2020 in Books: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This is the third in my series to talk about some of the books I’ve been reading this year. Next up is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

The book takes you on a long journey through generations of Oscar’s family. From Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR) to NJ and back again several times over. Though the book gives insight into some of their experiences under Trujillo’s dictatorship, most of the story follows Oscar and his love for writing, science fiction, and his never-ending attempt to find what he thinks is love.

This was a very recent read for me (as in last week). One thing that gave me pause at the start is the narrator uses the n-word quite a bit. It was almost a turn off, but the use drops way down after the first chapter or two.

With the book following several members of Oscar’s family, it becomes clear early on that they’re dark-skinned. It also becomes clear that the DR is no different from the US and other western countries in that dark-skinned people are treated as lesser than their lighter skinned counterparts. This was interesting because so often we’re made to think of Latin countries as third world or developing. Yet the US isn’t always more advanced, even as we constantly say otherwise.

What I found most relatable about this is how indicative it is of the Hispanic experience in 20th century DR and the US. Either Oscar, his mother, or his sister go back to the DR several times throughout the story. This is something that happens all the time. And sure people of other nationalities do the same, but the US has become much more Hispanic in recent decades. As a Mexican-American I hadn’t read previously such an Hispanic story. That’s more on me than anything.

I didn’t grow up in a Spanish-speaking household. I wish I had, but the concept of Spanglish is something even I’m familiar with. Intertwining both languages effortlessly happens in so many households every single day that it’s impossible to put a number on it. That’s how this book is written and it makes it all the more genuine. Don’t ask me if I bought a lifetime subscription to Rosetta Stone afterward because I won’t tell you. Yesterday I said I couldn’t understand how that book won the Pulitzer. Not the case with this one.

This is an unabashedly Hispanic/Latin story and it could not have been better written. Every so often you read a book you know you won’t soon forget. This is one of those few. The best book I’ve read this year and #6 ever for me. An incredible work. 5 stars.

This is one of Amazon’s 100 books everyone should read.

2020 in Books: The Road

This is the second in my series to discuss some of the books I’ve been reading lately. Some good and some not. Today’s book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

We follow a father and son along a road in post apocalyptic North America. As I sit here trying to give just a little bit more of a plot description I realize there’s nothing else to say about it. We follow them as they try to stay alive along this road, but that’s it.

I have serious problems with just about every aspect of this book. There are no names for the characters. The father is the father and the son is the son. I might be mistaken (I read this a few months ago), but I don’t think the book has chapters and the punctuation is not proper. I never could figure the point for writing this way. My only guess is because it’s in this post apocalyptic world that the author felt it best to show that grammatical norms don’t matter when everyone and everything has been destroyed.

I’d love to write about the action or the climax of the story to give more insight, but there’s neither. Nothing happens in the story. This book won the Pulitzer and was adapted into a movie. I haven’t seen the movie and likely won’t, but there should be a White House Commission to investigate who was bribed to award this book the Pulitzer. If you couldn’t tell, I rated this 1 star. It’s also worth noting that this book is partially responsible for a nearly two month gap in my reading this year after I started and stopped because there was not a thing to keep me interested. Thoughts?

This is one of Amazon’s 100 books everyone should read.

2017 Reading Challenge: The Lightning Thief

I’m probably the last person in America to have started this series. I mean, at this point Rick Riordan is writing a dozen other series he started after concluding this one. Oh well. Better late than never, right? Anyway, I have only good things to say about this one! Watch and see!

This book was the 7th book from my 2017 Reading Challenge and satisfied the requirement to read a book everyone else seems to have read already. This is also 1 of Amazon’s 100 Books Everyone Should Read. Two birds with one…book? Ha!

What did you think of this book?

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2017 Reading Challenge: Things Fall Apart

Video day Wednesday!

The third book from my 2017 Reading Challenge also happens to find itself as one of Amazon’s 100 Books Everyone Should Read. For me, Things Fall Apart was a book I struggled to get into. It wasn’t that it was poorly written or that the story was mediocre. It just took a little while to develop, but I couldn’t put it down once I realized the direction it was headed in. This is another of those 20th century classics everyone seems to have read before me, but eh. Take a couple of minutes to see what I thought of it and tell me if you’ve read it!

It fulfilled the requirement to read a book with a diverse main character for my 2017 Reading Challenge.

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My BIGGEST Book Haul Ever!

When I quit my job at Half Price Books recently I had a tough choice to make. I could either buy all of the books I wanted before my employee discount was no longer valid or I could just forget about them. I of course chose to buy.

This is the result. There were so many I couldn’t get them all in the picture for the thumbnail. Ha!

Now watch! It’s super quick!

Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

First off, I KNOW you guys didn’t believe my whole thing yesterday about going to the World Cup. Come on. I work weekends. I don’t have anything remotely resembling a rich family or girlfriend/wife. So where the heck would I get the thousands of dollars I’d need to be traveling for two months? The lottery? No.

Back to this post. You guys might have forgotten that I decided to tackle all the books on this list when it was first released in February. This will be the fourth book I read from the list since then and the seventh book I’ve read from it overall. But enough with the pleasantries, you guys probably want to know what I thought of the book.

Fault in Our Stars

I know I don’t need to waste time telling you guys what the book is about because who hasn’t read this book, so I’m not. Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters meet at their cancer Support Group and everything that follows is nothing short of wonderful.

My Thoughts

I’m writing the rest of this under the impression that you’ve read the book, if not, this is your warning to turn your eyes away from the screen. Well, this book has a huge amount of hype going right now. For me, I think it was able to live up to it. Let me tell you the million and one things that I liked about it. LOVED Hazel and Augustus as characters, as a couple, as thinkers, basically everything about them. Loved Hazel’s approach to everything. Loved how they both could quote An Imperial Affliction like no tomorrow. Excuse the language, but I loved how amidst everything that was going on between her and Augustus and her illness, Hazel was able to call Peter Van Houten on his shit. Yes, of course it’s later revealed that he had a daughter who died of cancer at the so very young age of eight, and Hazel changed it up a bit from constantly yelling at him.

I realize my thoughts are just spilling out at random, but that’s okay. I thought it was seriously fantastic that Augustus Waters called her Hazel Grace throughout the entire book even though at the very start she told him just Hazel. And I thought it was great to see that Hazel rarely broke down for any reason during the book. I’m thinking when she lay in her backyard in front of the swing set and of course after Augustus died. Both times guess who ultimately cheered her up, Gus.

Lastly, you all are probably wondering if I cried even though I’ve mentioned that I’m a notorious cryer when reading books. Yes. Just once, at the very end as Hazel is reading what Gus sent Van Houten before he died. This was the line that got me for some reason. I was at 98% on my Kindle.

“-I was wondering if you could write a eulogy for Hazel. I’ve got notes and everything, but if you could just make it into a coherent whole or whatever?”

He was dying and he knew it, and he STILL couldn’t stop thinking about Hazel. I mean, seriously, how freaking great is that? So yes, I cried the whole time as Hazel read what Gus so eloquently wrote to Van Houten about her.

You guys may or may not remember that I rank all the books I read. The books from the Amazon list rank as follows: Anne Frank is #1, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is #22, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is unranked, and this one comes in at #13 just behind The Hunger Games on my list.

Now if only I could find a girl who’s read this book, then maybe I might go see the movie.

Oh, and tell me Hazel Grace Lancaster isn’t the greatest name in the history of ever.