Review: The Outsider

Stephen King is the king of horror. I believe I haven’t talked here much about it, but I’m a bit of a cinephile. I absolutely love watching films, especially thrillers, suspense, or horror. Given that, it’s no surprise that I’ve already seen plenty of movies and TV shows based on books by Stephen King. However, I was always somewhat reluctant to read a book written by him, thinking that seeing a film or a series would be enough. I was so wrong.

For those who don’t know, The Outsider starts when an eleven-year-old boy is brutally murdered in Flint City. All the evidence points at one of the most beloved of Flint City’s citizens: Terry Maitland. He’s a little league coach, school teacher, husband, and father of two daughters. Detective Ralph Anderson orders his detainment during a baseball game, so all neighbors are there to witness it. Maitland has a solid alibi that demonstrated he was elsewhere during the moment of the crime, but the DNA evidence shows the contrary. But Anderson is not satisfied with the outcome, even when the case is closed. Maitland seems like a good man, he even trained Anderson’s son, so how could he have committed such a crime? And the most bizarre of all questions: how can he be at two places at once?

The plot was engaging and well-developed. It was easy to empathize with the main characters, especially Ralph Anderson and Holly Gibney. What I enjoyed most while reading this book was the different points of view. It’s written in third-person, so the reader is also provided with bits of perspectives from a few secondary characters, even an antagonist. All of these fragments add up the puzzle pieces that help understand the whole situation better.

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Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

By now, most of the bookstagram community has read the ACOTAR series. I’ve seen it everywhere since I first started my account, which was back in 2018. I felt like I’d outgrown both the YA and fantasy genres long ago, so I was never really attracted to it. However, this year something shifted, something I can’t precisely explain (perhaps Rhsyand could help me find an answer by digging inside my mind). About two weeks ago, I bought the kindle version of A Court of Thorns and Roses to read on my iPad. The only explanation I told myself was that I wanted to read books outside my comfort zone, and out of so many fantasy books available, I had to chose that one. And you have no idea how glad I am that I did!

Quick FYI, the ACOTAR series is actually considered New Adult, which is different than Young Adult. Though they do share plenty of similarities, the audiences they’re aimed at are not the same. I wouldn’t recommend this to pre-teens; it would be more appropriate for a 14+ audience.

Anyway, the last book that got me turning pages and staying up ’til late at night was Midnight Sun. Yes, another fantasy book. So perhaps I was just kidding myself when I thought I’d outgrown the genre. I was so wrong, and I take it back.

It got me hooked from the beginning. It begins with Feyre being out on a hunt. Winter is coming and she knows that if she doesn’t hunt something, she and her family won’t have much to eat. So when she spots a deer about to be attacked by a wolf, she cannot resist. But to kill the deer, she must also kill the wolf. And everything comes at a price. Shortly afterward, she’s dragged to the magical kingdom of Prynthian for murdering a faerie. Feyre soon starts to learn more about her captor and his world, her feelings of hate vanish and are replaced with passion. But love can’t conquer all, or can it? Feyre must break a powerful curse or say goodbye to him forever.

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Review: Daring Greatly

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is a book that discusses connection and vulnerability — and how by allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you’re actually being courageous. Yes, it might sound contradicting and even a bit like nonsense, that’s why you need to read this book. First off, Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure”.

Vulnerability is closely related to shame. Though it’s not one of the six basic human emotions, shame is a universal feeling that all of us have experienced at one point or another. The thing about shame is that people don’t talk about it because it’s uncomfortable, and by simply addressing it makes us feel defenseless. But the key to overcome it is communication. Shame has infiltrated cultures and communities in numerous ways. Many wrong things that happen nowadays at companies and schools have their source in shame.

The main takeaway that I’ll start putting into practice immediately is regarding how we talk to ourselves. Changing that judgemental internal voice makes a huge difference. It’s not the same telling yourself “I’m a failure” vs. “I made a mistake on this occasion”. This is something we learn as kids from the environment we grew up in, but it’s never too late to unlearn and shift the way we see things. We are worthy, we are enough.

All of the information the author shares is based on research. There are plenty of examples from the interviews she’s held with participants, other researchers, and experiences of her own. It was a bit redundant at times, but the writing style was fluid and easy-going; it felt like chatting with a friend.

There is even a small workbook at the end, where all sorts of questions are included to help and guide the reader through a process of introspection.

If you’re still not sure whether this book is for you, I recommend you check out Brené Brown’s TED Talk.

Rating: 4/5

Review: The House on Mango Street

the house on mango street sandra cisneros

The House on Mango Street centers on Esperanza Cordero, a 12-year old Mexican-American girl who lives in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. It narrates a one-year time span in the life of Esperanza, starting when she and her family move to a house located in Mango Street.

It’s a coming of age story where we witness how Esperanza matures during that year and begins to face the realities surrounding her community. At first, her perspective is innocent and she doesn’t fully comprehend the things she’s describing. Towards the end, she’s changed, no longer a girl but a teenager. Her deepest desire is to move away from Mango Street into a “real home” and begins to write as a medium of escape and self-expression.

Some of the themes covered are male chauvinism, social class, sexual harassment, and racism. However, I still do not see why this novel would get banned from being taught at schools, it is not explicit at all. Some of the events described were harsh, but these things do happen — even after 37 years (date when it was first published).

My main critique is that it did not feel like a novel, hence the rating that I’m giving it. Since it’s written in vignettes, it felt more like a collection of short stories. There’s isn’t much plot development and characters come and go without previous notice. All we see is Esperanza’s point of view on certain occurrences, but there isn’t much depth.

As a Latina who grew up in a south-Florida neighborhood densely populated by other fellow Latinos, some of the stories resonated with experiences of my own or people I know. Whether good or bad, it described events that are not far-fetched from reality.

My favorite vignettes were: Marin, Alice who sees mice, Darius and the clouds, Four skinny trees and Bums in the attic.

I enjoyed it overall, some vignettes were witty and entertaining. It’s been such a long time since I’ve read a coming of age story that contained elements from Hispanic culture. Which has made me realize how I should diversify my reads more, so if you have any recommendations on novels written by lantinx authors, please let me know!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

“I want to be like the waves on the sea, like the clouds in the wind, but I’m me. One day I’ll jump out of my skin. I’ll shake the sky like a hundred violins.”

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Review: The Nightingale

The Nightingale is a beautiful, captivating and heartbreaking historical fiction novel. The story focuses on two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle. Vianne is the oldest and is happily married, and has a daughter. But that picture-perfect life finalizes when the Second World War begins, and her husband is enlisted to battle. Vianne is scared and tries to stay out of trouble — her only objective is to keep her daughter safe and survive. Isabelle, on the other hand, has been a rebel since she was a child, never doing what she’s told. Now that she’s a grown woman, it’s no exception. She’s against the German invasion and wants to contribute one way or another to France’s freedom. 

At the beginning of the war, Vianne is doing okay, until a German soldier decides to stay at her house. In the meantime, Isabelle runs away and gets a new identification, she finally finds the way to fulfill her mission. Throughout the story, we witness the complexity of family dynamics and the uncertainty and fear behind all the decisions the main characters make.

Though it’s not based on real historical figures, Isabelle’s character was inspired by Andrée de Jongh, a Belgian woman who during World War II helped numerous aviators and people escape.

The Nightingale was enthralling since the beginning. I devoured the pages and cried at the end. It’s been so long since a book moved me so much. Kristin Hannah’s writing style was very fluid, and it was easy to empathize with Vianne and Isabelle. Joining them along in their pain, grief, and joy. Two women who showed strength during such adverse times.

Last but not least, The Nightingale will have a film adaptation starring Dakota Fanning and her sister Elle Fanning. It’s expected to be released at the end of this year. I have high expectations for this movie, I cannot wait! 

Overall rating: 5/5

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

– Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale

Bookstagram 101: How to become a Bookstagrammer

Hi there! Today’s post is a little different. I’ve been on bookstagram for a while now — almost 3 years already! What I love most about this community is the general kindness and easy connection. What a better conversation starter than book you share in common with someone else! I’m pretty sure if you start your bookstagram account, you’ll soon start making new friends.

Today I wanted to share some tips about the things I’ve learned these past few years. I gotta admit, the first year and a half I wasn’t as active, weeks could pass without me even logging in to my account. That changed on January 2020, when I decided I’d been on bookstagram long enough to start taking it more seriously, while still having fun.

Here are 5 tips to get started:

  1. Choose your handle: It doesn’t necessarily have to be book-related, but it helps if it does. You could include your name to help others identify you (e.g. Amy’s Bookshelf). But if you want to stay anonymous that’s completely fine too. I’d suggest going for a name that’s easy to pronounce/remember. While coming up with a name, keep in mind that are opportunities for becoming a book influencer or building a personal brand later on. So how would you want to be remembered?
  2. Select a profile picture: I’ve personally struggled with this one. Deciding between a logo or a photograph can be tough. I’d recommend going for a logo if your vision is more on brand-building, perhaps opening up a book-related business or bookclub — it’s also useful if you want to remain anonymous. A photograph of yourself can generate more connection with potential followers, people are curious and always want to see the person behind the account. However, if you’re a bit shy or simply don’t want to go through the process of creating a logo, a picture of books will work just fine! Or in my case, I have a picture of myself holding a book, but my face isn’t entirely visible — many bookstagrammers do this too.
  3. Pick a theme (or not!): You might be thinking “we’re in 2021, themes are so 2016“. Yes, and no. Keep in mind that bookstagram is a visual place, the accounts with the nicest aesthetics are the ones who generally have more followers. You can play around with different editing apps and use a theme to communicate your reading preferences (e.g. dark academia lovers tend to share somber pictures). But if you rather not do this, that is okay! Not everything is about the aesthetics.
  4. Find your niche: Which leads me to this point, it’s useful to determine the type of content you’ll be sharing. Some accounts focus more on photography and briefly discuss books. Other accounts focus more on sharing reviews. You can also concentrate on sharing certain genres of books only — such as YA novels or classic literature. It’s up to you to decide how narrow or wide you keep your content.
  5. Experiment: Nothing is written in stone. Trends shift over time and so does Instagram’s algorithm. Don’t be afraid to start. Share pictures, connect with other fellow readers and along the way you can determine if you’ll be sticking to a theme or switching it up later. Just be you.

Last but not least, a bonus tip: share often. If you want your bookstagram platform to grow, it’s important to be posting often (2 – 3 times per week), sharing stories and engaging with other accounts. And if you’re curious about statistics, switch up to a professional account. You’ll have access to data that can help you see what’s working and what’s not.

So are you ready to start your bookstagram adventure?

For any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via the Contact form or send me a DM on Instagram. ‘Til next time!