Posts Tagged ‘women’s fiction’

Jett-300x300

I read a review of this one that said that music permeated the book, so here I am, drooling over it even though 90s music wasn’t exactly my forte. I’d found classical by then and was waiting for the birth of Slipknot and my one true love.

So here’s the description:

While enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiance, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crane can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a writer for the Herald and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As they leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense everything connected and felt “right.” But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what and whom she wants.

Alternating between the past and the present, Always is a beautifully unfolding exploration of a woman faced with an impossible choice, a woman who discovers what she’s willing to save and what she will sacrifice for true love.

Doesn’t sound real Rock Fiction-y, but I trust that review I read. So we’ll go with it. Gotta give this one a read ’cause it’s been a long time since there’s been a book where the music forms the atmosphere so well.

Jett-300x300

Every time I open a new book, I do it with the expectation that I’m going to love it and it’s going to be great.

Maybe I need to get over that. Because Under the Spanish Stars is one of those books that’s a good read, a strong story, and almost alive with the flamenco culture that frames the story, but… it didn’t knock my socks off.

It’s the story of Charlotte, who goes on a quest given to her by her sick grandmother to discover the history of a painting that means the world to the grandmother. And in alternating chapters, we get not only the story of Charlotte’s quest but also the story of the grandmother.

Abuela’s story is fascinating. As in many of these flashback novels, it’s the better half of the book. The flamenco culture is something that was new to me, and I totally dug it. I wanted more of it, in fact: more description, more of the music. I wanted it to breathe and throb off the page and swallow me whole, the way the best Rock Fiction does.

It didn’t.

But it came close. And for that, we give it props.

This can’t be easy stuff to write about. When you write about a rock band on an arena tour, it’s easy. Most music lovers know what’s up. It’s so much easier to pretend we’re there in the crowd, worshipping the singer or the guitarist or the bassist or the drummer. Most of us have been to concerts. We know how it goes.

And that’s part of why we gotta give Sinclair props. She did her best, describing the opening steps, the stomping feet, the speed of the music, the sweat, the beautiful lines of an arm raised overhead. She almost transported me there.

I bet the reason I failed was more me and less Sinclair. Because I didn’t have that frame of reference; the closest I come is one of the Dancing with the Stars dances, and… even if the characters didn’t tell us, we’d know the two aren’t even close.

Maybe the problem wasn’t the book so much as the reader.

But back to the story itself, and… yeah, still disappointed in it. I wanted more of the culture, especially in the history part. I wanted more of Granada, too, because it’s so different from my life. I feel like I got a quick peek, just enough to tantalize me but not enough to immerse me. And I wanted to be immersed.

This is one I’d say is worth the read. The story is good. It’s solid, if a bit predictable. I’ve gone on about things being at stake in a lot of books I’ve been reading lately, and I kinda feel like this one has the same problem. Not enough is at risk, and the problems that Charlotte faces are fixed too easily. It almost winds up painting Charlotte as a jerk for worrying so much about them, and no one wants the main character to be a jerk. You know?

Pick it up for the Flamenco. Stay for the past history. And just go for the ride with the present day because even though it’s the weakest part, it’s still a nice read.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for letting me have a read! Seriously. Pick this one up and tell me what you think. It released on December 8, which was just a few days ago. Grab it now. Help it boost its First 90 Day Sales count!

Jett-300x300

This isn’t the sort of book I’d have picked up, except Susan said there was a record producer character, and that means the possibility of Rock Fiction. So… here I am. Reading Susan Mallery, who is a best-selling romance author. And… I’m not sure why.

daughters-of-the-bride-cover

Let’s start with Quinn, the record producer, since he’s the reason we picked this up. Like a lot of so-called music people, he could be anyone. He has a charisma, sure, but he’s sickly perfect. There are no rough edges to this guy, nothing that suggests he knows how to handle the egos who cross his path—even when a few do cross his path in the pages. He’s more like a shrink, able to read people and understand who they are and what they need. But as for him, his wants, his desires, his needs? We know very little except he’s got an insta-crush on Courtney, one of the three daughters of the bride.

So there’s a major disappointment, right off the bat. This ain’t Rock Fiction, despite the guy’s career. And, of course, there’s this magic timeline where Quinn comes to town, finds a property, buys it, outfits it, and has it up and running in the span of the days and weeks leading up to the wedding that’s in the title. Somehow, I don’t think it’s that easy.

Now, I read more than Rock Fiction, believe it or not. And I like a lot of books. But this one? Didn’t do it for me in the least. The first third was full of the story screeching to a stop so the author could inform us of stuff. Backstory, Susan calls it. Boring, I call it. And this isn’t the first big-name author I’ve seen doing this, either. I want to yell at these people to stop it. It’s boring as anything.

There are three sisters in this story, and for too long, it’s hard to keep them straight and tell them apart. But then the cliches begin. Sienna, who has a string of broken engagements, finds herself engaged to a buffoon who she has no feelings for. Good thing, too, because he’s teetering on abusive, making all sorts of assumptions about how she’s going to live once they are married, telling her she has cold feet and not real concerns about their relationship, and devaluing her work. Oh, and he picks a horribly inappropriate time and place for the proposal, effectively trapping her into saying yes so she doesn’t rain on her mother’s engagement party or have to turn him down in a public forum. Manipulative much? Like I said: bordering on abusive.

