Category Archives: 2013 Books

Book review: Matt de la Peña’s “The Living”

the+living+matt+de+la+penaShy, the main character in Matt de la Peña’s The Living (Delacorte), is not having a good week.

The 18-year-old cruise ship worker watched a passenger jump to his death. Some of his family members have fallen sick. His crush is engaged to another man. And, oh yeah, a catastrophic earthquake has hit Los Angeles, leading to a tsunami that upends the ship and leaves Shy stranded in the ocean with some sharks.

“ ‘What the hell!’ he shouted, angrily pushing himself off one of the corpses and sloshing through the water to pick up the raft oar. Now he was pissed. On top of everything else he had to deal with this? He stood and started beating at the ocean and screaming down the sharks: ‘Get your asses away from here!’”

The Living combines the drama of 90210 with the adventures of Yann Mantel’s Life of Pi and the mystery of the TV show Lost.

The book has multicultural appeal with Shy and his friend, Carmen, boasting Mexican roots and coming from border towns in the San Diego area. de la Peña has an easygoing style, with relatable characters and language (including a few curse words) that will draw teens, including reluctant readers.

Although the exposition and some parts of the book could have been speedier, the last 40 pages provided a great plot twist that kept me riveted. The ending made me wish that I didn’t have to wait until fall 2014 for the sequel, The Forgotten, to come out.

The Living is one heck of an adventure.

Matt de la PenaMore about Matt de la Peña: de la Peña is the author of four other novels, including Mexican White Boy, Ball Don’t Lie (which was made into a 2008 movie), We Were Here and I Will Save You. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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In the News: New releases, remembering Oscar Hijuelos and more

Here’s the latest new releases and news in Latino literature for the month of November:

FamilyTroubleAlready out: In her book Family Trouble, Joy Castro explores what happens to writers when they reveal their family secrets. Judith Ortiz Cofer and Rigoberto González are included in the book.

• In the novel The Accidental Native by J.L. Torres, a man comes to Puerto Rico to bury his parents, only to discover he was adopted.

Almost White• Actor/writer/director/producer Rick Najera, whose credits include the screenplay for Nothing Like the Holidays, explores his time in the entertainment industry in Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood. He talked about the book to NPR. In another memoir, Illinois Rep. Luis Gutiérrez talks about his life in Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill.

Don'tSayAWordDon’t Say a Word, Mama/No Digas Nada, Mama is the latest children’s book from Joe Hayes. The story focuses on two sisters and the garden they make with their mother.

Nov. 5: Chris Pérez remembers his wife in the memoir To Selena, with Love (Commemorative Edition).

Nov. 12: In The Living by Matt de la Peña, an 18-year-old cruise ship worker finds himself fighting for his life when a huge earthquake and tsunami hits the Pacific Ocean.

Mi_Familia_CalacaNov. 19: In the children’s book Mi Familia Calaca/My Skeleton Family by Cynthia Weil and illustrated by Jesus Canseco Zárate, the artwork of Oaxaca, Mexico is used to illustrate the diversity of family structures. Richard Blanco describes the process of writing the poem for President Obama’s inauguration in the book For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey.

• Dec. 3 – Spaniard Antonio Muñoz Molina depicts life during the Spanish Civil War in the novel In the Night of Time.

OscarHijuelosRemembering Oscar Hijuelos: Oscar Hijuelos, the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 1989 book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, died at age 62 last month. Here is his obituary from The New York Times. His friend Gustavo Perez Firmat remembered him in this NPR interview.

Other features:

Daniel AlarconDaniel Alarcón, left, talked about his new book, At Night We Walk in Circles, to Latino USA, Guernica and Vogue magazines, the LA Review of Books and NPR.

Sarah Cortez discussed her life as a poet and a police officer to Voice of America.

Junot Díaz and illustrator Jaime Hernandez spoke to The Washington Post and Complex.com about the making of the deluxe edition of This is How You Lose Her. Huffington Post featured several of the images.

PatriciaEngel-Photo1Patricia Engel, right, author of It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, was profiled by SouthFlorida.com.

Reyna Grande talked about her memoir The Distance Between Us in an interview with KPBS.

• NBC Latino featured Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Mañana Means Heaven, and Nicolás Kanellos, the founder of Arté Publico Press.

• Poet Charlie Vázquez announced the introduction of Editorial Trance, which will publish ebooks by Latino writers.

