Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir by Tyler Feder

Coping with grief is hard and never-ending. As a librarian, I am constantly on the lookout for books that discuss the topic of grief in a new way. Enter author and illustrator Tyler Feder. She has written Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir, what Feder describes as ‘sad but also silly and weird, just like loss’. Feder’s illustrations are soft, gentle, and simple which serve as the perfect accompaniment to her heartbreaking subject matter. This book is part cancer memoir telling the story of Feder’s mom’s death and part reflection on her motherless life. Feder gives readers a glimpse into a devastating time into her life, while also being humorous. She makes note several times throughout that this memoir is for the people who are struggling with loss who just want someone to understand and get what they are going through.

Tyler Feder loves her mom Rhonda. That has never been in doubt.  As the oldest daughter, Tyler made Rhonda a mom and shared a special bond with her. No one loved more in Tyler’s life than her mom, all be it a bit blunt but full of joy. It’s hard to distill such a large personality to a single memoir, but Tyler pays devoted homage to her by weaving poignant yet piercing details throughout.

When Tyler was 19 years old, her mom died of cancer. This memoir covers everything from her first oncology appointment to the different stages of cancer to the funeral. Feder then goes a step further to show her family sitting shiva and how they adjust to the new afterward without their mother and wife in the ten years after. The art in this book is gorgeous and seeing Tyler show her love and heartbreak through her work tore at my heart as I read this book. This graphic memoir also felt like a self-help book as reading Tyler’s journey somewhat mirrored my own travels through grief. You see Feder’s grief fresh after her mother’s death as well as how she is working through it ten years later. Highly recommend this graphic memoir to anyone who is looking for a new read.

This book is also available in the following format:

The Inspirational Atheist by Buzzy Jackson

Here’s another gem from one of my collection areas! No matter your faith affiliation, this is a fantastic book to get a bit of inspiration and wonder when you’re feeling down. The quotations gathered in this well-organized volume capture the magic and mystery of being alive, with a good dose of humor thrown in the bargain.

Buzzy Jackson compiled The Inspirational Atheist to provide a secular counterpart to the many faith-based books of inspiration and wisdom. Pulling quotes from figures both historical and contemporary on a wide variety of subjects, Jackson provides food for thought no matter the reader’s beliefs. The quotes are organized into alphabetized topical chapters, which provides a targeted and searchable format.

I really appreciated how much work and care went into the compiling of the book; not only is it well-sorted into categories, but Jackson also worked hard to make sure all quotes were attributed correctly, and omitted any quotes that couldn’t be pinned down.

If you’re looking for a book with guidance and sincerity that will make you think, you might want to give this one a try.

Spooky Season Graphic Novels

There are so many ways to celebrate the fall season. Apple picking, hayrack rides, corn mazes, and so much more! One of my favorite past times during the fall season is to curl up and read a good horror book.  Whether it’s zombies, ghosts, monsters, or witches I want to read it all! Graphic novels are a great way to get your spooky fix this fall. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Harrow County by Cullen Bunn is full of monsters, ghosts, and drama. Here is the description provided by the publisher:

Plagued by a witch of unfathomable powers, the folk of Harrow County capture and burn her, but not before she furiously screams her revenge. Eighteen years later, we find farm girl Emmy coming of age, gifted with unnatural talents. When a spirit warns her of her impending doom at the hands of the town, she hurries off into the haunted forest, running for her life while trying to uncover her own twisted history.

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Mary Shelley, Monster Hunter by Adam Glass takes everything you think you know about Frankenstein and flips it upside down. Here is the description provided by the publisher:

For nearly two centuries, scholars have wondered how on earth Mary Shelley, a nineteen-year-old girl, was able to conjure one of the most frightening and enduring horror stories of all time: Frankenstein.

