Read Sweet Mary by Liz Balmaseda Online


In this mesmerizing debut novel by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Liz Balmaseda, one woman's hunger for justice becomes a journey into darkness -- and a punishing, soul-searching test of priorities.Dulce Maria "Mary" Guevara is a woman with nothing left to lose. Wrongly accused of being a cocaine queen, she has lost her job, her reputation, and -- worst of allIn this mesmerizing debut novel by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Liz Balmaseda, one woman's hunger for justice becomes a journey into darkness -- and a punishing, soul-searching test of priorities.Dulce Maria "Mary" Guevara is a woman with nothing left to lose. Wrongly accused of being a cocaine queen, she has lost her job, her reputation, and -- worst of all -- custody of her son. Even after the charges are dropped, suspicion lingers. Desperate to get it all back, she takes what she considers the only path open to her: She goes on a hunt for the real drug queen. Unfortunately, the one person she believes can help her is the last person she wants to see again: Joe Pratts, her ex-fiance, a man whose connections to the drug world once ended their relationship.Trying not to fall for Joe again is just the beginning of Mary's challenges, however. Her search leads her through the most deceiving of jungles: suburbia. There, she comes face-to-face with disturbing realities that challenge everything she thinks she knows about her formerly tranquil life. Mary's final dilemma hits closer to home than she ever imagined."Sweet Mary" is a gripping, heartrending story with a noir soul and plenty of surprising twists -- an assured debut from a writer with tremendous experience and talent....

Title : Sweet Mary
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781416542964
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Sweet Mary Reviews

  • Michelle
    2019-04-11 23:12

    "It was bound to happen. The odds are high that I was going to eventually read books which did not move me. I've been on such a great reading streak lately that I knew it couldn't last. If I had any doubts, Sweet Mary definitely broke that streak. [return][return][return]This book just did not do anything for me. There was very little in the way of character development. The plot unfolded predictably and was rather lackluster in the suspense area. At no point in time did I feel concern for Mary. In fact, her vigilante role confused me while I was rolling my eyes at the improbability of it all. I felt that Ms. Balmaseda threw plot devices into the story as they were convenient and not because they were planned or helped improve the storyline. [return][return][return]In addition, each major section begins with stage directions. This bothered me to no end. I expect stage directions when reading a play, not a novel. They were distracting and kept me from being able to immerse myself into the story. I also struggled with the narrator's voice. Not only would the narrator give away future events in the midst of a tension-filled scene, I feel that the narrator never really found a voice. At times, she was omniscient, and at other times, she was as in the dark as the reader. Again, it was distracting and detracted from the overall story. [return][return][return]One last gripe I had is about the overall language. It was trite and overly simplistic. I could see where Ms. Balmaseda was trying for beautiful, vivid descriptions, and she just fell flat. Actually, that is a great word to describe the entire book - flat. It was completely devoid of any emotion, beauty, and believable story.[return][return] [return][return]I wanted to like this book. I really did. The premise was definitely intriguing, which is why I requested it from Shelf Awareness. I like suspense, and I like wronged women taking matters into their own hands. I really like strong female characters. Unfortunately, the suspense was lacking, if nonexistent, the way the wronged woman took matters into her own hands had me rolling my eyes in disbelief, and the main female character was not as strong as I wanted her to be. I found myself reading the book just to finish it, not because I cared about what was happening. It's a disappointing end to something I was anticipating.[return][return][return]Thank you to Atria Books and Shelf Awareness for the review copy of this book!"

  • Sara
    2019-03-28 05:20

    After Liz Balmaseda won two Pulitzer Prizes, she gives us a female centered detective novel in Sweet Mary. A single mother, the titled Dulce Maria, Mary for short, is arrested. The victim of an improbable case of mistaken identity, Mary is fingered as a drug queen. The false charges ruin her life, so Mary decides to do what the DEA couldn’t—take down the criminal herself. With a little help from her friends, one of which is a sexy past love interest, Mary embarks on a series of schemes to reclaim her good reputation.It’s kind of a given that Balmaseda is a good writer, so it isn’t a surprise that the writing is good. The characters are also surprising layered for the genre. Even the bad guys are complex, and are given sufficient back story. Balmaseda also used restraint with the action sequences which keeps this story from entirely going over the top. That said, the plot itself consists of coincidences and implausible leaps. Balmaseda also can’t resist the bumbling law enforcement clichés which adds the story’s stale feel. Each chapter opening up with a description of the scene is also irritating as if Balmaseda was already thinking movie. The pacing seems to fall flat in the second half of the novel where Mary bumps into leads cushioned by saccharine sweet interludes. I expected more.