• This is awesome: The Shortlist website compiled “30 Pieces of Wisdom from Gabriel García Márquez Novels.”

• Great story: Public Radio International traveled to Peru and discovered its writers are spreading their stories through Lucha Libro writing.

• Read the writings of 16 emerging Cuban writers compiled by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo. (Hat tip to The Millions website.)

• Here is coverage from the Latino Information Network at Rutgers of the Las Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference writers’ workshop that took place in October in Brooklyn. The School Library Journal also reported on the event.

• The Scholastic Book Box Daily Blog featured a great profile on Pura Belpré, the New York Public Library’s first Latina librarian and the woman whose name appears on the American Library Association awards for young readers’ literature aimed at Hispanics. The Pura Belpré Awards will be announced in January.

Latinas for Latino Lit has a great package for families with young children — reading kits featuring a book (on Belpré, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta and Celia Cruz), along with a booklet and pencils.

• In an article for The Texas Observer, San Antonio writer Gregg Barrios discussed the lack of Latino writers at the Texas Book Festival that took place last month. Officials from the organization responded by saying they were late with the invites and some authors declined to attend.

• Seven books that were banned by the Tucson school district — including Occupied America by Rudolfo K. Acuña, can now be read by students in the classroom, reports the Huffington Post.

• Publishing Perspectives took a look at the children’s book market in Brazil.

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Book review: Daniel Alarcón’s “At Night We Walk in Circles”

AtNightWeWalkinCirclesIn the Daniel Alarcón novel At Night We Walk in Circles (Riverhead), Nelson is a young man who decides to jolt his life by joining a political theater troupe that tours an unnamed South American country. The experiences changes his life in ways he could not imagined. Or, as the narrator, puts it: “And that is when the trouble began.”

Nelson seems to come to life as he performs in the play with Henry Nuñez, a former political prisoner, and Patalarga, a theater operator. Both men are a generation older than Nelson and hope to revive  political activism in the country through their performances.

“What, Henry argued, is a play without an audience? Isn’t a script simply potential energy until that magical moment when it becomes something more? Isn’t alchemy like that only possible when the words are made real, when the actors step out from behind the curtain (or the tarp, in this case) and perform?

But Nelson is saddened by some big news given by an ex-girlfriend that he still pines for. Then the trio  stops in one small town and Henry meets with a family who once played a significant part in his part — and Nelson ends up having to give the greatest performance of his life.

The reader knows Nelson is doomed. The narrator — who has a small connection to Nelson and the story — foreshadows the events that kept me riveted and wanted to know what happened.

Circles is an excellent read thanks to Alarcón’s artful plotting, beautiful writing and astute observations.

Daniel AlarconMore about Daniel Alarcón: Alarcón, a native of Peru, also is the author of War by Candlelight and Lost City Radio. He also runs the Radio Ambulante podcast.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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Meet Xavier Garza, author of “Maximilian & the Bingo Rematch: A Lucha Libre Sequel”

Xavier GarzaXavier Garza has turned the Mexican folklore he grew up listening to from his childhood into award-winning children’s books. His newest book, Maximilian & the Bingo Rematch: A Lucha Libre Sequel (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures), out Oct. 22, is the sequel to Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller, which was named a 2012 Pura Belpre Honor Book. His other works include collections of spooky stories — Creepy Creatures and Other Cucuys, Kid Cyclone Fights the Devil and Other Stories and Juan and the Chupacabras/ Juan y el Chupacabras —and the Christmas-themed Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid.

Maximilian&theBingoRematchQ: Tell me about your newest book, Maximilian & the Bingo Rematch: A Lucha Libre Sequel (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures). 

Maximilian & the Bingo Rematch is the sequel to my first book in the series — Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel. The book revolves around Max who is starting middle school. From having multiple teachers, tons of homework, no recess and dealing with eighth graders, Max quickly learns that being a sixth grader isn’t easy. Plus he has his first date ever when he takes Cecilia to the Halloween dance. Plus he has a blast from the past when, much to his dismay, his past actions from the first book come back to haunt him. To top it off he gets caught in between his tías who argue and fight like luchadores, and are vying for the queen bingo trophy at their local church. His uncle, The Guardian Angel, returns too, and he and tio Lalo are wrestling for the world tag team titles.

Q: Your books make great use of Mexican folklore — Lucha Libre, La Llorona and Chupacabras. What inspired you to write these books?

I write for the most part about things I have experienced in my life. I grew up with cucuy stories as a kid, namely books like Stories that Must Not Die and such. I grew up with lucha libre too, El Santo and Mil Mascaras.

Q: What do you hope your young readers get out of your books? 

More than anything else, I hope readers see themselves in the characters in my books. I grew up in the Valley, and such the vast majority of my stories take place in places like McAllen, Edinburg and Rio Grande City. I do this because I want kids to have a sense of familiarity in the stories that they read. Whenever I visit schools I always tell kids that each and every single one of them can write a book — that we all have cuentos, that we need to write these stories down. When they ask me what I think they should write about I tell them write about what you know. Write about what its like to be you. Write about what its like growing up in places like Donna, Mercedes and La Joya.

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In the News: New releases from Zepeda, Garcia and Alarcón

October has arrived, and cooler temperatures mean a better excuse to curl up with a good book. Here’s what going on in the world of Latino literature:

FallinginLovewithPrisonersBook releases:

• Already out: Gwendolyn Zepeda’s newest book is a collection of poetry, Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners, that details her life in the city. In the children’s book Parrots Over Puerto Rico, authors Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore connect the bird with the island’s history.

Kami Garcia/UnbreakableOct. 1: Kami Garcia’s Unbreakable, which is aimed at readers ages 12 and older, features a young girl who is haunted by paranormal activity.

Oct. 3: Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography finds Richard Rodriguez exploring the role of religion in the world.

Maximilian&theBingoRematchOct. 22: Xavier Garza’s newest children’s book is Maximilian & the Bingo Rematch: A Lucha Libre Sequel (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures), in which a sixth-grader faces several challenges in life and love.

• Oct. 31: In Daniel Alarcón’s At Night We Walk in Circles, a young man touring with a political acting troupe finds himself caught up in his own personal drama.

Literary magazines:

The third edition of Huizache, the literary magazine produced by the University of Houston-Victoria’s Center for Mexican American Literature and Culture, comes out Oct. 15. The issue will include works by Cristina García, Juan Felipe Herrera, Domingo Martinez and Héctor Tobar. The $15 issue can be ordered online.

Book Festivals:

Oct. 5: Librofest in Houston features Sarah Cortez, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Manuel Ramos, René Saldaña Jr. and Gwendolyn Zepeda.

Oct. 26-27: The Texas Book Festival in Austin includes Monica Brown, Alfredo Corchado, Matt de la Peña, Cristina García, Kami Garcia, Xavier Garza, Manuel Gonzales, Duncan Tonatiuh and Mario Alberto Zambrano.

Writing contests:

The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies—Tejas Foco is sponsoring two contests for writers who have published fiction in 2013 that relate to the Mexican American experience in Texas. Deadline is Dec. 3.

• The new Angela Johnson Scholarship from the Vermont College of Fine Arts will offer $5,000 to writers of color pursuing the school’s master’s degree in Writing for Children & Young Adults.

Alvaro MutisOther features:

Colombian writer Alvaro Mutis, left, the winner of the Cervantes Prize, passed away last month at age 90. Here’s his obituary from the Associated Press, via the Huffington Post; a remembrance from The Guardian; and an 2001 interview with Francisco Goldman from the Bombsite website.

MananaMeansHeaven• Poet and artist Jose Montoya, a former poet laureate for the city of Sacramento, passed away last month at age 81. The Modesto Bee had a obituary, while the Sacramento Bee featured a photo gallery and an editorial.

• The Los Angeles Times ran an obituary for Bea Franco, the woman who inspired “The Mexican Girl” character in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and the new Tim Z. Hernandez novel Mañana Means Heaven.

MayasNotebookIsabel Allende, whose most recent novel is Maya’s Notebook, talked to The Guardian about her family and her past.

• NBC Latino profiled Monica Brown, author of Marisol Mcdonald and the Clash Bash/Marisol Mcdonald Y La Fiesta Sin Igual.

ThisIsHowYouLoseHerJunot Díaz, whose latest book This is How You Lose Her comes out Oct. 31 in a paperback deluxe edition with illustrations by Jaime Hernandez, has been featured in the Associated Press, Esquire and Salon. He also spoke to NBC Cafecito about his work with Freedom University for undocumented students.

Alisa ValdesPoet and novelist Gary Soto wrote  in the Huffington Post about why he stopped writing children’s stories.

