New Year resolutions vs. Real life

Please, excuse that this post has no relation whatsoever to literature, but I have been reflecting on some issues that recently came up around here and I felt the need to write them down somewhere.

It’s just that, like everyone else, I had goals that I thought would change my life for the better, but it turned out the exact opposite was profoundly benefitial. I’m no longer assuming anything, people!

Let me explain some of my goals, and how they alone decided to take a different path altogether:

Goal 1: Be productive and organized

Yes, I am a big fan of planners and all those Instagram accounts dedicated to bullet journals and such; I enjoy being busy and crossing out tasks I need to complete, and I live accordingly to what has been written down for every day on my planner, but guess what: I got the flu just after Christmas and for eight days I was basically surviving and doing NOTHING. I even spent New Year’s morning in the emergency room at the hospital because I lost conciousness when I was about to have breakfast. What a plan!

My parents took me to their home due to my hypotension and high fever, so I was not left alone at my place, and those first days I found myself feeling guilty of being unproductive! This productivity disease we live in makes you feel this way. Fortunately, I later learned to go with the flow and enjoy my downtime as I was recovering: I would read some of the books from my parents’ library to pass the time while they were out working and, after dinner, the four of us (my sister was also staying there during her Christmas break) would watch a TV series and enjoy some time together.

Do you know when was the last time we were together like this? To be honest, I can’t even remember and, most importantly, I don’t know if and when will happen again. So thank you, Real life, for those unproductive and yet deeply satisfying days with my loved ones; they have been some of the highlights of the last months.

Goal 2: Read more books

I did want to read more books in 2018 than the previous year, of course, because I am a book blogger, right? You can only aspire to be a better blogger and a better reader if you read more than before, more than everybody else… MORE.

Well, today I am pleased to announce that I told my book club coordinator I cannot keep attending our mettings. I quitted the club.

For the last 2 months I have been unable to keep up with the reading pace, which is one book per fortnight (up to 300 pages, no more), so my strategy, in order to secure my spot, consisted on reading less than half of the book, attending the meetings and sit quiet while the rest of the group had a conversation about that book I hadn’t read. There is a long waiting list of people who want to join these book clubs due to the limited spots, so today I finally came to my senses and decided to let this activity go. It was hard because I made good friends there but, anyway, we will remain friends and I feel at ease again knowing I don’t have to read a particular book at a particular pace.

I am not reading that much this year, it seems, and now it is OK.

Goal 3: Spend more time doing what you love

While I really believe one should have her own time to do things you enjoy, I have realized that I have fallen into a spiral of selfishness: what’s important seems to be *my* goals, *my* dreams, *my* hobbies… myself.

Some weeks ago, one of those days I was devoting *my* time to *my* hobbies, I walked into the sitting room and heard my elderly neighbour crying for help through the wall that separates our apartments. The woman had fallen on the floor four hours ago and was unable to sit or get up. Shouting through her door, she gave me her daughter’s phone number (her mind is sharp as hell, thank goodness), so I called her daughter, she came with the keys, and we both got this old lady up. She later told me she thought she was going to spend the entire night on the floor and thanked me for being her “guardian angel”. While writing this, my eyes are getting wet again.

From that day I got two new habits: I call for her through the door when I go out, just to see if everything is fine, and I pay her a proper visit at least once a week. To be honest, sometimes it’s hard to stop thinking I should be doing other things (*my* things), but I feel I’m doing the *right* thing spending some time with her. Besides, she is happy to see me and she tells me she’s grateful for me to visit her, and that makes me feel useful and appreciated. I can’t ask for more.

Goal 4: Declutter your house

Yes, I have also read Marie Kondo’s book and went into a frantic tidying and decluttering marathon. This would fill an entire series of posts, but I’ll summarize the important point.

First of all, I am really glad that I did it; my home now is clean and tidy and there is no one single item that doesn’t have its own place and, more important, purpuse. But the process of decluttering have been emotionally draining and thought-provoking.

From the first days, when facing all the clothes I owned, I felt disgust towards myself. There were clothes I had never worn, with the labels and all! In the following days, I would also take out of closets presents I had never used. People have bought things for me, spending money so hard to earn, and I haven’t even looked at them. I had to face the person I had become: a hoarder and dissatisfied being who always wanted more. I mean, I could have lied to myself and told I’m not that bad, but proof was right in front of me; there is no way to scape your own flaws when they are finally revealed, you just acknowledge them and try to work little by little to build the person you really want to be.

