Wednesday, December 28, 2016

REVIEW: Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen

Windy City Blues
by Renee Rosen

Publisher: Berkley Books
Page Count: 448
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Format: Kindle ARC

How got: ARC copy via NetGalley

First attention getter: already fan of author

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:.

The bestselling author of "White Collar Girl" and "What the Lady Wants" explores one woman's journey of self-discovery set against the backdrop of a musical and social revolution. 

In the middle of the twentieth century, the music of the Mississippi Delta arrived in Chicago, drawing the attention of entrepreneurs like the Chess brothers. Their label, Chess Records, helped shape that music into the Chicago Blues, the soundtrack for a transformative era in American History.
But, for Leeba Groski, Chess Records was just where she worked... 

Leeba doesn't exactly fit in, but her passion for music and her talented piano playing captures the attention of her neighbor, Leonard Chess, who offers her a job at his new record company. What begins as answering phones and filing becomes much more as Leeba comes into her own as a songwriter and befriends performers like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Chuck Berry, and Etta James. But she also finds love with a black blues guitarist named Red Dupree. 

With their relationship unwelcome in segregated Chicago and shunned by Leeba's Orthodox Jewish family, she and Red soon find themselves in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement and they discover that, in times of struggle, music can bring people together.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

Renee Rosen does it again! This time, she explores the turbulent emerging Civil Rights movement and the passionate early blues/rock ‘n roll scenes.This author has few peers when it comes to taking obscure history and making it into a gripping story fleshed out with amazing characters and relationship ties. There were aspects to the story that took me awhile to get used to and like; yet in the end, I enjoyed the book immensely.

The beginning decades of the blues and the early rumblings of the Civil Rights movement make for an incredible story. The author is able to incorporate so many details about the different personalities and events involved, both minor and major, that I felt I was living the tale along with them. One can tell the amount of research that went into this work, not only from the extensive listing of sources the author provides but how many such details were incorporated into the narrative.

I like how relevant this book stands to current events today. It gives us a historical context, a snapshot in history, of race relations and the early stages of our modern music industry. I appreciate how the author shows multiple sides of each scenario, giving us a rounded view of racism in mid-20th century America and the evils of it.

Then of course, there are our leads: Leeba, Red, and Leonard. All three have such distinct personalities that when a POV change happens, the reader has no problem following along, even if the author had not divided each change with a name heading. I grew to love all three for their differences and the love and friendship they felt for each other and of those they considered family. They faced racism and prejudice with dignity, calm, and bravery. I especially grew to love Leonard's approach to it and his special catchphrase.

In the beginning I wasn't in love with the multiple POV's; yet I grew to appreciate them and accept what they added to the story. In previous tales, the single POV of the lead led to an intimate look at the situation’s facing the different women the author wrote about. However in this one, I still felt like I got to know Leeba in-depth and as intimately, even though she shared POV sections with Red and Leonard. I feel like the author is upping her game and developing her writing style into a more well-rounded one.

I can safely say this book has only cemented my love for the author and her works. She knows how to tell a fantastic story with well-rounded characters that I grow to love. Especially in this book, she explores some harsh themes and history that only make it stand out all the more. I feel very comfortable recommending this book to any lover of historical fiction, especially if you enjoy obscure history and the impact it still has on today’s world.

Note: Book received for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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