Tag Archives: music

Gilded Butterfly by Leslie O’Sullivan

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Gilded Butterfly by Leslie O’Sullivan

O’Sullivan, Leslie. Gilded Butterfly. Rockin’ Fairy Tales #2. City Owl Press, 2022. pp. ISBN 9781648982125. $4.99

**1/2

Musician Chorda is already a pop superstar. She’s the fan favorite on Kickin’ It With Midas, the the reality television series that follows the trials and tribulations of her influencer sisters and their rock star dad. Showrunner Adair is secretly in love with her and their friendship turns to romance after Chorda is exiled for her unscripted response on the show–it turns out Chorda isn’t sure she wants to win the coveted Golden Guitar.

Gilded Butterfly takes off at nearly breakneck speed with details about plot, setting, and character coming so fast it’s difficult to keep it all straight. The author comes off as trying too hard or not having a good editor; there are so many allusions it’s sensory overload. The vocabulary was repetitive — “shitiot” was only clever the first time, not three times in twenty pages.

Told uniquely from a guy’s perspective, this plot loosely follows Shakespeare’s King Lear with a little bit of King Midas’s Golden Touch thrown in. The title comes from a famous quote “and laugh / At gilded butterflies.”¬†¬†They are laughing at people who think that value can be created by just wrapping something in an outer layer to give it the appearance of something valuable, but end up destroying the beauty that it had in the first place. The reality television show construct, the magical reality and witchcraftiness, and the themes of wealth and privilege, image, and integrity support the quote.

Second in a series, I didn’t feel I was missing something in my unfamiliarity with the previous book.

I received a free review copy of #GildedButterfly.

Hazel Fine Sings Along by Katie Wick

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Hazel Fine Sings Along by Katie Wick

Wick, Katie. Hazel Fine Sings Along. Wattpad Books, 2023. ISBN 9781990778582. $18.99

***

I do have a biased and allergic reaction to self-published books — I figure if it’s really good, an established publishing house will pick up a manuscript and put it through the professional editor wringer. Editing is everything. You might even note in my reviews, I am more likely to cast blame on an editor for errors, inconsistencies, and plot holes than to blame the writer. I haven’t been in the habit of checking who the publisher is before I request items on NetGalley (although, if it’s from #Berkley, it’s usually an automatic seal of approval for me!). I sometimes get 10% through a book, sigh, wonder if it’s self-published, and then flip to the title page to confirm my evidenced hypothesis.

I didn’t get too far in Hazel Fine Sings Along before wondering if it was self-published; not quite. Wattpad is an online platform for books (most often written episodically, like serialized fanfiction) to find readers, and in this case, the cream rises to the top. I did find two typos, and sometimes the plotting and styling was a little amateurish, but no worse than a Colleen Hoover novel, which I understand are beloved but don’t do it for me.

The novel opens with Hazel Fine leaving the fleabag motel she’s been staying at with her rescue rabbit. to get to the open call for a musical competition called The Sing Along (think American Idol) with her fake ID and fake identity. The story takes us through the competition, alliances, fallouts, and resolution of the full season, with a side of romance. Supporting characters are interesting: her bestie Amber is a sex worker with a child, portrayed with positivity and sensitively; Benji, already a TikTok star in his own right, helps to create interest (and deflect a lecherous producer) by staging a fake relationship with Hazel. The drama is high but not over-the-top, and Hazel’s past is revealed at a good pace. Her love interest, Nick, is on the production side of the show. A songwriter and pianist, he’s mysterious, attractive and kind. It was hard to suspend my disbelief that Hazel’s forgiveness for her parents actions was so quick and complete, when boundaries can be an acceptable; we are not obligated to maintain relationships, even with family members, who are not good for our mental health.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #HazelFineSingsAlong from #NetGalley.

Speechless by Lindsey Lanza

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Speechless by Lindsey Lanza

Lanza, Lindsey. Speechless. self-published. 340 pp. ISBN 979-8218076191 $16.99

**

Lucy, a writer of fairy tale spinoffs for teens, is flying across the country to move in with her college roommate. She is literally at the airport and getting ready to board her delayed flight when her bestie CANCELS on her. Henry, a tall and handsome Brit, lands in the seat next to her after a stranger is mean to her service dog. Henry just happens to be her favorite composer! He promptly invites Lucy and Rowan to come and stay with him and his motley crew of musicians in Malibu. It becomes a seven dwarves-like tale, with Lucy cooking up a storm for Surfer (Graham), Flirty (Jayce), Quiet (Preston) and Surly (Craig). At one point there is an authorial intrusion of writer Lucy commenting her life is like the plot of a romance novel…

Chapters are told in alternating points of view from Henry and Lucy’s points of view. Lucy is suffering from some undisclosed condition that warrants the service dog, and Henry seems to be not only obsessive or ADHD, but may also have some crippling social anxieties. Lanza does utilize the music motif well, staging the plot in terms of a classical arrangement with movements, finale and encore.

I nearly gave up early in this novel when Henry was described as a cross between two actors I’ve never heard of. At the least, this is bad writing because it runs the risk of becoming dated AND limits the audience, but at worst, it’s just lazy. I gave up in chapter 17 when Graham defines Lucy as “normal” and Henry as “not normal” based on their behavior and neuroses. There has been so much work done to destigmatize mental illness and to reframe disability that these words have no place in contemporary narrative, and a competent editor would have noted this and redirected their author. At this point I recognized that Speechless was self-published and put it down for good.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #Speechless from #NetGalley.

The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall

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The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall

Barbara Hall. The Music Teacher.

When divorcee violinist Pearl takes on a new student, Hallie, she is delighted to discover a rare diamond in the rough: this teenage orphan has perfect pitch and an innate sense of how to imbibe music with emotion. Hallie clearly escapes from her abysmal living situation with relatives into her music. Pearl knows there is something odd going on, evidenced by the chip on her shoulder and bruise on her wrist, but isn’t sure what to do–confront? report? remain silent? When Pearl finally makes her choice, she has to live with the consequences of her decision.

The voice of Pearl is strong and authentic: sharp and edged with attitude and a dash of angst. The pacing is perfect. The supporting cast, mostly the other people who work at the music shop with Pearl, are richly drawn; Hall conveys a lot about character with just a few carefully chosen details. Although this is a title for adults, Pearl’s philosophical ruminations on art and sex and music may be compelling for the teen demographic that wrestles with just these sorts of definitions as they form identity.

The story is told in present tense, with Pearl backtracking into the past to tell the reader about Hallie. The time shifts, though masterfully done, may stump some readers