Three and a Half Years of Reading in Spanish

I picked up a book in Spain over three years ago because it looked interesting. I thought, “I’m proficient enough in Spanish, and this sounds like a fun action-thriller that will be a breeze.” It was not a breeze. I am not that proficient in Spanish (though my father said he didn’t think it was a very good translation, so perhaps that didn’t do me any favors). But I persisted, and I finally finished reading David Golemon’s Leyenda, translated by Ester Mendía Picazo.

leyenda
Source: Goodreads

I can’t quite give a thorough review, because since I was so focused on understanding the language, it was easy to get lost in what characters were who and who did what, though I think that may have just been the nature of the book. There was such an extensive ensemble and multiple converging storylines that it was all a dizzying swirl of action and adventure. What I can say is that it reminded me of a cross between National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code, so it was a fun read to be sure.

But this post isn’t about giving a review. It’s about relishing in my accomplishment of finishing my first ever book entirely in Spanish. It’s not my first language, so to say that I read 415 pages in my second tongue, especially when it heavily dealt with a topic of which the vocabulary was completely new to me, is something to be proud of.

I had moments where I thought about quitting and just saying that I can’t read in Spanish. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I took my time. I read voraciously some nights, as I was enthralled by the story. And other nights I read one paragraph or one page. That’s okay. There was no pressing need to finish the book in a timely manner (clearly). It took three and a half years, but I finished.

I think it’s important that I took on this endeavor, because it taught me an important life lesson. It may take many years and more time than anticipated, but it’s possible to finish something that seems impossible. Weirdly enough, completing this challenge I set for myself, even three years later, has renewed my energy to finish my next challenge (which I’ve also been working on for four years now): writing my first novel.

I’ve been working on writing my book on and off, writing when I have time. For the last four years it’s felt like a hobby that I’m doing to pass the time, and like it’s something that I’ll never finish. Sometimes I write a chapter and think, “Okay, that’s the next chapter. Who knows when this will be done.” But reading a whole book in Spanish and getting to the end taught me that, yes, an end does come, even if it takes more time than thought. I don’t just feel like I’m writing for writing’s sake now. I finished Leyenda, so that means I can finish writing my book.

This all also coincides with the impending end of my master’s program. In just eight more weeks, I’ll be done and officially have my MBA. I see the end of each of these adventures as the closing of chapters in my own book, but not as the end of my story. Some chapters are longer than others and take more time, but they do come to an end. And that just means I know I can accomplish these things and feel rejuvenated to start the next one.

I thought being a reader had taught me all it can at this point, but it turns out there’s still so much more that being a reader can teach me.

Meagan Reads YA Fantasy: Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova

There are spoilers ahead, so if you plan on reading the book, proceed with caution!

bruja born blog
From my Instagram page

Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova is the followup to Labyrinth Lost, all part of the Brooklyn Brujas series. This book is told from the perspective of the older sister, Lula Mortiz, after the events of what happened in the first book. She’s still coping with the trauma and struggling to find forgiveness for her sister Alex’s actions. Meanwhile, Alex has embraced her encantrix powers, but still feels guilty , so she does everything for her sister to earn her forgiveness.

Lula is clearly undergoing the effects of PTSD, as she consistently states that she no longer feels like the same person. So much so that even the love of her life, Maks, doesn’t bring her the same joy he once did, but she’s so adamant at holding on to her old self that she clings to his presence and the relationship they once had that’s no longer there. After months of these trials and tribulations, Maks decides to call it quits, but Lula doesn’t accept that. She tries using her powers of healing to mend their broken relationship, but in that same moment Death herself comes for Lula’s school mates in a bus crash.

Lady de la Muerte comes to claim Maks in the hospital in the aftermath, but Lula won’t let go. She enlists the help of her sisters to heal Maks before Death can take him, but things go terribly wrong. He dies, and when he wakes up, he’s not himself anymore. When Lula tried to tether her life force to Maks’s, she accidentally did the same for the other victims of the bus crash, creating an army of casimuertos (almost dead). Now, the Mortiz sisters are in a race against the paranormal authorities and time to fix their mistakes, but in order to do so, Lula must learn to let go of Maks, and Lula’s sisters must let go of her.

Cordova’s characterization of Lula is adept, as readers see the Mortiz family now from her eyes. One of the things I found especially telling and heartbreaking was how Lula always had Alex glamor her scars away on her face. The scars are a remnant of what happened in Los Lagos in book one, so hiding them is a form of trying to forget the trauma she underwent. More than that though, it’s vanity.

I don’t say that to be condescending in that way sometimes teenage girls are treated for caring so much about their beauty. Lula herself recognizes that her need to cover up the scars on her face is connected to the fact that her whole life she’s been told that she’s beautiful, and she knows that beauty is power when it comes to being a woman. It’s not to say she values her other qualities less (i.e., her healing magic, her fierce loyalty, her strength), but she knows having been told her whole life how beautiful she is means the world puts value in her physical appearance, and by having a scarred face, that power has been taken away.

There’s only a few brief sentences in the beginning of the book about this power dynamic, but it’s so in line with what women in our world are constantly told. Cordova didn’t spend much time on it, but she didn’t need to. Lula said it all in those few short internal thoughts on that one page. She managed to convey a complex idea of feminism in such a small space, and that’s the mark of a great writer.

By the end of the book though, Lula has found power in her magic, her family, and her bravery and strength. In the end, she makes the ultimate sacrifice to save her family, friends, and the world, even if it means she doesn’t get to live to see it. Thankfully, Lady de la Muerte doesn’t take her life as repayment for the chaos she’s caused from her actions, but the price that’s paid isn’t cheap either. There’s clearly more to come in book three, but whatever comes their way, I’m sure the Mortiz family will overcome.

I’m also glad that Lula has found power and strength in her scars, literal and metaphorical, and that she grew into someone who is learning to live with the past, but not  necessarily holding onto it as a lifeline.

Have any of you read this book yet? What are your thoughts on the Mortiz sisters and their stories? Let me know in the comments!

It Takes Two

I used to be one of those book snobs who scoffed at romance novels, but after educating myself on the gendered implications of the genre, I decided I wanted to try to get into at least one. I won’t lie. Letting go of my old prejudices that were deeply rooted in misogyny was not easy, and try as I might, it still kept a hold of me even as I ventured into romance novels. I just couldn’t get into them (see my previous post about that here).

Two of the recently million 4 books I was reading simultaneously this past month though, turned out to be grouped as romance on Goodreads. There was War Brides by Helen Bryan (a freebie I picked up ages ago from Amazon’s deal of the day) and still in progress Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, which I got on audio for a steal with Google Play books and a generous Book Riot promo code. I chose it because, yes, I want to see the movie and support marginalized communities in entertainment.

GR War Brides blog
Image from GoodReads

I just finished reading War Brides last night. Truthfully, I didn’t think it was so much a romance novel, because the love stories play so subtly in the background of everything else going on. It mostly focuses on the lives of 5 women converging in Crowmarsh Priors, England due to the circumstances of World War II. I suppose the true love story in this book was the relationship that developed between these women who didn’t all get along at first, but eventually a friendship was forged in the fires of the war.

Still, the weddings and romances that took place within the book allow this novel to fall into the romance category. Due to the time it takes place, intimacy is described mildly. So, here we have historical fiction with a major focus on getting through a war and female bonds, with a side of romance. I really enjoyed this book, as I kept wanting to read it instead of my textbooks for school. I was very much into the story plots of espionage, but I was equally charmed by the love stories between certain characters. I felt like I had an equal investment in the romance and surrounding story.

I’m currently still working my way through Crazy Rich Asians. This book is an absolute

GR CRA blog
Image from GoodReads

trip. It’s just so much fun. I come from a Latin-American background, so I can’t say that I totally relate to the culture, but I do see hints of my own family’s quirks within these characters. There’s an overly-involved matriarch who’s trying to find the dirt on her son’s new girlfriend, while the totally laid-back husband lets her go about her insanity because he knows there’s no fighting it. There’s a down-to-earth cousin who’s more of a sister and offers sage advice. This is definitely an example of “rich people problems,” but with a cultural twist that I find just absolutely enjoyable. Roxane Gay put it best in her review of it when she called it dishy.

With these two books, I think I’ve finally found my stride with the romance genre. I just have to find love stories that take place within other environments that catch my interest, be it historical fiction or just enjoying another cultural perspective.

Has anybody else had this struggle and found a solution that works for them? What are some other romance novels you can recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Admitting — ShiftnShake

Coming soon! An excellent set of stories. Follow the writer’s blog to get a glimpse of what’s in store 🙂

I am D. Avery and it’s been 9 days since I have posted anything or written anything new. I have not quit writing. In fact I have been… formatting. I am pretty excited to be getting this project finished up. Within this cover you will find (soon) flash fiction previously shown here at ShiftnShake […]

via Admitting — ShiftnShake

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: Review — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Wrote this piece for my cousin’s blog. Follow the link below to read the full review!

Review of “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini

via And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: Review — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Meagan Reads Sci-Fi: Feed by Mira Grant

I went on vacation, so I’m getting to this review a bit late. Spoilers are also ahead, so read at your own risk if you plan on picking up this book.

feed_blogAs part of the MadLibs 2018 reading challenge, I chose to read Feed by Mira Grant for the “verb” category. It’s the first in the Newsflesh trilogy, taking place in the U.S. after a zombie apocalypse has occurred. Except it’s not really an apocalypse, because the premise shows a world that essentially operates much in the same way as before, with running electricity, political intrigue, and defined geographical territories. The biggest difference is the undead that have consumer certain areas of the world and a virus that needs to be kept in check with constant blood testing and special medical precautions. Much like we have the TSA to ensure weapons don’t make it through airports, this world includes blood testing machines to ensure visitors to a building aren’t carrying the illness that causes zombies to rise. The whole zombie aspect plays in the background of this world and its story much like the wars and protests and other world news play in the background of our reality and daily lives.

This is what made the book such an interesting concept to me. It’s a revolution of sorts, of the human race, and yet aside from the obvious, nothing’s changed. The other biggest change of course is the source of news and media. Per the novel’s storyline, when the zombie outbreak occurred, big news media didn’t properly warn the citizens of the iminent danger, while bloggers and independent publications did. Thus, in this new world, bloggers and social influencers are the trusted and credible sources of news. To be honest, that sounds pretty familiar to me already, growing up a millennial in this Internet age, where my main source of news comes from my Twitter feed, and I’d sooner trust Buzzfeed to give me the real details before I trust Fox News.

The zombie storyline in this book plays more of a supporting role, adding a supplementary layer to the real story, which is dirty politics and freedom of the press. The story follows brother and sister bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason, along with their sidekick Buffy Messoinier, as they trail the presidential candidate Senator Peter Ryman on his campaign across the U.S. Sabotage soon follows, with cases of the virus popping up and wreaking havoc at Ryman’s campaign events, killing innocent bystanders. The Masons and Buffy investigate until they find the truth, but it’s a dangerous game and by the end, two of them end up dead.

The most prominent flaw I found in the book was the overspecific use of blogging and social media jargon. I know it’s called feed, which is a play on words based on a news feed and what zombies do to live humans, but there was so  much banter between characters that was hyperfocused on the tech and blogging community, that it felt a bit “insider baseball.” I have a bit of a background in blogging and media, so it wasn’t necessarily hard for me to follow what they said most of the time, but for someone who knows nothing about click through rates, content sharing, and metrics, it can become exhausting.

Overall though, I was rather surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, and how much I cared about the characters in the end. I just might continue with the next one if I find I have time.

Have any of you read this book or others like it? What are your thoughts? Do you have recommendations based on this novel? Let me know in the comments!

Check out more reviews here!

Meagan Reads YA: The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

For my workplace book club, a coworker chose The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I had my reservations about reading this book because of the accusations that recently came out about the author in light of the Me Too movement. I also knew that this was a book that’s been lauded and held in high esteem, and even challenged and banned by certain schools due to certain content.

sherman alexie blog postThe story follows Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a member of the Wellpinit community in Washington. It’s a coming-of-age story about growing up Indian in a racist country. It’s about growing up Indian in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father. It’s about growing up Indian and poor. There are so many heavy and tragic topics that take place throughout the story, but it’s all told through Junior’s eyes, meaning it’s told with a wry sense of humor to soften the blow.

I really enjoyed the main character’s voice and his sarcasm aimed not only at the white community that mistreated his people, but at his own people too. It creates this complex and layered relationship between wanting to remain loyal, but wanting more than the life allotted by circumstance and the majority in power. It’s something that many marginalized people can relate to.

Here of course is where the conflict for me as a reader occurs. I truly enjoyed this book and think it’s a good piece of work that’s worth reading. But I can’t just forget the accusations about the author from the people he hurt. In fact, I can even see some of that attitude bleed through in the main character Junior. Sure, he’s a straight teenage boy, so he’s bound to talk about masturbation and look at girls with desire. At least, that’s what’s expected, because after all, boys will be boys. The danger in that expectation is that those boys grow up to be “men who’ll be men,” who in turn continue objectifying women and seeing them as things. This leads to men who “misbehave” and end up hurting women.

While the book is an excellent read and covers important topics with a genuinely funny voice, it’s hard not to notice the moments where adult Alexie and fictional Junior crossover into one another. It becomes a question of separating the art from the artist, which is something I’ve always struggled with. To what extent can we do so, and at what point do we stop separating the two? Because it’s obvious that no one is perfect and no art is perfect, but we have to make a stand somewhere.

Alexie’s new reputation is a blow to marginalized communities because he was such a strong voice for his own. Then again, maybe if more publishers championed more marginalized voices, it wouldn’t be such a detrimental hit to those communities in the first place.

Did anybody else read this book after what came to light about the author? Did anyone read it before? What are your thoughts on liking a book but not liking an author? Let me know in the comments!