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

Review: The Japanese Lover

The Japanese Lover is a story about love, friendship, aging, and coming to terms with the past. It begins when a young woman named Irina Bazili starts working at Lark House, a retirement home for the elderly. There she meets the enigmatic Alma Belasco, a wealthy widow who has just arrived at Lark House. Unlike the rest of the elderly residents, Alma is empowered and independent.

As the story develops, so does the friendship between Irina, Alma, and Seth (Alma’s grandson). Both Irina and Seth become intrigued by Alma’s past, wondering about the mysterious letters and flowers she receives, and the secret getaways Alma goes to every now and then. As they dig for details in Alma’s past, they unravel the truth about the Japanese lover.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was an entertaining and quick read — specially the end which I didn’t see coming. The different timelines allow the reader to learn about Irina’s past as well as Alma’s. However, I felt it was too summarized. It was rather descriptive, the dialogue was a bit scarce, and there wasn’t much detail on the characters’ inner worlds. Let’s keep in mind that it was written by Isabel Allende, the mastermind behind The House Of Spirits. It’s the second book I read by her, unfortunately it did not meet my expectations.

I still look forward to reading more of her work, I’ve heard positive reviews on A Long Petal of the Sea. Have you read books by Isabel Allende? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Review: Anna Karenina

Ana Karenina Leo Tolstoy bookstagram book review bookblog literature

The novel is named after the main character, Anna Karenina, a graceful woman who captivates everyone who meets her. However, she is not the only protagonist. We also have Levin, Tolstoy’s alter ego. A humble man who does not seem to fit in with St. Petersburg’s high society. They develop parallel stories that differ from each other greatly and yet are somehow connected, though not directly. 

I had very little previous knowledge on Russian culture and now I feel like I’ve gained more insight on their history. The author perfectly encapsulates how the society was back at that time. But he goes beyond the romance. The novel portrays topics on mental health and a feminist heroin, who went against all social norms in order to follow her heart. At first, I felt mesmerized with Anna just like everyone else who spoke to her. But then we see her transform, and unlike a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly, we witness Anna’s downfall and emotional breakdowns. She looses herself and the essence that characterized her from the beginning, she was judged by society and felt uncomprehended even by the man she had fallen in love with. What began as a passionate love story, inevitably guided her to tragedy. 

What I liked about Tolstoy’s writing style is the amount of details on everything. The way he describes social interactions, character’s thoughts and even the scenery. Also can we talk about Laska? I personally enjoyed how Tolstoy depicted Laska, Levin’s dog. Just for a few brief paragraphs we get to see Levin from the dog’s perspective — I haven’t read any other author who could do this so eloquently. I could literally feel myself there, walking across the countryside with them. The con on Tolstoy’s writing style is the length, and that’s due to the details. There’s a lot of information to process, however, the language is quite easy and comprehensible. 

However, I must admit I did not enjoy the ending. I was hoping there’d be a more detailed closure on Anna’s story…I mean, there are details on everything but that. Anna’s event is merely mentioned, focusing solely on Levin.

So yes, this book is long. I think it’s the longest stand-alone I’ve ever read. Due to that fact, it might not be for everyone. But If you enjoy stories with characters who have rich inner worlds and dilemas, then I do suggest you read it.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Now I can finally watch the movie! How about you? Have you read Anna Karenina or seen any of the films? 

Review: Midnight Sun

With Midnight Sun I was able to relive a phase of my teenage years. I remember how obsessed I was over the Twilight Saga. And yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I completely understand if this isn’t for you. But in my case, I simply loved the entire series (still do). Midnight Sun was no exception.

Reading Edward’s perspective was eye-opening and made the events in Twilight so much clearer, it all makes more sense now. Here, we get an inside scoop into the vampire world and more details about the Cullen family — like how they became vampires and how Alice and Jasper’s talents work. Not to mention, Edward’s mind-reading game in school makes you wonder about the authenticity in Bella’s friendships and how she sometimes seems unaware of their intentions (I’m talking about Jessica in case that wasn’t clear enough). But what I found most delight in, was learning about the way Edward reads Bella’s parents. Both Charlie and Renee are unique human beings.

