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…

Album Review: Simon Waldram – Insolation

I’ve never met Simon Waldram in person, but when I came across his music on the now-defunct music community, it was refreshing to find a younger artist from Nottinghamshire, UK that felt more kinship to Nick Drake and Syd Barrett than more contemporary artists. Around that 2001-2004, it felt like many musicians had forgotten that music prior to 1990 existed and were too busy picking from the carcasses of post-punk/post-grunge to regurgitate what we had spent the last 15 years listening.

In short, music was boring then, and it was refreshing to hear a kid that found something on his own that resonated with himself. He was raw, but inspired and original. Also, he’s one of those weirdo left-handed guitarists – what a freak.

A few weeks ago, I spotted a tweet from Simon looking for people to review his new release, Insolation. So I reached out and I knew he would never be able to turn down my vast readership of 4 or 5 people.

Insolation is a sprawling mix of 20 tracks that harken comparisons to introspective parts of Joseph Arthur and the more jangly psychedelia moments of Brian Jonestown Massacre. Although rockers like “Alone in Berlin” and “Inside Out” feel honest, I feel as though Simon’s true pocket lies more with expansive songs with space for the notes between to spell the story out for the listener.

The more drone-y songs like Car Glass Window, Nebula, Barely Even Here (which for me had the best guitar playing on Insolation), and Stuck on a Cloud. I found Dandelion with it’s lilting flute and simple lyrics felt familiar, but new. The only track that was a miss for me was Resenah. Other standouts for myself were The Room Overlooking the Park – K’s haunting spoken word over a simple, barely overdriven notes served as a dirge or perhaps a revelation of something terrible. I felt the lo-fi tracks, Lost in the City and En Un Coche really worked well. En Un Coche’s Three Imaginary Boys-era jangliness of The Cure on top of a pawn shop drum machine. The heavy Roger Waters fueled 3am brings the release to a close to an end. The listener gets one last tasty minuet Nebula (reprise).

Insolation connects with the right listener, and even extends out to some other types of musical ears. I miss listening to a lot of my friends’ latest creations, and I’m glad to hear Simon is still creating some compelling music across the pond. You can purchase Insolation from Simon’s Bandcamp page.

Funny/Interesting Links…

from the helicopter view, it looks like a loving madness that we wouldn’t change for the world

Last weekend was busy. And so much damn fun. Here is a helicopter view of the weekend…

9am Gorilla Workout.
10am Wake-up kids, get Van Jr his calcium and breakfast.
10:30am Drive to Brick, NJ to help coach Van Jr’s Jags team at the War at the Shore Tourney. During the drive, I have to call in for a work conference call.
11:30am Run pre-game warm-up for team.
12:30pm Game time.
1:30pm Drive home.
4:30pm Training run (200s)

8am Drive to Brick, NJ to help coach Van Jr’s Jags team at the War at the Shore Tourney.
9am Run pre-game warm-up for team.
10am Game time.
11am Drive home.
1:30pm Gorilla Workout.
7:15pm Drive to Highland Park, NJ for Soft Rock Renegades Guided By Voices/Built to Spill show.
9-11pm ROCK!
11pm Drive home (Abbe has to open tomorrow morning)

photographic evidence of aforementioned rocking

10:30am Drive to Brick, NJ to help coach Van Jr’s Jags team at the War at the Shore Tourney. During the drive, I get a text from Viv saying she needs a ride to play rehearsal. My mom saves the day.
11:30am Run pre-game warm-up for team.
12:30pm Game time.
1:30pm Drive home.
3:30pm Gorilla Workout.
5pm Pickup Viv and then Van Jr.
6pm Abbe and Viv go for a long walk to the Sand Stand for some ice cream.
8pm – Bedtime… Binge watch a great new show, Stranger Things. Viv does Abbe’s nails.

Viv's nail salon

Few things I have to recognize in that whirlwind… I am seriously enjoying being an assistant coach. Although the boys only came away with one win during the tourney, they fought and showed a lot of guts.

I am absolutely humbled to have been given a chance to hop on stage with such a great bunch of musicians and seriously nice people. Big thanks to my buddy, Anthony and the Soft Rock Renegades for putting that night together. Big thanks to Morgan for letting my play through his rig. I wish Abbe and I could have stayed later, but we have to make sure Abbe gets her sleep (big time seizure trigger).

And Abbe, your patience and kindness that you give to my kids is amazing. Viv lights up whenever you are home. Our home is loud with your laughter when you two are together. How great is that?

