Reviews

Each Of Us A Desert, by Mark Oshiro

ofliterarynature's review against another edition

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3.0

Every title blurb/summary I’ve read for this book is different and also describes a book very different from the one I actually read.

Beautifully and poetically written, but overall pretty boring. 1/5 stars on any effort actually being put into developing the “romance”.

novelinsights's review against another edition

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4.0

See my video review here: https://youtu.be/hYFTKHQYWcM

This was a really unique and enjoyable fantasy story about a cuentista, which is someone who takes people's stories (essentially, their confessions of wrongdoings) and returns them Solis, the sun (who is the god of their religion). The world-building in this novel is great, and I loved the twists that came over the course of our protagonist's journey as she learned more about the world outside her home city.

One thing that particularly made this book stand out was the way that the narration seamlessly combined English and Spanish. It was very obvious that the author is bilingual, and while I don't have the pleasure of fluently speaking more than one language at present, I can imagine this is a good representation of how a bilingual person would think. Now, I know the idea of reading a book with a lot of Spanish in it might seem daunting to someone who doesn't know Spanish, but I urge you to give this book a try anyway. I did take three years of Spanish in high school, but I haven't really used that knowledge in 10 years, so my recall of it is quite limited, and a lot of the words and phrases I figured out to a passable degree using context clues alone (this, of course, from the same person who read the entirety of A Clockwork Orange without realizing there was actually a glossary of slang terms in the back). I would also encourage Spanish teachers to consider making this book available in their classrooms; it would be a good novel for someone who wants to try reading some Spanish but isn't yet ready for a full translation.

I only had a few minor complaints with this book; mostly stuff that I'd file under personal preference. One was that this is largely a travel book; the characters spend most of their time walking from one place to another. Toward the beginning of the book, when the protagonist was still in her home city, I felt very pulled in, and there was one scene where I was so anxious about what was happening I groaned and got a funny look from my partner. If the book were written all in scenes like this, I probably would have given it five stars, but unfortunately, there are a lot of stretches of summary/description of the journey, which is something I struggle to really get into that much. I also didn't feel as invested in the romance as I had hoped to; though we get the love interest's entire backstory, I never really felt that attached to her as a character, and I didn't see a lot of chemistry between her and the protagonist on the page. I would have liked to have gotten more scenes of interaction between them that showed their attraction to one another, rather than just being told about it.

That said, I am excited to read Mark Oshiro's other book and more by them in the future.

nonsensicaljourney's review against another edition

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4.0

This book is all at once unique and contemplative. It tracks the story of Xochitl, a cuentista who has the power and duty to absorb anyone's story in a process akin to Catholic confession and "give it back" to Solis, the sun god. It's set in either a dystopian future or a sci fi world, in which everything was destroyed by the sun and the world is a desert. It's written as one big story told to the sun god. It deals with people's "stories" and how they are told and kept safe. It's full of well-used "they/their" pronouns, and it treats queer relationships as normal and doesn't even question their queerness. On top of all this, the story is told about half in Spanish (which I don't understand), but once you got over the initial hurdle of understanding, they were integrated extremely well into the story and added to the authenticity of the world it was based in.

The plot was a very slow build, and I enjoyed it, but it wasn't all-consuming. I knew that each time I picked up the book, every bit I read would have some kind of slow character development at the very least. Xochitl was a good character, but not overly compelling. What compelled me the most about her character was her relationship with Emilia, which I absolutely loved. I also didn't see the very final resolution coming, but I was very happy with the way the author resolved the plot relating to all the stories coming alive and haunting the characters in the desert.

This book is very dark at times, and not a light read at all, but it's a book about freedom, love, religion and stories. It's about finding yourself and coming to peace with who you are and what your journey has been up until now. It is about the journey, not the destination. Oshiro executes their vision of this book very well. It's not for everyone, but many of the aspects should be highly commended. I hope this book becomes a classic in its genre.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Teen for providing me with a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

sydtherandomkid's review against another edition

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5.0

this book somehow feels like it was written for me. every aspect of this book i enjoyed so thoroughly; the stories, the settings, the poems, the characters, the romance, the themes, etc. the writing was so rich and meaningful. all of it fulfilled me so deeply and this carried everything i would want in a book. this was beautiful ❤️

wildflowerz76's review against another edition

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DNF. Not for me.

rhiannatherad's review against another edition

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5.0

I'm not usually someone who "sees" what they're reading so much as I just feel it, but when they get to the "truth" during their journey... I don't think I've ever seen anything I've read so vividly. Wow!

