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Rock bottom by Michael Shilling

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Once, the Blood Orphans had it all: a million-dollar recording contract from Warner Brothers, killer hooks, and cheekbones that could cut glass. Four pretty boys from Los Angeles, they were supposed to be the next big thing, future kings of rock and roll.

But something happened on the way to glory, and now, two years later, along with their coke-fueled, mohawked female manager, they have washed up in Amsterdamfor the final show of their doomed and dismal European tour. The singer has become a born-again Buddhist who preaches from the stage, the bass player’s raging eczema has turned his hands into a pulpy mess, the drummer is a sex-fiend tormented by the misdeeds of his porn-king father, and the guitar player–the only talented one–is thoroughly cowed by the constant abuse of his bandmates.

As they stumble through their final day together, the Blood Orphans find themselves on a comic tour of frustration, danger, excitement, and just possibly, redemption. 

If I was asked to use just one word to describe Rock Bottom I think the word I would use would be surprising.  For a novel that has been referred to as “raunchy, knowing, brilliant” using the word surprising is somewhat…surprising.  But, let me explain.

Rock Bottom chronicles the last day of a rock band called Blood Orphans.  At one point they were the next big thing.  This book is a comically dark, sometimes over the top look at what might have been as well as what is yet to come. 

As we are introduced to the guys in the band we find that each one, in his own way, is bitter, disillusioned, and praying for a quick end to this less than magical mystery tour.  But, something funny happens on the way to the last gig.  A strange set of events conspires to show each of them that even though all seems lost, there is a level of love and respect that wasn’t really lost, just misplaced somewhere along the road.  And while this was their last night together as band mates, it wasn’t their last night together as friends.

As I read this book I began to have my doubts that it could hold my interest.  Getting to know these self-absorbed underachievers almost didn’t seem worth it.  By the end of the book I found myself pulling for each one of them to come away with something positive that they could carry with them into the next stages of their lives.  I began to care.  How surprising.

Michael Shilling is a Lecturer at the University of Michigan, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing. His stories have appeared in The Sun, Fugue, and Other Voices. A recovering rock musician, he played the drums in The Long Winters, as well as numerous other bands in Seattle. Currently, he is working on a novel set in Victorian England.
 
Thanks so much to Miriam of Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to review this book!
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This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

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Violet Parry is living the quintessential life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills with David, her rock-and-roll manager husband, and her darling toddler, Dot. She has the perfect life–except that she’s deeply unhappy. David expects the world of Violet but gives little of himself in return. When she meets Teddy, a roguish small-time bass player, Violet comes alive, and soon she’s risking everything for the chance to find herself again. Also in the picture are David’s hilariously high-strung sister, Sally, on the prowl for a successful husband, and Jeremy, the ESPN sportscaster savant who falls into her trap. For all their recklessness, Violet and Sally will discover that David and Jeremy have a few surprises of their own. THIS ONE IS MINE is a compassionate and wickedly funny satire about our need for more–and the often disastrous choices we make in the name of happiness.

After reading the back of this book I was intrigued.  And I am happy to say I was not disappointed.

Violet Parry seems to have it all.  She has an extremely successful husband, a beautiful little baby, and a huge home with people waiting on her left and right.  But, even though she has all of this there is one very important thing that is missing – the connection between her and her husband David.

David has always put his career as a music producer first, and although it didn’t seem to really bother her in the beginning, it has really started to wear on her.  He expects so much from her but has no idea what any of her wants and needs are.  She starts to wonder if there isn’t more to life, and that’s when she meets Teddy Reyes, a man she feels a strong attraction to, whether he is right for her or not.  So, she begins an affair.

The characters in this book are all a little “off”, yet I felt as if I could relate to each of them in some way.  The story will have you running through all the emotions – joy, anger, disbelief, sadness.  I wasn’t able to put this book down, and could really relate to it, as unusual as that may sound (you’ll have to read it).

Maria Semple has written for television shows including Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen. She has escaped from Los Angeles and lives with her family on an island off Seattle. This is her first novel.

Thanks so much to Miriam Parker of Hachette Book Group for sending this ARC to me for review!

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