Posts Tagged ‘Reviews by Jett’

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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This wasn’t the book I was expecting when I heard about it. Rock band moves in with a woman and tests her already troubled marriage. But then again, maybe I’m not sure what I was expecting. Not really. This could have gone a million directions.

Brenda Dunkirk is in her thirties when she writes a letter to her rock hero, Hydra’s Keith Kutter. And somehow, she winds up first having dinner with the guy—who, contrary to most Rock Fiction, shows up as an utter jerk—and then renting out her house and backyard to Keith and his band as they write a new album. Why her house? Because Keith comes over, becomes enchanted with her wind chimes, she just so happens to know of a recording studio he can use, and the band’s diva manager decides the band absolutely must not change their setting while they write a new album.

Has anyone asked the band what they want to do?

Now, in the middle of this mix is Brenda and her husband, Tim. They’re struggling to stay together. He’s running for the State Senate and she’s gunning for a promotion at work. There’s a lot at stake here, but they don’t seem to care. Nope. This was Brenda’s dream and so Tim tells her to go for it, despite his reservations.

This is one of the book’s big sticking points for me. At times, Tim is completely indifferent to Brenda. At times, he’s disdainful of her. And then at other times, he’s totally romantic and working to be a good partner. There’s never much of a sense that he’s struggling with how he feels about her. This makes it hard to get to know him. In fact, the most important thing in his life seems to be the Senate race, yet we don’t know why it’s important to him. Not really. Maybe we’re told, but we don’t see or feel his passion for it.

He’s also a mama’s boy, who has no guts or gumption where Mama Portia is concerned, and it’s clear he puts her before his wife. Another thing I’m not sure of is why Brenda loves him—or why she stays with such a wuss. Cut your losses, girl!

Adding to Tim’s wussy confusion and after a series of passive aggressive responses to the band’s antics, he finally takes a stand against Brenda and the band. Of course, he does it without ever speaking to the band. Because Tim’s the man.

Plot holes abound when the band moves in. There are fans who camp out in the front yard and an entire tent city in the backyard, but the neighbors never complain and, in this age of social media, no one ever asks or finds out what’s going on. Don’t Brenda and Tim talk to their neighbors? Aren’t there any nosy teenagers nearby? Can’t the people next door see into the yard and wonder about the tents, or report the Senator-to-be for jamming too many people onto his property? No one alerts the media? Really? Even when that drumset in the garage gets played?

This setup could totally smear Tim and his campaign, but no one seems to catch on. I just don’t buy it, even when explanations are offered. Maybe in the eighties, but this book is set in the present day. You’d expect a public relations whiz like Brenda keeps telling us she is to have even a basic understanding of social media.

The band generally is not much more than a cliché. Sex, drugs, prostitutes, a disregard for Brenda and Tim and their home… it’s all there. And to Knapp’s credit, once Keith is an asshole, he remains an asshole. No easy redemption for him, and that’s a bonus. He has some good personality quirks, too, so bonus points for that.

Brenda, though, drove me up a couple of walls. She’s hard to like because she’s such a groupie even now. Age and experience hasn’t kicked in for her, and she’s got no real distance from her youth. She talks about what a great public relations person she is, and we hear about all the stuff she’d do for the band, but she’s more interested in being a muse for lyrics and living out her groupie fantasies than she is in truly helping this band she claims is so important to her. If you want to be valuable to the big dogs, you learn to adapt, and fast. Brenda never does. She never even tries to gain an authority and authenticity with the band; she’s never more than a doormat until it comes to be time for the book’s climax.

This doormat tendency is a serious problem for me. Her grasp of her own personal power comes in one or two moments of glory, and then she’s right back to being a doormat again. Now, she does work for a manipulative bitch of a boss, who holds a promotion over her head at all times, and her mother-in-law is even worse and has a beautifully oedipal situation with her son, Brenda’s husband. She does have these things working against her. But come on. She feels like such a powerless character, and that’s not the trend in fiction right now.

I could argue that it’s nice to see an author fighting against the trends, and it is, but doormats were never my thing, in real life or in fiction. Brenda doesn’t have to be a kick-ass heroine who fixes everything singlehandedly without breaking a sweat or knocking a hair out of place.

