Tag Archives: Kayla

Looking Out at the Views While Sipping Lemonade

59fc635f7dbe6b5cd1e07e5e605c96b5.640x640x1.jpgRecently, two of my favorite artists, Beyoncé and Drake, released albums (Lemonade & Views). Beyoncé has wowed the world once again with a visual album. The film to accompany Lemonade aired on HBO a few weeks ago & the soundtrack so to speak was Lemonade. The album is currently available for streaming on Tidal.

The film chronicled Bey going through an emotional journey of dealing with her husband’s infidelity. Each song represented each emotion that she went through during the process. It ended on forgiveness, which makes sense since she & Jay-Z are still together. It was very powerful to see her get so personal and raw with the world. I thought that her self-titled album was personal, but Lemonade takes the cake.

I love the album from start to finish, but here are my top 5. The top five are: “Hold Up,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” “Sorry,” “Freedom,” and “Sandcastles.” On “Sandcastles” you can hear Bey’s raw emotions in her vocals especially when she sings: What is it about you that I can’t erase?  You can hear her voice crack, and it sounds like she’s on the verge of tears. This song definitely delivers in the feels department. Beyoncé experiments with a lot of different genres on this album from rock, reggae, hip-hop, country and r&b.

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Meanwhile, after all of the speculation, push backs and rumors, Drake’s new album Views is finally here. Drake has delivered yet again with this album. In an interview with Zane Lowe, Drake said that this is his best album vocally and I agree. Drake is doing what he’s known for, which is mixing rapping with singing and once again it works. One of my favorite sections of this album is what I would consider the reggae section. The two tracks “Controlla” and “One Dance,” which is currently the #1 song in the country, both have reggae vibes to them and it makes almost impossible to not dance when those two songs come on. Towards the end of “Controlla” you can hear reggae artist Beenie Man and I felt that transition was genius.

Another great song on this album is “Weston Road Flows,” which features a sample of a Mary J. Blige song called “Mary’s Joint.” On this song, Drake displays his storytelling abilities while reflecting on his past. “U With Me?” is another great song on Views. It samples two DMX songs and has Drake wondering if his girl will stick with him. “Still Here” is also great for it’s uptempo jam style.

Both artists have delivered quality albums that I’m sure will be on a lot of “Best of 2016” lists at the end of the year. Lemonade and Views  are in our catalog for request but if you can’t wait, you can stream Views on Hoopla and Beyoncé’s previous albums are available for download on Freegal. Beyoncé and Drake will be making their way to Pittsburgh very soon. Queen Bey will be gracing the Burgh with her presence on May 31st when her Formation World Tour makes a stop at Heinz Field. The 6 God himself will be at the Consol Energy Center on August 17th when his Summer Sixteen Tour stops here.

Happy listening!

~Kayla

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We all have flaws

I just recently finished a book called Flawed by Cecelia Ahern. According to the book jacket, Ahern is the author of P.S. I Love You & Love, Rosie, and they were both made into films. This is Ahern’s first young adult novel. The book’s cover is what garnered my attention. It’s very simple, but the big F and a circle around it is hard to miss.

bookcoverThe novel’s protagonist is Celestine North, and she’s the quintessential perfect teenage girl. She gets good grades, has good looks, is polite and never gets in trouble. She also has the perfect relationship with her boyfriend, Art. Celestine lives in a society where everyone is supposed to be perfect. If you do something morally or ethically wrong, then you are deemed Flawed. They have to go to trial, which is run by an organization called the Guild, lead by Art’s father, Judge Crevan. After you’re deemed Flawed, you get branded. There are 5 places on your body where you can be branded:  your temple, the palm of your hand, your foot, your chest and your tongue.

Things are going great in Celestine’s life until their neighbor and Celestine’s piano teacher, Angelina Tinder, is accused of being Flawed and taken into custody. Angelina is later deemed Flawed. Celestine starts to question the system because she’s known Angelina practically her whole life and never saw a Flawed quality in her.

One day Celestine, Art and Celestine’s sister, Juniper, are on the bus on their way home from school. To give some background, on the bus there’s a special section of seats on the front of the bus for the Flawed and all of the other seats are for everyone else. This bus ride will change Celestine’s life forever. Anyway, two ladies who aren’t Flawed are sitting in the Flawed seats having a conversation, one of whom has a broken leg. A Flawed elderly man gets on the bus and he can’t sit down because of the ladies sitting in the Flawed seats. Suddenly, the man starts to have a coughing fit. Celestine sees what’s going on and has to decide whether she is going to help the man or not because if she helps him that’s considered aiding a Flawed and that’s against the law.

So, Celestine decides to ask the ladies to move so the old man can sit down. They refuse and act like the old man doesn’t even exist. Celestine helps the man into a seat and then is taken into custody. Judge Crevan wants Celestine to lie and say that she didn’t help the old man. If she does this, she would only serve two years in prison. Otherwise she will be deemed Flawed.

Initially, she does lie, but in the end she tells the truth, much to the anger of Judge Crevan. He makes her get 5 brands, the most ever. Crevan is so angry that he ends up secretly putting a 6th brand on Celestine’s spine. If anyone finds out that he did this, Crevan would be ruined. He’s so desperate to maintain his power that he’s prepared to do anything to keep it a secret.

The experience drastically changes Celestine. Now on the other side of society, people look at her differently. Juniper is afraid that Celestine is angry with her because she doesn’t speak up for her. Celestine’s relationship with Art is pretty much over because Judge Crevan doesn’t want her anywhere near his son. She is ostracized at school because she’s the only Flawed student, and some teachers even refuse to teach her.

Here’s an interview with Cecila Ahern talking about what her inspiration was to write Flawed.

There were some quotes in the novel that struck me. One was when Celestine said:

-have found that it is their right to express their opinion of me freely, as though it can’t hurt or alter me. It’s the branding that does that. And I know it. It dehumanizes me in a way to others. I’m to be stared at and talked about as if I’m not here.

To feel invisible or inhuman and to have people treat you with no respect just because you made one mistake has got to hurt. Personally, I wouldn’t consider what Celestine did a mistake. She was trying to help an elderly man who was in need.

Another quote that struck me was:

Good. You remember that. It’s easy to forget sometimes. Though criminals get better treatment than us. As soon as they serve their time, they’re out. We’re like this forever.

This quote was interesting because in our society criminals are reminded of what they did every day and find it hard to go back to their lives before they went to prison. Meanwhile, in this novel criminals are treated better than the Flawed, and that’s crazy to think about.

The last interesting quote was:

Everything has been given a soul in advertising. Yet the soul is being taken from people. Humanizing objects, dehumanizing people.

Sadly, I’m sure that we can think of plenty of characters from commercials that are given human qualities. Meanwhile, there are actual humans who aren’t treated with any respect because of who they love, what they believe in, the color of their skin, etc.

This book was very interesting to me, and along Celestine’s journey she goes through a lot and finds it hard to trust anybody except for her parents. The ending leaves it open for a sequel which commonly happens with young adult novels these days. Flawed  is available in our catalog. Does Celestine’s world sound similar to ours? What do you think of the flawed society? Let us know in the comments below!

~Kayla

 

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Sarah J. Maas’s World of Assassins

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I read an article a couple of weeks ago announcing that an adult coloring book based on the Throne of Glass series would be released. It will be released on September 6th, the same day as Empire of Stormsthe latest book in the series. I started reading Throne of Glass months ago, but put it down to read other things. The article made me wanna go back to it.

I’m glad that I did, because the book was so great! Throne of Glass follows Celaena Sardothien, an assassin from a land called Terrasen. She was brought to the land of Adarlan by the Crown Prince, Dorian Havilliard, to compete in a contest to become the King’s Champion. Before that, Celaena was a slave in the mines of Endovier. For the sake of the competition, only a few people know Celaena’s real identity, and they are Crown Prince Dorian; the king; and Chaol Westfall, Captain of the Guard.

Celaena is underestimated throughout the competition by just about everyone because she’s a girl. Chaol is mistrustful of her throughout most of the book because of who she really is. Meanwhile, Dorian finds himself falling for her and she likes him too, even though she doesn’t want to admit it at first. As the competition goes on, contestants start to die. Celaena begins to look into why it’s happening, and she becomes skeptical of the people around her. Although Celaena finds that most people either don’t like her or are intimidated by her skills, she makes a friend in Nehemia, a princess who is visiting from Eyllwe.

