Monday, May 29, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 Solo


Kwame Alexander's first YA novel blends his style of novels in verse with teenage angst and a journey of self-discovery. Blade Morrison is salutatorian at his high school, all set to head off to college in the fall. He plans to do that with his girlfriend Chapel, although her parents have forbidden them to see each other. The reason? Blade's father is a rock star who is frequently in and out of rehab and the tabloid headlines. When his father publicly embarrasses him once again, Blade sets off to find his roots. So he heads from Hollywood to Ghana.

The story unfolds through a mix of song lyrics Blade writes, texts between the characters (Blade, Chapel, Blade's sister and father), and poetic narrative stretches. Along with the usual teenage search for identity and independence, the story also deals with themes of betrayal, loss, love, forgiveness, celebrity lifestyles, and what makes a family.

Although it has such meaningful content, it is a quick read due to the way the verse carries you along. Meant for YA and too mature for younger readers, Solo is another masterpiece by Alexander. Readers who are music buffs will enjoy the references to musicians and particular songs that are scattered throughout the book. (They may also wince over the fate of a certain Eddie Van Halen Frankenstrat.)

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Summer Reading 2017 Jeopardy in July (Jamie Quinn Mystery #5)

Jeopardy in July (Jamie Quinn Mystery #5)

Jamie Quinn is back in action and things don't slow down for the entire story. When she visits an assisted living home to meet some prospective clients, she never imagines she will wind up in a murder investigation. (Of course, knowing Jamie, we are not surprised.) It's a good thing that she is an insomniac because there are not enough hours in the day to deal with everything that is going on. Someone seems to be killing off residents at the home, a friend asks her to look into a forged piece of art his father purchased thinking it was real since it had a certificate of authenticity with it, she's hired to do legal seminars, she's invited to a birthday party of 8-year-old girls, her best friend Grace is dating her frenemy Nick, her boyfriend Nick is still in Australia saving the wombats, and her father is still waiting for his visa to be approved so he can come to the United States. How can one girl fit it all in? Jamie manages to squeeze everything into her busy days, and she has some help from friends like PI Duke Broussard.

Readers of earlier adventures will recognize the trademark way that trouble always seems to find Jamie and suck her in. Her klutziness and scatterbrained ways haven't changed, nor has her relationship with her mother's cat Mr. Paws (aka Mr. Pain in the Ass). We can laugh at her antics, worry over her safety as she tries to track down a killer, and ache for her loneliness while Kip is out of the country. Fast-paced and fun, this is an enjoyable mystery.

I received a copy from the author for review purposes.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters

What creates meaning in our lives? How do we know that our lives matter? These are questions that many people wonder about at some time in their years here on Earth. Great thinkers throughout the ages have pondered these ideals and offered the truth as they perceived it. And many are still trying to find the answer today, or turning to despair when they feel there is no meaning to be had. Smith begins in the way this search does fro each of us, with her own experiences. From memories of her childhood time around Sufi darvishes, reading great thinkers like Aristotle and Freud, to visits with speakers from The Moth, she pulls out threads from each source and weaves them together to form a complete picture - a tapestry of what makes a meaningful life. 

In her presentation, she describes four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence. She gives multiple examples of how each pillar manifests itself, with quotes from sources such as researchers, artists, and authors. These exemplars are not only from past masterworks of literature or science, but from contemporary groups and individuals who are pursuing meaning in their own lives and trying to help others find it, too. And then she goes on to explain how finding these pillars and strengthening them can lead to personal growth and a way to improve the world around us. Whether it is the soul searching of Holocaust survivors like Frankl, or terminally ill patients in modern medical trials, the stories are honest and poignant.

Whether you are curious about what makes a life matter, or enjoy philosophical discussions of a meaningful existence, this book offers many different viewpoints and paths to take. Some may resonate more with one read than they do with others, but there is plenty to think about. And a little soul-searching is a good way to start this journey.

Visit the publisher's website for more information about the book or the author. You may also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.