Archive for September, 2015

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As Rock Fiction gets more popular, I bet we’re going to be seeing more of this: books that are part of a series but only one here or there is Rock Fiction even though the series itself isn’t. “A smattering,” Susan would say.

I say bring it.

Today’s coveting (Yo, Trolls: that means I wanna read it) is one of those. Which I’m sure you guessed because if it wasn’t, why write that intro?

Here goes:

Aaron Seavers is a pathetic mess, and he knows it. He lives in terror of incurring his father’s wrath and disappointing his mother, and he can’t stop dithering about where to go to college—with fall term only weeks away. Ditched by a friend at a miserable summer farewell party, all he can do is get drunk in the laundry room and regret he was ever born. Until a geeky-cute classmate lifts his spirits, leaving him confident of two things: his sexual orientation, and where he’s headed to school.

Giles Mulder can’t wait to get the hell out of Oak Grove, Minnesota, and off to college, where he plans to play his violin and figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. But when Aaron appears on campus, memories of hometown hazing threaten what he’d hoped would be his haven. As the semester wears on, their attraction crescendos from double-cautious to a rich, swelling chord. But if more than one set of controlling parents have their way, the music of their love could come to a shattering end.

A violin? What happened to guitars? Drums? Emo screaming?

Yeah, well, music is music and violins can make some damn good Rock Fiction. Just ask Lindsey Sterling and Lzzy Hale. Maybe it ain’t fiction but that? That is Rock and Roll with a violin.

Besides, we know Rock Fiction is a catch-all phrase. It ain’t even ours, so don’t come whining to me.

So now that we got this out of the way, let’s talk about the plot. Lots of musical references in here, so I’m hoping this means music plays a big role in the story, especially because it’s a male-male and you guys know those aren’t my favorites.

Bring it. I want to know about that violin and the role it plays.

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Susan sent me an e-mail when she sent me the link to this one. “This is how old I am,” she said. “One of my best friends loves this song and he’s taught his four boys to sing along, as lustily as possible, whenever it comes on. You can imagine what his wife, who is also one of my best friends (go figure) thinks of all this.”

Umm… no, actually, I can’t.

Lucky for me, the book has nothing to do with the song, once you get past the title. In fact, this has to be one of the best Rock Fiction setups I’ve ever seen!

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

Career mentoring day??? I love it!

I love that this isn’t necessarily a romance. We’ve been finding a lot of romances lately, so it’s good to see something else. Diversity. You know.

Bring this one on. Can’t get into my hands fast enough.

Softer Than Steel Teaser

I think by now, it’s well documented that I’m a huge fan of Jessica Topper. And her books, too.

So of course I got all excited when I heard of her follow-up to Louder than Love and Deeper than Dreams. And off to NetGalley I went.

Softer Than Steel, this new one is called, bucking the cliché that keeps trapping me (yes, I keep calling it Stronger and Jessica keeps correcting me). It’s the story of Rick Rottenberg—Riff Rotten to Corroded Corpse fans—and the woman who yanks him out of grief for his first wife. Her name is Sidra and right off the bat, I have a major complaint: I never got a good fix on the age difference between the two. There was something about Sidra that struck me as being in her twenties. Rick, of course, has kids that age. And among the issues that these two have to work through—Rick’s grief, his anxiety attacks, the band, Sidra’s ties to her life, past and present, and her ambition (or lack thereof) for herself—age isn’t one of them.

So these two meet in what has to be one of the best meet cutes in fiction, and let me tell you, Topper is a genius with the meet cute. Here, Sidra holds an elevator for a panicking Rick… and it’s just too good to believe. Best of all, they are nothing to each other, irritants: he’s a hustling somebody who seems to look down his nose at her; she’s going to hit up the rock star’s generosity. Right?

The mistaken identity doesn’t last long, just long enough for an awful lot of laughter at mostly Rick’s expense. But he’s troubled enough that before long, he’s found his way to Sidra’s yoga studio, desperate for relief from the demons that have spent fourteen years torturing him. Fourteen years of mourning his first wife? Really? We know Simone was a heck of a woman—there’s a song written about her, after all—but c’mon, Rotten. Time to let it go. I’m glad he found a way because dude. Getting whiny there.

