Books

Book Fridays: #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks

Last year I sorta lost steam with Book Fridays towards the end. I was reading faster than I was writing blog posts and I just felt like writing about the books I was reading had become a chore. So I took a break from doing that so that I could read in peace and regroup. I don’t consider myself a book reviewer but I suppose that any discussion of a book can be called a review of sorts. I am not sure what my approach will be this year but one thing I am definitely doing is participating in the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge. The point of this challenge is pretty straight forward: read books you already own rather than buying more books to add to your TBR pile. I really like this idea, especially after shopping my own shelves last year and realizing I had a bad habit of buying books and not reading them. I don’t have a lot of books compared to some but I do have a nice little pile of them that I am going to get through this year.

Currently, I have 11 books on my nightstand and 1 book on my Kindle. I also have a few more on my bookshelf downstairs. There are no set rules in this challenge, you decide how you want to tackle your pile of books. Some people want to knock a certain number of books out before allowing themselves any new purchases. Others, like me, are going cold turkey: NO NEW BOOKS UNTIL…these books are read. It’s OK not to finish a book (life is too short to read books we aren’t into). I am not purchasing or borrowing books from the library until I’ve gotten through at least most of the books I have at home. I’m planning to be strict on zero purchases but a library book or two might happen.

These are the books I’ve already read/ plan to read in 2016.

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling read
  2. Midnight Taxi Tango by Daniel José Older read
  3. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls currently reading
  4. Negro: Este Color Que Me Queda Bonito by Benito Massó Jr.
  5. Perfume by Patrick Süskind
  6. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn*
  7. The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
  8. The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
  9. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce*
  10. Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke
  11. Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
  12. The Zenith by Duon Thu Huong
  13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  14. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  16. The Queen by Tiffany Reisz

*denotes a re-read

I don’t plan to read these in any particular order. Once I finish a book I usually look at my TBR list and decide what I’m in the mood for. Most of the time I borrow books from the library but last year I discovered that Dollar Tree sells books and they’re not the kind of books I assumed they were (trash) so I loaded up on quite a few. I plan on writing about these Dollar Tree books soon.

How about you? Do you have a lot of books laying around? Consider reading your own damn books!

signature.blog

Readathon Kids Challenge!

Welcome to HOUR FOUR! I am so thrilled to be hosting a mini challenge this readathon. My first readathon was in October of last year and I am so glad that I decided to participate. This community of readers welcomed me with open arms and I am only sorry I didn’t find it sooner. Celebrating books and reading is a wonderful thing and I love to be able to spread the excitement.

This is intended to be an Instagram challenge but if you don’t have an Instagram account and would like to participate you can do so via Twitter. I will be checking the hashtag on both Twitter & Insta.

The challenge:

Sharing our love of books with the next generation is fun. During the readathon you might find yourself in the company of future readers. Perhaps you’re pregnant and in the habit of reading to your bump, or maybe you have a new baby, toddler, sibling, niece, nephew etc. Maybe you don’t have any kids around you today but you are enjoying some children’s classics. Take a picture of your toddler’s readathon stack, or of your baby looking through a book. Kids and books, let your creativity lead you. Use props, recreate a book cover… Whatever you do make sure to use the hashtag #readathonkids 😀

The prizes:

  • A copy of a Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (must be resident of the US since I’ll be shipping you the book)
  • A $10 giftcard to Book Depository (open to international participants!)

I will be choosing two winners during hour 8 of the challenge which means you have 4 hours to participate. If you are a winner and under the age of 18 please get your parent/guardian’s permission before sharing your mailing address. Safety is important! If you have any questions leave them in the comments or contact me at the following:

Twitter: iron__gall 

Instagram: scandelis_d

I can’t wait to see your pics!

ETA I have decided to extend the challenge until the end of the readathon so keep those pics coming! I am loving looking through the hashtag 🙂 -Abby

signature.blog

 

Book Fridays: Last chance for readathon prep

Dewey’s 24 hour readathon is tomorrow. Are you ready? In my previous post I talked about my approach to the readathon and how I prepare for it. Now that I’m down to the wire I realize that I don’t have my stack fully worked out! I have plenty to choose from so this is really a non-issue but I’m tempted to make a library run for two books I really want to read.

