Archive for March, 2016

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This one looks so good that Susan said she put it on order at her library. Here’s why:

A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and each other

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d’Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family’s palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana’s father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice’s patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana’s marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana’s own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana’s life, Alyssa Palombo’s The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

How’s THAT for something different? Vivaldi!

That is SO up my alley, I am going to put in a plea for my orchestra to include some in an upcoming concert.

We have forbidden love, a historical figure, an epic (thirty years? Heck yeah, that’s an epic)…

I bet Susan will review this once she’s gotten it from the library and read it. Unless a copy comes our way sooner? Because Susan can’t share library books…

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I was flabbergasted when Juli Page Morgan got in touch with me and offered me a print copy of her novel, Crimson and Clover. What a kind gesture!

And let me tell you, this is a good read. It’s the story of Katie, a woman of independent wealth in the 1960s, who picks up on a whim and moves to England. She hits the ground running, finding a place to stay and getting settled way more easily than I’d ever had thought was possible. But then, I’ve always used all those difficulties as a reason not to do something this crazy.

At a party, Katie meets Jay and the sparks between them are huge. And their story begins.

Make no mistake: this is the story of Katie and Jay. Things like her best friend, Maureen, who has a flair for fashion and convinces Katie to help her start their own business, are secondary. Which is almost too bad, because that’s every bit as interesting—to me—as the rock and roll storyline here. In fact, the Rock Fiction tends to take place off stage, although it’s used at times in interesting ways, like how Jay deals with how badly he misses Katie, and the problems that causes when Katie finds out.

I have to confess that I read this a bit ago and have been dragging my heels about writing this review. We’ll get to that in a second, but for now, I want to focus on this detail. Jay does something when he misses Katie. She has a hard time dealing with that. It’s the big obstacle they have to overcome in their quest for their Happily Ever After, and it shapes the fact that this ending is a Happily For Now. Maybe not even Happily so much as Committed to Working it Out, which is maybe a blend between HFN and HEA.

I do wish Jay’s coping technique had been more fully explored, but at the heart, this is really Katie’s story. It’s about her life, how she grows and changes and learns to live with (or without) Jay. Thus, we don’t get a lot of views of the inside of Jay’s head. We don’t see a lot of him through his eyes and his thoughts. It’s mostly filtered through Katie. This is both good and bad: it’s Katie’s story, as I said. But maybe knowing Jay a little bit better would help grab me a bit harder.

I guess the reason for my heel-dragging is that the book is… it’s okay. It’s a good read; don’t overlook it because it’s time well-spent. It’s just that it’s not fabulous, and while I love the idea of the book being set in the 1960s, other than some language (which sometimes felt a bit forced), I didn’t feel the authenticity of the setting. And I wanted to. The sixties flower children fascinate me, probably because they have become so desperately clichéd, and I was hoping to really get inside them and feel the atmosphere and experience the mindset.

I don’t know. Maybe I did and the mystique I grew up with is just … not a thing. That flower children are people too, and there’s nothing special about them.

I don’t buy it, though. I want more of the subculture, and I want to see how Maureen and Katie grow up and out of it, even a little bit.

However, on the flip side, kudos to Ms. Morgan for not descending into the usual clichés that surround flower children. I’ve got to make a note of that, and I want you all to know that, too.
Still, like I said, this is a good read. Perfect for a plane or the beach. It’s a fun story, fun to see Jay and Katie try to figure it out. Maureen is also a great character, and really, while there are others in the book, including the hapless Adam, the three of them really run this show. As they should. The secondary characters are also well drawn.

While the setting may not have delivered on its promise, I have a feeling that Ms. Morgan will in future books. I’ll gladly read more from her. And she won’t even have to send me a copy to make that happen.

