Title: Off the Furrow Author: Mark Lages Genre: Literary Fiction Year Published: 2021
Date finished: June 5, 2021
Off the Furrow by Mark Lages is a story about a man named Howard Mirth who suffers from a mental illness and was admitted to the hospital. Howard is, overall, a normal person with a normal family life and a good job. He goes through bouts of schizophrenia where it leaves you feeling both sad and sorry for him, but you also laugh with him and at his humor. He questions life and humanity, and it makes you wonder the same things.
Wow. I loved this book. There was a lot to take in, but every chapter had meaning. My favorite chapter was 34, when Howard called his uncle. I enjoyed the whole book, but that chapter was really deep. I found the humor and jokes throughout the book just simply hilarious. Some (maybe most) were dark humor but that’s what I like about this author’s style. This book is relatable to just about everyone. Every character has a flaw, and you can probably find yourself in one of them.
Who should read this book: If you like literary stories about man vs. self, mental illness, family dynamics, and life lessons, this is for you. Also, if you like the style of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, you’ll definitely enjoy this.
Title: The Looking Glass Author: H.L. Sudler Genre: Contemporary Romance Year Published: March 2021
Date finished: April 14, 2021
This was a quick and short read. It’s a story about love and coming to terms with a friendship. I really enjoyed it. Wasn’t expecting to read something like this but I liked the characters and the way the story ended. It’s a well written story.
Since it’s a really short read and I don’t want to give anything away, let’s just say, the author did an excellent job with the surprise.
Who should read this book: As mentioned, it’s a short story, so it’s worth a read. It’s an eye opener and may challenge you to really see life from a different perspective.
Note: I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway, but the opinion is purely my own.
Title: Jonathan’s Vows Author: Mark Lages Genre: Literary fiction Year Published: 2021
Date finished: March 30, 2021
Jonathan’s Vows by Mark Lages is a literary fiction novel about a young man who is about to get married and is writing his vows. In the process he reflects on his life. The story begins with the wedding and leads to the honeymoon, to buying his first house, to having his first child, and so on. There is sort of a chronological order to this story yet includes stories that are out of order. And, it’s written like a memoir yet includes a second person point-of-view: his wife. This is uniquely done.
I loved this book! The style is very different from anything I’ve read. Lages took something so simple and created this beautiful story about a man’s journey through life—through ups and downs. In the end, you’re left feeling like life is okay. If you’re ever too hard on yourself, read this book. It will make you see yourself in a much kinder way. It put a smile on my face. I laughed at times and sympathized other times. It’s wonderfully written.
Who should read this book: Everyone. It’s a book that we can all learn from. There are no lessons to teach and there are no end goals. It’s a simple story about one man’s life, yet there is so much to get out of.
Title: A Man Called Ove Author: Fredrick Backman Genre: Literary Fiction Year Published: May 5, 2015
Date finished: December 29, 2020
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Bachman is a story about a 59-year-old man who’s done with life after his wife died and after he was replaced at his job. He comes across extremely grumpy. He’s irritated by strangers and the neighbor who keeps coming to his house asking for help. He attempts suicide multiple times, but his neighbor always shows up at the right time. At first, it’s hard to like him because he’s pretty grouchy and rude. However, there’s a reason for it. The backstory is interwoven throughout the story to create a character that’s understandable, relatable, and likeable.
I enjoyed this book. Sometimes, no matter what you do, life is just not fair. That’s Ove’s life. He just wasn’t blessed with a lot of luck and happiness and he still turned out to have a big heart.
Who should read this: Anyone searching for meaning in life, wondering about their own life, or just want to enjoy a book about love, friendship, and lessons.
Title: Theseus’ Lostness Author: Stefan Calin Genre: Fiction, Literary, Erotica Year Published: August 5, 2020
Theseus’ Lostness by Stefan Calin is the first book in The Journeys We Wander trilogy. The story is about a man named Allan who finds himself between two relationships. He seems to struggle with which woman to get closer to but eventually makes his decision after some soul searching.
Allan works at a newspaper agency as a reporter. The receptionist at the agency, Marry, is one of the women he’s attracted to. The other woman is named Ilsa. Ilsa was accused of murder and was hospitalized due to injuries during the altercation that allegedly led to the murders. The case was so popular that the agency sent Allan to interview Ilsa for her side of the story.