My meal and snacking choices are dictated by what’s Whole30 approved. I started the program on Monday and I’m already experiencing results so I intend to stick with it for the full 30 days. It won’t be easy! I have created some bookish snacks that I haven’t been able to eat such as these book pastries and these fruit leather and cheese books. I won’t be eating these but I’ll still be making them for Diego who will be my reading buddy (he even has his own readathon stack!). Doing Whole30 means that I have to prioritize meal planning for tomorrow as I can’t be putting things in my mouth absentmindedly. I plant to have plenty of fruit and veggies on hand. I’ll be prepping them tonight so I don’t have to do much tomorrow.

I will be cheering, reading, and hosting a mini challenge so I know that there is little chance that I’ll finish more than one book but the readathon is so much more to me than that. I will have a great day no matter how much I end up reading. I hope to finish the book I’m currently reading tonight so that I can start a new book tomorrow. I’m one of those readers who is loathe to have more than one book going at the same time. The Picture of Dorian Gray has been one of those reads that’s annoying and infuriating but something about it keeps me invested. I have no problems dropping a book I’m not into but I am into Dorian Gray and I don’t know why!

Will you be participating in the readathon? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading tomorrow (and always 🙂 )

signature.blog

Book Fridays: The readathon is coming!

Dewey’s 24 hour readathon is coming up on Saturday the 17th! Have you signed up? If you’ve never participated I strongly urge you to do so. It is a fun event for readers of all ages and if you love to volunteer your time they could really use all the help they can get! You can sign up here and poke around to see how you can get involved if you’re into that 🙂

I first heard about the readathon last October via Rincey of Rincey Reads on YouTube. I wasn’t sure I could participate but I ended up reading the entire day and had a lot of fun reading updates and blog posts from readers around the world. If you’ve never done a readathon I think Dewey’s is the perfect place to start because it’s all about having fun. You don’t have to read for the full 24 hours (although you certainly CAN) and there are lots of bookish activities and challenges going on for the full 24 hours. A celebration of books and reading is the best way I can describe the readathon.

How do you prepare for a readathon?

Personally, I like to prepare my stack in advance. My first readathon was spent with The Mists of Avalon. I devoted all of my reading time to just the one book and that’s a valid plan of action. The following readathon I lined up a variety of books of varying lengths which resulted in completing a couple of books. That made me feel accomplished. My advice would be to have a variety of books to choose from. You just never know what you’ll be in the mood for once you get going. I’m firmly on team print books AND ebooks. I love my Kindle and I have a few books to choose from on there, too.

Visit your local library

If you have a reading list bigger than your bank account you are not alone! If I were to purchase every book I wanted to read I would be broke. In planning your reading for the readathon I would suggest visiting your local library if you’re able to do so and if your library has Overdrive (or has some other way to loan ebooks) take advantage of that as well. I now have a to be purchased list of all the books I borrowed that I now want to own.

Don’t forget to shop your bookshelves and even your friends bookshelves. Just make sure to take excellent care of their books. Nobody likes to get dog eared copies back. There are also plenty of books in the public domain that are available in ebook format for free.

If you have some coin to spend check out thriftbooks.com. I recently purchased a few books from them and although visibly well loved they are still in great reading condition.

Plan ahead

This might sound like overkill to some but I like to plan for the readathon by making meals ahead and basically having nothing to do but read. Of course this is all relative as I have a toddler and so diaper changes and as of recently, potty visits will be happening throughout the day. I also think it’s important to take breaks, rest your eyes, stretch your muscles etc. And of course we need to eat! Snacks are a must and they can be as healthy or junk-y as you want.

Have fun

I think the most important aspect of the readathon is to have fun. Get your whole family involved. Pick up a comic or graphic novel. You aren’t limited to any format either, ebooks, print books and audiobooks are all readathon material.

I will be hosting a mini challenge on Saturday. There will be prizes! I am so excited to cheer, read and keep up with readathon happenings. I probably won’t finish a book but I sure will have plenty to read.

FullSizeRender

Diego’s readathon stack!

signature.blog

 

Book Fridays: War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson A. Denis

The United States has been committing atrocities since its inception. I’m not being hyperbolic. I am stating a fact. Most U.S. citizens have a very limited and misinformed view of Puerto Rico. The history and current relationship between the United States and this colony is not something that many people know too much about. The United States acquired Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898 and since then it has subjected it to its rule. The US government turned Puerto Rico into a single crop economy and the effects of this financial misstep can be felt today. From sterilizing Puerto Rican women without their knowledge or consent, to infecting people with cancer, the history and doings of the US government are an indictment of the tyranny of imperialism.

Puerto Rico has never been given the chance to govern herself. After more than a century of exploitation I am not sure that independence is even possible but the deepest recesses of my heart are screaming, “Que viva Puerto Rico libre!”

This book is well researched and beautifully written. I think everybody should read it. I think everybody should know about how Puerto Rico fought for independence and how those who fought hardest paid with their lives. Knowing our history can only make us better.

signature.blog

Book Fridays: I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

I had no idea who Juan the Pareja was before picking up this book. I found it while browsing the children’s section at the library. I read the blurb and thought it sounded interesting. The book, while a good read, is not without its problems. Juan de Pareja was slave to Diego Velazquez one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. This story is told from Pareja’s point of view which is both wonderful and problematic.

Juan de Pareja was born to a mulatto mother and Spaniard father. He was born into slavery. Diego Velazquez inherited him after his original masters succumbed to disease. I’m going to go ahead and discuss what I think the book has going for it before I delve into what I took issue with. Having a Newberry Medal winner be a book about a black protagonist is significant. Almost 50 years later we still face diversity issues in publishing but it is important to note that the author of this book is a white woman. I’m not saying that she won because she was white but if you look at the list of Newberry Medal winners you will see which way it skews. One book about a 17th century slave does not change the reality of publishing.

When we talk about 17th century Europe many people overlook the fact that black people lived among all the white people we read about in books and see in movies etc. set in that time period. They are not often discussed or depicted but they were there because: slavery. This is why a book about and told from the point of view of a black man is significant.

The writing is good and the story engaging. There were a couple of scenes that stood out to me.

When I started reading the book the foreword bothered me and 40 pages in I declared the book garbage on my GoodReads status update. My feelings have mellowed somewhat but the main issue I have with the book is the handling of slavery and racism. The author doesn’t go as far as to justify it but she does almost excuse it. She doesn’t go as hard on it as I think she should have. The contempt for slavery is mild and Pareja is characterized as a docile slave who loves his station and his masters. Her foreword is basically a declaration of that’s just what was done back then rather than a condemnation.

Something else that I found disgusting was the way in which the white slave owners were heralded as kind, good people. Heroes even for treating their slaves with common decency. This is the kind of bullshit that I honestly cannot stand. A person who owned slaves is scum, I don’t care how well they treat their “property”. They are still in the ownership of human beings. I feel that the author went to great lengths to make the reader sympathetic to the slave owners. The idea that a slave and master can have a real loving friendship is a fallacy. There is too much power imbalance in such a relationship.

What saved this book for me was the character of Brother Isidro who finally lays down some truth when he says, “They look at a black boy and they see only a slave who is capable of doing work. They do not see what I do.” and adds, “Well, I see a person.” He is the only character that acknowledges Pareja’s personhood. Another character that tempers the complacency depicted throughout most of the book is Loli, a fellow slave who later becomes Pareja’s wife. She is the opposite of Pareja. She hates being a slave and she resents the white people. Her anger is not dwelled upon but it is expressed in a conversation she has with Juan. These two characters have a minor presence in the story but the fact they were there gives me hope that Treviño was a sincere detractor of racism and slavery.

