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.

The echoes between the beats

Today I went to my ballroom class like usual, and I kept getting frustrated because I felt like I was always behind the beat. Perhaps it’s not noticeable to someone watching, but I could feel slightly off from the music.

I told my instructor and he said, “You’ll never technically be on the beat. You are a follow, as a follow you will always be at least a fraction of a second off the beat. The leader is the one who is on the beat”.

I was shocked! How could this be? I definitely wanted to be on the beat!

He then said, “Think of it this way, I lead and you follow, I lead right on the beat and you go right after because you can’t anticipate exactly what I’ll be doing next. You are the echo to the beat, you must take that time between the beats and make them your own, decorate them, flourish them, make them hard and strong, or soft and elegant. The echo gives the dance dimension and space“.

This conversation got me thinking about spaces and things that are seemingly empty. It wasn’t long before I thought of this quotation:

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.
We lived in the gaps between the stories.”
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is now widely known, but when I read it back in 2013 I thought about the idea of standing on the sidelines and simply observing events passing by. I told myself that most of these things were really nothing that affected me and that in the end things would unfold as they would. I was in those blank white spaces.

Now things are different, I try and inform myself about what’s happening in the world, the country, and my community. I have more of a sense of the space I fill in this world and therefore what my actions can do in those spaces. It’s not just the people who pass laws, who discover new treatments for cancer, or those who score a touchdown in the Super Bowl. They might be “on the beat”, but the rest of us fill the rest of the space, we give those moments dimension and importance, or lack thereof. For example, if a million people turned to watch a Bolivian woman weave occluders, medical devices used in heart surgeries, those women may be seen as important as a famous soccer player who scored the winning goal of the World Cup.

We might not all step on the beat, but we do determine what we do in between those beats. Are we soft and elegant, enjoying and cheering on the important movements in this dance, or are we strong and brave, forcing our leaders to change the pace, change the rhythm, and focus on those things that we care about?

Let’s fill those spaces with strong, beautiful echoes filled with those things we believe will make the world a better and more beautiful place.

An introduction…

“Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow.”
–Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale–

Hello and welcome to Bites of Books!

When you take a bite of an apple there are a few things that happen:

  • You taste the sweetness of the apple, the crisp sound reaches your ears as you bite into it.
  • Your mouth salivates reacting to the enzymes the apple is filled with, telling your brain to tell your stomach to get to work.
  • Perhaps a memory of another apple comes to mind, maybe when you were a child your grandfather worked in an apple orchard and he always came home with that smell in his clothes. That bite takes you back to the moment you hugged him as he stepped through the door.

When you read a book some similar things may happen:

  • You read the words, savor the alliteration of some, the smoothness of others, the rhythm of the sentence sets a tone for the next one.
  • You relate the words to their meanings, from which your brain now forms an image or a scene.
  • That scene may also bring forth a memory, an emotion, it may open a box that you’ve not opened in a while and which will unleash waves of more memories.

For me, opening a book and starting to read means the opportunity to explore a new world full of new characters. However, these new worlds and characters will most likely take me to places that I’ve already been to, will help me see those places or memories in a new light.

Take the following quotation:

“How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?”
–John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath–

When I read those two questions in The Grapes of Wrath I closed the book for a moment because so many memories came back to me, from my childhood, from a few weeks before when I was spending some time with my friends, from years before when I was participating in a dance competition.

The power that a few words can have on us is immense if we let it. We must be open to these intrusions if you will, we can read the book superficially and we will get the message and the images created by the writing we are reading. But if we open ourselves up to being touched by the writing we are reading, we will get much more than what’s written on the page.

So, here I shall explore these Bites of Books, bites that transport me to other places, to other times, be it in my own personal life, or in other fictional worlds. I hope you will join me in these voyages and that you will be able to take on journeys of your own as well.