Archive for the ‘Recommended Read’ Category


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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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.


You eagle-eyed, eager-beaver types might have already noticed it, but Susan’s new story, Broken, is up for pre-order at Smashwords and Amazon. Get your copy. It’s 99c, and Susan could really use the cash and I really hope she doesn’t see that or she’ll delete it out. [Yeah, ordinarily, I would, but things right now are extra tight. I could use the royalties. –Susan]

Preorders should be up soon at B&N and Kobo and iBooks, so keep a lookout for them. If you see them, holler and we’ll post the links.

And you Amazon people, if you are feeling kindly toward Susan, who really does a lot for the book community [Hey, thanks, Jett! — Susan], why not report that free price on Mannequin to Amazon? It’s free everywhere BUT Amazon, and hearing from all you might be more helpful than the constant pokes from me and her. She says free books help fuel the sale of the rest of the books, so let’s help her out.


Originally posted at West of Mars, this review is being posted at its new home at The Rock of Pages.

When Bill Flanagan’s A&R first crossed my radar, I knew I had to read it. Even though it’s copyrighted 2000 and well past the date at which I knew I wasn’t going to realize my (short-lived) dream of being an A&R chick, I still needed to read this book.

It took awhile to get my hands on it. Years. And then it took years more for me to pull it out of the depths of my famed TBR mountain range and actually read it.
Once I did, however, I absolutely adored it.

Now, let me say that the music industry depicted in A&R doesn’t resemble the industry I’d gotten to know in the early 1990s, the industry I almost went to work for. That doesn’t mean it’s not real. In fact, this book resonates with truth. It’s that I was aiming for smaller labels, folks who don’t play on this scale. I’d have been sheltered from a lot of this — I hope.

And yet, there probably is no shelter. People like Booth and DeGaul and even protagonist (and naif) Jim Cantone can be found anywhere. This both widens the book’s appeal beyond us music biz junkies and takes away a lot of the glamour that we think of when we think about the music business.

The glamour is, in fact, kept to a minimum. Yep, there’s exotic travels that Jim gets dragged along on, but there’s also violence. Real violence. There’s sex — and quite bit consequences that go along with it. It’s a strength of this book that Jim can see all of this first-hand and retain his core values and focus, even as he realizes the hard truths of what your wardrobe says about you, and what it means to conform. Yes, conform. Even in the famously non-conformist music industry, you’ve got to find a way to fit in if you want to advance.

It’s a sad lesson, but then again, so are many of the lessons that Jim learns as the book unfolds. It may be rock and roll, but in this case, we’re not so sure we like it.

Uhh… we’re not so sure we like this world of rock and roll. The book? We loved.