A very engaging ethnography - as a college student, the author moved to the inner city and spent her time hanging out with a group of young black menA very engaging ethnography - as a college student, the author moved to the inner city and spent her time hanging out with a group of young black men often on the run from the law. The book is a good look into how heavy policing affects all aspects of individual and community life. And the author is a good storyteller so it makes for engaging reading. Since she writes about one social network it's hard to tell how representative this is, and I think the criticism that the author herself got in too deep is probably valid. She also contradicts herself a few times. Still, it is worth reading....more
I’m a little surprised that this book has as low a rating as it does – though only a little, since flawed female protagonists seem to draw a lot of haI’m a little surprised that this book has as low a rating as it does – though only a little, since flawed female protagonists seem to draw a lot of hate. I definitely liked this one better than Esquivel’s major hit, Like Water for Chocolate; this book is much more grounded and contains very little romance (both the romance and the male lead in Like Water for Chocolate are incredibly unattractive).
This book makes no bones about being a parable for modern Mexico, with a broken woman representing a broken country. Lupita has had a hard life and coped poorly, and though she’s somehow become a police officer (an explanation would not have been out of place, since she previously served time), she struggles with addiction. Her fragile sobriety is shattered when she witnesses an at-first-inexplicable political assassination, which kicks off the novella.
I found this to be an entertaining book, with a good mix of action and forward momentum with introspection and backstory. Esquivel also brings the setting to life well; a reader would learn much more about Mexico from this book than Like Water for Chocolate. It is quite explicitly political, which isn’t in a fault in itself, as books should reflect life. Most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that Lupita’s opinions about the drug trade – that American consumers are largely to blame for generating demand in the first place – are commonly held in Mexico. However, the book’s solution for Lupita and for Mexico is simplistic, seeming to suggest that a reversion to indigenous beliefs (often explained in set-asides from the text) would bring instant healing of all wounds. An additional couple of chapters at the end could have done a much better job of wrapping up the story.
All told, then, an okay book, and the writing is better than I remember from Esquivel. Still not one I’ll recommend widely....more
Huh. This is a weird novella, from the perspective of a woman whose longtime partner is murdered. I hesitate to call it a mystery, since the crime isnHuh. This is a weird novella, from the perspective of a woman whose longtime partner is murdered. I hesitate to call it a mystery, since the crime isn't really solved. The writing is fine and there's some decent characterization here, but in the end neither the events nor the characters nor their relationships made a lot of sense to me, and I wasn't quite sure why it ended where it did. I suppose that's a bit like life. This book didn't do much for me, but it's short enough to read in a sitting if you're interested....more
For those who don’t already know: I am not a series reader. I like my books fresh rather than familiar, and even a trilogy is a lot of one story for mFor those who don’t already know: I am not a series reader. I like my books fresh rather than familiar, and even a trilogy is a lot of one story for me. Half the reason I read this saga is because I enjoy Elliott’s work and find it remarkably consistent in quality (I tire of authors as quickly as I tire of series, but after a whopping 15 books from her, am still looking forward to the next installment of Black Wolves). The other half was just to have the experience of reading a 7-book fantasy series. Aside from Harry Potter and Narnia, I believe this was a first.
And I was glad to be done with it, because after the third book it started to get stale (lovers of long series may feel differently). The characters are not really that deep or exciting, and a lot of pages are spent on fairly flat secondaries. The plot loses momentum; every once in awhile there’s a chance to blow everything open and get some real action going, but while it never bogs down like certain other series (I read most of the Wheel of Time, okay, can you blame me for not wanting more?), it just sort of trundles along in the later books, without much sense of danger and urgency and the fate of the world – or at least our favorite characters – resting on a knife edge, which is what you want in epic fantasy. As for this last volume, it isn’t bad, but nor was it an edge-of-the-seat read. Many of the subplots to which much time was devoted over the course of the series still don’t seem essential.
The ending itself is decent. Not having a definitive resolution to (view spoiler)[the return of the Ashioi (hide spoiler)] is unusual and anticlimactic, though much more realistic than your typical fantasy (after all, real foreign relations are rarely settled once and for all). (view spoiler)[The villains get their just desserts (I’m surprised at the comments that they get off lightly, and after reading them was expecting Hugh or Antonia to get off scot-free). Liath and Sanglant get their happy ending (so after dying and coming back, Sanglant no longer wants to be king? Convenient). Alain wanders off into the sunset with his dogs (inconclusive, but in this character’s transition to sainthood, he felt more and more distant to this reader, to the point it’s hard to envision anything else). Rosvita is elected the new skopos (the perfect ending for this dull paragon of a character). And Hanna hooks up with Ivar (she’d definitely outgrown and outclassed this whiny dude, who was clearly in a relationship with his male best friend anyway. These two never even had chemistry). (hide spoiler)]
All in all, a fine ending to a series I’d have liked better as a trilogy. Elliott’s writing has improved and her series grown shorter since, and thank goodness for that.
Crown of Stars ratings:
King’s Dragon: 4 Prince of Dogs: 3.5 The Burning Stone: 4 Child of Flame: 3 The Gathering Storm: 2.5 In the Ruins: 3 Crown of Stars: 3...more
This would be a great book club choice. It's gripping, it's a very quick read despite being nonfiction (large font and generous margins make it feel sThis would be a great book club choice. It's gripping, it's a very quick read despite being nonfiction (large font and generous margins make it feel shorter than its 260 pages), and of course it's about a hot topic: illegal immigration to the U.S. from Latin America. The protagonist, Enrique, sets off from Honduras for the U.S. at age 17, searching for his mother, who immigrated twelve years before. The book primarily dramatizes Enrique's dangerous journey through Mexico - jumping on and off of moving trains and evading corrupt and often violent authorities, who seek to deport Central American migrants to Guatemala, as well as the gangs who prey on migrants. All this makes for compelling reading, and is eye-opening; in the U.S. we have little sense of what people have to risk and endure to enter the country illegally. Nazario also writes about the circumstances in Honduras that compel so many to immigrate - for many mothers, it's a matter of not being able to feed their children - and about Enrique's family's lives in the U.S. And she interviews quite a few people who work with or encounter migrants, adding depth to the story.
So I probably should urge all Americans to read this. But. The writing style is a bit simplistic. The present tense is an awkward choice for nonfiction, and the author has the tendency to remind us of simple facts several times over. A bit more context would have helped too. In introducing her project, Nazario explains she wanted to write about a Central American boy who came by train. But the book doesn't give much sense of how many migrants use the trains vs. other routes, and the focus on the train journeys of Central American migrants leaves little sense of what immigration might look like for the Mexicans who make up the majority of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Finally, while perhaps the story can speak for itself, I felt a stronger policy argument at the end would have been appropriate. Instead the author basically says, "okay, now here are some good things and some bad things about immigration," and then it ends.
I still think people should read this, because if you're going to have a strong opinion about something you should be informed about it. But if you can recommend a better book along the same lines, please let me know....more