In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse

27778554._sx318_In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III (website, Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Genre: children’s fiction

I read it as an: ebook

Source: library

Length: 176 pp

Published by: Harry Abrams (10 Nov 2015)

This children’s novel follows Jimmy McLean as he travels with his grandfather to learn about his famous ancestor, Crazy Horse. Jimmy has a hard time with bullies who mock him for not being full-blooded Lakota. Jimmy’s mother is Lakota but his father is biracial Lakota and Irish. His grandfather takes Jimmy on a road trip so they can visit the sites of Crazy Horse’s most famous moments. In the process, Jimmy learns something of strength, honor, and taking care of people, including yourself. 

I enjoyed this slim novel well enough. I tend not to read children’s fiction much; even the books my 9 year old reads are generally YA. So the writing felt overly simple to me with some information missing that I would have liked to have. However, I had to remind myself that it IS for children and they may not be able to read books that deeply yet. It was fun to learn more about Crazy Horse, especially from a Native American perspective. So much history is written by the victors, so the version of Crazy Horse we tend to get in school here is that he was a rabble-rouser and problematic for the white soldiers. I always took that with a grain of salt anyway, but it is still nice to hear about the story from a different perspective. 

I read this for task #22 of the Read Harder challenge: A children’s or middle grade book that has won a diversity award since 2009.

Favorite lines:

  • “A long time ago,” Grandpa said as he and Jimmy rode down the highway, “people and animals could understand each other’s languages. A person could understand what a hawk said. The hawk could understand people. But things changed. Animals and people don’t understand each other anymore. That’s sad.”
  • “When things like that happen, like to your dad and Crazy Horse, it’s okay for tough guys to cry. Don’t you ever forget that.”
  • Jimmy looked around at the hilly landscape. He had the same strange feeling he’d had at the Hundred in the Hands battlefield. He felt like he should be quiet or talk only in a whisper.
  • “That’s the sad part about war and battles,” he concluded. “Doesn’t matter who you are, what side you’re on. It’s still sad, no matter what kind of uniform you wear or the color of your skin. It’s still sad.”
  • Sometimes you have to do things no matter how scary it is, or how scared you are.
  • …that’s what being a warrior was all about: facing the scary things no matter how afraid you were. That’s what courage is.

Whale Rider

949043Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (no author websites found)

Her Grace’s rating:  2 out of 5 stars

Genre: fiction

I read it as an: audiobooks

Narrator: Jay Laga’aia

Source: library

Length: 03:39:00

Published by: Bolinda (8 July 2005)

This is the story of Kahu, a young Maori girl who badly wants to be loved by her great-grandfather, her tribe’s chief. He has no time for any girl children and is absorbed in his duties and responsibilities as the chief. Their tribe, which claims descent from the legendary whale rider of myth,  always has a male chief but now there is no male heir. To gain her great-grandad’s approval, Kahu struggles to learn the stories and roles of her tribe and show everyone that she is worthy. Among her allies is the spirit of the whale rider himself. 

This is, apparently, a very well known legend in New Zealand. I confess I had no knowledge of it other than a vague recollection from the film, which I saw years ago. It was interesting to learn about Maori culture and language in modern times. The struggles indigenous peoples around the world still face are incredible. Why are we so awful to each other? 

I didn’t care for the narrator too much. He made his voice sound really, badly high when he was speaking a woman’s lines. No. Don’t do that. He was fine for the various men’s voices, though, and said Maori words with what appeared to be fluency. Not knowing a single word of the Maori language, I wouldn’t know if they were pronounced incorrectly anyway. I enjoyed how the native language was spread throughout the book. 

I found the writing style to be rather simple, or simplified perhaps, which was sort of a turnoff. I also found it an odd choice for the story to be told from Kahu’s uncle’s point of view. Why not from Kahu’s herself? Or even her great-grandad? It just seemed a weird person to act as the narrator. 

Overall, I’m glad I listened to it, always like learning more about a culture, but I didn’t realllllly care for this one too much. 

“…The Common Ties of Humanity…:” 20th Century Lessons from More’s Utopia and Roddenberry’s Star Trek

Throwback Thursday meets fandom and academia. I was cleaning out a bunch of old files on my computer and found a paper I wrote when I was a little baby undergrad many moons ago. I am amused. LOL. And yes, it was still the 20th century when I wrote it. I am an old.