  • Crystal Starr Light
    2019-03-28 06:09

    "I want it all back. My job. My reputation. But most importantly, I want my son" NOTE: I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine ProgramAnother Vine choice from first time author, Liz Balmaseda! Dulce Maria "Sweet Mary" Guevara is a successful real-estate agent and single mother. Her delicate world however is thrown into a loop when the DEA breaks into her house and arrests her, believing her to be Maria Portilla, cocaine queen. Not even a release and an apology can clear her name, return her job, and return her son. Now, Mary must find "Bad Mary" and prove her innocence! I Liked: The first word that comes to mind when thinking about this book is "fresh". Liz Balmaseda is a superb writer, no doubt. I thoroughly enjoyed her set up of the story, which can be one of the most laborious and tedious parts of a book. She writes Sweet Mary so realistically, so honestly that I wouldn't be surprised to find her in Florida! Which brings me to the scenery...amazing! I feel that Balmaseda has a firm grasp on her surroundings, on her characters, and most definitely on Cuban culture! Sweet Mary was real to me. Balmaseda set up the story so well, so you could feel Mary's pain, torment, agony, at being without her son and unemployed. The story was very interesting. It is scary to think about what would happen, were you mistaken for someone else. How would you prove your innocence? What would life be like afterwards? I felt that the subject matter was very creative, and I enjoyed seeing what would happen next (for the most part). I Didn't Like: The first thing I would change about this book is the silly "intro" passages that make this book read more like a screenplay or a play. It is written in third person present while the rest of the book is in first person past. This abruptly brings me out of the story (a HUGE writing no-no) and usually isn't even necessary. About halfway through, I ignored these "stage directions" (minus the "Little River Guns and Pistol Range--Day 30" type parts) and the story wasn't hindered in the slightest. The next thing I would change is probably to put in more foreshadowing to Joe. On the flap, he is said to be a HUGE obstacle. In the novel, he pops in, all of a sudden, and is suddenly Mary's ex-fiancé. I couldn't help the WTF? Moment. I felt that, maybe if Mary had still thought about him in the beginning, his appearance later in the novel (and the revelation of his relation to Mary) would make more sense. Also, the novel was, I daresay, too fast-paced. Things happen at a break-neck speed--Mary's day is going fine then BOOM off to jail then BOOM out of jail then BOOM off to get the picture. And the ridiculous chain of events. Please. Mary finds "Bad Mary" way too easily (within two days of searching!). All Mary, a single soccer mom and real estate agent, had to do was chitchat with Joe and BOOM, there's "Bad Mary"! I mean, if that woman is so easy to find, how did the officials not find her first? Are they that incompetent? Well, if you read the book, you know the answer already. Then, there is no way that Mary could come away from this scott-free, as she did in the books. Does she have a license to hold a weapon? Threatening at gunpoint (no, it was not self-defense, not by a long shot)? Stalking a person? Practically breaking and entering? And why was it necessary for "Bad Mary" to have a daughter? That only detracted from the story (adding an unnecessary detour to Mary sympathising with "Bad Mary" and then the sappy Mary to the rescue taking care of "Bad Mary"'s daughter), and honestly, if it had ended on the cutting floor, no one would be the sorrier. Then the ending. God, the ending. Talk about making sure all those who wronged her got the middle finger and all those who helped her got a big, huge pat on the back. Smarts of another Mary...a Mary Sue! Too much exposition (the whole "how did it happen" revelation you get at the end of a Nancy Drew book or Scooby Doo episode), too many wrapping up scenes, too over the top. Fortunately, the scenes provided a lot of cheese to counter the sappy sugariness of the ending or I would have gone into a sugar coma. Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence: Surprisingly clean. Yes, you will find da**, he**, b*****d, and a few f-words, but otherwise, I would rate PG-13 if it were a movie. Mary sleeps with Joe at one point, but the encounter is "off screen". A woman pole dances to make a sale. Women's "assets" are described. Someone is hinted at having an affair. The DEA break into Mary's home. Joe works in a seedy side of town. And several characters' lives are threatened. But again, fairly clean. Overall: I adored (absolutely adored!) the first half of the book and, minus the crazy stage directions, was prepared to give a four or maybe even five star. But by halfway, the plot got insane and then the conclusion...gah! Don't get me wrong, Balmaseda is a great writer! I have no doubt that with some time and a bit more practice (and editing), she will be amazing. And I will still be keeping an eye out for her, that much is for sure. But as for this book...not terrible, but not amazing either. 3 stars.

