Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Houston, We Have a Problema

Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda
Copyright 2009
Grand Central Publishing - Fiction
392 pages, incl. author questions and reading group guide

This is almost going to feel like confession time. Wait, let's just go with it. Why not spill a little whilst reviewing the book? Keep reading after the first confession or you'll miss the good part, though, because I enjoyed this book.

Confession #1: I requested Houston, We Have a Problema partly because it was from Hatchette and I desperately wanted to request something from Hatchette, period -- you know, just because I was feeling a wee bit left out with everyone else's blogs seemingly floating away in a drift of Hatchette posts. I liked the sound of the book, too. Don't get me wrong; I did wait till I found something of interest.

The story: Jessica Luna is feeling a little bit lost. First, there was that job that paid badly in a field she loved . . . but it just wasn't enough. So, she's moved on to a job that pays well and it is so spectacularly boring she's not even sure she wants to move up to the next level. Her love life is just as appalling. Her mother and sister are constantly nagging her to find a decent man and settle down. But, do they mean she needs to find a rich white guy, like her sister Sabrina's husband, move into a suburban home and hang out at barbeques with the "pod people"? Where's the fun in that? Is it even possible to find a rich white guy who can dance?

Jessica does have a sort-of boyfriend, a handsome, Latino artist. Then again, there are reasons she's keeping her relationship with Guillermo a secret. It's very possible he's just using her. She loves the spark but they're definitely missing some depth.

In an attempt to figure things out, Jessica goes on frequent visits to the local psychic, Madame Hortensia. Madame Hortensia assures Jessica that good things are in store for her, but none of what she "predicts" is is entirely clear. What on earth do her predictions mean? Will Jessica ever figure out what to do about her job and her romantic life?

Confession #2: I had a terrible time getting into this book. It didn't grab me at all for about the first 50 pages and I was all set to abandon it. Then, I decided that, actually, nothing was grabbing me because my eyes were hurting and I was overtired. On Friday, I decided to go to bed without reading a word. That was tremendously weird. Saturday, I opted to take a second night off. Ugh, ugh. Sunday, I couldn't take it any longer and I grabbed the book closest to the bed, which just happened to be Houston We Have a Problema. Yep, that did it. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that you need a good night's sleep (or two). I read 200 pages in one sitting. Then, of course, I had to know how it was going to end.

Favorite part: I wish I could quote this part but it's far too long. Near the beginning of the book, Jessica is trying to decide whether or not to go to Guillermo's house. She knows the relationship is shallow. She knows she'll probably just end up in bed with him and then feel guilty. So, she asks for a sign. What follows is a number of signs that pretty much scream, "Don't do it!" Jessica ignores them and grabs onto one little word that indicates she should go. Point being, that's what she really wants at that moment and in the end we all have to make our own decisions. I love that part.

What did I not like? I'm not a big fan of relationship books, but when I do read them I like them to end a certain way and this one didn't have my favorite kind of ending. I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, to be honest. At least it was surprising. Also, some might find Jessica annoying and self-indulgent. I definitely did. But, was there a point? I think so. Jessica was wrapped up in herself, yes, but the fact remains that the book is Jessica's story. The whole point is that Jessica had to figure things out for herself -- that what's not acceptable is to be so self-serving that you hurt other people in the process. Jessica seemed to learn a lesson or two about understanding and eventually she had to make some life-changing decisions.

Recommended? I'd recommend this book to people who like relationship stories. It's not a plot-driven novel; it's about one woman who is conflicted, the people around her and the choices she makes. For the most part, the conflict is internal. If you like a plot-driven novel, this isn't probably the book for you. If you like a relationship novel, go for it. As I was reading this book, I repeatedly thought of Nikki in Italy. Nikki loves a good, juicy story about relationships and I think Houston, We Have a Problema is her kind of book.

Confession #3: I'm really still having trouble with eye strain. I finally gave in and got an eye doctor appointment, today, but it's a little over 2 weeks from now and I'm hoping I won't have to keep taking 2-day breaks. That would suck.

Speaking of which . . . I'd better go get some shut-eye. Nighty-night, book lovers!


  1. I hope the doctor can help your eyes! Or that they just start cooperating on their own. ;)

  2. Eva,

    Thanks. :) I think it's probably a combination of sleeping badly (I'm a terrible sleeper -- look at me; I got back on the computer after I thought I was done for the night) and the fact that I haven't had my eyes checked in 3 years. I hate spending money for those guys to tell me my eyes have hardly changed (usually the case). But, I think it's about time.

  3. Yay! I do love relationship books. I'm going to add this one to my list. Thanks for thinking of me.

    I thought of you on Monday when I exercised even though I didn't want to. I thought, "Nancy would be so proud of me." I know that sounds kind of lame, but it got me through it.

  4. Doesn't sound like my cup of tea, but I loved your review nonetheless!

    Hope you make out well with the doctor!!!

  5. Your confessions made me laugh. I don't think it's my kind of book, though.

  6. Eye strain is one of the reasons I've been falling behind in blog reading. I sit at a computer for 8 hours and I just can bring myself to look at the screen for a few more when I get home. I have a floater and it drives me bonkers, but I saw the doc recently and there's nothing they can do (supposedly).

    Sounds like an interesting book, though I don't think it's my cup of tea. Glad you were able to enjoy it after all.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  7. Nikki,

    I'm going to feel really bad when I go back to bed without exercising at 12:30 pm. I cannot stay awake, today. LOL You're right, though, I'm proud of you! Sometimes you really do have to drag yourself out the door.

    I hope you love this book when you get to it!


    Yeah, it doesn't sound like your kind of book. One could say it's not my kind of book, either, but I like to shake up my reading with something different, now and then, and I typically enjoy the change of pace. Jessica never did completely grow on me, and yet I enjoyed the story.

    Thanks. I have a feeling we're about to get into that evil territory known as Reading Glasses.


    I live to make you laugh. :) Seriously, it was fun writing the review that way. I hope I got across the good and bad, as well as my overall feeling that the book was a fun read.


    I have a bunch of floaters that are bugging me and I read that there's nothing they can do about them, yep. Very annoying. I can understand why you wouldn't feel like looking at a computer in the evening, if you're sitting in front of one all day. I tend to walk away from mine, quite a bit.

    Most of my regular blog readers are not into relationship books, to my knowledge, so I hope I have some flies on my wall who are interested. I enjoyed the change of pace, even if it did take me a while to get into.

  8. I loved the structure of this review - with the confessions mixed in! :)

    I suffer from eye problems too, and I have a floater which can drive me crazy, but I'm trying my best to live patiently with it.

    I switch back and forth between contacts and glasses and that seems to help. Also I have learned to walk away from the computer when I need to rest my eyes - even when I have something I really need to do, or when I'm feeling guilty about the backlog in my blog reader.

  9. Blech I hate eyestrain. I sit in front of a computer all day so I can definitely relate!!

  10. Alyce,

    Thank you!

    I haven't had this problem in quite a while and I'd forgotten how tired it can make you, just having sore eyes. Floaters are a pain.

    Yep, I'm trying not to spend too much time on the computer. I don't have contacts -- just glasses for distance, so I often have to go on a hunt when I need to drive. It could be time for reading glasses.


    Computer screens aren't very good for eyes, are they? Blecch is right.

  11. This does sound interesting. Sometimes I have to take a few days off of reading just to get me back on track. Hope your eyes feel better soon!


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