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#TuesdayBookBlog NOT HERE: A DINA OSTICA NOVEL (Dina Ostica Series Book 1) by Genevieve Novoco (@GNocovo) #RBRT For lovers of the movie Chinatown and strong female protagonists.

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that resonated with me for many reasons. I hope it piques your interest as well.

Not Here: A Novel by Genevieve Nocovo

Not Here: A Dina Ostica Novel (Dina Ostica Series Book 1) by Genevieve Nocovo. Loved the movie Chinatown? Love San Francisco and female protagonists? This is your novel!

Would you surrender your free will to save your life?
A city in turmoil. A neighbor disappears. When her concerns are written off, Dina investigates on her own — and becomes a target, at the mercy of those in control…

In San Francisco, where the poor are systematically displaced by well-off yuppies, Dina Ostica is part of the problem. The damaged, determined twenty-three-year-old scrambles to make a name for herself in the burgeoning world of podcasting, with the city as her muse. She is hell-bent on professional success, thinking it will mend her broken spirit.
But when her go-to source on local history disappears without warning, she begins to uncover an uncanny pattern that hits too close to home, getting her tied up in the city’s underbelly.
What follows is a gritty tale of exploitation, betrayal, and the strength one needs to survive the whims of those in power.
Will Dina escape or fall victim to the injustice chewing up the city?
If you love contemporary thrillers with strong female protagonists, don’t miss this read!

Author Genevieve Nocovo
Author Genevieve Nocovo

About the author:

Genevieve Nocovo lives in San Francisco, hikes the city streets, and soaks up the fog. A real-life conflict with city development, a love of thrillers, and the yearning for a bold-yet-relatable female protagonist inspired the Dina Ostica novels.

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is the first novel published by this author, and although it might not be to everybody’s taste, I found it an intense and gripping book that deals with important topics. And I was fascinated by the portrayal of the protagonist.

I was intrigued by the description of the novel because I do like the promise of a strong protagonist (although it does not always work, I did like Dina), and because the topic promised something a bit different to the usual thriller. No serial killer, no small-town setting, but a narrative closely linked to a time, a place, and a social issue. Any reader who lives, or has lived, in a city, knows how expensive it is to secure accommodation in a safe neighbourhood, and what a cut-throat world property development can be. In this novel, set in San Francisco, that is literally so. The fact that the protagonist was trying to make a name for herself in the world of podcasting, added to the interest for me, as I’ve always interested in radio and, in my mind at least, podcasts are closely linked to the immediacy of radio, especially to the programmes broadcast by local radio stations.

The story is told in the third person from Dina’s point of view. And it is a very interesting choice, because at times it feels like a first-person narrative (there are plenty of descriptions, although brief, of things like the clothes the protagonist is wearing, and the drinks she makes… She likes tea, and I’d dare say her choice of tea at any point is a clear indication of what her mental state is like at the time); it manages to capture perfectly the tone of character’s thoughts, her fears and anxieties, gives readers a good insight into her mind and feelings, while at the same time offering an outside perspective, an observer’s point of view. I might be stretching it here, but I felt that this is the way Dina sees herself. She is a young woman who has undergone a very traumatic experience and went through a period of depression following it. Now, determined to survive and get back on her feet, but also to never be a victim again, she is always on alert, observes things and people around her, never quite trusting what they say, or her own actions and reactions, second-guessing others and her own motives, ready to flee at the slightest hint of risk, but working hard to rebuild her life. She is not going to take it lying down. She joins a gym and self-defense classes (well, an interesting combination of martial arts and fighting that introduces action scenes and another setting that proves very important to the story). She is determined to make her podcast a success and wants to pursue stories that are important for the people around her, rather than those that might bring her commercial and financial success. Although she is cautious, due to her previous experience, she puts others’ needs ahead of hers, and never hesitates to step up to help others and offer her support, even when it might be dangerous. Her reactions to what happens to her in the story (that, in a way, mirrors her abuse, at least in her head) are totally believable and they match the defence mechanisms she has put in place.  I don’t usually do trigger warnings, but I feel survivors of domestic violence and abuse might find it a hard read. On the other hand, she has moments of desperation but she never gives up fighting, and she is a compelling and inspiring human being rather than a one-dimensional cut-out.