By and large, that’s the whole plot. The story is one of the two coming together, and the first third is a bit problematic because it feels like every time things start to roll, the story has to come to a screeching stop so the backstory can be filled in. Backstory, I’ve learned as an editor, is a sneaky little bastard and always hard to wield effectively. But once we get that stop-and-start over with, as Rick’s yoga practice grows, so does the mindfulness of the narration and we are allowed to exist in the present moment more and more.

Is that kismet or technique? I’m not sure, and I haven’t asked Jessica. I should because it would be an interesting technique to take apart. It doesn’t entirely work, unfortunately—because I am not a fan of stop-and-start narrative or a lot of backstory, most of which we know from having read Louder. So the story keeps stopping for us to re-learn stuff we already know.

One more thing that doesn’t work as well in this one, and that’s that I felt Jessica herself didn’t know Rick and Sidra as well as she knows Adrian and Kat, the couple from Louder Than Love. (And yes, you Adrian lovers, he and Kat have plenty of well-earned time here.) Rick and Sidra take a lot longer to come to life on the page, and that works against the story—as it always does.

I almost wish the story had started later, or been framed by a flashback, so we could see them starting from that point when they stop being characters on a page and start being people we’re sorry we don’t know in real life. But if that had happened, we’d have missed the amazing first meeting. And if I’m still raving about it, you KNOW it’s good.

Now. Some things that work really really well. We know Jessica Topper is the queen of really awesome, quirky details. I have encountered very few authors who do it as well as she does, and while it’s more subtle than in Dictatorship of the Dress, it’s there. Sidra’s yoga studio is in the back of a record store, which is also an old building that used to be a bike repair shop. This place has history and has been in the Sullivan family forever, but the best revelation is that in Sidra’s studio, there is a light that she’s been ordered to leave on. Always. Don’t even try to turn it off.

Rick, good Jew that he is, recognizes the light as the ner tamid, the eternal light that shines in every Jewish synagogue—which, when you trace the building’s history back far enough, is what it, indeed, used to be. The idea of doing yoga in what used to be a sacred space for Jews is both deliciously heretical and absolutely perfect. Yoga, after all, is a way of worshipping the self, the body, the world. And Sidra and Rick find ways to worship each other under the unblinking, always watchful eye of the ner tamid. It lends a sacredness to their love, a preciousness that you don’t want to see end.

It’s also the crux of the conflict that tries to pull the two apart, and while the solution is patently obvious and not nearly clever enough to live up to Jessica’s own standards—don’t you hate setting the bar super high?—it’s the right solution. And sometimes, that trumps it all.

Overall, this isn’t quite as good as Louder than Love, but this isn’t a bad book or one to avoid or to think of as the failure in the series. Perish those thoughts! If anything, I feel like it was a premature baby, not quite ready for prime time yet but here it is, so sit back and enjoy. And, of course, since this is all about yoga and love and things eternal, remember to breathe.

Disclaimer stuff: As stated, my copy came from NetGalley, and we all know how that works. I get copy. I read copy. I review book. End of contract. Also, thanks to GossipGirls PR for including The Rock of Pages on Jessica’s book tour. We’d love to do more Rock Fiction features like this. Thanks again!

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Okay, don’t quote me on this one because this series is a lot more complicated than it looks. It’s got a million in-between books including what looks like ten volumes of #4. It got a little overwhelming to try to figure out.

It looks like what we have here is a series that doesn’t follow one couple. Good thing, with all these books! Here’s the description for Call On Me, the eighth full-length novel and the Rock Fiction that caught my eye.

Oakley Easton wants two things: to be a good mom to her daughter and to ditch her less than ideal night job. Hooking up with bad boy drummer Pike Ryland? Not on the agenda. She needs a promotion. Not sex, tattoos and rock ’n’ roll.

Pike isn’t about to let Ms. Prim and Proper shut him down so easily, especially when he stumbles upon Oakley’s sexy night job. She’s only playing a role on those late night calls with strangers, but when he gets her on the line, all bets are off. He won’t stop until that sultry voice is calling his name for real.

But as they move from anonymous fantasies in the dark to the flesh-on-hot-flesh reality of the bedroom, the risk of falling in love becomes all too high. And the safe, quiet world that Oakley’s worked so hard to create is about to be exposed to the one person who could ruin it all.

This is one of those books that makes me wonder what the point of his being a “bad boy drummer” is. How much does Rock Fiction figure into the story? Still, I’d probably read this because it seems to play with the stereotypes of phone sex workers. Susan knew a woman once who worked a phone sex line; it paid the grad school bills. I’m not that lucky. The people I hang out with in real life aren’t nearly so boundary-pushing. Or is it just a job?

Only one way to find out about this one, of course.

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Here’s a series that’s two books so far, and both are about the same couple. Let’s see what’s up.

When heartbreaker meets ball breaker, sparks will fly.

Rockstar, Jett Vaughn, isn’t against settling down, but no woman has ever held his attention long enough for a relationship to develop. That is until he meets Presley Hart. She’s confident, opinionated and headstrong. She drives him to the edge of crazy, but he can’t deny how she makes him feel.

He wants her heart, but she only wants his body.

Presley’s not against giving her heart to a man, but she has too many reasons why he’s not the one to give it to. Jett isn’t a man who will take no for an answer though. He’s about to declare war on her reasons and take what he wants.

Okay, so I like that he’s open to being married. Too many rockers in fiction aren’t. Other than that, we don’t know much. Sounds like a typical romance, and that’s not a bad thing.

The title of that one, by the way, is All Your Reasons. Again, kinda typical romance. I think I like this because even though it doesn’t scream Rock Fiction like maybe it should, for us Rock Fiction fans, it also might draw in people who don’t know much about Rock Fiction. Or the people who haven’t seen the light yet and think Rock Fiction is to be avoided.

You know, Nina Levine may be a real … what’s the word? The person who knocks down barriers and shows people a new way?

We get the details in the second book:

Jett Vaughn has one thing on his mind these days – Presley Hart. He will do anything it takes to make her his. At least, he thinks he will.

Presley Hart wants one thing in life – a man who will make her his number one. After being married to a man who never put her first, she swore she’d never settle for second best again. At least, she thought she wouldn’t.

When Jett’s life comes crashing down around him, his flaws are laid bare for all to see. Presley stands by her man but there’s only so much she can do to help him. She loves him and wants to be with him but she has her limits and Jett’s about to reach them.

In the midst of hurt, loss and destruction, can love win out? Can a man who is struggling to find his way, show the woman he loves just how much he wants her to be the one? Or is there only so much a heart can take before enough’s enough?

I gotta admit, I’m getting a little confused here about who’s the man and who’s the woman. To me, Presley isn’t a first name at all. It’s a last name. For ladies like Priscilla and Lisa Marie. And maybe that’s me saying that because I’m all Rock and Roll first and trendy names second.

And, of course, when someone talks about Jett, I look. And I’m definitely a woman.

So yeah, there’s that.

But the book description, again, is vague. What the hell happens?

I know… gotta read it to see. I’m going to be reading. No worries there. I like the way this sounds, even though it’s vague. Can it be the series to earn our Rock Fiction new fans? Only one way to find out.

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Olivia Cunning’s got a new series!

Toni wants to be an insider.
Logan just wants inside her.

She’s finally ready to rock…
Toni Nichols set aside her dreams to raise her little sister, but now she’s reaching for the stars as the creator of a revolutionary interactive biography about Exodus End. She’s on tour with the rock band to immerse herself in their world, but how will she ever gain the trust of four veteran superstars who’ve been burned by the media before? Nobody said this was going to be easy. Then again, good things can come in hard packages.

He’s always ready to roll…
Adrenaline junkie Logan Schmidt lives for the rush of playing his bass guitar before thousands of screaming fans. When he’s not performing onstage or in the bedroom, he’s looking for his next thrill in extreme sports. So why does a sweet, innocent journalist get his heart pumping and capture his full attention? Is Toni the real deal or just digging up dirt on his band? Logan’s eager to rock Toni’s world and roll her in the sack, but when she starts to get too close to his heart, she takes her insider look to a place he may never be willing to go.

I’m not thrilled with the description of Logan. Typical, no? The rocker who loves a new girl in his bed every ten minutes falls for the quiet girl. Yawn. Seen this a million times.

BUT check out the rest of the premise. Trying to penetrate (ha!) beneath the cynicism of a band who’s been around long enough to know the media ain’t their friends the way journalists claim to be. Our girl’s got one heck of a challenge in front of her, and I really hope Cunning pulls this off well. I think she will. People rave about her series, especially the early books in each series, and this is a new series…

I mentioned it’s an Olivia Cunning, right? You’re guaranteed some good rock and roll and even better, hotter sex. Maybe we’ll let the rest go.

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A love that cannot be denied…

Rock star Sammy West has one last opportunity to make things right with Bree Elise, the woman who had packed up her bass guitar and walked out on him. He never stopped loving her and thought he’d never see her again until a contest essay leads Sammy to Bree. When he shows up to present the winning guitar, Bree is forced to face a painful past and reveal a secret she’d buried many years ago. With hurt on both sides, unless they learn to forgive they’ll never be able to recapture the deep love they once shared.

Ahh, a redemption story. Redemption’s such a big thing in the world of music — just spend time reading the lyrics to any Disturbed song and you’ll see what I mean — but why isn’t there more of it in Rock Fiction? I mean, there is. But it’s usually a side-effect on the way to love. Here, it looks like it’s the full story, the point behind the whole thing.

And that has me curious. About the redemption trope, about how this is pulled off in the story. And other questions, too. Does Sammy know it’s HIS Bree he’s going to see?

Yeah, bring this one on. I want to read it.

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I’ve got another series! This one looks like it’s the continuing adventures of two siblings with music in their souls. Here’s the description for the first, Leaving Amarillo.

Nashville meets New Adult in Neon Dreams, a dramatic, sexy series from bestselling author Caisey Quinn, about a country band’s rocky road to fame—and the ambition, dreams, and love of the people who make the music.

Dixie Lark hasn’t had it easy. She lost her parents in an accident when she was young and grew up in a ramshackle house on a dirt road in Amarillo with her ailing grandparents and overprotective older brother. Thanks to her grandfather, Dixie learned to play a mean fiddle, inspired by the sounds of the greats—Johnny and June, Waylon, and Hank. Her grandfather’s fiddle changed Dixie’s life forever, giving her an outlet for the turmoil of her broken heart and inspiring a daring dream.

Ten years later, Dixie and her brother, Dallas, are creating the music they love and chasing fame with their hot band, Leaving Amarillo. But Dixie isn’t enjoying the ride. All she can think about is Gavin, the band’s tattooed, tortured drummer who she’s loved since they were kids. She knows he feels the connection between them, but he refuses see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.

Convinced that one night with Gavin will get him out of her system, Dixie devises a plan. She doesn’t know that her brother has forbidden Gavin from making a move on her-a promise he swore he’d always keep . . . a promise that once broken will unexpectedly change the future for Dixie, Gavin and the band.

The familiar stuff in here — being raised by grandparents, the big brother who threatens the friend to keep his hands off his sister — isn’t familiar to Rock Fiction. Love it!

But if the band is called Leaving Amarillo, why is the series called Neon Dreams? Where are the Neon Dreams?

The description for the second book, Loving Dallas, doesn’t share that secret:

In the second novel in bestselling author Caisey Quinn’s Neon Dreams series, a country rock band and its members embark on the rocky road to fame and find love along the way.

Dallas Lark is so close to achieving his dream of making it big in country music that he can taste it. Arriving in Nashville after signing with sexy, successful manager Mandy Lantram, his life goes from tragedy and turmoil to one lucky break after another—except it isn’t really luck because Dallas has sacrificed everything for his career, leaving behind his band, sister, best friend, and high school sweetheart, Robyn, in the pursuit of fame.

Robyn Breeland is a successful marketing coordinator and promotions specialist for a thriving liquor distributor out of Texas. She loves every aspect of her job: coming up with new ideas, traveling, hosting promotional parties and exclusive events—until it brings her face-to-face with the man who broke her heart, prompting her to erect a steel cage around it.

When their paths collide and they’re forced to work together, Dallas and Robyn realize that the old spark they thought they’d extinguished might still be a burning flame.

And the third book isn’t scheduled to come out until Rocktober, so I can’t tell you anything about it.

BUT. And here’s a big BUT. Check out what this author is doing:
1. She broke up the band
2. The books look like they focus on siblings first and bandmates second
3. Characters are willing to put a lot on the line — and leave a lot behind, in that second book. Dallas dumps it all in his need to make it to the top.

Interesting, interesting stuff. Can’t wait to get my hands on this and see how it all pans out.

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I’m not so sure about this one. The dude’s supposed to be an attorney with a guitar, so I guess it’ll all depend on how important that guitar is.

Here’s what I mean:

There’s LOVE at first sight ~ Second chance LOVE
And sometimes Fate and Destiny combine to make an eternal LOVE

Parker Sullivan
Lawyer
Part-time rebel, musician
Alex’s oldest friend

Angelina Marquez
Event Planner for lack of a better description
Full-time piece of work
Alex’s little sister

Home in Arizona after an extended absence, Angie Marquez lands smack in the middle of Family Justice. Crossing continents to take on the planning for Meghan and Alex’s upcoming wedding, her happy return to the home of her youth also has a hidden reason…to either scratch an old itch or put it to rest once and for all.
And the name of that itch? Parker Sullivan.

What’s one more Alpha at this point?
Self-styled badass with a guitar and plenty of brawn artfully disguised as a successful lawyer, Parker Sullivan comes to Family Justice as Alex’s boyhood friend and the keeper of quite a few tall tales from their youth.
He’s also been secretly in love with Angelina Marquez since he could remember.
The problem? She refuses to speak to him…and for good reason.

Angie’s unexpected return to Sedona brings her and Parker face-to-face for the first time since their clandestine relationship crashed and burned years earlier.
Older, wiser and still deeply attracted to the powerful lawyer, she hoped that they could be friends again. But they had a lot to resolve, it wasn’t that easy and their messy relationship was affecting everyone.

That’s one long description!

So I’m not sure if it’s Rock Fiction or not. Gonna have to read it, and I’d like to. It IS the second in a series, although the series is about this family and the first book has no rockers in sight. This looks like a one-off in terms of Rock Fiction, which is fine. I just hope that when I get to read it, I’m not lost because you have to read the series in order!

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Aaaaand… it’s the first in a series again. Series are hot stuff! Even I’ve gotten to the point where I see a standalone and I scrunch up my nose and wonder what the problem is.

It’s Toni Kenyon, though, and I want to say her books are amazing because I recognize her name, but when I looked at her website, she doesn’t have nearly as many books out as I’d thought. So how do I know your name, Toni?

Name recognition’s a good thing ’cause I want to read this. Really really want to read this. Here’s why:

Mags O’Brien lives on the alcohol-soaked, drug-enhanced concert circuit, managing out-of-control rocker Julian MacAvoy. She helps him spread his musical gospel to his adoring followers, despite the fast-spinning turnstile on his bedroom door, and the broken hearts he leaves in his wake.

Mags believes she’s immune to Julian’s magnetic personality but when controversy hits the tour, she finds herself in danger of falling at his feet, slave to his appetites and her own desire and need.

Julian refuses to be tamed, but the pressure of the ravenous crowds clamps tighter and tighter around him. His chaotic world starts to crumble when he realizes his motivation to continue touring comes from an unobtainable woman. Can he force her to make the agonizing choice between himself and her estranged husband?

An erotic and candid look at life on the road.

Of course, I’m a bit let down. We’ve got some familiar things going on — the manager who hangs out on the road, who clearly has no other clients than this one guy she’s trying to save. The male slut rocker.

Here’s where the power of name recognition comes in handy: I want to see how Toni handles it. I want to know if she can make me believe this setup. The description calls this a candid look at life on the road… will Toni have the authority in the details to pull that off?

Only one way to find out…

Oh, and the other two in the series are interesting. The Fan is a 1/2 novella — you know: those in-between stories that aren’t long enough to deserve their own book. It’s about a tryst in a bathroom. Sounds … short on plot but hot and steamy. And the second in the series has Julian trying to be anonymous until he gets Mags pregnant. Again, we’ve seen the ideas. What’s going to make the difference is the execution.

So I’m curious as anything. I’ve seen Toni’s name. I want these to be really good. But are they? I gotta read ’em to find out.