Tag Archives: music

Wintersong by S. Jae-James might just enchant you

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Wintersong by S. Jae-James might just enchant you

I have had a long standing fascination with the Goblin King, and S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong seemed like just the book I would adore.  I wasn’t far from the mark.  Fans of my childhood obsession, Labyrinth, and Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market will find that Wintersong is the right blend of dark and light.  If you like the Stolen Songbird series or The Hollow Kingdom series, you will want to see what this book has to offer.  I will say this felt a little heavier than your average YA, something I wasn’t prepared for, but that isn’t necessarily a negative.  I gave this book four stars.


Goodreads Summary

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world. 

My Thoughts

This book is a lot of work to read.  The ornate writing is full of vivid imagery and the historical setting is carefull detailed and crafted, but those two characteristics will be a turn off for some readers.  The central issue, the gender of the main character, is going to be lost on many modern readers who don’t feel their gender really limits their options.  Still, it is a fairy tale bound to enchant, particularly older readers who grew up watching Labrinyth and thinking about the seductive goblin king.  The book does play heavy on the sacrifices that love demands, and that dramatic and heart-wrenching romance could appeal to teen readers, but this feels like a story that will appeal to adult readers of YA more than actual YA readers.  Some sensuality and situations means this is best for the older high school crowd.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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We Own the Night – A Radio Hearts book

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We Own the Night – A Radio Hearts book

We Own the Night is the second in Ashley Poston’s Radio Hearts books.  The first, The Sound of Us, is one that I enjoyed – it has a rock star love interest, so I was game.  I was less engaged by We Own the Night which is narrated by a character who frequently made me grind my teeth, which left me feeling a bit “meh” about it.  Both can be read as stand-alone stories, but I think the best reading experience would be to read them in order because the band, Roman Holiday, is featured in the first book and plays a smaller role in the second.  Both ebooks are under $5.

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Goodreads Summary

“Happy midnight, my fellow Niteowls…”

As a candy store employee by day, and mysterious deejay “Niteowl” by night, eighteen-year-old Ingrid North is stuck between rock ‘n roll and a hard place. She can’t wait to get out of her tiny hometown of Steadfast, Nebraska (population three hundred and forty-seven) to chase her dreams, but small-town troubles keep getting in the way. She can’t abandon her grandmother with Alzheimer’s, or her best friend Micah–who she may or may not be in love with.

But for one hour each Saturday, she escapes all of that. On air, she isn’t timid, ugly-sweater-wearing Ingrid North. She’s the funny and daring Niteowl. Every boy’s manic pixie dream girl. Fearless. And there is one caller in particular– Dark and Brooding–whose raspy laugh and snarky humor is just sexy enough to take her mind off Micah. Not that she’s in love with Micah or anything. Cause she’s not.

As her grandmother slips further away and Micah begins dating a Mean-Girls-worthy nightmare, Ingrid runs to the mysterious Dark and Brooding as a disembodied voice to lean on, only to fall down a rabbit hole of punk rockstars, tabloid headlines, and kisses that taste like bubble tea. But the man behind the voice could be surprising in all the right, and wrong, ways.

And she just might find that her real life begins when Niteowl goes off the air.

My Thoughts

After a weak start, this book finds its stride about halfway through, and readers who stick it out will be quite happy with the resolution.  But every reader won’t stick this one out.  Ingrid, the narrator, comes across as a whiner.  She has problems that plenty of us can relate to, and I actually feel really bad about calling her out, but she is a drag.  She cries or fights back tears a lot.  And she doesn’t really seem inclined to do much to improve her own situation, choosing instead to just be angry at others who have succeeded where she feels she has failed.  I understood her – she is at that place where you don’t feel like you can make a move because it will probably be the wrong one, but it isn’t very fun to read about it for very long.  Once Ingrid does shut down the pity party, things really improved, and it is nice to see how she finally figures out who she wants to be.  Teens will probably have more patience with Ingrid than adult readers of YA.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 10+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gifted – A dystopian YA about music, the people, and The Man

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Gifted – A dystopian YA about music, the people, and The Man

This is a dual narrative shared between Zimri (poor girl who just wants to make music) and Orpheus (rich boy who doesn’t want to fall in line to his dad’s demands).  A series of events bring the two together, and Zimri introduces Orpheus to what life is like for the hard-working folks who pack his Amazon Prime packages (okay, so they aren’t Amazon, but that is essentially what they are).  They share a passion for music . . . You see where this is heading.  The problem for me was that I think you still have to have that passion about music to take this book seriously.

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Commas, meme maker! Commas

I’m not sure when I lost that, but there did come a day when I no longer saw a Empire Records as a superior film (I still like it, but it just seemed to matter more when I was 16).  The end result is that I gave it three stars, but I suspect actual YA readers will enjoy it more.

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Goodreads Summary

In Orpheus Chanson’s world, geniuses and prodigies are no longer born or honed through hard work. Instead, procedures to induce Acquired Savant Abilities (ASAs) are now purchased by the privileged. And Orpheus’s father holds the copyright to the ASA procedure.

Zimri Robinson, a natural musical prodigy, is a “plebe”–a worker at the enormous warehouse that supplies an on-line marketplace that has supplanted all commerce. Her grueling schedule and her grandmother’s illness can’t keep her from making music–even if it is illegal.

Orpheus and Zimri are not supposed to meet. He is meant for greatness; she is not. But sometimes, rules are meant to be broken. Here is a thriller, love story, and social experiment that readers will find gripping–and terrifying.

