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REVIEW:  Perfect Pitch by Mindy Klasky

REVIEW: Perfect Pitch by Mindy Klasky

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Reigning beauty queen Samantha Winger is launching her pet project, a music program for kids. All she has to do is follow the pageant’s rules—no smoking, drinking, or “cavorting” in public.

That’s fine, until D.J. Thomas—God’s gift to baseball—throws her a wild pitch. He slams her in an interview, and the video goes viral. Sam’s no shrinking violet. She parlays D.J.’s apology into a national T.V. appearance—and a very unexpected, very public kiss.

Soon, paparazzi catch the couple in a steamy make-out session, and Sam’s music program is on the block. The blazing hot relationship is threatened even more when D.J.’s son begs to trade in Little League for music class.

Can Sam and D.J. sizzle past the sour notes and find their perfect pitch?

Dear Ms. Klasky,

After enjoying what is actually the second book in this series, “Catching Hell,” I knew I wanted to go back and start from the beginning. While there are some things I liked about “Perfect Pitch,” it wouldn’t have got me caught on these books had I read it first.

The relationship between DJ and Sam starts innocently enough with DJ making a thoughtless comment about the Summer Queen. What or who is the Summer Queen? A made up beauty contest set in North Carolina with Samantha Winger as the current title holder. Sam has dealt with ten months worth of the “morality” clauses expected of the reigning Queen – no public drinking, carousing, hooting or hollering. She manages to turn DJ’s public apology into an opportunity to publicize her passion which is helping re-establish music in NC’s public school system.

Sparks fly between DJ and Sam but after a steamy kiss photo taken by a local paparazzi hits the papers, Sam is on probation as far as pageant officials are concerned. She can deal with that now that a local businessman has offered to help get her Musicall program off the ground, though. It just so happens that the school chosen for the pilot is attended by DJ’s son Daniel and it’s then that Sam discovers the boy’s love of music and dislike of the life his father has planned for him – to follow in his footsteps as a major league pitcher just as DJ did with his father, Hall of Famer Dan Thomas.

While DJ is amazing at reading and understanding Sam’s interest in him, he’s incredibly obtuse about his son. And while Sam is determined to see students get the chance to learn to love music, she’s seemingly blind to how sneaking around with DJ could end up sinking Musicall almost before it even starts.

To be honest, this one is not as good as second novel. The shorter length worked there because focus is entirely on the two main characters while here there are distractions to the relationship between DJ and Sam. Yes, Daniel, DJ’s son, is a point of contention between Sam and DJ in terms of his future as either a ball player or a musician but time has to be spent with him and explaining him instead of spending it on Sam and DJ together. As well, Sam’s issues with the Summer Queen rules serve to take time away from the couple together.

There is also less baseball in this book. A little time is spent on the fabulousness of DJ’s no hitter game and the dreary reality of a long series of games on the road as well as how careful DJ must be with his pitching arm but it’s more background white noise instead of front and center to the book.

When the conflict over Daniel’s music v sports flares up, the already short term flash sexy relationship between Sam and DJ crumbles in a heartbeat only to be just as quickly resurrected with a simple “I’m sorry” and seemingly all is forgiven to be followed by more behavior that any romance reader can tell will lead to disaster.

When the Big Breakup occurs late in the story, Sam and DJ do finally yell their concerns and problems at each other. However, when the public reunion takes place – and yeah, I’ll give DJ props for making sure that Sam gets a public apology and proposal after the public way their relationship torpedoed her career – I’m blinking at how easy it all goes. Over a longer period of time, with more discussion I could believe this but as truncated as the action becomes, it was too much too soon along with too little baseball. C

~Jayne

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REVIEW: All That Bleeds by Kimberly Frost

REVIEW: All That Bleeds by Kimberly Frost

Dear Ms. Frost:

This book ended up being too frothy for me. Alissa is a Muse and as such her role in life is to inspire those around her. The big concept in the book is that the heroine is competing to be the Best Muse of All (or for to be the Wreath Muse) which is akin to a Miss Universe pagaent complete with an evening gown competition and a swimsuit (“I’ve heard we’ll be wearing bathing suits for the photo shoot by the retreat’s tropical indoor pool. No gloves or long skirts for that session.”) and sportswear component as well. It’s not even ironic. Her competition is her former best friend:
All That Bleeds by Kimberly Frost

Cerise Xenakis, her former best friend, held court at the center. Cerise’s dark hair gleamed in the candlelight. She wore a daring dress of white leather and pewter lace. From a distance it looked like lingerie, and Alissa had heard that Cerise had taken the dress from a music video she’d starred in for the Molly Times, one of the bands she inspired. The Molly Times’s debut album had gone platinum and had been nominated for three Grammy Awards.

