Posts Tagged ‘glad I got a review copy’

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)

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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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So this was billed as a serial about the events leading up to a fatal shooting at a rock (pop) concert. But the bigger tease in all this is the mystery: five people are killed, but only four “go on record.” (Quotes because I’m not 100% certain what that means. Public record? Official record of the event? Or are they recording this for a live album?)

THAT is the story I want to read. Why’s one person’s death covered up? What’s going on here? Who died? Which of the five is it, and why?

And that’s my question. If the author’s going to tease us with this, he’s got to produce something more that leads up to it. He’s got to tie the mystery into what he gives us. But other than the opening, which is pretty cool and – again – sets us up for a story about the shooting and the mystery of what’s happened, that’s not what we get. We don’t even get that rich atmosphere full of the expectation and anticipation that we’re building up to something.

What we get is a short bit about a bunch of different people, few who come alive on the page and rise above stereotypes.

And ten percent at the beginning is the author’s… it feels like a defense. Telling us how long the whole thing is when put together. And other babble that, frankly, I don’t care about. I don’t care about how he struggled to write this, or get it published, or any of that. Save it for the blog tour, man. Don’t put it in your book, and most certainly, don’t start with it.

So that’s the first ten percent. And then the installment ends at 88%, so that we can be teased for the second one. Which we gotta download and pay for. Seven installments at roughly two or three bucks a pop… well, that’s a pretty slick marketing trick.

Except that this one, doesn’t really earn its $1.99 price tag. After all I’ve just pointed out that 22% of the whole thing has nothing to do with the actual story at hand. It’s fluff. And while the opening scene focuses on the mystery, that’s all that does. Which means something like five or ten percent is the story we’ve been promised – the mystery of the shootings and which dead body doesn’t go “on the record.” (Again, still not sure what that means.)

And there’s not a mosh pit in sight. In fact, there’s almost zero Rock Fiction in here. These are ordinary people, doing ordinary things. Which is fine, but what’s it got to do with the mystery? And how about the title? What’s a mosh pit got to do with anything? Melting pot might be a better term to use here ’cause I don’t see any moshing going on, either.

Just… I gotta throw my hands up on this one. We don’t see a lot of Rock Fiction written by men, so I’d had high hopes. And the whole idea of a mystery dead person is really appealing, especially when you factor in the setting. Five people turn up dead at a concert, but who’s that fifth person… what’s their story? Their mystery?

I don’t know. Maybe this just wasn’t told the right way. Maybe it unfolds all wrong. I don’t know. All I know is that it’s not something I’m going to follow up on.

Review copy provided by NetGalley. Thanks for the chance to explore something new.

Edited: Jett had the price wrong, which Michael himself kindly pointed out. I’ve fixed it. –Susan

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Holy typos, you guys. I’ve heard Susan complain all the time that authors complain she’s too expensive, but you gotta hire someone or else be ready for me to make fun of you for thinking JACKAL AND HYDE is a thing. Like… wow.

And that’s not the sort of intro you want for a review, is it? But there it is. Just… wow.

Melody of Truth

This sucks because Melody of Truth gets off to a fantastic start (one that’s light on the typos, which actually get worse as the book goes along). I was totally into it.

Melody’s a documentary filmmaker, a famous one. Think Bruce Sinofsky famous. More famous than Penelope what’s-her-name, who did the Decline of Western Civilization movies.

And Melody gets hired to make a documentary about… a band? A solo artist? This winds up being the first of a lot of details that are either confusing or make no sense. But Melody’s there to make a film and she’s got this insta-lust with the drummer, Sean.

Brownie points for giving the rocker a normal name. Although is it normal, or is it abnormal, since what’s normal has turned into the bizarre names?

Anyway, Sean’s there. And so are other guys in the band. And then the focus is on him and Melody and their relationship and sometimes, I’m not sure if there’s a band happening and a movie getting made, or if it’s all just a convenient backdrop for this romance.

Now, if you’ve got issues about cheating, this book isn’t for you. Melody, it turns out, is engaged to this guy and from the get-go, it’s clear she’s not in love with him. She’s settling. And that’s okay at first. People settle.

But people also meet the partner who sets them on fire, and Melody finds that in Sean, and she’s got a dilemma, but not really because she wants Sean and she admits that nope, Marco doesn’t do a damn thing for her. And then, long after things start to smell, we learn that Marco’s pretty much a cliché and so we don’t really feel bad that Melody essentially cheated on him by sleeping with Sean when she was engaged to Marco.

Like I said, if you have issues, this isn’t the book for you.

I like the concept of finding a love who you just can’t stay away from, everything practical be damned. I love the opening. I just wish it had been more: more Rock Fiction, more documentary, more explanation about the band, more detail, even more originality where Marco was concerned. I mean, a poet? With no day job? Really?

I don’t know if I’m getting picky lately, or if there’s just been a streak of stuff that’s not doing it for me. Either way, I’m still hunting for more authors like Cecilia Tan for me and Jessica Topper for Susan. You know: the authors we rave about to anyone who’ll listen. Not that I corner people on airplanes when I see them with a book. Nope. Not me.

Grab yourself a copy. Got a different opinion of this book? Send your review and Susan will get it posted for you.
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Susan dropped me a note that she’d gotten approval for the new Stina Lindenblatt novel. You know: the follow-up to This One Moment, which was a book I’d really liked. I was pretty darn excited to get my hands on My Song For You. Which band member was this going to be about?

Turns out it’s Jared’s story. He runs into the little sister of an old flame, and she’s got a kid.

Now, he looks at this kid and there’s not a flash of recognition, even though the kid apparently looks exactly like him. Not even when he grabs a picture of himself at age four, which is Logan’s age, does he get it. He keeps telling himself he never slept with Callie, so there’s no way. But he never stops to think beyond that.

Our Jared’s a little slow. Or maybe he’s distracted by Callie, who’s always had a thing for him but he never knew it. And maybe he liked Callie better than he let on, but he was busy with Callie’s older sister—and man, was he crushed when she told him she’d aborted their kid.

You guessed it, huh? Big sister Alexis lied. She had the kid and swore her family to secrecy. Not long after, Alexis and her parents died in a car accident, leaving Callie to raise her nephew, realigning her life plans and struggling to get by.

It’s a good setup, but it’s not enough. Callie and Jared don’t talk about the situation. Jared goes running to a lawyer behind everyone’s back and this lawyer dude ain’t real smart ’cause he doesn’t focus one whit on what’s best for this kid, who has no reason to think the only mother he can remember is really his aunt. And Jared? Doesn’t stop to consider Callie. He’s too busy being… well, not quite angry because he’s not passionate enough, but he’s being an idiot, that’s for sure. He wants to man up to his responsibility and that’s admirable, but he seems short on people around him who he’ll talk to, and who will widen his too-narrow viewpoint. And this includes his parents.

As for Callie, she gets scared and shuts down. And that’s how these two deal with this pretty big problem they’ve got. They don’t.

There’s not a lot of music in this book, to be honest. Jared isn’t the most dynamic character; he’s not got that charisma that Tyler/Nolan had in the first book of the series. He’s one of those guys who could be an everyman. It’s disappointing.

And so are the music details that do appear. You don’t meet with a music video director one day and begin recording the next. There’s no way this band would defy the micromanaging head of the label and change up the songs they had committed to play on a TV showcase special.

This doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good read. And okay, maybe it wasn’t good in the same way the first was. Too many chapters end the same way: with Jared telling us he’s an idiot. After the first couple, it’s a yawner. The potential for a really rich, rewarding story is there, but because Callie and Jared don’t talk through the big issues, this really readable book loses a lot of the high marks it could have otherwise had.

