Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #24: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

There are times when a book comes to you just at the right time. For me, this was one of those books. I happened to bring my niece to the library for storytime and after, while she played in the juvenille section, I took a look at the new YA offerings. As a singer and dancer, most images depicting music appeal to me, so the cover of The Lucy Variations, with a girl’s hand on a piano jumped out at me. Yes, I fully admit, I often judge books by their covers. And this one was really pretty and clearly had to do with music. It wasn’t until I read the synopsis that I realized it was also about so much more. Passion. Family pressure. Making choices that you don’t fully know the full scope of until after you’ve made them. Recovering from the aftermath of major life transitions. Waking yourself up to life again. The hunger for attention and the blurred lines we dance around to get it. Yes, this book was so much more than a a sixteen year old girl playing piano. But it does start there. Well…actually, it starts with the death of a piano teacher. Not a spoiler; it’s literally the first scene of the book.

In the opening pages, we’re introduced to Lucy Beck-Moreau, sixteen year old former piano prodigy, and her ten year old brother, Gustav…the up-and-coming piano prodigy. Lucy is trying to do CPR to her brother’s piano teacher and…well, fails. It’s theorized she had a stroke, and that there was “probably” nothing she could’ve done (Jeez, Mr. EMT. Couldja maybe have given her a little reassurance?). From there, Lucy and Gus’s family need to find Gus a new piano teacher that a) is available (duh), b) meets with their grandfather’s limited approval. The latter is actually what proves to be harder, since their grandfather’s musical opinions are harsh and not very inclusive. He’s an affluent codger who thinks performing is only valid if you’re the best or striving to be the best. Even at the expense of family. This type of pressure can get to anyone, especially children, and it’s revealed that Lucy walked away from her budding career less than a year earlier and had never touched a piano since. This garners the wrath of her grandfather and detached disapproval of her mother, making her family life a bit more strained than your average teenager.
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Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 9 – 11: Some Utterly Forgettable Quick Reads

Its only March, and already I’m a stack of reviews behind. Some of the books (The Twelve, Wool, Game of Thrones) deserve a well thought-out review, complete with analysis and opinions. But these three? Not so much. A few sentences are really all I can offer.

First off is Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich. Wicked Business is part of the “Diesel” series of books — they once involved bounty hunter extraordinaire Stephanie Plum, but really, Stephanie deserved better. Now the central character is Lizzy, a baker in Salem, MA, who has some sort of supernatural power. She and Diesel team up (along with his horrible monkey from some old Plum novel) to race around New England and prevent something HUGE from happening that could CHANGE THE WORLD. Lizzy and Diesel run around and collect artifacts from historic locations, while trying not to fall into bed with each other.

I’ve admitted again and again that I have a soft spot for Stephanie and her ridiculous adventures in Trenton. But these Diesel books? I have no excuse and I won’t be reading another.

One positive aspect to the book: I read the Kindle version, which included some fun and interesting footnotes of the locations in the book. Evanovich included her personal photos and wrote about why each location was special — both in history and to her personally.

One star.

Next, I read Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. This was a Kindle freebie one day as the deal of the day. Do I need to say anything more?

OK, well. This tells the tale of teenage Jenna, who used to be poor and fat and went by the name of Jennifer. Her only friend in the world was Cameron, but he disappeared (and maybe died?) when she was in elementary school. Jenna shared a traumatic experience with Cameron when they were young, and she never got over his absence. Now she’s in high school, beautiful and popular, with a wealthy step father.

And OF COURSE Cameron comes back out of nowhere to shake things up for Jenna and her new life. Can Jenna and Cameron finally get closure over the bond that they shared for so many absent years?

This wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t anything new and interesting, either. I will give it an extra star for having the “traumatic event” not be of a sexual nature, which I was expecting it to be.

Two stars.

Lastly, we have Gone with A Handsomer Man by Michael Lee West. Another Kindle deal with similar results.

I bought this immediately after reading Sharp Objects, and I needed some fluff to get the dark stuff out of my mind.

Teeny Templeton (who, you guessed it, is really small) loves to cook and bake. She’s from Georgia and loves peaches and Elvis and all things stereotypically Southern. She lives in Charleston and has just broken up her engagement, when suddenly her fiance turns up dead and she’s the number one suspect. OH, and the best defense lawyer in town just so happens to be the-boy-that-broke-her-heart-and-she-never-got-over-him-from-back-home. And he’s super cute, too.

Of course Teeny didn’t do it, but who did? And who wants her framed for it? And who cares? Not me. What I did enjoy was the detailed description of Charleston, a city I’ve not been lucky enough to visit, but would like to see very much. This book certainly painted a lovely picture of the town.

Maybe Ms. West should write travel books instead of fiction.

Very fluffy nothingness, that apparently was popular enough to spawn a few sequels. Which I will not be reading.

Two stars.

 You can read more of my reviews (of books I liked much better than these three) on my blog.