SDP View Club

Music, History, Mystery, and Ravens

Welcome to the February 2023 edition of the Shaggy Dog View Club! It appears we’ve all been reading a lot over the past few months, and Evelyn Infante has been thinking about pretty things.

Sahar Abdulaziz

And This Shall Be for Music by Susan Moore Jordan is a stunning novel with complex characters and circumstances. Those like myself, who have read all of Jordan’s work, are reintroduced to the Cameron Family (The Cameron Saga: Memories of Jake, Man with No Yesterdays).

The main character, Lindsey, is a talented, young, self-absorbed soprano training for a career in opera—a mind-numbingly competitive musical vocation. Everything in Lindsey’s life is plodding ahead as expected when one of her closest, dearest friends, a fellow musician named David, is killed in a catastrophic accident. David’s partner, Merritt, a passenger in the car and another talented singer, is injured severely. The world Lindsey assumed she had made for herself imploded under this immeasurable loss, compelling her to consider others’ needs more than her own.

Lindsey and Merritt must learn to say goodbye to someone they love. Still, the uncertainty, the ‘new normal,’ make their mutual recovery challenging. However, through the unspeakable pain, grief, and depression, music remained a constant and healing companion for them both. A breakthrough process called GIM (Guided Imagery and Music) aided the healing powers of music, making the long road to recovery possible for Merritt, who returns to the stage, while opening up a new and exciting world of possibilities for Lindsey.

Like Jordan’s previous work, this novel is also music centered. It was fascinating how the author incorporated information about GIM, showing through her characters and plot how a trained GIM guide will prepare and select specific classical compositions ranging from seventeenth-century to Twentieth-Century composers, all to evoke sensory and emotional responses.

Although a work of fiction, the story accurately portrays how deeply family, friends, and lovers are affected by a shared crisis. It beautifully augments how distress can upset family and friendship dynamics. Throughout the read, my eyes admittedly watered as the story showed how overwhelming the feelings of insecurity and despair become from a sudden tragic event and how everyone’s reaction to grief, loss, and depression can be vastly different.

And This Shall Be for Music was heartbreaking, heartwarming, illuminating, and hopeful. I believe psychological pain is some of the most significant and intense pain a human can endure. Attempting to will oneself out of clinical depression or anxiety is simply an exercise in frustration and futility, which is why I applaud this author’s skillfulness in presenting such a dynamic compendium of emotions—showing how these friends, despite the love and respect held for one another, continued to struggle to fix misunderstandings, anger, and confront communication breakdowns when someone so loved and cherished is taken away. This is also a story of courage—and what it takes to survive and thrive when circumstances force a person’s ‘world of certainty’ to splinter and long-held aspirations out of one’s control to transform.

Belinda M Gordon

Her Royal Spyness. Isn’t that a great name for a series? It’s also the title of the first book in this wonderful cozy mystery series by British author Rhys Bowen. These delightful books take readers back to 1930s London and introduce us to Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie—or “Georgie” as she is affectionately known. Despite being a distant relative of the royal family, Georgie is practically penniless.

Throughout the stories, Georgie often has tea or otherwise socializes with the Queen, who gives her various tasks that inevitably land Georgie into some kind of trouble.

The books are full of colorful characters. Along her journey, Georgie will cross paths with some of the most famous people of the era. From her own cousin, Prince Albert, to the notorious Wallis Simpson and even fashion designer Coco Chanel. And of course, no cozy would be complete without a handsome love interest. In this case a charming Irishman, Darcy O’Mara.

Oh, and her best friend’s name is Belinda—isn’t that a wonderful character name?

Her Royal Spyness, is a delightful read that is perfect for fans of cozy mysteries. Every chapter is an adventure as Georgie navigates her way through the intricacies of 1930s London to solve a murder and get herself out of trouble. So, if you’re looking for a cozy mystery to escape into, look no further than Her Royal Spyness! Grab a copy today and start your own adventure with the intrepid Lady Georgiana.

Evelyn Infante

As I approach my seventy-fifth birthday, I find myself thinking of my grandmother who lived to be one hundred years old, a wise and strong woman, who despite her difficult life, found joy in the little things. While visiting her as a young woman, I asked her what she would like for her upcoming birthday. I thought she would say, a robe, nightgown, sweater, or perhaps a tablecloth—things I thought old ladies would like. She surprised me when she turned from the stove where she was preparing my favorite chicken and rice dish, and said, “follow me.” Grandma, or Máma as I called her, walked into her bedroom and pulled from her dresser drawer a beautiful white satin slip adorned with flower appliques on the hem. “I may be old, but I still like pretty things,” she said unfolding the garment and holding it up for me to see. “You can get me a slip. This one’s getting a bit frayed.” I was stunned and ashamed for assuming I knew what Máma would want for her birthday.

A few years later, a co-worker confided she was surprised and thought it foolish that her seventy-five-year-old mother had bought herself a diamond ring out of the blue. She went on to complain that her mom was squandering money she should be saving for her grandchildren, as if spending money she had earned during her forty-year career, was wasteful. I thought of my grandmother’s desire for a pretty slip and how selfish of my colleague to get so worked up because her mother had spent money on herself. As it turned out, her mom lived ten more years wearing her diamond ring, but even if she had died the day after her purchase, the ring made her happy.

It is an unconscious bias perpetuated by our obsession with youth that makes us assume we know what’s best for our elders. We are surprised when people in nursing homes are having sex, an eighty-year-old is running in a marathon, or two ninety-year-olds get married as if at a certain age, you are no longer entitled to be happy.

For my birthday this year, I may buy an expensive bottle of wine, stay in a five-star hotel, splurge on an expensive dinner, or jump out of a plane, (Maybe not that. I’m afraid of heights, but if I weren’t I might consider it), or buy a diamond ring, because I still like pretty things.

Kelly Jensen

I have spent the past two months utterly absorbed by two things: my Introduction to Statistics class and The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. One guess as to which I have enjoyed more. The Raven Cycle follows a group of teenagers—Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah—over the course of about a year as they unite on a quest to find and resurrect a dead Welsh king. Along the way, each will make discoveries about themselves, learning not only who they truly are, but about the unique powers they wield—powers that aren’t always supernatural.

I don’t read a lot of Young Adult books, but the four novels of The Raven CycleThe Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and The Raven King—are an utter delight. The writing is gorgeous. I have to stop now and again to savor Stiefvater’s word choice and the cadence of a sentence or phrase. I also adore the characters and the paths they’ve taken. It’s been a difficult road for all of them, and they’re all champions in their own right. They’re also all very much themselves and I appreciate them for who they are and what they bring to the story. For their unflagging loyalty, even when they’re not exactly happy with each other. On top of all of that, they’re also written as teenagers. They’re young and they behave much as I’d expect young people to behave. Their crushes and romances felt so age-appropriate. Their hopes and fears are quite real.

I also appreciated that the adults are often kind, caring, and supportive of their children’s endeavors. Not all of them, but most. Blue’s family is completely awesome and the books would not have been the same without the ladies of 300 Fox Way.

Beyond all of that, though, I loved the story. So often when I’m reviewing books I adored, I talk about the experience of reading them—how moved I was; when I laughed, and when I cried. Books that make me feel, and feel deeply, are always my favorites. When reading, I’m always looking to be taken on a journey through my emotions as well as imaginary landscapes and these books have it all.

Susan Moore Jordan

Howard Pierce may not be on the force, but he’s definitely on the job!

After meeting Detective Howard Pierce in Evelyn Infante’s first book, Simply Gregg, I anticipated another well-plotted story with Bloodhound Investigations, and Ms. Infante does not disappoint. Pierce may be retired from the SARPD (my police force, by the way, which enhances the fun), but he’s as sharp as ever. He finds himself involved in a possible murder in a posh retirement home here in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. And to add an extra element, his wife is teaching a cooking class at this establishment.

Pierce now has his own office as a Private Investigator, and along with the office a terrific new character, his assistant/secretary/buddy/coffee provider, and all the other things which make such an office work. A plus is that Ruby, while supremely efficient at her job, enjoys playing with hair colors, and we meet her with a new “do” which startles Howard as much as it amuses the reader.

Pierce of course still has contacts with the SARPD, and eventually, the suspected homicide leads to a full-out investigation. The author kept me guessing until nearly the end of the book as to who the killer was, which is of course exactly what you want to read in a murder mystery. As a bonus, the motive provides a timely observation of what many people struggle with even in today’s world.

Kudos to Ms. Infante! Looking forward to the next Howard Pierce adventure.

M.A. Moore

I’ve read Young Adult novels for quite a long time as an adult. I contemplated writing one but realized I enjoyed reading them more. I’ve been impressed by two series in particular written by authors who wrote trilogies and added a fourth after a spate of several years. Both allowed their characters to evolve and grow. The first is a long-time favorite, Ursula Le Guin who started the Earth Sea Trilogy in the late 60s and waited twenty years before writing the fourth book, Tehanu. Who could ever forget the Wizard Ged and the young girl Tenar he rescued from the tombs of Atuan? The wizard had used up his powers and the girl abandoned fame in the intervening years and had become the widow of a farmer’s wife. The plot and characters probe deep issues that satisfy this adult and Le Guin’s many fans.

The second is Trenton Lee Stewart’s trilogy, The Mysterious Benedict Society. He only waited ten years to add a fourth book. The awkward preteens of the first three books are now approaching adulthood, and take on a mission as fraught with danger and bad guys as they had in earlier books. The team’s youngest member, Constance Contraire, lives up to her name and must save the day.

I love these books and have re-read them several times. Not all YA books made it through even a first read. But those that do are worth the effort.

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