Shira Anthony’s Blue Notes Series is Back! On Tour with Shira Anthony and Dissonance! (contest)

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Shira Anthony is here today on her Dissonance Book Tour!  In her Blue Notes series, each story has a musical title and that continues with Dissonance.  But what is dissonance and how does it relate to music?  Shira Anthony gives us some insight into her love of music, its many aspects and of course, how it fits into her latest release, Dissonance!

Contest:  There is a very special prize, a cuff inscribed with the NYC Subway on it,  associated with this tour.  Make sure to enter at the  Rafflecopter link   here or provided at the end of the post.   Good luck and of course, you must be 18 years of age or older to enter!

Striking the Right Note: Discord and Redemption, by Shira Anthony

Thanks, Melanie, for hosting me today! And thank you for the chance to talk about my newest book release, Dissonance, a Blue Notes novel. For those who might not have heard about the Blue Notes Series from Dreamspinner Press, these are interrelated, standalone books that can be read in any order. All of the books in the series share one common element: music.

I’ve been a musician nearly all my life. Being a musician isn’t only about performing or teaching—it’s about living with music. For me, music starts and ends my day. I usually have a stubborn ear worm playing on an endless feedback loop in my brain (that is, until another song or piece of music displaces the current ear worm!). I grew up singing. My mother is a professional musician. My sister and I both were, as well. It’s in my blood. It’s part of me. So I suppose it isn’t a big surprise that in my writing I use music to help bring emotions into focus.

Dissonance, the sixth novel in the series, is no exception. The title says it all. What is a “dissonance?” Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition: “a mingling of discordant sounds; especially :  a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord.” In classical music written before the 20th Century, dissonances usually ended in resolution. You know what I’m talking about, even if you haven’t put a name to it. It’s the twang you hear before the music smoothes out and your ear says “ahhhhh.” Like the tension in a romance that builds and finally ends with the happily-ever-after. Your ear tells you it wants the tension in the music to resolve. Your human brain craves it. (If you’re interested, here’s a short Youtube video that explains consonance and dissonance .)

In the novel, Dissonance, Cam Sherrington’s life is all about dissonances. He loves opera singer Aiden Lind, but he cheats on him. He wants to do something more satisfying with his life than flitting from project to project, but he’s afraid he’ll fail so he doesn’t try. He’s burned plenty of bridges, and he’s convinced himself he isn’t worthy of friendship or love. He’s also tells himself he doesn’t need either, because if he admits that he cares, he’d hurt, and he doesn’t want to hurt.

If Cam’s life is a series of dissonances, then his happiness, if and when he finds it, is about the consonances. How do you find happiness when you’ve hurt people and, in the process hurt yourself? For Cam, his chance at redemption and happiness comes in the form of Galen Rusk, who plays in the New York City subway for tips. Galen’s Zen attitude and calm support are the consonances that help a broken Cam turn his life around. But before that can happen, Cam has become the kind-hearted man Galen believes him to be. He has to believe he’s worthy of redemption.

Dissonances are about striving for resolution. Moving toward the consonances. The tension we hear in dissonant sounds cries out for consonance. And that’s just what happens to Cam. He knows his life is empty, but until things come crashing down around him, he’s content to live in the dissonance. Through Galen’s calm and patient support, Cam has a chance at happiness. To find out whether he grabs that chance, you’ll have to read the story (no spoilers here!).

                   -Shira

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Book Name: Dissonance
Series:  Blue Notes
Author Name: Shira Anthony

Author Bio: In her last incarnation, Shira was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as “Tosca,” “i Pagliacci,” and “La Traviata,” among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 36’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.

Author Links:

Dissonance-build-full-r2(1)Title:  Dissonance by Shira Anthony
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Buy Links:  Dreamspinner Press   Amazon       ARe (All Romance)

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Blurb:
British lord Cameron Sherrington has hit rock bottom. The love of his life, opera sensation Aiden Lind, is marrying another man, and Cam knows it’s his own fault for pushing Aiden away. Then someone tries to set him up and take away his family business. Facing arrest by US authorities on charges of money laundering and with no money to return to London, Cam decides to run. But with no money and no place to stay, it’s not exactly the Hollywood thriller he’d imagined.
When Cam hears Galen Rusk play in a lonely subway station, he’s intrigued. But his assumptions about Galen are all wrong, and their unusual relationship isn’t exactly what Cam bargained for. Add to that the nightmares that dog him nightly, and Cam’s world is shaken to its core. Cam figures he had it coming to him, that it’s all penance due on a life lived without honesty. He just never figured he might not be able to survive it.
Note: Blue Notes Series novels are standalone stories, and can be read in any order.

