The Violin Conspiracy

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

Ray McMillan has a dream to play the violin and possibly earn a living from his music. Only his grandmother encourages him, and has Ray search her attic for her grandfather’s violin. But as a Black teen in rural North Carolina, the odds are not in his favor. When the family violin turns out to be valuable, his mother and her siblings just want to sell it and split the money. And Ray’s family aren’t the only ones with a suspicious interest in his violin. When Ray finds a supportive violin teacher in Janice, he sets his sights higher, with hopes to be a classical and jazz violinist, and maybe even a soloist and a contestant in a prestigious music competition in Moscow.

The author is a Black violinist and music teacher who put some of his stories from his own journey to becoming a musician into this moving, suspenseful thriller; and all of his love for music. A second novel, The Composer’s Last Score, though not a sequel, is in the works. Engaging and dramatic, this memorable debut is a Library Reads pick and a Good Morning America Book Club selection.

Brenda

Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

Cellist Bridget Stratton plans to spend the summer in her large, shabby house in Connecticut with her boyfriend. The boyfriend bails, but her house fills up with family and her oldest friend, Will. Pianist Will and Bridget are the founding members of the Forsythe Trio, and find themselves short a violinist. They end up inviting their original violinist, Gavin, to a reunion and plan to play at the upcoming wedding of famous composer Edward Stratton, Bridget’s father. Between home and barn repairs and landscaping aided by sheep and chickens, Bridget has little time to worry about the hilariously unfortunate outfit sent by her future stepmother, an old family friend. Full of family, humor and drama, music, home repairs and falling in love, this funny novel with a large cast of notable characters is engaging and entertaining, just the book I was looking for this fall. Readalikes include books by Katie Fforde and Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes.

 

Brenda

Ellie and the Harpmaker

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

On the anniversary of her father’s death, Ellie Jacobs goes for a long walk in the Exmoor woods and finds the Harp Barn and Dan Hollis, the harpmaker. Dan, very happy in his work and in the beautifully described countryside, is apparently on the autistic spectrum. Ellie slowly learns to play a harp, but hasn’t yet told her husband Clive, who’s a bit of a bully. Ellie and especially Dan are very appealing characters while Phineas the pheasant, Tom the postman, and young Edward add color and charm. This heartwarming debut novel is sure to be popular. The author plays the harp, and her love of music and Exmoor shine through.

Brenda

Space Opera

Space Opera by Catherynne Valente

This amusing, engaging science fiction novel was inspired by the Eurovision Song Contest, David Bowie, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the author’s Maine Coon cat. Set in the near future, first contact with Earth is made by the appearance of an alien who resembles a flamingo and a fish, and can speak with your grandmother’s voice. The sentience of Earth’s inhabitants is in doubt, and Earth must participate in the upcoming Megagalactic Grand Prix and finish anywhere but last to survive. As Yoko Ono is no longer available, Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeros, a former British glamrock trio, is selected. The two remaining musicians aren’t on speaking terms and have no ideas for a new song. Danesh Jalo (Decibel Jones) parties with the aliens en route to the contest, while Omar Caliskan (Oort St. Ultraviolet) misses his kids and chats with Oö, who resembles a red panda. Fans of Douglas Adams or Connie Willis may enjoy this whimsical, bittersweet, and ultimately hopeful musical extravaganza.

Brenda

Seraphina

seraphina jacketSeraphina by Rachel Hartman

A very unusual teen fantasy novel introduces Seraphina, 16 and very musical, who is assistant to the court music master in the kingdom of Goredd. Seraphina has an enormous secret; her late mother was a dragon and music instructor Orma is her uncle. Seraphina is also plagued by visions of other unusual people, and Orma trains her to organize them in a virtual garden. Dragons are emotionless and fierce, gifted in science and mathematics and can take the shape of a human to interact with them in Goredd, but half-dragons are against their code. Forty years ago, humans and dragons signed a peace treaty, but there now there is unrest. While helping the music master with a state funeral and preparing for the celebration of the treaty, Seraphina draws unwanted attention to herself. She gives harpsichord lessons to Princess Griselda, and is befriended by Griselda’s cousin Kiggs, who is trying to protect the royal family and keep the peace with the dragons. This book is hard to describe, but really caught and held my interest. A sequel, Shadow Scale, is to be published in March.

Brenda