Guest Review: Let’s No One Get Hurt

Like most readers, I have my habits. In the service of exposing my readers to a wider perspective, I have invited Christina Cox, fellow book lover, to offer her opinions on a recent read. Thank you, Christina!


I first found out about Let’s No One Get Hurt because the author, Jon Pineda, teaches at my alma mater (The University of Mary Washington). I’m a big fan of his poetry, but I’d never read any of his fiction, so I thought I would give it a shot.

lets no one get hurt
[Source: Goodreads]
The premise of the story piqued my interest immediately. From Goodreads:

Fifteen-year-old Pearl is squatting in an abandoned boathouse with her father, a disgraced college professor, and two other grown men, deep in the swamps of the American South. All four live on the fringe, scavenging what they can–catfish, lumber, scraps for their ailing dog. Despite the isolation, Pearl feels at home with her makeshift family: the three men care for Pearl and teach her what they know of the world.

Mason Boyd, aka “Main Boy,” is from a nearby affluent neighborhood where he and his raucous friends ride around in tricked-out golf carts, shoot their fathers’ shotguns, and aspire to make Internet pranking videos. While Pearl is out scavenging in the woods, she meets Main Boy, who eventually reveals that his father has purchased the property on which Pearl and the others are squatting. With all the power in Main Boy’s hands, a very unbalanced relationship forms between the two kids, culminating in a devastating scene of violence and humiliation.

With the cinematic and terrifying beauty of the American South humming behind each line, Jon Pineda’s Let’s No One Get Hurt is a coming-of-age story set equally between real-world issues of race and socioeconomics, and a magical, Huck Finn-esque universe of community and exploration.

I was about ten pages into the novel when it clicked that this was the best book I’d read all year (what made it even better was that I was reading it by the river, so I really felt like I was right there with the characters). You can tell Pineda’s a poet; every line in the novel is meticulously worded and placed. The novel gets dark– and I mean really dark– in some places, but through it all shines Pearl, who has proved herself to be one of my favorite literary heroines. Consider this great paragraph:

My mother used to say that poems were never finished, that they were only abandoned. I like to take some things my mother said and flip them on their head. For instance, I think all abandoned things are poems. In this way, if this place where we live together is truly abandoned, then we are living inside a poem.

My father says I’m fifteen going on fifty.

I’d absolutely recommend this book. It’s a great size read, especially for the summer. While you’re at it, you can check out Pineda’s poetry as well!

Wanted: A Book You Can Put Down

It’s almost a truism that “I couldn’t put it down” is about as high praise as a book can get. And yet, it might not always be the highest recommendation!

 

wanted book can put sinco christy esmahan
Right now, I’m reading Sinco: A Love Story Set in Spain, the second book in the Cantabria American School series. Bueno, the first book in the series, was part of my reading for Spain. I wrote about it after I returned.
 
[Source: Amazon]
But back to Sinco. The characters remain the same as in Bueno, with all their individual concerns, fears, and grudges. Some characters are brought to new prominence, others have faded a bit, but the point is, it is a smooth continuation of the plight of struggling young first-time private school director Harvey Jones.

 

His nemises at the school have nicknamed him Sinco because when Jones is pronounced in the Spanish way, it becomes Sin Cojones. These enemies are becoming ever more vindictive and plotting.

 

The book is funny, full of human foibles, and steeped in Spanish culture. It’s a good read.

 

And I can put it down at any time! Indeed, I’ve done so several times times recently. And this is a good thing! This is a hectic time for me—as for many—so I treasure a book I can pick up for a few minutes or an hour, put aside, and not struggle to get back into the story when I pick it up again.

 

For your holiday reading pleasure, I recommend Sinco, a book you can put down!

For Readers Who Love a Good Series

alexander mccall smith the woman who walked in sunshine
 
Here’s a name you should know: Alexander McCall Smith. He is a British author—a prolific British author—born in Zimbabwe, best known for his #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. The series features Precious Ramotswe and contains 17 books to date, all set in Botswana. Some of these were presented on HBO.

 

My sister-in-law lived in this area of Africa for seven years, and she said the depictions are absolutely authentic. But McCall is so much more than one series! His writing is excellent, his characters grab your heart, he uses lots of humor, and he’s an all-around feel-good read!

 

alexander mccall smith the bertie project
Set in Edinburgh, the 44 Scotland Street series contains 11 novels, with wonderful people portraits and gentle satire. Bertie is the center of it all.

 

alexander mccall smith a distant view of everything
Also set in Edinburgh, The Sunday Philosophy Club series, featuring Isobel Dalhousie, contains 14 books. Isobel is a professional philosopher and amateur sleuth. USA TODAY said “Isobel is a force to be reckoned with.” NEWSWEEK said, “Remarkable. . . [Isobel] is such good copany, it’s hard to believe she is fictional.”

 

alexander mccall smith unusual uses for olive oil
Professor Dr. Von Igelfeld is the somewhat bumbling academic sleuth in the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series. Only 4 books to date, but we can hope for more. I don’t know what McCall’s experiences are with his setting in Germany, but he certainly nailed the academic politics and atmosphere!

 

alexander mccall smith corduroy mansions
So far there are 3 books in the Corduroy Mansions series. The location is Pimlico; the cast of characters are the residents of Corduroy Mansions, plus McCall Smith’s first canine star, Freddie de la Hay.

 

alexander mccall smith the great cake mystery
McCall Smith has written 5 books in two series for children: School Ship Tobermory Children’s Series and the Precious Children’s Series/Precious Ramotswe Mysteries for Young Readers.

 

dream angus alexander mccall smith
[Source: Amazon]
As if all of that were not enough, Alexander McCall Smith has published 11 stand-alone books, set in various times and places. For example, Dream Angus is set in twentieth-century Scotland. Dream Angus comes at night bestowing dreams. He’s also the god of love, youth and beauty. Magical realism, anyone?

 

TWO REASONS TO READ ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH: 1) If you like series, you can stick with him for a long time, and 2) if you are a writer, skip hither and yon among his offerings to sample one writer’s diversity.