2019: Week 16 Reading Roundup

Sunday.April.14 – Saturday.April.20

AKA: An incredible reading week!

FINISHED READING: 4

Del amor y otros demonios (Of Love and Other Demons) by Gabriel García Márquez

​A relatively short tale about a 12-year-old girl bitten by a rabid dog. Although she shows no symptoms, she is sent away to a convent where she undergoes various exorcisms to “cure” her of the sickness. The language was a bit difficult for me but I did like the story (for the most part). A 36-year-old man falls in love with the little girl. Yeah. A whole lot of nope at the last 20% of the book. [3*]

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (#1) by Douglas Adams

​Ha! This book is weird but amazing. I can’t even summarize the plot. It’s too indescribable. There’s a mystery involving 2 ghosts, the fate of humanity, and a whole lot of science fiction. Funny and odd, just like the adaptation. [4*]


The Orange Girl
by Jostein Gaarder

​My goodness, this book! A 15-year-old boy reads a long-lost letter his father wrote to him shortly before he died 11 years prior. In it, the father spins a fairytale-like story about meeting the orange girl (the boy’s mother). This book is so therapeutic, that I was sobbing by the end. Because it’s not only about love, but about our very existence in the world. [4*]

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

​The life-story of our foreign-born U.S. Founding Father. I absolutely loved this book!! Because it just goes to show how incredibly hard immigrants have to work to prove themselves just as capable as their colleagues. Hamilton didn’t take anything for granted, using every opportunity he earned, and relentlessly striving to preserve the sanctity of his adopted country’s constitution. He not only fought for the states and created our financial system, but actually shaped our beloved country. One of the best biographies I’ve encountered as it covers all aspects of Alexander Hamilton’s life (i.e. The good, the bad, and the controversies) and the American Revolution. Recommend the audiobook narrated by Scott Brick [5*

CURRENTLY READING: 1

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty 

My 30-Day buddy read. About 76% of the way through. The story is okay. Simply okay. Some things are interesting. But it really hasn’t held me captivated. As of now, it’s looking like a 3* star read. 

UPCOMING READ: 

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

I have this audiobook all ready to go! I am so damn excited!!! 

BOOK HAUL: 9

Anyone else get all 9 books on Amazon for World Book Day?? I can’t say no to free books! Especially since 1 of them was on my TBR haha. 

IN OTHER NEWS:

I know everyone is watching Game of Thrones. But is anyone watching the BBC  Les Misérables adaptation on PBS?? I really liked the first episode!  Hallelujah to the No Singing!! Plus having read the book recently, it seems like a pretty faithful adaptation which makes me very happy 🙂

HAPPY BLOGGING EVERYONE! 😀

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

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!