The Best of 2013 List…

In Descending Order (links to the reviews included):
  1. Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart
  2. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
  3. Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy
  4. Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
  5. The Time Between by Karen White
  6. Survival Skills: Stories by Jean Ryan
  7. Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey
  8. Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
  9. Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer
  10. The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer
  11. The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero, translated by Carolina De Robertis
  12. Six Sisters’ Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More
Here are my honorable mentions for this year, in descending order (links to the reviews included):
  1. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  2. Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart
  3. Joyland by Stephen King
  4. Seduction by M.J. Rose
  5. Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
What books made your list of favorites this year?

Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano

Source: TLC Book Tours and Harper
Hardcover, 288 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano is an imaginative coming-of-age story for eleven-year-old Luz Castillo that uses the cards from a Mexican game that resembles American bingo.  Each card can be covered in the game once the riddle is called and the players know what card it is based on the riddle, and each card is placed in a tablas in any order or in a standard order.  Like the game, Luz unwinds her memories just before a tragic event lands her in a center and her father arrested.  As she turns the cards over, a memory is triggered, and she writes it down in her journal at the behest of her auntie Tencha.  Like any child traumatized by a startling event, Luz’s memories do not follow any kind of straightforward timeline, but they do reveal a great deal about her family’s immigration, ties to Mexico, and adjustment in America.

“And because quiero can mean either want or love, I asked if it meant “I want you” or “I love you.”  Come here, because I love you,or, come here, because I want you? If you were saying to someone, come to me, then the person you loved wasn’t there, and if you had to tell someone to come to you then maybe he didn’t love you.  And to want someone to come to you is like an order.  If you have to order someone to come to you, how much love is in that anyway?”  (page 13 ARC)

Like the journal entries, Luz’s family life is complex and multilayered with her older sister, Estrella, having been born in Mexico and knowing to smoothly speak Spanish, while Luz is a natural born American who is self-conscious about speaking Spanish aloud even though she knows what those around her say.  While there are moments in this novel when Luz has more adult thoughts, the experiences she has at home with her parents always fighting and her cousins taking advantage of her youth when she visits in Mexico, it is clear that she is mature beyond her years and has given a great deal of thought to her life experiences.

Peppering the story with Spanish words, the meaning of which can be mostly gleaned from the context of the story, Zambrano has crafted a puzzle that will spur readers to keep reading and take the journey with Luz as she uncovers the memories she’s tried to forget about her family.  While Luz has grown up in a typically male-oriented household, it is clear that America has had an influence on the family as her mother takes a job outside the home and never cowers behind her skirts when her husband is out of control with drink.  Despite the hardships, Luz has faced, she still remains optimistic and open to the possibilities of a better life, as she speaks to God in her journal entries about her past and her own confusion and feelings.

Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano is well-crafted, stunning, and highly recommended.  It brings to light the horrors of familial dysfunction, abuse, and general family discord through the eyes of a mature child, who strives to cope with it all in the best way possible.  Not only does it highlight the transition of a family from life in Mexico to one in America — with its opportunities and disappointments — but it also examines the dichotomy of family relationships that produce both love and hate.  Zambrano is an author to watch for.

About the Author:

Mario Alberto Zambrano was a Riggio Honors Fellow at the New School and recently completed his MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as an Iowa Arts Fellow. He is a recipient of the John C. Schupes Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction. Lotería is his first novel.

Find out more about Mario at his Website and connect with him on Facebook.

This is my 46th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #226

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  June’s host is Dolce Bellezza.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox from my mother.

Amanda Knox spent four years in a foreign prison for a crime she did not commit.

In the fall of 2007, the 20-year-old college coed left Seattle to study abroad in Italy, but her life was shattered when her roommate was murdered in their apartment.

After a controversial trial, Amanda was convicted and imprisoned. But in 2011, an appeals court overturned the decision and vacated the murder charge. Free at last, she returned home to the U.S., where she has remained silent, until now.

Filled with details first recorded in the journals Knox kept while in Italy, Waiting to Be Heard is a remarkable story of innocence, resilience, and courage, and of one young woman’s hard-fought battle to overcome injustice and win the freedom she deserved.

With intelligence, grace, and candor, Amanda Knox tells the full story of her harrowing ordeal in Italy—a labyrinthine nightmare of crime and punishment, innocence and vindication—and of the unwavering support of family and friends who tirelessly worked to help her win her freedom.

2.  Gracianna by Trini Amador for review with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in August.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna’s past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother’s story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s–on her way to America, she hopes–but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it–even if it means using lethal force.

3.  Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano for review with TLC Book Tours in July.

With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, she retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of lotería cards. Each of the cards’ colorful images—mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars—sparks a random memory.

Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl’s life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

4.  City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan for review from the publisher.

The heartrending and inspiring sequel to Ellis Island, Kate Kerrigan’s City of Hope is an uplifting story of a woman truly ahead of her time

When her beloved husband suddenly dies, young Ellie Hogan decides to leave Ireland and return to New York, where she worked in the 1920s. She hopes that the city will distract her from her anguish. But the Great Depression has rendered the city unrecognizable. Gone are the magic and ambiance that once captured Ellie’s imagination.

Plunging headfirst into a new life, Ellie pours her passion and energy into running a refuge for the homeless. Her calling provides the love, support, and friendship she needs in order to overcome her grief—until, one day, someone Ellie never thought she’d see again steps through her door. It seems that even the vast Atlantic Ocean isn’t enough to keep the tragedies of the past from catching up with her.

5.  Milk and Other Stories by Simon Fruelund, translated by K.E. Semmel for review from the translator.

The 14 stories in this collection display the often quiet, inconspicuous way in which terrible truths and experiences are intimated: the death of a sailboarder makes a widower see deeper into love and loss; a young poet visits his former teacher only to discover he is literally not the person he used to be; a middle-aged man glimpses the terrible humdrum of his third marriage as his son embarks on a new chapter in his life. Conveyed without grandeur or pathos, the revelations in these minimalist stories demonstrate clearly and effectively Fruelund’s gift of subtlety and nuance; like scenes from life, characters’ dramas are played out in brief but brilliant flashes. Ranging across the wide arc of human experience, from the comic to the tragic, each piece explores the complex emotions of the human heart.

What did you receive?