What Fairy Tales Should Be Like – Girls Made of Snow and Glass, Book Review

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I love to read young adult and fantasy books more than a person my age probably should, but I really do believe you can learn so much from books, even if their plot is more magical and fantastic than any situation you would encounter in real life. I was recently intrigued by a book that comes out in September and other reviewers have described as a feminist fairy tale. The book is called Girls Made of Snow and Glass, by Melissa Bashardoust.

This book is a retelling of the Snow White story, Lynet (the snow white) is literally made from snow, and Mina (the evil queen) has a heart of glass aka she is heartless. The reality of it is, this book is so much more than a retelling of a usually one dimensional story. The characters in this book are all complex, they have desires, they have flaws, and they are trying their best to live their best lives. One of the things this book does well is that it humanizes Mina, the character that would usually be just an evil queen. She has been told that because she has a glass heart she can’t love and be loved. Many of her decisions are based on this assumption and her longing for love. Lynet, who would usually be just a naive princess, in this story yes she is sheltered, but she is also strong willed and in constant search of her independence.

Mina and Lynet have formed a bond, but that bond is tested when Lynet comes of age and her father wants to crown her queen. Lynet doesn’t want to be queen, but she doesn’t want to hurt her father, but if she takes the crown she would hurt Mina. Because there can only be one queen and  there is an external force with hidden interest, Mina and Lynet are pinned against each other.

I had few issues with the story. I would say at least for me, it did take a while for the intrigue to start. Once it did, I was hooked. Also, the idea that Lynet is shaped from snow to resemble the dead queen is a bit creepy, I mean it’s her father who wants a copy of his dead wife and is raising her.  That is pretty messed up, but I guess it could make for good discussion.

I would say this book is not only a feminist fairy tale, its a progressive story with strong female characters. These are the kinds of fairy tales we should have more of. The women in this story build their own paths and aren’t competing with each other. I really enjoyed reading it and would definitely recommend it to any YA or not YA reader.

You can find Girls Made of Snow and Glass here.

Finding Reasons to be Unhappy

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This past week I was having an argument with my boyfriend. One of those arguments that when you are in the middle of it you realize are stupid and you are wasting time of your precious life on it. Once we both realized that it was a stupid argument, I also realized that the reason I enable these stupid arguments is because I have insecurities about the relationship. I told my boyfriend this and after talking about the insecurities, he said something that has made me think a lot about my life. He said; “It’s OK to have insecurities as long as your not just trying to find reasons to be unhappy.”

At the time, when he said that, I was all “Yeah, right.”, “Not me at all.”, but the more time has passed and those words have simmered in my conscience, I’m obliged to say, he may have a point. Let’s be clear, this doesn’t make me happy. However, I think it’s something that I have to explore.

Why is it so easy for me to focus on what makes me unhappy? Why do I give more value to these things than to the positives in my life? It’s not that I don’t see the positive, I’m not a pessimist, but I clearly see the bad things with a bigger lens. Sometimes when things aren’t going as well as I wish they would, I start to focus on all those little things that aren’t going well and forget about the big things that are doing at least moderately well. It’s easy to overlook the things that are going well, because they are things like; being healthy, being able to have time to go on walks with my dog, being in a healthy relationship, being able to support myself. Meanwhile, the things that make me unhappy are things like; not feeling comfortable in a bathing suit, wishing I was in a stage of my life where I could have more pets or children, having more romance in the relationship, and having a job I actually enjoy. The reality is I shouldn’t take for granted things like being healthy or a stable relationship, because I have had health scares and I’ve been in unstable relationships, and its not in a situation any one wants to be in.

For the most part, I try to be grateful for the things that are going in well in my life, but I do find reasons to be unhappy when too many things start to pile up. It’s a bad habit, I know. I think it’s normal to have moments like this, moments when life is getting the best of you, or at least it feels that way, but I can’t let it become normal practice. I have to find productive ways of dealing with these feelings, but I’m not sure what that means yet.