Let’s write this one off to a sophomore slump and hope the next in the series is about Mason, the foul-mouthed dude. Right now, he’s the guy I’m most interested in.

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I’d heard a lot of great things about Melissa Foster’s books, so when she wrote a potential Rock Fiction entry into one of her series, I was all over it.

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I’m not sure what the fuss is.

Now, if you like those books where things don’t ever really go wrong, where people communicate and work through small problems super easy, where it’s a love fest from the second new people meet and families come together, this is totally your thing.

And I’m not one of those people who wallows in angst, but I’d like a little bit of tension and darkness in my books, you know? But when even the truffles are described as delicious after we’ve watched more than one character talk about how good they are, you know this isn’t the world’s most realistic version of reality.

By the end, it totally grated on my nerves. And I couldn’t tell anyone apart in the huge families of Trish and Boone.
So here’s the deal: Trish is an actress who expects this version of Sid and Nancy to get her an Oscar. And she fully expects this despite the fact that she’s going to be starring opposite Boone, who’s never acted and comes off as more than a boor. We’re told he’s a rock star, but there’s nothing rock star about him, despite the fact that he plays guitar a few times. It takes more than that. More than never-voiced worries about how a rocker and an actress can make it work.

So it’s got no real conflict and it’s not Rock Fiction. We’re striking out here.

Except it’s readable and until the end, when it goes over the top in family insta-love for each other, it’s a fun and good read. Perfect for the beach or for a day in a hammock in the backyard (thanks for buying that, Dad) when you don’t want to think or do anything but go along for the ride.

Bring your own delicious truffles, though.

Pick up your copy, and as always, thanks to Rock Star Lit for the review copy. If you’ve read it and want to share your own views, drop Susan a line!

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I love a good Southern novel, and I love Rock Fiction that’s off the beaten path, and I just love good books, and let me start off by saying that Last Ride to Graceland has it all.

I may not need to say anything else—go get your own copy and see if you agree—but just in case, here you go:

Last Ride to Graceland is the story of Cory Beth Ainsworth, who interprets a rather cryptic message from her father and winds up setting off on an impromptu road trip that teaches her more than she ever imagined about her mother—and herself.

Her first discovery is one of Elvis’ cars, the famed Stutz Blackhawk itself. She had known her mother had spent a year—Elvis’ last year on Earth—as one of his backup singers. But she hadn’t known the car was there, almost right under her nose, bundled up for safekeeping.

Now, she’d long ago figured out that her father, Bradley, wasn’t her biologic father. That’s not news to anyone in this book. Nine-pound babies simply aren’t born after seven months of pregnancy, and that’s Cory’s logic when she figures out the truth. But Bradley’s a good man and by and large, Cory’s never thought too much about who donated half her genes. Why should she? By all accounts, her mother adored her. Bradley isn’t just a good man; he’s a good father, even if there’s been some space between them since Cory’s mother died.

But then this message and this chance at unraveling the past is dropped in her lap. And let’s face it: how can anyone resist? As a reader, I can’t. Could Elvis be Cory’s real father? Is that where her gift of music comes from?

I’m not going to spoil it. What I am going to say is that this is an effortless read, one that sucks you in and holds you in its spell until the last page, when you emerge satisfied, refreshed, and maybe a bit jealous that this brush with rock and roll royalty wasn’t really yours. You were just a voyeur, coming along for the trip. And on that trip, we meet great characters of all sorts, some whose motives are very clear and some whose motives never are.

My only complaint, and it’s a big one, is that we’re told Cory is thirty-seven. But she doesn’t seem that old to me. In fact, I kept expecting her to be in her twenties, which tends to be the decade for lost people to find themselves (by and large; I know a couple of folk in their early thirties who are still pretty darn lost). I have a hard time believing Cory is thirty-seven. It just doesn’t fit. And it’s not because I was a wife and mother at thirty-seven and Cory isn’t. She just has an air about her that doesn’t fit with any of the thirty-somes I know, even the ones who are a bit lost. She’s too naïve, too innocent, too inexperienced at the phenomenon of getting out of bed every day and doing what you have to do, even if all you have to do is breathe.

