Cover Image: Songs in Ursa Major

Songs in Ursa Major

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Member Reviews

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.
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Songs in Ursa Major is such a beautiful and incredibly absorbing novel! It tells the story of Jane Quinn, a young and fantastic folk singer and songwriter in the late 1960s, starting out as the lead singer in her band, The Breakers. When heart-throb, and latest big thing, Jesse Reid, has to pull out of his headline performance at the Bayleen Island annual Fest, the Breakers step up to an unwelcoming crowd. And then everything changes for Jane whose talent is quickly spotted.

Navigating a complex relationship with Jesse, her commitments at home, her struggles with her mum's past experience in the music industry, and her own conflicts with sexist and manipulative record label executives who want to control her outputs, Jane tries to balance her musical integrity with her own happiness and ambition.

There are so many song lyrics within the story, and vivid descriptions of the music, that it was easy to become completely engrossed in Jane's world and genuinely believe that her songs are real. I kept feeling disappointed to remember that they weren't and that I couldn't take myself off to listen to them! I felt completely wrapped up in the era and the creative energy of the musicians in the story.

Jane's relationship with Jesse and its incredible highs and lows are touching to read, and it is hard not to share in Jane's heartbreak throughout the story.

The final chapter is also a lovely touch that really wrapped things up for me - I won't say any more as I wouldn't want to spoil it but I loved the way the author finished things.
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It’s difficult to read Songs in Ursa Major without comparing it to Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Both are set in similar time periods in the music industry, both have a doomed couple at the centre and both contain a lot of drug abuse. Emma Brodie writes in full prose rather than the interview format of Daisy Jones, but still gives the reader multiple perspectives in the story. Although the stories have similar vibes, I still enjoyed Songs in Ursa Major (I also love the title).

Songs in Ursa Major follows Jane Quinn, a young woman with lots of musical talent living with her extended family. She’s been the lead singer in a band for a good while, but the band only stars to kick off once they are pulled in to replace Jesse Reid, an up and coming star, at the last minute. Circumstances bring Jesse and Jane together, and as Jane and her band’s career takes off, the two artists end up touring together. Naturally, a complicated romance evolves.

Jane’s character is interesting – she is very principled and definitely stands up for her values throughout. I really admired her confidence in such a man’s world; there are plenty of occasions where she puts her career at risk because she fought for what she wanted, not what men wanted for her. Her relationship with Jesse is tumultuous as he spirals deeper into drugs which Jane refuses to take further. I liked the friendship between Jane and her band-mates even though it is clear she is the star attraction. There are also really strong family ties throughout – especially between Jane, her aunt and her grandmother. The women have really stuck together through the years since the disappearance of Jane’s song-writer mother.

Jesse’s story is also quite tragic, also losing his mother at a young age which gives him something to bond with Jane over. With a father who can be distant, Jesse completely falls apart without his mother. Even though he is always battling with addiction, he still does kind things for Jane throughout, but at the end of the day he is a man and his career is always put first over Jane by their label and more.

Song lyrics are dispersed throughout the story – for me they didn’t add anything or take anything away from the book because without the music it’s hard to get a feel for it. I also enjoyed the insight into Jane through small chapters from other perspectives like her manager, journalists and more.

Overall this was an interesting book and I did find myself reading it in one sitting due to the addictive writing style and storyline. I really enjoy these fictional biographical stories and this one was a great read, but it really did feel like reading Daisy Jones and the Six in a different format at times.
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I loved this book and devoured it in a day. From the start I was gripped and loved reading about Jane and her attempts to crack the music industry.

Living on an island off the coast of Massachusetts with her cousin, aunt and grandmother, Jane works a number of jobs as well as playing in a band - The Breakers. The band get their big break at the annual island music festival when the superstar headline act has to pull out at the last minute. From there, we follow Jane, the band and the superstar over the next few years in their careers and lives. 

From the beginning, the book gets straight into the action and although I didn’t feel that there was a heavy amount of exposition (which I liked!) in the characters’ back stories, I still felt I knew them well and got to grips with who was who.

Emma Brodie writes so convincingly about music and the scenes describing live concerts and shows are so atmospheric and a joy to read, you feel like you are there! The book is pure escapism and I loved being taken to the island, California and Laurel Canyon, the tour bus and the Greek island of Crete.

