Posts Tagged ‘woman rocker’

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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Here’s one for the Vaguebookers among you all…

My name is Scarlett, but most call me Lett. Well, everyone except the man I’ve been in love with for as long as I can remember.

It wasn’t difficult growing up the daughter of a rock star. I loved the attention and the music so the decision to follow my dad’s career path was an easy one.

Trouble always seemed to be my shadow and keeping out of mischief sometimes seemed impossible. The social life always kept me busy. However, recently I just long for a bit of privacy, a little anonymity just for a little while.

Singing and music are my lively-hood and my passion; I need to find my balance. Little did I know, my life was about to be turned upside down and finding someone to trust in my line of work was difficult; I learned that the hard way. But there has always been one man who has been by my side throughout it all, my best friend. It’s a shame he doesn’t feel the same, will he ever love me back?

Will fate be on my side?

Was my destiny about to be rocked?

Okay, so we’re not going to mention the HUGE capital letters Susan used when she picked out lively-hood from that description. Because, umm, hey. I know that editors aren’t cheap, but on this one, I have to agree with her. Having that edited would have been money well spent. And Susan says she’ll edit a description like this super cheap. I’d say it’s totally worth it because even if she hadn’t pointed that out, I’d have caught it. That’s a pretty bad one.

So Lett is in love with this dude who may or may not know she’s alive. He doesn’t have a name, he’s THAT important to her. And something bad happens, but we don’t know what, which means anyone who needs trigger warnings is going to approach this one carefully.

And the author’s bio on Goodreads says this is a series, but the book isn’t linked to a series, so I don’t know what number it is, or if there are others or if this is just an intended series.

So lots of questions, and other than that huge typo in the description, nothing that I don’t think scares me off. It raises a lot of questions about what’s really going on here, and that’s not always a bad thing to start reading with, you know? So much better when you don’t know the plot. I mean, hello? It’s a romance. We know the plot, or at least the happily ever after (or happy for now, which seems to be a thing anymore). But that’s okay — with romances, it’s all about getting there, not how it ends. Romances are all about the falling in love, and that totally works for this single girl.