Last but not least, while in Twilight, Bella’s actions might have made more sense because she was the narrator, here you realize how entirely wrong she was. Once you see what’s inside Jame’s mind (once again, thanks to Edward) you can notice how thoughtless and reckless Bella’s actions were towards the end. I mean, there’s a thin line between fearlessness and being suicidal, Bella didn’t think it through.

Besides all of that, I can’t end this review without mentioning Edward’s inner world. He’s a vampire with an unmeasurable amount of love towards a fragile human girl. He’s very protective, and while that may have been quite clear in Twilight, here you get to learn about his motives. And he’s a bit of a stalker too, but not in a bad way (not entirely, at least), his concern for Bella’s safety makes him lose his mind. But isn’t that what loves does to all of us? Perhaps it affects vampires a bit more, we’ll never know for sure. However, his complaints do get a bit repetitive. I mean, this book is over 600 pages long, Edward’s thoughts are in a ceaseless fluctuation and his emotions are all colliding with one another.

All in all, if you read the Twilight series and liked it, you’ll most likely enjoy Midnight Sun as well. So while this book may not be for everybody, I’d recommend it to those who are already familiar with the saga. Or if you’d like to read a love story with a dose of immortality, then I’d suggest you go for it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Review: To The Lighthouse

Hi there! This is the second book I read by Virginia Woolf. The first was Mrs. Dalloway which I read two years ago. And now I thought it was finally time to read To The Lighthouse. At first, it took me a while to get used to her style of writing again. And I can see why Virginia Woolf may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The style she uses, which is called stream of consciousness, can be confusing and a bit hard to keep up with. It consists of the character’s thoughts, about random things and sometimes there’s no chronological order between these thoughts — just how the mind works. Not to mention, in this flow of words, she jumps from one character to another without any previous notice. In the beginning, it all feels a bit strange, but once you start reading and get used to it, it’s hard not to admire Woolf and her words.

To The Lighthouse centers on the Ramsay family, Mrs. Ramsay in particular. To be honest, the plot itself is not outstanding. It describes the day-to-day events that occur in her house, near the sea, where they have a clear view of the lighthouse. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay have eight children, from toddlers to teens, who go on and about their day. Mrs. Ramsay plays and takes care of the youngest one, and her main worry is the weather and if they’ll be able to go to the lighthouse.

It’s important to point out that Mr. Ramsay is a particular character who, alongside some other secondary ones, represents the male chauvinism of that time. He is also very insecure about this profession and the legacy of his book and seeks other people’s acceptance — especially his wife’s. Another important character is Lily Briscoe, who becomes a protagonist towards the end, and we get to see things from her perspective. She represents a feminist who doesn’t conform to the norms of her time, a woman who wishes independence and rejects marriage, something she knows Mrs. Ramsay wouldn’t approve of nor comprehend. Just like Mr. Ramsay, she is also insecure about her work, a painting she’s been working on for years.

The family returns to their beach house a decade later and invites Lily to spend time with them. In the end, Mr. Ramsay and his two youngest children finally pay a visit to the lighthouse while Lily stays in the house to finally finish her painting. That is when she realizes that what matters most is the final result of her vision, not the legacy it leaves.

I’m omitting certain parts in order not to spoil it for anyone, but really, there aren’t that many major events. And the only “big” events are briefly described in a few sentences — which can be offputting if you were looking for a plot with twists and turns.

While I enjoyed it (though towards the end it became really slow, to be honest), I’d suggest you first read Mrs. Dalloway before first. In this novel, the effects of the stream of consciousness are more intense, hence increasing its difficulty. But this is what makes Virginia Woolf’s work different. Her prose is remarkable, there’s deep character development and the scenery and events are described with rich metaphors (and I’m a sucker for metaphors).

“𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚐𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚜𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚎𝚕𝚝 𝚊𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚊𝚐𝚘𝚗𝚒𝚜𝚝, 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎.”

Have you read To The Lighthouse yet? Let me know!

‘Til next time!