But with the recent discovery of Mary Shelley’s secret memoir, the truth is finally revealed: Mary Shelley didn’t just write Frankenstein, she lived it. Traveling back to that historic Geneva winter of 1816, Mary, her fiancé Percy, sisters Claire and Fanny, and the celebrated poet Lord Byron find themselves guests of the eerie Frankenstein Estate. The macabre and frightening events that follow lead Mary to both a gruesome and shocking discovery. Their mysterious host is not at all what they expected, and their intentions will change the course of Mary’s life forever.

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Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge takes us to a sleepy New England town where supernatural forces lurk in the woods. Here is the description provided by the publisher:

Following a night of sex, drugs and witchcraft in the woods, Eve Coffin wakes up naked, covered in blood and unable to remember how she got there. One friend is missing, one is in a mental ward–and one knows that Eve is responsible. Years later, Eve returns to Coffin Hill, only to discover the darkness that she unleashed ten years ago in the woods was never contained. It continues to seep through the town, cursing the soul of this sleepy Massachusetts hollow, spilling secrets and enacting its revenge. Set against the haunted backdrop of New England, Coffin Hill explores what people will do for power and retribution.

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Outcast by Robert Kirkman provides us with our paranormal fix in this coming of age horror. Here is the description provided by the publisher:

Kyle Barnes has not had an easy life. What appears as insanity in his family is something much darker and infinitely deeper. It originates in the bowels of hell and manifests as demonic possession. Unfortunately, it seems to be somewhat contagious, and Kyle, at least so far, is immune. A dedicated man of God, Reverend Anderson, who wrestles with his own black dreads and shadowy history, has recognized this uniqueness in Kyle and courageously endeavors to nurture this gift and stand by him. Is Kyle some sort of anomaly with the ability to salvage human souls, or just an orphaned and crazy outcast?

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Wytches by Scott Snyder dives into the realm of witchcraft and folklore in this anxiety ridden thrill ride. Here is the description provided by the publisher:

After witnessing a grisly supernatural murder, Sailor Rook, along with her father and mother, move to a small town, hoping for a fresh start. But the twisted horrors hidden in the woods have traveled with the family, and they must now uncover one another’s dark secrets to stay alive.

 

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Katherine Center’s newest novel What You Wish For is fast-paced, engaging, and whimsical. Even though it deals with heavy topics, Center manages to share the message that choosing joy in the midst of difficult and painful times will help you heal.

Samantha Casey is a school librarian. She has been in Galveston, Texas for only a couple of years, but in this short time she has managed to carve out a life that makes her happy. Sam loves her job, the kids that come to visit her in the library, and her school family. Her new school fits the new Sam: colorful, fun, engaging, and full of personality. After disaster strikes the school, Sam finds herself floundering. The new school year has been thrown into chaos, but with the hiring of Duncan Carpenter, Sam is hopeful that the school will begin to heal.

Sam knows Duncan. Well, she knew the old Duncan. The new Duncan is rigid. He lives by rules and regulations. He believes that he needs to upgrade the school because the way it is now is only asking for bad things to happen. The old Duncan did not care about rules. He was the cool teacher, the one who juggled, wore funny clothes, and advocated for anything and everything fun. Sam had the biggest crush on lovable old Duncan, but the old Sam was too timid. She has changed so much in just a couple years and is hopeful that she can turn Duncan back into the fun-loving man she remembered from before.

Sam and Duncan couldn’t be more different now. Duncan only wants to protect the school even if that means that he has to destroy it. Desperate to save the school, Sam and some other teachers work to remind Duncan of the joy he used to feel. While helping Duncan remember who he used to be, Sam finds herself wanting to know him again.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Bookseller’s Boyfriend by Heidi Cullinan

I waited a long time on hold to get this book, and I’m excited to finally talk about it! The Bookseller’s Boyfriend by Heidi Cullinan is a heartwarming happily-ever-after about a bookseller and his favorite author pretending to date and unexpectedly falling for each other. In a nice coincidence, the author uses they / them pronouns  and is from Iowa – so they and I have a lot in common in addition to loving a good happy ending.

