Cover Image: Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm

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Member Reviews

The first 60-70% of this book felt like it took forever to get through. None of the characters were very likable for most of the novel. It wasn’t until the last 30% where things started to move along, people started growing and changing and their stories started to flesh out.

I could not understand the appeal of Circus throughout this book. Women were OBSESSED with him, and he was just terrible? Like he was the worst, and yet there were so many women we got chapters from in this book who were part of his life, many constantly trying to get his attention and approval. It was hard to read.

I thought Maggie was a great character, but we get so little of her. Koko could be frustrating, I had to keep reminding myself she was a teenager. The story just felt so slow. It was tough to get through. 

This one just wasn’t for me, but the writing was strong and the cover is lovely.
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This affecting debut is a kaleidoscopic character study, a polyphonic riff on the modern-day Casanova from the perspectives of the myriad women in his wake. When charismatic trumpet player Circus Palmer learns that his free-spirited lover Maggie is pregnant, his first instinct is
denial. His second is to flee. “I already got a kid barely talks to me,” he tells her; he’s not keen for another. The alternative — that he could do better by both— doesn’t seem realistic. And  yet, regret is “the dread that stayed in his gut and grew solid.” Both visceral and finely observed, the novel captures social nuance and emotional wreckage with precision
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Wasn't my favorite book.  Okay but not what I thought was a good read.  Rather boring.  Hope the author keeps writing.
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Cyrus Palmer, known as Circus,  I think is best described as one “cool cat”.  He’s a jazzy, trumpet player who has a thang for the ladies and his music. This book is told from various point of views and the chapters touch upon his relationships with various women, probably most importantly his daughter Koko, a young teen. 

The writing in this one is good and the characters are well developed, but the plot in this one just fell flat for me. It’s good at exploring Circus’ relationships with women and I’d be eager to read another book by this author as her writing is good. I would like to see if a different story might keep my interest more. 

Pick this up if you have music in your soul and a penchant for the character driven novel
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3.5 stars (rounded down). The prose is gorgeous - it's a lyrical debut by Warrell. But the main character, Circus, is not terribly likeable. He finds out his current girlfriend (although I use that term loosely) is pregnant, and he runs off. The novel tells the story of the many different women in Circus's life, and how he's affected them, and any affect they've had on him. This includes his teenaged daughter, Koko. Most of the book is somewhat depressing - these women are mostly unhappy with their relationships with Circus. Meanwhile, Circus is realizing he's never going to be the big jazz star he expected to be, and that changes his outlook on life. Somehow, against all odds, the novel ended on a note of hope. Part of me thinks Circus does not deserve it, but the hope and happiness was engineered by Koko, and she most definitely deserves a bright future. Because after all, this is a novel about love, be it unrequited or scorned, it's still love.

"It's 2013, and Circus Palmer, a forty-year-old Boston-based trumpet player and old-school ladies man, lives for his music, and refuses to be tied down. Before a gig in Miami, he learns that the woman who is secretly closest to his heart, the free-spirited drummer Maggie, is pregnant by him. He flees instead of facing the necessary conversation, setting off a chain of interlocking revelations from the various women in his life. Most notable among them is his teenage daughter Koko, who idolizes him; she's awakening to her own sexuality even as her mentally fragile mother struggles to overcome her long failed marriage and rejection by Circus."

Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday/Pantheon for the free ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.
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Cyrus- known as Circus- is a jazz musician who brings chaos wherever he goes, especially in his relationships with women.  This is all about those relationships and the women have their say about him too. Now, though, he's learned that Maggie is pregnant and that he's got to come to terms with his teen daughter Koko, who is the only one who doesn't seem unduly charmed by him.  You, like me. might want to tell the women to walk away and Circus to grow up but the stories weave together in a way that keeps you reading. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Interesting literary fiction.
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This is a perceptive story about one man, his impact on the women in his life, and the lives they each build together and apart.  Circus Palmer is well-known in certain circles for his skill as a trumpet players.  He has had a string of relationships, some lasting only for a night others over the course of years, but he refuses to remain committed for too long.  When Maggie, one of the women he has seen periodically over the years and who he has lately been developing deeper feelings for, tells Circus she is pregnant, Circus flees.  Over the course of the book, we see the effects of this and other decisions Circus makes on Maggie, his daughter, his daughter's mother, and the other women in his life, as they realize Circus's love is, at best, complicated and, more often, unrequited, and what that means for their own lives.

