What an absolutely incredible piece of fiction! Click the link below to read the full story.
Official – Subject To Final Review P R O C E E D I N G S (9 :45 a.m.) CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON: We’ll hear argument f this morning in Case 84-2532, Android Rights Coalition verses The People’s Republic of America. TX-38 ORAL ARGUMENT OF TX-38
This is my second to last read for the MadLibs 2018 reading challenge that I was supposed to finish officially back in June, but whatever, there’s still some time left in the year.
The Book of Speculation tells a story across generations of Simon, the protagonist’s, family. His is a family of circus performers, but more than that, one of “dangerous” women who suffer from undiagnosed mental illness.
When a man named Churchwarry, a book collector, sends Simon a mysterious book that is somehow connected to his family, Simon finds himself obsessed with the discovery that all the women in his family have drowned on the same day. Truly, a mystery as all these women were “mermaids.” They were carnival performers who swam in tanks on display because they could hold their breath for an inordinate amount of time, a talent Simon and his sister have inherited.
When his sister Enola, who works the circuit as a Tarot card reader, comes home frazzled and displaying acute anxiety, and the date of July 24th approaches, Simon becomes desperate to break the curse that already took his mother, and in turn, his father.
The entire time I read this book, I couldn’t help but think of the movie Big Fish. Perhaps it was the cast of circus characters that I found a connection to, but I think it was more than that. It was how much like the protagonist in that movie, Simon tried to stay removed from his family’s history but found himself nearly drowned in it until he stopped resisting.
There’s also the element of magical realism that felt like the two stories were connected. In fact, if this book were ever made into a movie or Netflix series, I could see it having much the same directorial qualities as Big Fish. As the story delves back and forth between past and present, slowly unraveling the twisted web created by generations of lies and secrets, I found myself enthralled and engaged in the mystery of this family, spanning across Vissers, Rhyzkovas, Peabodys, and more.
I think what was also so striking, especially toward the end, is how artifacts and history can have such a strong pull that even generations and various degrees of separation later, certain bloodlines and people can still find their way back to each other. It left me wondering if the curse and magic were real, or if it was all just a matter of chance and coincidence. Although the book falls pretty firmly on the magic side of this thought, it still leaves it just vague enough to let the readers decide for themselves.
Who else has read this book? What are your thoughts and feelings on this story? Let me know in the comments!
I picked up a book in Spain over three years ago because it looked interesting. I thought, “I’m proficient enough in Spanish, and this sounds like a fun action-thriller that will be a breeze.” It was not a breeze. I am not that proficient in Spanish (though my father said he didn’t think it was a very good translation, so perhaps that didn’t do me any favors). But I persisted, and I finally finished reading David Golemon’s Leyenda, translated by Ester Mendía Picazo.
I can’t quite give a thorough review, because since I was so focused on understanding the language, it was easy to get lost in what characters were who and who did what, though I think that may have just been the nature of the book. There was such an extensive ensemble and multiple converging storylines that it was all a dizzying swirl of action and adventure. What I can say is that it reminded me of a cross between National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code, so it was a fun read to be sure.
But this post isn’t about giving a review. It’s about relishing in my accomplishment of finishing my first ever book entirely in Spanish. It’s not my first language, so to say that I read 415 pages in my second tongue, especially when it heavily dealt with a topic of which the vocabulary was completely new to me, is something to be proud of.
I had moments where I thought about quitting and just saying that I can’t read in Spanish. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I took my time. I read voraciously some nights, as I was enthralled by the story. And other nights I read one paragraph or one page. That’s okay. There was no pressing need to finish the book in a timely manner (clearly). It took three and a half years, but I finished.
I think it’s important that I took on this endeavor, because it taught me an important life lesson. It may take many years and more time than anticipated, but it’s possible to finish something that seems impossible. Weirdly enough, completing this challenge I set for myself, even three years later, has renewed my energy to finish my next challenge (which I’ve also been working on for four years now): writing my first novel.
I’ve been working on writing my book on and off, writing when I have time. For the last four years it’s felt like a hobby that I’m doing to pass the time, and like it’s something that I’ll never finish. Sometimes I write a chapter and think, “Okay, that’s the next chapter. Who knows when this will be done.” But reading a whole book in Spanish and getting to the end taught me that, yes, an end does come, even if it takes more time than thought. I don’t just feel like I’m writing for writing’s sake now. I finished Leyenda, so that means I can finish writing my book.
This all also coincides with the impending end of my master’s program. In just eight more weeks, I’ll be done and officially have my MBA. I see the end of each of these adventures as the closing of chapters in my own book, but not as the end of my story. Some chapters are longer than others and take more time, but they do come to an end. And that just means I know I can accomplish these things and feel rejuvenated to start the next one.
I thought being a reader had taught me all it can at this point, but it turns out there’s still so much more that being a reader can teach me.
There are spoilers ahead, so if you plan on reading the book, proceed with caution!
Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova is the followup to Labyrinth Lost, all part of the Brooklyn Brujas series. This book is told from the perspective of the older sister, Lula Mortiz, after the events of what happened in the first book. She’s still coping with the trauma and struggling to find forgiveness for her sister Alex’s actions. Meanwhile, Alex has embraced her encantrix powers, but still feels guilty , so she does everything for her sister to earn her forgiveness.
Lula is clearly undergoing the effects of PTSD, as she consistently states that she no longer feels like the same person. So much so that even the love of her life, Maks, doesn’t bring her the same joy he once did, but she’s so adamant at holding on to her old self that she clings to his presence and the relationship they once had that’s no longer there. After months of these trials and tribulations, Maks decides to call it quits, but Lula doesn’t accept that. She tries using her powers of healing to mend their broken relationship, but in that same moment Death herself comes for Lula’s school mates in a bus crash.
Lady de la Muerte comes to claim Maks in the hospital in the aftermath, but Lula won’t let go. She enlists the help of her sisters to heal Maks before Death can take him, but things go terribly wrong. He dies, and when he wakes up, he’s not himself anymore. When Lula tried to tether her life force to Maks’s, she accidentally did the same for the other victims of the bus crash, creating an army of casimuertos (almost dead). Now, the Mortiz sisters are in a race against the paranormal authorities and time to fix their mistakes, but in order to do so, Lula must learn to let go of Maks, and Lula’s sisters must let go of her.
Cordova’s characterization of Lula is adept, as readers see the Mortiz family now from her eyes. One of the things I found especially telling and heartbreaking was how Lula always had Alex glamor her scars away on her face. The scars are a remnant of what happened in Los Lagos in book one, so hiding them is a form of trying to forget the trauma she underwent. More than that though, it’s vanity.
I don’t say that to be condescending in that way sometimes teenage girls are treated for caring so much about their beauty. Lula herself recognizes that her need to cover up the scars on her face is connected to the fact that her whole life she’s been told that she’s beautiful, and she knows that beauty is power when it comes to being a woman. It’s not to say she values her other qualities less (i.e., her healing magic, her fierce loyalty, her strength), but she knows having been told her whole life how beautiful she is means the world puts value in her physical appearance, and by having a scarred face, that power has been taken away.
There’s only a few brief sentences in the beginning of the book about this power dynamic, but it’s so in line with what women in our world are constantly told. Cordova didn’t spend much time on it, but she didn’t need to. Lula said it all in those few short internal thoughts on that one page. She managed to convey a complex idea of feminism in such a small space, and that’s the mark of a great writer.
By the end of the book though, Lula has found power in her magic, her family, and her bravery and strength. In the end, she makes the ultimate sacrifice to save her family, friends, and the world, even if it means she doesn’t get to live to see it. Thankfully, Lady de la Muerte doesn’t take her life as repayment for the chaos she’s caused from her actions, but the price that’s paid isn’t cheap either. There’s clearly more to come in book three, but whatever comes their way, I’m sure the Mortiz family will overcome.
I’m also glad that Lula has found power and strength in her scars, literal and metaphorical, and that she grew into someone who is learning to live with the past, but not necessarily holding onto it as a lifeline.
Have any of you read this book yet? What are your thoughts on the Mortiz sisters and their stories? Let me know in the comments!
Coming soon! An excellent set of stories. Follow the writer’s blog to get a glimpse of what’s in store 🙂
I am D. Avery and it’s been 9 days since I have posted anything or written anything new. I have not quit writing. In fact I have been… formatting. I am pretty excited to be getting this project finished up. Within this cover you will find (soon) flash fiction previously shown here at ShiftnShake […]
This was a particularly haunting and compelling look at depression. An absolutely excellent read! Click the link below to see the full story.
Corinne shrunk herself to bird size, just hatched. Cupped on a leaf, she floated down from a tree branch delicately. Her mind rocked back and forth, rocking the leaf back and forth. This was something she did sometimes when she needed to calm down, more relaxing than counting to ten. In her vision, a centipede […]
For my workplace book club, a coworker chose The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I had my reservations about reading this book because of the accusations that recently came out about the author in light of the Me Too movement. I also knew that this was a book that’s been lauded and held in high esteem, and even challenged and banned by certain schools due to certain content.
The story follows Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a member of the Wellpinit community in Washington. It’s a coming-of-age story about growing up Indian in a racist country. It’s about growing up Indian in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father. It’s about growing up Indian and poor. There are so many heavy and tragic topics that take place throughout the story, but it’s all told through Junior’s eyes, meaning it’s told with a wry sense of humor to soften the blow.
I really enjoyed the main character’s voice and his sarcasm aimed not only at the white community that mistreated his people, but at his own people too. It creates this complex and layered relationship between wanting to remain loyal, but wanting more than the life allotted by circumstance and the majority in power. It’s something that many marginalized people can relate to.
Here of course is where the conflict for me as a reader occurs. I truly enjoyed this book and think it’s a good piece of work that’s worth reading. But I can’t just forget the accusations about the author from the people he hurt. In fact, I can even see some of that attitude bleed through in the main character Junior. Sure, he’s a straight teenage boy, so he’s bound to talk about masturbation and look at girls with desire. At least, that’s what’s expected, because after all, boys will be boys. The danger in that expectation is that those boys grow up to be “men who’ll be men,” who in turn continue objectifying women and seeing them as things. This leads to men who “misbehave” and end up hurting women.
While the book is an excellent read and covers important topics with a genuinely funny voice, it’s hard not to notice the moments where adult Alexie and fictional Junior crossover into one another. It becomes a question of separating the art from the artist, which is something I’ve always struggled with. To what extent can we do so, and at what point do we stop separating the two? Because it’s obvious that no one is perfect and no art is perfect, but we have to make a stand somewhere.
Alexie’s new reputation is a blow to marginalized communities because he was such a strong voice for his own. Then again, maybe if more publishers championed more marginalized voices, it wouldn’t be such a detrimental hit to those communities in the first place.
Did anybody else read this book after what came to light about the author? Did anyone read it before? What are your thoughts on liking a book but not liking an author? Let me know in the comments!