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review 2019-06-13 10:29
An American-Latina Cinderella story and a whirlwind soap opera
The Perfect Date - Holly L Lorincz,Evelyn Lozada

I thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s (MacMillan) for providing me an early ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although I don’t normally look at the reviews of a book in detail before I read it (I do to decide if I’m interested in reading the book or not, but I don’t want to spoil my enjoyment), because I update my current reading on several book sites, I can’t help but see what the general ratings for the book I’m about to start reading look like. Let me tell you I was alarmed when I saw how many 1 star reviews this book had. I was even more concerned because, based on the description, I had agreed to participate in a Blog tour, and I was worried about having made a serious mistake and having to vow out of it. Luckily, I enjoyed the book (yes, it’s far from perfect, but I wasn’t expecting perfection), and I wonder if having read the reviews and getting a clear idea of what had upset other readers didn’t prepare me for what was to come and helped me not go into it with false expectations.

The cover, I think, can make people expect a “sweet” or “cute” romance. Well, that, it is not. The description hints at the personality of Angel (perhaps more accurately than that of Duke, whom many readers didn’t like at all), but readers might have expected a more standard romance, where the romantic side of things is the main story. I agree with the readers who said this novel has a lot of “drama”. Oh, yes, it does. It is like a melodrama on steroids, rough around the edges, and it feels like a fairly extreme soap opera. People wear their hearts (and rage) on their sleeves, they don’t do stiff-upper-lip or measured emotions, and they throw themselves headlong into life. It might be because I’m Spanish and we are supposed to be “red-blooded” (what other colour our blood would be, I have no idea), “passionate”, and “hot tempered” and those attributes (I don’t think they are always helpful, but I refuse to call them defects) are also expected of Latinos in general, and because I’ve watched and enjoyed Central and South-American soap operas, but I did like the oomph of Angel, the main character, even if she was not always consistent (but hey, I’ve never found characters in romantic novels or chick-lit entirely consistent). In some ways, her part of the story has strong elements of women’s fiction, even if the style of writing is different. A young Puerto-Rican woman, a single mother from a young age, she’s had to fight against the odds to try to make a living for herself and her little boy, Jose, who unfortunately suffers from asthma. Working two jobs at the same time, studying all hours to get her nursing qualification, and relying on her friend Gabriela, the hairdresser with a heart of gold (the interaction between the women sometimes made me think of Steel Magnolias and Fried Green Tomatoes, minus the Southern gentility), being subject to a #metoo kind of situation (well, more than one), she is pushed and pulled in all directions but tries to remain strong and keep her moral compass. Yes, she loses her cool every so often, but I cheered her on more than once.

Hers is a Cinderella story, indeed, one in a more soap operatic style than a gentle fairy tale (not that fairy tales are truly gentle), with over the top villains who seem to be villains just because they are (no justification or exploration of the baddies. In olden times, I’m sure one of them would have worn a big moustache he’d twirl, and the other one would have been a proper witch), and where Cinderella is far from the passive and pretty young girl just waiting for the prince to come rescue her (she actually kicks him out more than once). The love interest, Caleb, “The Duke”, has his own Cinderella story, as they share in their humble origins (although he is African-American rather than Puerto-Rican), but he’s now living the aftermath of the Cinderella story, and realising that the people who surround him are not true friends, and money cannot buy the really important things. Many readers say he is not likeable because he thinks only of himself (well, yes, mostly, although he shows concern for Angel’s boy, puts his own career at risk for him, and he is also outraged when he reads about the lack of appropriate asthma treatment for children from diverse ethnic background). We do learn about his circumstances, he is put through the wringer in the novel, and his character bears some resemblance to the rakes readers of Georgian and Victorian literature are so fond of. (Perhaps he lacks some of the charm, but that might be in part because we see him from his own point of view at times, rather than what tends to happens with the rogues, who tend to remain attractive, mysterious and dangerous men, whose motivations we know little about). He helps save the day in the end, and, although he will not rate among my favourite male protagonists, he isn’t the worst either.

The book includes many side-stories —I’ve mentioned the issue of the lack of treatments for Jose, and the novel makes a serious point about the lack of investment in research, by the pharmaceutical companies, of appropriate treatment for diverse populations. Yes, we are not all young white males and our bodies do not respond the same as theirs to the medication; and we also have difficult family relations, grief, sexual harassment, alcohol and drug abuse… — and it is set in the world of sports (baseball), and of celebrity culture. Considering Lozada’s credentials, I am not surprised she has a lot to say on the subject, and the baseball players’ wives (a bit like the footballers’ wives in other countries) interactions rang true. There are comedic moments, although they are far from subtle and some people might not find them funny, but if you let yourself go along for the ride and get into the spirit of it, this is a fun read, touching and inspiring as well.

