new music: Tempers

electric-pop duo Tempers have released a video for their darkwave new song from their forthcoming album, Private Life, out October 25. Tempers are a NYC-based duo comprised of Jasmine Golestaneh and Eddie Cooper.

 

 

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book review: No Judgments

No Judgments by Meg Cabot. William Morrow| September 24, 2019| 358 pages | $15.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-289004-7

RATING: ***/5*

Oops! I did it again. I read another contemporary romance. These keep getting sent to me even though I have repeatedly stated that my reading interests primarily lie in historical fiction, memoir, contemporary literature, literary fiction and feminist books. I know that these are popular books and I’m often sucked in by the cover and descriptions. It’s definitely a good way to break up my reading. After a challenging book, I often want a palate cleanser such as YA or thriller or romance.

So let’s look at this novel and why I chose it. First the cover attracted me– a fun picture of a couple kissing under an umbrella with a dog and a bright color palette with pink and blue. Next, is the author–I’ve read at least one novel by Meg Cabot in the past. She writes both contemporary adult fiction and  YA. She wrote the popular The Princess Diaries. Finally the description sounded great. Hurricane season seemed the perfect time to read a novel about a hurricane in a gorgeous island setting. Plus there’s animal rescue? I’m in!

Bree Beckham left Manhattan for Little Bridge, a small island in the Florida Keys, where her family vacationed. Bree’s mother is a millionaire and famous radio personality known as Judge Justine.   She’s working as a waitress and trying to figure out next steps as a category 5 hurricane barrels toward the island. Most people leave but Bree stubbornly decides to stay with her rescue cat. Her boss’s wife invites her to stay at their more Hurricane-proof home. She takes them up on the offer. After the hurricane, she starts rescuing and helping pets left behind and her boss’s nephew Drew offers to help her out. They of course start to fall for each other. I found Bree’s story to be relatable. She was working in a field she didn’t quite like and she’d left a terrible relationship behind in New York. Her intelligence and strength carry the novel. That and her flirty banter with Drew. Their relationship starts in Moonlighting style. Do they like each other or don’t they? Little Bridge is the true star though. This is Cabot’s love letter to the Florida Keys. She creates a strong sense of place throughout this novel. Although it’s predictable, it’s a sweet little romance novel sure to allow readers a bit of escape. It’s the first in the Little Bridge series, of course, as the most popular novels tend to be.

Cabot was inspired by the true-life story of Brittany Davis who rescued pets in need during Hurricane Irma. Cabot herself decide to stay at her Key West home during the storm that hit the Florida Keys in 2017. Cabot had a landline and soon her home became a hub for locals who wanted to connect with the outside world after the power went out.

 

–review by Amy Steele

 

I received this book for review from William Morrow.

 

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NEW VIDEO: K. Flay

Directed by Directed by Clara Aranovich, “Not in California” is the latest video from K. Flay’s new album No Solutions. It’s part of the Solutions Trilogy and is a prequel to the “Bad Vibes.” The song focuses on climate change. K. Flay said: “We’re looking out at a world that is getting hotter and scarier by the day, and still nothing seems to compel the government to take action. The video imagines a trash universe in which social isolation and littering and bad policing are the status quo — a universe that doesn’t feel so different from ours now.”

K. Flay (Katherine Flaherty) attended Stanford University where she studied sociology and psychology. The singer/songwriter and rapper was nominated for two Grammy Awards last year– for Best Rock Song for “In the Cut” and Best Engineered Album for Every Where is Some Where.

K. Flay continues her U.S. tour with a stop in Boston on Wednesday, September 25, 2019.

 

TOUR DATES:

9/24 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Steel
9/25 – Boston, MA – Royale
9/26 – Philadelphia, PA – TLA
9/29 – Washington, DC – 930 Club
9/30 – Charlotte, NC – The Fillmore
10/2 – Nashville, TN – Marathon
10/4 – Austin City Limits
10/11 – Austin City Limits
10/12 – Denver, CO – The Fillmore

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book review: The Accidentals

The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin. William Morrow| August 2019| 381 pages | $16.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-247175-8

RATING: ****/5*

–review by Amy Steele

 

“That fall June and I had at long last begun to plumb the depth of our mother’s unhappiness.”

In 1957, Olivia McAlister chooses to have an abortion in Mississippi. Illegal at the time, the only options for abortion were often cheap, quick back-alley abortions. Olivia longed to return to New Orleans and feels like an “accidental”—a migratory bird flown off course. Olivia dies leaving her two daughters, Grace and June, and her husband Holly on their own, the effects far-reaching throughout their lives. Holly becomes obsessed with building a bomb shelter. The daughters struggle to find their place in the world.

As a teenager, Grace becomes involved in a love affair with two boys. When she becomes pregnant, she’s sent away to have the child. Originally the aunt had planned the raise the child as her own but the child’s born with a facial defect—a cleft palate—and the aunt gets scared away. At an orphanage, the baby has an accident and is presumed dead. Ed Mae Johnson, an African-American care worker ends up taking the child home and raising her. Grace goes to college and later grad school. She travels the world studying ancient texts—“Here I am, fluent in Greek and Latin and Arabic. I can examine a piece of papyrus and give you its age within twenty years . . .” She works as a professor. She bird watches and feeds the wildlife in her backyard.

