We Won’t Forget You… Mr. McGillicuddy by Ira L. White

Did you ever consider the implications of what you blog about?  Perhaps you should! Robert McGillicuddy has his hands full caring for an elderly father, pregnant daughter, teenage granddaughter and BP, his affectionate dog.  In the moments he isn’t trying to juggle all his obligations, he writes a blog with a steadily growing readership.  He is blissfully unaware that it’s been flagged by the government as subversive.  Life is about to change drastically for the McGillicuddy family.

I enjoyed reading about the ordinary lives of the characters and Robert’s blog posts in We Won’t Forget You… Mr. McGillicuddy by Ira L. White.  Robert’s father’s daily struggles were so typical of many elderly today.  His daughter’s efforts to provide for her children and the failure of the system for those who most need it also have a strong basis in reality.  It’s no wonder Robert becomes vocal about the government’s shortcomings in his blog posts.

I least liked that the book ended.  I’m hoping there is a sequel in the works.  How do Robert and his family manage?  They aren’t in the least prepared for the situation they find themselves in.  They certainly aren’t Preppers.  What will they do?  Perhaps they should come to La Yacata! 

We Won’t Forget You… Mr. McGillicuddy by Ira L. White will be an enjoyable read for most everyone because of its commentary on everyday struggles in the land of the free and the brave.  It might even inspire its readers to create their own Prepper communities in preparation for possible societal disaster in the near future.  However, those that prefer to keep their heads in the sand about current events won’t enjoy this book.

3 star

I think there needs to be a bit more development in some of the main characters.  Gil and Robert have fully fleshed out characters down to the minutest detail but Ruby and Sapphire seem very one-dimensional.  I would also like to see more of Robert’s blog posts.  Maybe some of the aside chapters, those sections that had nothing to do with the McGillicuddy family, could be presented as blog posts.  And, of course, I want to know what happens next!

This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.  Read about it here.

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Immediacy: Our Ways of Coping in Everyday Life by Fred Emil Katz

“They could not believe it. They could not believe they would be stripped of their citizenship until it happened. They could not believe their houses of worship would be destroyed unti

How do ordinary men and women find themselves complacently or even passionately supporting mass murder?  How can people transcend their immediate personal suffering yet succumb years later?  How can society prevent such atrocities such as the Holocaust or the Spanish Inquisition from reoccurring? What causes people to willingly sacrifice their lives for a national or religious rationale? How can these things be measured empirically and studied? Author Fred Emil Katz discusses these questions and more in Immediacy: Our Ways of Coping in Everyday Life.

The topic presented is complex.  Immediacy: Our Ways of Coping in Everyday Life is a series of essays and articles written by the author during his distinguished career as a sociologist that have been compiled and updated. The book has 5 principal sections, each with an introduction that explains how these chapters relate to the idea of immediacy. I found these introductory chapters to be extremely helpful in my understanding of the material.

It may seem to some that society as a whole has evolved beyond the incidents discussed in this book, but has it?  (List of genocides by death toll) A call for national unity in an effort to make the country great again which becomes the justification for national purging of undesired and unassimilated residents, never mind the cost to human lives, sounds eerily familiar.  Although Katz has more questions than answers for us, at least he is presenting this topic for our consideration and if we were wise, we would ponder them carefully.

I especially found the chapter on societal denial to be eye-opening.  Sometimes, humanity turns a blind eye.  Sometimes we just can’t see.

“They could not believe it. They could not believe they would be stripped of their citizenship until it happened. They could not believe their houses of worship would be destroyed unti

The examples the author uses to illustrate each aspect of immediacy are well-known.  He uses some unorthodox punctuation, dashes rather than commas or parentheses, but it did not detract from the overall readability of the text.

four star

While I believe that the message is one that everyone should be made aware of, I’m not sure that everyone would benefit from reading this book.  Its tone was scholarly even when discussing the fate of the author’s own parents and elder brother.  Sociology as an applied science is still in its infancy.  We just may not be able to think of our immediacies as something we can change.  

“They could not believe it. They could not believe they would be stripped of their citizenship until it happened. They could not believe their houses of worship would be destroyed unti

This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.

