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The year is 1969, and the Bayleen Island Folk Fest is abuzz with one name: Jesse Reid. Tall and soft-spoken, with eyes blue as stone-washed denim, Jesse Reid's intricate guitar riffs and supple baritone are poised to tip from fame to legend with this one headlining performance. That is, until his motorcycle crashes on the way to the show. Jane Quinn is a Bayleen Island loca The year is 1969, and the Bayleen Island Folk Fest is abuzz with one name: Jesse Reid. Tall and soft-spoken, with eyes blue as stone-washed denim, Jesse Reid's intricate guitar riffs and supple baritone are poised to tip from fame to legend with this one headlining performance. That is, until his motorcycle crashes on the way to the show. Jane Quinn is a Bayleen Island local whose music flows as naturally as her long blond hair. When she and her bandmates are asked to play in Jesse Reid's place at the festival, it almost doesn't seem real. But Jane plants her bare feet on the Main Stage and delivers the performance of a lifetime, stopping Jesse's disappointed fans in their tracks: A star is born. Jesse stays on the island to recover from his near-fatal accident and he strikes up a friendship with Jane, coaching her through the production of her first record. As Jane contends with the music industry's sexism, Jesse becomes her advocate, and what starts as a shared calling soon becomes a passionate love affair. On tour with Jesse, Jane is so captivated by the giant stadiums, the late nights, the wild parties, and the media attention, that she is blind-sided when she stumbles on the dark secret beneath Jesse's music. With nowhere to turn, Jane must reckon with the shadows of her own past; what follows is the birth of one of most iconic albums of all time. Shot through with the lyrics, the icons, the lore, the adrenaline of the early 70s music scene, Songs in Ursa Major pulses with romantic longing and asks the question so many female artists must face: What are we willing to sacrifice for our dreams?


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The year is 1969, and the Bayleen Island Folk Fest is abuzz with one name: Jesse Reid. Tall and soft-spoken, with eyes blue as stone-washed denim, Jesse Reid's intricate guitar riffs and supple baritone are poised to tip from fame to legend with this one headlining performance. That is, until his motorcycle crashes on the way to the show. Jane Quinn is a Bayleen Island loca The year is 1969, and the Bayleen Island Folk Fest is abuzz with one name: Jesse Reid. Tall and soft-spoken, with eyes blue as stone-washed denim, Jesse Reid's intricate guitar riffs and supple baritone are poised to tip from fame to legend with this one headlining performance. That is, until his motorcycle crashes on the way to the show. Jane Quinn is a Bayleen Island local whose music flows as naturally as her long blond hair. When she and her bandmates are asked to play in Jesse Reid's place at the festival, it almost doesn't seem real. But Jane plants her bare feet on the Main Stage and delivers the performance of a lifetime, stopping Jesse's disappointed fans in their tracks: A star is born. Jesse stays on the island to recover from his near-fatal accident and he strikes up a friendship with Jane, coaching her through the production of her first record. As Jane contends with the music industry's sexism, Jesse becomes her advocate, and what starts as a shared calling soon becomes a passionate love affair. On tour with Jesse, Jane is so captivated by the giant stadiums, the late nights, the wild parties, and the media attention, that she is blind-sided when she stumbles on the dark secret beneath Jesse's music. With nowhere to turn, Jane must reckon with the shadows of her own past; what follows is the birth of one of most iconic albums of all time. Shot through with the lyrics, the icons, the lore, the adrenaline of the early 70s music scene, Songs in Ursa Major pulses with romantic longing and asks the question so many female artists must face: What are we willing to sacrifice for our dreams?

30 review for Songs in Ursa Major

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie is a 2021 Knopf Publishing Group publication. It was the summer of ’69… That’s the whole story right there. Off the coast of Massachusetts, on a remote island, the Folk scene is creating a buzz. Jesse Reid, a good looking and wildly popular singer is slated to appear at the big music festival on the island, but is injured in an accident shortly before he was set to take the stage. Shoved into Jesse’s spot, local musician, Jane Quinn, faces a restless and angry c Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie is a 2021 Knopf Publishing Group publication. It was the summer of ’69… That’s the whole story right there. Off the coast of Massachusetts, on a remote island, the Folk scene is creating a buzz. Jesse Reid, a good looking and wildly popular singer is slated to appear at the big music festival on the island, but is injured in an accident shortly before he was set to take the stage. Shoved into Jesse’s spot, local musician, Jane Quinn, faces a restless and angry crowd. Despite the rocky start, she not only survived the night, but managed to get herself noticed in the process. While Jesse is recovering on the island, he and Jane become close, and Jane’s band ‘The Breakers’ are even tapped to open for Jesse’s upcoming tour- although Jane wants to keep her relationship with Jesse on the down-low so she'll be judged by her own merits. It’s a heady time- but things don’t work out as well as Jane hoped, which turns out to be a catalyst for her creative juices, prompting her to write her breakthrough masterpiece- Songs in Ursa Major. This is a quick read, somewhat based on the real- life affair between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. It’s also an expose on the double standards in the music industry that Jane had to cope with. This story feels nostalgic and occasionally melancholy, but it is also a story of tenacity and triumph, and a profile in the conflict of success and fame. A solid debut! 4 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Judice

