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Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir

Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir

by Jean Guerrero

CruxCrux: A Cross-Border Memoir attracted my attention because I live part of each year in Mexico and part in New Mexico, U.S.A.  After five years of cross-border experiences, I have such mixed feelings because I love the U.S. with its fairly balanced mixture of freedom and order, but I also have enjoyed the kindness and diverse cultures of the Mexican people.

Crux, however, addresses cross-border experiences on a whole different level. The author Jean Guerrero is the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a Mexican father. Guerrero survives a dysfunctional childhood to become a journalist. This book is an effort to understand herself through an attempt to understand her father, a brilliant man who at various times is addicted to drugs, and alcohol, believes the C.I.A. is performing experiments on him, and is schizophrenic according to her mother, a medical doctor.

Guerrero longs for her father’s affection. She received it when she was very little, but most of her memories are of an unpredictable and often hateful man who occasionally dropped in and out of her life. Guerrero tries to win her mother’s affection and approval through scholastic achievement. In the process of becoming an adult, she is always introspective but she experiments in dangerous arenas—drugs at raves, trips to dangerous areas of Mexico, bad boys and sexual exploration, and the occult. The occult is tied in with her heritage as she had a great-great grandmother in Mexico who was a healer and diviner and other Mexican relatives who were involved in similar activities.

Crux contains a lot of family stories: Guerrero’s own memories, interviews with her father and his mother, and trips to Mexico to discover the truth of her roots. It also includes some of her philosophical thinking at various times in her life as well as information from her neurological studies in college. She minored in neurology as a part of her efforts to understand her father’s schizophrenia and her genetic predilection to become schizophrenic herself.

As a cross-border tale, Crux is sprinkled with Spanish, some of it translated, some not. I am not fluent in Spanish, but I appreciated the authenticity added to Crux by including Spanish. I do wonder, however, if understanding the book would be affected by a reader’s not being able to translate as they read. One could, of course, use an online Spanish dictionary to help, but that would definitely interrupt the flow.

Crux is a very personal memoir exploring the raw feelings of the author. The point of view changes in the latter part of the book as Guerrero addresses her father. There is also a maturity and cohesion in that part of the book not present in the first. Perhaps that is appropriate as she was initially relating experiences as remembered from a child’s point of view. Readers who enjoy history will receive historical background to provide context; it is interesting and succinct.  All in all, Crux is a good read. There are very few heart-warming moments, but that was her life.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to One World (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Memoir

Notes: There are some sexually explicit portions and offensive language in Crux. The treatment of women is particularly disturbing.

Publication:  July 17, 2018—One World (Random House)

Memorable Lines:

Life was not turning out as we had hoped. Creativity was a crime. Innocent creatures were mortal. Fathers left their daughters and broke their mother’s heart.

I had grown accustomed to the idea of my father as dead. If he was dead, he wasn’t willfully ignoring us. This belief had become a sinister source of comfort.

He persisted without pausing for protest, the same anger he had directed at me when he was driving me to my riding lessons as a teenager. I stared at the table, steeling myself. The numbness came naturally—a habit of my adolescence.

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The Bagel King–don’t fall on your tuckes!

The Bagel King

written by Andrew Larsen

Illustrated by Sandy Nichols

The Bagel KingThe Bagel King is a sweet story about a grandfather who goes to the bakery every Sunday morning, rain or shine, and buys bagels to share with his grandson Eli. Then Zaida’s (grandpa’s) three friends arrive at his apartment with their assisted walking devices for a Sunday morning bagel feast. All of that changes one Sunday when Zaida slips at at the bakery and has to rest for several weeks. All are discouraged but Eli saves the day by making the bagel run himself.

The story is simple and uncomplicated. It is a short picture book so there is no opportunity for character development. There is a mini glossary of sorts defining the five Yiddish words in the book and explaining two food words. The illustrations are my favorite part of the book. They have a little bit of a comic book style to them, are gentle, humorous, and reflect the mood of the characters very well. For me, it is a good read aloud, but not a book I would treasure and pass through the generations.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: Age Range: 5-6 years

Grade Level: P-2

Publication:  May 1, 2018—Kids Can Press

Hummus and Homicide–mystery with a side of hummus

Hummus and Homicide

by Tina Kashian

Hummus and HomicideI read and reviewed more nonfiction books in February than I usually do. While I enjoyed most of them, I emerged from the month a little drained. Just as the month was ending, however, I read a review written by prolific book blogger Betty of Hummus and Homicide. Her review made this cozy mystery appealing, and I was able to request it as an ARC shortly before the deadline. It was just the relaxing break I needed. You can go to Betty’s blog to see her review by clicking here:

