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review 2019-02-14 19:39
Carmela by Amalia Decker Marquez
Carmela (Spanish Edition) - Amalia Decker Marquez

I wasn’t sure about this book, which is long, little-known, and apparently only available in the original Spanish. But it presents an interesting story, if a meandering one; it’s semi-autobiographical, and more fictionalized biography than tightly-plotted novel. Carmela Macker is born into a well-off socialist family in Cochabamba in the the mid 20th century, becomes a guerrillera as a teenager, experiences love and tragedy, has several lovers and two daughters, becomes a journalist, runs for political office, and goes into and out of exile in a variety of Latin American countries as Bolivia goes through periods of dictatorship and democracy. The book’s timeline starts out scattered – going right from Carmela’s birth to the abrupt departure of her partner of many years in middle age – but around 50 pages in, it settles into a chronological structure that persists for the rest of the book.

It’s an interesting story, consisting primarily of short chapters, and with a lot of ground to cover the plot doesn’t ever linger for long in one place. It’s primarily told from Carmela’s third-person perspective, though on a couple of occasions it tells the stories of other guerrilleras whose connection to Carmela is tenuous, but whose capture by the military government exposes them to horrors that Carmela herself never experiences. There’s not a lot of physical action – situations that would have been milked for additional drama in a purely imaginative drama resolve themselves more quietly here – but there’s always a lot going on in Carmela’s life and the political realm in which she operates. I learned a fair bit about Bolivian history, though the author is perhaps not an entirely objective source; while Carmela ultimately leaves partisan politics, there were a few passages that made me wonder, such as the view of food rationing as a necessary sacrifice for the greater good during her time in exile in Cuba.

Even so, I was glad to read this book; Bolivia is a fascinating country about which not much has been written, and although this presents only one economically privileged perspective, it was still great to get an insider’s view of the country. I didn’t always like Carmela or agree with her choices – in particular, her embarking on an affair with a married playboy when she has a partner and young daughter at home, all presented as if she were powerless to stop herself from giving in and falling in love – but I found it to be a lively, readable story, full of political and personal reversals and characters who, one way or another, are always able to adapt. It’s too bad this hasn’t been translated to English, but for those who are able to find and read it I think it is worth the effort.

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review 2019-02-12 19:43
Review: "Blaze" (Unbreakable Bonds, #5) by Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott
Blaze - Rinda Elliott,Jocelynn Drake

For the first time in this series I had some minor issues regarding the story.

 

For example, I HATE it when a character doesn’t want any children and explicitly says so, and yet his partner tries to convince him otherwise. Some people/couples just really, truly don’t want any children and like it that way, authors.

 

 

I also wasn’t very enthusiastic about that storyline with Lucas’ sister Nicole. I found his strong reaction towards her a little weird and also out of character. I didn’t get why he still held such a huge grudge against her after all these years for something she said to him when she was 14 (!) years old and basically still a child.

 

But this is just small stuff. Because when this series shines, it shines. And it never shines brighter than when (any) two characters have a heart to heart (Lucas and Snow!). Those are the moments that make this series.

 

Oh, and that wedding of course. That was everything one could wish for.

 

 

~ 4 stars ~

 

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review 2019-02-10 21:20
Devotions: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrifice
Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice - Adam Makos

I started this one with the audiobook which I borrowed from my library. For those of you who complain about audios that are performed, this is the audiobook for you. Hoffman's narration was technical and dry with zero emoting at all. It was incredibly difficult for me to listen to. I found my mind often wondering and having to rewind several times, and even then I couldn't keep my attention on the story for very long.

 

I got to about 75% and gave up, switching over to the paperback. I spent most of yesterday skim-reading the first 340 pages to pick up all the stuff I missed while listening, and finished up the last few chapters last night and this morning and looked at the various photos and maps that the audio obviously doesn't have. The writing flowed much better once I was reading it.

 

The Korean War is known as the Forgotten War, or as the veterans of that war call it, the Forgotten Victory. Many of them were already veterans from WWII, and many others had been too young to fight in WWII but were now fighting in this war. I didn't know much about the Korean War before going into this, so it was interesting to learn more about it, what forces were involved, what the stakes were and all that. 

 

This war also started just a few years after Pres. Truman desegregated the military, but there was still Jim Crow in the south, and segregation laws throughout much of the US, including D.C. and California. The book gives some accounts of the early lives of Tom Hudner, a white man from a wealthy New England family, and Jesse Brown, the navy's first black officer, from a poor sharecropper family in Mississippi. They would become friends once they both got assigned to the U.S.S. Leyte. It also focuses on a number of the other pilots in their squadron, and how they all bonded in their first year together.

 

Once the book gets to North Korea and the battles that took place there in the first year of the war, up to the battle of Chosin, it includes accounts of the Marines that the pilots of Squadron 32 helped to defend. There's also an account about a third of the way into the book of their stay in Cannes where many of them met a young Elizabeth Taylor, and I felt that part was rather meandering and didn't really amount to much.

 

Makos doesn't stray into dramatics. He reports the facts and relays them in an approachable manner. He interviewed many of the men he portrays here, as well as their friends and family, and even went to North Korea to interview veterans there when Hudner returned there years later, which is true dedication. The writing is simple but not unmoving when it needs to be. 

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review 2019-02-10 19:15
Review: "Unbreakable Stories: Ian" (Unbreakable Bonds, #4.5) by Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott
Unbreakable Stories: Ian - Rinda Elliott,Jocelynn Drake

Normally, reading several chapters about 8 guys who do nothing but simply fix up a house would bore me to death.

 

But leave it to this crazy cast of adorable weirdos that I had a blast from start to finish. They made me laugh and blush and giggle so hard; man, I love each and every single one of these characters.

 

The cherry on the cake were those little Valentine’s Day short stories at the end, which just put the biggest smile on my face.

 

 

Perfect!

 

 

~ 5 STARS ~

 

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review 2019-02-09 21:01
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Wisehouse Classics Edition) - Frederick Douglass

There are two introductions preceding Douglass's autobiography, one by a journalist William Lloyd Garrison and one by an abolitionist Wendell Philips who knew Douglass. They're not really crucial to the narrative itself and they can easily be skipped, but I did in the end appreciate reading them if only because of their core message which I kept in the back of my head while reading the atrocities that Douglass had to endure while a slave: he had it easy.

 

Baltimore might be in the south, but it's a far cry from the Deep South and the cotton plantations that comes to mind when most people think of slavery. To be "sold down the river" was equated with death because of how much worse slaves were treated in the Deep South, but the slaves in the rest of the south were hardly treated kindly. There are instead degrees of cruelty.

 

Douglass details his life growing up in Maryland, the various masters and slave bondsmen he served, how he learned to read and write and use that to his advantage and how that knowledge also made his enslavement that much harder to deal with. He describes the abuses and murders he witnessed in his young life and some of the whippings he endured himself. He's unflinching, eloquent and starkly honest about it, and his observation of the hypocrisies of the southern "Christians" who were Christian in name only but not in deed.

 

He doesn't give any details of his escape, citing the desire to keep those details from the slave hunters who would use that information to capture other slaves running for freedom. He even admonishes some of the Underground Railroad participants who were so proud of themselves they bragged about their deeds, thus endangering the very people they were supposed to be helping to save. (Why does there always have to be people like that?) There are a few details of his escape here, along with more details of his life after arriving in New Bedford, CT, and coming to the notice of the abolitionist party.

 

He wrote a couple other autobiographies, and I hope to find time to read them one day. 

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