Book Review Tuesday: Jazz Baby by Beem Weeks, #historical fiction #comingofage, Outside by Ragnar Jonasson #internationalmystery #crimefiction @beemweeks

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

It’s past the mid point of April and we had snow yesterday. Not anything that laid on the ground, but the fact that it was even tumbling from the sky seemed so wrong. I resisted the urge to sob, reminding myself we have warmer temperatures coming later this week. Hopefully, yesterday’s snow was winter’s last sneeze.

On a positive note, I have book reviews to share! The first is a gritty and vibrant piece of historical fiction. Sadly, the second fell short of what I expected, but since it’s a Net Galley selection, I felt the need to post my review.

book cover for Jazz Baby shows framed picture of barefoot young girl in sundress, sepia-tone finish

by Beem Weeks

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Beem Weeks will take you back in time with this story of a young girl who dreams of becoming a jazz singer. Emily Ann “Baby” Teegarten is gifted with an amazing voice, but her life falls apart when her mother murders her father, and she is left orphaned at thirteen. Taken in by an aunt, she struggles to navigate her own way, singing in speak easies, getting caught up in a life of gangsters, drugs, and sex.

The setting is gritty and raw, perfectly rendered. This is a dark book—the character endures a lot at the hands of those who would use her for their own gain—but it also presents a realistic slice of life that brings the seedier side of the 1920s to vivid clarity. The writing is a mesmerizing combination of “plain-speak” and crude beauty. I don’t think I’ve ever read dialogue that felt so authentic or flowed so effortlessly. Characters are exquisitely drawn. Some, like Nessie, will steal your heart. Others, like Pig and Rydekker, will make your skin crawl. There is a side plot related to stolen money, and others involving infatuations and the first flush of love.

Emily Ann is feisty—daring but also naïve. There were many times I wanted to shake sense into her, and others where I cringed over the danger she found herself in—time and time again. This is a coming-of-age tale that doesn’t pull punches. I felt like I stepped back in time to an era when “speaks” and cathouses ruled the night and dreams of overcoming circumstance resulted in reckless choices. Bravo to the author for painting such a stark reality of hardscrabble living.


Book cover shows set of footprints through heavy snow leading to small house at base of mountains, light shining from doorway of house

by Ragnar Jonasson

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Thank you to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for this ARC.

I love books set in winter climates, and the idea of this one being set in Iceland was extremely appealing. Add in four old college friends reuniting for a hunting trip, plus a snow storm, and it sounded like a fantastic set up for a great mystery.

Unfortunately, I found myself plodding through chapter after chapter of lengthy backstory and next to zero action. I couldn’t even connect with any of the characters. I normally don’t mind backstory (I love seething undercurrents) but this was just so dry and often repetitive that it took an effort to finish the book. Sadly, not at all what I expected. This one just wasn’t for me.

(Release date is June 28, 2022)

97 thoughts on “Book Review Tuesday: Jazz Baby by Beem Weeks, #historical fiction #comingofage, Outside by Ragnar Jonasson #internationalmystery #crimefiction @beemweeks

  1. Glad you had Beem’s book to balance the disappointment of the other. Feisty characters are among my favorite. I also enjoy a winter setting, and it sounds like this one had great potential. Sorry it fell flat for you, Mae.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It sounds like reading Outside was like plodding through deep snow without any end in sight – much like the cover. Thank you for such an insightful review and glowing recommendation of Beem’s book.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Reading Outside was exactly like that, Tessa. It’s only my second two-star book from Net Galley, but it is rough when you get those plodding stories and still have to slog through them. I would give the author a try again because I’ve heard only good things about him, but this book didn’t deliver.