You know, I had always read articles about consumerism and I agreed I had enough with the things I already owned. However, and I don’t really know how to explain this, I had never “felt it in my bones” like these past weeks while going in and out from my apartment to the dumpster, throwing what seemed an infinite number of garbage bags containing my things.

So the goal was to declutter, but the outcome was totally unexpected.


And this is it. Most of my resolutions have followed their own rules, and honestly, it is totally fine with me. I have come to the conclusion that I prefer real life rather than that unrealistic idea of the things you should do, which makes you lose sight of what’s actually relevant.

So tell me, how are your resolutions going? Has someone done major changes like I’ve been forced to do? Maybe I hope so 😉

21 days to happiness, by Ingrid Kelada


I received this book in exchange for a honest review
thanks to iRead Book Tours.

I would like to start this review by saying that Ingrid Kelada, the author, is a psychologist and happiness expert (how well it sounds, a happiness expert!) and she has gathered all the information available in research studies about what makes people live a happier life, and put it together in simple, fun and approachable chapters to try every “method”, one at a time.

In the last years I have become an avid reader of non-fiction books, especially about learning and productivity, and I have to say that I have read a number of the authors Ingrid mentions in her book and I have come across all the topics discussed at one time or another, but I had never related all these behaviours to happiness itself – perhaps to wellbeing and health, but it had never occurred that this is a way which also leds to happiness, and of course it does!

That being said, I don’t think many of the readers that are usually keen of books about these topics will find something new in 21 days to happiness, but the appeal of this particular book comes from the way the tips are presented: each chapter talks about one topic (body language, time, relationships, optimism, etc.) and offers data and research about how happiness is affected by them, ways one can introduce them in your everyday life, tips to start doing it right now, and a brief comment about how the author actually does it to increase her own happiness. She includes links to Youtuve videos and TED talks about the topic and, at the end of the chapters there are also questionnaires, so you can test yourself about your thoughts on implementing this new behaviour in your life, and see if it works for you. It really makes the read enjoyable and addictive, and actually makes you “do” something to implement what has been discussed.

The thing is I have found that I do most of the things Ingrid recommends every day and, while I understand the value of the other stuff, I still haven’t worked out the way some things could “do good” to me. For instance, I see Ingrid is an outgoing woman who talks about the importance of relationships with others, suggesting one can join clubs or start conversations with people in your neighbourhood – there’s no way I can do such thing without dying from anxiety! She also talks about the joy of cooking a healthy meal, and here is one person that only finds joy in cooking a lot of food, knowing I won’t have to cook again in many days. Maybe I should try other approaches to these contingencies (this is also taught in the book), but I consider myself a happy person anyway!

Well, this is a book you could talk about forever, analyzing yourself and trying out what Ingrid suggests. As I said, I have been practising many of these suggestions throughout the years, and now I’m working on some of the new-to-me tips, like “happy body language” and the chunks of time when working. I’m even in the mood to try again the cooking stuff! So yes, this is a book I would recommend to anyone who wants to improve their approach to the days ahead.

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The child finder, by Rene Denfeld


I received the book from the publisher.

It is fascinating when an author decides to narrate a story with an uncomfortable central theme, and yet she does it with such a tenderness that goes behind good and evil, so you are no longer a judge of characters, but just an observer; someone who watches and understands. That is what Rene Denfeld made me experience with The enchanted, and now again with The child finder.

This is an unconventional story about a search. Madison, a five-year-old girl, vanished in a snowy forest in Oregon three years ago. Nobody found neither a trail nor a corpse, but it’s obvious that the girl couldn’t have survived in the forest alone for that long so, after a time, hopes drowned – except for her parents, of course, whose latest and more desperate attempt to finally find out what happened to Madison is Naomi, our main character. Naomi is an expert in findind missing children, but has trouble finding what is missing in her own life. Her last search starts but, as it goes, another tale begins: one about a girl who was born in the snow and now lives in the depths of the forest.