Hi everyone! I’m back for another guest post, this time for a book I’m still coveting, instead of one I’ve already read. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Michelle Hazen, I’m an author and a total rock fic junkie. My current Work In Progress is a new adult series that follows a rising rock band from bar rooms to the big time, as the secrets of their sex lives begin to mirror the struggles of their musical careers.

What this means is I absolutely can’t get enough of rock star romances, of all shapes and kinds (the more twisted the trope, the better I like it), but it also means I have really high standards and I’m frequently disappointed. When I first saw this cover, I was intrigued by the look of this troubled, yet sexy rocker.

Rock cover

He had it all. He lost it all. And all he wants now is a second chance.

RK Saber ran from tragedy five years ago when his car went over the side of a mountain in a prom-night crash. Consumed by guilt, he walked away from Juilliard and morphed into Rock, front man for the global rock-band sensation, Son of a Jack. Five members. Five best friends. Five rising stars burning so bright, they had to know it couldn’t last.

When tragedy strikes again and the band goes from five to two, RK is sentenced to… home. Back to the place where all his nightmares started. Back to the memory of all the things he lost. Back to the reality he refused to face before he left.

The Vetti twins were identical in all ways but two. Melanie was insane and Melissa was not. One twin was killed on prom night five years ago and one twin was not. And now that RK has returned home, the twin left standing has quite a story to tell. Could she really be the girl he thought he’d lost forever? Or is Melanie just up to her same old tricks?

ROCK is a rock-star romantic suspense by the New York Times bestselling master of twist, JA Huss.

Huh, I thought when I first read the description. That sounds good. One of my favorite bands, JJ Grey and Mofro, actually did lose nearly the whole band to a car crash and it always broke my heart to think of the frontman having to go on without them. I’m not particularly into twin-swapping action (and really, don’t you figure there are GOING to be twins pretending to be each other in this book?) but if the author pulled it off, I could go along. I love a good romantic suspense, and I’ve never seen a rock star romantic suspense, but I also don’t see where the suspense comes into the plot as it’s been presented.

For those reasons, I clicked out of the page without downloading the free sample, but then I ran across a meme on Twitter with an excerpt. I haven’t been able to find it again, but here’s a tiny clip:

meme

When I saw that, I thought two things. First, wait, Melissa Vetti, rock star? Now the girl is the rock star? I’m in! My own work in progress series starts with the book about the female drummer and I would love to see more female rock stars. Second, the excerpt (especially the extended one) was so much deeper than the lines you normally see on advertising memes.

At the time I saw this, it was 1:30 in the morning and I was camping in my car, way too wired from the rock concert I’d just been in to go to sleep, so I downloaded that free sample as fast as I could click. And then started reading my phone’s already-depleted battery into the red. From the very first page of the sample, the book had HEART.

I’ve been in a real mediocre rut lately as far as reading. Even books that are technically well-executed have been leaving me feeling kind of “meh” so to really feel for the rocker guy from the first page was a refreshing experience. I am still a little leery of possible twin-swapping shenanigans, and Melissa Vetti dies before the book starts according to the description, but in the meme, she lived and became a rock star. Clearly, there is more to the story. Also, I still don’t see where the romantic suspense will come from. But I absolutely can’t wait to dive into this one, and I’ll be sure to write up a review for you guys once I do!

Thanks for having me on, Susan and all my fellow rock fic readers! If you’d like to keep track of me, my reviews of other things, or hear more about my books, my links are below:

 

www.michellehazenbooks.com

https://twitter.com/michellehazen

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6559289.Michelle_Hazen

http://www.amazon.com/author/michellehazen

 

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Hey, it’s a do-over!

What if you had a second chance at your first love?

Best-selling author Serena Devane has spent most of her life running away from the man who broke her heart and left her too afraid to fall in love again. Now she’s back home after a 15-year absence, ready to get a fresh start on life. There’s just one little problem. In an effort to help her research the rock music scene for her new novel, her take-no-prisoners publisher has unknowingly set Serena skipping down the path that leads straight to the man she has tried so hard to forget.

