Sunday, January 9, 2011

Review: The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie

The Princess of Las Pulgas
The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie

After her father's slow death from cancer, Carlie thought things couldn't get worse. But now, she is forced to confront the fact that her family in dire financial straits. To stay afloat, her mom has had to sell their cherished oceanfront home and move Carlie and her younger brother Keith to the other side of the tracks to dreaded Las Pulgas, or "the fleas" in Spanish. They must now attend a tough urban high school instead of their former elite school, and on Carlie's first day of school, she runs afoul of edgy K.T., the Latina tattoo girl who's always ready for a fight, even on crutches. Carlie fends off the attention of Latino and African American teen boys, and one, a handsome seventeen-year-old named Juan, nicknames her Princess when he detects her aloof attitude towards her new classmates. What they don't know is that Carlie isn't really aloof; she's just in mourning for her father and almost everything else that mattered to her. Mr. Smith, the revered English teacher who engages all his students, suggests she'll like her new classmates if she just gives them a chance; he cajoles her into taking over the role of Desdemona in the junior class production of Othello, opposite Juan, after K.T. gets sidelined. Keith, who becomes angrier and more sullen by the day, spray paints insults all over the gym as he acts out his anger over the family's situation and reduced circumstances. Even their cat Quicken goes missing, sending Carlie and Keith on a search into the orchard next to their seedy garden apartment complex. They're met by a cowboy toting a rifle who ejects them at gunpoint from his property. But when Carlie finds him amiably having coffee with their mom the next day -- when he's returned her cat -- she begins to realize that nothing is what it seems in Las Pulgas.

Published in US Nov  28th 2010
Standalone novel
Review part of tour with 


*My Review*

    We are hit hard right from the start in Princess. Emotions are running high and they stay that way.
    I really appreciate how the passing of time is dictated: with sorrow at the holidays; remembrance and grieving for what they lost.
     Some of the wording is so lyrical- ‘wrapped in a cocoon of grief”, “when I read what I just wrote, some letters aren’t clear. Even though I’ve turned a new page, the tears have made the surface rough, so Oct 22nd has bled through to a new day.” It makes me feel even more connected with Carlie.
     I haven’t lost a parent but I have felt like my whole world has turned itself upside down and my heart broken. I can identify with Carlie in that respect. Her voice is powerful, emotional, and heart-felt. She is sarcastic and throws in dark humor at the right moments. I could stay in her head all day.
    I really adore the voice of her Dad as she is dealing with stuff. It really shows me without tons of back-story how he loved her, taught her things, and made a huge impact on her life. I also love seeing the moments with her mom. They do not have a perfect relationship but it is good and normal. Well, as normal as can be expected. They fight, but ultimately they love one another and are there for each other. It is nice to see a parent/child relationship that is functional and what you may see in the real world. It doesn’t dominate the book, but it is there.  I like it.
    I love the secondary cast of characters- K.T., Keith, Jeb, Mr. Smith, Anthony, Sean. They all have something wonderful and unique to bring to this story. They have their own personalities and they are wonderfully written. Juan is a man in disguise but I really like what is revealed underneath.
    PoLP is a heart-wrenching tale of loss, recovery, self discovery, and love- familial, friendship and amore. It proves through several avenues that people and places are not what they seem at first glance. I was entranced from page 1 and I flew through, wanting to find out what turn of events would bring, and what Carlie would learn about herself and others next.

One of my favorite quotes:
“Do you remember what I said that day on the auditorium steps about taking the jouney? …What I didn’t say was that many journeys, often ones you didn’t plan to make, take you to an unexpected destination that turns out to be exactly where you want to be.”
Keep your eye out near the end of Jan, I will be interviewing Ms. McKenzie and there will be a giveaway. Also, in February for "Loving the Reviews" Challenge hosted by Sniffly Kitty and I. Ms McKenzie will be a part of our 'featured authors' and will be donating a prize.

I would love to hear what you think of this book and/or my review!


  1. Wonderful review, Brandi! I had not heard of the book before but I have added it to my TBR! It sounds great!

  2. About your review all I can say is WOW!
    It made me want to go right out and buy it.
    I checked on Amazon and it is out of stock.
    I think this is an amazing story and I cannot wait to read this book.
    Love & Hugs,

  3. I hadn't heard of this book either. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really enjoyed reading them and the quotes!

  4. Hello!
    I have given you an award! You may find it over on my blog if you wish to accept it:


  5. Thanks guys! I really did enjoy it- read if you have a chance.
    Her other book, Sliding on the Edge also deals with tough issues.

  6. I haven't heard of this one but it sounds great.

  7. You should try it out- it is such an emotional read!

  8. I'm fascinated by this book. It's probably the name that gets me. Being Hispanic, pulgas immediately caught me. Great review btw :)

  9. Thank you Juju! It does deal with her being at a hispanic school. I know a bit of Spanish and that is what caught my eye first too

  10. I'll be honest, this is a book that I probably wouldn't have given a second glance, but your review is making me reconsider. I love your favorite quote too!

  11. I also reviewed The Princess of Las Pulgas, and I agree with basically everything you said here!

    My review (and a chance to win a copy of the book):

  12. Thanks for the link. --Well, I liked the synopsis off the bat but with your review added emotion. Now I really want to win the book so I can read it! If not, it's on my tbr list now. Thanks for the wonderful review ... you know, it's an inspiration on how to review a book. I tend to be too brief and bland. Words just doesn't come to me so easily and I end up trying too hard. Some day maybe it'll flow like yours sound.

  13. I love your opinion on this novel. Emotional novels are always hard to begin for me, but they usually turn out amazing. I also adore lyrical writing, so this sounds like it would be promising.

  14. @Vivien- you should give a try, I really enjoyed

    @Jinky hope you enjoy when you can read

    @Nova- glad you liked it


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