Showing posts with label Latin American. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Latin American. Show all posts

Friday, April 18, 2014

Adiós Gabo! García Márquez (March 6, 1927 - April 17, 2014)

Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez, born March 6, 1927 in Aracataca, Colombia, winner of the 1972 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature, best known as the father of magical realism, and his great works One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), died yesterday, April 17, 2014.

Gabriel García Márquez has always been one of my all-time favorite authors. At the tender age of eleven, his works were my introduction to Latin American literature and magical realism. When I first read Cien Años de Soledad or One Hundred of Solitud, Macondo was a place that my mind and heart immediately recognized, so that perhaps it inhabited a very personal inner space in my memory longer than it should have. I was too young to really understand the complete scope of his novel at the time, yet I was so dazzled by it! I have since reread the novel many times in Spanish, and later the English translation.

For many years, in my eyes, works by other talented authors did not measure up to this giant's talent. But then, nothing compares to that first author who opens the mind and heart of a youngster to something new and brilliant, and for me, García Márquez will forever be incomparable.

Adiós Gabo!

"Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo. Macondo era entonces una aldea de veinte casas de barro y cañabrava construidas a la orilla de un río de aguas diáfanas que se precipitaban por un lecho de piedras pulidas, blancas y enormes como huevos prehistóricos. El mundo era tan reciente, que muchas cosas carecían de nombre, y para mencionarlas había que señalarlas con el dedo."

Friday, July 20, 2012

TBR Highlights: Gay Spec Fic, Fiction, Non-Fiction

This was my week to again review a (one) book from my ever-growing TBR (to be read) pile. Last month I highlighted books added to my Kindle library, this month I would like to share with you some of the latest print books added to my book shelves.

My additions? They are a motley crew! You tell me:

Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction ed. Steve Berman (Lethe Press, July 2012)
Prepare to skew your view of the world: where jinni in the clouds of a future Tel Aviv aren't spirits but powerful computer programs; where a suburban garden hiding unrecognizable bones; to a planet colony that outlaws color; or the night when a lonely lab tech finds a spambot flirting with him. The latest volume in the acclaimed Wilde Stories series has tales of hitchhikers on the run, dragons in the sky, swordsmen drawing their blades. These are stories fantastic and strange, otherworldly and eerie, but all feature gay men struggling with memories or lovers or simply the vicissitudes of life no matter how wild the world might be.
I loved the 2011 Wilde Stories Anthology and wasn't about to miss this one. But why in print? Well... my 2011 copy is in print and I like to be consistent when keeping collections, plus the cover for this book looked gorgeous. As it turns out, the cover IS gorgeous, now I have high hopes for the stories. :)


Sexual Revolutions in Cuba: Passion, Politics, and Memory by Carrie Hamilton (University of North Carolina Press, March 2012)
In "Sexual Revolutions in Cuba" Carrie Hamilton delves into the relationship between passion and politics in revolutionary Cuba to present a comprehensive history of sexuality on the island from the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 into the twenty-first century. Drawing on an unused body of oral history interviews as well as press accounts, literary works, and other published sources, Hamilton pushes beyond official government rhetoric and explores how the wider changes initiated by the Revolution have affected the sexual lives of Cuban citizens. She foregrounds the memories and emotions of ordinary Cubans and compares these experiences with changing policies and wider social, political, and economic developments to reveal the complex dynamic between sexual desire and repression in revolutionary Cuba.

Showing how revolutionary and pre-revolutionary values coexist in a potent and sometimes contradictory mix, Hamilton addresses changing patterns in heterosexual relations, competing views of masculinity and femininity, same-sex relationships and homophobia, AIDS, sexual violence, interracial relationships, and sexual tourism. Hamilton's examination of sexual experiences across generations and social groups demonstrates that sexual politics have been integral to the construction of a new revolutionary Cuban society.
Now this book falls more under Latino Studies (history and sexuality in Latin America). The subject fascinates me. The whole idea of a sexuality study done by way of oral history (interviewing subjects) was intriguing enough, but throw in the fact that this is a Latin American country that has undergone political upheaval, and my curiosity as to how those changes influenced sexuality did me in... I had to have it! Ebook format is not available! (I'm reading this book right now)


Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel by Edmund White (Atlas & Co., October 2008)
Poet and prodigy Arthur Rimbaud led a life that was startlingly short, but just as dramatically eventful and accomplished. Even today, over a century after his death in 1891, his visionary poetry has continued to influence everyone from Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan to Patti Smith. His long poem A Season in Hell (1873) and his collection Illuminations (1886) are essential to the modern canon, marked by a hallucinatory and hypnotic style that defined the Symbolist movement in poetry. Having sworn off writing at the age of twenty-one, Rimbaud drifted around the world from scheme to scheme, ultimately dying from an infection contracted while running guns in Africa. He was thirty-seven.