An American Journey: Culiacan to Redwood City: A Man and His History By Salomon Quintero, ESQ

An American Journey: Culiacan to Redwood City is the personal memoir of Salomon Quintero. Mr. Quintero led a fascinating life. He met Cesar Chavez, participated in protests, spent some time in jail because of his participation, had several simultaneous romantic relationships before finding the love of his life, had a successful law career, and finally retired to find inner peace.

No less fascinating were the lives of his parents and grandparents. Salomon’s great-grandfather was born in Mexico when Benito Juarez was president. His grandfather died during the Spanish influenza epidemic in 1918, leaving a young pregnant wife behind. His father, Antonio, played football with Kenny Washington and went to Mexico to live for a while in the 1940s to avoid the draft where he met and married Beatriz from Culiacan.

After a failed business venture, Antonio decided to head back to the U.S. to look for work. He was detained at the border and forced to enlist. Beatriz smuggled her infant son across the border under her coat and registered him several months later in the U.S. Subsequent children were born in the U.S. and had a fairly typical American upbringing.

Mr. Quintero shares the trauma his father endured as a soldier stationed in the Philippines. He also chronicles the ongoing family house expansion over the years. He mentions fascinating characters that were part of his life growing up but doesn’t follow up on their lives or talk about how their presence otherwise influenced his childhood.

I was slightly disappointed with the erratic flow of the book. Chapters seem to be organized around different themes rather than chronologically, which made it difficult to keep track of how the story pieces fit together and who the characters were at any given point in the story.

Then there were odd tidbits that I would think a little research would have cleared up. For instance, Mr. Quintero mentions that Claire, a Jewish girl from New York, might have been married to his father. Shouldn’t there be records on that? He alludes to the fact that his newly married parents experienced hardships that remained family secrets as long as his mother lived, but doesn’t specify what those hardships might have been. In for a penny, in for a pound Mr. Quintero.

There were historical references and certain terms that could have been clarified for readers.

Mr. Quintero mentions that the cost of coyotes is exorbitant but doesn’t explain that he is referring to human smugglers, not the animal. This term and process could have been expanded on when he talks about how his mother smuggled her son across the border. Or when he talked about his family moving from the Cananea Copper Mines to take employment at the Copper Queen Mine, probably with the intervention of a labor-brokerage coyote.

Mr. Quintero tells us briefly that his grandfather worked at the Cananea Copper Mines but doesn’t include the information that during that time period a violently oppressed labor strike at the mines was one of the factors leading the Mexican Revolution.  

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading An American Journey: Culiacan to Redwood City. I did. In fact, I enjoyed reading it so much, that I wanted more, more clarification, more details, more organization, more historical references. I felt at times I was getting the cliff notes version of Mr. Quintero’s full and rich family history. I expect that since some of Mr. Quintero’s family is still alive, there may have been things he preferred not to dredge up. Be that as it may, I still found an engaging read.

This book was reviewed at Reedsy Discovery.

The Refuge by Heidi Martin

the refuge

Anna is just not able to allow herself to grieve over her baby daughter’s accidental death. Every day, she runs miles along the beach in Boston and spends hours at work at a prestigious law firm.  As long as she stays busy, she can avoid the overwhelming emotions. Until the day that her husband asks for a divorce and her partner requests that she take a leave of absence. Her life in shambles, she packs her bags and leaves town, destination unknown.  Somewhere near Charlestown fate steps in. Anna learns some important life lessons from her unexpected adventure.

If you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll already know that I’m also on a personal quest of sorts, just as unintentional as Anna’s.  So of course, I found The Refuge by Heidi Martin quite appropriate for my own situation and as a result, enjoyed it immensely.   

I loved that Anna was fallible.  In situation after situation, I kept wondering if she was going to mess her life up yet again. Her reactions were human if short-sighted at times.  I thought her spiritual quest quite a refreshing aspect of the story.  It wasn’t a Find Jesus and Be Saved type of book at all, thank God.  Anna explored Taoism, meditation, the concept of the divine being or source being a woman, and the use of personalized prayer beads.  Even La Virgen de Guadalupe found a place within her search for meaning.

Although there was a happy-ever-after fairytale quality to some sections, things didn’t always work out the way you would have wished, adding realism to the story.  There were a few time lapses in the book.  Some events were merely referred to by the characters in conversation, not actually presented.  I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for ALL of Anna’s adventures.  However, as the book was already 394 pages, I’m sure doing so would have made it humongous!

