Want To Read List Cleanup

I have books on my bookshelves that I haven’t read yet but I acquired a long time ago and still need to read. An even bigger list is housed in my Goodreads account though, currently I have 1161 books listed there that I’ve marked “Want To Read” and they go all the way back to 2010! It is fair to say that in the past 11 years my reading interests have probably changed so it is very likely that I will not be actually wanting to read all of those books anymore. In this post I will take ten random books from my Want To Read list from Goodreads and decide if I want to keep them or if I need to remove any of them. I will also be adding one of those (from whatever is left, if anything) to my list of books to read next. Also, I’ve taken inspiration from Tanja’s Bookish Memory check as inspiration for this post. I hope to do this once a month since it’ll be a fun way to get to some of those older books in my list.

Here’s the list of the 10 books I will either keep or remove! Any guesses as to which will go vs not?

The 10 books that I will either remove from my Want To Read list or keep, one of them I’ll read next!
  • The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich: I added this book in 2018 so not TOO long ago… This book is the eighth installment in Erdrich’s multi-generational stories about the long-lasting effects of colonialism on Ojibwe peoples and communities. I’ve so far read Tales of Burning Love (fifth installment) so it’s not necessary to read them in order I don’t think. I love Erdrich’s writing, she does an amazing job capturing emotions and just immersing you into the story. You really feel like you know the characters. This particular novel is centered around  a rare moose skin and cedar drum created by an Ojibwe artisan, we follow the history of this instrument and all the lives it has touched throughout its existence. So that’s an easy keep. NOTE: It was just announced today that she won the Pulitzer prize for her book The Night Watchman!
  • The Heart Does Not Grow Back by Fred Venturini: This book was added in 2015 and I didn’t remember anything about why I would have added right away. So looking at the synopsis this book is about a man who doesn’t seem to have much going for him in his small town in the Midwest. All of a sudden he realizes that he has the ability to grow limbs back (wonder how he realizes that…) and he goes on a hero’s journey to save a woman form her abusive husband. Back in 2015 I was very into horror and gore films so I can see why I would have added this book. Looking at it now I am not as interested in reading this so it will be removed.
  • In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood: I know why I added this right away, Margaret Atwood. I love her writing and I probably didn’t even look at the synopsis before adding this book to my list. Looking at the synopsis now I am still very much interested! So this book is nonfiction and it is an exploration of the science fiction genre, it includes various essays on the subject as well as her reviews on various works of science fiction by authors like Ursula LeGuin, Aldous Huxley, Kazuo Ishiguro, etc. This is one of those books I like to read from time to time that aren’t exactly a story but an analysis of something that will help me understand more about why things are the way they are. Very nerdy, I’ll be keeping this one.
  • People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry: Well, I just added this book the other day! I’ve been venturing more into the romance/contemporary genre in the past couple of years (like one or two books a year hahaha) and this one seemed like fun! Basically two best friends have taken a vacation every year no matter what, but at one point they had a falling out and haven’t seen each other since. One of them wants to try and have another vacation with them to see if they can repair the friendship (and maybe something more can blossom?) So yeah, I’ll definitely keep it!
  • Plague of the Dead by Z.A. Recht: Ha! This is from my zombie obsession days! Back in 2012 I was watching all things zombie but hadn’t ventured into zombie books. This is a book about a virus that spreads and turns people in to zombies, a military strategist pairs up with a journalist to try to combat the plague and well, that’s it! If books were food this would be junk food, not a great nourishing read but maybe fun? The thing that has made me decide to remove it though is that it is part of a 5 book series soooo no time for that! If it ever comes across and I have Nothing else to read I might pick it up. For now I shall remove it.
  • A Person of Interest by Susan Choi: I don’t remember why I would have added this book honestly. It is a mystery thriller which is a genre I don’t really read at all. The book is about Professor Lee, a mathematician, who is all of a sudden in the FBI’s suspect list as a suspected bomber. It seems like the only reason for the suspicion is that Prof Lee is seemingly not affected by the attack. I’m sure that the book might be more complicated than that with twists and turns buuuut I’m not very interested in the genre right now so I’ll remove it.
  • The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan: Ah well… umm yes, the Percy Jackson series! I wanted to read these at some point but then I saw the movies and then I wasn’t interested anymore? In fact, my sister just got the first book of the series because she wants to read them but I’m still not super interested. This is actually the third installment in the series so I’ll be removing all the books from the series except for the first one. That way I can grab the book from my sister whenever and read that one and decide then if I want to continue.
  • She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton: A children’s book! I really do like reading children’s books from time to time and this one just looks wonderful. It features a diverse group of American women who have made a difference in their respective fields. It talks about Harriet Tubman, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, and Sonia Sotomayor, among many others! I would still like to read and have this book so I will keep it.
  • The Glass Cage: Automation and Us by Nicholas Carr: I added this book the same year it came out, a nonfiction book about Silicon Valley, the world of automation mixed with science, philosophy, and ethics. While it is very much still a big topic today and one that I’m still interested in, I wonder if this book will be outdated (seeing how fast technology moves nowadays). I’m inclined to remove it and if I still want to read a book on the topic I’m sure there will be more current books on the subject that I can find.
  • Collected Stories by Gabriel García Márquez: Gabriel García Márquez is a Colombian author and I really want to read his most famous novels “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera” first. This particular book is a collection of 26 of his short stories and it would be awesome to have this in my library at some point but even though it’s not a high priority for me right now, I’ll keep it in the list.

Out of the 10 books I will be keeping 5/10! As I mentioned I will be adding one of these books to my immediate list of books to read and I will simply pick the oldest book which is…. ha! Collected Stories by Márquez! The one I said wasn’t a high priority is now a high priority! I will be looking for the Spanish edition next so I’ll likely be reading it in July!

What a fun twist at the end there XD

Anyways, this was a great thing to do with my Goodreads Want To Read list because I was getting a bit worried that it’s too big and quite unrealistic, especially since I keep adding books almost every day! If there are any books that I’ve removed but you feel strongly that I should have kept, let me know! And vice versa 😀

How many books do you have in your Goodreads Want To Read (or general Want To Read list)? I certainly didn’t think I had that many but I’m also not surprised that that many would be removed the first time around.