Throughout the story I was rooting for the main character of Jane, a woman who, at the start knows what she wants to achieve with her band, but then becomes jaded with the industry and returns home to the island. I loved the tight knit family and community that Jane comes from and the strong women she has in her life.

This book is inevitably going to be compared with Daisy Jones and the Six, but I, whispers quietly, preferred this story. Songs in Ursa Major has a strong narrative and I preferred the limited third person narrator (from Jane’s POV) to the interview style that DJATS was written.

Songs in Ursa Major is an amazing debut and I’d recommend it as a sharply observed tale about the male dominated music industry and a slice of escapism.
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I liked the setting and the themes of Songs in Ursa Major. I thought it was very Joni Mitchell inspired. I think there were too many characters for my liking. I wasn't extremely wowed by this but would probably read from this author again.
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When major recording artist Jesse Reid pulls out of a festival gig at the last minute following an accident, local group The Breakers get the opportunity of a lifetime and find themselves thrust into the spotlight. Jane Quinn and her band not only win over the crowd they also get Jesse's attention and find themselves with a recording contract and lined up as support act on his forthcoming tour.

It was an interesting read and one that I suspect accurately portrays an industry where those in power have the ability to not only make dreams come true but trash them with the same ease. 

A novel that for me was good but not great, it started well and got my attention but midway through I found myself getting easily distracted picking it up and putting it down several times. Whilst the storyline and characters were different I couldn't help but be reminded of 'Daisy Jones and the Six' and the feeling that it had all been done before and better.
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Songs in Ursa Major is a promising debut with a similar theme to Daisy Jones and the Six (one of my favourite reads of recent years). It's set in the 1960s/70s and follows the story of Jane and Jesse. There is lots to recommend in this novel - I loved the relationship between the two main characters but felt it was lost slightly in too much detail and this prevented me from really becoming immersed in the novel. 
3.5 stars
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC.
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This was an interesting book, in a similar theme to Daisy Jones and the Six. 

Jane is an aspiring folk singer and the book takes us through touring with her band as a support act to the stratospheric Jesse Reid, recording her early albums and the struggles of her and the other central character Jesse. 

Both have demons to face, Jane from her past and Jesse with his mental health. 

Jane is a fabulous character, plucky, determined and with enough confidence to take on a man’s world, 

Although this was a very detailed book, it was easy to read and get into. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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If you are after a break from Covid and the doom & gloom this book is the perfect distraction. Jane is a fantastic character & her story is beautifully written  Thanks to Netgalley et all for the opportunity to read this gorgeous book.
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Songs In Ursa Major is a debut novel set in the late sixties, early seventies staring lead Jane Quinn, thrown into the spotlight into a festival and overnight a star is born. Alongside her band mates Jane hits the road to tour with Jesse Reid, the two quickly become consumed by one another as they travel through the states.

There are huge rise and falls throughout the novel. With nowhere to hide this is a book, which exposes each of its characters in the spotlight, giving them little place to hide. I never quite connected with either of neither them nor their stories. They come across predictable problems and I never invested in them as much as I wanted.

It’s worth noting the writing is excellent. The movement and interaction between each character is fluid and kept the novel alive, even perhaps if the music didn’t. “Jane peered at him, unsure of what to say” This perfectly encaptulated an intimate moment within the book and worked really well. Later on when describing the difference in musicians, using the words good and great, seem simple but the words are elevated and given so much more meaning, because of the context and within that was an excellent writer. There are also clever moments of intimacy interlaced within song lyrics. Being able to uncover secrets within them. On that level the book worked really well, it just never quite caught my attention narratively. I believe Emma Brodie is a voice to watch out for and it’s exciting to think this is a debut novel considering all the treasure that there is to find within it.
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Not what I expected. It had some twists with the drug taking and what happened to Jane's mother. Jane was an amazing character and how she stood up to the music big wigs was great. .A very interesting story and  Jess was another amazing character. The author Emma Brodie gets full marks for ending it with on questions left unanswered. A perfect ending
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what a beautiful and creative book, I felt transported in time, far out of my own environment into a world of its own. I felt so immersed into Janes life and couldn't put the page down.
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As usual in my reviews I will not rehash the plot (you will find reviews like that out there already).