The novel switches between the perspectives of Rasul, a successful author struggling with writer’s block and a bad breakup, and Jacob, a bookstore owner who’s always loved Rasul’s work. Jacob knows you should never meet your heroes, so he’s apprehensive when Rasul moves to town on a temporary academic residency. Rasul is on a tight deadline and desperately needs to get away from his toxic ex, but is surprised to find Jacob’s store and apartment such a calming haven – not to mention the heat of their attraction. They pretend to be dating to help clean up Rasul’s image, but slowly their feelings become real, and they both have to face their demons to reach the future they want to create together.

There was so much I loved about this book. Cullinan packs in a crowd of well-drawn supporting characters, with backstory that’s clearly been deeply thought out. The plot is aware of romance tropes (in this case, “fake dating” applies, and the concept echoes Beauty and the Beast) but doesn’t get bogged down in them, choosing instead to follow what really works to help the characters work through their issues and come together naturally. Thoughtful engagement with the publishing process and the dark side of social media is a really effective thread that runs through the romantic story. Book lovers might also appreciate the loving nods to the fantasy and speculative fiction genres. Best of all, the inclusion of LGBTQ and racial identities is detailed, intentional and touches on the struggles of bi and pansexual men in the larger landscape. My only concern was that Cullinan put so much into this book that not everything could be covered in a comprehensive way, but I think for the space they had they did a fantastic job crafting a story, and a relationship, that’s grounded in deep emotions that will really resonate with readers.

A novel of mutual courtship, healing, creating community, and the struggle of creativity, The Bookseller’s Boyfriend is a sweetly simmering slow burn that romance fans won’t want to miss. If you’re looking for a romance with a lot of community, intelligence, and heart – and a good pinch of passionate heat – definitely try this book.

Best Sellers Club October Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined the Best Sellers Club? If not, you’re missing out! Four times a year, our librarians choose four nonfiction titles for our Best Sellers Club to read: a biography, a cookbook, a social justice, and a true crime title. Below you will find information provided by the publishers on the four titles our selectors have picked for October.

Social Justice pick

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke

From the founder and activist behind the largest movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Tarana Burke shares her never never before revealed life story of how she first came to say me too and launch one of the largest cultural events in American history.

After a long, difficult day working with young Black girls who had suffered the unimaginable, Tarana tossed in her bed, unable to sleep as a fit of memories intruded into her thoughts. How could she help these girls if she couldn’t even be honest with herself and face her own demons. A fitful night led to pages and pages of scribbled notes with two clear words at the top: Me too.

Tarana Burke is the founder and activist behind the largest social movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the me too movement, but first she had to find the strength to say me too herself. Unbound is the story of how she came to those two words, after a childhood growing up in the Bronx with a loving mother that took a terrible turn when she was sexual assaulted. She became withdrawn and her self split, there was the Tarana that was a good student, model kid, and eager to please young girl, and then there was the Tarana that she hid from everyone else, the one she believed to be bad. The one that would take all the love in her life away if she revealed.

Tarana’s debut memoir explores how to piece back together our fractured selves. How to not just bring the me too movement back to empathy, but how to empathize with our past selves, with out bad selves, and how to begin to love ourselves unabashedly. Healing starts with empowerment, and to Tarana empowerment starts with empathy. This is her story of finding that for herself, and then spreading it to an entire world.

Librarian Anna has the following to say about her Social Justice pick:

‘I primarily selected this title for the BSC due to the anticipated high demand, several positive reviews it received from acclaimed journals and reader communities upon publication, and its heightened significance in today’s culture. I also selected this title due to the intersectionality of identity presented in this memoir. While the “Me Too” movement was created to be representative of and empowering for every woman impacted by sexual assault, this was especially born out of an effort to support black women in this struggle. One heart wrenching and powerful quote denoting this reads: “Standing and fighting against the diminishment and destruction of Black bodies had become a proxy for the diminishment and destruction of my own Black body.” The sheer strength of sharing such traumatic experiences, as well as Burke’s liberation of them, is sure to validate, empower, and resonate with those who have experienced similar situations, while also drawing empathy and advocacy from others who share in the fight for social justice.’