Celaena is a strong, multi-dimensional female character that you can root for. I’m excited to continue on with this series. Throne of Glass is available in print, audio and e-book format in our catalog.

Have you read Throne of Glass? If so, what did you think of it? Read anything similar to it? Let us know in the comments below!

~Kayla

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A Tangled Web of Crazy

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The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas is one of the best books that I’ve read in a long time. It’s a young adult book, but it reads like an adult thriller. One of the aspects of the novel that drew me to it was the setting. It’s set in Fayette County, PA, which is where my mother and her sisters grew up. Pittsburgh is even mentioned in the novel a few times.

The story centers around Tessa Lowell, who left Fayette County 10 years ago to live with her grandmother in Florida. She comes back to visit her father who is dying in prison. She left Fayette after she helped put Wyatt Stokes in prison for the murder of Lori Cawley, her friend Callie Greenwood’s cousin. Cawley was visiting for the summer from college. Tessa and Callie hadn’t spoken to each other since the trial, and Callie wasn’t happy to see Tessa, especially since she would be staying with the Greenwoods for the duration of her visit.

As the book goes on, readers learn that Tessa and Callie lied about seeing Stokes the night that Lori Cawley was murdered. Tessa and Callie go on a wild goose chase throughout the novel to discover the real killer. One of their childhood friends, Ariel Kouchinsky, is murdered and they try to find her killer as well for most of the book. As the novel goes on, Tessa discovers secrets about her family, former friends and even her own origin.

In addition to trying to find Ariel & Lori’s killer, Tessa is trying to find her mother, Annette, and her sister, Joslin, who ran away when she was a teenager after a fight with their mother. It’s a novel full of twists and turns. Every time, I thought that I had figured out who the killer was another plot twist was thrown my way. It’s an excellent book and is definitely worth reading. The Darkest Corners is available to request in our catalog in print format only. It will be released on April 19th. Happy reading!

~Kayla

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Seeing Red

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The Girl in the Red Coat centers on 8 year-old Carmel and her mother, Beth. Beth has this harrowing fear that one day she’s gonna lose Carmel & then it actually happens. Carmel and her mother are at this storytelling festival & Carmel wanders off. To give some backstory, Carmel was getting upset with her mother because of how overprotective she is.

Carmel ends up going off with Dennis, a man who pretends that he’s her grandfather. Carmel has never met her grandparents before because Beth had a falling out with them years ago. This part of the story reminds me of the 2015 film The Visit except the movie was a lot creepier. The viewpoint throughout the book alternates between Carmel & Beth from chapter to chapter.

Dennis believes that Carmel has this divine gift of healing and that’s why he kidnaps her. He takes her to different churches & people to showcase her gift & to make a profit from it. Later on in the book, readers discover that Carmel’s great grandmother believed that she had this same gift. Dennis had his wife Dorothy help him in the escapade along with her two daughters, Melody and Silver who Carmel became close with.

Beth dealt with a lot throughout the novel obviously with Carmel being gone for so long. She leaned on her ex-husband & Carmel’s father, Paul & his new girlfriend, Lucy throughout the difficult times.

I think that Dennis was able to keep Carmel for so long because of the lies that he kept telling her–that her mother had died in a bad accident & that her father didn’t want her. Dennis also lied and said that her father wanted for Dennis and Dorothy to care for Carmel instead of him. Carmel was very bright & she tried to get in touch with her father a few times but it always stalled or she had second thoughts.

Without giving out any spoilers, I will say that I enjoyed the ending. The Girl in the Red Coat is at the moment only available in our catalog as a print book.

~Kayla

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Time Traveling with Tessa Hadley

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The Past involves four siblings: Harriet, Alice, Fran, and Roland. They all get together for a summer holiday in Kington. It’s possibly their last holiday together in Kington because they are thinking about selling the house, which belonged to their grandparents. Along for the ride are Fran’s two children, Ivy and Arthur; Roland’s new wife Pilar and his daughter, Molly; and Alice’s ex-boyfriend’s son, Kasim.