    drop what you’re doing right now and reads songs in ursa major. when you read as many books as i do, it’s easy for the stories to blend together, for the impact to be lost. i can tell that this is a book that will stay with me for a very long time. jane quinn is a flawed, headstrong, and admirable protagonist with integrity and grit. she’s so painfully human. what i initially believed to be a romance between two stars turned into the love affair of an artist and her art. as someone who has felt drop what you’re doing right now and reads songs in ursa major. when you read as many books as i do, it’s easy for the stories to blend together, for the impact to be lost. i can tell that this is a book that will stay with me for a very long time. jane quinn is a flawed, headstrong, and admirable protagonist with integrity and grit. she’s so painfully human. what i initially believed to be a romance between two stars turned into the love affair of an artist and her art. as someone who has felt deeply passionate about art, music, and creativity for her whole life, this book was uniquely inspiring. additionally, getting a glimpse into the music industry’s treatment of women in this era made my blood boil. the writing feels like poetry, and the volatile and enrapturing story is one i physically could not put down. there are powerful themes of mental health, addiction, fate, relationships, reality, and what we’re willing to sacrifice in order to get what we want. songs in ursa major left me feeling every emotion imaginable: melancholy, pride, sadness, frustration, joy, hope, wonder, etc. also, the end left me very satisfied and oh so curious. i’m almost overwhelmed in the best possibly way. i detect some influence from daisy jones and the six as well as the bell jar. an excellent debut chalk full of layers, depth, intelligent metaphors, and twists. i’m eager to see what emma brodie has in store for the future.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    There’s a Song for That. Songs in Ursa Major is infused with warmth. Equal parts romantic, family affinity, and a passion for one’s dreams created an efficacious read. Set in the early 1970’s, I adored the main character Jane and felt a connection to her as she navigated her path to self discovery. Mining her feral talent and staying true to her beliefs, this will sing to anyone who’s felt an insatiable calling. Of marked interest to me, were the studio recording sessions. The author’s research w There’s a Song for That. Songs in Ursa Major is infused with warmth. Equal parts romantic, family affinity, and a passion for one’s dreams created an efficacious read. Set in the early 1970’s, I adored the main character Jane and felt a connection to her as she navigated her path to self discovery. Mining her feral talent and staying true to her beliefs, this will sing to anyone who’s felt an insatiable calling. Of marked interest to me, were the studio recording sessions. The author’s research was evident as I was immersed into Jane’s vision and overwhelming desire for perfection. Knowing little about the music business, I was fascinated. Comparisons to that ‘other book’ by TJR have moderately circulated reviews, but each has a unique berth on my favorites list having read both. I’ll miss Jane and several other characters now that I’ve finished. Purchased at The Book Depository, I’m happy to own a hardback copy. It’s a keeper!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    This very promising debut novel is loosely based on the affair between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell and depicts the music scene of the late 1960’s/1970’s. It’s July 1969 and folk singing sensation Jesse Reid is the headline act of the Island Folk Festival, Bayleen Island. However, fans are to be disappointed and the spot is filled by local band The Breakers with lead singer Jane Quinn. They take to the stage, seize their moment and win over the audience with a captivating performance. A star i This very promising debut novel is loosely based on the affair between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell and depicts the music scene of the late 1960’s/1970’s. It’s July 1969 and folk singing sensation Jesse Reid is the headline act of the Island Folk Festival, Bayleen Island. However, fans are to be disappointed and the spot is filled by local band The Breakers with lead singer Jane Quinn. They take to the stage, seize their moment and win over the audience with a captivating performance. A star is born in Jane Quinn whose amazing voice and musical aptitude bewitches and winning over many fans. This is a well written novel and parts of it feel very authentic especially on the music scene of this era. There are three strands to the storytelling, the personal of Jane and her family, the relationship between Jane and Jesse and a snapshot of the music industry through Jane’s eyes, this works and flows well. The character of Jane is admirable, she has her demons but I love how she ploughs her own independent furrow even though this brings her into conflict with her record label, she rightly goes with her gut. There are some good insights into how women are treated in the music industry scene with sexism and misogyny especially the superior disdain of producer Vincent Ray. Is he ever vile, treating her condescendingly as ‘the little lady’ and as a commodity with no free will. Jesse and his many issues is portrayed well, it feels realistic and the emotional charge between him and Jane is palpable. One of the highlights for me is the fascinating dynamic of the all female Quinn household who are all fiercely independent and it’s clear where Jane gets her values from, as its passed down through the generations. Other characters are recognisable as cameos are Mick Jagger and Carly Simon. The book shines a light on mental health issues and the stigma attached to it at that time. My only negatives are that it follows a fairly predictable path of sex, drugs and folk rock n’roll and some of the song lyrics... sorry, they’re awful!! Overall, if you like Daisy Jones and the Six then I daresay you’ll like this one too, if you have an interest in the music and artists such as Joni Mitchell then I think you’ll enjoy this one as I did. With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Harper Fiction UK for the much appreciated widget in return for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This debut novel takes place in 1969-71, starting at a fictitious folk festival in Massachusetts. This was the year a lot of the soft rock singers were just getting recognized- James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and CS&N. In fact, this book is a takeoff on the Joni Mitchell/James Taylor relationship. And I don’t mean takeoff in the sense of caricature or parody, but more in the sense of a stepping off point. This book will appeal to those that loved Daisy Jones and the Six. It covers some This debut novel takes place in 1969-71, starting at a fictitious folk festival in Massachusetts. This was the year a lot of the soft rock singers were just getting recognized- James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and CS&N. In fact, this book is a takeoff on the Joni Mitchell/James Taylor relationship. And I don’t mean takeoff in the sense of caricature or parody, but more in the sense of a stepping off point. This book will appeal to those that loved Daisy Jones and the Six. It covers some of the same material - the sexism, the hardships for a female singer to stand her ground and maintain her creative integrity. It also covers how hard it is to keep the tour lifestyle going - the sheer exhaustion, the constant pressure to be “on”, both leading to a reliance on drugs to power through. While I adored Jane and Jesse and found them well formed, I was even more pleased to see the detail allocated to secondary characters, especially Willy. His comparison to his stars as horses, just really rang true. Brodie really made me feel the work involved in putting together a record, especially one as intricate as Songs in Ursa Major (of course, the entire time, I’m overlaying Blue in my mind). I devoured this story. I wanted to fly through the pages, but also to savor it. I will admit to being a sucker for books about the music industry, especially from this period, but this is one of the better ones. As the ending of the book states, “a time of myth, a time of beauty, a time of rock and roll.” My thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday for an advance copy of this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brandice