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Image copyright watschi, posted on https://www.designcrowd.com/community/contest.aspx?id=1673030

Is it possible for two men who lived 400 years apart to have similar premonitions of the possibilities human society could achieve? Although there is no way to tell for sure, seems that Thomas More, author of Utopia, and Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, both had such visions. The society of the 24th century that Roddenberry so vividly brought to life and the society of the Utopians are both ideal cultures and are similar to each other in many ways. They also have some contrasts as well. Despite the few differences between the two works, Star Trek and Utopia both paint very realistic descriptions of an idyllic society that humanity may one day attain.Read More »

River of Teeth

31445891._sy475_River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey (website, Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Genre: alternative history

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 173 pp

Published by: Tor (23 May 2017)

Sarah Gailey’s novella, River of Teeth, finds its origins in a little known yet true bill Congress had considered passing in the 1800s. This bill would have imported hippos to the Louisiana bayous to breed as an alternate meat source to cattle. As the publisher’s blurb says, this was a terrible idea. Lucky for us, it clearly didn’t happen. In this alternate history, though, it did, and now shit’s about to get real. Some hippos in the novella’s past had escaped their farms and bred and expanded indiscriminately throughout the area. These feral hippos are tremendously dangerous and like to eat people. (Trying real hard here not to make a comment about how hungry the hippos were since I’m sure it’s been said many times. They were hungry…hungry hippos.)

Former hippo farmer and mercenary hippo wrangler, Winslow Houndstooth, is hired to herd these feral hippos out of the bayou and into a safer, contained region. If they are successful, he and his crew will make a fortune and Houndstooth will get revenge for a past wrong done to him. 

This book was so much fun! I love historical history, but not so much alternative history…unless it is one like this. Gailey pulled off an engaging, boisterous tale with complex characters, complete with their own motives, skills, and backgrounds. Houndstooth was the primary character, but the others were extremely well developed, particularly given that the story was so short. 

One thing I really loved was how diverse the cast of characters is. Men and women work alongside each other nicely (mostly), there are characters of color, nonbinary characters, LGBTQ characters, a woman who is about to become a single mother by choice. So many different people are represented and I fucking love it!

Definitely recommended for anyone looking for a fast, fun, diverse read. 

 

The History of William Marshal

29006215The History of William Marshal translated by Nigel Bryant

Her Grace’s rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Genre: nonfiction/biography

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 243 pp

Published by: The Boydell Press (1 Aug 2016)

This medieval chronicle, written in the 1220s in verse, depicts the life of William Marshal, The Greatest Knight. The author is unknown, but he was likely a close friend or a member of Marshal’s household. He wrote events as he knew them, both from firsthand knowledge or by asking those closest to Marshal. It certainly exaggerates Marshal’s life and abilities and glosses cheerfully over the times he blew it, but it is overall a valuable document of medieval noble life.

As a medievalist, I’ve read my share of chronicles and documents of the time. This one was a delightful change from the texts that are often dry accounts. It was easy to read and surprisingly funny. In part, this is due to Bryant’s skillful translation, but he can’t translate what wasn’t already there to begin with. The chronicler had a witty and sometimes playful tone to his writing. 

The whole document gives a fascinating glimpse into medieval noble life and the ways in which a knight can make a name for himself. The medieval mindset and things that the chronicler focused on are so intriguing. The politics and balancing acts these people had to perform must have been exhausting. It is also clear that women may have been respected (Eleanor of Aquitaine is mentioned in glowing terms) but they are still very much second-class citizens. One of Marshal’s horses is given a name, Blancart, and yet none of his sisters were named. Even queens are often referred to as ‘the queen’ or so and so’s wife. 

I wonder how much of the Stoics the author knew. Some passages were very Stoic in their reader: ‘But I tell you truly, no heart should grieve or rejoice excessively’ (p 28). Almost certainly he was influenced by Boethius as well; The Consolation of Philosophy had a lot of influence on medieval thought, and throughout Marshal’s history, numerous references exist to Fortune and her wheel. It feels like there may be some influences of the Beowulf poet on the chronicler as well. I’ll have to look into that more, because I’m a nerd. But the intro reminded me very much of the intro to Beowulf: þæt wæs god cyning! Yes, þæt wæs god knight! 

 This is definitely a must-read for any medievalist. Who doesn’t like learning about knights anyway, especially the one who was known as the greatest knight even in his own lifetime? 

