Posts Tagged ‘West of Mars recommended read’


Remember about two weeks back, when Kevin Doyle stopped in to talk about how his short story (which we loved around here. I finally convinced Susan to share her review copy and man, she’s right about it. Read this one) was being turned into a radio show?

Well, it didn’t all go smoothly. The radio station messed up and forgot to play it when it was scheduled. But Kevin worked some magic — which was probably more Halloweeny than not, given that he usually writes horror — and got ’em to run it the week after. Which was last Friday.

So here’s Kevin again to tell us about what it was like.

As I mentioned in the first part of this post, last summer I began making inquiries around Columbia, which resulted in Maplewood Barn Community Theatre expressing interest in performing my novelette “One Helluva Gig” as a radio show. The program ran this past Friday night on KBIA radio here in Columbia. After five months of waiting, the time had come to hear the finished product, the first time any of my prose had been converted to another medium.

It was a seasonal night, with the temp in the low seventies, so I cranked the radio on and partook myself to my balcony, complete with a nice view of the changing colors of the woods across from my place, and stretched myself out to listen, for the first time ever, to a new version of one of my stories, one I had had little to do with. (Basically, my contribution to the endeavor lay in telling Brad Buchanan that his script looked fine to me. Other people did all the actual work.)

And while they’d let me sit in during rehearsal and taping, I hadn’t yet heard the whole thing put together.

As the program started, I tensed a bit. Hearing my name and the title of my work mentioned over the radio felt a bit odd, but nothing I couldn’t handle. The beauty of it was that, already knowing the story so well and how the individual lines would sound, I didn’t have to concentrate on the individual parts but instead could listen for the full effect.

So how did it all work out?

All in all, pretty darned well. Obviously, when you take a seventy-page novelette and reduce it to about twenty pages of script, some stuff is going to be lost. And when what’s essentially a interior narrative piece is turned into more of a dialogue piece, even more changes will crop up. As I mentioned in the first part of this post, they did a good job of capturing the plot, though some of the pathos had to, inevitably, be left out. Or at least that’s how I saw it.

Yeah, okay. But how did the darned thing sound? Specifically, how did it sound nearly three years after I wrote the story, almost two years since Vagabondage Press published it in e-book form, and five months after that initial sitdown meeting with Byron and Brad?

When I’d attended the voice taping, a few days after rehearsal, I’d felt assured that these people knew what they were doing. Naturally, I could fill in for myself some of the background characterization that the script couldn’t include, but at the taping I’d heard a handful of people doing various voices as they recited lines from a script. (Which, of course, is what they were doing.)

However, the complete production included slices of music buffering the scenes, pulling the listener out of one mood and setting the tone for the next scene. And for me, that really made the difference. (As I understand it, the credit for all of that goes to Amy Humphrey.) As I sat there on my balcony, the sun setting behind the tree line, I was listening to an actual story, darn it. Not just some folks sitting around a table reading a script. I could trace the passage of time in the changing voices, hear the intelligence in the Dairy Queen girl, and feel the pathos as Jeffers expresses just how hard it is to be famous in a world that simply will not leave you be.
It was all there, maybe not in the same way that it comes across on the printed page, but the voices and the accompanying music created a different dimension, one apart from the straight printed version.

Shortly after the show ended, I made a short posting to my social media pages that summed up, in one short line, my overall feelings.

To the crew at Maplewood Barn Community Theatre, thanks guys, for taking such good care of my baby.

People of note:
Byron Scott – President, Board of Directors
Brad Buchanan – writer and artistic director
Joe Hayes – cast, production
Todd Salazar – cast
Amy Humphrey – cast, production
Darren Hellwege – cast, production
Kelli Moore – Podcast publishing

Kevin, I gotta tell you this: Susan’s jealous.

avatar S REDRocktober3

I first met Kevin Doyle when he showed up in my inbox with his novelette, One Helluva Gig. I was going to let Jett review it, but it was so good and such a quick read that there was no time.

Then Kevin contacted me again. He’d looked into having the novella translated, so to speak, into a play. Its performance is scheduled for October 17, so I told Kevin he had to write about it for Rocktober. He was willing, and he’ll do a follow-up to this piece about what happens when it airs.