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True Crime pick

The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer by Dean Jobb

“When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals,” Sherlock Holmes observed during one of his most baffling investigations. “He has nerve and he has knowledge.”

In the span of fifteen years, Dr. Thomas Neill Cream poisoned at least ten people in the United States, Britain, and Canada, a death toll with almost no precedents. Structured around Cream’s London murder trial in 1892, when he was finally brought to justice, The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream exposes the blind trust given to medical practitioners, as well as the flawed detection methods, bungled investigations, corrupt officials, and stifling morality of Victorian society that allowed Cream to prey on vulnerable and desperate women, many of whom had turned to him for medical help.

Dean Jobb vividly re-creates this largely forgotten historical account against the backdrop of the birth of modern policing and newly adopted forensic methods, though most police departments still scoffed at using science to solve crimes. But then most police departments could hardly imagine that serial killers existed—the term was unknown at the time. As the Chicago Tribune wrote then, Cream’s crimes marked the emergence of a new breed of killer, one who operated without motive or remorse, who “murdered simply for the sake of murder.”

Librarian Anna has the following to say about this pick:

‘I primarily selected this title for the BSC due to its highly anticipated demand, as well as due to the positive reviews it received from acclaimed journals and reader communities upon publication. Another major reason I selected this title is because of the relatively forgotten status of this killer; while many have heard of Jack the Ripper and H.H. Holmes, this figure who preceded them is often lost to history, despite his equally wicked crimes. Finally, I selected this title due to its interesting historical lens, as several of our previous selections have been focused on contemporary true crime accounts.’

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Biography pick

Tarantino: A Retrospective by Tom Shone

Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Reservoir Dogs by diving into the brilliant, twisted mind of Quentin Tarantino and discover the artistic process of an Oscar-winning legend.

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1963, Quentin Tarantino spent many Saturday evenings during his childhood accompanying his mother to the movies, nourishing a love of film that was, over the course of his life, to become all-consuming. The script for his first movie took him four years to complete: My Best Friend’s Birthday, a seventy-minute film in which he both acted and directed. The script for his second film, Reservoir Dogs (1992), took him just under four weeks to complete. When it debuted, he was immediately hailed as one of the most exciting new directors in the industry.

Known for his highly cinematic visual style, out-of-sequence storytelling, and grandiose violence, Tarantino’s films have provoked both praise and criticism over the course of his career. They’ve also won him a host of awards—including Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTA awards—usually for his original screenplays. His oeuvre includes the cult classic Pulp Fiction, bloody revenge saga Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and historical epics Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight . This stunning retrospective catalogs each of Quentin Tarantino’s movies in detail, from My Best Friend’s Birthday to The Hateful Eight. The book is a tribute to a unique directing and writing talent, celebrating an uncompromising, passionate director’s enthralling career at the heart of cult filmmaking.

Librarian Rachel has the following to say about her selection:

“Quentin Tarantino is one of the most popular directors of the modern era. His film career started thirty years ago and he has been popular ever since. Tarantino has stated that he is only going to direct ten films and so far, he has directed nine. With only one film left, this biography will shed light on the man behind the camera that has directed such films as ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’.”

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Cookbook Pick

Baking for the Holidays: 50+ Treats for a Festive Season by Sarah Kieffer

A charming holiday baking cookbook brimming with delicious, indulgent recipes, cozy winter photography, and lots of holiday cheer from Sarah Kieffer.

Here’s a festive holiday baking book to celebrate this very special time of year. Sarah Kieffer, author of 100 Cookies, beloved baker behind The Vanilla Bean Blog, and creator of the “bang-the-pan” method offers more than 50 delicious recipes for seasonal brunches, cookie swaps, and all those Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year’s Eve parties.

Delight family and friends with edible gifts and whip up some delicious baked goods to treat yourself through the long winter months after the holidays have ended. Recipes include: Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark, Meyer Lemon–White Chocolate Scones, Pear-Almond Danish Bread, Hot Chocolate Cake, and Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pepita Streusel.

