#Bookreview: The High Notes by #DanielleSteel #musicbusiness


Iris Cooper has been singing ever since she can remember, hitting the high notes like no one else. When she is twelve, her father convinces the owner of a bar in Lake City, Texas, to let her perform, and she stuns the audience. In the ensuing years, never staying anywhere for long, father and daughter move from one dusty town to the next, her passion for music growing every time she takes the mike in another roadhouse.

But it is not an easy life for Iris with her father in charge and using her income to pay for gambling, women, and booze. When she starts to tour at age eighteen, she takes on a real manager. Yet he exploits her too, and the singers and musicians she tours with are really the only family she has. It is they who give Iris the courage to finally fly free, leave the tour, and follow her dreams.

After years of enduring the hardships of the road, exploitation, and abuse to do what she loves, Iris’s big chance comes as her talent soars. But at the top at last, Iris still has to fight every step of the way. In The High Notes, Danielle Steel delivers an inspiring story about finding the strength to stand up for yourself and your dreams, no matter what it takes.


Iris is a singing prodigy but unfortunately is raised by a selfish, alcoholic father who forces her to sing for both their suppers. When she finally breaks free of him, she still has to deal with dishonest and abusive managers as she tries to make her way in the music business. More than once, Iris has to walk away. What she eventually finds is a singing career and more.

I enjoyed Iris’s friendships, especially with Pattie and Boy, and her willingness to start a new life. There is an event that happens in the book that is similar to a music-related tragedy in real life, and I thought that was done very well. The fact that Steel’s heroine in this book is not rich and has to make her own way over many obstacles is a welcome departure from many of Steel’s other works. The romance is sweet and does not take over the novel. There is also a realistic look at family and how they can let you down. Family is often celebrated in books, and rightly so, but through Iris we see a realistic look at how the family you are born into doesn’t always have your back.

The first 15% of this book is hard to get into. Steel is known for breaking the rules, but the “telling instead of showing” doesn’t work as well for her in this book, and there are way too many run-on sentences. The book does get better, though, and I was able to eventually connect with it.

I received a free copy of this book from Delacorte Press via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.


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#bookreview: #Dreamland by #NicholasSparks



Colby Mills once felt destined for a musical career, until tragedy grounded his aspirations. Now the head of a small family farm in North Carolina, he spontaneously takes a gig playing at a bar in St. Pete Beach, Florida, seeking a rare break from his duties at home.
But when he meets Morgan Lee, his world is turned upside-down, making him wonder if the responsibilities he has shouldered need to dictate his life forever. The daughter of affluent Chicago doctors, Morgan has graduated from a prestigious college music program with the ambition to move to Nashville and become a star. Romantically and musically, she and Colby complete each other in a way that neither has ever known.
While they are falling headlong in love, Beverly is on a heart-pounding journey of another kind. Fleeing an abusive husband with her six-year-old son, she is trying to piece together a life for them in a small town far off the beaten track. With money running out and danger seemingly around every corner, she makes a desperate decision that will rewrite everything she knows to be true.
In the course of a single unforgettable week, two young people will navigate the exhilarating heights and heartbreak of first love. Hundreds of miles away, Beverly will put her love for her young son to the test. And fate will draw all three people together in a web of life-altering connections . . . forcing each to wonder whether the dream of a better life can ever survive the weight of the past.


I’m really torn on this one. I enjoyed the love story, and I don’t always enjoy love stories. It was written really well, as all of Sparks’ books are. However, it employs a plot device that I absolutely hate and which I personally feel is a copout. Thus I cannot give it more than three stars.

I cannot go into the plot device too much without providing spoilers, but this particular device just ends up making me mad. This has great characters and a great story, but I ultimately felt cheated by that particular tactic. Others may not have a problem with it at all.

If you want to see more about my issue with this book, here is my Goodreads review. On Goodreads, spoilers can be hidden. So, if you wish to go to the review and unhide the spoilers, you will see what I’m talking about.

I received a copy of this book from Random House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.


