book review: Leaving Lucy Pear

llucy pear

Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon. Viking| July 2016| 319 pages | $26.00| ISBN: 9781594632655

 RATING: *****/5*

An engrossing and gorgeous work of historical fiction, this novel effectively weaves together issues of class, feminism, wealth, power, mental illness and motherhood. The setting: Cape Ann, Massachusetts, a working class fishing community as well as a lovely coastal summer getaway for Boston’s wealthy. In 1917, the unwed teenage daughter of a wealthy family abandons her newborn daughter under a pear tree outside her uncle’s estate on Cape Ann. A decade later, Beatrice finds herself  unexpectedly reunited with the Irish woman raising the determined and spunky Lucy Pear. Emma Murphy presents a business proposal to the local quarry owner and mayoral candidate, Josiah Story, and soon the mother of nine and wife to an alcoholic fisherman finds herself involved in an affair with this wealthy man. He sets her up with a job helping Beatrice take care of her elderly uncle. Beatrice is an activist but also dealing with mental illness. She married a gay man and chooses to spend the majority of her time with her uncle on Cape Ann instead of with her husband in Boston. Author Anna Solomon writes: “She lived with her uncle instead of her husband. She didn’t play piano. She hadn’t lasted a semester at college. She had abandoned her baby! She had failed to recover.” In many ways I could relate to Beatrice and this made for compelling reading. Solomon created characters with depth and fallibility– characters in which many readers should find commonality. Lucy decides to get work alongside her brothers at the quarry by dressing as a boy. She’s determined to raise enough money to escape her abusive adopted father and move to Canada where her older brother lives. With her dark curly hair, Lucy realizes she’s different than her siblings. Solomon writes: “Emma wondered if Lucy was dumb because then keeping Lucy could pass for a kind of selflessness. But Lucy turned out not to be at all dumb, only even-tempered and kind. She had the steady energy of a woman by the time she was eight, along with a boy’s knack for physical work, for pieces and parts and how they fit together, how things worked.” A native of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, Solomon effectively creates a distinctive sense of place. Leaving Lucy Pear is an outstanding novel.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Viking.

Shop Indie Bookstores

, , , ,

Leave a comment

Project Runway S15: meet the designers

prs15_061716_bn-0483

Heading into episode three on S15 of Project Runway, two designers have been eliminated: Linda and Ian.

In episode two, the designers needed to design something that would appeal to a wide variety of women. The winner’s design would be sold on the Just Fab website. Laurence won. Linda got eliminated.

winning design by Laurence:

laurence

Project Runway S15 Designers

prs15_bn_tasha_0923

TASHA HENDERSON

Age: 41

Hometown: Shreveport, LA

Resides in: Shreveport, LA

Favorite Designers: Kanye West, Control Sector, Daniel Patrick

Style Icon: Kanye West, Jesse Boykins, SZA, Rihanna, Janelle Monae, Pharrell

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Christian Siriano, Samantha Black, Sonjia, Mondo Guerra, Dom Streater

prs15_bn_sarah_0735

SARAH DONOFRIO

Hometown:  Toronto, Canada

Resides in:  Portland, OR

Favorite Designers:  Jean Paul Gautier, Ungaro, Walter Von Bierendonck and

Martin Margiela

Style Icon:  Madonna

Favorite past Project Runway designer:  Amanda Valentine and Mondo Guerra

prs15_roberi

ROBERI PARRA

Hometown:  Caracas, Venezuela

Resides in:  Miami, FL

Favorite Designers:  Different designers for different moments.  I prefer those with a unique point of view and ideas.

Style Icon:  Bjork

prs15_bn_rik_0701

RIK VILLA

Hometown:  Los Angeles, CA

Resides in:  Los Angeles, CA

Favorite Designers:  Maison Margiela, Acne Studios, Rick Owens, Lanvin,

Nicolas Ghesquiere

Style Icon:  Gwen Stefani

Favorite Past Project Runway Designer:  Seth Aaron

prs15_bn_natalia_0114

NATHALIA JMAG

Age: 24

Hometown: Framingham, MA

Resides in: Boston, MA

Favorite Designers: Alexander Wang, Eileen Fisher, Riccardo Tisci, Stella McCartney, Jeremy Scott

Style Icon: Rihanna, Cher, Gwen Stefani

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Layana Aguilar & Kelly Dempsey

Education: Framingham State University design program

prs15_bn_mah-jing_0885

MAH-JING WONG

Hometown:  Philadelphia, PA

Resides in:  Philadelphia, PA

Favorite Designers:  D2square, Zac Posen and Versace

Style Icon:  Pam Grier, Lil Kim

Favorite past Project Runway designer: “I don’t have one, I love them all.”