I felt the psychological side of the story, and the insights into Dina’s thoughts and reactions were very well done —there is no magical cure here, no saviour that comes along and sorts everything for our protagonist, and she does not fall for the first person coming along either, no matter how attractive he might be— and although some of the story elements stretch somewhat the imagination (and test the suspension of disbelief, but when we think about true stories we have heard or read, we soon realise that they are not as far-fetched as at first they might appear), the author manages to create a compelling and cohesive story from diverse strands: the world of podcasting, the city and property development, homelessness and crime in San Francisco, abuse and domestic violence, cage-fighting, police corruption, local government conspiracies…

This is not a light read, and there are hardly any moments when the tension loosens up. No light relief present either, and readers need to be prepared to experience a gamut of uncomfortable emotions, that succeed each other at a fast —take-no-prisoners– pace, especially towards the end of the novel.  I’ve mentioned already the descriptions that might not suit all readers. The author ignores Stephen King’s warning about adverbs, and although I have never been too worried about it, I admit it might give one pause, especially when they stray away from the most neutral and commonly used. But other than that, the book is written in straightforward style, it flows well, and it shows a good knowledge of the city and the topics without going overboard and “telling” too much.

I’d recommend this book to people looking for a different kind of thriller and a strong female survivor as a protagonist. Not a superhero, but a young woman determined to make it and an inspiration for readers familiar with these feelings and experiences. I kept thinking about Chinatown as I read this novel (perhaps because of the focus on local politics and speculation) and although it is set in a different city and historical time, if you enjoyed the plot of that story, love San Francisco, and are keen on a dark urban setting, you should try it. I can see this author going from strength to strength, and as this is the first in the series, I look forward to seeing what Dina does next.

Thanks to Rosie and her group, to the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and to keep smiling!


By OlgaNunez

I was born in Barcelona and after living in the UK for many years have now returned home. I teach English, volunteer at Sants 3 Ràdio, a local radio station, I'm a writer, translator (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and I'm a medical doctor and worked in Forensic Psychiatry many years. I also have a BA and a PhD in American Literature and Film, and a Masters in Criminology. I've always loved books and apart from writing them I review them often.
I write a bit of everything, check my books for more information and my about page for links.
My blog is bilingual, English and Spanish.

10 replies on “#TuesdayBookBlog NOT HERE: A DINA OSTICA NOVEL (Dina Ostica Series Book 1) by Genevieve Novoco (@GNocovo) #RBRT For lovers of the movie Chinatown and strong female protagonists.”

Great review, Olga. This sounds like something I would enjoy, especially the maintained tension. But knowing it is part of a series featuring the main character does tend to put me off. I much prefer a ‘complete’ novel. 🙂
(Is everyone writing ‘series’ books these days?)
Best wishes, Pete.

Thanks, Pete. The series aspect should not detract from the story, because this is the first one and it is complete in itself. The girl is recruited by a female PI at the end, so yes, that opens up the door for future adventures, but I guess each book would be independent. To be honest, Pete, I understand your complaint, but as writer, it is a bit like going back to old friends and not having to worry about the background but being able to focus on the adventure itself, especially if you write in certain genres. Readers also get to make friends with the characters and some enjoy seeing what their favorite characters are up to. And yes, series do tend to sell better, especially because you can do things like offer the first title in a series at reduced price or free, to give readers a taster and decide if they want to keep reading or not. Ultimately, it is up to the readers. If they decide not to buy books in a series, authors will focus on writing single stories, but it is nothing new (Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Dickens…) And the TV has also made people get used to serializations.
Have a good Tuesday. And yes, I think you’d enjoy this one.

Thank you for the thoughtful review! The above conversation regarding the pros and cons of a series is interesting. As Olga states, Not Here is meant to be a complete tale with a satisfying ending. In future books, Dina will mature and grow stronger as she takes on a new layers of the underworld.

Thanks, Genevieve. I enjoyed the story and I feel Dina has a lot of scope for development, rather than being a “type” that you feel you know already, and you’ve read plenty of similar stories about. I hope I can catch up with more of her adventures in the future. Good luck!

Thanks, Robbie. King is not alone in advising writers to use adverbs sparingly if at all (and there goes sparingly). As a translator, I notice that some writers seem to use them to describe something that either does not need to be explained, or could be conveyed in a better way, perhaps, but I do feel they have a role. (If somebody writes that a character said something “ironically”, well, either it is evident from what they said, and then why say it, or it is not, and in that case, adding ironically will not make it so. This is not what the author does in this novel, but perhaps because many authors seem to have taken the advice to heart, it’s not common to find many in most standard genre books). I hope you give it a go, Robbie. I think you’d find the story and the characters interesting.

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