Funny/Interesting Links…

she was always there for me under a twisted mess of wires

That photo is of my Boss GT-3. She wasn’t my first pedal board, and won’t be my last, but she was a trooper. She went to Las Vegas, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee (including several appearances in front of the late, great Pat Summitt at a sports bar in Knoxville), Georgia, Florida, Texas, and of course, Jersey. She helped write songs that were used as backing tracks on VH-1, and even a song that later appeared in a Ford commercial.

You can't see the GT-3, but I'm definitely screwing around with it here... I think I still have that puffy pirate shirt. Fuck, that's glorious.
You can’t see the GT-3, but I’m definitely screwing around with it here… I think I still have that puffy pirate shirt. Fuck, that’s glorious.

She was a good girl. It’s time to sell her. She still has some value, and to build the new rig, I need to get some coin to add another overdrive stage, a delay to stack, and possibly a fuzz for a fourth OD stage (because who the hell has enough overdrive pedals?).

In the picture, you can still see one of the old 13 Stories song titles… Shake Your Ass. To whom ever takes her off my hands, she’s been awesome – you better treat her right.

Movie Reviews…

Carnage Park – fun, but not great. Grindhouse-esque horror film.

Funny/Interesting Links…

they waved the outfielders in…

The pitcher waved the outfielders in when I stepped into the box.

What the fuck? That sucks. I know I’m getting older, but I figured I would still get a little bit of respect. All of that friggin’ hard work with Gorilla Workouts apparently didn’t mean shit.

But you know what? It worked. I was amped up to show them the error of their ways, and what did I do? I sliced the ball towards second and right field all day. I went with the pitch away a few times, but I swung like absolutely dogshit all day. 0-3 the first game, and 3-3 the second, but maybe one of those hits was actually decent contact.

I’m really grateful that my buddy Ant pulled me aside and mentioned that to pay attention to my back foot mechanics – get myself anchored at the plate. I need to relax a lot at the plate. When I’m not hitting well, it’s because I’m too anxious. Right now, I want to do well for my new teammates and prove my worth.

The good news is that my achilles tendonitis doesn’t hurt too much bad today. My pride definitely hurts, but I’ll fix it.

So, it wasn’t that long ago that I brought home my little korina body, maple neck with a rosewood fretboard bundle of Reverend Sensei HB-FM joy from West Chester Music. Look at her… ain’t she beautiful?


I love this guitar. Definitely the most comfortable guitar I have ever owned. The tone is fantastic and it truly awakened my playing. I have been playing nearly every day. Sometimes several times a day, but I knew that I needed to get a slightly more flexible instrument eventually. Ergo, if all goes according to plan – I will be returning to West Chester Music this Sunday to upgrade to a really great new guitar that gives me all of the additional options I prefer in my axe. Meet the Reverend Reeves Gabrels II

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 4.51.34 PM

Oh baby…. yeah.

The big difference between these guitars is the pickups. The RailHammer Chisel pickups are wonderful for high gain stuff, but the responsiveness really impressed me when I played her at the time I bought the Sensei. The other thing is that sweet Wilkinson trem – I love having a whammy bar. The nice thing about this upgrade is I’ll get a nice trade-in value since this is the same dealer that I purchased the Sensei, so for a couple of bucks and trade-in, I’m super content with the deal.

Funny/Interesting Links…

grateful to be stuck in a car with a 14 year old for a six hour car ride today

Here it is, the last travel ice hockey tournament of the year for my son and his teammates. Van Jr. and I will be driving to Rochester, NY when he hops off the bus this afternoon. We are going to probably have a similar experience as the Boston tourney – very strong teams, maybe come home with a win, but I am hoping we compete. One of the best games this team has played was a loss against the team from Maine in Boston. The tie against the strong team from Connecticut was a moral victory for the boys too.

Both my son and I learned a lot this season. Van Jr has had probably his best season of growth as a player.  He had his challenges – mostly between the ears stuff that have more to do with being a good teammate than hockey knowledge. But I think he is moving up to Midget as a strong player and should enjoy future success because of his mistakes and learning how to make them right again.

As a hockey dad, I learned the value of this quote…

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” – Henry David Thoreau

I love the car rides to games with Van. We listen to mostly his music (lots of Future, Drake, etc.) and he talks to me. That said, I backed away from anything really critical in the car on the way home from games. If he asks, I’ll tell him, but I have been sticking with the good stuff he did during the game, and then my standard two questions…

  1. “Did you have fun?”
  2. “Where do you want to go eat?”

I cannot explain to you how grateful I am to be stuck in a car with a 14 year old for a six hour car ride today. I love you, #13 – now let’s go have some fun.

Funny/Interesting Links…