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I had stars in my eyes and I couldn’t see around them…
The year is 1995 and my parents have finally allowed me to take the summer to tour in a VW van across the country with my boyfriend Evan and our band. Yes, my dream to be a singer became reality. Even with Clarissa, Evan’s jealous ex-girlfriend, as the lead singer, it’s my presence on stage that led us to a major record deal. There are moments you’ll always remember in life, but I can’t imagine anything more cool than hearing your song on the radio for the first time.
But being a Rockstar isn’t as easy as it sounds. Using alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms, nothing but tension surrounded me, hurting my still blossoming relationship, and continued grieving over my sister’s death.
A love letter to the nineties and a journey of a girl becoming a woman, Grenade Bouquets charts the rollercoaster ride of a band primed to explode on the scene, as long as they keep from actually exploding.
NICUnurse’s Review of Grenade Bouquets
Grenade Bouquets is the second book in this author’s Runaway Train series. And I honestly had no idea what to expect when I first picked up Runaway Train to read. I loved the cover, and the blurb had me intrigued. I’m a child of the ’80s, and the ’90s were my college and new adult years, so out of nostalgia, I thought, why not? I can’t say I was a total grunge fan back in the day, but there were artists and songs that I loved, so with the chapter titles reading like songs from a mixtape (brilliant idea!), I thought I’d give it a try. It was a wild, wild ride, so I decided to come back for more. While it can be read as a standalone, I think you’d get so much more out of the characters, especially Nico’s connection/history to them all, if you read book one before Grenade Bouquets.
Nico’s family has come through her sister’s untimely death and the dissolution of her parent’s marriage. They may still be on shaky ground, but it’s not the quicksand it was before. After nearly hitting rock bottom with alcohol and drugs driving her runaway train, she’s now heading out on tour as a special guest singer for her boyfriend’s band, Grenade Bouquets. When fame and fortune come knocking, can she stand tall, or will she once again ride that runaway train?
While Runaway Train put me through the emotional wringer, this book was a bit more predictable. Like its predecessor, it’s also raw, emotional, and angsty, as well as a nostalgic read for those of us who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I thought the author did a fabulous job delving into a teenage girl’s mind once more. Nico is a realistically selfish character (all teens are to some extent) who can also love big and stays loyal to those she considers her inner circle despite her immaturity. I loved the song references and playlist, but it was hard to read the parts where Nico was truly out of control once again. I’m a parent now, so from that perspective, it was more than heartbreaking. Despite feeling like the plot was a bit predictable, I’m hopeful there’s a third book coming, a conclusion so to speak, that will wrap up where Nico and her friends end up. I felt that the ending to this book was a good mix between a wrap-up and a possible cliffhanger as it could leave you guessing, or it could leave you using your imagination as to which road Nico chooses for her future.
NICUnurse’s Rating: I give Grenade Bouquets by Lee Matthew Goldberg 4 out of 5 propellers!
Check out the Spotify Playlist for Grenade Bouquets!
Bizarre Love Triangle – Frente!
The flight to Vegas from L.A. is basically up then down, barely any time for me to have more than an oj. I’d never flown solo before and the stewardess is super nice and makes sure I’m getting picked up by someone when I arrive. “Yeah, my band will,” I say, casually with a flip of my hair like it’s no big deal, and her eyebrows rise with respect. I feel more adult in that moment than I ever have before. She gives me an extra bag of peanuts.
I’m munching on the peanuts while dragging my suitcase from the arrivals when I see Evan, all lean with his hair styled in a messy swoop across one eye and a fuzzy sweater with holes. A peanut nearly gets trapped in my throat and I hack as he notices and I’m all red in the face by the time I reach him.
“Rogue peanut,” I say, pointing at my throat but he scoops me up with a big swirling hug and we are THAT COUPLE kissing in the airport like we’ve been apart for eons. He tastes like spearmint Chewels gum with the spurt of goo in the middle.
“How was your flight?” he asks, as we walk holding hands out of the airport.
“It’s so good to see you.” His hand is clammy and I think that’s cute because he’s nervous like I am. We’re entering a new stage of our relationship after being apart for months with only one visit when he came to L.A. I feel like I want to declare my love for him but stop my stupid ass from being embarrassing. I repeat to stay cool, keep cool, over and over in my head until it’s mantra.
“It’s good to see you too, Nico.” He smiles, and I relax. Part of me worried he might’ve regretted inviting me along to sing, but I know that’s only me jinxing myself. I’m worthy. “The Bouquet’s are parked in the lot with our van.”
Our van is a broken-down VW that’s fire-engine red on the bottom and white on top with five windows on each side and tiny bubble windows by the ceiling. It’s rusted and gnarly and perfect. Ed and Randy wait outside of it, Randy playing air drums against Ed’s back. Clarissa smokes a 100 cigarette, hand on her hip, while talking with Lacey, our band manager.
“Nico,” they all cheer in a way that warms my heart. Well, maybe Clarissa didn’t cheer because she used to date Evan and can’t be too jazzed I’ve arrived, but everyone else seems genuinely happy to see me.
Ed gives a big hug being a big guy, his arms squeezing like a bear. Randy, the oldest of the group, and likely around thirty, is less exuberant with a hug but still says he’s glad to see me. I missed the two of them, imagining how I’d come to think of both as older brothers looking out for me on tour.
“Nico,” Lacey says, pulling me into her embrace. She runs her fingers through my hair. “Love the blue dye job. Manic Panic?”
“You know it.”
Lacey always looks so cool in her vintage get-ups: librarian glasses with a Sally Jesse Raphael vibe, a bob haircut, and a polka dot dress buttoned-up to her neck with saddle shoes.
“Hi, Clarissa,” I say, because she’s the only one who hasn’t approached me yet. She’s shaved the right side of her head with the left kept long like Ani DiFranco. Raccoon eyes and dark, dark lip liner, and a D.A.R.E. to Keep Kids Off Drugs tee under a leopard strappy dress. And Doc Martins, we’re all wearing Doc Martins.
“Hi,” she says, exhaling smoke and stamping the cigarette out under her boot. No hug, but I didn’t expect one.
“This could be our album cover,” Evan says, smiling through the awkwardness of the situation and snapping a pretend picture as we all pose.
“Wait, I’ll take a picture for real,” Lacey says, and rummages in her purse for a camera. We all pose again: Ed giving a roar, Randy getting close to Evan, Evan flipping his bangs out of his eyes, Clarissa looking bored and unaffected, and me squelching a burp. The sun is hot and boiling and glimmering off of the VW and I wonder if we’ll look back on this years later if we’re all still together and think of how young and hopeful we were.
Meet the Author
Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com
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