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review 2022-03-14 17:37
Infinite Country
Infinite Country - Patricia Engel

What the heck!?  You can’t be serious? I cringed a few times as I read this book, for the main characters were walking blindly.  They lived in fear, they were risking their own lives and the lives of their own children as they dodged not being caught and deported.  Sometimes I wondered if they even knew what complications lied ahead or if the thought of moving backwards was not option so they didn’t consider it.  I was hoping for the best and I feared the worse was headed their way. When would it ever end?


It was sweet when they fell in love and had their first child but when they decided to flee Columbia, the choices that had to be made and their actions totally changed the tone of the book.  They were headed to America, where a better life awaited them, didn’t it?  Entering America, they were beginning their new lives as illegal immigrants, earning money under the table, and “just surviving.”  When the couple started having more children, I was getting nervous.  More mouths, more responsibilities and additional individuals to hide.  The status of their children was now mixed and I wondered, how would that play out when it was time to go back to Columbia.


With the return date on their Visa’s coming up, the thought of returning home doesn’t sound like something they’re ready for.  Do they really have a choice? This was an eye-opening book, as the family makes some difficult decisions which places additional burdens on them.  This book covers a lot of hard topics including racism, alcohol, some sexual assault and animal abuse (small section).  It was definitely a book that got me thinking, a book that I’m glad that I read.   I received a copy of this book over a year ago from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.  

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review 2020-08-02 22:26
The Familiar Dark
The Familiar Dark - Amy Engel

As a parent you promise to protect your child but it’s kinda impossible to protect them from what happened to Junie.  Like Evie, I think the guilt and the anger/revenge would be in a constant battle within me, until someone paid for what they did. Struggling with a past, Evie finds herself looking in a mirror and wondering who is looking back.  She had wanted change and attempted it, yet did she really see the whole picture? 


Junie and Izzy had become friends in first grade.  Junie spent a lot of time at Izzy’s and that might have been because they preferred it that way or was it because Junie didn’t want anyone at her house.  There was definitely a financial dividing line between Junie and Izzy, as Izzy’s parents never struggled to put food on the table or provide what Izzy needed.  


Why were they murdered?  With Junie’s uncle on the police force, Evie feels no one will be comfortable coming forward with information to the police so she begins her own investigation and her nice motherly attitude goes out the window.  Yep, no more Ms. Nice Mom.  She’s begins sounding like her mother, the woman with a drink in one hand, a cigarette in another, and a loud, sarcastic comment spewing from her lips. It’s like she has lost her identity with her daughter gone. 


Snooping in her daughter’s room, after the police did their initial investigation, she finds something! This I couldn’t believe.  I think The 3 Stooges came to do the initial search of the house.  Anyways, this is where the book shoots off and there is no turning back now folks!


After Evie makes her discovery, she’s on a mission and nothing will hold her back, not even her brother, the cop.  We see more of Evie’s mother and boy, is she a fun, entertaining character.  It’s a circus, if you add in the news reporters, who come into town. Using flashbacks, Evie makes connections to her past.  She’s starting to get to the bottom of what has happened to these two young teens. I wasn’t ready for the big moments in the book that blew me away, they really took me by surprise.


I really enjoyed the characters in the book.  I liked how each one of them was cut and created from their environment and I liked how they mixed with one another. I liked how the author present the mystery of the book, I thought it was laid out nicely.

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review 2020-04-01 00:07
The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
The Familiar Dark - Amy Engel

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This was a fantastic novel! I read this author's previous book, The Roanoke Girls, and fell in love with this author's writing so I knew I wanted to read this book just as soon as I saw it. I went into the book with rather high expectations and they were met. This was a book that I found very hard to put down. The story was surprising at times and emotional in others. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent reading this story.

The book opens with Eve receiving a visit from her brother Cal while working her shift at the local diner. Cal is a local police officer and is there to tell Eve that her 12-year-old daughter, Junie has been murdered along with another child. My heart broke right with Eve's. The descriptions of how she got through those first few days really got to me. Eve worked hard to be a good mother to Junie and only had her brother Cal to lean on. After Junie's death, Eve has nothing left to lose and decides she will stop at nothing to get justice for her daughter.

I thought that the characters in this story were very well done. There is a pretty eclectic group of characters represented in this story and they all felt very real to me. I found that while I was pretty shocked by some of the turns the story took, the actions of the characters always felt authentic. I really felt like I was in Eve's head and I understood her motivation to learn what happened to her daughter.

I love the fact that this book was able to surprise me. And it didn't just surprise me once because there were several times where the story took a turn that I didn't expect. I love that this story made me feel. There were times that this story really got to me. Eve was such a strong character who was put in one of the most difficult situations that I can imagine. I honestly don't know how someone could read this book and not feel for Eve. I also love that the mystery in this story really kept me guessing. I had no idea who killed those two girls but I was just as desperate as Eve to find out. I found the mystery to be complex and very well done.

I would highly recommend this book to others. I found this to be a wonderfully told story that was heartbreaking at times. I cannot wait to read more from this very talented author!

I received a digital review copy of this book from Penguin Publishing Group - Dutton via Edelweiss.

Initial Thoughts
This falls somewhere between 4 and 5 stars for me. I am going with 4 for now but might bump it up after I have some time to think about it. I had a really hard time putting this book down. I couldn't imagine going through what Eve does in this story and reading about it made me uncomfortable at times. There were a few twists that I found to be rather shocking. This is one of those books that will stay with me for a while.

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review 2020-03-08 01:17
A Man and His Cat (manga, vol. 1) by Umi Sakurai, translated by Taylor Engel
A Man and His Cat, Vol. 1 - Machiko Sakurai,Taylor Engel

Fuyuki Kanda is a widowed music teacher who decides to buy a homely one-year-old cat at a pet store. The cat, who he names Fukumaru, is worried that his new owner will take him back or abandon him, but luckily for him, Mr. Kanda adores him.

This series is sweet, gentle, and warm, and I absolutely love it. I found out about it via a review on The Manga Critic, and then I kept coming across it via other sources until I finally broke down and bought it. I'm so glad I did.

This had some of the usual things you'll find in cat manga: a newbie cat owner who has to learn some of the basics, shopping for supplies at the pet store, and kitty antics, like scratching on things they're not supposed to, being goofy, and inadvertently making a mess. However, this first volume was as much about Kanda as it was about Fukumaru, and watching these two lonely characters love each other, become accustomed to each other, and form a little family together was a treat.

There were flashbacks for both Fukumaru and Kanda. Fukumaru's showed him as a kitten - remembering his mother and gradually realizing that no one wanted him. Kanda's showed him and his wife, and what their lives had been like over the years. They'd intended to get a cat together but never got around to it. They had children, and readers haven't yet been given enough information to know whether they just live too far away to regularly visit or whether Kanda's estranged from them. At any rate, he lived alone, and it was apparent that both the cat and the man had become a little depressed before they came into each other's lives.

A few other character POVs popped up here and there: Kobayashi, Kanda's dog-loving childhood friend, Yoshiharu Moriyama, one of Kanda's energetic young coworkers, and Miss Sato, the pet store employee who assisted Kanda. They all provided different views of Kanda and/or Fukumaru, which I appreciated. For example, Moriyama saw Kanda as the epitome of cool elegance and idolized him, while Kobayashi knew the loneliness his friend had been going through and appreciated the joy that Fukumaru added to Kanda's life, even if he didn't personally understand what Kanda saw in Fukumaru.

I loved the artwork. Fukumaru's cartoonish looks were initially a bit odd, but I got used to it. And oof, Kanda. It was easy to believe that his younger male coworker would idolize him and younger female coworkers would crush on him a bit.

I absolutely plan on preordering the next volume. I'm looking forward to seeing Fukumaru and Kanda make each other happy, and I'm interested to see what Sakurai plans on doing with this series.


A couple pages of full-color artwork and a full-color four-panel comic, as well as a one-page comic-style afterword by the author.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2020-03-07 23:30
Reading progress update: I've read 145 out of 145 pages.
A Man and His Cat, Vol. 1 - Machiko Sakurai,Taylor Engel



I'm absolutely preordering the next volume.

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