Simon the Fiddler [Book Review]

June 26, 2020

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles (cover) Image: a gold toned western landscape including a river

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Post-Civil War Southwest, Western

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

A diverse, scrappy, hard-working, risk-taking, and loyal group of four forms a band…and Simon pursues love.

Simon is the fiddler and leader, and other members include Doroteo (guitar player), Damon (whistle player), and Patrick (bodhran and bone player). On the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon notices a lovely Irish girl, Doris, who is an indentured servant and governess for a colonel’s daughter. Simon can’t forget Doris as his ragtag group travels Texas striving to put their lives back together at the end of the Civil War and build their reputation. He vows to find her again, rescue her from her dire situation, and propose.

an old fiddle

My Thoughts:

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Where the Lost Wander [Review]

April 28, 2020

 Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon (cover) Image: Two covered wagons crossing a prairie

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Historical Western Romance/Love Story, Oregon Trail (U.S.History)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Thanks, #netgalley #lakeunionpublishing for providing a free e ARC of #wherethelostwander by Amy Harmon in response to my request. All opinions are my own.

In 1853, newly widowed Naomi May sets out for the West with her family.  On the Oregon Trail which is filled with hardship, danger, and loss, she meets John Lowry. As the journey progresses and becomes more harrowing, they grow closer but their relationship is tested in intense and emotional ways.

My Thoughts:

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Big Lies in a Small Town: A Review

January 29, 2020

 Big Lies in a Small Town: by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies in a Small Town (cover)

Genre/Categories: Light Historical fiction, Light Mystery, Southern Fiction, Art

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Secrets, prejudice, and making peace with the past ….

Two young women living several decades apart are focused on the same mural….one is creating the mural in 1940 and the other is restoring the same mural in 2018. In alternate viewpoints and dual timelines, we hear both stories, the mystery of what happened to the original artist is uncovered, and connections between the two are revealed.

My Thoughts:

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Lovely War: A Review

January 24, 2020

 Lovely War: by Julie Berry

Lovely War cover

Genre/Categories: YA Historical Fiction, WW1, Romance/Love Story, Mythology

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Love and war….

During the years of WW1, Hazel, a shy and talented pianist meets James, a handsome soldier, at a dance. He’s shipping out to the front in a week. Is this enough time to fall in love? Two more characters round out the cast: Colette, a gifted singer from Belgium, and Aubrey, a member of the all African-American regiment and a gifted musician. The Greek gods narrate this story of love, music, and war.

My Thoughts:

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On The Come Up: A Review

June 6, 2019

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

On the Come Up Review

Genre/Categories: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, Homelessness, Poverty, Family Life, YA Music, Racism

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

The daughter of a Garden Heights rap legend, sixteen-year-old Bri’s greatest desires include making it as a rapper, making enough money to take care of her mom and siblings, and moving out of the neighborhood. Bri is distracted at school by her rapping goals and neighborhood performances. At home, her mom has lost her job and the family is facing unpaid bills, shut off notices, an empty refrigerator, and the threat of homelessness. Suddenly, Bri not only wants to make it as a rapper, now she has to make it. Bri makes some impulsive decisions as she fights to make her dreams a reality. This is a story about fighting for your dreams against the odds as it portrays the realities of poor and working-class black families. Author Angie Thomas has experience in the art of rapping and her authentic voice fills all the spaces in this realistic story with vivid details of the Garden Heights community and its memorable characters. Although the story takes place in the same community and makes a reference to the shooting at the center of The Hate You Give, this is not a sequel to THUG and can be read as a stand-alone. Each book is a unique reading experience.

My Thoughts:

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Music and Reading!

July 6, 2018

Music and Reading!

Are you a reader who also loves music?

Today’s post is especially for music lovers as I review The Ensemble (new review) and draw your attention to three other books (previously reviewed) that also contain music themes.

If you’re a musician or love music and also love reading, these four reading recommendations might interest you! (I’m not a musician and still enjoyed these stories….but they will be a richer reading experience for you if you love music or have music experience.)

the magic strings of frankie prestoThe Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

Genre/Categories: Fiction, Inspirational, Music, Fable

For Mitch Albom fans, a magical, heartwarming, and compelling story about the life of a gifted musician and the people he meets.  (previously reviewed here)

My Rating: 5 Stars

 

 


the music shopThe Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Genre/Categories: Fiction, Friendship, Music

This is a tender story about Frank, a quirky character who is devoted to the preservation of vinyl records in his eccentric London music shop. (previously reviewed here)

My Rating: 5 Stars

 

 


ChilburyThe Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Music

This is a heartwarming and light historical fiction read about ladies who have been left behind when the men go to war (WW11) and the ladies unite their community through continuation of the choir. (previously reviewed here)

My Rating: 4 Stars

 

 

 


The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

The EnsembleGenre/Categories: Fiction, Classical Music, Musicians

A recent release and Book of the Month selection, 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.