So is Rachel’s ex-husband, who decides he’s going to win her back by showing up unannounced, doing things without her asking him to, and then telling her exactly what’s wrong with her and how she contributed to their divorce. If he talks about the affair he had – other than protesting that it only happened once! – it’s certainly not to work through the issues they had that tore them apart in the first place. Nope, it’s all on Rachel to change. Rachel, who so easily starts walking and gets her great shape back, which she let go in the aftermath of the divorce. Like it’s that easy? I had the easiest divorce in the world. We both agreed we’d been wrong to get married. We had nothing to split apart, just a bed and a TV, really, and I still put on twenty pounds that it took forever to get off. It’s just not that easy.

I guess this is why I like to stick to Rock Fiction. That’s not to say that these other issues wouldn’t have bothered me if Quinn had lived up to his rocker promise. But it’s to say that I see a lot of Rock Fiction authors working really hard at what they do and this one, with its long explanations in the beginning and the bland characters and problematic men and easy solutions just seemed kinda phoned in.

Still, Susan says I’m one of almost 60 reviewers on this tour, and I bet I’m the minority. That’s fine. Someone’s gotta be.

If I haven’t totally turned you off, here are the buy links — and if you read it and disagree with me, send Susan your review! She keeps saying she’d be glad to post reviews that show another opinion, so make her put up or shut up.

Amazon
BN
iBooks
Kobo

Thanks to Rock Star PR for this one. I’d really wanted to like it. I really had.

avatar S RED

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.

avatar S RED

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.

Jett-300x300

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.

Rocktober3Jett-300x300

Remember when I said I was looking for new and different? I found me some!

Like Lady Day, Billie is young when she falls in love for the first time. Lured by her new playboy husband, the beautiful, trusting woman leaves her close-knit and caring family in Cuba to follow him to Spain. Once there, he reveals his true—and violent—nature, and Billie chooses the dangers of the street over the abuses of the man she once loved. Soon she finds herself with trouble to spare and nowhere to turn, but when her voice lands her a spot at the Havana Jazz Club, she discovers a new, unconventional family in a city far from the one she left behind. And with every high note and heartbreak, Billie skirts destiny to write her own song.

Okay, so there’s some cliched stuff here. Playboy, abusive husband. Woman on the run who makes her own way in the world by story’s end.

But this is set in Cuba and Spain! And this doesn’t sound like a romance, which is fine by me — for the time being. I love romances, but yeah, even I need a break. Or maybe that’s especially I need a break. Rock Fiction is made for romance!

This, though, sounds like women’s fiction and I would love love love to get my hands on it. Can it overcome the sorta Oprah-like storyline and be something new and fresh? Boy oh boy oh boy, I hope so.

avatar S RED

Count on my friend Mary at BookHounds to find me some cool Rock Fiction. And this time, it’s from an unlikely source: author Wendy Wax, who seems to write more chick lit/comedy/fun stuff than Rock Fiction. Maybe she’s given a rocker some grand humor … but maybe not. After all, his role seems mostly secondary, a vehicle for whatever lead character Maddie is up to. In fact, I think the three women in this book have been in other books written by Wax.

Here’s the description:

Maddie, Avery, and Nikki first got to know one another—perhaps all too well—while desperately restoring a beachfront mansion to its former grandeur. Now they’re putting that experience to professional use. But their latest project has presented some challenges they couldn’t have dreamed up in their wildest fantasies—although the house does belong to a man who actually was Maddie’s wildest fantasy once . . .

Rock-and-roll legend “William the Wild” Hightower may be past his prime, estranged from his family, and creatively blocked, but he’s still worshiped by fans—which is why he guards his privacy on his own island in the Florida Keys. He’s not thrilled about letting this crew turn his piece of paradise into a bed-and-breakfast for a reality show . . . though he is intrigued by Maddie. Hard as that is for her to believe as a newly single woman who can barely manage a dog paddle in the dating pool.

But whether it’s an unexpected flirtation with a bona fide rock star, a strained mother-daughter relationship, or a sudden tragedy, these women are in it together. The only thing that might drive them apart is being trapped on a houseboat with one bathroom . . .

So maybe not much of a departure for our rocker. He’s petulant. He likes his privacy (reminds me of the hero in Hot Rock, actually, and I’m sure there are more; this is a familiar trope).

I like women’s fiction. I like buddy fiction. If this rocker dude’s realistically painted, I will probably like this book.

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

I wasn’t going to include Searching for Tina Turner, the debut novel from Jacqueline E. Luckett, in my list of rock and roll fiction. It’s not about a rocker. Not really. But it belongs on my list, all right.

In this tale of a woman searching to find herself once her kids are grown and she’s become disenchanted with always sublimating herself for her husband, it’s all about Tina, baby, and the lessons our main character, Lena, learns from the rock icon. These pages vibrate with Tina’s music — her lyrics, in particular.

There is strength in those famous words, there’s no denying that. As Lena runs around France, finds herself, almost repeats the mistakes she made the first time around, and eventually connects with her own strength, I found myself not only rooting for her but remembering who I am, too.

SFTT is one of those books that made me angry, grossed me out (when she chased all over like a groupie. It was SO beneath Lena), made me cry, and made me laugh out loud. And the ending? Absolutely perfect.

Okay, maybe parts of the book — and the ending — were a bit too pat. So what? The book needed it. Lena needed it. We, the reader, needed it.

Know what else I need now? A copy of I, Tina. There’s much to be learned from Tina’s tale, methinks.

As for Ms. Luckett, bring on the next one, baby. She’s a strong new voice who transcends skin color (I didn’t even realize the heroine was African American until I saw the “Essence Book Club” badge on the cover.) and speaks to all of us women.

Except… maybe not Tina Turner. She’s been there, done this. Survived it. So does Lena.

And so will we.