Excerpt:

“Oh.” Cam eyed the seat warily, his first thought that his black jeans would pick up the fur like a lint brush. Then he reminded himself that he’d been sleeping in the subway and a bit of fur was hardly the worst of what he might find on his pants. Still, as he settled into the seat, he dusted a few stray hairs off the armrest.

The drive through the Lincoln Tunnel and on into Jersey was an easy one, too late for there to be much traffic. Cam looked out the window, unwilling to engage Galen in conversation. Galen didn’t seem to mind. He whistled—a tune Cam recognized but couldn’t remember the name of—then tuned the radio to a jazz station that played bebop.

Thirty minutes later Galen exited the freeway, and they drove another ten minutes before turning down a small street lined with cookie-cutter houses. Postwar, Cam guessed, each with the same boxy structure, some with dormers, others with vinyl siding. Galen pulled into a driveway between two of the houses, but to Cam’s surprise, the driveway didn’t end at either house. It continued on, snaking behind them a few hundred feet to an old farmhouse. Probably the original house on the land that was now cluttered with homes. Built in the 1800s, he guessed.

A single light lit the walkway from the driveway to the front porch. White, with blue shutters, the house was nearly three times as large as its neighbors. A dog barked, although in the semidarkness, Cam couldn’t see it. Max, no doubt.

Cam followed Galen up the stairs and through the front door. Galen flipped on the light to reveal high ceilings and wide-planked wooden floors. To the right, in what Cam guessed was supposed to be the dining room, stood two trestles supporting a large piece of wood—a makeshift table stacked high with more than a dozen fiberglass cases and several instruments. On one side, Cam saw a battered french horn and what looked like a tuba; on the other side, a clarinet with some of its keys missing. Between the cases and the instruments were a bevy of tools, neatly arranged by size and shape, most of which Cam didn’t recognize. Maybe Galen repaired instruments on the side. Playing in the subway couldn’t pay that well.

600x600BannerDissonanceBlue3Tour Dates: 8/8 – 9/5

Tour Stops:
8/8 – Prism Book Alliance
8/11 – Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
8/12 – Smoocher’s Voice
8/13 – Fallen Angel Reviews
8/14 – The Hat Party
8/15 – Amanda C. Stone
8/18 – Tara Lain
8/19 – The Novel Approach
8/20 – LeAnn’s Book Reviews
8/21 – Kimber Vale
8/22 – Full Moon Dreaming
8/25 – Love Bytes
8/26 – Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves
8/27 – Hearts on Fire
8/28 – Wicked Wolves and Dreaming Dragons
8/29 – Velvet Panic
9/1 – Decadent Delights
9/2 – Rainbow Gold Reviews
9/3 – My Fiction Nook
9/4 – Emotion in Motion
9/5 – BONUS DATES: MM Good Book Reviews, Book Suburbia
Rafflecopter Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rafflecopter Prize: NYC Subway cuff.  Neat cuff that shows the subway system of NYC!
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ScatteredThoughts Summary of Reviews for November 2013

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November really was such an extraordinary month for books.  It almost makes me giddy with joy. I can’t remember when I last had more 5 and 4 star  rated books as I have had this month.  And their genres and plots ran the spectrum, from contemporary fiction to what I might best describe as fantasy horror, making this truly a rainbow month of great books by outstanding authors.

There are quite a few books that are a part of a series and should best be read in order, while others are stand alone pieces of fiction, with one or two in between in that they are a part of a series but could be read by themselves. It’s all in the reviews which I have linked to each title.

The holidays are upon us and ebook gift cards are a wonderful way of sharing books with those we love.  Make a list, check it twice to make sure you have the titles listed below on yours:dried flowers for november
November 2013 Review Summary

*part of a series

5 Star Rating:

Corruption by Eden Winters*, contemporary
Encore by Shira Anthony*, contemporary
Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane*,historical
Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux*, contemporary
Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara, contemporary
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin*, horror, fantasy
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, fantasy

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

After The Fall by L.A. Witt* (4 stars), contemporary
Bar None Anthology (4.5 stars) mix of contemporary, scifi
Close Quarter by Anna Zabo*(4.75 stars), supernatural
Family Texas by R.J. Scott*, (4.5 stars), contemporary
Good Boy by Anne Tenino*, (4.5 stars),contemporary
How I Met Your Father by LB Gregg (4.25 stars), contemporary
Illumination by Rowan Speedwell (4.5 stars), contemporary
Long the Mile by Ally Blue (4.25 stars), contemporary
The Retreat by BA Tortuga*, (4 stars), contemporary
The Stars that Tremble by Kate McMurray, (4 stars), contemporary

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Captive Magic by Angela Benedetti* (3.75 stars), paranormal
Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan (3 stars), contemporary
The Blight by Missouri Dalton (3.75 stars), fantasy

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
N/A

Review: Encore (Blue Notes #5) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Encore-BuildWhen teenagers Roger Nelson and John Fuchs  meet in the band room of Maryville’s Senior High School in 1971, they discovered they shared the same passion for music.  Roger Nelson with his violin and John Fuchs with his dream of conducting.  Each teenager came from different backgrounds and moved in different circles in high school, Roger Nelson, the “cool kid” popular with all crowds and John Fuchs, the stuttering, shy transfer from St. Barnaby’s, an expensive private school.  Brought together by music, they soon developed a deep friendship that made them inseparable.  Then it turned into something more.