Edmund White writes with a historian's eye for detail, driven by a genuine personal investment in his subject. White delves deep into the young poet's relationships with his family, his teachers, and his notorious affair with the more established poet Paul Verlaine. He follows the often elusive (sometimes blatant) threads of sexual taboo that haunt Rimbaud's poems (in those days, sodomy was a crime) and offers incisive interpretations of the poems, using his own artful translations to bring us closer to the mercurial poet.
I've had this biography of the French poet Rimbaud on my wish list since approximately the time the book was released but for one reason or another always put off buying it for later... and later. Well, I finally purchased it. I hope it doesn't take me four years to read it. :) I've always been fascinated by both the poetry and the poet.


Boys Like Us edited by Patrick Merla (Harper Paperbacks, October 1997)
In stunning essays written especially for this collection, 29 noted gay writers recount their true "coming out" stories, intensely personal histories of the primal process by which men come to terms with their homosexuality. These essays form a documentary of changing social and sexual mores, timed to coincide with National Coming Out Day (October 11) and AIDS Awareness Month.(
Boys Like Us falls under the Gay Studies Memoir category, and it is a Lambda Literary Award winner. These are essays written by gay writers about their coming out experiences. This is another book I've had on my wish list for a long time that finally made it to my personal library.


The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd (Dial, May 2009)
It's Dade's last summer at home. He has a crappy job at Food World, a "boyfriend" who won't publicly acknowledge his existence (maybe because Pablo also has a girlfriend), and parents on the verge of a divorce. College is Dade's shining beacon of possibility, a horizon to keep him from floating away.

Then he meets the mysterious Alex Kincaid. Falling in real love finally lets Dade come out of the closet - and, ironically, ignites a ruthless passion in Pablo. But just when true happiness has set in, tragedy shatters the dreamy curtain of summer, and Dade will use every ounce of strength he's gained to break from his past and start fresh with the future.
The Vast Fields of Ordinary is another book I've had in my wish list since it released in 2009. I do this a lot! I add books to my list and then wait to buy them. This book is young adult gay fiction. It won the 2010 Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award and I understand it's good. Why print? I found a used hardcover copy at a great price, so why not?

Have you read any of these books? Are any of these books in your TBR? I added three (3) non-fiction books to my print book collection. Do you enjoy reading non-fiction?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: The Book of Want by Daniel A. Olivas

When Moses descended Mount Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments, he never could have foreseen how one family in Los Angeles in the early twenty-first century would struggle to live by them

Conchita, a voluptuous, headstrong single woman of a certain age, sees nothing wrong with enjoying the company of handsome—and usually much younger—men . . . that is, until she encounters a widower with unusual gifts and begins to think about what she really wants out of life.

Julieta, Conchita's younger sister, walks a more traditional path, but she and her husband each harbor secrets that could change their marriage and their lives forever. Their twin sons, both in college, struggle to find fulfillment. Mateo refuses to let anyone stand in the way of his happiness, while Rolando grapples with his sexuality and the family's expectations. And from time to time, Belén, the family's late matriarch, pays a visit to advise, scold, or cajole her hapless descendants.

Ahh... The Book of Want! This is Daniel A. Olivas' first and I believe a wonderful debut novel. Using both social and magical realism, Mr. Olivas relates the story of a Mexican-American family covering three generations.

Olivas sets the story in Los Angeles with some of the back story taking place in Mexico. The novel begins with a prologue set in Mexico where he introduces Belén the matriarch of the family and her young daughter Conchita, the rest is divided into ten related, self-contained chapters, and ends with an epilogue.

The story focuses on two sisters, Conchita and Julieta. Conchita is a sixty-two year old woman, great looking and single. She loves being single, adores younger men and has had plenty of them in her life without a care for what anyone thinks of her. Although lately Conchita's age has become a problem:
"But now, when it came to her dating life, with each passing year, men's interest in Conchita has dwindled. Though still possessing a voluptuous figure, creamy-brown skin, and large, inviting eyes, few men under the age of fifty even acknowledged her presence. And Conchita had no desire for men her own age because they looked ready for the trash heap. It was galling. If she were a famous male actor, she could have her pick of younger partners!"
Slowly, however, Conchita's interest for her widower neighbor Mr. Rojo helps her reassess her life. Mr. Rojo certainly holds her attention with his mysterious ways and eventually shows Conchita that the seemingly impossible can happen. One of the most amusing chapters in the book, "How to Date a Flying Mexican," is related from Conchita's perspective -- hilarious and so well done!

Julieta is the traditional sister. She has been married to Manuel for years and together they have college-aged twins Rolando and Mateo. In this family everyone has secrets! Manuel's suspicious activities and big secret could end the marriage, and Julieta is keeping a secret of her own. Rolando in the meantime struggles to come to terms with his homosexuality, just as self-centered Mateo who thinks he can have everything he wants learns a few lessons. This family is firmly rooted in the present with daily, contemporary issues and struggles that are surprisingly well addressed in this short, ambitious book.

But hey, I don't want to leave out Belén. Belén is Conchita and Julieta's mother and has been dead for a while, but remember this is magical realism we're talking about so that's of no consequence here. She visits her descendants to advice and harass them about their decisions and eventually Olivas takes us back to Mexico for her story, providing the readers with this family's background. Interestingly enough, although Belen's story is fascinating and she's an integral part of the generational and cultural family tapestry created by Olivas, I found that going back in time after relating the first five chapters in the present interrupted the story's flow.

It's also interesting that although I love the story as a whole, I still think of the different chapters singularly. Chapter 10, Want: A Symphony is brilliantly done in its simplicity, yet there's a small section of it that didn't quite work for me. This is where Olivas ties all the story lines with small accounts or episodes by using text messages, interviews, or just dialogue between the characters. What didn't work so well for me? Interviewing the characters pulled me out of the story and dispelled some of the magic that Olivas so beautifully creates throughout most of the book.

There's a correlation between The Book of Want and the Ten Commandments, however not at all in a religious way. Happiness, love, acceptance, sorrow, friendship, and of course want are all subjects covered in this 121 page book by Mr. Olivas. For the most part I thoroughly enjoyed Daniel A. Olivas' approach to this family's story. I was particularly taken with the way Mr. Olivas focuses his use of magical realism closely to the Mexican-American culture while social realism encompasses the story as a whole, and through it all the humor and wit that abounds from beginning to end makes The Book of Want a delightful read.


About the Author: Daniel is the author of six books including his first full-length novel, The Book of Want, which was published by the University of Arizona Press in March 2011. He is also editor of the landmark anthology, Latinos in Lotusland (Bilingual Press, 2008), which brings together 60 years of Los Angeles fiction by Latino writers. Daniel's writing has been widely anthologized (including in two Norton anthologies). He blogs each Monday on La Bloga, the blog dedicated to Chicano and Latino literature.

Daniel, the grandson of Mexican immigrants, grew up near the Pico-Union and Koreatown neighborhoods of Los Angeles. He now makes his home in the San Fernando Valley with his wife and son. Daniel received his degree in English literature from Stanford University and law degree from UCLA. He is a supervising deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice in the Public Rights Division.

Category: Literary Fiction
Series: Camino del Sol: A Latino and Latina Literary Series
Publisher/Release Date: University of Arizona Press/March 4, 2011
Source: University of Arizona Press
Grade: B

Visit Daniel A. Olivas here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction edited by Charles Rice-González & Charlie Vázquez

Prepare yourself to dance in a disco in Silver Lake, check out papis in Orchard Beach, cross the border from Guatemala to Mexico on your way to the U.S., see a puro macho bathe in a river in Puerto Rico, make love under a full moon in the Dominican Republic, sigh at a tender moment in an orange grove in Lindsay, visit a panaderia in Kansas, see a full blown birthday party in Juarez, and be seduced by a young artist in the South Bronx. These are some of the stories in this collection of thirty gay Latino writers from around the United States. There are ''don't mess with me''' divas, alluring bad boys, and sexy teenagers, but also empowered youth for whom being queer is not a question and a family that grows wings on their heads. The infectious rhythms of House music in New York City are adjacent to cumbia in Mexico, next to reggaeton in Puerto Rico, alongside Latin pop in L.A. and merengue in an east coast city. But the spectrum of experiences and emotions that inhabit our days gives these stories dimension and gay/queer Latinos a common ground. The stories are vibrantly varied and clearly connected in this ''era of lost signals'' in which we live.
From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction is an anthology written and edited by gay Latino writers from varied backgrounds and walks of life. That in and of itself was a huge draw for me. As seen from the gay Latino's perspective, I also hoped to find that great mixture of different backgrounds and countries that make up what we call the Latino culture and what makes our community unique.