“One of the few things I’d come to pride myself on was having learned to take pleasure in things nobody else would think twice about. I had no expectations so I was constantly surprised by small pleasures. A thick peanut and butter and jelly sandwich, flocks of blackbirds flashing their red-tipped wings as they swooped down on the corn, Elsa’s celery smell at the end of a day in the kitchen. The first snow of winter, which had fallen just the past week and melted the next day.”

June finds religion as a teenager. She goes to church with a friend and gets baptized. She practices kissing with a female friend until that friend gets a boyfriend. She attends college and works as a journalist. She notes: “… I am the bona fide reporter, hardcore police beat and such, first woman in my paper’s history to work the news desk.” June unhappily marries and has a son. After undergoing cancer treatment, she starts fostering and adopting dogs—“These dogs of mine, they weren’t pretty to look at, and after Noel left, I made a point to choose the ones I know didn’t have a rat’s chance of getting taken.”

Everyone ends up in Nashville, Tennessee at the end. After many years with little communication or contact, June moves to help Grace after she’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Grace’s baby, now grown, lives in the city too. They may have already met. The Accidentals packs in plenty of details as chapters alternate points-of-view. It’s a lovely story about resilience, forgiveness and family bonds.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from William Morrow.

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book review: No More Boats

No More Boats by Felicity Castagna. Europa Editions| February 2019| 250 pages | $17.00| ISBN: 9781609455095

 

RATING: *****/5*

Addressing many hot button topics—immigration, the working poor, migrants, terrorism, political asylum, national identity—No More Boats is a thoughtful and powerful novel. I became quickly engrossed and couldn’t put it down. Set in a working-class suburb outside Sydney, Australia, the novel focuses on a retired construction worker’s reaction and subsequent mental breakdown when hundreds of refugees remain stranded in a boat off the coast of Australia due to political debates. It’s known as the “Tampa affair.” This occurred in 2001, in the months leading up to 9/11.

An Italian immigrant, Antonio finds himself forced to retire after injuring himself during a construction accident that kills his best friend—“They were the last of their kind. There was no one else to talk to, really; they had outlasted all the other people like them. Now the young Aussies sat with the children of people like them who had migrated too long ago for anyone to remember that they were migrants too.” Extremely frustrated and hopeless, Antonio paints “No More Boats” in front of his house. This leads to much debate within the neighborhood and community. The white supremacy group welcomes Antonio to its meetings. It pushes his already dissatisfied family over the edge. His wife questions their relationship. His adult children—Clare and Francis—seem rather aimless. Clare quit her teaching job to work at a bookstore although she never told her parents. Francis would rather smoke and party than work. Everyone’s affected by Antonio’s seemingly rash action.

I love the daughter Clare. She’s socially awkward and rather nerdy, preferring to read rather than anything else. She has an on-again-off-again boyfriend–“What she would like to do, really, was spend the rest of the evening reading in bed. She wanted to fall asleep with a book by her side and get up again tomorrow morning and read it some more and now that she’d had sex with Richard she could do these things and stop feeling like she hadn’t put some kind of effort into the outside world.” Clare explains her father: “I just think, he’s old and he’s angry that he’s not in control anymore. He’s always had a thing about migrants these days not working as hard, not trying to fit in as much as he did but, you know, it’s nothing extreme, just the usual racism, I guess.” One day one of Clare’s former high school students, Paul, arrives in the store to work and they start to hang out often together. Paul is of Vietnamese descent and despite the age difference, they find many commonalities. She explains her former political activism: “I was like crazy busy with self-invention. I joined all those anti-nuclear marches and spent the night chained to a chair inside the Vice Chancellor’s office. I got kind of stuck in this vortex of radicalism. It sucks you in. Mostly, the social side of it. I was just like awkward and bookish and I didn’t know how to talk to people, so it worked for me. You know, people shouting slogans all the time. I didn’t have to talk and nobody noticed me, but I got to be in this big crowd of people. I could convince myself that I was never lonely, but I was always alone. I’m not sure if anyone really even knew I existed.”

I became quickly engulfed in No More Boats. It draws you in and you’ll think about the characters and subject matter long after finishing it.

 

–review by Amy Steele

 

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Europa Editions.

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new music: Sheer Mag

“The Killer” is the audacious new glam rock single with tons of cool guitar riffs from Sheer Mag. The Philadelphia punk band’s upcoming album, A Distant Hour, will be released on September 23, 2019. Singer Tina Halladay said: “There are many killers out there. The Killer is a liar with a strangle hold on the world. The Killer is a war criminal the corrupt of society have produced and protected. The Killer spends his life covering up atrocities and defending right-wing dictatorships. The Killer stifles accountability and truth. We want to know, when does The Killer die?”

