Posts Tagged ‘classical music’

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Maybe part of me was looking for heebie-jeebies when I said I’d read Tess Gerritsen’s Playing with Fire. And maybe part of me is disappointed at what I got.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This starts off creepy. Julia finds this music and every time she plays it, weird things start happening. Things that she blames on her daughter. And yeah, maybe this could be happening. It makes sense.
It’s not as creepy as I’d hoped. Or maybe wanted.

In fact, it’s kind of disappointingly familiar. We have the set-up in the present, then the flashbacks to the past, so we the reader get the full story behind this piece of music although the characters never do. And like a lot of books that follow this structure, the part set in the past is the stronger part.

The present-day story ought to be creepy. It ought to make us question what’s real, what’s possible. But it doesn’t make sense. Mom blames the kid for doing things. Mom and Dad subject the kid to a battery of tests even though no one believes the mom. And then, next thing, Mom is off, obsessed with finding the origins of the music while everyone around her decides she needs to be locked up in a mental facility because, hey, we put the kid through all these tests and she’s fine so Mom is clearly crazy. So Mom runs away with her friend, who winds up betraying her because hey, the whole world is stacked against our Julia. And things get violent, as they do when you’re trying to get someone to involuntarily commit herself, or maybe it’s as they do when you’re digging up a past no one wants you to remember. And then we find out what’s up with the music. Only it’s not the music at all.

Remember those tests they ran on the kid? Why the hell didn’t they run them on the mom and save us all the hassle?
So that brings us to the story of the past. This turns out to be a Holocaust story, with the main character, Lorenzo, a promising violinist whose career and life are cut short by the horrors that wind up unfolding. Pity, too, because he and cellist Laura had a real thing going.

As I said, that was the more interesting part of the book, but in the end, this one was a bit of a disappointment. Predictable. Kinda stupid, actually. And most upsetting, the promise of the premise, of this haunting piece of music with demonic abilities, never came to be.

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Here’s an unusual one! It’s Tess Gerritsen, author of a whole slew of books, mostly medical thrillers, and she’s now got a work of Rock Fiction that might sorta be horror and might sorta be another thriller — hey, do what you love, right?

It’s called Playing with Fire, and here’s the description:

A beautiful violinist is haunted by a very old piece of music she finds in a strange antique shop in Rome.

The first time Julia Ansdell picks up The Incendio Waltz, she knows it’s a strikingly unusual composition. But while playing the piece, Julia blacks out and awakens to find her young daughter implicated in acts of surprising violence. And when she travels to Venice to find the previous owner of the music, she uncovers a dark secret that involves dangerously powerful people—a family who would stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.

Now, I gotta say, this doesn’t hold up next to the review Susan sent me. That review made it sound a lot better than this does, so much that she wants to pick up a copy and read it. She said something about Jeremy Wagner and his book, which she said was something Joss Whedon wished he wrote and maybe this might be up that same alley.

Whatever. I think the alley is dark and scary and maybe I’m not down with this, but I know Susan is and I bet some of you are and if nothing else, it sure is a break from the tried and true and familiar and all that.

So bring it. I’ll try it, but one single heebie jeebie and it’s going right back to Susan!

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I’m not the huge classical music fan that Jett is, but I’m a sucker for a historical novel. She probably knows more about Vivaldi and his music than I do, even though I’ve taken to listening to it on Spotify, thanks to this book.

This book is The Violinist of Venice, written by debut author Alyssa Palombo, and it’s the story of the fictional Adriana d’Amato, who shows up on Vivaldi’s doorstep with a need to play the violin. And a sack full of gold.

Vivaldi’s struck first by the gold and second by this woman’s talent. They make beautiful music together, and that’s not a euphemism, although that happens, too. I mean, we all know they’re going to wind up in bed together. That’s not a surprise.

The surprise is in Palombo’s writing, which brings not just the music to life, but the joy and the drive and the need to make it—and the pain when it’s denied.

This author is a maestro similar to Vivaldi himself, as she shows in the character of Senator Baldovino. Initially a creep, he turns out to be a bigger gift to Adriana than much of what Vivaldi himself gives our heroine. And Vivaldi gives Adriana much, unlocking things inside of her that she never would have dreamed possible without him. In turn, she inspires him to write greater and greater pieces of music. And yet, as a couple, they simply cannot be.

Still, there are happy endings, if bittersweet ones, for Adriana. And maybe here, things fall a bit short, as maybe Adriana’s life falls together a bit too neatly in the end. But as a reader, we’re willing to go along with it. After all, we have spent years with Adriana by the time the book ends. We’ve grown to love her. How can we not root for her?

Maybe people who know more about Vivaldi’s music will find fault with some of this book. Maybe people more versed in the Venice of the times will have accuracy issues. I don’t know. I don’t really care. Venice was a character in this book as much as Adriana and Vivaldi and everyone else, and Palombo brings it to life in the same masterful strokes that she uses for everything else.

This is one author to watch. And one book that all Rock Fiction lovers shouldn’t miss. Because Vivaldi may be a priest and not the sexy rocker who usually graces this site, but the music is maybe more alive here than in much of the more contemporary stuff that crosses our radars. And in the end, it’s about the music, not always the men and women who make it.