Book Review: Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

For years, there has been a debate among book lovers, does listening to an audiobook count as “reading?”

For a long time, I tried to be a purist about this. Reading engages the mind in a different way than listening, I would argue. Eventually, I realized that I was still engaging with a story. I began to count my audiobooks in my annual reading tally.

Reading is important for me. From a young age, I was the type of person that would get wrapped up in books. Even to this day, a good story can keep me up at night. However, the experience of getting wrapped up in a story usually only occurred for me when I had a book in hand.

In 2019, that changed for me. I fell in love with the audiobook presentation of ECHO, a novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

I didn’t set out to find the audiobook presentation of this book. In fact, when my friend recommended the book, I knew very little about it. And, although I once read Ms. Muñoz Ryan’s book Esperanza Rising, I did not recognize her name when I was given the recommendation. All I knew was that my friend has great taste in books.

This book would be a great read from a book. The author knows how to weave a compelling tale. She creates well-rounded characters. But, this book really lends itself to an audiobook rendition.

The stories of four young people- Otto, Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy- are intricately linked by a harmonica and the desire for something more. The narrative is rich and detailed. However, the audiobook rendition provides musical background during parts of the narrative. The effect is that the audiobook really transports you to the story. Additionally, the reader does an excellent job with an amazing story.

I fell absolutely in love with this story. It was beautiful and well written. It is a book that should become required reading in schools. I loved it! And, you will too. If you like being lost in a story, you will love Pam Muñoz Ryan’s story, Echo. I highly recommend it.

Book Review: In the Midst of Winter

A book review of Isabel Allende‘s, “In the Midst of Winter.” 
 
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I read this book at the end of 2018 in preparation for my first book club meeting of 2019. There are few things that can stir me in the way that a well written book can. Among the authors that I have read, there is but a handful that I can count on to meet this need. Isabel Allende is one such author.
 
This is a beautifullywritten story. In this book, Allende takes the lives of three individuals. She braids the stories of their past to help explain their present actions. To me, it felt contrived. The premise- two people help a stranger with illegal tasks- is far-fetched. Among the other members of my book club, the feeling was the same. Most were unable to overcome this issue and enjoy the book.  
 
I did. And, I am glad that I pushed past my initial reaction. Allende is an author who surprises me. She managed to do that in a few places in this book. Plus, I enjoy her way with words. And this skill remained present.
 
If you are an Allende fan, I recommend this book. You may like it. If you are reading Isabel Allende for the first time, don’t pick this book as your representation of her work. You may be disappointing. Rather, I recommend starting with the books Daughter of Fortune, Paula, and Eva Luna. A qualifier, I have not read the books Paula and Eva Luna. Those were recommendations by mi amiga Marta Alfonso Durruty.
 
Have you read In the Midst of Winter? What did you think about it?

Book Review of “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter”

A young woman dealing with loss, love and learning.

Fall 2018, I learned about a young adult author that completely excited me. Erika Sanchez, a professor of Poetry at Princeton University. She is the author of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Her debut novel was released by Knopf Books in October 2017. Now, I cannot say why I had not heard about it sooner. But, I am so thankful that I did. I connected with the story.  

The moment I heard the title, I knew that I had to read this book. The title proved just as intriguing for others in my social circle. After I finished reading it, I took to social media to laud its praises. I posted on Facebook,

If you have not already picked up your copy of this book. Do it! It is devastatingly beautiful. #iamnotyourperfectmexicandaughter

I read the first comment following my post:

Yes, you are my perfect Mexican daughter!! 

I laughed. My mom had posted a response. I could hear her saying those words, the Y’s in yes and you sounding more like J’s.

But, being a “Perfect Mexican Daughter” did not make me feel any less connected to this book. In fact, I felt connected to it deeply because I do not see myself as the perfect Mexican daughter. Like Julia Reyes, the book’s protagonist, I have felt hopelessness and despair. I have desired to rebel against my culture and circumstances. As a grown woman, I was able to enjoy the book and detach more than I would have years earlier.

The story is beautiful and raw. It is a literary masterpiece. It is a coming of age/maturation story of a young woman living in Chicago with her undocumented parents. Julia is a flawed, high schooler. She is suffering from depression, possibly PTSD and poverty. She is dealing with the questions left by her sister’s death. I could not to stop reading it. 

The book starts as the Reyes family learns that Olga, the older daughter, is dead. It is an excellent story that will grip you. And, if you come from a Latina background, it will feel familiar in a way other books may have never felt familiar.

The book ends beautifully. You grow to love a teenager who, like other teenagers, can be very unloveable. And, it will remind you to love the rebellious teenager you were. Since reading it, I have recommended it to everyone. And I hope that I have inspired you to read it as well.

I chose to include this book as part of the January theme for my blog because this book helped me re-evaluate and reset myself. It reminded me how much I long to have literature that features characters who look like me. Most importantly, it made me re-evaluate my dream of becoming an author and reset my goals in accomplishing the task. It is this book that helped launch me back into the trajectory of starting this blog.

Con Cariño, Amada.

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