Kage Baker’s unique fantasy “In the Garden of Iden”

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, there’s a moment when you’re reading a book and you’re filled with a sudden joy.  That moment came about 40 pages into Into the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker.  I was suddenly reminded of what it was like to read Harry Potter for the first time, or Ella Enchanted, or a Wrinkle in Time even.  It’s a childlike happiness that’s hard to describe or pin down.   What those books have in common, above all, is the idea that life is not what we make of it and, in some ways, there is an escape.  There is an escape to the fantastic and to the wonderful to beat out the mundane, even though all of those books eventually show you that there is no escape, not really, that even a magical life is one that we have to fight for.  In the Garden of Iden takes this escape to the next level in a mature, historical context that solidifies it as a science fiction classic.

Mendoza is a young girl during the Spanish Inquisition when she is recruited by the mysterious company Dr. Zeus.  They whisk her away to Australia and begin to operate, giving her the gift of immortality and a job as a botanist, to save all the rare plants that will go extinct in the future.  You see, Dr. Zeus discovered time travel, but only so they could prove that their formula for immortality existed.  Mendoza and her team are sent to England during the reign of Queen Mary to the rare garden of Sir Walter Iden.  While there, Mendoza does the unthinkable: she falls in love with a mortal.

What was most exciting about In the Garden of Iden was the prospect of what is to come.  Iden was not perfect and there were times when the story dragged a little, but if  this first novel is any indication of what the series will be like, it is all I can do to keep myself from running out to the library right now and pick up the second book.  The characters were believable and enjoyable to read about.  Iden manages to not only have a clever science fiction premise, but also seamlessly incorporate historical elements.  To top it all off, it’s a heartbreaking tragedy and a beautiful romance.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  Tragically, Kage Baker passed away on January 31, 2010.  Thank you Kage Baker for such a wonderful story, I’m only sad that we didn’t meet sooner.

So go read  this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Recommended by: bookshelves of doom.

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TSS – Small changes

We are one month into the new year and there have been some very subtle changes to Regular Rumination in the new year.  You probably haven’t really noticed them – they’ve been personal goals that I’ve been trying to fulfill slowly and surely.  One small thing I have changed is adding a unique title to each of my posts.  I decided to do that because I really had only two or three titles that I would change slightly.  Such as Review – Title – Author, TSS – Date.  Maybe once in a small while I’d have a uniquely titled post, and honestly I can’t really tell you if it made any difference, but it seems important to have a title that properly evokes what the post is about.  So tell me, does that make a difference when you’re reading a post?  Do you even really notice the titles of blog posts?

I’ve also been trying to make my posts more well-crafted.  This has been a very personal goal over the past month or so.  I became a little disappointed with the overall quality of my reviews.   The writing was less than great and a lot of times I felt like I was just posting to post, even if I didn’t have  a clear idea of what I wanted to say about a book.  It became more important to have a post for you to read than to really spend a lot of time with a post.  Part of the problem is the fact that I have less time when I’m in school, so I would rush to finish a review.  I realize now that I would rather have a well-crafted review than four posts a week.  Maybe that should have been obvious, but to be honest, at the end of last year it really wasn’t.   Maybe if this hasn’t been as noticeable as I think, that’s probably a good thing, but I hope that the quality of my posts is better than it once was.

Well, that’s all for this Sunday.  I have lots of things to think about, but for today I will be reading In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker and Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa for class.  What are you reading?

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Nicaragua & LGBT rights in Meet Me Under the Ceiba

It is purely serendipitous that the book I’m reviewing  the day after posting what the GLBT Reading Challenge means to me is a novel that has GLBT rights at the forefront of its plot and motivation.  Meet Me Under the Ceiba, written by Silvio Sirias, is the  chronicle of the murder of a young woman named Adela by an unnamed researcher who became fascinated by her death.  Through a series of interviews with her family, friends and even her murderers to try to piece together the events leading up to her death and her last moments.

This book is not necessarily a mystery: we know who her murderers are from the very beginning and we know exactly why they killed her.  The narrator uncovers small mysteries that paint a clearer picture of Adela’s last day on earth, but what this is really about is giving Adela a fair representation, trying to uncover the lies that have been protecting her murderers.

Adela, a lesbian, was passionately in love with the beautiful Ixelia, a gorgeous young woman who had been abused her whole life and was eventually sold by her mother into a relationship with Don Roque, a powerful and cruel older man.  When Adela tries to rescue Ixelia from her fate, crosses the wrong paths and Don Roque and Ixelia’s  mother, Doña Erlinda, decide to get rid of her once and for all.  Adela’s story is tragic and heartbreaking; you spend most of the novel hoping that something will change, that Adela will be uncovered as alive.  She was so obviously loved in her small community.

I learned a lot about the state of LGBT rights in Nicaragua and it is very difficult to read about.  In Nicaragua and much of Latin America, being part of the LGBT community means that in the eyes of some people, you are less than a person.  During the investigation and the trial, many people simply referred to Adela as “la cochona”, the dyke, never using her name.  Adela is reduced to nothing but her sexuality, she no longer has an identity.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba begins with a quote from Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García  Márquez: “none of us could continue living without an exact knowledge of the place and mission assigned to us by fate.”  There is certainly some inspiration from Chronicle of a Death Foretold in Sirias’ narration, but it is more straightforward in Meet Me Under the Ceiba.  There are many intriguing levels of narration since the story is told completely in flashbacks and interviews, the painful reality is that because Adela is no longer here, we will never really know what happened to her.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba is an important novel.  It addresses Nicaraguan LGBT rights and also the failure of the judicial system.  Most importantly, it paints a tragic portrait of one woman’s unfortunate death in the hopes of stopping future deaths.  Siarias’ story is based on the true murder of Aura Rosa Pavón and at the end he describes which aspects of the story were fact and which were fiction, but in the end I am so grateful that Sirias told this story, because it is absolutely one that needed to be heard.  I definitely recommend Meet Me Under the Ceiba, not only for the important issues that it puts out into the open, but also because it is a highly readable novel that will keep you an edge.

Silvio Sirias will be visiting Regular Rumination today to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to leave a question in the comments!  The author has generously offered to do a giveaway!  If you are interested in reading Meet Me Under the Ceiba, there are a couple ways you can enter this giveaway.

To enter:
+1 for a comment, +1 for asking Silvias a question in the comments, +1 for a tweet or a blog post, +1 for following
Please leave a separate comment for each entry!   This contest is open until Sunday, January 17.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba is part of BronzeWord Latino Book Tours and will be making the following tour stops this week: Book Lover Carol, Brown Girl Speaks, The Tranquilo Traveler, Pisti Totol, Mama XXI, Farm Lane Books, Sandra’s Book Club, Latino Books Examiner, Una in a Million.

I received Meet Me Under the Ceiba for review from the BronzeWord Latino Book Group.  You can purchase Meet Me Under the Ceiba on Amazon.

8:15pm: There’s still plenty of time to ask questions and have them answered, but I just wanted to say thank you so much to Silvio Sirias for visiting Regular Rumination today!  It’s been so wonderful having you here.

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