Posts Tagged ‘Rock of Pages Recommended Read’

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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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I wrote yesterday’s post awhile ago, and it’s funny that it’s running this week, the week after McCarthy’s second book in the series, Dream Maker, was released. Let me tell you, after reading Dream Maker, I gotta go find that first book.

Here’s the review I wrote before I realized we had two days of Erin McCarthy. Think it’s enough to convince her to come hang out here a bit and talk about this Nashville Nights series of hers?

Can I gush about how much fun this book was? It’s such a simple, familiar setup, one I’ve been seeing a lot lately.
Avery’s lost on a street corner – the why is important, so I won’t spoil it, even though if you’ve read the first chapter, you know – and gets picked up by Shane Hart, music producer extraordinare and brother to Jolene Hart, country music darling.

Throwing caution to the wind and needing to be wild for just one night, Avery takes Shane to a hotel room and screws him silly. It, of course, is wonderful, but Avery promised herself it would be one time, one night, and she leaves a note and sneaks out while Shane snores on. If romance heroes snore.

Fast forward three months. Avery’s found herself a new footing and a job as a songwriter. She’s messing around with a new tune and freezes. That’s Shane in the hallway, loving her song. Or is it her?

It doesn’t really matter. It takes her co-workers about zero time to figure out that there’s some unresolved heat between Shane and Avery, and that’s pretty much it. That’s the plot. Oh, there’s a subplot about Avery’s father, too, and it’s resolved super fast and with zero angst. I wish there’d been more angst about this part of the book.

But the romance is a fun read. It’s charming, it’s cute, it’s heartwarming. And yes, it’s hot, so don’t think that words like cute and charming and heartwarming don’t mean there’s not some explicit loving happening.

And yes, it’s Rock Fiction. I mean, hello? He’s a music producer. She’s a songwriter. And there’s Jolene running around, too, since she and Shane are some of romance’s almost typical brother-sister loving duos.

This is part of a series, the second book. The first featured Jolene and her love, and we get to see them in this book. I’m not sure where McCarthy’s going to head next, but it’s listed as upcoming and man, I hope I get to read it. I also need to read Jolene’s story. This is some good stuff. Fun, frothy, and… just perfect.

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Okay, let’s be up front about this. It’s not Rock Fiction, for all that Grace’s father is a rocker. In fact, the few times we see Jer, as Grace calls him, he’s not much more than a name on a page, a vague character of a person. Neither is Grace’s mother, the typical model/actress/ambitious snob who can’t put her own control issues aside and see her daughter for who she is.

But if Grace’s parents are vague or stereotypic, Grace herself is the absolute opposite. Sure, it’s probably a huge stereotype that she’s the bohemian child who opposes her mother at almost every value. The biggest surprise about her is when she puts on the Reality Star Wardrobe and remarks how familiar and comfortable it is, even though she knows that the role she had been playing was nothing more than that – a role. This is an insight that transcends these stereotypes. It’s a welcome one.

On the flip side is Marc, Marcus, our buttoned-up, staid businessman type who has probably forgotten how to smile, if he even ever knew. He’s almost the third side of this trinity of who are you – the extravagant showman, the hippie chick devoted to her causes, the buttoned-up dude who’s buttoned down his personality and his life so that people like Grace and her family can’t disrupt the boat.

Enter one dog. One Great Dane, to be specific. Dogs in general aren’t going to work in Marc’s life. But a big Dane that needs room to run and is pretty much Grace’s totem animal?

Now, we all know where this is headed: Grace has to make peace with her family and their reality show life. They need to accept her and actually see that her painting talent goes beyond a hobby. She needs to accept that using the resources offered by their reality show isn’t selling out; it’s smart. Marcus needs to learn how to joke and laugh, how to unbutton not only his suits but himself, as well.

And of course they all do these things. This is a romance, after all, and there’s never any doubt what’s going to happen in it. It’s the getting there that is all the fun, and believe me, this is fun. Over the top fun. Crazy fun. Larger than life, if-this-happened-in-reality-no-one-would-believe-it fun.

Pineapple lamps and fires and activists and birds and dogs and Grace’s odd naïve trust in people despite the reality show and lens of fame she’s grown up in. It all figures in. There are assumptions and people who get too angry with each other to speak and work it out like adults. And there are unravelings of the assumptions and happy endings and love and respect. And big dogs.

