Wednesday, August 12, 2015

ARC Review: Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams by Brent Hartinger

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (Russel Middlebrook The Futon Years, #2) Blurb:
“There was no way moving to Los Angeles was going to make me give up my soul. After all, I’d already seen all the movies about Hollywood. I knew how things worked.”
Twenty-four year-old Russel Middebrook and his boyfriend have moved to Los Angeles so Russel can try to make it as a screenwriter. Almost right away, in a forgotten old house off of Sunset Boulevard, Russel meets Isaac Brander, a once-famous film producer who is convinced he can turn Russel’s screenplay into a movie.
Russel knows that success can't possibly come this easy. After all, most of Russel's Los Angeles friends are so desperate to make it that it's downright scary. His ex-boyfriend, Otto, is trying everything to become an actor, and Daniel, the sexy neighbor, doesn't even need a casting couch to get naked.
So what’s the catch with Mr. Brander? Could it be that movies about Hollywood don’t tell the whole truth? But what does that mean for Russel’s soul?
Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams, a companion book to Brent Hartinger’s The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, is a fast-paced, funny story about the price of fame in Hollywood: the hilarious lengths people will go to achieve it, and the touching secret to survival when things don’t work out exactly as planned.

Todd's rating:

I tend to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Russel Middlebrook.

He's sort of funny, sort of whiny, he lives in his head way too much and can be a bit selfish, but I generally fall on the love side more than the hate.

Except this time.

I really didn't care for Russel this time at all. Maybe it was the LA setting, where he got sucked up in that town's inane, superficial bullshit.

Or maybe it was the fact that (the truly awesome) Kevin gave up his job in Seattle to accompany Russel to LA to follow his (fairly sudden) "lifelong" dream to become a scriptwriter, only to be mostly ignored by Russel in favor of his own dramatics.

For all intents and purposes in this story, Kevin was the accessory-equivalent of a man purse.

It's pretty and you leave it in the closet until you feel like taking it out and putting it on your arm for a spin around town, but for the most part, it's left to its own devices.

Plus, Russel was so singly-focused on getting his movie produced that when Kevin said anything that he didn't want to hear, Russel's knee jerk reaction was to emotionally gut punch Kevin.

Bad form, Russel. Not a fan of that thoughtless fuckery. Losing points rapidly here.

This book felt different for me in that, while in most of the previous books, Kevin's attentions were (somewhat) focused on his connection to either Kevin or Otto, this book was much less romance and much more blind ambition.

It may be that I live too close to LA and am not a fan of the town's superiority complex or the moral wasteland of the film industry, but the plot in general bored me. Badly.

The only part of this story that really made me sit up straight in my seat were the parts with Daniel, their mysterious 18 y.o. cockily handsome neighbor.

He obviously had something going on in his head that he was trying to figure out, gay baiting the two new "maricóns" (his word) who'd moved into his apartment building.

However, he was only used as a piece of (semi-underage) eye candy, waved in the readers face for titillation in this story.
Squirrel! SQUIRREL!!!
But then when the reader was hooked and wanted to know more, Daniel was simply written out of the story and tossed (off-page) into the grist mill of LA gay pornography which left me highly-annoyed.

WHAT became of Daniel??? Inquiring minds and all that...

Yes, Daniel's story I wanted, while Russel's story I wanted to be over.

As in past fashion for the Russel books, any time that there could have been a sexy scene, it was mostly glossed over, which is a shame. In the new Futon reboot, Russel is an adult, as are most of his readers at this point, so a bit of *actual* sex on page would be a welcomed addition to his stories.

And "feels". We mustn't forget those. Even though the book occasionally tried to make me feel the love between Russel and Kevin, those attempts felt like filler more than feels to me.
"Oh yeah, they're *supposed* to be in love, so let's try to work that in somewhere. But not here. Russel's career is on a roll." (Yawn.)

Also, one thing that I found odd is that Russel's best friends, Gunnar and Minh weren't even *mentioned* in this book. Not even once.

After Gunnar's great "bigfoot adventure" in the last book (insert eye roll here,) I didn't miss him at all, but I did miss Minh. I would have much rather Russel picked up the phone to piss and moan about his issues than snapping Kevin's head off. Just sayin'.

So long story short, this book was well-written, per usual, but didn't hold my attention -- except for the more interesting potential of the Daniel sub-plot.

I'm praying Russel and Kevin move back to Seattle and become 'real people' again in the next book. They could even rescue Daniel from himself on their way out of town. Feel free. ;- )

But if they stay in LA and the next book simply fucks with their happy ending, I see the '2 1/2 *GTFO-of-LA* stars' trend continuing for me.

** My copy of this ARC was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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