Search

✿Ring Around the Prose✿

Review: The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina García

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): National Book Award finalist Cristina García delivers a powerful and gorgeous novel about the intertwining lives of the denizens of a luxurious hotel in an unnamed Central American capital in the midst of political turmoil. The lives of six men and women converge over the course of one week. There is a Japanese-Mexican-American matadora in town for a bull-fighting competition; an ex-guerrilla now working as a waitress in the hotel coffee shop; a Korean manufacturer with an underage mistress ensconced in the honeymoon suite; an international adoption lawyer of German descent; a colonel who committed atrocities during his country’s long civil war; and a Cuban poet who has come with his American wife to adopt a local infant. With each day, their lives become further entangled, resulting in the unexpected—the clash of histories and the pull of revenge and desire.

Rating: ✈  Travel companion

Long story short: I really enjoyed The Lady Matador’s Hotel. The plot is slow-moving, but that works in the book’s favor, since the characters are far more interesting and are ultimately what make the book a compelling read. In addition, the writing is charming; it has a poetic cadence that juxtaposes provocatively with the occasional gore and violent imagery.

If you’re on vacation or at the beach, I recommend picking it up! Keep reading for a more in-depth review:

Continue reading “Review: The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina García”

Want to write a book review?

As summer quickly approaches—yay!—I’m working on kicking my reading challenge into high gear. I’ve been slowly making my way through the 52 books I want to read, and hope to knock out most of them in the next four months. I’m also looking forward to connecting with friends over books, something I’ve been sorely missing.

To that end, I’m inviting you all to write book reviews to post on my reading blog. I don’t have a huge number of followers, so if your goal is exposure this might not be the best forum, but it’s a fun way to flex your writing muscles and share what you’ve been reading. No rules really, except that you keep things polite and professional.

If you’re interested, let me know!

Review: Anne with An E

I am so excited about Anne With An E that I started writing this review before finishing the series (I have since watched all seven episodes). But before I get started, I should admit that I have not read the books (I know: blasphemous). However, I am a huge fan of the 1985 Anne of Green Gables mini-series, which I understand was a faithful reproduction. Any comparisons I make will be to the 1985 series, and not the books.

To be honest I was pretty nervous about seeing Anne With An E. I needn’t have worried. It is an exceptional rendition of everyone’s favorite smart, bold, dramatic, red-headed girl, and I highly recommend you watch it.

In this version, the general storyline is the same, apart from a few enjoyable twists. The characters are wonderfully fleshed out and have a depth that I don’t remember seeing in the 1985 series. Amybeth McNulty plays a fantastic Anne; she is spunky, fiery, and so authentic. I am really looking forward to knowing her better.

This adaptation is darker and more melancholy than its earlier counterpart, which has rubbed some people the wrong way. Certain flashbacks and subtle dialogue make the narrative grittier and not the same kind of wholehearted fun that was the 1985 version. I think this is a necessary and brilliantly inventive retelling of the classic story. To think that Anne was not traumatized and troubled by her past is a disservice to her character; we cannot truly appreciate her lightheartedness without understanding her sorrow and heartache.

One poignant quote in the first episode points to this compassion:

Continue reading “Review: Anne with An E

Civil disobedience, art, and exile

I had to run a bunch of errands on Monday, which meant having to hunt down an elusive parking spot in the city. Luckily for me, I found a place that validated parking. All I had to do was…buy some books! What a wonderful win-win!

I only noticed after I got to the checkout counter that all my picks were non-fiction/memoirs. Maybe my mind is trying to tell me something…

  1. You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

    hair
    A hilarious and affecting essay collection about race, gender, and pop culture from celebrated stand-up comedian and WNYC podcaster Phoebe Robinson…As personal as it is political, You Can’t Touch My Hair examines our cultural climate and skewers our biases with humor and heart, announcing Robinson as a writer on the rise.*

  2. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

    carrie
    Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is the deeply personal and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s life in music, from ardent fan to pioneering female guitarist to comedic performer and luminary in the independent rock world. This book intimately captures what it feels like to be a young woman in a rock-and-roll band, from her days at the dawn of the underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s through today.*

  3. The Accidental Asian by Eric Liu

    eric

    Beyond black and white, native and alien, lies a vast and fertile field of human experience. It is here that Eric Liu, former speechwriter for President Clinton and noted political commentator, invites us to explore. In these compellingly candid essays, Liu reflects on his life as a second-generation Chinese American and reveals the shifting frames of ethnic identity. Finding himself unable to read a Chinese memorial book about his father’s life, he looks critically at the cost of his own assimilation. But he casts an equally questioning eye on the effort to sustain vast racial categories like “Asian American.” And as he surveys the rising anxiety about China’s influence, Liu illuminates the space that Asians have always occupied in the American imagination. Reminiscent of the work of James Baldwin and its unwavering honesty, The Accidental Asian introduces a powerful and elegant voice into the discussion of what it means to be an American.
    *

  4. Original Zinn: Conversations on History and Politics by Howard Zinn

    zinn
    Touching on such diverse topics as the American war machine, civil disobedience, the importance of memory and remembering history, and the role of artists—from Langston Hughes to Dalton Trumbo to Bob Dylan—in relation to social change, Original Zinn is Zinn at his irrepressible best, the acute perception of a scholar whose impressive knowledge and probing intellect make history immediate and relevant for us all.*

  5. Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat

    danticat
    In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile, examining what it means to be an immigrant artist from a country in crisis…Combining memoir and essay, Danticat tells the stories of artists, including herself, who create despite, or because of, the horrors that drove them from their homelands and that continue to haunt them. [She] also suggests that the aftermaths of natural disasters in Haiti and the United States reveal that the countries are not as different as many Americans might like to believe.*

I’m making my way through a couple of reading challenge books at the moment, but I’m hoping to sneak one of these in soon! Have you read any of them? What did you think?