Nicholas Sparks is one of the world’s most beloved storytellers. All of his books have been New York Times bestsellers, with over 105 million copies sold worldwide, in more than 50 languages, including over 75 million copies in the United States alone.


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Self-Published Spotlight: Oz Perch’s Elegantly Simple Introduction to #Jazz Improvisation

From Oz Perch: Are you a musician who is just beginning to venture into the world of jazz? Perhaps you have some experience playing blues, rock, R&B, funk, or other forms of popular music, but the idea of improvising a solo over rapidly changing jazz chords makes you dizzy?

I began playing the guitar professionally during the 1970s in blues, R&B and funk bands. I picked up bits of jazz lore back then from my fellow musicians. Then I took lessons from a nationally known jazz guitarist, who had a very sophisticated system of theory that left me thoroughly confused. I also attended college as a music major, which taught me some very useful theory, but not about jazz (they didn’t have jazz courses back then at your typical music school.)

45 years later, I believe I finally have a handle on all this. If I could go back and give advice to my 23 year-old self, the material in this book is the advice I would give, to significantly speed up the process of becoming a confident and articulate jazz soloist.

This book will teach you:

  • The relationship between the 7 modes, and the chords they generate
  • Additional scales that correspond to some of the more esoteric chords
  • How to use altered dominant chords, and the corresponding altered scales, in a way that sounds lyrical and not random
  • How to use the “theory of relativity” to expand your improvising vocabulary

This book will not teach you to play your instrument. For that, I would recommend a qualified teacher who can watch you play and assess your technique. What this book is designed to do is to teach you, as quickly and simply as possible, how to think about improvising over jazz tunes, specifically about the relationship between modes, scales, the chords that they generate, and how to navigate from one to the next.



*Kindle Unlimited Subscribers can read this book for free.

Book Review: The Upsetter Blog

The Upsetter Blog is the story of a rock band, The Flak Jackets, and the one-hit-wonder author, Henry Barclay, who is assigned to cover them as a blogger for the new magazine, The Upsetter.  Most of the story takes place on tour between March and November of 2003.  The reader travels along as an insider on a rock band tour, and we get to see the ups and downs of the music business. But the author, Brett Marie, gives us more than that.  He shows us the very souls of the lead singer and the author sent to cover him, and inspires the readers to look inside themselves.

The fact that the author turned blogger, Henry, wrote a successful book many years before figures heavily in this story.  We can quickly associate the main character of Henry’s novel to the lead singer of the Flak Jackets, Jack. Both men were required to give all to their performance, to the point of losing everything else.   But the Upsetter Blog goes beyond that.  It asks important questions.  “How much of yourself do you have to sacrifice to achieve fame?”  “Does it all matter anyway?”  Can you still feel alone in a crowded room while everybody is screaming your name? And the biggest questions of all–“What if the thing that’s always been your passion will eventually kill you?” and “Where does love fit into it all?”

Brett Marie navigates us through these complex themes as he takes us on a road trip from obscurity to the edge of success and back again.

 I am so impressed by Brett Marie’s ability to paint with words and turn a scene from the ordinary to the memorable.   For example, here is a description of an “online interview” the band, The Flak Jackets, did during the early part of their tour, when they were still drawing only 12 people at shows–“We are ‘broadcasting’ from the basement of a cookie-cutter house, in a residential neighborhood. Our host wears a baggy T-shirt and khaki shorts; his thinning hair is pulled back in a ponytail with a rubber band. The Flak Jackets huddle around his microphone, seated variously in office chairs, on a coffee table, and on an ottoman. Upstairs in the kitchen sits the man’s mother, middle-aged, middle-weight, middle-American, who greeted us at the door and led our party down here to “Richie’s room.” I wondered, as I settled into the overstuffed couch near Richie’s open bedroom door, if Mom had glanced in there and seen, as I had, her son’s bed so spectacularly unmade. And I still wonder what she thinks of the fellow, her age at least, who has tagged along with her boy’s little friends.” 