*Recommendations are welcomed.*

Trying to eat healthy, again

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I have joined an exercise group. After almost half a year of leaving my last workout place, I have found a new place to go exercise. This place is probably just as far from my home as the old place was, but it is a bit less expensive, it has a facebook group which creates a sense of community, and it focuses a lot more on the eating healthy and staying accountable bit.

I have been going to this place for about two weeks and have realized how much I missed lifting things and pushing myself. I also realized that I enjoy exercising, but that my real issue is in the kitchen. What I mean is, I’m not great at portion control, love to bake and love chocolate a little bit too much. It’s not like I stuff myself with three Big Macs every day, but I do go through stages where I over eat things that I shouldn’t.  As I have mentioned before, I don’t want to not eat things or exercise to fit some standard of society. I want to eat healthier, because when I have eaten healthier in the past and exercised in the past, I feel great, have energy, am more productive, and do more active things.

Taking this in to account and having this new support, I have decided to give it a shot (once again) and try to eat healthier meals, that I like. I want to embrace those food that I enjoy and make them healthy. I love ice cream, so I bought Halo Top, which is a low calorie ice cream alternative (and the flavors are banging). I love breakfast, so I bought a mix of pancakes that is Paleo, which basically means its free of wheat and sugar. They were really filling and tasted pretty good.

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Paleo Pancake Mix from Birch Benders with local blueberries.

I love to bake, I have found recipes that either are lighter than their counterparts or include healthy ingredients. I made a pound cake with coconut oil instead of butter, and used a lot less oil than a 1:1 butter substitution. I made a chocolate zucchini bread, that had really little sugar and you could not tell had zucchini at all (even though I put three of those babies in there). I bought a brownie mix that was made with whole wheat and had tons of antioxidants. All things were yummy and other people tried them and enjoyed them.

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Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake, made with coconut oil

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Chocolate Zucchini Bread low in sugar.

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Another thing I have been doing is making an effort of going to the farmers market and buying at least one vegetable option for the week and one fruit option. I have bought micro greens, zucchini, strawberries, blueberries, and some peas. I have also been growing some of my own veggies.

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I have some Brussels sprouts, two kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, rosemary and strawberries.

 

My next adventure will be baking with gluten free, wheat free flours. We will see how that goes.

As for the pound cake recipe and the chocolate zucchini bread recipe here are the links (I did make some adjustments to them, mostly using less sugar or fats):

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

When you need to remember you could be making worst choices- Wish I Were Here, Book Review

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I was going through a rough emotional patch these past few days. I was feeling like I was making the worst choices and expecting too much out of people, or people weren’t meeting my expectations. Due to these sentiments, I decided to search for a book where someone was going through something worst than me, and did this book pay up.

Wish I Were Here by Erin Lavan is a short novel in which the main character, Savannah Waters, finds herself in a roller coaster of a journey. Savannah is a painter who around the time of her 40-year-old birthday finds out that her ex-boyfriend has died. This ex had a self-portrait of her naked, which she wants back, but it has already been sold. She has a breakdown of sorts, landing her in jail, ending up with her going to a psychiatrist. Her and the psychiatrist have this weird relationship which leads Savannah in combination with a whole bunch of weird characters to be part of a motorcycle trip through Europe.

The meat of the book is this European Journey and its cast of characters. Before Savannah goes on this trip, the book mostly focuses on her ordeal after finding out her ex-boyfriend is dead. The first few chapters are really intriguing, making you want to find out what the end-result will be between her and the psychiatrist, between her and her search for the self-portrait. Once the actual trip begins and the weird cast of characters gets introduced; they are all rich, in their late 30’s and over, and mostly being treated by the psychiatrist, it gets a little confusing.  It becomes like a weird acid trip. There’s aliens, WWII theories, prescription drugs, and weird sexual tension.

Savannah Waters is an interesting character, she makes lots of sexually inspired comparisons and makes a lot of questionable decisions. Savannah is one of those characters that you want to meet, but not necessarily be friends with. She is self-centered and she is the one taking you on this crazy journey. It does make you wonder how much of a reliable source she can be. Overall, it was a fun read, but I would have liked more character development, specially for the psychiatrist. There were times when I wasn’t sure if the situation presented was social commentary disguised as dark comedy or if it had no intention at all.

