Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Jaine was kind enough to send me a copy of Dirty Like Us to review and, just as I knew I would, I devoured it. Jaine’s my go-to girl for really awesome characters.

Befitting a half-entry in a series, this is a novella, and I think it sets us up better for a continuation of the Maggie-Zane story than it sets us up for Jesse and Katie (still my favorite cute meet ever) despite the epilogue, which feels more forced than anything else.

But the Maggie-Zane thing? I loved it. Love the interplay between these two, love that they have a long history that’s both troubled and solid, love the sort of couple they are turning into. No forced dominance here because it’s the trendy thing. These two are on a par with each other.

The one area where I can see people having trouble with this novella is the whole, “Let’s get married to fuck with your father” idea. The joke in this instance isn’t on either Maggie or Zane, it’s on Dizzy, and he’s too clueless and self-centered to get it. I can see others complaining that this decision undermines feminism or something along those lines.

Personally, I think it’s stupid, simply because Dizzy is the sort of person who’ll never understand he’s the butt of a joke, even when someone tells him that he is.

While this is one of the harder plot points to move past, it’s also easy because it’s so clearly an excuse for Maggie and Zane. It’s convenient, it’s an out. In a way, that makes things all the more delicious.

I can’t wait for their full story. Hope Jaine’s kind enough to send me another copy because man, I am now an official fan.

I was so excited to read this. Lisa Gillis! I’ve known her online in passing for years, although not terribly well. I’ve heard about her Rock Fiction for even longer and been dying to read the books to see if they were as good as I was led to believe they are.

I don’t remember how or when this came across my radar as a freebie, but I grabbed it. Because Lisa Gillis! WOOT.

But… it opens in a scenario reminiscent of Jessica Lemmon’s Return of the Bad Boy, only this doesn’t put me off the way that book put my buddy Jett off. She and I talked about it, and her memory of that one is that there was an anger between the characters in the Lemmon book, where here, we had a softness between the characters, a real chemistry and desire for each other. Their meeting came out of desire for each other as people, not as their job titles. And it came out of *desire* and not revenge or whatever had powered that opening in the Lemmon book.

This also reminded me of Stina Lindenblatt’s My Song For You, in that the rocker discovers his love has a hidden kid and he’s the dad. The situation is quite different, but there it is. And the kids in both these books have some sort of physical disability, too, although Gillis never gives us any details. She’s so careful about not revealing them that we never know what the issue is, or if she herself knows if this is a real, legit problem that parents have to face. Maybe it’s something made up for the sake of convenience.

So the book has these two others that it has to live up to, and by and large it does. Marissa and Jack are likeable, although we don’t see nearly enough of Jack as a rocker and can’t really consider this to be Rock Fiction. He’s not big enough, and while it makes sense that he tames that side of himself for the child’s sake, he also loses that spark that sets a rocker apart.

My biggest issue with it came in the editing. Holy hell. Talk about sinking a really good book. Marissa apparently is a child of the water or something because she’s got a naval something or other where most people have bellybuttons… or, more properly, NAVELs. Dialogue tags are used to tell us what’s been shown (so much for “show, don’t tell” although we did stop short of “Shit,” he swore — but not by much), and the words are often used incorrectly, as well. “She assures.” — that’s not a sentence. ASSURES is a verb that needs an object, yet this happened over and over again. Interestingly, a number of erudite words are used correctly, but they also don’t fit the characters, and since this is a first-person narration, the narrator’s voice needs to match that of the characters.

A lot is left to be developed further–the situations with the parents of both Jack and Marissa, for example, and for different reasons. Jack’s parents are the typical loving parents who hold the close-knit family together. Without knowing anything else about the series, I’d wager the series revolves around them and their family. Marissa’s family isn’t entirely the opposite, but it’s clear from the get-go that her mother is toxic and her father an enabler of that toxicity. Hopefully we’ll get to see Jack give them a true comeuppance, complete with severing of the mother-daughter relationship in future books.

But one thing nagged at me, and that’s in the beginning, where Marissa says she’s part of the famous JackMa. But this story doesn’t take us to any of the hows and whys of their *public* coupling, only their personal one. And I felt like the opening, with its talk on the first page of a perfect storm and an ending with this promise of their being a celebrity couple, promised more than it delivered.

