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review 2018-11-15 02:33
Two quick stories about family and dealing with the past.
Mistletoe in Mayhem - L. E. Rico

Christmas Chaos. This story is about Hennessy and Brian, and the planning of their wedding. I was glad when they began to take control of their lives. I enjoyed getting to know the others in this town and how they helped each other.
Baby Bedlam. Now Jameson and Scott find what they are looking for in the forever department. This included children. How they dealt with fears and the very real problems with pregnancy.
Both stories had their teary moments as well as a few laughs. This was the first book I have read by this author, and I am intrigued enough to go backward to read the first ones.

I received an ARC of this story through Netgalley, and this is my unsolicited review.

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review 2018-04-20 17:28
The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack
The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA - Doug Mack

A book about America’s territories: part travelogue, part history, part investigation of the territories’ political status, this is a lightweight, readable introduction to a complicated topic. Doug Mack takes readers along on his trip through the territories: beginning in the U.S. Virgin Islands, then traveling to American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific, and ending with a trip to Puerto Rico. He even makes a stop in the Marshall Islands and briefly discusses the U.S.’s “freely associated states” of the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia. (These are independent Pacific Island countries that have a special relationship with the U.S., even having U.S. post offices and citizens serving in the U.S. military; as a group, they were best known to me for being the only other U.N. member states to always vote against sanctions for Israel.) Along the way, he shares his research about the territories in an accessible way that provides a good primer for readers new to the topic.

I found this book interesting, educational and easy to read. The author shows readers each territory as a unique place and digs into their histories and the history of U.S. international policies more broadly. He also examines the legal oddities governing the rights of the territories and their residents: for instance, they are eligible for some public benefits on their islands, but never become eligible for others even when living in the mainland U.S. (some of which actual foreign immigrants can receive after several years). Meanwhile mainland Americans can’t vote for president if they relocate to the territories. Mack pushes for opinions on the territories’ political status, and except in Puerto Rico often finds them hard to come by; for the most part, territory residents seem to prefer a flawed status quo to possibly losing individuality by becoming a state, or losing economically by becoming independent.

Mack could have improved the book a bit by being a little more willing to go out of his comfort zone as a traveler. He does meet a variety of people living in the territories, including, in the Northern Mariana Islands, a man who spent several years in another part of the Pacific learning traditional navigation, and a woman who immigrated from China to work in the garment factories. But his only exposure to obeah in the U.S. Virgin Islands is asking a well-off couple (he’s a local but she is a scuba instructor from the mainland U.S.) about it, to which they essentially smile and roll their eyes. Toward the end, he comments with surprising honesty that “In all my travels in the territories, I’d seen countless shacks and set foot in many middle-class houses and gaped from afar at the occasional oceanfront villa.” It doesn’t seem to occur to him to try to get invitations to some shacks as well, and the book gives little sense of how most people live in the territories.

All that said, with the exception of Puerto Rico, the territories are tiny islands about which relatively little has been written, especially in such an easy-to-read, bite-sized format, and this book did an excellent job of filling them out on my mental map. I would recommend it to any American to learn a bit more about some of the furthest-flung parts of the country. It can even be funny: did you know about the U.S. government’s machinations in the 19th century to claim uninhabitated islands for their bird poop?

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review 2017-10-28 01:35
Cute Contemporary
Blame It on the Bet (Whiskey Sisters) (V... Blame It on the Bet (Whiskey Sisters) (Volume 1) - L. E. Rico

Hennessey O’Halloran and her sisters are trying to save their pub following their father’s death.  Bryan Truitt is a developer who want’s the land their pub sits on for land development. They make a bet that will either save the pub for the O’Halloran’s or give Bryan what he wants.

This was a cute story that was an easy quick read. The characters were likable and the story kept you entertained. I highly recommend.