No matter how big this complaint, it’s not a good enough reason to keep you from picking this one up. Like I said, it hits all my favorites: Southern fiction, Rock Fiction, road trips, a story that’s off the beaten path (as the best Southern fiction is), great characters…

Really. Go grab a copy.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for approving me for the read. This is, of course, unvarnished truth. Meaning they didn’t pay me to gush like this. It just happened.

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Return of the Bad Boy

Turns out, Return of the Bad Boy is the fourth book in its series, although it’s the first one that stars rocker Asher Knight and agent of some sort, Gloria Shields. Since the characters had only been minor characters in the previous books, I’d thought I could jump into this one and know what’s going on.

Nope.

This was a hard book to get into at first. It opens with what ought to be a hot sex scene between our leads, Gloria and Asher, but right off the bat, because they’re total strangers, it’s not that hot. And it’s kinda confusing, as there are all these references to a robust past between them and this assumption that we know it and are up on it. But since I’m dropping into the series cold, it took forever to settle in. And not just with Asher and Gloria, but with the characters who’ve already had their own series, as well. Just… no backstory.

By the time the story ended, I still wasn’t sure what sort of agent Gloria really was, or what she really did for a living; I asked Susan, and she said Gloriad didn’t seem to act like the literary agents who blog about their lives and how they work.

But if you put all that aside –and it took about a third of the book, if not a little more, before I could – this is an interesting story. It’s more Asher’s than Gloria’s, but only sort of.

Neither character seems to change that much, as Asher has already bought the house and settled into a life with shared custody. His upheaval is over. There’s not a lot of conflict for him.
Just Gloria and how much he wants her.

She’s got more conflict in her life, needing to get over her trust issues so she can love Asher, but those issues seem almost downplayed next to a subplot about some sleaze who wants her to come work with him. I’m not sure why. I’m not sure what he does, other than being an agent, too, but they don’t seem to compete and there’s talk that they’d compliment each other, but I’m not sure how. Again, it’s not real clear. And it’s also not clear what he brings to her that would tempt her, other than the chance to run away and go back to where she came from, but hello? Wasn’t she running away when she left Chicago? I sort of got the impression she was. And if so, that’s not a lot of incentive to leave this place she’s just arrived in.

So most of the conflict really winds up settling around the mom of Asher’s kid, a young girl who’s really not prepared for motherhood. It’s a bad scene, and one that’s really kind of sad.

Of course, the attraction to us here at The Rock of Pages is the rocker, Asher. He’s… kind of tame as far as fictional rockers go. In some ways, he falls under the category of guys who could be anyone, he’s so normal. But there are times, details that set him apart, and it’s those details—his clothes, his hair, his bracelets and rings—that remind us who he is. Yes, he’s got a guitar and the band comes over and they have songwriting sessions in an idyllic setting. But more than anything, he’s a regular sort of guy. Almost interchangeable with any other strong male lead. But not quite. He’s got an edge, an electric vibe to him that defines him as a rocker. It’s a nice thing to see, particularly in Rock Fiction.

I guess what I’m looking for from him and Gloria both is more internal angst. He doesn’t really struggle with any resentments about this new life. He just goes about his business, organizing things the way he wants them organized and, in total rock star fashion, without taking no for an answer.

That lack of angst makes me think this is more of an easy, breezy book. One of those beach reads where nothing really goes wrong and life finds a way of working itself out and yeah, happily ever after really can happen.

But I don’t know. I want my fiction a little less lovely and a bit more harrowing when faced with hard choices. I want some pain, some tough choices, some internal struggle along with the easy-breezy beach read vibe. You may not, and if not, you’re going to find this one’s a keeper.

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26031222-return-of-the-bad-boy

Buy links:
Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/1U8X6X4
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Google Play: http://bit.ly/1XNbMKx

Connect with Jessica:
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As always, thanks to the folk at Rock Star PR for providing a review copy and letting us here at The Rock of Pages join this book tour. Be sure to check out other reviews and opinions, and to leave your own, too! You can do it in the comments here, you can send Susan a full review for her to post, or you can post it somewhere else. Remember that next to buying a book, talking up a book you like is a great way to support an author.

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There’s something about the way Cecilia Tan writes. I love it. Just love it. So much that twenty pages into her newest book, Taking the Lead, I had to stop and send e-mails to half my book friends, telling them they needed to read this, too. Tan gets the world of the rich, famous, and rock star royalty. She knows how the power players work. And it shows in these books she’s turning out. If that’s your thing, don’t miss Tan’s books. Period. That should be my whole review.

Except, did I mention she knows how to write a sex scene? Hoo boy, she can write it hot. Susan thinks Lorelei James is the gold standard. For me, it’s Tan.

So. Taking the Lead is about two of these power players and what happens when they find each other. Ricki Hamilton is a movie production chick. I’m not exactly sure of her pedigree, but it seems to be there, and I’m really not sure of her passion for movies as opposed to her passion for going to the office. But we hear all about this secret dungeon she’s inherited from her beloved grandfather and she’s got to run it. Except, of course, there’s all sorts of problems including a possessive loser with holier-than-thou issues. He’s a charmer. I hope he gets chained to the Daisy wheel in the dungeon and left upside down for days.

Ricki’s partner in lust here is Axel, a rocker who… he just doesn’t seem like much of a rocker to me. He doesn’t have that special charisma and half the time, I had trouble remembering if he was a singer or a guitar player. Axel could have been any other Hollywood player. He just didn’t stick out as a musician/rocker type. And I wanted him to.

So Axel and Ricki get together and suddenly, his kinda sorta there dom tendencies show up and Ricki’s all too glad to be his sub even though this woman who owns a dungeon doesn’t know exactly what that means. Axel’s glad to teach her, and in the heat of the moment, she’s glad to learn. It’s when she thinks and gets into her head that the problems begin.

Pretty damn normal, if you ask me. I know an awful lot of people who overthink and no, I’m not looking at my Rock of Pages boss here. Nope.

That’s their biggest obstacle: Ricki. Not sure she wants this lifestyle, she and Axel talk about it a lot. And that’s a good thing, especially because this isn’t one of those books where they start off with the spanking and end with the anal and it all goes according to script. Nope. This is a new-to-me sort of submission and domination and I bet this is a good representation of it being done right. I love that Axel has some really dead-on instincts about Ricki and they talk about things—well, he talks and she listens—and instead of Axel being a total domineering idiot, he cares about Ricki in a way that most doms don’t—at least in the fiction I’ve read, and I’ve read more than I probably should have. At times, their dialogue doesn’t feel real, especially when they start talking about BDSM using that exact acronym, but what’s important here is that Ricki is open to it, and not just because of the dungeon she never knew about.

If anything, she seems to keep what she and Axel do very separate from the activities in the dungeon. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad or how I feel about it because they should be intertwined but they’re not. I’m also not sure how I feel about the idea that being into the scene is genetic, which is pretty much what Ricki learns as she comes to terms with the death of her mother. And, too, the ending, which mirrors what she learns about her mother, bugs me. It seems like too much too soon, more of a neat ending to a book than truth.

So I’ve got these gripes, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t the best book I’ve read in a long time. I love that there’s issues of Hollywood gender power games and the dungeon and the legacy Ricki’s grandfather left that she has to fight against. I love that the situation with her father isn’t cut-and-dry, and I doubt we’re done coming to understand that poor screwup of a man. I love the depth of this world that Ricki inhabits, although that’s part of why Axel falls a bit short. It’s a hard act to follow!