Naomi doesn’t search the woods as much as the people who live around because she knows that the key to find Madison is hidden in the memories of someone out there. And with every step she takes among the trees, her own missing pieces began to take shape.

The author narrates the rawest events in such a delicate way that enraptures the reader. There are searchs with a disheartening end and there are others whose happy outcome is shaded by the paralell story between the loss and the finding, but even to the darkest characters does the author offer hope and understanding in her unique tales. Needless to say, I loved the book.

The child finder
Rene Denfeld
274 pages
Published by Harper
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In the midst of winter, by Isabel Allende


Isabel Allende is one of the authors whose books have always had a place at my parents’ library, and I actually think they have all of her titles, so this was one of the first authors I read when I began reading adult books, but somehow I stopped reading her for so many years until now, and I have found the experience very pleasant for I have enjoyed her expressions and choices of words in this unique Latin American way, so colourful and fancy, far from our “boring” Spanish words.

I guess English-speaking people reading translations can’t experience this, as well as I read translations from authors from all over the world that seem to have been written by a person born in Madrid, but I wanted to share the experience of reading from authors whose language looks identical to your own, but yet it’s so different that it surprises you in every page.

Now, let’s talk about the book.

We are in Brooklyn in a particularly terrifying snowstorm, when Richard Bowmaster, a university professor in his sixties, has a little accident when his car hits another vehicle driven by Evelyn, a young Guatemalan girl who later seeks Richard for help because not only has she taken the car without her employers’ permission, but there is also a corpse in her car trunk. Richard, in turn, calls her unusual tenant LucĂ­a, a resolute Chilean lady who works with him at the university and decides that Evelyn is in danger of deportation for being undocumented, so the three of them have to get rid of the corpse and protect the girl.

Of course, nothing is what it seems, and in their journey the author tells us their background stories, talking about the recent history of Chile and Guatemala, as well as the cultural gap between Richard and his Brazilian wife, being Evelyn’s the most emotional one. The girl left her country running away from violence to start a journey that for many people ends up in death, prison or as a sexual slave, so you realize how these people risk everything they have towards a very uncertain future.

However, the book is not only a tragic story; the journey that brings together these three strangers is kind of crazy, and the ideas and comments from LucĂ­a makes the story hilarious, so in the end you see it becomes a story of hope, joy and second changes at any age.

It may not be the best book by Isabel Allende, but I found it pleasant, with the right amount of drama and humor, and three characters who makes you want to keep reading.

In the midst of winter
Isabel Allende
Atria Books
Publishing date: 31st of October 2017.

Overwhelmed writer rescue, by Colleen M. Story


I recieved a copy of this book in exchange for a review
thanks to iRead Book Tours.

I have to confess that, as a reader, I have always wanted to know how writers do their job. I mean, I know that they sit down and write stories, but I have always wondered where the ideas come from before actually writing them down. Do they see a random person in the street that triggers something in their minds that leads them to a plot? Do they just start with nothing in mind to see what comes into the blank page? Do they brainstorm the main scenes of the story on a piece of paper and then follow the script on their computers? Do they really count words every day? Seriously?

Well, I applied for this book because I thought that, throughout the advice on increasing their writing productivity, I would found out the answers about some of the metaphysical doubts I had regarding the craft but, guess what, their secrets remain unknown. I couldn’t put the book down, however.

This book is basically a self-help book where you can learn about finding a way to include writing in your life and make the best of it in terms of productivity and quality. The best part is that you can apply everything you read on it to any activity you fancy doing, either as a hobby or as a potential career and, even though the author always refers to creative activities, you can also use them in your daily life for a number of things. In my case, I have thought about implementing her advice on my studies – this might seem the least creative thing you can come up with, but actually I have developed new habits throughout these last years that includes much more than sitting with a book and highlight it, and this book has given me new ideas to increase my productivity and try new ways of studying my Law textbooks.

The book covers from the basics of time management to the specifics of personality traits that can work in your favor towards writing more and better, without burnouts or feeling you are neglecting other responsibilities. It also addresses mindset issues like self-doubts about your skills, or the work overload that leads to stress and health problems because we need to “work harder”, so we stop taking care of ourselves. One can really relate to many of the subjects the author covers in this book and, as I told you, you can use it for your advantage on a number of projects, not only for writing books.