Favorite parts/ lines:

  • On helping Empress Mathilda escape but she slowed them down by riding sidesaddle: ‘By Christ, lady, you can’t spur when you’re seated so! You’ll have to part your legs and swing over the saddle!’ (29)
  • And the fact is, sirs, the prowess of a single valiant knight can embolden a whole army… (37)
  • …joy and happiness are the due reward and stimulus for aptitude and prowess. (43)
  • Let’s be honest: being sedentary is shameful to the young. (52)
  • He won something of far more value, for the man who wins honour has made a rich profit indeed. (59)
  • I loved the part where the Marshal was at a tourney and he got smacked on the helmet so hard that it got stuck and he had to go lay on the smith’s anvil so the smith could pry it off. LOL. 
  • A man reveals himself by his actions! (70)
  • People often get what they deserve, and those who covet all lose all. (72)

 

 

The Heart and Stomach of a King

330px-elizabeth_i_in_coronation_robes
Elizabeth I in her Coronation Robes

The Virgin Queen. Good Queen Bess. Gloriana. By whatever name one called her, Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, granddaughter of the indomitable Elizabeth of York, was no woman to be trifled with. On September 7, we mark the 484th anniversary of her birth and the beginning of a long, tumultuous, vibrant life. Her reign is known as the Golden Age of England, during which time writers such as Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Spenser crafted their literary masterpieces; artists like Hilliard, Gower, and Segar painted portraits still recognized the world over; and the music of Tallis, Dowland, and Campion echoed in cathedrals and town squares alike. Elizabeth was quite possibly the apex of the British monarchy, but there are several things not commonly known about this Renaissance powerhouse.

Elizabeth may have been more traumatized by her mother’s execution than she could risk admitting to. She grew up hearing her mother called “The Great Whore,” who was beheaded by her father, Henry VIII, on false accusations of treason and adultery, before Elizabeth was three. However, there are signs that Elizabeth was secretly devoted to her lost mother in ways she couldn’t express openly. A locket ring was removed from her hand after her death which held a miniature of Anne. In a family portrait, she also wore a necklace with her mother’s “A” at her throat, an act which would have landed her in quite a lot of trouble had her father noticed it. At various times of her youth, she was a princess, declared a bastard and removed from the line of succession, reinstated, a political prisoner held in the Tower, and survived sexual scandal that led, in part, to the execution of Sir Thomas Seymour. All without a mother to comfort her.

Her difficult childhood tempered her, though, and her humanist education honed her already keen intelligence. Elizabeth was a polyglot, fluent in six languages by the time she was 11 years old – French, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Welsh and of course English. She also studied others and had a functional understanding of Flemish, Italian, and Gaelic. She learned Gaelic as part of her diplomatic attempts to subdue an Irish rebellion in the 1590s. Diplomacy and oration were great strengths for Elizabeth. She often used flirtation and flattery in her diplomacy to goad her male contemporaries into granting her political wishes. England was in dire straits when she came to the throne and she was pressured on many fronts to marry to secure various alliances and produce an heir, yet Elizabeth remained steadfastly unwed while still maintaining good relations with the majority of Europe throughout her reign. In a 1559 speech to Parliament, she said,

…I am already bound unto an husband, which is the kingdom of England, and that may suffice you. And this… makes me wonder that you forget, yourselves, the pledge of this alliance which I have made with my kingdom. … And reproach me so no more … that I have no children: for every one of you, and as many as are English, are my children and kinsfolks…. (Elizabeth I, 2000, p. 59)

Remaining unwed and fully in control of her government during a time in which women were most often used as bargaining chips, means to getting heirs, securing alliances, and bettering one’s social standing was a testament to Elizabeth’s strength of will and shrewd political acumen.

Another pressing issue of her reign was poverty. Elizabeth created the Act for the Relief of the Poor in 1597, which was the first fully comprehensive bill for poverty relief. It was later amended by the Elizabethan Poor Act of 1601, which remained unchanged until the mid-1800s. The Elizabethan Poor Act essentially taxed the wealthier citizens of the country to provide food, shelter, and clothing to the poor, generally within their own communities. People who were unable to work, such as the very young, the elderly, or the mentally or physically disabled, were cared for in an almshouse or poorhouse. People who could work were sent to “houses of industry.” These were the precursors to the infamous Victorian workhouses, but in Elizabeth’s time, they were a vast improvement over being labeled a vagrant, a hanging offence. Children who were old enough to work were made apprentices in various trades. People who were too lazy to work, though, were on their own and would either have to decide to work or would eventually wind up in prison or be hanged as a persistent beggar, as the term was known under the Vagrancy Act of 1547 (Rathbone, 2017). Elizabeth instituted what were, for the time, sweeping reforms for the care of the poor.

