Posts Tagged ‘set in the 80s’

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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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Another one set in the 80s! Susan’s gonna go nuts. She has a hard time believing they are over. Note from Susan: Untrue. Music’s better these days.</em

It’s 1983, Los Angles, and Trace Dellon, lead singer, knows exactly what he wants; the white heat of the spotlight. When his band, Black Light is offered a record deal, Trace grabs for it, eager to move up from their club gigs. He will do anything it takes to make it.

Asia Heyes, bass player knows what he wants too. It’s not the fame or the adoration of fans and groupies. It’s Trace. It’s always been Trace. Though it’s been unspoken between them- his other lovers-his audience-push Asia aside.

With the contract, comes Albrecht Christian into their lives. He is a man with everything but what he needs to live: the energy that runs just under Trace’s skin. But even Trace isn’t enough, and Albrecht finds himself starving

When everything crashes with a bullet, they all learn the truth. Rock and roll, like magic requires both love and sacrifice. Then Black Light’s fragile trajectory to greatness really begins.

So… love triangle!

What else is there to say? I strangely don’t see a lot of love triangles in Rock Fiction; I guess too many authors are considering the groupies or the music or the fame to be the third arm of the triangle. Not so much here, huh?

Will this reek of the eighties? Was it okay to be gay back then? (Yeah, Susan just groaned at me.) Seems maybe it’s a sensibility of the current times being slapped onto the past. I know a lot of people had trouble with it in Cherry Cox’s book, so…

Only one way to tell. Bring it on!

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Susan’s a child of the 80s, and she says she doesn’t miss them. I’ve seen her iPod and her Spotify. She’s for real.

Me, I’m younger than that. So a book called I Love the 80s is going to be interesting, right? Check it:

Live in the now, they say, but for Jenna Jenkins, the now sucks.

Her fiancé dumped her, and she’s lacking the drive that might lead to a promotion at the eighties-themed cable station where she works. The only thing keeping her sane is her obsession with a brooding rock star, and an era, that died twenty-odd years ago. But then lightning strikes—literally—and sends her back to the year and the man she’s loved her entire life. Jenna has no choice but to take action to save Tommy Seer, lead singer of The Wild Boys, from the tragic accident that only she knows will claim his life.

But the real Tommy Seer is very different from the one who’s spent all this time starring in her favorite fantasies. As Jenna falls deeper into Tommy’s world—under his spell all over again, only this time without the schoolgirl crush—she realizes that his death was no accident. Can she find a killer, prevent a murder, and save the man she loves without everyone thinking she’s crazy?

And who thought shoulder pads were a good idea, anyway?

Okay, none of this is new. We’ve seen this plot a million times. Seen the girl with the crush on the rocker who finally meets him and shazam, it’s love. Seen the time-travel to try to change the future.

But in Rock Fiction? We saw time travel with Annie Seaton’s Hot Rock. I didn’t love that one, but that wasn’t because of the ideas. So bring this one on and let’s see time travel redeem itself.

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I can hear Susan having fits over this one. Dear Rockstar, it’s called. And unless Rockstar is someone’s name, Susan’s having fits that are probably epic.

Rock Star. Two words.

Anyway, this one’s definitely Young Adult or New Adult or whatever. It’s got the angst: the best friend, the violent home life, the rock star obsession, the new boyfriend with secrets. Check it for yourself if you don’t believe me.

Sara is obsessed with rock star Tyler Vincent, and as she works to complete her senior year, she’s determined to find a way to meet him—although her best friend, Aimee, keeps telling her to find a different escape from her desperately violent home life.

Complications arise when Dale, the mysterious new transfer student, sets his sights on Sara, and she falls for this rock-star-in-the-making in spite of her better judgment. When Sara wins a contest, she is faced with a choice—travel to Tyler Vincent’s home town to meet him, or stay and support Dale in a Battle-of-the-Bands hosted by MTV.

Their triangulated relationship is pushed to its breaking point, but there is another, deeper secret that Dale’s been keeping that just may break things wide open…

Turn up your collar, feather your hair, and splash on some Polo, because we’re going back to the ‘80’s when MTV played music videos, there was no such thing as American Idol, and becoming a star meant doing nothing short of crazy for that one, big break.

I love the setting; I think writing about 80s hair bands is the new trend ’cause this isn’t the first one I’ve seen. But the relationship is triangulated because Sara loves a guy she’s never met? That’s some kind of sick I don’t want to get near!

But it’s also enough to make me curious. Can the author pull off this girl’s obsession? And what’s with the last line? “Becoming a star meant doing nothing short of crazy for that one, big break.” That opens up a whole lot of questions right there. Who’s doing the crazy? Is it this Dale, who shows up and puts a target on Sara (another form of crazy)?

Dunno the answers to any of it yet, but I’m sure curious to read.