Happy Friday and I hope you have a happy weekend full of wonderful reading!

Review: Disability Visibility Edited by Alice Wong

Disability Visibility Edited by Alice Wong

When I was in middle school in Mexico I went to a private all-girls school and one of my classmates was blind. She was one of the smartest people in the class and as far as I can remember, she participated in just about every activity we had with just some assistance from the teacher. I can’t quite remember how it happened but there was a news story about her and her achievements in school and she tried to make her case to the interviewer that what she really needed to further succeed was a computer for blind people. I remember that she was upset later because when the news came out there was no mention about the computer, just a lot of praise and amazement that she was blind and yet she was doing so well in school. Now I understand that the interviewer and the media only wanted that feel good story but didn’t care to further help her with what she truly needed. I also understand now that she was probably one of the more fortunate blind people in Mexico, able to get an education at a private school with teachers who seemed to be able to help her as best as they could. Otherwise, I would encounter blind people in the subway, singing, playing an accordion while someone led them through the crowded aisles. I now have more of a perspective on how it wasn’t a consequence of their lack of sight that led them to beg in the street but because of society’s lack of support.

In Disability Visibility I was able to learn about many other types of disabilities and the people who live with them. How they live, how they try and thrive in a world that doesn’t seem to care much about them. It’s a book about the realities and not about feel good stories, like the one told about my middle school friend. I loved the diversity of people that we hear from, we hear from men, women, non-binary people, queer, straight, trans people, and more! To try to summarize all of that here would be impossible but trust me that throughout this book you get to meet many amazing people and learn about what they’ve been through and what they hope to accomplish. Alice Wong put together a great array of stories and you can also see more of her work at the Disability Visibility Project website.

As I finished each story I went to see what the author was doing now or to learn more about them and their endeavors. I also stopped a lot to think about what I had just read, to process and let it sink in. These are not easy stories to read, in fact, quite a few of them have content warnings at the beginning of each story so it makes it easier to read carefully.

There were some stories in the book that really did blow my mind in the sense that if disabled people were given all the resources that they needed to thrive, they would be able to contribute so much to society! Specifically I think of the story by Wanda Díaz-Merced, which is actually a TED talk that was transcribed for the book. Wanda Díaz-Merced is an astrophysicist who lost her sight late in her career, but she managed to find a different way to study space and one that ended up giving more information to scientists than by just visual means. As non-disabled people we think that there are only so many ways to do things in our lives, but in fact, there are many ways to do things. If we can be more open minded, there really would be endless possibilities! These aren’t stories of people doing things despite their disability, these are stories of people using all of themselves to live their life as best as they can and fight for what they believe in.

I highly encourage non-disabled people to read this book. There are endless social aspects that affect people with disabilities, from public transportation, architecture, scientific research, legal rights, etc., but where they are not given a thought. I realized for example, my house is not accessible to people who use wheelchairs! My workplace does not have an elevator to the second floor! We can at least start noticing and asking for the people in charge to make things accessible to disabled people around us. And even more importantly, we can empathize with their stories and the obstacles that are put in their lives and help remove those obstacles as best as we can.

Review: Eternals by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by John Romita Jr.

Eternals by Neil Gaiman,
Illustrated by John Romita Jr.

I finished Eternals by Neil Gaiman today! It was a very different kind of read for me because I don’t normally read comics. This was a compilation of the seven volumes that came out in 2006-2007. However, the original Eternals comics were written by Jack Kirby back in 1976. The reason I picked this particular comic is because the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming out with an adaptation of the Eternals and since I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s works it seemed like the obvious place to start for me.

The Eternals are 100 beings that were created by the Celestials. The Celestials are another type of being that came from outer space and basically started out a kind of experiment on Earth where they examined an ape-like creature (precursor to humans), played around with its genetic material and created what would be the perfect being, one that wouldn’t age, would have special powers, and would live to protect the experiment that they were setting up. On the other hand they created the Deviants, who had an unstable genome, were prone to constant mutations, and which created deformed beings that were not ideal.

In this particular set of comics we find that the Eternals have forgotten that they are immortal and that they have superpowers. They are living like normal human beings as medical students, party organizers, scientists, and even gardeners. One of the Eternals, Ikaris, does remember and is trying to get others to do the same since there’s some trouble brewing. We also get a peek at how the superhero world is doing, there is now mandatory registration for superheroes and even a superhero reality competition!

Another thing that was very interesting to me was the philosophy and theories on the origin of life on Earth. Of course there are multiple theories on how intelligent life came about but the one saying that it came about from outer space is a very popular one. While we can have many theories regarding the origins of life, it is something that we might never really know for sure how it happened. These comics give a possible answer of these Celestials, scientists in their own way, setting up various experiments in what might be many different worlds (can’t imagine they’d only do it once on Earth), and seeing what happens. It was also cool to see the flashbacks to how the Eternals interacted with ancient civilizations, from Egypt to Greece to Mexico and how they were basically the gods in those ancient civilizations. That in itself made me curious to go and read the other installments of these comics.

The characters were interesting but I did feel like there was less character development than I expected and I’m not sure if it is because of the format of the story (comic vs novel) or if it has to do with the fact that I haven’t read all the other comics featuring these characters. That being said, there were some characters that I did like right away, like Thena and Zura. Thena is a scientist in her human life and actually is creating some weapons for the government while Zura is a homeless man who is lost in his mind. After they remember that they are Eternals they awake other characteristics, like confidence, leadership, and determination to figure out what they need to do next.

The artwork was wonderful, I loved all the colors and the intensity that Romita was able to bring to each scene and each character. I also loved the fonts that were used in different panels to show that some characters are probably talking in different languages or are speaking telepathically. It was very intuitive and just a great addition to the experience.

I mentioned previously that I’m changing my rating system and well, there isn’t one! Ha! I realized that rating systems aren’t particularly consistent unless I stick to a specific type of book or genre or even author. And so what I will be doing now is talking more about who I’d recommend read the book. Sort of a “if you like this you might like this” etc.