Jensen Pratt is the drummer in a world-famous heavy metal band. When Serena grudgingly agrees to take the pre-arranged drum lessons for the new book, the sparks fly as unresolved issues hang in the air like a wrong note. To sweeten the deal, he offers to help Serena learn the music scene. All those hours together could be a blessing and a curse because the second she lays eyes on him, Serena knows she could fall again. But as they say, every rose has its thorn. Serena is blindsided when she agrees to try again with Jensen and then finds out he is engaged to be married.

Devastated, Serena is once again on the run. This time, it’s her family who centers her and reminds her that love has many faces. A late-night house fire and a little dog bring her face-to-face with hunky firefighter Vince Rossetti, a divorcee with a great sense of humor and a huge heart who cooks. As Serena falls under VInce’s charms, Jensen returns vowing to make things work.

Pulled between both men, Serena must choose the past or the future.

Now this… now THIS… it’s fresh. It’s different. It’s a rocker who’s not a man whore. He seems, from this description, to be nurturing and open and maybe even willing to dump the fiancee (and I hope she’s not horrible ’cause there’s so much good stuff happening here and I don’t want it to go down in cliches).

Bring this ON. I may have to see if my library has it. Crap. They don’t.

Hello? Library? Stop this. I have work to do!

Hi everyone! Susan was kind enough to have me on for a guest post, so let me introduce myself. I’m Michelle Hazen, I’m an author, and a total rock fic junkie. My current Work In Progress is a new adult series that follows a rising rock band from bar rooms to the big time, so of course I love to read anything with rock and roll and romance together. The book I’m reviewing today is called Seduced and it is the prequel to a series very much like mine, following a band from their practice sessions in a laundromat to bursting into stadium sized shows later in the series. Let’s have a look at the description:

SEDUCED
BY
TARYN ELLIOT & CARI QUINN

Summary: Warning: get ready for a testosterone overload. The guys are in the driver’s seat in Seduced – and the ride’s gonna rock.

Twenty-three year old Nick Crandall has one focus in his life: Oblivion, the band he formed with his best friend Simon Kagan. With gigs coming up and the band members lacking focus after losing their drummer to rehab, they’re out of ideas. Until Oblivion’s bassist, Deacon McCoy, poses a surprising suggestion.
Bring in someone new. Two someones.

One YouTube video gone viral later, Oblivion is poised on the brink of stardom. With their new hot drummer chick — who comes in a package deal with a talented guitarist who happens to be head over pick in unrequited love with her – it seems like everything’s falling into place. Or will the band Nick and Simon have fought to keep together disintegrate before their eyes?

Four guys & one woman + more success than they ever bargained for = trouble, of the sexiest kind.
Get Seduced by this novel-length introduction to the band Oblivion. This preview occurs before the four forthcoming books about each of the band members. Sometimes getting lost means finding yourself…

Seduced (Lost in Oblivion)

Seduced

Now, mind you, Seduced isn’t actually a romance novel (though the rest of the series is), but I’m going to give you five reasons to read it anyway.

5. The music!
It is a sad, sad state of affairs that most musician romance novels use music as a setting, but don’t fill it out with appropriate details. In this book, you can feel the desperation of the characters’ love for their songs, and the drive they have to share them with the world. As for the songs themselves, while there aren’t a ton of lyrics, authors Taryn Elliot and Cari Quinn use creative and visceral descriptions in such a way that you can hear the pounding rhythm of the songs, sweeping you into the spell of a great performance, even as the pages of your Kindle actually remain silent.

4. The men are MEN.
Co-authors Elliot and Quinn can write the heck out of a male POV, so it feels like a real boy thinking, not a romance novel hero. These are guys that sweat and spit and think about getting laid, not falling in love. Which just makes it all the sweeter when the right girl starts to get to them. Some of the cruder moments just made me love this book more because I truly like a realistic perspective at all costs, and I adore an author who isn’t afraid to say that, yes, real boys see absolutely no conflict with periodically pounding the crap out of their best friend in a drunken brawl.