The anthology is composed of 29 short stories. Individually you'll find different writing styles and types of stories, from the magical cuento, to love letters, and stories of neglect, loneliness, rejection, sex, drugs, and yes... yearning and love. Through the unique and beautiful rhythm found in the blending of two languages and two cultures that is often found in works by Latino writers, the reader experiences pain, joys, highs and lows.

The stories serve as little windows into the gay Latino experience. Some writers go back to their roots and set their stories in the land of their birth or that of their parents: Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. These stories serve to set atmosphere and define cultural differences within this anthology. There's La Huerfanita by David Andrew Talamantes, a disturbing account set in Mexico about a little boy who is abused by his father because he's not macho enough... or one of my favorite stories, the beautiful Yermo by Charlie Vázquez, written in letter form, about an unforgettable encounter in Puerto Rico between an islander and a Nuyorican from the Bronx.

Other stories are edgy and creative. There are quite a few of these, however as an example Fairy Tale by Justin Torres is a riveting cuento magico written in the form of a letter to an absent father where fantasy is used to convey neglect, and worth mentioning is A Doomed Gay Marriage where Rigoberto González writes shorts within a short story addressed to "the writer," "the cook," "the musician" and more, depicting reasons a marriage to each in turn would fail.

Among the stories depicting young adult experiences one of my favorite is On the Line by Benny Vázquez. I love the way the writer captures the cultural reality of views and attitudes by family and loved ones toward the two young men's changing relationship through the young man's mami's character. It's a story of friendship and love found and lost in an urban setting. And of course there's Pregnant Boy by Chuy Sánchez, the magnificent story about a boy who has seen and lost too much and yet hopes against hope for love. He is naive and a cynic, an astounding and heartbreaking combination.

The bulk of the stories, however, depict lost loves, past relationships and those regrets that leave empty spaces and "what ifs" behind. I loved Michael Moves to Faile Street by Charles Rice-González, a well-written, and complete story about a man with a need to set things right after having failed his ex-lover, and Requiem Sartajeno by Rick J. Santos pulled me in to the point where I thought I was reading a whole book instead of a short story. However, it was The Fermi Paradox by Ben Francisco that made me say "wow" after I finished it. A story about yearning for lost love while dealing with rejection and hoping there's a way to fill the emptiness left by it all. This was a complete story with excellent writing, pacing, plot and prose that left me wanting more from this author.

Urban settings are quite popular in this anthology, from the East to the West Coast, Chicago to Miami and in between, however there are some stories that do highlight life in those urban settings more than others. Dark Side of the Flame is a dark trip indeed where Danny González explores drugs, sex and loneliness. And, the anthology ends with a bang and on an upbeat note that made me laugh out loud with Orchard Beach by Robert Vázquez Pacheco where Bronx Diva La Joey teaches a mistaken papi a lesson he won't soon forget. "¿Pa' qué fue eso?!"

Taken individually some stories are better written than others and I do have favorites among them -- too few of them are mentioned above. As a whole, however, From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction is a different kettle of fish altogether. The editors of this anthology Charles Rice-González and Charlie Vázquez successfully capture the differences and commonalities within the gay Latino community and the gay experience from a distinct cultural perspective.

Pulled together, the stories do convey that distinct flavor. Whether it's achieved by highlighting societal views of the gay son, friend, nephew or neighbor within the Latino community as a whole or the importance of la familia -- mami, papi, brothers, sisters, tíos or primos -- the neighborhoods, the different foods or the music, that flavor can almost be felt and tasted by the reader. Most of all I think these gay Latino writers achieve this as only they can by expressing their experiences, with passion, heart and emotion.

Category: LGBT Gay Fiction
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Tincture/August 1, 2011
Source: ARC Lethe Press
Grade: B

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday to Friday: Historical Fiction and Leonardo Padura Fuentes

So how was your week? Mine is finally done! It's still rainy and cold in Jersey, but at least I'm home cozy and warm at the moment. I had a long working-week, but it turned out to be good with one book-related event this last week and some really nice reads.

Last Friday night, as a last minute outing, my brothers invited me to go along with them to meet Leonardo Padura Fuentes, a favorite author, in an evening at the Instituto Cervantes New York at Amster Yard in New York City. Mr. Padura was hosting a chat where he was discussing history and fiction in his latest release, the literary historical fiction novel El Hombre Que Amaba a Los Perros -- you might have seen that book mentioned here before. I've also mentioned my favorite works by him to date, the Inspector Mario Conde series.

It was an informal chat where basically he explained the process used while researching the novel, although he did address the fictional part of the book briefly. However, most of the evening was taken up with questions and answers about Trotsky's fascinating character, as well as that of his assassin, Rafael Mercader.