**I voluntarily read and reviewed this book

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review 2017-06-28 21:35
A solid and entertaining cozy mystery set in the world of the circus, and a must for those who love big cats
A Spark of Justice - J.D. Hawkins

I was sent an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is classed as a cozy mystery and is set in the world of the circus, probably in the recent past, although this is not specified and the novel has a somewhat timeless feel.  There are mobile phones (but hardly ever used, and most people rely on land lines as nobody is located unless they are at home or at work), computers (but only an old-fashioned one is ever mentioned or seen and reports are paper based) but most people do not seem to use any modern commodities, although the mauling of Rolo, the lion tamer and the victim whose murder/accidental death is the mystery at the centre of the novel, is available on YouTube. And of course, the circus where the story is set still has performing animal, including big felines (lions, leopards, tigers, and panthers). In the US there is no federal ban as such yet (although they are banned in many countries) but most of the big circuses have stopped showing those numbers (and indeed Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus gave its last performance in May this year) and there are many local bans, so that adds to the feeling of a somewhat idealised and old-fashioned world.

The story is told in the third person but from the point of view of John (Juan) Nieves, an insurance investigator of Puerto Rican origin, born in New York, who left his studies as a vet to join the police, and after working for the police for a time, moved to the Mid-West and changed his job to try and save his marriage. Unfortunately, it did not work, but he loves his son, thinks about him often and lives for his visits.  His lifestyle is itinerant and he feels no strong attachment to his current job or to his apartment. For some reason, he feels irresistibly attracted to the world of the circus from the moment he sets foot in it. Although he does not like clowns and he is less than welcome by the circus artists initially, he cannot stop going back, even when he does not have a very good reason to. At first, it seems it is due to his attachment to detective work and to his wish to solve the mystery, but later we realise there is something else at play.

As happens in all good detective or mystery novels, the story is not only about the mystery but also about the investigator. In this case, John’s motives and sense of self and identity are put into question from the very beginning, and eventually, the process of self-discovery becomes more interesting than the case itself. If circuses have traditionally been places where people could run away from their circumstances and become a new person, this novel shows them as a big family happy to accommodate those who might not fit into normal society and others who want to become who they feel they really are, no matter how alternative. It is perhaps significant that Rolo did not spend all year with the circus but lived at times with his outside family, and was not as fully invested as the rest of the artists and did not truly belong.

The mystery is pretty intriguing too, don’t get me wrong. A death by a deadly tiger attack is not everyday news, and the fact that the tiger had been spooked by an electrical spark from a damaged cable makes it even less common. There are a suitably large number of suspects (both from within the circus —as Rolo was not very well liked, for reasons we discover later—, and from his personal life, including a wife, a lover, and a brother), a complex web of deceit and betrayal; there are threats and warnings to John to keep out of circus’s business, and there are wonderful descriptions of the world of circus, wild cats, clowns, and behind the curtains insights that will delight anybody who has ever felt curious about this world.

Although there are anxiety provoking and scary moments (near- miss accidents, close calls with a knife thrower, eerie moments with a lion and a panther, and also more run of the mill human violence), there is no actual gore and the investigation itself is not precise and full of detail (in fact, once some of the suspects are removed from the scene they practically disappear from the story).

I liked John (Juan) Nieves, the main character. He is not the usual noir detective, full of clever repartees and sarcastic comments. He thinks before he acts (mostly); he is not unduly violent and uses no foul language; he thinks of his son often and is kind towards animals and kids, and he acknowledges his weaknesses, his doubts, and his mistakes. He is happy to let certain things drop and to hide others that have no real bearing on the matter and will not affect his employer. He is not a rigid believer in the value of finding the truth and revealing it at all costs and is more interested in human beings (and big cats) than he is in some perfect vision of duty.  The author, who describes a personal background in carnival attractions, creates some interesting secondary characters, particularly the circus’s performers, although due to how different clowns look with and without makeup, it is quite easy to get confused as to who is who, but this does not prevent us from following the plot and enjoying the story.

I have read some comments that describe the ending as a let-down and this is true if we think of the novel as being only about the investigation of Rolo’s death. On the other hand, if we see it as a process of investigating and revealing who the real John (Juan) Nieves is, there is no disappointment at all.

Recommended to lovers of cozy mysteries set in original settings, to those who like big cats (or cats of any size), and to readers who appreciate a good background and an inside knowledge of the world of circus, especially those who feel nostalgic about a world that seems to be on the verge of disappearance. A solid and entertaining read.

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review 2017-06-15 10:18
Aus dem Leben eines modernen Kriegers
No llores, mi querida - Weine nicht, mein Schatz - André Pilz

Bevor ich mit der Rezension zu „No llores, mi querida – Weine nicht, mein Schatz“ beginne, sollte ich euch erklären, wieso ich diesen Skinhead-Roman besitze. Ich habe eine tiefe persönliche Bindung zum Thema des Buches, zu der Szene, in der und für die der Autor André Pilz es geschrieben hat. Ich war selbst jahrelang in der linken bzw. unpolitischen Skinhead-Szene aktiv. Ich war ein Renee, ein Skingirl, mit allem, was dazu gehört: Musik, Kleidung, Lebensstil. Mittlerweile habe ich die Szene verlassen, weil ich mit der Stagnation selbiger nicht zurechtkam. „No llores, mi querida“ war das letzte ungelesene literarische Überbleibsel dieser Zeit. Als ich es von meinem SuB befreite, war ich extrem gespannt, wie es auf mich wirken würde. Eine Reise in meine Vergangenheit stand bevor.


Skinhead, Skinhead, Oi Oi Oi! Diese Worte sind Ricos Schlachtruf. Jahrelang war Rico schwach, wurde geschubst und getreten, als er am Boden lag. Er schwor sich, niemals wieder so verletzlich zu sein. Er ist ein Skin, ein Krieger im täglichen Kampf gegen die brutalen Anforderungen einer Gesellschaft, in die er nicht passt. Gewalt und Exzess bestimmen seine Existenz. Seine Freunde sind ebenso Ausgestoßene wie er. Doch tief in seinem Herzen verzehrt sich Rico nach Hoffnung. Als er die Mexikanerin Maga kennenlernt und sich rettungslos in sie verliebt, stellt er sich zum ersten Mal die Frage, ob es nicht auch anders geht. Muss er die lähmende Verzweiflung, den Zorn, die giftige Bitterkeit ertragen? Gibt es keinen Ausweg aus der Abwärtsspirale seines Lebens? Entgegen aller Widerstände wird Maga zu Ricos Licht in der Dunkelheit und lehrt ihn, dass jeder Mensch eine Chance auf Glück verdient, sogar ein Skinhead.


Meine Rückkehr in den Kosmos der Skinheads war seltsam. Es war merkwürdig, mit Gedanken konfrontiert zu werden, aus denen ich lange herausgewachsen bin. Ich musste mich erst wieder an den derben Tenor der Szene und den daraus resultierenden ordinären Schreibstil in „No llores, mi querida“ gewöhnen. André Pilz schont sein Publikum nicht und ich glaube, für Leser_innen, die noch nie mit der Szene in Kontakt gekommen sind, ist das Buch vermutlich zu krass, mit all der Gewalt, literweise Alkohol und einem Leben am äußersten Rand der Gesellschaft. Ich brauchte ein wenig, um mich auf Pilz‘ Schilderungen einzulassen, kam dann aber schnell rein und konnte mich mit der extremen Härte des Romans arrangieren, obwohl ich nicht behaupten kann, dass ich mich wohlfühlte. Das ist wahrscheinlich gar nicht möglich. Ricos Auffassung seiner Identität als Skinhead unterscheidet sich radikal von dem, was ich damals empfand. Ich hätte nichts mit ihm und seinen „Freunden“ zu tun haben wollen, weil ich sie als asoziale Prolls eingeschätzt hätte. Ich habe Skingirl zu sein niemals damit assoziiert, eine Kriegerin zu sein. Für mich ging es um bodenständige Werte; darum, sich innerhalb der Gesellschaft eigene Regeln und Grenzen zu schaffen. Für Rico hingegen sind die Glatze, die schweren Stiefel und sein provokatives Verhalten Ausdruck seines persönlichen Krieges gegen die Gesellschaft. Er ist ein Anarchist, benimmt sich wie ein in die Enge getriebenes Tier. Er empfindet Hilflosigkeit, Ohnmacht und Weltschmerz und da er nicht weiß, wie er mit seinen Gefühlen umgehen soll, schlägt er nach außen. Das stimmt mich unheimlich traurig, denn in seinem Kern ist Rico hypersensibel, eine maßlos empfindsame Seele und eigentlich viel zu zart für unsere grausame Welt. Die schützende emotionale Mauer, die Menschen normalerweise davor bewahrt, angesichts all des Leids und des Elends in der Welt verrückt zu werden, hat Rico nicht. Er tut, als würde ihn das alles überhaupt nichts angehen, dabei zerbricht er sich täglich den Kopf darüber. Ich kann nachvollziehen, dass er glaubt, ein Krieger sein zu müssen, um zu überleben. Er kennt nur Extreme, trotz seiner erstaunlich weit entwickelten Intelligenz. Man traut es Rico nicht zu, aber er ist tatsächlich ziemlich klug und ich gehe mit den meisten seiner philosophischen, gesellschaftskritischen Überlegungen konform. Lediglich die Konsequenzen schätze ich anders ein. Man kann das System nicht von außen zerstören, man kann es nur von innen heraus verändern. In diesem Punkt bin ich einer Meinung mit Maga, die für Rico einfach alles ist. Sie ist Auslöser, Motivation und Perspektive seiner Veränderung. Er wäre vermutlich auch ohne sie eines Tages darauf gekommen, dass sein Dasein deprimierend und leer ist, dass seine „Freunde“ asoziale Schläger sind, denen nichts irgendetwas bedeutet, aber dank Maga sieht er eine Alternative. Ihretwegen erkennt er, dass er die Wahl hat, ein anderes Leben zu führen.


Ich kann euch „No llores, mit querida – Weine nicht, mein Schatz“ ausschließlich unter ganz bestimmten Umständen empfehlen. Ich fand es zwar großartig, überraschend tiefsinnig und verblüffend berührend, aber es ist auch äußerst speziell, außergewöhnlich hart und ab und zu regelrecht abstoßend. Meiner Ansicht nach solltet ihr diesen Skinhead-Roman nur dann lesen, wenn ihr wahrhaft bereit für eine extreme, grenzwertige Variante des Konflikts zwischen Gesellschaft und Individuum seid. André Pilz treibt es auf die Spitze. Er kennt keine Tabus. Falls ihr meint, damit umgehen zu können, versucht es. Ich habe lediglich eine Bitte an euch. „No llores, mit querida“ mag autobiografische Elemente enthalten, doch bitte glaubt nicht, der Protagonist Rico und seine Truppe stünden stellvertretend für die gesamte Skinhead-Szene. Das ist nicht wahr. Ich habe in meiner Zeit in der Szene glücklicherweise nur wenige Gestalten kennengelernt, die ähnlich asozial und kaputt waren wie Rico. Die meisten Skins sind in einem gesunden Maß angepasst, wenn auch oft laut, wild und reichlich verrückt. Dieses Buch vermittelt nur einen winzigen Bruchteil der Realität. Skinhead zu sein kann vieles bedeuten. „Krieger“ ist nur eine Auslegung.


P.S.: Für all diejenigen unter euch, die Schwierigkeiten mit der Unterscheidung von Skinheads und Nazis haben und nach dieser Rezension ein bisschen verwirrt sind, finden auf der folgenden Website eine Erklärung der Szene: Du sollst Skinheads nicht mit Nazis verwechseln

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/andre-pilz-no-llores-mi-querida-weine-nicht-mein-schatz
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