John had always known he was gay so his love for Roger seemed natural and right. However, Roger’s attraction and love for John confused him, making him feel unsettled and insecure especially in the 70’s where homosexuality was still looked at with disgust and ignorance.  Together through college and graduation, John and Roger continue their secret romance despite growing opposition from Roger’s parents. Then two tragedies occur that immediately impact Roger and his family.  The ripples from those events serve to separate Roger and John, shattering their romance but not their love for each other.

For the next several decades, the men’s lives intersect only to  be pulled apart time and again.  When one more event brings them back together, will this be the encore they have been waiting for or will their last chance at love slip away forever?

Encore is Shira Anthony’s most ambitious and deeply layered Blue Notes story to date.  Over the course of the Blue Notes series, Anthony has been building a symphony of characters deeply involved in the world of music and their relationships.  Whether it was a pianist or conductor, violinist or opera singer, cellist or lawyer in the musical entertainment industry, Shira Anthony has introduced us to the men whose passions for music has driven their lives, loves, and careers. But those previous stories, for the most part,  have had a specific  short time span for the men and their love affairs.  Now in Encore, Anthony goes for the larger picture, not just a movement but the whole composition.  Here she strives for a symphony and achieves it.

Encore is a musical term derived from the French word “again”.  It is a repeat performance or an additional musical piece that occurs after the main piece or event concludes and it is the perfect term to apply to the on and off again relationship of Roger Nelson and John Fuchs, two characters introduced as a couple in previous novels.  Starting in 1971 and ending in 2006, Anthony creates a romance that encompasses a 35-year time frame.  It will see the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic, the fight for gays rights, and finally the beginnings of social acceptance of homosexuality.  Against such a historic and dramatic background, the author has created her most textured and multidimensional romance in this or any other series.

Even at the beginning of John and Roger’s relationship, each young man has their personalities already firmly in place.  John is already comfortable being gay, even in 1971.  The kids have already taken note of his “difference”, an aspect of his personality that will only deepen as John ages and finds his own style, totally comfortable in his skin and element.   And while John may stutter in emotional situations, his belief in himself and his music is unwavering.  I loved John.  I understood his behavior and his emotional outlook on life and his music because Anthony has made him so transparent and accessible even with all his layers.

Then there is Roger.  The wonderful, exasperating, heartbreaking Roger.

Roger Nelson inside is the antithesis of his outward appearance and behavior.  On the surface, Roger is all “coolness” and popularity, his easy nature and charm crossing high school and then college social circles.  But inside, he is a tumultuous mess.  Pressures from his parents, society, and their expectations for Roger’s future collide with his own dreams for himself and the resulting avalanche will derail everything Roger and John had planned for their lives together.  While all Roger’s friends and family is aware he loves music, none but John understand how crucial it is to Roger, that music and the violin are fundamental parts of Roger, as necessary to him as food and air. It’s that essential part of Roger that is lost or an aspect of it is lost.  And for the reader, it is important that we are able to connect with that feeling in order for us to really understand  Roger and his actions.  For Roger, the loss of music and his ability to play the violin is nothing less than the deepest wound to his soul, like losing an appendage.  The hole it leaves behind can never be forgotten or overlooked.  Roger too feels so real, a living, breathing walking gash of a man.  And, due to the author’s deep connection with her character and her ability to bring this man to life, Roger is also the character that will engender a wide spectrum of feelings from the readers.

Roger has the ability to become such a misunderstood character in this story if the reader doesn’t take the time to put him into perspective, both historically and emotionally.  John never had the pressures put on his that Roger has had throughout his life.  Nor has John had to deal with the worst thing that could possibly happen to himself and Roger.  That is the loss of their music, the destruction of all their hopes and dreams and that is exactly what happens to Roger early on in their story.  This loss guts Roger.  It takes his heart and shatters it, leaving Roger incapable of going forward with his life as a whole person.

I think that Shira Anthony captures that feeling, that crushing loss, and it’s resulting reverberations on someone’s emotions and behavior realistically and with great pain and insight.  The author has stated that in many respects “Roger” is her.  Roger, his  character, is her outlet to express the emotions and heartbreak she felt upon leaving her career as an opera singer behind.  And it shows in the realness, the pain, the constant turmoil and upheavals in his life that Roger finds himself going through.  She made me believe in Roger totally.

