Book Time Travel

Let’s travel back in time and see which books I was reading during the month of February of the past three years. Where they amazing? Or not very memorable?

So, grab your preferred time traveling device (time turner, phone box, car, etc) and let’s go!

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 19.47.47.png2017 — Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I was very fortunate to join a book club while I was living in Mexico and this was the second book we read after I joined. Homegoing is an epic family story of two women and their progeny through decades, during the time that people were taken from villages in Ghana as slaves, to their journey to the United States, and the following generations as they lived free, but still chained by their history (or lack thereof). This was my favorite book of 2017 and I still find myself thinking about it from time to time. If you’d like you can read my full review over at Goodreads.

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2016 — The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

In 2016 I was doing a doctoral stay at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and I was also checking out many books from the library. This was the first book I read by Patrick Ness (followed last year by More Than This), and it was pretty good. Reading back on my Goodreads review it seems like I really liked it at the time but it wasn’t super memorable because I don’t remember much now. What I do remember is that it was a fast read and that it wasn’t like other YA books that I’d read so far.
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2015 –La Casa de los Espíritus by Isabel Allende

Even though I read this book three years ago I still vividly remember many of the images and feelings that it evoked for me. I don’t even need to go back to my Goodreads review (Warning, it’s in Spanish!)! It was the first book in Spanish that I read in a long time and my first book by Isabel Allende. I fell in love with her writing and the magical realism that is ever present in the book. The characters were rich and magical, some good and inspiring, others evil and yet super interesting. I haven’t read more of her works but now I really want to revisit Allende’s writing.


So that’s it! Back to the present!

I’ll probably do these once a month and hopefully it’ll inspire me to read some of the other unread books in my shelves by the same authors or of the same genre.

Have you read any of these books? What were you reading in February of last year?

February TBR

Hi everyone!

February is here, I’ve drawn two new books from my TBR jar and I’ve picked two other books from my bookshelves for this month. There are some new subjects for me as well as some old favorites.

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Let’s start with the TBR jar, I drew two and I think my TBR jar knows that it’s supposed to be Black History month!

The first book to come out was Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man by Vincent Carreta. This is a nonfiction book that looks at Olaudah Equiano’s journey as he buys his freedom from slavery and ends up becoming a writer and one of the most influential African man in in the 1700s. I’m looking forward to learning about slavery in a context that isn’t US-centric.

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The next book that I picked from the jar was An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. This book is very exciting for me because it is a science fiction novel written by a person of color! I really enjoy science fiction but usually I find that I can’t connect with the characters because I don’t identify with them in their culture or ways of thinking. In this case this novel promises to be a new perspective in the science fiction genre that will hopefully allow more people to connect with this genre.

 

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The next book is another science fiction book that I’ve been wanting to read because it features four women scientists who go on an expedition to figure out if the world is finally safe for the human population after Nature basically took over. The book is called Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer and it is the first installment of The Southern Reach trilogy. The exciting news is that there’s a movie adaptation coming out on the 23rd of February of this year. So I’ll be able to do a Book vs Movie post on it! The book promises to be scary and beautiful and simply exciting! Watch the trailer here.

img_20180204_104742410.jpgThe final book I’ll be reading this month is actually a re-read! I loved this book when I read it a few years ago and I’m looking forward to reading it again. I’ll be reading and watching Ready Player One by Ernest Cline as part of the Book vs Movie series. This book has been making the rounds for a while and it’s a favorite for many since it’s full of 80s pop culture, video games, virtual reality, and really unique characters. What I fear is that the movie has not taken care of these characters and has pursued a plot full of the usual characters and expected storyline. I really hope I’m wrong, but the trailers haven’t given me much to hope for…  You can see for yourself here.

So that’s the plan for February! What are you reading this month? Do you like to read or reread books before their movie (or TV) adaptations come out?

Book Review — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

“It was a house that turned from the world and cast its gaze inward, a house whose women believed the very walls listened for sin, a house where we whispered the truth or didn’t speak at all” — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik.

Jasmin Darznik is an author who tells us the story of Forugh Farrokhzad, a woman who lived from 1934 to 1967 in Iran, a place where women didn’t have the freedom to pursue a life outside of marriage and who had to comply to what their culture and society deemed right. Forugh’s life was hard from the beginning as she grew up in a very strict household and which only got harder as she began to discover her love of writing. Forugh was a poet who expressed feelings that women had about their sexuality, their feelings, and their way of life. She broke barriers and eventually became a filmmaker who mixed her poetry with film and created a powerful message about people who had been cast aside without a second thought.

Darznik manages to tell us Forugh’s story through this novel that, although it is not 100% faithful to truth, it does tell us what it would have been like to feel what Forugh went through. This story then lets the reader into the world of women in Iran, from Forugh’s youth, to her untimely death.

The writing is beautiful:

“We were driven by forces we didn’t understand, moving toward a destination we couldn’t see”

There are so many messages to inspire, to make one think about our own society, about our own beliefs:

“The Golshiri men were learned aristocrats who spent their days in leisurely contemplation, but it was his mother, a woman unable to write even her name, who’d shaped his education”

Then there’s also the importance of telling our own stories, because our own stories can inspire others to break barriers and inspiring others in turn:

“And yet I’d never heard of a woman surviving away from her family, without a father or husband to protect her. It wasn’t just beyond hoping; it was beyond imagining.”

How important is it to view yourself in the stories you read? Do you identify with the main characters in your favorite books? Is your story told within the pages of books?

Forugh’s story inspires me to tell my story, to inspire others, and to become at least a bit like Forugh by standing up for what I believe in, and not allowing people’s expectations to keep me from doing what I love.

Needless to say, Jasmin Darznik touched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined through Forugh’s life story. I hope to read more of Darznik’s writing and also to read Forugh’s own poetry and watch her film to see what she saw, if only for a few minutes.

 

January Book Bites

Hello everyone!

At the end of each month, I will update you on a few things, which books I read, the ratings for each, link to their reviews (if any), updates on challenges, prominent themes, and the best bites (quotations) for the month. Let’s take a look!

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The month started with a book from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series: Mort. It was a great way to start the month since it’s always fun to read Terry’s work. However, it also became a bit emotional since I kept remembering that Terry is no longer with us…

Mort takes us on an adventure with the anthropomorphic representation of Death and his brand new apprentice, Mort. I simply loved this installment and look forward to reading more of Death & company’s adventures

  • Favorite bite:

“‘WHAT IS IT CALLED WHEN YOU FEEL WARM AND CONTENT AND WISH THINGS WOULD STAY THAT WAY?’
‘I guess you’d call it happiness’ said Harga.” –Mort by Terry Pratchett

  • Perspective rating: 8/10 We get an amazing perspective of life from Death’s point of view. It certainly paints life in a new light!
  • Emotional rating: 8/10 I personally felt close to this book because of Terry and his death not too long ago. The isolation that Death feels also got to me…
  • Bites rating: 7/10 Although it has some really good quotations, I didn’t find myself annotating it all over the place.
  • Overall rating: 7.66/10 A great book overall and a good starting point in the Death books in the Discworld series.

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Then I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, which was a great book, with excellent writing and a very unique perspective I had not encountered before. We get inside the mind of a patient in a mental hospital in the 1960s as he is under various treatments (drugs, electroshock, etc). You can read more about the book and my comparison to the movie here.

This was the first book I read from my TBR jar and I was very happy with this selection!

  • Favorite bite:

    “All I know is this: nobody’s very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down” — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

  • Perspective rating: 9/10 The perspective from a person with mental health issues is priceless. It’s incredibly well written, which makes the experience that much more immersive.
  • Emotional rating: 6/10 I didn’t become too emotionally invested in the story or the characters, but it was heartbreaking to see what did happen to patients back in the 60s that ended up in mental hospitals with no proper regulations.
  • Bites rating: 8/10 I annotated quite a bit and there were quite a few quotations that left me thinking for a while…
  • Overall rating: 7.66/10 Another excellent book that could have used a bit more emotional connection with the rest of the characters and the overall story. Either way, a great book.

IMG_20180131_182300284The third book I read was Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich (you can read a full review here) and it was simply amazing! This was the first book for the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge to read a book by a Native American author. This book tells the story of five women who have been married to the same man. These women meet at a crucial point in their lives and start to tell their stories surrounding their husband.

  • Favorite Bite:

“It was like that now, in the space around us — the emotional messages flew so thick and fast I couldn’t read them as the whizzed by and my brain felt pricked, torn by the hooks of question marks and darts of commas.” — Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich

  • Perspective rating: 10/10 One of the main points of this novel is perspective, how do different people see one person and their role in their lives? Who is that person if not the accumulation of the perspectives of everyone who knows them? It’s one that definitely leaves you thinking.
  • Emotional rating: 9/10 This novel takes you on a roller coaster of emotions, from despair, broken hearts, love, passion, lust, and hate. However, it remains impersonal so that the perspective changes aren’t too jarring so that takes the one point away from this rating.
  • Bites rating: 10/10 I’ve written, highlighted, and even drawn on some of the pages in this book! It’s got bites that I can go back to and savor that part of the novel in an instant. Delightful!
  • Overall rating: 9.66/10 Erdrich easily became a new favorite! This book is just the beginning in my journey through her novels and I can’t wait to explore more!

January 22, 2018 at 01:17AM.jpgSong of a Captive Bird by Jazmin Darznik was the fourth book I finished this month and wow! Darznik tells the story of Forugh Farrokhzad, a poet from Iran who became an inspiration for generations to come as she broke barriers set by her society, at the same time as Ken Kesey’s patients were trying to overcome the Big Nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (talk about perspective!). This was the second book I read for the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge and the full review is here.

  • Favorite Bite:

“‘More words to sharpen your tongue and keep away any husband who’d have you!’ [Forugh’s mother said].
She was right in her way, because it was my preference for books and for the world inside my head that left me so incapable of accepting the usual and the ordinary.” — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

  • Perspective rating: 10/10 Yes! Another perfect perspective rating because Forugh’s life sheds light on a perspective I never imagined that I could know about the life of a woman in Iran as she breaks stereotypes and becomes a successful poet and filmmaker. Not only that but a woman who goes through hardship like nothing I could ever imagine (mental hospital, jail, divorce, affairs, etc).
  • Emotional rating: 10/10 I connected with the main character in ways I can’t even explain, her fears were mine, her worries were mine, the hopes and dreams were my own. I hoped the best for her and, even though she dies young, I was happy that her legacy is strong and lives with many women in Iran and all over the world.
  • Bites rating: 10/10 I was only disappointed that the copy I have is in kindle format so I couldn’t actually highlight and draw hearts and tears all over the margins. (I acquired this copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review). I will definitely be buying it so I can reread it and properly annotate it once it comes out!
  • Overall rating: 10/10! Perfect score for a perfect book in my opinion. I loved everything about this book and I can’t wait to read the final version.

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The last book I read was The Attack by Yasmina Khadra, which was set in Tel Aviv and tells the story of a renowned surgeon whose life gets turned upside down when his wife dies at a suicide bombing attack. The most shocking thing for him is that his wife is the one blamed for being the suicide bomber and so we take the journey with him as he goes to figure out if his wife did commit such an atrocity, or if his wife is just another victim of the attack. A difficult book to read but one that gave me plenty to think about so it is valuable in that sense. This was the third and final book for the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge.

Favorite Bite:

“‘One should always look at the sea. It’s a mirror that can’t lie. Among other things, looking at it has taught me to stop looking behind me. Before, every time I looked over my shoulder, I found my old sorrows and my old ghosts, still intact. They were preventing me from regaining my taste for living. Do you understand what I mean? They were spoiling my chances of rising from my ashes'” — The Attack by Yasmina Khadra

Perspective rating: 7/10 While the perspective was very unique, I felt like it was unfair that we din’t get to hear straight from the woman who is the one who is at the center of this story. We got to hear from every man around her, how she affected their lives, but nothing from her at all. I wish we could have heard this story from her own point of view.

Emotional rating: 8/10 While emotions ran high while I read this book, it wasn’t in a good way, I found myself stressed and anxious. So, it is effective in what it is set out to do, to put the reader in a most difficult perspective with many moral questions and introspective meanderings.

Bites rating: 6/10 The thing that I wished with this book was that it was better translated. This book is translated from French and sometimes the language seems forced in order to make it seem more adorned than it needs to be. At times we end up with beautiful language, but that’s at moments when simplicity would have worked best.

Overall rating: 7/10 A good book that could have benefited from a better translation, will probably not look for more books in this subject for a while though…

What a month! An emotional roller coaster through mental hospitals and war torn countries as I followed strong women and men in search of happiness and just a bit of hope.

There is one more book that I drew from my TBR and I Did Not Finish it… After The Attack I just couldn’t handle Sanctuary by William Faulkner, a story about a kidnapping and rape of a woman. The language was violent and quite gross so I decided that I will draw two new books for next month and I’ll put back Sanctuary for another month.

I read 5 books from my TBR and I only bought one new book so now I only have 103 books left to read! XD

How was your reading month? Have you read any of the books listed here? What was your favorite read this month?

 

Book Review — Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich

“My prayer is a tale of burning love”–Sister Leopolda

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I’ve finished Tales of Burning Love, as part of the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge, and it was an excellent read! This book has plenty of layers, perspectives, and delightful bites.

Tales of Burning love is the fourth installment of Louise Erdrich‘s “multi-generational epic on the long-lasting effects of colonialism on Ojibwe peoples and communities”, as stated on Goodreads.