    I listened to the audiobook of Songs in Ursa Major and while I was curious about the story based on its premise, I enjoyed it more than I expected to. Set in the early 1970s, the story follows Jane Quinn, an aspiring musician who gets her first big break when she fills in at a festival on her hometown island when headliner Jesse Reid, is in an accident and unable to perform. Songs in Ursa Major follows Jane’s pursuit as a musician, where her and her band, The Breakers, first join Jesse on tour. I listened to the audiobook of Songs in Ursa Major and while I was curious about the story based on its premise, I enjoyed it more than I expected to. Set in the early 1970s, the story follows Jane Quinn, an aspiring musician who gets her first big break when she fills in at a festival on her hometown island when headliner Jesse Reid, is in an accident and unable to perform. Songs in Ursa Major follows Jane’s pursuit as a musician, where her and her band, The Breakers, first join Jesse on tour. The story is filled with love, lust, sacrifice, and secrets. With a rise in music fiction over the last few years, I think comparisons can do a disservice to new books and sometimes lead to disappointment, but to me, this is a fun genre and there’s more than one story to be told — I liked this one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    This was really good! I got drawn into the story from the first chapter and found it hard to put down from then on. The story begins in 1969 at a music festival and the headline act, Jesse Reid can no longer perform after a motorbike accident. Local group, The Breakers with lead singer Jane Quinn take the stage instead and manage to win over the unhappy crowd with a brilliant performance. From there the book follows the music career of Jane and her romance with Jesse. Showing the sexism and miso This was really good! I got drawn into the story from the first chapter and found it hard to put down from then on. The story begins in 1969 at a music festival and the headline act, Jesse Reid can no longer perform after a motorbike accident. Local group, The Breakers with lead singer Jane Quinn take the stage instead and manage to win over the unhappy crowd with a brilliant performance. From there the book follows the music career of Jane and her romance with Jesse. Showing the sexism and misogyny within the music industry, not to mention the drugs and sex and partying, there’s also a focus on mental illness. I only found out after finishing this book and since reading about it, that it’s loosely based on James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Im not a fan of either so I don’t think it’s essential to enjoy this book! Great characters and writing, an excellent read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    While this novel seems to accurately depict the music industry machine of the sixties and early seventies, the big reveal wasn’t much of a surprise nor did it seem to be much of a showstopper. Loosely based on the affair between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, this novel tries to hit the high notes but ultimately the notes it hits are flat.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mandy White (mandylovestoread)