So I didn’t find the writers’ deepest secrets about their writing, that’s true, but I have enjoyed reading about how to improve my abilities to do more of what I like, finding the right motivation to do so and using resources that I have already developed to improve the results.

Overwhelmed writer rescue
Colleen M. Story
Published by Midchannel Press
304 pages

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A fistful of love, by Om Swami


I received this book in exchange for a review
thanks to Virtual Authors Book Tours.

The reason I requested this book was the description of the author, which was fascinating: a successful man from the western culture who owned a software business and decided to leave this way of living in pursuit of spirituality at the Himalayas. Wow.

In A fistful of love, Om Swami talks about every aspect of our relationships with others and with ourselves, giving the book a structure with short chapters talking about one issue each in which the author explains his point through stories and tales as examples of what he wants the reader to understand, and then discusses the matter and gives advice and ideas to think about.

Well, it sounds really simple, but the fact is that every chapter resonates with oneself in a way or another, pushing you into an analysis of your own behaviors towards other people and also towards yourself, because sometimes it looks like we go through life punishing ourselves instead of making peace with what we are and being open to give and receive love.

As it happens, while I was reading this book I was also listening to an audiobook by Kelly McGonigal titled The science of compassion (GoodReads), and both fitted perfectly, intertwining their messages and taking all the advice and wisdom from Swami into a deeper -and more scientific- level thanks to McGonigal.

In summary, I think that this is a book to help us pause and reset ourselves into a search for compassionate and non-judgmental relationships, enjoying every step of the way instead of looking for salvation in our ultimate destination, whatever it may be. It is one of those books you can pick up and open at a random chapter for a daily dose of knowledge and inspiration. I am glad I have read it.

If you want to have a glimpse of what this book is about, you can read Om Swami’s posts, for they are very similiar to the chapters of the book, at

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Blue is the warmest color, by Julie Maroh


I have been reading some comics this summer and I was very pleased to see this one is also available in English, so I can recommend it here.

This is the coming of age story of Clementine, a teenage girl who feels there is something that’s no quite right with her, despite living an ordinary life as a daughter and good student. But everything falls into place the day she meets Emma, a girl with her hair dyed blue who teaches Clementine what love is about. However, this is not an easy journey for Clementine, for she will have to face the intolerance of her once called friends and family, to the point of losing her former life in the process of understanding herself.

I enjoyed the book’s portrayal of this first love for Clementine, full of ups and downs – the relief of finding someone who can guide you through adulthood, mixed with the rejection of a society that hates everyone who is different. Perhaps the story turns towards too much tragedy to my liking, but overall it’s a great book if you want to read a diverse format -a graphic novel- and a diverse story with a lesbian young girl.

Blue is the warmest color
Julie Maroh
Arsenal Pulp Press
160 pages

Heart Mountain, by Gretel Ehrlich


I received this book thanks to Netgalley.

In the 1940s, during World War II, Japanese-Americans were forced to move to interment camps around the US while their constitutional rights were suspended, by a government that was supposedly fighting against fascism in Asia and Europe.This is a story set in one of those camps, Heart Mountain in Wyoming, and the people who were confined in there, whose inner conflict was caused for the feeling betrayal by their own country, for which they would have fight for if allowed, since most of them were born as US citizens and view themselves as Americans.

On the other hand, there are also characters from the nearby town and farms; men who aren’t allow to join the army for their physical disabilities, women running their farms alone, not knowing if their husbands are still alive, etc., addressing the war from many different points of view.

I was really shocked by the internment camps for the Japanese Americans, which I had never heard or read of, so I began this novel with enthusiasm, expecting to immerse myself in a great piece of historical fiction but, despite how much I wanted to like the book, I couldn’t connect with the characters – there are too many of them, each chapter told from every one’s perspective, and sometimes the plots aren’t relevant to the story. I first thought the author wanted to tell a story about the interactions between the camp people and the locals, but there are many secondary plots about local characters on their own, with things happening out of the blue for no purpose whatsoever. In the end, the only parts I enjoyed were the descriptions of the seasonable work with the cattle in the mountains, riding for days in that beautiful scenery.

So, as you would have guessed, I can’t recommend the book. There are too many characters and I haven’t really connected with their stories, regardless of the appeal the internment camps as a theme represent.