Here’s what worked for me:

  • beautiful writing
  • unique concept for a story
  • insightful observations on relationships and personal and professional growth
  • their commitment and bond to each other
  • the idea of chosen family (community)
  • well drawn characters

What I thought could have been better:

  • The story could have been 100 pages shorter or written as a novella…at about 56% I started to eagerly anticipate reaching the end (even though I enjoyed the writing).
  • It’s a slow read (for me who loves more action) without much of a plot (focus is on character development and observations and reflections).
  • a touch melodramatic at times

My Rating: This is difficult as I wavered between a 3 and 4 (see above bullet points), so I decided on 3.5 Stars (a solid enough read but probably not recommendable to everyone without some explanation).

Recommendation: readers who love music and character driven stories that focus on relationships and friendships, this is the book for you!

the ensemble 2

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Aja Gabel

aja gabelNew author Aja Gabel played the cello for about 25 years, many of those years very seriously. “I’m one of five children, and my mom tried to make us all play instruments. It only really stuck with me. I started on violin when I was five years old and switched to cello at ten,” says Gabel. “I had a brief affair with the upright string bass, but I’m way too short to handle that instrument. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years seriously playing chamber music and continued to study it through college and after, though I went down the writing path.”

Gabel lives in Los Angeles, where she says she’s trying to reintroduce herself to the Bach cello suites. “I forgot how impossible they are. It’s good and humbling to start playing again, though. Something about the focused physicality of playing ignites all kinds of other creativity,” she says.



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a handful, and I’ve only abandoned one)



A Link I Love:

If you love to entertain or love cheese or love to present food beautifully on boards and trays, check out this new food blog! A Study In Cheese: The Art of Entertaining With Cheese



Looking Ahead:

 Next week (Friday) I’m excited to bring you a review of the best book I’ve read so far this year: A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza……and also (for Top Ten Tuesday) a recap of my best reads so far this year.

a place for us 2.

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

Have you read any of these titles? Does the theme of music in literature pique your interest?

What are you reading this week?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

June 6, 2018

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

the magic strings of frankie presto

Genre/Categories: Fiction, Inspirational, Music, Fable

Summary:

Popular author Mitch Albom’s (Tuesdays With Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven) latest release, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, is a modern fable about the power of music to change our lives.

Music is the 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. Amazon Rating: 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

This is an older title (published in 2015) that I’m discovering for the first time.

“All humans are musical,” and in a metaphorical sense, “everyone joins a band in this life.” This unforgettable story is one that explores our deepest connections (in the larger sense) and Frankie’s life (specifically).

“I am Music. And Music is in the connection of human souls, speaking a language that needs no words.”

Like the narrator (Death) in The Book Thief, Music as narrator tenderly tells the heartfelt life story of Frankie, a gifted musician. Using a touch of fantasy and magical realism, Mitch Albom’s story (fable) draws upon his own real life experience as a musician to add depth and credibility to Frankie’s story.

Imaginatively told, cleverly constructed, and creatively written, there’s a lot to love about this story and its theme that music has the power to affect us all. The most interesting, creative, and daring part of the writing is the technique of weaving real life musical icons into the story as characters. As a result, readers are treated to a survey of pop culture music history. There’s also a soundtrack to accompany the book!

I love creative and innovative writing and the author definitely takes risks. Readers like myself will have to suspend belief at times to fully appreciate the fable that the author creates. This engaging story captivated me and gave me a “book hangover.”

Highly recommended for music lovers, for fans of Mitch Albom, and for readers who appreciate creative writing and a memorable story with unsuspected plot twists and a touch of romance.

My Rating: 5 Creative Musical Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Mitch Albom

Mitch AlbomMitch Albom is an internationally renowned author, screenwriter, playwright, nationally syndicated columnist, broadcaster and musician. He is the author of six consecutive number one New York Times bestsellers–including Tuesdays with Morrie, the bestselling memoir of all time–and his books have collectively sold more than thirty-five million copies in forty-five languages. Four of his books have been made into Emmy Award-winning and critically-acclaimed television movies. He has founded eight charities in Detroit and Haiti, where he operates an orphanage. He lives with his wife, Janine, in Michigan. Learn more at http://www.mitchalbom.com and http://www.mitchalbomcharities.org



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Friday, I’ll be highlighting book recs for Dads …… I’ll be in the process of reading Backman’s new release Us Against You……sequel to Beartown….. releasing 6/5)…my most anticipated new release of the year! My husband and I plan to “buddy read” it and a review will be coming some time in June. I’ve read some positive early reviews already.



