This book was sent to me to review. I’m really excited to get started. Right now I’m reading The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton and hope to finish within the next day or so. I’ll get started on The Whispers of War next and then Robinson’s Dream after that. With all this time home and nowhere to go, I should be able to move through the books faster.
I went to the Barnes & Noble Book Club meetup yesterday to go over the selected book, American Dirt. You can read my review here. It was interesting because I felt like I had to defend the Mexicans (and to think I was bullied by them growing up), not the ones in the story, but the real ones. Thankfully, the meet wasn’t crazy like what our moderator told us about one at a different store. The moderator said they had security guards and called in police officers because it got way heated. Ours was very laid back. Most the ladies (unfortunately, we didn’t and don’t have any men attending) are older and/or retired. This meet was one of the more interesting meets, I’d have to say.
I bypassed purchasing the next book for the book club because I’ll probably buy the ebook instead, that’s if I do attend the next one. However, I did buy these other books.
Heard good stuff about A Man Called Ove. It was made into a movie in 2015 (Swedish), but there is a remake in the works with Tom Hanks as the main character. Also heard good stuff about The Tattooist of Auschwitz. These two books were buy-one-get-one-at-50%-off, and it’s probably not that great of a deal but, why not. As for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, my 12th grader asked for this book. She didn’t say why, just that she wanted to read it. I haven’t read it myself, so maybe I’ll add it to my TBR list.
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.
I won The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly on Goodreads. I read Kelly’s other book, The Light Over London a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. Her writing style is superb and really puts you into the story. She also has fabulous covers. They depict the era so perfectly. I can’t wait to get started on this one.
A couple of weeks ago, I picked up the book, The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood at Barnes & Noble. It was B&N’s book club pick and I’ve never gone to a book club before so I figured I’d give this one a go. The book club experience was really enjoyable. I was super nervous but the others made it very welcoming. Our facilitator was also pretty cool. Her questions got us all thinking. I wasn’t able to finish the book before attending but we still had good and debatable conversations about it. A few days later I finished the book and found myself completely immersed and loving it.
The Testaments is the second book to The Handmaid’s Tale. I read The Handmaid’s Tale five years ago and liked it but it wasn’t as powerful as this one. And since it’s been awhile, I really can’t remember the details or the characters. What I do remember is that it was from one character’s point-of-view and the world she lived in was completely controlled.
The Testaments is written in first-person point-of-view through three female characters and tells their story. At first, I wasn’t so sure I liked the idea but as the story moved along, I began to really enjoy it. The Testaments is right up there with 1984 and Brave New World, and even A Clockwork Orange. Atwood mentioned something along the lines of, “2+2 sometimes equals 4.” In 1984, 2+2 always equals 5.
The Testaments is a powerful story about totalitarian in a dystopian society in what was once New England. It’s about control going awry and how three women, but mainly one strong woman with a plan to save the two from losing their lives and bringing down the Republic of Gilead.
When I purchased the book, I saw this notebook with the cover from The Handmaid’s Tale and just had to have it. I don’t have the book though (borrowed it from the library). Not sure what I’ll be using the notebook for.
Title: Charlotte’s Web
Author: E. B. White
Genre: Children, Fiction, Classic
This classic is about a pig who’s life gets saved by a spider.
I’ve read this book to my oldest when she was younger and now have also read with my youngest. After we read the book we watched the movie. I also watched the movie with my oldest when we finished the book. At the time, when I watched it with my oldest, my youngest was too young to enjoy the movie so when the camera zoomed in on the spider’s face, she got scared and couldn’t watch it. This time of course she was fascinated by the spider.
Title: In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom
Author: Yeonmi Park
Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction
This is a memoir about the author’s life in North Korea and her escape across China, Mongolia, and eventually to South Korea, and then to the United States.
This memoir was an eye-opener about North Korea. I enjoyed it, although I found the usage of, “we Koreans….” this and that, annoying. I’m glad that the author found her way to freedom. The world we live in is strange. Some of us have freedom and some of us don’t even know and will never know what freedom feels like.