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Book Cover Image: Sweet Mary by Liz Balmaseda

Title: Sweet Mary

Author: Liz Balmaseda

No. of Pages: 239

First Released:  July 2009

Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N): “Dulce Maria ‘Mary’ Guevara is a woman with nothing left to lose. Wrongly accused of being a cocaine queen, she has lost her job, her reputation, and — worst of all — custody of her son. Even after the charges are dropped, suspicion lingers. Desperate to get it all back, she takes what she considers the only path open to her: She goes on a hunt for the real drug queen. Unfortunately, the one person she believes can help her is the last person she wants to see again: Joe Pratts, her ex-fiancé, a man whose connections to the drug world once ended their relationship.

Trying not to fall for Joe again is just the beginning of Mary’s challenges, however. Her search leads her through the most deceiving of jungles: suburbia. There, she comes face-to-face with disturbing realities that challenge everything she thinks she knows about her formerly tranquil life. Mary’s final dilemma hits closer to home than she ever imagined.”

Comments and Critique:  It was bound to happen. The odds are high that I was going to eventually read books which did not move me.  I’ve been on such a great reading streak lately that I knew it couldn’t last.  If I had any doubts, Sweet Mary definitely broke that streak. 

This book just did not do anything for me.  There was very little in the way of character development.  The plot unfolded predictably and was rather lackluster in the suspense area.  At no point in time did I feel concern for Mary.  In fact, her vigilante role confused me while I was rolling my eyes at the improbability of it all.  I felt that Ms. Balmaseda threw plot devices into the story as they were convenient and not because they were planned or helped improve the storyline. 

In addition, each major section begins with stage directions.  This bothered me to no end.  I expect stage directions when reading a play, not a novel.  They were distracting and kept me from being able to immerse myself into the story.  I also struggled with the narrator’s voice.  Not only would the narrator give away future events in the midst of a tension-filled scene, I feel that the narrator never really found a voice.  At times, she was omniscient, and at other times, she was as in the dark as the reader.  Again, it was distracting and detracted from the overall story. 

One last gripe I had is about the overall language.  It was trite and overly simplistic.  I could see where Ms. Balmaseda was trying for beautiful, vivid descriptions, and she just fell flat.  Actually, that is a great word to describe the entire book – flat.  It was completely devoid of any emotion, beauty, and believable story.

I wanted to like this book.  I really did.  The premise was definitely intriguing, which is why I requested it from Shelf Awareness.  I like suspense, and I like wronged women taking matters into their own hands.  I really like strong female characters.  Unfortunately, the suspense was lacking, if nonexistent, the way the wronged woman took matters into her own hands had me rolling my eyes in disbelief, and the main female character was not as strong as I wanted her to be.  I found myself reading the book just to finish it, not because I cared about what was happening.  It’s a disappointing end to something I was anticipating.

Thank you to Atria Books and Shelf Awareness for the review copy of this book!

So, has anyone else read this?  Did you feel the same?  I would love to know if others enjoyed it more than I did.

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