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

28220957

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.

31140515

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.

39939417

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.

36118682

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.

37959896

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

5864120

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.

6547258

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.

7235533

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!

3774496

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!

865293

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!

40042053

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.

43696048

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

ARCs

42303291

I received Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale (NetGalley)

42852598

One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski (NetGalley)

42931506

Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz (NetGalley)

40177227

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

44056241

Mom’s Perfect Boyfriend by Crystal Hemmingway

LIBRARY LOANS

7337871

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

40180098

The Overstory by Richard Powers

35271235

Gunpowder Moon by David Pereira

AUDIOBOOKS

769483

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

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders # 1) by Robin Hobb

618211Wizardwood, a sentient wood. The most precious commodity in the world. Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds. But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more.


Ship of Magic is book one in The Liveship Traders series. It tells the story of the Vestrit family of traders from Bingtown. The story starts with the death of the patriarch Ephron Vestrit who dies on the Vivacia. The Vivacia is the family ship and a liveship, a magical ship made of Wizardwood (a substance that gives the ship its magical properties). When Ephron dies on board of the Vivacia, it allows the vessel to “quicken,” meaning the ship comes to life and becomes a sentient being. Althea is Ephron’s youngest daughter and the one who should have inherited the ship, but much to her surprise Ephron gives the ship to his older daughter Keffria who subsequently gives it to her husband, Kyle. Althea and Kyle cannot stand each other, and since the Vivacia needs a blood relative of the Vestrits to operate, Kyle orders his son Wintrow, who wanted to become a priest, to come on board of the ship making the boy’s life miserable. Parallel to this story, we meet Kennit, an ambitious pirate who dreams of one day uniting all pirate townships and conquering all pirate ships including the Vivacia.

If the 80s American soap-opera Dynasty had a nautical version, it would be called Ship of Magic. The amount of family drama in this book is unlike anything I have read in a long time. The first fifty percent of the book is just bickering between all members of the Vestrit family, especially between Althea and Kyle.

The pace of the book is irritatingly languid. To quote Stephen King, ” When a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring’, the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with the powers of description and lost sight of his priority…” Indeed the majority of the book is descriptions of people and places to the point you wonder if anything is ever going to happen in this novel, or if this story even has a plot. Ship of Magic does have a plot, and things do eventually start happening but much later in the book, and by then I had read several other novels in between.

At a hefty eight hundred and eight pages, at the end of this book, you feel like you have been reading about Kyle, Althea, Wintrow, Vivacia, and trade families for years. That might have been Hobb’s idea all along since this is book one in the series and the introduction to all the characters and this magical, nautical world. I was happy to have stuck with it, and I actually loved the story all things concerned. However, if you enjoy your fantasy books a little faster paced, Ship of Magic might not be for you.


Format: Hardcover, 880 pages
Published: February 2nd, 1999 by Spectra (first published March 1998)
ISBN:0553575635
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

37912970Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle. But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….


Less than a perfect wife and mother, Alison is an attorney with a drinking problem who is having an affair with a co-worker, and she just landed her first murder case. She is married to Carl, a struggling therapist who is also a stay-at-home-dad and mother to five-year-old Matilda (Tilly). Alison’s life is spiraling down to a complete disaster, as her marriage to Carl is falling apart she struggles with her destructive drinking and sordid affair with Patrick. Faced with her first murder case to defend, will there be hopes for Alison to regenerate, save her marriage, and become the loving, present, mother her daughter Tilly deserves?

This is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat, can’t-put-it-down sort of thriller. Tyce gets you hooked from the prologue. There are no slow, boring parts. You are taken down the same sordid and destructive path that Alison takes. Blood Orange is the sort of novel where you can’t tell the bad guys from the good guys and nothing; absolutely nothing is what it seems. My only gripe with this novel is that half-way through the book I felt the plot reminded me of some elements of another great British novel, B.A. Paris’s The Breakdown. I don’t want to reveal too much in fear that I might spoil the fun. Blood Orange is Harriet Tyce’s debut novel.


Format: Hardcover, 340 pages
Published: February 21st, 2019 by Wildfire (first published January 10th, 2019
ISBN:1472252756
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Thriller

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

82192Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father’s true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift – the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning – the coming of King Arthur.


The Crystal Cave is book one in the Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart. Written in 1970, this is a book about Merlin. The famous wizard who played a crucial role in the birth and legend of King Arthur. I have been a fan of Arthurian stories for quite some time, and I was surprised that it took me so many years to read this book.

The book starts in Wales with Merlin still a child and the illegitimate son of a Welsh princess who refuses to name his father. Merlin grows up being ostracized for being a bastard, for having dark features (dark eyes and dark hair), and precognition abilities. All of these characteristics fed the myth that Merlin was the son of a demon. A claim that Stewart addresses later in the book.

The structure of the novel follows a first-person narrative told by Merlin and covers Merlin’s life from age six to when he becomes a young man. The book is divided into five parts. A prologue, part one (The Dove), which covers Merlin’s childhood, part two (The Falcon), a description of Merlin’s escape from his family, and his introduction to his magical studies by the hermit Galapas. Part three (The Red Dragon) relates to his time working with the High King Ambrosius and his rebuilding of Stonehenge. Part four (The Coming of The Bear) is the final part that relates to Merlin’s helping Uther Pendragon to seduce Ygraine, leading to the birth of King Arthur.

