Review: Reinas Malditas by Cristina Morató

Reinas Malditas by Cristina Morató

I read this book along with my friends from Mexico (and technically Canada since two of them are there) over the past three months. This book is about multiple women who were big historical figures from various European monarchies: Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Mary Antoinette, Christina of Sweden, Eugénie de Montijo, Queen Victoria of England, and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

I really wish that this book had been better… Morató wrote in a way that reminded me of gossip columns that was mostly drama and very little substance. In the first chapter she talks about Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) from Austria and she describes how her learning about life in court was like learning:

…gossip of the high aristocracy…

Sissi pg.37

Honestly, that’s exactly what this book was, pretty much gossip. Although I did learn about each of the royal women in the book I didn’t always trust the author (possibly because of her writing style) so I always ended up going to Wikipedia to learn more about them. (That’s not a good sign!) It was also very confusing because we kept jumping around in the timeline so you’d be reading about when they had kids and then go back to before they were pregnant or someone close to them died but the next paragraph we’d get a whole two paragraphs about them before they died. Just very hard to follow.

Overall I did not enjoy this book and I couldn’t recommend it on good conscience. I’d be interested in reading a non-fiction book about the life of any of these women, but I’d hope for something with a more linear and serious writing style. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

Want To Read List Cleanup #2

This is the second installment of my Want To Read List Cleanup, which I started last month. I’m still working through Todos Los Cuentos by Gabriel García Márquez, which was the book chosen from the last time I did this. As a recap, I will take 10 random books from my Goodreads Want To Read List, which currently has 1193 books listed (how is is bigger than last time?! XD). I will go through them and either remove them or keep them on the list. The point here is to remove books that I’m no longer interested in reading and keep the ones that I still want to read. Out of the ones I do keep I will take the oldest book and add it to next month’s reading plans. Let’s do it!

The list of 10 books up for cleanup
  • The World is Moving Around Me: A Memoir of the Haiti Earthquake by Dany Laferrière: I added this book back in 2016, which is when I started adding more non-fiction books to my list. This particular one still interests me because the effects of that earthquake in Haiti are still being felt more than a decade later. There are many moments in history that change a whole community or country completely and this is one of them. I’d like to learn more about it so I’ll keep this one.
  • The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan: I already know I’ll be keeping this book on the list! Amy Tan is one of my favorite authors. Her books are beautifully written and I find a lot of comfort in them. This book is about Ruth and her mother LuLing and how LuLing starts telling her life story to Ruth via a series of writings. A multi-generational story set in both China and the United States. I’m definitely looking forward to reading this one.
  • Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen: I don’t remember this book at all! I can see why I added it though, it is a very strange novel about a man who is convinced that his wife has been swapped with someone else who looks just like her. It’s supposed to be a love story but also a dark comedy. While the premise does seem interesting I’m not convinced to keep it so I will be removing it from the list.
  • March: Book One by John Lewis: Wow, I’ve had this one on my list since 2015! I definitely want to read this since it tells the story of John Lewis’ life and role in the Civil Rights movement. Also, it’s a graphic novel so it’s a very accessible way for anyone to learn about such an important man! This one comes in three parts and I definitely want to read them all.
  • Revival, Vol. 1: You’re Among Friends by Tim Seeley: Would you look at that? Another graphic novel! Revival is one I definitely added during my horror-filled years. In this graphic novel series (yep there are 8 volumes) the living and the dead “live” together and of course, murder still happens. Officer Dana Cypress is the one in charge of figuring out who committed a murder in this “rural noir” graphic novel. I am thinking that this would be something I’d look for during the fall/Halloween but I’m not urgently rushing to get it. I’ll keep it on the list so I don’t forget about it!
  • The Enigma of the Return by Dany Laferrière: Two books by Laferrière in the same randomly grabbed list! It’s a sign that I need to read one of his books! Laferrière is a Haitian author and I can’t quite remember how I found out about him but I’m glad I did! This particular book is about Dany, who fled Haiti when he was 23 years old, and is now (33 years later) faced with a return to Haiti after his father’s death. I am unsure if this is fully an autobiography or not but I’m very much interested in reading so it shall remain in the list.
  • The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind by Michio Kaku: I can imagine why I added this book to my list, I do enjoy science books so I am always looking for good scientific writers. Being someone who has a career in a scientific field can be a double edged sword since I know that some fields of science move so fast that some works might not be as current as others. That being said, this particular one is written by Dr Kaku, a theoretical physicist who is highly respected and I’m very interested in reading one of his books so I think I will keep it for that reason alone.
  • Rant by Chuck Palahniuk : Oh Chuck Palahniuk. I have read quite a few of his books (somehow haven’t read Fight Club though hahaha) and they are either big hits or big misses. It’s truly hard to tell until I read them! I definitely will keep this one if only because I do want to finish reading all his books. This particular one is about a man named Rant Casey who is a serial killer and the story is about all his friends gathering after he dies to tell the story of his life.
  • Emma by Jane Austen: I must confess…. I’ve never read any Jane Austen books. I know… I know… It’s not that I don’t want to! XD Something else just crosses my path and I just don’t get to them. This book has been on my list for a loooong time (since 2011 yikes). Of course I’ll keep it, I do want to read Jane Austen and when I finally do read one of her books I’ll look back and think “why did it take me this long?” right? I don’t know what Emma is about and I think I’ll keep it that way, looking forward to reading it.
  • Building Stories by Chris Ware: So I know I added this book because it is a sort of interactive graphic novel (another one!) This actually is multiple separate pages that come inside a box or something? I fear now that it is too gimmicky, I haven’t had too much luck with these sort of unconventional books that try to do more with things like reading in any order or having the pages be loose… yeah not sure anymore about this one so I will be removing it from my list.

Aaaand that is it! Overall I removed 2/10 books which is… surprising! I thought there would be more that I would not be interested in reading like last time but I guess not! So let’s see what the oldest book of the ones that are left will go into my TBR for next month…. Emma by Jane Austen! I guess that will be my first Austen book and I’m actually quite excited about it.

That’s it for this month’s Want To Read Clean Up! Have you read any of the books mentioned? Would you have kept any of the ones I took off my list? Let me know!

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I was a bit hesitant to read “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, if only because I knew it would break my heart like “The Kite Runner” did. And I was so right.

Hosseini just knows how to tell a story in a beautiful way, and in this multi-generational novel, filled with friendship, chosen families, all set in Afghanistan during a very turbulent and violent time, he does just that. This book starts out with the story of Mariam, a girl who is born out of wedlock who is hidden away with her mother out of view of society in Herat, Afghanistan.

The book is set in Herat and Kabul, Afghanistan.

We follow Mariam as she grows up with her mother and then as she marries a shoemaker and moves to Kabul. In Kabul we follow Laila, a young girl whose family is very close knit and who emphasize the importance of education for her future. Mariam and Laila are of two different generations but still experience the same events in very similar ways. As women, they have a limited say on what they want to do with their lives and I definitely felt the helplessness as they try to fight but ultimately accept their destiny. Eventually, their lives become interconnected and their relationship becomes an anchor for the both of them in the midst of the violence all around them.

I love stories that encompass a person’s whole life and I especially love those that are multi-generational. There’s the added bonus that these are women’s stories from a part of the world that’s very much outside of my general perspective. There’s also a wonderful diversity within Afghanistan of languages, cultures, and general ways of life. It really opened my eyes to that diversity and the contrast between the two areas in Afghanistan that are featured.

Mariam and Laila are wonderful characters who grow, learn, and really change throughout the book. They are not alone though! Their parents, partners, friends, and children all also have interesting arcs throughout the book. They are forced to react and adapt to the events that are happening around them that are completely out of their control. While Mariam and Laila are both wonderful characters, one of my other favorites was Laila’s dad, Hakim. Hakim is a teacher, lover of books, a romantic, and truly dear to my heart. At one point when they have to leave their house and sell everything, he is faced with the prospect of choosing which books he must leave behind. Him pacing his library making those decisions was a scene that I cherished a lot.

Overall, this is a brilliant book that I will be thinking about for a long time and which I’m very glad was chosen for our book club this month. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes multi-generational stories filled with complex and wonderful characters. I would warn, however, that there is a lot of violence in this book, including physical and mental abuse. If you are interested do check it out, it’s a great book, beautifully written, and full of powerful perspectives.

