Month: December 2014

See you next year!

As the year winds down I have taken a little break from blogging but plan to return to my regular (irregular) schedule in the new year! I hope you all had a wonderful December however you celebrate. I have been doing a lot of reading and baking as well as a lot of playing with all the new toys Diego has received. I think I have more fun that he does ūüėČ

See you soon!

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Book Fridays: The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street is a¬†book I’ve known about for ages but hadn’t gotten round to reading. Whenever there’s hype around a book I’m inclined to dislike it. I can’t explain it, but I generally wait to forget all I’ve heard before diving in. I like to go into a book with no biases and no expectations. A couple of days ago, Ashley at climbthestacks reviewed this book and I decided to finally give it a shot figuring it’s a short read and I could borrow the e-book from my local library¬†(plus I am a few books short of my reading goal).

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros was first published in 1984. It tells the coming of age story of Esperanza Cordero, a Mexican-American girl living in Chicago. The story is told through a series of vignettes, each only a few pages long. About the style of the book, Cisnero said, “She has in mind a book that can be opened at any page and will still make sense to the reader who doesn’t know what came before or comes after.” That is exactly the type of book this is. Even though some characters weave in and out of the vignettes, each short story can stand on its own.

The writing is simple but effective. Powerful. Cisneros does not use quotation marks in her writing. Of this she said, “…abandoning quotation marks to streamline the typography and make the page as simple and readable as possible. So that the sentences are pliant as branches and can be read in more ways than one.”

This is one of those books that I find difficult to talk about because there is no plot to discuss but there is a lot to say. Some of the vignettes are funny, others are sad and some are disturbing. Esperanza is trying to decide who she is going to become. She watches and observes those around her and these observations shape her. The women around her are all trapped, either by abusive men or the circumstance of being mothers to many children and nobody to help care for them. Esperanza wants none of that. She wants to be independent. This is symbolized by her desire for a house of her own. She wants her own space, but it’s not just about physical space. She wants to escape the poverty that limits her, the machismo that surrounds her, and the walls that confine her.

One of the vignettes explains the origin of Ezperanza’s name and in it she tells the story of how her great-grandmother ended up with her great-grandfather. “[He] threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier. That’s the way he did it.” She ends the story with this line: “I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window.” Esperanza doesn’t want to be anybody’s property, she doesn’t want to live without doing the things she wants to do.

This book is definitely worth a read. For me, personally, a lot of the experiences Esperanza recounts are ones I can relate to as a Latina even though I grew up very differently from our protagonist.

I want to leave you with a poem from the vignette titled Born Bad

I want to be
like the waves on the sea
like the clouds in the wind,
but I’m me.
One day I’ll jump
out of my skin.
I’ll shake the sky
like a hundred violins.

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What is a Christmas Eve Box?

Growing up it was tradition in my family to get new bedsheets and pajamas for Christmas Eve. I remember loving having something new and it added to the excitement of getting into bed as early as possible so that Santa could hurry up and stop by. I’ve continued the tradition, at least the pajama part, but this year I am starting a new tradition with a Christmas Eve box. I have no idea as to the origins of this practice but I read about it somewhere and then searched Pinterest and, of course, found tons of ideas.

A Christmas Eve box is a collection of treats and goodies that will make up the entertainment for the evening of the 24th. I’ve seen everything from pajamas, slippers, socks, and hot cocoa mix to movies and popcorn. I thought it was a wonderful idea and so I set out to create my own. Some people buy a cardboard box, or even have a wooden box that gets reused each Christmas. I used a shoe box and I wrapped it so that the lid could be removed without tearing the wrapping paper. For the moment I have a book, a movie, a set of pajamas and a Christmas themed activity book.

The best part about these boxes is that you can customize them to suit you. As your family grows and¬†changes the contents of the box will as well. I hope to do this every year. If you like making things this might be a project for you! It doesn’t have to be for kids, you can create a box for you and your significant other to enjoy together. The possibilities are endless.

Here is the box I made. I used things I already had in my crafting supplies. I can’t wait to give it to Diego!

IMG_8563 IMG_8564

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Book Fridays – Carmilla

*contains spoilers*

I learned about Carmilla from¬†Ron Lit, an awesome booktube channel that I recently discovered and am in love with. I went on a video watching binge and watched her review about this novella and decided to read it as soon as possible. I downloaded a copy from Project Gutenberg¬†and emailed it directly to my Kindle. (By the way, I love Project Gutenberg but that’s another story.) I read this novella in a couple of hours (between loads of laundry and other chores) At around 100 pages, it’s a very short read.

Carmilla is classified as a gothic novella, written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and first published in the magazine The Dark Blue in 1871. The story is narrated in the first person by Laura who is one of the two main protagonists. The story itself is presented as part of a casebook of Dr. Hesselius. Laura recounts an experience she had at just six years of age where she experienced a strange dream wherein a beautiful woman gets in her bed and bites her on her chest. She did not have any marks to indicate that it actually happened.

Twelve years later while on a stroll with her father they encounter a carriage which delivers them Carmilla. A young girl of Laura’s age who is frail with a mysterious ailment. When the two women look upon each other for the first time they recognize each other from the supposed dream Laura had when she was six years old. The two of them become fast friends and perhaps even more than that as Carmilla makes pretty overt romantic advances towards Laura. I’m always surprised by how Victorian era literature can be so openly sensual especially here where the two parties are female. For example:

“Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, “You are mine, you¬†shall¬†be mine, and you and I are one for ever”.¬†(“Carmilla”, Chapter 4).

Carmilla is described as beautiful and languid. She is a lovely young woman albeit a bit strange. For example, she abruptly snaps at Laura for singing a Christian hymn, she sleeps with her door locked and does not emerge until past noon. She’s clearly different and yet she’s not really presented as a villain.

Laura begins to experience nightmares and her health also begins to decline. Her nightmares consist of a cat-like beast that sneaks into her room and bites her on the chest. The cat then takes the form of a woman before walking out through the closed door. Laura’s father sends for a doctor who recommends that Laura should not be left alone.

I won’t go into how the story ends but I really recommend that you read Carmilla and find out for yourself.

One of the first criticisms that came¬†to mind while reading is the fact that Carmilla’s sexuality is tied into negative connotations of vampirism. Vampires are others, they exist outside of what is considered good and holy. They’re evil. So to equate same sex love with that is problematic. Except I don’t see Carmilla as being made a villain here. Laura does not speak of her friend with disdain or disgust. Also, Carmilla’s sexuality is not stated as much as it is implied. There was a definite¬†sensuality between Laura and Carmilla.

Carmilla predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by about twenty-five years. It is difficult to believe that Dracula was not influenced by Carmilla. I have to believe that it was. According to Wikipedia, an early manuscript of Dracula had the castle set in Styria which is the same place where Carmilla was set. It was later changed to Transylvania. I am not a vampire lore expert, aside from Dracula and the Twilight series¬†I have not read any other vampire books. Based on my limited knowledge I am of the opinion¬†Carmilla did it better.

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Book Fridays- Girl Online

I had been working on a different blog post for this last Friday but I wasn’t able to finish it on time so I figured I would skip a week but the current¬†hubbub surrounding¬†Zo√ꬆSugg’s first novel has spurred me to share my thoughts on the matter. It was being¬†alleged that her debut novel Girl Online was ghostwritten and her publisher has since stated that, “To be factually accurate, you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own.” Okay, so her publisher has admitted that she did not write the book on her own, and Zo√ꬆherself responded via Twitter¬†stating, “…of course I was going to have help from Penguin’s editorial team in telling my story, which I talked about from the beginning.”

If you don’t know who Zo√ꬆSugg is, she is a YouTube personality with over six million subscribers. She goes by the name Zoella. I have been watching her videos on and off for a couple of years. She’s bubbly, positive and shares cute buys, hair styles and makeup. She is also outspoken about her struggle with anxiety which I appreciate on a personal level. When she announced that she had received a book deal I was immediately skeptical. In all the time I have watched her she didn’t really ever mention writing, or even much in the way of books. Now, of course YouTubers only share a tiny sliver of their lives on camera so it can be argued that she simply hadn’t shared this long nurtured interest before. I can believe that. Somewhat.

Having a ghostwriter isn’t a big deal to me. Zoella is a name, she is a brand and with an already established fan base she’s prime to sell just about anything. Which is also why touting her first week numbers being higher than J.K. Rowling’s is silly at best. Cashing in on her popularity is financially savvy and business-y. Good for her. What I take issue with is the fact that she wasn’t forthcoming about her book at all. I am 30 years old, and clearly not her target audience, but I was under the impression that she would be writing this book herself. She mentioned working with her editor (normal) but she never mentioned working alongside another author.

Obviously, this book came about because with six million subscribers it was guaranteed to sell. It’s a reality that popular YouTubers will exploit their fans, and what better fan base than that of tweens who have access to adult bank accounts? It’s very profitable and even though it sounds icky when stated like this it doesn’t mean it’s wrong or untrue.

Zoella is appealing because she’s marketed herself as genuine and she leads you to believe she’s just like you. Had she stated from the beginning that she was getting help writing her book nobody would have cared. I think it’s insulting to her fans/customers to peddle something under false pretenses. Like I said before, having had help is NOT a big deal, what is a big deal to me is the obfuscation. Zoe was able to make her dream of writing a book a reality BECAUSE she is a popular YouTuber not because she’s an amazing writer or worked really hard to write said novel. The fairy tale being sold is a lie and I think it does a disservice to her fans to not clue them in.

Having said all this I don’t think that¬†Zo√ę deserves any hate, mean messages, or anything of the sort. Chalk it up to an error in judgment or simply an innocent oversight. It is entirely likely that she did not mean to misrepresent the origins of her book (although I doubt that). Regardless of the how and the why I hope that this whole non-issue serves as a valuable lesson to all celebrity authors.

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