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

Have you read this book? Have you read other titles by Mitch Albom?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

The Music Shop

May 25, 2018

The Music Shop
by Rachel Joyce

the music shop

Genre/categories: Fiction, Friendship, Music

Summary:

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.

Themes:

Despite the probability of a relationship between Frank and Ilse, the main theme of the book explores healing more than romance. Other themes involve music appreciation as readers are treated to a variety of musical discussions; in addition, the theme of friendship is strong as readers meet loyal, delightful, memorable, and flawed characters. As a bonus, there is a spotify playlist for the music selections mentioned in the story so that you can listen as you read.     bit.ly/TheMusicShopPlaylist

Amazon Rating: 4.4 Stars  (*Language Alert)

May compelling character

Join the Link Up below.

Meet Frank, May’s Most Compelling Character

I have a soft spot in my heart for a quirky character who is overcoming a difficult and turbulent past and taking risks to create a better life. In the spirit of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, A Man Called Ove, and Britt-Marie Was Here, readers come to understand and love Frank. Through this gentle and heart-felt story, we notice that Frank has a gift of listening to each customer and recommending a perfect piece of music to touch that person’s soul. In spite of a fear of love and connection, we see that Frank has gained the love and support of the small community on Unity Street. On this aptly named street, these small, independent shop owners stick together, form a community, and care for one another in tough economic times and tragedies. Like many people who are busy loving their neighbors, Frank has difficulty accepting their love and attention in return. As with many independent store owners, he carefully provides personal service to each customer (paying or not). His greatest gift is the ability to listen, his greatest heartache is his devotion to and preservation of vinyl, and his greatest fear is having what he most wants, the love of mysterious Ilse.

Recommendation and Rating:

In this heartfelt story, Frank and Ilse take risks and the healing power of music and love is poignantly illustrated. This book may not be for everyone, but I loved it! Highly recommended for readers who love music, readers who appreciate quirky, flawed characters struggling to make a better life despite their past, and for readers who love memorable themes of healing, persistence, risk taking, loyalty, friendship, music appreciation, and community. I had it rated a solid 4 stars until the ending which had me in tears, and that’s when I knew this story had earned 5 stars. (*language alert)

Remember to listen to The Music Shop Playlist on Spotify as you read!  bit.ly/TheMusicShopPlaylist

My Rating: 5 romantic stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

music shop

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Rachel Joyce

Rachel JoyceRachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Perfect. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Joyce was named the Specsavers National Book Awards “New Writer of the Year” in 2012. She is also the author of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop, and the digital short story A Faraway Smell of Lemon and is the award-winning writer of more than thirty original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4. Rachel Joyce lives with her family in Gloucestershire.



May’s Most Memorable Character Link Up



 Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



PBS: The Great American Read

How many books have you read of the hundred on the list? Which ones will you vote for? Were you surprised by any on the list? Do you plan to vote on your favorite reads? I’ve already voted once for Gone With the Wind!



Links I Love

Modern Mrs. Darcey: Summer Reading Guide (books by category)
*I linked to this list last week, but Anne Bogel (Modern Mrs. Darcey) has sorted the books on the list into categories which is helpful and interesting…..several titles on my summer TBR are from this list (and there are a few that I’m not reading based on descriptions).

The Novel Endeavor: Summer Reading Guide for Families: Fairy Tale Retellings

Perspective of a Writer: Passport to international Travel Through Reading (book recs to take you around the world!)



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting some summer recs for kids (while I’m reading Backman’s new release Us Against You……sequel to Beartown….. releasing 6/5).



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear about the most memorable character from your May reading in the comments or in the link up above.

Also, please share what you’ve been reading lately and/or your thoughts about The Great American Read sponsored by PBS.



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir: A Review

July 28, 2017

Thank you for reading, sharing, and following along! I think you’ll find this week’s featured selection fascinating. I love historical fiction and supporting women authors who write about strong women. You can also find me on Goodreads.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
by Jennifer Ryan

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links

 The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan (cover)

Genre/category: WW11 historical fiction, women’s fiction

Summary:

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.

Amazon rating: (July) 4.4  Stars

My Thoughts:

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