• Novelist Alisa Valdes, left, gave her views on contemporary Latino lit to NBC Latino.

Juan Pablo Villalobos, author of Down the Rabbit Hole, was featured in the latest Granta podcast.

Mario Alberto Zambrano discussed his book Lotería to the Village Voice.

DreaminginCuban• The Cristina García novel Dreaming in Cuban was banned by an Arizona school, according to the Colorlines website. Meg Medina faced problems at one school with her book, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.

• Here’s a cool way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which ends Oct. 15 — this literary flow chart from ebook publisher Open Road Media shows great Latino literature selections.

• Publishing Perspectives examined how ebooks were affecting libraries in the Spanish-speaking countries.

Also this month:

• Looking for books for Halloween? Check out these scary stories for children and these thrillers for adults.

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Book review: Patricio Pron’s “My Fathers’ Ghost is Climbing in the Rain”

myfathersghostMy Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain (Knopf) by Partricio Pron has a premise as intriguing as its title.

The first part begins somewhat mysteriously, with the narrator, returning to his native Argentina from Germany, remembering scraps of his and his family’s past — drug abuse, a car accident, his father’s illness. (“My father was lying beneath a tangle of cord like a fly in a spiderweb.”) The sections are not numbered in correct order (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10).

The second part deals with the disappearance with a father’s friend, Alberto José Burdisso, in 2008. The son finds a collection of articles and pictures saved by his father, who only knew the man briefly in primary school.  This leads to several questions, such as:

“Who would want to kill some sort of Faulknerian fool, poorer than a church mouse, in a town where his disappearance would be noticed immediately, a town, where, moreover, many people would know who Burdisso was, what he had done and who was with him in his final hours?”

And why does his father, a journalist, take such an interest in this poor man’s death?

Pron builds up an compelling storyline — and the answers lies in Argentina’s haunted past and the father’s role in politics, even though the man’s death occurred decades after the Dirty War.

“I noticed it had started to rain again, and I told myself I would write that story because what my parents and their comrades had done didn’t deserve to be forgotten, and because I was the product of what they had done, and because what they’d done was worthy of being told because their ghost — not the right or wrong decisions my parents and their comrades had made their spirit itself — was going to keep climbing in the rain until it took the heavens by storm.”

Pron is a great writer. The 212-page book, which was translated by Mara Faye Lethem, is simply written with evocative language and a plot that kept me reading. My Father’s Ghost shows the effects of the Dirty War though generations and years.

patriciopronMore about Patricio Pron:

Pron, an Argentine native who lives in Madrid, has written three short story collections and four novels. He has won the Juan Rulfo Short Story Prize and the Jaén Novel Prize.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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Book review: Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s “The Sound of Things Falling”

Sound of Things Falling After a game of billards with his friend Ricardo, Antonio Yammara walks out into the streets of Bogotá, Colombia, and gunfire rings out. Antonio is injured and Ricardo dies. The incident haunts Antonio for years until he decides to find out why Ricardo was killed.

The Sound of Things Falling (Riverhead) by Juan Gabriel Vásquez shows how the drug war affected the lives of the people in Colombia. Two of the characters recall how they learned of the fatal shootings of government officials and politicians just as Americans remember where they were when President John F. Kennedy or civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. were shot.

Antonio’s investigation into Ricardo’s death draws him closer to Ricardo’s family and his country’s history. Antonio even makes a visit to the abandoned home of drug lord Pablo Escobar, where a rhino still roams the land. Throughout the novel, he uses the imagery of flight — I won’t reveal anymore than that — to symbolize the characters’ emotions.

It’s these vivid details, along with some beautifully written passages, that make Sound a terrific read. His work reminded me of Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner, And The Mountains Echoed). Like Hosseini, Vásquez is able to convey his country’s trials on a personal basis with a compelling plot and simple, accessible language so I was drawn to the story without feeling lost or confused. (Translator Anne McLean deserves a great deal of credit.) Vasquez also eloquently conveys the tragedy and puzzle of life, as demonstrated by this passage:

“Adulthood brings with it the pernicious illusion of control, and perhaps evens depends on it. I mean that mirage of dominion over our own life that allows us to feel like adults, for we associate maturity with autonomy, the sovereign right to determine what is going to happen to us next. Disillusion comes sooner or later, but it always comes, it doesn’t miss an appointment, it never has. When it arrives we receive it without too much surprise, for no one who lives long enough can be surprises to find their biography has been molded by distant events, by other people’s will, with little or no participation from our own decisions. These long processes that end up running into our life — sometimes to give it the shove it needed, sometimes to blow to smithereens our most splendid plans — tend to be hidden like subterranean currents, like tiny shifts of tectonic plates, and when the earthquake finally comes we invoke the words we’ve learned to calm ourselves, accident, fluke, and sometimes fate.”