I wish more books were this much fun.

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Okay, so Susan’s sitting in a tent on a mountain in West Virginia and I’m sending her all these texts about how amazing Cecilia Tan’s newest release, Wild Licks, is. And she’s thinking I’m totally nuts because, hey, this is pretty much her vacation although I can’t figure out who can vacation in a tent or why they’d want to when there’s NEW CECILIA TAN TO READ.

Wild Licks is the next in the Secrets of a Rock Star series. Maybe you remember when I read the first book, Taking the Lead, and went bonkers over it.

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Guys. This one is BETTER.

I kid you not.

Gwen and Mal are one hot couple. Where Ricki and Axel had inhibitions to overcome and heads to get out of, Gwen and Mal know they like it hot and they need it kinky. And man oh man, do they go for it. These two are maybe the perfect couple.

There’s more a sense in this book that Mal’s a rocker. He’s got something that Axel lacked, and that’s sad not because Mal has it but because Axel didn’t. And Gwen, too, is more real. Maybe it’s that she’s not as repressed as her sister. This isn’t a woman who’s afraid of things.

In fact, Gwen doesn’t have a lot of issues. This isn’t usual in today’s fiction, but I was digging it.

It’s Mal who’s all angst-laden, poor guy. And he’s the reason things are a bit of a let-down at the end. His moment where he comes around is just too easy and too fast.

But come ON. We’re not here for Mal to fix himself. We’re here for the dynamic with him and Gwen, and we get that. And we’re here for the sex, and we get THAT, too. We get some of the most inventive, no-holds-barred, lack of inhibition sex I’ve seen… ever.

Don’t miss this one.

I hear the next in the series, Hard Rhythm, will be out next January. Is it too early to sign up for a review copy? I am SO there.

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You GUYS. It’s Tuesday and I’m supposed to be coveting some Rock Fiction for you all, but I can’t. For one, I signed up to be part of this release blitz (I thought Susan was signing me up to review the book, but guess not).

And for another, the book arrived late and I’m not done reading it because, let me tell you, this is one to sit and savor. And read with your boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, or battery-operated friend. Or any combination! I don’t care! Just… wow! Don’t miss this one!

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Pick up your copy. Seriously. Go get it. And if you haven’t read the first in the series, Taking the Lead, get that one, too. In fact, since this is the second in the series, it might do you good to read the first and get the background. Taking the Lead set up the storyline, and Wild Licks doesn’t do a lot of time explaining what’s already come to be. This is a good thing ’cause the book oughta be able to stand on its own, and is actually better so far ’cause it doesn’t have to take us through the set-up.

I’ll be back with a review. Or beat me to it, if you want. But we are just getting STARTED with the Cecilia Tan and Wild Licks goodness around here!

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I do a fair amount of Regency romance reading. I like the manners, like the play of wits, like the smolder. And the dresses; I’ll own up to that.

So when Jett sent me the link to The Baron Next Door, she wasn’t kidding when she mentioned that I’d already requested it from my local library. I have the best local library, I swear it, because they already had this new release on the shelves, and they pulled it off and held it just for me.

So we have the story of Charity Effington, who hasn’t had the best of luck finding a spouse among the ton. She broke off her engagement when she realized her to-be was in love with another woman and instead of being understanding about it, the ton decided to be scandalized. And Charity, of course, bore the brunt of that scandal.

What a nice way to thank her for doing the right thing.

And in the townhouse next door, we have the newly made Baron Cadgwith, in the town of Bath to try to find relief for the post-war injuries that would make anyone with sense commit suicide. Holy smoke, this poor guy suffers.

And that’s when and where this turns into Rock Fiction.

That’s because Charity lives and breathes music and her pianoforte. She is to music what some of the best rockers in modern-day fiction are. This woman can close her eyes and the music comes to her, unbidden. And with her cohort of two friends, they make music, indeed—and music with a goal, to perform in the first annual music festival in town.

Of course, her music sets the baron’s headaches off. And so begins the conflict and attraction, all rolled into one. Because the baron doesn’t care about a scandal that happened in some other town. He doesn’t care about much at first, caught up in his pain and misery (and really, who can blame him?).

But Charity catches his attention. And her music drives him away.

This is a romance, so we all know how it’ll end: happily. And for a time, the romance reads like every other romance, with the music fading into the background. But it also becomes a catalyst for action, understanding, and even the pronouncement of love.

