Posts Tagged ‘authentic’

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

I’d told myself I wasn’t going to do it. I wasn’t going to grab any books I saw in the library, no matter how tempting they were.

Which, of course, explains why I walked out of there with a copy of Heavy Metal and You, a 2005 novel written by Christopher Krovatin while he was a student at Wesleyan University.

His age shows, and not in a bad way. Heavy Metal and You rings with the authentic voice of a teenaged boy, trying to figure out who he is and what it’s all about.

That’s pretty much the entire plot. Sam meets Melissa, asks her out, and falls head over heels, only to find out she doesn’t like his friends, he doesn’t like hers, and she’s trying to change him in ways that, fundamentally, he’s not thrilled about. He likes going out and getting drunk and stoned and stupid with his friends. And okay, he realizes cigarettes don’t taste that great, but darn it, it should be his choice if he wants to smoke or not, not hers.

If anything, this book reminded me a bit too much in tone and voice of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Adventure, a book I loved the first time around. Not so much when it feels like I’m reading a rehash, which is really unfair to this particular book. It should be able to stand on its own. An interesting note is that Nick and Norah co-author David Levithan is thanked for being an editor and friend. Coincidence? No way!

As a work of Rock Fiction, this stands up – and so does what, for me, was the penultimate scene. It is so achingly real, it transported me back to my own youth.

Melissa, wanting to experience Sam’s world, had joined him at a general admission Deicide concert. This probably wouldn’t have been my first choice to expose a newbie to the scene, but Sam was so over the moon with his woman that it’s easy to forgive him this slight – and the one that comes next.

Hyped on the music, the adrenaline, the possibilities, and the scene, Sam grabs Melissa’s hand and pulls her into a very rough mosh pit. They are separated and by the time Sam finds Melissa again, she has been thoroughly traumatized.

Anyone who’s been in a situation where someone is a willing participant in a world that is ridiculed by most will relate to Sam and his headlong enthusiasm.

It’s the best part of the book.

Heavy Metal and You. Recommended, just for that one scene.

Okay, anyone know why the new WordPress’ so-called “improved posting experience” ATE my original of this review?

There may not be a better example of the bodyguard trope in romance than the classic Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner movie.

Count on Lorelei James to create a book that goes toe-to-toe with a movie – and might even top it. Hillbilly Rockstar is the name of it, and it’s the newest entry into her Blacktop Cowboys series.

I suspect that we’ve met both Liberty Masterson and Devin McClain in previous Blacktop novels. I’m a shameful James fan and haven’t read more of the series. But it doesn’t matter, as this is the novel in which they both get to shine.

The premise is classic. Devin’s got security issues, and his people hire Liberty’s people. I mean, hello? How else can this storyline get started? We know this about the bodyguard trope. There’s not a lot of way around it. The magic here is what happens once the two start working together, Liberty pretending to be his personal assistant and not minding – much – the sneers of a band who think they know better.

Blue streak in her hair or no, Liberty’s no groupie.

So the story is really about how their romance comes about. In fact, Devin’s security threats are almost a second thought as the story unfolds, and that’s perfectly okay. This isn’t meant to be a romantic suspense, which it would become if the threat to Devin was more serious.

Really, what can you say? It’s delicious watching Liberty and Devin fall in love. If anything, I’d argue this is more Liberty’s story than Devin’s; she’s the rounder, more real character. There’s further for her to go before she can overcome her past scars. From clothing to career to learning to care, this is her journey. Devin, he just has to quit with the groupies – which he has – and take care of his band. Which he, largely, does. He has that over-the-top charisma that makes a really good rock star, and it’s tempered with more than a streak of introvert to him. But this means there’s also less of a path for him to follow in order to grow; at the end, he’s not much different from the man he was at the beginning.

But oh, who cares? I mean, we could make that same claim about Kevin Costner, right?

Where Hillbilly Rockstar gains the edge, though, is the racy stuff. Woo whee, this is author James’ strength. I know there are hordes of readers who pick up her books just for her knowledge of the fun stuff that can transpire between a man and a woman in a bedroom, and it’s hard to fault them for that. James is an author who can create amazing characters you’d like to have populate your real life. Her settings are fully researched – I can’t find a single fault with the rock and roll details in Devin’s life (although I did have a few questions for my cadre of experts, especially about the venues as the tour progressed) – and the plotlines plausible.

Really, why this woman isn’t on the best-seller lists – all of them, and for months and years on end – I don’t know. Then again, when I look at some of the drek that does make it, well, there’s no accounting for taste.

Skip those. Spend time with Lorelei James.

Disclaimer, which can’t possibly be cool the second time around but here goes anyway: Lorelei herself sent me a copy of this, in a cool pink-bound ARC edition that’s going on my shelf of keepers and not just because she autographed it. I’ve known Lorelei for years and think she’s the cat’s meow. But lest you think that stopped me from doing anything but loving this book, perish that thought. Lorelei is a seasoned pro, and she knows the value of a well-written but negative book review. In fact, I don’t blame her if she’s a bit upset, hoping I would have written her one. But … well, she’s too damn good a writer for that to happen. Really, if it had needed to, I’d have had no qualms about doing it. But I didn’t need to. So there.

This review was first posted at West of Mars. It’s being reposted here, at its new permanent home.

One of the more recent books to cross my radar, Jen Sincero’s Don’t Sleep With Your Drummer certainly didn’t languish on the TBR pile for long. I’m not sure why; I had picked it up on the recommendation of a fellow PaperbackSwap member and I guess it just called to me.

There’s a lot to like about this book. Yeah, it’s sort of cliched in that this story’s been told before: girl decides to drop her life and make one last shot at the big time. But it also avoids falling into the many cliches and death traps that so many rock and roll novels fall into. Yes, the bass player is a junkie. Yes, the drummer’s hot. Yes, the lead guitarist is flaky. It’s the way that Ms. Sincero deals with all these that elevates this book into one I’d recommend.

Let’s start with Lucy. We’re told she’s flaky, but from where I sit, she’s not so bad. Every time she seems to flake on Jenny, she’s doing it for the same reason (and that reason isn’t a man, despite Jenny’s jealousy of Lucy’s way with the opposite gender). It was apparent to me that Lucy was in Sixty Foot Queenie only to make Jenny happy. Her heart was with the Afreaka! outfit; it’s a character flaw in Lucy that she wasn’t brave enough to speak up. It’s also a character flaw in Jenny that she wasn’t willing to see this and to let her best friend go.

Jake the junkie… This was one of the plot lines that wasn’t well served by Jenny’s easy-breezy voice. There’s a lot going on here, with an ex-wife, some violence, the drug use. Yet we never see beneath the surface. I’d have liked to, even a little bit.

Same for Scott the hot drummer with the serious jealousy issues. Here’s a man who’s willing to park his truck around the corner and crawl out the bedroom window so no one finds out he’s schtupping the band leader, yet if anyone touches his girl — the band leader, who of course is going to be the center of attention — he goes ballistic. It makes no sense. I need a backstory here. I need some character development.

I also wonder about the need to hide the relationship. After all, Rob Zombie and Sean Yseult, anyone? Yeah, the end of their relationship was the end of White Zombie, but for years, they made quite the team. Yes, Scott’s jealousy issues doom this relationship, but Jenny didn’t know that when she felt the electricity between herself and Scott. Yet she was all too quick to proclaim this fling as wrong. She never gave it a chance.

Ultimately, I had a hard time liking Jenny. My biggest issue with her was that she came across more like a nineteen-year-old kid than she did as a twenty-nine-year-old woman. That’s not because I was married by age 29 and therefore, Jenny was wrong to be so flighty. Hardly.

Jenny had a naivetivity to her that would have worked for a younger character, but didn’t work in someone who should have gained some worldliness and maturity. I frequently found myself losing patience with her, counting how many pages I’d read, and wondering if I could quit reading now.

I’m glad I didn’t. While Jenny never really grew into a woman in her late ’20s, this problem managed to stop bothering me so badly once the band began to take off. Besides, she had moments that salvaged some of my good will toward her — like when she was tutoring and found a way to get one of the kids to break his writer’s block. THAT was a masterful moment.

Ultimately, I like Rock Fiction best when the pages breathe music, and Don’t Sleep with your Drummer certainly did that. The music end of this book is real. It’s vivid. It’s almost enough to make up for the other issues I had.

Oh, if only Jenny had been nineteen instead of 29… we’d have a rave-worthy book…

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

“Susan,” People said to me, “you’ve got to read Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. It’s so you.”

I trusted them; I’d been hearing this same thing from way too many people to not hear the nugget of truth in what they were saying. Yet, I still procrastinated. After all, my TBR mountain range is over 500 books. I’m trying to shrink that puppy and make some work space in my office.

So I threw it up to fate. When the movie came out, I reminded myself I needed to read the book first — and soon.

That was in 2008. It wasn’t until summer of 2010 that I was standing in my local public library with my son, trying to find something that would interest him, that I turned to a rack of books and … there it was.

I told myself I shouldn’t. I have enough at home. Heck, I shouldn’t be taking out the new release I had in my hands.

It was a moment of weakness.

It was a moment I’ll never regret.

That’s because Nick and Norah is a fabulous book. It gets the rock and roll vibe and it tells a story I maybe could have lived at a younger point in my life. I recognized myself in here, recognized friends, recognized the carefree feel of wanting to keep the night going, to see where things were leading, to play this out now and not over awhile, when thinking had time to intrude, and expectations to overpower. Nope, there’s that urgency, that need to live life, to experience things, to be part of this adventure that’s changing you even as you go through it…

Yeah. I’ve been there, all right. Leaving it behind is possibly the worst thing about growing up.

Now, I’ll confess I’d been worried about the two author thing. How would it work, would the voices meld? Would dialogue and actions be consistent across characters? Yes, you’d expect a boy’s voice to be different from a girl’s — it was the small details I was worried about.

Ha. It was quite seamless and carefully done. It lent the book an authenticity in each character, although some of that could have been my own expectations coming into play. It’s entirely possible I was so charmed by the story, that I related to it so much better than I had anticipated, that I’m overlooking some flaws. I must be. No book is this perfect.

Yet like Fat Kid Rules the World, this is one of my new favorites. An instant classic.