Posts Tagged ‘worth a read’

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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!

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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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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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I didn’t expect to love this book nearly as much as I did. I mean, it sounded good from its description and I come into every book expecting to love it, but to go this bonkers? Nope.

This is a Rock Fiction romance, and I know that I’ve been complaining about how many Rock Fiction romances there are anymore. But this one’s different. For one, it’s a “we’ve been in love forever but never admitted it to each other” trope. For another, Nolan runs away and changes his name after a tragedy. That generally makes it hard for a guy to admit his love to the best friend (who happens to be a girl) across the street. Oh, you can argue that because Hailey is one of the few people who knows the story of Nolan’s past, that makes it easier for him. But nope. He took off, high-tailed it out of town, and didn’t look back. Except for this one picture, this one tie. And the phone number of his other best friend, who is the person who sends the summons to Nolan that it’s time to come home.

So while we’ve got the romance thing happening, we also have the side story of Nolan needing to face his past. Because if anything will make a scared man face his past, it’s love.

That might have come out way more cynical than I meant it to be. It’s just that this is a pretty darn good way to spur someone into action. Threaten their loved one. How many books have been written based around this very plot? Thousands.

Again, more cynical than I want to be. It works. Hailey’s in trouble. Nolan comes running. It helps that his band is at a pivotal second in which he can run, sort of, mostly. But his band, for once, isn’t full of pricks, and they find a way to make it work. Nice twist on the usual Rock Fiction rules, there.

So Nolan rushes to Hailey’s side, and the two of them both have to deal with the amnesia issues they have. Too coincidental? Maybe, but I like how Hailey can’t remember but wants to while Nolan can remember but is terrified to. It sets up a good contrast to each other.

We’re not done with the plot, either. Nolan, in his alter ego as rock star Tyler, is supposedly dating this actress who just happens to be pursuing a music career. This is important because this is where the book gets back into Celebrity Fiction and the paparazzi, much like Lauren Weisberger’s Last Night at Chateau Marmont did. Only differently.

You know, now that I think about it, maybe there’s too much going on here. But it’s a fun read, and the story of Nolan’s history is pretty darn fascinating. His memories unfold in a way that allows the reader to see the pain in the situation but neither we nor Nolan are overwhelmed by them.

At the end, things are resolved too easily. The press conference scene? I’d be surprised if others don’t call author Lindenblatt out for it. It’s stupid. It’s cringe-worthy. What is it lately with normal people doing press conferences? Didn’t BJ Knapp do it, too?

Even the mysteries that unfold in the story—remember, both lead characters can’t remember violent scenes, which pushes this romance near the idea of being a mystery or thriller of some sort—come together too easily and are a bit too pat. But we’re not reading this book for its plot. We’re reading it for the romance and the way these two overcome the obstacles—mostly Nolan’s memories—in front of them, and that’s ultimately why I loved this so much.

There’s a sweetness between Nolan and Hailey. You can’t help but pull for them. And because the Rock Fiction here is handled really well: there’s no clichéd scene where he writes music or lyrics on her body, and while Nolan’s music is written with Hailey in mind, he’s more matter-of-fact about it while Hailey is hopeful that she’s the object. And right there’s that sweetness again.
More than in a lot of Rock Fiction, Nolan’s career is handled as a job. Add in the other twists to the usual stuff we see in Rock Fiction and this right here is a winner.

So, yeah. There are some logic gaps you may need to overlook, but Nolan’s story carries the day, and these two are sweet. It’s good. It works. And it makes for a fun read.

Thanks to NetGalley for approving us for a review copy!

Hi everyone! I’m back for another guest post. For those of you who know me, you know that my current WIP is rock fic. And my first book doesn’t follow a set of rich and famous abs, it follows a girl playing her drums on stages so small they sometimes aren’t stages at all. Which is why, when I saw a book called GIRL with a Guitar, I said, “Yes, please!”