  • Christine Zibas
    2019-03-24 07:10

    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Liz Balmaseda shows she has the writing chops for fiction as well as hard-hitting reporting in the Sunshine State. Setting her first novel on her own home turf, Balmaseda takes readers on a wild ride, a combination of hard hitting mystery and engaging chick lit, all with a good dose of Miami sun. For many authors, this might lead to a center that crumbles, but in Blamaseda's case, it's a winning combination instead.Dulce Maria ("Sweet Mary") Guevara is an ambitious real estate agent who's survived divorce and lives for her young son, Max. Her world is good, even though her slightly crazy family (Cuban mother, father, and brother Fatty, a small time crook and wanta-be hip hop artist) present plenty of exasperation. She's got a strong family support network, coupled with a good friend, tough cookie Gina, also a real estate agent.Into this not-necessarily-blissful state, enters chaos. On a perfectly normal day, as Maria gets Max ready for school and herself ready for another day pushing property, the FBI and DEA storm into Maria's quiet suburban house and arrest her on drug charges. They think she is Maria Guevara Portillo, a Colombian drug "queen pin" linked to an infamous cartel. So does the local tabloid.Despite both her and her lawyer's pleas of innocence and her eventual release from jail, Maria spends quite a long time being questioned while incarcerated. Max's father (and Maria's estranged husband) meanwhile takes over custody of Max. Eventually, Maria is released without fanfare, but stories continue to be leaked by the FBI that she remains under suspicion. Maria is out, but she loses her job and the judge refuses to transfer back custody of her son.Desperate, Maria decides that the only solution to clearing her name is to track down the real Maria Portillo. It is this chase that is the heart and soul of the story, although readers will be surprised at the twists that the story will eventually take. What makes the story really ring true is Maria's experience when falsely accused. Author Liz Balmaseda does a great job of building characters and making her readers invest themselves in the outcome of the story. She also uses the local scenery of Florida to great effect in conveying atmosphere and family ties.This is an outstanding first effort from Balmaseda that also makes a great summer read. The action is nonstop, the characters are unforgettable (especially plucky Dulce Maria), and the ending is a surprise. What more could readers ask for? Perhaps only that it doesn't take too very long for Balmaseda to showcase her next work.

  • Morrigan
    2019-04-20 01:15

    Sweet Mary is a well written book...for the first half of the book. The writing style is clear and enjoyable. There is urgency to the writing that allows this book to be a fast read. The novel is about Mary, a woman wrongfully arrested due to a mistaken identity. Because of this, her life comes tumbling down and she must find the real "Bad Mary" the feds were looking for so she can put her life back on track. Joe is her high school sweetheart and he helps her in her quest to clear her name. The books takes place in Florida. The setting narration was well set-up. Clear pictures of Florida will spring into your head directly from Balmaseda's words.The character of Mary is well written. I could imagine her doing what she did and reacting as she did (for the first half). Balmaseda created a very interesting and engaging character. She makes us feel sympathy for her and like her even more through her actions. Her character development suffered greatly during the second part of the book as the author pretty much started with Sweet Mary and ended up with Tomb Raider. Secondary characters also suffer disjointed personality. Their actions did not seem up to par with the characters themselves.Now for the plot. The plot had great potential. It is not very complicated although it throws a few twits here and there. But, it was interesting and engaging. The first half of the novel was really good. It was realistic. Except for the whole mistaken identity part. I know it happens all the time but, this one was pretty bad! They did not even have the same nationality! Which may be the author's argument that to some, all Hispanics are thrown into the same pile without regard to their individual cultures.The second part of the book just got into the ferry train and high tailed it out of realistic land. It just became way too far-fetched. I mean, it was out there and then proceeded onto the left-field. How a single mom and real estate agent was able to find a fugitive woman in record time when the feds were not able to is beyond me.The book started out well and then it just went into the realm of even the impossible is possible. It was ok for a weekend read. It would have been better had it stayed consistent with the first part.