I’d just like to see more of her strength and creativity.

Was it worth a read? For the sheer cleverness of the way the Rock Fiction angle is handled, yes. I like the potential here. I like how Knapp uses the band and the lifestyle to draw a sharp contrast to Brenda’s life. I like that Brenda isn’t willing to conform to the Hydra lifestyle just because they are in her house, and I like that she sees things in her husband that I don’t and that she does fight for him, even if I don’t fully understand why.

And I like that this isn’t the same old, same old. It may not have been 100%, but it’s sure a lot better than the formula I’ve seen too much of lately. Huge kudos for that.

So… thanks to NetGalley for the review copy. I’m glad to see Rock Fiction that isn’t the typical plotline, and I’m glad to see places like NetGalley bringing Rock Fiction to the world. Keep the creative plots coming, authors.

 

In case you missed it, this review copy came from NetGalley in exchange for Jett’s honest opinion. They didn’t pay me, no one around here got anything other than a free  book and a headache ’cause Jett’s slower than Susan is, if that’s possible.

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This is another book Susan sent on for me to review. Again, she’d been Tweeting with the author, who’d said she would like it.

I like the story. Love the concept: the main character is an acoustics expert. Who even knew there were real acoustics experts in the world? And if there aren’t, don’t tell me. What matters is that this character knows how to listen, and it’s that skill that eventually solves the murder.

This is one cool setup.

And Pamela herself, our sleuth with the golden ear, is a likeable character. She’s got a real personality; she’s real particular. There’s something old school about her, and I really like that. This seems to be one of a series — a quick look at GoodReads shows there are five — and even though I started in the middle, I could catch on.

A good story, but Susan’s comments at GoodReads are right: the typos in here are terrible. When I told Susan I was reviewing this, she confessed that because the copy editing is so bad, she cringes whenever she sees the publisher’s name on a book. She’s got a point, especially because we’d both really be talking this up if the stupid mistakes weren’t so damn distracting.

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Years ago, author Richard Sharp really wanted Susan to review his book, The Duke Don’t Dance. It was, she says, a usual claim: it’s Rock Fiction ’cause the characters are shaped by the music of the Sixties.

People, it takes more than that for a book to be Rock Fiction. Music has to somehow shape the story, the events. The book has to throb with it. Because otherwise, every book that had a character singing along to “I Love Rock and Roll” would be Rock Fiction. It just doesn’t work that way.

Susan wanted my take on the book because it was a DNF for her. And… I gotta say, I didn’t do much better about it. I don’t know what her reasons were, but my main reason was that the whole thing feels told to us. We’re never there in the action; it’s all removed. And that made for a boring read.

Susan said the author was very nice. But it’s books like this that made her quit reviewing: she hates telling a very nice author she didn’t much care for his book. Lucky me to get the gig doing that.

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

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I’ve seen the stacks of books Susan’s got for me. I have. But darn it, I can’t stay out of the library. I’m going to try from here on out, though, because I picked up another YA stinker.

This one’s called The Half-Life of Planets, and it’s a collaboration between Emily Frankin and Brendan Halpin. It had promise: a science-obsessed girl meets a music-obsessed kid with Asperger’s.

I work with a couple of people who have Autism. I get their limitations, and the ones like Hank who love music are awesome. We also do a program for Autistic kids with the symphony, and after the first time, when some kid’s mother wanted to hook me up with her husband, the dude in charge of the corporate bucks, I come around and mix and mingle. Arts funding is getting cut all over the place. If there’s corporate bucks to make up that shortfall, I’m there.

Wish I’d stayed there, though, because I hated this book. Hank and Liana just annoyed me until I wanted to scream. If they hadn’t turned every last line of dialogue into a song reference, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did, but since I gave up on page 44, that’s not saying much.

Keep Hank. He’s interesting. But lose Liana and her neurotic family. Why can’t anyone in fiction be normal anymore?

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

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When I came on board at West of Mars, Susan handed me a stack of books she’d read but never reviewed. She’d warned me they’d be coming, and I told her I’d do them. I just never said when.

Hindsight is everything it’s supposed to be. Especially because I dropped into the downtown library when I was between meetings and found Rock Star Superstar in the young adult room.

Okay, fine. I was only in there to find some Rock Fiction. Young Adult usually has really good stuff.

Yeah, I’m dropping clues like a tree in October. Because you know what? I hated this book.

First off, for a book with a copyright of 2004, it’s awfully dated. References to Molly Ringwald, pay phones, MTV playing music, and Discmans? I actually had to ask what a Discman was, which left Susan shaking her head at me and calling me a baby. Then she chased me around and tried to pinch my cheeks.

Man, after that, I went home and hugged my dad and told him he was the greatest. He asked if he needed to send me to rehab.

Parents.

Back to the book. I’m still trying to figure out what it’s about. This kid named Pete, whose dad is a drunk who Pete worships for having a musician’s past, drifts through life. He says he wants to make it as a star, but it’s not something he works real hard at. He pretty much waits for things to happen to him.

And then there’s his girlfriend. Same thing.

Really, this kid has no drive or ambition. He waits for things to happen. This means there’s nothing in this story that keeps me sitting on the edge of my chair, turning the pages as fast as I can. If I hadn’t wanted to get to the end just because I’m writing a review, I’d have set this one down pretty early on. The short, choppy sentences that make Pete sound like an idiot don’t help.

I’ve read a bunch of the hot YA stuff; I’m no stranger to that room in the library. And guess what? Those books are so damn good because they treat their readers like they’ve got a clue. And a brain. And they are smart enough to handle a complex sentence, even if Pete isn’t.

One more peeve in this bummer of a book: so Pete’s girlfriend’s parents find out they’re having sex. We never find out how they learn this or even why Margaret is honest with them. C’mon, kids. There are some times in your life when your parents don’t want you to be honest. Sex is one of those times. Trust me on that one.

All we hear is that Margaret’s parents are peeved and they don’t want Margaret seeing Pete again. (What trendy names!) But then Pete and Margaret find a way and the whole issue falls away. Just like the rest of the storyline. It all drifts along, like a bottle on an ocean. Bad things happen in this little bubble where no one really gets hurt, and the good things are pretty much in that same insulated bubble. It turns into a yawner of a book.

You can thank me for sparing you the time with this one when you see me.

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Susan sent me a copy of Annie Seaton’s Hot Rock. I’m not sure where she got it from, but she’d have blogged about it if it had been a gift from the author.

Whatever. I got a copy and I read that copy and let me just say, this was one of the dumbest books I think I’ve ever read. No, it’s not the time travel storyline that bugged me. It’s that there really wasn’t a story.

You’ve got this chick, Megan. She’s just landed in England to research what I think is her PhD thesis and she gets a call: some jerk of an ex has hacked into her entire life and sabotaged her entire career. She could be fired from her job at the university, she could be labeled a cheat and dishonest, and be turned into some leper or something. I’m confused ’cause how can she have this job if she doesn’t have her PhD yet? Don’t you sorta need one of those to land the job in the first place?

But our buddy Megan doesn’t care about this risk to her job. She’s going to a music festival! And sure, it’s her research, but hey, look at all these bands who’re playing! And wouldn’t it be great if she ran into this rocker dude she’s had a thing for since she was a teen? And hey, check it out! When she fumbles – because she fumbles more than she does much else – her way onto the wrong cottage’s porch, guess who opens the door?

Umm… and how devoted are you to your job, honey?

And then there’s David. This rocker dude who has chosen to live in Megan’s present and not the 1970s he’s a rocker during. So past history tells him he writes this song called For Megan or something, but he’s not sure why, even when a chick named Megan shows up on his doorstep.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

And, of course, he tries to protect her from his secret because she may not take it well. Ya think? Maybe if there was some chemistry between the two… heck, maybe if the characters had seemed like living, breathing people, there’d have been some redemption for this book. But ugh, the clichés. And these people never stop being words on a page. They never seem real.

As for the romance itself, I don’t get it. Part of the fun of a romance is seeing what obstacles a couple has to get over before they have their happily ever after, but the biggest problem these two have is that Megan can’t listen when David tells her to wait for him. Well, okay, David takes off after this Holly chick ODs, like she’s his responsibility or something even though we know he doesn’t like her. It’s never really clear what role this Holly chick plays in his 1970s life, and it’s never ever the least bit clear why the other two guys in David’s band can’t pony up and take responsibility for this unlikeable girl.

And if David’s so important to the band and its past, why does he rush off with Holly, ignoring his true love, Megan, and thumb his nose at the man who he knows – because he knows his past history (although nothing about writing a song for a girl named Megan or sharing his past with her) – is going to be the band’s big break?

Like I said: Stupid.

Probably the best part is when electronics go wonky around the solstice because of the power of the ley lines that tie into Stonehenge, but that subplot, which is so important to David, doesn’t go anywhere. The gates mostly present the obstacles for David and Megan, but they only do because they are both stupid people.

Skip this one, unless you want to take a stab at explaining that title. I’m deleting this off my reader and hoping to forget about it.

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

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But where’s the rock and roll? The title of David Kimmel’s book—heck, the first word—is Rockin’. It promises rock and roll. There’s a guitar on the front cover. The description hints at an electric guitar.
So where is it?

According to the expert’s definition of Rock Fiction, a book has to pulse with music to be Rock Fiction. The characters have to live and breathe it, we have to feel it. It doesn’t have to be a stage show or a performance. It doesn’t have to have a rock and roll attitude. Music just has to permeate the pages.

While Gsfex does set across the universe to find planet Irt and discover what he can about the music he’s come to love, he doesn’t do it until there’s been a darn good reason. And he does it more because he knows this is his only chance. He doesn’t carpe anything here. He’s too matter-of-fact.

And Henry. He’s an artist, for crying out loud. And while others have stuck artists and rockers together and pulled off Rock Fiction, there’s not enough passion in Henry’s life. Not for this to be Rock Fiction, anyway. Oh, I get it: the guy’s depressed. He’s got a damn good reason to be, but c’mon, dude. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and crank whatever you need to until you feel better. Vivaldi. Metallica. Ice Cube. (Just, God no, not Vanilla Ice)

Stepping away from the whole idea of Rock Fiction, this is a fun novella. Henry’s parts get a bit boring ’cause there’s mostly no one there for him to talk to, but we know his life. It’s Gsfex’s we’re more interested in.

There’d better be another book after this short little novella—I even had to check to make sure it hadn’t ended at the wrong spot—that not only fills us in on what happens next, but rocks and rolls, too.

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

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Michael Kayser sent Susan a copy of Fast Cars and Rock and Roll, and she’s been super busy, so it came to me. Finally, something good!

In short, it’s the story of a dude who’s legally renamed himself Deacon Jones. Deke’s got a thing for cars and a thing for guitars—in that order, which sucks for us music lovers. Getting ready for some huge car race that’ll take over a week to finish up means spending a week visiting the towns the race’ll be held in, playing in a band to warm up the crowd.

Guy in a band. Rock Fiction, right?

Not so fast there, cowboy. Yeah, Deke’s always talking music and plays guitar and all that, but really, this is Car Fiction. Is that even a real thing? It is now. This book spends so much time talking cars and assuming we all know as much as he does… I was lost half the time and, frankly, bored the other half. Too much tech talk.

And then there’s the girls. Deke’s got two: a slutty bad girl and a prudish good girl. Nothing in the middle? Why not? Me and my friends all fall smack in the middle. Deke needs us, not those two. I hated them both, and so did Deke, by the way he talked about them and treated them.

So yeah, there’s music and it’s a good read if you can get past the cars. And the cars. And the cars. Did I mention the cars? Everything else is secondary to the cars. This is a modern-day (even though it’s pretty dated to the 1980s; I didn’t get all the references) story of a love affair with cars, like back in the day, when cars were all the girl a guy needed.

Maybe next time, the cars will come second and the music first. I’d read that in a heartbeat. Just lose some of the nicknames but let the underdog keep his day in the sun, let the bad guys get theirs, and maybe include some better girls. I’d read that faster than Deke at his fastest.

Oh, and keep the bugs. Gross, sick, fascinating, that scene had enough eeew factor to make up for those chicks.