The key points for me came when he focused on how to pull together all that historical research he gathered throughout five long years and put together a fictional novel.  His points:

  • Respect historical moments when writing the fictional aspect of the story. 
  • Construct fiction as logically as possible while combining it with history. 
  • Characterization is key, especially that of the fictional characters in the book. In El Hombre Que Amaba a Los Perros that would be Ivan, a seemingly insignificant secondary character, but the very important narrator of the story.
  • Take into consideration that in a historical fiction novel there is no mystery as the end is usually well known. 
  • The narrative, making it fast paced and constructing the plot into a novel instead of a historical piece, is key.

Mr. Padura was quite gracious and the question and answer session, where not only this book but his other works were discussed, lasted quite a long time, and he and his beautiful wife gave of their time afterward as well. I took the opportunity to speak to him personally and he signed my book. Meeting him was an unexpected pleasure. 

About the Author: Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He is a journalist and writer of novels and essays, as well as screenplays. His literary works include a number of short-story collections, literary essays and nine novels translated into over 15 different languages but international fame came with the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde.

The Inspector Mario Conde Series:
  • Pasado perfecto (1991). Havana Blue (2007)
  • Vientos de cuaresma (1994). Havana Gold (2008)
  • Mascaras (1997). Havana Red (2005)
  • Paisaje de otoño (1998). Havana Black (2006)
  • La Neblina de Ayer. Havana Fever (2009)
  • Adiós Hemingway (2005, novella); published with same title in English in 2006 - the first of his books to be translated into English.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Empire by Xochiquetzal Candelaria

Using both lyrical and narrative forms, these concise verses explore a family history set against the larger backdrop of Mexican history, immigration, and landscapes of the Southwest. The poet's delicate touch lends these poems an organic quality that allows her to address both the personal and the political with equal grace. Straightforward without being simplistic or reductive, these poems manage to be intimate without seeming self-important.

This distinctive collection ranges from the frighteningly whimsical image of Cortés dancing gleefully around a cannon to the haunting and poignant discovery of a dead refugee boy seemingly buried within the poet herself. The blending of styles works to blur the lines between subjects, creating a textured narrative full of both imagination and nuance.

Ultimately, Empire situates individual experience in the wider social context, highlighting the power of poetry as song, performance, testimony, and witness. Addressing themes such as war, family, poverty, gender, race, and migration, Candelaria gives us a dialogue between historical and personal narratives, as well as discreet "conversations" between content and form.
The beauty of Empire lies in the frankness with which Calendaria explores the complex history of a family and its past and present through poetry. It is very much a personal and intimate piece, and yet it encompasses much more by linking those personal experiences to historical events, and placing them in a political and social context.

As the gorgeous summary above explains, Xochiquetzal Candelaria uses both the narrative and lyrical forms of verse throughout her works. The book is divided in three parts and has a total of 64 pages and, yet by the end, the reader has a sense of having read much more.

In Part I of the book, the first lines of her poem Migration was the first poem to snag my attention:
"The white blue of daylight shrinks to a rip, and the geese seem to slip through but don't." 
And then later on there's a line that stayed with me:
"If I can say anything, I'll say I descended from a migrant bird." 
Two pages later I found Cortés and Cannon and was hooked. The strong imagery in this poem makes visualizing that amusing and celebratory moment more horrific by the almost tender momentary sense of connection Calendaria weaves in between Cortés and the Totonacs.

Throughout, there are works that focus on more than the history or the sociopolitical. All of Candelaria's poems are personal, but there are some that touch on deeply personal subjects that reach the reader -- at least they reached this reader.  Of those, I loved Empire #1: Five and Dime Store 1949, Empire #2: Poet, Empire #3: Marriage, and Empire #4: Mirror. I read and re-read Empire #2 - Poet at least ten times, and I know I'll read it again.

Empire is a book that I recommend highly, not for one read or even two -- take your time, think, savor and enjoy. I'll leave you with an excerpt and one complete poem.


Empire #4: Mirror

The sun's reflection in a bucket of water just before
a sparrow plunges headfirst, its thirst breaking the light into bits

Hephaestus knew this was enough. That we wouldn't like
our noses, those bumps along the chin, thin spear of hair calling us

windows, crevasses along the eyes. Why repeat them?
Did he think upon reflection we wouldn't select?

Excerpt, page 54


The Irises

Their green sepals begin like mouths, forming the word
okay, turning over at the tips to say
yes, then oh yes.
Three deep purple petals smoldering give way
to three more giving way.
Fire breaks through as a seam in the center.
These are messengers remembering that to speak
is to bloom and to bloom
is to sing and sing and sing.