book_geek15's review against another edition

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Dnf at 50%. I kept waiting for this book to really hook me but I never felt completely invested in the main character/story.

lizmart88's review against another edition

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4.0

I love when you pick up a book and discover it's magical realism when you start reading it. If you like magical realism, pick this one up!

kmanos's review

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adventurous challenging emotional reflective slow-paced

3.5

ejpass's review against another edition

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4.0

4/5 stars
Recommended for people who like:
fantasy, story-telling, journeys, unique narration styles, LGBTQ characters, enemies-to-lovers

This book tells the story of la cuentista, Xochitl, who relieves others of their burdens by taking their stories and returning them to the earth (technically, Solis, but whatever). It's such a fascinating concept, particularly with the post-apocalyptic fantasy setting Oshiro wrote it in. For the most part, it lives up to that promise.

In terms of something I wasn't too fond of, I feel like the bit with Solado was 1) rushed and 2) not foreshadowed nearly enough. It was a pretty big reveal and obviously there was some foreshadowing going on there, but I still feel like it kind of came out of left field and barely lasted 10 pages. It's an interesting way to tell a story, with the climax being quick enough that the story really revolves around the to-and-from the climactic moment/location, but I would've liked something more in Solado. That being said, there was one foreshadowed moment that was a bit too obvious, but I'll let readers decide for themselves how they feel about that, since I was rolling my eyes at Xochitl not figuring it out until she did and, frankly, I actually think it worked despite the obviousness of it.

Also, Julio is set up to be the main villain with his supuestos and he is just really...not. Having read the entire book I understand why things happened the way they did, but while I was reading I got to a certain part and was kind of like 'well what happens now?'. I was only about 30% of the way through at that point and a certain sequence of events left me wondering what was left to tell. So, if you're reading this before reading the book, I'd advise to perhaps be aware this story is very much a self vs self/internal conflict sort of a book rather than one that focuses on self vs other/external conflict.

I also wish we got to know/see more about the world Xochitl and Emilia are in, but I also get that, for the story to work, we really can't. Something that makes this book so fascinating is that it is largely about the journey and realizations that the characters, mostly Xochitl, have and what they decide to do about it. It's a story about the stories and truths and lies we tell ourselves and each other and how they can become so tangled and ingrained that we stop questioning them. It's a fantastically tangled web and I love it. While it is a bit rocky at first, once you get into it it's easy to get caught up in Xochitl and the stories people tell her and the various myths people have about la cuentista and Solis.

The narrative structure is rather unique as well. It's told from 2nd POV, with Xochitl narrating as she tells the story to Solis. It's not particularly a format you see all that much and, of the one other story I remember being really genuinely 2nd POV, it is easy to do very very badly (I cannot for the life of me remember the book it was, but W O W it turned me off of 2nd POV narration). Oshiro does it well, though, and it's a unique method of storytelling that doesn't get overwhelming and, considering the theme and plot of the book, it works well for Each of Us a Desert. The story is also circular, in a way, which I liked but won't say too much about to avoid spoilers.

Onto the characters: Xochitl is an interesting character, naturally. In the beginning of the story, she's stuck in a relatively dead-end town where she's pretty much solely talked to by people who want her to relieve their burdens by taking their stories. Xochitl, on the other hand, does not feel burden-free from taking these stories and sees it, rather, as a burden that was thrust upon her but which she must perform to save her people. Things always get complex when you mix resentment with responsibility for other lives. Add in Julio and that was a spark just waiting to burst. Xochitl wants so much to be seen and wants to be able to choose her own path and, though the start to her journey doesn't begin that well, she is able to go on that journey and grow a lot as a character.

Emilia is really the other character we get to see the most of, and while it's harder to judge how much she changes over the course of the book, she certainly seems different at the end than she did at the beginning of the journey. Poor Emilia has been through a lot in a different way than Xochitl has been, but she, too, just wants to be free and feel seen. From a girl who feels helpless to stop her father from hurting aldeas and her she transforms into someone who can survive and lead people through the desert toward hope and peace, however and wherever they find that.

Overall, I feel like Each of Us a Desert is a good book and I enjoyed it. The narrative structure was unique without being overwhelming and fit very well with the themes and plots of the story. I liked the characters and, though it was hard to get a feel for the world at first, I did enjoy the bits we got to learn about it throughout the book. I do prefer books with a little more action to them typically, even if it's relatively minor, and felt the climax was too sudden and quick, but I don't think those things detract too much from the story since the characters, plot, and events were interesting and enjoyable.