Girl with a guitar

After Kylie’s dad dies in a freak accident, he leaves her with nothing other than her crazy stepmother, Darla, and the ability to play guitar. When Darla kicks Kylie out and she loses her job all in the same day, she hops a bus to Nashville determined to make her late father’s dreams come true.

Waitressing and saving her pennies to record a demo, her big break comes when she’s asked to join a tour going down the tubes with once platinum album-selling country music superstar Trace Corbin. But touring with Trace is hardly a dream come true since he’s pretty much drinking his career down the drain. If Kylie can’t pull Trace out of his rut, he’ll pull her and her dreams down with him.

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My rating: 4 stars

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The first thing that grabs me about a book like this is the love story, and Girl With A Guitar pulled me in right away. Kylie is a three-dimensional person who adores music and misses her daddy, and I loved her mixture of spunk, vulnerability and kindness. Trace shows up as a hot mess with a heart of gold, and never decended into cliché bad boy territory, which I was fully braced for. Instead, I spent the whole book flipping pages, hoping to get to know him better, just as Kylie was doing the same thing.

One of the things this book does so well is character. The whole cast was lovely, from Kylie’s waitressing friends to the managers (so many rock books forget the managers! They’re crucial!) to Kylie’s girlfriends and Trace’s sisters. So much girl power in one little book!

The characters alone would have had me rooting for the love story, but I did feel like the balance was a little off here—I could have used another scene or two of them together and clicking in order to justify all the time they spent apart and miserable.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I read rock fic, I want to be wrapped up in the world of music. I want to smell the backstage funk and wave my hands in the front row, closing my eyes to get lost in the lead guitar line. This book put me right there…and it didn’t. On a macro level, the plot was great. The barriers to Kylie’s music career and relationship were intriguing and totally believable. It was all stuff that would happen in a music career, but twists you haven’t read thirty times before. That alone elevated this book to a higher star rating in my eyes. However, on a micro level, the music fell a little short. First, the author hit one of my major rock fic pet peeves by saying cords when she meant chords. Let’s hope it was a typo, but I’ve seen this typo in many rock fic books and it makes me crazy. Second, I really needed more time with Kylie on stage to FEEL her love for the music that she was always talking about. We see her song lyrics, but through most of the middle of the book, I was yearning for some stage time.

I did get some in the end, though, and this novel wrapped up sweet and nice, with a satisfying resolution for the love story, but enough room for the next installment of the series. Thank goodness for no killer cliffhangers here!

Overall, I had a wonderful time touring with the characters of Girl with a Guitar and Caisey Quinn is definitely an author I’ll keep an eye out for in the future. Four stars.

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Thanks for having me on, Susan and all my fellow rock fic readers! If you’d like to keep track of me, my reviews of other things, or hear more about my books, my links are below:

 

www.michellehazenbooks.com

https://twitter.com/michellehazen

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6559289.Michelle_Hazen

http://www.amazon.com/author/michellehazen

 

 

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I was flabbergasted when Juli Page Morgan got in touch with me and offered me a print copy of her novel, Crimson and Clover. What a kind gesture!

And let me tell you, this is a good read. It’s the story of Katie, a woman of independent wealth in the 1960s, who picks up on a whim and moves to England. She hits the ground running, finding a place to stay and getting settled way more easily than I’d ever had thought was possible. But then, I’ve always used all those difficulties as a reason not to do something this crazy.

At a party, Katie meets Jay and the sparks between them are huge. And their story begins.

Make no mistake: this is the story of Katie and Jay. Things like her best friend, Maureen, who has a flair for fashion and convinces Katie to help her start their own business, are secondary. Which is almost too bad, because that’s every bit as interesting—to me—as the rock and roll storyline here. In fact, the Rock Fiction tends to take place off stage, although it’s used at times in interesting ways, like how Jay deals with how badly he misses Katie, and the problems that causes when Katie finds out.

I have to confess that I read this a bit ago and have been dragging my heels about writing this review. We’ll get to that in a second, but for now, I want to focus on this detail. Jay does something when he misses Katie. She has a hard time dealing with that. It’s the big obstacle they have to overcome in their quest for their Happily Ever After, and it shapes the fact that this ending is a Happily For Now. Maybe not even Happily so much as Committed to Working it Out, which is maybe a blend between HFN and HEA.

I do wish Jay’s coping technique had been more fully explored, but at the heart, this is really Katie’s story. It’s about her life, how she grows and changes and learns to live with (or without) Jay. Thus, we don’t get a lot of views of the inside of Jay’s head. We don’t see a lot of him through his eyes and his thoughts. It’s mostly filtered through Katie. This is both good and bad: it’s Katie’s story, as I said. But maybe knowing Jay a little bit better would help grab me a bit harder.

I guess the reason for my heel-dragging is that the book is… it’s okay. It’s a good read; don’t overlook it because it’s time well-spent. It’s just that it’s not fabulous, and while I love the idea of the book being set in the 1960s, other than some language (which sometimes felt a bit forced), I didn’t feel the authenticity of the setting. And I wanted to. The sixties flower children fascinate me, probably because they have become so desperately clichéd, and I was hoping to really get inside them and feel the atmosphere and experience the mindset.

I don’t know. Maybe I did and the mystique I grew up with is just … not a thing. That flower children are people too, and there’s nothing special about them.

I don’t buy it, though. I want more of the subculture, and I want to see how Maureen and Katie grow up and out of it, even a little bit.

However, on the flip side, kudos to Ms. Morgan for not descending into the usual clichés that surround flower children. I’ve got to make a note of that, and I want you all to know that, too.
Still, like I said, this is a good read. Perfect for a plane or the beach. It’s a fun story, fun to see Jay and Katie try to figure it out. Maureen is also a great character, and really, while there are others in the book, including the hapless Adam, the three of them really run this show. As they should. The secondary characters are also well drawn.

While the setting may not have delivered on its promise, I have a feeling that Ms. Morgan will in future books. I’ll gladly read more from her. And she won’t even have to send me a copy to make that happen.

Hi everyone! Susan was kind enough to have me on for a guest post, so let me introduce myself. I’m Michelle Hazen, I’m an author, and a total rock fic junkie. My current Work In Progress is a new adult series that follows a rising rock band from bar rooms to the big time, so of course I love to read anything with rock and roll and romance together. The book I’m reviewing today is called Seduced and it is the prequel to a series very much like mine, following a band from their practice sessions in a laundromat to bursting into stadium sized shows later in the series. Let’s have a look at the description:

SEDUCED
BY
TARYN ELLIOT & CARI QUINN

Summary: Warning: get ready for a testosterone overload. The guys are in the driver’s seat in Seduced – and the ride’s gonna rock.

Twenty-three year old Nick Crandall has one focus in his life: Oblivion, the band he formed with his best friend Simon Kagan. With gigs coming up and the band members lacking focus after losing their drummer to rehab, they’re out of ideas. Until Oblivion’s bassist, Deacon McCoy, poses a surprising suggestion.
Bring in someone new. Two someones.

One YouTube video gone viral later, Oblivion is poised on the brink of stardom. With their new hot drummer chick — who comes in a package deal with a talented guitarist who happens to be head over pick in unrequited love with her – it seems like everything’s falling into place. Or will the band Nick and Simon have fought to keep together disintegrate before their eyes?

Four guys & one woman + more success than they ever bargained for = trouble, of the sexiest kind.
Get Seduced by this novel-length introduction to the band Oblivion. This preview occurs before the four forthcoming books about each of the band members. Sometimes getting lost means finding yourself…

Seduced (Lost in Oblivion)

Seduced

Now, mind you, Seduced isn’t actually a romance novel (though the rest of the series is), but I’m going to give you five reasons to read it anyway.

5. The music!
It is a sad, sad state of affairs that most musician romance novels use music as a setting, but don’t fill it out with appropriate details. In this book, you can feel the desperation of the characters’ love for their songs, and the drive they have to share them with the world. As for the songs themselves, while there aren’t a ton of lyrics, authors Taryn Elliot and Cari Quinn use creative and visceral descriptions in such a way that you can hear the pounding rhythm of the songs, sweeping you into the spell of a great performance, even as the pages of your Kindle actually remain silent.

4. The men are MEN.
Co-authors Elliot and Quinn can write the heck out of a male POV, so it feels like a real boy thinking, not a romance novel hero. These are guys that sweat and spit and think about getting laid, not falling in love. Which just makes it all the sweeter when the right girl starts to get to them. Some of the cruder moments just made me love this book more because I truly like a realistic perspective at all costs, and I adore an author who isn’t afraid to say that, yes, real boys see absolutely no conflict with periodically pounding the crap out of their best friend in a drunken brawl.

3. Drugs
Bet you’re not used to seeing THAT heading in the pro column… Seriously, though, the music world attracts all kinds of abuse of alcohol, tobacco, different kinds of drugs, and even caffeine. I love that this book dives into that headlong and without a soapbox in sight. Instead, the authors’ only agenda seems to be to show the realism of mind-altering substances in the lives of musicians: how they use them to boost their creativity, and to comfort themselves when they’re not performing or writing as well as they should and eventually how the substances grow a mind of their own, until addiction and rehab become part of the landscape alongside gigs and time in the studio.

I felt like Seduced was a balanced, honest look at this facet of the performing lifestyle. I feel confident that as series progresses, the variance in the characters’ approach to drugs will give the reader a glimpse at all the different roads you can choose when you’re rich, famous, and the rules (almost) don’t apply to you.

2. The sex.
This book made all my hormones perk up and take notice. I wouldn’t give the adult scenes in this book a 5-star rating, but they’re edging into 4-star territory. The sexual tension is eyeglass-fogging hot, and the main sex scene…well…without getting spoilery, let’s just say you don’t read that in a romance novel every day.

1. It ISN’T a romance novel.
There is love in this book, folks, and attraction aplenty. I’m already dying to see the completion of some of the love stories hinted at in this installment. But I adore the idea of this book because this is a start to a series that sets up all the characters and the friendships before anyone finds their soul mate. This made the world feel more real, and perversely, I was more satisfied with the story than I would have been with a straight romance, even though I adore those.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to add that the book wasn’t flawless. One of the band members really rubbed me the wrong way. He repeatedly refers to himself as an asshole, and um, I’m forced to agree. He had very little control over his emotions and made a lot of short-sighted, hurtful choices and while I felt for him in many of those situations, I didn’t frequently like him. The authors do a pretty believable job of redeeming him toward the end of the book, but he’s still not my favorite. Regardless, overall this was an outstanding read- a solid 4 stars. Plus, it’s 99 cents, which is the perfect price to sucker you into any great series. I’ve read most of the rest of the series already, and I can tell you that while they’re not perfect, they’re all super enjoyable reads. I love the continuing band dynamics, the peek into what it really takes to be rock stars, and the delicious music details. Plus, if you like lots of steam, this is your series!

Thanks for having me on today, Susan and everyone! I hope to be back to do some more guest reviews in the future, but in the meantime, if you’d like to keep track of me, my reviews of other things, or my books, my links are below:

Website
Twitter
Goodreads
Amazon Author Page

Susan says: Thanks for coming by, Michelle! Jett is crazy jealous you got to this before she did, but now it’s on her Must Buy Now list (assuming she ever looks at it). Can’t wait to see what else you share with us!

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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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I don’t like junkie stories. I don’t. So the fact that I liked Cherry Cox’s debut, It’s a Long Way to the Top, tells you how good it was. And I’m not saying that because Cherry and I have become friends and you’ll see more of her here at The Rock of Pages, either. We actually became friends after I realized this was a darn good book. Possibly even because of it.

Cherry Cox

It’s the story of Jackson—Jax—who is in a band called Acts of Insanity. It’s the 80s, the band could maybe possibly break out if they record a killer demo and impress label people… and Jax is gay. But since this is the homophobic ‘80s, he can’t let people know.

Including the band’s amazingly hot new singer, Harley.

Now, what that synopsis doesn’t tell you is that Jax is also a heroin addict. A high-functioning addict, but an addict just the same. And while it made me sick when he shot Harley up after Harley got roughed up by some cops, it also made sense that he would choose that particular route of pain relief. After all, it dulls Jax’s pain… why not Harley’s, too?

I think it’s the fact that Jax is high-functioning that sets this book apart from the other junkie lit books I’ve read (and hated). The other books tend to dwell on the struggle, on the descent into hell—there’s something pathetic going on in those other books. But in Cox’s world, Jax’s heroin doesn’t stop him from trying to move forward. On the one hand, he knows he has a problem. But on the other hand, he simply doesn’t care. He’s too busy. He’s got the band to take care of. He’s got relationships with people, including a friends-with-benefits woman. Yes, I said the gay man’s sleeping with a woman.

In real life, things aren’t as easy as we often make them be in fiction, and Cox really hits on the complexities of life in this novel. Jax’s sister adores him, but doesn’t always act in what’s truly his best interests. Instead, she acts in what she wants Jax’s best interests to be. Which, of course, is what people do, and which, of course, results in disasters and hurt feelings.

In the end, the band’s poised for success. It’d have been nice if Cox had ended it right there, on that cliffhanger, but she pushed it and took us into new territory. It feels forced and it took away from the high that Jax and company should have had at least a few minutes to enjoy.

Because it’s Cox’s debut, we’ll forgive her this misstep. After all, she’s been nothing but honest with the reader and hasn’t shied away from showing the complications that erupt at every second. That’s what makes it real.

But it’s also fiction, and there’s always a time to bend the truth to fit the reader’s expectations and the conventions of the genre.

Still, I can’t wait to see what comes next for Jax and company. Just when they should be riding high, they’ve been hit with another complication (really, I wish that had started the second book), and it’s one that may or may not render the whole situation thus far moot. Or does it; I can also see this opening the band up to bigger and better.

Oh, Cherry Cox. Write faster, will you?

Susan Griscom was nice enough to send a digital copy of her book, Beautifully Wounded, and let me start by saying it’s a good read. But it’s not Rock Fiction.

Why not? Well, because it takes more than a scene with a woman playing a guitar and talk about making music to be Rock Fiction. To cross the line into Rock Fiction, music has to permeate the book somehow. It’s got to be central, but in Beautifully Wounded, what’s central is the struggle of Lena to get away from her abusive husband, emotionally as well as physically.

That part of the book is well done, near as I can tell. I wonder if someone who’s escaped an abusive husband would agree ’cause maybe, Lena falls for Jackson too fast. But maybe Lena’s one of those women who needs to be in a relationship. And that’s the biggest problem I have with this book: Lena’s needy and in denial about it. Oh, and she’s not terribly screwed up by the abuse. You’d think she would be, right?

But there’s a sweetness to this book. It unfolds slowly, like the author’s taking care of us the same way Jackson takes care of Lena. Not slow like it’s draggy and hard to keep reading. It’s actually leisurely and pretty much just right. Oh, sure, there’s the cliché confrontation at the end, but c’mon. What other end can there be when you’re dealing with an abusive spouse? How else can there be closure?

Real life isn’t that neat, but that’s why fiction is good stuff. Sometimes, it’s good to know it can be, and it fits this book pretty well.

I’d say this one’s worth a read but not if you’re looking for Rock Fiction.