Tuesday 13 April 2010

Book review : Living La Vida Loca - Belinda Jones

I have to admit to smirking guiltily to myself at the title Living La Vida Loca and the sultry macho Latino sex-god dancing flirtatiously on the cover of the book with a woman in a dress split provocatively to the thigh, especially when there is a cheeky reference to Ricky Martin in the book itself - but that's just bad timing because I happened to start reading this in the week that the real Ricky Martin came out of the closet. Don't get me wrong, I applaud Ricky for coming clean and have no problem whatsoever with his sexual preferences, but it does seem farcical now to think of him singing "She bangs, she bangs" surrounded by hyperventilating female fans !

But Ricky-references aside, what we have here is a fine example of feel-good chicklit that will be absolutely perfect for reading by the pool this summer. It follows two girls, best friends Beth the professional dancer and Carmen with two left feet, who get whisked off into the world of reality TV dance shows.

As they visit three major dance capitals of the world, Argentina, Spain and Cuba, in order to learn the tango, paso doble and salsa, it becomes evident just how much effort author Belinda Jones put into researching the book - the book was three years in the making and she really did go to the countries and learn the dances herself, drawing on her own personal experiences in the novel. As well as explaining the cultural hotspots of the cities and the history of the dances, she gives us a real insight into the lifestyles and mentalities of the people in each country. The descriptions of poor people collecting cardboard boxes to recycle and earn a few pennies to get by and the brutal but breath-taking reality of the controversial art of bullfighting, for example, really bring the exotic locations to life and add extra depth to the basic storyline of life, love and dancefloors.

The central characters are deeply flawed which makes them very likeable. In particular, Carmen's story of her abusive relationship that unfolds throughout the book will have readers empathising with her and mentally cheering her on as she goes on this voyage of self-discovering. Despite some of the dark scenes described, the book is ultimately very uplifting and positive.

Whether or not you like dancing, as an activity or from the comfort of your sofa, you can't help but be drawn into the story. If you're a fan of chicklit, you'll absolutely love it and it's the perfect lightweight read to pack in your suitcase this summer.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £6.99

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (10 Jun 2010)
ISBN-10: 0340994444
ISBN-13: 978-0340994443

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