Interview with suspense author Khaled Talib.
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.
I have been reading a book called Paperbacks from Hell and when I saw this book, it reminded me so much of many of the covers and topics I had been reading about that I could not resist, although I was not sure about the title (was it horror, humour, or something else entirely?).
The novel begins with quite a bang. A strong scene where we are introduced to la Santa Muerte (Saint Death) a religion/cult (depending on whose point of view you take) that has flourished in Mexico and is spreading to many other places. Although we all have heard about the Mexican Día de los Muertos, this might cover new ground for many of us, but the author is well informed and provides good background into the history and the various opinions on Saint Death, that is an interesting topic in its own right.
But don’t get me wrong. This book is not all tell and not show. We have a number of characters who are linked (unknowingly at first) by their devotion to Saint Death. What in the beginning seem to be separate episodes, which show us the best and the worst consequences of praying to Saint Death, later come together in an accomplished narrative arc. Whilst praying for health and good things can result in miracles, praying for revenge and death carries serious and deadly consequences.
The story, written in the third person, alternates the points of views most of the characters, from the main characters to some of the bit actors, good and bad (although that is pretty relative in this novel) and it moves at good pace. It is dynamic and full of action, and this is a novel where the plot dominates. The characters are not drawn in a lot of detail and I did not find them as cohesive and compelling as the story, in part, perhaps, because they are, at times, under the control of Saint Death (but this is not a standard story of satanic possession). Although none of the characters are morally irreproachable, Anisa and Dr. Ricardo are more sympathetic and easier to root for. Yes, Anisa might resent her missed opportunities and the fact that she is stuck in Prince Edward Island looking after her son, but she goes out of her way to help her friend Helen and her brother Franklin and warns them not to pray for revenge. Dr. Ricardo threads a fine line between helping others and protecting himself, but he does the best he can. Franklin, the Freaky Franky of the title, is a much more negative character and pretty creepy, especially early in the novel. Although we learn about his past and the tragedies in his life, he is Anisa’s brother, and she’s also gone through the same losses, without behaving like he does. He uses Saint Death’s power mostly for evil, although he seems to change his mind and attitude after Anisa’s intervention (I was not totally convinced by this turn of events). I found Natalie, the American tourist visiting the Dominican Republic with her fiancé, Terry, difficult to fathom as well. Perhaps some of it could be explained by the love/lust spell she is under, but she clearly suspects what Franklin has done to her, and her changed feelings towards a man she has known for five minutes makes no sense, at least to me (sorry, I am trying to avoid spoilers). Much of the action and events require a great deal of suspension of disbelief, but not more than is usual in the genre.
The novel keeps wrong-footing the readers. At first, we might think that everything that is going on can be explained by self-suggestion and that all the evil (and the good) is in the mind of the believer. These are desperate characters holding on to anything that offers them a glint of hope. And later, when bad things start to happen, it seems logical to believe that the characters we are following have acted upon their negative thoughts and impulses (and even they have doubts as to what they might have done). But nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems.
Although there is plenty of explicit violence and some sexual references (those not as explicit), I did not find it frightening or horrific as such. However, it is a disquieting, dark, and eerie book, because of the way it invites readers to look into the limits of morality and right and wrong. Is revenge ever justified? Is it a matter of degrees? Who decides? It seems la Santa Muerte has very specific thoughts about this, so be very careful what you wish (or pray) for.
An eye-opener with regards to the Saint Death cult and a book that will be enjoyed by readers who don’t mind supernatural novels with plenty of violence, and prefer their plots dynamic and action-driven.
BookLikes is not allowing me to "connect" this post with a book that is in the BL catalogue and is listed on my shelves. I DON'T KNOW WHY.
Even when I "search on my shelves," it says not found. As you can see, the book page shows that it's on my "Read" shelf, which is where I put it when I entered it a few days ago. I own this book, the 1966 paperback edition.
Why do I own it? Why do I own Coe's The Maya? Because of Charles.
Charles Cooper Schlereth was my high school Spanish teacher my junior and senior years at Arlington High School. He was a graduate of the City College of Mexico City, where he had earned a degree in Pre-Columbian History. As a result, we got a lot more history and culture than most foreign language students.
Our textbook for Spanish 3 was the third in the Holt, Rinehart and Winston series, Español: Leer, Hablar y Escribir. Formatted into nine issues of a magazine titled "Leer," the book presented articles, columns, advertisements, and other features originally published in magazines and newspapers in Spanish-speaking countries.
I enjoyed it so much that many years later -- 1981 or thereabouts -- I paid a visit to the high school and managed to obtain a copy of the book, which was no longer used as a current text. I still have it. Of course!
