Review by SPasciuti -- Life Before by K.L. Romo

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SPasciuti
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Review by SPasciuti -- Life Before by K.L. Romo

Post by SPasciuti »

[Following is a volunteer review of "Life Before" by K.L. Romo.]
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2 out of 4 stars
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Life Before by K.L. Romo chronicles the life of former prostitute, Eliza Darling, through the unique medium of her reincarnation. Told in alternating perspectives, the novel begins with Elaine Dearborn, a woman is immediately characterized as an "empty nester" as her youngest son has recently graduated high school. Now free to spend her time on activities she's been looking forward to for years, she finds herself seated before her laptop with plans to begin a novel. Before she can begin, however, Elaine finds herself pulled into her past life to experience the hardships she once faced as Eliza.

The very first line of this book grabbed my attention immediately. I recall pausing to make a note of how much I liked the introduction specifically so I could mention it later. From there, unfortunately, every single encounter we have with Elaine lacks depth and purpose. She becomes a fixture of boredom and annoyance, feeling underdeveloped and somewhat useless to the entirety of the book. Fortunately, Elaine's portion of the story is regularly short and rare. Much of the book is spent narrated by Eliza herself or in the third person point of view of five other characters.

I enjoyed the narration of the minor characters infinitely more than I liked either of the main characters. While I do feel certain that Romo lost sight of the book she was trying to write by switching to these point of views, I am deeply glad that she did. I have a feeling I would have enjoyed reading this book much less had it not been for this digression. Where Eliza's story is underdeveloped and unrealistic, the stories of both Mamie and Rosa were not only extremely well developed, but they left me feeling as though the author had truly done her research prior to writing the book.

Eliza regularly appeared to contradict herself as her personality and opinions on prostitution regularly switched back and forth between feeling ashamed of her decision or feeling annoyance that other people could not see the work she did as a respectable occupation. I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she had a hard time reaching her own conclusion on the matter. The manner through which she found herself becoming a prostitute however, was quite unrealistic, especially when compared to the stories of both Mamie and Rosa.

Eliza was rarely ever shown actively making efforts to improve the lives of other prostitutes as the book had implied was her goal, but rather she remained focused on a single girl. Later, that girl would inspire her to take action and help other young girls but Eliza did not spearhead the efforts herself. I found this disappointing, and it only furthered to increase my distaste for the main character.

I feel that the author has done a decent job of creating a few characters to adequately portray what many women went through as prostitutes during this time period. Life Before touches on very sensitive topics, and while I applaud the author in her desire to bring awareness to what the lives of these women were like, I found several scenes excessively graphic and disturbing. It is my belief that this book should probably include a trigger warning for its readers.

The ill-conceived romances within the story were thoroughly disappointing. Almost every time one was attempted it felt poorly developed and also took away from the overall message that I believed the author was trying to achieve. The inclusion of a random coupling that screamed of what is commonly referred to as insta-love seemed incredibly pointless and only took away from the more important and developed themes of the book.

Overall, I've decided to give Life Before 2 out of 4 stars. If the reincarnation plot and Elaine herself were removed entirely, Eliza were only a minor character, and the book had focused more on Mamie and Rosa I am positive I would have appreciated Romo's novel much more. I definitely believe this book could appeal to some who enjoy reading historical fiction and additionally would recommend it to anyone looking to read an account of what life may have been like for the prostitutes in that time period. I would not recommend this to anyone who has been raped or is sensitive to this topic as the novel definitely does not make accommodations for those who my feel triggered by these topics.

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Life Before
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inaramid
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Post by inaramid »

What a waste of a good premise! Initially, I thought this sort of story could totally work as a feature film--but with your notes on the unlikeability of the main character, I guess not. I agree with the trigger warnings. Seems like so many authors tend to "forget" to put those in. Great review overall! I hope your next book makes for a better reading experience.
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Post by SPasciuti »

inaramid wrote: ↑16 Jan 2018, 14:42 What a waste of a good premise! Initially, I thought this sort of story could totally work as a feature film--but with your notes on the unlikeability of the main character, I guess not. I agree with the trigger warnings. Seems like so many authors tend to "forget" to put those in. Great review overall! I hope your next book makes for a better reading experience.
You know, to be honest, I could definitely see a film about the secondary characters. I feel like it would make for a worthwhile commentary about the horrors of the situations that those girls found themselves in and I'd definitely try to watch it. Admittedly, the level of graphic scenes might turn me off to seeing it physically, though.

And truth be told, often when books are brought to screen, the screenwriters end up changing certain things and I feel like it would be a great benefit to this book to have the main plot of reincarnation and the two main characters removed. I wouldn't mind it at all, so long as the author was up for it (I do believe authors don't get enough say in how movies are made from their books, tbh).

And yeah. I feel like it's such a shame that trigger warnings aren't taken into account as much as they should. While the nature of the book itself might imply much about what is going to happen in the prose, I definitely think the blurb mainly focusing on the reincarnation piece is a little bit misleading as it wasn't as huge a portion of the book as I had originally anticipated.
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Post by Paul78 »

It seems writing a good novel that will have good ratings is in itself a tall order. It takes a lot of work to develop a character who can maintain an audience through the novel without getting bored.
Thanks for a good review.
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inaramid
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Post by inaramid »

SPasciuti wrote: ↑17 Jan 2018, 02:06
And truth be told, often when books are brought to screen, the screenwriters end up changing certain things and I feel like it would be a great benefit to this book to have the main plot of reincarnation and the two main characters removed. I wouldn't mind it at all, so long as the author was up for it (I do believe authors don't get enough say in how movies are made from their books, tbh).
Aww. I liked the reincarnation bit :D. It's a good "bait," I think. I may be too cynical but I feel people are more likely to watch a movie about a commentary on the lives of these women when it's "hidden" under the guise of some magical time-traveling story. Like tricking kids to eat their vegetables.
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Post by SPasciuti »

Paul78 wrote: ↑17 Jan 2018, 13:57 It seems writing a good novel that will have good ratings is in itself a tall order. It takes a lot of work to develop a character who can maintain an audience through the novel without getting bored.
Thanks for a good review.
I’ve always sort of believed that for every book I read that I absolutely love, there will probably be four or five others that are just okay or I don’t enjoy at all. I had high hopes for this one, truth be told, and I don’t think the author did a terrible job at all. I just think she wanted to write two different books and tried to mesh them together into one, which just didn’t work. The reincarnation plot simply didn’t fit with the rest of the novel.

Thanks for your comment!
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SPasciuti
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Post by SPasciuti »

inaramid wrote: ↑17 Jan 2018, 16:24
SPasciuti wrote: ↑17 Jan 2018, 02:06
And truth be told, often when books are brought to screen, the screenwriters end up changing certain things and I feel like it would be a great benefit to this book to have the main plot of reincarnation and the two main characters removed. I wouldn't mind it at all, so long as the author was up for it (I do believe authors don't get enough say in how movies are made from their books, tbh).
Aww. I liked the reincarnation bit :D. It's a good "bait," I think. I may be too cynical but I feel people are more likely to watch a movie about a commentary on the lives of these women when it's "hidden" under the guise of some magical time-traveling story. Like tricking kids to eat their vegetables.
I did too, initially. It sounded fun and intriguing. But it did take away from the overall theme for me, unfortunately. Which is a real shame. I don’t think you’re wrong, exactly, because it can certainly entice someone to read something they ordinarily might not have...but I think it has to be done right or it shouldn’t be included at all. I do really appreciate your view on the matter. Thanks for commenting. :)
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