Because I need an Excuse Review #2: America’s Dream by Esmeralda Santiago

Review number 2! YAY!! This time, it’s not so much historical fiction as much as quite possibly a well written critique of America’s culture. Introducing: America’s Dream, by Esmeralda Santiago!
The book opens up in Puerto Rico, where the 28 year old maid and single mother goes to work at the hotel and finds out that her 14 year old daughter, Rosalinda, has run away with her boyfriend, Taino. America gets her married boyfriend, Correa, to find her and bring her back, but not without consequences. After Rosalinda gets taken after a huge fight with her mother and after Correa beats her savagely, America slowly decides to leave for New York to work as a housekeeper and nanny. Well, that’s the basic plot.
The main characters are Rosalinda, the resentful catalyst that starts all of the conflict, Correa, the abusive married boyfriend whose bipolar tendencies are overlooked by America, the main character and the descendant of La Casa del
Frances’s first ever housekeeper.
In the beginning, as I have already mentioned, Rosalinda runs away with her boyfriend and America starts looking for clues as to where she can find her only child. Then, we get introduced to her alcoholic mother who also birthed her at age 14-16, and as we learn later (spoiler!) she (America) ran away with Correa at age 14. So I got the over all impression of America just wanting to break the cycle of getting pregnant way too early. As the book goes on, America lands in her job in New York, and she starts to become friendly with her family on her mother’s side. I got a pretty good glimpse into the mind of a domestic abuse survivor and the character definitely introduces some very valid points about American culture that are still true today. This book does not reek so much of sex (for which I was somewhat disappointed, but since it didn’t really seem like a romance novel, it wouldn’t make sense for it to have graphic descriptions of sex). However, there’s a rape scene and pretty graphic violence in the beginning and really bad violence and a death (won’t say who it is) at the end, so no one under 13 should read this unless they’re mature enough to handle it. Unlike the first book I reviewed, this book is good for starting some pretty important conversations, but again, only if the child is mature enough to handle the conversation.

Overall impression?
I loved this book, and I’ll definitely recommend reading it. There is the occasional Spanish word sprinkled in and it kinda took away from the experience, especially since there wasn’t a glossary to translate what the word meant. Still, it was fairly easy to guess the word because of context clues, but some words were a total mystery. The characters were very well thought out, and I got a sneak peek into a domestic violence survivor’s head-even though the character was fake. I was completely hooked throughout the whole book and I will violently push it to you people through the awesome Inter-webs.
Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Because I need an Excuse Review Number 1: Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn

Hello and welcome to my first ever “Because I need an Excuse” review! This awesome book is called, “Empress of the Seven Hills” (well, duh) and it’s basically about four main characters: Vix (short for Vercingetorix the Red), who’s the basic and stereotypical Roman barbarian, Plotina, the Empress that rules her home and the Empire with equal amounts of attention and ruthlessness, Vibia Sabina, an adventurous young woman whose catchphrase is “Intresting”, and Titus (shortened from Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Arrius Antoninus-what a fucking mouthful!) whose most original moments come from quoting classic poets, orators and the like. *cue trailer voice* TOGETHER THEY LIVE THROUGH THE LAST YEARS OF EMPEROR’S TRAJAN’S BATTLES IN BOTH THE BATTLE FIELD AND AT PARTIES. Ok, that was pretty funny. But seriously, that’s the basic plot.
In the beginning, the characters are all introduced with their basic personality traits that I’ve outlined above, so much in fact, that they are really really bland characters and narratives, which is not bad, but very…safe. As you go on though, things get pretty complicated, but yeah, everything goes back to the basic character traits. Frankly, it’s not as good as I thought it would be, because the beginnings slow and kinda sounds like we’re in the twenty first century, with all of the narrative choices. Also, the beginning will reek and reek of sex, which if you don’t mind, is tolerable. In the middle, things get pretty interesting, which I don’t mind and the biggest thing I liked in this novel is that it shows life in Rome beyond “rich guys pimped out their daughters who then died in labor, and fucked their slaves”. So if you want a fresh taste of Rome, pick it up; you won’t be sorry. In the end, the action war scenes are so much more….how shall I say this? brief and hurried over, and there’s a final conspiracy that we, as the audience, get a unique look at through the eyes of Empress Plotina. The only spoiler I will reveal to you is this:
Vix and Sabina have sex and then………well it kinda tapers off and then the book just ends. Because well, leave a fucking cliff hanger so you buy the fucking sequel. Yes, apparently, there’s a fucking sequel.

Overall impression?
Pretty good, not like AMAZING, even though I was hooked, until like the last quarter of the book when I’m like, “Dude, just….get to it already!!!!” would I recommend it? Only if you like “conspiracy” novels, those who have a clear “good” and “bad” characters, and those novels who have a really strong flavor of romance novels. Otherwise, while it may show some more of Roman times (and I know I might have over done it with it being the best thing I like d about this novel), it still shows the traditional side of things, with maybe a tiny bit less emphasis of patricians and their families. Also, thank the Gods that it wasn’t another novel about Cleopatra Selene and Emperor Augustus.
Rating: I’ll be…generous (or cheap, however you look at it) and give it a 3.4 rating. So basically, 68%. Not bad, but not awesome.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

So I finally finished read “Their Eyes were Watching God”, which essentially is a love story. Well, I hated it. The writing was amazing, but the characters had obvious characteristics and personalities.  Not to mention, the plot was just a place holder plot.
Plot: Janie Crawford is a young girl who gets married at the age of sixteen because her grandmother wants her to have financial security.  The marriage doesn’t work out so she runs away to another man and they get married and settle in a sleeoy town which grows due to Janie’s new husband’s work ethic and love of power. The marriage falls apart and the second husband dies so she stays in mourning until she meets a man who is a lot younger that her. They fall in love, leave and get married. They get settled in a small farming town in the mountains and they make a living picking beans and hunting. Then a hurricane comes in and they have to leave when the man gets bitten by a dog with rabies and goes mad. Janie ends up shooting him in self defense, and is arrested. She gets acquitted from her charges and goes back to where she came from. That’s it. That’s the plot.
It’s not terribly boring, the action is nice but I hate the so called romantic parts. However, this was written during the 1930s, so I’m guessing this was romantic then. I wouldn’t recommend it to read unless it’s for school. The book is about finding your freedom and yourself. However, all I got out of it was that Janie wanted love, not freedom. She found herself through three men, so no, this is not a feminist work.  However, the language is beautiful and that’s it’s only strength.
See you!!