Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: I'm Glad I Did

I'm Glad I Did
By Cynthia Weil
Published: January 27, 2015

Mad Men meets Nashville in this debut mystery set in 1963, written by Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cynthia Weil.

It’s the summer of 1963 and JJ Green is a born songwriter—which is a major problem, considering that her family thinks the music business is a cesspool of lowlifes and hustlers. Defying them, she takes an internship at the Brill Building, the epicenter of a new sound called rock and roll.

JJ is finally living her dream. She even finds herself a writing partner in Luke Silver, a boy with mesmerizing green eyes who seems to connect instantly with her music. Best of all, they’ll be cutting their first demo with legendary singer Dulcie Brown. Though Dulcie is now a custodian in the Brill Building and has fallen on hard times, JJ is convinced that she can shine again.

But Dulcie’s past is a tangle of secrets, and when events take a dark turn, JJ must navigate a web of hidden identities and shattered lives—before it snares her, too.

My review:

I love the music of this time period so I was excited to read this book. I hadn't heard of the Brill Building before and it was really interesting to learn about the music business and what it was like for people trying to make it in that world. The author was a songwriter in the Brill Building herself during that time period which makes the novel feel more authentic. Although the focus of the book is on the music industry in the early 60s, the author also touches a little on race relations and current events of that time period. I'm Glad I Did is both a "coming of age" story and a mystery. 

JJ is a bright and spunky girl whose family expects her to be a lawyer like they are. JJ has a gift for music though and her dream is to be a songwriter. The story starts with her trying to get an internship at the Brill Building despite her family's disapproval.  Finally her mom relents and agrees that JJ can take the internship just to get her love of music out of her system. If she can land a record deal for one of her songs by the end of the summer, then she can pursue her dreams with their blessing. This may be a tough challenge for JJ until by chance she meets Luke Silver and former singer Dulcie Brown. 

I really liked JJ and how she followed her dreams even though it didn't match with her family's expectations and she knew it was a long shot to get a record deal. JJ has a big heart and I thought she was brave both in her career choices and her personal life. She loves her family so it is hard for her to keep secrets from them or to go against them. I liked how she was willing to give her uncle a chance even though her mom thought he wasn't that great of a person.

Luke Silver is JJ's friend, music partner and love interest in the novel. Luke has a gift for writing lyrics while JJ's gift is for composing music. He is also the son of George Silver, the late business partner of JJ's uncle. JJ is attracted to Luke from the moment she meets him but it isn't until she accidentally stumbles upon a song he wrote that they connect. I liked the way their relationship developed though it is one more secret that JJ has to keep from her parents.

I liked the secondary characters like Dulcie and JJ's Uncle Bernie, the black sheep music mogul who may or may not be a little crooked. Dulcie is a warm person who JJ likes instantly and she encourages JJ in her dreams even as her own dreams have been damaged by poor life choices. Uncle Bernie also helps JJ out in her fledgling career but her mom wouldn't approve if she knew that JJ was in touch with him. 

While I wanted her parents to be supportive of her dreams instead of just pushing her into their mold, I loved the fact that JJ's mom is a successful lawyer and that both parents want their daughter to have a career as a lawyer too. They may not be open to music as a career but they were definitely a liberal family in their views of women in the workplace.

I have never watched Mad Men but from what I've heard read about it, it is pretty gritty in terms of content. While this book does mention drug use and affairs, the main characters are not involved in that and the story is not really gritty or violent. It reminded me more of the TV show American Dreams. I think the only way this book is like Mad Men is the time period and the way women were treated. JJ is lucky to have a chance at song writing thanks to her connections. 

Although there are a few coincidences in this story that seem far fetched and the resolution is a little too easy I really liked this debut novel. JJ is a fun character and I loved the setting and trying to figure out the mystery. I think this book would appeal to readers who like a little mystery, teen romance and the 1960s setting. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss


1 comment:

  1. Ahhh! You had me at the comparison to American Dreams…I loved that show! This book sounds absolutely adorable. I love the time period and the music side of it. I'll be adding to to my TBR list today. Great review, Christina!


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