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Start with the Backbeat: A Musical Novel

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  51 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Silver Medal Winner in Contemporary Fiction: Independent Publisher Books Awards (IPPY)
Finalist: Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Finalist: USA Best Book Awards
Plot Summary: It is the spring of 1989 in New York City when Jill Dodge, a post-punk rocker from Texas, finally gets her big promotion at Mega Big Records. She is thrust into a race to find a gritty, urban rapper bef
Published April 5th 2016 by She Writes Press
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  51 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-adult
This book is chick lit with a big sense of humor and 1989 hairsprayed bangs.

I spotted Start with the Backbeat by Garine Isassi on a Coveting post on the Rock of Pages blog, and was intrigued by the setting—1989, a girl attempting to discover Gangsta rap bands—and the fact that it billed itself as “A Musical Novel” not a romance. I love a rock star romance, but I’ve seen the gritty gangster beginnings of the rap industry in Straight Outta Compton, and I thought this had potential to be a nuanced
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, first-reads
Disclaimer: I received this book for free through a Goodreads' First Read giveaway.

Light-hearted and fun. Perfect vacation/travel/commute read, especially if you're a music lover or have an appreciation for the late 80's/early 90's and all it had to offer.

The main character is likable and relatable (at least for me), and from a small town in Texas (and one I'm familiar with, so her thoughts on her hometown were extra entertaining). She is just starting out in a music industry job in NYC, and is
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I will say up front that I'm a little biased, since I actually know Garine B. Isassi. That said, I really enjoyed this. It's a nice little novel about the music industry in the late 80's. Being a musician myself it rings true on so many levels, from the industry people to the nerdy music writers, from the musicians (both shy and expansive) to the club scenes. I liked the Armenian family touches, and, as silly as it may seem, the whole 'quoting Sting songs' conversation to a clueless suitor. I ho ...more
Wendie Barney boucher
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book set in 1989 is about the music industry and what it can take to be a success. I found the main character, Jill, very likable and approachable. The other characters in the novel are also east to like or hate as needed. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the novel was how the author addressed the stereo types associated with different genres of music, as the late eighties/early nineties brought about the introduction of rap this book revolved around the assumptions of what a rapp ...more
Susan DuMond
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Start with the Backbeat: A Musical Novel” is a delightful introduction to the music industry in the 1980s. It’s a pleasure to spend time with strong-willed young Jill Dodge, a newly appointed product manager with Mega Big Records, on her various adventures. If you have a bit of curiosity about how singers evolve, sometimes in direct opposition to their chosen style, you’ll enjoy following Leon, the rapper. And then there’s Alejandro. A smile waiting to happen. All in all, an enjoyable afternoon ...more
Sharon S.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Set in the early 90's, it was a very accessible read. The characters were real and I cared about the female lead. Lends some backstory to the music business and humor was sprinkled throughout. ...more
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very fun and well written!
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, women
good, 'i work in____ industry' story. ...more
Barb (Boxermommyreads)
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I have always loved music and used to collect tons of CD's. Now that so much is digital, I've lost count of how much I actually own, but besides my family and reading, music ranks right up there with my favorite things in life. Add that to the fact that I have been reading so much darker material right now and I figured it was time for a break so picking up "Start with the Backbeat" was a no-brainer.

The story takes place in the early 80's in New York City. Jill moved from Texas two years ago to
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Thanks to She Writes Press for an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Let's start with the good.
+ The lyrics in the book are beautiful and poetic. They felt very real and appropriate to the time. I loved that I could easily read the two main musical acts as interpretations of Kate Bush and Run DMC. I kind of wish the rap group the book centers around was real, because their first single sounds like fire.
+ Jill's romantic adventures felt nuanced and realistic. I've been in a situati
Debi Lantzer Stout
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Everyone who knows me knows - I LOVE MUSIC. I love hearing, playing, creating, singing and dancing to music (the last two in private only, of course), so when I saw this book was a "musical novel", I couldn't wait to start reading it!

Start with the Backbeat: A Musical Novel by Garinè B. Isassi is a story about an idealistic young woman named Jill Dodge and her journey into the music industry when it was at its multi-platinum peak. I'll be honest - the book is set in the 1980's, which really, rea
Nov 26, 2016 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: satire-humor
Select Editorial Reviews:
“Start with the Backbeat is the touching story of one idealistic young woman’s journey into the music industry when it was at its multiplatinum peak. Holding onto those ideals is a challenge, but Garine Isassi’s clear, smart, good-hearted storytelling is itself a blow against easy cynicism. She reveals a sharp eye for how quickly greed and self-interest can displace a love of music—and an equally sharp understanding of how a dedicated person’s daily principled decisions
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
It’s no secret that I LOVE music! I saved this “musical novel” for my last #it’srainingbooks review because I wanted to save the best for last. I was not disappointed!

The novel takes place in the ‘80s where we meet record company executive Jill, who has finally gotten her big break at the label she works for. There are some stellar ‘80s references in music and pop culture, and while the book focuses more on the rap music scene, it’s definitely something fans of all music will appreciate. While J
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Singnstring by: Garine
Shelves: fiction-music
So, I also know Garine personally. And I found it a little hard to separate her from the character, Jill. I saw her face and heard her voice as I read this work of fiction. In spite of that, I found Start with the Backbeat: A Musical Novel a fun, interesting, and compelling story about the music industry in 1980's New York. The main character, Jill, is finding her sea legs in a tough industry while facing amusing love, life, and family issues that most of us could probably relate to. I'll admit ...more
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Do you ever find yourself wondering why the pop hits of the 1980s still resonate nearly thirty years later? Even if you weren’t alive then, the musical vibe of the era remains an unmistakable soundtrack to our lives. And if you find yourself bopping along whenever you hear The Police, Tom Petty, or The Pretenders, chances are you wouldn’t mind spending time in Jill Dodge’s combat boots and miniskirt. Fresh out of college and brimming with levelheaded ambition, she’s traded the sleepy Texas subur ...more
Shanna Loewen
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016, netgalley
This book is a fun one! Start with the Backbeat: A Musical Novel by Garinè B. Isassi

This story set in 1989, follows Jill Dodge, a former Punk Rocker from Texas who is out of college trying to make it in the music business. Jill's future depends on her finding the next big Gangsta Rapper. Competing and working with her mostly middle aged colleagues Jill is in a position where she starts to see the not so fun side of the music business. While this story is fun and engaging, it also touches on the
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
A great book, so full of character and atmosphere, the Eighties just about throbs from its pages. We follow Jill Dodge, a post-punk rocker from Texas, now living in New York City and chasing her dream of making it big in the music world. Recently promoted at Mega Big Records, she is keen to prove herself worthy in the hunt to find the next BIG urban rapper while the Gangsta trend is still current. Meanwhile, in her personal life, Jill also faces a few challenges, as her super-hot roadie boyfrien ...more
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
For the most part, I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked the musical aspect of it. I appreciated the references to poop culture and I also loved that it took place in the 80s when rap was morphing into what I was familiar with in the 90s- gangsta rap. The moral of the story wasn't hard to figure out but the story was a little too zany for me. There were times where I didn't know where it was going or details I didn't think were necessary, hat could have been left out.

Overall, I fount this story rel
Teresa Kander
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booksparks, humor
I found this to be a very humorous book, and a fun, easy read. With all the talk in the synopsis about race, class, etc., I expected it to be a much heavier story. I wasn't disappointed in it, just surprised.

Even though I have never been a real fan of rap or rappers, I did find a lot of the pop cultural references from the 80s to be familiar. It brought back memories of my college days, which made me smile.

The main characters are well-developed, the dialogue is realistic, and the author is obv
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
In this story a young woman navigates her work life and puzzles out her love life in the 80s.

I really got the 80s feel with this one in regards to technology growth. Fun to remember when desktop computers started popping up.

I liked how this story got into the promotion part of the music business. I always enjoy behind-the-scene scenes.

Got me thinking of types of music and their stereotypes.
Oct 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Naturally I picked this book because of its musical plot, but I ended up enjoying the story. It was a fun, quick read and it was cool reading about rap and record labels in the 80's. My only complaint is that the characters are pretty one dimensional and I had a hard time remembering who was who. Overall a good read. ...more
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Many musical, cultural references and 80s stereotypes scattered throughout the story with humorous anecdotes. Isassi has captured the music world and nuances of the 80s in this entertaining story. Music fans and those who grew up in the 80s will be drawn to Jill's story and the inside look into the music industry politics. Reviewed at ...more
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book, I was looking for a novel on New York hip hop in the 80s. This book take place a bit later, but it was just incredibly predictable and more of a cheesy romance than anything else. Not a fan of this one, sorry.
Liberty Kontranowski
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a very fun book with true-to-life dialogue and a really great inside peek at the music industry. Some of the '80s throwbacks were hilarious, too! It's clear the author is passionate about the industry and knows her stuff. Quick, entertaining read. 4.5 stars! ...more
Jul 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Good, not great. A quick and enjoyable read. Occasionally I felt the language didn't match the 1989 time line, and the dialogue was clunky and slow in places, but I found myself wanting to return to the story all the same.
Bonus points for the diverse cast which is a rarity in fiction.
Theresa Wineman
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An awesome read! Go back in time to the late 80's. This is the enthralling story about a young girl starting out in the music industry when rap was coming into its prime. Young or old, rap fan or not....this book is fun and draws you in! ...more
Neil Charles
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those looking for a coming of age story
A nostalgic novel offering insight into the music industry of the late 1980s, as well as insight into the heart. Found myself rooting for the protagonists, and the novel really came together nicely at the conclusion.
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It's a fun read peopled with interesting characters and a delightful protagonist who believes in honesty and sticking to her principles. Really charming. ...more
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Garinè is an award winning author and singer/songwriter who grew up with one foot in Texas and the other in New Jersey. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, she is a lover of music, chocolate, and altruistic sarcasm. She currently lives in Maryland, where she works full time in marketing communications, is the Workshops Chair for the Gaithersburg Book Festival, writes when everyone els ...more

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