Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes (Year 1) by Susan Helene Gottfried

You all know Susan Helene Gottfried as the brains and beauty behind West of Mars, West of Mars--the Meet and Greet, and West of Mars--Win a Book. We began "talking" through email several months ago after I contacted her about some book giveaways, and it's been a pleasure to get to know her. (Well, as much as you can "know" someone online. But she's one of those online buddies I'd love to know in real life, too!) I was a newbie to the Meet and Greet, where she posts short pieces about her fictional band ShapeShifter. I honestly didn't know where to begin, but the few pieces I'd read of these characters made me want more. So when she asked me to read The Demo Tapes (Year 1) I was ecstatic!

The Demo Tapes features the short pieces posted on the Meet and Greet during its first year. These stories were written by Susan as a way to introduce readers to the characters in Trevor's Song, a novel she's been working on for awhile, and to drum up interest in the book. For newbies and old followers alike, The Demo Tapes is a great way to get a feel for the many characters, the band, and the setting Susan has created. She presents the stories in chronological order (which was a big help for me), including a little blurb about her inspiration for each piece and the original publication date.

I hadn't read many of the stories on the Meet and Greet prior to reading The Demo Tapes, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I enjoy Susan's humor and sarcasm, and I was happy to see them on the pages of The Demo Tapes. I also love heavy metal, particularly the stuff from the late 1970s through early 1990s. (Seriously, about 85 percent of my iPod is full of the hair bands I grew up with like Poison and Bon Jovi mixed in with Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Metallica, etc.) I've probably seen every heavy metal documentary on VH1-Classic, laughing at the behind-the-scenes band fighting, ego wars, and antics I didn't understand when I bought my first metal album in 1987 when I was just 10. In this respect, The Demo Tapes doesn't disappoint.

You've got bad boy Trevor Wolff, who formed the band with Mitchell Voss. Mitchell first encounters Trevor when he accompanies his sister, Amy, on her date with Trevor. Trevor's had a hard life by the time he reaches his teens, and Mitchell's family gains legal custody of him. The Demo Tapes follows them from their first meeting to ShapeShifter's stardom to Mitchell's marriage. Though there's no clear timeline, you can tell a lot of time has passed and the characters have matured. There's some boys-will-be-boys stories, some antics that only those boys with rock star status can enjoy, and some great interactions between Trevor and Mitchell and Mitchell and Amy, among others.

My favorite pieces are from "Green Hair Week," when the band spends too much time partying in the pool and the chemicals turn Mitchell's white-blonde hair green. The list of things they use to get rid of the green is laugh-out-loud funny. Here's my favorite passage, with Mitchell, the "long-haired rock god" in a shower cap.

'You should see yourself right now,' Amy told him. His hair was piled on top of his head like a turban, drips of mayonnaise-colored conditioner had spattered his bare arms and chest, and for some reason known only to him, he'd tucked a towel into the waistband of his jeans, as if to keep them clean. 'You know, Mom wanted me to take pictures.'

'You told her?'

Amy wanted to laugh at his scared look. Mitchell, ever the little boy who was terrified of being caught--even when he'd been bad on purpose. 'Of course I told Mom about it,' she said. 'I needed a ride to the airport, remember?'

He covered his face with his hands and stomped in a circle, moaning 'no' over and over again. Amy actually felt a little sorry for him.

'C'mere and let's get this one you,' she said, taking the clear plastic cap from him. 'At least it's not pink.' (pages 89-90)
And here's a passage from my other favorite piece, "Hearts," which is about Kerri watching Mitchell on the beach during their honeymoon.

Mitchell got up, left his Vans by the patio's edge, and wandered down the beach. Kerri cocked her head as she watched him, itching for a sketch pad. There seemed to be a light wind near the shore; it blew his silvery-white hair across the back of his black tank in a tantalizing way. Add in his camoflage cargo shorts and he was a hell of a vision as he bent to play in the sand near the surf. Nothing at all like a powerful rock star. Just a regular guy. (page 111)
I've never been in a band or hung out with a band, but Susan's portrayal seems real. Her characters are real, at times vulnerable, rebellious, funny, annoying, misguided, etc. She easily shifts from humorous scenes to romantic scenes without losing this authenticity. I finished The Demo Tapes in one sitting, and I can't wait until a publisher recognizes Susan's talent so I can get my hands on Trevor's Song. If you're a fan of Susan's blog, a fan of rock 'n roll, or someone looking for engaging characters and a quick read, check out The Demo Tapes. (Be warned--The Demo Tapes contains some sex, drugs, rock 'n roll, and foul language. It's about a band after all.)

**Susan Helene Gottfried, author of ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes (Year 1) will stop by Diary of an Eccentric for an interview. I hope you're all as excited as I am!**

ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes (Year 1) also was reviewed by:

She Is Too Fond of Books
The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

If you've also reviewed it, let me know in the comments, and I'll add your link!

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of ShapeShifter:  The Demo Tapes (Year 1) from the author for review purposes.


Serena said...

After reading this review...I am convinced more than ever that I must read this book!

bermudaonion said...

I love Susan's humor, so I figured this would be good. Thanks for the review.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Holy uhh... smoke, woman! You've got me laughing so hard, I'm crying! And I wrote the stupid book; you'd think I'd be used to things like Green Hair Week.

Whenever you're ready to dump getting up at 3:45AM or whatever God-awful time it is you crawl out of bed, let me know. We'll figure out how to set you up as a professional reviewer.

cheesygiraffe said...

Great review! I've been following Susan for a few years now. I bought a copy for myself when she first told me about it. It is a awesome read. I can't wait till she gets Trevor's Song published!

I can't wait to read the interview. Susan's a wonderful woman. :) I may be a bit biased since she is a friend. lol

Lakota said...

Wahoooo! Great review for a great talent! Susan, Shapeshifter, her stories and (especially) Trevor Rock! :D

Julia Phillips Smith said...

I've got a copy of 'The Demo Tapes' and I'll be reviewing it next Thursday, Feb. 26th. I love it! Anna, your review really captures everything about the book, about Susan, the characters, the whole ShapeShifter vibe. I swear, Susan's world is more real than mine, sometimes...

The Bookworm said...

great review, this does sound very good. I like the name 'Trevor Wolff'.
how awesome that the author will stop by for an interview!

Darlene said...

Great review. I can't wait to read this one.

Ladytink_534 said...

Sounds like a pretty good book. Love West of Mars!

Staci said...

You are a fan of big hair bands so that is all I need to say, "I want to read this!!" Honestly, your review was great and it truly sounds like a fun book.

On a side note: My husband use to get all weepy when we'd watch VH1 and they would highlight bands from the 80's. He wishes he could turn back time and be a teenager all again. I've seen Poison in concert 3 times...loved them!!

Anonymous said...

Anna...totally rockin' review. (Sorry, couldn't help myself - but it's true!) I have this one on the shelf and can't wait to get to it.

Shana said...

Wow, Anna - sounds interesting. I'm looking forward to the interview now!


Mari said...

Sounds good. Can't wait for the interview. :)

Florinda said...

This is the next book in my TBR stack, and now I'm looking forward to it even more - and to your interview with Susan, too!

Lenore Appelhans said...

YES! I love West of Mars. So I know I gotta read the book!

Anna said...

Serena: You really should. I think you'd enjoy it!

Bermudaonion: Susan just cracks me up. So did this book!

Susan: If you could find someone to pay me to stay in bed late and read and review books, I'm so there! Glad you enjoyed the review. You totally deserve the praise.

cheesygiraffe: Thanks! I'm going to try to be patient waiting for Trevor's Song. It won't be easy.

Lakota: Thanks!

Julia: Thanks for the kind words. I'll have to check out your review when it's up.

Naida: Susan chose some great names, and they fit the characters well.

Dar: I hope you get a chance to read it soon!

Ladytink: It went by quick and provided lots of laughs. I was sad when it was over. I'll be spending more time on her site for sure.

Staci: You saw Poison?! Lucky duck! I feel old when I watch those shows and see how much they've aged.

J. Kaye: I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the book!

Shana and Mari: Hope you enjoy the interview. It was a lot of fun!

Florinda: I can't wait for your review!

Lenore: I hope you get a chance to read it! I'm sure you'll love it.

Anonymous said...

So nice to know I'm not the only groupie.

Anonymous said...

I read *The Demo Tapes* this past week, and Susan will be visiting my blog next week, yay!

You hit the book right on, Anna! *The Demo Tapes* is a tease of what is around the corner, but a good tease :) I have more questions after reading *Year 1*, so I'm looking forward to more of Susan, Shapeshifter, and Trevor, too.

Anna said...

Dawn: Oooh...I'll be watching your blog then!