With cozy holiday imagery, a lovely, clean aesthetic, and easy yet innovative recipes, this is a go-to cookbook for baking enthusiasts, anyone who loves the holiday season, and, of course, fans of Sarah Kieffer and her hugely popular cookie book, 100 Cookies.

GREAT GIFT OPPORTUNITY: With happy, festive photography and anyone-can-do-it recipes, this is a perfect holiday gift alongside a cute apron or baking product. It’s sure to please anyone in your life who loves to while away the winter months in their warm and cozy kitchen.

BELOVED, ACCOMPLISHED BLOGGER AND AUTHOR: Sarah Kieffer is the beloved blogger behind The Vanilla Bean Baking Blog, which won the SAVEUR Reader’s Choice Best Baking & Desserts Blog in 2014. Her pan-banging cookie technique went viral on the New York Times website. She has written two cookbooks and been featured by Food52, The Today Show, Mashable, The Kitchn, America’s Test Kitchen, Huffington Post, and more.

Perfect for:

• Bakers of all ages
• Holiday bakers
• Fans of Sarah’s bang-the-pan cookies, 100 Cookies, and The Vanilla Bean Blog
• Holiday gift givers

Librarian Ann says the following about her newest pick:

‘Filled with inspiration for the winter holidays, Baking for the Holidays by Sara Keiffer offers a wide range of delicious treats, from cakes and pies to cookies to breakfast pastries all beautifully presented in this gorgeous cookbook. This book also includes a chapter on gifting home baked goods for friends and family. Recipes range from beginner friendly to more challenging.’

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Join the Best Sellers Club to have the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

Online Reading Challenge – October

Hello! Welcome to the October edition of the Online Reading Challenge!

This month our focus author is Philippa Gregory!

Gregory is best known for historical fiction, especially novels set in England during the Plantagenet and Tudor eras. This is a period of time that is especially ripe for novelists – Henry and his multiple wives, the religious wars, the constant struggle for the crown and the lives of powerful and important people. Gregory’s books usually look at these turbulent times from a woman’s point-of-view. Often dismissed or misunderstood, the women have a different understanding of what actually happened beyond historical dates and famous battles.

While Gregory follows historical timelines, she sometimes speculates with alternative theories of what actually happened behind closed doors. This makes for fascinating and interesting reading, but remember to read these as fiction, not irrefutable fact!

Gregory’s Tudor series is probably her most popular, following each of Henry the VIII’s wives. I especially liked The Other Boleyn Girl which is told from the point-of-view of Anne Boleyn’s sister, who had been Henry’s mistress before he married Anne (so tangled!) Mary Boleyn was a real person who bore Henry two children, but was set aside when his interest turned to Anne.

If you’ve read everything by Gregory or would like to try another author, there are some very good ones to check out including Hilary Mantel, Sharon Kay Penman, Allison Weir and Tracy Chevalier.  If you prefer mysteries you might try the Shardlake mystery series by C.J. Sansom or hunt down The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. It’s an older book that attempts to solve the mystery of the Princes in the Tower; it’s very good and well worth borrowing. And if you want something a little lighter and lots of fun, I highly recommend My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, an alternate history of Lady Jane Grey that is simply delightful.

Of course, you can choose to read a historical novel from any time period or country you wish – be the boss of your online book club!

I am planning on reading A Perilous Alliance by Fiona Buckley, one from her Ursula Blanchard mystery series. Ursula is distantly related to Queen Elizabeth and helps the Queen’s advisors with some spying and occasional detective work.

Now it’s your turn – what will you be reading in October?

 

Online Reading Challenge – September Wrap-Up

Hello Challenge Readers!

How did your month of Ann Patchett Read Alikes go? Did you find a great new book to read, or was this an off month for you?

I’ve already read several of Patchett’s books, so I decided to go with a Read Alike. I chose A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and it was a great choice. It’s a story that has stuck with me long after finishing it and one I’d recommend to anyone.

A Gentleman in Moscow opens in 1920 at the trial of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov. He is found guilty of writing a poem in 1913 that might possibly be interpreted as a call to action against the Russian Revolution and is sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol Hotel (where he was already living) for the rest of his life. At first he is unconcerned – he has a luxurious suite at the hotel, one of the finest in Russia and believes he will be quite comfortable. However, when he arrives at his suite, he finds all of his personal belongings being packed up – he is being moved to a single small room in the attic. He is allowed to take a few pieces of furniture, his clothes and a few personal mementos but must leave the trappings of his previous life behind.

Instead of falling into melancholy over his new circumstances, the Count chooses to master the situation instead and make the best of things. The Metropol was (and is to this day), one of the finest in Russia and the Count is able to carve out a comfortable if restricted life. He makes friends (and an enemy or two), finds a measure of safety and purpose amongst the swirling chaos that is Russia post-Revolution.

At first glance, you might think this will be a very sad and depressing book. After all, the main character must give up his freedom, his family heirlooms and his ancestral home. Instead, it is full of gentle humor, upbeat stories and exciting adventures. There is a lot of wisdom in how the Count conducts his life, and lessons that are relevant to any life. Highly recommended.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month?

Cris Tales for the Nintendo Switch

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience the past, present, and future all at the same time? Do you like games filled with adventure, fantasy, and cute animal side kicks? Cris Tales might be the game for you!

This Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) follows the story of orphan, Crisbell. Crisbell is an ordinary girl, until one day she discovers she is a Time Mage. With her new found abilities to jump from the present to the future or the past, the fate of the Four Kingdoms lies in her hands. She must defeat the fear mongering Time Empress! However, Crisbell isn’t alone in her fight; allies from around the kingdom Christopher, Willhelm, and more band together. She also relies on her animal sidekick, Matias, who guides Crisbell through this brand new world of being a Time Mage.

Cris Tales is surely to be a new favorite JRPG. Right off the bat, the player is immersed in the drama surrounding the Four Kingdom’s fight against the Time Empress. The player learns a lot of the important skills at the beginning of the game. Cris Tales also allows you to venture off and explore. You can talk to multiple townsfolk and learn more. The plot is fun and easy to follow.

The turn based fighting style, allows the player to think through the moves they want to make. I liked this concept for the game. Some traditional RPG’s can get intense with the fight scenes, and by the time you think about what to do, you have to start over. The turn based element keeps the fight scenes simple and kid friendly.

Cris Tales is available on the Nintendo Switch and the Xbox One/Series X.

Music Hype: Human by OneRepublic

This album has been hovering on the horizon for months now, as I waited to order it until a release date was officially announced. Now, it’s finally here! So let’s talk about OneRepublic: who they are, how they got here, and how we feel about their latest offering: Human.

OneRepublic is an American pop band formed in 2002. I know many of us in the millennial and maybe Gen X camps grew up listening to Apologize and Stop and Stare from their first album Dreaming Out Loud – both of which became massive hits around the world. Apologize in particular became iconic after being remixed by Timbaland.

All the Right Moves was the big hit from their second album, Waking Up, from 2009. Other earworms included Secrets and Good Life. More recently a lot of people found they’d accidentally memorized all the words to Counting Stars, the hit song from 2013’s album, Native. Their fourth album was Oh My My in 2016 and it was a major departure in their sound, producing singles Wherever I Go and Kids.

Human has been delayed a number of times (and I’m sure COVID was part of it), but there have been singles released from it to build hype, including Rescue Me and Wanted. According to some critics, this makes the album feel more like a time capsule than a new release: Rescue Me came out in 2019, which as we all know was a very different emotional moment than 2021. But there’s still a lot to love including the upbeat anthem Run and yearning track Distance, which echoes some of the band’s classic vibes. Speaking for myself, a band than can do soulful, emotional, and danceable all equally well is definitely worth following, and OneRepublic has a very strong track record to recommend them.

If you’re looking for a solid pop album that captures some nostalgia and some optimism, you might want to try OneRepublic’s Human, finally available for checkout.

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