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Every time I open a new book, I do it with the expectation that I’m going to love it and it’s going to be great.

Maybe I need to get over that. Because Under the Spanish Stars is one of those books that’s a good read, a strong story, and almost alive with the flamenco culture that frames the story, but… it didn’t knock my socks off.

It’s the story of Charlotte, who goes on a quest given to her by her sick grandmother to discover the history of a painting that means the world to the grandmother. And in alternating chapters, we get not only the story of Charlotte’s quest but also the story of the grandmother.

Abuela’s story is fascinating. As in many of these flashback novels, it’s the better half of the book. The flamenco culture is something that was new to me, and I totally dug it. I wanted more of it, in fact: more description, more of the music. I wanted it to breathe and throb off the page and swallow me whole, the way the best Rock Fiction does.

It didn’t.

But it came close. And for that, we give it props.

This can’t be easy stuff to write about. When you write about a rock band on an arena tour, it’s easy. Most music lovers know what’s up. It’s so much easier to pretend we’re there in the crowd, worshipping the singer or the guitarist or the bassist or the drummer. Most of us have been to concerts. We know how it goes.

And that’s part of why we gotta give Sinclair props. She did her best, describing the opening steps, the stomping feet, the speed of the music, the sweat, the beautiful lines of an arm raised overhead. She almost transported me there.

I bet the reason I failed was more me and less Sinclair. Because I didn’t have that frame of reference; the closest I come is one of the Dancing with the Stars dances, and… even if the characters didn’t tell us, we’d know the two aren’t even close.

Maybe the problem wasn’t the book so much as the reader.

But back to the story itself, and… yeah, still disappointed in it. I wanted more of the culture, especially in the history part. I wanted more of Granada, too, because it’s so different from my life. I feel like I got a quick peek, just enough to tantalize me but not enough to immerse me. And I wanted to be immersed.

This is one I’d say is worth the read. The story is good. It’s solid, if a bit predictable. I’ve gone on about things being at stake in a lot of books I’ve been reading lately, and I kinda feel like this one has the same problem. Not enough is at risk, and the problems that Charlotte faces are fixed too easily. It almost winds up painting Charlotte as a jerk for worrying so much about them, and no one wants the main character to be a jerk. You know?

Pick it up for the Flamenco. Stay for the past history. And just go for the ride with the present day because even though it’s the weakest part, it’s still a nice read.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for letting me have a read! Seriously. Pick this one up and tell me what you think. It released on December 8, which was just a few days ago. Grab it now. Help it boost its First 90 Day Sales count!

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