Son of Escobar by Roberto Sendoya Escobar

“…say this story is true, the calibre of writing in this book isn’t worth enduring.”

1/5 stars.
ebook, 184 pages.
Read from December 26, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

This book was a selection for my book club. Normally, the beauty of book clubs is reading books that you wouldn’t have read and most of the time that’s a good thing, this time, however, it was not.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know the name, Pablo Escobar. You know, the biggest drug lord in history? The guy has a whole Netflix series (Narcos) about him. The premise of this book is that the author claims that he is Escobar’s firstborn son. In 1965, MI6 operatives raid and shoot up a safe house that results in the death of a young mother with one of the operatives deciding to save her newborn baby (the author). The operative put the child in an orphanage only to adopt him later. The operative learns whose child it is and massive amounts of effort are gone into protecting the child as well as using him to coerce a friendly relationship with Pablo himself. The book details all of the events that happened to the author as he grew up in this strange environment. From kidnappings, shootouts, murder, and more, all while not knowing who his real father is and thinking that having armed guards is a normal part of childhood. Strange meetings were made with Pablo Escobar as the author grew but he was never given an explanation of who Pablo was or the relevance of the meetings. As an adult, the author does eventually learn that Pablo Escobar is his father, apparently, and at the end of his adoptive father’s life, he is given a code that is supposed to be the location of Pablo Escobar’s missing fortune after he was taken down and his property destroyed. The code is published within this book hoping someone will figure out its encrypted location.

If this sounds far fetched to you, you’re not alone. The author has been called out for misinformation and lies since this book’s publication. It makes no difference to me if this story is real or not as people can write whatever they please, however, the writing quality in this book was dire and I didn’t find it all that entertaining. Well, I suppose it was interesting to discuss these points in a book club setting but the book was still a disappointing read. I would not recommend this book as I think it’s likely a money grab and a publicity stunt. Outside of that, say this story is true, the calibre of writing in this book isn’t worth enduring.

Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee

“The gaps that bind us span more than the distances between words.”

2/5 stars.
ebook, 271 pages.
Read from February 4, 2021 to February 9, 2021.

My second of five of the Canada Reads 2021 selection that will be championed by Canadian singer-songwriter Scott Helman in the debates that take place in March.

I know, I’m behind but I’ve been up to my ears in essays. I was really looking forward to reading this memoir and learning a bit more about Taiwan. I really wanted to love this book but it fell flat for me.

The author is a first-generation Canadian and after finding a partial memoir from her grandfather she decides to embark on a journey to Taiwan to explore her family connections and history. The story floats between gorgeous and descriptive nature scenes as the author hikes through different parts of Taiwan, all while intermingling the details of her family’s personal history throughout. Her grandparents were originally from China but when the cultural revolution happened they relocated to Taiwan where her grandfather took up work as a pilot. The family then moved to Canada where the author was born. After her grandfather left, in his old age and on his own, to return to Taiwan no one really knew what he did with his final years as his health failed him. The author makes efforts to reconnect with her language and Chinese heritage to get a full understanding and appreciation of her family’s past and to place her own identity.

While the writing of this book was descriptive and engaging at points, the story’s timeline was all over the place, jumping from the past to her current excursions in Taiwan. The descriptions of Taiwan were sometimes enthralling and made you feel like you were in Taiwan but I felt that they went on too long as I was more interested in the family history which, I didn’t feel had enough of a presence. The book left me feeling like I had an incomplete picture of her family and I wanted to know more. Ultimately, this story is about the author’s journey but it reads and feels more like a journal than a novel. I wanted to like this novel more but I found it a bit boring if I’m honest. It’s not a terrible read, it’s just not as engaging as I was hoping it would be.

In terms of the theme for Canada Reads this year, One Book To Transport Us, this book does seem an appropriate fit with the way it makes you feel like you’re on a hike in Taiwan as well as transporting back to a time in Chinese history. We will see what the other contenders bring to the table.

The debates will take place March 8-11, 2021, hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC Gem and on CBC Books

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

“It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.”

2/5 stars.
ebook, 283 pages.
Read from July 12, 2019 to Aug 1, 2019.

I was so excited to read this book as I love Neil Gaiman and had heard so many wonderful things about Terry Pratchett.

Aziraphale is an angel and Crowley is a demon. This unlikely pair is under orders to help bring about the end of times as predicated in the only accurate prophecy book called The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, a witch who exploded at the stake during the witch trials. The two of them have become fond of Earth and the humans on it but are being forced to carry out their duties from their direct superiors. Crowley seems to have misplaced the Anti-Christ, an 11-year old boy who is ironically named Adam, so Aziraphale joins up with him to help stop the impending end of the world.

The plot sounds so promising and is full of interesting apocalypse characters such as the four horsemen of the apocalypse, witches, and more. I’m not sure if it was my state of mind when I started this book or if this book just wasn’t for me as I found the plot disjointed and hard to follow. The characters of Crowley and Aziraphale are solid throughout the book but as soon as a chapter takes a different narrative direction with another character I found that I lost interest in the whole plot. For example, Adam and the Thems, I had so much trouble following these chapters and I found their conversations uninteresting and tedious. I also got lost in Anathema, Shadwell and Newt’s presence in the plot and found I wasn’t much interested when their chapters came along too. The four horsemen of the apocalypse were pretty great though.

Overall, the story and the characters just didn’t come together as they should have for me and it felt obvious that this book was a joint effort between two authors. Not that the book or the story is without merit, even if the writing didn’t seem smooth or concise to me, it has a wonderful English flair and style and I was still intrigued by the story and at least some of the characters. I’m still interested in reading more by Terry Pratchett despite this being the first taste I’ve had of his writing. My love for Neil Gaiman also remains unchanged.

I may add this book to a re-read list and give it another chance later on but for now, it is not a book I would recommend.