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.



QOTD:

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?

10 Mildly Suspenseful Books #toptentuesday

October 27, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Mildly Suspenseful Books

top ten tuesday

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Freebie.

Are you a HSP (highly sensitive person) like me? Or do you like the scariest and most thrilling reads?

Does the thought of reading scary books cause anxiety?

I have a bookish confession: I’m an October Outlier. I don’t read books that fall into the horror, true crime, crime fiction, paranormal, or thriller categories or are too scary or spooky. I’m highly susceptible to nightmares. So…..this makes a typical Halloween post rather tricky! If you share my preferences and would rather have recommendations for “slightly suspenseful,” I think you might like today’s list!

I have discovered that I can tolerate a bit of suspense! However, I won’t promise you that I haven’t peeked at the last page to be sure my favorite characters are still alive!

Here’s my list of books that I have enjoyed that have a bit of suspense but are not too scary! I should also note that none of these books have a Halloween theme or setting.

Is there a certain type of book that you enjoy reading in the fall?

pumpkins

*Titles are Amazon affiliate links. (more…)

10 Popular Books With Mature Characters #FridayFavorites

October 23, 2020

10 Popular Books With Mature Characters

Do you enjoy reading books with older characters?

Today’s post is a list of ten books (five newer and five older releases…plus some bonus picks!) with main characters that are fifty plus. Recently, I’ve read several titles with older characters and it’s been delightful!

Do you love older characters?

***Titles are Amazon affiliate links.

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September 2020 Reading Wrap Up

September 30, 2020

September 2020 Reading Wrap Up

September 2020 Reading Wrap Up (a collage of book covers))

How was your September reading?

September was a fourteen book reading month with zero DNFs. I am happy to report five five-star reads, two four-star reads, four three-star reads, and three two-star reads. Find all my September reads listed below in order of Star Rating. Keep in mind that I normally recommend five- and four-star reads on the blog; three-star reads receive mixed reviews from me for various reasons; and two-star reads are books that were not for me. One star reads are usually shelved as DNF.

My favorite read of the month is Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell simply because it made the greatest emotional impact.

Did we read any of the same books?

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Titles are Amazon affiliate links and my available reviews are linked
.


Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

4.5-5 Stars. Compelling, engaging, and emotional literary fiction.
My review of Hamnet here.


Transcendent Kingdom

4.5-5 Stars. An engaging and poignant family drama that reads like a memoir. My review of Transcendent Kingdom here.


Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

4.5-5 Stars. A mash up of light mystery, comedy, and drama in true Backman style. My review of Anxious People here.


The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons

4.5-5 Stars. Multi-generational heartfelt women’s fiction with likable characters and an inspiring theme. My review of The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett here.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

4.5-5 (MG) Stars. A reread of one of my very favorite middle grade historical fiction books (now I need to reread the sequel). Not yet reviewed.

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Fall 2020 TBR #toptentuesday

September 22, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books on My Fall 2020 TBR

#TopTenTuesday Fall TBR (Image: white text over a background of colorful fall leaves)

top ten tuesday

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books on My Fall 2020 TBR.

What is your most anticipated fall read?

With all the books that are on my radar on a given day, it’s nice to pick out a few for an official TBR. Ten still leaves room for library holds that come in, occasional ARCs, or some mood reading.

One question you may ask is “Are these spooky reads or thrillers?” Many readers have differing opinions of what comprises a fall read: some want spooky, some look for atmospheric, some seek out thrillers, while others like to tackle large tomes or serious content during the fall when they are spending more time sitting by the fire. It’s my opinion that any book you read in the fall is a fall read. For my fall reads, I look for the types of books I look for all year: memorable, thought-provoking, and unputdownable. So the answer to the question is NO….no thrillers or spooky reads because I just prefer not to read them.

The following two highly anticipated books were on my initial fall TBR list and then FOMO gripped me and I read them in early September! Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell and Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. I highly recommend both of these 5 Star reads for your fall TBR.

Keep in mind that I’m not yet recommending the books on my fall TBR list…..check back often, though, because I will provide updates and links to reviews as I read them. For now, these are the reads that are on my fall 2020 reading radar.

I finished my Summer TBR just yesterday!

*Titles are Amazon affiliate links.

Fall 2020 TBR

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Books With Grandparents As Important Characters #grandparentsday

September 13, 2020

Books With Grandparents As Important Characters #grandparentsday

Books With Grandparents As Important Characters (Image: a young boy and a grandfather walk through the woods with backs to camera)

Do you have or did you have a special relationship with a grandparent?

I love family-centered stories and especially ones that include grandparents!

Several countries around the world celebrate Grandparents Day on a variety of dates….this Wikipedia post lists some of the countries and dates.

Happy Grandparents Day text with blue hearts

forget-me-not flowers

Forget-me-not flowers are associated with National Grandparents Day.

Today, September 13 is National Grandparents Day in the United States. To celebrate, I’ve collected several books which feature grandparents (or grandparent-like figures) as main characters.  Do you have a title to add to this list?

Call or write a note to your grandparent today!

*Titles are Amazon affiliate links.