Elizabeth may be best known for reigning during the time of Shakespeare, Spenser, Marlowe, and the like, but her own contributions to her country and culture cannot be overlooked. She was the woman who was never meant to be Queen but who became one of the most beloved monarchs of the British monarchy. She was the woman who roused her troops with speeches worthy of the gods. Gloriana.

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The Darnley Portrait

Elizabeth I. (2000). Elizabeth I: Collected Works. Leah S. Marcus (Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rathbone, Mark. “Vagabond!” History Review. March 2005, Issue 51, p. 8-13.

Suspicious Minds (Stranger Things #1)

40535559._sy475_Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond (website, Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi/fantasy/horror

I read it as a: hardback

Source: my own collection

Length: 301 pp

Published by: Del Rey (7 Feb 2019)

*SPOILERS BELOW!*

Set in 1969, this first official Stranger Things novel focuses on Terry Ives, Eleven’s mother, and how she becomes entangled with Dr Martin Brenner and his MKUltra experiments. An ad in a local paper promises $15 (around $100 today) for each week a person participates in a top secret experiment. Terry joins the group and is subjected to Brenner’s work which involves loading up test subjects with LSD and other stimuli, including electroshock, to see if any specific combination will bring forth special powers. Terry and her friends – a motley group of people from various backgrounds – quickly figure out that Brenner is operating under the radar to perform morally compromised tests. The group struggles to find a way to escape Brenner’s control while also striving to bring him down and free a child who is trapped in his grasp.

This is a difficult review to write. On the one hand, I was delighted to read a Stranger Things novel. On the other hand, it was kind of a hot mess. If I didn’t pay attention to anything but the story, it was an ok read. But ONLY ok. If I pay attention to writing, plot holes, and lack of answers, this is a terrible book.

Let me first say this is in no way a personal attack on the author. However, what the fuck was Netflix thinking in hiring an author who, previously, has exclusively written YA?? Stranger Things is most definitely NOT a YA show, nor is it appropriate for children to watch. The books should similarly reflect the darkness and danger of the show. But this book barely touched on most of what we have come to love about the show, and is written in a very simplistic style, which one might expect for a YA novel or younger. 

I had hoped to get some answers that we missed in the show, such as more about Brenner himself. That was entirely missing from this book and Brenner remains as mysterious as ever, but not in a good way. The other people who joined Terry in the lab experiments – Gloria, Alice, Ken – were all very flat characters overall, as was Terry’s boyfriend Andrew, and even Terry herself. None of them seemed to have much depth. Terry even had a thought early in the book about how Andrew actually ended up having an interesting personality, opposite what she had experienced before with boyfriends, and yet we don’t get to see said interesting personality. He is vaguely anti-Vietnam, and yet he doesn’t hesitate when he’s called up for the draft and goes off to war with only a little backward glance. His draft lottery being pulled up was manipulated by Brenner, and then he dies in Vietnam. Everything about him is just too easy and convenient. The other people of the group are delivered to us as instant friends once Terry meets them, a pretty tired YA trope (insta-friends, insta-love, insta-hate, etc.). They aren’t developed enough as characters for me to care about them, not even when it’s discovered that one is being electrocuted in the lab. I didn’t even care about Kali, and she is just 5 years old in this novel.

In short, all the characters were just a facade with no depth, character growth, or personality traits to make them seem like real people with whom readers can form attachments. 

Nothing is really shown to us; we are told about things, emotions characters are feeling, etc, but it falls flat since little actual emotion goes into it. Terry was filled with rage. How do I know? Because the text says, ‘Terry was filled with rage.’ There are no indicators otherwise, such as clenched fists or stiff posture, to indicate her anger. Telling us she was filled with rage might work fine for a YA audience, but for most adults, this isn’t sufficient. We get beaten over the head that this is set in the 60s – yes, I know, there’s the moon landing; I know, there’s Woodstock; I know, there’s Vietnam and the draft – but there is very little feeling of the 60s about this novel. We want to be shown, not told. 