The plot of the book is centered around Jack Mauser and his wives. We start the novel with Jack and his first wife, June Morrisey, a relationship that lasts only a day and ends with June’s death. The novel then jumps to a few decades later when Jack is now newly married to Dot Nanapush, his accountant, who has no idea that he has been married before. As the novel goes on we meet Eleanor Schlick, Jack’s second wife, a literature professor and writer, Jack’s third wife Candace Pantamounty, a dentist, and Jack’s fourth wife Marlis Cook, a cunning woman who Jack didn’t quite like at the beginning and for good reasons. The novel jumps back and forth between his wives and what they are doing in the present, and Jack’s life with his new wife. However, the climax of this novel comes when all four wives end up trapped in a snowstorm and are forced to keep each other awake so as to stay alive. In this way we get their points of view on Jack, how they met him, and what kind of a man he was to them.

It’s incredibly interesting how Erdrich manages to have an omniscient narrator and have each character also as an independent narrator as each tells their own story. The personalities of each character really shine through in Erdrich’s writing. For example:

“All I had to do was make myself available because I knew from his look, from his approach, from the way he had walked toward me down the aisle of glass, that he could be interested in me. I knew.” –Eleanor Schlick

“I developed hopes from this. We might bond on the trip. He might fall in love with me for real and ever. I’d melt him, warm him, fill him with cheese sandwiches and heat him up with thermos coffee” — Candice Pantamounty

Jack Mauser is described by each of the women in particular ways, and this made me think of how each of us is seen differently by every person that we meet or know. The perspective of us from each member of our family is different, not to mention the perspectives of the people that we have other meaningful relationships with. Each person sees us in different time frames, in our childhood, as we grow into adolescence and into adulthood. I am so curious as to how different people in my life see me, as well as how the one perspective I have on the people I know is different from others. It’s just mind-blowing!

The title of the book, Tales of Burning Love, is echoed throughout the book with the language that Erdrich uses. She often gives us the imagery of fire or heat, both literal and figurative. There are many instances where the characters are saved or doomed by fire, just as they are by love and desire. The idea that love is fire, it can warm you and protect you, save you, but also burn you and even kill you, is thoroughly explored in this book. In that sense, it is not just romantic love, there’s also the idea of familial love that can be a safety net or a dangerous fire one must keep at bay. She says:

“Love — which the young expect, the middle-aged fear or wrestle with or find unbearable or clutch to death — those content in their age, finally, cherish with pained gratitude”

Although this book talks about love and relationships, I’m not sure that “romantic” would be the best way to describe it. The characters are driven by this love, but it’s not sweet or nice most times, it is driven by lust, by power, by money, and by revenge. Love is complex and dynamic, and this novel explores this theme with beautiful writing and complex characters.

There are a few other themes throughout the book, such as religion and spirituality, gender equality, sexuality, the opportunities that Native American people have in this country, their rights and their culture. If you are interested in any of these topics do read this book because it will give you a very unique point of view.

I leave you with my favorite image from this book, one that I wish I could transport myself to every time I read:

“One night, in a moon drift, the late August air billowing and succulent, in the lush scents of turned dirt and growing plants and ancient skunk musk and the sweet pink rugosa roses, the screen door unlatched, Eleanor read in a pool of lamplight by the citronella candle.”

Final rating: 5/5 stars

Book vs Movie — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Hello everyone!

As you are probably aware, there are many books that have been turned into movies, and, there are probably many more movies that were inspired by books. In this post I’ll be putting a book and its film adaptation head to head to see which one I liked best!

The second book that I read this year was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and it was a really interesting book that gave me a completely unique perspective to life in a mental hospital in the 1960s.

I was curious about Ken Kesey, how could he write such vivid descriptions of what it means to be constantly drugged in the ward and at the same time tell us about the narrator’s background?

“I know how they work it, the fog machine.” –Chief Bromden

In this sentence we think that our narrator is crazy, he thinks that they fill the ward with actual fog from machines, how delusional! Right? Not quite, he’s seen actual fog machines at work during the war, where they filled the fields with fog so that the enemy couldn’t find them.

“You were safe from the enemy, but you were awfully alone” — Chief Bromden

In this passage I was impressed with Kesey’s ability to give the reader that doubt of what exactly Chief Bromden was talking about. There are many more passages where things are not as clear, some filled with memories and others mixed with hallucinations and images brought on by the medications that the Chief is given throughout the day.

Ken Kesey was an author who volunteered to take drugs such as LSD, cocaine, among others, for a CIA project called MKUltra, which sought to find drugs that could be used for interrogation purposes as well as torture. Kesey would then write about the experience for that project, so it is no wonder that the descriptions in this book are what they are, full of vivid descriptions, not just visual but also tactile and auditory.

