ARC REVIEW: Colombiano – by Rusty Young

Title: Colombiano
Author: Rusty Young
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime
First published: August 1st 2017
Publisher: Havelock & Baker
Finished reading: February 16th 2019
Pages: 813

“Like an autumn tree stripping itself to grow strong again, I had to let the leaves of kindness and compassion fall. “

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Havelock & Baker in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I have a special interest in the war on drugs and Latin America related stories, so when I saw Colombiano I immediately knew I had to read it. Colombia has a special place in my heart as it gave me three wonderful months of memories during my time living in Cartagena as well as it being the place where I first met my hubby. Colombia has a complicated history though and Rusty Young does a fantastic job portraying the struggles and give insight in what it was like for innocent inhabitants and autodefensas members alike. Colombiano is a mix of facts and fiction as the author spent years working secretly for  the US government in Colombia and was able to hear a lot of testimonies of child soldiers during that time. If you want to learn more about the struggles between the guerrilla, army and autodefensas and its consequences for both country and inhabitants, this book is an excellent way to do so in an entertaining way. I know it’s a huge book with over 800 pages, but it’s worth every single minute of your time. Like I said before, facts and fiction are mixed in Pedro’s quest for justice for the death of his father. Both sides have been incorporated into the story in such a way that feels natural and Colombiano is informative without it slowing down the pace of the story. The driving force behind Colombiano are Pedro, Palillo and the other main characters. Together they help understand what it is like living in a small village in the middle of the fight between the guerrilla and the army, and also show why someone would join the autodefensas and how that organization works. This story is about violence, drugs, power struggles and revenge, but also a coming of age story about young people growing up in such a difficult situation. Colombiano is hands down one of the best books I’ve read so far this year and definitely worth your time if the topic interests you. Between the writing style, characters, descriptions and plot you will have no idea this story is that long as you will find yourself turning those pages with gusto.

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Fifteen year old Pedro Gutierrez is living a comfortable life in a small Colombian town with his parents and girlfriend Camila. Then his life changes forever as guerrilla soldiers execute his father in front of Pedro after false accusations. And not only that, but both he and his mother as banished from their farm and left without a future. Pedro is determined to revenge his father and hunt down the five men responsible. He only sees one way to complish that: join an illegal paramilitary group called the autodefensas with his best friend Palillo. They are sent to a remote location to be trained to fight, kill and obey until any sign of weakness is smothered. But how far is Pedro willing to go to reach his goal?

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Even though Colombiano is a big beast of a read with 800+ pages, the story by no means slows down or drags at any point. This is due to a combination of an engaging writing style, fascinating details and descriptions, characters that will win over your heart and a well developed and intricate plot. The story itself is partly a coming of age story, partly a crime thriller with a drugs and violence focus and partly a story of family and what we are willing do sacrifice to keep those dear to us safe. Facts and fiction are mixed in a way that will give you both a goldmine of intriguing information about the conflicts between guerrilla, army and autodefensa as well as offering you a fascinating story and main character to follow. Anyone interested in the topic will love this story.


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WWW Wednesdays #210 – February 20th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

My first blog tour of the year was getting very close, so I’m currently reading The Pumilio Child by Judy McInerney so I can get my post in place before the tour starts on the 25th. I also started reading the Peter Grant sequel Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch. I’m really enjoying it so far and I would have finished it already if we wouldn’t have been out of town… I only brought my kindle as I don’t like possible damage to my physical versions. 😉

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (DNF at 51%; 0/5 stars) REVIEW 24/02
WARNING: Unpopular opinion ahead! Sadly this turned out to be my very first DNF of the year. Why? There were various reasons, but the main one is this: I absolutely could not stand the writing style. The endless metaphors, the short sentences, the wacky grammar, the 1 2 3 4 numbers… It seemed like every single word and page was destined to annoy me to the limit and I simply reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel sad for reacting this way to a story I know so many seem to love, but that doesn’t take away that Shatter Me and me definitely didn’t get a long.

2. Colombiano by Rusty Young (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 28/02
I have a special interest in the war on drugs and Latin America related stories, so when I saw Colombiano I immediatedly knew I had to read it. Colombia has a special place in my heart as it gave me three wonderful months of memories during my time in Cartagena as well as being the place where I met my hubby. Colombia has a complicated history though and Rusty Young does a fantastic job portraying the struggles between the Guerrilla, army and Autodefensas. It’s a huge book with over 800 pages, but it’s worth ever single minute of your time as facts and fiction are mixed in Pedro’s quest for justice for the death of his father.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

Since I wasn’t able to read that much during the last week, the books that are up next are the same as the previous WWW… The NG ARC The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson is probably up next, a story with a gorgeous cover and one I’ve been looking forward to for months. I also want to read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Woman In The Window by A.J. Finn as my next backlist titles. My new TBR jar pick is still Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.