At times the reader will be frustrated with Roger’s  actions.  Trust me, I was.  But again, you need to keep in mind that the man going through the various stages in his life is a man bereft of his center, his heart.  Then Roger becomes someone who needs our compassion and empathy as well as our understanding.  I think so many of us can point to moments in our life when things went awry.  Maybe it was a slight altering of goals or a detour taken that we notice only in hindsight.  But for Roger and so many others, there are life shattering events and decisions that send them off on a journey they never expected or wanted.    Accident or warfare, a missed step or terrorism.  The why is sometimes less important  than what happens after.  And here, in Encore, Shira Anthony lays it all out for us as it takes Roger 35 years to come to grip with his eviscerating loss and his love for John.

As we watch Roger and John come together only to separate once again, I am reminded of the various acts in an opera.  Just as an opera has various acts, stages it must go through,  so is this book divided into different periods.  Each division moves the story forward, sometimes just a couple of years or so, sometimes a decade until we arrive at the last act and the highly satisfying encore.  This is an emotional journey, full of the cracks and crevasses that come over time and with two such diverse men at the center.  Have the tissues handy, you will need them. as this story has the ability to make you weep as well as smile.

I can’t say it enough, Encore is such a remarkable story.  It is definitely one of the best of 2013.  It is a symphony of emotions, its instruments the men Shira Anthony has created along with their deep love for music and each other.  Encore will have you calling for a repeat performance from this incredible author.  Brava, brava!

As with all her stories, here is the link to the playlist for Encore. http://www.shiraanthony.com/books/encore/#extras 

Cover art by Catt Ford.  This cover is perfection in every way, from the picture of the two men as boys to the branding that keeps it similar in look to the other Blue Notes covers.

Listed below are all the stories in the Blue Notes series.  The author has noted that she considers it a series of interrelated, classical music themed standalone novels that can be read in any order.

Knowing (Blue Notes, #0.5) a free read at Goodreads
Blue Notes (Blue Notes, #1)
The Melody Thief (Blue Notes, #2)
Aria (Blue Notes, #3)
Prelude (Blue Notes, #4) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes
Encore (Blue Notes, #5)
Symphony in Blue (Blue Notes, #4.5) Expected publication: December 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press

Book Details:

The Contest and Blog Tour For Shira Anthony’s Encore Release Continues!

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Encore’s release will be followed on Christmas Day by the release of a Blue Notes holiday novella, Symphony in Blue. Symphony will be my 10th Dreamspinner Press release, so I’m celebrating the release of both of these books with a blog tour contest ending on New Year’s Eve at midnight! Grand prize is a Kindle loaded with many of my Dreamspinner Press titles. You can get more entries by commenting on blog tour posts, tweeting, and buying the books. Here’s the link to the giveaway:Symphony in Blue-build (1)

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.
Prizes (U.S. Only):

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choiceEncore-Build

Blog Stops Currently Scheduled :
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th:   Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th:   Michael Rupured’s Blog

Visit each stop on the tour for more of Shira Anthony and this incredible series.

Here is the link for ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords review of Encore.

Guest Post: Shira Anthony, Mega Contest Time and the Release of Encore!

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“Moving on from Music” by Shira Anthony

Thanks, Melanie, for hosting the Encore release day party on your blog! It’s such a pleasure to be here today. I’d crank up the music, but I’m not sure if we should play Tchaikovsky or The Who. Roger and John might be just as conflicted. They love just about any kind of music.

Those of you who have read any of the Blue Notes Series books probably know that the books are loosely based on people and events from my own life as a professional musician. I’m a former violinist and professional opera singer who gave up my music career about 15 years ago. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I don’t regret the decision. But having no regrets doesn’t mean “no pain.”

Ask yourself how many people you know who have studied music at the college level or beyond. I bet you can name a few (you may even be one!). How many professional musicians do you know? I know a lot of former professional musicians. There’s a reason for that: it’s an incredibly demanding career that requires total focus, pays poorly (unless you’re a superstar), and often means a nomadic lifestyle (not great for long-term relationships and family). There are many more former musicians than there are professionals. But how do you give up something you love nearly as much as you love the people in your life? The grief is very much like the grief you’d feel over the loss of a loved one.

I know. I’ve been there.

Two of the Blue Notes Series characters are former musicians: Jason Greene from Blue Notes, and Roger Nelson from Encore. Each deals with his grief over the loss of his music differently. For Jason, the perfectionist whose fear of performing became overwhelming, he finds a way to make peace with himself and accept his imperfections. Roger, however, is a different story. Roger loses the physical ability to play the violin. His musical voice aches to be heard, but his body (his hand) can’t translate the music of his heart into sound. It’s the most devastating loss of his life, and one he struggles to come to terms with over many years.

