Tuesday 30 May 2023

Last post for May...

I’m a bit late, but here’s a quick post about the book I finished last weekend.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez is an exploration into the lives of those residents of a certain country who feel invisible or unknown, particularly those immigrants, legal or otherwise, who have crossed the border from Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, Guatemala and Panama, for various reasons, political, aspirational or otherwise necessary, and are trying to forge a life in the US.  The main focus of this novel is the Rivera family, Arturo, Alma and fifteen-year-old Maribel, who have come to Delaware to send their daughter to a school that has been recommended to them by a doctor back in Mexico, one that specializes in education for children who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, as Maribel has.  They just want their old daughter back, the way she was before the accident, and they're willing to leave their old life behind to pursue the best education and therapy for her.  They live in an apartment complex peopled with other Spanish-speaking immigrants who all have an opportunity to share their stories in short chapters sprinkled throughout the novel.  The plot that connects all of the stories is one of Maribel and the neighbour’s boy, Mayor, and their severely restricted, yet budding, relationship, giving the story a Romeo and Juliet “star-crossed lovers” feel, although there are significant differences from the Shakespearean play.  There’s also a bully, one of Mayor’s school mates, but not a friend.  This book was really engaging to begin with and I was quite enjoying it, but somehow by the end, I felt a bit let down, although I’m not sure why.  While these stories need to be told and we need to hear them, the overall impression I was left with was that this novel managed to be both heavy-handed and yet at the same time hollow.  Maybe it’s because there were too many stories to follow and slot into the puzzle, leaving this reader feeling like she never really got to know any of the characters or stories deeply.  It’s worth reading for sure, and I hope this post doesn’t discourage you from giving it a try, but I just found it too disjointed.  I wish the novel had focused more exclusively on Maribel and Mayor, their families and the situation with the bully.

That’s all for tonight.  Happy Reading!!

Bye for now... Julie


Monday 22 May 2023

Short post at the end of a long weekend...

It’s nearly 8pm on Monday night of the Victoria Day weekend, and I’m feeling a bit tired and cranky and not really in the mood to write this post.  But I also don’t want to leave it until next weekend, as there’s no guarantee I’ll be feeling any different by then!  (it’s been a long school year so far, and I’m not the only one looking forward to the summer break!)

I finished reading the last book in the “DCI Alan Banks” series by Peter Robinson yesterday.  Standing in the Shadows was just published, but was finished before the author’s death in October.  Robinson has long been one of my favourite British mystery authors, and it was with a sense of melancholy that I read this final installment.  This novel weaves together an unsolved murder in the early 1980s with a skeleton found on an old farm in 2019.  The murdered woman, Alice Poole, was a student who got mixed up with some political activists, and her ex-boyfriend, Nick, suspects that her new boyfriend had something to do with it, but at the height of the search for the Yorkshire Ripper, her murder investigation seems to fall through the cracks.  In 2019, an old farm is being dug up and developed into a new shopping centre, but the local university’s archeology department has first dibs at digging for Roman artifacts.  What no one expected is that one of the archeologists would discover a skeleton, and DCI Banks’ team is called in to investigate.  Are these two cases linked, and if so, how?  Well, of course they’re linked, since they are in the same novel, but the uncertainty of how keeps this novel moving forward steadily through chapters alternating between time periods and narrators.  It was a good, solid mystery, not one of Robinson’s best, but still a page-turner that does not disappoint.  

That’s all for tonight.  Happy Victoria Day!

Bye for now…

Monday 15 May 2023

Post-Mother's Day post...

It’s the Monday after Mother’s Day, and I’m writing this on the fly, as I have to leave for my book club meeting in a few minutes.

The book we will be discussing is The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell, the perfect book to read right before Mother’s Day, as it focuses on a dysfunctional British family living in the Cotswolds, where the mother is the central character.  Lorelei Bird is a slight, beautiful hippie-type who loves all things colourful.  Her favourite holiday is Easter, and she looks forward every year to organizing a traditional Easter Egg Hunt in their backyard, even when her own children are too old to enjoy such things.  She is married to a somewhat bland university professor named Colin, and has four children, Megan, Bethan and twins Rory and Rhys.  All seems right with the world, although Lorelei has a tendency to save everything.    But when, one Easter, the unthinkable happens, everything the Birds have come to expect comes crashing down.  Each member has their own way of coping, and Lorelei’s is to shut out reality and hoard things even more than usual.  Their traditional family structure unravels, and what ensues is an exploration into dysfunctional family dynamics to the max.  I don’t want to give anything else away, as part of the draw of reading this book is the discovery of the next “family development”.  I’m curious to hear what my book club friends will have to say, as there is certainly a lot to discuss in this book.  I love Lisa Jewell’s books, which remind me of a “lighter” version of Liane Moriarty, and I was thrilled to discover that this was one I had not already read.  It was definitely “unputdownable”, if a bit too contrived and unbelievable.  I would still recommend Jewell’s books to anyone who is a fan of domestic fiction of the Liane Moriarty type.

That’s all for tonight.

Bye for now…

Monday 1 May 2023

May Day post...

It’s Monday evening, May 1st, International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day.  When I realized this, I had a sudden urge to reread Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but alas, I have too many children’s books to read to indulge in such a wonderful read.

Speaking of children’s books, I read a book last week that I think was too long and frightening for my award’s grade level, suitable more for young adults, so that took up most of my reading time.  Of course I can’t tell you what it was or anything about it. Sorry!

Then I went back to my book club selection for this coming Saturday, The Push by Ashley Audrain, which I began a couple of weeks ago but put down almost immediately because it wasn’t grabbing me.  The novel, the debut by this Canadian author, tells the story of Blythe Connor, a young mother who seems to have it all, a loving husband and a beautiful daughter.  Her own mother was cold and distant, and Blythe determines to be the opposite with her own daughter.  Then Blythe begins to suspect that Violet’s behaviour is manipulative and that she is not to be trusted.  Is this true, or is Blythe suffering from delusions and/or mental health issues similar to those that run in her family?  When Blythe has a second child, Sam is everything she wished for the first time around, but when tragedy strikes, Blythe is unable to move past the grief to fulfill her role in the lives of her family.  What happened that fateful day?  Is it as Blythe remembers, or is the truth something completely different?  And how will they all move on from here?  This book picked up after what I consider to be a slow beginning, and became somewhat of a roller coaster ride through Blythe’s thoughts and experiences as she tries to process what has become her new normal.  Is she a reliable narrator?  Are her suspicions true?  Or is she just suffering in the "maternal instinct" department as her mother and grandmother did decades before?  I found it a bit hard to follow, as we have three different points of view from three different time periods, but no names as chapter headings, but once it got flowing, it began to make more sense.  And the ending was exactly what I needed.  This book might be what would happen if We need to talk about Kevin met The other black girl, with a splash of Girl on a train.  It was very good, not great, a bit overlong and repetitive, but overall I think it’ll be a great book club discussion book.  

That’s all for tonight.

Bye for now…