Book Review: Jesus and Magdalene

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.

Book Review: Aftershocks

Title: Aftershocks
Author: Marko Kloos
Genre: Sci-fi, Military Sci-fi, Space Opera
Year Published: 2019

Aftershocks by Marko Kloos is a military sci-fi novel following four characters. The main character, Aden, a POW on a foreign planet, is freed and makes his trek to a new home. Things don’t go as planned and he ends up working for another group of people under a fake identity.

The other characters are minor to Aden, but they equally share their stories: Solvieg, a young vice president of her father’s business has just started her position when terrorists attack her city. She’s also Aden’s younger sister; Idina, a ground soldier whose team was destroyed in an ambush; and, Dunstan, a fleet captain whose cargo ship also comes under attack.

The story is about interplanetary treaties and things going awry when one or more groups choose not to keep their word. Those on the planets agreed to work together due to limited resources, but due to power control, the planets with the most resources have the upper hand and those in charge then manipulate the others, leading to confusion as to who started what and who to trust.

This is book one of The Palladium Wars. The ending was a cliffhanger which makes sense being that it will continue in future books.

I enjoyed the military and space opera writing. Kloos is an amazing in-depth military storyteller. I loved all the details and space/military terms. It was well done. I thought Aden was put together well. I like how his story started and where it ended. Dunstan wasn’t so bad either. He didn’t have a lot of chapters but I’m guessing there will be more of him in the following books. What I didn’t enjoy so much were the two female characters. Idina was tough at the beginning but then her character changed. I wasn’t sure what role she played after the ambush. And, Solvieg seemed way too young to be vice president of a large company. She’s 23 and came aross clueless. Initially, it came across as though she worked hard for the position but then as her story grew, it felt more like she was handed the position. I wasn’t sure if that was the point or if she was meant to be a strong, intelligent character.

Overall, it was a good read.

Book Review: The Pale Dreamer

Title: The Pale Dreamer
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Sci-fi, paranormal, new adult
Year Published: 2016

The Pale Dreamer by Samantha Shannon is a prequel novella to The Bone Season series. It gives us a taste of Paige Mahoney’s first job with mime-lord, Jaxon Hall. The story takes place when Paige is sixteen, three years before The Bone Season.

In this story, Paige is given the opportunity to use her ability as a dreamwalker to prove to the mime-lord and her cohorts that she is worthy of working with them. The job was to track down a poltergeist as a team. It turns out, Paige did a lot more than what she thought she could do and what the others thought she was capable of. This gets Jaxon’s attention and he makes her an offer she can’t refuse.

I read The Bone Season series up to book three (The Song Rising). Book four is not out yet but should be later this year. The Pale Dreamer was a free download from the publisher on Instagram. I had plans to read this novella but kept forgetting and new books kept being added to my TBR list pushing this one even further back. I’m glad that I came across the ad. It was worth it to know how Paige joined Jaxon’s team of clairvoyants and how she became his most important member.

Book Review: Robinson’s Dream

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.

Book Review: The Whispers of War

The Whispers of War by Julia Kelley is a historical fiction about three friends during WWII in London. It is a story of unrelenting friendship during one of the hardest times in history.

Hazel, Nora, and Marie were roommates in school as young girls and continued their friendship into adulthood. Due to the war, Marie learns that she could be deported, or even worse, be removed to a camp for Germans who were a threat. The friends stick together and help Marie through this scary time.

I found the story a little too slow and not strong enough. The women didn’t have a lot of depth to them. The only one I felt had a strong story was Hazel. Her relationship with her husband was unstable and it was due to her trusting her friends more and spending a lot more time with them then him. I felt his frustration and felt bad for him. He tried to make it work and nothing he did could fix their marriage because she was already set on leaving him. I found it odd how easily he let her go though and how she did’t feel anything for him.

The writing was beautiful as always. The world building wasn’t bad. Loved the way the characters spoke and dressed. However, the characters really just weren’t created strong enough and that was unfortunate. There was a lot of back and forth and little things happening here and there without much movement forward dragging the story on. It felt like it was done purposely to fill the pages. I think the story could have been tightened up a little bit.

Book Review: The Last Man

The Last Man by Mary Shelley is about a plague that killed everyone in the world but one man. The story is through the eyes of a man named, Lionel. It is uniquely done with just mostly telling, but it’s done quite well. Shelley is a beautiful writer.

When I first started the story, I thought the MC was female. When I learned she was a he, I had to go back and read a few things I thought didn’t make a lot of sense (which then made sense afterwards). I found the technology lacking. It was the year 2098. They were still using horse and buggy, carriages, and horses to go places. And, lamps were used often. No electricity. This was all before the plague hit. Shelley hinted at technology but then said that horse and buggy was faster transportation. That kind of fooled with me since I tend to see cars and flying things (including flying cars and hover bikes, etc.) in 2098. Aside from these two things, I actually enjoyed it.

Book: Robinson’s Dream

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.

The cover of this book is eye catching.

Books From B&N

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.

Book Review: King Clown

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Loved how Adam talked about his children and siblings, especially his sister. She reminded me of someone in my family.
  3. 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:

  1. Parts dragged on and on, mostly at the beginning. I think that’s why it took me longer than normal to finish.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.

Book Review: American Dirt

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.