Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sophie's Turn by Nicky Wells - Book Review

Once upon a time, in Mexicali, Mexico, I was newly single and went to a metal show featuring a thrash metal band from Tijuana. I was among my friends when I spotted this super cute long-haired guy, we made eye contact, smiled and flirted from across the room. The band line-up was OK and eventually it was time for the main band to perform, to my surprise, the super cute long-haired guy was the drummer. He looked at me and he smiled at my surprise.

When the show ended he came to me and we talked, I got autographs from the band members all over my jeans with magic markers (I still have that autographed pair of pants) and the more I talked to the drummer, the less I wanted to go back home. I was invited to the after-party and I can't remember exactly how, but we ended up inside a hotel room all by ourselves. We did hug, kiss and explored with our hands, but we didn't went further than that, it was kinda innocent. I wasn't a virgin at the time, but I didn't want it to go too far and he was OK with that. It was almost 5 AM when he and the manager took me back home only to see my Dad waiting for me outside the house. My Dad was not happy.

The drummer and I kept in touch via romantic letters in the faraway time before the Internet and I'm talking Mexican postal service in the early 90's! To this day I'm amazed all our letters reached each other, eventually things ended when I decided to go back to my ex-boyfriend (another drummer). I kept all his letter, small gifts and photos he sent me, once in a while I would read them and wonder what if...

Fast-forward 16 years and thanks to MySpace I bumped into the band, contacted them and was told where I could find him. We got in contact and I went to see him perform at a bar in Tijuana. I was nervous, after all I wasn't the 20 year-old size-3 super-hot girl anymore, I was a 36 year-old size-12 super-hot woman. The reunion was bitter-sweet, he still has my letters and has thought about me but he wasn't the man in my fantasies. He was too skinny and had heartbreaking sad look in his eyes, eventually we said Good-Bye and I haven't seen him since.

Why am I telling you my personal story instead of diving into a book review? Well, I always suspected my life was like a chick-lit novel and Sophie's Turn has confirmed it! Of course, in the case of Sophie Penhalligan, the adventure was in a much more grand scale. While I had street tacos, 2 star hotel, a ride in a pick-up truck and a guitar pin, Sophie had food in the best restaurants in Europe, suites, private jets and diamond rings....ah damn, I wanna be Sophie!

In her debut novel, Nicky Wells brings us the story of Sophie, a very likable young woman with a good head on her shoulders. In the prologue we see the proposal from super-hunk, bad-boy, rock-star Dan, unfortunately Sophie can't get too excited since she is already engaged to another man. We go back to where everything began and we get to met the official fiancee, Tim, after a few chapters with him it seems like the logical choice to totally go for Dan. After all, Dan and Sophia already have a cute and romantic story together, at a concert in Edinburgh where things almost went to far in the tour bus.

The relationship between Sophie and Tim is deeply flawed. Tim is possessive and selfish, he is trying to make Sophie into his ideal of the perfect wife. While the relationship looks awful in black and white it's not hard to empathize with Sophie. I think most of us have at one time or another been in a similar relationship, and why do we stay? Sometimes not even we know. So when Tim proposes, it seems like a dream come true for Sophie and things would have run its course if it wasn't for a chance encounter with a band member from Tuscq, the band Dan used to play in. This chance encounter led Sophie to sneak out (again!) to see the band and there she re-connected with Dan.

Dan shows her the rock-star life with all the fine things money can buy and thanks to him Sophie ends up in the band tour where she gets to know Dan better. In the meantime, Tim, feeling Sophie slipping away becomes the boyfriend she always wanted, but is it too late? Eventually we come to the million-dollar question: go for the bad boy or stay with safe and secure?

I wish I could tell you my views on her ultimate decision, but I can't. I'm bound by book blogging common law not to give spoilers and ruin other readers enjoyment of the story. What I can tell you is that Sophie's Run is the second installment in the Rock Star Romance Trilogy and as soon as you finish Sophie's Turn you will get Sophie's Run (or at least that's what happened to me!)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Shades of Gray - Book Review

This is the type of story that I like, even if a person lives its entire life in a world of black and white, one small step towards light gray turns into a leap that ends up in dark gray. In his first novel Shades of Gray, Andy Holloman takes us into the lives of John, Wanda and Travis whose decisions take them little by little into situations where there is no way out.

The story begins in March 2002, when we are introduced to John and his 6 year-old daughter Lucy. The relationship between them is a loving one. As the two talk we learn that Lucy's mom is no longer in the picture and we are introduced to Wanda and her daughter Tonya.

Wanda is African-American and this fact leads to the topic of Uncle Travis, John's half-brother. Travis is a police officer with racist tendencies and a temper. John and Lucy spend a pleasant time at Chuck E Cheeses, when its time to go and they're on the road, something happens to the car and they crash.

The car crash scene is very hard to read, so real and haunting. Even writing about it is hard, you'll just have to read it.

All of the above happens in Chapter One! There are so many questions once the chapter ends. What happened to John and Lucy? What happened to the car? Was it accident or sabotage? Is there something going on between Wanda and John? I became engrossed in the story and devoured it in days!

The next chapter takes us back to 1975, where we have a sneak peak in the lives of young John, Wanda and Travis. Certain events in this period of their lives will forge the adults they will become. Then we fast-forward to July 2001 when the events that lead to the car crash began.

The characters are very believable, flawed and human. For example, Travis, he may be racist, a bad cop and temperamental, but he truly loves his family. Would he have turned out differently if his upbringing was different? In his current actions, we see his father's teachings. So maybe he really is not a bad person, only misguided? Or is that his true nature? Nothing is black or white, there are many Shades of Gray.

The scenes are very well researched and described. The plot mainly deals with drug trafficking, not only the illegal nature of it, but with the morals behind it. In a post 9-11 world, even drug traffickers and dealers need to be more creative if they are to keep in business.

The worst part once all is said and done is hindsight. What if they did this? What would have happened if they said that? What if...? What if...? But by then it's too late.

Magnificent first novel by Andy Holloman, I truly hope to see more from him!