It’s time for more turbo-charged book reviews. If you’ve missed one of my recent reviews you can cull through this website or see them all in one gorge-able package at my personal blog.
For those whose kids want to know about the world: Home of the Brave
At the start of the summer I attended a workshop on Somali immigrants in the midwest, and the particular cultural elements that affect their education. It’s a tricky business to consider the difference between African immigrants and African-Americans. How a state chock-a-block with the offspring of Nordic immigrants adjusts their long held traditions for their most recent immigrants, is even more interesting.
Home of the Brave doesn’t delve into these issues so much as it reflects one individual experience in trying to adjust to America. A sudanese cattle farmer who makes it to America on his own, young Kek has to learn about an entirely new culture, just as his classmates and other Minnesotans have to adjust to him. Minnesota’s legacy as a refugee have, the nurturing environment of an ESL classroom and the cold indifference of many frosty Midwesterners makes this work well.
It is occasionally awkward to hear in Kek’s voice echoes of Applegate’s most famous creation The One and Only Ivan. Though Applegate excels at giving voice to the voiceless and the culturally estranged, it’s slightly uncomfortable to see a young african boy and a gorilla so stylistically linked.
Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors and she does not disappoint in this novel. At this point I read it over a month ago so I’m struggling to remember it actually. It was solid, but not one of my favorites from her because I didn’t find it as moving, and it didn’t stick with me like many of her other works. I think it jut because I couldn’t relate as closely to the subject matter, but it’s a great read.
This is the story of Taylor and her journey to adulthood and understanding in the real world. She lives a gritty existence in Kentucky but want to set out on her own, in her own frontier, and just be her on person, and branch out from her small town life. She falls into being a parent and happens upon caring people along the way that change her, and she in turn changes them. This novel is filled with strong and complex female characters which I am always excited to find. I also didn’t realize that this novel was the beginning of a series, so I’m excited to find and read the rest
Unlike a lot of what I have read of Kingsolver, this was a tale of hope and triumph. Although there were several devastating circumstances and situations, it was overall uplifting and a book that upon its conclusion left a smile on my face.
The Black Hand refers to the death threat delivered by members of the Italian Mafia to anyone they consider a threat. In the case of this latest Will Thomas “Barker & Llewelyn” novel, there is mounting tension between rival Italian crime syndicates—the Mafia and the Camorra—which are vying for control of the impoverished sections of 1880s London, and bodies start turning up. Fearing an explosion of gang violence in London, Scotland Yard turns to private “enquiry agent” Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewelyn to use whatever means at their disposal to defuse the situation. Barker and Llewelyn soon receive “black hand” notices of their own.
Author Thomas uses out-of-time flash forwards and flashbacks to tell his story, starting the novel out with a deadly dagger battle between Llewelyn and a Sicilian assassin in the luxury seashore home of Barker’s suspected mistress. We don’t know who, what, when, where or why until the story begins to unfold in this disjointed and yet somehow effective style. Barker is given free rein to put together a most-unlikely and very risky alliance of criminal elements which have the most to gain at the Italian syndicates’ expense, while hunting down the infamous Mafiosi Marco Faldo who is suspected of being the man behind the assassinations.
At the same time, the author effectively weaves into his story the attitude toward immigrants prevalent in England at the time (and not changed a whole lot since), with all the prejudices and socioeconomic exploitation that entails. The focus of the plot centers on the London docks, where the Italians—both members of the syndicates and innocents—have tended to seek employment. Socialists are trying to organize for improved wages and other workers’ rights for the immigrants, but are up against both the British dockworkers who see them as threatening their jobs, as well as the employers who want the Italians kept as a cheap labor force. Into this maelstrom of discontent steps Marco Faldo on the one hand, and Barker and Llewelyn on the other. A volatile mix, to be sure.
As usual, Thomas’ writing is exciting, with plots that could stand alone but are interlaced with historic events that bring his stories to life. Victorian London comes alive as Thomas gives us tours of the streets, the slums, the countryside, the docks, the restaurants and the lecture halls. We even get treated to a class on dagger fighting. What could be more fun!?
Halim is a teenager in Stockholm, who feels as if he’s in opposition to everything and everyone. When he’s told the Arabic lessons in school have to stop because of funding cuts, he shows his displeasure by covering the school toilets in graffiti. His father, who runs shop selling a little bit of everything, worries about his academic progress and stresses the importance of speaking good Swedish if he wants to make something of himself. Both feel the loss of Halim’s mother, who died a few years back, greatly. They both try to be supportive of their friend, Nourdine, a washed up actor who’s convinced he’s just the right interview away from a big break.