Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Minor Fall: a major disappointment

A Minor Fall by Price Ainsworth is a legal thriller about up and coming personal injury lawyer Davy Jones. He is giving cases he’s not supposed to win; however; somehow he finds a way to win and win big. After one particular case, he is given a big case by his boss, mentor and father-in-law, Timothy Sullivan. He tries to emulate him in every way. He is sent to Kentucky to represent landowners in a suit against an oil company. Beth Sheehan, a beautiful contract lawyer, is added to the team and soon the sparks fly between Davy and Beth. While in Kentucky, they have a brief affair. The stress of the affair and the pressure of the case starts to get to Davy. He starts a downward spiral which seems out of control. He begins to questioning everything. Will he lose his wife? Will he lose his job at the firm? Will he abandon law altogether?

Unfortunately, I could not finish this book. I made it through three chapters and I was disgusted that I didn’t want to continue. First, the language. There were a couple scenes when character use dirty sex talk. I don’t care what people say, it is NOT sexy. I don’t like it. Second, there is a scene as they are heading to Kentucky to start the next case, they are on a plane. Davy, pretending to be asleep, witnesses his boss and father-in-law, receives a blowjob from his paralegal! That was the final straw. I realized I didn’t care about Davy. I didn’t want to see how or if Davy changes after his moral crisis. Mr. Ainsworth is a lawyer who wrote a book. While the legal knowledge and descriptions are spot on, his story never takes off. He’s no John Grisham. I do not recommend A Minor Fall.   

A Minor Fall

is available in hardcover and eBook

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Latinos in Literature: life, heroism and beauty

Today I will discuss three famous Latinos in literature. As an avid bookworm for most of my life, I have read a variety of books across genres, languages and cultures. When I decide to discuss a few important Latinos in literature, I didn’t realize what a task it would be. While there are so many great writers to choose from, it was hard for me to pick just three. However, I hope discuss the wide range of talent and cultural impact in these writers’ works. All three have been influenced by the world around them as well as influenced those who followed. All three are from different ancestral backgrounds but through their writing they attempt to bring the world closer together with stories of growing up, stories of heroism and beautiful poetry of love.

First, Sandra Cisneros was born December 20, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois. The only daughter in a family with six sons, she often left pushed aside and isolated. Ms. Cisneros is best known for her debut novel The House on Mango Street (1984) which is taught in classrooms across America. It is a coming of age story of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago with Chicanos and Puerto Ricans. The major themes include the quest to lead a better life and the promise to help those who remain behind. The biculturalism and bilingualism is very important in Ms. Cisneros’ writing. She will use Spanish in place of English when the flow of the passage is improved by the beauty of the language. For example, instead of saying “my girl,” she will use “mihija” which is a Spanish endearment literally meaning my girl. However, there is a poetry with the use of mihija. I didn’t read The House on Mango Street in the context of a classroom but after the recommendation of a friend. The themes are common of any coming of age story: the beloved childhood adventures, the heartbreak as one realizes that life is dirty, unfair and requires hard work from you. In many ways, the book reminds me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) as the main character grows from a child’s point of view of the world into the jaded adult view of someone who grows up too soon.

Second, Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American poet, novelist and essayist. Born March 27, 1950 in New York, she spent the first ten years of her life in Dominican Republic until her father’s involvement in a political rebellion forced the family to flee. One of my favorite of Ms. Alvarez’s books is In the Time of Butterflies (1994), a historical novel about the Mirabal sisters: Minerva, Dede, Maria Teresa and Patria during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. The sisters were active in the underground revolution against Trujillo. Three of the sisters were murdered on November 25, 1960 while on Puerto Plata Road. Their code name, Las Mariposas “The Butterflies” and their story has remained with me years after reading the book. Ms. Alvarez once said “A novel is not, after all, a historical novel, but a way to travel through the human heart.” In her books, the reader is able to see, feel and experience another side of life through the eyes of her characters. There is a beauty and brutal honesty in her writing. The scenes in which the sisters suffered in prison and later the scene of their death are hard to read; however, gives the reality of what the sisters and their fellow revolutionaries suffered to fight Trujillo. These are the scenes which I remember the most. As with most courageous stories, the Mirabal sisters have not been lost to time thanks, in part, to Ms. Alvarez’s book. When a writer has such an important impact to help keep such stories alive is noteworthy.