*Descriptions taken from Goodreads

The best indie bookstores

Bustle recently posted a list of the best indie bookstores in every major U.S. city. I’ve made a small dent, but have a ways to go. I think a road trip is in order! 😉

✔ Left Bank Books Collective—Seattle, WA
✔ Powell’s City of Books—Portland, OR
✔ Dog Eared Books—San Francisco, CA
The Last Bookstore—Los Angeles, CA
Tattered Cover Bookstore—Denver, CO
South Congress Books—Austen, TX
Myopic Books—Chicago, IL
A Cappella Books—Atlanta, GA
Books & Books—Miami, FL
Politics & Prose—Washington, D.C.
The Book Trader—Philadelphia, PA
✔ Strand Bookstore—New York City, NY
Brattle Book Shop—Boston, MA

Where have you been? What would you add to this list?

Review: Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, and Live Happily Ever After

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): In Do Cool Sh*t, serial social entrepreneur, angel investor, and all-around cool sh*tdoer Miki Agrawal shows how to start a successful company—from brainstorming to raising money to getting press without any connections—all while having a meaningful life! With zero experience and no capital, Miki Agrawal opened WILD, a farm-to-table pizzeria in New York City and Las Vegas, partnered up in a children’s multimedia company called Super Sprowtz, and launched a patented high-tech underwear business called THINX. Miki has seen significant growth in her businesses. She pulls back the curtain of how you can live out loud, honor your hunches, and leave nothing on the table.

Rating🏡  Left behind

Long story short: Miki Agrawal, the founder of WILD and THINX, proves that you can’t be good at everything in her narcissistic and poorly-written debut book.

I mean, I couldn’t even finish it because her self-obsession got to me. To be fair, she has accomplished a lot at a very young age, but her tone smacks of privilege and conceitedness that goes well beyond being confident.

Agrawal went to an IVY league school, worked in finance, and had the luxury of leaving that well-paying job to pursue entrepreneurship. It’s not hard to “quit your day job, start your own business, and live happily ever after” if you don’t really have to worry about stuff like money *eye roll*.

She has also been accused of sexual harassment among other work discrimination claims while she was CEO of THINX. Yikes.

In terms of content, there are some good tips buried deep in the pages, but they aren’t earth-shattering or life-changing. Mostly normal stuff like:

  • Think about where you want to be, and then work backwards to fill in the gaps in what you need
  • Feed or offer some other incentive to people whom you’re asking for help

Sure they serve as good reminders, but this book isn’t the only way to find advice on how to be your own boss (honestly, anything else is probably better).

Then there’s also plenty of creepy stuff like:

  • Telling the soccer coach, “I like Italian men!” in Italian, as a way to stand out during tryouts
  • Accosting a restaurant owner during a social gathering to ask if you can shadow him, thereby forcing him to say yes or look like a douchebag

*Shudders*

Have you read the book? What did you think?

 

wildwood

Review: Feeding a Yen: Savoring Local Specialties, from Kansas City to Cuzco

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): Calvin Trillin has never been a champion of the “continental cuisine” palaces he used to refer to as La Maison de la Casa House. What he treasures is the superb local specialty. And he will go anywhere to find one. As it happens, some of his favorite dishes can be found only in their place of origin. Join Trillin on his charming, funny culinary adventures as he samples fried marlin in Barbados and the barbecue of his boyhood in Kansas City. Travel alongside as he hunts for the authentic fish taco, and participates in a “boudin blitzkrieg” in the part of Louisiana where people are accustomed to buying these spicy sausages and polishing them off in the parking lot. In New York, Trillin even tries to use a glorious local specialty, the bagel, to lure his daughters back from California. Feeding a Yen is a delightful reminder of why New York magazine called Calvin Trillin “our funniest food writer.”

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: I enjoyed stepping into Trillin’s whirlwind foodie world, where he visits and revisits cities around the globe for the sole purpose of eating his favorite dishes. As a traveler and food connoisseur, I can relate. However, the stories lack depth, and they miss the opportunity to make larger connections between humans and food that would have been interesting to explore, like why we cook what we cook, how food connects us across cultures, and what transformations in food science mean for the future of humanity, to name a few.

This is a good travel book or lighthearted read, but don’t expect to get much out of it (much of the information is dated and few specifics are given re: restaurant names and places). Have you read Feeding a Yen or any other work by Calvin Trillin?

Review: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

Brief synopsis (Goodreads)Introducing Detective Inspector Darko Dawson: dedicated family man, rebel in the office, ace in the field—and one of the most appealing sleuths to come along in years. When we first meet Dawson, he’s been ordered by his cantankerous boss…to lead a murder investigation: in a shady grove outside the small town of Ketanu, a young woman—a promising medical student—has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Armed with remarkable insight and a healthy dose of skepticism, Dawson soon finds his cosmopolitan sensibilities clashing with age-old customs, including a disturbing practice in which teenage girls are offered to fetish priests as trokosi, or Wives of the Gods. Delving deeper into the student’s haunting death, Dawson will uncover long-buried secrets that, to his surprise, hit much too close to home.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: Wife of the Gods is an entertaining and suspenseful murder mystery led by a well-written protagonist. The plot is compelling, though perhaps a little slow in some places, and characters are colorful and nuanced.

The novel is part of my goal to read books by POC, especially those originating from countries outside of the US and Europe. Kwei Quartey was born in Accra, Ghana (where parts of this story takes place) and is both a crime fiction writer and practicing physician(!!!). I didn’t know this before, but he currently lives in Pasadena, California, which is neat!

Continue reading “Review: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey”

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: