Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is a book that feels more like a conversation between friends. Garza follows the life of a Mexican girl living in Texas and straddling the world of her culturally rich family and a whitewashed school she winds up going to in Houston. This isn’t the only aspect of her life that Garza delves into. She also explores the girl’s relationship with family members, her church, family traditions, and general everyday life. The book is a nice collection of individual stories about the same family with the same cast of characters.
This was a nice, easy read. It is simple without being boring. The individual stories make nice bite-size sections. This made it a fun, leisurely read. The book feels light. It doesn’t have that heavy, daunting feeling that some books do.
As previously stated, the book feels like a conversation. It feels like sitting and listening to someone reminisce about their childhood. I prefer first-person writing as a rule, and this book delivers. It makes it feel so much more personal and relatable. Readers will identify with pieces of Suzy’s stories and may see themselves in her experiences. Reading this book felt like getting to know a new friend.
I feel like I got to know the characters better through each story. Each story gave a better feel for the family. Even with short stories that could stand alone, the characters were well developed. It also gave a lot of insight into the culture of Mexican American families. It showed their strength and pride in their clinging to their traditions. There were quite a bit of Spanish words and dialogue in the book. I know very little Spanish and looked up a few words, but the vast majority of the meaning comes out in the context.
My only complaint is that I might have liked the stories better in a different order. I think I would have liked them to be in chronological order rather than jumping back and forth in time. It threw me the first time I realized Suzy was speaking as an adult. It took me a second to understand what was happening since it jumped from her being a kid to having kids, and back to a kid again. I lost my bearings a little but recovered quickly.
Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is very well-written. There are very few errors, if any. It had a nice pace and flow. I liked following Suzy navigate between two worlds as she is pulled between her large Mexican family and living in America. It taught me a lot about the Mexican American culture that I didn’t know. I’d like to read more by Garza.
Pages: 162 | ISBN: 1724622889
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Rosita and her son Bartolo had to leave their peaceful life in Houston to start from scratch in Wickliffe Kentucky far away from Rosita’s parents and Billy Hamilton, Bartolo’s father. Their economics status only allows them to rent an ancient wooden house far away from the town center. Mr Johnson, the owner of the house is very attentive and he is likely to help Bartolo and her mom with everything they need. Almost after moving, Bart and Rosita start to notice strange things happening in their new house. Bartolo’s bedroom is always cold and he hears strange voices at night. Eventually they learn that their house is haunted.
Juanita Sepulveda has successfully mixed paranormal and supernatural fiction in such a way that it becomes believably creepy. For those who don’t believe in the ghosts, she is able to make you think twice. She presents the ghost world as something normal in Bartolo’s life. He is not afraid of anything, he is a brave ten years old boy who always help his mom, who is also supportive of him. The strange occurrences begin slowly and turn into something more inexplicable. The families search for answers is often more intriguing then the mystery surrounding the house.
Bartolo, which is also the name of the protagonist, is set in a small and quiet place where life goes on without any interruption until Bartolo meets Jeffrey Mason, Mr Johnson’s servant who may not be as good as everybody has thought. However, they can count on the help of all the inhabitants in Wickliffe. The concepts of family and friendship are very important in the book and it’s something I admired in an otherwise dark novel.
I consider this book to be an easy read with a consistent pace that keeps you engaged. I found myself entertained until the end and discovered the mystery surrounding the plot at the same time as the protagonists did.
Pages: 186 | ASIN: 1450008259
Tags: alibris, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, bartolo, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, ebook, ghost, goodreads, horror, houston, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kentucky, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, paranormal, publishing, read, reader, reading, Sanjuanita Sepúlveda, shelfari, smashwords, spanish, story, strange, supernatural, suspense, thriller, writer, writer community, writing
Songs from Richmond Avenue is a novel about characters that could be found in any town. The main character is a journalist that knows all the questionable characters that hang out on Richmond Avenue in Houston. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I felt like it was important that if I was going to write a book at some point in my life, I get on with it. Since the age of about 20 years old, back when I was a journalism student, I had always just assumed I’d get around to writing a book. I guess the older I got the more not writing a book bothered me.
Fortunately, a few years ago, I became unemployed for about eight months. I say fortunately because that’s when the book started taking shape. I was drawing unemployment after a publication I worked for went belly up. I looked for work online in the morning and when that got boring, which happened pretty quickly most days, I started writing a couple of short stories based loosely on some funny things I’d witnessed riding metro buses or walking through my neighborhood. One morning I stuck a couple of these short stories together and decided to have them come from the voice of a single, first-person narrator. Then I decided to have the narrator go to a bar. That is the essence of the book. While it didn’t take a long time to actually write, there was fairly long span of time between when I started and completed it, because I set it aside when I got another job. Maybe there’s a lesson in that, but I hope not.
What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
That’s a tough one since I really didn’t approach Songs From Richmond Avenue with any thoughts of trying to espouse any particular point of view. This isn’t really a moralizing kind of book that takes sides among its characters or proclaims one vantage point in a conflict is right and the other one is wrong. I think the moral perspective might be not to be judgmental of others. There are no heroes or villains in the book, just people with strengths and weaknesses having good and bad moments. I think the book may share its basic moral underpinning with film noir. These characters live by their own loose moral codes and the protagonist, despite his many trials and close calls, doesn’t come away having learned much of anything from his ordeal.
How did you decide on the title of this novel?
Initially, I thought the book would be more a series of individual character vignettes, loosely held together by the fact that they all frequented a fictional dive bar called the Relix Club on Houston’s Richmond Avenue.
There was originally going to be more of a secondary plot involving a down-and-out musician who occasionally hung out at the bar. There were also bands and singers who appeared there, so I came up with Songs From Richmond Avenue, using “song” as a metaphor for each of the character’s lives. When I changed courses a bit, the book remained Songs From Richmond Avenue, primarily because I liked how it sounded and couldn’t come up with anything better.
What is the next story that you are writing and when will it be available?
It’s a book that, hopefully, will be available in about year. This will be largely dependent upon whether I write a little more frequently once baseball season is over. I’m about halfway through a story that bears some similarities to Songs From Richmond Avenue – hapless characters, drunken debauchery, bad company, worse decisions. The setting will be far less urban, but what isn’t less urban than Houston? There won’t be a first-person narration this time either. It’s had a couple of working titles, both of which are terrible, so I won’t mention them.
If the adage “nothing civilized ever resulted from the drinking of beer” requires further proof, one needs look no farther than down Houston’s pothole-infested Richmond Avenue. There, the blurry-eyed denizens of the Relix Club wile away the hours engaged in their two favorite activities – drinking and betting.
Until recently that was good enough for our storyteller, a journalist of questionable work ethic, who undergoes an epiphany following a bus stop meeting with pretty Michelle, a woman he declares has “skin so perfect I doubted she even had pores.”
Could she be his redemption? Maybe, but first he’d better contend with her baseball bat-wielding former beau, her nihilistic stripper roommate and the suspicious death of a friend, who fancies himself the father of Brute Generation poetry.
Mostly satire, often wildly unpredictable, the only real long shot in Songs From Richmond Avenue would be for its protagonist to put down his beer long enough to learn anything of true value.
Posted in Interviews
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Songs from Richmond Avenue by Michael Reed is a dark novel about characters that could be found in any town. The main character is a journalist that seems to know all the questionable characters that hang out on Richmond Avenue in Houston. He meets a beautiful woman named Michelle that he becomes infatuated with from the start. Michelle could change things for the journalist, but not before he gets caught up in some seriously crazy shenanigans that include kidnapping, booze and roommates. Among everything else, you get to know some barflies who have very interesting stories and a love for alcohol and bets.
This story isn’t long, but packs quite a bit into such a small package. I can imagine this story set in any small local dive bar. There would be those regulars that have extremely colorful stories that are darkly humorous. The writing is unique and paints a descriptive image of all the characters in the book. Each one has personality and detail that many authors gloss over. His descriptions made it easy to visualize and even smell each and every one.
There will be a number of readers who will identify with the different characters and most likely sympathize with them as well. I felt as though I was getting a glimpse into someone’s real life experiences, not the work of fiction. The journalist doesn’t even have a name, yet throughout the story I didn’t even notice. I made it pretty far in before thinking, “Hey, what the heck is this guys name?”
“Songs from Richmond Avenue” could almost be called a drunks love story, as the journalist finds himself wishing for a future with Michelle. He may not exactly be a romantic character, it’s love just the same. Throw in some depressing thoughts while mixing in some humorous parts and that sums up this story.
It took me some time to really get into the story. Michael Reed has a unique way of developing his characters that takes a bit of adjusting to. Once I got farther into the story and got use to the craziness, I was in for the long haul and wasn’t bothered in the slightest. This is definitely not a light and airy read, but I think that is part of the appeal. I had to read slower than I usually would have with any other book which made me connect with the locations and situations. I honestly don’t want to tell you too much, so that you can have the same experience as I did. The antics that take place are so off the wall I wouldn’t want to ruin the fun for the next reader!
While it did pick up later, it was a bit hard to get into at first. Many readers I know would put down a book they weren’t drawn into from the beginning. While I know that a slow beginning doesn’t mean anything, that doesn’t make you not feel a bit frustrated. I would suggest anyone who enjoys dark humor and crazy drunken stories to give this book a shot.
Pages: 185 | ASIN: B01N039ZM7
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