Meg Waite Clayton’s The Four Ms. Bradwells

The Four Ms. Bradwells: A Novel | Jorie’s Reads Store @ Amazon

Clayton, M. W. (2011). The four Ms. Bradwells: A novel. New York: Ballantine Books. 9780345517081

Reasons for Reading: As I browsed the Overdrive Digital Media Collection for eAudio, I rediscovered the cover bearing a young woman wearing pearls. Drawn by the cover and the description, I downloaded it to my iPhone. A little ways into listening, I decided I wanted to read the book in the old-fashioned format from HCPL.

Summary: Fifty-something best friends Mia (the Savant), Laney (the Good Girl), Betts (the funny one), and Ginger (the rebel) gather in Washington, DC over a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the highest court in the land. Christened “the Ms. Bradwells” in their very first class at Michigan Law in ’79, these four friends have been through it all together – marriage/divorce, birth/death, job promotion/termination.

When Betts seemed all but sworn in as the newest Supreme Court justice, a nasty skeleton peeks out of the closet. This is about that fateful spring break to the summer house on the Chesapeake in ’82. This buried secret rises  to the surface to the point that the Ms. Bradwells can no longer ignore it. Yet, as good friends do, they confront it together.

What I Liked :  I liked that these different, intelligent women remained loyal and true to their friendship. The mystery was compelling and I liked the roles not only played by the Ms. Bradwells but by their mothers. The scenes which took place in Ann Arbor were crystal-clear to me. Then, there was the sense of their daughters carrying on the torch of the Ms. Bradwells.

What I Disliked: One reason I gave up on the audio in favor of the print was because of the narrator. Yes, I realize Laney was from Alabama but did she really have to have her parts read in such an affected accent. Also, the narrator rendered Mia rather whiny. When I switched to the print, I struggled differentiating between the four voices. I was further flummoxed by back-to-back sections narrated by the same character. Another thing which bothered me was that Laney’s mother became a footnote rather than a catalyst of the action. I wanted to know more about her! Before I forget, the pearls described in the novel looked nothing like those on the cover.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: fun.: We Are Young ft. Janelle Monáe [OFFICIAL VIDEO] – YouTube

Setting:  Ann Arbor Michigan, Washington DC, Cook Island

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Alisa Valdes’ Lauren’s Saints of Dirty Faith

Jorie’s Store – Lauren’s Saints of Dirty Faith: A Dirty Girls Social Club Novel

Valdes, A. (2004). Playing with boys. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 9780312332341

Reasons for Reading: When I found the existence of another book about las sucias, I quickly searched the library catalog for Lauren’s saints of dirty faith: A Dirty Girls Social Club novel.  Ultimately, I requested the bookthrough Inter-Library Loan (ILL).

Summary: The third installment of the Dirty Girls Social Club series by Alisa Valdes (formerly Valdes – Rodriguez) shares the latest adventures of three of las sucias – newspaper columnist Lauren Fernandez, ghetto-fabulous Usnavys Rivera, and media mogul Rebecca Baca. Lauren finds herself running away from her lunatic ex-boyfriend, a Boston cop with the help of Usnavys and Rebecca. Laid off, Usnavys must back up and start doing things differently. Rebecca learns of her father’s “other family” and struggles in her relationships with her soul mate husband, Andre, and her son who has Autism.

What I Liked :  I liked las sucias. Also, I did think it was good to read about just three of the ladies as opposed to the entire six. It was especially good to see Usnavys mature. 

What I Disliked : While I admire Valdes for taking matters into her own hands and publishing this book independently, I wish sh had caught numerous spelling/grammar errors. Editing should’ve also caught a time that Rebecca’s son was referred to as a daughter/girl.

I admit I’m not much for reading introductions. I should’ve read where Valdes said she tried on Dean Koontz’s style on for size. Oh, I wished I’d skipped ALL the sections about Jason, Lauren’s psycho ex.

Lastly, I realized that while I read this installment, that my favorite sucia was Sara.

Two Out of Five Pearls

Song: Stone Temple Pilots – Plush (Video) – YouTube

Setting: Boston, New Mexico

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Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s Playing with Boys

Playing with Boys: A Novel by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez | LibraryThing

Valdes, A. (2004). Playing with boys. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 9780312332341

Reasons for Reading : As I liked the previous three books I’d read by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, I requested Playing with Boys via HCPL.

Summary:. Talent agent Alexis hails from Texas and strives to make a name for herself. Gorgeous starlet Marcella’s smart mouth  has often cost her jobs. Screenwriter Olivia barely keeps up with her toddler son. They all have issues with guys as well as launching their careers. Yet, when these three radically different Latinas meet serendipitously in Los Angeles, they see that they can collaborate and rise to the top.

What I Liked :  I enjoyed catching glimpses of some of the sucias from The Dirty Girls Social Club books.Just having three main characters was good. Valdes-Rodriguez created compelling characters. I especially liked Alexis as she seemed to want the best for everyone and she used her talents for the greater good. I rooted for her to thrive.

What I Disliked : On the other hand, I couldn’t ever appreciate Marcella. I found myself scanning quickly through the sections she narrated. Also, I didn’t like that anyone who wasn’t one of three main characters had a section. I feel that Valdes-Rodriguez could’ve didn’t really have to move outside this group of friends for a point of view.

Two Out of Five Pearls

Song: Christina Milian – Us Against The World – YouTube

Setting : Los Angeles

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Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s Dirty Girls on Top

Dirty Girls on Top by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez | LibraryThing

Valdes, A. (2008). Dirty girls on top. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 9780312349677

Reasons for Reading : Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez got me hooked on the sucias with The Dirty Girls Social Club. So, I checked out the sequel, Dirty Girls on Top from HCPL.

Summary: (Must Read The Dirty Girls Social Club before starting this book) Las sucias return five years after the end of The Dirty Girls Social Club. Columnist Lauren Fernandez still writes at a Boston paper but can’t choose her men nor hold her liquor well. Ghetto-fabulous Usnavys has a great man and little tomboy at home but also a roving eye. Rebecca found her soulmate in Andre but has yet to realize her dream of parenthood. Sara may appear to have it all together but with her own decorating show on cable but can she resist the charms of her abusive ex-husband Roberto. Chameleon-like rockstar Cuicatl (formerly known as Amber) wakes up to the fact that it’s hard to stay on top. Despite coming out of the closet and living with her partner, Elizabeth is a lonely single parent. All of this begs the question – Can las sucias reunite and withstand all the lemons life has given them?

What I Liked: The first book tied up some loose ends but I wondered about what was happening with las sucias. I think Valdes-Rodriguez answered a number of my questions. Her descriptions render these women quite real and they deal with their issues in realistic ways. I could see these people as though they were in the room with me! While their distinctive voices stand on their own, I appreciated that the author headed each section with the name of the heroine narrating it.

What I Disliked: I mentioned before that I think six were too many. Three or four characters would’ve been great. Perhaps I’m a purest but I didn’t like reading Roberto’s section. This book belongs to las sucias alone! Lastly, I got a little too much detail in some passages. As I’ve noted, Valdes-Rodriguez leaves little to the imagination with her nearly photographic descriptions.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Lana Del Rey – National Anthem – YouTube

Setting : Boston, Los Angeles, New Mexico, Puerto Rico

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Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s The Dirty Girls Social Club

The Dirty Girls Social Club: A Novel by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez | LibraryThing

Valdes, A. (2003). The Dirty Girls Social Club. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 9780312313814

 Reasons for Reading : In April, I enjoyed Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s Haters. Also, I have been reading more chick  lit lately.  So, I checked out The Dirty Girls Social Club.

 Summary: Six women meet at Boston University. While completely different in looks and personality, they are the only women of Latin descent in the Communications Department. Thus, the six form a strong bond and call their group the Buena Vista Sucia Club also known as The Dirty Girls Social Club. At the beginning of the book, the sucias have been out of college for a few years. They meet each other every six months, rain or shine. These ladies have their ups and downs but always support their sucias. The Dirty Girls Social Club is narrated in the first person, each shedding light on her own life. The sucias are:

 –Lauren, the “caliente” columnist for the local Boston paper whose love live has recently led her to her boyfriend’s closet…to catch him in the act with someone else
–Sara, the perfect wife and mother who’s got it all but who is paying a high price
–Amber, raised a Valley girl without a word of Spanish but who is becoming a huge rock en Español star
–Elizabeth, the stunning black Latina whose TV anchor job conflicts with her intensely private personal life
–Rebecca, hyper-in-command in the world of her glossy magazine, Ella, but totally at sea when it comes to men
–Usnavys, fabulous and larger than life, whose agenda to land the kind of man who can keep her in Manolos almost prevents her finding true love

– From the flap

What I Liked : While brought together by the narrow-mindedness of others, the sucias rise above and show such a devotion to one another that some can only dream of. They’re far from perfect and do ill-advised things but these women are definitely compelling and believable. I felt I could see Lauren, Sara, Amber, Rebecca, Elizabeth, and even Usnavys on the street and in my life. I even visualized some of their faces as those of my friends. I also liked how these women were diverse – Lauren (part-Cuban, part-white  trash), Sara (Cuban Jew), Amber (Valley Girl of Mexican descent), Rebecca (New Mexican Spanish), Elizabeth (Colombian), and Usnavys (Puerto Rican). I also liked how each section was prefaced by passages from Lauren’s column in a Boston newspaper.

What I Disliked : Maybe Valdes-Rodriguez had too many main characters. I think she may have fared better with just four women. Since the narrators alternated from sucia to sucia, I felt some of the stories became cold. Sometimes, I wanted to know about what was happening with one sucia but would be delivered to another. Also, I didn’t care for the very detailed “love scenes.” I like a few things left to the imagination.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: El sol de la noche. Salsa céltica. – YouTube

Setting : Boston, Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, Colombia

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Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses

Close, J., & Card, E. J. (2011). Girls in white dresses. New York, NY: Books on Tape/Random House Audio. 9780307939340

Girls In White Dresses by Jennifer Close | LibraryThing

Girls In White Dresses by Jennifer Close | LibraryThing

Reasons for Reading : I desperately sought out another audiobook for my work commute. I spot this on one of the shelving carts.

Summary: Broken into short story-like chapters, author Jennifer Close relays various vignettes about twenty-something single women. The main characters – Isabella, Mary, and Lauren – have much experience as bridesmaids. Throughout Girls in White Dresses, these three and others have the chance to share snippets of their lives.

What I Liked : These stories were pretty humorous. The chapter entitled “Hope” had me laughing my head off when I wasn’t nodding in agreement.

I felt I knew these characters pretty well before the end of the first chapter. I don’t completely identify with these women but I’ve met people similar to these characters.

What I Disliked : This pertains only to the audiobook version – the sole narrator did something weird with her voice when she read Lauren’s parts.

Additionally, it wasn’t always simple to keep track of the who was who in each chapter. Maybe that’s why the narrator gave Lauren an odd voice.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Glee – My Favorite Things (Official Video) – YouTube

Setting : New York City, Chicago, Boston

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