Arts and Entertainment, Films, Race

Something the Lord Made (2004)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Something the Lord Made

Something the Lord Made (2004) from HBO Films
Not Rated. (Note: a bit of profanity is used.) Drama, African American Actors/Issues, Biography/Historical

Five Gold Stars

Description (from the film case): Working in 1940s Baltimore on an unprecedented technique for performing heart surgery on “blue babies,” Dr. Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and lab technician Vivien Thomas (Mos Def) form an impressive team. But even as they race against time to save a dying baby, the two occupy very different places in society. As Blalock and Thomas invent a new field of medicine, saving thousands of lives in the process, social pressures threaten to undermine their collaboration and tear their friendship apart.

My thoughts: No, I didn’t know Yasiin Bey–hip hop artist with the former stage name Mos Def–was an actor until I happened to come across this movie, but as someone else put it to me recently, “He’s just one of those amazing people who can do whatever he wants,” and he plays an outstanding Vivien Thomas. This film has turned out to be one of the most inspiring I’ve ever seen, and if, afterwards, it hasn’t made you want to do something wonderful with whatever you have to work with, you didn’t watch the film right. Watch it again. 🙂

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Books

Vivir el Dream by Allison K. Garcia

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Vivir el Dream by Allison K. Garcia

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

To escape their dangerous life in Mexico, Juanita crossed the United States border with her daughter, Linda, back when Linda was only three years old. Now as a stellar student in college, Linda wonders what hope she’ll have for a future in America as an undocumented immigrant in Vivir el Dream, a novel by author Allison K. Garcia.

This novel brings up thought-provoking points, including moral dilemmas of truth and safety that undocumented immigrants face in the U.S. There’s also the issue that immigrants of color are often singled out while white immigrants from places like Eastern Europe, equally undocumented, are left out of the conversation–concerns and complaints.

The story includes an abundant amount of Spanish terms and dialogue and corresponding footnotes with English translations. I can appreciate the authenticity this brings to the story, and I’m not unaccustomed to books that require some language translation. But the frequency of footnoted words, phrases, and sentences was personally distracting for me here. Though it may not be as much of an issue while I’m reading nonfiction, frequent footnotes tend to hinder the flow of fiction reading for me. Even so, my familiarity with Spanish helped me not to feel too lost as I read.

There was a time or two when the story almost felt “keyword conscious” about the issues raised, maybe not as natural, but the humanness of the main characters would make up for it.

Although I only finished about half of this novel, I picked it up believing it to be an important and timely book, and I still believe so.

 

Arts and Entertainment, Books, Fiction

Some Genre Details, If You Please

When an author writes in multiple genres, or writes cross-genre books, some clarification can be in order now and then. So I’ll explain a bit about a few of the genres I write.

Historical Fantasy

Historical fiction is one of my all-time favorite genres, so it makes sense that I’d want to write books with a historical feel. Because the historical stories I write are fictional history in completely fictional worlds, they aren’t solely historical fiction. They’re historical fantasy fiction.

Yes, “fantasy” does have certain connotations. There’s usually an expectation of magic, mythical creatures, and the like, but my stories don’t have those fantastical elements. Their “fantasy” label simply signifies that the history, geography, characters, languages, etc. in the books are all imagined, not factual. (Of course, in my role as the English-speaking translator for my characters, I do translate most of their dialogue into English. 😉 )

These stories will likely appeal to you if you’re a historical fiction fan who can enjoy a story with history that’s purely from an author’s imagination. If you’re a fantasy fiction fan who enjoys fictional worlds and some world building, my historical fantasy fiction may appeal to you as well.

Coming of Age

A character’s age alone does not determine the genre or age-appropriateness of a book.* For instance, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is told from the perspective of a little girl, but that doesn’t mean it’s a children’s book.

Although, thus far, the main characters in my books have tended to be, say, in their thirties or younger, I didn’t write the books specifically or only for readers of corresponding ages. On a related note, where the whole kit and caboodle of my books are concerned, you’ll find a range of ages in the stories, from characters in their childhood years to characters in their twilight years.

When I label one of my books as “coming of age,” it signifies that the main characters are young but that they’ll reach a major turning or maturing point in life, or that the stories follow the characters from childhood or their teenage years to adulthood. This includes my coming of age romances. After all, adulthood isn’t where life begins, and for a lot of people, adulthood isn’t where love begins, either.

You don’t have to be a young adult or a twenty- or thirty-something reader to enjoy my coming of age stories—or any of my stories, for that matter. You just have to be interested in human beings and what humans experience, no matter their ages.

