January Mini Book Reviews

The beginning of the year is always a time when I tend to read a lot. It’s cold outside, I have some time off from work, I’m motivated to tackle the challenges I’ve signed up for, and I have lots great end of the year recommendations. This year is no different.

The books below are listed in the order I read them.

Cover of the book Loving Day by Mat Johnson

Loving Day by Mat Johnson

The last satirical novel I read was too cynical and absurd for me. Loving Day wasn’t like that. I liked seeing the relationships between Warren and his daughter as they get to know each other at a utopian mixed cult. Like satire, there’s a lot of funny parts that had me laughing out loud and reading to Sean, especially the comic book content. On a serious note, while it is satirical, it did make me think of some of some of the thoughts my children may have as mixed kids. Here’s a quote that stuck out.

I’m not white, but I can feel the eyes of the few people outside on me, people who must think that I am, because I look white, and as such what the hell am I doing here? This disconnect in my racial projection is one of the things I hate. It goes in a subcategory I call “America,” which has another subheading called “Philly.” I hate that because I know I’m black. My mother was black—that counts, no matter how pale and Irish my father was. So I shall not be rebuked. I will not be rejected.
Cover of Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver Sparrow by Taiyari Jones

Loved this! It’s a story about a secret family told from the perspective of the two teen daughters. One doesn’t know about the other and thinks her dad and family are perfect, while the other harbors jealousy for her father’s affection and resources. I love how Jones develops her characters. Everyone has such depth.

There’s only so much that you can chalk up to coincidence. I believe in the eventuality of things. What’s done in the dark shall come to the light. What goes up comes down. What goes around comes around. There are a million of these sayings, all, in their own way true. And isn’t that what’s supposed to set you free.
Cover of Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I really enjoyed Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel which was recently republished. It’s a blend of YA with magical elements. Think if The Craft and Eleanor and Park (sorta – without the weird racist undertones) were set in Mexico City in the 1980s. I liked the flashbacks between adult Meche and her awkward teen self. I could see the friend group, Sebastian and Daniela, in my mind. Signal to Noise features lots of songs from multiple genres such as jazz and rock. I loved this part and was nostalgic for my college days. It reminded me of my good friends who wore The Smiths t-shirts, had Jim Morrison posters up on their walls, and were the first on the dancefloor when the DJ began playing ’80s rock en español. If you read this, make sure to follow the Spotify playlist.

You don’t get to rewind your life like a tape and splice it back together, pretending it never knotted and tore, when it did and you know it did.
Cover of Native Country of the Heart by Cherrie Moraga

Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir by Cherríe L. Moraga

I took Native Country of the Heart with me to ski club and kept reading even though my hands got cold. Moraga tells her family’s story, mostly focusing on the women, their relationships, and how they changed through time. I was touched by her honest and heartfelt voice as she shared the challenges of being a caretaker to an ailing parents while also dealing with complicated family relationships and the importance of home as country. Moreover, she explores what it means to be Chicana on Tongva land it was now called San Gabriel and the painful history of indigenous displacement. It gave me a lot to think about and I’m glad I finally read it after having it checked out from the university library for nearly two years.

It’s really hard for me to pick a quote from this one so I’ll do two. The first reminded me of my parents’ own yards and the trees my Papá Chepe planted and sitting under la mora (our mulberry tree).

Standing beneath the canopy of century-old blossoming jacaranda, it came clear to me that we are as much of a place as we are of a people; that we return to places because our hands served as tender shovels of that earth; that those yellow-peach and cream-colored roses, that wild yerba buena, las verdolagas covering the earth like loosely woven cloth to catch the steady drop of rose petal and leaf, this was my mother’s constant site of comfort. 

On the word m’ija or mija:

The translation cannot possibly express the pure grounding provided by that word for a Mexican child of any age. In a gesture of familial confidence, parents and tíos and abuelitas and even strangers tell it to us. So that, in a certain way, entre nosotros mexicanos here in an English-speaking world, it denotes the extended Familia de la Raza. A child knows instinctively whom to trust (or not) when that word is relayed between generations.
Cover of Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

This was okay. I was gripped by the story, Walter Mosley’s style, and how he writes about LA. It’s easy to see why the Easy Rawlins series is so popular. That said, I can’t read too many hardboiled detective novels. It gets dark and sometimes I need something lighthearted and fun.