Alissa swallowed hard, wondering to whose presentation the EC—the Etherlin Council—had given more votes: hers or Cerise’s. Among the people Cerise inspired, there were an Olympic gold medalist, a Heisman Trophy winner, a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, and four multiplatinum musical artists. Among Alissa’s aspirants, her writers had won a Pulitzer, three National Book Awards, and two Academy Awards. Her scientific and engineering aspirants had published eighty-four scientific papers and generated nineteen patents, two of which Alissa had been included on. She had transferred her share in the patents to the Etherlin community trust. She was proud that her work on clean energy had generated eight million dollars over four years. That was four million more than she’d made modeling. She wanted to be respected and regarded as a muse of substance, but she was glad to have the modeling income for the community as well. She knew that with her combined earnings, she’d contributed more money to the trust than all the other current muses combined.

The romance tension comes from Alissa falling for someone who is forbidden to her. Alissa is the daughter of the House of North and one of the most accomplished Muses of all time. The Wreath comes with extra powers. (Kind of like a power up pack in a video game). Alissa seems to be a shoo in. She even seems to have the support of the father of her closest rival.

Alissa’s coronation, however, is imperiled by a scandal involving Merrick, a ventala. A ventala is the progeny of a human and a vampire.  Some view Alissa with suspicion regardless because her mother killed herself. Alissa must be an exemplar candidate because she needs to be the Wreath Muse in order to save her father who is suffering from some kind of dementia. Alissa met Merrick when he saved her from a demon five years ago. Ever since then, Alissa has secretly written him letters and he has left her gifts. When Alissa is up for the crown title Wreath she begins to be targeted by someone dangerous. Merrick comes back to protect her with the Etherlin security team reluctantly allowing him into their midst.

Part of Alissa’s danger seems to be intertwined with her mother’s suicide and her father’s dementia. Unlocking those mysteries will reveal a dark side to Etherlin.

On the one hand, there was some interesting world building. Outside the Etherlin live a mix of humans, vampires, demons and ventala in the Varden. There are syndicates that rule with Varden and its fairly lawless…yet, the Muses venture out during sanctioned visits to inspire greatness. (Are they inspiring the gangsters? I could never really tell if the Muses were responsible for all the success or only the good success. Were there evil Muses out there? )  Alissa says:

“To be entitled to a muse’s energy and efforts, a person has to work extremely hard and has to have talent or intelligence, ingenuity and drive. Do you understand? There aren’t a lot of muses. Our focused attention facilitates the greatest inventions, the greatest works of literature, feats of athleticism, scientific discoveries . . . If a muse expends energy on someone who isn’t capable of doing something extraordinary with it, then what happens to the person who could have created a masterpiece or the next technological revolution? It’s actually a weakness in my character that I haven’t stopped.”

The idea is that the people who live in Etherlin are superior. They are ruled by intellect and inspire others to create great art, invent useful products, or be successful politicians. Yet the vampires are looked down upon because they are impulsive and driven by emotion and need. Isn’t there some inherent inconsistency here? Someone who inspires others through emotion thinks that emotion is somehow devaluing? And what is with all the focus on how someone looks in their gowns and their bathing suits if you are a MUSE? My face, it has a very confused look on it.

The Etherlin people hold a pageant to pick their Wreath Muse! How can these people think themselves superior? Their entire days are spent looking good. Alissa has to meet with the Ralph Lauren people but soon “She hoped to be completely consumed with the Wreath Muse publicity tour and the obligations of the role.”  In the end, I couldn’t get over that a) I was reading a paranormal pageant book interspersed with some vampire sexxoring and B) the only reason that Alissa wanted the Wreath was to save her father.  Seems rather unMuse like to me and the ending.  Oy, the ending. It shot another huge hole in the worldbuilding.

Best regards,

Jane

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