Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Top 10 Books of 2016

Now that I did the video version of my Top 10, here’s a bit more info about the books WITH pictures. For the most part, I didn’t put ANY of these in order except Sandman Overture, which as a Sandman fan was such a beautiful thing to read, but I’m digressing. Let’s get into the thick of it. If you want the full review, click the Goodreads review link and if you’re interested, I also included links to the books on Amazon Smile.

My top 10

Sandman Overture – Neil Gaiman, JH Williams III, Dave Stewart, Todd Klein

As a graphic novel it is stunning on all levels. I saw that the book got some lower ratings and as someone who is very fond of this series, I can’t see why it wouldn’t be 5/5 stars. I think the writing is as dreamy as ever (yay puns) and the artwork and composition of the collection is stunning. Just opening up the book to flip through the artwork shows how beautiful a literary work can be.

Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett had an intense sense of humor and it shows that he and Neil had a blast writing this book. You might suspect who is writing what, but the reality is that their combined characters makes for a fun read about the end of the world, the anti-Christ, and the four horsemen of the apocalypse, or more so an updated version of them, as relevant in 2017 as it was when it first came out.

Strange Luck – Amie Irene Winters (Indie author)

One of 4 indie reads on this list, Strange Luck is a dreamy ethereal read whose strength lies in the amazingly creative concepts offered by Amie Irene Winters. Strange Luck is the name of an antiquities store and to have an item in this store, it must be something borderline or actually other worldly. It’s one of those locations in fiction you’d LOVE to explore in real life. But with a store like that, you’re bound to have objects that attract the attention of beings that are also out of this world. A very fun dreamy read from a great indie writer.  

Anatomy of a Darkened Heart – Christie Stratos (Indie author)

That this book was written by an indie author is another testament at how many great reads are out there by people you’ve never heard of. Abigail Delilah Whitestone was named to spite the father of the Whitestone family. You’ll find out why that name packed such power in Victorian London as well as how one broken relationship can affect an entire family and beyond. This is the first installment of the Dark Victoriana collection, a series of 5 books set in the same town but that are not part of the same narrative. It shows influence of Shakespeare and is a deep and dark psychological book, rich with symbolism and a great read.

Bright Needles – Anaïs Chartschenko (Indie author)

If you are squeamish and prefer poetry that is nice and fluffy, this collection is NOT for you. If you want something beautifully raw, intensely emotional, and that drives words to the bone, then give this collection a check. I’d just finished reading a collection by a Nobel Laureate and was left meh. Anaïs Chartschenko slapped me back into reality showing that some indie authors really have no limits for how deep they can write.

Daughter of Darkness - Katya Mills (Indie author)

Katya Mills is a unique indie author with an author voice all her own. Daughter of Darkness reads like a Noir Slingblade and the beauty in her writing is not what she says, but how she says it. Imagine a book that reads like poetry in prose. Extremely unique and very refreshing if you want something different, I always make several warnings when I recommend this book because it’s so atypical but in the best possible way. I have her second book and can’t wait to dive in for more.

Pleasures of the Damned – Charles Bukowski

I’d never read Bukowski… so obviously my first read is a 500+ page collection. There is variety in this intense collection and with one book spanning his career, I realized just how much there is to learn from someone like Bukowski. A collection with intense poems, no nonsense lines, vulgar at times and heavenly others. He captured a raw definition of humanity in words and I will probably always treat poetry in terms of Before Bukowski and After Bukowski.

The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

There is such beauty in simplicity. This novel touched me deeply and is a book everyone should read in the hopes that people are a bit better. A touching tale, dreamy, symbolic, and something to read every year for me.

The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman

YA need not be simple minded. That’s the message I got from the first book in the Dark Materials series. Lyra is a lovely character, but her dynamic with her daemon, Pantalaimon is where you see the beauty of our duality. This is an amazing intro for this series and I shall probably read both other books this year.

Best Loved Poems - various

To find out what poetry you like, getting a collection is definitely a wonderful option. This collection was a gift from a friend and definitely one I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

And there you have it, my 10 favorite books I read in 2016. If you want to watch more reviews check out my Goodreads page and Youtube channel because I plan on reviewing everything I read on Goodreads and making several book review videos to further the discussion.

For now, thanks for reading and

Peace, love, and maki rolls

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What is CILE 2016 and its role in my Writer Journey

The International Congress of the Spanish Language is one of the most important or maybe the most important Spanish literary event that occurs annually. CILE (as it’s more commonly known) is the first book conference I’ve gone to in my life and to this point, the only one. To me, it was an opportunity to get to know more about the Spanish literary world, one I’m way too disconnected for to not do something about.

(PICTURE: Me and Twist!!)

I’ve been writing incrementally for the last decade and change and two things have become rather clear:

1. I write WAY more in English than I do in Spanish.


2. I read WAY more in English than I do in Spanish.

So when this event came about, I truly felt as if I HAD to go, if only to answer several questions I have about myself as a reader AND a writer. The first day had plenty of bombast since the Kings of Spain were in attendance. As the day progressed and I saw the media coverage, I quickly grew to understand that a lot of people not only don't know anything about CILE (me included), but that they only cared that the King and Queen were there (me NOT included). The first day was all protocol and not much substance, yet even so, I saw glimpses of the best Puerto Rico has to offer and the not so great.

(Paseo del Libro - The Book Path)

One particular protester decided to get up on the camera platform and proceeded to yell for about a minute before leaving. It was about a Puerto Rican political prisoner. It was in poor taste and showed that security there was a lot laxer than I would have liked. A bit further into the ceremony, the topic was brought up again in a classy way by Puerto Rican author, Luis Rafael Sánchez. I mentioned this in the Spanish version of my take on CILE and I mention it here again for the same reason, to show that in the span of minutes, my Island could show the best and worst of us on the same topic.

(Twist soaking up the view at CILE 2016)

As mentioned above, that first day had a whole lot of protocol although it also held a lovely moment for me, having the Real Academia Española recognize puertorriqueñidad (Puerto Ricanness) in the official dictionary of the Spanish language. It was a symbolic token of appreciation to a little Island that insists on letting itself be known and a moment where I felt proud to be a Puerto Rican.

Throughout the event though, I noticed several repeating topics.

1. Academics needing to sound like academics. I went to a BUNCH of panels and the ones I enjoyed the most were the ones where authors acted more like people and less like authors. I sat through quite a few panels of authors who miraculously weren’t wearing ascots or large hats. When people engaged the audience and really had fun with it, it was so refreshing and definitely a lot closer to what I’d like to do if ever I was in a panel. Álvaro Pombo spoke out on this and actually saved one of the largest panels by inserting some much needed humanity and humor and passion. But he was the exception rather than the norm.

(Álvaro Pombo, one of the highlights of the entire event)

2. Very little youth. Students went to this event because they were basically forced to and that’s sad. This was an opportunity for future writers to get in touch with the literary world, yet youth was largely absent on two of the four days I went. People gravitated towards big names and unfortunately for them, they probably missed out on some of the best experiences. The cozier, friendlier, and more intimate panels were some of my favorite moments. Of particular note were the one with Sandra Lorenzano, Mayra Santos Febres, and Carmen Riera, and the final poetry section that had some fantastic contributions. Goes to show that in a largely male dominated set of panels, the one had between three women was one of the most fun and refreshing.

3. Insistence of Don Quixote and classics. Although I see the value in classics, force feeding literature to people will only make them resistant. I heard such insistence that it was borderline alarming because it was almost as if not liking Don Quixote was cause for dismissal. More on this in a future post.

4. Lack of YA and limited variety. One of the reasons I went to the event was in part to try and figure out why I don’t read that much in Spanish. It didn’t take me long to see all the gaps in Spanish literature when it comes to my interests. I’m a big fan of fantasy, sci-fi, and YA and although some books exist in these genres, there’s an overabundance of translations and much less works written in Spanish in these genres. It’s not to say there aren’t, but it is to say that I felt compelled to dedicate most of what I will write in Spanish to YA and poetry and that I need help finding books in these genres because I got very little help in 5 of the stores.

5. Poor organization. There was a lack of information of when things were and how to get there and more than once I ended up helping people to get to the panels and seminars they were interested in. For an event of this magnitude, that's a lost opportunity especially with some of the great offerings available. 

All in all, I went with open arms to see what I could find out about myself as a writer in this event and I got plenty of answers. What genres I want to write in and why: poetry because it’s important to me and YA because it’s important to write for younger audiences that care less about reading. I found out that when you say you’re an indie author, some people are curious and PLENTY write you off or treat you with pity or even beneath them. I also found out that some people were really interested and that's a potential opportunity if I keep putting in the effort.

That’s why for 2016 I will be bringing forth several Spanish works. I’ll be sitting down with my notebooks, jotting down ideas but it will be something I do because of my love for writing and to connect with audiences that are being ignored… people who love YA, who love fantasy, who see the value in strong dramatic works but wouldn’t mind something lighter to read… people like me. All in all, it was an eye opening experience that shows some reason of why I don’t get much support in PR outside of the Puerto Rico Comic Con, and that’s fine with me, because I write what I love and I’ll always do that in the hopes that a future literary conference has at least one of my books and young people interested in reading.

Til then,

Peace, love, and maki rolls

Ps.: Of course I was dressed to impress :)