I don’t think it’s a surprise that it took five Blue Notes books for me to finally write my own loss into a Blue Notes character (Roger’s character). A musical soul needs to express itself, but it’s difficult to move forward when you aren’t sure how to do it or where to go. Roger tries to forget about his music and deny his grief. It’s only when he realizes there are other forms of self-expression that he can move on with his life and truly love. I’ve found a new outlet for my own self-expression in my writing and learned how to incorporate my love of music into my books. Even better, readers can still “hear” that musical voice in my books. So I guess in some sense, I haven’t really given up performing, have I?

Encore’s release will be followed on Christmas Day by the release of a Blue Notes holiday novella, Symphony in Blue. SymphonySymphony in Blue-build (1) will be my 10th Dreamspinner Press release, so I’m celebrating the release of both of these books with a blog tour contest ending on New Year’s Eve at midnight! Grand prize is a Kindle loaded with many of my Dreamspinner Press titles. You can get more entries by commenting on blog tour posts, tweeting, and buying the books. Here’s the link to the giveaway:

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

  • Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
  • Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
  • Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice

Encore-BuildBlog Stops Currently Scheduled :
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th:   Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th:   Michael Rupured’s Blog

Scattered Thoughts Book Review Summary for June 2013

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June 2013 has come and gone but some of the books I read that month continue to linger in my heart and mind, just some outstanding stories. As always, there is something for everyone here, from contemporary to paranormal books, terrific additions to wonderful series.  If you missed them the first time, here is your chance to check them out again:

5 Star Rating:

Hobbled by John Inman

Infected: Undertow by Andrea Speed

Mighty Casey by Willa Okati

One Breath, One Bullet by S.A.McAuley

Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean (4.75 stars)(science fiction)

Flawless by Cat Grant (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

Stonewall by Martin Duberman (4.25 stars) (non fiction)

The Hanged Man’s Ghost by Missouri Dalton (4.75 stars)(paranormal)

The Night Shift by Missouri Dalton (4.25 stars)(paranormal)(series)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Fennel and Forgiveness by Ari McKay (3.5 stars) (contemporary)

Heart of the Race by Mary Calmes (3.75 stars) (contemporary)

In Search of a Story by Andrew Grey (3.25 stars) (contemporary)

When Dachshunds Ruled the Serengeti by Michael Murphy (3.75 stars) (contemporary)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Caveman and the Devil by Chris T. Kat (2.75 stars)(contemporary)

The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus (2.75 stars) (contemporary)

Prelude (A Blue Notes book) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Prelude coverWorld-renowned conductor of the Chicago Symphony, David Somers, is not happy when his ailing guest violinist is replaced by famous rock star, Alex Bishop.  Although he has never met the musician, Bishop’s fame and notoriety has preceded him, and David Somers has little patience for tattooed prima donnas of the rock star world.  But when Alex takes to the stage and starts playing the opening notes of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, David Somers is completely entranced by both the man and his music.

Alex Bishop has persevered from his foster child beginnings to become a brilliant violinist and playing under the baton of conductor David Somers is a dream realized.  And although David Somers welcome was reserved, something about the man spoke to Alex.  Alex knew from sources close to Somers that he was both widowed and gay.  And no one was more surprised than Alex, when David accepted his invitation to go out on a date.  And everything seemed to be going well, until it wasn’t and the conductor fled.

Underneath that  smooth, assured and somewhat cold exterior of David Somers lies an insecure, lonely man.  Brought up by a bitter, emotionally removed grandfather upon the death of his parents, David’s upbringing was one of constant degradation of his dreams, rigid control over his actions, and the pairing down of the boy into a man who would be scion of the family business.  At least that’s how his grandfather saw it.  But finally David found the strength to pull away and strive for his place in the music world as he had always wanted.  But the damage his grandfather had inflicted upon his self image was deep and long lasting, right into his inability to compose music and maintain relationships.

Alex wants to pursue a future with David, but there is so many obstacles in their path, the largest one being David himself.  What will it take to break down David’s barriers and create the future they both want together? David must find his inner music once more before he loses Alex and his chance for happiness so long denied him.

Oh, my, what a lyrical and lovely book.  I have been a fan of this series from the beginning, adoring the tapestry of music and love that Anthony (and now Keyes) has woven for us in this series.  But in Prelude, I think I have found my favorite.  Such a gorgeous blend of personalities, location and music, it kept me enthralled for the entire story and introduced me to a new musician as well, more about that later.  In the author’s notes I have included at the end of the review, Anthony writes that Prelude is actually the prequel to the stories already published.  In those works, David Somers and Alex Bishop are already an established couple.  David himself is an open hearted and generous mentor to other younger musicians, a far cry from the man we initially meet at the beginning of Prelude. And that brings me to the wonderful characterizations of the men we meet here and elsewhere in the series.

David Somers and Alex Bishop are both very complex men with haunting back histories. I think what surprised and delighted me was that the man you might expect to be the most vulnerable, the most insecure about his background is actually the character who has not only come to terms with his childhood or lack thereof but is the most assured and confident of the two.  That would be Alex Bishop, abused in  various foster settings, someone who almost died freezing and along on the streets except for his mother’s violin.  He has worked hard to arrive at this stage in his life, a brilliant musician, warm human being and happily gay.  It’s David Somers, the famous conductor from a wealthy family, who is the fragile one here.  His upbringing by his rigid, embittered grandfather has impaired David emotionally, making him withdrawn and almost incapable of maintaining close relationships.  His grandfather also was responsible for killing his ability to compose music, an important part of his emotional makeup and dreams.  Both authors bring us close to the heart of both men, making it easy for us to understand their motivations as well as their flaws.  I think some readers might have trouble with David’s fear of intimacy as he continually pushes Alex away but close reading of his history with not only his grandfather but present day associates makes it not only realistic but natural.  And it’s not just David and Alex’s characters that are so well done but those secondary characters as well, from his sister to Alex’s roommate, all make for a deeply layered, and satisfying story.

But the highlight in Prelude is the music.  Shira Anthony’s familiarity and love of the music world with its brilliant musicians and timeless compositions floats through the story like the very violin concertos referenced within.  Her knowledge and joy of music enhances and embellishes every aspect of this story and the series, her touch sure and light upon the narrative. We are drawn into the emotions elicited from the music that pours forth from the violinist and the symphony.  The brilliance of the pieces spills out of the instruments and musicians and into our hearts and souls, from the light hearted renditions like Stéphane Grappelli’s Blue Moon (my new favorite) to the deeply moving concertos such as the Sibelius Violin Concerto which introduces us and David Somers to Alex Bishop at the beginning of the book.  The fact that this series uses music as its heart, and the exemplary manner in which the authors accomplish that, sets this series apart from all the rest.  Shira Anthony has assembled a play list for Prelude, just as she has for her other stories in this series.  You can find the list and links listed after the review.

At 250 pages, the story just flies by.  Anthony and Keyes deliver a smooth and concise narrative, the few flashbacks are used to help understand the characters better rather than impede the story momentum.  By the end of the book, I am entranced by David and Alex and want to see them older and more established as they were in the other stories.  So back to the beginning to enjoy it all over again.  If you are new to this series, this works well as a stand alone story, if you are as in love with it as I am, you will be thrilled by Prelude and this couple.  Either way, consider this highly recommended.  Shira Anthony gives us the order in which the books work on the series timeline below.

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 250 pages
Published May 6th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 162380597X (ISBN13: 9781623805975)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3798&cPath=55_484
seriesBlue Notes #4
charactersDavid Somers, Alex Bishop
settingChicago, Illinois (United States)

Author’s Notes:

Notes from Shira Anthony on Prelude:

Book 4 in the Blue Notes Series is bit of a prequel to the other books, although it’s meant to be read as a standalone novel. For those of you who’d like to read the series in chronological order, it goes like this:

1) Prelude
2) Blue Notes
3) Aria
4) The Melody Thief

“Prelude” is the story of conductor/composer David Somers, who appears in all of the first three Blue Notes books. In those stories, David is friend and mentor to the young musicians who appear as main characters (Cary Redding and Aiden Lind, in particular). But David wasn’t always as outgoing and willing to befriend other musicians.

“Prelude” is David’s story of finding himself and finding happiness in music. I hope you enjoy it!(less)

Shira’s Prelude Playlist:

“Enigmatic Ocean,” Jean-Luc Ponty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9XHFqCvMIY

“Satisfaction,” The Rolling Stones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx0bLBk-BNM

Sibelius Violin Concerto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-P183jzdfw (my all-time favorite recording with David Oistrakh), or a slightly different interpretation by Joshua Bell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITTbY1n3Iz8

Berg Violin Concerto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqSSHwFEn_8 (Itzhak Perleman)

Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYzYVsvD5as (Shlomo Mintz)

“Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Charlie Daniels Band: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgvfRSzmMoU

Symphony No. 5, by Dmitri Shostakovich: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FF4HyB77hQ (Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic)

Mahler Symphony No. 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6Tbi0Rfzs8 (Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic)

Chopin’s Opus 25 Étude, No. 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj5Mp31nZlA (Anna Fedorova)

Gounod’s Ave Maria: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNNbtR5R68U (Anne Akiko Meyers), and a very old recording of Jascha Heifetz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wtc4SMUjhG8 and a recording of operatic soprano Renata Tebaldi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVMSeFTHDEs

Thelonius Monk, “Round About Midnight”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMmeNsmQaFw

Dvořák Violin Concerto (last movement) (3rd movement, Allegro Giocoso): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kouKmC3yUOA (Josef Suk)

Stéphane Grappelli “Blue Moon”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhB5qAq7OkI

Mahler Symphony No. 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHXJw9avAn0 (Danish National Radio Orchestra)

“Harold in Italy,” by Hector Berlioz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5B9iMLpDgU (Israel Philharmonic Orchestra)

“The World I Know,” by Collective Soul: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7TLTjqUyog

Bach, Partita No. 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcB56k4vR5k (Hilary Hahn)

Mourning and the Week Ahead In Reviews

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Winston has been gone for less than a week and most of the time I can’t wrap my mind around that fact.  I still turn expecting him to be there and fixed his special breakfast yesterday morning and put it on the floor before I once more realized he wasn’t there to eat it. It was not a good  morning.