About the Author: Xochiquetzal Candelaria shares her first name with the Aztec goddess of love. She was raised in San Juan Bautista, California and holds degrees from UC Berkeley and New York University and is a tenured faculty member at San Francisco City College. Her work has appeared in The Nation, New England Review, Gulf Coast, Seneca Review and other magazines, as well as the online journal, Solo Ella. She was the winner of the 2006 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, the Louisiana Literature Prize for Poetry, and the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize. In 2009, Candelaria received an individual literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Category: Poetry
Series: Camino del Sol - A Latino and Latina Literary Series
Published by/Release Date: The University of Arizona Press - February 24, 2011
Source: The University of Arizona Press
Grade: A

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Minis: Garcia Marquez, Kresley Cole, Rick Riordan

Today, I have three of my ini-mini, short first impressions for you. These are books that I've read, or attempted to read, but didn't share with you at the time.

In a Latin American port city during colonial times, a young girl named Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles the only child of the ineffectual Marquis de Casalduero is bitten by a rabid dog. Her father, who has shown no interest in the child, begins a crusade to save her life, eventually committing her to the Convent of Santa Clara when the bishop persuades him that his daughter is possessed by demons. In fact, Sierva Maria has shown no signs of being infected by rabies or by demons; she is simply being punished for being different. Having been raised by the family's slaves, she knows their languages and wears their Santeria necklaces; she is perceived by the effete European Americans around her as "not of this world." Only the priest who has reluctantly accepted the job as her exorcist believes she is neither sick nor possessed but terrified after being inexplicably "interred alive" among the superstitious nuns.
A couple of months back I picked up Del Amor y Otros Demonios by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Of Love and Other Demons) again, Marquez' last work of fiction written in 1996. I've attempted reading this short work twice before and haven't been able to get past the 30th page. This has nothing to do with the quality of the writing, instead I'm affected negatively by the content because of personal baggage. This time I got as far as half-way through the book before going to bed and had nightmares. I didn't have the heart to pick it up again the next day. Maybe later on I'll see if I can finish it, get rid of that baggage, just give it a push, have one more nightmare and see how it all ends. LOL!


Malkom Slaine: tormented by his sordid past and racked by vampiric hungers, he’s pushed to the brink by the green-eyed beauty under his guard.

Carrow Graie: hiding her own sorrows, she lives only for the next party or prank. Until she meets a tortured warrior worth saving.

In order for Malkom and Carrow to survive, he must unleash both the demon and vampire inside him. When Malkom becomes the nightmare his own people feared, will he lose the woman he craves body and soul?
Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole was an interesting mix for me. I loved the hero, Malkom, in that book. He was just so darn sweet! I don't even know how to say it, but he's hot and sweet at the same time. There he was, a Vemon and considered an abomination (even in his own mind), and after all that time alone considering himself a monster, Malkom's heart and goodness were pretty much intact. I hurt for him and for a while I couldn't stand the heroine -- Carrow -- because she knowingly used him and was going to hurt him. He didn't deserve it. Malkom's character made this story enjoyable for me. The plot was interesting and it did move the overall storyarc forward slightly, so I'll definitely read Regin and Aidan/Chase's story, Dreams of a Dark Warrior. I can't wait to read how Cole redeems Aidan. :)


Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.
One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.
Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan is another book I read a while back. A buddy review with Nath is on the works for Breezing Through. This is definitely a fast paced adventure and quite exciting. A story about a brother and sister of mixed ethnic background who lose their father and suddenly find themselves in the center of a battle between worlds and gods. There's magic, Egyptian-based mythology, gods, and enough creepy crawlies to make this a really fun read. The premise is similar to the Percy and the Olympians series, but that's about it. The rest is quite original and I didn't feel as if I were reading the same books. The kids are great and different. The situations and villains are dangerous and the action and pace make this 516 page book seem short.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Green Books Campaign: Havana and Other Missing Fathers by Mia Leonin

This review is part of the Green Books campaign.Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.

The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on "green" books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

The book I chose to read for this campaign is printed on acid-free archival-quality paper containing a minimum of 30%  post-consumer waste (or recycled materials) and processed chlorine free.

Havana and Other Missing Fathers by Mia Leonin

Havana and Other Missing Fathers by Mia Leonin is a memoir published in 2009 by The University of Arizona Press as part of their Camino del Sol: A Latino and Latina Literary Series. I already own a few issues from the Camino del Sol series and when I decided to join this campaign and saw that this book was available, I couldn't pass it up.