Education: Art Institute of Philadelphia

prs15_bn_linda_0400

LINDA MARCUS [eliminated week two]

Age: 55

Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

Resides in: Milwaukee, WI

Favorite Designers: Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Ricky Owens, Vivian Westwood

Style Icon: Iman, Jessica Alba, Zendaya

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Mondo Guerra, Austin Scarlett, Dom Streater

prs15_bn_laurence_1061

LAURENCE BASSE

Age: 41

Hometown: Paris, France

Resides in: Los Angeles, CA

Favorite Designers: Tom ford, Balmain, JPG, Alexander McQueen

Style Icon: Grace Jones

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Kini Zamora

prs15_bn_kimber_0420

KIMBERLY RICHARDSON 

Age: 42

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Resides in: New York, NY

Favorite Designers: Rodarte, Marchesa, Valentino, Stephane Roland and Vera Wang

Style Icon:  Miroslava Duma

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Christian Siriano

Education: Art Institute of New York

prs15_bn_jenni_0075

JENNI RICCETTI

Age: 22

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Resides in: San Francisco, CA

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Mondo

prs15_bn_erin_0218

ERIN ROBERTSON

Age: 29

Hometown: Provo, UT

Resides in: Cambridge, MA

Favorite Designers: Elsa Schiaparelli, Pheobe Philo, Miuccia Prada, Roksonda Ilincic, Alexander McQueen, Iris Van Herpen,

Style Icon: Anna Dello Russo

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Sean Kelly

Education: BFA in Fashion Design and Fiber Art from Massachusetts College of Art and Design

prs15_bn_dexter_1079

DEXTER SIMMONS

Age: 32

Hometown: Oakland, CA

Resides in: Oakland, CA

Favorite Designers: Victor and Rolf, KTZ, Hussein Chalayan

Style Icon: Grace Jones, Prince

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Michael Costello

prs15_bn_cornelius_0271

CORNELIUS ORTIZ

Age: 24

Hometown: Boston, MA

Resides in: Boston, MA

Favorite Designers: Marc Jacobs, Rick Owens

Style Icon: Janelle Monae

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Sonjia Williams

Education: bachelors in Fashion Design and Retailing from Framingham State University

prs15_bn_brik_1290

BRIK ALLEN

Age: 26

Hometown: Baton Route, LA

Resides in: New Orleans, LA

Favorite Designers: Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, and Kenz Style Icon: James Dean

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Mondo Guerra

Education: Bachelor of Science in Textiles, Apparel and Merchandising from Louisiana State University

prs15_bn_alex_1184

ALEX SNYDER

Age: 30

Hometown: Boca Raton/Delray Beach, Florida

Resides in:  San Francisco, CA

Favorite Designers: Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, and Christobal Balenciaga

Style Icon: Frida Kahlo, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, the Mara sisters, Sia, and Kate Blanchet

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Jay McCarroll

Education: MFA in design (unspecified school)

prs15_bn_ian_0562

IAN HARGROVE [eliminated week one]

Age: 30

Hometown: Cary, IL

Resides in: Chicago, IL

Favorite Designers: Proenza Schouler, Altuzarra, Baja East

Style Icon: Jaden Smith, Jenna Lyons

Favorite past Project Runway Designer: Fabio Costa

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

book review: Girl Through Glass

giril-through-glass

Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson. Harper| January 2016| 304 pages | $25.99| ISBN: 9780062326270

RATING: *****/5*

Utilizing the ballet world in 1970s and 1980s New York, author Sari Wilson provides a fascinating and dark character study in her debut novel Girl Through Glass. Readers are introduced to 11-year-old Mira, a talented ballerina with immense potential. She’s forced to become savvy and self-sufficient after her mother and father divorce. Perhaps Mira develops an unusual [and rather disturbing] relationship with 47-year-old Maurice because she’s essentially without parental guidance and attention most of the time. Mira’s mom isn’t like other ballet moms – perhaps the equivalent of today’s helicopter parents—but she’s rather a free spirit occupied by her own interests rather than those of her daughter. Wilson writes: “Ballet mothers pack tiny, neatly wrapped sandwiches of sardines (good for the bones), little plastic bags of celery and carrot sticks, and yogurt with prunes.”

“But Mira’s mother makes Mira chickpea sandwiches on bread that crumbles when she touches it. Mira’s mother wears orange jumpsuits and culottes, and drops her off and leaves her to do errands, floating in at the end of class, smelling fresh and sour, lie the ocean and a cloudy day.”

Dance becomes Mira’s escape and addiction. This warps her self-esteem and sense of self. She begins investing as much time as she can to ballet and her body, even counting calories with anorexic obsession as she earns a spot at the prestigious School of American Ballet under the direction of legendary George Balanchine.  At this point she’s living with her father and his new wife while her mother searches for self-fulfillment in California. While Mira might be a street-smart New Yorker she’s also still a teenager when something unimaginable shatters her idyllic cocoon.

In present day, Kate, a professor of dance and dance historian at a midwestern college. concentrates on illuminating the cutthroat world of ballet—that Black Swan-type competitive focus on perfection, being the best at all costs and winnowing out the wheat from the chaff.  Kate re-invented herself after a tumultuous event and retreats into a new career although she remains involved with dance in another facet. She’s not abandoned her passion, she’s merely grown-up and into a fresher perspective on it. Kate’s liaison with a student shifts her trajectory. She also receives a mysterious letter from a man she knew in her childhood. She travels to New York to sleuth out what happened to this man who nearly destroyed her 30 years prior.

A former ballet dancer, Wilson provides intimate details about New York’s ballet scene. While this isn’t solely a novel about the ballet world, girls straddling the line between youth and adulthood provides fascinating reading. The novel flawlessly describes the razor sharp focus on becoming the best, earning a particular status and securing one’s place in this strange world overflowing with beauty and sacrifice. And what happens to all those girls who aren’t’ quite the best? Those girls who do not make the right school or earn a place in a prestigious ballet company? This absorbing, riveting novel does what a wonderful novel can do: it completely transports readers to a specific time and place in such an effective and specific manner that one thinks about the subject and characters well past finishing the last page.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper.

 

 

<a href=”http://www.indiebound.org/?aff=writergal85″><img src=”http://www.indiebound.org/files/blue-small.gif&#8221; alt=”Shop Indie Bookstores” border=”0″ /></a>

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

STEELE INTERVIEWS: Furniture Girls

furn-girl

Seattle, Wash. electro-rock band Furniture Girls formed in 2007 and creates raw, energetic and thoughtful music. The band infuses a soulsy, bluesy sound into its already cool, funky eclecticness on the new album In Shadows—released in August. It’s a fantastic album—superb arrangements and emotive vocals. I played over and over in my car for weeks. It’s skipping which happens with CDs. Cool opening bass riff on the first track “Doobius” and I particularly connected with the songs “My Time” [of course I like a song with the line: “Nothing’s quite as dark as a bright sunny day.”] and “Heirlooms.” Hoping the band will be able to tour the East Coast in the near future.

Furniture Girls is: stayC Meyer [lyricist/lead vocalist], Jim Watkins [bassist/producer], drummer Thane Mitchell [drummer], guitarist Jason Lightfoot [guitartist] and vocalist Kate Bradley [vocalist].

I sent a few questions over to stayC and Jim via email.

Amy Steele: How did you get together?

stayC: I was in another band at the time with fG’s current guitarist, Jason Lightfoot, called Gracie Law & the Pork Chop Express. My high school friend, Nikki Wolgamott, approached me to start an electronic side project. In the beginning, it was just me & Nikki, 2 drum machines, & I was playing a little guitar. Nikki brought in Bubba Jones, who then brought in drummer Thane Mitchell and then bassist Jim Watkins. After Nikki and Bubba left for other endeavors, we brought in Jason Lightfoot on guitars and eventually Kate Bradley on.. well, a lot of stuff.

Amy Steele: Why did you name the band Furniture Girls?

stayC: The name is taken from the 1973 Sci-Fi classic Soylent Green, in which the high-priced call girls of the “future” were referred to as “furniture.”

Amy Steele: What is the Seattle music scene like these days?

stayC: Vast. Diverse. Massive. My only complaint about the Seattle scene is that there is so much going on, it’s impossible to be aware of it all. There’s a lot of good stuff going on in this town right now.

Jim: At the same time – and this probably true of any big city – you really have to get out to live shows to discover what’s happening. For example, Seattle’s got a (well-earned) reputation for producing alt-rock bands, but an incredible improv funk/soul scene has been thriving here for years as well, and it’s barely talked about. On the one hand, it’s cool that there’s an “underground” scene than only locals are aware of, but it’s a shame that some of these bands aren’t more well-known.

a2b939f9-b98e-4672-98d9-150037b8e61d

Amy Steele: There are bluesy elements to the songs on In Shadows. The opening for “Doobius” grabs listeners immediately with that intense drumbeat and then that grooving bass throughout. What a superb sound. It’s a very cool album. The melodies are lush and eclectic. What was the creative process like?

stayC: The creative process for In Shadows was unlike any of our previous albums. This was the fastest we’d ever written, recorded, and put out an album. We were less concerned with a cohesive concept, per say, and more concerned with just getting out what we felt was a worthy body of work.

Jim: Working on this music was honestly the most fun experience I’ve had in my eight years with this band. The five of us started from square one (with a marathon writing/jam session) in August of last year, and by January we had eight new songs ready to record. By contrast, some of the songs on our previous releases were a year or two old before we ever took them into the studio.

 

Amy Steele: I’ve already mentioned [via Twitter] that I love the songs “My Time” and “Heirlooms.” Listening to them in my car when I often get anxiety has been super effective. Such outstanding lyrics. Plus gorgeous vocals. What inspired these songs? How about the songs “Solitary” and “The Want.”

stayC: Ok, lets see – first of all… anxiety sucks. It is no fun at all. So to think anything we’ve done can actually help lessen the effects of anxiety is hugely flattering and incredibly satisfying. An artist always hopes to bring joy to the listener, but relief? Well, that’s just huge.

I’ll go one at a time on the song inspiration. “My Time” actually came to me while laying in a hammock on a lovely summer day. For whatever reason, I began imagining a body lying in a field enjoying that same beautiful blue sky for the last time. Morose, I know, but that’s just where my mind goes sometimes.

“Heirlooms” was written the morning after I had to go through a bunch of my grandmother’s things after she passed. I was fortunate to have 2 strong grandmothers and I wrote this song for them and all they left behind. I also reflected on what was important to me and what I would leave behind.

Funny you should mention “Solitary” and “The Want” in the same breath. They were both inspired by my current beau, a touring musician who’s away a lot.

Amy Steele: When did you decide you wanted to be a singer or could sing? Have you had vocal training?

stayC: I did take a vocal lesson. Once. The very first time I tried to perform solo, I choked. Big time. Couldn’t control my breathing. I ran out of air and couldn’t figure out how to make the sounds I knew I was capable of making. The vocal coach I went to in my early twenties was awesome. She specifically told me, “I can teach you to sing. I can train you to sound like everybody else. But I don’t want to do that. I want you to sound like you. I’m just going to give you the basics and teach you how to breathe.” I really appreciated that advice and coaching. I first “thought” I could sing when I was very young, but I never had the confidence. It’s all about confidence. That didn’t come for me until I was 22 years old.

Amy Steele: You write the lyrics and then have the band put music to them or does the music come first and you put lyrics to it or a little of both?

stayC: Both. Some songs I’ve written with lyrics, melody, and complete arrangement. I record all of that to a click track and Jim (bassist) composes around it. Other songs start out as (mostly) finished instrumentals that Jim composes, and then I’ll write to that. There are a few songs we’ve all written in the same room together as a band. Those are more rare, but we enjoy that process equally.

Amy Steele: Have you faced any particular challenges as a woman in music? What do you think about the state of women in music today?

stayC: We have a fantastic and talented group of female musicians in this town who support and promote one another. I have never felt like an outsider or like I wasn’t respected as a woman in music. I feel like the men in the scene give equal weight and respect to the women in the scene. Sure, there are pressures to look a certain way as a woman, but I feel that’s just as much self-imposed. Really, if the music is good, you should be able to look any way you want in this day and age.

Amy Steele: What makes a good song?

stayC: What makes a good song is anything that grabs you. Anything that pulls at your soul and won’t let go. Anything that makes you hunt all over to find it so you can listen to it over and over again. That can be a musical hook, a lyric, a vibe. Right now – I’m pretty obsessed with Tame Impala’s “Let It Happen.” Something about the keyboard line in that song. I dig it.

Amy Steele: What new music are you listening to?

stayC: My tastes are all over the map. I’ve been listening to Sleigh Belles, Elephant Gun Riot, The Adarna, and American Pinup, to name a few. But also, I listen to a lot of not so new stuff.

Amy Steele: What show are you currently binge-watching?

stayC: My recent binges include Stranger Things, Between, and Penny Dreadful (really bummed it got cancelled). I also have been watching American Horror Story since the beginning. Oh, and I recently got into Roadies.

Amy Steele: Come play this way. The Middle East in Cambridge would be a perfect venue.

stayC: I would absolutely love that!! Furniture Girls have yet to make the East Coast, but I have a lot of family there so it’s just a matter of time.

 

 

, , ,

Leave a comment

new music: Alexandra Savior; Radar Eyes

Alexandra Savior, “M.T.M.E.”

M.T.M.E. –the abbreviation for music to my ears is the new song from talented 21-year-old Alexandra Savior. The song entrances with intensely sultry vocals and a musical arrangement which effectively fuses Eastern and Western sounds. The L.A.-based Savior wrote the song with Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys/Last Shadow Puppets).