Review: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

The first book I finished in July was Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan. This is the third and final installment in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, which I started way back in 2018 right before the movie came out. (Still waiting for that second movie…..) I read the second book in 2019 (I think, I actually didn’t record it on Goodreads but I definitely read it, I swear XD). In the first book we mostly follow Rachel and Nick, a couple who go to Nick’s friend’s wedding in Singapore, where Rachel finds out that Nick belongs to a super rich family. There’s romance, there’s drama, there’s a lot of expensive jewelry, dresses, food, oh the food…. ::drool:: The second book delves deeper into Nick’s family and we learn even more about Astrid and Kitty Pong, Kitty’s story was probably my favorite part in this book, where she tries to go from an actress who is not taken seriously to a more refined version of herself. In the second book Nick and Rachel end up in a life or death situation and it’s probably the most action-driven book of the three.

The third installment has much less about Rachel but Nick is still a big player in the book. Nick’s grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed and the family is coming together to say goodbye but also… figure out what they will be getting in the will. Eddie, one of Nick’s cousins is so so so annoying and as melodramatic as usual. Kitty is back with even more ambition to have more power and respect from everyone. There is a particular chapter where Kitty hires Nigel Barker for a photoshoot and, as someone who used to watch America’s Next Top Model, I was laughing so much imagining him in this world, it was a lot of fun. Astrid is also on a journey of her own as she figures out her identity outside of her rich family’s expectations of perfection.

My favorite part of this book was that we got to see to the past and into Su Yi’s story of how she was a war heroine. As the Japanese invaded Singapore, she played a role in helping others stay safe and, even when her father sent her away to India until the war passed, she went back to Singapore and helped in the war effort. It was really cool to see what Su Yi was like in her youth and then how that contributed to how she was from book one and to the end of her life in book three. Also, looking into the real history of the Japanese invasion of Singapore, the real Tyersall park did serve as headquarters for some of the commanders so it was cool to learn some of the history through this book.

While the whole book is still filled with greedy, selfish people, who don’t seem to learn that money isn’t everything (mostly because they have just been taken it for granted), there are also some characters who start to see how there are more things to life than money and power. Of course, you still get a lot of glamour, name/brand dropping, insane parties and purchases that go beyond any “normal” human. Some of the characters are dealing with mental health issues, and that is much more apparent in this third book.

Perhaps the one thing that wasn’t perfect about this book was the time/pacing. Sometimes the book would jump months/days and it was hard to tell. The end was also wrapped up in a couple of sentences for each person, imagine a montage at the end of a movie where you see what happened with each person, not a bad ending at all since it did tie up everything pretty nicely, I just wanted more hahaha.

This is one of the most consistent series I’ve read (rated all three books with 4 stars on Goodreads) since they all kept me laughing, rolling my eyes, and just overall very entertained. As far as escapism goes, this was a great book to read and just forget about everything going on in real life. I definitely stayed up reading it way past my bedtime so if you’re looking for something like that, I do recommend this series.

July Reading Plans

So in June I read 6 books, among them a memoir, an essay collection, YA, and even some comics! What will July have in store for me?

So I took a look at my Goodreads reading challenge, which I had already increased from 12 to 30 back in March, and now that my reading pace has picked up I will increase it to 50 since I’m already at 25 books!

I’m not forcing myself to finish books before the end of the month or waiting until the next month to start others that were not listed in my previous TBR. Reading as the mood strikes, following the flow of my reading has been really working for me. The only ones that I do have a set schedule for are the ones that I’m buddy reading or with the two (and a half) book clubs I’m in.

Let’s take a look at what I’m currently reading:

  • The Stand by Stephen King: Yep, still reading this! hahaha It will be in these posts for the foreseeable future. As I previously mentioned, this book is about a flu pandemic, people are dying left and right and something supernatural is starting to happen now. There is the theme of dreaming now in the novel, which is super interesting, I’m on page 345.
  • Reinas Malditas by Cristina Morató: We are still reading about the various queens in this sort of gossipy style that Morató has (which I’m not a fan of…) So far the stories of each empress/queen have varied in writing quality so it’s a hit or miss. Right now I’m on page 306, reading about Eugénie de Montijo who is super interesting. I think that this one is my favorite story so far (even if it’s still TMZ-style).
  • Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan: This is the third installment of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy and I just started it a few days ago but I’m so into it! Now this is full of gossip, satire, and so so fun! I expect to be done with this one pretty soon.
  • The Sandman Omnibus Vol 1 by Neil Gaiman: I juuuust started this last week and, while it is a comic collection, it is giant! I am on page 149 and I love the art style. I will share some of my favorite pages in my review once I finish it.

Then there are the books I’m planning on starting this month and reading in between the book club books:

  • The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn: Continuing my journey through the Bridgerton series I’ll be reading Anthony’s story next!
  • Todos Los Cuentos by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The complete short story collection that was selected as the book to read from my Want To Read list cleanup post last month. I’m excited about diving into these short stories! I might or might not finish these within the month, we’ll see how it goes.
  • Fierce FairyTales by Nikita Gill: This was the pick of the month for the Feminist Book Club, it hasn’t arrived yet so it’s not pictured above. This is the half a book club I mentioned above since, while I do try to get to the book of the month each time I’m not pushing myself to finish it before the Q&A with the author as much since I normally can’t make the live chats. I’m excited about this book because it is a combination of poetry and prose about fairy tales. I love fairy tales and fairy tale re-tellings so I’m looking forward to reading this book.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: This is the book club pick for QB Alumns for the month of July. I’ve previously read The Kite Runner and I really loved that book so I hope that this one is also as great! This book focuses on a story told over two generations about characters in Afghanistan. There’s friendship, heartbreak, and rich history throughout this book so it’s bound to be a great read for the book club.
  • Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi: The second installment in the Legacy of Orïsha series has been on my bookshelves unread for far too long! In the first book, Children of Blood and Bone, we follow Zelie as she goes on a quest to return magic to people who have had their magic taken away. I really enjoyed the first book so I’m hoping that the second book lives up to my expectations.
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: I wanted to add a non-fiction book to July and Just Mercy was just calling my name. This book is a memoir about Stevenson’s journey as he works on one of his first cases as a lawyer where Walter McMillan is sentenced to die for a crime he did not commit. It promises to be a very compelling and emotional read, especially following The New Jim Crow, which I read in June. There is also a movie that came out in 2019 so I will probably watch that after I read the book.

Overall, July promises to be a fun month full of great reading. Hopefully I’ll be able to read outside a bit (not the Sandman Omnibus of course XD) and catch some sun this summer. Maybe I’ll even venture a trip to the park or the beach just for reading, as long as it’s not too hot here in SoCal. What are you reading in July? Have you read any of the books in my reading plans? If so, what did you think?

June 2021 — Wrap Up

Well June is over, let’s see how my reading went!

This is the first wrap up since I changed my rating system and I gotta say, I really like the changes I’ve made. I now post full dedicated reviews for each book I read, which is basically my main goal with this blog. I’m looking into adding other content type but I’m not sure about what that’s going to look like yet.

So this month I read 6 books:

  • Eternals by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by John Romita Jr: In anticipation of the Eternals movie coming out in November, I read the comics written by Neil Gaiman. If you’re a fan of the MCU and/or Neil Gaiman I highly recommend it.
  • Disability Visibility by Alice Wong: This book came in my Feminist Book Club box and it was a wonderful collection of stories from people with disabilities, including activists, lawyers, scientists, and more. This is opens a lot of windows to different ways of life and has inspired me to learn more about how to make spaces accessible for everyone. Check it out!
  • It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland: This was such a fun read about a famous queer band. There was queer romance, friendships, chosen family, and the power of fandom that brings people together. If you want a fun read full of friendship and music, read this!
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: If you are interested in learning about mass incarceration and how it has become what it is today, I highly recommend this book. Alexander does a great job explaining how the criminal justice system is what it is today. It’s only one book but it opened my eyes to many issues that I didn’t realize were related. If you’re an ally definitely check this out.
  • A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Dunham: A unique memoir by Cyrus Dunham while he explores his gender identity. This memoir gives us a peek into his mind as he remembers how it was to be a child not identifying with his body, all the way through figuring out what to do with his life. If you want to learn about what it is like to explore gender identity I recommend this one, just be warned that there are multiple topics discussed that might be triggering (eating disorders, depression, body shaming, etc) so do read carefully.
  • Supernova by Marissa Meyer: The last installment of the Renegades series was so so good! I had so much fun with the twists and surprises. While I suspected how some things might end up happening, others I was quite pleasantly surprised about. If you like superheroes and a romance between a superhero and villain, definitely read this series.

And that’s it! I think my favorite book of the month was probably Disability Visibility because of all the different perspectives I was able to learn about. I think that’s one book that everyone should read because I think it will provide something new to learn about for just about everyone. I had the most fun with Supernova since it was the last in the series and it was just so well wrapped up.

What was your favorite book that you read in June?