    Saturday afternoon and I I sat down to start Songs in Ursa Major..... after a break to eat and watch a movie with the family I dived straight back into it and finished it just before midnight. I was completely caught up in the sex, drugs and rock and roll of the 70's and the life of Janie Q. Janie Q and her band the Breakers are given the opportunity of a lifetime when the headline act at the Folk Festival is injured in an accident and fails to turn up. Thrown into the spotlight and thousands of Saturday afternoon and I I sat down to start Songs in Ursa Major..... after a break to eat and watch a movie with the family I dived straight back into it and finished it just before midnight. I was completely caught up in the sex, drugs and rock and roll of the 70's and the life of Janie Q. Janie Q and her band the Breakers are given the opportunity of a lifetime when the headline act at the Folk Festival is injured in an accident and fails to turn up. Thrown into the spotlight and thousands of upset Jessie Reid fans, they take their chance and a star is born. Come on the journey of The Breakers, lead singer Janie Q, as they find their way through the world of professional music. Janie is a woman who knows what he wants, won't take second best and is not afraid to stand up for herself. In the early 70's the music business was still very male dominated and sexist. But whatever a man can do Janie can do better. It is a story of music and fame, of love and family and so much more. I don't want to say too much as you need to read it for yourself. It is not your typical music business story and is not at all predictable. You will fall is love with Janie and Jessie Thanks so much to Harper Collins Australia for my advanced copy of this book to read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    The Bayleen Island Folk Fest of 1969 is set to welcome headlining folk artist Jesse Reid until he crashes his motorcycle on the way to the show. Now, it’s up to local band The Breakers, fronted by the equally beautiful and talented Jane Quinn, to step on the main stage and deliver a performance grand enough to make fans forget their disappointment over the missing headliner. The fateful performance lands The Breakers a record deal and an unexpected friendship between Jane and Jesse that grows into The Bayleen Island Folk Fest of 1969 is set to welcome headlining folk artist Jesse Reid until he crashes his motorcycle on the way to the show. Now, it’s up to local band The Breakers, fronted by the equally beautiful and talented Jane Quinn, to step on the main stage and deliver a performance grand enough to make fans forget their disappointment over the missing headliner. The fateful performance lands The Breakers a record deal and an unexpected friendship between Jane and Jesse that grows into a passionate affair on the road. Jane is enamored by her lover, captivated by the media circus, and caught up in the magic of touring. Unfortunately, Jane and Jesse both have secrets that threaten their careers and their relationship. Eventually Jane finds herself at rock bottom and records her heartache on what will become an iconic album. Loosely based on the love affair of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, Songs in Ursa Major holds so much promise but didn’t deliver for me. We are introduced to characters but never get to the heart of their relationships or forge any true development, the writing is lovely but becomes too flowery at times (especially the dialogue - seriously, no one talks like that), and there is a whole lot of telling rather than showing. I love a good Behind the Music story but this one was frustrating because I saw the author’s intent but also the struggle to pack the punch in delivery. The doomed romance of Jane and Jesse was bland and the “secrets” that tore them apart felt paper thin, Jane was all over the place running away from everything that didn’t go her way but I never understood her reasoning/intentions or cared enough to try, and I wasn’t swept up in the atmosphere that I expected of the 1970s touring rock stars. It’s all a bit too contrived for me but it will be a perfectly acceptable beach read this summer. Thanks to Knopf and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Songs in Ursa Major is scheduled for release on June 22, 2021. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brooke — brooklynnnnereads

    This novel from the storytelling to the writing was absolutely incredible. To say it's a beautiful story is simply an understatement. This book may in fact be one of my favourites for this year. When I started reading this book, I was getting hints that reminded me of the movies "Almost Famous" and "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood". Although all are very different stories from each other, I stick to these small comparisons because there were similar aspects in them all that I loved. With This novel from the storytelling to the writing was absolutely incredible. To say it's a beautiful story is simply an understatement. This book may in fact be one of my favourites for this year. When I started reading this book, I was getting hints that reminded me of the movies "Almost Famous" and "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood". Although all are very different stories from each other, I stick to these small comparisons because there were similar aspects in them all that I loved. With that being said, this novel is very much its own with a story that's incomparable. No matter the genre or style, if you are a music lover/connoisseur, there's a good chance that you'll enjoy this novel. If you have a strong appreciation for music, there's a good chance you'll have a strong appreciation for this novel and the story that unfolds. I really loved each of the characters that made up this novel from Julia and Jesse to Willy and the Quinn females. I could easily see how Jesse could be made out to be a villain but I think many, like me, will find it difficult to place him in that category based on the complexity of this story. For those that like a hard hitting and emotional read, check this one out. I cannot help but applaud Emma Brodie on such a fabulous debut and I know I will be keeping my eyes peeled for more of her published works in the future. ***Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me an ARC and final copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review***

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emilie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really wanted to love this book. I was expecting Daisy Jones and the Six, or maybe The Happy Ever After Playlist, or even A Star is Born. This book has high aspirations, but it's none of those things. It's barely coherent. Jesse Reid and Jane Quinn are supposedly based on James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. I hope Sweet Baby James and Joni don't read this -- they'll be shocked to find that they're so boring. This book has no plot -- it's just a long string of "this happened, then this happened, then I really wanted to love this book. I was expecting Daisy Jones and the Six, or maybe The Happy Ever After Playlist, or even A Star is Born. This book has high aspirations, but it's none of those things. It's barely coherent. Jesse Reid and Jane Quinn are supposedly based on James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. I hope Sweet Baby James and Joni don't read this -- they'll be shocked to find that they're so boring. This book has no plot -- it's just a long string of "this happened, then this happened, then this happened." There's also very little character development. In the end, I still hadn't learned the difference in Grace and Elsie and Maggie, because there was nothing about any of them that made them different from each other. Jane and Jesse don't have much personality either -- I kept wondering why anyone would be interested in either of them. I figured out toward the end that Charlie and her condition were supposedly some big secret, and that Jane's refusal to talk to Jesse about it was what split them up (that, and a heroin addiction). But that's extremely unclear. We keep hearing about how Jane shouldn't tell Jesse too much -- um, okay. About what? I had no idea what was happening. It's so poorly written and poorly plotted. I have so many questions about how this book made it past an editor. Rock stars aren't created overnight from one lucky performance. Where do we see Jesse and Jane falling in love? Suddenly they just ARE. Has the author ever experienced drug addiction or mental illness in her family? They don't work at all the way she describes them. We're supposed to believe there were no signs of Jesse's addiction until one day Jane just catches him with a needle in his arm? That's not how that works. Naloxone was not a thing in the early 70s -- no way some random nurse on an island was carrying it around in her kit and saving the lives of rock stars with it. Charlie's condition is a secret? Why? Are you ashamed of her? Jane takes off to Greece and has a breakdown of some sort, but it's never clear what brought that on. As near as I could tell, nothing was so awful as to cause that. And the things that WERE awful were of Jane's own making, and within her power to fix. The dialogue is atrocious. We keep switching points of view from Jesse to Jane to Morgan to Willy and sometimes to obscure characters that don't even matter. What little climax there is to the story is completely manufactured and comes out of nowhere, and it's all wrapped up in a sappy epilogue that will satisfy exactly no one. It's all just so stupid. I really wanted to love this book the way I've loved other books based on musicians and the history of rock and roll. But it's just so bad. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the advance copy of the book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    THE BOOK OF THE SUMMER. This is a slow burn novel, so be warned! But it’s a debut that’s oh-so-worth it. Songs in Ursa Major had me entranced from beginning to end. It’s like i was alive in the late 60s/early 70s, witnessing first hand greatness being born. It was captivating, hypnotic, and engrossing. Covering a lot of issues (sexism, drug abuse [heroin], and mental health), I loved the wide scope of what was explored in here. I think it was done in a way that was true to perceptions and what w THE BOOK OF THE SUMMER. This is a slow burn novel, so be warned! But it’s a debut that’s oh-so-worth it. Songs in Ursa Major had me entranced from beginning to end. It’s like i was alive in the late 60s/early 70s, witnessing first hand greatness being born. It was captivating, hypnotic, and engrossing. Covering a lot of issues (sexism, drug abuse [heroin], and mental health), I loved the wide scope of what was explored in here. I think it was done in a way that was true to perceptions and what was “normal” in the time period. If you’re looking for the great follow-up book to Daisy Jones, this ones for you. I’d even argue that this one is just as great, it not better. (Thank you PenguinRandom House Canada for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review)

  14. 5 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    1969 into the early 70s was just a phenomenal time for music, IMO, so even if I hadn't heard that this book was very loosely based on Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, I still would have enjoyed it. They're Jane and Jesse, just getting started in the music biz. Jane comes from a matriarchal family so doesn't take a lot of guff about being a woman, yet that's what the business is about at that time. The lyrics she writes and her constant fight against conforming to what's expected of her keep pissi 1969 into the early 70s was just a phenomenal time for music, IMO, so even if I hadn't heard that this book was very loosely based on Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, I still would have enjoyed it. They're Jane and Jesse, just getting started in the music biz. Jane comes from a matriarchal family so doesn't take a lot of guff about being a woman, yet that's what the business is about at that time. The lyrics she writes and her constant fight against conforming to what's expected of her keep pissing off the men around her. Too bad for them, as Jane instinctively knows exactly what's best for her and her career. Jesse... not so much. If you liked the music of this time or if you enjoyed the book Daisy Jones & The Six, give this one a try. I'm so glad the publisher offered me this through NetGalley