Before watching the movie I wanted to jot down how I imagined the characters, specifically Randle Patrick McMurphy who is described as:

“…redheaded with long red sideburns and a tangle of curls our from under his cap…tall…broad across the jaw and shoulders and chest, a broad white devilish grin…”
–Chief Bromden

So, this is exactly who I imagine:

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Mad Sweeney = RP McMurphy!

McMurphy is this tough guy who comes into the ward to save all the crazy men from this institution. He’s careless and simply wants the men to be just like him, no matter who they are. He’s the only one who talks to Chief Bromden and expects to hear his side of the  story, which no one has done before apparently. McMurphy treats the men as any other man out in the world and therefore gives them courage and power that they’ve lacked while under the “care” of Nurse Ratched.

Nurse Ratched, the woman in charge of the ward and who has a strict set of rules that all patients must abide by is described as:

“Smooth, calculated, precision-made, like an expensive baby doll, skin like flesh-colored enamel, blend of white and cream and baby-blue eyes, small nose, pink little nostrils — everything working together except the color on her lips and fingernails, and the size of her bosom” — Chief Bromden

I honestly imagined her like this, except in white:

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Nurse Ratched = Dolores Umbridge!

Nurse Ratched is supposed to be a tyrant, someone who doesn’t care about her patients and only cares about controlling them and bending them to her will. And, from Chief Bromden’s point of view she seems even scarier, with arms that are much longer than normal, eyes that see everything, and buttons that control all the patients. ::shudders::

The novel in general has a very heavy mood, at times it was like wading through molasses, so I had to push myself to keep reading until I got to another part where our narrator wasn’t so heavily drugged.

As for the movie, Miloš Forman won an Academy Award for Best Director for his work in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Additionally, this film won all 5 major categories in the 48th Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Leading Actress (Louise Fletcher), and Best Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman). So needless to say, I knew that this movie would be pretty good.

The first main difference comes from the point of view. In the novel we see everything from Chief Bromden’s perspective, but in the film we don’t have this filter, we get to see things as they are and that takes away one of the layers of the novel. This change in perspective works for the film because it makes it much more accessible, even if it does remove that uncertainty of what is real and what isn’t. This uncertainty was what gave the novel the heavy tone and the sense that it was moving so slow. In contrast, the movie is bright and it moves on a bit more quickly.

Then there’s Jack Nicholson as RP McMurphy, and he’s not exactly how I imagined him (see above picture), but he definitely delivers with his portrayal of the gambler who starts a war with Nurse Ratched and is trying to make the men in the ward stand up for themselves. On the other hand Louise Fletcher portrays a softer Nurse Ratched at first, makes her seem more like a victim or bystander of what’s happening. She is still manipulative, but not as much as in the book. That might also be because they removed the layer of Chief Bromden’s narration, so that makes sense too.

Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher

In the end, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest makes you think about different aspects of life. Do you want to live in fear and go along with the rules imposed on you by society? Or, do you want to break the rules, live life to the fullest, but perhaps deal with the consequences of going against the system? This novel puts all this into perspective and puts you in a place where things might seem hopeless, but in the end I think that it shows us that we live in a world that isn’t set to strict rules, we can make a change in our society by living courageously and standing up for what we believe in. We have the tools to make a difference, whether they be our education, our culture, or our government, we must stand up for what we believe is right and fight for our values.

Ratings:

  • Novel:
    4/5 stars, will give you the perspective from the point of view of a highly medicated patient in a mental ward. The perspective from a patient with mental health issues is incredibly valuable, since it helps us understand why mental health issues are so misunderstood to this day.
  • Film:
    4/5 stars, will focus more on the aspect of courage against a system and the strength in numbers, and give you a very clear and scary image on what mental health meant in the 1960s. (I do believe that many of the ideas that existed then about mental health still exist and it is something that still needs to be worked on as a society).

Final verdict: Book wins!!! I personally liked the book better because of Chief Bromden, his perspective was much more interesting than just seeing McMurphy come in and try to save everyone from the Big Nurse, and it adds that extra layer that makes each character much more complex.

Have you read this novel or watched the film? Which one did you enjoy best? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Also, if you like this post, let me know which other books that have been made into movies I should try!

Bookish Challenges of 2018

Hello everyone!

There are plenty of fun activities that the reading community has created, among my favorites are the following three that I will be participating in, some last a few days while others take place through all of 2018! Do let me know down below if you’ll be participating in any of these:

#HarpiesReadTheWorld Challenge hosted by
@bookish.harpy in Instagram:Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 20.04.44

This challenge will take place a few times throughout the year, each time with three different challenges to be read that month. For the month of January I’ll be reading the following books for this challenge:

  • A Book Written by a Native American: Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich
  • A Book from a Country America is in Conflict with: The Attack by Yasmina Khadra (Author is from Algeria and the novel takes place in Tel Aviv)
  • A book from a Predominantly Muslim Country: Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik (Author is from Iran and the novel takes place in Iran)

I’m looking forward to all the books I’ll discover through this challenge since it promotes diverse reading, I’ll post updates as each challenge is completed.

Bookopoly hosted by Broc’s Bookcase

Bookopoly Board 2018_preview

Bookopoly is a fun challenge that goes from January 1st to December 31st of 2018. The goal is go complete all the challenges around the board. Either by going in order or at random with the help of dice. There are some fun challenges along the way that will be posted throughout the year. During each monthly wrap-up I’ll post my progress for this challenge.

Booktube-A-Thon hosted by Ariel Bissett

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This readathon is always great fun and it is probably one of the most popular ones around Booktube. It is hosted by the wonderful Ariel Bissett, an artist, a reader, a writer, an overall inspiring person. Booktube-A-Thon generally has 7 challenges and one can participate in Youtube and/or Instagram, these challenges are always lots of fun! I’ll post more info about it once it is announced.


Do you participate in any bookish challenges or readathons? These are the main three for me but I’m always open to new ones, especially if they are focused on diverse reading! Let me know if you know of any!

Happy reading everyone!

 

Bites that inspire — Solidified light

Some bites of books trigger inspiration to write. When I read Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood two years ago I came across the following bite that sparked the short story below. I’ve been tinkering with it since then and I like how it is now. I hope you enjoy it!

“The body is pure energy, solidified light.”
–Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood–


Purple and neon lights flashed inside the club, scintillating and glittering as if they were the music itself enveloping her. Her silver hair reflected the light as she stood in the middle of the empty dance floor. She swayed to the music, to a beat from long ago.

“How long has she been like this?” the policeman asked the woman at the bar.

“Since I came in an hour ago, she broke in through the back, broke the glass and let herself in. She turned on the music and the lights, I just found her like you see here there, not sure at what time she broke in.”

The music stopped, the lights froze.

“Okay lady, time for you to go back home. What’s your name? Where do you live?” The policeman said as he approached the woman who had not stopped swaying, she wrapped her arms around herself, one across her chest, another across her waist. She smiled softly as she swayed, as if the music were still holding her to the movement.

“Ma’am, my name is Curtis, what’s your name?” Curtis said softly, placing his hand on her shoulder.

She stopped slowly and opened her eyes as if waking from a dream. “What?”

“What’s your name?” Curtis asked again.

“It’s Leonore young man, nice meeting you. I’ll just head home now.” Leonore sighed, looking around once and heading towards the front door of the club.

“Wait! Hey lady! Who’s gonna pay for the door?!” the young woman exclaimed, looking from the policeman to the woman.

But the woman was already on her way out the door and as soon as the young woman and the policeman walked outside into the afternoon sun, she was gone.

Leonore opened the front door to the house, stepped in and placed her keys on a conch by the phone near the door. She walked down the hallway and opened the first door on the left which led into the library. The walls were lined with books, around the desk were more books organized in neat piles. She sat behind the desk, took a large book from one of the piles and opened it. Inside were lists dating back years. She wrote down:

“August 16, 2070
ºSend payment to club — door”

She closed the book, sighed and took the next book in the pile, larger than the last. It was filled with ticket stubs from museums, movies, and buses. There were some pressed flowers and a napkin from a club could be seen sticking out. She got to a page that was half full, no longer with stubs but small notes. The last three read:

“Went to the park, watched sunset holding your hand”

“Took a trip to the zoo, ate curly fries and fed the ducks. We laughed so much”

“Went to our favourite restaurant, still can’t finish the lasagna without your help”

She took a pen and wrote:

“Broke into our favorite jazz club, we danced all night, it was hard to find the rhythm without you”

She looked at the book, smiled, and closed it slowly; she sat back and watched as the sunlight poured through the window.


Happy Saturday everyone! 🙂

2018 Bookish Goals

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Ah yes, it’s a new year and now we get to set new goals and challenges. Let’s do it!

Book buying ban!

I’ve never actually done one of these but since I have ~100 unread books and space for 80, I really need to read what I have and make space for new ones. This ban shall extend to July when I will revisit this idea. I will still accept gifts but even if I get a gift card, I’m not buying more books! With each monthly wrap up I’ll post an update on this ban.Read the books I have!

Read the books I have!

