Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “One Hundred Years of Solitude”

You know how your want-to-read eyes are always bigger than your time-to-read stomach? And how this phenomenon leads to you have a waist-high stack of books you know you’ll get to “someday”? (From talking to other bibliophiles, I know I’m not alone in this affliction.)

For many years, Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude occupied a spot on my wishful-reading list. Based on my work on his Love in the Time of Cholera (which features in my chapter in the The Body), I knew a García Márquez novel was not to be tackled lightly. I wanted to wait until I had the time and focus to truly do it justice… which I never seemed to have at hand.

But then I was offered a chance to contribute to another anthology, this one on family, friends, and foes in hispanic literature (set for late 2018 publication). I knew immediately what I wanted to write on: the family saga that is Solitude. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “One Hundred Years of Solitude””

New Year’s Resolutions: Strategic, Not Super

I think I’m Superwoman.

Which is fine, and even empowering. Right up until I start punishing myself for not getting done all the tasks on a list that was un-get-done-able from the start.

Here’s what I mean: as I look at 2018 (which will include a move back to the States for our next assignment), my brain’s already racking up a considerable to-do list for the next year:

Continue reading “New Year’s Resolutions: Strategic, Not Super”

I Found Santa’s Workshop!

There’s nothing like living overseas for a year-plus to make you appreciate being home for the holidays. This past month has been a whirlwind of visiting American friends and family as the husband and I have ranged from down south in Texas, all the way up to (what this Texas gal considers) the Far White North of Indiana. Although both of our overseas posts–China and Suriname–celebrated Christmas to some degree, the American Christmas experience is truly unique. In no other place that I’ve lived has the holiday been as sugary, extravagant, bustling, or glistening as I’ve found it to be in the States. Traveling home to share in all that chaotic cheer gives me an effervescent kind of happiness.

One of the moments on this trip that quintessentially captured American Christmas was a stop at Albanese candy store, AKA Santa’s Workshop. Some of our dear, Indiana-based friends took us to this massive–and I do mean massive–sweet shop in western Indiana. The instant we crossed the threshold, we ran into an almost palpable wall of warm, sugary scent. The sights were equally dazzling, with banks of home-made chocolates (maple truffles, malted milk balls, chocolate-covered animal crackers, turtles, haystacks, etc.) and endless bins of rainbow-colored gummy candies (did I mention that their gummy bears are home-made?! From scratch?!) Vintage-style candies lined the back of the store, and an extra wing of the shop boasted a glorious array of glittering Christmas baskets and speciality items. And as if that weren’t enough, a gigantic column coated with flowing molten chocolate stood sway in the midst of all the Christmas sparkle.

Considering all the temptation around, I was pretty proud of the fact that we walked away with only two packs of bubble gum cigarettes (a nostalgic favorite of my husband’s) and 1.5 pounds of chocolate candy (peanut butter meltaways, chocolate-covered cookie dough, and chocolate almond toffee). I’m also grateful that the Suriname to Indiana commute is long enough to prevent our being regulars at Albanese. Because my waist-line cannot take that abuse on a regular basis!

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My New Publication: Your Next Jolabokaflod Gift?

Having had my Texas Christmas early while visiting with my family, I’ve already scored some pretty awesome gifts this holiday season. But I’m excited to add one more treat to the pile… another book with my name tucked inside as an author.

A November publication, S/He: Sex & Gender in Hispanic Studies rolled off the printer in time for the holidays. So if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for the lit nerd in your life–or if you’re a celebrator of the Icelandic book-giving holiday–Jolabokaflod (A.K.A, the “Christmas Book Flood”)–you can score a copy at your nearest Amazon site!

And if feminine heroes are the recipient’s cup o’ tea, feel free to nudge them to read my installment in the anthology first: Chapter 9: “Golden Age S/heroes: Steel-Plated Petticoats: Women and Heroism in Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quijote.”

Happy Reading/Giving! Please take a moment to share in the comment section what books you’re giving or hoping to get this season! I’ve already grabbed Emma Newman’s Between Two Thorns and Rene Gutteridge’s Ghost Writer. What’s on your list?

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Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Bear and the Nightingale”

It’s standard wisdom: Never judge a book by its cover.

Yet it’s hard not to when a book’s cover–and title–are so fantastic. Beautiful, atmospheric, and a bit eerie, these appealed to the fairy tale/folklore lover in me. Between these exterior flourishes and the novel’s story–main character Vasilisa dares condemnation as she uses her supernatural communion with creatures of Russian folklore and an alliance with winter demon Frost to safeguard her people from a nebulous dark–I knew Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale was a book I had to have.

I’m happy to say the cimmerian ambiance promised by the cover carried into the novel. The aesthetics throughout–whether descriptions of the rusalka (a water sprite), or the harsh beauty of a wintery Russian forest–were striking and resonant. Even now, months after finishing the novel, I can summon to mind a multitude of scenes, lovely and ominous alike.  Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Bear and the Nightingale””

Texas Pride Takes on Harvey

Last Sunday, I wrote about Hurricane Harvey and what it felt like, watching that beast steer toward my hometown, family, friends… so much of what I treasure most.

A week later, I can’t help reiterating my gratitude. Every one I love is alive, safe. Their homes are (mostly) intact. Even as I hear about the damage done to the Port Aransas house my father inherited from my grandmother, and the many spots of which I have fond memories that have been devastated, I cannot help bowing in humble gratitude. Yes, part of the roof was ripped off the Port A house and thrown to the ground. Yes, the ground floor storage unit beneath the house (many houses in this area are built on stilts in case of hurricanes) was flooded with roughly 4 feet of water, ruining everything. Yes, the electrical loop was ripped off the house, the siding shredded.

But nobody died. And the house still stands. So many other Texans have lost infinitely, heart-breakingly more.

Continue reading “Texas Pride Takes on Harvey”

Hurricane Harvey: Sorrow & Joy

As I’ve mentioned a time or two, I’m a Texan, born and bred on the Gulf Coast. In Corpus Christi, to be specific. A huge hunk of my heart is still there, tied to both the place and the people (all my immediate family, and many treasured friends and their families).

As those of you following the weather can imagine, the latter half of this week has been a surreal, tempestuous time. Harvey, a weather formation that began as a mere tropical storm (life-long Gulf Coasters tend to shrug at these) morphed into a monster storm almost overnight. Almost out of nowhere, a category 3 hurricane was barreling down–predicted to make landfall–on almost everything dearest to me.

Thousands of miles away in South America, I was obviously well out of danger. But it was sickening being so far away. I desperately wanted to be there to help my family prepare and evacuate–buy water and generators, board up windows, gather precious photos and important documents, offer a positive word, a hug, a hand on the shoulder and a prayer.

Continue reading “Hurricane Harvey: Sorrow & Joy”