Henry is a complex protagonist.  He wrote a successful novel many years ago, and loves music, but feels out of place in the world of the Flak Jackets.  I also see associations between Henry himself and the main character in his novel. Why did he only complete one novel?   How much of his soul did he have to sacrifice?

Henry’s adult son, Patrick, who has Down Syndrome, is my favorite character in the story.  He serves as a symbol of honesty and purity of soul in Henry’s life, and in the chaotic world of the Flak Jackets.  Dubbing himself their “Number One Fan,” his comments and questions cut straight to the heart of the truth.  Patrick is the equalizer for the many conflicted souls in this story.

The Upsetter Blog is a literary novel that, through the world of music, takes a deep look at life-changing moments, crucial choices, and the definition of happiness.  I am at a loss in describing the writing talent of Brett Marie.  “Well-written” or “great writer” do not cut it.  Here is my attempt:  Brett Marie writes soul-touching and thought-provoking stories that quickly come to life, as the written pictures he creates appear in your mind in vivid color.  

This is not the type of book I normally read. I’m a 57-year-old, historical fiction reading grandmother. “Rock bands on tour” is not my usual subject matter. But this book transcends all that by asking poignant universal questions and introducing us to characters to whom we can all relate, regardless of their age or vocation.

I received a pdf of this book from Owl Canyon Press via the author.  My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

*The Upsetter Blog will be released September 15th.


The literary alter ego of American rock ‘n’ roll musician Mat Treiber, Brett Marie is a contributing editor for the online literary journal Bookanista, and a staff writer for the website PopMatters. His short fiction has appeared in various magazines, including New Plains Review, Words + Images Press, and The Impressment Gang. His story ‘If It Had Happened to You’ was shortlisted for LoveReading UK’s first Very Short Story Award in 2019. He currently lives in England with his wife and daughter.



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#BookReview: Determined to Stand

Determined to Stand: The Reinvention of Bob Dylan by Chris Gregory is an in-depth look at Dylan’s work from 1997 to the present. It paints the picture of a gifted artist who was not content to just perform his already iconic songs of the 1960s, but who wanted to change, grow, and explore different types of music and art. This is an extensive review of Dylan’s work from 1997 to present, but it also looks back on his early work and rise to fame. There is in addition a comprehensive discography that includes detailed descriptions of Dylan’s later songs and the author’s review of their meaning and their impact. This is not a tell-all biography of the man. This is a thorough, comprehensive, and meticulously researched review of his work that will impress any Dylan fan and music fans in general.

I do not claim to be an expert on Bob Dylan or even a superfan. I am a casual fan who likes some of his iconic songs, but knew very little about his life and his eclectic body of work. I learned so much about him that I did not know, such as the fact that he became a Christian in the late 70’s and recorded Christian music until the early 1980s. I learned that he was an artist not just in music, but an author and painter as well. Among his many awards are both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. That is just a little of the vast amount of information readers will learn about Bob Dylan in this book. The discography is amazing, and the author provides beautifully thought out descriptions, insights, and reviews of each song. The author also walks us through Dylan’s live performances and provides perceptive commentary. This book is not a light read. Determined to Stand is an in-depth history and review of the later work of Bob Dylan, and could easily be used to teach a college course. I would take that class, and I think the author should teach it! I would highly recommend that fans and students of music history check this one out.

I received a free copy of this book from the author. My opinions are my own and are voluntary.


AMAZON UK (The Amazon US link is unavailable at present, but the author is trying to resolve this. Below is a link to the author’s website where it can be purchased instead.



(In his own words)

Chris Gregory

I have been exercising my ‘pen’ for many years, thanks to Mum and Dad who ‘hothoused’ me with my  letters when I was a tot!  I wrote my first novel when I was eight (sadly lost!) but have been turning out many millions of words ever since. I’m now a fully independent publisher through my imprint the plotted plain press.

I perform on a pretty unusual stage act as a poet using music, sound collages and multi-media effects.  I have also worked as a teacher and lecturer at all levels inside and outside the education system. It’s my belief, though, that the existence of digital media means that the borders between ‘education’ and ‘entertainment’ are rapidly disappearing. I hope to educate and to entertain!