So… would I read more Lisa Gillis? I think so. The woman can write some good sex, and maybe the editing in this one is not indicative of the rest of Gillis’ body of work. I really hope it’s not because the woman clearly can write, she creates very vivid and real characters, and there’s a lot going on here that I’d like to see how it unfolds. But sheesh, she needs people who understand that cheesecakes aren’t pies, that buttercream is one word, and that you don’t need to consult a thesaurus to write well.

It’s always dicey to write a formal review of a friend’s book because for me at least, I expect really amazing work from my friends. Yes, I hold them to a higher standard than I do an author I’ve never met, and I’ll admit it. No freebies from me, even when it hurts me to not hand them out.

And when Michelle Hazen writes passages like

“My eyes are as round as greedy gold coins. I have no idea why he just told me that, and I don’t care. I want that collection, want to shoot it into my veins and roll naked in it and drown in the gorgeous, classic sound of song after song brought to life by the needle of my beloved antique turntable.” (Chapter 6)

about what happens when our heroine, Jera, finds out that our hero, Jacob, is a music junkie with an amazing vinyl collection, well, I know I don’t need to try not to offend. This is a display of some serious writing chops.

But she wanted my opinion on her latest novel, A Cruel Kind of Beautiful, because Michelle wanted my opinion as an expert in Rock Fiction. So let’s start there.

First off, this is a romance. Here’s where I can launch into a discussion of category (Rock Fiction) versus genre (Romance), but I won’t. You need to know this is a romance so you know that this is a book of two people who want to come together but have obstacles to overcome, including one so severe, it’s called a Black Moment and it rips them apart. And you need to know there will be a Happily Ever After when all’s said and done. And there, I’ve told you the plot.

Of course, there’s more to it than that (and the more to it is what makes romance so delicious), so let’s look at it in the context of Rock Fiction, as I said above I would.

Jera is in a band. She’s the drummer, content to, as she acknowledges, let her singer and bassist be the buffer between herself and the audience. This is an interesting point and an important one for the overall themes of the novel, one of which is that she’s the daughter of a musician, someone who almost made it big and regrets the decisions he made in his career. He understandably doesn’t want to see his daughter make the same mistakes.

And that’s one of the (too) many subplots: Jera’s band plays a showcase. They go from warming up an empty room to finishing up in front of a packed house, which seems unbelievable enough, but then they are offered a record deal, too.

Oh, and Jacob turns up late to the show but loves every single second of it.

This is after the two had a date that included listening to his record collection—really, who has vinyl collections anymore? Which makes this an amazing pairing right there—and some of the previously mentioned gorgeous writing.
And then the novel spins into agonizing over what the record company wants to change about Jera’s band until some sage words from Jacob allow Jera to make the executive decision for the entire band and call it off.

Viewing this from the angle of Rock Fiction, it’s not quite enough to tip us over a line the novel toes. The music isn’t carried through the novel—in the second chapter, we see Jera tormented by lyrics she needs to write and music she needs to let pour out of her. And it’s amazing, it’s great… and it’s dropped. We are told other songs torment and torture her, but we don’t see that cruel kind of beautiful again.

This hurts the continuity of the story, the idea that themes and subplots are woven through the story as a whole. And there are so many gorgeous opportunities in this novel for music to play the important role it does early on, I just ache at what this novel could have been: deeply textured and layered. Instead, it feels not quite episodic but definitely as if it has ADD, as it flits from one idea (Jacob and his family issues, Jacob and his jobs, Jacob and his friend’s art show which features nude sketches of our hero, Jacob fixing cars, Jacob and his baseball scholarship… and that’s just Jacob! Jera’s got her own set) to the next, without that gorgeous weaving and building that a writer as strong as Michelle ought to be giving us.

I have toggled back and forth on this one. Can romance be this richly textured? Can it address the very serious issues that are present, everything from body image (compare and contrast Jera and Jacob!) to family pressures, to music and how differently Jacob and Jera view it even while it’s a lifeline for them both, to the value and importance of friendship—Jacob’s relationship with his baseball teammates versus Jera’s with her band, for instance. There really is so much to mine here, and I’m genuinely sad more of it didn’t make it onto the page.

Yes, I believe a romance can support these weighty topics—in fact, I think it should, especially when it could have been done relatively easily. And yes, by a writer of this caliber. Check this passage, one of my favorites:

“He murmurs the words against my forehead and they lose none of their strength for his lack of volume. Instead, I feel like he’s tattooing them on my skin, ripping me open and dropping the ink inside so I can never forget what he said. (Chapter 21)”

So despite my reservation, I’d encourage you to not skip this one, and not just because Michelle is, as I said, a friend. Pick it up. Give it a read. Be like me and eye your water heater longingly—you’ll understand when you read it—and write your own review. Tell me if you’re satisfied to flit from idea to idea, or if you’re like me and you want more.

I want more from Michelle, I’ll tell you that. I want to see what sort of excellence is going to come out of her as she grows as a writer. I would wager that this texturing that I’m missing now is going to show up sooner or later (hopefully sooner). She’s too good to keep it inside—and like I said, it’s 90% of the way there now.

“He grabs my hand before I finish the sentence, squeezing it tight like he’s afraid, even though he still stares straight forward. I glory in the pressure, hopeful goosebumps appearing all up my arms. This is what I was missing, all those other times. In every relationship, you fall short or they do… until the last one. And then you’re stretching so far there’s no going back and you can feel the wind whistling against your face as you fall. But if you’re both reaching, you catch each other’s hands at the very last minute and it makes the perfect bridge.” (Chapter 28)

I pick up every book intending to love it. I really do. That’s why this review saddens me. I don’t want to have to write reviews like this.

There is often a fine line between alpha male and abuser. Maybe it’s not that fine a line, come to think of it. After all, the sexiest alpha males have respect for their women or partners. Abusers? Not even close.

In Sweet as Sin, narrator Kat tells us she’s been in abusive relationships before and she knows what they look like. Yet she lets Nico manhandle her and even use non-consensual sex as a punishment. In fact, it turns her on.

This isn’t a character who is sincere that she’s done being abused. This is a character who gets off on it.

And so Nico pays off her mortgage without discussing it with Kat. He shows up uninvited. He ignores her when she says no.

And Kat loves it.

This is a kind of depravity that’s not for me. It’s not love; it’s abuse.

There’s nothing that can ever convince me that a story about an abusive man and the woman who loves to be abused is worth my time. Abuse shouldn’t be normed like this; the carnage left in its wake is too expansive and runs too deep. Of course, that’s not on the page. Carnage isn’t romantic.

But apparently, according to some, the abuse itself is.

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It’s difficult to take a cast of unlikeable characters and make the reader care about them. Not all readers are willing to rise to the challenge, and that’s okay. The payout for those of us who are is bigger somehow.

Lisa Marie Perry has a cast of some tough characters. All of them are morally deficient in one way or another; all of them have seriously fatal flaws. In fact, it’s hard to believe this was published by one of the big houses, but it was. Good for them.

The set-up is pretty fascinating: the central player here isn’t a person so much as a record label. And we can argue the usefulness and relevance of record labels until the Spotify Premium’s up for renewal, but that’s not what Sin For Me is about. It’s about the people who used to control it (Dante and Delilah) and the people who currently do (Emma, Joshua, and Chelsea)—and the betrayals and baggage that remain as Delilah wants her family’s heritage back.

That’s the big story arc. There’s also a smaller one, in that it’s about the relationship between Dante and Chelsea. There was a betrayal between them as well, and it was part of the bigger betrayal that led to the leadership change at Devil’s Music. But it’s that betrayal between Dante and Chelsea that’s just as hard, if not harder, to get past. Dante copes by leaving town and starting life at the farthest point he can get to from the glitz and glamour of the record business. Chelsea, though, isn’t so lucky. She’s stuck in the executive offices, busy self-destructing and stuck in the guilt and anger of what she and Dante did to each other, surrounded by the constant reminders of him and the family legacy that she took from him.

This is enough for a single book, sure, but there’s a couple more subplots, as well: Delilah wants to make a play to get her label back and decides to use Dante to do it; one of the label’s artists is angry and turns first rogue and then violent; and a new talent comes into the fold. And, too, there’s something going on between married Emma and Joshua, something Chelsea doesn’t understand—and neither does the audience.

It’s almost too much, except there’s something soap opera-esque going on here, and the book certainly reads well. I found I had to read in small doses because the characters are so morally vapid, I’d have to resurface just to recalibrate myself. But at the same time, it was hard to put down (yes, it’s true: the famous editor loves trashy, soap opera-esque books as much as she loves everything else her clients throw at her. Maybe more? I’m not telling!).

This, friends, is the sign of a good book. It’s a train wreck you can’t look away from, a delicious taste of something forbidden. But best of all, the book itself isn’t a train wreck. It’s well crafted and constructed, the characters are beautifully drawn, and it’s well written. The various strands of the plot are well cared for in Perry’s experienced hands, and wow, does she do a great job with it.

But if there’s one area where the book isn’t as strong, it’s in the descriptions. I wanted a better view of what these people wear—telling me the sandals are diamond-studded doesn’t really show me much—as well as how this old house has become a record label, with stairs and offices and… just how does this place lay out and work? It was hard to visualize and I had a hard time making sense of what was where.

After all the rich plotting that happens here, I really missed the rich descriptions to go with the lushness of the characters. Here’s one book that demands more than just a broad brushstroke of description. It needs to breathe the way the rest of the story does.

Even before the cliffhanger ending—I hesitate to call it a cliffhanger because it doesn’t leave us on our toes at the edge of the world so much as it merely stops, the last page gets turned and you look up and wonder where the hell the rest of it is—I was hooked on this series. Morally absent or not, I’m dying to know what comes next for our salacious crew, and how they solve the problems that have been laid out in this first volume of The Devil’s Music.
October, when the second book is released, can’t come soon enough.

*Copy from NetGalley, and thanks for it! Can’t wait for #2*

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I’ve been turned into a Cecilia Tan fangirl, and let me tell how excited I was when Susan let me know that Hard Rhythm, the third in Tan’s Secrets of a Rock Star series, was on its way to me. Whee!

Turns out, this one is the story of one of Ricki and Gwen’s employees, Madison. She hooks up with a member of Axel and Mal’s band, Chino. He’s the drummer.

Like I said in my other reviews of the earlier books, I don’t see a lot of rocker in Chino. He’s very much an everyman, and that is disappointing. In fact, we see so little of Chino’s rocker side that I hesitate to call this Rock Fiction.

I gotta admit, of the three books in the series, this is my least favorite. The guys—Axel, Mal, and now Chino—aren’t quite distinctive enough, and their personalities are all sorta blending together. They’re dudes in bands and they’re all doms – how’s that affect your band dynamics there, guys? – and they support their successful women… but what sets them apart from each other? I need more.

The other thing that totally squicks me out is the Daddy-baby stuff. Ugh. Age play just isn’t my catnip.

A few other things and man, I hate to rip on Cecilia, but… this one just didn’t hit the mark. The ending felt rushed and the situation with Chino’s family was too simple, too fast. There was real meat in that subplot, and I really wanted to see more of the struggles and the intricacies and all of it. It came on too slow, resolved too easy, and just wasn’t satisfying. Same for the subplot that occupies Ricki and Gwen, and I’m not going to spoil that except to say what I just did: came on too slow, resolved too easy, and just wasn’t satisfying.

So I dunno. This one didn’t hit the mark. It felt rushed, and almost scattered. Like, what’s really the story here? Is it really Chino and Maddie? If so, focus on that. Or is it Chino and his family? If so, focus on THAT. I’d dig both stories, separately, and in fact, Chino’s family’s story could be some really positive, helpful fiction if Cecilia would develop all that stuff out. It’s important stuff and could really help others. I want that for her, to write something really ground-breaking.

I’m writing this one off as a mis-step in an otherwise really awesome series. I love the first two in this series, and I love how Cecilia makes me bring new eyes to sex dungeons and submission and what it all means. She’s still writing incredible scenes and still teaching me new things and sometimes, it can be hard to expand your world in all directions at once. Cecilia’s not the first author who’s struggled with that as I watched. She probably won’t be the last. But she’s one I’m hoping gets it under control ASAP. And, of course, if she needs help, Susan’s just an e-mail away.

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Here’s the thing about Rock Fiction: if you don’t get the details right, you pretty much shoot yourself in the foot. The world building here matters because those of us in the know, those of us with industry background, will call you out.

And that’s the fatal problem with The Backstage Pass: The Complete Series (read as a box set and thanks to NetGalley for the chance to read it). The details of a touring band are so far off, it’s impossible to suspend disbelief for even a minute.

First off, I’ve never heard of any tour naming their tour busses. I even checked with a number of friends who currently have their hands in tours. Nope. That’s a new one.

The opening act is its own thing. It doesn’t travel as part of the band’s entourage. The headliner doesn’t pick up the expense of the opening act. Touring with a headliner is a privilege; why would the headliner pick up an expense they don’t need to? Profit margins on the road are slim enough as it is.

Band and crew doesn’t eat together. Not as one big happy family, anyway. There may be some overlap, but the two do such different jobs that… yeah, no. Besides, a band as big as this boy band is supposed to be is going to eat very differently than the crew. There are also no dressing room riders anywhere.

The authors of this series need to learn a thing or three about what a bunk in a tour bus really is. Sit up? Comfortable space for two? At first, I thought there were multiple busses, each with a bedroom in the back. It was the only explanation for how these so-called bunks would work.

I about threw my e-reader across the room when Ryder and his love interest spent the night at the arena, in their private dressing room. I still can’t get my brain around that. Spending the night in the arena?

Seriously. That one, right there, did it. Any authority the authors had flew out the window. You’re a headlining act and won’t extend the cost for a hotel room, especially when you do it at other times? Let me rephrase: you’re the headlining act.

Beyond the fact that spending the night in the bowels of an arena is creepy as hell, it’s crossed so far into fantasy that my brain keeps exploding, the more I think about it.

The worst part is that it kept going. We’re supposed to buy that the GED tutor—who herself is a teenager, which again stretches credibility—has this amazing voice and magically becomes an opening act, with no record, no label, no fan base, no manager, not even a demo?

And why does this tour feel like a dumping ground for teenage girls in sundresses who can’t be at home for the summer?

Then the daughter of the bodyguard gets stood up by her band member sorta-boyfriend and instead of reaching out to her father, who is with the band, just assumes the worst and runs away. Yeah. Real smart there, kid. And how about the fact that we never once see the father be fatherly? And then we learn that no, he’s the biggest victim in the family drama that’s kept him from being a good father, but he still doesn’t do a thing to try to fix his relationship with his daughter by, you know, trying to get to know her. Instead, all he does is issue edicts about how she’s not allowed to do this or that.

And, of course, the biggest signal of all: tour manager and manager are two entirely different jobs, and they don’t overlap for a very good reason. When I see that in Rock Fiction, I know right off that we’re dealing with someone who hasn’t taken the time to learn what needs to be learned. In this series, the manager is of course a slimy loser jerk. While there’s a reason the roadie nickname for tour manager is asshole, that doesn’t mean how the tour manager acts toward the band. It means how the tour manager acts on behalf of the band. At things like settlement after a show. Because, you know, the band is essentially his employer. And take note of essentially there. It’s a lot more nuanced than that.

Add in bad editing, both in each book—sorry, but “he ratchet his brain” isn’t even close—and across the series—if you’re going to italicize the stupid bus names in two of the books, do it in all of them—and… yeah. This reads more like Rock Fantasy, not Rock Fiction.

One last note: when I was Skyping with Susan and venting about the errors, her daughter came in the room and listened. “Sounds like every other Rock Fiction on Wattpad,” she said with a shrug. “That’s why I don’t read it.”
Sorry, folks. In a category where there’s so much good, this one’s a pass. If you want really good YA Rock Fiction, look to Sarra Manning’s Guitar Girl, or Nick and Norah, or Fat Kid Rules the World. And those are just off the top of my head. I bet if I searched the archives here at The Rock of Pages, I’d find more. I bet you would, too.

This was one we got via NetGalley, and if you can’t tell this is my honest review, well, I got nothing for you. It sucks when Rock Fiction lets me down in such an epic fashion. It really does.

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You know how sometimes, you’re so beat down by not reading anything good that you’re not motivated to pick up the next book in the stack? And then you finally do and you want to kick yourself because what you’re reading is so much fun that you have trouble putting it down.

Yeah, that.

Jaine herself sent us a copy of her new release, Dirty Like Me, and man, it took way too long to find something that pulled me out of my slump, but this was definitely it. Girl floundering through life meets hot dude. Best friend negotiates a deal for her that gives her more money than she can get her brain around, if she’ll be the hot dude’s pretend girlfriend for six weeks.

Problem is: there’s real chemistry between the two. And they’re both genuinely good people, despite Jesse’s bad boy rocker persona and Katie’s strange life stasis. This, of course, leads to more than a work situation between them, which eventually leads to Katie’s insecurities kicking in.

In a sense, yes, it’s predictable. But what isn’t is how genuinely nice Jesse is. He’s not a tortured, angsty rocker. He’s a normal human being who is considerate of the people around him. He gives a lot of trust to his inner circle, and they all act as though they know they hold a precious gift. Gotta love that.

And Katie’s best friend, Devi, who always ends every conversation with is he good to you – that’s a huge consideration, and props to Devi for asking that question. There’s every reason for a huge rocker type to not be nice to Katie, the newbie on the scene, but Jesse doesn’t take that chance. Like I said: refreshing rocker type.

And refreshing best friend, who looks after her bestie in a way that I wish my friends looked after me. That’s such an important question for any of us in relationships, even if your past isn’t like Katie’s and you’ve never been left at the altar. I’ve written that one down and prettied it up and hung it in my cubicle at work ‘cause it’s a good reminder not just in my private life, but in work, too. Treat and be treated. Be good to each other. I love it.

This book isn’t going to win awards, although it should. Where’s the award for Most Fun Read? Or Couldn’t Put It Down? Or even What To Read When Everything Around You Sucks and You Need to Break Out of the Rut?

Okay, that’s maybe too long of an award category, but man oh man, Jaine Diamond. You get mad props for this one. You hit me at the perfect time and I wish I’d been on top of things in enough time to realize it. Sorry this one’s late.

And thanks for sending a review copy! If you ever want to stop in at The Rock of Pages to talk about your book(s), we’re here for you like raving fan girls. ‘Cause I’m making Susan read this one next. She needs some fun in her life. She’s getting kinda… icky.

This ought to fix her right up. It’s so fun, so hopeful, so fresh.

But… what’s with the title? Who’s the dirty one? And where? That doesn’t come up once. Katie never feels dirty as she’s with Jesse. So… what gives?

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Every time I open a new book, I do it with the expectation that I’m going to love it and it’s going to be great.

Maybe I need to get over that. Because Under the Spanish Stars is one of those books that’s a good read, a strong story, and almost alive with the flamenco culture that frames the story, but… it didn’t knock my socks off.

It’s the story of Charlotte, who goes on a quest given to her by her sick grandmother to discover the history of a painting that means the world to the grandmother. And in alternating chapters, we get not only the story of Charlotte’s quest but also the story of the grandmother.

Abuela’s story is fascinating. As in many of these flashback novels, it’s the better half of the book. The flamenco culture is something that was new to me, and I totally dug it. I wanted more of it, in fact: more description, more of the music. I wanted it to breathe and throb off the page and swallow me whole, the way the best Rock Fiction does.

It didn’t.

But it came close. And for that, we give it props.

This can’t be easy stuff to write about. When you write about a rock band on an arena tour, it’s easy. Most music lovers know what’s up. It’s so much easier to pretend we’re there in the crowd, worshipping the singer or the guitarist or the bassist or the drummer. Most of us have been to concerts. We know how it goes.

And that’s part of why we gotta give Sinclair props. She did her best, describing the opening steps, the stomping feet, the speed of the music, the sweat, the beautiful lines of an arm raised overhead. She almost transported me there.

