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…


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…

Dammit, I’m proud to be a hockey dad.

Last night, Van Jr and I went back to the Skatezone to watch his teammates compete for the JVB Spring Championship. The boys skated hard and played a pretty solid game against Clearview, beating them 5-2. It was really cool to see his teammates skate by during the game, and spot Van on the glass watching them. After the medals and trophy were presented, his teammates skated the trophy over to where he was.

One of the dad’s that was taking pictures on the ice got this shot (thanks Doug!).


Dammit, I’m proud to be a hockey dad. What a great bunch of teammates.

Movie Reviews…

Approaching the Unknown – this really could have been a decent movie. It felt like the filmmakers didn’t develop the plotlines well enough to support the astronaut going insane. Save your money, watch Moon instead.

Funny/Interesting Links…

And I was. And I am.

My run on Saturday was a duration run (60 mins) and I did a really poor job preparing for the humidity. I didn’t bring water and really paid the price. My pace dropped from an 8:35/mile in miles 1-3 and ended with me hitting almost a 10 min/mile during the last shitty mile. The good news is my achilles tendonitis was not an issue whatsoever. I was diligent with icing my ankle/calf the remainder of the day as I could, too.

I came home mad from softball again. I’m pressing too much at the plate. I really need to simplify and focus on contact. In the field, I did a good job getting back on a ball that bounced out of my glove. What would have been a slightly above routine play turned into a shitshow. Later that inning, a sharply hit ball down the line got by me when we only had three outfielders. I felt awful. Fuck. I was missing the cut off man all game, too. I plan on spending 20 mins throwing into a bucket on it’s side this week (maybe a couple of times) at the field to correct that. I feel freaking terrible because I’m on a new team that is probably wondering what the heck kind of player they got.

Sounds like a lot of boo-hooing, right? Nope, I had a reminder of where my focus needs to be in the bigger picture the next morning (Monday). I had just gotten back from my run that went so-so. My pace was OK given the still healing achilles, and the weather getting warmer. I was about to add a comment on my run posting in RunKeeper… something along the lines of “Blah, really should be doing better than this.” But as I was about the type some self-defeatist, feeling sorry for myself, bullshit… I came to check on Van Jr and how he was doing. This was the first day his doctor thought he would be able to try going to school.

He was having a little pain in his leg. That’s normal for him in the morning, but we decided to put off trying school for another day.

And it struck me. Grateful, that’s what you are. You can get up and run. Be grateful.

And I was. And I am.

So, although I’m still going to put some time into hitting off the tee and being more accurate with throws, my focus is on recognizing how lucky we are.