I truly enjoyed this novel and Stewart’s take on Merlin’s life. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

As to how this will be, it is with God. I can only tell you what I know. What powers is in me now is from him, and we are in his hands to make or to destroy. But I can tell you this also, Ygraine, that I have seen a bright fire burning, and in it a crown, and a sword standing in an altar like a cross.


Format: Hardcover, 527 pages
Published: June 1970 by William Morrow & Company Inc. (NY) (first published January 1st, 1970)
ISBN:0688013988
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

10803076As I Lay Dying starts with the family’s matriarch, Addie Bundren dying and looking out the window as her son Cash builds her coffin. The Bundren family live on a rural farm in Mississippi in the 1920s. After Addie dies, the family sets out on a journey to Jefferson, the place Addie wanted to be buried.  The trip is a difficult one because it is both long and the Bundrens are poverty-stricken. Anse is the husband determined to take his wife’s body to Jefferson, but when in reality plans on getting himself a new set of teeth. Dewey Dell is the daughter who has an agenda of her own. She wants to go to Jefferson because she is pregnant and intends to have an abortion. Cash is the carpenter of the family who built his mother’s coffin and plans on going to Jefferson to buy a record player. Jewel is the illegitimate son born out of wedlock when Addie and the town’s preacher had a fling. Vardaman is the youngest of the sons. Traumatized after his mother’s death, he decides she is just like the fish he had previously caught and killed and constantly repeats “My mother is a fish.” Darl is considered the feebleminded of the family. Darl is also very intuitive and suspects that the rest of the family has ulterior motives to go to Jefferson.

When the family arrives in Jefferson after surviving a series of incidents which include Cash’s leg becoming gangrenous, Dewey Dell trying to have an abortion but ending up having sex with a guy pretending to be a doctor, and Darl being declared insane and placed in an asylum. Anse goes into a house to borrow some shovels to bury Addie’s body and starts to flirt with the lady of the house. The novel ends with Cash losing a leg, Dewey Dell not getting an abortion, Anse taking the money the family had saved to buy himself a new set of teeth, and making the lady of the house the new Mrs. Bundren.

The structure of the novel consists of narrations from each member of the family. While they are on the journey to Jefferson, they relate to what happened in the past as each narrator has a reason for making the trip. Faulkner again uses a stream-of-consciousness style in his narrative that I really struggled to understand at times.

“Bananas are gone, eaten. Gone. When it runs on the track shines again. I said God made me. I did not said to God to made me in the country. If he can make the train, why can’t He make them all in the town because flour and sugar and coffee.”

“In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you…I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or am not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know whether he is or not.” 

To say that reading Faulkner is intense is an understatement. Although I managed to read and enjoy, some years ago, the massive stream of consciousness that is The Sound and The Fury,  reading As I Lay Dying was a much harder experience for me. Let me just say that I considered quitting the book in several different parts. The quote by Joe in the book You by Caroline Kepnes came to my mind many times while I read this novel.

“…Faulkner you’ll never finish, never start; Faulkner that will harden and calcify…”

This novel is on my list of books in The Classics Club Challenge.


Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Published: January 30th, 1991 by Vintage (first published 1930)
ISBN: 067973225X
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Literary fiction, Classics

The Sunday Post

 

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.

Happy Sunday, everyone! Another week has gone by in a flash. I hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather. At least I hope it’s getting warmer everywhere.

IMG_1620

Although this week has been extremely productive in terms of reading, I really only got around reviewing two books. I started the week with a review of:

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – This book tells the story of a young girl who escapes death when she is sent to a convent, The Convent of Sweet Mercy, where young girls are trained to be killers. This is a coming-of-age YA and was my first introduction to Mark Lawrence’s writing–it did not disappoint.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King – I just never get tired of praising Stephen King. I have read many of his books, even his fabulous book On Writing. This was a re-read for me. I first read Pet Sematary a long time ago in my early teens, and I have to say I still got just as scared now as I did then. Pet Sematary is still ranked in my top all-time great horror books.

IMG_1621

We’ll start the week with a review of a YA fantasy book that is a retelling of Jane Eyre called Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne.35721194

Next, we’ll read a review of  The Book Supremacy by Kate Carlisle.Image result for the book supremacy by kate carlisle

And we’ll finish this week with a review of another book in my Classics Club Challenge, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.10803076

How about you? How’s your Sunday going? What books do you plan on reviewing this week? Have you read any of the books listed? If you have, let me know your thoughts and Happy Reading! 🙂

 

 

Red Sister (Book of The Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence

 

25895524At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old blood show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”

And so starts Red Sister–my first book by Mark Lawrence. What a fantastic debut it is! I have many of his books in my TBR list, and I’m slowly chipping away at them. Red Sister is a book that came highly recommended to me by a friend, and I must admit I’m so happy I decided to read it.

The book starts with Nona at age eight and about to be hanged. She is saved at the last minute by a nun from the Convent of Sweet Mercy, a convent known to train chosen girls to be assassins. Most of the book is about the training, the fantastic fights, and the friendships that develop. Part coming-of-age, part YA fantasy I loved the way Lawrence created this world. His narrative is detailed, and he does a phenomenal job at developing his characters, especially the protagonist Nona.

This fast-paced, page-turner was a great introduction to the world of Mark Lawrence, and I look forward to reading the next books in this series.

“A book is as dangerous as any journey you might take. The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one. Treat them with respect.”


Format: Hardcover, 469 pages
Published: April 4th, 2017 by Ace
ISBN: 1101988851
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy