Archive for September, 2014

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

Hot on the heels of Seduced: The Unexpected Virgin came Rachel Bailey’s Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal. The April 2011 books at Silhouette Desire were full of Rock Fiction.

Well, okay, only two out of six (as far as I know). But that’s a full one-third. It’s got to mean something, right?

While I was disappointed in the portrayal of the music details in Seduced: The Unexpected Virgin, I most certainly wasn’t in Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal. Perhaps that’s in part due to the main character, April Fairchild, and her amnesia.

Let me explain: the set-up for Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal is that April has lost her memory and seems to have woken up in legal possession of a hotel. Seth Kentrell wants the hotel back.

That’s the backbone of the story. The fact that April is a world-famous jazz singer is totally secondary to the story — and that is exactly why the musical elements here work. Not to mention they seem authentic. It’s easy to buy April’s deep-seated love of playing piano, and it’s easy to relate to someone who feels a pull to something, who has half-remembered memories but can’t conjure up the other half and, thus, complete the picture. She honestly has no idea why she has woken up as a hotel owner, but she knows this particular hotel means something pretty darn special.

At it’s heart, Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal is a romance, and Seth and April make a great pair. They are both likeable people, and maybe more importantly, they are both reasonable people. There are no lies, no accusations flung around, no wild goose chases they send each other on. April has something Seth wants, and he goes about figuring out how to get it in a very straight-forward manner.

Overall, I liked this book. So why did it take me two months to review it?

Because at the end of the day, it wasn’t particularly memorable. It was quick candy, nice to fill a day with, but not something I’d tell the whole world to go read. If you need a book to take with you on an airplane, this one is it.

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

I’d told myself I wasn’t going to do it. I wasn’t going to grab any books I saw in the library, no matter how tempting they were.

Which, of course, explains why I walked out of there with a copy of Heavy Metal and You, a 2005 novel written by Christopher Krovatin while he was a student at Wesleyan University.

His age shows, and not in a bad way. Heavy Metal and You rings with the authentic voice of a teenaged boy, trying to figure out who he is and what it’s all about.

That’s pretty much the entire plot. Sam meets Melissa, asks her out, and falls head over heels, only to find out she doesn’t like his friends, he doesn’t like hers, and she’s trying to change him in ways that, fundamentally, he’s not thrilled about. He likes going out and getting drunk and stoned and stupid with his friends. And okay, he realizes cigarettes don’t taste that great, but darn it, it should be his choice if he wants to smoke or not, not hers.

If anything, this book reminded me a bit too much in tone and voice of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Adventure, a book I loved the first time around. Not so much when it feels like I’m reading a rehash, which is really unfair to this particular book. It should be able to stand on its own. An interesting note is that Nick and Norah co-author David Levithan is thanked for being an editor and friend. Coincidence? No way!

As a work of Rock Fiction, this stands up – and so does what, for me, was the penultimate scene. It is so achingly real, it transported me back to my own youth.

Melissa, wanting to experience Sam’s world, had joined him at a general admission Deicide concert. This probably wouldn’t have been my first choice to expose a newbie to the scene, but Sam was so over the moon with his woman that it’s easy to forgive him this slight – and the one that comes next.

Hyped on the music, the adrenaline, the possibilities, and the scene, Sam grabs Melissa’s hand and pulls her into a very rough mosh pit. They are separated and by the time Sam finds Melissa again, she has been thoroughly traumatized.

Anyone who’s been in a situation where someone is a willing participant in a world that is ridiculed by most will relate to Sam and his headlong enthusiasm.

It’s the best part of the book.

Heavy Metal and You. Recommended, just for that one scene.

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My name is Jade Lennon and I stand still for money.

The night I saw Shane Arthur watching me everything changed. A man in a suit always catches my eye, but it was the way he looked at me that was different. Like he knew me or something. He didn’t know me, especially not in my costume. My sobriety rests on staying away from men, but there was something about him that made me throw caution to the wind.

After all, I was never going to see him again, right?

Wrong.

Standing still isn’t the only way I make my money. I also bartend at a concert hall. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Shane was going to show up there. Not only that, but he’s the most recent addition to the orchestra. So now on a daily basis I have to resist one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever met and he plays the violin. For me that’s one hell of a deadly cocktail.

He wants me to teach him how to live. I’m not sure how much a twenty-six year old recovering alcoholic who works in a bar and moonlights as a living statue can teach a world class concert violinist, but I’m sure going to try.

Still Life with Strings is a story of music, art, sex, magical realism, and romance that you will never forget.

 

Bring this one on, folks. And tell me the famous name gets dealt with in a way that makes sense. (“Satisfying,” Susan said.)

And it’s not just the orchestra connection that has yours truly swooning over here, either. I swear.