My senior year, we didn't have a formal text. Instead, Charles selected several popular novels for us to read and discuss, among them Doña Barbara, Lluvia Roja, and Pensativa. We watched the film version of Doña Barbara starring María Félix. I still remember the opening line of the novel, though nothing of the plot stuck with me.
"Cuando el bongo remonta el Arauca.. . . "
Our fourth year class was somewhat illegal, a distinction we all took pride in. School policies required that any class have a minimum of ten students registered or it would be cancelled. On the first day, we had only nine students present -- I can probably name all of us if I think about it long enough -- out of the ten registered. One of the ten, however, was known to have moved away, leaving us under the legal minimum. For the first week or two of classes, Charles dutifully marked Kevin Harvell present each day until the time passed for cancellation of classes.
Charles talked occasionally about the idea of taking us to Mexico City, perhaps over spring break, but the topic usually faded. Then one Friday morning we nine took matters into our own hands.
Our class met the first period of the day, and we were all seated like good students a few minutes before the bell rang. Charles had not appeared yet, and we started talking about this Mexico trip. How we came up with the idea, I don't remember, but we decided to go on strike.
At the beginning of the year, Charles had told us we would no longer speak English in class. We were, after all, fourth year students and we should be able to converse in Spanish by now. Sometimes we struggled -- we all had dictionaries and referenced them often! -- but the rule had stuck. So when Charles entered the room that Friday morning, we simply refused to speak at all.
"No estamos hablando," we said in response to his comments and questions.
That is, we weren't going to talk until he agreed to look into the possibility of taking us to Mexico City over spring break.
That was Friday. He agreed to see about putting something together, and we consented to participate in class once again. And by Monday, he brought us the proposal:
Yes, my BookLikes friends, we went from northwest suburban Chicago to Mexico City and back . . . by bus.
(My brother on the right, my dad holding my sister on the far right.)
It was cold the day we left; everyone else was in long pants and heavy sweaters. I was the only one in cut-offs and a lightweight shirt. Two days later it was 90-something degrees in Waco, Texas, and everyone else melted. I was comfortable.
We spent a total of 100 hours on the bus -- 51 hours down, 49 hours back -- and only had six days or so in Mexico City. We didn't see nearly enough. The pyramids, of course.
And Obregón's arm.
(For those interested, the ultimate fate of Obregón's arm is here
I've remained interested in MesoAmerican history and prehistory ever since. I have lots of weird books, as a result.
Genre: Mexico / Foreign Language / Educational / Party
Year Published: 2015
Year Read: 2017
Publisher: PoliglotKidz Press
Source: eARC (Author)
I would like to thank the author Judy Martialay for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Now, I have read many children’s books that dealt with teaching children about foreign languages, but I had never read a children’s book where a term would be phrased in English and then be translated into Spanish in the same sentence and author Judy Martialay has certainly created an intriguing story that combines both Spanish and English terms in her book “Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish: Visit New Places and Make New Friends!”
Basically, this book teaches children about Mexico and its culture and language, which their language is Spanish. There is also a story woven in this book that stars a small Mexican jumping bean named Panchito who wanted to find new friends that he could play with and he ends up journeying through the marketplace and winds up at a piñata party!
What will Panchito discover at the piñata party?
Read this book to find out!
Judy Martialay has done an excellent job at creating a book that would help children understand not only about the language of Mexico, but about its culture as well and I have always enjoyed children’s books that try to teach children about foreign cultures and how to pronounce their languages at the same time. I had a lot of fun in trying to pronounce the Spanish verses for the English verses, such as “Hola” meaning “hello” in Spanish and “Los Frijoles” meaning “beans” in Spanish and I loved the way that Judy Martialay had the English verse being spoken first and then the Spanish translation for that verse coming right after the verse such as this phrase “Look! Miren!” as it helps children see how that English verse is translated into Spanish. Judy Martialay’s artwork is extremely cute to look at as the characters are rendered in scratchy and simple outlines and I enjoyed the images of Panchito himself as he is shown as a jumping bean who has stick like legs and a small hat that he wears in each panel.
The reason why I gave this book a four-star rating was because I felt that the pacing was a bit too slow at times and I sort of wished that the story moved at a faster pace in introducing us to the world of Mexico.
Overall, “Hola! Let's Learn Spanish: Visit New Places and Make New Friends!” is a great book for children in learning about Mexico and their language Spanish and would be a great book in helping children understand foreign languages! I would recommend this book to children ages three and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book and the Spanish language is introduced in a way that would be easy for smaller children to understand.
Review is also on: Rabbit Ears Book Blog