Tag Archives: Herman’s Hermits

Hold On

Life On Hold by Karen McQuestion (Amazon Encore; $9.95; 168 pages)

High school sophomore Rae Maddox wants three things: to stay in town long enough to finish high school, to learn who her father is, and to take her grandparents up on their offer to finance college.   All of these things hinge on turning eighteen, and Rae is literally counting down the days.

Blocking those ambitions is Gina, Rae’s mother, a nail artist and more a roommate than a mom, who changes jobs and cities like other women cycle through handbags.   Rae has a policy of not making friends in school.   She operates on the assumption that she won’t be in town long enough to reap the rewards.   When a “friend” is thrust upon her by a school administrator, and Gina encourages the relationship, the stage is set for Rae to seize control of her life.

Readers will identify with the lure of independence and the concomitant dread of breaking a parent’s heart.   Depicting this tug of war is one of the book’s greatest strengths.   Another is its offbeat characters – one of the kids on the fringe of social acceptability with whom Rae eats lunch every day is unusually small, a fact that she refuses to allow to hobble her.   And the “friend” is a complex character whose own teen rebellion has gone horribly wrong.

The way Rae finally asserts her independence comes as a surprise, however, and this lessens the book’s impact.   It’s not that we doubt Rae has it in her – she’s a bright, observant young woman.   But since the story is told in the first person, we feel a tiny bit cheated that we weren’t privy to her intentions, if not her plan.   Nonetheless, Life On Hold, which was self-published, is a good read with compelling and nuanced characters.   This reader is looking forward to more from author Karen McQuestion.

Well recommended.

Kimberly Caldwell Steffen

A review copy was received from the author.


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Wonderful World

Good Vibrations: The Physics of Music by Barry Parker (Johns Hopkins University Press, $27.95, 274 pages)

“Music is sound but it’s a very special type of sound.”

An alternate title for this book might have been Music and Math for Morons, but it is seriously easy to understand.   Yes, there have been many survey books out in the last few years attempting to explain the science of sound.   Most of them have been too high-level for the average reader to understand, including this reader.   Kudos should go to Barry Parker for translating a few not always simple-to-understand concepts into plain English.

It is clear that Parker loves having been born into a world that includes music.   Reading this book is like listening to a teacher who worships his subject matter.   Parker explains rhythm and the major types of music, and gives us an overview of how all of the major instruments – including the human voice – work.   He examines the acoustics of classical concert halls, but he’s no snob when it comes to “new” recording techniques.   He concludes his survey by explaining electronic (computer-generated) recordings and acceptance of the new world of iPods and mp3s.

Bach or Dylan?   It’s all good.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.

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