Helping my kids stay on top of schoolwork and their activities/sports.

It comes down to two things more often than not – #1 Love and #2 Responsibility. I find that my happiness emanates from exactly how disciplined of making these two things focused in my day’s to do list. This all relays back to the message of another book I really enjoyed, The One Thing.

Simplifying by making the world into a small place of only things that make me happy? Sounds fucking perfect.

Movie Reviews…

Youth – best film I have seen since watching The Fall. Perfect in every way – acting, script, visually stunning, incredible score. The scene with Michael Caine conducting the cows was beautiful.

Funny/Interesting Links…

fathom the machine

My discipline has been sucking lately. My diet has sucked. I’ve been good about not missing runs and kettlebells everyday, but I’ve been an absolute dipshit with keeping up on with my Gorilla Workouts. I have been playing my new Reverend religiously (holy shit, I love this guitar). I haven’t been reading. Meditation hasn’t happened in a couple of weeks. I’m OK with that – I equate mediation, guitar playing, and reading as the same effect on me…. i.e. makes me want to beat the shit out of people/things less.

This all might be that nebulous complacency that torments me from time to time, but I kind of want to get the machine humming again.

This quote came across my inbox (thanks, Tim Ferriss)…

“Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.” – Oscar Wilde

Very timely, right? Maybe something to think about the next time we post something incendiary about Trump/Hillary/Bernie/Flying Spaghetti Monster. I’m not saying be a gigantic pussy and worry about parroting your beliefs with a tenacity unforeseen by mankind. I’m saying give a shit about why someone is being drawn to that candidate you just cannot fathom anyone with whatever you base as the lowest form of education imaginable for a still-fogging-the-mirror voting person. See, it helps to know where folks are coming from in politics. It’s too easy to chalk it up to knee-jerk fear incensed by the media. There is something there and it’s actually a better concept than the whole political correctness that pretty much no one admits to enjoying. That’s how America gets better folks. At least, that is what I believe. Respectful differences of opinion help us find the best solution.

For example, I support ACA/Obamacare. Did you just ball up your fists and get “fucking liberal!” on the tip of your tongue?

Well, here’s why I support parts of that program. See, my wife is an epileptic. Prior to the ACA, the only way she could be insured (at the time I was self-employed and she did not get health insurance through her employer) was for us to purchase a ridiculously expensive insurance plan, pay those premiums for 9 months – WITH NO BENEFITS to her for her to receive any coverage. The metaphor would be being told you have to make car payments for 3/4 of a year until you actually get the car. Obamacare/ACA fixed that for my family. Pre-existing conditions is the only reason I support that program.

That’s it.

Got a better solution that is more fair? I am totally willing to listen. Seriously. You have to include pre-existing conditions in your plan, but I’ll listen. The penalties side of Obamacare don’t make an ounce of sense to me, but I’m also big enough to admit that I do not know enough to really understand the need for those penalties. I don’t have an allegiance to an insurance plan or a political party for that matter. I have an allegiance to my wife and family. Just like you do. It’s all good.

Movie Reviews…

Filmage – a really sweet documentary about the Descendents, one of my favorite bands of all time. The portion about Bill Stevenson’s brain tumor was really great. I had no idea that Bill had gone through all of that, and boy, it sounded pretty harrowing for those around him. Very happy that caffeinated surf beat is still kickin’. “I want to be stereotyped. I want to be classified.”

Funny/Interesting Links…

lists and experiments

stock-illustration-21377768-collecting-dataI am a gatherer of data. Like my father, I love being able to put decisions, guesses, hypotheses into spreadsheets and lists. Having all that information laid out into rows and columns or an ordered list just puts challenging questions prone to me making a smarter choice… like the proverbial etherized patient upon a table.

One of my new apps that I am sort of intrigued by is The List App. Really, the only interesting thing being posted on this app is by Anthony Bourdain. I don’t expect anyone to join yet another social network to read my crap, ergo, here are a few lists…

The next Gorilla Workouts I will start once I complete the Upper and Lower Body Sculpts (should be this weekend)…

  1. Super Strength
  2. Gorilla Explosion
  3. Plyometric Madness
  4. Gorilla Bootcamp

New music (to my ears) that I think is fairly neat-o…

  1. Sean Rowe
  2. Lucius
  3. White Denim
  4. Foxygen

List of books to read…

  1. Furiously Happy
  2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
  3. This is Your Captain Speaking
  4. Beating the Street
  5. Infinite Jest
  6. Ales Kot and Will Tempest’s Material
  7. How Proust Can Change Your Life
  8. Poke the Box
  9. Tribes
  10. Being Good
  11. The Opposite of Spoiled

My other data-collecting related thing is experimenting… mostly with diet and exercise. I track my weight, measurements, and mood in hopes that I find the right cocktail of food/exercise/whatever for fucktons of happiness. So here are a few of my experiments that I have done/am planning on trying…

  • Current experiment: 1 week of no running/30 mins yoga every morning/upper and lower body sculpt/no alcohol(screwed that up last night – totally forgot having while dinner with Mom last night)/no spending money at ice hockey rinks on food/drinks
  • 1 week of living as a vegetarian/no alcohol
  • 1 week of running 2 miles every morning
  • 1 week of running 3 miles every morning
  • 1 week of no exercise
  • 1 week of getting to bed early
  • 1 week of using cash only
  • 1 week of only grocery shopping on a full stomach
  • Cut cable TV
  • Drink a full glass of water before every meal
  • Meditate every day for a week
  • play guitar every day for a week (how this became an experiment is beyond me… this used to be a several times a day ritual)

Funny/Interesting Links…

at the check-in desk in heaven, demanding a refund

I know Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman took a slight beating from the reviewers, but I really liked this line from early in the book…


I feel this way at times. I catch myself griping about some first world problem. I do my best to zoom the camera out, making sure I am not demanding a refund from the check-in desk in heaven. Some days, I am an unjustly outraged customer of my own life.

Picking battles with my teenage son and pre-teen daughter provides instant exercises for me on a daily basis. I’ve found that staying disciplined with my healthy unplugging time (running, exercise, meditation) keeps my zoom-controlling hand on my life’s camera well-exercised. The muscle that allows me to back up and not react like an idiot seems to develop arthritis over time if I ignore me-time. I can always tell if I have been acting like an asshole when Abbe suggests I go for a run.

To me, this is why being kind is so important. Taking the metaphor from the quote, we need to be nice to those people waiting on us in every figurative and literal meaning of a check-in desk. A person’s time and attention is a gift. Today, I’m going to try and be aware and appreciative of that concept.

Funny/Interesting Links…