  • Claire
    2019-04-10 02:26

    My impression is that this story by two time Pulitzer Prize winner, Balmaseda is loosely based on a true story. Dulce Maria is a sharp yet sweet real estate agent in the top of her game in Miami when her home is shattered by DEA agents in hot pursuit of a drug cartel Reina, Maria Portilla. Convinced that Dulce Maria is Portilla in a clever cover-up she is jailed, and her son is placed in protective custody. Ensnared in a nightmare, this story is the tale of Maria aggressively fighting for her life and son. Lots of wacky situations, some are hardly believable. To her credit, Dulce Maria herself is incredulous. Included is a recipe for Dulce Maria Mango Sours, I suspect a taste test is in order to see if this is a plus ;)

  • Toni
    2019-04-06 05:16

    I was still in the mood for fiction with Latina characters so I pulled this one off of my bookshelf where it has been sitting for almost a year. Dulce Maria (Mary) Guevara is a real estate agent on the rise in Miami. After divorcing her husband she has landed on her feet and is raising her son and closing big deals. She innocently answers the door to her home one day and finds DEA agents surrounding her. They ransack her home, arrest her, accuse her of being a high level drug trafficker. Even though the charges are eventually dropped, Mary has lost her job and custody of her son. She then takes it upon herself to clear her name and find the real cocaine queen she has been mistaken for. It was a quick moving, action-packed story with some humor and romance. Loved it.

  • CatherineMustread
    2019-03-25 00:15

    Successful young Cuban-American real-estate agent suffers life-changing arrest by the DEA as they falsely identify her as a long sought drug queen. Although this was a quick page turner it required a bit too much suspension of belief in the capabilities of the protagonist. I did like the surprising twists and the emphasis on what really IS important in life. Shows the dark side of Florida like Carl Hiaasen but without the humor. Read this as part of an Hispanic book discussion group.

  • Garryvivianne
    2019-04-12 00:30

    Mary Guevara has been wrongly arrested, accused of being a "cocaine queen". She loses her job, her reputation & most of all her son. She decides to correct all the wrongs against her, SHE will go find this other Maria, and sets off to do just that. She has to get the help of her former love, whom she thought she would never have to contact again. She gets involved with shady characters in her plan, but all in clearing her name & geting her boy back from her ex husband. I like how this author writes, I enjoyed the book.

  • Tracie Yule
    2019-04-23 00:27

    Sweet Mary reads like a Lifetime Network Movie in words. A single mom with a bad ex becomes the victim of mistaken identity and in order to clear her name, she must find out who the real criminal is. Honestly, I've never been a huge fan of Lifetime movies. I'll watch Lifetime as background noise when I have something more interesting to do (like blog or sew), but I'm not really listening. This book was like that, except I couldn't find anything else to do while reading it.

  • Kristy Renee Martinez
    2019-03-24 07:19

    Disappointing. I felt like I was reading stage instructions, and then I read the acknowledgements in which the author mentions the first incarnation of this book was in fact a screenplay. I wanted to like this novel but I just couldn't get in to it.

  • Jeffrey Hammerhead
    2019-04-21 07:34

    I like the part the about the hero, Dulce Maria Guevara was accused of being a cocaine queen. The stroy was not really a murder mystery, so it was not really my type of book. However, it is well written.

  • Linda
    2019-04-08 04:23

    Love to read books set in Florida, and having a woman protagonistis even better. Mary was an interesting, rather unbelievable womanbut I enjoyed the story.

  • Harvee
    2019-04-05 05:17

    Mystery set in Florida, by Cuban-American journalist.

  • Julia
    2019-03-31 04:17

    Eh. FUn to start with, lost me part way through. A tough heroine needs a tougher adversary, and perfectly happy endings always make me roll my eyes.