The book is narrated in the third-person, alternating the points of view of Angel and The Duke. As I said, I read an early ARC copy of the novel, and I noticed readers complained about there not being a clear distinction between the one point of view and the other, but expect this will have been corrected in the final version of the novel, as will, I hope, some awkward Spanish phrasing at the beginning of the book.

Although this is not a standard romantic novel, the ending does live up to the genre (wish-fulfilment and all) and yes, I enjoyed it. If you’re easily offended or are looking for a genteel and/or gentle romance, this is not the book for you. I’d recommend reading through the sample and being prepared for a full-on whirlwind soap, that stretches the limits of credibility (and for some, perhaps, of good taste), and mixes a lot of other genres. If all that doesn’t scare you, give it a go! It will be a wild ride!

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review 2019-03-24 12:24
A multitude of stories that make up a feel-good novel in an extraordinary setting.
Goddess of the Rainbow - Patrick Brigham

I received a paperback ARC copy of this review and that has in no way affected the content of my feedback.

This novel (because yes, although it is composed of what appear to be separate vignettes all taking place in the same period of time and in the same location, it does amount to more than its parts, as the description correctly points out) chronicles a Greek town, Orestiada, and its inhabitants’ adventures at a point of crisis. It has been raining for weeks, the river is growing, and things are coming to a head, and I am not only talking about the weather and the flood.

The author cleverly weaves all the seemingly separate strands, first setting up the multiple characters and their circumstances (we do have a varied catalogue of mostly adult and middle-aged characters, many locals, but also a British man who has lived most of his life abroad [as an unofficial spy now turned writer], a Syrian illegal immigrant, a busload of Russian women, another busload of Israeli women, and people from all walks of small-town Greek life, from farmers to mayors, from factory directors to artists), and then wrenching up the tension, as if the weather was having an effect on the whole population, and things that had been bubbling up under the surface were now ready to explode. And although in some cases the actual resolution is not as spectacular as we might have expected (after all, we have attempted murders, personal threats, cars plunging into a river, racial slurs, a group of Russian women coming to meet the single men of the town in a collective dating experiment, old flames meeting again…) there is a silver lining after the storm and readers leave the town with a warm and hopeful feeling.

What did I like? The story made me think of the best soap operas centred in a community, where over a period of time we get to know the characters and we care for them. It shows the writer’s great skill that despite the episodic nature of the story, we feel quite close to the characters (some more than others, but still, they are all distinctive and feel real in their everyday preoccupations and lives) and care what happens to them. Iris, in some ways the central character, as she is the goddess of the rainbow in Greek mythology, is the messenger of the town, and no matter what her personal circumstances are she keeps delivering parcels, messages, and bringing her upbeat outlook and optimism to all she meet. She is a favourite of mine, and I was happy things worked out so well for her. But I became fond of most of the characters, even the less likeable ones, as we are offered enough information about them to understand them, and the good-will of the town and its people is contagious. The story is narrated in the third person but each chapter is told from the perspective of the main character it talks about, and that means we get to see them not only as others see them but as they truly are.

The novel creates a good sense of what the place and the homes of the characters are like, without going into long descriptions. Those that are included capture more the mood rather than the detail, and are, like the rest of the book, pretty humorous (with a touch of irony but fairly affectionate). Here Maria, the local artist, who has to produce work that she does not like but is to the taste of the local market, is reflecting upon what the houses of the citizens who came to the exhibitions of her work every year would look like:

Afterwards, these stalwarts would return to their homes —inevitably filled with expensive vulgar baubles, nick-nacks, coloured glass from Venice, and a blue-faced woman enigmatically smiling from the sitting room wall like some demented oriental Mona Lisa.

Together with a collection of pissing dog prints, their overcrowded living rooms were neve complete without a large china bust of Socrates. A translated set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica —carefully secreted an unopened on a half-hidden bookshelf— and their illusion of sophistication was complete.

The humour can be dark at times, especially when it comes to a couple who want to get rid of each other and will not stop at anything to make sure they achieve their goal. Here one of their business associates is thinking about one of his men:

The assassin liked Dragomire because he didn’t mind shooting people when he carried out a bank robbery, which in his view was very professional and to be admired.