(more…)

Books For My Younger Middle-Grade Self #toptentuesday

September 8, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books For My Younger Middle-Grade Self

TTT: 10 Books For My Younger Self (background image: a young girl sits on a curb reading a book)

top ten tuesday

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: Books For My Younger Self

Is there a book you’ve read that you know you would have enjoyed when you were younger?

As an adult, I love Middle-Grade books, and I wish that the following ten middle-grade titles had been available for my younger self! (I could list more, but these came first to mind.)

What Middle-Grade books have you read that you know your younger self would have enjoyed?

a picture of my old (antique) copy of The Bobbsey Twins at School by Laura Lee HopeOne of the book series I enjoyed when I was younger was The Bobbsey Twins. This is an old copy I acquired. While some youngsters like stories about animals, adventure, or fantasy, I remember loving stories about family. Even today, I love a wonderful multi-generational family drama like A Place For Us.

I certainly wish there was more diversity available in reading material for my younger middle-grade self!

 

*Titles are Amazon affiliate links.

(more…)

August 2020 Reading Wrap Up

August 31, 2020

August 2020 Reading Wrap Up

August 2020 Reading Wrap Up: A collage of titles

How was your August reading?

August was a fourteen book reading month even though I had two DNFs. I am happy to report four five-star reads, six four-star reads, and four three-star reads. Find all my August reads listed below in order of Star Rating. Keep in mind that I normally recommend five- and four-star reads on the blog; three-star reads receive mixed reviews from me for various reasons; and two-star reads are books that were not for me. One star reads are usually shelved as DNF.

My favorite read of the month is a back-list title, Ordinary Grace.

Did we read any of the same books?

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Titles are Amazon affiliate links and my available reviews are linked
.


Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

5 Stars. Compelling, engaging, and thought-provoking literary fiction. (You may have read Krueger’s This Tender Land this year.) My review of Ordinary Grace here.


The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

5 Stars. An engaging and poignant book about books. A reread which I enjoyed, even more, the second time! My review of A.J. Fikry here.


The Next Great Jane by K.L. Going

5 (MG) Stars. For daughters of Jane Austin fans and their moms. Innocent, engaging, science and writing themes. Not yet reviewed.


Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradly

5 (MG) Stars. CAUTION: because of heavy content involving child abuse and self-harm, I’m encouraging parents to read this FIRST. Not yet reviewed.


All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

4.5 Stars. (ARC) #16 in the series (please read series in order!) In addition to the mystery to be solved, this story includes poignant family and father/son themes. My full review of All the Devils Are Here.

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and Educated by Tara Westover [Book Reviews] #throwbackthursday

August 6, 2020

Compelling Characters in The Great Alone (fiction) by Kristin Hannah and Educated (nonfiction) by Tara Westover
#throwbackthursday

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

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 The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and Educated by Tara Westover, a focus on compelling characters…

a collage of Educated and The Great Alone covers

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Two compelling characters…

Introduction:

Today I’m highlighting two compelling characters: Leni from The Great Alone (fiction) and Tara from Educated: A Memoir (nonfiction). Leni and Tara share some similar struggles and challenges. The two stories reminded me at times of The Glass Castle (charismatic yet unpredictable fathers, unstable homes, neglect, poverty) and Hillbilly Elegy (chaotic family life, nurturing grandparents)….a fascinating book club discussion could be centered around discussing the connections between these books and characters.

Continue here for my review of the Great Alone and Educated

QOTD: Have you read The Great Alone or Educated or are they on your TBR?

July 2020 Reading Wrap Up

July 31, 2020

July 2020 Reading Wrap Up

July Reading Wrap Up (a collage of covers)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

What Was Your Favorite July Read?

From a numerical standpoint, July was the best reading month I’ve had in a while. I read 15 books (17 if I count the last two I squeaked in at month’s end after I had already written this post…I’ll count them for August). I ended up with two five-star reads (4.5 rounded up) and three four-star reads, nine three-star reads, and one two-star read. I did not have a DNF although I admit to skim-reading my two-star read.

Reading in July looked a bit different for me in that I read quite a few light women’s fiction selections. For some reason, my Pandemic brain craved lighter reads, and then I inadvertently read #4 in a series and I always read series in order, so I needed to go back and read books 1-3! #bookproblems

My favorite fiction read of the month is a tie between The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai and The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel for their page-turning storylines and inspirational characters.

Find all my July reads listed below in order of Star Rating. Keep in mind that I normally recommend five- and four-star reads on the blog; three-star reads receive mixed reviews from me for various reasons; and two-star reads are books I may or may not have finished but they were not for me. One star reads are usually shelved as DNF or perhaps quickly scanned.

Did we read any of the same books?

Under COVID-19 conditions, I hope that you’re all doing well and staying safe!

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Titles are Amazon links and available reviews are linked.


The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

4.5 Stars (rounded to 5). Historical Fiction, Multigenerational Family Drama. Vietnamese. My full review of The Mountains Sing.


The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

4.5 Stars (Rounded to 5). Historical Fiction. WW11. Engaging and page-turning. My full review of The Book of Lost Names.


Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

4 Stars. (ARC: Pub Date: 11/24/2020) Historical Fiction/Women’s Fiction/Adventure mashup. Quite a unique read! Review coming soon.


Wish by Barbara O’Connor

4 Stars. (Middle Grade) Heartwarming. Finding a home. Not reviewed.

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