Category Archives: Rock Fiction

Rock Fiction Coveting: Lick


Now that Jett’s up and running with the reviews, I figured I’d take a few minutes and highlight the Rock Fiction she and I have been talking about.

Let’s start with Kylie Scott’s novel, Lick.

What a provocative title. A lick, after all, is a really cool guitar run. Or, as Webster’s puts it: an interpolated and usually improvised figure or flourish

And, of course, a lick can be what one does with one’s tongue. Preferably to a willing partner.

There’s more than a little confusion surrounding this book. St. Martin’s says it’s being released in May 2014. GoodReads says Momentum put it out in July 2013… is this a self-pubbed book gone big time?

As for the story, it seems to be about a woman out celebrating her 21st birthday who wakes up hungover and married. But beyond that…

Well, hopefully I can get my hands on a copy for Jett and we’ll let you know.


Jett Reviews Rock Star Superstar



Even though Susan gave me a stack of books to read, for my first, I snuck off and found something in the library. I won’t be doing that again anytime soon.

See what I had to say about Blake Nelson’s Rock Star Superstar.


A Rock Fiction Review: Anthony Neil Smith’s The Drummer


Rocktober became rather chaotic there, didn’t it? It was great fun and, to be honest, I’m sorry it’s only a month long — although how I could possibly sustain that pace was beyond me.

So as I was looking through my archives and cleaning stuff up, I realized I’d neglected to tell you about a book I’d read. Anthony Neil Smith wrote a book called The Drummer. It possibly has the worst back cover copy I’ve ever encountered, but the story itself is …

Well, go see for yourself.


Introducing Jett Ostra


One of the hardest parts of running West of Mars is that at the end of the day, I’m tired. I’ve been playing with words all day long, so the last thing I want to do is sit and read yet more words. Now that my Internal Editor has been given full rein (reign? It fits!) all day, it doesn’t turn off so easily just because I’m reading a book. An already-published book.

But you guys know my passion for Rock Fiction, and you know that I’m an expert in the genre.

I couldn’t let that go to waste.

So … I took on an underling. A woman who loves Rock Fiction as much as I do, and one who is glad to learn at my knee about the intricacies of this genre.

Meet Jett Ostra.


Don’t worry. That’s not her real name. But these are her real words:

The deal is that I work with some pretty high-faluting people, and my bosses don’t want me to put myself out there and be visible to the world for who I am. I ask those people for money and favors and things like that; the official name is corporate development, but the jist is that I gotta keep up appearances.

But I love to read and I love to talk about books, and I don’t like to varnish the truth, unless I’m at work. I swear, some days, it’s all I can do to smile and keep schmoozing.

So don’t expect that here. I’m going to tell you what I think and if that hurts your feelings, too bad. Susan told me when she hired me that she wanted to see the same perceptions and hard truths that were in the sample I gave her. So that’s what you’re going to get.

Let’s all welcome Jett, shall we? Her reviews will appear periodically.

And if you’d like to query her, do it through me (Susan) and I’ll pass the request along. She’s keeping it to Rock Fiction for now, and believe me, I’m fast on the delete button. I’ve been deluged of late with review requests, zero of which have been Rock Fiction. Anyone know what’s up with that?

ROCK FICTION, folks. That’s what gets reviewed here.


Coveting Rock Fiction: The Reluctant Lark


My radar’s pretty wide and Rock Fiction comes to my notice all the time.

This one comes from powerhouse writer Iris Johansen (a writer I’ve heard a ton about but have yet to crack the spine of. Hmm. Time to fix that?), but … I’m not 100% certain it’s Rock Fiction. I need some of you guys to give me some clues, maybe send me a link to put up on the Rock Fiction page.

The jist is that this millionaire dude discovers a woman with a voice like a lark. She’s world-famous and … somehow easily spirited away to a house in the hills, isolated from her life, her security team, and her career. Can he win her over?

I see elements of The Bodyguard in here, and lots of other Rock Fiction trope. I’d have to read this to be certain, but… I dunno. I am skeptical that this might be one of those books where one character works in the music business but the career could be interchangeable with a million other careers. Kinda like the author goes, “Hey, I haven’t written my rock star book yet. I ought to get on that.”

This is one of those (many) cases where I hope I’m wrong and the book rings with musical authenticity. But I’ve been burned a lot lately by big names who clearly don’t know enough about that special something rockers have. I’m a bit skittish of this one…

What’s your take on it?


Rock Fiction Readalong Wrapup


Well, just in time for the end of Rocktober, I finished Jessica Topper’s Louder Than Love.

Have you? What are your thoughts on it? You can read mine here, but here’s a preview: A West of Mars Recommended Read. You’ll have to click through to read exactly why, though.

Edited to add from Elizabeth at HEAS are us:

Jessica Topper is giving me an exclusive interview with Adrian from Louder Than Love on my blog on 11/8! I am collecting interview questions from any and all fans who want to know more about the British rocker that stole our hearts! If you have any burning questions for Adrian, please email them to heasrus at yahoo dot com by Friday, November 1!


Why’s there a Rock in my Heart?


It’s Rocktober, so that can only mean that the ROCK refers to rock fiction, not geologic features (a question I get asked more often than I’d like to admit).

And today, it also refers to Tommie Vaughn, herself an industry veteran. She has a debut novel out, and it’s titled… ready? This Rock in my Heart.

Tommie was kind enough to send me a copy of This Rock in my Heart to review, and I did that, so go read it. And then go pick up the book and see if you agree with what I had to say.

Remember, if you can leave a few words of your own thoughts on any site — GoodReads, book retailers large or small, a blog, a friend’s blog — it all helps the author. Not as much as handing your copy to a friend or (even better) handing them a brand-new copy, but it’s a help, all the same.

Us authors love it when you do that sort of thing for us. Just a few words…


If Rocktober Stays…


Not all Rock Fiction lights me up like a good concert does.

Gayle Forman’s If I Stay was one of those that falls short of the mark. I read it awhile ago, and now that I’ve had some time to think, I don’t think this book was ever intended to be Rock Fiction.

You tell me what you think.


Rocktober Makes No Mistake


Remember a few weeks back, when I mentioned I’d read a Rock Fiction novel that was so good, it very well needed to be included with Fat Kid Rules the World as one of THE BEST Rock Fiction works of all times?

And remember how I said you’d have to wait until Rocktober to hear about it?

Well, here you go. You’re hearing about it.

The book is How the Mistakes Were Made, written by Tyler McMahon. I’ll let you click through and read my review, but I’m warning you now, it’s a long review. It’s worth it.

I love, love, loved this book.


Win some Rock Fiction!


What better way to celebrate Rocktober than with a giveaway!

My good friend Mary over at BookHounds is giving away a copy of Rob Reid’s terrifically funny, point-on satire, Year Zero. You can read my review of it here, if you missed it.

And you can read Mary’s review, too, as well as enter to win. But hurry … it’s a quick contest and it will be closing soon.

Act now! This is a great one you won’t want to miss.


Louder than Love: A Rock Fiction Readalong!


Everyone’s talking about Jessica Topper’s Louder than Love, and she was kind enough to send a copy my way. I’m around page 50, so it seems like the perfect time to ask you guys if you are reading it, if you have read it, or if you’ll consider hopping over to your favorite bookstore (indies are always the best) and picking up a copy of your own.

Join me in the story of Katrina the widow and her adventures… Fifty pages in, it’s darn good stuff!


Rock On and read some Rock Fiction


I have been reading a lot lately, so much so that I ought to turn some of these Rock Fiction explorations into Readalongs. The truth is that I’ve been devouring a lot of these books.

While Denise Vega’s Rock On wasn’t one I devoured as quickly as I have the others, it was still an okay read. Click on through and read my thoughts on this YA novel.


Rockin’ Rollin’ Readin’


Still on hiatus from the fancy book review people, so I’ve been reading and reading the stuff that’s piled up over here. It feels good to make even a small dent in the TBR mountain ranges.

So check out my review for Allison Harnby’s It’s Not You, It’s Me. One of those fun reads that stops just short of being a West of Mars Recommended Book and … hmm. Maybe I need a new category. West of Mars Good Book.

What do you think?


Catching up on some Rock Fiction


The book review people haven’t called lately, which has been a good thing. Everyone needs a break now and then, even though I miss the paychecks. (Go buy some of my books and make up for that, will ya?)

One of the best benefits has been that I’ve been able to catch up on the books that have piled up around here. Two of those books (but not all) have been Rock Fiction.


The Road to Fluffer, Dan Schell’s debut novel was a lot of fun. Read my review.

The pseudonymous author Rosemary Martin hit the market in 2005 with It’s a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod Murder. Looks like it’s out of print and only available for Kindle, but … well, see my thoughts on it.


New Rock Fiction review


After reading about it at Dear Author, I HAD to get my hands on Kimberly Lang’s The Downfall of a Good Girl.


Click on through to read my review.


Rock Fiction Read Along: Heavy Metal and You


I have more than enough to read. I really do.

So what was I doing in the library, letting my eye get caught by a book called Heavy Metal and You?

Well, trying to avoid exactly that problem, to be honest. I’ve still got books other authors have sent me, I started a book when I was between reviews for The World’s Toughest Book Critics that I’ve yet to finish, and TWTBC must like me enough that I got this current assignment an entire week before the last one was due. In other words: they’re filling my reading time, all by themselves, and all the other books around here continue to lie in wait for me.

But… how do you walk away from a book called Heavy Metal and You? Especially when a line in the acknowledgements reads: Special thanks to Tom, Jeff, Dave, and Paul, for being Slayer. (However, we won’t stop to ask why founding member Kerry King didn’t get a thanks but Paul Bostaph, who tends to play with them when Dave isn’t, did.)

The author is Christopher Krovatin, and he’s written some other things since Heavy Metal and You, settling into the horror genre after this stint in YA. The publication date is 2005, which feels old by today’s standard of immediacy. And the publisher? Push, a division of Scholastic.

So… go pick up a copy and read along! Leave your comments here or on the West of Mars Fans page over at Facebook.


Rock Fiction Readalong Wrapup



Okay, maybe you missed my initial post about the Rock Fiction Readalongs I’ll be doing, but it’s never too late to talk Rock Fiction.

I have to confess that I read David Hiltbrand’s Dying to be Famous in a few days, certainly much faster than I’d expected. Always a good thing — unless you were going to read along! I doubt some of you even had the book before I’d closed the back cover, only reasonably satisfied by the experience.

Here’s the link to my review of Dying to be Famous. Read it, and be sure to come back here and tell me what your own thoughts were.


Rock Fiction Readalong!


What’s the point of loving Rock Fiction if I don’t get to share that passion?

So. Here’s the deal. Whenever I start reading some Rock Fiction (unless it’s for the review people, who prefer I remain anonymous about what I’m reading), I’m going to let you know. I encourage you guys to pick up a copy for yourself, and read along. Since my comments are always open, leave some. Leave ’em on the West of Mars Fans page at Facebook.

Spread the love. Spread the Rock Fiction.

Ready? Here we go. David Hiltbrand’s Dying to be Famous. That link’ll take you to B&N (where I am NOT an affiliate), and it looks like the book is out of print. It may require some sleuthing, but if it’s as good as its predecessor, Deader than Disco, it’ll be worth the hunt.

Happy reading!

(and no, I’m not sure what happened to my review of Killer Solo. It might have been an unfortunate victim of the hack I suffered last spring)


Special Rocktober Close-Out: A guest blog post from RJ McDonnell


I’ll admit it. I’ve been so busy editing that I didn’t have a chance to put together the sort of Rocktober I’d wanted to.

But my friend RJ McDonnell wasn’t going to let me off the hook so easily. I HAD to do something and what do you know? He’s got a new book out.

So… I thought I’d break my own rules around here and instead of asking RJ what song makes him think of his book, for your Halloween pleasure, to send Rocktober out with a bang, I asked RJ to pen a guest blog — possibly the first to run in over six years here at West of Mars — about why he writes Rock Fiction.

With no further ado:


RJ McDonnell

The greatest Christmas present I ever received was an acoustic guitar, given to my sister when I was 9 years old. She was thrilled with it for about an hour. After trying to form chords for the first time and failing miserably, she had no problem letting her little brother make a fool of himself. I realized at that learning to play would be a long and difficult road, especially since my parents couldn’t afford to pay for lessons. But on some level I knew that I had tapped into an inner passion and, regardless of the time and effort involved, I would learn to play that guitar.

I went into that Christmas with my eyes wide open. The previous year, my big present was a Flexible Flyer sled that I immediately walked to our neighbor sleigh riding venue a mile away. It was no big surprise that I was the lone sledder at 8:30 AM on Christmas morning. The big surprise happened when I put my tongue on the sled’s steering bolt when I reached the bottom of the hill on my first run. Yes, it stuck like Crazy Glue, just like in the film A Christmas Story. But instead of flailing my arms and crying, I had to drag a sled that was bigger than me up and down hills for a mile with my tongue twisted sideways. Man-up Flick, it could have been a lot worse.

So, my family was understandably cool about letting me glom onto my sister’s present. I may have traded her an evil sled with a leftover taste bud or two for my first six string.

The following spring I fell head over heels for a Beatles album that I purchased with proceeds from my new lawn mowing business. I started working on the songs with my guitar the minute I got home and didn’t stop at bedtime until my mother took the guitar out of my room and placed it next to my father.

The following morning I tried my hand at acting, as I faked a severe stomach ache in front of my 4th grade class at 9:15 AM. The school nurse drove me home. A couple of days later I overheard my mother say on the telephone, “I wish he would have at least waited until the nurse left the house before playing his album and guitar.”

When I reached high school I discovered an aptitude for English, which served as a nice counterbalance for the black hole known as Algebra. I was moved up into an advanced English class and had no trouble keeping in step with my new classmates. I didn’t know it at the time but it was the beginning of a lifelong journey.

Writing was a skill that carried me through college and grad school. Regardless of my level of preparedness for tests, I could always count on convincing profs that I knew the material with a well-crafted paper or two. It became my go-to skill if my band happened to land a gig the night before a test.

After graduation I tried working at a government job for two years while continuing to play in a band. But I came to realize that my career path and basic intolerance for bullshit were at odds with one another, and was destined to end badly if I didn’t take immediate corrective action. I really wanted a chance to work as a full-time musician but knew it wasn’t going to happen in Northeastern Pennsylvania. So I moved to San Diego, quickly teamed up with a talented lead guitarist, and we formed a band.

But fate can be downright mean at times. Just as my new band was gelling I shattered my left wrist in an accident. At first I thought I’d be back in action in no time – slap a cast on it and wait six weeks. But I broke the navicular bone, which is in the middle of several smaller bones and gets very little of the circulation needed for healing. Six weeks turned into six months, at which point I had bone graft surgery. That was followed by 18 months in casts and braces. Bottom line: I wasn’t able to play guitar for over 20 years.

Writing was my fallback position. I landed a full-time writing job a year after getting out of the brace. My first fiction gig happened when a coworker went to work on a new cable comedy television show with a Saturday Night Live format. My coworker asked if I’d like to submit a script on spec. A total of 34 of my scripts were produced and aired over the show’s two seasons, and I was hooked on fiction.

I’ve been a mystery/crime fan my whole life. My father was a homicide detective who watched every crime drama and movie on television. I transitioned from television to novels in college. I was especially fond of series collections and made sure I tapped into my passion for music when developing my detective’s background as a former club musician. In spite of the injury my passion for rock music never waned. I set up the series so that every one of the novels involved the music industry.

So far, all of the cases have related to rock music. Rock & Roll Homicide is about the murder of a metal frontman. Rock & Roll Rip-Off features a rock studio musician involved with an emo band. The Concert Killer follows a serial killer as he tries to shut down the rock concert industry. And, The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death takes a hard look at life after stardom.

Although my detective, Jason Duffy, played in metal bands until starting his apprenticeship as a private investigator, I’m not locked into writing about rock exclusively. I have two children in their early 20s. My daughter is a blues singer and my son is a drum & bass MC who warmed up a Grammy award winner last year. It’s possible I may wander into their worlds if they offer a guided tour. In the meantime, my working title for #5 is Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll.

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