The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

A magical tale about love and friendship in Inquisition-era Spain. 

DESCRIPTION:

New from the award-winning author of Alif the Unseen and writer of the Ms. Marvel series, G. Willow Wilson

Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, The Bird King is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. 

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate. 
     – Goodreads

Genre(s): Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Grove Press

Expected Publication Date: March.12.2019

*Thank you BookishFirst for providing an ARC in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own and based solely on the book*

REVIEW:
Hassan is a mapmaker highly valued for his special gift. Fatima is a Circassian concubine. The two have been friends since childhood and when one’s life is endangered by the newly established Spanish monarchy, the two decide to flee. They embark on a journey that will have them fighting for their lives and test their devotion to one another. 

The idea of this book is great. Not many novels delve into friendship between two people before making it romantic. That’s not to say there isn’t any romance in the book. There is. Only a tiny little bit. The story is mainly focused on the platonic relationship though. And on their quest to find the fantastical Bird King. 

My historical knowledge of Spain during the Inquisition is slim to none. It was brutal and that’s all I pretty much knew. But reading this book made me aware of things I had been ignorant of before. It’s kind of an educational read wrapped in magical realism. A lovely approach.

Now, I struggled a bit with this book. At times the story was slow. But the writing is beautiful, so I kept reading. I think if the pace would have been faster and I’d been more knowledgeable of the time period, I would have enjoyed it more. 

RATING: 3/5 stars

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander

I was watching the movie and realized I hadn’t read this book. So after I finished watching the film, I quickly found the audiobook and started to listen. 

The book itself is a Hogwart’s textbook on magical beasts found throughout the world. It’s full of information that in the movie, Newt was working on gathering. 

The audiobook is narrated by Eddie Redmayne. Since I went from watching him on my television to listening to him, it really was like Newt was there, reading aloud to me. I could distinctly picture Newt’s excitement as he talks about his favorite subject. The beastly sound effects were pretty great as well. It was all-around, a wonderful listening experience. 

A lovely way to jump back into this magical universe. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (original screenplay) by J.K. Rowling

Ah, I loved this! It’s the movie’s screenplay and oh my it’s just as magical. I didn’t think it would translate as well, but it did! See, this is what I wish Cursed Child would have been. Sigh. 

It’s fairly quick to get through this book. And as I read along, I could instantly recall the movie. It was like watching the film all over again. 

Fingers crossed the screenplay for The Crimes of Grindelwald comes out soon!

* Yesterday was Veteran’s Day! Thank a service member. Remember their sacrifices…

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

This book. This mothereffing book. It’s a monster of a book. A little over 700 pages. I decided to go the audiobook way. #noregrets. 

The basic premise of the story is that women all over the world are falling asleep and being enveloped by a cocoon-like material that radiates from their bodies. Waking the woman, results in disastrous results for the sucker that attempts it. So while the women are all asleep in their cocoons, the men are left to fend for themselves and are eager to get their women back. Meanwhile, the women are living in some kind of utopia in an alternate timeframe and eventually have to decide whether to go back to the regular world, or stay in their new, idyllic life. 

This book confused me from the very beginning. The cast of characters is tremendous!! I couldn’t keep track of all these people. Let me put it this way. Imagine every person that lives on your block. Got it? Okay, now imagine every single one of their viewpoints regarding one event all in one book. It’s too much right?? Oh, and then there are the views from the mice and fox. Yeah. I wish I were kidding. All those point of views were highly unnecessary because they overlap and make the story drag on. This book could have been pared down and still gotten its message across. 

And the message! My goodness. It’s super political. A lot of socio-political drivel wrapped up in a “supernatural” story. Whether or not I agree with it or not is beside the point. This story was waaay too much. Because while it sits on some kind of moral high horse, there are aspects that, in my opinion, are actually kind of offensive.

A Conversation With the Authors
At the end of the audiobook, there is a small conversation between Stephen King and Owen King. It was enlightening. Turns out that they initially started writing this book as a television script. So, this 700 page book was written with the idea of making it into a television show in mind! Makes so much sense. Was I annoyed? YES!!! Ugh! I spent 25 hours listening to this overly tedious book. 

Final Thoughts

This is my third Stephen King book. And I am yet to be impressed by his books. Have I given up on him? Nope! He has a plethora of work. I’m sure one of them will eventually stick. 