Third, Pablo Neruda is the pen name, and later legal name, of Chilean poet-diplomat and politician Ricardo Eliecer Neftail Reyes Basoalto. Born July 12, 1904, he has been called the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language. He began composing poems at the age of 10 and was published by 13. It has been thought that he published under a pseudonym to avoid his father’s disapproval of his poems and interests in writing and literature. Neruda would serve in various diplomatic posts including Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Mexico City. He was an ardent communist for most of his life and an admirer of Stalin and Lenin. He died September 23, 1973 at the age of 69. However, it is his poetry which has gain him notoriety. Pablo Neruda has influenced many in music and movies. Jackson Browne featured a Neruda poem on the back of his album, The Pretender (1976). One of his famous poems, LA Muerta (The Dead Woman) was featured in the film, Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990) starring Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson. The poem is about grief and living after a loved one has passed. My favorite quote from this poem is “I shall walk with frost and fire and death and snow, my feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but I shall stay alive, because above all things, you wanted me indomitable.” An image of a constant grief and missing the person once they’re gone; but a moving forward because the beloved wouldn’t want him to be defeated by her death.

In conclusion, these are just three examples of amazing writers who are a great asset to their culture as well to the world of literature. They are just writers for the Latino community but for the world as a whole. Their writings speak to the universal truths of life that we all must face and the lessons we all must learn. I highly recommend reading the books and poetry I have discussed here as well as branching out to other writers. I think we can learn about a culture, a people and ourselves within those pages. Within the adventures of a book, we can discover that we aren’t that different after all. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Art of Hiding: when life comes crashing down

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse is the story of woman who must rebuild her life when her husband dies and the life she had disappears. Nina McCarrick is 34 years old with a wonderful husband, Finn, and two sons, Connor and Declan. One day she gets the dreaded call that no one wants to get. Finn has been in a car accident. After the daze and shock of his death and funeral starts to clear, she learns that Finn had been hiding terrible secrets which leaves her and the boys destitute. Having to leave their post home, they move back to her childhood home to Portswood, Southampton to be near her sister, Tiggy. It is a world away from the life they are used to; but Nina tries to their new home comfortable. As they adjust and move on with life, Nina begins to question herself, her abilities, even her own strength. She rediscovers who she was before Finn came into her life and dictated everything for her. Can she finally follow her dreams she long pushed aside? Will she be able to forgive Finn for his mistakes? Can she and the boys truly be happy in their new life and home?

This is the third book I’ve read by Ms. Prowse and while I enjoyed it, I must say it wasn’t as good as the other two. The Art of Hiding was so fast paced, I felt it was over too quickly. Even though it takes place in England, I feel this story could have taken place anywhere in the world. The pain, the anger, the tears, the recovery is universal. Questions can be running through the readers’ heads: “How could Nina not know?” While Finn never really speaks a word in the story, only through memories, he is a strong influence and you understand how Nina did not know about the details of their life. It wasn’t her job to know, which angers me but it fit the story. It fit Nina as she focused being a wife and mother. I think my favorite character is Tiggy. She was blunt and helped Nina realize what she gave up without really wanting too. If you’ve enjoyed Ms. Prowse’s other books, you will enjoy The Art of Hiding.

The Art of Hiding
is available on Amazon

in paperback and on the Kindle

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hispanic Heritage Month: the often unsung heroes who fought for what is right

Today starts Hispanic Heritage Month which will continue until October 15th. This month is designed to recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the group’s heritage and culture as well as their contributions to the United States. September 15th was chosen as the start of Hispanic Heritage Month as it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. All occurring in 1821. Other Latin American countries celebrate their independence days in September as well: Mexico (September 16), Chile (September 18) and Belize (September 21). In the coming posts, I will focus on famous Hispanics and Latinos in the areas of literature, movies and TV and music. For this post, I want to feature people who may not have heard about; but their story has had an impact on our country.

