Staff Reviews

Tessa Talks About Dissonance | new novel by JSO Composer-in-Residence Jonathan Bruce Brown

Amazing! It is truly hard to believe Dissonance is Bruce Brown’s first book. There would be little for an editor to do with this work, since it already has great plotting, atmosphere, and dialogue, and few weak areas. By the end of this suspenseful adventure, the main characters are vivid and as real as any neighbor.


Both Wil Walker, the composer who claims to being framed in the murder, and Peter Jones, the detective who wants to believe Wil despite all the evidence, are finely drawn and sympathetic individuals. This mystery is neither gritty nor cozy: it is just right. And halfway through I commented that I had no idea who the killer was—a sure sign of a great mystery!

Rich with music and creativity, the book reflects the author’s own musical life. The descriptions of the symphony members’ lives give authenticity and originality to the book’s bones. The scenes are saturated with glowing images and rhythmic impressions, and the gorgeous Lake Michigan scenery doesn’t take a back seat to anything. It is as much a character in the book as any of the humans. If you love our state’s green places, this book won’t disappoint.

Overall I am delighted give this gripping debut a well-earned four stars. It built in intensity throughout and had me rushing to the final breath-taking chapters. I hope he’ll write more! Encore! Bravo! ~ Tessa 4 out of 5 stars

Tessa Recommends Tana French’s book: The Secret Place

In her fifth book, The Secret Place, in what is now dubbed The Dublin Murder Squad (DMS) series, Tana French brings familiar characters into a new Dublin setting: an expensive girls’ boarding school. This exceptional atmospheric suspense begins when a familiar figure visits Detective Stephen Moran at work. Holly Mackey has come bearing a card with a photo and caption. The caption says, “I know who killed him.” The photo is of young Chris Harper, murdered the previous year on the grounds of Holly’s school.


Unfortunately, this case isn’t actually one of Moran’s. Currently assigned to Cold Cases, Stephen desperately wants onto the Murder Squad. Card in hand, Stephen visits the newest Murder Squad detective, Antoinette Conway. She allows him to come along to the school and investigate this new development. In a non-stop tense ordeal, they interview the students again, while flashbacks tell the story from the girls’ point of view, gradually approaching the night of the murder.

Two groups of girls quickly become the focus—Holly and her friends and a clique that hates them. As we sit in on the interviews and experience the flashbacks, we become immersed in the life of these eight teenagers—its drama, cruelty, risk-taking, and experimentation. In a fascinating step into magical realism, French describes Holly and her friends discovering secret powers and the whole school seeing the boy’s ghost. Many aspects of the girls’ lives are left open to speculation, so I wonder if we will see more of them in the future, as we often do with French’s DMS characters. Five out five stars for this fifth book! French hasn’t written a dud yet. (Her next one, The Trespasser, comes out in August!) Highly recommended. ~ Tessa June 2016 5 out of 5 stars

Tessa’s Recommendation: A Light-Hearted SciFi Adventure Trilogy: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

EarthGirlDon’t expect too much from this trilogy by English author Janet Edwards, and you’ll love it. Earth Girl is written with young adults in mind, it isn’t terribly complicated, but the world-building works for me. There were no glaring errors or inconsistencies, which is always nice. And Edwards’ characters were pretty great. The basic story is built around Jarra, a reject of society because she is Handicapped. Orphaned, Earth-bound, and brought up in care because of her physical inability to step through a portal to another planet, Jarra has never had a family and never been off Earth. She has resented her status all her life, even attempted to portal anyway and almost died, and worked hard to show that she isn’t an Ape, as the Handicapped are often called. Many otherworlders actually believe the Apes are throwbacks–smelly, ugly, and stupid. They aren’t aware that the Handicapped don’t even have the right to vote on how things are run on Earth.

Now ready for college, Earth Girl begins with Jarra’s plan to pretend she is from another planet, join an advanced off world class studying at an archeological dig, and prove to everyone that they can’t even tell she isn’t one of them. She does such a good job, that she gains lots of responsibility on the dig, and makes some great friends. She even falls in love with one of them. (Who’s surprised?) But will they still be her friends when they find out the truth?

Along the way, we learn some great future world slang, get oriented to the way future college works, and begin to figure out which planet everyone is from and what that means. There are some typical college shenanigans, and we discover that Jarra’s professor is a fine human being. Others in the class, not so much. We’d be nardle to expect everything to be blizz, wouldn’t we? No romantic triangles, but lots of adventures from across the galaxies that Jarra and friends solve. Of course. ~ Tessa June 2016 4 out of 5 stars

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