This is a powerful story, with well drawn characters and astute observations about relationships, connection, family, wealth, and ambition.

Highly recommended!
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This book was so different, and its hard to describe in this review. We have various women, and their POV’s and there is a man by the name of Circus in the mix of it, a man who is trumpet player, a man who runs from responsibilities, and women who fall for his charm. As a woman, and reading this I was getting more pissed every chapter I read, but like these women there was something about Circus that intrigued me as well, even though I couldn’t relate at all to the characters, even his daughter, I couldn’t stop reading, even though there is not a true plot to this book. But the message of some trying to stay relevant, finding peace, love and acceptance, coming of age, are relevant in this book, but its hidden behind each story of these women and in Circus himself. 

Thanks Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book. As complex as it was at times I can honestly say I enjoyed this book.
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It's hard to describe Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm. The writing is very melodic. When I finished it, I realized there wasn't a heavy plot, and yet it kept me entertained throughout the book. It's primarily the story of Circus, an aging jazz player who is talented but never made it big. The chapters alternate between Circus and the women in his life, his teenage daughter Koko, his ex-wife Pia, various lovers and strangers he meets. In some ways the stories center around Circus, in others, all these women have their own issues. The book is at its best when talking about music, the characters have such a strong connection to it.
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Circus Palmer is a forty-year-old jazz trumpet player. He is also an old-school ladies’ man, with pretty much all of the negative connotations that phrase might bring to mind. His marriage to Pia failed years ago, and he seldom sees his daughter Koko. He feels closest in spirit to Maggie, a drummer with whom he has occasional flings. And there are other women ... Luz, Peach, Josephine, Odessa, ...

Circus tells his story, but it is counter-balanced by the voices of these women in his life. The result is a more honest and complete portrait of Circus, his life, and the people who make up his world.

In addition to this fascinating exploration of characters, this debut novel is a fine look at how our lives seem to unfold in ways that leave us all both somewhat amazed and quite probably a bit disappointed. (For those who will argue that *your* life has not been even a bit disappointing, did you get to be the astronaut or the professional ball player or the movie star or the rockstar you imagined for yourself when you were ten?)
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A sweeping story of various women and the man at the center of their orbit.  Told in alternating perspectives, this story is lyrical, generational, and heartbreaking.  Circus Palmer, a jazz musician, has always enticed women, and many women, even when they try to distance themselves from him emotionally, find him incredibly hard to resist.  Warrell reveals a man who is charismatic and we understand why the women keep waiting for him to commit or, at the very least, be the man they all think him to be.  But then, through the women's voices, we slowly understand why expectations will only lead to disappointment. 

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm is an emotional read that reveals the raw nature of loving someone you can never fully know or is emotionally unavailable. I appreciated the alternating points of view and I saw an interview with Warrell where she explained the alternating perspectives were designed to mimic jazz -- each woman gets a solo and a chance to share her story.  I think Warrell is successful in creating lyricism and a unique voice for each character.  

Highly recommend.
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A debut author with an adult novel about Circus Palmer, a musician who has one true love - his horn. His home base is the Boston area where his X-wife, Pia, and estranged daughter, Koko, live. His story unfolds in chapters alternating between the many females whose lives he touches. He plays jazz well enough to make the women swoon, but not good enough to become famous and record his dream album. He teaches, travels some and leaves heartache in his wake.
A drummer, Maggie, is one of the women he frequently spends time with. He is not adept with relationships. He cheats, avoids commitment and lies. He has little contact with Koko as she’s growing up. She needs him but he doesn’t know how to be a parent. Koko is expertly drawn out in the story with typical teenage rebellion, needs and a total lack of parental nurturing. 
As he nears his forties he may be forced to change and settle down. The women he has been with all needed him to love them in order to be relevant. It is the story of his many lady friends, women he used, lovers, acquaintances, and the ones he left. The author expertly described these women, all of whom had no self worth without him. Some incapable of even fixing a meal or cleaning the house if he left them. They were dependent on him for their identity. While realistically depicted, I found many of them weak, pitiful and unlikable.
It is a thought provoking look into one fictional, selfish musician’s life with the hope that he figures out what and who is really important.
Thanks to NetGalley for the digital advance reader copy of “Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm” by Laura Warrell and to Pantheon Books, Penguin Random House. These are all my honest personal thoughts and opinions given voluntarily.
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This was a different book for me, versus what I normally gravitate to.

MV Rating: 6/10
•Circus is a ladies man that makes very questionable, very selfish choices, and the women in his life take the brunt of the impact.
•After his on again-off again love Maggie becomes pregnant, he bails, and then tries to rebuild his relationships as best he can.
•The characters are written well, but Circus was so irredeemable to me, that I couldn’t enjoy or believe his journey sometimes. 
•It speaks so highly of the author that I could feel such strong emotions about the characters at all, but this one just fell a bit flat for me. I hope others will give it a shot and make their own assumption!
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If I had to sum up this complex book in one sentence I’d have to say that it is ultimately a love story, of sorts, but a really messy and gritty one.  And I wasn’t able to land on the “this is a love story” designation until I had finished and sat back and asked myself “what is this book actually about?” So, you should know that going in. 

These characters are multi-faceted. Sometimes you understand them, sometimes you can at least empathize, and in my case most of the time you really dislike them. Rarely have I found a book that I have truly enjoyed when I found the characters to be hard to like. This book was no different, which means that Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm wasn’t the book for me. But, I can definitely see why someone else would really enjoy it. The characters are fleshed out. The dialogue felt authentic. The pacing really worked. This author clearly knows what she’s doing, and does it well. Some might find the multiple points of view difficult to follow at times, but that’s something I usually expect with an ensemble cast of characters. 

This book was good, and I’d recommend it to any reader who likes, or at least doesn’t mind stories with unlikeable characters. I’m just not that reader. Having said that, I still think this was an impressive debut and I’m curious to see what this author does next. 

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for my review.
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This book has an array of characters. Circus Palmer was a 40 year old trumpet player. His life is messed up. He refuses to be tied down to 1 woman. He takes off after his latest paramour is pregnant.. Circus has a different woman in every city he goes to play music. He has a fraught relationship with his daughter but finally shared his life with her in a meaningful way and learns to love himself and life. 
As Circus ages, life catches up with him and he must pay the consequences. the book focuses mostly on Circus but takes the reader into the lives of some of the women who fall in love with a musician.
This was an engaging debut novel. 
Thank you to Netgalley for the eARC.
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I fought hard to get through the book but finally stopped at 22% mid chapter. I really wanted to love this book as the synopsis seemed incredibly interesting. Unfortunately, this one was a miss for me. I do not like to leave books unfinished so I may attempt to complete it at a later date and update my feedback but for now this is a DNF for me.
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I struggled to like this book. It may be just that I couldn't relate to the culture it depicts. I didn't see redemming qualities in the two-dimensional character Circus. With no other reason given than he fancies himself a lady's man, he deserts his drummer, Maggie, when he learns she is pregnant. Trite, commonplace behavior, and consistent with how he's treated ther women in his previous life, including his daughter Koko. 

Several times I contemplated giving up on this book, and finally I did. It failed to hold my interest, so I left it unfinished.
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Laura Warrell's debut novel Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm is literary fiction based on a jazz musician. 