MYSTERIES GALORE AND PHOTOS

Now, on to my review:

Hummus and Homicide is the tale of patent attorney Lucy Berberian’s return from Philadelphia to her hometown Ocean Crest, New Jersey. For eight years she had devoted her life to her career but had hit her head on the metaphorical glass ceiling for women. She bounces back to her family’s Mediterranean restaurant in the small New Jersey beach town. Unfortunately, a former classmate meets an unfortunate demise after Lucy serves her food at the restaurant, making Lucy a prime suspect.

To save her parents’ restaurant from closure and herself from jail, Lucy sets out to discover the killer. There are many possibilities including rival restaurant owners, a famous author, and the boss of a crime family. Along with solving the mystery, Lucy has some personal romantic entanglements to resolve as well as decisions about her career choice to make. Hummus and Homicide is a fun, relaxing read that moves quickly and has interesting, likable characters.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. This is the first book in the new Kebab Kitchen Mystery Series.

 2. There are recipes included at the end of the book.

Publication:   February 27, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

If curiosity killed the cat, what would it do to an out-of-work lawyer sticking her nose where it didn’t belong?

Her eyes slid shut as she bit into the hot pastry. the crunch of the thin layers of buttered pastry, the sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts, blended together in a sweet ballet.

She knew how fast news traveled in town. The Internet had nothing on Ocean Crest when it came to the information superhighway.

Accessories to Die For–Santa Fe settings

Accessories to Die For

by Paula Paul

Accessories to Die ForPaula Paul has written a cozy mystery set in Santa Fe and tribal lands near there. As a New Mexican resident for many years, I find her use of this setting well done and effective in Accessories to Die For. She incorporates the drug problems that are all too prevalent there and the Native American culture that binds Catholicism with ancient religious beliefs. Paul showcases the tourist impact and the artisan craftsmanship.

If the author did all of that so well, why am I not excited about this book? I think it is the characters; they are just not very likable. Irene has given up her law career to be with her aging and still self-centered mother Adelle. There is a potential love interest with P.J. an attorney. Both lawyers make bad choices and do stupid (illegal) things along with jewelry artist Juanita who is looking for her druggie son Danny. There is a murder, several assaults, and a major theft. When it is all sorted out, the person who is able to lay out the facts and relationships is realistically the least likely to be able to do so.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Alibi) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Irene’s Closet Series

Publication:  December 5, 2017—Random House (Alibi)

Memorable Lines:

Danny Calabaza gave the flute its voice as he sat on a low hill that was sparsely carpeted with the brown and white grass of his tribal land. He had crafted the instrument himself from a piece of cedar wood in the manner of his grandfathers—hollowed from a branch, not split and glued together as some men did now.

The sweet scent of piñon fires wafted around her. It was a seductive scent, promising chile stew and fry bread cooked over the fires as well as warm loaves of bread pulled from the piñon-stoked hornos.

P. J. cleared his throat—something he never did in front of a prosecuting attorney. When a lawyer cleared his throat in a courtroom, it made him appear nervous. But there was something about this woman that threw him off balance. No, he wouldn’t go there. He would just look her in the eye and speak.

Raisins and Almonds–even the title is a mystery

Raisins and Almonds

by Kerry Greenwood

Raisins and AlmondsRaisins and Almonds is a typical Phryne Fisher mystery, but somewhat more cerebral. Evidence of that is found in the inclusion of a bibliography reflective of the author’s research and a glossary of Yiddish words. This mystery is strongly tied into the Jewish community that settled in Australia, the politics of Zionism, and a sub-sect focused on alchemy. Phryne has to do a lot of research in addition to her usual methods of sleuthing in order to find the murderer of a young Jewish scholar and free an innocent bookseller from prison.