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Prompt: a book that was being read by a stranger in a public place

[Saw a woman reading this book in a hospital waiting room last December when I was compiling my TBR for this challenge.

Challenge Update: 46/50

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo


This book pays homage to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow while still managing to flesh out a somewhat new story. It adds touches of magic, of love, of friendship. It goes beyond a mere ghost story. Ah, I loved this book.

* Thank you to Alyssa Palombo and St. Martin’s Press for providing an ARC of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own *



Published By: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: October.2.2018

Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings

The mysterious and haunted world of Sleepy Hollow is palpable in this book. You can feel the hazy fog surrounding you, as you read Katrina’s version of events. 

In Wasington Irving’s original story, Katrina Van Tassel is described as a somewhat shallow coquette. But as this book is told by Katrina herself, we get another side to the infamous legend. And if you’re familiar with the original tale, then you’ll recognize many of the characters and elements that appear. 

At its core, the story is about love. Katrina and Ichabod are passionately in love with one another (providing the reader with a slew of steamy scenes). But he is a schoolteacher, dependent on the generosity of his pupil’s families. Katrina, is sole heiress to the successful Van Tassel farm. On All Hallows Eve, Ichabod asks for Katrina’s hand in marriage but is denied by her father. That night, Ichabod disappears and is presumed by the townspeople to have been taken by the headless horseman.

The story is also about magic and female friendship. Katrina’s best friend is Charlotte, a healer and witch. Because of Brom Van Brunts accusations of witchcraft, Charlotte is looked upon with fear. But Katrina defends her, and sticks by her. And through her, discovers her own gift of Sight. 

This is also a story of loss. When Ichabod disappears, Katrina is heartbroken. She spends a couple of years trying to figure out whether he abandoned her or if something more sinister befell him. If you assume it’s the latter, you’d be right. This is Sleepy Hollow, after all.  

This is an incredibly entertaining story. Katrina is a young, modern woman, stuck in post-Revolutionary War America. She is an avid reader, has her own political ideas, and a truly independent spirit. A part of me feels a lot of sympathy for this girl though. My heart broke when she finally discovered Ichabod Crane’s fate.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I hadn’t read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in so long that after I finished this read, I went and listened to the audiobook version. And wow. The original is good. But I was surprised by how faithful The Spellbook was to it. From Ichabod’s physical description, to Gunpowder veering off the main road by the church. I am truly awed by what Alyssa Palombo accomplished. 

Chocolat by Joanne Harris


Vianne Rocher and her 6 year old daughter Anouk blow into a small French town on Carnival day. They open a chocolate shop, located across the way from the church, during the Lent season. As an outsider that beats to her own drum, many of the town’s citizens (including the local Priest) are against her and refuse to shop in her chocolaterie. 

I’ve watched the film adaptation plenty of times. It’s one of my favorites. Even though I haven’t watched it in a long while because it’s tainted by Johnny Depp. But I digress. I didn’t know the film was based on a book (shows how much I pay attention to what I watch) until I saw a post here in the blogosphere. Then I found a copy at the used bookstore and I had to read it. 

I went in with high expectations and I am not disappointed. I loved this book. It’s magical, and atmospheric. The writing is lush and really transports you to this tiny French hamlet. 

The story is told through two viewpoints: Vianne’s and Father Reynaud’s. We learn about Vianne’s history, how she and her mother were wanderers for most of her life. Moving through different cities in different countries. And we get more insight into her “magical” abilities. Through Reynaud, we see his unraveling. His obsession with getting rid of Vianne. How her presence in the town appalls him. We also see how and why he grew up to be the kind of person he is. It was all very interesting. 

My favorite parts have to be the food ones. Vianne has a knack for creating mouth-watering chocolates and cuisine. She knows everyone’s favorite chocolate and always has them ready for the customer. There’s a touch of whimsy around her. She and Anouk follow the wind, wherever it may take them. But she really wants to set down roots somewhere. 

There are broader themes in the book, primarily dealing with religion. The book basically begins with Lent and ends on Easter Sunday. That’s a whole religious time frame. But there are other themes as well. It’s a really fascinating book. Absolutely loved it. 

And apparently there are two more books! Why did I not know this before?!

Me right now

Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) – Laura Esquivel

Before I jump into the review, a little backstory. It won’t be long. Promise. *crosses fingers behind back* 😉

Today is the start of Hispanic Heritage Month here in the U.S. It is also Guatemalan Independence Day!!! WHOO!!!

In honor of the motherland ❤ , I had planned to read a book by a Guatemalan author in my native tongue. Unfortunately, finding said book has proven to be more difficult than expected. Therefore, I went a different route. Today Mexico is celebrating its own holiday. Finding a book by a Mexican author and written in spanish proved easier. So, here we are 🙂

THE REVIEW

Tita is the youngest of 3 daughters living in Mexico during the revolution. At 16, Pedro (her sweetheart), proposes to her. But when he asks her mom, Mamá Elena, for Tita’s hand in marriage, he is refused. Because Tita is the youngest daughter, tradition states she cannot be married as her life is to be devoted to taking care of her mother for as long as she lives. Mamá Elena instead offers Rosaura, Tita’s middle sister, and Pedro accepts. This is not simply a story of Tita being caught in a love triangle with her sister. But a story of how she fights against tradition and gains a semblance of independence. 

I’ve read this book multiple times. In English. It was actually required reading in high school. This is my first time reading it in spanish though. And I actually understood the narrative better. It’s not that it’s badly translated into English. It’s just the nuances of some words and idioms get lost in the translation. Reading it in its original language, I realized that there was a subtle difference in the way I experienced the book. For one, Mamá Elena is a lot more frightening than I previously thought. I felt way more sympathy for Tita’s actions with this reading. 

The story itself is narrated by Tita’s Grandniece. The book is broken into 12 monthly chapters. But it actually covers an expanse of time. When the story begins (January), Tita is not quite 16. By the 12th chapter (December), she is 39. 

There are elements of magical realism in the book. Something that is usually hit or miss with me because I tend to read books too literally. This is a hit! It adds a little something extra to Tita’s characterization. Which leads me to the food.

Oh my goodness! Each chapter begins with a different recipe that has some bearing on the story. Tita was raised in the kitchen, so these are her recipes. She cooks her feelings into her food. Which is where some of the magical realism appears. Pedro and Rosaura marry and Tita is the one tasked with making their wedding dinner. She is full of longing and disillusionment as she cooks. Which results in the wedding guests being filled with nostalgia and sadness. (She didn’t do it on purpose btw)! It’s all actually pretty interesting how this happens. It makes real the “it was cooked with love” sentiment. 

A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON
As I mentioned, today Mexico is also celebrating. What is it celebrating? El Grito!

It commemorates the day that a Catholic priest, Hidalgo, rang the church bells (a battle cry) in Dolores (small town near Guanajuato), which marked the beginning of the Mexican War for Independence. Every year, the President (and other high-ranking officials) ring church bells and give a roaring cry to mark the occassion. 

If you can, I suggest you watch it.

It begins tonight, September 15th and lasts through the night. This is how Mexican Independence Day (September 16th) is rung in. (I’m not Mexican so please correct me if I’m wrong)!

EDUCATE ME!
Now, I know how my homeland celebrates its independence and I have an idea of how the motherland celebrates. 

How the U.S. celebrates 4th of July: Red, white and blue/flag clothing; Grilling; Beer; Fireworks. 

How Guatemala celebrates Independence Day (according to my Chapina momma!):

Traditional clothing (optional); Parade; Fair; Fireworks (which are low-key dangerous!)

But I am extremely interested in how other countries/cultures celebrate. I have a degree in Anthropology for a reason 😉 So, I toss it to you! 

How do YOU celebrate your country’s independence? Please let me know in the comments below!! 😀

HAPPY BLOGGING EVERYONE!

Wires and Nerve & Gone Rogue by Marissa Meyer

I finally got around to reading these graphic novels! Yay! 

Wires and Nerve,
Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer and Doug Holgate

It’s been a while since I read The Lunar Chronicles. But it was kind of easy to jump back into their world. What caused me a bit of confusion was the fact that this graphic novel takes place before the final(?) story in Stars Above

Iko has taken it upon herself to hunt down and take into custody the rogue wolf-hybrid soldiers that have stayed on Earth. Along the way, we come across our favorite Rampion crew, whose members are scattered around the world.
 
It was an easy read. I actually got through it fairly quickly. My one pet peeve is how it abruptly ended. This comic primarily set up the events for the next book. So not a lot really happens before the “to be continued” appears. 

Gone Rogue (Wires and Nerve, Volume 2) by Marissa Meyer and Stephen Gilpin



This volume picks up right where the last one stopped. Iko continues to narrate the story as the wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the Rampion crew. 

Cinder’s life is threatened, Wolf continues to struggle with himself and Kinney’s feelings towards Iko begin to change. 

Not my favorite story overall. Yes, all of the crew is back together. But since I already read Stars Above, it seemed a bit unnecessary since I already knew what was going to happen. It was just filler. I did enjoy that it was primarily told from Iko’s POV.

My advice: read the graphic novels before the short stories in Stars Above.  

Warcross by Marie Lu

If Leopoldo Gout’s Genius series and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One had a baby, it would be this book. 

Emika Chen is a bounty hunter and hacker, looking for a huge score to pay off all the debt she finds herself in. One day, she hacks her way into Warcross, a virtual reality game played by everyone, and accidentally exposes herself to the world. The game’s young creator, Hideo Tanaka, invites Emika to join the Warcross champiosnhip games as a wildcard pick and hires her to help him track down a hacker. 

I feel like I’ve read this book before. There were similar plot elements used from other books I’ve read that kept taking me out of this story. The twists, were not really twists. I was never shocked or taken by surprise because again, if you’ve read RPO or Genius: The Game, then you have an idea of what’s going to happen. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a completely different book, written by my beloved Marie Lu. 

With that being said, I did enjoy the story. Not as much as I perhaps thought I would. But still. You can’t deny Marie Lu’s talent. She really knows how to make a world her own and create characters that have depth.

I’m so excited for Wildcard! Can’t wait to see how this story concludes! 


2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Prompt: a cyberpunk book

Reading update: 39/50

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

Halloween is exactly 3 months away! Meaning, a reprieve from this weather and the little ones will soon be throwing out costume ideas. Fun, fun, fun.

Now, this review will be short because I honestly don’t have much to say about it haha. 

On Halloween day a group of boys go on an adventure through time, learning about the history of the holiday. 

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Bronson Pinchot, and it was amazing. There were a few times where I was a little spooked by the story but I really enjoyed it. And learning about how other cultures celebrate the day was the icing on the cake. 

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Prompt: a book about or set on Halloween [Originally planned to read Practical Magic for this prompt but I wasn’t in the mood. Maybe I’ll get to it later?]

Challenge update: 37/50

Memoria de Mis Putas Tristes (Memories of My Melancholy Whores) by Gabriel García Márquez

When I read the opening line of this novella, I was hesitant to continue reading because I was so sure it would be like Lolita. Thankfully it wasn’t. 

An elderly man wants to celebrate his 90th birthday by having sex with a young virgin. That was the opening line, in a nutshell. (You see why I paused?) Anyway, this man calls the local madame and gives her his request. Through her, he meets 14 year old Delgadina. (Not her real name). And so on his 90th birthday he wakes with Delgadina by his side. Except he doesn’t have sex with her. They continue to meet for about a year, with Delgadina remaining a virgin because pretty much all that happens is the old man watches her sleep. His infatuation with her grows though. But an incident happens that forces him to go months without seeing her. And although he is in peak health, the old man begins to die of love for her. 

Throughout the story, the old man recounts tales of his past sexual exploits. We also get a glimpse into his everyday life. He writes a column for a local newspaper. And when his feelings for Delgadina begin to grow, he starts to publish love poems(?) that everyone takes to be nostalgic musings. 

I read this novella in the original Spanish text. The language was beautiful. Gabriel García Marquez’s genius shines through. But. But my Spanish reading skills aren’t that great. 

I decided to challenge myself by reading this in Spanish. I don’t really use my native tongue that often. I’ve read only one book in español, Retrato en Sepia (Portrait in Sepia) by Isabel Allende, and it took me months to read. I had the same problem then as I had this time around: focus. It took me a while to get my mind to concentrate and make sense of what I was reading. It’s not easy to transition from one language you use 24/7 to one you unfortunately don’t use often. 
This is a 112 page story. What should have been a quick read, took me a few days to get through. So I would say I understood about 85% of what I read. That is how terrible my Spanish is. I really need to work on that. I might have to reread this in English sometime in the future because I feel there are some ideas I didn’t quite grasp. Which bothers me. 

Overall, I did enjoy the novella. It wasn’t what I was expecting. Which is a wonderful surprise. Not surprising? I need to spend more time reading books in my native language. Sigh.