The Sound of Falling Things is an unforgettable read.

juan-gabriel-vasquezMore about Juan Gabriel Vásquez:

Vásquez was born in Bogotá and has lived in France, Belgium and Spain. His first two books were The Informers and The Secret History of Costaguana.

Source: I purchased this book.

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In the News: Fall brings new releases from Piñeiro, Suarez and Brown

September is here. Here’s a look at the latest books and news in Latino lit:

a-crack-in-the-wall• Already out: In A Crack in the Wall by Claudia Piñeiro, a young woman asks about the whereabouts for a missing person. Piñeiro talked to Publishers Weekly, who called her “Argentina’s top crime writer.”

• A penguin starts school in the children’s book Tony Baloney School Rules by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Latino Americans • Sept. 3 - Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation by Ray Suarez is the companion book to the PBS series that will air this month.

Sept. 15: In Monica Brown’s children’s book, Marisol Mcdonald and the Clash Bash/Marisol Mcdonald Y La Fiesta Sin Igual, the sequel to the award-winning Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina, the 8-year-old Peruvian-Scottish-American title character throws a birthday party.

41kDAwynZ3L._SY300_Sept 17: Musician Linda Ronstadt writes about her life in Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir. She talked to The New York Times about the book and her recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, which has prevented her from singing.

Sept. 24: The family of baseball great Roberto Clemente remember him in  Clemente: The True Legacy of an Undying Hero.

NakedSingularityAwards:

Sergio de la Pava won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut writers for his novel, A Naked Singularity. Publishers Weekly profiled the author who is a public defender, like the character in his book, and self-published the book.

CristinaGarciaBook Festivals:

Sept. 21-22: The National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. will include Marie Arana, Monica Brown, Alfredo Corchado, Cristina García (right), Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez and Linda Ronstadt.

• Sept. 22: The Brooklyn Book Festival will feature Cristina García, Manuel Gonzales, Tim Z. Hernandez, Patricio Pron, Linda Rodriguez, Justin Torres and Juan Gabriel Vásquez.

ReynaGrandeWriter’s workshops:

Oct. 5: Reyna Grande (left) will be the keynote speaker at the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event will include panelists , such as Raquel Cepeda and Carlos Andrés Gómez, and one-on-one sessions with agents and editors.

Other features:

carmen_tafollaThe Texas Observer had a great article about three Latina poet laureates – Gwendolyn Zepeda of Houston, Olga Valle-Herr of McAllen and Carmen Tafolla (right) of San Antonio. The state of Arizona named Alberto Álvaro Ríos as its first Poet Laureate. NBC Latino profiled Ríos.

JunotDiazJunot Díaz (left) revealed his writing process to The Daily Beast. He also was profiled in Playboy, an article that received this response from The Atlantic Wire, which compared him to Hugh Hefner but “with less hair and more imagination.” This Is How You Lose Her will come out in paperback Sept. 3, with a deluxe edition featuring illustrations by Jaime Hernandez Oct. 31.

juan-gabriel-vasquezJuan Gabriel Vásquez (right), author of The Sound of Things Falling, picked his favorite Latino literature picks for The Daily Beast. He also talked to NPR about his book. The Atlantic Wire featured him in an article about contemporary Latin American literature.

ZambranoMario Alberto Zambrano (left) talked about the inspiration of his book Lotería to Kirkus Reviews. Zambrano also appeared on “The Diane Rehm Show” on NPR.

• Fans of Jorge Luis Borges can listen to him discuss his books thanks to some audio recordings he left behind, reports Héctor Tobar of The Los Angeles Times.

• PBS profiled Rueben Martinez, who turned his San Diego barbershop into a bookstore.

• NBC Latino talked to David Tomas Martinez about his transformation from gang member to poet.

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Book review: Javier Marías’ “The Infatuations”

The Infatuations Javier Marías’ The Infatuations (Knopf) begins with an intriguing premise.