The characters were well-defined and believable, down to the antics of the 8-year-old neighbor girl. The details were extraordinarily precise.  For example, they were not just drinking coffee, but Viennese coffee. Really, The Refuge by Heidi Martin was a delightful read!

I hated to see it end, as all good things must do.  I found the twist in the epilogue a pleasant surprise. You’ll have to read it yourself to see what I mean.  I have to say that The Refuge by Heidi Martin is more of a chick-flick feel-good type of book.  Most men probably won’t get all that finding yourself and establishing a room of your own bit. Their loss, I say. I certainly enjoyed it!

four star

Read more about the book here.  This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.

The Last Valentine by Felix Alexander

the last valentine

The Last Valentine by Felix Alexander is set on the island of Puerto Rico in 1935.  Chief Inspector Guillermo Sedeno suspects his long-time rival, Inspector Javier Villalobos, stole a crucial piece of evidence in an unsolved murder case, an unsigned blood-stained love letter.  After the love letter falls into the hands of young Olivia Esperanza Villalobos, she and her dearest friend Isaac Quintero set out in search of the Labyrinth of Love Letters, unaware that the chain of events their investigation set into motion will change so many lives.

We never know our journey before it begins, but in hindsight we discover that every experience we have is meant to be ours and ours alone

The writing in The Last Valentine by Felix Alexander is reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende.  It was lyrical, poetic, full of overlapping characters and stories started in one section that are not finished until later if at all.  It was like reading a dream and I was carried away.

One point that detracted from the story was the number of persistent errors.  Olivia, as a romantic heroine is apt to do, often lay down on her bed.  Several times the author made the grammatical error of saying Olivia lied down in bed or lied awake.  (Lay vs. Lie (vs. Laid) There were several apostrophes versus plural errors (ranting’s) and incorrect use of it’s rather than its, (See Apostrophes Rule 2b), as well as a few humorous homophone mistakes. (He went on a steak out.  What was his roll in the crime?)

A few items that were referred to were out of place in a novel set in Puerto Rico in the 1930s.  Olivia’s self-conscious reaction about her belief in the Labyrinth of Love Letters is compared to the feeling of being the last of her friends to discover Santa doesn’t exist. Although the island had been under US military control since 1898, and English was mandated as the official language since 1917, I wouldn’t think that Santa Claus would have been a popular figure in Puerto Rico at the time.  Even today, most of Latin America still receive their gifts from Los Reyes Magos on January 6th rather than a visit from Santa. (See Three Kings Day in Puerto Rico) Appropriate mention is given to El Dia de los Reyes later in the book as one of the most important religious holidays in Puerto Rico.

Another issue was the name of one of the married women.  Carmen Alicia de la Vega was married to Fernando Gonzalo de la Vega.  Although women commonly take their husband’s name after marriage in the United States, this is NOT a custom in Puerto Rico.  Therefore Carmen Alicia, being a “woman of status” before marriage would not assume her husband’s name no matter how prestigious he was.  Instead, she would keep both her maiden last names (her father’s and her mother’s) and add the word “de” followed by her husband’s name indicating her married status.  (See Naming customs of Hispanic America) Of course, it would be a bit cumbersome to be known as Carmen Alicia Gonzalez Reyes de De la Vega, for example.  Nonetheless, this is the custom.  Another female character is mistakenly referred to repeatedly as Angelica de las Fuentes.  However, her full name was Angelica Montana de las Fuentes.  De las Fuentes would have been her mother’s last name and the abbreviated form should have been Angelica Montana. Yet she was reportedly the daughter of Don (Sir) Enrique de las Fuentes.  Therefore, her name should have been written as Angelica de las Fuentes Montana.

This custom of carrying both the father’s and the mother’s name into the next generation would have been helpful in unraveling the intricately woven relationship between the characters. For example, it would have been useful to know that Inspector Guillermo Sedena’s second last name was Colon.