My Thoughts

I think the biggest strength in this book is the fact that Zimri clearly loves music because it is part of her soul – she doesn’t need attention, stardom, or money for her music, and that is what really makes her come across as a believable musician.  She is also someone deeply connected to her family and her community, and that shines through.  She is likeable.

Orpheus is a little less convincing.  He waffles between being a vacuous idiot and being someone who can see beyond the “Buzz” of the corporate machine.  Dark, smart and broody is more my thing, so this kid who visits the poor side of town in this grimly dystopian setting like it’s a fabulous vacation gets on my nerves.

The first few chapters are boring, but it does get better.  Nevertheless, it has an earnestness that more mature readers will probably find a bit silly.  Dystopian has always been the genre to point out the evils in society, and this does address several social issues, but the freedom of music might not be the most pressing of evils for some readers.  I think it will play better with the target audience of YA rather than adult readers of YA simply because themes of personal expression are more heartfelt to the younger crowd. There are also several nods and winks to pop culture and celebrity that will make this more humorous for a generation inuendated by the vacant and shallow Kardashian machine.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Jesse Andrew’s The Haters is probably too inappropriate for most YA readers, but the man child in your life will be delighted

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Jesse Andrew’s The Haters is probably too inappropriate for most YA readers, but the man child in your life will be delighted

While this is a really funny book with characters who feel like honest, awkward individuals, it is probably the most inappropriate book I’ve read in a long time. Sex, particularly awkward sex, is the source of most of the humor. This is pretty much an American Pie movie with jazz camp instead of band camp and a road trip element.  I wasn’t sure there was enough depth to justify the presentation, but I laughed a lot.  I gave it three stars.

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Goodreads Summary

From Jesse Andrews, author of the New York Times bestselling Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and screenwriter of the Sundance award–winning motion picture of the same name, comes a groundbreaking young adult novel about music, love, friendship, and freedom as three young musicians follow a quest to escape the law long enough to play the amazing show they hope (but also doubt) they have in them.

Inspired by the years he spent playing bass in a band himself, The Haters is Jesse Andrews’s road trip adventure about a trio of jazz-camp escapees who, against every realistic expectation, become a band.

For Wes and his best friend, Corey, jazz camp turns out to be lame. It’s pretty much all dudes talking in Jazz Voice. But then they jam with Ash, a charismatic girl with an unusual sound, and the three just click. It’s three and a half hours of pure musical magic, and Ash makes a decision: They need to hit the road. Because the road, not summer camp, is where bands get good. Before Wes and Corey know it, they’re in Ash’s SUV heading south, and The Haters Summer of Hate Tour has begun.
In his second novel, Andrews again brings his brilliant and distinctive voice to YA, in the perfect book for music lovers, fans of The Commitments and High Fidelity, or anyone who has ever loved—and hated—a song or a band. This witty, funny coming-of-age novel is contemporary fiction at its best.

My Thoughts

I think it will be approximately five minutes before The Haters gets itself banned from most school libraries.  I have to ask myself if that is such a bad thing.  I’m usually a big advocate of Live and Let Read, but it is hard to defend a book that has no real discernible message to balance out the raunch.  Don’t get me wrong, I thought there were some entertaining moments, and if I could eat dinner with Charlize, I’d be there in a heartbeat.  However, the characters in this book didn’t really seem to get much out of the experience except for coming away a little less pretentious about music.  There was a very hard to follow patch of plot involving drugs, a house full of randoms, and some garbled dialogue.  Otherwise, it is a fairly easy read.  The addition of lists and strange diversions from the original story were innovative and amusing, but sometimes they ran on a little too long.  I thought they were a pretty good way to illustrate the group’s conversations without tons of dialogue.  I loved the scorpion car and the gentlemanly toilet episode.  I honestly can’t see how anyone could say it isn’t funny, but as a teacher, I can think of a million people who will say it is definitely inappropriate.  Honestly, the people who would most enjoy this book – the target audience – aren’t the people I would feel comfortable handing this book to with a glowing recommendation.  It would probably freak them out.  Language and graphic sexual situations definitely make this read best suited for a mature reader who isn’t faint of heart. Interest level, though . . . I’m thinking fifteen year old guys.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalkey in exchange for an honest review.

Did you know a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer wrote a YA mystery? I’m Glad I Did is a sweet little hit.

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Did you know a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer wrote a YA mystery?  <em>I’m Glad I Did</em> is a sweet little hit.

You would be hard pressed to find a cleaner read on the YA shelves these days, but what I’m Glad I Did lacks in edge, it makes up for in engagement. The author is Cynthia Weil (you would recognize the songs she wrote), and I think she brings a real insider’s experience to this book. Carole King is the blurb on the front!

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I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Sixteen year old JJ wants to be a songwriter in 1960’s New York, but comes from a family of lawyers who think the music business is bad business. When she lands a 3 month contract as a writer and assistant at a music company, she makes a deal with her mom and embarks on the beginning of everything she ever wanted until murder gets in the way. This was a nice, clean YA mystery with lots of interesting complications and characters. It is a book about family, secrets, and lies. I loved the setting and the way that the author incorporated the civil rights movement gently into a story about the musical world where race had already begun to be moot. It was an easy and fast read, and had a little of everything — romance, mystery, history. Themes of finding your voice, learning to forgive, and reaching for your dreams add a nice depth. My only reservation is the lack of edge — I kept waiting for the moment when the protagonist would experience real danger, and it just didn’t materialize. The language and situations are completely appropriate for all ages. There are always students looking for a book that is not “dark,” and that can be hard to find in the YA stacks these days.

This book is available in the MHS library.