Tag Archives: Beautiful Music

Book Club Reflection: Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian

30 Sep

I don’t like to do it this way, but I went to my book club before I had the chance to write my review for Michael Zadoorian’s Beautiful Music. I hope these notes and opinions didn’t influence my opinions too much in my personal review. For the most part, the group liked the book even though it fell short to me.

Zadoorian is local to Detroit and grew up in the city. He now lives in Ferndale, a suburb north of the city. A few people in our group had heard him speak live and wish he had read the audiobook because the readings he did at his event were great. We liked all of the local references and his love for the city felt very authentic. The book is slightly autobiographical, including Zadoorian’s love for music and a character who is the same age he would have been at the time.

The book was listed as one of Oprah’s Summer Reads for 2018. Zadoorian’s first book, The Leisure Seeker, was turned into a movie starring Donald Sutherland. Zadoorian has another book coming out next year,

The radio station became a big part of Danny’s life quickly. Despite him being dismissed from reading the announcements, we hoped it would continue to be a big part of his life going forward. He realized it was immature of him not to take the opportunity to be a part of the station in another way. The realization started him down the path of exploring other music and growing his interests. We thought it would be easy for him to go back to it and become involved again, the teachers seemed like they’d still welcome him.

Race relations rightfully played a big part in Danny’s story. One of our members was about Danny’s age and lived in Indianapolis and remembered suburbs that were much more integrated than the one described by Danny. Members who lived in Detroit at the time say the description was pretty accurate. We’ve heard that Detroit was one of the most segregated cities at the time.

It was very clear to us that Danny suffered from some degree of anxiety. It was harder to detect at first when he was bothered by anxieties of starting high school, something that makes a lot of students nervous. When his father passed away, it was kicked into a higher level. The ‘fade’ that he talks about happens when his anxiety is creeping up. He doesn’t like quiet and needs the sound of music or the radio to keep him calmer. His mom has the same coping mechanism, though hers is TV.

The struggles Danny’s mother has with mental illness wouldn’t have been recognized at the time she was suffering from them. We liked how Zadoorian did the same thing with her, making her problems more obvious over time but more conspicuous at the beginning. When she told Danny she didn’t want children, we all felt this was incredibly narcissistic and probably a result of her mental illness. Danny’s mother as a stark contrast to Mrs. Tedesco, a much more stereotypical woman of the time. It was good to see another mother figure in this story.

The emotional attachment Danny had to the living room and its furniture we contributed to it being part of his ‘dad’s stuff’ and also leaving the room as it was when his family was together. Cleaning up the dining room would recognize that something had changed and was permanently altered, something Danny wasn’t ready for.

I didn’t have time to bring up my issues with the end so I’m not sure if I’m alone in my feelings or not. Oh well. It was good to talk about this book with some people who connected with it differently than I did. I always appreciate my book club’s perspective.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 18-September-2019

18 Sep

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I got through so much last week that I’m not surprised there’s little movement this week. I’m making great progress with The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory due to the longer commute. I don’t mind it at all, really. It’s just under a half-hour and without too much traffic. Perfect for listening!
I’m still listening to A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab while I run in preparation for a half marathon at the end of the month. I’m liking it a lot and it’s very high energy! Great mood for running.
I’m trying to wrap up Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance quickly due to a library hold. I’m liking it, but parts seem to drag a little more than others. I think this will be a good discussion book for our group.
I’m glad I picked When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan for my ebook. It’s moving quickly and the shorter chapters are good for the start-and-stop nature of how I read ebooks.

Recently finished: Nothing finished this week but I’m not at all surprised after the landfall of books listed last week! It has to fall short after such a great week.

I did get two book reviews written! The first is for Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going. I liked this book, but it wasn’t the best one I’d read on craft this year. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian. This was a book club pick so I’ll be posting about our discussion soon but it’s safe to say I liked this one but was disappointed in the ending. I also gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: My hold on The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli came in at the library and I’m hoping I can finish Vance quickly so I can dive in to it before the reading period ends! I might be rushing a bit.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian (3/5)

17 Sep

I was excited to read a book set in Detroit. It seems every Detroit-based book takes place in the 60s or 70s when the city was going through a lot of change. I wonder when it will be considered a good setting again? I did appreciate all of the location references, though. It was very grounding.

Cover image via Goodreads

Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian

Summary from Goodreads:

Set in early 1970s Detroit, a racially divided city still reeling from its violent riot of 1967, Beautiful Music is the story of one young man’s transformation through music. Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio–loving loner balancing a dysfunctional home life with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence.

But after tragedy strikes the family, Danny’s mother becomes increasingly erratic and angry about the seismic cultural shifts unfolding in her city and the world. As she tries to hold it together with the help of Librium, highballs, and breakfast cereal, Danny finds his own reason to carry on: rock ‘n’ roll. In particular, the drum and guitar–heavy songs of local legends like the MC5 and Iggy Pop.

I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t love it either. I think it’s mostly due to being too young to appreciate the cultural references Zadoorian made. I don’t know classic rock well so it didn’t spike my nostalgia like it might for some. I’m also not a big music fan in general so that passion Danny had for music isn’t something I shared. I was more familiar with music in high school so I tried to channel that, but it was on no level like Danny. I think I just wasn’t the right audience for this book, despite being based in Detroit. I’ve read a lot of books focused on the racial tensions of the late 60s and 70s. This one didn’t teach me anything new.

Zadoorian built great characters in Danny and his mother. We learn about his mom’s mental health issues slowly through the book. It’s very clear she needs help but exactly what she’s suffering from becomes more and more obvious. While Danny’s dad is around, he’s shielded from it. But once he’s alone with her, there’s no sugar-coating the situation. Danny’s anxiety is a little less obvious though I suspect there was a hint of depression in there as well, the feeling he described as ‘the fade.’ I felt both of their emotions were really well-drawn and relatable.

Danny was a great main character. I rooted for him because in some ways he reminded me of myself as a kid. I liked that he was a little bit of an outsider and that he was really passionate. His love of music was very well drawn and I liked how resourceful he was. You wanted him to succeed and have clothes that weren’t stained pink and you wanted him to go to the concert because he’d worked so hard and he deserved to have a night of fun! I think there was something in his high school experience that everyone could relate to.

By the time I got to high school, I liked gym but I had the same dread of it in middle school that Danny displays. His dread of certain activities was very relatable for me. I dread certain things at work or around the house but I’ll push myself to do them just to get the experience and get past the fear. I understood what he meant by ‘the fade’ because I had a similar feeling in high school, I called it fog and it would settle in some times for a few days.

Michael Zadoorian
Image via Amazon

Danny’s friendship with John was my favorite part of the plot. I thought it was really well developed and John helped push Danny in ways he needed to be pushed. Without his father there to egg him forward, John kept him moving forward when he might otherwise have stopped. They needed each other and found each other at a good time.

I did not like the ending of this book. It didn’t feel like a lot of the plot lines were given a conclusive ending. I wanted a little bit more out of Danny and his mom’s relationship, Danny’s job, his friendship with John, and his job at the radio station. It all seemed to just stop abruptly. The letter at the end seemed a poor excuse for an ending and I just felt like Zadoorian stopped writing without finishing what he needed to.

The audiobook was narrated by Alexander Thompson. I liked his narration and I was glad that he pronounced Detroit locations correctly! (Pet peeve) His narration didn’t stand out to me as wonderful, but it didn’t distract me from the story at all which was very important to me. The voices he used for women weren’t demeaning in any way and none of the inflections he chose got on my nerves.

This book dealt with a lot of heavy issues. I think mental illness is the one that stuck with me the most. Danny and his mother are dealing with different types and degrees of mental illness but they can’t talk about it because they don’t have the words to deal with it. Danny’s mom needs a lot of help. She wants to be a good mother and I honestly believe she tried as hard as she could for as long as she could. There seem to be days when she’s great and a good parent. But it’s also clear that she struggles to be happy and that her husband has had to cover for her for years. Once her support system is gone, she has no one to lean on and falls over. Danny has to learn to prop her up and she has to learn to help herself stand up.

Writer’s Takeaway: Zadoorian was clearly writing about some passions he shared with his main character. The love of music and his passion for Detroit were really plain. It’s great when a passion clearly comes across in a book. As someone from Detroit, nothing about it felt false to me. I’m not sure if a reader from another area would appreciate the detail, but it rang true for me.

An enjoyable book, but without much closure that would have made it more enjoyable. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 11-September-2019

11 Sep

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’ll be moving faster through The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory now that I’ve started my new job with a longer commute. I’m actually a little excited to have a bit of time for myself and my audiobook each day. It helps me to calm down or get ready for the day, whichever is needed.
Now for all the updates! I started listening to A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab when I went for my ‘last run’ on Friday before my Saturday race. It was just a half-hour but it was enough to get me invested in the story! This one is picking up right where the last left off so it’s all systems go and I’m enjoying that a lot.
Due to availability, I decided to read a physical copy of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. I’m enjoying the mix of anecdote and research so far so I’m excited to see how this one develops.
I decided on a shorter book for my next ebook and picked up When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan. McMullan teaches at my alma mater so it seemed like one I should pick up!

Recently finished: All of the updates! I realized I only had a chapter left in Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min so I finished it up while I was at my parents’ cottage and had time to relax. I’m so glad I’m finally done with this one! I was reading it for far too long.
I was able to wrap up Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian on Thursday morning and I was a little disappointed with the ending. It just could have been a bit more conclusive, it kind of left off with not much closure. My book club just met to talk about it so I’m sure I’ll have more to share about it soon.
I sped through The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Josephine Leslie. It was a very short and sweet book and I’m glad I read it, though there wasn’t too much of a story to it. I’ll get into that more in my review. I’m curious to see how a movie and a TV show came out of this small little book!

Two book reviews up as well! I reviewed The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma on Friday. It was a fun read and I really enjoyed it! Four out of Five stars.
I also reviewed An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. My book club already met about this book so there’s more coming on it in the near future. I also gave it Four out of Five stars.

Reading Next: I put in an interlibrary loan request for The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli. It’s been a while since I read some non-fiction so I think this will be a welcome break. I’m not sure when it will come in but I hope I’m close to finishing Vance when it does!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 4-September-2019

4 Sep

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: No progress with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min, as predicted. Once I figure out my new work routine, I’ll have a better idea of when I can expect to finish this book. I’m hesitant to focus on it because reading on a device before bed will probably make it harder for me to sleep.
I need to finish Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian before Monday so I’m focusing on it a little more than I normally would. I’m thinking of going for a walk after I write this post where I listen to it (and play Wizards Unite) just to get some time in listening. It’s not a chore by any means, but a much more compressed time frame than I was hoping for.
I’ve made decent progress with The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory though I think I’ll be getting through it faster once I start my new job and have a longer commute. I’m not sure what the main action is that I should focus on yet, but I’m sure it will become clear soon.
I was able to pick up a new book from the library last night, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Josephine Leslie. This is one a fellow writer recommended to me years ago at a writers’ group meeting. I’ve only just started it so no telling yet how I feel about it.

Recently finished: I finished up Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going yesterday. It’s probably a bad idea to keep reading books on writing while I’m trying to finish editing my book. It keeps me wanting to make more and more changes so I feel like I’ll never be done! There was some good advice in this book, but I felt it could have used some more details. A review might take a while because I’m very behind on them right now!

Reading Next: I still plan to get to A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab soon but it’s not ‘next up’ anymore. I’ve given that spot to Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. This is an upcoming book club selection and I’ll need to get through the audiobook pretty quickly. Some upcoming half-marathon training should help with that!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 28-August-2019

28 Aug

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m probably going to slow down on Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min for a few weeks. I’m sad because I’m finally getting close to finishing it, but there’s not a lot of good time to work on reading it without work lunches to keep my structured. I’m sure I’ll find my groove again soon.
Time for a lot of new books! I picked up a new physical book, Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going. I’m really pushing myself to finish my edits and it seemed like a good time to have a craft book fresh in my mind. I’m hoping this is a pretty fast read and that I can learn from it.
I started in on Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian on Monday so I’m still at the early stages. I have two weeks to finish it so I’m not worried and I think I’ll be able to take my time and enjoy it.
Because I’m not in such a rush to finish my eaduiobook, I picked up a CD audiobook for the car. I’ll be reading The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory, a favorite author. Gregory is also helpful when trying to fill in rogue time periods from the When Are You Reading? Challenge. I’m excited for more Tudor England.

Recently finished: I was desperate to finish The Map of Time by Félix Palma and lugged it to a wedding weekend with me only to not finish it until I got home. Oh well, I tried. I adored this book but I’m wondering about the other two in the series. There wasn’t much left that needed to be wrapped up. Right now, I’m not sure I’ll keep reading the series. I did love the writing, though, so that has me tempted. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.
I sped through An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and finished it the morning of my book club meeting! I really liked it which made the speed-listening no trouble at all. I’ve read Jones before so I knew the emotional journey I was about to jump in on and I adored it. The narration was great, all of it. I’ll have a full review coming soon. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

I posted two reviews this week. The first was for 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. This was a delightful little book and I’m so glad I read it. It was the perfect vacation book, too. Four out of Five Stars.
The second went up yesterday. I reviewed A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab and I can’t describe how excited I am to finish this series soon. This was a great second novel in the trilogy. I also gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: It seems odd to talk about my next books when I’ve just started so many. I do expect to get to A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab soon. I so often leave series unfinished and it would feel really good to wrap this one up.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 21-August-2019

21 Aug

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: Despite good goals, I got through very little of Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min while on vacation. I’m going to happily blame it on having too much fun! Maybe this week will bode better for me.
I’m very excited to get back to The Map of Time by Félix Palma. I picked it up as soon as I got home and I’m hoping to power through and have it finished in the next week or so. The story is really fun.
I finally started An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and I’m focusing on it as much as possible. I realized the book club meeting for this one is Monday and it’s a nine-hour audiobook. That’s doable, but will require a lot of concentration!

Recently finished: I wrapped up A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab while I was getting ready for the formal dinner at my conference! It was great timing and now I’m super excited about getting to the final book in the series. Talk about a cliffhanger. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.
I decided to take a book with me for the trip and picked the slim volume of 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. It was a perfect light read while I was on the pool deck and I had some purchased books and magazines to tide me over when I finished it. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars as well.

I posted my review for Burial Rites by Hannah Kent on Monday. I’m back to blogging this week after taking last week off. It feels good to be back and I’m feeling confident I can keep up going forward. I’m glad this busy summer is starting to wind down.

Reading Next: I have another book club pick that’s going to be ‘all hands on deck.’ Assuming I finish Jones on time, I’ll jump right into Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian. All I know about this one is it has a Detroit connection. I look forward to learning more about it.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!