Heart Mountain
Gretel Ehrlich
350 pages
Published by Open Road Media



Under a Pole Star, by Stef Penney


I received this book thanks to Netgalley

What do you do when your hometown is beaten by a dreadful heatwave? You read one of Stef Penney’s stories to find yourself transported to the most northern, snowy and chilly places of the earth.


Under a Pole Star is a fictional recreation of the first expeditions who went to the North Pole in the late 1800s, journeys that were equally thrilling and dangerous. The main character is Flora Mackie, a motherless girl who, from the age of twelve, is taken by his father to Ellesmere Island on his whaler, spending most of her younger years living with the Eskimos. However, as she grows up into a young woman, his father no longer thinks a ship full of men is suitable for her, so she is left in Britain to get a formal education. But, for Flora, the North is her home and, despite women don’t travel to such places, she sets up an unprecedented expedition, leaded by herself.

I have enjoyed so much reading about these expeditions. First of all, they had to find sponsors to cover all the costs, to whom they would later named newly discovered peaks and lakes after. The men spent the winter in the Eskimos’ villages trading, packing and planning for their trips, which started in springtime and must inevitably include Eskimo hunters with their dog sleds, because the British and American men were unable to provide food or transportation for themselves under such conditions.

And then, from a humanly approach, the explorers were under the pressure of discovering something to bring back home, to have a successful adventure that claimed new land to their countries, to discover new species, new islands, new whatever; and such pressure may lead some of them to embellish their notes up to the point of deceiving the general public in order to get new funds for further journeys. All in an atmosphere of competition among the different expeditions in a land where the best you can do to survive is work together.

I could be talking about the expeditions forever, but coming back to the main storyline, I loved to see a female character leading groups of men into the Arctic. Everyone was really surprised to see a woman there – except for the Eskimos, who knew Flora since she was a child and could speak with her in their own language – so she had to look and act severe to be respected. The story also includes a romance between Flora and Jakob de Beyn, an American geologist who meets in Greenland, and goes back and forth between the two, one in America and the other in Britain. They share a deep fascination for those remote lands and the lack of attachment to the rest of the world, and this understanding leads to a unique love story.

I can’t help but recommend this book that, for me, has everything: historical notes about the golden age of explorers in the Arctic, a woman assuming what at the time was a man’s role, beautiful but indomitable lands, and a delightful romance.

PS: I chose this book because I have already read Penney’s The tenderness of wolves (review), which I also enjoyed.

Under a Pole Star
Stef Penney
Quercus Books
610 pages

Poetry from 1955 to 2008, by John Berger


As you may suspect, I am not a good reader of poetry. Despite the efforts of our book club’s organizer in getting us poetry books from time to time, I just don’t like it, but this hasn’t made me give up (yet), because I *know* there must be something out there for me. My relationship with poetry is kind of a challenge, and I think perseverance will be the key.

Anyway, some days ago I had the irrepressible need for browsing in the poetry section of the library (this is a reconstruction, as Offred from The handmaid’s tale would say), and I borrowed this book: the complete poetry work of John Berger, an author I knew from an epistolary novel I have read recently (From A to X).

So the experience has been… uneven. But this is due to the different themes presented on the book: rural life, death, war, emigration and, of course, love. Taking into account that my aim in life is to seek romance, I think I might have enjoyed some of the love ones.

Shirt on the chair

My heart born naked
was swaddled in lullabies.
Later alone it wore
poems for clothes.
Like a shirt
I carried on my back
the poetry I had read.

So I lived for half a century
until wordlessly we met.

From my shirt on the back of the chair
I learn tonight
how many years
of learning by heart
I waited for you.

This bilingual edition also contains a CD with the author reading some of his poems, and it has been nice to listen to them since they sound so much better than the “in-my-head-English”, as I call it.

So it has been a good experience after all; poetry requieres extra effort because it’s not easy to fully concentrate in every line, but want to keep trying. One book at a time.

PS: I’m not rating this book because I still don’t know how to rate poetry.

PS2: For those interested in poetry books, I recommend Lianne’s series of post titled “So you want to read poetry”, with recommendations on this genre.

PS3: This book made me add a touch of poetry in my postcards, too 🙂