This was something of a "mixed bag" for me - a curate's egg, good and bad in parts.  

I enjoyed reading about the music, the music business, the festivals, and the family - and the interplay between the characters was mainly believable.  It seems that parts of the book are loosely based on real people (eg  Joni Mitchell) which adds depth to the characterisation.

However some parts of the novel just didn't feel authentic - I found it hard to believe that the up and coming band would suddenly start taking drugs (and a mixture of drugs at that) at a party when there had been no indications that any of them did anything other than drink or smoke a bit of weed. Also I didn't quite understand why the "mystery" at the heart of the book was kept as such a mystery - maybe I missed something.

Enjoyed the book on the whole anyway, but only three stars from me.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC.  All opinions my own.
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I recieved an ARC of this novel thanks to #netgalley. 
Songs in Ursa Major is a novel centred around Jane and Jesse, folk artists who fall in love in the late 1960's, early 70's in the US. It charts their rise to fame against a backdrop of the testosterone fuelled rock scene. The characters have their own demons to battle. Jane is desperate to maintain her artistic soul while battling the corporation, whilst Jesse struggles with his mental health.
 The narrative flows easily making this an enjoyable easy read. It deals with the issues of the patriarchy and the stigma of mental health in a really good way. 
 The novel was well researched and sometimes read like a documentary. At times the detail was a bit overwhelming and detracted from the main story of Jane and Jesse. I adored the two main characters and was desperately rooting for the pair throughout the book. 
 I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.
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This is the story of Jane Quinn and her journey through the music industry in the 1960s/70s.  Jane can't believe her luck when she is recording with huge star Jesse. 

A good read for fans of music in that era.  I have to admit I found it a bit of a chore to read at times and did not finish.     

Three stars.  Thank you to Netgalley, HarperCollins and the author for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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As soon as I read the description I was hooked, and this did not disappoint. Set in the 60s/70s, Songs in Ursa Major follows Jane Quinn as she navigates the misogyny of the music industry, and how this crashes into her dreams. There were several parts whilst reading this I was urged to stand alongside Jane and applaud how she carries herself. She's cool, and yet relatable.
 
Then there's Jesse, and honestly I could read about Jesse and Jane all day. I want to know everything. The song lyrics peppered throughout this novel really helped to bring the story and its emotion alive.

I went in with high expectations and they were certainly met.
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I don’t think this was the book for me. 

I remember in my late teens having a boyfriend who liked to explain music to me. This books makes me feel very similarly. 
The characters were ok and it wasn’t a terribly written book but I just think I wanted more from the story. 
Essentially it’s the story of Jane who is a very good singer in a band who has some minor success and then record company peril and a bad boyfriend. Nothing ground breaking. 

Kept me entertained for a while though and got me thinking about why society does worship song writers etc
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Songs in Ursa Major was well written with an engaging set of characters.  

When Jane Quinn performed at a local music festival with her band 'Breakers', she had no idea they would soon be recording their own album and supporting popular artist, Jesse Reid on tour. There are a few different threads to the novel but they all merge seamlessly. We have the developing love story between Jane and Jesse, the story of her home life on the island and the way females were treated in the music industry at the time.

 I loved that Jane was depicted as a strong character, who fought to put her stamp on her album and  wasn't afraid to have an altercation with the music producer. I wondered if the book needed the story of Jane's life at home on the island but it becomes clear that it is imperative to the story. Her mother, Charlotte had written lyrics to a song called Lilac Waltz which had been plagiarised by another singer.

I enjoyed the lyrics throughout the book which gave an insight into Jane and Jesse's emotions. It would have been great to have an accompanying CD :)

The epilogue at the end was a perfect end to this enjoyable read.

Thanks indeed to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy.
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I tried but it just wasn't for me.  It reads very much as a factual rockumentary with 'factoids' about lead singers of British rock groups having played a particular club, all very well but it is fiction so these rather lengthy and made up 'facts' irritated me. According to the blurb there is some 'secret' which changes everything - unfortunately my .  interest evaporated before it could be revealed. It struck me as a 'Daisy Jones and the Six' tribute book, but could not quite pull off the act.
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