Just like the best Rock Fiction out there.

Proving, once again, that Rock Fiction doesn’t have to include Rock and Roll to be Rock Fiction.

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In a rock fiction book, I love it when the music lives and breathes, when the rock star character transcends cliché, and I give lots of bonus points for a take-charge, professional-woman heroine. You Really Got Me checked all my boxes, and for that, I award it 4.25 stars.

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The book starts out with Emmie working as an A&R manager’s personal assistant (that’s the guy within a record label who discovers and works with bands). She’s hyper-competent, and from the first page, I loved the detail-oriented peek at exactly what machinations go on behind the curtain of managing bands. However, her boss won’t promote her to finding her own bands, so she says promote me or quit. He says, find me The Next Big Thing and we’ll talk. She moves in with her brother in his rock band’s shared house to cut her expenses while she searches Austin, Texas for a new band to sign.

While there, she becomes friends with the whole band, especially their soulful, manwhore-with-a-heart lead singer, Slater. She overhauls the band’s image, again giving us a cool look at what it takes (beyond the music) to make or break a band. The sexual tension between Emmie and Slater SCREAMS off the page, but she’s been hurt before and she’s not about to be the dumb girl who loses her heart to a rocker right before he goes off on tour and cheats on her.

Nothing new there, right? But like any good trope, it’s all about the execution, and Emmie and Slater breathe life and humanity into the setup, reminding us that this is a familiar story because it’s TRUE. It happens all the time in the musical world. I adored the friendship between Emmie and Slater, and I was dying for the consummation of their relationship almost as much as they were. Plus, once Slater falls for Emmie, he falls hard, and it’s so vicariously delicious to watch such an incredible specimen of a man be totally devoted to his woman. Plus, he doesn’t just play music and write songs, he fixes stuff and helps Emmie run errands and sue me, but that’s just hot. Give me a man with a tool box and a guitar and I need nothing else in life.

Drawbacks? Toward the end, Emmie’s reluctance started to feel a little contrived, like I’d seen too many exchanges of her distrust while Slater laid it all on the line for her. But just as I was thinking that, it wrapped up into a hilarious scene where she realized what she was screwing up. I also would have given it a few more fractions of a star if the rest of the band were filled out more on the page. There were five of them, and that’s a lot, but we didn’t get to know them and their friendship with Emmie as deeply as I would have liked. However, Emmie’s brother and his insecurities and backstory were very nicely filled out, so I’m excited for his book (up next in the series!) What I did love about this book? The realism of the conflict and characters, the mouthwatering sexual tension, the songwriting and performing scenes and oooh la la! The musical details of what it’s like to manage a band. Very cool. This author just won herself a place on my top 10 Rock Fic authors, and I’ll be checking out the rest of her books directly.

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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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I’m not the huge classical music fan that Jett is, but I’m a sucker for a historical novel. She probably knows more about Vivaldi and his music than I do, even though I’ve taken to listening to it on Spotify, thanks to this book.

This book is The Violinist of Venice, written by debut author Alyssa Palombo, and it’s the story of the fictional Adriana d’Amato, who shows up on Vivaldi’s doorstep with a need to play the violin. And a sack full of gold.

Vivaldi’s struck first by the gold and second by this woman’s talent. They make beautiful music together, and that’s not a euphemism, although that happens, too. I mean, we all know they’re going to wind up in bed together. That’s not a surprise.

The surprise is in Palombo’s writing, which brings not just the music to life, but the joy and the drive and the need to make it—and the pain when it’s denied.

This author is a maestro similar to Vivaldi himself, as she shows in the character of Senator Baldovino. Initially a creep, he turns out to be a bigger gift to Adriana than much of what Vivaldi himself gives our heroine. And Vivaldi gives Adriana much, unlocking things inside of her that she never would have dreamed possible without him. In turn, she inspires him to write greater and greater pieces of music. And yet, as a couple, they simply cannot be.

Still, there are happy endings, if bittersweet ones, for Adriana. And maybe here, things fall a bit short, as maybe Adriana’s life falls together a bit too neatly in the end. But as a reader, we’re willing to go along with it. After all, we have spent years with Adriana by the time the book ends. We’ve grown to love her. How can we not root for her?