 

Radar Eyes, “Midnight Drive”

80s post-punk/goth influences feature prominently on this song. Yearning vocals and stylized, psychedelic guitar make the song pop. It’s a definite throwback for fans of The Church, Bauhaus, Echo & The Bunnymen. Past meets future on this energetic single. Radar Eyes is: singer/ guitarist Anthony Cozzi; guitarist Russell Calderwood, drummer Nithin Kalvakota, and bassist Lucas Sikorski. The band’s new album Radiant Remains [Under Road Records] is available now.

, ,

Leave a comment

September Book Readings in Boston area

art of

Mary Karr
The Art of Memoir
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, September 6 at 7pm

gentleman

Amor Towles
A Gentleman in Moscow
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, September 7 at 7pm

here i am

Jonathan Safran Foer
Here I Am
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, September 8 at 6pm

37th parallel

Ben Mezrich
The 37th Parallel
Brookline Booksmith
Friday, September 9 at 7pm

lady copy

Amy Stewart
Lady Cop Makes Trouble
Brookline Booksmith
Saturday, September 10 at 5pm

terror years

Lawrence Wright
The Terror Years
Harvard Book Store at Brattle Theatre
Monday, September 12 at 6pm

writing without bs

Josh Bernoff
Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, September 13 at 6:30pm

26530315

llucy pear

Ann Hood
The Book that Matters Most
Anna Solomon
Leaving Lucy Pear
Newtonville Books
Tuesday, September 13 at 7pm

29429875

Mara Wilson
Where Am I Now?
Harvard Book Store at Brattle Theatre
Thursday, September 15 at 6pm

art of money

Bari Tessler
The Art of Money
Trident Booksellers
Tuesday, September 20 at 7pm

pefume river

Robert Olen Butler
Perfume River
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, September 20 at 7pm

nutshell

Ian McEwan
Nutshell
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, September 21 at 7pm

modified

Caitlin Shetterly
Modified
Brookline Booksmith
Friday, September 23 at 7pm

the wonder

Emma Donoghue
The Wonder
Harvard Book Store at Brattle Theatre
Friday, September 23 at 6pm

alan cumming

Alan Cumming
You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams
Harvard Book Store at First Parish Church
Sunday, September 25 at 6pm

commonwealth

Ann Patchett
Commonwealth
Harvard Book Store at First Parish Church
Thursday, September 29 at 7pm

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

on tour: Chris Robinson Brotherhood

©Jay Blakesberg

©Jay Blakesberg

formed in 2011, Chris Robinson Brotherhood plays folksy, psychedelic, trippy, wandering, guitar-heavy, wandering songs that transport you to a transcendental state. The band wil tour in support of its fourth studio album, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel, out now via Robinson’s Silver Arrow Records. The band plays two Boston dates at Paradise Rock Club on Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1.

 

TOUR DATES:

August 28 – Arrington, VA – LOCKN’ Festival
September 16 – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
September 18 – Scranton, PA – Outlaw Music Festival
September 21 – Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom
September 23 – Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot
September 24 – Pittsburgh, PA – The Rex Theater
September 25 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom
September 26 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom
September 29 – Stroudsburg, PA – Sherman Theater
September 30 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
October 1 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
October 2 – Syracuse, NY – The Westcott Theater
October 4 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Intersection
October 6 – Cincinnati, OH – 20th Century Theater
October 7 – Nashville, TN – Cannery Ballroom
October 8 – Columbia, MO – The Blue Note
October 9 – Omaha, NE – Slowdown
October 11 – Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater
October 13 – Indianapolis, IN – Deluxe At The Old National Centre
October 14 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
October 15 – Madison, WI – Majestic Theatre
October 16 – Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall Ballroom
October 19 – Bloomington, IL – Castle Theatre
October 20 – Louisville, KY – Headliners Music Hall
October 21 – Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theatre
October 22 – Raleigh, NC – Lincoln Theatre
October 23 – Raleigh, NC – Lincoln Theatre
November 9 – Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel
November 11 – Columbia, SC – Music Farm
November 12 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
November 18 – Westbury, NY – The Space at Westbury
November 19 – Port Chester, NY – The Capitol Theatre
November 29 – Missoula, MT – The Wilma Theater
December 1 – Sandpoint, ID – The Hive
December 2 – Seattle, WA – Neumos
December 3 – Portland, OR – Revolution Bar & Music Hall
December 4 – Eugene, OR – HiFi Music Hall
December 6 – Sacramento, CA – Ace Of Spades
December 8 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
December 9 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
December 10 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: