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.

April 2021 Book Bites

April 2021. Last time I posted one of these posts it was 2018, that does not escape me. It is cliche but life happened and got in the way of me working on the blog like I wanted to. And then I didn’t feel like reading much during the pandemic so not a lot to write about. Then, finally, a couple of months ago I started reading and joining book clubs (virtually) and the urge to get back to blogging came back with that. So, I am here again, finishing up posts that I started back in 2018 and working on new ones. As we know that life can be complicated and full of twists and turns, all I can promise is that as long as I am having fun with the blog I’ll continue with it. So, let’s remember how it was that I rated books:

  1. Perspective Rating: Does this book show me different perspectives? This score is all about diverse points of view!
  2. Emotional Rating: Does this book tug at my heartstrings? Does it make me sad, angry, inspired, emotional in any way? Of course, emotions could go from me loving the book to completely hating it so this rating can be complex depending on the book.
  3. Bites Rating: This is all about annotation and language? Did I have to stop and savor certain lines or passages? Was it confusing? Simple? Complex? The more I highlight and have trouble picking one bite for the review/post the better the score.
  4. Overall Rating: Average of the above three ratings.

Let’s get started!

The first book I read this month was Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid. I was supposed to read this last year but never got around to it. This book was very different from my normal reads, a contemporary book with a 20-some year old who works as a babysitter and doesn’t quite have a plan on what to do with her life (as many of her friends and family members are quick to tell her). There is a lot of social commentary on racial bias, the white hero complex, career expectations, and self judgement about pursuing a fulfilling career vs a profitable one.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • Favorite Bite:

But there was something about the actual work, the practice of caring for a small unstructured person, that left Emira feeling smart and in control. There was the gratifying reflex of being good at your job, and even better was the delightful good fortune of having a job you wanted to be good at.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • Perspective Rating: 8/10 This book did have a different perspective from my own from Emira’s point of view as well as the point of view of a nanny of color taking care of white children. It’s a difficult topic to breach and at times it did feel like we got more from the white savior’s point of view than from Emira’s. Especially the ending where things were wrapped up a bit too fast and focused more on Mrs Chamberlain than Emira.
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 A lot of this book definitely made me feel angry. Angry at the way people treat nannies and caretakers. Nannies and caretakers tend to be mostly women of color and they don’t get healthcare or other benefits a lot of the time, mostly because it’s a system that is set up by each family. It left me with a lot of unanswered questions, which was probably the point but I also lacked some more depth at the end.
  • Bites Rating: 4/10 I highlighted exactly nothing of this book. It was easy to read, nothing complicated, but also nothing stood out for me.
  • Overall Rating: 6.33/10 It was a good book, I wanted to know more about the story but a lot of it was filled with microaggressions towards the main character. A lot of the time I found myself frustrated with all of the characters and rolling my eyes at the decisions they were making. The only character who was enjoyable in this book was Briar, the toddler. That being said, it did open my eyes to the world of nannies and the struggles that they face so that was definitely valuable for me.

The second book I read in April was a manga: Himouto! Umaru-chan Vol.1 by Sankaku Head. I got this book at Barnes and Noble where they had set up a blind date with a manga, which seemed like an exciting prospect. I am so glad that this was a fast read because I did not like it XD The book centers a brother and sister, the brother works a full time job while the sister (Umaru-chan) goes to high school, is practically perfect, beautiful girl, but then we find out that she basically makes zero effort, she’s just naturally gifted. She also just complains and emotionally manipulates her brother to get all the things she wants. I mostly felt bad for him and the way he enabled her all the time.

Himouto! Umaru-chan Vol.1 by Sankaku Head
  • Favorite Bite:

My sixteen-year-old sister is throwing a temper tantrum over a manga… this is…not good!!! She’s my responsibility…! Umaru’s been living in my apartment for a year now… and she just gets lazier and more spoiled by the day!! At this rate she’ll never be able to make it in the real world!!

Himouto! Umaru-chan Vol.1 by Sankaku Head
  • Perspective Rating: 3/10 It gets points for being set in Japan so you do get some cultural references. Other than that I can’t think of much else to give it points regarding perspective.
  • Emotional Rating: 3/10 If frustration counts then yeah I was very frustrated. The main character was so uninspiring. And I think this is supposed to be a comedic book, but I guess I do not like this type of comedy. Sigh…
  • Bites Rating: 2/10 Okay so it’s a manga so it might be a bit more difficult to find good lines and such. I also don’t read many manga so it’s hard to know how to annotate them. I mostly just read them straight through so perhaps an unfair rating here. Still, I was not impressed.
  • Overall Rating: 2.66 Yeah… not the best. Needless to say, I will not continue with the series. I did hear there was an anime series but can’t say that I’m inspired to watch it either.

Throughout the month I also read Beloved by Toni Morrison. What a change of pace! This is actually a book I read when I was in high school. Needless to say I have a different life perspective now and I think I got way more out of it. I’m working on a post just for Beloved so I’ll update this post once that is up. The book is about Sethe, a woman who escapes slavery while pregnant. She is able to get to her children who were sent ahead of her to safety and now live with her mother in law. Then, merely 28 days after she arrives with them, she sees that some white men have found her and want to take her back, which leads her to killing one of her children. The book switches perspectives between the characters and from the present time, years after she killed her child, to the time she was still enslaved, as well as her journey as she escaped. A very complex, beautiful, and heartbreaking book.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Favorite Bite:

Their skirts flew like wings and their skin turned pewter in the cold and dying light.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Perspective Rating: 10/10 This is a very unique perspective. Toni Morrison describes in the introduction that this book was inspired by a real event where a Sethe killed her child in order to keep her from slavery. She’s also able to immerse the reader in the memories of the characters. We get to go into Paul D, Denver, Sethe, and Beloved’s minds and memories, some of which are fuzzy and sometimes overwhelming.
  • Emotional Rating: 9/10 I was overwhelmed a lot of times with this book. It’s a very heavy book that doesn’t let one take a breath easily. One should take this book slooooooow. I read it at night before bed, just 20 pgs or so each time and that worked for me.
  • Bites Rating: 10/10 I mean this book is just beautifully written. Some sentences I just needed to stop and think about the passage or re-read the sentence in order to let the words sink in. Sometimes sentences would have deeper meanings and would reference things from the past in obscure ways so it definitely made the reader work (I enjoy that in books!).
  • Overall Rating: 9.66 Beloved is really a great book, the first in the Beloved Trilogy. I have also read the second book in the trilogy, Jazz and I enjoyed that one a tad more (perhaps it was because it’s a bit less violent and more psychological). I would like to re-read Jazz and then finish up the trilogy with Paradise (eventually).

The next three books I read during Dewey’s 24-hr Readathon, you can check out that post here. Either way, the ratings I gave there were only for Goodreads so let’s see how they stack up in terms of the Bites of Books ratings.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Favorite Bite:

I was a curious boy, but the schools were not concerned with curiosity. They were concerned with compliance. I loved a few of my teachers. But I cannot say that I truly believed any of them.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Perspective Rating: 10/10 Black voices have often been silenced and listening to a black man tell his life story and point of view via audiobook was incredibly powerful. I highly recommend you listen to this audiobook because it really adds to the experience.
  • Emotional Rating: 10/10 This book is a perfect balance of hard truths being put on the table while inviting for some hope and light at the end of the tunnel. Society has racist roots, there’s no way around it, we still live in a society that treats black people a less than. What we can do now is listen to black people, believe them, support them in every way we can.
  • Bites Rating: 10/10 I listened to this book so I couldn’t annotate it. However, I found myself listening hard, really taking in his words and pausing and thinking about a couple of passages. The book also sounds at times like spoken word, there’s a rhythm to his words that is really quite beautiful.

I also read The Duke and I by Julia Quinn. I don’t normally read romance but I watched the Netflix show Bridgerton and I got curious. NOTE: There should be trigger warnings for the show and the book for sexual assault. The book is about a 20-something lady, Daphne, who is in search of a husband but isn’t having a lot of good prospects. Meanwhile she meets a Duke, Simon, who is set on never wanting to marry. They come up with a plot to seem interested in each other in order to bring better prospects for Daphne and keep the mothers and young ladies away from Simon.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn + Seiko
  • Favorite Bite:

There were always whispers. And whispers, if left unchecked, could quickly grow into roars.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
  • Perspective Rating: 2/10 I mean…. Regency romance… nothing new or unexpected for here for me.
  • Emotional Rating: 4/10 I will give this book that it was fun to read, minus the sexual assault, which is near the end of the book, everything after that was just …..sigh…..
  • Bites Rating: 4/10 The writing was easy to read, nothing too impressive or complicated. I did not annotate the book at all and there are no passages that stand out to me.
  • Overall Rating: 3.33/10 Yeah overall this book wasn’t amazing but it was entertaining. It’s junk food if you will. I didn’t suffer reading it, it was just not out of this world. I will continue reading the series since I bought them impulsively so I guess you’ll see updates about that eventually.

The last book I finished this month was The Rain God by Arturo Islas. This book was really wonderful and heartbreaking in so many ways. It is not often that I find books detailing what it is to be part of a Mexican family living in the US. Although my family’s situation is different, I did identify with a lot of the issues described in the book. It follows the Angel family, from the grandmother, Mama Chona, to her grandson Miguel Chico and their life (and death) experiences.

The Rain God by Arturo Islas
  • Favorite Bite:

As his hands reached for the pain in his chest, El Compa heard only the buzzing of a lone cicada sending out its love signal in the distance toward the poor people’s cemetery.

The Rain God by Arturo Islas
  • Perspective Rating: 10/10 It is rare that I see so much of myself, my family, my culture in a book. Unfortunately books with this point of view are not often popular or given a lot of publicity.
  • Emotional Rating: 10/10 This book hit me emotionally in so many ways! Not all of it was comfortable and not all of it was nice and happy feelings. In fact, most of it was uncomfortable and challenged a lot of customs and beliefs that permeate the Mexican culture.
  • Bites Rating: 10/10 I lucked out because this book was already heavily annotated when I purchased it from a thrift store. And I say that I lucked out because I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with a lot of the annotations the previous owner had made. Both in understanding of the text as well as in what was annotated. There were even some parts of the book that I read out loud to my family and that is something I can safely say I’ve never done before.
  • Overall Rating: 10/10 This book might be one of my favorites of the year.

Have you read any of the books that I mentioned here? What was your favorite book you read this month?

And that was April! I read 6 books in a month! I am on a roll right now with my reading and I’m looking forward to what will come next in May. Stay tuned for a TBR and other May plans 🙂

January Book Bites

Hello everyone!

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

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

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

  • Favorite bite:

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

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

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

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

  • Favorite bite:

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

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

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

  • Favorite Bite:

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

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

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

  • Favorite Bite:

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

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

January 28, 2018 at 01:51PM.jpg

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

Favorite Bite:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Book Review — Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final rating: 5/5 stars

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.

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.