      Glad you enjoyed the review of Beem’s book. It was an excellent historical novel with compelling characters. Beem is a master at authentic sounding dialogue.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for sharing reviews on these two books, Mae! The first one “Jazz Baby” has an intriguing title. Sad that the second book didn’t live up to expectations. Indeed the cover war well chosen, and the authors name corresponding to the Swede noir-genre. 😉 Thanks, and have a good week! xx Michael

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This was the first Beem Weeks book I read, and it instantly made me a fan of his writing. What you said, Mae, “I don’t think I’ve ever read dialogue that felt so authentic or flowed so effortlessly,” depicts it perfectly. Your review makes me want to re-read the book again. 🙂 Congrats to Beem!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Noelle, I was so excited about the Iceland setting. I couldn’t wait to dive into the story. It could just be me, but I found it horribly draggy. And the characters left me cold. I’ll give the author a try again (because I like the genre), but this one was a disappointment.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I have read another book of Beem, he has a distinctive style. Thanks for sharing your review Mae, I liked it. When a book disappoints, I find it much easier to write a review, at least something to enjoy! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Part of our evolution as writers includes learning from books that miss the mark for whatever reason. Your super review of Beem’s book encouraged me to pick it up as it sounds like something I will enjoy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know Beem will be glad to hear that, Pete. It’s a very raw and gritty book, but it captures the time period in such astounding clarity. And the dialogue is exceptional.
      I like what you said about our evolution as writers and learning. Outside is the second book I’ve picked up recently that didn’t work for me (the other I DNFd), and both fell flat for the same reason—too much plodding narrative and backstory. It’s amazing how quickly that can such the life from a good story!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. A wonderful review of Jazz Baby. One of my all-time favorites. I fell in love with the writing. Too bad about the other story. I tend to not finish books that don’t grab me withing the first three or four chapters. But there’s always another book to be found.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, and thanks for visiting. I’m glad to have you add your support for Beem’s amazing Jazz Baby. The writing is in a league of its own!

      As for Outside, I normally won’t finish a book either that doesn’t grab me in the first few chapters. But I got this one from Net Galley and didn’t want to lose the read ratio I have, so I was committed to finishing it. Going forward, I’ll have to be more careful in my requests, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My daughter got hail last Tuesday, the 12th, and snow over the weekend also. Diana also mentioned the snow. They’re in the same city – Portland. I love your great review of Beem’s book, Mae! 🙂 I have to check it out. The other book sounds boring to me with so much backstory. You’re so wonderful to finish it and even wrote a review.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I will probably skip both of these. The first sounds excellent, but heart-breaking. You didn’t mention a happy ending so I’m extra worried for the girl. The second–I’ve never seen you give 2/5 on a review! It does sound excellent. If I’d read the blurb on NetGalley, I might have picked it, but I too am sure I would have been disappointed. Great job, Mae!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The girl survives, Jacqui. But I understand where you’re coming from. This is a darker look at life. On my blog some years ago, I did an interview with Emily (Baby) set ten years after this story. She went on to become the biggest star of the 1920s and 1930s. Perhaps I’ll write the happy sequel when I finish the two novels I’m currently working on. Thank you for weighing in. I fully understand darker stories aren’t for everybody.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I see Beem has already addressed the outcome of Jazz Baby. It is dark and gritty and raw, but Emily Ann makes it through.

      It’s rare I give a 2 star review. I think I’ve given a total of three or four out of all the reviews I’ve written. There are a lot of people who liked the book, so it could just be a matter of personal taste. For me, it fell flat pretty quickly.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Ugh, I totally understand about the snow. We received around 7 cm/3 inches that thankfully was gone from our lawns by the following afternoon, but it was still disheartening to receive the mini blizzard at this stage in the year. We’re almost through it!

    Jazz Baby sounds right up my alley, I’m going to be adding it.


  11. I was so struck by Jazz Baby when I read it. Kudos to Beem Weeks for delving into a rather dark world and writing a nerve-touching story. Sorry the second one wasn’t for you; the cover is striking though. Thanks so much for the reviews, Mae. You always do a great job.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Flossie. I’m so glad you find the reviews helpful.The second, obviously, was hard to write, but I felt the need to post it given I committed to reviewing for NG.

      Jazz Baby was one of those books that makes you feel like you are living every scene. Beem is an excellent story teller!


  12. Excellent review of Beem’s book, Mae. I’ve seen a couple of reviews this week and all with high praise. I’m going to have to add this one to my TBR pile. And too bad about Outside. It sounds like one that I’d struggle to finish too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish you happy reading with Beem’s book, Diana. He told a remarkable story in an authentic voice.

      I was so disappointed with Outside. I’m going to cross my fingers that the next one I try by the same author will be better.

      Liked by 1 person

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