Words from an Insomniac still trying to find her way

Book Reviews

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

Caramelo…just like the sweet chewy candy, or the soft warm color of skin, this story is also appealing

in every way, just like visits by Tías and mothers, grandmothers and daughters, gossiping and

catching up over café con leche. While we wicked little children listen silently, in the background,

unknowingly receiving a history lesson unfolding before us. It is beautifully told in every way a 

story can be told.                                                                                       

Caramelo is the saddest love story you’ll ever read. A love story built on sacrifice, on culture, and felt  

from the lives of the women who share their struggles in this book. Sandra Cisneros has once again

proven how delicate and eruptive her words can be while describing the strong jealousy of love or

the great pains of childbirth.  She has brought us a bit closer into her life with her moving and

melodic words that contain such amazing and lost history to so many of us who have grown up in the

U.S.A.  It is bountiful, full of landscapes and people who once lived before us, of war and starvation,

as love ties itself to each and every moment with a shredded ribbon.

This is a story I will be sure to pick up and read again, a story I will be sure to share with the younger

females in my familia, as well as anyone interested after reading this review, along the way.  It is a

brilliant, romantically melancholy in every word, book that reads like a never-ending song you can’t

let go of.  ***** 5 stars for Ms. Cisneros and her wonderful way of writing!



The Help: by Kathryn Stockett



I admit that I watched the movie before reading this book, and sometimes it’s not a good thing to do, especially when the book fills in the blanks within the movie.  Let it be said that I truly was touched and inspired (as a writer and human rights supporter) of the what this movie represented, but like always, the book was ten times better.

At first I was angry with the antagonists (white women) who were rude and disrespectful because of color and lies being spread about colored people.  But then I remembered how this all began a long time before; out of fear and ignorance. So I delved into this story, be it fiction, about what it felt being a colored women working for white families.  And I was touched by the women (protagonists of the story) and their bravery and faith that “change might one day come”.  I was honored to have shared in their experiences; positive and cynical alike.  It got me thinking how we hardly ever think about others and their part in this life.  And although it was fiction, I’m sure there are many stories very similar to the ones in this book; both good and unpleasant.

The Help should be on the list for recommended reading in junior high and high schools.  Young minds need to know that once upon a time people were different, and even though most of the past is still thriving today; change does happen. Young minds need to be aware of the sad fact that prejudice, racism, and ignorance are a part of many races and cultures, still to this day.  It’s time to wake up these video game, texting, silly drama queens and show them what’s really going on outside their door.  Books like these can definitely lead the way.

I was deeply moved by the story of Minny, her defensive attitude towards white women as well as her awkwardness during the most meaningful experiences.  At the same time, holding my breath reading Aibileen’s day-to-day worries while working for her last family.  Life is the same in some instances for women of all color and we often forget that in our own daily lives.  And some of us forget how good we have it compared to others. This book brings you down off the high cloud some of us lazy ourselves on and holds up a mirror of reality instead.

“We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.” (excerpt from The Help)

I highly recommend this book, to young female teens, to young adults, to older women.  Read with your hearts, be grateful that we live in a time where change is much easier than before and be wise enough to realize we are all the same, no matter what beautiful color our skin is blessed with.

50 Shades Trilogy… I want to say it was a dare, but unfortunately, I can not tell a lie.

So one day while us girls were sitting around the table in the backyard, someone begins a conversation with “Have you heard of this new book called 50 Shades of Grey?” And here we are, a few weeks later, with a not so nice review from me.  But don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to bash these stories or forbid you, dear reader, from finding out on your own.  No. Instead, I’m just going to give my opinion and walk away; like a good little girl.  Read them and decide for yourself if they are worth talking about.

What peaked my interest in the first place were 2 things. One; my sweet innocent (or so I thought) prima read them, and the second was that they were available on my Aunts Nook account.  So I took a break from crocheting and dove right in.  This is a review of that (shallow) dive.


50 Shades of Grey: The first couple of pages had me interested and by the time Mr. Grey was in the picture; I was hooked.  The hook, however, was small at best and Mr. Grey’s character was disappointing by the end of the story.

The story began like Red Shoe Diaries meets 9 and a 1/2 weeks, hopeful, but in the end did not meet my expectations. It is the story of a Dominant and a Submissive (who is not very good at being a submissive.)  It is a love story; a fable of beating the odds (no pun intended), a story about control and change.  I felt that the Dominant character wasn’t as dark as they could’ve been.  It is obvious from the start that this character is damaged goods from a young age, but the damaged mind isn’t displayed enough to make it a believable character.  I wanted to know how this Dominant triggered relief from the past.  I wanted to see the Dark side of the play room in action as an example.  I received nothing.  The last couple of pages, I’ll admit, did choke me up a bit.  The sadness and crushed dream was very believable.


50 Shades Darker: The title alone was promising; but once again, a total let down.  There was nothing “dark” about this second book, save the childhood memories (what little there were.)  By the end I was irritated with Ana Steele’s lines. Who talks like that? Her cheesy love lines took me out of the story, sad to say.  By the time I had finished I thought I had just finished a Harlequin Romance meets Danielle Steel novel.  It became way too mushy and soap opera-ish. The only interesting aspects were the curious sexual encounters the two characters in the story shared.  That and my intrigue of the play room.  In the end, it became a cat and mouse game, let’s see who’s tougher, I didn’t want pain but now I want it kind of silliness.


50 Shades Freed:  Boo is all I can say.  I was disappointed with how easy everything flowed and worked out for these two characters as if life really happens that way.  It reminded me of Pretty Woman; when does the rich successful guy really fall for the prostitute in real life?  And although there are no prostitutes in this story, it still feels “Hollywood fake” in every way.  The story felt rushed, the characters all end up being together in some way, and of course, this all happens because of the ‘rich’ card being played.  Where is the story about the same damaged character who isn’t rich?  It’s too easy a story.  By the time I finished the last book I was done with Ana Steele trying to play Savior and Mr. Grey becoming a weakling. Even the sex became tedious and boring.


Okay, so I did bash it a bit.  But I’ll be the first to say kudos to this writers’ achievements and success.  Everyone has a following.

As for me, I will not be one of them.  The story was so Danielle Steele/Harlequin as I’ve stated before, that I could not relate with any of the characters.  There wasn’t enough “Dark” to believe in the Dominant character, and 3 to 6 months of love won’t heal a damaged person; I’m quite
sure.  Being an avid reader of Erotica I was hoping that this trilogy would have opened doors for other writers who’ve dipped their feet in it, to receive more exposure.  Sadly, I don’t think that day has come.  I am thankful that writing and reading is not illegal, thankful that I am free to form my own opinion, and very thankful that I did not have to buy these books to read them.


So were these books a thumbs up for me: No.  But don’t take my word for it. If you’re into happy endings, soft sexual scenes, and mushy love stuff; these books are right up your alley.

I hear they’re making a movie…I won’t be in line to buy a ticket.





The Most Beautiful Woman in Town & other stories- Charles Bukowski

The one thing I enjoy when reading Bukowski is the fact that his stories are simple, though the context quite complex and often depressing, it is simple the way that life is displayed through his words. Although these stories may not reflect life in general, lives such as these do exist, and many are too afraid or often too heartless to explore.

It was a time of drunk symbolism, sex, and living freely.  Living off of luck, or payment from an accepted piece, or if necessary and desperate, finding employment for the day just to earn enough for booze, dinner, and breakfast. It wasn’t a happy successful life, but then these stories aren’t about society’s picture of success. It’s as if success has been achieved by damning the Man whether it’s not paying taxes or not having to suck up to corporate wankers. By sleeping till noon while John Doe works his ass off as a slave to the wage.

The women in these stories seem displaced and are often seen just finding any reason for satisfaction, for belonging, while dying slowly from within. And these women aren’t “keepers”, but needed just the same. The Depression came and went, but definitely left scars.

Recommended reading for sure, but only if you can handle the reality that life is not always Shirley temples and t.v. dinners. Sometimes it’s a can of beans with a bottle of ripple, but no one is complaining.

Riding Low on the streets of Gold/ latino literature for young adults

A beautiful collection of short stories and poetry; Riding low on the streets of gold  makes for good young adult reading. This collection deals with acceptance, love, and courage formed out of Latino folklore and life experiences.  In Carrying Sergei, by Mike Padilla we are taken aback by a rough house tom boy whose heart is softened by a Russian immigrant boy now living in Tijuana after fleeing his homeland for a better chance at life. The bond these two share illustrates the nonconformity of acceptance and love. In Too White by Daniel Chacón we face our fear of accepting someone from a different ethnicity knowing all along the ridicule that comes with it. The time comes when the choice of standing up for friendship or backing down from peer pressure proves what kind of person one will become. And lastly, in  Toreando el tren or Bullfighting the train by Victor Villaseñor we come to understand ultimate determination in the name of love and family as the Creator works magic in mysterious ways.

