Posts Tagged ‘good read’

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This book is chick lit with a big sense of humor and 1989 hairsprayed bangs.

Start with backbeat cover

I spotted Start with the Backbeat by Garine Isassi on a Coveting post on this blog, and was intrigued by the setting—1989, a girl attempting to discover Gangsta rap bands—and the fact that it billed itself as “A Musical Novel” not a romance. I love a rock star romance, but I’ve seen the gritty gangster beginnings of the rap industry in Straight Outta Compton, and I thought this had potential to be a nuanced discussion of a cool epoch in musical history, which it turned out it kinda was.

It was also chick lit, which I didn’t expect. The genre’s a bit out of vogue these days, so that’s probably why it isn’t labeled as such, but it has all the hallmarks: the romance is a subplot rather than a main plot to make room for more challenges with the MC’s career and friends and family. There are lots of disasters, lots of comedy, and a would-be young professional girl sort of thrashing her way to where she wants to be. I loved all these features of chick lit, and it occurs to me in a lot of ways, it was the precursor of New Adult.

I came for the 80s setting and I wasn’t disappointed. Cassette tapes, a music industry in an entirely different time. Plus, it was just painful to watch Jill and her other white middle-class co-workers tiptoe into some rough NYC neighborhoods, looking for “gangstas” to sign, while trying not to get mugged and trying to judge what might be “authentic.” The class and racial lines here are shows with a wince-worthy comedy of errors rather than a preachy tone, which makes for the kind of read that makes you cringe and nod as you recognize real life.

The supporting characters are fun, from the sprawling Armenian family to the sleazy company vice president, and all the very different officemates who end up very loyal to each other. I will say LaKeisha seemed a touch stereotypical to me, but other than that, I enjoyed the variety of personalities all whirled together.

The romance was fun too—Jill ends up going after a computer geek named Alejandro, whose name no one ever gets right, and whom she wasn’t attracted to at all at first (I blame the khaki office pants. I mean, whose ass DOESN’T look saggy in those things?). Seems like everybody starts romances these days with OOH-he’s-so-hot and I have a great time when it starts a little rougher. Alejandro was truly a gentleman, and it showed despite their many missteps.

Where this book really shines (other than the 1980s details and band references, which I LOVED) is in all the moments where you can’t help but recognize real life. The suburban mom crying off her eyeliner because she wants her husband to help more around the house, but he doesn’t do the dishes quite right, so she can’t let him do that, and she can’t leave for the night because of course he couldn’t take care of their baby the way she can and…yeah. So familiar. And Jill’s boyfriend at the beginning of the book, the sound guy that can get them in the backdoor of every club, but who disappears when he’s on the road with a band, even though he SWEARS he’s being faithful.

This has a fun, romantic comedy feel with an 80s twist and a gangsta rap punchline, with amazing lyrics and characters throughout. Four stars.

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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
B&N Nook: http://bit.ly/1WhEq7y
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1T3RSa3
iBooks: http://apple.co/1YLr3M0
Google Play: http://bit.ly/1XNbMKx

Connect with Jessica:
Website: http://www.jessicalemmon.com/
Newsletter: http://bit.ly/1SoTFqy
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lemmony
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Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/jlemmony
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2152knF

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.

Rocktober3avatar S RED

Doris Dumrauf is a friend of mine. I think the world of her and I’m thrilled to be hosting her today for Rocktober. Her first novel, Oktober Heat, is a fun read for you mystery fans — and if you’re not a mystery fan, this one can convince you to be one. Of course, it’s got a strong rock theme to it, too.

Cold War means spies, arms race, and – rock ‘n’ roll? During the 1950s, the U.S. military built hundreds of military installations in West Germany within a few years. GIs with pockets full of dollars, big cars, and the latest rock ‘n’ roll records invaded the formerly sleepy villages. The local girls found them irresistible. Romances blossomed while the young couples danced the night away to the hottest tunes. American and German musicians toured the enlisted clubs to entertain the troops.

“There’s a novel in there,” I thought when I learned about the Fifties in my home county. But which year should I choose as the setting? And then it occurred to me that Elvis Presley arrived in Germany in 1958 to complete a tour of duty in the U.S. Army. I had found my hook!

In my novel “Oktober Heat,” music becomes the symbol of the clash between Old World values and New World culture. The book begins and ends with a concert because rock ‘n’ roll music is my protagonist’s passion. Young police officer Walter Hofmann works long hours investigating a murder and relaxes by listening to the latest hits on AFN.

I admit that I do not remember the 1950s from personal experience. By the time I became interested in pop music, the first Beatles hits were already Oldies. But I’ve always enjoyed the music of the Fifties and Sixties and played them while writing my novel.

How important is music to Walter? Let’s ask him:
Q: How do you feel about Elvis Presley’s arrival?
WH: First of all, I love his music. But I am not happy that the girls are all crazy about him. I mean, how is a young man with average looks and income supposed to compete with him?

Q: What do you like most about the American GIs?
WH: I like the rock ‘n’ roll records they bring in. Most of all, I love attending concerts at the base. How else would I ever see the Trotters and other famous bands? They bring the big, wide world into our province. Lauterbach was a sleepy village before they arrived, and now look at it. We have an italian ice café, several bars, and plenty of pubs. German singers are trying hard to imitate the sound, but I much prefer listening to American bands, even if I can’t understand all the lyrics.

Q: You seem to be very protective of the women in your life.
WH: Yes, I became a police officer because I want to protect and help people. My younger sister Ingrid, though, makes it hard for me. She’s 18 and a bit rebellious. Her Elvis infatuation is getting out of hand and I don’t have the time to look after her all the time. I fear that she might get into trouble.

Q: So you young people just want to have some fun and enjoy life?
WH: Yes, we do! We work hard, but when we’re off work we want to shake up the town. And now I have to go because the Crocodiles are playing at the Enlisted Club tonight and I don’t want to miss it.

“Oktober Heat” is available at:

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