Pierced by the Sun by Laura Esquivel

I thought I wasn't going to like this book. I'd rather read about a protagonist I admire, or at least one I might like as a person. There's not a lot to like about Lupita at the beginning of the story, and the first few chapters show all the signs of disintegrating into a preachy literary slice-of-life tale.

But Laura Esquivel surprised me. The seemingly random series of events surrounding the death of a local political figure start to shape up into a compelling mystery. As Lupita stumbles through her days, the reader gets a sense of a vivid social climate surrounding her, and the whole story is saturated with the cultural details of everyday life. It becomes clear she's in a lot of danger, and she barely escapes with her life on more than one occasion.

It's a murder mystery made of feeling as well as deduction. I've read a lot of detective fiction where the main character is coldly rational. Lupita is anything but rational, but she has a powerful intuition that serves her just as well. It was a breath of fresh air to realize that the author was deftly illustrating how it could be possible to solve a crime without high education or legal brilliance in an environment where the police are just as corrupt as the criminals. The character development is handled with grace and realism, and I really had to take back my initial judgements about Lupita's character.

Collapse )

Regardless, I really enjoyed the book and I'd recommend it to people who like mysteries with a dark or unusual bent.
Oh Jonathon!

3.12 Olive Senior, Anna carries water, 2013

Olive Senior, Anna Carries Water, illustrated by Laura James, 2013

Olive Senior is a Jamaican writer living in Canada. The picture book is every bit as good as you would think, given that she has won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, a Gold Medal of the Institute of Jamaica and the Isabel Sissons Canadian Children's Story Award.

It's a story about the littlest girl in a family who wants to be able to carry water on her head, like her big sisters and brothers. My youngest child was particularly taken with this.

The colourful illustrations are by Laura James, who has Antiguan heritage.
Buffy - Willow

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I enjoyed this book a lot, I'm glad someone recommended it to me!

I loved the flow of it, how easily it sucked me in and kept me reading, and the distinct voice of Ari which always felt true. It was fun to follow along on Dante's and Ari's relationship and to watch its progression. The author took great care with carefully rendering his characters and how they related to each other. Dante and Ari are obviously at the core of the book, but I also thought the parents-child relationships were varied and complex, and even charaters without much page time like aunt Ophelia felt rich.

The ending felt a bit rushed, but nonetheless this is a great book.
AtlA - Katara reading

Breaking Water by Indrapramit Das

Trigger Warnings for domestic violence, violence and gore

Krishna is quite unsettled when he bumps into a woman’s corpse during his morning bath in Kolkata’s Hooghly River, yet declines to do anything about it–after all, why should he take responsibility for a stranger? But when the dead start coming back to life en masse, he rethinks his position and the debate around how to treat these newly risen corpses gets a lot more complicated. In this story from Indrapramit Das, a journalist strives to understand Krishna’s actions and what they say about the rest of society and how we treat our dead.

An unusual philosophical take on a zombie story that I enjoyed a lot. I liked the open ending and the vivid prose:

Some were only days old, looking almost alive but for their slack faces like melting clay masks, their lethal wounds and bruises, their paled and discoloured skin, their jellied eyes and the sometimes lovely frills of clinging white crustaceans in their hair, the tiny flickers of fish leaping from their muddy mouths. Others were black and blue, bloated into terrifying caricatures of their living counterparts, who watched in droves from behind the lines of fearful policemen at the top of the ghat steps. Fresh or old, all these dead men and women wading back to the world were united by the ignominy of their ends, un-cremated and tossed into the tea-brown waters of the Hooghly to be forgotten. Most, Krishna noticed, were women. All had crows as their punishing familiars, which clung to shoulders and heads as they tore flesh away with their beaks.

Available online free here:

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

Let me preface this by saying that I did not enjoy The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a book for which Jemisin won many awards. But I thought this book was terrific. Jemisin's work has become better known recently and I was happy to include her in my project. I am now EXTREMELY EAGER for the sequel to this book.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Though I am close to the end of my project I couldn't help sneaking in one more memoir. I really have enjoyed the nonfiction I have read in this year - so much more than I would normally read and the quality was excellent.

If you have ever felt that you are holding yourself back... that you don't have the life you really want to have... that you would rather not try than embarrass yourself by failing... then you need to get this book as quickly as possible.

Because Rhimes is writing about herself the tone is never preachy. It's short and it's funny but also so inspirational. I loved that it included speeches she gave and pictures of her and her family.

I highly recommend this book for everyone.

Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due

This is an anthology of short pieces by the well-known speculative fiction writer Due. They don't quite fall into the horror category - I would rather describe them as atmospheric dark fantasy. The linked pieces center around Gracetown, Florida, a small town with a troubled past...

Though I'm not a horror fan I enjoyed this anthology immensely. The writing was terrific. It made a nice introduction to Due and her work. Highly recommended.