I guess we all have our standards and rules of conduct. (By the way, I’d advise law-abiding Bulgarians to keep away from this book, as it does not paint a great image of its people, but the overgeneralisations seem in keeping with the view neighbouring countries might have of each other, not always flattering).

Was there anything I didn’t like? As I said, I enjoyed the atmosphere, the character,s and their stories. I received a copy of the book, in paperback, a long while ago but hadn’t had a chance to read it. Therefore, it might be that the book has undergone revisions and transformations since, so my objections might well be unjustified now. The paperback had some formatting issues (no page numbers, some empty pages and strange distribution of text), there was the odd typo here and there (nothing too jarring even for an early copy), and then there were some peculiarities in the way the story was told. As a non-native English speaker, I am always wary of commenting on style. In this case, I wondered if some of the grammatical structures that sounded slightly odd to me might be an attempt at adopting the rhythm of conversations and speech in Greece, and I soon became accustomed to it and got to like it, but I’d advise readers to read a sample of the book first, to check for themselves.

A feel-good book about a rather wonderful place, one of these towns that, although far from ideal, end up earning a place in our hearts.

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review 2018-12-16 14:58
Boystown (Season 9)
Boystown Season Nine - Jake Biondi

This soap opera crazy just gets better and better!

Marco and I in that last chapter...



Cannot wait to see where this goes next! 

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review 2018-12-15 15:40
Review: "BOYSTOWN, Season Nine" by Jake Biondi
Boystown Season Nine - Jake Biondi

 

~ 5 STARS ~

 

 

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review 2018-10-20 15:15
4.2 Out 5 "Incendiary" STARS
When We Caught Fire - Anna Godbersen

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~BOOK BLURB~

When We Caught Fire

Anna Godbersen

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It’s 1871, and Emmeline Carter is poised to take Chicago’s high society by storm. Between her father’s sudden rise to wealth and her recent engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor, Emmeline has it all. But she can’t stop thinking about the life she left behind, including her childhood sweetheart, Anders Magnuson.

Fiona Byrne, Emmeline’s childhood best friend, is delighted by her friend’s sudden rise to prominence, especially since it means Fiona is free to pursue Anders herself. But when Emmeline risks everything for one final fling with Anders, Fiona feels completely betrayed.

As the summer turns to fall, the city is at a tipping point: friendships are tested, hearts are broken, and the tiniest spark might set everything ablaze.

 

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~MY QUICKIE REVIEW~

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Despite having less than likable characters (with Fiona as the exception) this was still an engrossing listen.  The backdrop of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was what made this story stand-out for me.  I could see how others found this to be slow in the beginning, with its soap-opera-like feel and melodrama of the elite high society of the times, but on Audio, those parts fly by fairly quickly.  Once the fire starts burning, the unceasing flames and the lives at stake make this unputdownable.  The way the author takes the truth about the actual fire and plays it out with her cast of characters is quite the tale.  I found this exert from here about the Great Chicago Fire. 

 

The Chicago Fire of 1871, also called the Great Chicago Fire, burned from October 8 to October 10, 1871, and destroyed thousands of buildings, killed an estimated 300 people and caused an estimated $200 million in damages. Legend has it that a cow kicked over a lantern in a barn and started the fire, but other theories hold that humans or even a meteor might have been responsible for the event that left an area of about four miles long and almost a mile wide of the Windy City, including its business district, in ruins. Following the blaze, reconstruction efforts began quickly and spurred great economic development and population growth.

 

With the ending the irredeemable characters become redeemable and the love triangle that takes the center of the stage throughout this story has its inevitable outcome.

 

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~MY RATING~

4.2STARS - GRADE=B+

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~BREAKDOWN OF RATINGS~

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Plot~ 4/5

Main Characters~ 3.8/5

Secondary Characters~ 3/5

The Feels~ 4/5

Pacing~ 4/5

Addictiveness~ 4/5

Theme or Tone~ 4/5

Flow (Writing Style)~ 4.5/5

Backdrop (World Building)~ 4.7/5

Originality~ 4.2/5

Ending~ 4.2/5 Cliffhanger~ Nah…

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Book Cover~ It's incendiary…

Narration~ 4.5 for Suzanne Elise Freeman, she was perfect for this story and she switched from one pov to another quite seamlessly.

Setting~ Chicago 1871

Source~ Audiobook (Library)

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