A personable if anachronistic beginner’s guide to classical music.
Selecting over 125 of his favorite pieces of music from the baroque, classical and romantic periods, as well as his favorite recordings of them, music enthusiast Nielsen (Warriors, 2009) has compiled an encyclopedic resource for people looking to expand their music collections. Each one-to-two–page entry, in addition to introducing the composition and recording, offers some biographical information about the composer, conductor and musicians, interspersed with Nielsen’s corny but affable humor (he can’t pass on a good “Baroque”/”broke” pun). Nielsen describes his musical “cup of tea” as “light, lively, and very melodic,” which does influence the tenor of his recommendations; ardent appreciators of contemporary classical, for instance, are likely to differ in opinion on what constitutes “the best,” though Nielsen is always forthcoming with his personal biases. While greats such as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven deservedly have quite a few works featured, Nielsen also includes music by Albinoni, Fesca and the lesser-known Haydn brother, all refreshing suggestions from the canon. In an attempt to be comprehensive, Nielsen provides information in each entry about the manufacturer, price and online purchasing of each recommended CD—but recognizes in his introduction that these can change quickly, and some may already be out of date. For that reason, in addition to the sometimes repetitious nature of the blurbs, the guide feels as though it might be better suited to a searchable online format. Its structure, too, doesn’t seem to necessitate book form: Primarily comprising alphabetical entries on instrumental music, it concludes with three much shorter and more lackluster sections on vocal music, Christmas music and some comic composer biographies. That said, for readers who are less comfortable navigating the Internet, or just overwhelmed by the sheer volume of recordings and reviews to be found there, Nielsen’s guide will be a helpful starting point. As his music criticism tends a bit toward the superficial, neophytes stand to gain some basic knowledge, but experts should probably pass.
For readers seeking an introduction to classical music, an easy, entertaining alternative to searching online.
Pirates, magic and a secret society collide in this fantasy middle-grade novel.
This fast-paced novel follows best friends Cameron and Miguel, who are looking for adventure while cruising through their Arizona town on a tandem bicycle. They find it when an enchanted pirate ship flies overhead and lands in a convenience store’s parking lot. The ship sets up as a shop, which uses an intoxicating mist to trick customers into buying overpriced sea-themed merchandise, while simultaneously making them defenseless against pickpocket pirates. Cameron has bigger problems when Blackbeard, the ship’s intimidating captain, decides that the tween has stolen a powerful ring that would allow him to shape-shift into any person he imagines. Raising the stakes, the pirates kidnap Miguel and force him to perform grunt work with no chance of release. Cameron enlists the help of his best gal pal, Marcella, to free Miguel, but their mission takes a surprising turn when they discover a secret society protecting an underground gold mine. Author Loge keeps the action coming as the trio encounter a nasty doppelganger, a sinister talking parrot and a gang of violent pirates. The breezy writing ensures that the story doesn’t get stale. With so many quick twists and turns, young readers could get lost along the way, but Loge clearly explains all the unexpected changes to keep his audience on track. In addition to a sprinkling of black-and-white illustrations, Cameron’s easy friendship with Miguel and Marcella keeps things light and youthful when the tale could have been bogged down with one too many odd, mystical events. The heart of the book—a young boy as the chosen one who must defeat an evil enemy—has been a common YA plotline in recent years, but Loge’s energetic style makes the theme seem fresh.
A fun adventure for anyone who’d love to see a few spunky kids trick some bad-news pirates.
In Herold’s debut novel, a young, womanizing boozehound struggles to catch up with his elusive Alaska-bound cruise ship.
Young, single Tom Courier has just been gifted an all-expenses-paid trip aboard the Nordic Princess, courtesy of his cousin and co-worker, Scott. His objective: two weeks of bourbon-soaked, coitus-filled relaxation. Things seem on track after he achieves his objective an hour into his initial connecting flight. From there, however, his plans veer wildly off course: A bomb detonates on the plane’s wing, forcing an emergency landing in Portland. Tom misses the Princess’ departure, but his luggage finds its way on board and serves as motivation throughout the story for him to reach the ship. Unfazed, Tom seizes the opportunity to spend an erotic evening with Mandy—the “cougar” he met on the plane—in a secluded hideaway in the Oregon wilderness. Herold’s ominous foreshadowing hints at Tom’s impending misfortune, and trouble continues to lurk just below the surface for much of the novel. The author maintains sufficient momentum as his protagonist pushes on, inching ever closer to reaching his stateroom aboard the seafaring vessel. Yet an ensuing stream of uncannily coincidental mishaps keeps him perpetually one step behind. On his next layover, in British Columbia, Tom finds himself in another love affair, this time with a local surfing champion named Giata. In increasingly predictable fashion, this fling proves more urgent than catching the ship, of which Tom remains in tepid pursuit. Unfortunately, Tom’s seemingly one-track mind accentuates his shallow depth of character and risks preventing many readers from relating to him. Following another airplane crash, Tom finds himself in the port town of Ketchikan, Alaska, engaging in yet another romance with a local beauty. There, he’s hurled inexplicably into a two-man campaign to track down a mythical, luck-bringing sea beast. The story’s rapid pace continues at the expense of character development, while typos throughout further distract from the more subtle plot threads Herold attempts to weave. Despite the lulling effect of its rhythmic, seemingly inevitable series of calamities, the story revives for a compelling final twist.
A fast-paced, engaging trip to the heart of a bachelor, without enough plausibility or dimension.