While Allan is with Ilsa at the hospital, he listens to her tell him the story about her relationship with the man who was murdered. As he listens to her and spends more time with her, he begins to fall for her. She was a free-spirit, adventurous, and willing to try different things. These qualities appealed to him and kept him excited each time he visited her. At times, she was abrupt and impatient and that clashed with him making him question why he went to visit her at all. At the same time, he was slowly beginning to have an interest in Marry. He’s worked with her for a while but suddenly was attracted to her. Marry’s character is very straight forward. She comes across a little stiff or cold because of that. Allan tries to spend time with Marry but finds that it’s not as easy as he’d thought.
I enjoyed this story. It’s not very long and took me a couple of days to finish. I had originally started it and then took a few days off to catch up on other things. When I returned to it, I started from the beginning again. Once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. I found the story of Allan and Ilsa very interesting. My personal opinion of Allan was that he took advantage of Ilsa after she opened his eyes to what he calls “freedom.” I liked how Ilsa went about it. She allowed him deep into her heart to see all the good and the bad about who she was. I think he was attracted to that and the fact that she was easy to get along with and open up to. She had a way with pulling him to her with her words and actions and he totally fell for it. But then on the other end, he knew she had less freedom than he did, and here he was selfishly wanting the one thing she gave someone else. Marry wasn’t so easy to get close to. She was the perfect girl with a stable job and lots of friends. There were hoops to jump through to get close to her so even though she liked Allan and he liked her, she made him work for their relationship. I think Allan kind of spoke for all guys when he didn’t pursue her as hard as he could have. It took too much effort for maybe, just maybe, a chance to date. And even then, the relationship might not last. I can’t say for sure what decision Allan will make in the end. There are two other books in this trilogy so I don’t know who he’ll will end up with.
The sexual tension/erotica was tastefully done and necessary. I really liked the foreshadow surrounding this part of the relationship.
The only thing that I really didn’t care for were the surface, unclear, going nowhere thoughts and wonders Allan had. He does a lot of reflecting about life. At one point he talks to the reader as though the reader is a friend. Sometimes he will talk about thoughts in general, but have it come across as though he is preaching. It’s almost as if he thinks the reader agrees with him or the reader already knows what he just concluded. It didn’t provide any deeper meanings as I think it was meant to do. I also found the title a little confusing. Theseus was a king in Greek mythology, but I don’t know if I may have missed something in the book that was associated to him. There was no reference of any sort, or if there were, I missed it. These things were just minor though. This story was interesting with a well-developed main character and theme.
If you’re looking to read a fast-paced book with slight tension buildup, interesting perspective, and well-written erotica scenes, this would be an excellent choice.
NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.
Title: An American Story Author: Mark Lages Genre: Fiction, Literary, Memoir Year Published: 2020
An American Story by Mark Lages is a fictional memoir about a man named Huey Baker. Huey tells us stories and experiences from his life and within it, he includes some satire, war stories, alcohol abuse stories, family dynamics, and many other facets of his life. It is a story that some might find relatable, interesting—even amusing, maybe depressing, and possibly enlightening.
Huey Baker is your ordinary American, and his life is…pretty ordinary. However, there are things in life that he can’t control. Even the demons within himself are hard to keep at bay. Huey seems a bit rough on the outside, mostly in the way he thinks and in what he believes, but on a deeper level, he’s got a good heart. Huey also likes to tell stories so not everything in the book is about him. He shares quite a few life experiences from observation or from hearing it from someone else.
Lages writes with ease and flow and the story just spills out so smoothly that it’s easy to feel as though you are listening to a friend talk. The style is like comedy. If you listen to good comedy, you’ll find that the comedian will deviate from the main story and return to it here and there, finishing it off with the main point of the story. Speaking of comedy, there were some really funny stuff that had me laughing. I’d have to say, the joke about the names of the sons had me for a bit, but I did figure it out and it was an LOL moment. There were also a lot of sad stuff that broke my heart, like the kid and the toy. An American Story is the true essence of what it’s like to be an American, and the title fits it perfectly.
