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Topic: 2010 H/F Challenge #1 - Habla Español?

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Subject: 2010 H/F Challenge #1 - Habla Español?
Date Posted: 11/26/2009 6:06 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Discuss the book you read for the Mexico/South America category.

Read a historical novel that takes place in Mexico or South America. Sample titles include Aztec by Gary Jennings, The Zigzag Way by Anita Desai, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, and The Unknown Shore by Patrick O'Brian.

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 12:22 PM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
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Copied and pasted from other thread:

Just finished Far Bright Star by Olmstead -- a short and excellent book for those looking to fill the Habla Espanol category for the HF challenge. It's ostensibly about a seasoned soldier, Napoleon Childs, who leads a group of inexperienced cavalrymen in search of the elusive Pancho Villa in Mexico in 1916. But it's really about the toughness and resilience of the human condition. This book is not for everyone -- it reminded me of Cormac McCarthy's stories -- the reader experiences the brutality and harshness of the narrative in language that is spare and unsentimental.

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 5:43 PM ET
Member Since: 6/16/2008
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I just finished Far Bright Star & didn't like it. The spare prose just isn't my thing. It bordered on the tedious and non sequitur in spots - have no problems with unsentimental. *sigh* This challenge is shaping up to be a drag! I haven't liked one book so far, and I've finished off the last bits of 4 today. I'm 1/3 of the way through a 5th one & not liking it either!

Date Posted: 1/23/2010 12:09 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
Posts: 1,356
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My selection for 'Habla Espanol' was Aztec Blood by Gary Jennings, the 3rd in the Aztec series. From the perspective of learning about Mexico's history, it's a fabulous read (although for anyone who has not read any of the quartet, I'd suggest beginning with Aztec--far and away the best of the four novels).  It covers a lot of the same territory (no pun intended) as the previous two novels but provides a great history lesson in the Spanish Conquest, the men involved and just exactly how a mighty warrior nation was felled by haphazard Spanish soldiers and sailors when they were outnumbered 50 to 1. 

Date Posted: 2/6/2010 7:44 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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I thought I'd share a book I found this a.m. that qualifies for this category as well as the Whodunnit one.

Demon of the Air: An Aztec Mystery
Author: Simon Levack
ISBN-13: 9780312348342
ISBN-10: 0312348347

I'd never heard of it, but the reviews I saw on Amazon look good.

Date Posted: 2/19/2010 12:31 AM ET
Member Since: 10/22/2009
Posts: 134
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I have just finished reading Like Water For Chocolate and I loved it!! I had no idea what it was about (I never saw the movie version) and after I started reading it, I had to check with Genie to make sure it qualified as historical fiction. Oh it is definitely fiction, and historical, but it's more like a Mexican folk tale than a novel.

What a sweet love story though, and a great book! I am interested in watchingthe movie now, to see how this fantasy is portrayed with actors. I guess the writer, Laura Esquival, wrote the screen play so I'm hoping I will like the movie (I never do like thetheatrical versions) since the book was marvelous. I finished it in a couple of days, but I was really into it. You really feel for the main characters.

Well thank you Genie for giving me the OK. I recommend this book to anyone with an active imagination who needs a quick, light, read.

Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 2/23/2010 7:40 AM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
Posts: 39,644
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I just started my challenge book for this category Our Lives on the River by Jaime Manrique. Takes place in 1820s northern South American countries. I know very little about South America so it should be interesting. Will report back later.

Alice

Date Posted: 2/23/2010 4:27 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Here are a few worthwhile (IMO) titles for this category: One Day of Life, by Manlio Argueta; The Underdogs (Los de Abajo), by Mariano Azuela; Son of Man, by Augusto Roa Bastos; Juyungo, by Adalberto Ortiz; and The Eagle and the Serpent, by Martin Luis Guzman. However, this last-named book is non-fiction, but it recounts some of what went on during the Mexican Revolution.One chapter, "The Carnival of the Bullets" , is particularly effective.

Date Posted: 2/23/2010 8:59 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Thanks for the suggestions, Bonnie!

Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 2/25/2010 7:52 PM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
Posts: 39,644
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I am pleasantly surprised by my selection for this category Our lives are the Rives by Maime Manrique. Very interesting book detailing the liberation of Peru, Columbia and Equador from Spain. If it were not for this challenge I would have never read this book. good read, highly recommend.

Alice

Date Posted: 2/27/2010 9:25 AM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 2,877
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Far Bright Star by Robert Olmstead: An interesting story that gives one a glimpse into Pancho Villa's war in Mexico. The capsule focuses on Napoleon (why Napoleon) who tells the tale of a scouting group that is ambushed by Pancho Villa's forces. Nearly all in the group are killed, some rather gruesomely, except Napoleon, the leader, who is abandoned naked in the desert. Napoleon's experiences and experiences following the shoot-out lead him to be disenfranchised about war. He mourns the death of all from the group who were killed. The character was well developed and I felt as if I were experiencing these horrors with him. I thought it was a good read.



Last Edited on: 2/27/10 9:27 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 2/28/2010 9:35 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I read Gone for Soldiers by Jeff Shaara. The novel opens up as the Americans being led by General Winfield Scott invade Mexico at Vera Cruz. We are introduced to Robert E Lee, a 40 yr old engineer whograduated from West Point and according to the novel, was behind all of thesuccessful battles in Mexico. The book only covers the second of the twoyear war. The theme behind the novel was to introduce the men who would becomeofficers in the upcoming Civil War. While the majority of the bookfocused onLee's strategies andScott's frustration with Politics, it also gave us the point of view of manyfamiliar names. Theleadersof the Americansoldiers were all left overfrom the War of 1812 and resented the younger "college" graduates who had a different way of fighting.The West Point grads fresh from school held contempt for some of the older soldiers. It showed a dividing line in the way battles were fought. The old school versus the new school. It was interesting toread.