Like I said, I love that Axel cares about her, that he’s not always the barking-orders type of dom who ignores her needs and tries to bury who she is so that she can serve him better. I love that Ricki gets to be herself, not who Axel thinks she ought to be. I love the sex and how it’s hot and it’s different and I love that scene in the limo, when she puts her hands behind her back and I swear, that is hotter than almost any sex scene I’ve ever read anywhere else. I love how Axel comes to own her, I love that he’s a rocker who thinks and who does rise above most of the usual stereotypes (I just wish he felt more musical). I love that they’re going to be a power couple and this is the first in a series and I really hope we get to see how they evolve as that power couple and how the dungeon changes because of them and how Hollywood changes because of them and maybe somewhere along the way, Axel will rediscover what it is that made him join a band in the first place because right now, I’m just not feeling it and I’m all about Rock Fiction so as much as I like the kinky fiction, I’m even more about the Rock and Roll, so bring it, please.

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Thanks to the folk at Rock Star PR for letting us take part in Cecilia Tan’s tour. They handed the free copy out, we read it and decided to leave the varnish off our thoughts ’cause we have too much integrity to be bought like that. All opinions are Jett’s own and shouldn’t be confused with Susan’s ’cause Susan’s still down and out with an eye injury and isn’t reading much of anything right now. But don’t point that out. She’s kinda grumpy about it.

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Back in Rocktober, Susan Griscom sent me a review copy of her two Beaumont Brothers books, Beautifully Wounded and Beautifully Used. Took me awhile to get through them, and I already reviewed Beautifully Wounded. I think the fact that it’s not Rock Fiction had me dragging my heels about getting Beautifully Used read … and then reviewed. I finished it awhile ago. Like a month or so.

But I take good notes. So let’s get to it:

Beautifully Used is the story of one of the minor characters in Beautifully Wounded, Jackson’s brother Brodie. Brodie’s your classic male slut and although I kept wondering why word never got out in this small town they purportedly live in about what a slut he was, the girls kept coming around. I don’t know. I’ve never been the type to seek out the easy lays, and it’s not like Brodie had the freedom to go chase tail: as a bartender, he’s pretty much locked into a fixed location. That’s why I wonder why word never got out about him.

And then, in the first book, he meets Gabrielle, the best friend of his brother’s girl. For Brodie, it’s lust at first sight, of course. Gabrielle isn’t so sure.

Which is why Lena and Jackson push them repeatedly into close quarters as they wind up essentially being the last-minute go-fers for Lena and Jackson’s wedding. Lena’s so glad to have her friend around, but in her pre-wedding Bridezilla self-obsession doesn’t spend that much time with her friend. Jackson, likewise, is absent. So it’s Gabby and Brodie and yeah, there’s no hope for them. We know they’ll be together.

The conflict comes in a way that’s too similar to the first book, too. Stalkers, confrontations in the woods, almost deaths. Brodie’s habits are less of an issue than this stalker-dude, and Gabby’s horrific past is dealt with way too easily.

While there’s more music in this one — the band goes on the road for a show, in a pretty implausible way (but it’s still fun — I have stress that. It’s fun) — it’s still not Rock Fiction. There’s not enough music, not enough of the right elements that push these people from being people into being stars. They’re just people who make music.

So. Lots of negatives here. And yeah, there are. But like the first book, this is a fun, easy read. It’s perfect for a day on the beach, a time when you want to escape into someone else’s life and see that they have it as tough, if not tougher, than you do, but at the same time, their problems aren’t insurmountable.

Not every book has to be lofty, not every book has to tackle the big issues. Sometimes, easy breezy is the way to go, and with that, Griscom delivers in spades. It’s a good escapist couple of hours, and I’m glad I read these.

Huge thanks to Susan Griscom (as opposed to our site owner, Susan) for sharing her books.