Book Review | Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Aki and Christa are high schoolers who fall in like at first sight when their church groups join up in a small town to help with the construction of a new church. The girls sneak off in the evenings to make out with each other and deal with trying to hide their relationship by day. The book mainly addresses a teen coming to terms with her (bi)sexuality while on a summer youth group trip to Mexico, but also includes broader social issues within the context.

Our Own Private Universe keeps a decent pace and tells a story that holds the reader’s intrest. Some sections, especially that narrator’s internal monologue, are a bit repetitive. As a YA novel, it’s successful in its inclusion of diversity, budding sexuality, and melodrama. Adult readers may be put off by all of the characters lying to each other or the narrator’s tendency to blow things out of proportion. The book could serve as a good introduction to teens trying to orient themselves on the LGBTQIA spectrum. 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.

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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).

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 | The Infinite by Nicholas Mainieri

infinite mainieriIn New Orleans, a few years after Hurricane Katrina, high schoolers Jonah and Luz are in love. Each with a troubled past, having dealt with parental deaths and other difficult events, Luz and Jonah continue to struggle when they become pregnant and Luz’s father demands she return to Mexico. Jonah decides he must follow her across the border, but all bets are off when Luz doesn’t show up at her Grandma’s on time.

The Infinite is Mainieri’s first novel. It maintains a casual tone, using colloquialisms and interjecting Spanish. The text is clear, with the storyline being mostly easy to follow. Chapters are very short, making the book easy to pick up and put down. The characters are developed enough, and descriptions allow the reader to envision settings described. While violence occurs, it is not overly graphic or drawn out. This novel would work well for somewhat hesitant high school or college age readers, or others with short attention spans. Mainieri has crafted a very digestible read that keeps up a decent pace throughout. Check it out from a library near you!

I received 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 Infinite, you may be interested in Mexico by Josh Barkan (2017). 

Book Review | Mexico : stories by Josh Barkan

mexico stories josh barkan.jpgMexico is a collection of twelve short stories by Josh Barkan. The book’s characters come from various backgrounds and the stories are not connected other than that they all take place in Mexico. Protagonists include US expats and Mexicans, ranging in age from children to older adults. Themes dealt with include religion, interpersonal relations, gang violence, power struggle, cancer and corruption, among others. While some characters are coming of age, others are changing their ways after a life’s work.

This book is well-written and started out strong, but petered out a little as it continued. That said, each story is thought provoking and works well on its own. The themes and perspectives offered were interesting, but something to pull the reader in and keep his attention was lacking. Because of the format, some characters were not as well developed and harder to relate to. Barkan has incorporated violence tastefully into these stories, which range in length and make the book easy to pick up or put down. This book would appeal to those interested in experiencing a slice of life in another culture from various points of view. Released in January 2017, you should be able to check it out from a library near you.

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

Film Review | Alamar by Pedro González-Rubio

Alamar DVD cover imageAnother interesting indie film, Alamar deals with a son from separated parents who goes to visit his father at the sea. This is not to say a seaside vacation, but a way of life that takes place in the sea itself. A fisherman living in a wooden dwelling that is accessible only by boat or swimming shares his life with his young son who has grown up with his mother in a more traditional way – an apartment with electricity, TV and school. They fish for their food, collect lobsters and other sea creatures to sell for a living, and bond through a visiting bird they name “Blanquita”. There are beautiful shots of the sea and González-Rubio’s honest and straight-forward portrayal of the relationship between son, father and grandfather gives the viewer a new perspective to consider regarding less familiar ways of life.

View the Alamar trailer on YouTube.