Without further ado, here’s Kevin.

A few years back, I was fortunate enough to see my first e-book released by a small, but growing, press. This was pretty much a whole new world for me, as up to this point I’d dealt exclusively in the short story arena. The “book” is actually a 14,000 word novelette, and it served as my first introduction to the idea of publishing original material in e-book form. A form, I should point out, now providing quite a service by bringing back the novelette and novella, at one point almost vanished species.

To this point, sales have been (hrrmph) modest (putting it about as mildly as possible) and I’ve been looking for new ways to market the material. One thing that kept pinging in the back of my head was the idea that, due to the structure of the work (a set number of scenes and each scene having just two characters) it seemed like this story would work fairly well as a play. However, I know zip about writing, letting alone producing, plays.

So this summer, I began scouting around the Columbia, Missouri, area seeing if I could find anyone who knew how to write plays and how to get them on stage.

Enter the Maplewood Barn Theatre.

I met a few people, who put me in touch with someone else, who led me to a few more people and next thing you know I was discovering all sorts of new stuff.

Maplewood Barn, a local community theatre, produces its plays outside in one of our parks. They run performances from May through August. Okay, most people around the Columbia area are aware of that.

However I didn’t know that during the fall and winter, when they don’t perform outside, the group produces and broadcasts radio performances, actual radio theatre, on KBIA, our local public broadcasting station. So here I was, trying to see about turning my material into a play, when I met up with some people interested in putting it on the radio, which had the appeal of being something that doesn’t often happen to original fiction.

Then, however, came the ordeal of turning my little baby over to strange people and hoping they would help it mature. I didn’t have separation anxiety, as such, but when Brad Buchanan pointed out that my sixty-page novelette would be cut down to about twenty pages, I’m pretty sure I gulped a little.

Nothing to do, though, but sit back and wait.

A few days later, the script appeared in my e-mail, and I sat down to read just what they had done to my story. Brad was apologetic at every step at having to take such “beautiful prose” (his words, not mine) and cut it down every which way.

Reading the script, I began breathing a lot easier. The basic plot, from beginning to end, is there, and all of the major scenes are left intact. On reading that initial script, I could easily recognize my work and, for most of it, my own words. Some of the emotion seemed to be missing, but I crossed my fingers that when the actors performed the script some of that would come back in.

All in all, it seemed to have come off pretty well.

Now came the next step. I knew how it read, but how would it sound when played out?

You NEED your own copy, don’t you? If I didn’t already have one, I certainly would.
Smashwords (affiliate link. G’wan. Use it)

I’m sure there are more retailers, too. iBooks, Oyster, Scribd… just a guess, but don’t hesitate to drop in at your favorite digital bookseller and see if they’ve got it. (report it in the comments, even, and I’ll update)


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.


Rocktober3This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

When author RJ McDonnell dropped me a note, I was more than thrilled to hear from him. I’d seen his name around in certain circles and since he writes about a dude who used to be in band, and since his first mystery, Rock and Roll Homicide.

Not the sexiest title out there, but I love the cover shot of a Fender Strat that’s been splattered with blood. Even though the dead guy dies in the preface, and I doubt any residue would make such a lovely pattern on a white strat, it doesn’t matter. And if it did, there’s so much good stuff going on here.

I’m not sure where to start, really, other than to say I loved this tale. I loved the main character, Jason Duffy. I loved his quirky cast of mentally disabled people and helpmeets. I loved Duffy’s narrative voice; it has total character. I loved his dad and the veteran, grizzled cop and the computer geek dude who never wants to use his names.

Maybe we should back up. Our intrepid hero, Jason Duffy, hasn’t been in business very long when he gets a visit from the very wealthy Chelsea Tucker. It turns out it’s her husband’s brains that have been spattered across the aforementioned guitar — among other things. It seems her husband is the famous — but contentious — Terry Tucker, frontman and business genius behind Doberman’s Stub, a band rocketing to the top — and currently recording their third album. This is the one that’s going to push them up to that coveted peak. Everyone knows it.

That’s why Terry was killed, it turns out. He put on a pair of headphones (conveniently given to him by his wife. What a loving woman.) and … kablooey!

The wife needs Jason’s help to clear her name. And Jason dives right in, encountering the Russian Mafia, the Irish Mafia, Orangemen, half-naked women, photographers with Tourette’s Syndrome, and a whole laundry list of surprises and twists and turns that even a experienced knitter couldn’t unravel.

Needless to say, McDonnell pulls it off. Neatly, I might add. And with no small dose of humor — particularly the scene where Jason goes sneaking around a shower. Trust me. It’s the best scene in a good book.

Now, you know I can’t write a review without talking about the downers, and there were some, of course. I’ve yet to read a book without them.

In Rock and Roll Homicide, there are two big ones. First is that the cast of characters is huge. Quirky and well-drawn, sure. But it’s big. Big casts can get confusing, and alliteration never helps. Oh, I’m not talking about the way in which half the characters have Russian names. See above about the Russian mafia.
Rather, there are an awful lot of women whose names start with the letter J. A lot of people with the first initial of C.

It’s a shame, really. These characters are all given such delicious quirks and characters, and then to confuse us with the similar names… talk about torture.

The other issue is bigger. Like an increasing number of books of late, the editing could have been better. Not just punctuation, which I’m a stickler for after spending so many years as a copy editor. Sentences could have been tightened or rewritten for maximum reader impact. Frankly, I’d love to get my hands on future books from McDonnell and have a go at it. He’s got so many elements right. He’s got a great hero, with a great voice. And his rock? It rolls, baby. This guy knows his stuff, all right.

I’ve got McDonnell’s second book here, waiting for me to read it, too. Rock & Roll Rip-Off, it’s called. All I gotta say is that it’ll be a ripoff if there’s no third book in the works.

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

I’ll admit it: when I saw Wynonna Judd listed as an author whose book I could check out from the library through my iPod, I was skeptical. I expected pulp on a par with Jackie Collins. I might have even snickered a little bit.

So, okay, sure. I downloaded it via Overdrive, the greatest little invention since the iPod itself, and … devoured this book. I just loved it. It’s the story of Destiny Hart and her rise to fame — and her need to explore her love for her hometown’s baseball coach.

Look, okay? The heroine’s name is Destiny Hart. This ain’t something on a par with Michael Shilling’s Rock Bottom. This is a light, fluffy, feel-good book that delivers exactly what it promises. Even the more serious subplot about Destiny’s parents, while too familiar for comfort, isn’t high literature.

Restless Heart doesn’t pretend to be. It is what it is, and we can take it or leave it.

I’m taking it. This was a fun, energetic read that was hard to put down. Destiny seems very real, albeit a bit formulaic. Her problems with Seth are probably as real as they get; you love someone but you also feel a pull toward something else, something that’ll take you away from him. How you negotiate these twin loves is what life is all about.

And maybe best of all, I can’t pick apart the inaccuracies in the music world. After all, Wynonna Judd knows the music biz better than I do. And while there may be some liberties taken for the story to hold together, that’s okay. It works. It still reeks of authenticity, and that’s what matters here. We need to be able to trust the rock and roll as much as we trust the other elements in a book: plot, characters, and setting.

A definite West of Mars Recommended Read, folks, if only because it’s just darn fun.

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.

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

I remember when I first heard of David Hiltbrand. He’s a rock journalist and feature reporter for those cross-state folk at the Philadelphia Inquirer. No, not THAT Inquirer. Sheesh.

Anyway, I picked up Hiltbrand’s first novel, Killer Solo. Even dropped the man a friendly e-mail because, hey, us rock and roll authors ought to stick together.

And then… I didn’t love the book the way I expected to. I know, I have really high expectations for anything involving a musician. Maybe too high.

But you know what? I liked the book enough to hit up BookMooch or PaperbackSwap and get my hands on Hiltbrand’s next two books. They hung around my office awhile, as books usually do. In preparation for Rocktober, I finally picked up the second book, Deader than Disco.

If Killer Solo had been as good as this book, I’d be raving about this series from top to bottom. Deader than Disco is a GREAT read.

The rocker at the heart of the book, Angel, is almost a total ripoff of Madonna. (I hope Madonna isn’t so unpleasant in person, but on the other hand, I can believe that there’s a glimmer of truth in Angel’s character.) The storyline deviates, however, in that I don’t believe anyone has ever turned up dead at Madonna’s home, making her a suspect and sending her on the run.

As with Killer Solo, the music details are pretty authentic. Hiltbrand knows this world, inside and out. In Deader than Disco, however, there are some almost fatal mistakes. Eighties bands such as Duran Duran are shifted an entire decade earlier, into the seventies, for example. Given the level of knowledge of a pop star’s inner circle, these mistakes seem more out of place than the mistakes you’ll find in a book that doesn’t obviously know the rock world so well. Yes, I’m saying I’m holding Hiltbrand to a higher standard. Given his pedigree, it’s not an unreasonable standard.

Where Hiltbrand doesn’t fail is with our main character, detective Jim McNamara. He has an authenticity about him that can’t be denied. His AA life is well represented and seems as real to me as the music world.

Of course, Jim rides to the rescue and saves the day — and Angel’s hide, too. That’s pretty much a given in today’s literature, and people would be calling for his head if this weren’t the case.

Unfortunately, this series, published between 2003 and 2006, seems to be Hiltbrand’s only fiction. Not just rock fiction, but fiction. Period. It’s too bad. While the series got off to a rocky start. Deader than Disco is a definite West of Mars Recommended Read.

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

I was standing in the middle of the local library when it dawned on me: I was taking the Boy Band to the orthodontist for a quick fix and I’d left my e-reader at home. And the book I was currently reading.

I was about to be cursed with year-old magazines or the endless, wordless showings of some nature program set in Denali National Park. I never thought I could ever get tired of that sort of scenery. Two visits ago, I did.

But hey, I was standing in a library, right? Although I’d seen nothing I needed from the adult New Release shelf, I’d found some rock and roll fiction in the Young Adult section as I’d helped the Boy Band search for Artemis Fowl.

Just that easily, I was set. I ran back to the shelf and Rachel Cohn’s Pop Princess was mine.

From the moment I read the first sentence in that waiting room, “My life as a pop princess began at the Dairy Queen,” I was hooked. Maybe hooked isn’t the right word; this was one of those rare gems of a book that I crawled inside of and felt an immediacy with. I connected with Wonder, even though I left being 16 behind a decade or two (but not three. Yet.) ago. This wasn’t a recall of what my own life had been, either. Nope. I was totally there with her.

The plot rocks: a former child entertainment star runs into her sister’s old rock-and-roll manager in the Dairy Queen. He offers to make her into the newest princess of popular music — and Wonder takes him up on it. After all, her family life sucks since the her older sister died. School’s worse. And have we mentioned the summer home that’s now the primary home and its charming habit of dropping parts of the ceiling at inopportune times?

Pop Princess recalls Bling for me — only it does many things right. While Kayla is the same sort of diva we saw in Bling, she’s also more rounded. She’s got a host of good points and she does work for her goals. She may be jealous and insecure, but she leads Wonder down the path smoothly, protecting her at times and pushing her to bigger and better when Wonder most needs it.

There’s more going on here. A lot more. Wonder tries to navigate guys. She loses her virginity, not to a groupie but to a guy she thinks she cares about. It means something to her and throws her into a tizzy. Talk about a very real reaction.

Even her career trajectory makes sense. She hits the very top. She transforms — but she’s not entirely happy with who the record company wants her to be. She’d rather be a size eight and not spend all day working on her dance moves and her voice. She’s loving every minute of this life, but she’s also acutely aware of what she left behind.

There are even some dark secrets she has to face. This may be the part of the book that’s most disappointing because it seems almost brushed over, but that’s okay. There’s still so much more fun going on; this shouldn’t be an issue book. It should be a fun read about a girl working to realize a dream — and then realizing other things, too. Wonder may not have one of those epiphanies where she realizes what’s missing from her life. Rather, she tries things and makes choices. I like Wonder. I hated closing this book and leaving her behind.

That is the mark of a great read. Add in the fact that the music angle rings true, and this is one I’ll be suggesting to … well, everyone.

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

Every now and then, a book comes along that, by the time you close the back cover, you know has changed you. It’s touched you in ways you hadn’t expected going in – or even halfway through.

How the Mistakes Were Made, written by Tyler McMahon, is one of those books. It’s now right up there with Fat Kid Rules the World as one of the best works of Rock Fiction. Ever.

I was desperate to read this book because of its similarities to the Courtney Love story. It’s set in Seattle, right as the grunge sound takes off. Laura had been in an influential, ground-breaking band with her brother, but something happened. It takes a long time for us to find out what.

That set her off, adrift in the world. She’s working in a coffee shop when the book opens, playing with a band called the Cooler Heads.

There’s a theme there. The Cooler Heads maybe should have prevailed, on both a literal and metaphorical sense. But, they don’t, and Laura quits the band and before she knows it, two kids she met at that final Cooler Heads show wind up on her doorstep. She takes them in and… before she knows it, she’s in a three-piece band called The Mistakes.

They’re the perfect combo, of course—if they weren’t, we wouldn’t have a book. So let’s overlook that coincidence and go beyond. Guitarist Sean has that disorder where you see colors, and that’s what powers his beauty and talent. Unfortunately, he’s also a lost soul with a self-destructive bent that first attracts Laura and then repels her. She’s got the same self-destructive need, after all, and it’s hard to tell if it’s rooted in her upbringing or just her general makeup. Or what she’s been through.

Nathan, Sean’s best friend and the other member of the Mistakes, is the conscience and the glue that holds everything together—although, on the surface, it’s Laura who does that. Laura with the experience and the know-how. Except… she doesn’t know how. Does she?

Three members of a band… there’s our triangle, right there. And a triangle it is, indeed. It’s not a static triangle, either. The players take on parts and change them, particularly Laura and Nathan. It’s an interesting transition, especially because it comes across as natural and seamless. As Sean’s self-destructive side emerges, Laura’s entire life is thrown into flux and she’s left wrestling with the legacy her brother left her: is it selling out if you have commercial success?

It’s Laura’s own need to self-destruct that causes the downfall of the Mistakes, and from the first page, she tells us that she’s the one to blame. I’d argue she doesn’t do this in the way she tells us she does. The basic problem with Laura is that she can’t commit. She’s got one foot out the door, and when you’re in that position, you really have nowhere to go but to follow where that foot’s led you. The idea of what you want becomes secondary to the tantalizing desire to escape.

If you haven’t caught on by now, this is one deep book. At the same time, though, it’s a book that’s super easy to read on the surface, for its story. Can you make comparisons to Courtney Love? Maybe. Maybe not. You’d need to know her story better than I do. Laura certainly lacks Courtney’s need to flip off the world; never once does Laura take the stage without panties on… that we know of.

The only spot in which the book stumbles is in the flashbacks. They are told in a second-person point of view. This is the hardest point of view to master—I say this as someone who studied points of view—and McMahon doesn’t quite pull it off. Just when we got to the point where I wish they’d go away and was wondering why they’d even been included, I get my answers. It’s both what I expected and much more powerful.

Laura’s been sitting on a secret, a big one, a haunting one, even as there’s something typical about it. I don’t think it shapes her the way she thinks it does; she’s managed to hide her sensitive, scared side with a foot-thick wall of Teflon before it happens. But once it comes out, an awful lot begins to make sense.

The other area I don’t completely buy is how and why the burden of the breakup of the Mistakes is put onto Laura. Things happen, and how that thing is immediately and widely connected to her is beyond me. Either I missed it in the reading or there was some logic gap I failed to make. I can’t say more without spoilers, and this isn’t the sort of book you want to spoil.

Rather, you want to savor it and its many lessons. The rich subtext isn’t something that reaches out and grabs you; I’d be surprised if many readers didn’t even know it was there.

Of course, this being Rock Fiction, I have to comment on the authenticity of the rock and roll. Whoa, Nellie. It’s there. McMahon did his research, and I’d wager a lot of it was firsthand knowledge. He gets it.

Wrap it up and put a bow on it, and then give it to all your friends. This one’s a definite West of Mars Recommended Read.