Overall I really enjoyed this comic, like I said, I’d like to check out the other installments involving the Eternals at some point as well. I would recommend this collection of comics to anyone who wants a background on who the Eternals are in preparation for the Marvel movie. I’d also recommend it to people interested in a very different kind of superhero story since the Eternals are not self-described superheroes. Their priorities are definitely different than the Avengers’ so it’s a really interesting perspective.

Do you read comics regularly? Are you a fan of the MCU?

Discworld by Terry Pratchett: A Reading Guide

Imagine a flat world that lies on top of four elephants, which are standing on top of a turtle, which is flying through space. That’s the Discworld! A fantasy world created by the late Sir Terry Pratchett, known for his satirical novels

In 2011 I discovered the works by Terry Pratchett via a friend of mine who recommended them to me. The Discworld series intrigued me because it was not a straightforward series. It requires a map, a guide, an order. I’m sure that when the works came out since 1983 people simply read the next book as they came out so one can definitely read them in the order that they were published. However, my friend shared a map/guide with me that has been super helpful in figuring out which book to read next. From that guide (which I can’t actually find anymore because it’s outdated) I created the following guide for myself:

My first ever plan for reading Discworld based on an old version of the guide

So in the image above you can see that I separated each group of novels and was marking when I owned a book (first bullet) and when I finally read the book (second bullet). There are also some floating short stories and novellas that are connected to some of the groups of novels but are not really their own book (as far as I know). I actually checked out “A Blink of the Screen” from the library and read all the short stories from there. My goal is to buy it eventually since it does have some cool illustrations. It is now 2021 and I’m nowhere near done buying or reading all the books in the series!

My current Discworld collection

On to the current guide! After Terry Pratchett’s death in 2015 😦 a final guide was released:

As you can see the guide is now updated with all the released novels and some of the group novel titles have also been changed from what I had previously. Depending on your interests you could easily just read one group of novels or jump around depending on what you’re interested in reading. I’ll try to summarize each group of novels a bit:

  • Science Novels: These books are really about the science of our own round planet Earth as seen through the eyes of some of the Discworld characters. These do not follow the other characters’ stories although there is a plot throughout while they teach the reader about the science of our world. (Not a good place to start!)
  • Rincewind Novels: The Rincewind novels are called that because we follow a wizard named Rincewind. He’s a bit of a clumsy guy who most of his peers think is more trouble than is worth. Unwillingly, Rincewind tends to get into a lot of trouble and into the strangest of situations! I started my Discworld journey with The Colour of Magic although now I know that the author considers Sourcery a better place to start (even though it’s the third one chronologically in the story… curious). So far this group of novels is the one I have read the most of and it is also the largest group of novels. Definitely a good place to start!
  • Industrial Revolution: I haven’t read any of these yet but these novels have to do with technological advancements in the Discworld and how the characters (who are technologically at a medieval level) react to such advancements. For the most part these take place in the main city of Ankh-Morpork. (Also not a good place to start!)
  • Watch Novels: I’ve read the first of this group of novels and it was so so funny! All of these books tend to have me laughing but this one was just excellent. It follows what would be the police force of the city of Ankh-Morpork and how they deal with crime and enforcing all the laws (or not). This is also a good place to start!
  • Death Novels: These are my favorite novels hands down. We follow the character of Death, a personification of death, as they go around doing the job of meeting people at the end of their lives and showing them the way into the next thing. Death’s dialogue is always in CAPS so it gives you a sense of their presence in the page. These novels are philosophical but with a tongue in cheek type of dialogue. Funny, heartfelt, I just love them! A great place to start too!
  • Tiffany Aching Novels: I haven’t read any of these novels but if you follow the publication dates, these novels started to come out in 2001, almost 20 years after the start of the Discworld series. For that reason alone I’d say these novels would best be read after reading at least one of the other Starter novels or a whole group of novels so that you have good knowledge of the world. I haven’t bought any of those yet and I think I’ll probably read them nearer the end of my journey through Discworld.
  • Ancient Civilizations: I can’t explain how excited I am to get to these novels. These two novels are about ancient mythologies of the Discworld, one of the books is reminiscent of ancient Egypt while the other is generally about religion and philosophy. The adjacent short story in this group of novels, “Death And What Comes Next,” is a conversation between Death and a philosopher, it is available online here and I honestly recommend it without any need of reading any of the Discworld novels (read it! takes 5 mins! trust me!)
  • Witches Novels: This is my second favorite group of stories. We follow a group of witches who are probably the most sensible characters in all the novels I’ve read so far. They can use magic but choose not to and work as healers in the Discworld. These are a good place to start!

So as you can see, the Discworld can be enjoyed from many different perspectives. If you want to follow wizards, Death, witches, or just stay within science and philosophy, there’s something for you. One of my favorite things about these novels are actually the footnotes! These are 9/10 a source laughter and I always look forward to getting to the next footnote as I read. British humor and satire are the style of these fantasy novels (plus a lot of puns!) I hope you’re able to read and enjoy the Discworld!

Let me know if you’ve already ventured into the Discworld or which of the different novel groups grabbed your attention!

June Reading Plans

June Reading Plans Banner with yellow background

June is here! We are almost half way through the year and it seems to me like yesterday was barely March? Anyways… last month I read 6 books! This coming month I am not sure how many I will actually finish but here are the ones I’m currently working on:

  • The Stand by Stephen King: This book is about a pandemic… (I know, I know). It centers a couple of different characters who live around the United States and it’s about they try to survive. As with most Stephen King books there is a supernatural aspect to it but we haven’t gotten to that part yet. I’m reading this as a buddy read with a friend from high school. It’s more than 1000 pages long (as are most of King’s books) and we are going slow, about 200 pages a month. We are currently reading to page 253 and I’m on page 150. So far I’m really enjoying the characters that King has chosen to follow although I’m left wondering ….where are all the people of color?!
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: I’m reading this book for a book club with fellow Questbridge Alumni. This book is a non-fiction work that describes how the current mass incarceration system came about. Why are there so many black men targeted for arrests? What does the War on Drugs have to do with it? Is the system racist? Yes! So then, why can’t it just be changed? All these questions are answered throughout the book with very thorough explanations and evidence. I’m on page 137 of 329 and I’ve already learned a lot. This is one that I’m annotating left and right (so much so that I have finished one of my highlighters!). There’s a lot to learn so if anything, this is just the start of my own education. I will finish this by the end of June since that’s when we have our monthly meeting.
  • Disability Visibility by Alice Wong: I got this non-fiction book as part of the Feminist Book Club subscription box! It’s a great subscription box if you’re interested in social justice and intersectional feminism. Anyways, the book is a collection of essays by disabled people from all aspects of life. There are lawyers, artists, mothers, students, activists, etc. This book is very eye opening and has given me a lot to think about, in terms of language, accessibility, and just stereotypes and biases I have about disabled people. I’m on page 164 of 309 and I’ve been stopping and learning more about the people in the book as well as checking my own responses to each story. Again, a lot to learn here! I will also finish this book this month because the next book comes next week!
  • Reinas Malditas by Cristina Morató: I’m reading this book as part of a book club with my friends from Mexico (though we have people tuning in from Canada, Texas, and various parts of Mexico City). This book is in Spanish and it tells the stories of various royalty figures in history, including Empress Sisi, Mary Antoinette, Queen Victoria, etc. All of these women had difficult lives trying to fit into the roles that they were put into (very few chose to become Queen of X place). So far we have read about Empress Sisi and I was not impressed with the writing. It reads more like a TMZ article than a serious biography so I’m not exactly trusting of the author based on that. So far I’m on page 120, learning about Mary Antoinette’s childhood, better than Sisi’s chapters so far! Since we read about 150 pages per month, you’ll keep hearing about this one for a while yet.

So those are the books I’m currently reading slow and steady, two will be finished way past the month of June. There are more books I want to read as well, these are lighter reads that I think I can read a bit more quickly:

  • Eternals by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by John Romita Jr: In preparation for the Eternals Marvel movie I wanted to read the comic it’s based on. With most other Marvel movies it’s hard to read the comic because it could span so many and they could take inspiration from so many different comics (plus the multiverse and oh my). But with Eternals I was happy to find that it’s all compiled into one volume, it’s about 200 pages and it collects volumes 1-7 of the original comics. I don’t know much about the plot and that’s okay by me!
  • The Sandman Omnibus Vol 1 by Neil Gaiman: Another Neil Gaiman on my list! This is also in preparation for The Sandman series that is in the works by Netflix. This comic follows Morpheus, the Lord of the Dreaming and his interactions with various gods, humans, and other mythical creatures. I have had this giant book for a few years now and haven’t read it because…. well… if I’m honest, it’s intimidating! This is easily the heaviest book I own. It is 1040 pages so not the longest but because it’s high quality comic book pages all in color well, you can imagine! I am super excited to read it though and then I will need to get Vol 2… gulp.
  • Supernova by Marissa Meyer: The third and final installment of the Renegades series! The series is about a group of superheroes who are trying to enact order on a city that’s been previously victim of a lot of conflicts between superheroes and villains (to the detriment of all the powerless humans). We follow a villain and her quest to get rid of the superheroes who just try to solve everything with their powers. She’s infiltrated their ranks and gotten super close to many of the superheroes so at this point she’s super conflicted. (As are some of the superheroes!) I’ve been enjoying this series and can’t wait to see how it ends.
  • Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan: This is the third installment of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. I’ve read the other two books in the past two years or so. I kind of like to spread these out a bit, kind of like candy. Not sure what to say about this without spoilers but basically we follow a group of very wealthy people, there’s romance, there’s drama, there’s a lot of name and brand dropping. Basically a whole other world from mine XD (Talk about escape!)
  • It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland: A stand alone debut novel about friendship, rock bands, and queer romance! Need I say more? Okay okay I’ll say more. We follow Eva, Celeste, Gina, and Steph who are members of Moonlight Overthrow, a band that’s become super popular. With the rise in fame plus a romance with two of the band members the band is in trouble of falling out! A storm that ravages their town forces them to get it together and find out just how strong their friendship really is. I learned about this book because the author and I graduated from the same college (albeit different years so I don’t think we ever overlapped.)

And that’s it! HA It might be a lot but since the comics should read fairly fast so I’m hoping that I can get through all the books mentioned. With the heat starting up here in sunny San Diego I expect I’ll spend quite a bit of time reading on the porch in the evenings.

Have you read any of the books mentioned above? What are you most excited to read in June? Do you have a favorite spot where you read during the summer months?

May 2021 Book Bites

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Favorite Bite:

All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread as rapidly; a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or, perhaps, to tend it carefully like an eternal flame: a reminder of light and goodness that would never — could never — set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled. Domesticated. Happy in captivity. the key, she thought, was to avoid conflagration.

Mrs. Richardson in Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Perspective Rating: 8/10 I really enjoyed how motherhood is viewed in so many different ways. I think few books that I’ve read have such diversity of points of view.
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 A lot of moments resonated with me, there were moments when I really felt for the characters and where I could feel how hard the decisions they made truly were.
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 Not a lot of quotable moments in this book, it was easy to read and a lot of it I just read through because I wanted to know more.
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 This book is truly a great book and I think it’s valuable to read for everyone. The lower rating is perhaps indicative of the writing style, which was good but not one I’d consider memorable.
Obsidian Puma by Zoe Saadia
  • Favorite Bite: None here, pretty much everything I annotated was because I was confused.
  • Perspective Rating: 9/10 This is where the book shines because there are very few books that are set in Tenochtitlan or even pre-hispanic conquest. The information about this time period and the culture is really well researched.
  • Emotional Rating: 2/10 I didn’t get to connect to the characters or the story too much. Perhaps it was the writing style or the way that the characters were just not fully developed but nothing really connected for me.
  • Bites Rating: 1/10 I did not like the writing style and I was already confused enough with the story unfortunately.
  • Overall Rating: 4/10 What is best about this book is the perspective. I wish there were more books with this perspective that were better written.
Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
  • Favorite Bite:

Perhaps most troubling was that the Renegades had done little to counter the growing epidemic of drug abuse or the flourishing black market. If anything, they seemed at a loss as to how to fight an enemy that couldn’t be knocked out with punches and laser beams.