  15. 5 out of 5

    MicheleReader

    Travel back to the time of the emergence of the folk rock singer/songwriter. Hometown hero and new megastar Jesse Reid is set to headline at the annual Folk music festival on Bayleen Island, off the coast of Massachusetts (think Martha’s Vineyard). After Jesse is in a motorcycle accident, a local band, The Breakers, is called on to fill his spot. The crowd is disappointed until they hear the voice of its 19 year old lead singer Jane Quinn. After wowing the crowd, Jane and The Breakers are signed Travel back to the time of the emergence of the folk rock singer/songwriter. Hometown hero and new megastar Jesse Reid is set to headline at the annual Folk music festival on Bayleen Island, off the coast of Massachusetts (think Martha’s Vineyard). After Jesse is in a motorcycle accident, a local band, The Breakers, is called on to fill his spot. The crowd is disappointed until they hear the voice of its 19 year old lead singer Jane Quinn. After wowing the crowd, Jane and The Breakers are signed by Jesse’s manager and a whirlwind begins. An album is made, the band tours with Jesse and a romance begins. Jane falls hard for Jesse but realizes he is battling demons. Jane, too, has her own. We get to follow Jane’s journey including the creation of her masterpiece album, Songs in Ursa Major, complete with song titles and some very appealing lyrics. If you are a fan of the music of the late 1960s/early 70s, you will thoroughly enjoy Songs in Ursa Major. It is an outstanding story of an incredibly creative time in music. While inspired by the love affair between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, this is not a biography of these talented performers. I even hesitate to mention it as the tale of Jane and Jesse should be viewed as its own love story which takes us from the East Coast to Laurel Canyon, California and the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood. Author Emma Brodie, in an impressive debut, does a fine job in presenting the music business during this era, revealing how women were treated quite differently than their male counterparts. Jane is such a wonderful character – she is a true talent and doesn’t conform to what is expected of her. Well, I guess that is pretty similar to Joni Mitchell. Many thanks to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, NetGalley and the author for the opportunity to read Songs in Ursa Major in advance of its June 22, 2021 publication. I was excited to read that the rights to the book have been acquired to be adapted into a feature film. Rated 4.5 stars. Review posted on MicheleReader.com.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Please note that when it comes to books set in the 1960s/70s music scene, it’s impossible for me to be objective, I’m just going to automatically, unapologetically love them, and this was no exception! That said, this was wonderful in its own right, most notably for the spotlight it shines on mental health and the battle women in music face daily in order to be taken seriously - back then and still now! The characters and the music (the music!! Can Jesse and Jane and their albums exist in real l Please note that when it comes to books set in the 1960s/70s music scene, it’s impossible for me to be objective, I’m just going to automatically, unapologetically love them, and this was no exception! That said, this was wonderful in its own right, most notably for the spotlight it shines on mental health and the battle women in music face daily in order to be taken seriously - back then and still now! The characters and the music (the music!! Can Jesse and Jane and their albums exist in real life, please??) just explode off the page and I was totally captivated. The ending was that precise combination of desperately sad but also so beautiful, and I finished it while listening to Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” on repeat, which yup, made it pretty much perfect.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    If you’re a fan of books about the music industry, here’s one for you: Emma Brodie's debut, Songs in Ursa Major . In 1969, all eyes were on the Bayleen Island Folk Fest as Jesse Reid was getting ready to perform. His star was already on the rise but the festival performance was expected to launch him into the stratosphere. But when a motorcycle accident renders him unable to perform, local girl Jane Quinn and her band, The Breakers, get their break on the main stage. While at first the crowd is If you’re a fan of books about the music industry, here’s one for you: Emma Brodie's debut, Songs in Ursa Major . In 1969, all eyes were on the Bayleen Island Folk Fest as Jesse Reid was getting ready to perform. His star was already on the rise but the festival performance was expected to launch him into the stratosphere. But when a motorcycle accident renders him unable to perform, local girl Jane Quinn and her band, The Breakers, get their break on the main stage. While at first the crowd is angry that Jesse isn’t performing, Jane captures the crowd within the first few notes. She gives a star-making performance that quickly catches the eye of the music industry. Jesse stays on Bayleen Island to recover from his injuries, and he and Jane become friends. As she and her band work on their first album and she encounters the sexism and capriciousness of the music industry, Jesse and Jane inspire each other musically and deeply connect on a personal and romantic level. When Jane and The Breakers get the opportunity to open for Jesse on tour, the music they play is electric, and Jane’s star rises, both because of her talent and her proximity to Jesse. But both have dark secrets they are keeping from one another, and when it all becomes too much for Jane, she walks away, only to be inspired to create some iconic music. I loved this book. I wondered if it would be similar to Daisy Jones and the Six , and while there are some parallels, this is a story all its own. Books about the music business and musicians hook me completely, and I tried so hard to imagine what the music must’ve sounded like. Just excellent and atmospheric. Check out my list of the best books I read in 2020 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2020.html. See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com. Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kailey (kmc_reads)

    Easily making my top 10 of the year

  19. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    If you love the music of the late 60s and 70s, the folky rock stars of Laurel Canyon, and the Newport Folk Festival, this is for you. A well-told story, clearly inspired by Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, that shows that often the most damaged people make the most beautiful art and how those people find their voices.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This book comes out next week but I've been struggling to talk about it. It's not really a romance although there are relationships in it. It's about some singer-songwriter types in the late 60s-early 70s, the rise and fall of fame, the sexism and disparity of this subculture, the dangers of commercialism when you have actual talent. I liked how the author wrote about music, but there is this major plot point kept from the reader when we are in the MC's head otherwise, and I was frustrated and c This book comes out next week but I've been struggling to talk about it. It's not really a romance although there are relationships in it. It's about some singer-songwriter types in the late 60s-early 70s, the rise and fall of fame, the sexism and disparity of this subculture, the dangers of commercialism when you have actual talent. I liked how the author wrote about music, but there is this major plot point kept from the reader when we are in the MC's head otherwise, and I was frustrated and confused by that whole thing. So I feel torn. Kudos to the author for writing some of the song lyrics instead of making us imagine everything.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    I need to let this one rattle around like a marble in my empty head for awhile and see where it settles before I decide on a rating. I did enjoy it. It's one of those novels that can be taken two ways. You can let it be just a breezy summer read if you so choose. Or you can look a little deeper and examine what it has to say about addiction, mental illness, and the way the music industry has historically mistreated female artists. I shall weigh up the things I loved and the things that irked me I need to let this one rattle around like a marble in my empty head for awhile and see where it settles before I decide on a rating. I did enjoy it. It's one of those novels that can be taken two ways. You can let it be just a breezy summer read if you so choose. Or you can look a little deeper and examine what it has to say about addiction, mental illness, and the way the music industry has historically mistreated female artists. I shall weigh up the things I loved and the things that irked me and get back to you.