Greenwood excels in this book in three ways. She uses the supporting characters to good advantage in solving the mystery as she sends her adopted daughters, her assistant Dot, and friends Bert and Cec out on different missions which play to their strengths. Phryne and Jack agree on the bookseller’s innocence enabling them to cooperate in their separate missions to solve the mystery. The ending of Raisins and Almonds is a fun surprise which wraps up the mystery and the title quite satisfactorily.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Notes: #9 of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Publication:   June 6, 2017—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines: 

Phryne smiled guilelessly into the policeman’s face. He winced. Miss Fisher was at her most dangerous when she was smiling guilelessly. It was a sign that someone, somewhere, was about to be shaken down until their teeth rattled and the Detective Inspector was uneasily aware that he was the closest available target.

Bert was nervous because he didn’t know what to look for in this big bustling market. Neither did Cec, but his Scandinavian ancestors had bequeathed him some Viking fatalism. If they were meant to find out, they’d find out.

Kadimah was as ordinary as a church hall, and as extraordinary as a landing of Well’s Martians. It was as sane as porridge and as lunatic as singing mice.

Ruddy Gore–a mix of Chinese, Welsh, and Australian

Ruddy Gore

by Kerry Greenwood

Ruddy GoreThe inimitable Phryne Fisher and her friend Bunji find themselves in the middle of a very physical Chinese family dispute, which is only a subplot in this tale, as they are on their way to the theatre to enjoy a presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera Ruddigore. Following that initial conflict, they make their way to His Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne, and the reader is presented with the one weak portion of the novel. In the guise of encouraging Bunji, a very minor character in the book, to stay and enjoy the opera, Phryne summarizes the plot of the opera for her. Greenwood is attempting to share background for her unfolding story which centers around an old and a new murder and mysterious occurrences at the “Maj.” Both the cast and the characters they play are important in Ruddy Gore’s storyline, but this portion of the book, really only part of a chapter, was more extensive than necessary.

With the background sufficiently established, the plot moves quickly as Phryne is initially mystified, and then gradually peels off the layers of this puzzle.  As always with a Phryne Fisher novel, there are descriptions of her delightful ensembles and her romantic encounters. Dot, her companion, is called in to help with the investigation. Detective Inspector Jack Robinson views Miss Fisher as more likely to obtain information from the cast than he is, and so they cooperate and share information.

The Chinese connection through her love interest, Lin Chung, presents the thread of racial intolerance and prejudice from both sides. Lin and Phryne discuss the history of the Chinese in Australia and how the Chinese have adapted and coped. Phryne is the subject of discrimination herself from the Chinese and handles it well.

Phryne Fisher is undoubtedly rich as evidenced by her spending and lifestyle. She is not selfish, however, and her magnanimity occurs on a personal level. In this story she identifies a situation in which a stage boy with few options but much promise is being abused by his alcoholic father. Phryne doesn’t try to change the world, but she does change this boy’s world by providing him with opportunities. She doesn’t make him a charity case, suggesting that he repay her at a future date. She is also resourceful in engaging the cooperation of others in helping him.

Ruddy Gore is a wealth of incidental information about the theatre, actors, technical people, and management. All of these play a role in the mysteries which are resolved in the end, quite satisfactorily, leaving the reader anticipating further adventures starring Phryne Fisher.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Notes: #7 in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries but reads well as a standalone

Publication:   April 4, 2017—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

“He will always get everything that he wants and never get the one thing which he really desires—that’s how it works with bounders,” observed Phryne.

No harm in him but as self-centred as a gyroscope.

“Have you ever heard of hiraeth?” he asked, his eyes staring sadly across endless seas. “No, what is that?” “A Welsh thing, hard to translate. ‘Yearning,’ perhaps. ‘Longing’ is more like it. All of us have it, however happy we are. The yearning for home, even if we shook the dust off our shoes in loathing and swore never to return to the cold damp streets and the cold narrow people and the flat beer and the chapels fulminating endlessly against sin.”

Easter Pictures (Fotos de semana Santa)

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It only took TWO WEEKS (24/7) to synchronize all of my pictures with iCloud, but it did work as far as I can tell. While that was happening, I was afraid to touch my pictures. Now I am ready to share some more of Mexico, starting with this past weekend. A few of these pictures were taken previously, but I did take all of them in Mexico.

Saturday Night Empanadas–perfect with a game of Scrabble!

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Delicious Empanadas–Poblano and cheese; Beef and so much more!

The cross is a symbol of Jesus’ death, but Easter celebrates His resurrection!

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Cross in front of a house in my neighborhood

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Cropped, the stonework in the plaza of Erongarícuaro makes a beautiful cross

Perfect Blooms Just in Time for Easter

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