book fridays

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?


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.



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

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.

Book Fridays: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I feel as though it’s been a while since I wrote about the books I’ve been reading. Part of the reason is that I’ve been busy reading but also because I had prewritten about 6 Book Friday posts and once I ran out I was not motivated to write more. Writing about books is not something I spend too much time on. Depending on the book I might devote more time to researching the author etc but I am no professional book reviewer. I don’t analyze books based on themes, prose and the like. I might make mention of it if it pops out at me but I am just a reader who likes to write a few lines about what she’s been reading.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is a debut novel that apparently made quite the splash when it was first published due to the hefty six-figure advanced received by Ms. Kent. An interesting bit of trivia in my opinion.

The story is set in 1830 I believe, in a small rural town of Iceland. Agnes, our protagonist, has been sentenced to death and is awaiting execution. The story is told during her last winter as she awaits her fate. I found the writing to be lovely. I enjoyed the descriptions which are so well done that I found myself feeling slightly chilled as I read about an Icelandic winter. I loved it. Agnes is sent to live on a farm against its occupants wishes but they were charged with taking in this prisoner and caring for her. It was interesting to see how her presence created such upheaval in the lives of her host family and those around them.

It is important to note that the story on which this book is based is true. This woman existed and she was killed. In fact, she was the last executed person in Iceland. We learn her story, her crime, and her life through her conversations with her chosen confessor, Father Toti.

I spent some of the book conflicted about whether or not Agnes was guilty but in the end I think I knew…

Book Fridays: Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

I always go to the library with a list but I also go with a hunger to discover new books. Unlike grocery shopping hunger is a welcome companion here. I have Kindred on my TBR but I knew my library didn’t have it on the shelf so I wasn’t looking for it. On display at the end of the stacks was Fledgling and having not heard anything about it I picked it up, read the back and decided to take it with me.

I want to get the two issues I had with the book out of the way: firstly the editing was not very good. I found several typos and other errors that had me reading sentences over and over thinking there was something wrong with me. The other is the element of pedophilia. I can’t decide if Wright was a pedophile or not. I almost feel like this is a moral dilemma presented to the reader on purpose. Our protagonist, Shori, is a vampire. A species separate and different to humans. Her body is like that of an eleven year old girl. That is Wrights first impression as she doesn’t have breasts but later on we learn that female vampires don’t have breasts so the evaluation of her body in comparison to human development is incorrect. Shori and Wright have sex shortly after he picks her up on the side of the road thinking her a runaway child. I did not get the impression that he had any nefarious intent when he stopped to offer help. He did not become interested in her sexually until she bit him.

Her saliva, we learn, is a drug to humans. It gets them off and it gets them high. If they go without it they die. Vampires and humans have a special relationship and this turning them into junkies ensures that vampires have a willing supply of food at all times. Humans, or symbionts as they’re called once they’re paired up with a vampire, are under the vampire’s influence at all times once they’ve been bitten. Even if they don’t want to follow an order they do, because they have to. I can see where the initial ick factor presented by Shori’s apparent childhood would put readers off. She’s a 53 year old vampire and she never comes across as an innocent child despite her physical appearance. At all times she has the upper hand, in physical strength and consent.

Shori is a vampire-human hybrid. Her family successfully crossed vampire and human DNA in order to create a vampire who was able to stay awake during the day and able to go out into the sun with minimal issues. The magic indredient: melanin. Shori is of mixed race in terms of her coloring. Her human mother was black. Therefore, she looks markedly different to her full vampire counterparts. So in this book Butler subverts the idea of melanin and all of the negative associated with it. In her world melanin is powerful.

As Shori looks for answers as to why her family was attacked and destroyed (she’s the sole survivor) Wright offers up his theory as to why she is being hunted and attacked:

“Chances are, this is all happening for one of three reasons.It’s happening because some human group has spotted your kind and decided you’re all dangerous, evil vampires. Or it’s happening because some Ina group or Ina individual is jealous of the success Shori’s family had with blending human and Ina DNA and having children who can stay awake through the day and not burn so easily in the sun. Or it’s happening because Shori is black, and racists — probably Ina racists — don’t like the idea that a good part of the answer to your daytime problems is melanin.”

When we first meet Shori she is recovering from the attack that killed the female side of her family. A head wound seemed to have affected her memory so that throughout the book she is learning about Ina culture along with the reader. Even so as her memory is jogged and she learns about how to be Ina (what the vampire species is called) Shori exhibits humanity. When one of her symbionts is killed off Shori intends to kill the vampire responsible but refuses to consider killing the symbiont who committed the murder because she found it despicable to use symbionts as though they weren’t people.

I really enjoyed this book and I am definitely going to read more of Butler’s work. It is unfortunate that she passed away shortly after publishing Fledgling. I would have loved to read more about Shori.

Book Fridays: My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron

This book left me haunted. My knowledge of South American history, particularly that of Argentina is very slim but I knew enough to look up what I needed in order to delve into this book. In this story an unnamed narrator takes us through his murky rediscovery of his past. After spending eight years in Germany he returns to Argentina to see his ailing father who is in a coma. The beginning of the story feels foggy. The narrator has little to no recollection of his life in Argentina. He spent his time in Germany medicated out of his mind. And for good reason as he was a product of the Dirty War. As a child his dad would check their car for bombs before driving the kids to school.

The story is about the disappearance of a local man, Alberto Burdisso (a real person). Rather, the story is about our narrator finding his father’s news clippings on this disappearance and piecing together not just the story of that man but the story of why he repressed his memories. The writing is choppy and fragmented much like the narrator’s mind. I think that aspect worked really well. The newspaper clippings with their bad grammar and typos were a bit boring to read even though ultimately the information they contained was useful.

Overall this book was an interesting and haunting read both for what was on the pages but most notably for what wasn’t. The story is semi-autobiographical in that Pron is actually exposing his parent’s past as supporters of Juan Domingo Peron and all that came with it.

I did not know this book was a translation and I am disappointed to have read it in English as I prefer to read books in the language they were written in whenever I can. I will probably read it in Spanish at some point.

Book Fridays: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A pandemic wipes out 99% of the human population. What happens afterwards? This is one of the questions that this book seeks to answer. The Georgia Flu hits fast and hard. Civilization collapses. Everyone is on their own. Apocalyptic stories scare me, mostly because they’re possible but also because I have zero faith in my surviving beyond the first few days if that. How does society make a comeback?

The story moves back and forth between pre and post apocalypse. You get to see the trivial and completely useless lives that people lived. The things that mattered but soon wouldn’t because Maslow’s hierarchy of needs would come into play before people knew what hit them. The story follows regular people on this journey and I think that is why I enjoyed this book so much. It was about survival but it was also about the human spirit and how it can be challenged but still manage to shine bright.

One of the characters, Clark is on an aeroplane when the pandemic reaches critical mass and is forced to make an emergency landing. The airport becomes his home. Fortunately none of the passengers are infected but a plane does land and is kept quarantined. All the passengers die inside that plane. The horror, the decision made to keep the flu contained inside that vessel is one that kept me thinking long after it happened. It wasn’t even a particularly important part of the story as it was not delved into but my mind delved into it.

“A rape on the night of Day Eighty-five, the airport woken after midnight by a woman’s scream. They tied the man up until sunrise and then drove him into the forest at gunpoint, told him if he returned he would be shot. “I’ll die out here alone,” he said, sobbing, and no one disagreed but what else could they do?”

Justice and safety are important and this passage illustrates that beautifully. That rapist broke the social contract and he faced consequences that sadly he might not have faced in our civilization. He was exiled and it most likely meant his death but order HAD to be maintained. And how awful would it have been for the woman he raped if he had been allowed to stay out of pity. Life inside the airport was fragile but good prevailed.

During a mission to gather whatever supplies they could from outside the airport a group walked by a hotel. Abandoned and reeking with death they did not enter but were later followed by a resident of the same. His sheer relief at finding people broke my heart. It once again brought to mind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which are as follows: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization.

People naturally sought to have their physiological needs met first as these are essential for survival. Food, water, and shelter are the first needs to be met. This is followed by safety and then love/belonging. Humans are social animals and this interpersonal need is important. It is why people were grouped together, not just for survival but because psychologically it hurts to be without company. A lot of the story follows characters as they meet these three needs first and slowly branch out to other things.

What I loved about this story is that it looked at humanity with hopefulness. Even in adversity there is good in people and good can win. That’s not to say that there weren’t any bad apples along the way but by and large there was a faith in humanity that came across loud and clear.

Book Fridays: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It’s the dreaded F word of modern times… I find that men and women alike are afraid of the word feminist. So much so that it’s becoming common for female celebrities to publicly distance themselves from the term but why is that? Now, among women of color (especially black women) there is an understandable aversion to mainstream feminism because it is often not intersectional. It doesn’t include black women but that’s material for a whole other post.

I have found myself more times than I care to count in conversation with people who truly have no idea what feminism is. They base their opinions on misinformation and anecdotes that support it. Feminism is NOT about superiority over men. Also, feminism is NOT misandry. Misandry is also not a real thing. It is not the counterpart to mysoginy much like reverse racism is a myth.

We Should All Be Feminists is a wonderful essay adapted from Adichie’s Tedx talk of the same name. It is a short read but a powerful one. Her Tedx talk is just as wonderful and you can watch it here. She approaches the topic in a way that is accessible and powerful.

I found it difficult to choose an excerpt to share but I succeeded:

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer wold. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.

We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage.”

Feminism is not just about women, it’s about men, too. We should all be feminists because this cage affects us all.

Book Fridays: It All Starts With Alligator

I am always on the look out for fun books that my son will enjoy. I get especially excited about self published books because I strongly believe in supporting artists directly. Last month my brother mentioned having a friend who had written and illustrated a book for children and he generously sent a copy my way. I had no expectations but I was thrilled when it arrived. This ABC’s book is so original and colorful!

The book was written and illustrated by Carlos A. Gonzalez Ramirez who hails from Mexico. According to his author page on he is a freelancing graphic designer. So far this is his only publication but I am hoping he will write and illustrate other books for children.

The book features a luchador from Mexico, a pink-clad unicorn superhero and best of all X is for Xavier Xoloitzcuintle. I’m still researching how to correctly pronounce that one. Five stars!

IMG_9810 IMG_9814 IMG_9816

Book Fridays: South of the Border, West of the Sun

South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami felt very much like a continuation of Norwegian Wood when I first began the book (but it’s not!). Norwegian Wood was my first Murakami book and I enjoyed it so much I decided to read more by this author. South of the Border, West of the Sun is a haunting read about a mid-life crisis. Hajime, a 37 year old man, is stuck in the past. Unable to let go of the love he feels for his friend, Shimamoto, whom he has not seen since they were 12 years old, he embarks on a journey that almost costs him everything.

The idea that our memories idealize our past relationships hits close to home for me. Not in a romantic sense, but I often think so fondly of friends that I haven’t really known since high school. All that ties me to them are the memories, and the occasional texts, but is there really a relationship there? Murakami explores this to a greater and more relevant extent. He is married with two children and runs two successful bars. His life, on the outside, seems idyllic but he’s lost in an internal turmoil that has him willing to throw it all away to give a future with Shimamoto a chance.

Shimamoto is mysterious and sometimes a little off kilter. She reveals very little about herself and I got the sense that Hajime was as confused about her as the reader. Hajime ultimately gives in and sleeps with Shimamoto once, but even though he cheated on his wife the sex manages to not feel dirty. Murakami manages to treat sex with a sort of purity and innocence.

In the end Hajime knows that he has to do and it doesn’t feel like a compromise. Not even a little.

For anybody that’s interested, all books that I review on my blog are either purchased by me (with my husband’s money :p) or borrowed from the library. I do not write sponsored posts or receive any form of compensation for anything that I write. I write this blog for fun. If this ever changes I will clearly say so at the TOP of my posts.