Because in L.A. people don’t have time to stop; anywhere they have to go they go there in a car. The poorest man has a car in Los Angeles; he might not have a roof over his head but he has a car. And he knows where he’s going too.
Cover of Brown: The Last Discovery of America by Richard Rodriguez

Brown: The Last Discovery of America by Richard Rodriguez

I finished this because I am a committed to completing series. This was the third of Richard Rodriguez’s essay collection which was the least autobiographical and most pedantic. The most memorable essay was where he really gets into his thoughts on Hispanics (his word) as a group. Even though it was written twenty years ago, it still felt somewhat relevant considering the debates and discussions around Latinidad.

Hispanicity is culture. Not blood. Not race. Culture, or the illusion of culture—ghost-ridden. A belief that the dead have a hold on the living.
Cover of Feed by Tommy Pico

Feed by Tommy Pico

Tommy Pico’s poetry is sometimes challenging for me since his style is unconventional. Rather than a collection of poems, this is one epic poem in free verse filled with song lyrics modern shorthand used in texts and social media, musings on life in the universe, and scientific names in space. It sounds like a lot, but it does come together. I’ve enjoyed each poem/book for the humor, melancholy and perspective of a gay indigenous man living in New York City. That said, the book I enjoyed the most, Nature Poem, was the one I listened to via audbiobook.

I don't have a food history.

If the dish is, "subjugate an indigenous population," here's an ingredient of the roux: alienate us from our traditional ways of gathering and cooking food.
Book cover of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

It’s easy to see why this is such a popular book. It’s set in old Hollywood featuring a Evelyn Hugo, a legendary actress who I think of as a cross between Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor. I went in not knowing much about the plot besides the title and a recommendation that the audiobook was good. I enjoyed this overall and would recommend the audiobook. My main quibble is that I don’t think we get enough of Monique’s perspective as a Hugo’s biographer. She has her own arc and character growth, but I feel like most of it is “off screen” and remains untold.

When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is "You're safe with me" -- that's intimacy.
Book cover of Mestiza Blood by V Castro

Mestiza Blood by V. Castro

This collection of short stories was delightfully creepy. It reminded me of sitting around the campfire listening to urban legends of brujas and other creatures with a modern twist. V. Castro center’s women’s voices and fantasies of revenge against abusers, white supremacists, and corporations that create harmful byproducts. The stories are both fantastical and speculative, but also somewhat realistic. While there is some gore and it’s technically a horror book, I wasn’t scared. Okay, maybe a little.

Cover for Eulogy for a Brown Angel by Lucha Corpi

Eulogy for a Brown Angel by Lucha Corpi

I started the Gloria Damasco Chicana detective series several years ago. I remember thinking it was a mystery novel for Chicana@ studies majors or those who enjoy history. I still maintain that, especially seeing as the first book in the series begins with the historic Chicano Moratorium on August 29, 1970. I liked this book and am working my way through the rest of the series. Warning, there is child death, which is hard to read.

When he'd shown interest in me, five years before, most of his friends had advised him to stay away from me. I was pleasant to look at but not pretty; and I was too young, too intense, too intelligent and too independent. All capital sins. Chicano nationalism and feminism didn't walk hand in hand before or during the summer of 1970.

January Mini Book Reviews

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angelline Boulley

Angelline Boulley’s debut YA thriller focused on Daunis, a 19-year old non-enrolled Aniishinabe girl who loves hockey, is pre-med, and has a complicated relationship with her indigenous identity. I was quickly drawn into her world in the Michigan upper peninsula and hooked on the action. While there are many tough topics like missing and murdered indigenous women, I found that Boulley handled them with great sensitivity and care. I mostly listened to the audiobook which helped since Boulley uses a lot of indigenous words and I get stuck mentally on words I can’t pronounce. 

Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren

Christina Lauren romances are a constant in my TBR list. Evie and Carter work at rival talent agencies in LA when they meet at a mutual friends’ Halloween party. Evie’s company merges with Carter’s and soon they’re pitted against each other by a shady boss. I listened to the audiobook which had two actors for Evie and Carter.

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

I’m a sucker for an enemies to lovers romance and Christina Lauren puts a fun spin on the trope. Jess, a freelance statistician and single mom to a precocious 7-year old, reluctantly joins a dating app that matches people based on their genetic compatibility. She matches with River Peña, the standoffish guy she sees every morning in her neighborhood coffee shop. River is also the chief scientist behind the company. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the book. The premise is a little weird (um, why am I thinking of Gattaca and eugenics), but the authors address it without being pedantic.

Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell

I didn’t love the final book in Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow trilogy. It was too long and I got bored by the introspective Baz/Simon tortured love story. Simon and crew are back in England after their road trip in the US, but now they’re tackling adventures in duos. I missed the humor and action from the second book, Wayward Son. I also felt the ending was rushed, which didn’t make sense since this was nearly 600 pages. 

A Lot Like Adiós Alexis Daria

Alexis Daria takes us back to New York to the Primas of Power. Michelle, a freelance designer and marketing consultant, has unfinished business with her high school boyfriend, Gabe. They haven’t talked in 12 years but now he’s back in her life as she works on a consulting job for his business’s expansion to New York. Overall, it was okay, but not as enjoyable as the first in the series, You Had Me At Hola. I needed more tension and less of the fan fic Michelle and Gabe wrote as teens. 

Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature by Daniel A. Olivas (Ed.)

It’s been ages since I’ve read an anthology, but I’m glad I finally got to this one which has been on my to-read list for several years. I miss LA a ton and one of the ways I like to go back is through literature. I enjoyed many of the stories and liked the mix of genres. The stories that struck me most were by Daniel Chacón, Estella González, Manuel Muñoz, and Rigoberto González. I enjoyed how these writers explored the inner lives of their protagonists. I now have more writers and books to add to my ever-growing TBR list. 😬

If you want more, find me on StoryGraph or Goodreads. For past mini-reviews, check my Instagram highlights. I’m cindylunares on all those apps.


2015 Bookishness in Review



75 books overall. CHECK.

10 books from my bookshelf. I read 7/10 in this category.

24 books fulfilling the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge criteria. CHECK.

6 books meeting the What’s in a Name Challenge criteria: CHECK!

  • -ing Word: Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage? by Stephen Camarata
  • Color: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
  • Familial relation: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
  • Body of water: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
  • City: Still Water Saints by Alex Espinoza (got creative with this one as the fictional city in the book is Agua Mansa which translates to “still water”)
  • Animal: 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

5 books from NPR’s 100 Must-Reads For Kids 9-14 list: CHECK.

  • A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

52 books from Pop Sugar’s Reading Challenge. CHECK with tons of overlap.


Thanks to Melissa/Feminist Texican for the idea to use to organize my reading.



Top ten favorite novels (alpha order):
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Still Water Saints by Luis Espinoza
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kawn
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Young adult and middle grade novels:
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson [poetry]

Short story collection:
Night at the Fiestas by Lisa Valdez Quade
We Live in Water by Jess Walter

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector Tobar
Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage? by Stephen Camarata

Memoir or essay:
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

Favorite new (to me) authors:
Louise Erdrich
Angela Flournoy (best debut)
Celeste Ng
Roxane Gay

Lived up to the hype:
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

Most over-hyped:
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Favorite covers:
All the Light We Cannot See had a neat sheen to the cover and even though I read The Buried Giant in ebook form, I still checked it out at a bookstore and it looked pretty.

Dinnison Doerr

Ishiguro Sloan

Woodson LeeOmalley


Second Quarter Bookishness

Early in the year I zipped through a couple of books a week. By March I was way ahead of my overall goal for the year (75) and thought I might even get to 100. Then I discovered a jigsaw puzzle app which was quite relaxing but cut in to reading time unless I was listening to an audiobook. Then I found out I got a new job and we started the moving process. Rather than read in the evening I was looking for a place to live, packing and all that fun stuff.