Brenner is the biggest letdown of all. He was not the creepy, dangerously calm man we see in the show. He was hardly even competent in this book. He was tricked into letting Terry join the experiment, even though she was found out to have switched spots with her roommate early on, and he appears to have little control over his staff. The plot to rescue Kali/008 was half-assed and yet it fooled Brenner quite easily. Yes, he still retains control in the end, but the fact that he was tricked at all by a bunch of mediocre undergrads doesn’t mesh with what we know of him. He didn’t get any of his back story filled in at all, which was kind of implied this book would focus on heavily. Also, holy lack of security on your top secret experiment, Batman! If it’s so top secret, why were any of the participants allowed to know each other? Why were they able to sneak out of their rooms and go gallivanting about whenever they wanted? Why weren’t they isolated and locked in their rooms each time at a minimum?

Also, I get that this was supposed to be a different time and people didn’t talk about pregnancy and/or birth control like we do now, but honestly. How does a woman not know she’s pregnant for seven months? Even if you don’t show a lot, you’ll show some, and there are other changes that might trigger normal women to at least see what happens if they pee on a stick. You don’t notice that your boobs hurt, that you are breaking out like a teenager, the crushing fatigue? This must be written by someone who has never had a baby and didn’t think to research the common signs of pregnancy. Similarly, why didn’t the scientists at the lab notice that the subjects were remarkably lucid and check that they had actually taken the LSD? Didn’t they monitor them for things like pupil dilation or other autonomic responses that can’t be faked? Why didn’t they stay with their assigned subject the whole time they were there each week to monitor things and make sure they didn’t OD or something? Worst scientists ever. 

If you want to read this purely because you’re a huge Stranger Things fan, like I am, and just want to read a Stranger Things book no matter what and don’t plan to read too deeply into the story, you’ll probably be moderately entertained by this. If you expect something actually good that answers questions you have from the show, and you can’t overlook the glaring plot holes and other problematic areas, get ready for disappointment.

Forbidden

25760151Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins (website, Twitter, FB)

Her Grace’s rating:  2 out of 5 stars

Genre: romance

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Kim Staunton

Source: public library

Length: 09:27:00

Published by: Harper Audio (26 Jan 2016)

Eddy Carmichael (pronouced Edie – I was confused when I saw it spelled out because I listened to this as an audiobook) is an independent woman, determined to go to San Francisco and open her own restaurant. On her way from her home in Denver, Eddy encounters all manner of folk from the genuinely helpful to conmen and thieves. Her journey stalls out in Virginia City, NV, where she nearly dies from being dumped in the desert by a conman who stole all her money. Lucky for Eddy, a townsman, Rhine Fontaine is riding out and spots Eddy, unconscious. He takes her back to town and gives her into the care of Miss Sylvie. Rhine has worked hard to create and maintain his own little empire and is one of Virginia City’s most popular and prominent citizens. Eddy and Rhine are, of course, instantly attracted to one another but Eddy fights to hide it, because in post-Civil War America, interracial relationships are against the law. 

Meh. Romance. They just… All seem the same to me, even ones that are obviously well written like this one. It did have some interesting things to say about politics. Nothing much has changed in that regard for a very long time, it seems. Shame on us. 

There were also some interesting points about Black culture and passing as white, which of course backfire spectacularly when it becomes known that Rhine is passing as white and he is really biracial. 

I recognize that this was a well written book by a very popular romance writer. But honestly. I think every romance I’ve ever read follows the plot of Innocent Virgin gets rescued from Some Kind of Danger by a Playboy, who instantly falls in love with said Innocent Virgin, repents of his wild ways, and sets about winning her heart, which will always happen eventually. It’s sooooo boring. I also just hate it when a woman gives up her dreams for a man. Sure, Eddy basically got everything she wanted in the end, but it was so unrealistic and worked out perfectly that I just can’t. Why doesn’t she say she’s going to SF and if he wants to come, he can? Or why isn’t that something that the man offers? Or why aren’t readers left guessing for the better part of the book who the lady’s love interest is rather than introducing two characters and that’s it, you know who will wind up together. I guess I just don’t understand the appeal of romance novels, but hey, read whatever floats your boat. For me, that isn’t romance. Not really my cuppa; literally, I only read so I could check off a box for the 2019 Read Harder challenge.