In 1967, Norma drives away from her home in Kentucky and makes her way to Missouri to give birth and begin a new life. Sixteen years later that child, a daughter, learns that her life thus far has been based on a lie. Norma breaks down and tells her child that her father is not dead; indeed he's not her first husband Jerry, but a Cuban doctor -- a foreigner -- who is very much alive. Mother and daughter cry, wash their faces and go for ice cream.

Four years later at age 20, Mia lands in Miami Airport for the first time to meet her father hoping to find a place in his life, to understand the man and in the process parts of herself. She shares moments but no real intimacy with him, and his wife Zoraida seems to be too surprised at Mia's unexpected existence to show her true feelings. Unfortunately after that first meeting, she comes away with more questions than answers about the man, the father and a new culture that she's about to embrace.

Mia, on her father and language:
My father didn't give me explanations, apologies, or answers. He didn't "take responsibility" in any concrete way. He broke off language like pieces of hard candy that caught the light before dissolving in my mouth.
Even after a few years Mia's attempts to know and understand her father elude her, as the immutable Zoraida's resentment grows and prevents Mia from reaching him:
"Mi papa," I venture, "No lo conozco."
Conocer. The verb hangs in the air like the steel blade of a guillotine. Conocer means to meet and to know. Yes, I've met him, but no, I don't know him. How do I join the meeting and the not knowing of my father in one verb? It's more than a grammatical question.
This need for understanding and acceptance gives Mia the necessary impetus to go forth on a personal journey that will take her from Missouri to Miami, Florida to Bogotá, Colombia and eventually Havana, Cuba. Instead of searching for her roots, she finds herself in Havana exploring Cuban culture through the unique joys and sufferings of its people, their compulsive and sensual obsession with food, and the unique rhythms of its music and language. She falls in love with a man and the island's passions as she experiences highs and lows, glorious moments and betrayals, clarity, uncertainty and anguish along the way.
I thought I was just going to come here and "discover" my heritage or somehow feel connected to it, but this island doesn't merely give, it exacts a price for what you take from it. Not flowers or offerings of fruit, but flesh, memory, balance.
Ms. Leonin successfully uses a combination of dialogue and narrative to tell her story. Havana and Other Missing Fathers is a memoir, but it reads more like a novel with poetic overtones. The narrative switches from present to past in a flowing manner with few narrative interruptions as the story unfolds to its conclusion of partial resolutions and personal revelations.  The author writes in a lyrical style and uses language as the core to keep the reader engrossed and focused in the story. While the book is written in English, Ms. Leonin is particularly successful in the effective adaptation of Cuban Spanish, as she applies its unique rhythms, oblique meanings and double entendres to her exploration of roots and culture, both here and there.

Finally, I'll say that this book was an unexpected pleasure. Havana and Other Missing Fathers turned out to be a very personal and forthright journey where no one is spared, least of all the author. She captures the dichotomies in Cuban culture: intricacies and subtleties, beauty and unpleasantness, strengths and weaknesses. I connected with this story and was right there on that roller coaster ride of self-discovery and emotional upheaval with Mia. That's the highest recommendation I can give this book.

Category: Memoir
Series: Camino del Sol: A Latino and Latina Literary Series
Released: September 1, 2009
Source: Eco-Libris & The University of Arizona Press
Grade: B+

Visit Mia Leonin here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

February 2010 Reads & Minis: Under Her Skin by Susan Mallery, Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips & Pasado Perfecto by Leonardo Padura

Wow! February was a short/long month for me. Short on days and reads, but long on posts!

It was a month-long love fest between the Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction anthology and me. I had a wonderful time choosing quotes from each story, and in the process re-read the whole book slowly. It was a personal treat, and I hope you enjoyed reading these little quotes as much as I did choosing them. :)

I'd like to give a shout out to my friend Indigene (Cowboy Junkie). The lady who not only recommended this wonderful anthology, but who also sent it to me as a gift. You can check out Indigene's awesome GLTB reviews at Rainbow Reviews any day. But, to check out her Fool for Love review you'll need to go to The Three Dollar Bill Reviews -- a new GLTB review site. Thanks Indi!

When it comes to reading? Well, I was craving contemporary romance and that made up the bulk of my reading, although I did manage to sneak in other genres in there. The Winter Olympics took up a lot of time away from my reading, but I enjoyed them thoroughly so no complaints. Weren't they great?! Now, I'll have to detox. :)

Okay, on to my February reads:

1) The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald - B- (review here)

2) Ecstasy Unveiled by Larissa Ione - B+ (review here)

3) Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin - Solid B (review here)

4) Under Her Skin (Titan Series, Book 1) by Susan Mallery - B-

This is the first in her Titan Sisters series (4 books).

