Tag Archives: Rusty Young

Book Review: Colombiano by Rusty Young (4/5)

27 Jan

It’s been a while since I took on review copies and here I am with two within two months! After I read Eastbound from Flagstaff, I was going to take a break from review copies but when I was told I could have the audiobook for Colombiano, I was sold. Audiobooks are my weakness and I decided to take on the daunting length of this story if I could listen to the whole thing.

Cover image via Goodreads

Colombiano by Rusty Young

Summary from Goodreads:

All Pedro Gutiérrez cares about is fishing, playing pool and his girlfriend Camila’s promise to sleep with him on his sixteenth birthday. But his life is ripped apart when Guerrilla soldiers callously execute his father in front of him, and he and his mother are banished from their farm.

Swearing vengeance against the five men responsible, Pedro, with his best friend Palillo, joins an illegal Paramilitary group, where he is trained to fight, kill and crush any sign of weakness.

But as he descends into a world of unspeakable violence, Pedro must decide how far he is willing to go. Can he stop himself before he becomes just as ruthless as those he is hunting? Or will his dark obsession cost him all he loves?

I wasn’t ready for the deep emotional cuts this book would give me. I hear about the war on drugs and what cocaine does to a country and the people in the trade but it was all brought home in this book. I guess I’d thought that a big industry like cocaine in Colombia would somehow be centered around the big cities but I was shocked at how it affected farmers and people in rural areas. The way Pedro’s story unfolded told the story of the drug trade and how it has corrupted a country and made daily life dangerous in ways I couldn’t imagine. I could tell Young was trying to tell me about the effects of child soldiers and political instability but giving Pedro a starring role in the story and making his family come alive made the story vivid and wonderful.

Unfortunately, the characters were very believable. I say that because it’s horrible to think that a 15-year-old boy could be telling me about his life as a soldier and how he killed men, but I bought every word of it. The life he describes at the beginning is so ‘normal’ and typical of a teenager, but when his father is killed, everything changes. All the people around Pedro were believable, too. I could see how they’d react to him and the situations he was in. I could feel their fear. The length of the book gave Young time to flush out most of the side characters so that I felt like I knew them well by the end.

Pedro himself was my favorite character. I’d get attached to side characters from time to time, but I felt they always let me know in some way. Pedro was consistent and steady. I didn’t always agree with his decisions or means, but I liked him and I wanted good things to happen to him. He was a good character to follow through the craziness that happened during the story. I think we saw a lot of different aspects of how problems in Colombia formed and continue. It didn’t seem contrived to have all of it come from Pedro. He was observant and wasn’t afraid to get involved in things.

Parts of Pedro’s story were relatable and I think that’s what made it so impactful. I can imagine wanting revenge on someone who hurt my family. I can’t imagine killing the way Pedro does. I remember falling in love young (I met my husband at 14) so his story with Camilla was relatable, but I can’t imagine keeping secrets from my spouse like the ones Pedro has to keep. It was small things like this that connected me to Pedro and made his story even more heartbreaking for me.

Rusty Young
Image via HuffPost Australia

Maybe it’s a recency bias, but I enjoyed the ending of the book when Pedro was living back in Llorona best. He was more in control at that point and his decisions had huge consequences. I felt like he was operating with training wheels on for a lot of the book and I was interested to see what he’d do when he had more control. He didn’t have to sneak bullets out anymore, he was the person rationing them.

The graphic descriptions really got to me. I don’t do well with graphic violence and gore. So certain scenes (that I won’t describe because thinking of them is making me queasy) were a bit much for me to stomach. I had one of those scenes come up while I was running and that was a horrible combination. It was effective, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t like it. The details showed how violent Pedro’s life was. It also reinforced that I probably shouldn’t join a paramilitary.

My audiobook was narrated by Brian Ramos and I thought he was amazing. He added great voices for the characters, Pallilo in particular. I’m glad they chose a narrator who could speak Spanish as well. I’m not a native speaker, but I’m fluent enough that I can tell when a narrator doesn’t really understand the Spanish they’re speaking and it was clear Ramos knew what he was doing. He was able to keep me entertained for the entire novel which is no small feat with this daunting length.

My major takeaways from this book were about Colombia and the major issues the country is facing. I didn’t get a lot about the characters because I think the country is the major character for the story. Yes, Colombia has a lot of problems. And they’re all connected. There is no quick way to fix any of them without fixing all of them at once. The story taught me a lot about how things can go so wrong so quickly. Many of the people affected by the violence weren’t involved with the causes of violence at all before they became the focus of it. This forced me to see that there’s a lot of work to do everywhere and none of it has an easy solution.

Writer’s Takeaway: Rusty seemed to have something to say about Colombia that could easily have been a non-fiction book. But by giving us Pedro and a fictional character to root for, he made these issues more personable and helped me connect to the material on a much deeper level than I would have otherwise. While the truth may be stranger than fiction, fiction can be more engaging.

I enjoyed the book and story though it seemed a little long-winded. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Post:
Colombiano – Rusty Young | crazybookladyreviews

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WWW Wednesday, 22-January-2020

22 Jan

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: Not much with Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley. This will be here for a while and I’m OK with that, I’ve just got to keep moving forward with it.
I wrapped up the next segment of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett for my Buddy Read. It’s really hard not to put through to the end but I’m determined to make it!
I finally started Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner as an audiobook. I had a long drive for a swim meet this weekend and was glad to have a long book to keep me company for the two-hour drive (each way!).
I also started The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 by J.B. Morrison. I’m still early on but I think that it will be a quick read so far. I hope so because I’ve got a lot of other books I want to read!

Recently finished: It feels like forever, but I’ve finally finished Colombiano by Rusty Young. This one was exhausting. Young wanted to give his readers an idea of the lives of child soldiers in Colombia and I’d say he did that and then some. Pedro’s story is tragic and engrossing at the same time. It was quite a haul to get through it, but this book was worth it. Four out of Five Stars.

I posted two reviews this week! I think I’m finally caught up from November when I didn’t review anything. I hated being that far behind. I posted a review of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee on Monday. I absolutely loved this book and I can’t recommend it highly enough to everyone. A full Five out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed American by Day by Derek B. Miller. This was really powerful in the wake of recent American racial violence and I’m glad Miller offered a foreigner’s perspective because I felt it was powerful. Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: The Running Man by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King) came in at the library so I hope to start that as soon as I finish Frank Derrick. It will be quite a different pace but I look forward to it.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 15-January-2020

15 Jan

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: This was a slow week for Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley. I kept having people join me at lunch even though I eat really early. It’s not a bad sign, right? But maybe I need to find someone else to eat and read if I want to get through an ebook in a reasonable amount of time.
I’m onto the next segment of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. My buddy reader and I had a great discussion last week and I’m excited to go even further with these characters. The hard part is going to be stopping when I’m so close to the end!
I’ve reached the halfway mark in Colombiano by Rusty Young. This book is quite the epic and while I know a normal-length book would be over by now, I feel like this one is still ramping up. I’m not sure how this can end because there is so much that needs to be tied up before I feel I can leave Pedro and not be worried about him.

Recently finished: I sped through American by Day by Derek B. Miller. We had some bad weather here in the Midwest so I was happy to stay indoors with some tea and finish this. I had a few hard swims over the weekend that made me ready to fall asleep in my favorite nap chair while reading and this book was just perfect for that. I really enjoy Miller and what he can do with a story. I hope to read more from him soon.

I did finish a review of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. I enjoyed the story enough, but it didn’t really work for me as a novel. I ended up giving it Three out of Five Stars. I’ll have to try another Sepetys book because I adored the first one of hers that I read and I do love historical fiction.

Reading Next: I’ll keep planning on Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner as an audiobook. Eventually.
I haven’t received my copy of The Running Man by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King) through ILL yet. I’m a bit nervous about it coming in now because I’m not sure I’ll have to get to it.
My book club met on Monday and our next book is The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 by J.B. Morrison. I know absolutely nothing about this book and I’ve never heard of the author so who knows how this one will turn out. I think I’ll have to do this one in print, too.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 8-January-2020

8 Jan

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m moving forward steadily with Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley but no major jumps. I like having one book on the craft of writing going so I’ll keep pushing forward with this one to keep me motivated to write and submit.
My buddy-reader and I are having dinner tonight to talk about the next chunk of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. I’m excited to move forward with this one again, I’m really enjoying it and it’s killing me to keep stopping before I find out what’s happened.
I’ve made better progress with Colombiano by Rusty Young than I thought I would. This is a long one to be sure and it will stay on this list for a long time. It’s given me goosebumps a few times already but I like where it’s going and I think Young has created a great character with Pedro.
I ran around the library on Saturday looking for my next book and finally decided on American by Day by Derek B. Miller. I adored Norwegian by Night and I’m excited to revisit Sigrid for a new adventure. I’m hoping to speed through this one as I’m excited for some book club selections and interlibrary loans!

Recently finished: I just adored Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I kept staying up late and ignoring responsibilities and social obligations to read this wonderful novel. I’m so glad I got to hear Lee speak last year because having her conversation in my head when I was reading this was incredible and I wish I could hear her speak again because I would get more out of the conversation. Five out of Five Stars, a great way to start 2020!

Reading Next: I’m still planning on Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner for an audiobook but it might be a while until I get there.
I put in an interlibrary loan request for The Running Man by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King). This was recommended to me years ago and I’ve put it off because it needed an ILL but I’m still working to catch up on my reading list and this will be a great next step.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 1-January-2020 (Happy New Year!)

1 Jan

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: A lot of unusual lunches last week so I’m still making slow progress with Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley. I’ll be fine taking this one through the new year.
I’m still in love with Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I’m picking it up every second I get because I’m just adoring every second of it. I didn’t know it was possible to make a 600-page book move so fast but wow. I’m really in awe.
Nothing further with my buddy read of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett yet. We’re meeting next week to talk so more to come soon.
I had yet another change of plans for my audiobook. I was offered a free audiobook for review of Colombiano by Rusty Young and downloaded it to my phone, figuring I’d get to it eventually. I didn’t realize how long the book was. At almost 700 pages, the file size is slowing down my phone! I’m deleting the files as I go (there are 164) to hopefully give my phone some more battery life.

Recently finished: I flew through Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys which was welcome with so many other long books on the go. I liked my first Sepetys book first but this was still enjoyable. It will be a while before I get to a review just because I’m so backlogged but I look forward to putting more thought into how this book made me feel.

A few book reviews to round out the year! On Monday I reviewed The Maximum Security Book Club by Mikita Brottman. I enjoyed the book a lot and appreciated Brottman’s focus on the men instead of the books. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I absolutely adored this book. Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for something I would enjoy that much. I was just looking to fulfill a time period for my reading challenge. This was a welcome surprise and I gave it a full Five out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: It almost seems silly, but I’m going to keep saying I plan to listen to Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner next. I’m in the middle of so many books right now that it almost feels like bad luck to guess what I’ll finish first but I always seem to move quickly on audio so I’ll put my bets here.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!