Book Review | The King is Always Above the People: Stories by Daniel Alarcón

king is always above the people coverSet to be released this halloween, The King is Always Above the People is a well-written collection of ten short stories. They introduce the reader to various characters dealing with some sort of problem. One piece describes a man inheriting the house of his blind uncle upon his death from walking off a bridge. Another follows a boy who gets a job as a blind beggar’s assistant. A gang member is the focus of another story.

Alarcón’s voice and writing style are very appealing. Coupled with stories that flowed at a decent pace, they provided a readable book. On the other hand, I found some of the stories and/or characters to be somewhat average, flat and/or unmemorable. This said, I would certainly read more of Alarcón’s works because the writing itself was such a draw. The physical volume is also nice, with a smooth jacket and pages that stay open for you. Watch for this book to come out at a library near you!

I received an advance copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The King is Always Above the People, you may be interested in Mexico: Stories by Josh Barkan (2017).

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Book Review | The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault

leaf reader cover.jpgProtagonist Marnie is not one of high school’s popular kids, but her hobby of tea leaf reading gets her involved with the in crowd after one of their own goes missing. Matt is attractive and popular, but something seems slightly off about him. As he searches for answers about his best friend’s disappearance, it’s unclear to Marnie whether he knows more than he’s letting on or has an ulterior motive. When Marnie begins having recurring dreams that involve her tea leaf readings and seeing images outside of the tea cups, she realizes she may be the only hope of solving the town’s mystery.

Definitely a YA book, The Leaf Reader was an enjoyable read. The writing is simple and straight-forward, with an easy to follow plot. The cast of characters is manageable, though somewhat flat. The mystery in this book is intriguing and certainly unpredictable. It’s a plot-driven, fast paced, quick and engaging read. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance uncopyedited edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The Leaf Reader, you may be interested in The Clairvoyants by Karen Brown (2017).

Book Review | The Slave by Anand Dílvar

slave coverOriginally published in Spanish as El Esclavo, this English translation is set for publication in January 2018. The Slave, our narrator, finds himself in a coma after an accident. Trapped within his mind, unable to move or blink after a debilitating accident, he endures a range of emotions, eventually discovering a guide within himself. Though the plot may sound similar to Johnny Got His Gun, it is quite a different tale.

This book is on the unobtrusive end of self-help books. The idea is that through reading the book, you’ll join the narrator in his discoveries that help to “free” him from the guilt, blame, anger and other negative emotions experienced. It provides a way of coping with or reacting to stimuli in a more focused and proactive manner. The book is not clearly labeled fiction or non-fiction. It works as a novella in that it shares an experience with the reader in a somewhat engaging way. I could see how some people might benefit from ideas shared within, but to me it was just a quick read with nothing very profound or enlightening.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atogun

tadunos song coverAs Atogun’s debut novel, Taduno’s Song is a real winner. This novel takes place in a present day African military dictatorship. Taduno is a renowned musician who returns home after months away to find the country has forgotten him entirely, save for his voice. The government has kidnapped his girlfriend to use as a bargaining chip to get him to sing their praises instead of using his music to stand up for the people. Involving a colorful cast of supporter’s, Taduno’s quest to regain his voice and save his lover provides a very inviting tale.

This novel is thought provoking and entertaining, relaying a story that will stay with the reader long beyond the book’s end. As soon as I finished reading it, my thoughts were of how to get my hands on more of Atogun’s writing. His clean and concise style makes the text very easy to follow. This is not often an easy task when employing surrealism in literature. This book will appeal to fans of Haruki Murakami, having some stylistic similarities. Readers may also gain insight or additional understanding of the inner workings of a military dictatorship. A highly recommended quick read, check out Taduno’s Song from a library near you!

Book Review | A Fortune Foretold by Agneta Pleijel

fortune foretold coverA Fortune Foretold is an autobiographical novel that relays a story of Neta growing up in Sweden, mostly during the 1950’s. She and her two younger sisters progress through grade and high school as their parents strained relationship is tested and matters at home are a struggle. Family members also enter in various off-shoots over the course of the story.

The book begins in a challenging manner as the protagonist refers to herself mostly in the third person. Fragments of memories are revealed transporting the reader through the years of feelings and interactions Neta has with her family and friends. The second half of the novel is easier to follow than the first and the level of emotional involvement increases considerably. Not recommended for those looking for a pick-me-up novel, this would be more enjoyable for those interested in tumultuous family affairs, depression or coming of age timepiece novels. Overall, the text is well written and thought provoking. Check it out from a library near you!

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A Fortune Foretold, you may be interested in A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe (2017).

Book Review | Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

bluebird cover.jpgTwo dead bodies in a small eastern Texas town bring Ranger Darren looking for answers. Dealing with a drinking problem and separation from his wife, Darren finds several similarities between the black male victim and himself. As he tries to determine if there is a connection between the two bodies, both found by the bayou, race and small town politics come into play. 

Bluebird, Bluebird deals with the very timely topic of racial injustice from law enforcement. It is tastefully written in a manner that readers will find digestible, without being overly graphic. The story progresses in a mostly linear fashion, albeit at a sometimes slow pace. The scenes and characters are described adequately to make them imaginable, but none are particularly likeable. This book will appeal to fans of noir crime novels and those interested in reading about racial issues. Check for this book at your local library, it’s set to be released September 12, 2017.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Bluebird, Bluebird, you may be interested in Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (2017).

Book Review | O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco by Jeremy Fish

o glorious city cover.jpgAs the first artist in residence at City Hall in San Francisco, Jeremy Fish completed a series of 100 drawings in as many days. Through his agreement with the San Francisco Arts Commission, he worked on the pieces three days a week in his City Hall office for a commemorative project relating to City Hall’s 100th birthday. The book explains the project and shares the drawings and photo collages that Fish created during his residence.

Fish fans who are not already familiar with his background will enjoy reading about what brought him to San Francisco and how his career developed. His signature artwork is sure to create at least a few smiles, and accompanying text also provides some educational tidbits about San Francisco’s history. Perhaps on account of health issues encountered by Fish during his residence, some of the drawings lack full details like those often present in his pieces. Photo collages (drawings added on top of black and white photographs) may not be appealing to all fans hoping for more drawn art. It would be better to read a physical copy of this book instead of the ebook as it does not allow for zooming in on the artwork. Check it out from a library near you!