Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jessie's Song - Eleni Papanou


Goodreads:  A kidnapping. A 24 hour deadline. A shocking ransom demand.

Markos Adams is famous, but not for his flashy guitar chops, leading man good looks or homemade baklava. After a heavily publicized suicide attempt, he tries to get his life and mind back in order. The morning after his return to the stage, Markos's worst nightmare is realized when his daughter, Jessie, is abducted. The kidnapper contacts him with the terms of the ransom: Markos must identify who he is in twenty-four hours. If he fails, he must commit suicide. Markos races against the clock to unmask the kidnapper and starts to question his sanity when he experiences visions of Jessie singing to him. Is Markos slowly descending into madness, or is he the victim of a sadistic criminal act that will force him to face his biggest fear...that he'll die before seeing his precious daughter again. 

Jessie's Song is a gripping suspense novel that shows how far a father will go to save his only child and how love and forgiveness are the key to saving Jessie…and himself. 

This book falls under the genre of visionary fiction and was written for the reader who appreciates books with a spiritually uplifting theme, minus the dogma. 


I am so mixed up on this book!  For me the real interest in the book picked up in Part III of the book (I think it was divided into parts?  I might be making that up.  Needless to say, I am referencing the last third).  I think most people will probably be really into the first 2/3rds and the ending might really throw them for a loop, so I will say that I think what I liked about this book will be coming from a minority opinion.

Have any of you watched The Waking Life?  It's one of the most thought provoking films I've ever watched, dealing with the meaning of dreams, lucid dreaming, mortality, what reality is...it's basically a lot of really interestingly done philosophy.  It's kind of hard to categorize the movie as it's kind of documentaryish, but it's kind of a narrative, and it's cartoon but definitely not for kids what with the philosophy aspect.  In any case, the book reminded me a lot of The Waking Life with many of the theories that passes through it, particularly the last third.  It's no coincidence that the last third reminds me of The Waking Life and that the last third was my favourite part of the book.  So if you are into philosophy dealing with any of the things listed above and particularly Eastern philosophy, I think this book is worth reading...and worth wading through the first 2/3rds if you're not loving them.

This isn't at all to say that I disliked the first part of the book...my interest just wasn't held consistently.  There are multiple story lines going on simultaneously, similar to the way Scott Lynch in his Gentleman Bastards.  I love this way of story telling, but it only works if you are invested in all the story lines.  Unfortunately, I found one story line dramatically more interesting than the others, so I just got frustrated when I had to wait to come back to it and started skimming the other two.  I think part of it was my inability to connect with the characters.  None of them are particularly likeable, which isn't that big of a problem for me, but if a character isn't likeable, I have to be able to relate to them in some way.  Honestly, I couldn't and I don't think this is a problem with the author's writing.  I'm simply in a different place than the main characters and haven't experienced any of their problems.  And I think at times the characters felt inconsistent or...something.  I'm not entirely sure?  The dialogue felt really awkward to me, and any time the characters spoke to each other it just felt kind of childish in a way.  But mostly, I think I'm just not in the right place to really appreciate who the characters are.  But on the flip side - so much diversity!!  I'm pretty sure there weren't any white characters, although I could be wrong on that one.  The main character was Greek, which I don't think I've ever experienced, and I loved that!

The mystery itself was engaging at first, but it petered out pretty quickly...I think part of this was the involvement with the other story lines.  In general, my biggest complaint is a complaint I have with a lot of adult novels...they just seem dreary.  Dragged on, saddish, but not tragic enough for tears.  Which is purely an interest problem on my end.  But as soon as that happened (or fairly soon after), we hit that end section of the book and I instantly gained interest again.  Unfortunately this review is coming off as a bit uneven, with more on the negative side, which is not at all how I feel.  Or only sort of how I feel, if we're being honest.  Sadly, I really, really can't go into the last section of the book because it will ruin everything.  Just trust me.  Like philosophy dealing with life/reality/dreams/eastern philosophers?  Read this book.

Let me end with my favourite part of the book - the music.  Music is integral to the book, and as a musician I'm obviously going to be really picky about how this is portrayed.  I will give the disclaimer that the focus on this book is jazz, which is an entirely different ball park from classical, but I'm not 100% ignorant of jazz, and somethings are true across all fields of music.  The verdict?  Eleni Papanou nails it.  She's clearly very familiar with jazz, referencing all sorts of musicians and particular pieces that I don't think detract from the book by not knowing them (I didn't know most of the songs), but I feel probably really make the book for a jazz lover.  The way she talks about the music and the musicians make it clear she's either spent a lot of time with musicians and in jazz clubs, or she was one herself at some point.  I'm always so excited when I feel music is portrayed realistically (or as realistically as can be expected in a novel, as one must always keep it interesting, and honestly practicing is the opposite of interesting to the layperson).  Even better?  At the top of each chapter it starts with a music quote!  So instead of a snippet of a poem or a quote, it begins with a few bars of music notated with lyrics.  Sadly, on the Kindle you can't really see the music so I couldn't make it out well enough to hear it in my head *grumble grumble effing kindles*, but I loved the concept!  The end of the book has all the pieces in their entirety...I meant to see if any of them were original songs or not...but well...I forgot and a very quick google search didn't answer my question.  BUT I can confirm that Papanou is very involved with jazz music, so there you are.


Like jazz music?  Like dream/reality/mortality/eastern philosophy?  Definitely check this out.  Want to work on reading books with more diversity?  This is chock full of it.  Not into any of those things?  This book may not be for you.

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