Maybe people who know more about Vivaldi’s music will find fault with some of this book. Maybe people more versed in the Venice of the times will have accuracy issues. I don’t know. I don’t really care. Venice was a character in this book as much as Adriana and Vivaldi and everyone else, and Palombo brings it to life in the same masterful strokes that she uses for everything else.

This is one author to watch. And one book that all Rock Fiction lovers shouldn’t miss. Because Vivaldi may be a priest and not the sexy rocker who usually graces this site, but the music is maybe more alive here than in much of the more contemporary stuff that crosses our radars. And in the end, it’s about the music, not always the men and women who make it.

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Hey everyone! I’m back guest-blogging today because I just screamed through the pages of Rock by JA Huss—fast enough my Kindle froze twice from too-frequent page turns. As I said in my Coveting post about this book, I was really excited about this one, hoping it could finally be the rock fic book that grabbed a full five-star rating from me. So is this one the rocker book I’ve been waiting for? Yes and yes! And almost.

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4.5 stars
ROCK was a whirlwind of suspense, sexy music-addicted rock star, heart-tugging love story, and a crazy rock-climbing and danger-filled climax!

This is the story of a rock star at the top of his game who loses his entire band to tragedy and returns to his hometown, where he once lost the love of his life as well. Once there, he encounters her identical twin sister and…I can’t tell you pretty much anything else without spoilers. But fear not, folks, I won’t leave you unsatisfied, and neither will JA Huss!

I look for two things in rock fic: the music (is it essential to the story, do the MCs feel like real rock stars, are the music details gobble-able?) and the love story.

So first, the music. This is a YES! Rock felt like a real rock star in all his battered glory. Music had hurt him so much, but you could feel the draw it had to him, how he was powerless to resist its magic, and I adored getting lost with him in the process of composing new songs. Music was a living, breathing, sobbing character in this book and I couldn’t get enough.

The romance: this was…tougher for me. In the beginning pages, I could feel Rock’s longing for his lost love as if it was my own arm that was missing. But once he and the heroine were together…I felt like I was in bed with a lot of great foreplay but I never quite got all the way there (hey, I’m a romance novelist. We can never resist a good sex simile). Rock and his girl were a four-star romance for me, and I think mostly it was because I was holding back, wary that at the very end there would be some horrible twin-swapping flip and the heroine wouldn’t be who I thought she was. I’m going to save the rest of you from this: the author doesn’t pull the romance rug out from under you at the end. It’s okay to relax and enjoy the love story! Perhaps if you go in with different expectations than me, it will sweep you away the way I wanted to be swept away.

Regardless of the romance, Rock himself took my heart. His POV felt like being inside the head of a real dude. Not a woman trying to convince you she’s writing from the male perspective by using the word dick and tits a lot (yes, I see this in romance all the time). Instead, Rock felt like an actual guy who was sometimes callous, sometimes self-centered, and had a deep decency and gentleness to his core. I could fall in love with a man like that (especially if he played the piano like Rock!). He could have carried the entire book just on the voice of the writing, but he didn’t have to, because holy crap, the plot!

The suspense and twists in this story are crazy. Huss kept me guessing on every page. I had no idea what was happening or what might come next. In the last half, the pacing was breakneck, but there was a lull for a while in the beginning. Still, I enjoyed the lull as a time to spend with the H/h, and it didn’t detract from the book. As for the supporting characters, there was such a great cast of people in this town, but I feel like I didn’t get to know them well enough to justify their importance in the story. They didn’t seem flat, like the author had half-assed them. Instead, it felt like they were real people but the author never gave them enough time on the page for us to really get to know them. Like this was a series and they were introduced in other books (which might be the case, but if so, I’m not aware of the rest of the series).

Another little bonus to this book was the rock climbing. It was kind of a subplot, but then the climax has lots of climbing action, which was fun for an old school climber like me. However, some of the smaller climbing details/terminology weren’t quite right. Not enough to spoil anything but just enough to tweak the eye of anybody who climbs a lot.

So my verdict? 4.5 stars. I was totally wrapped up in this character and this crazy, twisty story, and I snuggled up to all the beautiful music details and rock star atmostphere. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t far from it, and you better believe I’ll be snatching up more from this author ASAP.

As always, if you want to keep up with what’s new with me, and what I’m writing or reading, come find me at my website www.michellehazenbooks.com or on Twitter @michellehazen. I’d love to gab books with all you guys!