Book review: Into the Beautiful North

There are almost no men in the small Mexican town of Tres Camerones. They have all left to pursue dreams of wealth and a better life in the U.S.: the “beautiful north” of the title. But when the bandidos move into town, the women of Tres Camerones realize something must be done and so nineteen year old waitress Nayeli, inspired by a screening of The Magnificent Seven, sets off with three friends on a journey to el norte to bring seven Mexican men back to Tres Camerones. Interwoven with this tale is Nayeli’s personal story: her father was one of the men who left his family in order to find work in ‘Los Yunaites’ and she is determined to find him, basing her search on a treasured post-card he sent her from Kankakee, Illinois.

Luis Alberto Urrea brings Tres Camerones to life with his prose: the Mexican sun, the dust swirling from the wind and the colorful food. Into the Beautiful North is a skilfully written novel, blending social issues such as immigration and undocumented migrant workers with a mix of vibrant characters, humor and suspense. Whatever you think about illegal immigration, the novel gives a different and much more humanizing perspective than the harsh views we often hear. It is a thought-provoking, moving novel which is well worth your time.

Into the Beautiful North at www.luisurrea.com

Weekly writing challenge: ebook or real book?

This week’s writing challenge from The Daily Post is a “Mind the Gap” challenge, inviting bloggers to share their opinion on a controversial issue.

This week:

How do you prefer to read, with an eReader like a Kindle or Nook, or with an old school paperback in hand?”

Technology
Public domain image: Science And Technology by Petr Kratochvil

I taught myself to read when I was four years old. I have always loved books. If I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I seek out the nearest book store and dive into it; being surrounded by literary tomes is very calming and I will happily spend hours browsing. When I first heard about eReaders, I was emphatically unimpressed. I am not a Luddite. I don’t have a problem with technology. But now that eReaders are ever-increasing in popularity, it is becoming a serious issue.

I would like to skirt around the topic and diplomatically say that both ways of reading have their merits. But I’m not going to sit on the fence bookshelf. I prefer paper-and-ink books: A) With ebooks it is impossible to replicate the wonderful feeling of picking up a brand new book that you have bought, running your finger down its glossy unbroken spine and becoming absorbed in its pages. B) You can’t have chatty conversations with the book store assistant about which books to purchase. C) Looking through the ebook section online is simply not the same as browsing in person. Spending hours on a computer makes my eyes feel like they have run a marathon or the optical equivalent of one. What would that be? A readathon, I presume.

The idea of a world without paper-and-ink books is frankly dystopian. You wouldn’t be able to hunt out a treasure in a preloved book store or go to the library. You wouldn’t be able to flip through the worn pages of your favorite literary treasure so you can find the best quotes. eReader buttons are not an adequate replacement. Furthermore, books have personality! Call me a geek or a nerd or whatever but I love owning different copies of my most loved books. I have around three or four copies of some of my favorite literary classics because they have different illustrations or interesting covers. Personal preference for real paper-and-ink books aside, I am curious about copyright issues related to the popularity of ebooks. Illegal sharing and misuse of files is known to be a common problem in the music and film industries. Will the ebook industry have the same issue?

Have I convinced you about the ebook versus physical book debate yet? Ebooks may be the future, as some people proclaim, but I will not succumb willingly. I will continue browsing in book stores, looking in the library and lending books to friends. Some things are just too sacred to be changed.

Having said all this, I am a hypocrite. The reason for this shocking two-facedness? I am currently thinking about jumping on the bandwagon and buying a Kindle (they are portable and great for traveling), although the mere notion of buying one feels like being unfaithful to my beloved real books.

What do you think about eReaders? Do you think ebooks will overtake paper-and-ink books in terms of popularity or do you think ebooks and physical books can comfortably co-habit? Share your thoughts in the comments section below; I’d love to hear them!

January, we had fun

January was a great month on the blog.

I made some delicious soup (Honey-roasted parsnip and carrot soup), took part in a photo challenge (highlights below) and published the post which was Freshly Pressed, to my delight, on February 1!

I kick-started January with the First Thirty-one Photo Challenge, welcoming in 2013 with a photo a day.

Browse highlights from my entries below:

Day 1: Resolution:

Resolution: to get outside and go places

Resolution: to get outside and go places

Day 10: Gorgeous hand-knitted socks, knitted by a friend

socks

A wintry photo entry for day 14’s “Frost” theme

snowy tree

Day 19: Fur

fur

Day 31: snowdrops signal the end of winter

snowdrops

I also enjoyed challenging my writing skills with challenges from The Daily Post

My dream trip: a writing challenge about traveling set my imagination on fire.

Another writing challenge: Starting Over, a short story set in Mexico.

Cultural Life celebrated the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with this post:

January 28 1813.

And on January 31, I published this weekly writing challenge post, about saying an emotional goodbye to my mother at the doors of the operating suite. It was Freshly Pressed! I don’t often use the word “awesome” but being Freshly Pressed was the embodiment of that word. Thank you to everyone who commented, liked and shared my post. Welcome to my new followers and thank you for helping to create a great blogging month here at Cultural Life!