Archive for July, 2015

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I must be slacking because I didn’t hear about Eden Summers’ Reckless Beat series until the fourth book, Sultry Groove. That’s a title that I really like, but I’d be damned if I could tell you why. It just has appeal.

I think this series is one of those “Each band member gets his own book” series, and that’s super. I have to confess I like those better than the five volumes of constantly testing the couple’s relationships. Not enough of those series are natural evolutions. They’re like long-running TV shows that have to have a bigger and better season finale every year or else the viewers will stop watching. The really bad shows go for bigger and better every few episodes.

Anyone else get tired of that?

So back to the Reckless Beat series. Some of the book descriptions suffer from Too Much Vagueness. Like this one, from Passionate Addiction, the second book in the series:

Nothing says happy birthday like a rock god flying thousands of miles to surprise a woman he’s never met. But that’s exactly what happens to Gabi Smith when she gives her long distance best friend a flippant invitation to her laid back girl’s night out. She never expected to turn on the dance floor and find Blake Kennedy’s gaze holding her body captive.

She’s his everything and he’s never laid eyes on her.

Gabi means more to Blake than life itself. She’s his strength, his savior, and the only person who helped to vanquish his demons. No one means more to him than his angel. So when things between them start to sizzle, he’s ready to fight for the future he never thought he would deserve.

Okay, so… how do they know each other, then? Is this an Internet thing? If so, how and why? And if they have an online relationship, is it really right to say “a woman he’s never met.” ?

But some of these setups are fresh. Check out what happens in Sultry Groove (#4, still with my favorite title):

He’ll do anything to gain the recognition he deserves. Even if it means dancing in a music video to the Reckless track that drives a knife into his broken heart whenever he hears it.

I have images of tattooed, pierced dudes — think M Shadows from A7X. M Shadows A7x

This is one hot man. Not as hot as Corey Taylor, but the idea’s the same. He’s not the type to be doing Zumba moves to his own song.

THAT. Right there. That’s the setup. Now, that’s not to say the others aren’t as good. Some of them reek of insta-lust, which is so overused in Rock Fiction, sometimes, I want to gauge my eyeballs out with a guitar pick. But if the author can come up with something like dancing in your own music video — and show me where either M or Corey have danced and I’ll get the guitar pick ready — then she can come up with a lot more that’s good.

Bring it.

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I am not the heel here. Susan is.

This morning, she sent me the file containing Louisa Bacio’s The Big One. She’d had it since last Rocktober; it had gotten buried in her inbox. She’d even blogged about getting it, so we’ve all been waiting all this time. Especially me.

Let me tell you, this one was worth the wait. I wish I could do another post or three about it ’cause it’s that good and you all should go out and pick it up and read it. You really should.

If you remember, this is the one with the bomb shelter. The one with the marketing assistant ordered to show her dirty secret—the bomb shelter—to a potential client, the rocker. He may or may not be willing to shoot his next music video in there.

But disaster strikes, and believe me when I say it’s a lot less obvious on the page than it is in this review. And Kayla and Sebastian are trapped because she’s installed a lock that can’t be opened. It’s a way to keep looters out.

Or two people inside, she realizes.

This is a novella, which was the major downer of the whole experience. It took like an hour to read (Again, Susan! WHAT were you thinking???) and I got to the last page and wanted to reach out to Louise and shake her a good one. I wanted her to have Shaken Baby Syndrome ’cause I wanted more. More Kayla. More Sebastian.

But especially, more of what happened to them once they left the insulated bunker. That sucker is insulated in a lot of ways: from what is happening outside, and from what’s going on inside. The bunker becomes their safe place, where they can reveal parts of themselves that they’ve kept hidden from others. Maybe it’s the dark, maybe it’s knowing they are trapped, maybe it’s their attraction to each other… who knows? I don’t. And I don’t really want to. This isn’t one of those novellas that you want to think too much about. You want to sit back and go along for the ride even though these people are complex and real. None of that phone it in stereotype here. Well, okay, a little bit, and only where Sebastian is involved. He’s larger than life, of course. He’s a rock star! His charisma oozes out of him, even when he’s at his most vulnerable. But he’s also more than your normal stereotyped rocker, and that’s the best part of him.

This is a fun ride. It’s a sexy ride, with some great whoo boy hot love scenes. And I loved the way Sebastian talked about his man parts. Totally cracked me up. I’d kill for a man with that kind of sense of humor about himself.

My only complaint is that I wanted to be with Kayla and Sebastian longer. A lot longer. I want to know if they can make it once they’re together in the daylight.

Oh, okay, I’ve got another complaint. There’s talk of a periscope that Kayla has put in so she can see what’s going on outside. She peeks through it once. But then the whole idea of how bad it was, what’s going on, the idea of this secret tool to peek at the world from a hidden safe spot… none of that gets used. It’s dropped, and that’s too bad.

But, this was a novella, after all, and by definition, they gotta be short. Something always has to go in a novella, and here it wasn’t so major. I mean, it could have been the development of the characters.

I’m really glad character development didn’t suffer. It’s what makes this story so earth-shaking good. Get it? Earth shaking?

I’ll be here all night. Or so I’m told.

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The best part of Rock Fiction is how loosely you can interpret the category sometimes. Oh, I’m not talking about all those people who send a query to Susan and say, “But the people in my book listen to music. That counts, right?” (For the record, no. It doesn’t.)

Take this one. It’s called The Music Book, and of course it’s the first in a series. But it’s also different. Really different.

A young English woman, on the run from her father, and a retired Prussian military officer sent to England by King Frederick the Great are plunged into the London demi-monde and a pursuit across Europe in search of fulfilment. The young woman’s music book bears witness to what unfolds.

Former senior British diplomat turned historical novelist Edward Glover’s first novel tells a story of intrigue, betrayal, revenge, death and redemption, revealing a world of dark secrets beneath the veneer of 18th-century social glamour.

Fast moving and packed with intrigue, The Music Book takes us into the relationship between Arabella Whitfield and Colonel Carl Manfred von Deppe as they escape the dark demi-monde of mid 18th-century London, becoming fugitives pursued across Europe.

So we have a book as the witness to what goes on. And I’m not talking about the book you’ll be reading. Nope. I’m talking about a book that sounds like it plays a central role in the story. And it’s a music book. What’s a music book? Maybe this character loves music and has a whole tome full of what we’d call sheet music today. You know, the stuff we sit and play from.

And then we have the idea that it’s the silent watcher, the thing that observes like some all-knowing, all-seeing (Susan says there’s a term for it, but whatever) character. Does the music book maybe tell the story for us? Does it pick a song — hopefully a famous piece of classical music, since this is set well before the emergence of Rock and Roll — and use that to frame the story?

Oh, the possibilities to make music throb in this book are endless. I’m curious to know what it means when a book bears witness.

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I don’t cry. I’m told it’s because of the trauma I’ve faced so far in life. Personally, I think it’s because I found a better outlet, one that doesn’t leave me with puffy, red eyes and ruined contacts.

So, yeah, I was mortified when I got to that scene in Jessica Topper’s The Dictatorship of the Dress and tears were streaming down my face. It wouldn’t have been so bad except I was sitting in a waiting room at the time. I had to put the book down and read some women’s magazine before the tears would stop.

I don’t routinely read women’s magazines.

Jessica Topper—who has become a friend of mine, our bond forged in rock and roll and its first cousin, Rock Fiction—can write. With a pointedness, a poignancy, a realness, and an honesty that takes my breath away. Which is exactly how I came to be sitting in a waiting room, bawling.

I take solace in the fact I wasn’t sobbing. I suspect if I’d been home alone, I might have been.

So. The story leading up to this point seems simple: Laney Hudson is taking her mother’s wedding dress to Hawaii. Her mother’s already there. The groom’s already there. The bridal party is already there and texting her pictures of their toes at the beach and by the pool. In short: it’s all set except for Laney and the dress.

Her mother doubts that Laney can accomplish this simple task, and in a homily to Jewish mothers everywhere, she lets Laney know it. As a result, Laney feels like the family fuck-up even though she’s had this amazing life until now. Still, she can’t see the good. Too much trauma.

I can relate.

Noah’s also got an amazing life, but he’s trapped, engaged to the boss’ daughter. He should be set for life, living the dream, and he is, but … he feels shunted aside. Something doesn’t feel right, and he’s not sure what it is. But she’s the boss’ daughter… and his life is good, right?

These two wind up sitting next to each other in an airplane bound for Chicago. Even before their connecting flights are cancelled due to a snowstorm, their situation has become like the proverbial snowball barreling down a hill.

It’s how lighthearted this novel is, despite its serious points, that makes it such a poignant read. Noah makes a nest in the Jacuzzi tub when he and Laney have to share a hotel room. Laney wears Noah’s Converse shoes when she realizes throwing away the boots with the broken heel wasn’t such a smart move.

But there’s a deep point to all this. Throwing those precious boots away when they no longer function is the start of Laney’s facing her past and the things she’s lost – and the things she can’t let go of. Noah makes due in the sort of luxury he should be enjoying properly. But maybe Noah and proper aren’t meant to be.

And then there’s the elephant in the room. Allen Burnside, the tour de force who used to oppose Laney’s mother in the battle over Laney’s soul. Allen had wanted to set her free, she was convinced of it, until he up and died, breaking their engagement before he did so because, as he said, she would make a lousy widow.

How can Noah compete? He’s Allen’s opposite… or is he? As the snowball that is the Noah and Laney Chronicles gains momentum, each layer of snow gathering on that ball is really the stripping away of layers of self-preservation, self-deception, and the growing self-awareness that lets both Laney and Noah move forward in life.

They learn, they grow, they risk it all.

I dare you not to cry.

So one question left: Topper is one of my favorite Rock Fiction authors after her amazing debut, Louder than Love. Neither Laney nor Noah are rockers… why am I even bringing up the question of Rock Fiction?

Let’s revisit Allen Burnside. Drummer for Three on a Match, one of the best band names I’ve encountered recently. It’s got a ring to it, a rhythm. Go on, say it out loud. Feel how it rolls off the tongue. It really is a shame this band doesn’t get more time on the page, but Topper’s no slouch. If there’s a story, she’ll tell it. Or she’ll answer to me.

But back to Allen Burnside. Allen, who is the ultimate rocker in that he takes over and dominates the story. There is no Laney and Noah without Allen there, overshadowing things, looming over it all. He’s pulling the puppet strings; there’s no doubt about it. So yeah, Dictatorship of the Dress becomes Rock Fiction. Rock and Roll will never die, right?

Right.

Allen’s got a friend, too. A Scary one, and he’s the reason for my tears. I’ll let you discover what that means, exactly. Keep the tissues handy, as this is one of the rawest, most poignant scenes I’ve ever read. It’s also really the penultimate scene in the book even though so much happens after it. It’s not a climax in the traditional sense of a climax in a story, and it’s good that Topper’s not afraid to push the boundaries. You could even argue that the plot’s climax happens later, but this scene is definitely The Moment for Laney on her emotional journey.

Aww, just go pick up a copy. Yes, the situation with Noah’s life is a bit too pat, but … hey, you can’t get every single element right, can you? Besides, the way he handles the fallout from the choices he makes shows real class. Laney’s mother is going to love this boy. Even his Italian side. What is it with Italians and Jews, anyway?

Pick up a copy. Keep the tissues handy and take your contacts out. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Thanks to Jessica for putting a copy aside for me. What an incredible read.

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Susan knows who Charity Parkerson is through some blog sharing thing she does, but didn’t really know she wrote Rock Fiction until I pointed the third in this series out to her. I think she’s sleeping on the job again!

Anyway, I have no idea why this series has the awful name of the Ulgy Eternity Series so maybe Susan can reach out to Charity and ask her if she’d write a guest post and let us all know. And maybe she can explain the cover, too. It’s … well, it caught my eye.

Here’s what the first book, Heart’s Beat, is about.

By day, Cade works as a mechanic. By night, he’s the drummer for a popular nightclub band. Music has always been his greatest love and biggest dream. That is, until Cade meets Dylan.

For Dylan, working as head bartender for Club Khronos is the ultimate job opportunity. There’s no way he could’ve foreseen how torturous the position would become. Six months of craving Cade has driven Dylan insane. No matter what he tries, Dylan can’t get a clear read on Cade. When Cade does finally make his move, Dylan realizes a fate worse than never having the man of his dreams—being kept a secret.

Makes ya wonder if this really is Rock Fiction, doesn’t it? What does Cade’s drumming have to do with the love story? Looking over the descriptions of all the books, it seems that Ugly Eternity is the band … until the fourth book. And it seems that all four books are male-male love stories, and you guys know that’s not my thing. But there’s no mention of anyone in the band starring in the fourth book and you gotta wonder what the chances are that three of the guys in the same band are all gay, unless that’s what brought them together, unless my own skewed view of the world is showing again.

Anyway, Charity? Help us out? I’m sure Susan would like to read these, since male-male’s more her thing than mine.

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Look! It’s the first in a series! Anyone else totally not surprised by that?

Today, it’s Alecia Whitaker, who’s pretty new to the scene, to judge by her GoodReads page. I like new! Heck, I love seeing more people stick their big toe into the world of Rock Fiction. It benefits all of us, and that’s always a good thing. Anything that gives me a reason to sit by the pool now that it’s summer and read. I’m there.

Here’s Wildflower, the first in Alecia’s series:

The best songs come from broken hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Bird Barrett has grown up on the road, singing backup in her family’s bluegrass band, and playing everywhere from Nashville, Tennesee to Nowhere, Oklahoma. One fateful night, Bird fills in for her dad by singing lead, and a scout in the audience offers her a spotlight all her own.

Soon Bird is caught up in a whirlwind of songwriting meetings, recording sessions, and music video shoots. Her first single hits the top twenty, and suddenly fans and paparazzi are around every corner. She’s even caught the eye of her longtime crush, fellow roving musician Adam Dean. With Bird’s star on the rise, though, tradition and ambition collide. Can Bird break out while staying true to her roots?

In a world of glamour and gold records, a young country music star finds her voice.

Wow, that seems pretty easy there. What about paying dues, or are the years singing backup with Mommy and Daddy considered dues? What about the years of not eating well, of scraping up gas money by cleaning out the couch cushions (damn, I did this last week and found three M&Ms. No change. What’s wrong with this picture? Other than I had no idea how old the M&Ms were, so I didn’t even eat them.)?

Well, maybe that’s not the focus of this story. Maybe the focus is on Bird’s development as a character. I don’t know… only one way to find out!

Before I sign off here, let me mention that the second book in the series, The Road to You, is coming out just in time for me to sit by the pool and read it. How about a two-fer for reviews? Pretty please?

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I never worried much about being a good girl. I was pretty normal in that, from what I’ve learned talking to my coworkers. Having fun and living life was more important than people thinking we were perfect little angels. I mean, there’s all that about lying and how you shouldn’t do it, right? So why pretend to be a good girl?

That’s important in today’s Coveted book:

Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, takes care of her baby nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend, Devon’s, house.

But when Amber learns about an audition at a prestigious arts school, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out. The more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “good” and “bad,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.

Maybe this is more morality tale than Rock Fiction. Only one way to find out, right?

But I like the idea behind this. It comes near the whole idea of selling your soul for rock and roll success, right? And it puts Amber at a crossroads, even if it’s not an actual one.

I’m curious how this gets pulled off, and how strong the Rock Fiction angle is. Bring it!

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Here’s the thing about this one: it sounds like the two dudes who star in the book are in a band together. That sets off the Rock Fiction radar around here. But when you read the description, it doesn’t sound very rock and rollish.

Brian and Dylan have been best friends for years. They have no secrets between them, except for the ones they’re keeping from each other.

When Dylan lets himself into Brian’s apartment to drop something off, it couldn’t be worse timing—for Brian. He’s tied himself up to play out a kidnapping fantasy. He’s mortified, but Dylan is intrigued. He even offers to help Brian out next time he has an urge to be tied up.

No. That’s all Brian can think. No way. But the idea of someone else being in control overwhelms his thoughts—and self-bondage is suddenly a pale substitute for the real thing. He gives Dylan permission, on a trial basis, and comes face to face with a side of Dylan he’s never seen before. A really hot side.

As their games pick up steam, so does their relationship, along with Brian’s courage to go after the things he wants. Like, Dylan.

It might be happily ever after, but there’s one secret left, and it could ruin everything.

So I’m getting near this one pretty cautiously. M/m isn’t my favorite, and there’s really not a lot in here about a band… maybe it’s just an excuse for the two to be together. From some of the reviews — yes, I read them to see if I could figure out how important the Rock Fiction angle is — it sounds like it’s a reason for stuff to be at stake. As in: Brian needs to be careful so Dylan doesn’t quit the band.

If you’ve read it, let’s hear what you learned. Rock Fiction, or not?

Let’s welcome guest reviewer Liz Ellyn to The Rock of Pages! She’s got more reviewing goodness to come, so give her a big Rock of Pages welcome!!

Olivia Cunning – One Starry Night

May 11, 2015 lizellyn.com

One Starry Night Cover

Extra, Extra, Read all about it … Sinners on Tour Extras … Extra Sinful, Extra Sex, Extra Hot Man

Fan of Olivia Cunning? YOU MUST READ! I realize the story is a bit tangential to the favorite core group of rockers, but Jake, a guitar technician and roadie for the band, certainly epitomizes the lovable sexy rock stars. He’s crass, crude, and says whatever is on his mind, which is mostly sex. The three-way between Jake, Devlin, and Michelle was UNBELIEVABLY HOT! This book may be short, but remember it’s quality that counts, not quantity.

Only $0.99 on Amazon

Thank You to Olivia Cunning!

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It’s funny. Susan says she and Lisa Gillis are buds on social media, but neither of us have read any of Lisa’s books. It’s nothing personal. For me, it’s time. For Susan, it’s finances (and time, she claims).

The bummer in all this is that Lisa keeps writing new stuff, so we’re falling farther and farther behind. And that is extra bad because the new book, A Shit Storm, builds on the what’s come already. Check it for yourself:

Tristan Loren, son of former rock star Jack Storm, is the first to admit he’s lived a privileged life.

However, the top schools, the best games, phones, and cars, the motocross track winding around the back acreage of his family home, and the finest of whatever his heart desires has come with strangers yelling for his attention and camera flashes in his face. Even though his father retired the spotlight and moved the family from L.A., their lives are rarely incognito.

His classmates have visions of college life in the fall following senior year, while his fantasy is a normal existence. Whatever normalcy is, he’s sure it’s not graduating with honors–and an unopened condom in his billfold.

Aside from having a paranoid mom who makes it her mission to see that he’s never alone with a girl, he wants his first time to be with someone who doesn’t know him as Jack Storm-of-the-multi-platinum-Jackal Junior.

Chasing the vision of a woman and a world who doesn’t know of him takes him from the sunshiny suburbs of Dallas to the snowy streets of Detroit.

When he sees Sash in person, the girl he’s texted, phoned, and Skyped for the better part of a year, he’s drawn to her secret smile, and the tattooed half sleeves decorating her arms. Her fiery, fun demeanor and musical skills make her seem the soul mate he’s been seeking.

But Sash has her own secrets—secrets that make him wish he’d never met her. Falling for Sash and finding his own identity may cost him more than what’s in his wallet.

A Shit Storm can stand alone but for fans of Six Silver Strings Series, this novel is the first in the E-String Set and includes scenes with characters from G-Strings and D-Strings.

I love that this is the story of the kid of rock and roll. I think I wrote up another book that had this focus — bring it, folks. It’s a good, valid topic in the Rock Fiction world. These are stories that need to be told.