Sheer Mag is:

Tina Halladay (vocals)
Matt Palmer (guitar/lyrics)
Kyle Seely (guitar)
Hart Seely (bass)

Sheer Mag is on tour later this month with a stop in Cambridge, Mass. at The Sinclair on October 11, 2019. See tour dates below.

TOUR DATES:
08/30: Kingston, NY – BSP Kingston
08/31: Burlington, VT – Higher Ground
09/01: Montreal, QC – La Sala Rossa
09/03: Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
09/04: Detroit, MI – Deluxx Fluxx
09/05: Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups
09/06: Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
09/07: Madison, WI – The Terrace at UW-Madison
09/08: Minneapolis, MN – Turf Club
09/09: Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews
09/10: Omaha, NE – The Slowdown
09/12: Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge
09/13: Salt Lake City, UT – Diabolical Records
09/14: Boise, ID – The Olympic
09/16: Vancouver, BC – The Biltmore
09/17: Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
09/18: Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
09/20: Oakland, CA – The New Parish
09/21: San Jose, CA – The Ritz
09/22: Los Angeles, CA – Teragram Ballroom
09/24: Tucson, AZ – Club Congress
09/26: Austin, TX – Barracuda
09/27: San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger
09/28: Houston, TX – The Satellite
09/29: New Orleans, LA – Santo’s
10/01: Birmingham, AL – Saturn
10/02: Atlanta, GA – 529 Club
10/03: Asheville, NC – The Mothlight
10/04: Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall
10/05: Washington, DC – The Black Cat
10/09: Brooklyn, NY – Elsewhere
10/10: Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
10/11: Boston, MA – The Sinclair
10/25: Amsterdam, NL – London Calling Festival
10/26: Aarhus, DEN – Tape
10/27: Copenhagen, DEN – Loppen
10/29: Hamburg, DE – Molotow
10/30: Berlin, DE – Zukunft am Ostkreuz
11/02: London, UK – Mirrors Festival
11/04: Manchester, UK – Yes
11/05: Dublin, IR – Grand Social
11/06: Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club
11/08: Kortrijk, BE – Sonic City 2019
11/09: Benidorm, ESP – Primavera 20th Aniv, Weekender

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book review: The Right Swipe

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai. Avon Books| August 6, 2019| 386 pages | $14.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-287809-0

RATING: 3.5/5*

“’It’s a terrible feeling. When you ghost someone, you’re saying, I don’t care enough about you as a human being to even tell you I don’t want to see you again. How humiliating is that?’ She tried to keep her smile intact, but she feared it was turning a little feral.”

I don’t read a lot of romance but I have extensive online dating experience so this novel interested me—the title and the bright pink cover immediately pulled me in. I don’t have that many romance novels sent my way. Rhiannon is an online dating app creator and a fairly typical romantic lead trope: she’s beautiful and smart and successful in business but not doing that well with her personal life. She uses online dating apps to hook-up with guys when the mood strikes. Two years ago, she met Samson, a former NFL player, and they had amazing sex, he’d asked her out again, but then proceeded to ghost her. I’ve also been ghosted many times and it hurts. It’s disrespectful. It’s unusual to run into the person who ghosted you.

“On the rare occasions she was itching for a hookup, Rhiannon chose her conquests carefully, men who appeared to be far away from her world in both distance and work. Samson had looked big and eager for sex and they’d been almost 250 miles north of her home base in L.A. Just her type.”

Rhiannon and Samson are at the same professional event. He’s the new face of old-school dating website Matchmaker. Rhiannon runs Crush. The panel is called Slow Dating vs. Swiping. I’ve done both with varying degrees of success. Rhiannon wants to buy Matchmaker and it’s not going to be easy to deal with Samson. They agree that they have amazing chemistry. It turns out that Samson’s aunt owns Matchmaker. Rhiannon definitely doesn’t want her relationship with Samson to affect her business. She wants to earn the company on her own merit. Rhiannon and Samson start a marketing series where Rhiannon, who runs the newer dating app Crush, coaches Samson and other Matchmaker clients. It all seems a bit unusual as they’re competing companies. But I didn’t dwell on it too much. They needed some way for the two to work regularly together. While Rhiannon and Samson have obvious physical chemistry, they find themselves connecting intellectually as well. Samson might be a jock but he’s also somewhat of a geek.

There’s excellent diversity in the characters–Rhiannon is black, Samson is Samoan, Rhiannon’s business partner is Asian-American and suffers from extreme anxiety and agoraphobia, her assistant, Lakshmi is of Indian descent. Storylines involve CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy)—Samson’s father and uncle suffered from it– and the #MeToo movement—Rhiannon was pushed out of her last company and her ex-boyfriend/ ex-colleague spread vicious rumors about her–adding depth to this romance. There are several steamy sex scenes. Will they or won’t they end up together? It’s all about the journey. They’re both good-looking and wealthy and incredibly likeable people and you end up rooting for them to be together. I definitely appreciated a strong feminist central character. I enjoyed the novel but it seemed a bit dragged out at times and lost my attention a bit at the end–maybe too predictable or not enough something there.

–review by Amy Steele

I received this book for review from Avon Books.

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