3. Drugs
Bet you’re not used to seeing THAT heading in the pro column… Seriously, though, the music world attracts all kinds of abuse of alcohol, tobacco, different kinds of drugs, and even caffeine. I love that this book dives into that headlong and without a soapbox in sight. Instead, the authors’ only agenda seems to be to show the realism of mind-altering substances in the lives of musicians: how they use them to boost their creativity, and to comfort themselves when they’re not performing or writing as well as they should and eventually how the substances grow a mind of their own, until addiction and rehab become part of the landscape alongside gigs and time in the studio.

I felt like Seduced was a balanced, honest look at this facet of the performing lifestyle. I feel confident that as series progresses, the variance in the characters’ approach to drugs will give the reader a glimpse at all the different roads you can choose when you’re rich, famous, and the rules (almost) don’t apply to you.

2. The sex.
This book made all my hormones perk up and take notice. I wouldn’t give the adult scenes in this book a 5-star rating, but they’re edging into 4-star territory. The sexual tension is eyeglass-fogging hot, and the main sex scene…well…without getting spoilery, let’s just say you don’t read that in a romance novel every day.

1. It ISN’T a romance novel.
There is love in this book, folks, and attraction aplenty. I’m already dying to see the completion of some of the love stories hinted at in this installment. But I adore the idea of this book because this is a start to a series that sets up all the characters and the friendships before anyone finds their soul mate. This made the world feel more real, and perversely, I was more satisfied with the story than I would have been with a straight romance, even though I adore those.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to add that the book wasn’t flawless. One of the band members really rubbed me the wrong way. He repeatedly refers to himself as an asshole, and um, I’m forced to agree. He had very little control over his emotions and made a lot of short-sighted, hurtful choices and while I felt for him in many of those situations, I didn’t frequently like him. The authors do a pretty believable job of redeeming him toward the end of the book, but he’s still not my favorite. Regardless, overall this was an outstanding read- a solid 4 stars. Plus, it’s 99 cents, which is the perfect price to sucker you into any great series. I’ve read most of the rest of the series already, and I can tell you that while they’re not perfect, they’re all super enjoyable reads. I love the continuing band dynamics, the peek into what it really takes to be rock stars, and the delicious music details. Plus, if you like lots of steam, this is your series!

Thanks for having me on today, Susan and everyone! I hope to be back to do some more guest reviews in the future, but in the meantime, if you’d like to keep track of me, my reviews of other things, or my books, my links are below:

Website
Twitter
Goodreads
Amazon Author Page

Susan says: Thanks for coming by, Michelle! Jett is crazy jealous you got to this before she did, but now it’s on her Must Buy Now list (assuming she ever looks at it). Can’t wait to see what else you share with us!

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I’ve had a glancing blow with this book a couple of times now, but I’ve never written it up all by itself. And it’s been out for awhile, but as Susan says, who cares how old it is if it’s still in print?

Here’s the story:

When destiny fails…

Singer-songwriter Lucy Moore thought her life was perfect. At just twenty-one, she’s already met her soul mate and together they’ve landed a recording contract. But when her father dies and the love of her life betrays her in more ways than one, she returns home to pick up the pieces. On the shores of Mendocino, California, Lucy has some decisions to make. Should she start a solo career? Or should she leave it all behind for some semblance of normalcy in the quiet town she grew up in? And what about Seth, the tortured artist who always seems to be there when she needs him?

Seth Keenan has demons of his own. Eighteen months ago, he was involved in a horrific accident that he never talks about. His career as an accomplished oil-paint artist has been abandoned, replaced by the buzz of his tattoo gun. And women–well, he never sticks around for longer than a few hours of pleasure… until he meets Lucy. After one evening of listening to her seductive voice, he’s pulled under. But what about the vow he made to never get close to anyone again?