First, Sylvia Mendez is a little girl who became the face of segregation long before Brown v Board of Education (1954). Mendez v Westminster (1946) successfully ended a de jure (law) segregation and paved the way for integration and the American Civil Rights Movement. Sylvia was born in 1936 in Santa Ana, California to Gonzalo Mendez, a Mexican immigrant,  and his wife, Felicitas, a native of Juncos, Puerto Rico. When the family moved to Westminster, California, there were two schools: Hoover Elementary, a two room wooden shack in the middle of the city’s Mexican neighborhood, and 17th Street Elementary, designated as whites only. Realizing that 17th Street Elementary provided better educational benefits, Gonzalo along with his sister Sally Vidaurri, attempted to enroll their children there. Vidaurri’s children were permitted to enroll because they were light skinned; however the Mendez children were not due to their dark skin and Hispanic last name. The families immediately went into action and filed suit with the city. The school board tried to claim a “language barrier” but it was quickly proven false when the children testified showing proficiently in English. The case made its way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Governor Earl Warren moved to desegregate all public schools in California. Thurgood Marshall used the Mendez case in his arguments in the Brown v Board of Education. When Brown appeared before the Supreme Court, Earl Warren was now Chief Justice and deeply influenced by the Mendez case, helping desegregate the nation. Sylvia Mendez would become a nurse and after 30 years, retired from the field. She has received many honors and recognition, the most recent being the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Second, Ralph Lazo is the only known non-spouse, non-Japanese American who voluntarily relocated to a World War II internment camp. Born November 3, 1924 in Los Angeles, Lazo was of Mexican and Irish descent. At 17, he learned his Japanese American friends and neighbors were being forcibly removed and incarcerated at Manzanar. He was so outraged that he joined them on the train to the camp in May 1942. The officials at the camp never questioned his ancestry. He remained at Manzanar High School, where he was elected class president, until August 1944 when he joined the army. He served as a Staff Sergeant in the South Pacific and would receive a Bronze Star for heroism in combat. After the war, Lazo would graduate from UCLA and earn a master’s degree from California State University, Northridge. He would spend his career teaching, mentoring disabled students and encouraging Hispanics to attend college and vote. He was also instrumental in a class action lawsuit in which Japanese Americans were seeking reparations which resulted in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The act offered an apology to interned Japanese Americans on behalf of the U.S. government and stated that the internment was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” He died on January 1, 1992 from liver cancer. He was 67.

Third, Rodolfo Gonzales whose poem Yo Soy Joaquin (I am Joaquin) helped solidify the Chicano movement. Born June 18, 1928 the youngest of eight children, Gonzalez grew up in Denver, Colorado’s tough Eastside Barrio where the Great Depression took a heavier toll on Mexican Americans. He would graduate from Manual High School at 16. He was known for his fiery disposition that he was given the nickname “Corky” because he was “always popping off like a cork.” He is best known for his poem and his activism. The poem, Yo Soy Joaquin, is viewed as the cosmological vision of the Chicano people. Neither Indian nor European. Neither Mexican nor American but a combination of these identifies. Where an individual can be all four without conflict or ridicule. Scholars have credit Gonzalez with authoring the historical and political definition of what it is to be Chicano. After a violent incident in Denver, Gonzalez retreated to a private life in 1973 with family and Denver’s Chicano community. He was still active in the movement; however, he maintained a lower profile. In 2005, he was diagnosed with renal and coronary distress with acute liver disease. He refused treatment, preferring to live out his last days with his family. He died April 12, 2005 at the age of 76. If you have the chance to read his poem, Yo Soy Joaquin is a powerful trip through the historical inheritance of the Chicano people as well as the current struggles. The opening stanza sets the tone of this powerful poem:
“I am Joaquin,
Lost in a world of confusion,
Caught up in a whirl of a gringo society,
Confused by the rules, Scorned by attitudes,
Suppressed by a manipulations, And destroyed by modern society
My fathers have lost the economic battle and won the struggle of cultural survival.
And now! I must choose between the paradox of
Victory of the spirit, despite the physical hunger”

In conclusion, everyone knows the most famous individuals who have helped the Hispanic and Latino people. However, there are so many other individuals, unsung heroes who have stood up against the oppression of their own people and for the oppression of others. I thoroughly enjoyed write about these three individuals. Although only eight at the time, the experience of trying to enroll in school had a deep impact on Sylvia Mendez that she continues to advocate education for Hispanics. Ralph Lazo was a wrong and stood with his friends and suffered with them as they were interned due to hysteria and fear. Rodolfo Gonzalez become the voice of a movement. While I had to brief in terms of this post, their stories have had a great impact on me. I look forward to researching and writing my future posts as I look into the impact that Hispanics and Latinos have had on literature, movies and TV and music. I hope you will come back to read more about these amazing individuals.

