The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

8942147“We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours.” With these words, spoken by an illegal Mexican day laborer, The Madonnas of Echo Park takes us into the unseen world of Los Angeles, following the men and women who cook the meals, clean the homes, and struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream.


The Madonnas of Echo Park is a collection of short stories by Mexican American writer Brando Skyhorse. Although I seldom review short stories on this blog, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to pay homage to such beautiful work of literature.

Having won both the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, this novel really lives up to its hype. Each chapter is a different story told in first person in a beautifully crafted prose highlighting the intersections and clashes of American and Mexican culture.

In Los Angeles, you could rent an apartment, buy groceries, cash checks, and socialize, all in Spanish.

The Madonnas of Echo Park tells the stories of Mexican Americans in the constantly changing landscape of Los Angeles’s Echo Park neighborhood, a predominantly Latino community. This novel compiles a collection of interrelated stories that are heavily character-driven and that leave you contemplating the themes present in each story long after you finish reading the book.

“Faith is a luxury for those who are able to ignore what the rest of us must see every day. Pessimism, distrust, and irony are the holy trinity of my religion, irony in particular.”

“The time between your first major fight with your best friend until you make up is, for a teenage girl, about as long as it took for God to create the universe. . . . It’s excellent training for having a boyfriend.”


Format: Paperback240 pages
Published: February 8th, 2011 by Free Press (first published June 1st, 2010)
ISBN: 1439170843
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fiction

Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira

36692151It’s 2072, and lunar helium-3 mining is powering the fusion reactors that are bringing Earth back from environmental disaster. But competing for the richest prize in the history of the world has destroyed the oldest rule in space: Safety for All. When a bomb kills one of Dechert’s diggers on Mare Serenitatis, the haunted veteran goes on the hunt to expose the culprit before more blood is spilled. But as Dechert races to solve the first murder in the history of the Moon, he gets caught in the crosshairs of two global powers spoiling for a fight. Reluctant to be the match that lights this powder-keg, Dechert knows his life and those of his crew are meaningless to the politicians. Even worse, he knows the killer is still out there, hunting. In his desperate attempts to save his crew and prevent the catastrophe he sees coming, the former Marine uncovers a dangerous conspiracy that, with one spark, can ignite a full lunar war, wipe out his team . . . and perhaps plunge the Earth back into darkness.


In 2072 the moon is populated by several international companies mining the moon’s soil for a substance known as Helium-3, a nonradioactive solar isotope that is easily contained and used to power reactors on Earth.

Caden Dechert is in charge of the American mining company. Things appeared to be running smoothly until one of Dechert’s crew member is found dead. Suspecting that the death was not an accident, Dechert races against time to find out the truth behind this lunar murder.

The gunpowder smell of moondust filled his nostrils, and his head hurt too much to work the mystery.

Gunpowder Moon is my sci-fi monthly book club pick, and I have to say I’m pleased we chose this novel. Sci-fi meets whodunnit mystery, Pedreira’s writing keeps you guessing until the end in this fast-paced story. I particularly enjoyed the tension he built in the book. As for character development, Dechert was by far the best. All the other characters felt a bit flat throughout the story. Pedreira did an excellent job researching the topic and moving the story nicely. This is not a very long book, and at times I wished that the sci-fi parts regarding the moon had been better explored. Overall, Gunpowder Moon was an interesting read.

That’s the moon, commissioner: hours of boredom followed by a few seconds of terror.


Format: Paperback, 289 pages
Published: February 13th, 2018 by Harper Voyager
ISBN: 0062676083
Source: Library loan
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Sci-fi, Mystery

The Sunday Post/Book Haul

IMG_1619The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. A post to recap the past week, and share news about the upcoming week. First Sunday of the month is also book haul Sunday. My monthly book haul is where I take an account of all the books I have acquired this past April. I don’t review all the books I read. Some books I’ll write a small review on Goodreads, some I’ll just rate, and some reviews I’ll publish on this blog. I list books I acquired through purchase, library loans, monthly book box subscription, ARCs, as well as books received from authors. My TBR list continues to grow and I’m hoping to get through most of these titles by the next book haul at the end of May.

Book Haul 3

HARDCOVERS

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I’m excited about reading The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell. This is the story of a Rachel Monroe a twenty-six-year-old girl who has a secret—she can make people’s wishes come true. Unfortunately, sometimes granting people’s wishes can be disastrous, so Rachael leaves her hometown and finds herself in Nowhere, North Carolina.

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The Turn by Kim Harrison is the prequel to her series Hollow. In this prequel Trisk, and her rival Kal have a single goal—to save their species from extinction. When a genetically modified tomato created to feed the world is combined with a virus, a plague rises giving the paranormal species the choice to stay hidden and allow humanity to die or to show themselves in a bid to save the human race.

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I have very mixed feelings about reading Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott. Being a nurse, I have never gravitated toward books about disease and illness. Dealing with the sick and the dying is part of my day job and one of the things I love about books is that they transport me to another world. Every now and then I’ll take a chance on a book that deals with topics of illness and hospitalizations. Five Feet Apart is the story of Stella Grant, a teenager suffering from cystic fibrosis. Stella is more than used to keeping people away and avoiding infections or anything that can threaten her chances of getting a lung transplant. One day she meets Will Newman, a kid who is the complete opposite of her. I sense this one will be a heartbreaker.

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Emily A. Duncan’s Wicked Saints came in my Owlcrate box for the month of April. I’ve been hearing a lot of good hype about this book which is the number one in the Dark and Holy series. This is the story of a girl who can speak to gods and now must save her people without destroying herself.

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Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson is the story of three women who on the eve of 9/11 realize that in order to survive, they’ll have to stick together.

