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Spotlight on Beethoven in Love; Opus 139 by Howard Jay Smith

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Spotlight on Beethoven in Love; Opus 139 by Howard Jay Smith

Spotlight on Beethoven in Love; Opus 139 by Howard Jay SmithBeethoven in Love; Opus 139 by Howard Jay Smith
Published by SYQ Books on January 11, 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 385
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At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past.


As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.

Book Excerpt:

Prologue:

The Death of Beethoven

Vienna, 5:00 pm, March 26, 1827

Outside Beethoven’s rooms at the Schwarzspanierhaus, a fresh measure of snow from a late season thunderstorm muffles the chimes of St. Stephens Cathedral as they ring out the hours for the old city.

Ein, Zwei, Drei, Vier… Funf Uhr. Five O’clock.

Beethoven, three months past his fifty-sixth birthday, lies in a coma, as he has now for two nights, his body bound by the betrayal of an illness whose only virtue was that it proved incurable and would, thankfully, be his last. Though his chest muscles and his lungs wrestle like giants against the approaching blackness, his breathing is so labored that the death rattle can be heard over the grumblings of the heavens throughout his apartment.

Muss es sein? Must it be? Ja, es muss sein. Beethoven is dying. From on high, the Gods vent their grief at his imminent passing and hurl a spear of lightening at Vienna.

Their jagged bolt of electricity explodes outside the frost covered windows of the Schwarzspanierhaus with a clap of thunder so violent it startles the composer to consciousness.

Beethoven’s eyes open, glassy, unfocused. He looks upward – only the Gods know what he sees, if anything. He raises his right hand, a hand that has graced a thousand sonatas, and clenches his fist for perhaps the last time. His arm trembles as if railing against the heavens. Tears flood his eyes.

His arm falls back to the bed… His eyelids close… And then he is gone …

About Howard Jay Smith

Howard Jay Smith is an award-winning writer from Santa Barbara, California. A former Washington, D.C. Commission for the Arts Fellow, & Bread Loaf Writers Conference Scholar, he taught for many years in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has lectured nationally. His short stories, articles and photographs have appeared in the Washington Post, Horizon Magazine, the Journal of the Writers Guild of America, the Ojai Quarterly, and numerous literary and trade publications. While an executive at ABC Television, Embassy TV, and Academy Home Entertainment, he worked on numerous film, television, radio, and commercial projects. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Symphony – “The Best Small City Symphony in America” – and is a member of the American Beethoven Society.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

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The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
Narrator: Gillian Burke
Published by Orbit on May 17, 2016
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fiction
Length: 16 hrs 36 mins
Format: Audiobook
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My name is Hope Arden, and you won't know who I am. But we've met before - a thousand times.

It started when I was sixteen years old. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger. No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit, you will never remember who I am.

That makes my life difficult. It also makes me dangerous.

I discovered Claire North earlier this year with her Gameshouse trilogy and loved her style, so I had to pick up The Sudden Appearance of Hope. I was not disappointed. I like how North writes, her ways of describing things, of conveying her characters’ thoughts. She takes an idea, bases her story around it, and makes them amazing.

Hope can’t be remembered – that’s the idea in this one, the bit that the rest of the story revolves around. You could meet her, have dinner with her, and once she’s left your sight, your hearing for a minute or two, you forget and your mind fills in that blank with whatever’s most reasonable – you dined alone. Hope is many things – chief among them a thief. An interesting point – since she can’t have relationships, she isn’t a lover, a friend, an employee, she is free (cursed?) to define herself. Her ethnic backyard, dark skin and hair, have helped form her worldview, but North doesn’t let her become a stereotype. Since she isn’t bound by other people’s expectations, she has her own code, her own disciplines that allow her to live a pretty comfortable life. She’s a thief, but when we meet her, she’s a high-end jewel thief. She works on her own, with a bit of help from people on the darknet – her digital footprint isn’t forgotten.

Her latest score brings her into contact with Perfection, an app designed to make people “perfect,” and the people who own/designed it. Perfection is fascinating and disturbing, a look at how marketing and self-image can be/have been affected by the technology that has become an intrinsic part of most of our lives. (Where’s your phone right now?) And, even worse, the potentials when things are taken a stop or two further. I feel like with Perfection and some of the consequences, we just barely cross over into the land of sci-fi, the kind of sci-fi that could easily enough happen in the very near future.

The book is a bit slow in the middle, but I enjoyed the side trips into literature and history and all the knowledge Hope has acquired over time. I like the words and the spaces and her reflections. She really only has herself to talk to – yes, she can have conversations with people, but unless it’s recorded, they’ll forget. The story is told in the first person and Burke does an excellent job with the narration. She gets across Hope’s fears and triumphs and anxieties. Burke did a great job with the pauses and phrasing, with varying the speed depending on the situation.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope is like two stories that weave in and out of each other. In one we have hope and her daily life, her interactions, her musings, her near brushes with the law. The other is a suspenseful thriller involving Perfection and a woman who is bound and determined to destroy it with Hope’s help, whether given willingly or not.

About Claire North

Claire North is the pen name for the Carnegie-nominated Catherine Webb, who also writes under the name Kate Griffin. Catherine currently works as a theatre lighting designer and is a fan of big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

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First Impressions by Charlie Lovett First Impressions by Charlie Lovett
Narrator: Jayne Entwistle
Published by Books on Tape on October 16, 2015
Source: Library
Genres: Fiction
Length: 10 hrs 52 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

I almost quit listening to First Impressions about halfway through, mostly because I had an audiobook waiting in the wings that I was really, really looking forward to, but I stuck it out to the end. I’m not sure if that was a good choice or not. It wasn’t torture, but it wasn’t great either. The story alternates between chapters focusing on Sophie in now and Jane back then, which worked well really, even if from what I understand a lot of the Jane portion was as fictional as the Sophie part. I knew who the bad guy was – from the moment he showed up; I knew that Sophie would find proof that Jane Austen was not a plagiarist; I was sure Sophie would end up with the right guy and that Jane Austen would become a well-known novelist. And guess what- I was right.

What kept me listening was that Sophie, and especially her uncle, love books. The libraries and books shops and the books themselves were marvelous. I enjoyed learning a bit about early book publishing too.

Sophie, though I appreciated her love of books, was not someone I actually liked. She fell for the guy #1 too easily and then fell for, and slept with, guy #2 too easily. Maybe she didn’t fall for guy #2, but she did go on and on about how good-looking he was and how awesome the sex was. I found her annoying. She didn’t have much compunction against stealing or breaking and entering – apparently her love of Austen and her uncle justified most things.

The narrator however, had an adorable voice, just British enough. She made even the corny lines sounds fun and amusing. She made it seem cuter, funner than it was.

If just the fact that it features Jane Austen makes you want to read it, at least wait for the paperback – it comes out at the end of the month.

About Charlie Lovett

Charlie Lovett is a writer, teacher, and playwright whose plays for children have been seen in over 3000 productions worldwide. He served for more than a decade as Writer-in-Residence at Summit School in Winston-Salem, NC.

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