One chapter can feature viewpoints from every single character, which I thought was cool. Sometimes it can get annoying to read a novel with just one point of view. It was a refreshing change of pace. One other thing that I found interesting about Hadley’s writing is that she didn’t use quotation marks for dialogue, but instead used a dash. I had never seen this style of writing before. It threw me off at first, but the further along I got in the book the more that I adjusted to it.

The characters talked a lot about the past so it was fitting that about halfway through the book the time period switches from the present to the past. During this part of the book, readers get viewpoints from the grandparents, the children’s mother, and Harriet and Roland when they were children. At this point in the book, Alice is a baby & Fran wasn’t born yet. Readers get to see what life was like for the family before everything changed.

The big moment that changed the siblings’ lives is when their mother dies of cancer. Then years later the grandfather dies and the grandmother soon after. We also get introduced to the siblings’ father, whom the mother left because he had an affair. After the mother dies, the father goes off with another woman and the children never see him again. This part of the story helps readers to understand why the siblings are the way that they are as adults. I noticed some characteristics of each sibling in their mother.

The story then switches from the past back to the present and wraps up all of the mini story lines in the novel. Without giving anything away, I will say that the past and the present connect at the end of the novel…sort of. The ending left me with more questions than answers, which was annoying.

The Past is available in our catalog in the formats of print, book on CD, eBook and eAudio.

~Kayla

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Shuffling Through with Paul Beatty

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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.

bookcoverSo, I finally finished The White Boy Shuffle and I honestly don’t know how to feel about it. Half the time while reading this book I was wondering, “What’s the point?” I could tell from descriptions of the book and while reading the book that it was a satire. I admit that I did laugh a few times, but I was still confused. It took me until I was two thirds done with the book that I realized the purpose of this book.

The main character, Gunnar Kaufman, was dealing with accepting and embracing his blackness. In the beginning of the book, Gunnar lived in Santa Monica, which was a predominately white neighborhood and in classrooms he was always the only black kid. Then, he, his mother and his two sisters ended up moving to West Los Angeles, which was mostly made up of black & Latino people.  He was considered an outcast and often got bullied because he talked “proper,” listened to rock music & dressed differently than the other kids.

It wasn’t until Gunnar met Nick Scoby in a class that he got friends in his new neighborhood. Then Gunnar’s popularity skyrocketed when it was discovered that he was good at basketball. He was also very smart & a great poet. All of these things made Gunnar very popular, but Gunnar had a complex with his newfound fame throughout the book. At times, he embraced it & other times he rejected it.

The book is chock full of stereotypes about the different races and how others feel about them. Sometimes, I felt like I was reading a more sophisticated version of Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. As the book went on, readers got to see Gunnar embrace his blackness and call out people who he felt didn’t genuinely like him for who he was, but for his talents on the basketball court & with poetry.

At times, I was caught off guard with what the characters were saying & at times I didn’t understand it. In the end, I still found two quotes that stood out to me. One was when Gunnar said:

The only time it’s permissible to cry is when you miss the lottery by one number or someone close to you passes away. Then you can cry once, but only once. There is no brooding, n***ers got to get up and go to work tomorrow.

This quote stood to me because I found it to be true. It’s like black people are constantly being policed, even on our emotions. We can’t express outrage or even be upset about something not going our way without being labeled as thugs for our behavior.

The second quote was when Gunnar stated:

The people of Hillside treat society the way society treats them. Strangers and friends are suspect and guilty until proven innocent.

This quote stood out to me because I’ve been in the situation that the people of Hillside were in, which is that people are passing judgement on them without getting to know them just because of where they’re from. I’ve gotten awkward pauses or looks or sympathy when I’ve told people where I live because it’s been deemed a “dangerous neighborhood.” Just because some bad things have occurred here doesn’t mean that every resident of that neighborhood is a bad person.

In the end, Paul Beatty wrote an interesting book about how to embrace your blackness and how you can be perceived by society just by being black in America. The White Boy Shuffle is cousins with the novel Oreo (read an Eleventh Stack review here) so you can check that out or one of Beatty’s other novels if you’re interested. Happy reading!

~Kayla

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