Very little of the book was actually told through the eyes of the Mexicans. Only afewshort chapters gave us SantaAnna's point ofview. And even then, he was portrayed as an overly arrogant incompetent leader.

I started the book wondering why we are taught so little about the Mexican War. But at the end Shaara explains that their were many protests to the war, and the American Public felt that we were bullying Mexico into giving us more land. So it makes sense that that part of our history would be allowed to be over shadowed by the Civil War which took place 13 yrs later.

Date Posted: 3/3/2010 7:41 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Aztec by Gary Jennings. All I can say is wow! What a wonderful, incredible book. Definitely one of the best books I have ever read!

Date Posted: 3/12/2010 12:51 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,456
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I finished Aztec Autumn by Gary Jennings. This was good, certainly not great like Aztec was. I think it would help if you had read Aztec first, as the author makes many references to things that happened previously. This novel takes places several years after the initial conquest of Mexico by the Spanish, but things are far from settled. The voice of the main hero of this book is very similar to Mixtli and he has those same traits of curiosity, intelligence and courage that I found so endearing.

Date Posted: 5/18/2010 9:54 AM ET
Member Since: 8/31/2007
Posts: 482
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I read Into the Beautiful North for this. Being that it was coming from Luis Alberto Urrea of The Hummingbird's Daughter, I assumed it was HF. It was not. On the first Youtube mention I kind of groaned. I also assumed from how good THD was that this would be good. It was not. The dialogue was all sentence fragments and non sequitur ramblings. There was very little character development, to the point where I didn't really know why the characters did anything they did. It was an interesting premise, but execution was ultimately pretty poor. I'll be skipping any of Urrea's future contemporary novels and will stick with his HF.

Date Posted: 7/21/2010 7:52 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,709
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I finished up "Night of Sorrows" for this category. I admit, I was speed-reading through the last 1/3. I just didn't like this one. It's the story of Malinche (or whatever her name is; she has about 13 in this book) the Aztec princess sold into Mayan slavery by her mother, given to Cortes and his men when they landed, made the translator for Cortes, and now viewed very dimly by some people. She is considered a traitor in some camps (according to Wiki) and I was hoping for a good look into her life and psyche. Or the author's interpretation of her life and psyche.

I would give this about 2.5 stars. The author tried, and parts were interesting. She jumped around in time, and while this usually doesn't bother me, I found it confusing and pointless here. Cortes and his men came across for me like cartoon characters.

You know what? I should not have read Gary Jennings's "Aztec" before this one. Maybe...that might have helped.

Date Posted: 7/21/2010 7:59 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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That's too bad, Vicky. I agree that Aztec is a hard act to follow.

I thought I might try Gone For Soldiers by Jeff Shaara. Has anyone read it? I have to admit my challenge picks have been pretty disappointing for the most part.

Date Posted: 7/21/2010 10:00 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,709
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Genie, polbio gave her review of "Gone for Soldiers" up above..

I may try to hunt down another novel about Malinche someday. But for now...on to something else!

Date Posted: 7/21/2010 10:03 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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I liked Gone For Soldiers when I read it something like 9 years ago. If you've liked other Shaara books you should like this one. I think I'dprobably place at3 or 4 on a scale of 5. Probably a 4 if you bring to the book independent interest in thet time/place/people;down to a three if you don't. It was most interesing, to me, asback story to the Civil War and the military leaders whose story Shaara told in the Civil War trilogy. I don't think any of Shaara's more recent books measure up to the Civil War books, but they're still good.



Last Edited on: 7/21/10 10:05 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/21/2010 11:46 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Thanks for the great review on Gone for Soldiers, poblio (and to Vicky for pointing the way!). I really want to be enmeshed in the struggles of Mexico (or another SA country), so I'm not sure if this is the book for me.

Date Posted: 8/23/2010 9:25 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I read Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende for this challenge. It was my first Allende book,and I really enjoyed her style and will be looking for more. Ines traces the story of Ines de Suarez, who Wikipedia calls a "female conquistador" and was one of the original Spanish settlers of Santiago, Chile. I thought that Allende gave her a strong voice, and was able to navigate the issues of conquest of South America well.

With this, I've completed the challenge. Thank you, I love to participate

Date Posted: 8/24/2010 8:00 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Congratulations, Mimi!

Date Posted: 8/24/2010 11:00 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Congrats, Mimi! I'm so totally jealous of everyone who has completed a challenge...positively green.

Date Posted: 9/16/2010 10:31 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,294
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I completed The Calligraphy of the Witch by Alicia Gaspar De Alba this morning and I found it to be another difficult read for me. Our protagonist starts out her life in New Spain (Mexico) raised basically, as a scribe in a convent. Very Catholic, very moral upbringing. She is abducted by a pirate, who violates her and ends up selling her to a man in New England. She is eventually caught up in the Salem witch trials of the late 1600's. Again, as one usually finds in the witch trial stories, the accusations are ludicrous and the results devastating. I am giving this book a 3.5 out of 5, simply b/c of the fact that there is a lot of repetition as our protagonist keeps recalling her past and I thought that a lot of this could be eliminated or shortened.