And I am not alone in my grief.  Willow and to a lesser degree, Kirby are with me as well.  When Willow arrived, Winston was already king of the house and it took him a while to get used to her but when he did, they were frick and frac, four pawed companions in everything.  He slept on top of the pillow on the bed and she slept under it, they shared meals and water bowls and even their opinions of the mouthy parrot in the family room.

So when I put Winston’s food down my mistake, Willow just sat and looked at me with sad eyes.  When Kirby thought that it was a shame to let it go to waste and went to get his share, there was Willow in his face, refusing to let Kirby near Winston’s bowl.  She is pensive and unusually quiet, staying Velcroed to my side.  Nights are the worst, listening for his snorts and snores that never come.  Both of us toss and turn all night long.

Went to the South River yesterday to meet up with some of our DC Metro M/M group for some much needed distraction.  Those that knew were wonderful but I just can’t talk about him yet.  Write yes, talk no.  Sitting there by the water, listening to the laughter and friendly banter, seeing friends and meeting new ones made me feel lighter in spirit and let me smile when I thought of Winston watching the ducks go by.

I know it was his time to go, and that Willow and I will find a  measure of peace soon.  We will always miss him , he is such a huge part of us, he will always be close by ,in our hearts and memories.  Nothing can take that away, and nothing will.

I have to admit I wasn’t very functional last week and my reading somewhat abandoned.  So I hope you all will forgive me if this week’s list is more of hopes projected instead of reviews already written.  I have good days and bad so only time will tell.  This is what I hope will happen this week.  And thank you all for your support and comments.  They were needed and loved.

Monday, June 10:                  Prelude (a Blue Notes book) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

Tuesday, June 11:                   The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus

Wed., June 12:                         Flawless by Cat Grant

Thursday, June 13:                Hangman’s Ghost (Night Wars #1) by Missouri Dalton

Friday, June 14:                      One Breathe, One Bullet by S.A. McAuley

Sat., June 15:                           Stonewall by Martin Duberman

So have a good week and wish for me, Willow and Kirby a better one.  I will leave you with the Goodread Quote of the Day, a favorite of mine.

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings”
― John Gillespie Magee Jr.

About this quote:

June 9, 1922: An aviator and a poet, John Gillespie Magee Jr. was born to missionaries in Shanghai, 91 years ago today. His poem, High Flight, is still memorized by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy today.
John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Aria (Blue Notes #3) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 4 stars

AriaPhiladelphia attorney Sam Ryan has never fully recovered from the death of his lover, Nick.  One night during yet another attempt to go forward, Sam goes to a bar and meets Aiden Lind, an aspiring opera singer.  One passionate week later, a fearful Sam lets Aiden walk out of his life rather than deal with his own issues of loss.  It is a moment Sam handles badly, hurting Aiden in the process.

Five years later, Aiden Lind is a successful opera singer, living with Lord Cameron Sherrington, a wealthy music patron.  But Cameron’s cheating ways lead to a painful parting and shortly after Aiden runs into Sam Ryan again.  Once more the sparks fly between the two men and they start a long distance relationship strewn with obstacles to overcome whether it is Aiden’s insecurity, Sam’s refusal to deal with his loss of Nick or just poor communication between lovers afraid to damage a new love.   As the demands of their careers puts new stress on an already strained relationship, Cameron returns to Paris determined to win back Aiden at any cost.  Both Sam and Aiden will need to take a hard look at themselves if their love and their relationship is to survive both themselves and their pasts.

I am such a fan of this series and Shira Anthony in general.  Blue Notes captured my heart from the beginning by seamlessly folding romance and love into the world of classical music.  Because of the author’s background, the love of music and her intimate knowledge of the world of the classical musician has provided the reader with a series that moves to the sounds of a cellist playing ‘Dvorak Cello Concerto in B Minor’ or a violin pouring out the strains of “Bach Sonata 2 in A Minor”.  Music is at the heart of this series as much as romance and the combination has proved to be as compelling and  potent any I have read before.  So I am at a loss here when I have to say that the one thing I am missing from this book is the one thing that makes this series so memorable – music.