That’s all to say I’m really slowing down, but still making decent progress toward my goal.

Anyway, on to the mini reviews.


The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

I was a huge fan of the Veronica Mars TV series. I’m bummed we only got a few seasons before the series was cancelled. You can imagine my excitement when I saw someone mention the Veronica Mars book as one they were reading to fulfill a challenge (book basked on or turned in to a TV show). I downloaded the audiobook narrated by Kristen Bell and loved it. It picks up where the movie leaves off and takes us back to solve the case of some young women who go missing in Neptune during spring break.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I listened to the audiobook for this outlandish story of a Singaporean family and the wealth that I can’t even begin to imagine. The plot centers around Rachel Chu and her boyfriend, Nick Young, two professors living in New York. Rachel knows little about Nick’s family and doesn’t come to find out that he’s part of a secretive old money family in Singapore.

The story is fun even if it’s tough trying to remember who is who in the Young-T’Sien-Cheng family trees. I listened to the audiobook so I didn’t see the family tree until much later.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

It’s easy to see why Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming has earned her so much praise and earned her the 2014 National Book Award. The book is written in autobiographical short poems that all can stand on their own but go well together. It reminded me of The House on Mango Street in that sense. We follow young Jacqueline as her family moves from the South Carolina in a segregated part of town to Brooklyn. The poems are about things like her little brother getting lead poisoning, enjoying summer days in South Carolina and going to Jehova’s Witnesses church services. My only complaint is that I feel the book ended too soon, when Jacqueline is entering her teen years and both the South and North are feeling the affect of the Civil Rights Movement.


Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn is an excellent satirical novel following some heroes from the early days of the war in Iraq. Bravo Squad is home for a “Victory Tour”. Most of the action occurs in one day as the men attend a Thanksgiving Day game at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas. While they’re simultaneously treated like heroes, they also know that soon they’ll be sent back to Iraq. It’s billed as the Catch 22 of the Iraq War, but I think it’s much funnier. Granted, I don’t think I finished reading Catch 22.

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

I’ve heard parts of Jim Gaffigan’s stand up about being a father. Thus, some sections were repetitive. However, I overall really enjoyed it as someone who currently has a small child. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Gaffigan.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
I’m ashamed to admit that Roxane Gay wasn’t really on my social media radar before I started seeing her 2014 books, An Untamed State and Bad Feminist on my radar. Nevertheless, I’m glad I’ve read both her recent fiction and nonfiction. My favorite essays tended to be about pop culture (Sweet Valley High series) and the intersection with issues of race and class. Gay also made me think twice about unlikable main characters and why likability shouldn’t really matter in literature.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro tackles loss in a new way through The Buried Giant set in the England of King Arthur’s time. While I enjoyed the book overall, it was a little bit of a slog. I actually liked it more after hearing the Ishiguro on the Bookworm podcast where he discussed his motivations for writing the novel. I had that “aha, now I see what you were doing there” moment I was too dense to figure out earlier.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

I didn’t anything about The First Bad Man before reading it, I just expected it to be odd and a bit funny like other Miranda July stories. I liked where the novel went and how it made me think about my own identity shifting in recent years as I became a mother.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I never read A Wrinkle In Time as a kid and it was on the list of must reads for 9-14 year-olds. I liked it, but it overall felt too short. Not sure I want to read the whole series.

Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty

I’m glad I gave Lianne Moriarty another try after What Alice Forgot which I complained was too long and trying to do too much, even if the premise was interesting. Big Little Lies takes us back to the suburbs of Sydney and focuses on the lives of three women whose children attend the same school. Madeline is aggressive and likes to start fights. She’s fiercely loyal to her best friend, Celeste, and takes Jane, a new, young single mom, under her wing. Everything gets pretty dramatic rather quickly. Considering that it’s about murder and domestic violence, the book is actually rather entertaining.

THREE STAR BOOKS (and one 2)

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas Marie-Helene Bertino

All the action in 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas occurs on December 23rd, Christmas Eve Eve. I liked it, but should have probably read the book. There are a number of characters and plots to follow that all come together without feeling forced. Madeleine is a little girl who recently lost her mother to cancer. The neighbors and local business owners look out for her as her father seems too grief stricken to really parent. She has trouble at her Catholic school where her teacher, Sarina Greene, takes pity on her. Then there’s the owner of the club, Lorca, and his group of musicians and family. Overall, it’s an enjoyable story but I was thrown off by the magical realism elements.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

It’s easy to see why The Girl on the Train is on bestseller lists. Read it if you really liked Gone Girl and psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators and characters you find it tough to cheer for.

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Mr. Kiss and Tell is the second book in the Veronica Mars series. Veronica is hired once again by the owner of the Neptune Grand to find out if the woman who said she was raped by an employee of the hotel is actually telling the truth. Veronica quickly finds that this isn’t just about the rape of one young woman and uncovers a bigger crime. I think I would’ve liked this more if Kristen Bell narrated the audiobook once again.

Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

I really liked the other recent books I’ve read by Ann Patchett, but didn’t love The Patron Saint of Liars. I’ve a read a few books recently about reluctant and absent mothers. Rose Clinton isn’t absent, but she’s definitely got a complicated relationship. The novels begins when she simply drives away from San Diego where she lived with her husband. All she leaves is a note. She goes to St. Elizabeth’s, a home for unwed mothers run by nuns, in a small Kentucky town. While the other women leave St. Elizabeth’s after having their children and giving them up for adoption, Rose stays and continues to work as the cook.

Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins [2 stars]

I needed to read a romance novel for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge. I picked a book that featured protagonists of color. As a plus, it’s set in 1800s California. Mariah Cooper is a young seamstress living with her mom in an east coast city (Philadelphia? I can’t remember). She answers and add asking for a housekeeper placed by the widowed mistress of a ranch in northern California. She quickly gets to work and clashes with Logan Yates, her new boss who also happens to be a very handsome and eligible bachelor. It was okay, but I’m not intrigued enough to read the rest of the books in the series.


First Quarter Bookishness

I’ve spend the first few months of 2015 catching up with some books on the best of lists for 2014 and — when I can — checking off items on the challenges I’ve taken on for the year. I’m up to three. Below are late-ish sorta-reviews on some of the books I’ve read in the first quarter.



Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (Gregory Boyle)

Not only does God think we’re firme, it is God’s joy to have us marinate in that. (p. 24)

The first time I heard Fr. Boyle speak last year I cried. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. I’ve known about Homeboy Industries and Fr. Boyle’s work for many years but his words really hit me then. Later that day he celebrated the youth focused Mass at Congress, a religious education conference. The room was full and I cried more.

Tattoos on the Heart reminded me of his talk and homily. In most of the chapters, Fr. Boyle illustrates different elements of God’s love through stories about the homies he works with. They will make you laugh and definitely cry. Oh man, will they make you cry.

As someone who has struggled a little with my faith in recent years, reading things like “God is just too busy loving us to have any time for disappointment” (p. 28) was quite affirming.

All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)

I remember someone describing All the Light We Cannot See in a review or a forum as “the kind of book that wins awards.” No surprise that Doerr’s historical fiction novel set in Nazi Germany and occuppied France won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this week.

I was a little worried that All the Light wouldn’t live up to the hype, but it definitely did. It’s just so beautifully written.

The Turner House (Angela Flournoy)

Not a review, just some thoughts upon finishing the novel. If you want an actual review, check out what Stacia wrote at Act Four.

I’d never even heard of the word “haint” (a southern type of ghost) prior to reading The Turner House but still found Angela Flournoy’s debut novel enjoyable. Although it’s very much the story of a large black family in Detroit (formerly from the south), the dynamics, history and issues they faced were relatable. I’ve seen alcoholism in my family and more recently have seen my mom and her siblings grapple with caring for their ailing parents.

Second, this is one of those books that benefits from a reread of the first chapter or two as it could be a little a difficult to keep all the Turners straight even though the main focus is on the eldest and youngest, Cha-Cha and Lelah.

Aside – man, does 18-month old Bobbie (Lelah’s grandson) have a lot of words.

I may be a little biased since Angela Flournoy is part of the PostBourgie collective and thanks to that connection I read an ARC a few months prior to the April 14th release date.

Food: A Love Story (Jim Gaffigan)

I listened to this audiobook mainly while cleaning and commuting. I probably looked like a dork laughing to myself, but I want to THIS! almost everything Jim Gaffigan says about food.

An Untamed State (Roxane Gay)

Girl children are not safe in a world where there are men.

Mireille is visiting her parents in Port-Au-Prince with her white husband and infant son. As they leave her parents’ secured compound for a day-trip to the beach, she is kidnapped by a violent gang. The gang leaves her husband and yet-to-be weaned infant son behind. Mireille is then held for ransoms for several days and goes through the worst things you can imagine. (And more.)

Roxane Gay is an amazing writer which is both a pro and con. Mireille’s kidnappers are vicious.

Also, I can’t help but think how horrible it would be to be taken from my infant son who is still being nursed.

The Book of Unknown Americans (Christina Henríquez)

English was such a dense, tight language. So many hard letters, like miniature walls. Not open with vowels the way Spanish was. Our throats open, our mouths open, our hearts open. In English, the sounds were closed. They thudded to the floor. And yet, there was something magnificent about it. (p. 23)

Alma and Arturo leave their home, families and thriving construction business in Michoacán, Mexico to go north to Delaware. Unlike many immigrants who leave to find better economic opportunities, Alma and Arturo come for a school that will help in their daughter Maribel’s rehabilitation from a tragic accident. They move in to an apartment complex filled with various other Latino immigrants. As the novel unfolds, we learn more about the accident that caused Maribel’s head injury, her parents’ guilt over it, and their struggles to acclimate to Delaware.

The novel is narrated primarily by Alma, the protective Mexican mother, and Mayor Toro, a fifteen year old Panamian smitten by the lovely Maribel. However, interspersed with these voices are those of the other residents of the apartment complex.

Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)

Marilyn and James seem to have a nice life in Ohio. James, a Chinese-American history professor, seeks to blend in and be liked by his peers. Marilyn, his blonde wife who once aspired to be a doctor, wants to stand out. They pass on their wishes to their three children and no one feels this more than Lydia. Then Lydia is found dead in a lake near their home.

Through the rest of the novel, James, Marilyn and their other children try to figure out what happened.

I couldn’t put this down once I started and by the time it was over I was crying.

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free (Héctor Tobar)

I remember hearing about the miners being saved in fall 2010 and the media circus that happened afterward. I was running a lot at the time and excited by the miner who ran the marathon shortly after being saved.

What I didn’t know was everything that happened before. How and why were the miners trapped in the San José mine? What did they do to survive those first few weeks without contact with the outside world? How did the rescuers reach them? Tobar does a great job answering these questions and more considering he had quite the difficult job of telling the stories of 33 miners and their families while also deftly describing all the technical aspects of the collapse and the rescue efforts.

I listened to the audiobook. It was okay, but I would have definitely preferred an actual book. There are so many people to keep straight that I ended up downloading a photo roster of the 33 miners for reference.



Fourth of July Creek (Smith Henderson)

Smith Henderson’s novel about a social worker with issues (makes me think of Raylon Jennings from Justified) starts off a little slow. Soon you meet Pete Snow’s clients and Snow himself gets way too involved in their issues.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Meg Medina)

Piddy starts a new school after she and her single mom move. Things are tough for her as she soon find out a bully has it out for her. This YA-book was much better written then others. Medina’s characters are complex and there’s even some compassion shown to Yaqui, the bully. I also like how Piddy is aware of her identity as a young Latina and looks to other women in her life for guidance. I’d definitely recommend it for teens or really anyone.

Seconds (Bryan Lee O’Malley)

I read the Scott Pilgrim comics in 2010 and was eager for this graphic novel. Katie is a young restaurateur and talented chef but lately things aren’t working out for her as she’d like both in her personal and professional life. She finds that her restaurant has a house spirit that offers her mushrooms. She can write down a mistake and eat a mushroom. The mistake is erased. Katie goes a little crazy with the mushrooms and hijinks ensue.

Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood (Judith Ortiz Cofer)

Inspired by Virginia Wolfe, Judith Ortiz Cofer muses on the role of the memoir and the autobiography. Is it really just about exploring relationships with mothers? Probably. In Silent Dancing Ortiz Cofer focuses on her early life which was spent mainly in a one parent home as her father was in the navy. She goes back and forth from New Jersey to Puerto Rico and explores how this experience shaped her.



The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
I can see why it’s a modern classic, and it probably would’ve made a bigger impact on me if I was younger. But it highlights the mainstream (read: white, middle class) feminist concerns. Also, the technical aspects of the money and how women came to be second class citizens, basically chattel, are kinda hokey.

In the Woods (Tana French)
I’ve read a number of psychological thrillers recently and this was my least favorite. Rob Ryan grew up in a suburb outside of Dublin. When he was a pre-teen two of his best friends, a boy and girl, disappeared in the woods neighboring their homes. The kids were never found and Rob doesn’t remember anything of what happened that afternoon. Many years later he is a detective in Dublin and investigating a murder. The body of a young ballerina was found in the area and there some connections between the two incidents. It’s okay, but if you like neat endings and resolutions, you’ll find this frustrating.

Funny Girl (Nick Hornby)
I feel like Nick Hornby is best when his characters are obsessed with music (High Fidelity and About A Boy). In Funny Girl he goes back to pop culture, but this time it’s 1960s comedy programming on the BBC. He follows Barbara/Sophie’s rise from northern England reluctant beauty queen to comedy it girl. I really liked Barbara/Sophie and how she asserts herself in the male dominated comedy television world. However, like a lot of sitcoms, the beginning is much more fun and exciting. One thing I found interesting was Hornby’s inclusion of actual photos from the comedies that inspired his novel.

California (Edan Lepucki)
I really wanted to like this more considering it’s a dystopian novel that follows Cal and Frida, a young couple out of Los Angeles in to the forests of California trying to survive. They’re all by themselves until Frida insists on finding out what is in the beyond and they encounter a community. There are lots of secrets and big reveals, but I just wasn’t that invested in the characters or their fates. Also, I’m probably tapped out on the dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel.

What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty)
Alice has a head injury at spin class and wakes up to find out that she can’t remember anything that has occurred in the last ten years. This includes her marriage falling apart, her relationship with her sister devolving, having three kids and becoming super mum. The premise is interesting but Moriarty takes forever to get to the good stuff. For the marriage issue to be so huge, one would think the estranged husband would make an entrance earlier.

Jackaby (William Ritter)
I heard this was a cross between Dr. Who and Sherlock Holmes and probably didn’t enjoy it that much because I don’t get the appeal of Dr. Who.

Disgruntled (Asali Solomon)
I heard an interviews with Asali Solomon that piqued my interest. What would it be like to grow up with black (or in my case) Chicano nationalist parents? What if those parents’ actions were full of contradictions that undermined their activist leanings? Kenya goes through that and more. She’s 11 or 12 when he parents split because her dad impregnates a woman in their black nationalist group, the Seven Days. Sheila goes to live with her mom and thanks to money from her grandmother goes to a private school in the Philadelphia suburbs. It’s subtly funny and it also made me want to listen to early 90s hip hop.

The Martian (Andy Weir)
Within five minutes of starting The Martian, you know astronaut Mark Watney is fucked. He’s just been left behind on Mars as the other members of his crew evacuate in an emergency. They think he’s dead because of the bio-meter on his space suit. Mark survives and through the rest of the The Martian Andy Weir goes in to a lot of detail about the ingenious ways he continues trying to survive his hopeless situation. For instance, Mark has to figure out how to grow food in his hab on the surface of Mars and communicate with NASA. Weir gets really technical and sometimes my eyes glazed over reading about how Mark solves each arising problem. Overall, it was a fun read and I’m looking forward to the movie.


Shine, Shine, Shine (Lydia Netzer)
It was okay, but I never connected with Sunny. I found her too weird and a little annoying.

We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)
The only reason this didn’t get one star is because it was short and thus the annoying writing and plot twists didn’t make me want to throw the book (well, my iPad). I don’t know why this is so highly ranked.