This book should be added to school curriculums as its teachings and lessons learned are situations we have all been faced with at one time or another. An inspiring read which will interest minds young and old whether conjuring up familiar memories or expanding the thought process of our youth.



Bordering Fires / the vintage book of contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a literature

It happens once in a blue moon. The feeling of sadness, like the end is unbearable and you pray that the next page will continue with another tale or poem of life, death, struggle, and Mexico only to find a blank stare of paper looking quietly back at you. This was how I felt after reading Bordering Fires.

This book is a hidden treasure, a miracle in need of becoming, a book that should’ve been part of my reading list in high school. With writers ranging in dates of birth from the late 1800’s to the early 1960’s, each teacher brings with him/her lessons, dreams, hopes, and curiosities from their time. Whether it is Major Aranda’s Hand by Alfonso Reyes and his melancholy ‘Poe’ style or ‘Kafka’ style descriptive tales, or Meditations on the South Valley: Poem IX by Jimmy Santiago Baca who casts a positive desolate spin on a beautiful reality that can sometimes be meaningful even if disapproving by American (Anglo) Standards. These stories and poems grab you while plunging deeper into a hidden truth or desire you are afraid to accept.

My three favorite tales (although I was touched and scorned by all) are:

B. Traven is alive and well in Cuernavaca by Rudolfo Anaya which gives way to endless days of wanting to reach for that one true thing in life knowing all along we are afraid to take a step into the unknown. But we still have our dreams.

Introduction from “Here’s to You, Jesusa!” by Elena Poniatowska which delves into the life of one soldaderas named Jesusa. Life isn’t pretty or rewarded for her part in fighting alongside men during wartime which is visible in her attitude; although unpleasant and full of mucho machismo at first glance, life means more than a few chickens and a small shack. I am excited to read the rest of this deeply saddened tale.

Excerpt from Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail by Rubén Martínez which speaks truthfully about a Mexico one doesn’t like to admit exists. About the homeless children, the growing separating family situations, and the border line whether invisible or an actual wall. I am also eager to read more on this tale of hopes that are crushed by violence and the habits of worn torn life and a place of hope that is given a grant in the form of ridiculous restrictions by the Kellogg Foundation.

This is a book that should be at the top of the list for reading assignments throughout high schools. Giving students the tools in the form of words and struggles, of learning beyond the fabricated truths set before them. It is in these stories where most teens will find solace or familiarity, where they will discover who they are and how important their culture and ideas are.


César Chávez a biography by Roger Bruns

“The human beings who torture their bodies, sacrifice their youth and numb their spirits to produce this great agricultural wealth, a wealth so vast that it feeds all of America and much of the world. And yet the men, women and children who are the flesh and blood of this production often do not have enough to feed themselves.” –César Chávez

César Chávez became a great leader for the rights of Farm workers across America. His biography reaches the very core of his struggle and when it all began, starting with his youth and the education system. He wasn’t born a leader but from within his passion and determination, he became a voice for all to hear. He fought (nonviolently) during the same time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was standing up for equality and civil rights. America was getting a wake up call from the people she was supposed to be protecting and respecting.

His motivation, he said, came from watching the struggles of his parents and from his own experiences with life in the fields and the instances in which the system was fixed so that an individual was made to feel more like a farm implement than a human. It came from watching family and friends treated as if they were “disposable chattel”, like cows and horses. With this motivation began a span of nonviolent protests, boycotts and marches which included hard times and deadly outcomes for many who wanted nothing more than a better life. During this long journey Chávez understood the road he had chosen with continued leadership through several fastings, speeches, marches, and death threats. An honest and caring man with a reasonable and compassionate cause, he didn’t have a fiery loud voice or a tall disposition, but his altruistic soft voice and on-fire attitude made people stop and listen.

He was and still is an important leader and example of human rights just like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, and will forever be a forefather in our daily struggle for equality and respect as human beings. When the greediness of man comes to a halt, it is then that people will begin to see each other as human beings and not a means to become rich.