  22. 5 out of 5

    rose ✨

    “don’t run from your pain. put it to work for you. this struggle—to be able to struggle—is a gift your mother never had. the question is, what will you make of it?” songs in ursa major traces the unorthodox early years of fictional singer-songwriter jane quinn’s career in a way that’s very reminiscent of daisy jones & the six and the final revival of opal & nev (though ursa major isn’t an oral history, and jane lacks the charisma of daisy and opal). through jane’s music, her fraught r “don’t run from your pain. put it to work for you. this struggle—to be able to struggle—is a gift your mother never had. the question is, what will you make of it?” songs in ursa major traces the unorthodox early years of fictional singer-songwriter jane quinn’s career in a way that’s very reminiscent of daisy jones & the six and the final revival of opal & nev (though ursa major isn’t an oral history, and jane lacks the charisma of daisy and opal). through jane’s music, her fraught relationship with her label, and her affair with jesse reid, brodie explores themes of mental illness and what it means to be a woman in an industry controlled by men. in a word, underwhelming. the last third was a significant improvement on the first two-thirds, but as a whole this book does a lot of meandering and skimps on really delving into some of the more interesting aspects (the mother/daughter relationships in the matriarchal quinn family, the mental illness/addiction thread). also, those sex scenes just felt like attempts to convince readers of jane and jesse’s lackluster “passion.” (and if i never have to read the phrase (view spoiler)[“his cock drilling into her” (hide spoiler)] again, it’ll be too soon.) rating: 2.5/5 stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    alison sabella

    I'm sure that in a couple days I will better understand the effect this book has had on me and when that time comes, I will add to this review and hopefully articulate this feeling better. Today however, my chest hurts knowing that this story is over. I spent the majority of my day today reading this book and listening to Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe Bridgers, a combination that has left a FAR too profound effect on me. Songs in Ursa Major is an ode to music and family and creativity. It's a l I'm sure that in a couple days I will better understand the effect this book has had on me and when that time comes, I will add to this review and hopefully articulate this feeling better. Today however, my chest hurts knowing that this story is over. I spent the majority of my day today reading this book and listening to Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe Bridgers, a combination that has left a FAR too profound effect on me. Songs in Ursa Major is an ode to music and family and creativity. It's a love letter to life, hurt and all. Though it'll take a minute for me to recover from this, I know I will come back to Ursa Major, and I will be grateful for the hurt ALL over again. A heartbreaking and beautifully told story, I cannot recommend enough.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Corina

    review to come...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kezia Duah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Oh my goodness! Wow, this was really, really good. I am in love with Jane Quinn. She’s so strong. She really said fuck this sexist and money-hungry industry. When she sang “Wallflower” at the grammys, I had tears rolling down my face. I was so proud of her. Here goes me again forgetting that these characters are not actually real. I did listen to the song on youtube on the penguin random house youtube channel, and it just made the book and characters feel more real to me. The song can also be fo Oh my goodness! Wow, this was really, really good. I am in love with Jane Quinn. She’s so strong. She really said fuck this sexist and money-hungry industry. When she sang “Wallflower” at the grammys, I had tears rolling down my face. I was so proud of her. Here goes me again forgetting that these characters are not actually real. I did listen to the song on youtube on the penguin random house youtube channel, and it just made the book and characters feel more real to me. The song can also be found on Brodie’s Instagram page. The conversations on the stigma on mental health were greatly appreciated. It fit so well into the story. Jessie’s character was also really written well. When they first started dating, I had all those feelings in my stomach, little did I know that Brodie was going to wreck my heart with their unhealthy relationship. I’m glad she and Jessie didn’t end up together. During some parts of the relationship, I thought I could see early signs of possessive and potentially abusive behavior from Jessie towards Jane, but Jane being the badass she was, knew her worth at all times. I still don’t really hate Jessie. Drug addiction is not a choice and is way more complicated than that, so I’m really glad he got better. Just also wanted to say, her sexual liberation was honestly so empowering. Overall, I fucking loved this!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Candy

    I can’t even being to describe how amazing this story was. Some books have amazing plots with subpar characters or vice versa, but this book had such an intriguing story with such captivating characters. I loved them all. The addiction aspect was written so well and don’t even get me started on the whole “meant to be but not meant to last” type of relationships because this book captured that theme so well. Amazing book, loved it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    DeB MaRtEnS

    2.5 stars- There could have been glimmers of Joni Mitchell in this novel because other reviews told me so - I had to look VERY hard to find them- overall, not much new and I found the characters wooden. I’m an outlier, I know- the “passion” felt inserted as gratuitous sex, the plot severely linear. I found myself wincing - “Then…” “ Then…”. Phoney musical artists, pretend musical hits- and one dimensional characters; I simply wasn’t in love. I had to push myself to finish the book, in hopes that 2.5 stars- There could have been glimmers of Joni Mitchell in this novel because other reviews told me so - I had to look VERY hard to find them- overall, not much new and I found the characters wooden. I’m an outlier, I know- the “passion” felt inserted as gratuitous sex, the plot severely linear. I found myself wincing - “Then…” “ Then…”. Phoney musical artists, pretend musical hits- and one dimensional characters; I simply wasn’t in love. I had to push myself to finish the book, in hopes that it might become a hit. There were moments of resonance; largely out of tune for me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jody Wahl

    What a debut novel by Emma Brodie. This book is about fame, sex, drugs and rock and roll…well folk rock but you get the idea. But, it’s so much more than that, it’s both heartbreaking and beautiful. The music and the passion between Jesse and Jane is where this book starts, it’s palpable, but Jane is such a strong character I wasn’t sure she’d be tamed by love (you’ll have to read to find out). These characters are so well written, their strengths and flaws are laid bare. But then this book takes What a debut novel by Emma Brodie. This book is about fame, sex, drugs and rock and roll…well folk rock but you get the idea. But, it’s so much more than that, it’s both heartbreaking and beautiful. The music and the passion between Jesse and Jane is where this book starts, it’s palpable, but Jane is such a strong character I wasn’t sure she’d be tamed by love (you’ll have to read to find out). These characters are so well written, their strengths and flaws are laid bare. But then this book takes a bit of a twist that unravels what you thought was the initial theme and Brodie weaves it all into, for me, the heart of the book… the part of the book that took my solid 4 star to a breathless 5. I know I’m being kinda obtuse here with my praise, but I don’t want to give anything away, but the final chapter is in 2022 and well it was nothing short of beautiful, but maybe not in all the ways you’d want as a reader. I don’t know, for me it all was how it needed to be. I loved this book. As a side note, I love Brodie’s descriptive writing. She can paint a scene with words and you can clearly see it, they are a whole vibe in and of themself. As they followed the realtor’s burgundy Chevy up Polk Street, Jane took in bronzed bodies draped on porches, potted cacti hanging from windows, and bare feet walking from door to door. Perhaps the Folk Fest had been reincarnated as a neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills. This book is loosely based on the love affair between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, I don’t know their story but I’ll be looking into it. What I do know is the 70’s vibe of this book reminded me of my recently departed mom who loved both Mitchell and Taylor and their music would waft through our house during the hot Southern California summers, this book took me back there and that was nice.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Basic B's Guide

    What a fabulous debut. I listened to this on audio courtesy of PRH audio and devoured it in two days. I’m sitting around 4 stars - there was a portion that dragged or lost my attention a bit and I have a few other minor things that personally irked me. This story reminded me of A Star is Born, which I have watched over and over, so take that as a big compliment. Triggers for drug abuse and some mental health issues. Romantic, lyrical and absolute GIRL POWER. Definitely recommend. 😍 Jane + Jesse

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (2.5) A Daisy Jones and the Six wannabe for sure, and a fun enough summer read even though the writing doesn’t nearly live up to Reid’s. Set largely between 1969 and 1971, the novel stars Jane Quinn, who lives on New England’s Bayleen Island with her aunt, grandmother and cousin – her aspiring singer mother having disappeared when Jane was nine. Nursing and bartending keep Jane going while she tries to make her name with her band, the Breakers. Aunt Grace, also a nurse, cares for local folk rock (2.5) A Daisy Jones and the Six wannabe for sure, and a fun enough summer read even though the writing doesn’t nearly live up to Reid’s. Set largely between 1969 and 1971, the novel stars Jane Quinn, who lives on New England’s Bayleen Island with her aunt, grandmother and cousin – her aspiring singer mother having disappeared when Jane was nine. Nursing and bartending keep Jane going while she tries to make her name with her band, the Breakers. Aunt Grace, also a nurse, cares for local folk rocker Jesse Reid during his convalescence from a motorcycle accident. He then invites the Breakers to open for him on his tour and he and Jane embark on a turbulent affair. After Jane splits from both Jesse and the Breakers, she shrugs off her sexist producer and pours her soul into her landmark album, Songs in Ursa Major. (I got the Sufjan Stevens song “Ursa Major” in my head nearly every time I picked this up.) There are some soap opera twists and turns to the plot, and I would say the novel is at least 100 pages too long, with an unnecessary interlude on a Greek island. Everyone loves a good sex, drugs and rock ’n roll tale, but here the sex scenes were kind of cringey, and the lyrics and descriptions of musical styles seemed laboured. Also, I thought from the beginning that the novel could use the intimacy of a first-person narrator, but late on realized it had to be in the third person to conceal a secret of Jane’s – which ended up feeling like a trick. There are also a few potential anachronisms (e.g. I found myself googling “how much did a pitcher of beer cost in 1969?”) that took me out of the period. Brodie is a debut novelist who has worked in book publishing in the USA for a decade. Her Instagram has a photo of her reading Daisy Jones and the Six in March 2019! That and the shout-out to Mandy Moore, of all the musical inspirations, in her acknowledgments had me seriously doubting her bona fides to write this story. Maybe take it as a beach read if you aren’t too picky. Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

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