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WWW Wednesdays #209 – February 13th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m currently reading Colombiano by Rusty Young, an ARC that is also be my first 800+ pages read. This means I can cross of this goal very early in the year… It’s a fascinating read so far, so I don’t mind it being that many pages! I also started Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, and I guess I should have listened to my instincts and stayed away from it… I REALLY can’t stand the writing style and I’ll most likely DNF.

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson (4/5 stars) REVIEW 19/02
The Bitter Kingdom definitely made this series end on a high note! I’m not sure if it is my new favorite, but I’m happy to say that all three Fire And Thorns books stay consistently strong and the final book doesn’t disappoint at all. The high fantasy worldbuilding is one of the best features of this series and it’s always great to see it expand. The end did feel a bit too easy, but overall it does provide closure for this series and its character. I really enjoyed my time with this trilogy and can highly recommend it to fans of the genre.

2. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (4/5 stars) REVIEW 15/02
I already had some ideas about An American Marriage when I first started reading it, but I didn’t realize the full extent of this powerful and emotionally draining story until I was already in way too deep. While it is true that I failed to connect to the characters completely, I wasn’t happy with the love triangle and the pace was a bit slow at points, it was the story itself that made me forget about those minor complaints. An innocent man behind bars just because someone pointed their finger (basically), the struggle to prove the truth, the strain the situation has on a relationship and those close to Roy in general, the racial discrimination, the failed justice system, the family history… Powerful elements that have been excellently developed and executed and which turn this story into one well worth your time.

3. Mona Lisas And Little White Lies by John Herrick (3/5 stars) REVIEW 21/02
If you enjoy cute ‘love at first sight’ stories with quirky and flawed characters that are easy to like, you will probably love Mona Lisas And Little White Lies. The general idea behind this story is interesting and I loved the many art, car and Thailand references. The plot did get a bit predictable and cliche at points, and the dose of drama was a bit high towards the ending, but overall this was still a satisfying contemporary romance read.

4. Friend Request by Laura Marshall (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 19/02
Friend Request was a very entertaining psychological thriller with a few twists and turns I definitely didn’t see coming. The story starts slow and it takes a while for the pace to pick up. Basically, the first half has more of a character driven slower psychological thriller, while the second half is more of a suspenseful crime thriller with a fast pace and quite a lot of action. This made the story feel a bit unbalanced, but the second half made the story that much more thrilling. The story had a few flaws, but overall it was still a very entertaining read.

5. Half Lies by Sally Green (2,5/5 stars) REVIEW 22/02
Novellas are always short and not having a well developed plot and characters is not that much of a surprise. Still, I found myself craving to know more about their past in France and I would have liked to see more focus on magic as well. Instead, Half Lies was basically a sappy forbidden love story where two quite cliche characters fall in love a la Romeo and Juliet. My biggest struggle was with the writing style. There is just something about the way this story is written that is a huge turn off for me…

6. To Make Monsters Out Of Girls by Amanda Lovelace (4/5 stars) REVIEW 22/02
Her poems are easy to recognize and this was another excellent collection. It is true that the structure of the poems is simplistic and basically seems like hitting the space bar ever few words, but I personally think this simple style gives the words and message behind the poems even more power. Amanda Lovelace writes without fear and is fully open about her experience with abusive and toxic relationships in the past. It’s not the style, but the words and the emotions behind those words that make To Make Monsters Out Of Girls into such a success for me. Her poetry isn’t for everyone, but those who can connect to her words will be able to treasure it.

7. Until The Day I Die by Emily Carpenter (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 18/02
This is without doubt a very unconventional read and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I actually feel about this story. It’s a very original story for sure and really hard to place in just one genre… The second half was a lot faster than the first half, which tended to drag a bit in points. I liked Erin’s POV better than Shorie’s one mostly because I wasn’t expecting a YA feel POV in this story… There is no doubt it’s a fascinating story, but I wasn’t as blown away with it as I thought I would. Mixed feelings and a very difficult review to write.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m trying to get my pile of NG ARCs below 10, so I have another one coming up soon… The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson, a story with a gorgeous cover and one I’ve been looking forward to for months.  I also want to read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Woman In The Window by A.J. Finn as my next backlist titles. My new TBR jar pick is still Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.


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