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
  • Perspective Rating: 6/10 There is some diversity in the characters, one of the main characters has two dads and there is also one character who is disabled. However, they are not the main characters and we don’t get much of what is happening from their point of view. They are mostly supportive and secondary characters that I wish got more of a spotlight. I also found that there were some social justice issues (like the drug abuse epidemic mentioned above) where it could have gone much further but it was almost like a passing thing. I wish Meyer would have gone further into these issues explaining how this world was managing (or failing) at doing so than just this. (Or just not include it at all!)
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 Not going to lie, I am attached to a lot of the characters now, on both sides! I am worried about them and want all of them to succeed but I know that’s not going to happen and oh the feelings!
  • Bites Rating: 5/10 This is another book that was just super fast to read, not much was highlighted and I was honestly just devouring the book and didn’t stop to highlight things too much.
  • Overall Rating: 6.33/10 Super entertaining book that did leave me hanging and wanting to read the next one. I think these books are very entertaining but do lack in substance sometimes. (Or perhaps the attempt at substance is just not enough so it becomes distracting)
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
  • Favorite Bite:

“Trolls can smell rainbows, trolls can smell stars,” it whispered sadly. “Trolls can smell the dreams you dreamed before you were ever born. Come close to me and I’ll eat you life”

Troll Bridge in Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
  • Perspective Rating: 7/10 I don’t think these characters were particularly unique in the sense of perspective. Most of them were white men/boys encountering various types of fantastical creatures and situations. There was a variety of ages, from young kids to elderly characters so that was one place where there was some variety in perspectives, which I enjoyed.
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 At times it was difficult to connect to the main characters so some stories did flat for me. However, others were just excellent and I empathized with the character’s troubles and was able to dive deep into the story with them.
  • Bites Rating: 7/10 It really depended on the story, some of them did have great phrases that I highlighted and annotated, while others were quick reads that I wanted to just keep reading. Nothing remarkable really.
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 This book spans short works from the 80s and early 90s and were written for various types of magazines or books that were about a very specific type of story (fairy tale re-tellings or Lovecraft-inspired for example) so the stories can be hit or miss for pretty much anyone. I’d recommend it for people interested in a good variety of sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction short stories.
Eric by Terry Pratchett
  • Favorite Bite:

The bees of Death are big and black, they buzz low and somber, they keep their honey in combs of wax as white as altar candles. The honey is black as night, thick as sin and sweet as treacle.

Eric by Terry Pratchett
  • Perspective Rating: 6/10 We are once again following Rincewind in this series and he ends up in some kind of time travel mess along with a young demonologist who thinks he has summoned a demon while he has in fact, gotten a wizard out of some parallel universe. We do get to visit an ancient culture that is a mix between the Inca and the Aztec but it has the Pratchett treatment so it’s a very different satirical take. The most interesting perspective is definitely Death, who we see at the very beginning as a beekeeper in his realm and well, his point of view is always one that gets to me.
  • Emotional Rating: 4/10 Rincewind is not exactly my favorite character of the Discworld, but I did enjoy the parts of the book with Death and the Librarian which, even though they were few, they were so so great.
  • Bites Rating: 8/10 Although this book was not one of my favorites of Discworld it still gave me a lot of laughs and had many great jokes and fun bits as well as parts that made me think about life and escape the current state of things.
  • Overall Rating: 6/10 Discworld is a really fun series to pick up throughout the year. It’s guaranteed laughs and interesting characters that you never know what they’ll be doing next. While this was not my favorite book in the series it does give more of a glimpse into the Discworld so I loved it for that.
Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
  • Favorite Bite:

We were inexpressibly stupid; we thought it was only a cold, you see.

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
  • Perspective Rating: 7/10 While this book is mainly told from the white, colonizer perspective, the value that Temeraire (dragon) brings is one that makes Laurence, a white colonizer, think more about his morality. In previous books the rights of dragons as sentient beings are discussed but in this one the very reality that was the slave trade at that time is front and center. This is fantasy but it grapples with historical facts and events and puts them in a different lens. If dragons were real, would slavery have changed? If people thought that dragons deserved rights and to be treated with more respect, why couldn’t black people be given the same treatment? While Novik doesn’t fully expand on all of these ideas, it is something that does bring a lot of value to this installment of the series.
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 To say that I am attached to the characters would be an understatement. I truly care about Temeraire, that stubborn dragon who only sees things in black and white and who is completely loyal to Laurence. Laurence is also one who has earned a place in my heart because of the growth he has achieved throughout the novels. He started out as a navy guy who didn’t have many attachments and now he’s not just loyal to his British empire but also to Temeraire and his chosen family with the aviation crew. The women in this series are also amazingly strong and I only wish that we had gotten this same story but with one of the women aviators! That would have been incredible.
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 These books don’t have too much to annotate for me. Novik still does an amazing job at describing the fights, all these new terrains both at sea and on land.
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 I am four books out of nine into this series and I’m just still so impressed at how the world building keeps on growing. We’ve now definitely diverged from the factual historical timeline so I can’t wait to see where Novik takes the series next. Also, what a cliffhanger!!! My heart can’t!

So there you have it, I read 6 books in the month of May! I have also been working on three other books throughout the month: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Disability Visibility by Alice Wong, and The Stand by Stephen King.

I’ve been thinking a bit more about how to work with this blog. I’m slowly but surely realizing that this is my own space to work with however I want so I don’t necessarily have to follow any real “rules.” Perhaps you’ll see a bit of a change in the month of June, the ratings I feel are not exactly working for me anymore so those will definitely change. Also the types of posts will likely be different, a bit more of book reviews than I’ve had so far. Apart from the books that I’m already working on, I hope to go through my unread books and see which ones I want to prioritize more during the summer (graphic novels/comics, nonfiction, continuing series, etc).

