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review 2019-05-23 17:56
Outstanding LGBTQ novel encompassing immigration, grief, PTSD, and has a sci-fi twist; this debut is an easy 5-star
The Grief Keeper - Alexandra Villasante

I can already say that this will be on my list as one of my top and most impactful reads of the year (and it’s only May). I’ve not read too many books lately that can bring me to shed both happy and sad tears, as well as make me drop my jaw, and cause me to put the book down for moments so I could collect my thoughts. And although the title would suggest that ‘The Grief Keeper’ is filled with sadness, it also brings with it a bright message of love and hope.

 

The novel opens with seventeen-year old Marisol being interviewed in a federal border detention center, having just crossed into the U.S., after fleeing El Salvador with her younger sister Gabi, afraid for their lives after the death of their brother Pablo. She has dreamed for years for a life in the States, perfecting her English, and getting lost in the imaginary world of her favorite TV show ‘Cedar Hollow.’ When it looks like her asylum request will be denied, and a new and curious opportunity to have it granted arises, Marisol will do just about anything for her and her sister to make that happen. And that’s by becoming a ‘grief keeper.’

 

Debut author Alexandra Villasante has written an expertly crafted novel about the complexities of immigration, grief, sexual orientation, PTSD, depression, and, new love. There are even more nuanced topics woven in  such as attitudes towards immigrants (legal and otherwise) being hired to do menial jobs in this country, our political climate, and how the LGBTQ community suffers in other countries (ie which would cause a young girl like Marisol to flee her home).

This story gives so many deep, complex topics to talk and think about but at the core there is this beautiful story about Marisol and Rey (grieving her own brother) who are discovering their relationship with each other, including Marisol who would never have been allowed to explore this part of her back in the country she has fled. Persecution of LGBTQ youth and ‘conversion by rape’ is brought into the spotlight and from this story of family and migration, I was enlightened and educated.

 

This is a novel about connections as well as grief, and Villasante sheds light on PTSD, and gives new meaning to the idea of taking someone else’s pain away so they don’t have to suffer. There are serious moral and ethical questions to the procedure that’s used so that Marisol will absorb Rey’s grief and pain (this actually brings quite a futuristic aspect to a very realistic story, which I really liked) and shows the extent that Marisol will go to gain entry to the U.S., and it’s heartbreaking.

 

I read this book and I felt so many different emotions, and the very fact that it’s able to envelope immigration criticism, discussion on sexual identity, loss, classism, plus a loving sister relationship, AND a sci-fi twist, make it a VERY special book. I think it belongs on every school and YA library shelf everywhere and I hope many people will pick it up, even if it’s initially because of the insanely gorgeous cover (thanks to Kaethe Butcher and Kelley Brady), and that they end up holding it close to their hearts.

 

*Trigger warnings/mentions: sexual assault, suicidal ideation, violence, bombing, PTSD

 

RELEASE DATE: 6.11.19

 

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/34522727-the-grief-keeper
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text 2018-10-04 04:36
Win a e-book edition of East Van Saturday Night on BookLikes

What people are saying about East Van Saturday Night:

 

"... your writing is fresh, visceral and intuitively captures the rawness of youth and the dark energy of East Van..." and “...chronicles the past so authentically...”

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“Your stories have merit and I enjoyed the memories they stirred in me. I really enjoyed the chapters with Chris’s attempt at crossing Canada. ... I found East Van Saturday Night to be more like a one story novella with chapters, as the stories are of the same character.”

- Ally Robertson, Content Producer and Social Media director of Access Television

 

Enter to win one of fifty e-book editions at

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Author Amazon Page

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review 2018-03-26 00:33
GHETTOSIDE: A TRUE STORY OF MURDER IN AMERICA by Jill Leovy
Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America - Jill Leovy

Putting names to the murdered young black men in LA she tells the story of one, a cop's son, and gives us more vignettes of others around the same time as his.  She also takes us into the detectives' lives who are handed these murders and how they solve them.

 

I liked this book.  While there was a lot of statistics and history of what lead up to the high murder rates of young black men, she puts names to them.  They are not statistics only.  She shows what the detectives do and how invested they are to find their killers.  There were times I cried as she talks about the Tennelle family and tells of funerals and the fears many of the young men have of not living to be 21. 

 

Though a few years old, it is still timely.  Well worth the read.

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review 2018-02-12 23:00
Bikers, escorts, and a detective with a conscience in hipster Vancouver
Invisible Dead - Sam Wiebe

I do read mysteries, but I don't tend to read the gritty crime/noir genre. Too dark, in most cases. I loved this, though. 

 

Wiebe captures the culture, ephemera, and atmosphere of Vancouver with endless telling details, making his narrative about crime and the seedy, dark underbelly of the city all the more alarming. Reads smoothly and convincingly, with all-too-recognizable characters. The endless men (and some women) dismissing the harm they do to others, particularly to the most vulnerable (and often First Nations and visible minority) women, are the company owners I've worked with and for, the powerful and dismissive, the entitled and self-satisfied, and most of all, the casually careless.

 

The specificity of eating out in Vancouver and enjoying the views are so common in the city as to be living stereotypes, and the friendly familiarity of the lifestyle and location details drives the knife in even further as one character after another drives the women who've suffered in this book, and on our streets in real life, further into the mud.

 

I prefer reading mysteries set in exotic foreign places and times. New York. Chicago. London. Paris. 1920s. 1940s. A crime novel calling out not only the shady hidden figures of my Vancouver, but all of us in the city, privileged and struggling alike, for glossing past, stepping over, and treating with casual disdain and irresponsibility the ones having the hardest time surviving, hits far too close to home. But there's a balance of hope and tenacity in this book that keeps the darkness from feeling entirely crushing. So I'll read more of Wiebe's work, if only to remind myself of the faces, the voices, and the stories I need to not forget.

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review 2015-10-01 01:13
THE OUTSIDERS by S. E Hinton
The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
  Wow! I never read this in high school. Did I miss a good book! I loved this book. It resonated so much. The characters were great. I loved the first person point-of-view. I became part of the book as I was reading it. I bawled my eyes out at Johnny's letter to Ponyboy. Fantastic!
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