I enjoyed the read. It’s one of those stories that makes you think and wonder about life and being human. It’s made me more aware that we’re not perfect and that we should do our best to be kind and forgiving.
NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.
Title: Jesus and Magdalene Author: João Cerqueira Genre: Fiction, Literary, Satire, Contemporary Year Published: 2015, 2016
Jesus and Magdalene by João Cerqueira is a contemporary fiction with satire and thought-provoking points. The story follows Jesus and Mary Magdalene as they try to figure out how to stop environmental damage, greed, and racism.
In the story, Magdalene is an environmental activist working for a group known as Green Are the Fields. This group consists of the apostles and Jesus’s mother, Mary. Judas is the leader of the group and while everyone goes along with his plans, Magdalene somewhat begins to listen to Jesus on a different approach. Jesus isn’t part of the group. He comes into the picture a little later, appearing from thin air. Magdalene brings him along to where the group was camping near the farm where genetically modified (GM) corn was being grown. They were planning to destroy the crops, but Jesus told them it was better to teach the farmer about the effects of GM rather than destroy his property.
The story jumps from GM crops to a town where a resort was going up. The labor and services provided from the resort would in turn provide money to the townspeople and boost their economy. However, greed from the engineers led to a terribly built hotel and thus nothing came of that town.
Then, the story jumps to a future Europe where gypsies, blacks, and whites live among each other. Things were peaceful until one group began blaming the other and things ended badly for everyone, including Jesus and Magdalene.
This was a very interesting story. I found myself enjoying it. I’d have to agree that in our world today, if Jesus suddenly appeared, he would actually be like the Jesus described in the book. However, if he was born and raised from birth in our world today, I believe he would have found a way to do what he could to make the world a better place. It’s not that he wasn’t trying in the book, he just wasn’t given the momentum as he was given in the New Testament. With that said, what if Jesus is actually in our world today and doing just that (making a difference) and we just don’t realize it like the characters in the book?
There were a couple things I found lacking. One was that the three chapters had no real ending or resolution. The third chapter also ended very quickly with little explanation. And two, none of the chapters came together to form one cohesive story. That aside, I didn’t find either of these points to impede the message and the sarcasm of it all.
The book is a great conversation starter and worth the read. I didn’t get the feel that the author was forcing anything onto me. It was satire at its finest. If you are faithfully religious, I’d recommend reading it with an open mind.
NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.
Robinson’s Dream is about a couple who thought they did everything right raising their teenage son only to find out that their efforts really didn’t pay off as expected. Their son found himself in a mess and they weren’t sure how to approach the situation. The husband (Robinson) and wife decide to sleep on it, and while doing so, Robinson falls into a dream and dreams within dreams of strange events having to do with his fears, anxieties, his son, family members, friends, and a kaleidoscope of other things.
Like Lages’s other book, King Clown, this book has a similar style, however, the pacing was much better in this one. From start to finish, I was immersed. There’s really not a huge plot or rising actions. It is a story of situations that take place without an obvious climax but still gets the message across. The humor is excellent. A lot of it is dark but well done. I laughed my heart out. The story itself is not very serious but the messages are. It’s just a wonderful read and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to laugh and cry and think deep about life.
King Clown by Mark Lages is a literary fiction written in the form of a memoir. It is about a man named Adam Stern who has pneumonia and who ends up staying in the hospital for a few days. His time in the hospital is when we get to learn almost everything about who he is, from his childhood, to how he met his wife, to learning about his children, his friends, and so forth.
Reading this book was like listening to a stranger tell you his life, a stranger with humor and an unusual outlook on life. A lot of things/topics/situations Adam touched on were thought provoking. At times, I found myself putting the book down to ponder.
What I enjoyed about this book:
Mostly the humor. Adam seems really laid back. His experience in the hospital was spot on (except, I’ve always liked hospital food). He has a way with his imagination. The ins and outs of sleeping and waking, and not knowing if he was dreaming or awake was interesting. His dreams really cracked me up.
Loved how Adam talked about his children and siblings, especially his sister. She reminded me of someone in my family.
The joke near the end had me in tears…about the trash truck. I tried to tell my husband about it but started laughing so hard, it took forever.
What I didn’t enjoy so much:
Parts dragged on and on, mostly at the beginning. I think that’s why it took me longer than normal to finish.
