5 Books With Music Themes: Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Music Shop, Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, Musical Chairs, Ensemble [Book Reviews] #throwbackthursday

October 22, 2020

5 Books With Music Themes #throwbackthursday

5 Books With Music Themes (Image: collage of covers)

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my reviews of five books with music themes. Two of the five are my favorites: Magic Strings and Music Shop.

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Music and Reading!

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

“Music is the unusual narrator telling the story of Frankie Presto, a gifted guitar player and singer, who changes six lives with his six magical blue strings. Born under tragic circumstances, abandoned as an infant, and raised by a music teacher in a small Spanish town, Frankie is sent to America alone at nine years old with his prized guitar (and six magic strings). His life touches many famous musicians on his journey to become a pop star himself. Because Frankie is troubled by his childhood experiences and tortured by his biggest mistake, he drops out of sight to reconcile with his past. He reappears just before his death to change one last life.

Magic Strings is a favorite of the five and you can find my full review here.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

“Set in the 1980s on a run-down street in a forgotten suburb of London, there is a small indie music shop that is jam-packed with vinyl records of every kind. Frank, the shop’s owner, has a way of connecting his customers with the exact piece of music they never knew they needed, he welcomes the lonely, and he goes out of his way to help others. One ordinary day, a beautiful young woman in a green coat, Ilse Brauchmann, comes into his music shop and changes his life. Frank feels an attraction to her and yet he fears developing any closeness; in spite of his reservations, he begins to teach her about music and they develop a close friendship based on their common musical interests. Frank is terrified of his feelings for Ilse, yet he’s drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl. It’s complicated because Ilse has secrets and Frank has a past that haunts him. Readers find out about Frank’s life with his eccentric mother through flashbacks; however, Ilse remains mysterious. While Frank and Ilse contemplate the risks of a relationship, there are events in the community that threaten the livelihood of all the small, independent shops including Frank’s music shop. A further complication for Frank is the growing popularity of cassette tapes and CDs while Frank cherishes the world of vinyl.”

Music Shop is my other favorite of the five and you can find my full review here.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

A notice pinned to the Chilbury Village Hall notice board, Sunday, 24th March, 1940 reads: “As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close.” (Signed The Vicar)

“Facing an impending Nazi invasion, the ladies of Chilbury, England pull together under the strong leadership and persistent encouragement of new choirmaster, Prim, to resurrect the choir as a ladies choir. This heartfelt historical fiction story is told from multiple perspectives and voices in diary and journal form. As author Jennifer Ryan states: “At the beginning of the war, an organization known as Mass Observation began, encouraging ordinary individuals to keep diaries and journals and send them into headquarters, where some would be published in a newsletter.” The ladies were serious in supporting the war effort in every way and their earnest writings combine to tell an inspirational story of what it was like to be a woman in the wartime 1940s, working outside the home to support the war effort, finding their voice, and their exploration of independence without their men. Some readers might be concerned that this is simply a collection of these writings: however, I can assure readers that this reads as one complete work and the individual perspectives flow seamlessly from viewpoint to viewpoint and add to the complexity and richness of this heartfelt, charming, and inspirational story. Throughout the narrative, a cast of charismatic and memorable characters emerges as the women face the uncertainties and hardships of war, resolve village problems as they arise, and a few enjoy a bit of romance.”

Chilbury is a fun and engaging read and you can find my full review here.

Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

“Bridget and Will are best friends, professional musicians, and are two thirds of a struggling chamber trio. It’s summer and Bridget is reeling from an unexpected breakup and Will is her “break-up buddy.” Bridget heads for her family’s vacation home in upstate Conneticut, but complications include the search for a third chamber member, a summer house that needs significant repairs, two young adult children descending on Bridget’s lovely summer plans with problems of their own, a strained friendship with Will,secrets and misunderstandings, a famous father who unexpectedly announces his intent to marry again, and Bridget offering to host the wedding. Obviously, this is not the summer that Bridget envisioned. But maybe it will be salvaged in unexpected ways.”

My Goodreads review of Musical Chairs here.

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

 The Ensemble follows the lives of four young members of a chamber quartet as they navigate the world of competitive classical music, ambition, relationships, success, failure, and love. Readers will meet Jana, first violin, aloof, resilient, and fearless leader; Brit, second violin, beautiful, idealistic, and quiet orphan; Daniel, cello, angry, oldest, and most adrift; and Henry, viola, an easy-going prodigy who has always lived an easy and blessed life. This is a character driven story (some unlikable) and includes a multitude of musical references. Although it’s beautifully written and a unique concept, there’s minimal plot. With a focus on relationships, the four musicians, drawn together by art, are bonded for life (reminding me a bit of Mitch Albom’s metaphor in The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto that “we’re all in a band” and throughout our lives we join different bands. The author expertly and carefully explores relationships and friendships, backgrounds of the four musicians, and the profound impact that their families of origin have on their decisions and outlooks. The beauty in the story is in the exploration of the family you choose as they choose each other over and over again.

You can find my review of The Ensemble in this post here.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this focus on Music and Reading for #ThrowBackThursday!

Have you read any of these titles?

Do you have a title you can add to this list?


      • I’ve only read The Ensemble from this list, and felt kinda meh about it (I’m a musician and the characters felt really cliche and boring to me). I looooved the writing, though. I’m going to look into the others on your list, especially the Rachel Joyce title!

      • Actually, Ensemble is my least fav on this list and also felt meh about it. Lots of others have loved it! I loved Music Shop and hope you do too.

  1. Great post Carol. The only one I have read is The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, but I do want to read the Mitch Albom one and I have The Music Shop on my TBR as well. I will check the others out.

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