In a world where everyone has one true soul mate, can these two find love in the arms of each other?

On the one hand, we’ve seen this a million times. Both characters have demons they have to face.

But these two have some interesting things going on. Giving up oil paints for a tat gun… I know people. I do. And who hasn’t been betrayed by your soul mate? Okay, I wasn’t. Not really. But I thought he was at the time! And he didn’t betray me, either, so… yeah. Nevermind about that last one.

There’s a lot of potential in this one, so I don’t care how old it is.

It’s also the first in a series, but the second one doesn’t have any Rock Fiction in it, so nevermind that. Let’s get this one read; maybe Ms. Chase will make a fangirl out of me!

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This series screams Rock Fiction in the first book’s (Bring Me You) description. It comes out and says Mia is a musician. Pretty good clue, there. But when I look at the second (Still Into You) and third (Never Over You), it seems to pale. And maybe that’s okay. It’s hard to tell because it looks like some demon Mia’s hiding takes over and rules the three-book series.

Which makes me even more curious, even though I’m supposed to be all Rock Fiction, all the time. Maybe her demons are what fuels her music and her need to be involved with it. Maybe the only way she can deal with demons is to make music.

Oh, the possibilities are endless.

Bring this series ON, man. I gotta find out how music and demons go together. Because let’s face it: rock and roll is made for a demon or three.

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This one’s a bit different. The title makes me think it’s a historical thing, probably set in the Twenties or whenever the golden age of jazz was, but check out this description.

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Marc Rahn, Jr. enlisted after high school graduation to escape the pain of his parents’ fatal car wreck. Now on leave after eight years and multiple Middle East deployments, he returns to his hometown to put to rest his suspicions that the “accident” might actually have been anything but.

What he doesn’t expect on move-in day from the neighbor across the street is an intriguing flash of pierced nipple. The breast’s owner, Phoebe Barnes, is a beautiful young jazz singer who has plans to make it big in the music business. Her early years in foster care made her hungry for attention and fame, and she’s out to achieve both at almost any cost.

Despite their differing goals, Marc and Phoebe quickly give in to the sizzling attraction between them. But will their passion turn deadly when the person who killed Marc’s family decides two murders might not have been enough?

But pierced nipples and Middle East deployments don’t really sound like a historical piece. They make it sound totally contemporary. So how cool is it that Phoebe is trying to make her way to fame by being a jazz singer? Do people still listen to and like jazz? Enough that Phoebe here has a realistic plan in place?

And is there enough in here about Phoebe and her musical ambitions, or is this really Marc’s story? This could be a thriller, too, you know, given the description. I like thrillers. We don’t see enough Rock Fiction thrillers, I don’t think. But you’d also think that if it was going to work as a thriller, the Rock Fiction would have to be played up more.

And what is with the old-time title? I like it!

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First in a series! First in a series!

On the surface, Sebastian “Baz” Valenti is a rock god with the lifestyle to match. With his drop-dead gorgeous looks and his band, Baseline Sins, at the top of the charts, he can have any woman he wants. But the constant touring and recording has taken its toll. Now he’s turned to scoring films, a gig that has introduced him to the one woman he really wants but can’t have…

Trudeau Morrison is all business all the time. As the managing director of ManDown Films, it’s her job to keep Baz focused on business too. It’s not an easy task, considering Baz has made no secret of his desire for her. But Tru doesn’t want to get involved with a rock star, even if he is the hottest man she’s ever met.

Trouble is, once Baz gets an erotic taste of Tru, he’s not going to give her up. Now he just has to show her that rock-steady is nothing compared to rock and roll…

Okay, so we start off pretty typical, no? Rocker at the top of his game. Man whore. Tired of it.

But I love the turn this takes! Scoring films is a heck of a tough job, and it means this guy’s got a very deep musical background and strong education. I hope that comes through.

