Three Mini-Reviews for July
To wrap up for July, I have a three mini reviews to share. Maybe you'll see something here for your summer reading list.
Angel of Goliad by Jean M. Roberts
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Published June 2022, 283 pages
I was contacted by the author and sent an e-book for review - the comments are my own (and apparently in a minority of the GR reviews) Based on an actual person, Francita Alvara, I found this very historical novel interesting but not particularly engaging. The story of a 20th century American woman waking from a coma with the ability to speak Spanish and connect with an old "imaginary friend" is intriguing and I was looking forward to reading this book. It's clearly well researched and gave me lots of info about the Mexican/Tejas conflict that I didn't know - that part of my history knowledge being woefully inadequate. I also appreciated the well described hardships of traveling with soldiers during a war in the 1800s. It sounds miserable!
However, I found the dialog a bit stilted and uneven, sometimes too formal, sometimes lots of Spanish, sometimes none, rarely did it read naturally. The overall writing style felt stiff - again, words didn't always flow together seamlessly and I found myself pulled out of the story when a word showed up that's out of character, or a 50cent word showed up, or something. Not my fave writing style.
The plot flowed well and I liked the time travel element. The friendship between the women from two different times is great and I wish that had been developed a bit more. Though it's based on Francita, Magda actually felt like the main character and we learn more about her than Francita. The reactions of the two women to the war they found themselves in was believable and well done.
Shiner by Amy Jo Burns
Genre: General Fiction
Published May 2020, 272 pages
“Making good moonshine isn't that different from telling a good story, and no one tells a story like a woman. She knows that legends and liquor are best spun from the back of a pickup truck after nightfall, just as she knows to tell a story slowly, the way whiskey drips through a sieve.”
This is such a moving story about a teen in Appalachia coming to terms with her family history as she learns the family secrets. Raised in an isolated cabin by a serpent-handling, restrictive preacher dad, she gets no formal schooling or interaction with other people except her mom's best friend, Ivy and her boys.
Raised by her mom, Ruby and her best friend Ivy, hiding her book learning from her dad, but learning to want more than can be found on the mountain, it's an evocative look at the mountain folk of W Virginia. Shiner refers to brewing moonshine whisky and that lifestyle is a thread through the book too. The book has depth, both in the life insights, and in the character development of the 3 women. I loved the story.
Song of Edmon #1 by Adam Burch
Published 2017, 446 pages
The planet of Tao is a divided one because it no longer spins - half the planet is always in the light (Daysiders) who are peace loving and harmonious, the other side is always in the night and is industrialized and political and power hungry (Nightsiders). The main character, Edmon, is a mixed race young man with a Nightsider dad and a Daysider mom who struggles to find his way against warring pressures both between his parents and in his personality. Everything that can go wrong in Edmon's life does go wrong in a massive way. Everything.
This is an okay adventure type story (with plenty of pretty graphic violence and some other trigger warnings) ..... a young man is forced to fight for his life against friends and foes, rebels against his violent, controlling father, loses his closest loved ones, and is imprisoned. In prison he finds the will and violence within himself to survive. Ultimately Edmon's rebellion against everything starts a revolution on the planet which I'm sure will continue in the next books. Vaguely reminds me of the Red Rising series, with different world building of course.
“The ability to kill someone doesn't make you a leader, and it doesn't make someone great. There's nothing great about dying or taking a life.”
There is solid world building, Edmon is a good character illustrating the dissonance between the two sides of the planet, and Some elements of the story are new and creative, but overall it felt like a story I've read before.
Have you read any of these three books? What did you think? Or have I given you enough feedback that you've decided for or against one of these stories? Let me know- and feel free to give me suggestions!