October 7th, 2014
Facing the Music by Jennifer Knapp
Publisher: Howard Books
Release Date: 10-07-2014
Jennifer Knapp found solace in music at a young age to escape a troubled home life. Something that wouldn’t be able to save her when she got to college. After a fall-out at home, she found herself spiraling out of control with alcohol and sex. She hit rock bottom and this time the only thing that saved her was finding God.
It wasn’t long before her two passions merged and Knapp was a full fledged Contemporary Christian Artist. A role that put her on a pedestal and expected her to be the perfect Christian. Knapp slowly began to crack under the pressure of the road and the growing realization that she was in love with a woman. This realization made her leave the music scene for years as she traveled with her new found love, trying to run away from it all.
But if music is truly in your bones, as it is with Knapp, you can’t run. Her returned to the scene meant coming out to all her fans and dealing with the aftermath. Had it not been for a few helping hands, Knapp would have never stepped foot inside a church again. Instead, she learned to reclaim her faith fully and use it to help reshape how churches view/treat those in the LGBTQ community.
I’ll admit I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Knapp since 1998 when her album, Kansas, came out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to her songs over the years, often on repeat. In fact, her stuff is currently playing on shuffle as I write this. However, my love of her music isn’t the reason why I love this book. Yes, it’s the reason I chose to read it, but I don’t think a book has affected me quite as much as Facing the Music in a long time, which is why this review will be quite different from my others. It’s hard to separate how this personally touched me as it related to my own life.
Just as she does with her songs, Knapp truly lays it all out and puts her heart into this book. The number of passages I have highlighted or the times that I wanted to scream yes were plentiful. While her journey is her own, I believe that many will be able to connect and share her sentiment in the different emotions that organized religion can cause. Or at least I did.
You don’t have to be in the spotlight to understand the pressures religion can put on you. Growing up in the church, I fully understand the need to say, do, act, and even wear the right things. It can be overwhelming and suffocating to say the least. The one scene that really encompassed this for me was when Knapp was trying to take a break from the grueling music scene. She was cracking from the fast pace of the road, but everyone told it was merely because her spiritual life was off. She was out of harmony with God and if she prayed enough and read her bible, everything would work itself out. I’m sure the words were coming from a good place, but they were words that hurt more than they healed.
I can’t even begin to express how heartbreaking to read how the Christian community treated her when she came out. The saddest story was one about a girl who sent all her CDs back to Knapp because not only did she not want them anymore she didn’t want anyone else to have them either. Knapp’s music was worthless in her eyes just because she loved differently then what is viewed as “right”. There is one quote that I keep going back to that sings so true to me She states “what I believed in had nothing to do with sexual identity or gender. I believed that no matter who we are, who we love, it is how we love that matters” (p 148). This is something I wish more people would adopt. To look beyond who people love to how they love instead. It truly hits at the heart of the LGBTQ controversy.
I love that Knapp didn’t hold back on how much she struggled to hold onto and reclaim her faith (at least in the organized religion sense.) For years, she was unable to play music let alone step into a church. She got more out of telling her stories over a drink than she did sitting through a sermon. She struggled to believe she could still be a child of God and be who she was. I applaud her for being able to hold onto and fully reclaim her faith. But most of all, I’m glad she told her story. Had I read this 10 years ago, I may be in a very different spot than I am now. I know I’m not the same girl I was in 1998 when I first picked up Kansas (nor do I want to be), but Knapp’s story hit home that you still hold onto faith and the belief that it’s okay to love who you love.
While there is much I could say about this book, I think I will simply say thank you. Thank you, Jennifer, for your music and for this book. It’s made a difference in my life more than I can ever put into words.
Librarian note: I do believe this book has high teen appeal. I would easily book talk this to teens in GSA groups. I know many teens have a hard time coming to terms with accepting themselves and holding onto God. Knapp speaks a lot about all the questioning and reconciling she had to go through to land where she did. Her words may just make the process for them, and loved ones, that much easier.
September 16th, 2014
Today I have Amy Herrick, author of The Time Fetch, talking about what inspires her.
Being often (and currently) a fantasy writer, a seeker after the world-in-back-of-the-world, there is a particular and long list of things I turn to again and again for inspiration. Inspiration being for me not necessarily what the story is going to be about, but the way to get into it. I often picture myself deep in the woods walking around and around a small house, its windows shuttered, its doors either locked or not visible to the naked eye. Getting in is the trick. Sometimes one is admitted. Sometimes it’s a break-in. Generally, it must be done over and over again each day. Some days are quite easy. Some require human sacrifice. The inside, of course, is much bigger than the outside. This, as Dr. Who and anybody who thinks about it ought to know, is one of the key secrets to everything.
First, and most stomach-acid producing, is coffee.
I drink it in small, extremely well-regulated amounts. A half a cup is sometimes enough to lead me to believe that I can see into the future or walk through walls.
Second are my favorite books.
I have a stack that I keep near my desk. The stack changes with my internal seasons, but there are certain books I reach for again and again, just for pleasure, just to procrastinate, but always in the secret hope that they will unlock a door for me. Most frequently reached for in recent weeks: E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, Edward Gory’s The Haunted Looking Glass, Virginia Woolf’sTo the Lighthouse, Garrison Keillor’s collection: Good Poems for Hard Times.
Third, and most important, is my morning walk with the dog in Prospect Park.
Each day when we pass through the gate and no one stops us we’re a little amazed at our luck. Really? No Gatekeeper? No Fee? No Three Questions? We let ourselves off the leash and head for the lake and the trees and the birds and the rolling green. There is never a morning that we return the same as we went in. Prospect Park is partly open landscaped garden, partly urban picnic-ground, partly wilderness. It delights, horrifies and humbles us. My dog is lame and no longer youthful, so we must walk very slowly. We must smell every smell, foul, fair or funky. We must look at every leaf and insect and cloud with meticulous attention:
A delicate and glittering web strung wide between a tree branch and a lamppost, with a teensy bright green spider waiting patiently for her breakfast.
A cicada killer wasp lugging its paralyzed booty down into its dark hole to feed its children.
A beautifully colored rock at the side of the road which turns out to be a turtle gauging the traffic.
It’s hard not to walk back out without some sort of comical new tale: The League of Three-Legged Dogs, The Magically Appearing Boulder, A Proposal by Ambush Under the Bridge, The Return of the Birthday Ribbon Nest.
We watch how the storms and wind change the landscape, how the seasons do their slow inevitable work, the rotting and renewal. We are always reminded that time and place are inextricably woven together and that each morning we enter a park that is not the same park as yesterday.
The closer you look, the more you see. The inside is always bigger than the outside. The door is right in front of our eyes.
Amy Herrick is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Every morning, she and her dog take a long walk in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, looking for adventure. They’ve seen and heard many wondrous things there, some of which have served as inspiration for this story. The Time Fetch is her first book for young readers.
You might also like to link to Amy’s website: http://amyherrick.com/
Or her Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amy-Herrick-Author/250857638350721
Or Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmyEHerrick
September 16th, 2014
Today I wanted to do a quick spotlight on Fantasy League by Mike Lupica. I’m always on the look out for good sport books and this one seems to fit the bill.
Twelve-year-old Charlie is a fantasy football guru. He may be just a bench warmer for his school’s football team, but when it comes to knowing and loving the game, he’s first-string. He even becomes a celebrity when his podcast gets noticed by a sports radio host, who plays Charlie’s fantasy picks for all of Los Angeles to hear. Soon Charlie befriends the elderly owner of the L.A. Bulldogs — a fictional NFL team — and convinces him to take a chance on an aging quarterback. After that, watch out . . . it’s press conferences and national fame as Charlie becomes a media curiosity and source of conflict for the Bulldogs general manager, whose job Charlie seems to have taken. It’s all a bit much for a kid just trying to stay on top of his grades and maintain his friendship with his verbal sparring partner, Anna.
I especially like the fact that while Charlie is a football guru, he’s not a player. I think that’s something a lot of kids can relate to. This one is for sure going on my TBR list as a possible book talk for my Dinner with Books program and May school visits.
Have you read Fantasy League? If so, be sure to leave a comment and tell me what you thought!
About MIKE LUPICA
Mike Lupica has been called “the greatest sports writer for middle school readers.” He is the author of multiple bestselling books, including Heat, Travel Team, Million-Dollar Throw, and The Underdogs. As a sports columnist for New York’s Daily News, a host of his own show on ESPN Radio, and a weekly member of ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, which is televised nationally, he has proven that he can write for and speak to sports fans of all ages and stripes. Mr. Lupica lives in Connecticut with his wife and four children.
September 15th, 2014
Chasers of the Light: Poems from the Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson
Publisher: Perigee Trade
Release Date: September 2014
The epic made simple. The miracle in the mundane.
One day, while browsing an antique store in Helena, Montana, photographer Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a vintage Remington typewriter for sale. Standing up and using a page from a broken book he was buying for $2, he typed a poem without thinking, without planning, and without the ability to revise anything.
He fell in love.
Three years and almost one thousand poems later, Tyler is now known as the creator of theTypewriter Series: a striking collection of poems typed onto found scraps of paper or created via blackout method. Chasers of the Light features some of his most insightful and beautifully worded pieces of work—poems that illuminate grand gestures and small glimpses, poems that celebrate the beauty of a life spent chasing the light.
I’ve been thinking about how to review this book all week and still I come up blank. The only thing I can say is go read it. Go read it now. Seriously, I’ll wait. Just go read it and come back later. It’s worth it I promise.
Don’t believe me? Well, you should. As an English Major, it should be no surprise that I have a secret love for poetry. When I got the chance to preview this book, I jumped on it. It had been a long time since I’ve just sat down and read a book of poems from cover to cover. Way too long to be honest. Also, I loved the idea of writing a poem without revisions, which was near impossible since he was doing them on a typewriter.
What I didn’t expect was how Chasers of Light affected me. It’s been a long time since poems have hit me straight to the core. And not just once. Over and over again. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture of all the poems I have marked.
Even one of my friends, who grabbed the book from my bag, had the same experience. Over and over she exclaimed at how perfect a poem was for her life. In fact, she already plans to buy her own copy because there were so many she liked. However, we both agreed that our favorite poem by far is
I wish I could put into words why book is so good, but I know it comes down to personal experience. A poem I may love may not be one you do. However, I will guarantee you there will be at least one poem that hits you like it did me. In fact, if you make it out with just one I’ll be highly surprised.
Be sure to buy Chasers of the Light and check out more of Tyler’s poetry.
September 1st, 2014
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
Release Date: Jan 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press
When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend, Emily Beam, and then takes his own life. Soon after, angry and guilt-ridden Emily is sent to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where two quirky fellow students and the spirit of Emily Dickinson offer helping hands. But it is up to Emily Beam to heal her own damaged self, to find the good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.
Share, Skim, Shelve?
Sadly, this was a book that most of the group ended up not liking. There was some variety, but the ultimate breakdown came to 1 share, 1 skim, & 8 shelve.
What did you think of the poems? Helpful or hinderance?
Most of the teens really liked the poems. They thought it gave a nice insight into what was happening in Emily’s journey. A couple thought they were irrelevant, but still liked them anyway. And for a few, it was the only part they liked of the book.
If the time frame had been different would the story have changed? (Today vs. 1994/95)
They all agreed it would have been a much different story. Not only due to school shootings, but in technology. They also thought the aftermath would have been HUGELY different. Mainly that the story would have been all over the news and media would have been heavily involved in relaying what happened. None of them felt she could have escaped from her old life as easy as she did.
What did you think about the parallels between Emily Beam and Emily Dickinson?
Some really liked the parallels, especially when it came to the seclusion and the way Emily Beam mimicked Dickinson in order to heal. However, many thought they were way too similar and that they author was trying too hard.
What did you think about Paul and Emily’s relationship?
They all agreed it was a very abusive relationship. They felt like Paul peer pressured Emily into things she didn’t want to do. And that he was controlling, obsessive, clingy, and emotional unstable. The teens believed that Paul and Emily thought they loved each other, but it was obvious in the end that they didn’t.
What do you think of K.T.? Do you think her letting Emily know about her friend’s suicide would have helped?
Most of them thought that K.T. was the best character. However, they felt her character needed more and that she was a bit flat. They all agreed that it took a while to warm up to her as well. They weren’t sure if they could trust her at first. They also wished that she would have told Emily about her friend’s suicide much sooner. They believed it would have built a relationship where they connected more and would have helped Emily heal sooner.
Thoughts on Paul’s suicide?
The teens felt like this scene proved how unstable he was. However, they did not feel as if he planned it. With the discovery by the teacher, it was obvious he felt trapped and had nothing left. There was also some talk on it being more of an accident than suicide.
Do you think the story would have played out differently if Paul’s parents had known about the baby?
This was a resounding yes from all the teens. They believed it would have been much worse for Emily and that Paul’s parents would have had a reason to blame her for this death. However, it would have also given them a reason to watch Paul and maybe stop the shooting from ever happening. They also tossed around the thought they his parents may have stopped the abortion from every happening.
Do you think Emily’s poem will win the competition? Do you think if it’s published it will hurt or help Emily’s healing process?
The general thought was that Emily’s poem would win the competition. They were a bit torn on if it would hurt or help Emily and saw it more as a both thing than an either or. The teens thought it would help people fully understand what she was going through. On the other hand, it would hurt because everyone would indeed know and she may have to relive the experience the over and over again.
- They all thought the scene where she’s in Emily Dickinson’s house is very weird. I’m pretty sure they were all just like WTF!
- They all loved the dinner she had with her roommate and their one teacher/house mother. They felt it showed Emily different and what she may have been like before/what she could be again once she healed.
They all felt like this books description was rather misleading. When they read it was about a school shooting, they thought it would be more along the the lines of an actually lock-down school shooting type scenario and the aftermath of living through that traumatic experience. Instead, they got something that was much more quiet with less action. I do wonder if this preconceived idea didn’t make them like the book less than if they hadn’t known anything about it.
- When: April 24th, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
- How Many Teens: 11 teens; ranging from Grade 8 – 10