Book Buying Ban Update & Lessons Learned

As you might know, I’ve started the year with a book buying ban, which is going okay so far. I only bought one book last month, which was for a book club I really wanted to be a part of. In this post I’ll tell you a few of the challenges I’ve found, the ways I’ve been able to resist buying books even while going into bookstores, and some unexpected thinking about my reading habits, why I read, and how this has affected my reading beliefs.

The view from the second floor of one of our favorite thrift stores

Challenge #1. Thrift stores.

My family and I love going to thrift stores, we say we are just going to browse but it really is to find things like clothes or stuffed animals or even kitchen stuff that is barely used for a great price. For me though, it’s all about the books. It’s a family outing and, when I decided on the book buying ban, I didn’t realize how it would affect these weekend activities. So, the first time this year that we went to Goodwill, one of our usual spots, I realized that it wouldn’t be as easy as I thought.

All thrift stores have at least one full bookcase full of books, and usually, my feet just go on automatic and take me to these sections. So before I knew it I was standing in front of the bookcases at Goodwill and realized the big mistake I was making! O.O… I stood there, staring at the books and simply fled to another area of the store! Of course, my mind kept me wondering… Are there new books? Was that Stephen King book I spotted last time still there? Not only that but I also realized that it was something of a ritual, I would go to the bookshelves, start from right to left and simply browse them and fix the books where needed (books were upside down, series that were separated…why do people do that?!).

I knew that I didn’t want to stay home in future trips and so I decided to go back to the bookshelves, do my little ritual, and be happy to at least visit the books. If I ended up seeing a book I really wanted I simply said “Not right now, sorry book”, and moved on. It’s not as easy as it sounds but I felt incredibly accomplished when I walked out of that store with my hands free of books (And I did buy some shoes I actually needed!).

Challenge #2. Online deals.


So I’m a member of a few book selling websites (Barnes and Noble, Half Price Books, Amazon, Kindle, etc) and of course they send me information about deals and coupons and buy two paperbacks get one free, etc. Which usually don’t grab my attention because I prefer (1000X) to go to the physical stores and buy books there. However, now I find that I actually click on the deal and browse the books online!

Again, I use the same ritual of “Not right now, sorry book” when I really can’t help myself and I click on stuff. I do avoid clicking on Amazon deals because of that handy-dandy One-click purchase button they have… XD

My sister’s book haul! (I’ll definitely read these but at the end of the year I hope)

Challenge #3. My sister.

Now, I love my sister, there’s no denying that. She loves books as well, and as she’s grown older (she’s 15 now), she’s definitely more independent with her reading and will, on occasion, buy her own books.

However, as she tells me about all these new books she bought (that I actually also want to read!) I feel that urge to go and buy books myself! I didn’t realize that my impulse to buy books was this strong! So my sister bought some books the other day and they were sitting there, brand new and unopened (except for the one she was reading). And what did I do? Well, after battling between going out the door to buy books or opening my computer to buy more books, I ended up going to my own bookcase and looking at my unread books.

Overall I think that the rush of buying a new book is the result of the need to add new stories and perspectives to my collection of books. But I’ve realized that I can go into the dangerous territory of buying books simply for the act of buying them and having them in my hands. It’s not bad to collect things, but I want my library to be meaningful to me and to whoever will look at it decades later. I realized that I don’t want to simply collect books, I want to read my books, especially those that I have had for a while and to discover why I got them in the first place.

There are so many books out there, as there are stars, but I can’t discover them all if I rush through them. I must take my time and enjoy them one at a time and realize their meaning and context in our world today.

So in many ways this Book Buying Ban has helped me realize some aspects of what I want out of my reading, it’s helped me be more thoughtful about what I read, and in some ways it’s made me read a bit more slowly. I don’t feel like I’m pressured to read fast because there are so many books out there and I want to get to them all, I simply have to read whatever I’m reading now because I want to read that book and that’s it!

Another effect of this ban has affected my Instagram profile… I don’t post as much as before, but whatever I post about is a bit more thought out. I don’t have any book hauls and I mostly post about the books I’m currently reading or am excited to read next. I’m not super concerned about this though because I realized that I enjoy the deeper conversations that might arise from these posts more than the superficial aspect of a cool photo (not saying that that isn’t also awesome, I still love taking simple and beautiful photographs, but it’s good to focus on deeper discussions as well). I still want to find a balance on the posts I make for Instagram so that’s a work in progress.

These challenges have become opportunities to learn about myself and my reading. I’ll keep running away from new books until July or until I read 50 books, whichever comes first (I’m on books 8, 9, and 10 right now). And I’ll keep enjoying each book I read to the fullest without too much pressure of all the books out there.

What do you think? How does your book buying habits affect your reading? Do you feel the pressure of “all the books out there” like I do?

Book Review — An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon was a book that challenged me for the better. I got to see through the eyes of a woman who lives in a society that treats people like objects and who is missing the knowledge of her family history. She feels like she is missing something but she doesn’t dwell on it since there are no clear and quantifiable answers.

“A part of each person lay in their past, in their parentage and grandparentage, and if that history was missing, were said people incomplete?

As part of the lack of history that she feels, she seeks knowledge of her surroundings, she immerses herself in studying the world around her, from growing plants to synthesizing chemicals to aid her in her work as a healer. She’s a crucial part of her community, going around and healing those who don’t have access to doctors, but soon all that will change when she gets some clear information on what led to her mother’s death.

“Chemicals plus chemicals makes magic”
— Aster

Although this book is a science fiction novel, it was not what I expected, it’s not just a voyage in space. It is a novel that gives an immensely important voice to social and cultural issues that are not represented in many forms of media, from film to books and everything in between. Among these issues is gender. In Matilda, the ship that carries what’s left of humanity through space, people live in different levels depending on their social status, skin color, and gender. It is explained that humanity has developed a third gender “they”, which was a result of a hormonal condition that made it so that people of this gender didn’t fit biologically into male or female.

“…said Flick as she–he–no, they–shook the starjar. Aster regretted her error.”

The third gender uses the “they” pronoun and it’s the first time that I even read a book where this pronoun is implemented. Such a book can be very powerful for people who use this pronoun and for those who don’t know or don’t understand why or how to use it.

The world that Solomon creates in this book is slowly built up through Aster’s eyes. At first this was frustrating to me because I wanted a clear picture right away, but I learned to be patient and see things as Aster did. Aster only sees specific details that are important to her. It was frustrating to have a very meaningful and emotional encounter happening and have Aster focus on a seemingly trivial thing that leads to the sudden end of that encounter. This is actually very important because not everyone sees the world in the same way, some may only pay attention to the details and others may focus on the bigger picture. This book taught me to be open to the way that others see the world, even if at times it can be hard and frustrating to stop and see a situation from the other person’s point of view to realize that we might both want the same thing and that it will just take a bit of understanding from both parties to reach the objective.

This book really did leave me thinking, it was really well written and it gave me something that no other book has given me: a perspective that was very difficult to connect to, but which taught me how to be understanding of those who don’t express themselves the same way that I do.

What’s a book that you’ve read that had a difficult perspective but which was valuable and worth reading?

Book Time Travel

Let’s travel back in time and see which books I was reading during the month of February of the past three years. Where they amazing? Or not very memorable?

So, grab your preferred time traveling device (time turner, phone box, car, etc) and let’s go!

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 19.47.47.png2017 — Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I was very fortunate to join a book club while I was living in Mexico and this was the second book we read after I joined. Homegoing is an epic family story of two women and their progeny through decades, during the time that people were taken from villages in Ghana as slaves, to their journey to the United States, and the following generations as they lived free, but still chained by their history (or lack thereof). This was my favorite book of 2017 and I still find myself thinking about it from time to time. If you’d like you can read my full review over at Goodreads.

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 19.35.29


2016 — The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

In 2016 I was doing a doctoral stay at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and I was also checking out many books from the library. This was the first book I read by Patrick Ness (followed last year by More Than This), and it was pretty good. Reading back on my Goodreads review it seems like I really liked it at the time but it wasn’t super memorable because I don’t remember much now. What I do remember is that it was a fast read and that it wasn’t like other YA books that I’d read so far.

2015 –La Casa de los Espíritus by Isabel Allende

Even though I read this book three years ago I still vividly remember many of the images and feelings that it evoked for me. I don’t even need to go back to my Goodreads review (Warning, it’s in Spanish!)! It was the first book in Spanish that I read in a long time and my first book by Isabel Allende. I fell in love with her writing and the magical realism that is ever present in the book. The characters were rich and magical, some good and inspiring, others evil and yet super interesting. I haven’t read more of her works but now I really want to revisit Allende’s writing.

So that’s it! Back to the present!

I’ll probably do these once a month and hopefully it’ll inspire me to read some of the other unread books in my shelves by the same authors or of the same genre.

Have you read any of these books? What were you reading in February of last year?

February TBR

Hi everyone!

February is here, I’ve drawn two new books from my TBR jar and I’ve picked two other books from my bookshelves for this month. There are some new subjects for me as well as some old favorites.


Let’s start with the TBR jar, I drew two and I think my TBR jar knows that it’s supposed to be Black History month!

The first book to come out was Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man by Vincent Carreta. This is a nonfiction book that looks at Olaudah Equiano’s journey as he buys his freedom from slavery and ends up becoming a writer and one of the most influential African man in in the 1700s. I’m looking forward to learning about slavery in a context that isn’t US-centric.


The next book that I picked from the jar was An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. This book is very exciting for me because it is a science fiction novel written by a person of color! I really enjoy science fiction but usually I find that I can’t connect with the characters because I don’t identify with them in their culture or ways of thinking. In this case this novel promises to be a new perspective in the science fiction genre that will hopefully allow more people to connect with this genre.



The next book is another science fiction book that I’ve been wanting to read because it features four women scientists who go on an expedition to figure out if the world is finally safe for the human population after Nature basically took over. The book is called Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer and it is the first installment of The Southern Reach trilogy. The exciting news is that there’s a movie adaptation coming out on the 23rd of February of this year. So I’ll be able to do a Book vs Movie post on it! The book promises to be scary and beautiful and simply exciting! Watch the trailer here.

img_20180204_104742410.jpgThe final book I’ll be reading this month is actually a re-read! I loved this book when I read it a few years ago and I’m looking forward to reading it again. I’ll be reading and watching Ready Player One by Ernest Cline as part of the Book vs Movie series. This book has been making the rounds for a while and it’s a favorite for many since it’s full of 80s pop culture, video games, virtual reality, and really unique characters. What I fear is that the movie has not taken care of these characters and has pursued a plot full of the usual characters and expected storyline. I really hope I’m wrong, but the trailers haven’t given me much to hope for…  You can see for yourself here.

So that’s the plan for February! What are you reading this month? Do you like to read or reread books before their movie (or TV) adaptations come out?

Book Review — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

“It was a house that turned from the world and cast its gaze inward, a house whose women believed the very walls listened for sin, a house where we whispered the truth or didn’t speak at all” — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik.

Jasmin Darznik is an author who tells us the story of Forugh Farrokhzad, a woman who lived from 1934 to 1967 in Iran, a place where women didn’t have the freedom to pursue a life outside of marriage and who had to comply to what their culture and society deemed right. Forugh’s life was hard from the beginning as she grew up in a very strict household and which only got harder as she began to discover her love of writing. Forugh was a poet who expressed feelings that women had about their sexuality, their feelings, and their way of life. She broke barriers and eventually became a filmmaker who mixed her poetry with film and created a powerful message about people who had been cast aside without a second thought.

Darznik manages to tell us Forugh’s story through this novel that, although it is not 100% faithful to truth, it does tell us what it would have been like to feel what Forugh went through. This story then lets the reader into the world of women in Iran, from Forugh’s youth, to her untimely death.

The writing is beautiful:

“We were driven by forces we didn’t understand, moving toward a destination we couldn’t see”

There are so many messages to inspire, to make one think about our own society, about our own beliefs:

“The Golshiri men were learned aristocrats who spent their days in leisurely contemplation, but it was his mother, a woman unable to write even her name, who’d shaped his education”

Then there’s also the importance of telling our own stories, because our own stories can inspire others to break barriers and inspiring others in turn:

“And yet I’d never heard of a woman surviving away from her family, without a father or husband to protect her. It wasn’t just beyond hoping; it was beyond imagining.”

How important is it to view yourself in the stories you read? Do you identify with the main characters in your favorite books? Is your story told within the pages of books?

Forugh’s story inspires me to tell my story, to inspire others, and to become at least a bit like Forugh by standing up for what I believe in, and not allowing people’s expectations to keep me from doing what I love.

Needless to say, Jasmin Darznik touched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined through Forugh’s life story. I hope to read more of Darznik’s writing and also to read Forugh’s own poetry and watch her film to see what she saw, if only for a few minutes.


January Book Bites

Hello everyone!

At the end of each month, I will update you on a few things, which books I read, the ratings for each, link to their reviews (if any), updates on challenges, prominent themes, and the best bites (quotations) for the month. Let’s take a look!


The month started with a book from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series: Mort. It was a great way to start the month since it’s always fun to read Terry’s work. However, it also became a bit emotional since I kept remembering that Terry is no longer with us…

Mort takes us on an adventure with the anthropomorphic representation of Death and his brand new apprentice, Mort. I simply loved this installment and look forward to reading more of Death & company’s adventures

  • Favorite bite:

‘I guess you’d call it happiness’ said Harga.” –Mort by Terry Pratchett

  • Perspective rating: 8/10 We get an amazing perspective of life from Death’s point of view. It certainly paints life in a new light!
  • Emotional rating: 8/10 I personally felt close to this book because of Terry and his death not too long ago. The isolation that Death feels also got to me…
  • Bites rating: 7/10 Although it has some really good quotations, I didn’t find myself annotating it all over the place.
  • Overall rating: 7.66/10 A great book overall and a good starting point in the Death books in the Discworld series.


Then I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, which was a great book, with excellent writing and a very unique perspective I had not encountered before. We get inside the mind of a patient in a mental hospital in the 1960s as he is under various treatments (drugs, electroshock, etc). You can read more about the book and my comparison to the movie here.

This was the first book I read from my TBR jar and I was very happy with this selection!

  • Favorite bite:

    “All I know is this: nobody’s very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down” — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

  • Perspective rating: 9/10 The perspective from a person with mental health issues is priceless. It’s incredibly well written, which makes the experience that much more immersive.
  • Emotional rating: 6/10 I didn’t become too emotionally invested in the story or the characters, but it was heartbreaking to see what did happen to patients back in the 60s that ended up in mental hospitals with no proper regulations.
  • Bites rating: 8/10 I annotated quite a bit and there were quite a few quotations that left me thinking for a while…
  • Overall rating: 7.66/10 Another excellent book that could have used a bit more emotional connection with the rest of the characters and the overall story. Either way, a great book.

IMG_20180131_182300284The third book I read was Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich (you can read a full review here) and it was simply amazing! This was the first book for the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge to read a book by a Native American author. This book tells the story of five women who have been married to the same man. These women meet at a crucial point in their lives and start to tell their stories surrounding their husband.

  • Favorite Bite:

“It was like that now, in the space around us — the emotional messages flew so thick and fast I couldn’t read them as the whizzed by and my brain felt pricked, torn by the hooks of question marks and darts of commas.” — Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich

  • Perspective rating: 10/10 One of the main points of this novel is perspective, how do different people see one person and their role in their lives? Who is that person if not the accumulation of the perspectives of everyone who knows them? It’s one that definitely leaves you thinking.
  • Emotional rating: 9/10 This novel takes you on a roller coaster of emotions, from despair, broken hearts, love, passion, lust, and hate. However, it remains impersonal so that the perspective changes aren’t too jarring so that takes the one point away from this rating.
  • Bites rating: 10/10 I’ve written, highlighted, and even drawn on some of the pages in this book! It’s got bites that I can go back to and savor that part of the novel in an instant. Delightful!
  • Overall rating: 9.66/10 Erdrich easily became a new favorite! This book is just the beginning in my journey through her novels and I can’t wait to explore more!

January 22, 2018 at 01:17AM.jpgSong of a Captive Bird by Jazmin Darznik was the fourth book I finished this month and wow! Darznik tells the story of Forugh Farrokhzad, a poet from Iran who became an inspiration for generations to come as she broke barriers set by her society, at the same time as Ken Kesey’s patients were trying to overcome the Big Nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (talk about perspective!). This was the second book I read for the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge and the full review is here.

  • Favorite Bite:

“‘More words to sharpen your tongue and keep away any husband who’d have you!’ [Forugh’s mother said].
She was right in her way, because it was my preference for books and for the world inside my head that left me so incapable of accepting the usual and the ordinary.” — Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

  • Perspective rating: 10/10 Yes! Another perfect perspective rating because Forugh’s life sheds light on a perspective I never imagined that I could know about the life of a woman in Iran as she breaks stereotypes and becomes a successful poet and filmmaker. Not only that but a woman who goes through hardship like nothing I could ever imagine (mental hospital, jail, divorce, affairs, etc).
  • Emotional rating: 10/10 I connected with the main character in ways I can’t even explain, her fears were mine, her worries were mine, the hopes and dreams were my own. I hoped the best for her and, even though she dies young, I was happy that her legacy is strong and lives with many women in Iran and all over the world.
  • Bites rating: 10/10 I was only disappointed that the copy I have is in kindle format so I couldn’t actually highlight and draw hearts and tears all over the margins. (I acquired this copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review). I will definitely be buying it so I can reread it and properly annotate it once it comes out!
  • Overall rating: 10/10! Perfect score for a perfect book in my opinion. I loved everything about this book and I can’t wait to read the final version.

January 28, 2018 at 01:51PM.jpg

The last book I read was The Attack by Yasmina Khadra, which was set in Tel Aviv and tells the story of a renowned surgeon whose life gets turned upside down when his wife dies at a suicide bombing attack. The most shocking thing for him is that his wife is the one blamed for being the suicide bomber and so we take the journey with him as he goes to figure out if his wife did commit such an atrocity, or if his wife is just another victim of the attack. A difficult book to read but one that gave me plenty to think about so it is valuable in that sense. This was the third and final book for the #HarpiesReadTheWorld challenge.

Favorite Bite:

“‘One should always look at the sea. It’s a mirror that can’t lie. Among other things, looking at it has taught me to stop looking behind me. Before, every time I looked over my shoulder, I found my old sorrows and my old ghosts, still intact. They were preventing me from regaining my taste for living. Do you understand what I mean? They were spoiling my chances of rising from my ashes'” — The Attack by Yasmina Khadra

Perspective rating: 7/10 While the perspective was very unique, I felt like it was unfair that we din’t get to hear straight from the woman who is the one who is at the center of this story. We got to hear from every man around her, how she affected their lives, but nothing from her at all. I wish we could have heard this story from her own point of view.

Emotional rating: 8/10 While emotions ran high while I read this book, it wasn’t in a good way, I found myself stressed and anxious. So, it is effective in what it is set out to do, to put the reader in a most difficult perspective with many moral questions and introspective meanderings.

Bites rating: 6/10 The thing that I wished with this book was that it was better translated. This book is translated from French and sometimes the language seems forced in order to make it seem more adorned than it needs to be. At times we end up with beautiful language, but that’s at moments when simplicity would have worked best.

Overall rating: 7/10 A good book that could have benefited from a better translation, will probably not look for more books in this subject for a while though…

What a month! An emotional roller coaster through mental hospitals and war torn countries as I followed strong women and men in search of happiness and just a bit of hope.

There is one more book that I drew from my TBR and I Did Not Finish it… After The Attack I just couldn’t handle Sanctuary by William Faulkner, a story about a kidnapping and rape of a woman. The language was violent and quite gross so I decided that I will draw two new books for next month and I’ll put back Sanctuary for another month.

I read 5 books from my TBR and I only bought one new book so now I only have 103 books left to read! XD

How was your reading month? Have you read any of the books listed here? What was your favorite read this month?