The Bookstore Is There For You.

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Hello friends, last weekend I took a quick trip to Puerto Rico to visit family and check up on them. It’s been almost one year since Hurricane Maria hit and our island is looking… well… rough.

It’s still beautiful with its lush greenery and tall palm trees swaying in obedience to the ocean breeze, but in my grandfather’s hometown, just about 20 minutes from San Juan, hardly any traffic lights are working and every other building looks disheveled and abandon. I spent plenty of time with family, laying around in front of the fan and joking with my cousins, but when I needed a respite from the overbearing heat, I didn’t get closer to the fan, I suggested that we go to the bookstore.

 

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The shelves are interrupted with windows into different sections of the bookstore.

 

We went to Casa Norberto: Libros and Cafebar and I felt instantly at home (and also refreshed by the A/C, let’s be honest). I bought my mother and myself lattes and pastries and we sat down and sipped on our drinks and observed those around us – a father pushing a stroller picking up poetry books, two women trying to find a book in the bestsellers section, my dad trying to pick out a gift for his pastor… it was lovely. I looked up while drinking my coffee and a T.V. screen showcased the weekly events the bookstore was holding and it’s a scene I’ve found myself in many times in many places.

I perused the stacks, taking my time through the aisles and touching the spines of books. I didn’t buy anything, I don’t think my TBR list at home would allow me if it had a mind, but I got something better, comfort, consistency, and quiet company.

“You see, bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. They are, simply put, the best of places.” – Jen Campbell

 

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I love these nooks they have throughout the store.

 

Book Review: The Pisces by Melissa Broder

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“When we imagine a situation – when our hearts decide this must happen – we will go to any lengths to make the fantasy happen.”

I finished this book in two days! I finished on the 8th early, so early, in the morning because I could not put it down. As so many other reviewers have mentioned, this book is not for everyone so a little disclaimer, if you hate this book, you may not like this review…

We find ourselves with Lucy, a Ph.D. student working on a thesis about Sappho who finds herself breaking up from a guy she has been comfortable with for the past 8 years but doesn’t really love the guy, just the idea of him. After a breakup, she finds herself in California housesitting and dogsitting for her sister. This is where it gets interesting. She meets a merman, friends! Yes, that is correct, a living breathing merman.

But hold on friends, this book is so much more than the impossible love between a human and mystical creature. Lucy struggles with depression and anxiety and probably a whole host of problems- it’s her journey through these emotions that really captured my attention. She is fully aware of the void and the darkness in her and she struggles throughout the book on how to deal with it. She searches for love, like so many of us, in a variety of places – people, experiences, donuts (yes she eats a bunch of donuts). Many people mention her being unlikeable as a character, but I just couldn’t find something not to like about her. She is just a woman struggling with the affliction of life.

Since Lucy is working on a thesis about Sappho, the book is filled with Greek myths and thoughts on how the gods interact with humans and how they relate to us. Despite the serious nature of the book, I was laughing out LOUD, friends. I would consider this book a “dramady”, because some of Lucy’s antics, her friends’ words, and a lot of moments that I could relate to as a female was freaking hilarious. Be ready for a lot of women bodily fluids being mentioned.

I was extremely happy with the ending. I won’t give it away, but I loved Lucy’s ultimate decision. It was heartfelt, tender, and I sobbed like a baby.

“Now I knew he was the one who had brought the darkness. I felt that I didn’t have to be afraid anymore. The gloom wasn’t coming from me. I was still responsible for him but not or the atmosphere. So many times I had tried to fix things, peoples feelings, the shifting moods of men, by adjusting my own behavior. But in this case, it was beyond me.”

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Let me know if you have read The Pisces because I have way too many feelings about it!

Book Review: The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

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“Of course you don’t forget. But you cross that bridge and you can’t cross back to where you stood before. You keep marching, that’s all you can do.”

The darkest of secrets, betrayals, forbidden romance, and MURDER. What else can you expect or want when you put together a cast of unruly characters on a secluded island in summer. My second Beatriz William novel and I AM OBSESSED.

The story centers around Miranda and her interactions amongst the higher class summer vacationers, and the year-rounder islanders who serve them. Miranda’s mother marries into a higher class family in 1951 and what ensues is a clash as the two classes collide (that’s a tongue twister). Miranda must consolidate her growing feelings for the son of a fisherman whilst balancing the act of a new society girl, a role she never thought she would play. There are three storylines – Miranda in 1951 when she first arrives on the island, 1969 when Miranda returns to the island after 18 YEARS, and 1930 from the point of view of Bianca, a young Portuguese girl who has so much more to do with the story than you first believe.

Friends, I got through the first half of the book in one night because I 👏could👏 not 👏put👏 it 👏down.👏 You would think you would get confused with so many storylines but no, Williams crafted a seamless story that had me at the edge of my seat as secret after secret is revealed. Williams was able to tap into the nitty gritty emotions and the relationships that bind us no matter how much we yearn to break free and the main protagonist, Miranda was my absolute favorite, a real “star in the sky.” Class does play a major role in this book, and it’s interesting to see how the characters interact with each other despite the social divides.

Side Note: The Shakespeare quotes sprinkled throughout the novel were brilliant. I’m no Shakespeare expert but I can enjoy the bard. 

My written words don’t do justice for how I feel about this book. I was left speechless last night at 1:00 in the morning.

“Promise me something,” he said. “Don’t ever let them keep you down. “Those bastards, don’t let them change you.”

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If you’ve read The Summer Wives or any other book by Beatriz Williams, let me know and we can fangirl together because my heart is so full right now!

Book Review: The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

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Just when you thought you knew who your friends were…

Side Note: As with suspense/mystery/thriller books I never give much away in my reviews. I don’t want to spoil it for you since this books are so easy to spoil when writing or speaking about them. Expect the bare minimum here!

Lets set the scene – Amber is poor and power hungry. Daphne Parrish is the trophy wife to Jackson Parrish, a bazillionaire (at least that’s what I think the way they kept describing him as). Amber wants what Daphne has and what ensues is of Alice in Wonderland proportions…

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed The Last Mrs. Parrish. When beginning the audiobook, I had a hard time understanding what Amber’s motive was. I just kept getting upset at every single thing that she did and yelling alone in my car, “WHY DOESN’T ANYONE SEE THROUGH THIS GIRL!” She’s manipulative, narcissistic, cunning – all things you want in a villain. BUT with that being said, all I’m going to say is keep reading and I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Or possibly angrily surprised as I was.

As for the other characters I had my suspicions about them and I was proven correct about one. Part One is Amber’s point of view and Part Two is Daphne’s, so you will be able to get both women’s perspective which makes it very interesting.

If you have read The Last Mrs. Parrish and want to fangirl with me about it, reach out!!! 

What to Read After | Next Year in Havana

I think I mentioned this in my previous review, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again – historical fiction is one of my favorite genres out there. I’ve always been a history gal, always looked forward to my history classes. Where everyone else was snoozing through the series The Blue and The Grey in 7th grade, I was devouring every minute of it and sobbing over Jonas and Mary’s tragic love story (sorry if I ruined it for you). It was this depiction, among other books, in all its flawed glory that showed me that you can give even more meaning to history to people when you put it in a familiar emotional context for people to understand.

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Look at what a stud muffin John Hammond is.

When an author forces the reader to stand where a regular person stood amidst the turmoil of an event in history, it forces the reader to be emotionally involved. Next Year in Havana did that for me as well. I’m not ready to let go of the high of reading that book just yet, and if you aren’t either, I’ve included my picks on what to read next.

  1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This book was the first book I read this year (2018) and it changed EVERYTHING. In the main protagonist, Evelyn you get the same spirit as Elisa. They both work hard and love harder. The backdrop is set around the same era as Next Year in Havana and includes all the mystery and intrigue as well!
  2. Lady Be Good by Amber Brock – I have not read this book yet, but it’s on my radar after I spied on it in the bookstore. From New York to Miami to Cuba in the 1950’s, I believe this book will have the same whirlwind feel of Next Year in Havana.
  3. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras – Okay, bear with me, so this book has nothing to do with Cuba. With that being said it is still historical fiction and takes place in 1990’s Colombia during a time of political unrest. This book comes out next week and I’m excited to pick it up and learn about something I have only slightly heard about.
  4. To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway – For those of you who like the classics (although that term can be problematic), Hemingway sweeps you away into adventure, bootlegging, romance, and yes, Cuba. I read this years ago as a high school student and hardly remember the entire plot. I’m interested to read it now with more understanding than I did as an awkward teenager.

Let me know if you plan on reading any of those books or read Next Year in Havana. I’m always happy to fangirl with you! To end this post I’ve included a scene from Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.

Book Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

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“What does it say about a place that people will risk certain death to leave it?” 

After reading this book my heart is nostalgic for a country I have no connection to, and it breaks for those that do. Chanel Cleeton wrote a loving story during two turbulent times in the history of Cuba. Although, after reading this book it’s hard not to say that the times in between have been a complete disaster, a crime against humanity.

I absolutely adore historical fiction with all my heart and enjoy when authors write dates and facts into books so that you can know when and where things are happening. Cleeton does this in a brilliant way. She gives us the facts without taking away the emotional context of the story. If anything it only adds to the drama of the story and keeps had my heart racing trying to determine the outcome (even though we know what happened in history). As a reader, you learn everything you need to know and more to understand the circumstances that Marisol finds herself in while traveling to the land her grandmother was exiled from.

The book goes back and forth between Marisol’s grandmother, Elisa’s point of view to Marisol’s (in the present), and it was interesting to say just how alike the two women from different time periods, are. Their actions mirrored each other, without them even realizing it.

I’m an advocate for historical fiction. I truly believe when you put the emotional context into historic events, people understand, people empathize. For anyone not versed in the Cuban Revolution or in the precarious relationship the United States has with Cuba, this is definitely a good book to read. And for my romance gals, there is plenty of swoon-worthy moments as well.

“Do we all dare to hope for more? Of course.”

I give it 5 stars. If you want to fangirl with me about Next Year in Havana, please reach out to me!

The Hate U Give Review

Five well deserved stars.

Angie Thomas has created a masterpiece and allowed me as a reader, to dive into a world I rarely am involved in. I couldn’t put the book down and rightly so. Starr’s story is so devastating and heartbreaking…she witnesses first hand the aweful police brutality that happens way too often. She, like so many others struggle with the situation that these officers are supposed to protect us… but oftentimes they don’t. She does say that not all police officers are the same but just like not all officers are the same, not all civilians are the same… and her friend Khalil had to pay the ultimate price of an officers ignorance and indifference.

I can go on and on about this book. I fell in love with every character even the bad ones… they helped to develope this story and make it unique. I can tell you how my stomach squirmed and just like Starr … I felt like throwing up and crying and screaming during certain scenes. Thomas also includes references to other souls subjected to police brutality … And the last chapter of the book… tore my heart in two when she mentioned all the names of the people that will never see another day. They didn’t deserve that.

Thomas finishes the book with hope and a call to action. We should never be afraid to speak up and demand progress and change and fairness. We should never stop fighting for justice.

Five well deserved stars.

Angie Thomas has created a masterpiece and allowed me as a reader, to dive into a world I rarely am involved in. I couldn’t put the book down and rightly so. Starr’s story is so devastating and heartbreaking…she witnesses first hand the aweful police brutality that happens way too often. She, like so many others struggle with the situation that these officers are supposed to protect us… but oftentimes they don’t. She does say that not all police officers are the same but just like not all officers are the same, not all civilians are the same… and her friend Khalil had to pay the ultimate price of an officers ignorance and indifference.