PAPERBACKS

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I have been meaning to read The Stand by Stephen King for years. In this Horror, meets sci-fi, meets fantasy a patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks.

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The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson is book one in the Mistborn series. I’m more than thrilled to read this book. I have heard so many great things about this series and this book in particular.

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Another book by Brandon Sanderson that I have been dying to read for the past at least three years is The Way of Kings, book one of The Stormlight Archive.  It took Sanderson ten years of planning, writing, and world building. I can’t wait!

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Probably one of my boldest literary endeavors this year. I have been intimidated by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace for so many years that finally as one of my New Year’s resolution I have decided that this year of 2019 I was going to bite the bullet and tackle this big boy. This will not be my first time reading Tolstoy. I’ve read Anna Karenina and didn’t think it was that bad, so fingers crossed!

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Another book that first called my attention because of the beautiful cover was The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I have heard so many wonderful things about this book that I really need to check this one out.

What We Do for Love by Anne Pfeffer

What We Do for Love is a book by Anne Pfeffer I will be reviewing soon as part of a blog tour I’m doing with iRead Blog Tours. Looks interesting, loved the cover, let’s see!

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The Song of Jade and Lily by Kirsty Manning is another beautiful cover I’ll be reviewing soon as part of a blog tour with TLC book tours.

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The Mister by E.L. James seems like an interesting book, Let’s see if he can write more than Fifty Shades.

ARCs

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I received Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale (NetGalley)

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One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski (NetGalley)

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Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz (NetGalley)

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All Of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil (Edelweiss)

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Mom’s Perfect Boyfriend by Crystal Hemmingway

LIBRARY LOANS

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Murder Past Due by Miranda Jones. Book one in a Cat in The Stacks Mystery

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The Overstory by Richard Powers

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Gunpowder Moon by David Pereira

AUDIOBOOKS

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Magyk by Angie Sage. Book one in the Septimus Heap series.


Have you read any of these titles? Any particular opinion on them? Please let me know on the comments below and HAPPY READING! 🙂

 

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

6288A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.


The Road starts in a post-apocalyptic world that explains very little if any of what the apocalyptic event was. Father and son are traveling through burned America. The land is full of ash and devoid of life, so to avoid the harsh winter, father and son set out to the coast. They have minimal possessions except for a revolver to protect them from “the bad guys”–the cannibals. Father and son endure several episodes of starvation and struggles trying to survive until they reach the coast.

The Road is a small book I read in a couple of hours. It’s a relatively simple book with a minimal plot. I was astounded to find out it had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007. Even more surprising to me was the amount of five and four-star reviews this book received on Goodreads.

One thing I love about literary fiction is its ability to free-flow and not follow grammatical rules to dictate its pursuit of more poetic prose. Unfortunately, I didn’t think this book was particularly poetic. McCarthy took a lot of freedom in his writing. Sometimes it worked, but for the majority of the book, it didn’t. I was annoyed at his lack of parentheses and lack of dialogue attribute, which made understanding who was saying what difficult at times. As far as dialogue goes the ones in this book were the simplest I’ve read in a long time.

Can I ask you something?

Yes. Of course.

Are we going to die?

Sometime. Not now.

And we’re still going south.

Yes.

So we’ll be warm.

Yes.

Okay.

Okay what?

Nothing. Just okay.

Go to sleep.

Okay.

The fact that The Road offers no answers whatsoever did not bother me at all. One redeeming quality of this novel was the bond between father and son. In a world where nothing is left, all they had were their love for each other.

You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.

I’m ready to forget this novel–wait! I already did.


Format: Kindle, 324 pages.
Published: March 20th, 2007 by Vintage (first published September 26th, 2006)
ASIN: B000OI0G1Q
Source: Library loan
Rating: 2 stars
Genre: Literary Fiction, Sci-Fi

Death in Kew Gardens by Jennifer Ashley

41867421In return for a random act of kindness, scholar Li Bai Chang presents young cook Kat Holloway with a rare and precious gift—a box of tea. Kat thinks no more of her unusual visitor until two days later when the kitchen erupts with the news that Lady Cynthia’s next-door neighbor has been murdered. Known about London as an “Old China Hand,” the victim claimed to be an expert in the language and customs of China, acting as an intermediary for merchants and government officials. But Sir Jacob’s dealings were not what they seemed, and when the authorities accuse Mr. Li of the crime, Kat and Daniel find themselves embroiled in a world of deadly secrets that reach from the gilded homes of Mayfair to the beautiful wonder of Kew Gardens.


Death in Kew Gardens is Jennifer Ashley’s third book in the Below Stairs Mysteries, featuring the fantastic Kat Holloway. The book starts with Kat, a cook who works for a wealthy family in Victorian England. One day Kat receives a gift from a mysterious Chinese man in return for an act of kindness. It is a rare box of tea, and that same night Kat’s next door neighbor, Sir Jacob Harkness is found dead. The secret Chinese man becomes a prime suspect, and now Kat and Daniel must run against time to find the murderer.

I did not read book one or book two and some of you, who have followed my reviews, know that I don’t particularly enjoy reading books that belong to a series I’ve never read before. Let me tell you that Death in Kew Gardens is an exception to that rule. Although it would’ve been lovely to know more about Kat and Daniel, I felt this story holds on its own just fine. Kat is such a robust character that I was able to get a sense of her even though I barely knew her background.

Death in Kew Gardens reminded me of both Downton Abbey and Grand Hotel, with a touch of Agatha Christie. I will definitely be reading the forerunners in this series and anxiously await for book number four.

I would like to thank Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: e-ARC
Published: Expected publication June 4th, 2019 by Berkley
ASIN: B07H73KSQT
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction