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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hola Lola!

Contrary to popular opinion, chick lit is not dead. Certainly it's not wallpapering bookstores anymore, but the genre itself has managed to hold on thanks to authors taking what were the best aspects of chick lit and blending them with other genres. Oh, like the mystery/suspense genre. That's exactly what Misa Ramirez does with this second book in her Lola Cruz series, Hasta La Vista, Lola!

Dolores "Lola" Cruz is just your average, modern woman. She walks a tight-rope between her large family, her desire for independence, her job as a private investigator, and her stalled out love life. It's just another day for Lola when she walks into her parents' house to find every relative she knows in existence weeping and wailing, mourning....her death?! The television news has reported that local PI, Lola Cruz was found dead in an alley - but um, she's alive and kickin', standing her parents' kitchen. As the pieces fall into place, Lola soon learns she's the victim of identity theft. So who was this mysterious, fake and now dead Lola Cruz? And how did she steal her identity? And most important of all - was she the intended target and did the killer whack the wrong Lola?

There's a lot to like in this story - namely Lola who is smart, capable and learning the ropes of the PI business. There are a myriad of secondary characters that keep the plot humming along - including Lola's rather large family, her mysterious boss, Manny, her slimy ex-boyfriend, Sergio, and her maybe-boyfriend, Jack Callaghan. As Lola tries to unravel the mystery behind the dead woman with her name, she also finds herself knee-deep in family drama and her complicated relationship with Jack.

While this is a quick, fun read, I did feel at times it was trying to be all things, to all readers. This is where it stumbles a bit. As a mystery reader I wanted a lot more focus on...well...the mystery. When Lola should be investigating the identity theft and murder - she's playing waitress at the family restaurant, snooping into her cousin's marriage, babysitting kids, and locking lips with Jack. As a romance reader, I wanted a less contrived relationship with the love interest. Just as Lola and Jack start getting down to business, something conveniently keeps interrupting them. Then there's the fact that they're not really together, just tap-dancing around each other since Jack has past relationship baggage. One part of me wanted Lola to cut Jack loose, another part wanted for Jack to grow a damn pair, and still another part of me just wanted them get down and dirty and get it over with.

The mystery angle wraps up to a semi-satisfactory conclusion, although I could have used a lot more explanation of The Why (yes, we know how the impostor ended up dead, but why did she do what she did to begin with to set the whole chain of events into motion?). Also, while this book stands alone fairly well, some of the personal relationships are kind of tangled, which is where I think starting with the first book in the series may be beneficial.

As it is, this was a quick, fun read that didn't change my life but did keep me entertained. I definitely thought some aspects of the story could have a been a bit tighter, but Lola is an intriguing character that swoops in and carries the load. Definitely worth of look if you enjoy lighter mysteries with some sizzle on the side.

Final Grade = B-


nath said...

Actually sounds like a good book, excerpt for your romance reader part wanting more romance and mystery reading in you wanting more mystery ^_^; That is usually my problem with chick-lit, as a whole the genre is entertaining, but not fulfilling... Think I'm going to see if the first book is available at the library!

Thanks for the review, Wendy :D

Renee said...

I'm with Nath. Sounds like a good library candidate!

Reading the description, the style sort of sounds like Marta Acosta's writing? (zany latina in crazy situations surrounded by "character"-types)

Can't wait for Saturday!!! :-)

Wendy said...

Nath: Well this second book was certainly an entertaining read - I just wanted some of the aspects to be a bit "tighter."

Renee: Well, Lola isn't really "zany" - but yes on Latina and yes on surrounded by many "character"-types.

I actually think this series would be great in audio (sadly, not availabe in that format) as long as they got a decent narrator to handle the Spanglish.

Beth said...

I'm ambivalent about this series. I read the first one and thought it was OK. Nothing life-changing, like you said, but not horrible. The biggest issue I had with it is that it was so similar to the books in Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, I found it hard to take the story seriously. I felt like I knew what was going to happen because I'd read it before. I had planned on seeing if my library had this one, but after reading this review, and some others on the 'net, I just don't know. Identity theft? Missing girl? Sounds an awful lot like Twelve Sharp to me, which makes me wary. Nothing against the author or anything, it just frustrates me to sit through a book when I already know the answers. I had the same problem with Avatar.