What I’m Reading: April 2017

Two weeks until graduation and I somehow still have had time to (mostly) devour two books, both of which I got from the library when I knew I shouldn’t have.  But the high quality of these two books makes up for any time I maybe should have spent doing something else.

Resultado de imagen
Source

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents follows four sisters from the Dominican Republic who are forced to move to New York with their families in 1960 due to political strife.  Told from the perspective of all four girls, in 15 separate but intertwined stories, the story is written in backwards chronological order.  Secrets alluded to in the first few stories are slowly revealed as you read through the chapters, as the girls get younger.  With every chapter, you understand a little more.

It took me a chapter or two to really get into this book, because the first chapter has so many inside jokes and allusions you just don’t know about yet.  But the writing is incredible.  Alvarez does an amazing job of making the characters realistic as they get younger.  The way their understanding of the world changes throughout the book is fascinating, and each story intertwines a little more with the next until finally, at the end, the story is complete.  This is one I would love to study in a classroom setting, or in a book club.  This is a book that needs to be discussed and relished.  It was unlike anything I’ve read before, and unlike many of the books that draw my eye, it is one that can be read multiple times without getting too predictable.  There will always be something else to pick up on.

Resultado de imagen para the namesake
Source

The Namesake is about a boy named Gogol whose family moves to the US from Calcutta.  Gogol is the main character, but the book follows his parents just as much as it tells his story.  It’s a growing up novel, but with a wide perspective.  It’s very similar to books by Alan Brennert in that the scope of the novel is very wide, focusing on many decades and many people.  But it is not overwhelming.  It’s written in a comforting, quiet tone that immediately makes you feel as if you are part of the Ganguli family.  I haven’t quite finished it at the time this will post, but it is one that I can tell will have an impact.  The style is also somewhat reminiscent of The Kite Runner, except not as sad.  I also realized that this book has been made into a movie, so it is definitely one I’ll have to try to find and watch.

There you have it — a shorter what I’m reading post than usual, but two books that come very highly recommended.  It doesn’t really matter if these are your favorite genre or not — if you like books with good writing, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy these.

 

 

What I’ve Been Reading: Feb/March 2017

In between procrastinating working very hard on projects and homework, I’ve found a little time to read.  If you are looking for books with heavy topics, this is the post for you!  Warning: this post contains quite a few spoilers.

439288Verdict: If you get a chance, PLEASE READ THIS.

Speak was recommended to me by a friend who has very good taste in books, and we saw it in the bargain section at Books-a-Million, so I went ahead and bought it.  I really think this is one of the most important books that people, especially young people, will ever read.  Word of warning: it’s not a happy book.  If you haven’t heard of it (which you may have, because it’s read fairly commonly in high schools now), it’s about rape.  The protagonist, a high school freshman, gets raped right before the start of the school year, and spends the entire year dealing with the aftermath alone.  She gets depressed, and it manifests mainly through selective mutism — she quits speaking to almost everyone except her art teacher.  She has trouble sleeping.  She loses all her friendships, because no one knows what happened and she won’t talk about it.  It’s a story that is more common than we think it is, and that’s why it’s so important.  It’s not a happy or fun book to read, but it is incredibly well-written.  The protagonist is realistic, and the language is simple and easy to understand.  I cannot stress enough the importance of this book.

13260227Verdict: Do not use to make yourself feel good about the human race.  Do use to try to understand the lives of others, and why they act the way they do.  Do use to develop your empathy.

The Distance Between Us is a memoir about being left behind.  Reyna Grande, the youngest of three siblings, grew up in Mexico after both her parents moved to the United States.  They were stuck in poverty with an abusive, neglectful grandmother, and feelings of abandonment are the main recurring theme.  Grande writes about life in Mexico, and how her older sister became the little mother for her and her brother, and how that affected her sister for the worse later in life.  She writes about how her brother struggled because he never had a good role model.  She writes about how it was when her mother returned to Mexico because her father slept with someone else.  She writes about illegally crossing the Mexican-US border after begging her father to bring her to the US, and she writes about trying to please him time and again even when he gets drunk and beats her and her siblings.  This was not a happy book to read, either.  It shows the worst effects of poverty and desperation, and if I’m being brutally honest, it makes Mexican immigrants look terrible.  Grande’s father was a horrible person, and it’s so easy to read this book and think that everyone who comes from Mexico is like that.  But this is not a book about Mexican immigrants.  It’s a book about the life of Reyna Grande.  It’s about socio-economic disadvantage.  It’s about needing a family, even if that family treats you like shit.  And it shows that it’s possible to overcome all that, but that your history will always be a part of you.

20447732Verdict: Yay! A memoir with happy parts.

A Cup of Water Under My Bed is one of the most iconic coming-of-age memoirs there is.  Hernandez discusses meshing American and Cuban-Colombian traditions, translating documents for her parents, and navigating being bisexual in a Latino family with very traditional values.  This book is more like a collections of essays than a comprehensive memoir, which makes sense since it began as an editorial column when she began writing for the New York Times.  Hernandez definitely has a knack for storytelling, and she has an interesting one to tell.  Because this one was not as devastating as the books above, I don’t remember as many of the details.  However, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys memoirs.

Besides my capstone books, that’s all I’ve been reading lately.  Reading Spanish memoirs closely really cuts into other reading, and I actually found myself getting confused about which details were from which book.  So reading all these at the same time probably wasn’t the best idea.  I’m afraid I’m going to end up basing a point in my paper about the works of Esmeralda Santiago on something I read in another memoir, but those are the hazards of wanting to read a bunch of similar things.  Enjoy!

All images from Goodreads

What I’m Reading: Spanish Capstone Project

I have about 12 weeks until I graduate.  Which means I have about 12 weeks to finish 3 big projects and pass 2 other classes before I can walk across the stage in my cap and gown.  It seems like a ton of time and also like not much at all, especially when I think about the fact that for my Spanish capstone, I’m planning on reading 7 books (at least) and have so far finished 1.  But honestly, I’m not too stressed.  I’m making progress, and I’m on the right track, and I’m excited to begin really diving into this project.

The overall theme for my capstone is the immigration of Spanish-speakers into the US.  I don’t have a definite thesis yet, because I’ve only read one of my sources.  Also, this what-I’m-reading post will be a little different from the others because I haven’t read most of these books yet.  But I figured it would be a fun idea to briefly introduce my books here, and then once I’ve finished my project, I’ll do a reprise post on what I thought about them and how useful they were to me for my project.


Books I’m Definitely Reading

Cuando era puertorriqueñaThis book is the one I’ve finished, and it’s a memoir about growing up in Puerto Rico and then having to move to New York.  Santiago is the child of parents who fight more often than not, and who must provide for eight children.  Family stress and the stress of growing up are magnified by having to move to New York just when she feels she’s beginning to get a hold on life in Puerto Rico.  But interspersed in these struggles are the stories of a mother who would do anything for her children, and a girl who got herself out of Brooklyn all on her own.

Resultado de imagen para casi una mujerThis is the sequel to Cuando era puertorriquena, and it details Santiago’s life from her teenage years to adulthood.  During her struggle to figure out who she is — Puerto Rican? American? both? — Santiago helps translate her mother through the welfare offices and takes on prestigious roles at her performing arts high school.

Resultado de imagen para la otra cara de americaRamos, an executive at Univision, has written essays and collected interviews from immigrants to the US.  Told in an editorial, persuasive style, Ramos sheds light on the reality of those “living in the shadows” and reveals just how vital they are to US society.

Resultado de imagen para vivir en dos idiomas

 

Alma Flor Ada is a renowned Cuban-American author and professor who writes children’s books, poetry, and novels.  Vivir en dos idiomas is her memoir, detailing her life, which has been spent mostly not in Cuba.

 

AResultado de imagen para la casa en mango streetlmost everyone has heard of The House on Mango Street.  It is one of the most famous coming-of-age novels there is.  I’ve skimmed the book a few times, and honestly, have not loved it.  But I feel I might appreciate it more within the context of this project.  It’s not quite a memoir, like the others, but Cisneros did draw heavily on her growing-up years to craft this novel, so it’s still a good candidate for my project.

Resultado de imagen para a cup of water under my bed

 

Another memoir about growing up Latina in America, this book adds a new dimension in that Hernandez is also bisexual.  It details her growing up years and her struggle not only to find the balance between two cultures, but also to maintain family ties while not hiding all of who she is.

 

WResultado de imagen para the distance between us reyna grandehen she was little, and living in Mexico, Grande’s father left for the US without her, her siblings, or her mother.  Her memoir tells the story of virtually losing one parent, and then regaining him, and a new home, when her father finally sends for her.

 

 

Once I have read these books and have a better idea of what they are about, I’ll link back to this post and review them again.  I’ll be honest; judging by the one I have read and the others I’ve flipped through, I have high expectations for all of them.


Books I Probably Won’t Use for My Capstone but Want to Read Anyway

Resultado de imagen para atravesando fronterasThis is Ramos’ own memoir about moving from Mexico to the US.  I know I like his writing style, and admire him as a person.  But there are several reasons I probably won’t use it.  For one, I already have seven books to read, and for two, this book is quite a bit longer than most of my others.  Finally, I realized that all the rest of my books are by women (besides the other one by Ramos, but in that he interviews men and women), and given the difference in countries of origin I already have, I’d rather keep my mostly-female-author pattern going.

Resultado de imagen para morir en el intentoWhen I initially picked this, I thought it was going to be more like academic nonfiction.  Instead, it’s the story of 19 immigrants who died on their way to the US in 2003.  I’m sure it’s a tragic story, and definitely one that should be spread.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit with the other books I’ve chosen.  But that’s not going to stop me from reading it when I finish my project.

Resultado de imagen para sonar en cubano

 

This is another coming-of-age novel, and honestly, I don’t know much about it.  I didn’t look into it as much as the others, because I changed my focus from novels to memoirs.  But I like coming-of-age stories, so this will be going on the TBR as well.

What I’m Reading: December 2016

There are lots of reasons I always look forward to Christmas break, but one of the big ones is because I get to read.  While I’ve had more time this semester to read (and write!) than normal, not having class at all means even more reading time.  So here’s what I’ve read already, and some of what I’m looking forward to.

What I’ve Read So Far

judyblumeVerdict: So.  Worth.  It.

As soon as I realized Judy Blume had written a new(ish) novel, I wanted to read it.  I grew up with Blubber, the Fudge books, and of course Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.  And the fact that this one was based on true events made it even more appealing.  At first, the extensive character list in the front threw me off, but Blume introduces characters slowly enough that it wasn’t confusing at all.  This was such an engaging, sad read, and Blume, as always, captures the very essence of human experience at all ages.  She stays in touch with her inner child but is so incredibly realistic about the way people feel.  If there was ever an author in touch with human nature, it’s Judy Blume.  I highly recommend this.

sleepVerdict:  Do not start unless you have about 6 hours to spare.

It took me from around 8:30pm to 2:00am one night to read this.  I literally did not put it down.  It was kind of funny that I picked it up — it had been on my TBR but I didn’t realize it had finally downloaded to my Kindle from the library until I went to delete another rental.  I just read another book with almost the exact same premise (see below), but I figured why not go ahead.  And this book did not disappoint.  It was suspenseful, engaging, and I caught myself actually holding my breath near the end.  If I ever write a debut novel half as good as this one, I’ll rest easy in my grave.

 

1358844Verdict:  Funny, as usual.

Girl wakes up with amnesia and has no idea who she is — exact same premise as Before I Go to Sleep.  But this was a much fluffier version, a Kinsella classic.  While there are obviously elements of suspense (how can there not be, with this premise?), the surprises are more reality show-esque than the horrible truths revealed in Before I Go to Sleep.  I actually listened to the audio book, and ended up laughing out loud, as I usually do with Kinsella novels.  But maybe not as much as I would have if I had read it — I’m not sure.  Generally I’m not crazy about audio book narrators.  However, it’s really hard to go wrong with Kinsella.

 

TBR for December

To Review

jeffJeff graciously offered me a copy of this collection of memoirs in exchange for a review, so be looking for that within the next few weeks!  I’m excited about this because I love memoirs, and have really enjoyed his blog so far.

 

 

 

sayinsThis is my next book from Blogging for Books, which I chose because 1) I love languages and 2) I love coffee table books.  Someday I hope to have a coffee table full of books, and this will definitely be going on the pile.  Look for the full review by the end of December!

 

 

To Read

Lately I’ve been realizing how few non-white authors I have read.  While I follow a few non-white bloggers, that’s not enough.  In addition to the TBR I already have on Goodreads, I’ll be searching for more non-white authors to read over break.  Feel free to let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations!

What I’m Reading: November 2016 – Learning Outside the Classroom

My whole family has a legacy of loving education.  We like to learn stuff, and we all like to read.  My dad is a huge history buff, and as an ex-Marine, you can often find him devouring a book about World War II and other conflicts.  My sister, and brother to an extent, inherited this love of history.  My brother has done school projects on famous generals and war machinery.  His main interest, though, is building things, and he prefers to learn by watching YouTube.  My sister, on the other hand, reads everything — history books, theology, care and keeping of farm animals — you name a topic, she’s probably read something about it.  My mom prefers to read biographies and novels — we joke that “based on a true story” is her favorite genre.  I’m more similar to her in reading taste than anyone else, but I read more popular stuff than anyone in my house.

The only similarity we all have is that we all read to learn.  Even my brother, who doesn’t love reading, has done it.  It’s part of being in my family.  It’s in our DNA.  Recently, I’ve been thinking about learning outside the classroom.  I hope to go into the marketing industry, and I know that learning doesn’t end when classes do.  So here’s what I’ve been reading to try to stay on the up-and-up.

hug_lrg_hs
Source

Hubspot’s Marketing and Sales Blogs

I started following these as a result of my Marketing and Public Relations class.  I’m genuinely interested in the Marketing blog, and often read (or at least skim) an article every day or so.  The Sales blog is not my favorite, but since so many jobs are described as sales and marketing, I figured it couldn’t hurt.  I kind of have to force myself to read the sales articles, though.

rsz_david_meerman_scott_2
From webinknow.com

WebInkNow

This is the blog of David Meerman Scott, a self-made marketing expert.  He’s the author of our textbook for Marketing and PR, which I’ve enjoyed so far.  He’s been studying the marketing aspects of the presidential election, and it’s been very interesting to read his take on the candidates’ marketing techniques.

 

Magazines

Inc., Fortune, and Entrepreneur are a few that I read articles from on a semi-regular basis.  Honestly, a lot of times I’ll read articles because they touch on something I’ve had to research for a class.  In a couple of my classes we had to take the day’s topic and find a news article that related to it, and these magazines were invaluable.  I also follow all three of these on Twitter, which is easier than visiting each site every day since I’m not a legit subscriber to any of them.

Companies

Since I’m searching for full-time jobs, I spend a good chunk of time researching the companies that are posting on the job boards.  I don’t want to waste my time applying to a company I don’t actually want to work for.  While I don’t do extensive research on every single company I put in an application for, I make sure I at least visit the website and have a pretty good understanding of their mission, customer value, and company culture.  I consider this learning because I’m finding out what companies like to emphasize about themselves, and I can compare this to what I’m learning in my classes about how this should be done.

What I’m Reading September 2016

I randomly started receiving Fortune at the beginning of the summer, and I’m not really sure why, because I didn’t subscribe.  I think it may be a perk of the business honor society I was invited to join last spring.  Regardless of how it began, I’ve found I enjoy reading about the featured businesses, and it’s definitely good for getting my head in the game as I’m about to graduate.

 

The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing, & Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly

This is the textbook for the Marketing and PR class I’m taking, and I can already tell it’s something I would’ve picked up on my own.  First off, it’s written like a blog, so it’s easy and interesting to read.  Second, the ideas can be applied to all areas of life, not just to business websites.  The main point is that content rich websites invite the most customers to a business because that proves the company to be a reliable resource, and that makes so much sense to me.  This can be applied to personal blogs, small business plans, and even stuff like making friends.  If you can relate to whoever it is you want to interact with and be valuable to them, all sorts of natural partnerships follow.

27313749

This is the second book I’ve downloaded from NetGalley for review.  I’m slowly making my way through it — so slowly, in fact, that I think I put it in my “what I’m reading” post for summer.  Once I get into it, it’s actually very interesting, but I’ll save my final verdict for the review, which I hope to post before the end of September!

 

 

81779I don’t know if I can actually count this since I haven’t started it yet.  But I have to read it for Euro Civ, so it’s here on the list.  I am not excited about this book.  I took a philosophy class for humanities credit sophomore year and hated it.  I understand the importance of philosophers, and I know that we owe a lot of how we view the world today to Greek philosophers like Plato.  But honestly, it’s horrible to study.  I think philosophy is better learned on one’s own; it’s something you can glean from life and develop even if you don’t realize it’s happening.  However, professors still think it’s relevant, apparently, so here I am.

I’m also reading blogs, of course — sometimes it’s the only pleasure reading I get to do during school, which is one of the reasons I love them so much.  Here are a few of my current favorites:

Cover photos from Goodreads, Fortune photo from Fortune.com

 

What I’ve Been Reading Summer ’16

Here is a round-up of just a few of the books I’ve been reading this summer.  Big Little Lies

Verdict:  Great!

This is the book I most recently finished.  I’ve been wanting to read What Alice Forgot by the same author, but people keep checking it out of every library in my city, darn them!  So I settled for this and it was a great choice.  It’s a murder mystery set in Australia, and I couldn’t put it down.  Great characters, great plotline, great suspense — just a good read all around.

 

 

On the Outside Looking Indian: How My Second Childhood Changed My Life

 

Verdict:  Love!

My mom found this memoir at a bookstore a few weeks ago, and I’m really glad she did.  As a child of Indian immigrants, Gill had a very different upbringing than most Canadian kids.  This memoir chronicles her attempt to create her ideal childhood after she grew up.  It’s full of funny, heartfelt moments, and I related to Gill in a lot of ways.  It was a really enjoyable, quick read, and a welcome look into a culture and childhood that were very different from mine.

 

The Gatecrasher

Verdict: Good summer read

This is the type of novel I always turn to when the weather gets warm — light and funny, but still deals with hefty topics.  This one in particular dealt with grief, greed, and the importance of family.  It wasn’t the funniest of Kinsella’s/Wickham’s novels — I think Confessions of a Shopaholic will always be my favorite of hers.  But it definitely did not disappoint.

 

 

Mislaid

 

Verdict: Meh.

This had been on my TBR list for awhile, and when I finally got around to reading it I still thought it sounded pretty good.  But it fell a little flat for me.  All of the characters and the whole tone of the novel just seemed pretentious.  A lot of the themes were muddied by the more-intellectual-than-thou language.  There’s nothing wrong with smart, literary fiction until the “smartness” starts to overwhelm the basic point.

 

Caminando el Amazonas: 860 días. Paso a paso.

 

Verdict:  Not too bad

This is what I’m currently reading — I’m about 1/3 of the way through.  I chose it for two reasons: one, because I occasionally enjoy travel/adventure stories like this; and two, because this is a Spanish translation and I need to keep up my reading skills.  In Spanish terms, it’s a good choice — it has lots of different, complicated verb tenses, but the language is still fairly simple (unlike a lot of novels by Spanish authors, which often involve a lot of imagery and metaphors that are difficult for non-native speakers).  As far as the content, it’s not bad.  It’s not the most captivating, but I’m also not very far into it yet.  My goal here is to actually finish it, seeing as how I’ve never actually finished an entire book in Spanish.

What’s Up Next?

books

Look for reviews of Buying a Bride and Chronicles of a Last Summer in the coming weeks!

All covers are from Goodreads.

What I’m Reading: February 2016

I have always been a reader.  The written word has always been and always will be my favorite form of entertainment, information, and self-expression.  And in my honest opinion, I happen to read some pretty cool stuff.  Here is just a glimpse of what I’ve been reading lately.

marriageplot

 

Book Title:  The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Why I’m Reading It:  I read Eugenides’ Middlesex when I was in Costa Rica, and his writing style is absolutely incredible.  It’s definitely more literary than many of the novels I read, but the story flows better than almost any of the other books I tend to pick up.  The characters are incredibly complex and flawed, but also easy to relate to and like.  The settings he creates are more realistic than most movies.  Plus, I got it in the bargain priced section at Books-A-Million.  Does it get any better than that??

littlelovely

 

Blog Title:  Rants You Didn’t Ask For

Why I’m Reading It:  Apart from the fact that the author of this blog is a great friend of mine, the posts are a great mix of fun lists and actual rants (hence the title!) that are really well thought out and awesome to read over coffee (although what isn’t, really?).

donquijote

 

Book Title:  Don Quijote by Cervantes

Why I’m Reading It:  It’s for a class.  But I am still reading it, thus it belongs on Ye Olde List!  In all honesty, this is not my favorite book.  It’s in antique Spanish, which can be difficult to read, and even if it were in English the story is kind of boring.  It details the misadventures of Don Quijote and his servant, Sancho, as they seek the honor worthy of a knight — but most of the time their opinions are the exact opposite.  Although the book is not up my alley, it’s a lot of fun to discuss in class.

 

casualphil

 

Blog Title:  The Casual Philosopher

Why I’m Reading It:  Because this really is one of my favorite blogs, and it would still be even if it wasn’t my sister’s.  For the past few months, in addition to her usual essay-type posts, she’s been chronicling her journey towards going on a crazy-long trip to Wyoming and then Mongolia to do missions with horses and people, two things she’s really good at working with, and it’s incredible to see how it’s all coming together!

 

Costa Rica Beach Reads

When I was in Costa Rica, I spent a lot of time on the beach, swimming, walking, and people-watching.  But being a book-lover, I couldn’t do that the entire time — I also read a lot, too!  I probably should’ve been reading Costa Rican literature, but in all honesty, by the afternoon I was more than ready to lose myself in some English words.  And I read some good ones:

Middlesex:  I’d been wanting to read this forever, and finally broke down and bought the ebook.  It was fantastic.  The storytelling and characters were complex and believable, and it was an interesting change to read a coming of age story that didn’t revolve around the cliche boy-meets-girl.  It was the first book I’ve ever read with a non-cisgender main character.

Gathering Blue:  I read The Giver in high school and enjoyed it, and had recently watched the movie when I found this on Amazon.  Though similar to The Giver, I wasn’t as impressed with this, but it was an easy, entertaining read nonetheless.

Moloka’i:  Brennert’s signature way of narrating an entire life story is fascinating.  I loved reading about life in Hawaii in its earlier years, and the main character was easy to like.  The supporting characters were also surprisingly strong and diverse, and the author deals with them in a direct, no-nonsense way that makes the story world come alive.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond:  I’d wanted to reread this ever since I read it my freshman year of high school, and now I finally have.  It was less dramatic and shorter than I remembered, but still a great historical novel.

None of these are what I would call a typical beach read, but I enjoyed them!  I would always mention them in class when my teacher asked what I had done the previous day, and it was then I learned something sad: apparently, reading is not a big part of the culture in Costa Rica.  According to my teacher, most people there read about one or two a year.  She was astonished one Monday when I told her I’d read two books that weekend.  Who knows, perhaps I was the first bookworm specimen she had ever met!  I hope she meets many more.