 

The Android’s Dream

12097367._sx318_The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi (website, Twitter, FB, email)

Her Grace’s rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: sci-fi

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Wil Wheaton

Source: my own collection/Audible

Length: 10:34:00 time

Published by: Audible Frontiers (7 Dec 2010)

When one human diplomat kills his alien (Nidu) diplomatic counterpart – by farting him to death – Earth and its more advanced neighboring alien civilizations find themselves on the brink of war. The Nidu government tells Earth that all will be made well again if Earth will supply them with a special variety of sheep the Nidu use exclusively in their inauguration ceremonies. The sheep is called Android’s Dream and it has electric blue wool. The problem is that all such sheep were systematically destroyed by a Nidu rival. Only one woman in the galaxy, Robin Baker, has some of the Android’s Dream DNA in her genetic complex, thanks to her sheep/human hybrid biological mother she never knew about. Now, former soldier Harry Creek is tasked with the job of keeping Robin safe and alive, out of enemy Nidu hands as well as those of human agents working to prevent the Nidu coronation at all costs. Helping Creek is an AI he built based on a friend from his days as a soldier, Brian. Also, there’s a bit about the Church of the Evolved Lamb, which its founders cheerfully admit was based on a scam but adherents to the faith are determined to make their prophecies come true anyway. 

This was a fun, funny romp through sci-fi, though I admit it is not my favorite Scalzi novel I’ve read. But still, there were a lot of parts that made me laugh out loud and tons of action to keep things interesting. The first chapter is pure adolescent hilarity. 

Every time anything about the Church of the Evolved Lamb came up, I cracked up. I could unpack a whole lot of thoughts about what commentary Scalzi might have been making about the religions of the world, but I think I’ll let the name of the church speak for itself. I loved this so much.

I thought maybe the early-middle parts dragged on a little bit, but the action picked up again with the kidnapping attempt and gun fight at the Arlington Mall, and again later during the battle on board the cruise liner. That’s just straight up good fun, that is. 

 

Fruit of the Drunken Tree

36636727Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras        (website, Twitter, IG)

Her Grace’s rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: literary fiction

I read it as a: hardback

Source: my own collection/BOTM

Length: 304 pp

Published by: Doubleday (31 July 2018)

In 1990s, Escobar-controlled Bogota, two girls become unlikely friends. Chula Santiago, the seven year old daughter of relatively wealthy parents, is sheltered and spoiled. Petrona is the 13 year old maid Chula’s mother hires, a girl from the guerilla-occupied slums. At first, Chula and her older sister, Cassandra, think Petrona is very shy since she hardly speaks. Chula makes it a game to count how many syllables Petrona says in a day. However, as the girls grow closer and become friends, it is clear that there is much more to Petrona than Chula first thought. She has traumas in her past which inform her present and future actions. Chula herself becomes traumatized by her surroundings, particularly after seeing a bombing on the news and then surviving a guerilla attack when her family visits her grandmother. When Petrona becomes entangled with people and events that are more than she bargained for, it leads her to take drastic actions which could completely unravel her life as well as Chula’s.

I honestly didn’t love this book. I had wanted to, but it just never really clicked with me. I enjoyed the bits that felt like magical realism, but in general I felt the narration and changing between Chula’s and Petrona’s points of view was disjointed. I also thought Chula had a vocabulary and manner of speaking which is much older than what a seven year old would use. Yes, I know she is an observant child and intelligent. My daughter is highly intelligent, and she still doesn’t speak like an adult does. I found that hard to buy and it drew me out of the story because it was jarring. 

The settings were all vividly described, which I liked. I can’t imagine living in a slum, or being considered rich because I have running water and electricity. That really makes me think about how spoiled we are in this country. I mean, I knew that we’re basically a bunch of spoiled assholes here anyway, but this was one of those books that helped drive that point home. Colombia sounds like a gorgeous country, and the episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown show it as such as well. With good food! But whether I will ever make it there for a visit is pretty unlikely. 

I found it interesting that this was also an autofiction book, based in part on the author’s real life experiences growing up as a child in Escobar’s Colombia. 

None of the things I liked about the book were enough to make me genuinely like the whole thing, though, unfortunately. I’d recommend it to people who really want to know about near-kidnappings or are really keen to read up on Colombian society, but for me, I think there are better books out there that would give me the same things.