Posts Tagged ‘beach read’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renee and Dylan. He’s the reluctant musician. She’s the woman who supports him, loves him, and finds her way to peace in Rachel K. Burke’s cute novel.

Renee has, in a huff, moved back home to Boston after finding her best friend in bed with her man. Her reaction seems a bit extreme since she says she knows she didn’t love the guy, but the hurt she suffers is terribly real. This is a horrible way to end a friendship, folks. Don’t be a Justine.

Living upstairs from Renee’s new digs is the ultra cool Dylan. By night, he picks up a guitar and strums the music of the one musician who can break through Renee’s fun: Jeff Buckley. It turns out this is only one of the things they have in common, including a mutual attraction.

Dylan’s got some issues: he’s caught up in a parade of bimbos, and he’s also got the world’s worst stage fright. It’s up to Renee to fix it all – and, of course, it doesn’t go well. This is a romance, after all, which means there have be obstacles, misunderstandings, break-ups, and reconciliations.

Burke moves us around, lets us share in Dylan’s success – okay, maybe his comfort in front of a crowd happens too fast and too easily, but again, this is a fun read. It’s not meant to be a meditation on stage fright – and most definitely lets us see Renee, warts and all. She’s not perfect, which is exactly what makes her worth spending the time with. The secondary characters are all very real, as well, and well-drawn.

The book’s biggest flaw is that there’s too much telling – something often hard to avoid in a first-person novel – and the backstory could have been incorporated into the tale a bit more masterfully.

I’m going to remind you again, though: this is about fun, and that is something Burke delivers in spades. She knows music and she knows the world of it, two qualities that need to be present in the best Rock Fiction.

For those looking for a quick, light beach read, Sound Bites delivers.

***
Rachel was kind enough to contact me and provide a review copy. As always, I’m being brutally honest in how I felt about the book. Check out the quote on page 41 about music people if you think there’s even an INKLING that I’m not being honest.

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

I was very jazzed when I came across Olivia Brynn’s Falling Star. I was even more jazzed when Olivia contacted me and offered to send me one of the few existing print copies of the book.

I read it with no small amount of relish. It’s a fun book. I’d recommend it, absolutely. But, of course, as with the majority of what I read, there are some issues. Nothing fatal, I’m pleased to say.

Well, okay. There was one almost-fatal problem, but we can’t blame it on the author. It’s the editing, specifically the copy editing. I’m terribly sorry, but “Come here babe” just isn’t grammatically correct. There needs to be a comma between the words here and babe. This was enough of a consistent problem, there was no way it can be excused as a fluke. Someone doesn’t know how to do their job. Period.

Let’s focus on the things that are what we’re really here to talk about, which is the story. It’s not a fresh one: rock star needs to clean up his act, walks incognito into a florist, and falls in love with an ordinary girl who has no idea who he is, even though she loves his music.

Does some of this sound familiar? A bit? It’s a similar premise of the recent book from Karina Bliss, What the Librarian Did.

I feel like lately, every review winds up as a comparison — with the more recently reviewed book falling short. In some ways, Falling Star does just that. But because it lacks the more serious subplot found in Librarian, this is a stronger beach read.

That’s a compliment. I love a good beach read.

Unfortunately, our rocker, Adam, is a bit bland. He’s fine. He’s likeable. But he lacks that zing we saw in Bliss’ Devin, that raw sexuality and charisma. Likewise, Adam is also lacking the real bad boy persona — and details — that is causing his star to fall. We’re told he’s heading for problems, but all we get to see is a nice guy. His excesses are glossed over, and that gloss hurts my rock and roll rating.

Flower shop owner Jade is a character with a lot of potential. Sure, she’s got the gay best friend thing going, but she’s also confident without being too strong. There’s nothing wussy about this girl. Even when she chooses to sleep on the couch, it fits her character. Again, though, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to know her deeply enough.

This is a problem, especially as we have many of the properly cliched scenes. The woman who doesn’t recognize the star. Getting up in the middle of the night to find Adam working on a song. The boats, the homes.

Since this is an erotic romance, I am compelled to mention the sex. Hot. Steamy. Possibly the best part of the book, and I’ve already said this is a good read. But there was a problem, here, too. In one scene, Adam changes and becomes very dominant. This was a jarring change and it bothered me. We see him so consistently as a good guy, a gentle man. And then he’s growling and he’s almost forcing Jade up against a wall and … yeah. It was too rough. Too out of character. For me, it crossed the line into assault, simply because it was so out of character.

In other words: dominant males are fine. A Jekyll and Hide switch from gentle to dominant isn’t.

I suppose that leads us to the final assessment: as a rock and roll novel, how is it? Only fair, I’m afraid. There are almost too many clichés. If that doesn’t bother you — or you’re one of those folk who lap it up, especially in an erotic romance or a good beach read — you’ll be quite happy.

I do look forward to more from Olivia Brynn. Even if she’s not kind enough to send me a freebie each time.

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

It began at the library, as many of my forays into young adult literature do (sadly). The Girl Band picked up a copy of a book called Dancing Queen. Yeah, like in ABBA. We looked at each other. “What the heck?” we asked each other. “It’s a free read,” I told her. “If you don’t like it…”

“Return it!” she told me with a laugh.

She’s heard this refrain from me before.

A day later, she brought it to me. “Mom,” she said, “this is more your thing.”

She was right. Dancing Queen, written by Erin Downing, is the story of Olivia – Liv – who comes from Minnesota to spend the summer in London, interning for Music Mix, an operation that seems awfully like Fuse TV or the golden days of MTV. They do a countdown, they do concerts, they are supposedly all things music.

One of the first things Liv does is catch the eye of pop star Josh Cameron, who says he likes Liv because she’s not the usual starlet, but who certainly leaves a lot to be desired, especially in the way he treats our heroine. He’s never referred to by only his first name, only by both names, which is both mystifying and annoying. He also never comes alive as a character.

The story follows Liv as she tries to figure out if she wants to be with Josh Cameron while she decides – or not – to figure out what’s going on with her fellow intern, Colin. There’s the tough boss who reminds one of Miranda Priestly; the Southern belle of a roommate who, of course, has a hidden, softer side; and the other roommate, the one whose parents don’t understand her desire to work for Music Mix after the summer ends. One conversation and poof! It’s all better.

Yes, I know. This is young adult lit. What am I expecting? I don’t know. Maybe something as wonderful as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. As Sarra Manning’s Guitar Girl. Or even on par with my all-time YA Rock Fiction favorite: Fat Kid Rules the World.

In the end, I wouldn’t say this is Rock Fiction nearly as much as it is a fun beach read that, like Last Night at Chateau Marmont, is more about the condition of being a star than it is about being specifically a music star. Dancing Queen is a feel-good book about finding your way and, ultimately, about it being okay to be the boring, normal girl who loves what she does but who is perfectly happy to be outside the inner circles of fame.