I can go on and on about this book. I fell in love with every character even the bad ones… they helped to develope this story and make it unique. I can tell you how my stomach squirmed and just like Starr … I felt like throwing up and

The Case for Romance and other stuff.

I’ve been doing a lot of heavy reading lately. To name a few: If We Were Villians (love), Be Like the Fox, Machiavelli in His World (Interesting), Now I Rise (bad ass female protagonist), and the list goes on and on. All books that I love, all books that help me to sympathize, books to inspire to resist, books that help me believe in the power that lies in myself.

But being a reader, and an emotional reader at that, when I read a book I completely dive head first and drown in the books that I read. I become one with the characters and I feel a deep sense of loss when I’m done with the books I read, regardless of genre. So sometimes, despite my love for Thrillers, classics, and literature type books, a corner of my heart is reserved for romance or the dreaded term “Chick Lit.” (I just finished Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren…so good!)

You know which ones I’m talking about – shy girl meets the rebellious boy that also happens to be super smart and super sensitive and loves to read. Or girl moves to a new town and has a certain outlook on love until she meets “the one.” Or the sexy male that falls madly in love with the girl that is too good for him and she changes him. I totally make fun of these books, ALL THE TIME. I’m not the most romantic person in real life, but one of my favorite authors, Tarryn Fisher coined a phrase that I thought perfectly describes me, “Heartless Romantic.” Because although I like certain things and act a certain way, I still have a soft spot for romance books and movies. They make me happy no matter how unrealistic they are and give me a type of release that other books can’t.

That’s where my problem with Literature Snobs come in. I will be the first person to tell you to expand your horizons (as you should) and read something outside of your typical genre (maybe a future post), but romance doesn’t hurt. It helps. I can attest to that since I can be one of the most cynical people out there.

So to you, Literature Snobs out there, give us a break. Don’t judge me if you see me reading 50 Shades of Grey out in public and same goes to you Romance Snobs. Don’t get down on me if you see me reading Charlotte Bronte or Slyvia Plath, or Ralph Waldo Emerson. Because I like that shit too.

Gisela’s review of War Storm (Red Queen, #4)

Disclaimer: As always with series such as these, I find myself writing more ranty-fangirl reviews instead of a super insightful literary-type review. Bare with me bookish friends.

I really tried to take my time to read this book, but about halfway through I gave in to desire and sped through to the finish line and I am suffering a serious book hangover right now. I always get this way after finishing a series. I’m always a little sad to see the characters I’ve read about for years just go. BUT…

That ending was super satisfying AND I hope I’m not reading into things wrongly (see what I did there-haha) but I think Victoria Aveyard left the ending a little open? And it might be the start of something new? Perhaps a spin-off?!

Now about the characters- I really like Mare, and I think that might be an unpopular opinion but I absolutely like her a lot. She’s gutsy, she stands up for what she believes in and doesn’t let her love life get too much into the way of that. She’s grown throughout the series and it is evident especially in the last book. Girl is making her own choices, keeping up with General Farley (another favorite of mine because she is completely bad-ass and I want to be her best friend), and not taking any crap from men.

really enjoyed Maven and Cal’s POVs. Maven’s mind is just as topsy-turvy as anyone could guess and Evangeline’s POV’s were pure gold! The only point of view I didn’t care too much for was Iris’s. They were fundamental to the story, I’ll give her that, but dear lord I couldn’t wait to get to Evangeline and Mare’s and anyone else’s POV fast enough.

There is so much more I want to say, but I’ll just be ranting on and on. Before I finish, I have to applaud Victoria Aveyard. The book as a whole was amazing, and I didn’t want to put it down- but what I really loved were the one-liners that put into perspective difficult situations that we must all face. I wrote so many down. So thank you Victoria Averyard, for having the courage to stick it to the man.

It’s actually 4.5 stars.

Gisela’s review of War Storm (Red Queen, #4)