Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I'm Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

JJ Green wants to be a professional songwriter. Her mom is a lawyer. Her dad is a judge. Her brother is in law school. Hmmm...I wonder what they want her to do?

Luckily for JJ, she lives in New York City. In 1963, there is no place better for aspiring songwriters than the Brill Building, home to successful music composers and publishers.

JJ's mom has nothing kind to say about the music business (largely due to her brother Bernie), but has agreed to let JJ work the summer as an intern in the Brill Building with the stipulation that JJ has to write a song that becomes a hit record by the end of summer or she gives up her dream of becoming a professional songwriter.

JJ often has lunch with her estranged Uncle Bernie (who is a big executive in the building). She is happy to learn from him, but she would never tell her mother about their contact. She meets Luke, who at first is aloof and mysterious, but turns out to be a lyricist who immediately understands her music. JJ befriends the night janitor who turns out to be the once famous singer Dulcie Brown herself. It is a fateful friendship that reveals much about everyone's past. And then there is the murder...

...Or is it suicide like the police think? This is not just a story of a girl trying to prove something to herself and her parents (with a little romance thrown in, too). JJ must solve the murder of someone close to her - it becomes more important than anything else that summer including songwriting.

Cynthia Weil, the author, is a songwriter who worked in the Brill Building in 1960s and along with her husband wrote some of the most famous pop songs of the time.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond

What if Germany had won World War II? The life you know would not exist - you would not exist. There would have been no Beatles, no Martin Luther King, no walk on the moon, no President Obama. Everything we have known for that last 70 years would not have happened.

Knowing the premise, I expected that Germany would have won the war by changing one thing in history (like they built the atomic bomb first), but it turns out that they created genetically altered superhumans. That's how they overran Europe and eventually the United States. The US has been divided up: Germany controls the East, Japan the West, and Italy the Dakota region.

Zara lives in the same year we do now, but you wouldn't recognize it. Nazi's live in big, fancy houses in the center of town. Zara lives with her Uncle Red in a shack on a farm in the country. She is the descendent of Americans - even worse for her, she is part Japanese. Mixed race people are looked down upon even more than non-Germans.

Zara's uncle is a resistance fighter, but lost all energy after her mother was killed for being part of the resistance, too. Zara wants nothing more than to be part of the resistance and fight the Nazi's but her uncle refuses to let her. She lives a dreary life being a cleaning girl in a fancy prep school during the day and working on the farm until dark. The Nazi rule has left little hope for anyone not in step with the regime.

Zara is also an anomaly, a person with special powers (just another bit of science fiction). She can control the wind, even creating a tornado if she chooses. If the Nazi's found out, they would kill her for sure. It is this secret and her family's connection to the resistance that make Bastian's attention so unnerving. Bastian is a student at the prep school and the son of one of a ruthless Nazi colonel. Zara must choose her words carefully when he speaks to her, because she does not know his motive for the conversations.

As the Nazi atrocities hit closer to home, Zara is swept up in the movement to help restore America. The action and suspense will not disappoint.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.