And then we have the usual working together issues, too. Part of me’s all “C’mon, Jett. How else are they supposed to get close enough to want to be around each other?”

But the other part’s all, “C’mon. There have to be ways that aren’t so obvious.”

Maybe there are. But they aren’t in this book, and it’s this book I want to read.

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It was my friend Jessica Topper who first told me about Erika Kelly’s books. She promised I’d love them – and so I could hardly wait to dig in and see for myself how right Jessica was. Which does not explain why, when I ran into Ms. Kelly’s books in the library a few months ago, I didn’t check them out. I’m kicking myself for that now, of course. Why deny yourself something so good?
Take Me Home Tonight is the story of Mimi, the aspiring chef who works for Blue Fire, the band whose stories make up this series. Mimi chases a dream of working for her father and, by doing so, becoming the princess in his eyes that she’s always wanted to be.

Of course, there’s a love interest, in the form of standoffish Calix Bourbon, the keyboard player with major commitment issues.

That’s pretty much the story: how these two heal each other, grow, and come together. But of course, like the best fiction, there’s way more than that. The characters are smart, they are stupid, they are blinded by love and loyalty, they are brutally honest and walled up behind their fears, and they are both afraid to take chances. They are achingly human.

It’s hard not to love Calix’s major entry into the story, when he pulls up on his motorcycle and saves Mimi from a fight with her father. Without uttering a single word, he establishes his bad boy persona, and it’s both hysterical and hot. This man doesn’t need words and it’s almost a letdown when he does begin to use them, especially because when aroused, he’s got a habit of speaking in caveman grunts. “Want you,” he’ll tell Mimi.

I was into it until one of the other guys in Blue Fire speaks the same way to his girl. And then the magic went out. What a shame; it was such a neat nod to that man on the motorcycle.

Another thing I really liked was the issues of family in here. I really liked that these characters had families; how often do our romances exist in a family-free vaccuum? Maybe not as often as memory is trying to serve, but here, the family issues fuel the plot, fuel the characters’ motivations, and help shape the entire story. Both Calix and Mimi are chasing their families, but for different reasons. Calix’s family is close. Mimi’s is the opposite, although not to the polar extreme, fortunately. If anything, Mimi’s family is more in keeping with the relationships a number of my friends and I had with our own families at that age: wanting the best for us but unable to trust that we needed to fumble through on our own in order to be able to fully appreciate the success that came out of those struggles. Even more than the band, I loved the family members, although I’m a little iffy on Jo. She seemed to come around too fast, to be too normal compared to what we are set up to expect.

Coming into the series with this book, I was a bit let down that the members of Blue Fire come off as largely interchangeable. Granted, this is Mimi and Calix’s story, and they should take center stage, but I’d have liked to see more personality in the men, even if that meant they had to struggle a bit with the family for the reader’s attention; the series as a whole does, after all, revolve around them. It took me a good three quarters before I could recall which man had paired off with Violet and which with Emmie. This had a dual effect: to both irritate me beyond belief and to make me swear to go to the library already and catch up on what I’ve missed.

I liked that Mimi was a breath of fresh air and a disruptor in Calix’s life, and I liked that Calix is less of a bad boy and more of a rock, especially for Mimi, but also for his family, for better or worse. This man is solid, and probably one of the best fictional rockers I’ve encountered. And believe me: Rock Fiction is my category. I’ve met fictional rockers. Calix is right up there. Calix is welcome in my life. What a shame he’s not real…

I’ll definitely be reading this one again, for a couple of reasons. The e-ARC I got from NetGalley had formatting issues. I know I missed nuances that I’d have better appreciated without this issue. But also, as I said, I need to start with the first book, You Really Got Me, and immerse myself in the full Blue Fire experience. Take Me Home Tonight was a good place to start, a great introduction to this band, but dammit, it was so good, I want more. MORE.

Just as my buddy Jessica Topper warned me: I’m now an Erika Kelly fangirl.

Don’t miss this series.