A young woman, María Dolz, eats breakfast every morning at a café in Madrid that is frequented by an attractive couple, Luisa and Miguel.

“The nicest thing about them was seeing how much they enjoyed each other’s company. At an hour when almost no one is in the mood for anything, still less for fun and games, they talked non-stop laughing and joking, as if they had only just met or met for the every first time.”

One day, she discovers Miguel is murdered. She becomes friends with Luisa as well as with Javier, a friend of the couple who helps the widow out after her husband’s death. María becomes entranced by the mystery of Miguel’s death — and Javier may have played a role in the part.

The Infatuations sounds like a great thriller, but it’s more intellectual. Whether you’ll like it depends on your tastes in literature.

The characters often talk in long monologues than can go on for paragraphs or even pages. Who talks like that? At times, I wanted the story to hurry up and get to some action. The book — which ran about 50 pages too long — is best read in small doses.

But those long pages of conversations also had elegant writing (translated by the great Margaret Jull Costa, who also translated José Saramago’s Cain and Paulo Coelho’s Aleph). Marías has some great observations about the human condition.

On memory:

“We gradually learn that what seems really important now will one day seem a mere fact, a neutral piece of information. We learn that there will come a time when we don’t even give a thought to the person we once couldn’t live without and over whom we spent sleepless nights, without whom life seemed impossible, on whose words and presence we depended day after day, and if we ever do, very occasionally give that person a thought, it will merely be to shrug and think at most: ‘I wonder what became of her?’ without a flicker of concern or curiosity.”

On fate:

“The bad thing about terrible misfortunes, the kind that tear us apart and appears to be unendurable, is that those who suffer them believe or almost demand that the world should end right there, and yet the world pays no heed and carries on regardless and even tugs at the sleeve of the person who suffered the misfortune, I mean, it won’t just let them depart this world the way a disgruntled spectator might leave the theatre, unless the unfortunate person kills him or herself.”

On relationships:

“We think men will change their mind or their beliefs, that they will gradually discover that they can’t do without us, that we will be the exception in their lives or the visitors who end up staying, that they will eventually grow tired of those other invisible women whose existence we begin to doubt or whom we prefer to think do not exist, the more we see of the men and the more we love them despite ourselves; that we will be the chosen ones if only we have the necessary staying power to remain by their side, uncomplaining and uninsistent.”

Patient readers will be rewarded with an interesting twist about the murder. The ending also makes you think about the significance of the title and how people can get caught up in each other’s lives. Think of The Infatuations as literary fiction with a wicked side.

Javier_MaríasMore about Javier Marías:

Marías, who was born in Madrid, is considered one of Spain’s top contemporary novelists. He has written thirteen novels, including the award-winning The Man of Feeling, All Souls and A Heart So White.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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Book review: Patricia Engel’s “It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris”

Engle-ItsNotLoveThe title of Patricia Engel’s It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris (Grove Press) suggests a fun, quirky romance in the world’s most glamorous city. But it’s a thoughtful look at the tough choices and emotions humans go through to attain love.

Lita del Cielo is a college student from New Jersey who spends a year living in a house run by a 90-year-old socialite and filled with other young adults. Even though Lita comes from a family that runs a huge Latin American food company, she feels out of place compared to her more sophisticated housemates. Then she meets Cato, a Frenchman. Of course, not everything is perfect — Cato is in fragile health. Lita must decide whether to stay in Paris with the love of her life or return to the United States and be with her family.

Although the book was more serious than I expected, it was an easy read. Engel has some great observations about love, and she shows how Lita’s heritage — her family is from Colombia — affects her in different ways, from racist remarks from her housemates to her emotions as she goes through tough moments:

“Of course I cried. Until my eyes swelled and my face ached. In English the world for crying feels trite, empty. The Spanish llorando is so much better. To say it feels like a cry, the way you have to open up your mouth and throat, concluding on the tip of the tongue, the back of the teeth. The French pleurer sounds too pretty, restrained, a costume of sadness. I wanted to invent a new word for crying without tears. The broken feeling. The disillusion.”

It’s Not Love is a mature, unique take on love — and how wonderful and awful it can be at the same time.

PatriciaEngel-Photo1More about Patricia Engel:

Engel, like her character Lita, is the daughter of Colombian parents who grew up in New Jersey. Her first book, Vida, won numerous literary prizes and her short stories have appeared in numerous publications. She lives in Florida.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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