There was a moment in there where I felt the author was coming out, trying to throw his spiritual beliefs at me. I get it. Adam isn’t young. He’s probably scared about the afterlife or the lack of an afterlife, but it felt less of the character feeling his fears and more of the author proving that believers are odd people. I think that could have been worked out a little differently.
The title. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to make fun of Adam or someone else. References were made to both, so I guess I’m still a little unsure there.
Overall, I enjoyed it. The style of this book reminded me of Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and I loved that book. This is a great read if you’d like something calm and humorous with very low rising actions (is that even possible?), no climax (unless leaving the hospital was the climax), and no resolution…yeah, pretty much the style of Slaughterhouse Five.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is a fiction modern story about a mother named Lydia who loses everything in a cartel shootout at her home. She and the only other survivor of her family, her son Luca, flee Mexico into the U.S. to escape the cartel leader who could potentially kill them both if they remain in Mexico. **There are spoilers in this review so if you haven’t read it and plan to, I would recommend not reading this review.**
This story is tense, a bit gory, and mature. It begins with action (the shootout) to grip the reader. It then leads into ups and downs of Lydia and Luca finding their way out of town and out of Mexico. About halfway in, the story begins to drag going into the backstory of two teenage sisters they meet. It continues to drag for the most part until near the end when the story picks up again.
What I enjoyed about the book:
Luca’s strength. I think his character could have been done better, but this isn’t to say it wasn’t done well. It was just okay. He was only eight and having to go through seeing his whole family murdered made him grow up real fast. Not only that, he had to endure seeing the things done to his mother and the sisters and many other things an eight-year-old shouldn’t have to see.
Soledad’s character. She was way too shy and afraid at first but when she went crazy, I felt that. I wanted her to be more crazy. I wanted her strength to really show.
The tension early on in the story, in the mountain/hills, and at the border was great. They were well written and had me eager to keep reading.
Loved Cummins’ writing style. The words flowed and created a story that, if it weren’t for the lack of research, would have truly captivated me.
Initially, I gave the book 4 stars on Goodreads.com. However, I thought more on it and decided to give it 3 stars for the following reasons.
Lydia didn’t feel real. It could be that because I grew up in a highly populated Mexican community, had Mexican friends, and worked with them as well, I know their strengths and weaknesses somewhat and Lydia felt more Asian (shy, quiet, keep to themselves, etc.) in her demeanor. She seemed very clueless and surprised at how the cartels operated, how sneaking on the trains worked, etc. Her character felt more like a tourist in a country she didn’t know very well, not a native.
All the Mexican males were either wanting to rape the three females or they were older and fatherly. Or, they were with one cartel or another. I wanted to see a good-hearted man who neither wanted to rape nor was part of a cartel. I don’t believe they are all bad.
Cummins wrote in the book that ALL Mexican illegal immigrants come to the U.S. because of some dealings with the drug cartels. This isn’t true and I hope others who read it don’t take this as a truth. I get the feeling Cummins is trying to make the reader sympathize with why Mexicans need to be in the U.S. illegally. She also mentioned something about more journalists were being murdered in Mexico during Trumps administration in 2017. I personally wish she’d left the political stuff and party favoritism out. It puts a sour taste in my mouth when an author favors any party and tries to shove it down the reader’s throat.
Lydia and Luca wanted to come to Denver where a distant uncle lived but the uncle and Denver weren’t mentioned again at the end. Also, Denver is a big city and there is a large Mexican population there and not all are illegals. Luca would have made lots of friends easily. If all the illegals were escaping the cartels, it would mean they’d all share a common story and help each other to survive in a foreign country, but that’s not so. There is a huge gap between Lydia and Lucas’s story and the reality of what’s really out there. I don’t claim to know everything and am open to learning facts, but this story was hinting at facts that wasn’t. I felt like it was a bit of propaganda because of the election coming, and it’s unfortunate because I really wanted to love this book.
If the cartel really wanted to go after Lydia and Luca, they’d find them in the U.S. or any country for that matter. Borders won’t stop them from getting what they want in a different country.
What I truly enjoyed about the story was the action and suspense. If the setting was in a post-apocalyptic world, the story and style would fit perfectly.