Category Archives: chick lit

Lone Star Legend

From the book jacket of Lone Star Legend by Gwendolyn Zepeda:

If she can find the time, Sandy Saavedra will stop to breathe. New management has turned work upside down and her father’s upcoming marriage-something he forgot to mention to Sandy-means there’s no peace at home, either. But it’s okay. No matter what’s thrown her way, Sandy can deal. Because Sandy has a secret, and his name is Tío Jaime.

A short drive out of Austin delivers Sandy into the wide-open spaces of the Hill Country, to the front porch of grandfatherly hermit Tío Jaime. There, in the company of pepper plants, a shaggy dog, and fresh squeezed lemonade, the old man imparts down-to-earth advice. Overbearing boss? Work smarter; she’ll leave you alone. Disrespectful boyfriend? Pack your bags; a real woman tolerates only a real man. His simple perspective reminds Sandy she can make her own choices-something she’s been forgetting lately.

Feeling inspired, Sandy posts their chats online. But as she introduces the world to her personal Eden, her own life heads straight to hell …

Opinion: I liked the premise of this book but the plot was kind of slow to get going and so I had trouble getting into it. The main character, Sandy, is relatable and the dialogue is realistic. The writing itself is good as well and there is quite a bit of humor, but if you want to read Gwendolyn Zepeda at her best, I’d recommend her other book, “Houston, We Have a Problema” over “Lone Star Legend”.

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Evenings at the Argentine Club

evenings-at-the-argentine-club Victoria Torres is an Argentine American woman who still lives at home. A slightly over-weight college drop out, Victoria works at her father’s restaurant – a gathering place for the Argentine community in Burbank, California. Lacking direction in life and self esteem, she’s shocked when a fellow Argentine American boy she grew up with comes back to town and takes an interest in her. Eric is handsome, successful and they share a common history, but what is he doing back in town, will he stay, and what does he see in Victoria that she can’t see in herself?

Evenings at the Argentine Club by Julia Amante brings something unique to a genre saturated with stories of Mexicans and Cubans, (not that I don’t enjoy those stories as well!)  The first few chapters were a little slow going, but it soon becomes an unpredictable page turner as one becomes emotionally invested in Victoria and Eric’s turbulent but passionate courtship. (Some scenes are borderline Romance novel material but she pulls it off leaving the reader wanting more.)

The story of Victoria and Eric’s budding romance is contrasted by the crumbling marriage of Victoria’s parents, Victor and Jacqueline. Amante is successful at weaving the two together and demonstrates a superb ability of being able to get into each character’s heart and show us what they’re feeling – from a stubborn, overly macho father and husband, to his lonely heart-broken wife who struggles with his infidelities, empty nest syndrome, and her stifled dreams.

I found myself identifying equally with young, insecure Victoria as she falls in love as well as her wise mother Jacqueline who mourns her grown children and is frequently a victim of nostalgia and loneliness.  Emotions are so well described in this book that I will admit to shedding a few tears.

This is a really beautiful story that touches on many common themes such as sacrifice, marriage, love, confidence, family, and  independence. But what I found most interesting in Evenings at the Argentine Club were the more unique thoughts on how different people define success,  and how immigrant families with American-born children can achieve the American Dream while still remembering who they are.

Non-Spanish speakers will appreciate that Amante uses Spanish words judiciously throughout and always in a context that is easily understood, making Evenings at the Argentine Club accessible to everyone.

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Filed under books, career, change, chick lit, culture, depression, dreams, family, marriage, men, opinion, romance, self esteem, Spanish, women, work

Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz

I just finished crying after having come to the end of Belinda Acosta’s surprisingly touching chick lit novel, Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz.

When I first picked up this book, I assumed the story would be from the perspective of the girl, and that her name was Ana Ruiz, but Ana Ruiz is the mother and she is going through much more than just organizing a quinceañera for her ungrateful daughter, Carmen.

Ana’s twenty year marriage to Esteban is falling apart,  and Carmen who is a “Daddy’s girl”, wrongfully blames Ana for kicking him out, (not knowing what her father has done.)

Ana decides to throw her daughter a quinceañera as a way of bonding with her, but Carmen is disrespectful and unappreciative from the get go.

Aside from her exploding home life, she also has new pressures at work. The university she works for has hired a new world famous artist and part of Ana’s job is to try to woo him into a permanent teaching position. The trouble is that the very handsome and charming artist is trying to woo Ana into a relationship.

Belinda Acosta’s writing style will make any Spanish-English bilingual smile with pleasure as she unapologetically sprinkles Spanish words and phrases into the text, even outside of dialogue. It is the way many Latinos living in the United States speak and think, so it’s refreshing to see it in print.

I did not expect to be as moved as I was by the relationships between the characters. Acosta makes you really care about this little family, and you can’t help but identify with Ana’s struggles as a wife, mother, and as a woman.

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Italian For Beginners

italianDespite the title, Italian for Beginners by Kristin Harmel, is not an instructional language book.

This chick lit novel takes us on a spontaneous trip to Rome, Italy with the main character Cat Connelly. Cat is a 34 year old  single American woman who tends to play it safe with everything in her life from love to money. She works as an accountant in New York, has never taken a sick day, and carries no debt on her credit cards.

When Cat’s younger sister gets married and Cat is humiliated at her wedding by the gossip of family members wondering why she’s still single, she decides to shake things up and take a trip to Italy where she struggles with her past ghosts, love and what it is she wants to do with the rest of her life.

Author Kristin Harmel is well liked in the genre and has several other published works. While I felt some of the dialogue was repetitive and the references to the film Roman Holiday overdone, I also consider her portrayal of Rome and Italians to be pitch perfect, having visited and fallen in love with the city myself.

This book is scheduled to be published 8/13/09.

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