Then there is the mortician who prepared the dead for the ferryman and placed two coins on the eyes sockets before sealing the casket.  Again, I found this incongruent to the context of the story.  The placing of coins on the eyes of a dead body began so that the dearly departed could pay the ferryman Charon to cross the river Styx, a decidedly Greek tradition.  (See Why do they place coins on the eyes of the dead?) I thought perhaps there was a similar belief held by the Taino people, the original inhabitants of the island, however, I could not find one. (See Taino spirituality) So I was baffled by this action. It may have been that just as Isaac’s uncle was well versed in the Greek gods, the mortician may have been similarly educated.  Had he developed an affinity with Charon the ferryman because of his profession and this affinity prompted the coins?  It wasn’t explained.

I found the mention of La Llorona to be consistent with the story found throughout Latin America. (See La Llorona returns) On the other hand, El Cucuy, the boogeyman that comes for disobedient children, is better known as El Cuco in Puerto Rico.  El Cucuy apparently only gathers up disobedient Mexican children. Another legend was left unexplained. I was unable to find anything that would indicate what the story of “Las Lagrimas Perdidas (the lost tears) from a small town in southern Spain” might refer to.  I would have been interested in hearing how that legend fit into this story.

four star It really was a lovely, poetic story.  It would appeal to the romantics of any age.  Realists might get hung up on the details.  Perhaps I’m a realistic romantic then.

When we reach the end of our lives,

Read more about this book here.  Get your own copy here.  This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea is a story that flows. Those of you who know Mexico will see all sorts of true reflections of that diverse, troubled land as you read. You’ll find yourself nodding along in understanding of those strange and wonderful customs and beliefs described which are found nowhere else. You might even learn a few new tidbits.

Set during the turbulent years just prior to the Mexican Revolution, in Sonora, Mexico, the story centers on Teresita, the illegitimate daughter of the ranch owner, Tomas Urrea, and a 14-year-old indigenous servant, Cayetana Chavez. The author’s imaginative story about Teresita’s early life is absolutely riveting.

Teresita lives with her aunt after her mother abandons her as a child. Then Teresita is trained by Huila, the ranch’s curandera (healer) after she is rescued from the aunt’s abuse. She suffers a fit of some sort as a teenager after an attempted rape, which gives her divinely inspired healing powers once she recovers.

As the legend of her healing ability grows, the indigenous patients she treats begin to venerate her as a folk saint. This angers both the Catholic church and ruling dictator Porfirio Diaz. Eventually, her notoriety becomes so powerful that she and her father are exiled from Mexico.

Her story north of the border continues with Queen of America.

If you’d like to read more about this fascinating woman’s life, you can do so here.

The Mexico Diaries by Daniel Theodore Gair

A few months ago I was privileged enough to be a Beta reader for The Mexico Diaries: A Sustainable Adventure South of the Border. What a read!

The adventure for empty-nesters Dan and his wife Holly begins in 2005 when they began their search for that little bit of heaven everyone hopes to find in Mexico. Making a real estate purchase on the strength of a handshake and a scrap of paper from a less than emotionally stable guy named Steven, Dan and Holly struggle with completing the purchase long-distance, wading through the quagmire of ejido land grants, and the agonizing slow legal process Mexico is famous for.

These aren’t the only challenges. There are language and communication issues, both locally and further afield. The internet being what it is in Mexico has Dan climbing trees looking for a strong enough signal to complete important financial transactions. Then there is the constant battle with the local wildlife, snakes, iguanas, lizards, and tarantulas, that just don’t agree with the new rule that their place is OUTSIDE the house. Repairs and new construction projects are stubbornly done the Mexican way, much to the new owners’ bafflement while baby goats dance merrily on the top of vehicles.

Four years, a heart attack that nearly ends the deal for the would-be eco-warriors (spoiler alert–neither Dan nor Holly had the heart attack), and a few headaches later, 40 hectares of Mexican paradise is theirs and the real work begins. A whole slew of unimaginable characters, both human and animal, make their entrance (and sometimes spectacular exits) into Dan and Holly’s lives as they endeavor to create the self-sustainable lifestyle they envisioned.

Over the next few years, Holly becomes a goat-wrangler and Dan becomes the mascot for the yearly Mayto Calbalgata horseback pilgrimages. There’s no doubt in my mind that when the time finally comes for their Mexican adventure to end they’ll be able to say that they took to heart Hunter S. Thompson’s concept of life.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and lou.jpg

So if you are looking for a whirlwind Mexican journey to sustainability and beyond I’m positive you’ll enjoy the stranger than fiction story found in The Mexico Diaries: A Sustainable Adventure by Daniel Theodore Gair.