Aria is Sam Ryan and Aiden Lind’s story and as a tale of a developing love between two opposites, it is both realistic and a little frustrating.  The story moves back and forward along the relationship time line of these two men.  It starts at the present day, then returns five years in the past in order for us to capture their painful beginnings and then back to the present where Aiden is breaking up with Cameron.  We switch from present day Aiden dealing with the stress of his job but mostly his unequal partnership with Cam to present day Sam who is still dealing poorly with the loss of his Nick.  At the beginning, this interrupted timeline did more to impede the reader’s involvement with Sam and Aiden’s relationship than it did to promote engagement with it.  You would just get into the flow of the scene and then it would break away to another year and stage in their lives.  But after Sam and Aiden agree to try a long distance relationship, then this format actually works to help the reader understand the frustrations each man is dealing with within the framework they have set up for themselves.

As Sam and Aiden get increasingly frustrated and stressed out over a lack of time spent together, so does the reader ride the same emotional currents with them.  The couple is not communicating at all with each other which puts additional pressure on their frail relationship. The constantly shifting locations mirror the same shifting stages in their love affair. One discordant scene follows another, each moving forward by months, an effective, realistic way to portray a romance in crisis.   But it is done without the accompaniment of music.

Aiden tells us he is to sing a certain aria but we never “hear” him sing or feel his emotions about the songs or operas.  We hear a little about the rehearsals or about the mechanics of the performance,but almost nothing of the heat of the moment, the feelings that the songs engender.  How Aiden is connected to his music, his profession is entirely absent.  In Blue Notes or The Melody Thief, we never questioned Jules or Cary’s passion or commitment to music, it had them in thrall.  Concertos and sonatas flowed through the passages of those books as blood does through our veins.  Where is that passion here?  Where is that feeling that Aiden would rather die than not sing?  It is missing and we feel its absence deeply.

At one point in Shira Anthony’s blog about The Melody Thief, the author gives us a link so we may hear Anthony singing Tosca,  It is clear from that recording that she loves singing and was terrific at it as well, the deep wells of emotions flowing out on every note.  Shira Anthony has blogged about the pain that was created when she chose family over her career as a professional opera singer.  And I wonder, was this subject too close to her heart to treat subjectively? With Aiden as a stressed out opera singer dealing with a long distance relationship, was the storyline too close to her own history? Was the material too painful to be able to relate to the reader by way of Aiden what it felt like to let the music flow through you like a vessel created for that purpose and that purpose alone?  I don’t know, only the author herself can answer those questions.

I know that the fourth book in the Blue Notes series, Prelude, has been written.  It’s main character is David Somers, conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a foundation character who has supported the people in each book to date.  Now he gets his own story and that of crossover violinist Alex Bishop.

I am hopeful that with a return to the orchestra’s conductor and violinist, that the music will return to the series as well. I enjoyed Aria, the romance was realistic and well done but curiously devoid of music in a series called Blue Notes.  And where this story should sing, there is only silence.  I love this series and its music.  I can’t wait for its return.

Here are the series in the order they were written. The author has stated that each book can be read on its own.

Blue Notes (Blue Notes #1) – read my review here.

The Melody Thief (Blue Notes #2) – read my review here.

Aria (Blue Notes #3)

Prelude (Blue Notes #4) coming soon from Dreamspinner Press.

Cover:  Just an outstanding cover by Catt Ford, unfortunately it pertains more to the music than the story within.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside and The Week Ahead in Reviews

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Maryland has actually been feeling like winter for the past week and my body is going into shock.  Last year was Nomageddon (nothing, after Snowmaggedon) but no one really knows what will happen this year.  We really haven’t had any snow or ice and believe me, I am not complaining about that.  It’s been cold but not for very long.  In fact we are due to go back up into the 50’s in a day or so.

I look at my bird feeders and find that they are staying fairly full for longer periods of time, Ditto the suet feeders,  Even our squirrels are looking complacent as opposed to frantic for food.  But it is early yet.  February is normally our fiercest winter month here and that is still a month away.  I will let you know how it goes.

Until then, today the Redskins play the Seattle Seahawks and the area is on pins and needles.  I must go climb into my Redskin regalia and prepare to lose my voice.  So here is the week in reviews:

Monday, 1/7:                   Daddy’s Money by Alan Chin

Tuesday, 1/8:                   Bayou Loup by Lynn Lorenz

Wed., 1/9:                         Pete’s Persuasion (Shifters’ Haven #7) by Lavinia Lewis

Thursday, 1/10:               All I Want Is You by Marguerite Labbe

Friday, 1/11:                     A Boy And His Dragon by R. Cooper

Saturday, 1/12:                 Aria (Blue Notes #3) by Shira Anthony

I will leave you with this image of the man who has made the Redskin fans smile once more and dance in the streets, RGIII!

RGIII