I bet the reason I failed was more me and less Sinclair. Because I didn’t have that frame of reference; the closest I come is one of the Dancing with the Stars dances, and… even if the characters didn’t tell us, we’d know the two aren’t even close.

Maybe the problem wasn’t the book so much as the reader.

But back to the story itself, and… yeah, still disappointed in it. I wanted more of the culture, especially in the history part. I wanted more of Granada, too, because it’s so different from my life. I feel like I got a quick peek, just enough to tantalize me but not enough to immerse me. And I wanted to be immersed.

This is one I’d say is worth the read. The story is good. It’s solid, if a bit predictable. I’ve gone on about things being at stake in a lot of books I’ve been reading lately, and I kinda feel like this one has the same problem. Not enough is at risk, and the problems that Charlotte faces are fixed too easily. It almost winds up painting Charlotte as a jerk for worrying so much about them, and no one wants the main character to be a jerk. You know?

Pick it up for the Flamenco. Stay for the past history. And just go for the ride with the present day because even though it’s the weakest part, it’s still a nice read.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for letting me have a read! Seriously. Pick this one up and tell me what you think. It released on December 8, which was just a few days ago. Grab it now. Help it boost its First 90 Day Sales count!

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Sometimes, there’s a fine line between junkie lit and Rock Fiction, but this book’s not there. Yeah, Bodhi’s an addict. Maybe even a junkie when we first meet him. But he’s got a zest for life that overlays the junkie status and makes us want to spend a book with him.

And in a move that’s pretty darn fresh for Rock Fiction, Bodhi’s also the talentless face in a boy band.
That’s right. Talentless. A boy band.

Now, the story pretty much focuses on Bodhi and his love for one of his psychologists in rehab. There’s not a lot of Rock Fiction happening here, but at the same time, there is. Hard to explain, but it’s the framework. Bodhi’s rocker status frames how his love, Kimberly, deals with him and things around him, both during and after rehab. And, of course, it affects Bodhi’s life once he’s out of rehab.

And that’s pretty much the story. It’s a forbidden romance story because what sort of true professional falls for her patient, especially when she works for her father at a super high-end, totally professional, catering-to-the-stars joint.

Look, Blow has enough holes in it to resemble what Bodhi’s doing to his septum when his father intervenes and drags his addicted self off to rehab. It’s not just that Kimberly would truly lose her job if this happened in real life—and you all know how I hate that plot line.

But it’s that Bodhi replaces cocaine with Kim, and no one catches it.

It’s that no one realizes Aspen is a problem for Bodhi and throws her out—before she slips him a roofie. Yes, you read that right. And there are zero consequences other than being told she’s now banished. Wow! I’d love to live in a world where you can get away with being worse than a reptile.

Want another plot hole? Here’s one: Bodhi realizes he’s doing all these post-rehab things for the first time without being high. And they’re all so much better now. And he’s involved with a psychologist. One who never talks to him, who doesn’t help him understand and deal with these new perspectives. Nope. Kim’s too busy having sex, being ready to have sex, or shopping with Bodhi’s mega-rich and mega-famous mother.

And yeah, he gets over his addiction in about twenty pages. It’s too easy, too simple. Even when he gets out, even when Aspen gets him high, he’s tamed that devil. He’s not relapsing, no way, no how. Even when he does.

Still, for all that we’ve got Swiss cheese here, this was a fun read. Rebel, Bodhi’s bitch of a manager, deserves her own book at the end of the series (and it is a series!) to explain how she got here, why she thinks pulling people with no talent out of thin air to turn into successful boy bands is a good idea, and even if the other manager who approaches Bodhi and his partners is right that she’s a crummy manager.

Rebel intrigues me. Maybe in a way no one else does.

Blow has some other cool parts: parents who aren’t total screw-ups. Yeah, they weren’t there when Bodhi was growing up and he resents them for it—who wouldn’t?—but they are doing their best now by their son. They love him and they’ll stand by him. But they aren’t afraid to be parental and use the tough love.

Way to go, Mom and Dad. We don’t see parents like this in fiction all that often.

So take this one to the beach or an airplane. Enjoy the ride, enjoy the sexy scenes, set yourself up for a series that’s going to go… who knows where. Just don’t think too much.