You can find the book here:

Wish I Were Here

Thinking about generations and migration

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In one of my previous post I spoke about visiting my family and that feeling of belonging. It’s a subject that is still on my mind and has made me curious on the topic of cultures, migration and how it affects us. Whenever I have something in my mind, I end up reading about the topics or similar issues. I read a lot more fiction than non fiction and two books that I recently read, pop to my mind when thinking of generations, cultures, migration. They are Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

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I read Homegoing before visiting home. It is one of those books that you can’t put down. It is also a book that breaks your heart. In Homegoing you follow the descendants of two half sisters. Each chapter is the story of one descendant. There is a lot of information that is missing between descendants stories, but there is always a sense of connection or of knowing that there is something missing in that family history. It is not a story of migration,it is a story of how slavery broke families, the visible and invisible effects of it.  It does a great job of showing how generations connect to the past and that longing for what is home. It is a book that made me reflect on my descendants and the information I have of their lives. It is definitely a book that made me think about how my ancestors lives, dreams, ambitions, struggles, could be similar or different to mine.

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Pachinko is a book I just finished reading. It follows a Korean family through generations. As oppose to Homegoing where each chapter is part of the story of one of the descendants, in Pachinko you get to follow the whole family (with the exception of a few chapters) through their ups and downs. This book touches on the sacrifices of the people that migrate to a country looking to improve the lives of their children. In this book specifically we are talking about a mother (Sunja) who marries and moves to Japan to give a better life to her son. There was a lot I didn’t know about the situation between Japan and Korea. It was an engrossing and sad read. This book really made me think about how little we really understand of the sacrifices our parents make for us. It also brought to mind how when you are in a country that is not your own we have to deal with so many stigmas and stereotypes.

The more I think about it, the more I realize this subject has been something that has intrigued me for a while. A subject I am drawn to when reading books. Two of my favorite books when I was in my teenage years where also on similar topics.

  • When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
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This is a memoir, focusing on the reasons why Santiago’s family migrated to NY, having to deal with the racism and learning a new language.

  • Paula by Isabel Allende
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This is Allende’s homage to her daughter who died of Porphyry in 1992. It is a mixture of family history and some magical realism.

I think all these books help shape my opinions on these subjects, but also help me reflect on my own issues.

When you leave

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I had a normal childhood, I grew up in a happy family, and when I left home it was because I had to, not because I was dying to leave my home. Over the years I have left my home for internships, to complete my masters degree, and permanently to find better job opportunities. In the past three years I have gone back home for short visits and to bury my grandmother.

Every time I plan to go back home, I feel excitement, I feel joy of going back to my safe place. However, the truth is my home is no longer my home. Just like any adult that has left their childhood home and has made a home somewhere else, going back to that childhood home is always bittersweet.

Add to that the fact that I grew up on an island; Puerto Rico, to be exact and now live on the States and you have not only a bittersweet feeling, but a lack of belonging. I understand that I grew up Americanized to begin with, we are American Citizens, but culture wise, tradition wise, it’s a whole other story. I understand that my culture shock will always be tiny compared to people that have migrated from drastically different countries, but there is still some of that heartache.

I’m sure I’m not the first one to feel this sense of no longer belonging where you came from and at the same time not feeling like you completely belong where you are. Sometimes it’s the tiny things that get you, like not being able to eat a particular snack. Other times, it’s the bigger things, like the sense of humor or the values. You end up stuck in the middle, no longer the person you use to be, not sure of the person you are becoming. It hurts and it’s scary.

I’m so scared of not holding on to my roots that whenever I leave to come back to my new home, I get a knot in my throat, not only am I leaving my safe place, my parents, I’m leaving a piece of my soul. I need to keep those roots anchored, to remember where I came from. This is the reason why, as I have gotten older, as I have spent more time away from home, as I feel the political climate we are in, I have made an effort to read more latinxs writters, to listen to more latin music, and to embrace my heritage.

There will be many times when I’m lost, when I’m not sure of where I belong, but if I’m certain of what I want to accomplish, and appreciate where I came from, I know I will attain my goals.