Yesterday there was an article about Horrible Histories author Terry Deary on the Guardian books page, in which he was quoted as saying that libraries are effectively past it. I disagree with that view, and wanted to address some of his points. You can read the article here if you haven’t seen it yet. His original comments are in the Sunderland Echo.
I don’t know if you read a lot of books in PDF format, but it’s not the greatest fun you’ll ever have. Fortunately for my eyes, The House of Order by John Paul Jaramillo is only 106 pages of screen time – and the characters have worse things to deal with than dry contact lenses.
You see, I am taking part in my first Blog Tour – where a whole load of bloggers read a book by a new author and write about it in the hope of generating buzz like some kind of Samantha Brick article – and there wasn’t really time to get a hard copy sent over from the USA in time to read it.
The book is very American, which is probably only noteworthy if, like me, you’re not from round there. It is set in Colorado and New Mexico and offers little snapshots of the lives of the Ortiz family. This debut story collection is not exactly a happy book – the characters deal with addiction, broken relationships, abuse and poverty. However, they do not deal with their problems in a dramatic or heartbreaking manner, instead they do it like real human people – by simply getting on with it. There is no sense of “oh poor me” from any of the narrators, there are no pleas for sympathy and there is no moral message. It’s just like hey, this is the way it is. Sucks to be you, Ernesto Ortiz.
The narrator, Manito, alternates between telling past stories of various family members and describing the present. There’s an element of detachment as he documents the history of his family – Manito rarely seems to pass judgement, he just explains this is what he said, that’s what he said – yet you do feel a sense of injustice at the way people (particularly kids and women) are treated.
Certain themes reoccur, including domestic violence and rogue uncles (Manito’s Uncle Neto, who gets a pretty raw deal from his own dad, follows his own uncle Mitedio into a life of crime). There are also a lot of italicised Spanish words peppered throughout, which is a fun way to expand your vocabulary.
(Disclaimer: at first I found this distracting – I kept stopping to look them up, just to make sure I was understanding the relationships between people properly. I now know that Abuelita is both a Mexican brand of chocolate and an affectionate nickname meaning ‘little grandmother’ or ‘granny’, that Tio can be uncle, bloke or pal, jefita is generally an endearing term for an important female (eg your mum) and that cabron or cabrone can either be an asshole or a cuckold.)
This book is a good read for people interested in social history, those who want to learn a bit more about the 99 percent and anyone that likes peeking into other people’s lives for a few pages. However if you want lots of plot, or something that will cheer you up, perhaps save it for another day.
For my money, The House of Order is well written, evocative, and definitely worth a look. Still, don’t take my word for it – as discussed the book is on tour at the moment, so you can stop by Live to Read, Inrugian Chronicles, Books Books the Magical Fruit and Linus & Bubba Books to get a few more perspectives. And if that floats your boat, you can then enter a competition to win a signed copy… See below for details!
Novel Publicity Blog Tour Notes:
Wanna win a $50 gift card or an autographed copy of The House of Order? Well, there are two ways to enter…
- Leave a comment on my blog. One random commenter during this tour will win a $50 gift card. For the full list of participating blogs, visit the official House of Order tour page.
- Enter the Rafflecopter contest! I’ve posted the contest form below, or you can enter on the official House of Order tour page–either way works just as well.
About the author: John Paul Jaramillo grew up in Southern Colorado but now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He earned his MFA in creative writing (fiction) from Oregon State University and, currently, holds the position of Associate Professor of English in the Arts and Humanities Department of Lincoln Land Community College. Connect with John Paul on his website, Facebook, Twitter or GoodReads.