Obviously I will read, but sometimes I go to the library and check out books and forget a bit about the books I have at home. So, this might also be a bit like a library ban? In order to help me with this I’ve put together a TBR jar where I put all the titles of my unread books. I’ll be drawing two at a time (not specifically for a monthly TBR) and when I finish both books I’ll draw two more and so on. IMG_20171231_191041.jpg

Goodreads Challenge

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I have been doing the Goodreads Challenge since 2011, back then I would read about 8 books a year because of school and dance. Last year (2017) I challenged myself to read 60 books and ended up reading 74! How things change! Now, for 2018 I’ve set the challenge at 50 books. This is because there are quite a few books I want to read that I know will take me longer to read and I want to make sure I spend the time reading them without any sort of pressure.

Bites of Books

I have so many ideas for this blog that it’s definitely one of my goals to keep it alive. I want to make posts about diverse reads, books by women, people of color, books from around the world and from all time periods. I don’t tend to read books released in the past year (unless it’s a book by an author I really love like Atwood, Rowling, Gaiman, and even then I usually wait a few months before I read them). Apart from that, the core of this blog is those “bites” which trigger different memories or stories after I read them. So they might be introspective, commenting on our society/culture, or they might be quirky, romantic, hopeful, etc. The point is that this blog should be as diverse as the books I read, and hopefully that means that it’ll include things you might never have seen before but now might want to try. My goal is to share my love for diverse reading and hope that you will want to read diversely as well. 

So there you have it, those are the bookish goals I’ve set for myself this year. What are your goals? Are you exploring some new horizons in your reading? 🙂

Best 7 books of 2017

Hello all!

As 2017 has now ended, I’d like to list the best 7 books I read in 2017!

First, some stats:

  • I read 72 books and DNFd 2 books*
  • I read more than 2100 pages! O.O!
  • 26 of the books I read were written by women (~37%)
  • 12 of the books I read were written by people of color (~16%)

Now let’s get on with the books!

#7. Moloka’i by Alan BrennertScreen Shot 2017-12-31 at 20.40.58

Moloka’i was a beautiful book that I read at the beginning of the year. It was recommended by my good friend Romy over at The Footnote and I immediately agreed to read it because I remembered the joy and heartbreak in her eyes as she read the first chapters of the book. So yes, this book will break your heart and it will show you a side of Hawaii that you might not have considered before.

Essentially it is a story about a girl who is sent to live in the island of Moloka’i where all the lepers are sent to live until they die from the disease. Moloka’i really was used for this purpose so the story told here is one that probably did happen to many people in the past.

“She already felt dead in everything but name. What remained to be taken from her? She longed to be enfolded, welcomed, into the earth – to breathe no more, love no more, hurt no more”
— Moloka’i by Alan Brennert —

#6. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

IMG_20171231_212110811.jpg John Steinbeck is definitely one of my favorite writers. I must thank my boss from when I worked in the mailroom in college because she gave me three boxes full of classic books, including all the works by John Steinbeck. I’ve read a few of his works and The Winter of Our Discontent did not disappoint at all.

We follow a man who finds himself at a moment in his life where he could continue as he is and be okay in terms of money, his family, and his job. But an opportunity arises where his life could become more interesting, he could get quite a bit of money in return, and therefore bring his family into another level of comfort. However, this opportunity is not exactly aligned with his values and really make him question who he is and what he believes.

I loved this book also because it portrays mental health in a way few classics do so. The idea that our decisions will not just create consequences in physical or monetary ways, but also to our mental health. What about does decisions that we have anxiety about, or those that later on cause us to fall into despair? That introspective is thoroughly explored in this novel and that’s one of the main reasons I loved this book.

“When a condition or a problem becomes too great, humans have the protection of not thinking about it. But it goes inward and minces up with a lot of other things already there and what comes out is discontent and uneasiness, guilt and a compulsion to get something–anything–before it is all gone.”
— The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck —

#5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 21.15.15Homegoing was the second book we read when my boyfriend and I joined a book club in Mexico City. I was very excited for it because it would be the first book I would read by a Ghanaian author. This book provided a new perspective on the enslavement of people in Africa, their journey to the United States, and the journeys of the following generations. It’s an ambitious book that delivers small stories that form the epic tale of the generations that follow two half-sisters, one who is married to an Englishman in charge of sending slaves to the Americas, and the other who is a slave sent to the United States.

It’s a book full of hardships and sorrow but also full of hope and bravery. Men and women who strive to do the right thing even when everything goes against them, and the horrible ways in which their culture was obliterated by men and women who thought they were superior based on the color of their skin. I highly recommend this book because it extends the landscape of slavery and the ways that it has permeated our society, not only in all the places where it existed, but also through time itself.

“Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”
–Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi–

#4. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

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There are books that are so emotionally charged that I don’t know what to do with myself for days afterwards. Goodbye Days was one of those books.

This book is about a teenage boy who sends a text message to his best friends around the time when they get into a car accident that ends up killing them. It’s a book about grief, mental health, friendship, and family. It’s about forgiveness and doing the right thing even when you would rather run in the opposite direction as fast as you can.

Zentner has the amazing ability to describe the environment, a park, a bench, a house incredibly well. But he can also describe things such as music, synesthesia, complex emotions, and grief, in a way that you can almost feel it yourself. Just with that in mind it’s a book that guarantees an amazing journey.

Be prepared for tears and laughs and the desire to never again text people you love when you suspect that they might be driving. Hug your friends and keep them safe!

“For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”
— Goodbye Days, Jeff Zentner —

#3. It by Stephen King

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As you can see from the picture, It by Stephen King is a very big book. It was a gift from my boyfriend and it was the first Stephen King book I read. This makes the top three simply because I am incredibly impressed with how cohesive and well-planned this book was. The book starts off with our main characters as kids but it transitions to them as adults throughout the book. We also get glimpses of other times in the town of Derry that seem to be irrelevant but then turn out to be central to the problem that our main characters face. The mythology behind the book is subtle and yet it’s quite clear what the intention is for each of the supernatural elements that we encounter. Yes, the book is scary in some parts, and some elements will creep into your dreams or might scare you subconsciously when you least expect it (I ended up being slightly afraid of balloons for a few weeks…).

So even though the book is a horror book it is also about friendship and love, about believing in yourself because you are brave enough thanks to the friends that surround you and will always have your back. It’s about realizing that even though you are only one person, you can make a difference.

“Maybe there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends – maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they’re always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that’s what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.”
–It, Stephen King–

#2. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

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Good Omens get spot number 2 because it was so good in so many ways! First of all, we get two amazing authors, Pratchett and Gaiman, who are both hilarious and witty. Then we have the plot, which is that the apocalypse is just around the corner, and the antichrist is nowhere to be found. The characters are so rich and complex that you feel like you’ve known them your whole life within just a few pages. Add to that the mythology of the apocalypse and all that comes with it: the four horsemen, the angels and demons, the humans, the witches, and the aliens (of course!).

This book is full of social commentary (as all of Pratchett’s and Gaiman’s books usually are) and it makes you think about the things that we as a society place importance upon. That is, religion, politics, borders, money, status, careers, the planet, friends, family, ourselves. Perhaps there is something within our priorities that perhaps isn’t that important and which should be replaced with something that should be prioritized just a bit more. Good Omens lets us take a hard look at ourselves through a journey full of fun twists, mysteries, and laughs.

“Anyway, if you stop tellin’ people it’s all sorted out afer they’re dead, they might try sorting it all out while they’re alive. ”
–Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman–

#1. The Locust and the Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh

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Number one goes to The Locust and The Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh! Al-Shaykh is from Lebanon and in this book she tells her mother’s memoir. Her mother, Kamila, lived in Lebanon at a time when she was not allowed to learn how to read and had to obey what the men in her family thought was best for her.

I loved this book because even though I read it back in July, I find myself still thinking about it. In part because it mirrors what my mother lived when she moved to the United States, not being able to read, write, or speak english is a disadvantage that she still deals with even today (she’s learned some but she’s still anxious whenever she is in a situation where she must speak english). I can see my mother’s story in many parts of this book, the misunderstandings that came about with the rest of our family and myself when she came to the United States and was far away from us mirrors that of Al-Shaykh’s uncertainty at the beginning on whether her mother’s story was actually interesting enough to write about.

I loved this book because it resonated with me in ways no other book has and I feel like it helped me understand my mother in ways I couldn’t before.

“I was never so desperate to read and write as I am now, if for no other reason but to write my story. Let me tell you how it hurts when a piece of wood and a piece of lead defeat me.”
–Kamila in The Locust and the Bird, Hanan Al-Shaykh–


So there you have it! Those were the best 7 books I read in 2017!

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2018, I hope to increase the number of books by POC authors I read and to expand my perspectives as much as possible.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them, or if there’s one that you really want to read now.

Happy New Year and happy reading everyone!

*As for the two books I DNFd (Did not finish), they were Rayuela by Julio Cortázar and Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski. Both had the same problem, they were gimmicky to me, exploring a very strange structure (going from chapter 4 to chapter 72 and so on, or reading the book from both ends), which didn’t provide anything to the actual plot (if there was one…), and which ended up confusing me so much to the point of being too frustrated to care about what would happen in the book anymore. Rayuela lasted about 100 pages while I got to the half way point of Only Revolutions before putting it down. I don’t recommend them but if you are adventurous and want to try unusual book structures then do check them out.