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

I sat down with Maya Banks’ Sweet Possession hoping for a hot, steamy Rock Fiction romance. I’d been hearing talk of Ms. Banks’ books for years and was excited to check out her work for myself.

Sad to say, I was disappointed. I’ve seen the plot before: single man hired to be diva pop star’s bodyguard. Sparks fly.

Wasn’t there a movie about this?

From the Rock Fiction angle, Lyric could have been anyone. She could have been a model or a socialite, or the daughter of a public figure. The pages don’t resonate with music. Very little about Lyric does.

From the romance angle, the story seemed familiar. There’s the secret that is the reason Lyric is a diva. The single guy who protests he’s not going to fall for the woman, only to crawl into her bed a page later. She’s resistant. He’s supportive and has all the answers.

Frankly, I’d have been yawning, except it drove me crazy how every single character used the phrase, “Have a kitten.” Food was yummy. People felt snuggly.

Blech.

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

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I’ve seen the stacks of books Susan’s got for me. I have. But darn it, I can’t stay out of the library. I’m going to try from here on out, though, because I picked up another YA stinker.

This one’s called The Half-Life of Planets, and it’s a collaboration between Emily Frankin and Brendan Halpin. It had promise: a science-obsessed girl meets a music-obsessed kid with Asperger’s.

I work with a couple of people who have Autism. I get their limitations, and the ones like Hank who love music are awesome. We also do a program for Autistic kids with the symphony, and after the first time, when some kid’s mother wanted to hook me up with her husband, the dude in charge of the corporate bucks, I come around and mix and mingle. Arts funding is getting cut all over the place. If there’s corporate bucks to make up that shortfall, I’m there.

Wish I’d stayed there, though, because I hated this book. Hank and Liana just annoyed me until I wanted to scream. If they hadn’t turned every last line of dialogue into a song reference, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did, but since I gave up on page 44, that’s not saying much.

Keep Hank. He’s interesting. But lose Liana and her neurotic family. Why can’t anyone in fiction be normal anymore?

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I’m not sure why Susan or I missed coveting Kylie Scott’s first book, Lick. Susan likes the erotic stuff more than I do, so this should have been right up her alley.

She’s busy editing or something, or else I’d let her write this post, too.  Here’s the description:

Kylie Scott returns with the highly anticipated follow-up to international bestseller Lick.Mal Ericson, drummer for the world famous rock band Stage Dive, needs to clean up his image fast—at least for a little while. Having a good girl on his arm should do the job just fine. Mal doesn’t plan on this temporary fix becoming permanent, but he didn’t count on finding the one right girl. Anne Rollins never thought she’d ever meet the rock god who plastered her teenage bedroom walls—especially not under these circumstances. Anne has money problems. Big ones. But being paid to play the pretend girlfriend to a wild life-of-the-party drummer couldn’t end well. No matter how hot he is. Or could it?

Yeah, if you read romance, you’ve seen THIS plot before. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

The reviews for it are pretty mixed; people say Anne’s too much of a pushover and Mal’s deranged, and not in a good way.

Still, you gotta wonder… especially when you see the GIF quotes all over the reviews. There seem to be lines that readers go nuts for. And when all’s said and done, don’t you writers write for the readers and not for us reviewers and experts, no matter how much we love to read, too?

This review was first posted at West of Mars. It’s being reposted here, at its new permanent home.

When I finished reading Joe Meno’s Hairstyles of the Damned, I had two thoughts. First was that this book belongs on my list of rock and roll fiction. The mix tapes, the way these characters connect to music and allow it to define their identity make this a slam-dunk to be included on the list.

My other thought wasn’t quite so charitable. You see, I recently read The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington, and these two books were quite similar. The themes of young boys in puberty, beginning to navigate the mine field that is girls, alienation from the parents (or was that in Snow Angels?)… Even Booklist, the venerated book review source, said, “This is worthy if familiar stuff.”

That sums it up, I think.

Except Hairstyles did something the other two I just mentioned failed to: evoke a strong sense of nostalgia. The afore-mentioned Snow Angels was even set near West of Mars. You’d think that would awaken some feelings.

Not like Hairstyles did. Even though I’m a bit older than these characters, I still smiled at the haircut Brian quested after. I recognized the mosh pits of old. The lazy, languid afternoons, hanging out on the hood of a car. This was my life, to a degree. Not so much that I saw myself exactly, but enough that I was right there all over again. Those college years had been good to me. They were again as I read.

One thing Hairstyles had that Peter Paddington lacked that truly needs to be mentioned is the way in which we got to watch Brian change. He made progress in life. He lost some of his awkwardness, especially with the girls. Meno wasn’t afraid to let this character grow and change and be someone else at the end of the book. As a result, at times, you can’t help but root for Brian when things are going well. You can’t help but groan when he’s a lunkhead. But you don’t give up on him; Brian’s a survivor. You can tell that early on.

I wish I’d read this before Peter Paddington. I’d have done nothing but rave about it. But like my experience with Cecil Castellucci’s Beige, this one suffers from the shame of coming in second.

Pick it up. Tell me what you think.

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Yes! September is whizzing by at full speed and Susan and I have been nuts. She’s been so swamped that I’ve been getting texts from her that are gibberish.

But we’re making plans for Rocktober anyway. Here’s what we’re looking for:
If you’re a Rock Fiction author, feel free to stop in with one of the following posts:
An interview
A guest blog about why you Rock Fiction (or anything that ties into Rock Fiction)
A post about someone else’s Rock Fiction that you’d like to read
A review of someone else’s Rock Fiction that you have read.

And if you’re a fan, join in, too! Here’s what I’m looking for:
A post about Rock Fiction that you’d like to read.
A review of someone else’s Rock Fiction that you have read.

We’ve lined up Kevin R Doyle to write about his experience having One Helluva Gig turned into a radio production.

Got other ideas? Let’s hear ’em.

Susan says if you post something at your own place, like she’s done in the past, she’ll post links here. Send ’em on; the more of us who join in, the bigger and better.

Oh, and I almost forgot… Susan isn’t ready to spill this yet, but I am. She’s got a special Rocktober short story for you guys this year. It’s been way too long since she wrote something new, don’t you think?

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

I don’t remember where I first heard of Farai Chideya’s Kiss the Sky. I do know I had really high hopes for this story, of a woman struggling with herself and her music career. Sophie is the sort of character you initially want to root for: she’s divorced from her music partner, but they’ve found a way to co-exist — maybe they are even comfortable with their status. She’s got a cool job, at least when the book opens, and she’s willing to work to regain what she had, musically.

It should have worked. Even the fact that Ms. Chideya is a Harvard grad who has a published a number of non-fiction books should have been enough to save this one.

I was shocked to see how many sentences started with a verb. Went to the club. Stepped outside for a smoke. (Now, I’m making these sentences up, so don’t go looking through the book for them) Yes, okay, maybe some of this is establishing Sophie’s voice, but frankly, it was too much. It became annoyingly repetitive, and it got in the way of the story.

This wasn’t as horrible a thing as I had first feared. Sophie is a mess: she’s bulimic, broke, and bull-headed. She’s so far in denial about her life that I couldn’t spend time with her. I had to put the book down.

It’s one thing to want to read an autobiography about someone who’s a bigger train wreck. We have a reason to want to like them — we have heard the music they make. There’s a connection there.

Thus, in fiction, it’s imperative for the reader to be able to relate to a character who has large amounts of baggage. We need to like them, care about them, root for them. They need to have some sort of drive, some sort of forward motion — either about them or their plot. If it’s going to be a plot-driven book, the character shouldn’t get in the way of that. Sadly, Sophie does.

I needed a reason to like Sophie. But I find myself intolerant of women characters, especially, who are broke but continue to spend money as if it’s no big deal. And then the sex scene with Leon… really, I had to ask if Sophie had any self-respect whatsoever.

If she doesn’t respect herself, why should I?

Kiss the Sky became a Did Not Finish.

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The first thing that caught my eye about the book description for A Song Apart was that it’s the story of an unlikely romance.

I rolled my eyes. How many times now have we seen the unlikely romance? Of course it’s unlikely. Guys in bands — because, of course, it’s always guys in bands — have to sow themselves some wild oats before they can fall in love. Right?

Guess what? This book? It’s got a girl in a band, too. See? Says so right here:

Rising pop singer Shannon Kistler never expected to see college student Kevin Derow on a Manhattan street wearing her concert shirt. But she offers gratitude in her own way, leaving her biggest fan in shock. When the two teenagers meet again six days later, Shannon slips Kevin her phone number, and the unlikely romance begins. Soon they find they have several things in common: lonely childhoods, a passion for music, and making unpopular choices about their own lives. The public cannot take Shannon seriously as a teenaged recording artist, but she risks her sudden success by making some public mistakes after breaking into a soulless music industry with unusual ease. Meanwhile Kevin loses the respect of family, friends and coworkers over the girl he idolizes-and unwittingly blows the lid off a payola scheme devised by Shannon’s record label, threatening her career and possibly his own freedom. A Song Apart revolves around two young people from distinct backgrounds who choose to follow their hearts rather than their peers and find a greater reward at the end of their paths.

Huh. That’s a different plot. I like that the teenage girl’s met with scorn, although the idea that the public can’t take her seriously goes way against the idea that she moves into the industry easily. And I like that there’s fishy stuff happening… I’m thinking maybe this chick shouldn’t be a singer. It’s just not meant to be.

So I’d say lose the whole unlikely romance crap and you’ve got a hook here that’s in me so deep, I’m off to go find some rich doctor who’ll take it out. Talk about an unlikely romance…