Circus Palmer is a forty-year-old trumpet player. He has a reputation as a ladies man and he fully lives up to it. Although Circus refuses to be tied down to just one woman, he does have strong feelings for Maggie, until she tells him she is pregnant. As Circus already has Koko, a daughter from his previous marriage, he leaves Maggie to deal with the "problem". Circus feels the solution is to find comfort in other women's arms, but will this plan work?

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm has some very touching and humorous scenes. It is filled with delightful references to jazz music which are very enjoyable. At times, the book is difficult to follow due to the multiple characters. Additionally, it is challenging to like or feel empathy for Circus, the main protagonist. I liked the book, but did not find parts of it easy to digest due to the subject matter. Be sure to check the trigger warnings before reading.

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm is available on September 27th. Congratulations to Laura Wardell on the publication of her debut novel. I look forward to reading more of her work.

Thank you, NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Pantheon, for sharing this book with me. I appreciate your kindness. My opinions are my own.
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Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm tells the story of Circus Palmer and the women who cross his path. Circus is a semi-successful jazz musician with a lot of charm and lot of fraught relationships. As the story begins, Circus learns that he's gotten a woman pregnant, and promptly flees, which should tell you a lot about what kind of a person he is. The rest of the story, which is light on plot and deals with the aftermath of the pregnancy news and Circus's strained relationship with his teenage daughter Koko, unfolds through alternating points of views. These alternating POVs include the obvious choices -- Circus, Koko, Circus's ex-wife-- but also several short story-esque glimpses into the lives of various women with whom Circus is romantically or sexually involved. 

The book's structure is a perfect match for its story. Circus does a lot of downright terrible things (running away after learning about a pregnancy, disappearing from his daughter's life, cheating...), and the rotating cast of narrators does not let him fully off the hook for any of them. In showcasing the voices of those whose lives only briefly interact with Circus', Warrell makes it easy for the reader to understand that Circus's actions have consequences-- and that the other characters have unique, complex things going on in their lives that have nothing to do with Circus. I also found the book relatively easy to follow for all the perspective switches -- key plot details are revealed in subtle yet clear ways, with small lines that tie up loose ends between chapters and mark the passage of time.

As with any book with multiple narrators, some are better than others. While some stories leap off the page with romantic, cinematic dialogue or characterizations that are detailed, observant, and memorable, other stories feel underbaked, unnecessarily dark, and cliched (a woman whose identical twin sister marries her now-ex-husband? Really?). I had some trouble accepting the book was set in 2013 as some of the characters, particularly Circus, feel a little retro in their words and actions-- though the more I think about it, the more this feels like a character trait as opposed to a flaw in the writing. 

The writing, on the whole, is stellar. It's dynamic and evocative, with great passages about music and love as well as keenly observed, realistic details about human behavior. I was captivated by the writing and could easily imagine what tone and feel this story would have if told on screen or, perhaps more fittingly, stage. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing what Warrell writes next!
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This is a musical novel about Circus, a jazz musician, who plays the trumpet and finds a  home in the arms of the women who lust after him. The novel tells the story of the trail of broken hearts Circus leaves behind but the most broken hearted of them all are his ex-wive and teenage daughter, KoKo. 

There is an elaborate way that daughters challenge their fathers to expand and learn the intricacies of human connection. KoKo longs for a deeper, more meaningful connection with her father and he misses every opportunity to form an emotional bond. That is, until an unexpected life event thrusts him into active parenthood where he can no longer evade responsibility. 

Circus starts off as an emotionally vacant protagonist and his relationship to his daughter, and the woman he eventually realizes he loves, forces him to mature and ultimately leads to a better outcome for these characters. I enjoyed how musical this book was written and the poetic language that truly reflects the power and unpredictability of jazz music. 

Thank you to the publisher and the author for the E-arc copy.
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