I hope your reading month went well! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of the books mentioned above or the ones I’m still reading.

Book Review — The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

Back in February of 2020 I had my last trip before [insert all.the.things]. I went to Portland and got to visit one of my favorite bookstores: Powell’s. At that time I had no idea it would be the last time in a while that I’d visit such an awesome bookstore so I didn’t buy too many books (if only I had known….). Still, I got one book purely because of the cover and a couple of key words on the back:

Image of a book on a shelf. Other books of various sizes are in the background. The book cover is in sepia, black, and white colors and has written at the top in black "The Good Place meets Law & Order: Bibliophile Crime Unit. This book is so much fun. -- Seanan McGuire. The image on the cover is of an arm coming out of the left side of a dark opening of ripped pages from what seems to be a book. The words on the ripped pages are in french. The title "The Library of the Unwritten" is in the dark opening where the arm is coming out of in white letters. Underneath the title it says "Join the Library. Raise Hell. Underneath the opening it says "A novel from Hell's Library" and under that "A. J. Hackwith"
“head librarian” “Hell” “hero escapes” “author” were the words that jumped at me from the synopsis of the book.

I don’t normally buy books that I’m not looking for but this book just yelled to be picked up! Hell’s library, what’s in Hell’s library?! Is it evil books? Is it books by evil people? What?! I also don’t normally read synopses because I enjoy going into books not knowing much about the plot but this one claimed that this library housed unwritten works, now that’s intriguing! The main character would be the librarian in charge of these unwritten books and that a hero escapes so they have to get him back. With only a tiny bit of unease at stepping out of my comfort zone I bought the book. That was February 2020.

Jump to July 2020 and I figured it was about time to get back into reading since I was stuck at home with not much else to do… Boy it took me a while to get into the book. I don’t blame the book too much though! Middle of a you-know-what and my mental health wasn’t great so my attention span was lacking. I was reading about 20 pages here and there and then I left it for a couple of months until I finally finished it in January of 2021.

Although this book took a while to read I really truly enjoyed it! The story centers Claire, the head librarian of the Unwritten Library. This library is home to all the unfinished works by people on earth. You know, you write half a story and leave it there? Yeah, that story now lives in that library. All the main characters live in those shelves but sometimes they get out of their pages and become “real.” These characters are then put back into their unfinished books by the librarian. But, in one case, a hero escapes his book and manages to get out of the library altogether. Now Claire and Brevity (a retired muse) have to get him back into his book before he meets his author and havoc ensues.

But of course that’s not all! The other big big issue is that someone somewhere has discovered that the Devil’s Bible, written by Lucifer (you know, king of the underworld, head of all things evil, fallen archangel) is somewhere it shouldn’t be. Books are huge sources of power, demons are always going to the Unwritten library to read and borrow some of that power so it is imperative that this particular book doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. So, heaven is making sure they find the book to put it in the proper place and also demons are now after the book! Well, of course Claire and Beverly get mixed into this mystery of where the book is and …well… you’ll have to read the book to find out!

An aspect of this book I really enjoyed also was that we got to visit multiple other afterlife places: Heaven, Valhalla, a random pagan afterlife, etc. The way that one gets there isn’t easy for these characters since one is supposed to be a human soul (I kept forgetting that they were not entirely human throughout the whole book, also a side effect of stopping after a few pages and picking it up again weeks later I bet). There are many challenges and puzzles that they must solve at each turn so that was really interesting.

I highly recommend this first installment of Hell’s Library because not only is it for all book lovers and aspiring writers, it also includes LGBTQ characters. Multiple characters are sexually diverse and the issues that they face through the book (and in their backstories) are treated really well. I did not know this when I read the book but A. J. Hackwith is a queer fantasy and science fiction writer so it makes so much sense now that she was able to write about the identities of the characters so well.

I would like to continue reading this series and perhaps re-read this book now that my mind is more at ease. What do you think? Have you read this book? Do you have an unwritten book that you’ve yet to finish?

An unwritten book is nothing but pure potential, a soul’s potential is power [in Hell]. Power naturally, is all the creatures of Hell care about. They’d descend on the shelves like a swarm of locusts if we let them

The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

Pop the Popcorn and Watch This!

Pop the Popcorn! Here are two movies and a show (well, technically three versions of the same show) that I watched in the past couple of weeks and I really enjoyed!

Jakoby and Ward

On May 2nd I watched Bright, a fantasy film that is set in this alternate universe where fantastical creatures live alongside humans. It seems like there was a big battle between good and evil where the Orcs all banded with the evil side so they are now discriminated against by society. Our two main characters are two members of the LAPD: Daryl Ward, a human, and Nick Jakoby, an orc. The trouble here is that Jakoby is the first ever orc who is in the police force so, when Ward is shot point blank while on duty and Jakoby lets the perpetrator go (an orc), things get a bit complicated. In addition, there’s the situation where some group is trying to bring back the Dark Lord by using some old relics. Magic is seen as highly dangerous in this society so people want to get it under control. However, of course, magic = power so everyone is after these relics. The good about it was really the premise, it was very interesting and I really wanted to know more about how the world worked (there was a shot where a centaur was part of the police force, another where a dragon is seen flying somewhere in the background, etc). So many questions!!! Not many of them answered. Bright ends up trying to be funny while having a high stakes plot and it fell a bit flat for me in that sense. Although it is super fun and entertaining, I almost wish it had been darker (ha!). All in all it was pretty good, fun for an evening or afternoon with nothing to do!

The Circle – US, France, and Brazil

I also watched The Circle on Netflix, a reality show where contestants move into an apartment and from there will be able to communicate with other contestants via a social media app called The Circle. I like these types of shows (even if they might be slightly scripted), I think this one in particular was interesting because they have The Circle France and also The Circle Brazil so I was able to see a bit of those cultures and even learn some of their online slang. (I have studied French before so it was kinda cool that I could understand some things as the show went on without having to rely on the captions as much.) My favorite thing about these shows is that it’s probably one of the shows that can be set within the pandemic and it makes sense. Like they’ve been isolated so when they all finally meet for the finale it’s okay! (I actually have no idea when this show was filmed but yeah…) It’s just a great show to escape everything.

From left to right: Bubs, Captain Jang, Kim Tae-Ho, and Tiger Park

Space Sweepers on Netflix was so so so good! This is a South Korean film released this year, 2021. It is a space opera featuring a group of characters that I absolutely loved. This is set in a futuristic world where Earth is no longer able to sustain life and where a new world is orbiting in space. Of course, not everyone is able to go up and live there, they have to be chosen to become UTS Citizens. One of the many jobs that are available in this futuristic world is that of a Space Sweeper, basically there is a bunch of junk out floating in space, which can get off orbit and hit the UTS world or one of the many stations around that world. In this movie we follow Captain Jang and her crew as they sweep space for junk to sell (and basically beat everyone else at the game). One of the things I loved most about this movie is that there is great diversity, there are people who speak different languages (Spanish, Russian, French, English, Korean, etc.) Although there are parts of the story that didn’t exactly get explained, I didn’t care very much because I just enjoyed watching the characters react to all the things that they were encountering. I highly recommend it!

And those are the things I’ve watched lately that I felt were interesting enough to share. Other things I’ve been watching are:

  • Grey’s Anatomy: Yeah, still making me cry after all these years….
  • Station 19: Along with Grey’s, in order to get the full picture. Though I gotta say that this show is starting to be better than Grey’s? O.O
  • The Masked Singer: This show is weird and I love it XD
  • This Is Us: I mean…. No words, I just love this show.

Have you seen any of the movies or shows I mentioned? What have you been watching lately?

Pondering Stew: Motherhood in “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all existed at once. You could see it every time you looked at her: layered in her face was the baby she’d been and the child she’d become and the adult she would grow up to be, and you saw them all simultaneously, like a 3-D image. It made your head spin. It was a place you could take refuge, if you knew how to get in. And each time you left it, each time your child passed out of your sight, you feared you might never be able to return to that place again.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Pondering Stew is a type of post on my blog that comes when books leave me thinking, pondering, and stewing about something, a phrase, a theme, a character, a situation. Usually I will connect it to my life, a current event, a random other thing, or simply an idea. Hopefully some ideas resonate with you even if you haven’t read the book that triggered this thinking for me. I hope you enjoy it!

Little Fires Everywhere is a book that explores motherhood from various perspectives. The people who had her kids just as they planned with everything according to a plan. The one who didn’t exactly plan to have a child but had one and so she became a mother. A couple who wished more than anything to be parents but just couldn’t give birth to a child. (Plus many others).

The bond that exists between a parent, but specifically a mother, and a child can be one of the strongest emotional bonds out there. I myself have a good relationship with my mom, we don’t necessarily tell each other everything or are best of friends all the time, but we have a bond that is unlike anything that I have with anyone else. At the same time, I grew up for a couple of years with my grandmother and, at that time, I didn’t differentiate in my head that my grandma was not my mom. I loved her like a mom and she treated me and loved me like her child. Did that make the relationship with my biological mom any weaker? I don’t think so, it might have obscured it for a while but it didn’t break or disappear.

I thought about this a lot while reading this book. The women in the book are all concerned with what makes a mother the one true mom. Is it biology? Is it nurture? Something completely different? What about those who donate their eggs to couples so that they can have children? Are they mothers of that child? What about those who can’t take care of their child for whatever reason and give them up for adoption? Are they no longer mothers? Some of these questions might be easier to answer than others but each situation can be very complex.

Mia is, throughout the book, someone who seems to be a great mother. She listens to her child, treats her like a person, and doesn’t get into the illusion that Pearl is still a baby, she knows that her child is growing up and away from her, and that that is completely natural. At the same time, some judge her because she hasn’t given Pearl a permanent home and she doesn’t have enough money to purchase proper furniture or other luxuries. They are moving every couple of months due to Mia’s process for her art and Pearl is fairly isolated because of that. From her point of view, Pearl is happy that she will finally be able to make some permanent friends and settle down in this new town. And she also seems pretty solid on her relationship with her mother even if there are things that Mia will not talk about regarding her past. Regardless of this, their mother-daughter relationship is rock solid, there is no question that they trust and love each other above anything else, which is what helps them survive and continue living the way they do.

Mrs Richardson, on the other hand, looks like the perfect mother, she planned exactly when she’d have her kids and raised them in a permanent home with all the things they could possibly need. Her four children, however, seem a bit more aloof in their relationship with her. They see her as the adult in the house but they don’t confide in her or tell her about their troubles. Izzy especially, doesn’t quite know how to talk to her mom. Throughout the book Izzy feels like her mom singles her out more than her siblings and doesn’t know why. Even her siblings see her as the weird one in their family.

It’s a completely different dynamic between the two parent-child relationships. So, when Pearl starts to spend more time at the Richardson’s place, it’s not necessarily because of Mrs. Richardson, it is because of the home, the sitting around the living room watching TV, the having these traditions and things that the siblings do as part of their family routine. Pearl is seeing this other way of being a family and having these roots, the excess money to buy whatever one wants, not necessarily the relationships of the siblings and their mother. On the other hand, Izzy sees the relationship between Pearl and Mia and immediately wants to be a part of that. She realizes that Mia is someone who truly sees her and doesn’t treat her like a child who doesn’t measure up. And so, Izzy starts spending more time with Mia, volunteering to help with her art in any way, no payment needed. For a while there, Izzy and Pearl seem to have switched places as they experience different ways that mothers interact with their families.

All that being said, in life outside of the book, there are many people who don’t necessarily have the “traditional” mother figure in their lives. People, like me, who were brought up by relatives or have been adopted by other people, still have mother figures who taught them how to live and who love them as a mother would, and some in addition to their biological mothers. Although the figure of a mother is idealized in a lot of fictional settings (and often removed in order to give the main character complexity…ugh…), mother figures are found in other places during our lives. I remember Mrs Freeman, a teacher I had in Chicago for 4th grade when I barely spoke any English and who took me under her wing and taught me all the things that she could to help me survive. She was a maternal figure in a sense, there was a feeling of safety that I felt with her and she provided knowledge and tools that my mother couldn’t give me at the time. In other fictional stories, such as Matilda, mother figures come up from unexpected places. Some are never said to explicitly be mother figures, but they certainly play that role.

Today it is Mother’s Day in the United States where I live (though in my Mexican family, we celebrate May 10) and it is a time when we can reflect on that relationship. It is also important to acknowledge that there are people who don’t have these relationships or that the relationship isn’t a good one for them. I can talk today only on the context of my own experience: I can say that I love my mom and that our relationship is one that is complicated but also very loving. I also have a bit of grief for my grandmother who passed away many years ago, when I couldn’t quite understand or articulate what our relationship really was. And, even if not traditional, I think of all the women in my life who have served as mother figures in some way or another, both real and fictional: teachers, aunts, neighbors, authors, heroines, etc.

Are there multiple maternal figures that you have encountered throughout your life? How have they influenced the way you live/think/dream?

Pondering Stew: Isolation and Loneliness in “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

Pondering Stew is a new kind of post for my blog. Basically books will leave me thinking sometimes, pondering and stewing about something, a phrase, a theme, a character, a situation. Usually I will connect it to my life, a current event, a random other thing, or simply an idea. Hopefully some ideas resonate with you even if you haven’t read the book that I triggered this thinking for me. I hope you enjoy it!

Denver’s imagination produced its own hunger and its own food, which she badly needed because loneliness wore her out. Wore her out. Veiled and protected by the live green walls, she felt ripe and clear, and salvation was as easy as a wish.

Beloved by Tony Morrison (italics in original text)

This month I read Beloved with one of my book clubs. I had previously read it in high school for a class and even wrote an essay about the use of the word “veil” in the book. Now I could talk about so many things regarding Beloved; however, some of the things that I’ve been pondering and stewing over while reading this book and many days after I finished it are the themes of loneliness and isolation as well as the consequences of feeling those things for too long.

Beloved really had me thinking…

Beloved was inspired by a real event that involved Margaret Garner, a woman who killed her daughter rather than see her be enslaved again. Here are the characters from Beloved that you can keep in mind as we go through some of the thoughts I had:

  • Sethe: A woman who is able to escape slavery with her children, three were sent ahead of her and then she gave birth to the last one as she was escaping. She is only able to spend 28 days with all her children in some semblance of happiness.
  • Denver: The child Sethe gave birth to as she escaped. Denver is 17 years old when the narration of the book starts.
  • Paul D: A man who lived in Sweet Home, the place Sethe ran away from. Paul D also escaped and has been traveling, trying to find the place where he belongs. He arrives the day that the book starts.

This book has each character carry their loneliness around them, like a blanket that they use for protection. Being lonely means that they don’t have to admit their feelings to other people, isolated they can almost sit next to each other and just be in that moment while shoving all other memories away. None of them make much of an effort to connect to other people either, and most people also leave them alone since they get that feeling that they don’t want to be bothered. In part it is that taboo about how Sethe killed her child and went to prison for it, so there is a reason why people stay away. Denver is also deeply affected by this and doesn’t even get to play with other kids her age, instead she imagines that she plays with her baby sister who was murdered and who now “haunts” her house. Her brothers are barely mentioned but what it does say in the book suggests that they were just waiting for the right moment to leave.

All the characters in Beloved had one or multiple traumatic events happen in their lives that they never really got to process or grieve. Paul D and Beloved both suffered incredible physical torture in the form of beatings, being chained in a box in the ground, and many other unmentionable things. All the characters have suffered mental traumas since they were born into slavery, being treated as objects sold and used however their masters wished, and overall suffered the lack of love and acknowledgement from others throughout their lives.

After more than a year of physical isolation that started in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this book mirrored my own loneliness and isolation in some ways. Pre-pandemic I had a couple groups of people who I interacted with, coworkers, people I went to dance classes and events with, high school friends I saw from time to time. But now I don’t really see many of them at all or as often and I think, wow, I’ve lived in some form of isolation for a year (I’m not fully isolated since I do live with my parents and sister now, but my physical interactions with people face to face have decreased significantly) and this is nothing like what these characters are going through. Each of them were trapped in their own internal isolation and loneliness throughout their lives, it’s so heavy, so heartbreaking.

I imagine Denver, sitting in that space that the trees made and feeling that loneliness, that heaviness and not really knowing what to do with it. Mental health is not something that is prioritized for any of these characters, and of course, why would it be? They have other things to worry about! But nowadays, we can go to therapy, learn how to understand our emotions, learn the difference between being isolated vs being alone, increase our own self-awareness. Not that it’s easy! For me, it has taken me years to get to a point where I can recognize that “oh, I feel…. lonely” or “oh, I did that because I am afraid of what others think of me” and so on. I am still not great at it, but I am working on it. (Thanks to my therapist Ruth!). Thankfully, these characters were able to see through that blanket of loneliness and isolation and saw each other and themselves. Paul D saw a home in Sethe, Sethe saw a glimmer of hope as he extended a hand to her, and Denver saw herself and her own ability to learn and grow and be someone for herself.

Most of us go through these moments (short or long) feeling like we are alone and we’ll never feel anything else, but if anything, Beloved shows us that we can have hope if we turn to the person next to us, or the person within us, that self/soul/essence, that lights our fire and our passions. I encourage you to take a look in the mirror today for 60 seconds, a staring contest with yourself if you will, and see that fire within yourself. It is there, acknowledge it, love it, empower it, because it is what makes you unique and yourself and that is wonderful.

Those were some of the thoughts I’ve pondered and stewed over the past week or so. Beloved left me with many thoughts but these were the ones I went back to again and again. What if Sethe had had a therapist? What if Paul D had talked to someone about his traumas? They didn’t have the means or the access, and many other people still don’t have means or access to mental health help nowadays. But, what if we all did? All of us who need that help could all become self-aware and might be able to see where our true passions lie and that we are truly capable of doing it and achieving our dreams. What if…?

What do you think? Have you felt any of these things before? Also, did you do the mirror challenge? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!