Romances vs. Love Stories

Even though a book may have a romantic storyline, or a romance within the storyline, it doesn’t necessarily make the book a romance, genre wise. In a romance book, romance must be the central aspect of the plot. Also, the plot in a romance book follows a specified progression (formula), and that includes a “Happily Ever After” ending where the romantic couple ends up together.

A love story, on the other hand, may be just as romantic, but it doesn’t necessarily follow the romance genre formula. For instance, if the romantic aspect of a plot doesn’t show up until fairly late in a book because the hero and heroine don’t meet each other until then, it’s not a romance. It’s a love story. If at the end of a book, the romantic hero and heroine are going their separate ways for a time, and the status of their relationship is left open-ended, it’s not a romance. It’s a love story.

When I label one of my books as a “love story,” it signifies that romantic love is a significant theme in the book, but the book isn’t of the romance genre. If you’re like me and believe that romantic love is a vital and universal part of life, and you enjoy seeing that kind of love portrayed in fiction, then my romances and love stories may appeal to you.

I hope that all makes sense!

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*Note: as for the content, I’d say my books fall within the “PG” to “PG-13ish” range. No profanity or explicit sex. When there’s violence, it isn’t gratuitous, and any substance use is mild or brief. I don’t set out to write squeaky-clean or unrealistically sanitized fiction, since real life can get messy, but I don’t include “mess” for the sake of it, either.

 

Arts and Entertainment, Books, Fiction

Gibraltar Passage by T. Davis Bunn

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Gibraltar Passage by T. Davis Bunn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Patrique, the twin brother of Major Pierre Servais, reportedly died while working as a leader in the French Resistance during World War II. But Pierre and his friend, Lieutenant Colonel Jake Burnes, receive mysterious word that Patrique could be alive, somewhere in Morocco. It might be too much to hope that Pierre could recover a lost brother—and also recapture a lost love in the process in Gibraltar Passage, a novel by author T. Davis Bunn.

In this second book in the Rendezvous with Destiny series, most of the story is told from Jake’s perspective, but he’s more of a supporting character this time while Pierre’s situation is at the center. It isn’t a very long novel, but it has key, internal turning points for both men, wrapped up in a tale of allies, enemies, suspense, moments of longing, and flashes of humor. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel by this author where I wasn’t amazed by some brilliant turns of phrase, and certain spiritual aspects of this story, for which there aren’t really accurate phrases to describe precisely, resonated with me.

Other times, I thought the spiritual content to be a little basic and obvious, almost as if using the story to give pointers like “read your Bible and pray every day” to the reader. Also, even as the novel is historical fiction, it seems at one point as if the story pauses to give something of a history lesson for a few pages. It’s pretty near a slow stretch leading to the book’s climax. Then, quite soon after the climax, though I wouldn’t say the story ends on an utter cliffhanger, the ending is clearly just a breather before whatever is coming next.

Nevertheless, I flat-out came to like Jake and Pierre in the book before this one, and I only became more invested in them here. I’m looking forward to continuing on to Book Three soon.

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Here’s my review of Book One in the Rendezvous with Destiny series, Rhineland Inheritance.

   

 

Arts and Entertainment, Books, Fiction

Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Henry Huggins feels it’s high time he was allowed to go along on one of his father’s fishing trips. Mr. Huggins agrees on one condition: Henry must keep his dog, Ribsy, out of trouble from now until the next trip. Sounds like a fair enough deal, but Henry soon learns it may not be so easy in Henry and Ribsy by author Beverly Cleary.

In the words of Henry himself: boy, oh, boy! This little span of less than two months is quite an adventure. Ribsy is such a mix of four-legged, tail-wagging fun and well-enough-meaning mischief. I even became heartbreakingly frightened for him at one point (you know, in the curious way it’s possible to feel heartbreak and fright while reading a pleasant children’s tale.)

Besides the goings-on with Ribsy, it’s something to watch Henry navigate some relatable joys and trials of childhood: trying to keep up with and impress an older kid, wanting to get all the mileage he can out of his loose teeth, despairing at a bad haircut that makes him “look all chewed.” Yes, you can empathize with Henry’s frustration in those moments when grownups don’t understand and won’t listen—and his surprised relief when they do.

This book had me laughing so hard at times that I couldn’t go on until I could go on, especially when it came to the antics of a certain little neighbor of Henry’s, Ramona Geraldine Quimby. It might be cheating that Ramona got my biggest laugh here, given that she’s my longtime favorite Cleary character and this is one of Henry’s stories. But, gee! I couldn’t help cracking up!

I plan to read at least one more Henry book pretty soon.

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Note to my blog readers: I didn’t actually get to read an old copy with illustrations by Louis Darling. I have a new copy from Harper, but my nostalgic self and I couldn’t resist using the old-fashioned book cover for this review.

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Henry’s adventures all begin in Henry Huggins.