The bottom line: this is definitely a worthwhile read. It’s a good book and for all the faults I found I still enjoyed it. Being critical of something doesn’t mean you can’t also like it. I think it’s important to read critically. To consume all things critically. It’s not always comfortable but it is necessary.  There is a lot more I could say about this book and the issues but I have dinner to prepare and so I must end it here.

signature.blog

 

Book Fridays: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

I finally started my Harry Potter journey. I am a fan of the movies, loved them and for as long as I’ve been a fan of the movies I’ve told myself I was going to start on the books. I can now declare myself Harry Potter trash, officially. Haha. But seriously, this has been a long time coming. I wanted to read the UK versions of the books but those are hard to come by here in the States. This frustrates me to no end. I refused to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone! It was by lucky happenstance that I came upon this UK Edition at my local Library. See? Visiting the library pays off. It had never occurred to me to look for the books there. I am only sorry that I could not keep the copy forever. Now I want the full set.

I won’t go into the story because these books have been reviewed and written about to death. I just want to share that I loved the book and I loved that the movie adaptation was so faithful. I was honestly shocked. I can say with all sincerity that of all the book to movie adaptations I have watched and then read this one has been the most true to the book. Of course I noticed a few changes etc but overall it was really, really good. I hope that I can say the same about subsequent books in the series but so far color me impressed.

Have you read Harry Potter?

signature.blog

Book Fridays: El cumpleaños de Baldomero by Isabel M. Febles Iguina

This book caught my eye during our last library visit and I was pleasantly surprised when I got it home and read through it. I’ll be honest, I picked it up because it was published by the University of Puerto Rico. Currently, I am on a mission to find children’s books in Spanish. Diego’s library is pretty large but he’s got more books in English than in Spanish. This isn’t a huge issue, I often translate for him or simply talk about the book. Pictures can be discussed in any language after all. I try to balance story time so that it favors Spanish but includes English so I read to him in both languages almost every day. I just try to read an extra book in Spanish. Anyway, these aren’t hard and fast rules and quite honestly I have no idea what I am doing.

But back to the book, this book is a two in one. It is printed in both English and Spanish. I really like that it’s two books in one. Instead of printing the different texts side by side the book starts over in English after the Spanish language text. The story is about Baldomero’s birthday party. We start out with Baldomero and his parents coming up with the guest list. His parents allow him five guests but he has trouble with his fifth guest. When his parents probe him he explains that he really wants to invite his classmate Tito but he’s deaf and Baldomero doesn’t know sign language. His parents are very supportive and tell him that the fact that Tito is deaf is no obstacle to being his friend.

There are many things about this book that I loved. Firstly, I loved that these characters were not whitewashed. I find that even in texts that are written by and for a Latinx audience the illustrations favor fair skinned, green/blue eyed characters with straight hair. And while there are Latinx who do look like this failing to include people of color is erasure. Afro-latinx people exist! Puerto Rico in particular is inhabited by people of all ethnicities. There is diversity in our community even though media does not often represent that. And just in case there is a person of Latin or Hispanic descent that feels misrepresented when we talk about brown and black peoples because “we aren’t all dark!” please take a seat. I don’t have time for you, go away.

Anyway, the illustration of this book stood out to me in a good way. The inclusion of a child with a disability also adds to the diversity. Diversity is not just about representing people of different colors, races, etc. it is also about representing those who are not able-bodied. The message of the book is a positive one: people who are disabled/different in some way are still people. Tito was humanized throughout the story and he was not reduced to his hearing impediment.

You don’t have to be bilingual to enjoy this book and I encourage you to seek it out for your children!

Lastly, I always try my best to use correct language when discussing communities of which I am not part of. If I have expressed myself incorrectly or offensively please let me know.

Thank you for reading.

signature.blog

Book Fridays: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It’s been a few months since I read this book and I have slacked on keeping notes or writing about what I’ve read soon after reading it. All I have are some quotes I took pictures of (I was too lazy to write them down and I don’t own the book). I decided against looking at any reviews or summaries as I don’t want to be influenced. In fact, I generally do not read reviews until after I jot down my own thoughts.

The story takes place in Nigeria during their civil war when Biafra was trying to take over. There was tension between the Yoruba and Igbo tribes and many lost their lives in the conflict. The story follows several characters during this time and their stories intersect each other for the entire book. One of these characters is Richard, an expatriate who begins to write a book about the conflict. At the end of the story he reveals that he gave up on that book as it was not his story to tell. I thought that this was such a powerful statement. And one that white people need to take heed. Too often we see white characters portrayed as knights that somehow rescue people of color. This character addresses that. It subverts that too common narrative and sets it right.

I had many favorite scenes but I especially loved the part where Richard gets called out when he states his surprise at Igbo-Ukwu bronzes: “It is quite incredible that these people had perfected the complicated art of lost-wax casting during the time of the Viking Raids.” he says.

When he goes home to his girlfriend Kainene (who is Nigerian and black) he immediately makes the interaction about his feelings. This is a great example of white fragility:

“I do love the art. It was horrible of him to accuse me of disrespect.”

I couldn’t help but notice how he doesn’t even try to see how his statement was telling of his bias that African culture was far too primitive to accomplish such art. He only thinks of his hurt feelings and how he truly does love the art. This brings to mind the recent comments that Kelly Osborne made when she asked Donald Trump who would clean his toilets if he were to get rid of the immigrants. She immediately got in her feelings stating how she is not a racist! But you see, the thing is that you don’t have to be consciously racist in order to hold and express all manner of fucked up biases. That’s a fact and this scene from the book is a good example of it.

Kainene responds: “And it is wrong of you to think that love leaves room for nothing else. It’s possible to love something and still condescend to it.”

I thought her comment was perfect and it applies to real world issues. Many times we see people appropriating a culture under the guise of loving it but if we look closer we see the condescension and contempt held for that very culture they claim to love.

Going into this I had very limited knowledge of Nigerian history. Adichie writes a compelling story that kept me interested and invested throughout. She is currently one of my favorite authors and I don’t see this changing any time soon.

signature.blog

 

 

Book Fridays: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of  making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.
With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.
Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaperintroduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction, and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.  (from Amazon.com)

I really feel that in 2015 reading a book about a Puerto Rican female protagonist who kicks ass shouldn’t be a big deal. Except that it is. Older has given us a wonderful book full of awesome characters that speak to a lot of our current realities. This book addresses big issues casually without beating  you over the head with them but while still making a point and telling a complex, nuanced story.

Sierra Santiago discovers a secret about her family that was kept from her because of the rampant machismo in Latino culture. Suddenly she is thrown into a situation that she barely understands but must make sense of quickly if she is to survive. Sierra is smart and resourceful and even though the odds stacked against her she manages to save herself repeatedly. I really liked her personality. I especially enjoyed the scene where she hands Rosa’s ass to her and calls out her colorism. I love that Older brought this up because it’s something that needs to be discussed,doused in gasoline, and set on fire. Colorism is a scourge within our community. In my own family we are a mixed bunch. My family on my maternal grandfather’s side is Afrolatino and I’ve seen first hand the derisive commentary hurled their way because of their hair, skin, etc. I have met a Rosa before so I was happy to see Sierra set her straight.

Something else that Older wove into his story beautifully was the inclusion of a lesbian couple among Sierra’s group of friends. What I loved about this is that the characters were not defined by their sexuality, it was just another fact about them like hair color etc. It was part of their identity to be sure but it wasn’t what drove who they were if that makes sense. The fact that they were present means so much. Teens that read this book will see themselves in it and that is a wonderful thing.

As I was writing this I took a peek at the reviews on Goodreads and stumbled upon this shit nugget:  “And finally, while I love reading books that involve people of diverse backgrounds, I think this one was a bit heavy-handed. It’s like every few chapters I was reminded again what she looked like and how it made her feel.” WHAT?! I have no doubt that this reviewer is a Wick sympathizer. I absolutely adored the way in which Sierra’s hair was described as an “unbothered halo”, I loved that she loved herself, how she looked, who she was. Considering that this is YA Urban Fantasy about a female of color I think it’s only appropriate that she’s feeling herself on every damn page.

Anyway, I loved this book (obviously) and as  Puerto Rican who grew up reading about everybody BUT me I can’t help but feel a great sense of gratitude towards Older for penning this treasure of a story.

signature.blog