P.S. For those who may be confused by the differing terms. Hispanic refers to people who are from Spain, Spanish heritage or Spanish speaking. Latino refers to people are native of Latin American countries or have a family past in those countries. Chicano is the chosen identity of those who are Mexican origin or descent. Since I married my husband, I have learned that many individuals do not like the terms Hispanic or Latino and prefer Chicano. I will be using all three terms as it pertains a particular post or individual

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Best Kind of People: the aftermath of horrible accusations

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall is the story of one family’s journey after their seemingly idyllic life is torn apart. George Woodbury saved the life of his daughter and countless other kids at the Avalon Hills Prep school when he tackled an armed man whose goal was to kill. He became the school’s hero and the town’s favorite son. A few years later, that image would be stained when he is arrested for sexual misconduct with a minor. He is sent to jail pending trial. Meanwhile his wife, Joan, his son, Andrew and his daughter, Sadie, must deal with the aftermath of his arrest. The town becomes split in two as one half vilifies George and the other half supports and refuses to believe such charges. Each tries to do their best to move on with their lives and support their husband and father. But as more and more information comes out, they each have their doubts about his guilt or innocence. As the family moves closer and closer to the trial, the ties that bind them together are getting frayed. Is George innocent? Is he being set up? Is he guilty? How will they get on with their lives?

The Best Kind of People is an interesting book with an in-depth, no-holds-bar look into what happens to a family when serious accusations are made. When we hear about someone being arrested for sexual crimes such as the ones portrayed in the book, we often forget about the family. The wife who may or may not have known what was going on. His children who must consider the fact that their father could be guilty. The story is told from the perspective of Joan, Andrew and Sadie as the days past and the reader gets insight into each character and their thoughts, feelings and reactions to the events going on around them. I highly recommend The Best Kind of People. It will make you stop and think about how adults interact with teens and what can be seen as inappropriate or simply innocent.

The Best Kind of People
will be available September 19, 2017

in hardcover and eBook

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Game of Deceit: where can she turn?

A Game of Deceit by K.A. Davis is the story of one woman’s fight to discover the truth behind her husband’s sudden disappearance and the possible link to her father’s disappearance so many years ago. Kathryn Landry is a successful interior designer until one day when she arrives home to discover her husband, Neil, gone. His clothes and things are gone. Something’s fishy about him leaving as his important medication is still in the bathroom. She reports him missing and she is quickly pulled into a web of lies and mistrust that she doesn’t know who she can truly turn to. First, John Selton, a client and a private investigator, starts investigating Neil’s disappearance and Detective Mike Williams, who was a young detective who handled her father’s disappearance and doesn’t trust John. Both men try to sway Kathryn to his side, but who can she really believe? Will she find out what happened to her husband and her father?

A Game of Deceit is a fast paced story of cat and mouse as Kathryn finds herself in the middle of a sinister plot. I enjoyed every step as Kathryn wondered who to believe and trust. I was with Kathryn as she wavered between John and Mike. The ending! I totally didn’t see coming. Looking back over the clues, Ms. Davis does a great job at setting the final showdown between Kathryn and the story’s villain, who I cannot give away. The book also leaves it open for a sequel as not all has been revealed yet. If you have mystery and thrillers, you will enjoy A Game of Deceit. I highly recommend it.

A Game of Deceit

is available in paperback and eBook

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Prophet without Honor: a story which explores the what ifs in World War II history

A Prophet without Honor by Joseph Wurtenbaugh is a novel of alternative history. The story begins with the birth of Karl von Haydenreich and the tragic death of his mother, Charlotte, while his father, Captain Henrich Haydenreich, is fighting on the western front in World War I. Told through a series of letters, telegrams and memoirs, the reader hears how young Karl is raised by his stepmother, Rosamunde. Rosamunde was his mother’s best friend and a Jew. Despite both families’ objections, Henrich and Rosamunde marry and have a wonderful life until her death during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. Left in the care of his father, Karl is groomed to follow in the family’s footsteps and have a career in the military. When he comes of age, Hitler is coming to power in Germany and the road to World War II is set. In 1936, Hitler sets his army to occupy the Rhineland and bluffs the French and British thinking the German army would retreat at the first sight of opposition. The bluff works and Hitler’s military machine marches across Europe with utter destruction. In a world where history took a different path, it is a story of danger, spies, and romance. Would Hitler fully take over the world or would there still be a force to stop him? Who would have the courage to lead such a charge? Is Karl that man? 

A Prophet without Honor is an interesting retelling of history if one event had taken a different course. I have never read an alternative universe story before and I found the idea intriguing. The characters’ voices and actions have a tone of such accuracy you feel you could really be reading a book about our history. As Karl follows his orders, the thought is in the back of your mind that he was raised by a Jewish woman who he called “Mummi” Surely he couldn’t believe in such hatred against the Jewish people. I enjoyed the story as there is no clear hero or villain such as with life. I loved the realism that we often cannot and will never know the heroics of the men and women who fought against Hitler. If you enjoy reading a story about an alternative universe but reads with such realism, I recommend A Prophet without Honor.

A Prophet without Honor

is available on Amazon for the Kindle