5 star

Beat Self-Sabotage: How to overcome the emotions that are holding you back by J. Byrne

 

Self Sabotage 2

Are you letting emotional baggage keep you from becoming the person you want to be? Consider taking a look at J. Byrne’s workbook Beat Self-Sabotage: How to overcome the emotions that are holding you back.

Each page focuses on one emotion or behavior that might be holding you back and includes information on the psychology about that emotion or behavior, an inspirational quote, a link to a short video, recommended readings, a link to online support resources, and blank areas to record your reflections as you work through the book.

Emphasis is given to procrastination, self-doubt, overcoming being overwhelmed or indecisive, stress, depression, anxiety, anger, vengefulness, and tips to finding a more peaceful existence.

Lately, a number of personal and business ventures have fallen from the sky and I’ve been naturally feeling a bit overwhelmed. Therefore, I thought it would be best for me to begin this workbook with the Overwhelm or Indecisive unit.

First was a reference from an article entitled “Overwhelmed much?” published by Psychology Today which highlights 9 reasons most of us are more overwhelmed than we should be.

A nice quote from Paulo Coelho is the next resource for the topic.

paulo.jpgThen there is this short video made by John Tayles discussing Cures for Indecisiveness.

For further reading try Eat the Elephant, Overcoming Overwhelm by Karolyn Blume where the author shares time-tested tools for eliminating overwhelm and perfectionism. eat elephant

If a book seems too overwhelming, there’s a blog resource which breaks it down into bite-size bits. Here’s the link for Steve Andreas’s NLP Blog and the post Overcoming Overwhelm.

As if these resources weren’t enough, there’s also a link to Stop feeling overwhelmed and get things done printable planner available at Etsy.

Life over Laundry comp & phone.jpegAs wonderful as this personal development workbook is, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. J. Byrne also hosts a micro-mentoring course to help you define what you want from life and carve out the time to create it.

four star

How to Not Run Away to Mexico by Jennifer Robin Lee

If you haven’t guessed from the title, this book is chocked full of things that you SHOULDN’T do when you move to Mexico, as experienced by Jennifer who didn’t just move to Mexico once, but multiple times and with varying levels of success.not move to mexico

Her international adventures begin in 1994 when she moved from Canada to Monterrey to join the Mexican National Circus in Saltillo. Go ahead, roll your eyes, but we’ve all been young and foolish at least once in our lives. See, her cousin was dating a clown and well, it goes downhill from there.

On her second move to Mexico, she had a face-to-face encounter with the police in Guanajuato. In Spanglish negotiated her way out of a ticket with “No vas rapido. Yo tengo una plata. You tengo mi papeles. No problemo. Gracias. Adios Senor” and jumping back in her car leaving a perplexed representative of the law in the dust.

In some sort of karmic retribution, Jennifer’s Audi broke down outside of Leon and it took thousands of dollars and YEARS to get the vehicle fixed and returned to Canada.

On another occasion, Jennifer was saved by Jesus himself (well, his representative on earth Jesús anyway) from being hauled away to the slammer after a fender bender. In Cozumel, she met a hunky scuba diving instructor Raul which resulted in love and a near-drowning incident.

A Canadian custody issue meant she was detained at the U.S. border. Then years of legal travail in Canada ensued before she could return to Mexico, this time with a man from the Dominican Republic that she had met in Canada and their two toddlers. Of course, Interpol still had her name on the list and that caused some issues entering Mexico to retrieve her Audi.

When she tried to leave, well, there was a shake-down at the Mexican border and unnecessary delays at the Canadian border causing her to declare that it was the Worst. Road trip. Ever.

Then she moved to Mexico AGAIN! This time she was more prepared and the transition, while not exactly smooth, was successful.

I can honestly say that I am so glad to have not experienced even a quarter of the disasters that Jennifer experienced. But as they say, there’s a silver lining in every cloud.

So if you are looking for a bit of humor about moving to Mexico, then How to Not Run Away to Mexico is the book for you!

four star