Under Her Skin was a good read, not great. I thought it had a predictable plot with a couple that had good chemistry, some great interaction between the sisters and one girlfriend, and good writing that kept me reading.

The plot is based on an engagement of convenience between Lexi and Cruz. They obviously have feelings for each other but lots of baggage. Cruz is a good man with flaws -- mainly due to the childhood baggage that he can't seem to let go, and Lexi's the same. She has a lot of "daddy" issues -- all the sisters do. The father is rich, powerful and basically unfeeling and he uses his fortune to set up the sisters against each other -- it doesn't quite work that way though, they get along although it does affect their relationship and their decisions.

I have the next book on my TBR pile and will read it.

5) Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - B-

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, is another contemporary romance from her backlist and from my TBR pile, I wanted to read. I liked the setting for this book, it was set in a circus and it made for a different atmosphere. Daisy and Alex were both interesting as a couple. She was supposed to be this flighty, weak-minded person who didn't have any confidence in herself and who grew as a person as the story unfolded. He was supposed to be this strong-minded man who had lots of pride but whose past marked him badly -- an interesting play on strengths and weaknesses.

Although I enjoyed Susan Elizabeth Phillips' writing and the character growth that is usually found in her contemporaries, this book is not a favorite. I didn't find the plot itself, a woman who is forced into marriage by her father to a man who owes him a favor, appealing. The secondary characters were not appealing either, although I did enjoy the parallels Phillips drew between the couple and the animals.

6) Pasado Perfecto by Leonardo Padura (Mario Conde Series, Book 1) (Re-read) - B (thoughts here)

This is the first book in a 4 book series in Spanish. It's a police crime series set in modern Havana, Cuba. The author is a Cuban author who still lives there, not in exile.

In this book he introduces Mario Conde, a Lieutenant in the police department who is investigating the disappearance of a man he knew in High School. A powerful man who happened to marry el Conde's High School crush... well, more like the woman he has lusted after for years, Tamara.

Padura uses Pasado Perfecto (a perfect past), and this investigation to introduce Conde and a set of characters that will reappear in the next three books of the series. I love the way he captures the people, culture and the flavor of the city in these books. He uses the language beautifully -- a combination of Cuban Spanish -- to give the books authenticity and tops it with some darn good writing. Although I would say this is not the best book in the series, it's a great introduction.

There are English translations to this series. Pasado Perfecto's title in English is: Havana Blue.

7) Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas (Re-read) - A- (review here)

8) Glory in Death (In-Death Series, Book 2) - B (review here)

9) Double Play by Jill Shalvis - B Upcoming Review

10) Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole - B+ Upcoming Review

I didn't realize it, but I had mostly B reads this month and I only read two new releases. My TBR pile is diminishing though, so I'm not doing too badly there. How about you? How was your February?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A thought on nostalgia vs. reality... and Pasado Perfecto by Leonardo Padura

As I began reading Pasado Perfecto by Leonardo Padura, almost immediately I came across a passage that caught my attention:

Se puso los espejuelos oscuros y caminó hacia la parada de la guagua pensando que el aspecto del barrio debía de ser como el suyo: una especie de paisaje después de una batalla casi devastadora, y sintió que algo se resentía en su memoria más afectiva. La realidad visible de la Calzada contrastaba con la imagen almibarada del recuerdo de aquella misma calle, una imagen que había llegado a preguntarse si en verdad era real, si la heredaba de la nostalgia histórica de los cuentos de su abuelo o simplemente la habia inventado para tranquilizar al pasado.

Translation: (done by me: any errors found are mine)
He put on his sunglasses and walked to the bus stop, thinking that the neighborhood looked a lot like him: like a landscape after a devastating battle, and something became offended in his most affective memory. The visible reality of the Calzada contrasted with the sweet, syrupy images he remembered of that same street, and he asked himself if that image was a real one, if he had inherited it from his grandfather's historical and nostalgic tales, or if he had simply invented them to calm the past.

Yes, I thought when I read el Conde's reflection about his neighborhood and the street where he grew up, that's exactly right. How often do we change the past to suit our needs? How often do our memories deceive us when nostalgia takes over to make places, things, or events, beautiful, right, or acceptable when in reality they were not?

Such a shocking thing, to deal with stark reality and see that street for what it really is... for what it probably always was -- except maybe in fantasy-filled memories or those glorious moments of self-deception that often come with nostalgia.  Pasado Perfecto... "a perfect past."