Book Review: The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria

If you enjoy the fast pace of a short story or are a fan of science fiction, I have the book for you. The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez.

This twelve story collection was a very different read for me. I am not a huge fan of sci-fi. But, I found the stories in this book to be fun, funny, and fundamentally interesting. You can read each in less than one hour. But, I do encourage you to give yourself one hour for each one. You see, after each story I found myself pondering the messages that lay beneath the surface of the story.

For example, in Hernandez’s short story, “Fantaisie Impromptu No. 4 in C#min, Op. 66” you find a journalist interviewing the wife of a piano virtuoso. The two protagonists, a journalist and the wife of a dead concert pianist, of the story are discussing the famous pianist’s soul, which the wife believes to be contained within a piano. The question, if technology could capture the souls of people, would the soul ever get respite? I thought about this after I spoke to my spouse about how the entertainment industry is using holographic imagery to perpetuate the careers of people like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Michael Jackson. This enables them to continue to reap profits from these dead musicians. And, this story actually made me wonder about the impact to the souls of these still loved artists. Alternately, is it better to be remembered and get no respite than to be forgotten?

All of the stories in this book have an interesting mix of science and faith, reality and magic. It is a good book. And because it is a compilation of short stories, even if you finish a story and do not pick the book back up for a month you will be fine. Your story recollection is not compromised because you go on to a new story. In sum, I highly recommend this book.

Have you read any other works by Carlos Hernandez?

Book Review: Music to My Years

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes. Recently, I finished the book Music to My Years by Cristela Alonzo. I loved it and I love her.

Cristela Alonzo is basically the same girl that I was in high school. Like her, I was a smart, sassy young girl. I was completely into drama and forensics (competitive acting and prose reading.) Okay, so I was not as talented as Cristela as she won numerous awards in her high school career. But, I definitely feel her as a kindred spirit.

The book is a memoir that cleverly uses songs and song titles for each chapter. The chapters then go on to detail important moments and people in Cristela’s life. I laughed and cried, sometimes in the same paragraph. The book was a very quick read and can be finished in a weekend.

If you are looking for a great story, read this book. If you are looking for insight into the life of first generation Americans, read this book. If you are looking for inspiration, read this book. Just do yourself a favor and READ THIS BOOK!

Book Review: They Call Me Guero

They Call Me Guero by David Bowles is a great middle grade poetry book.

The book features a Mexican-American, middle-school boy who lives on the Texas-Mexico border. He is called Guero because of his light complexion and “white-looking” appearances. For me, this was particularly poignant as the book’s protagonist reminded me of my very own Guero, the oldest of my brothers who’s corn-colored hair and blueish-green eyes earned him this nickname in our family.

The poems in the book share with the reader Guero’s everyday experiences. The topics and titles in the book are wide-ranging. They include “First Day of Seventh Grade”, “Los Bobbys” (an ode to his squad, three boys named Bobby), “Joanna La Fregona” (a poem about his special girl), and “Father’s Day.”

I found Guero’s story endearing and beautiful. This excellent book showcases the rich culture of the Texas borderlands. It is filled with heart and told from the perspective of a hopeful, young man. If you enjoy books like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Diary of a Wimpy Kid you will love this book.

I highly recommend it and encourage you to consider giving it to a young person this holiday season.

Book Review: Kulti by Mariana Zapata

For years, I have been passionate about sharing books and authors focused on Latinx representation. As a reader, I have always loved being able to get lost in a book. Kulti by Marian Zapata met both of these needs.

Kulti is led by protagonist, Sal Casillas, a Latina playing professional soccer in the US. The book’s action begins when her childhood hero/crush, international soccer star Ryan Kulti joins her team to serve as assistant coach. Kulti and Casillas begin a mentoring relationship in which the focus is advancing her soccer skills. Meanwhile, Sal’s tenuous relationships with teammates begin to crumble as rumors circulate about her relationship with Kulti.

In this book, the lead character is a career-focused Latina. That resonated with me because I am a career-focused Latina. And although my career is not the same as the characters, being able to identify a hard-working, career-focused Latin lady in a non-labor job was cool to see.

I thought this was a strong storyline, for “chick” lit. The writing was compelling. You wanted to finish the chapter and start the next one. But the most important aspects of this book for me were its diversity and apolitical message.

The truth is that as a lifelong reader, I have had to make efforts to find books like this one- books featuring protagonists living regular lives. Normally, books featuring Latino protagonists are immigration focused-stories. As an immigrant, I do acknowledge that immigrant stories are important. But, as someone who grew up in this country and feels American it was nice to see a regular American woman who happens to be Latina, living her life.

If I had to give this book any criticism, it would be that the end of the book turns romantic and I wish that this had not happened. I wish that the story had allowed the male and female leads to just remain as friends. Of course, that romantic turn is what puts this story in the “Chick Lit” genre.

Overall, I found this book incredibly satisfying. I thought that the author did a great job of making a likable character and a good storyline. The story kept me hooked until the end. I highly recommend it.

Book Review: Mean

I first learned about this book’s author, Myriam Gurba. She was railing against the immigration porn book, American Dirt, in social media. There she was, a small-framed, tattoo-laden Latina. And, she was calling out the publishing industry and the Oprah influencing machine. She blew me away. Intrigued, I decided to read Gurba’s book Mean instead. I am glad I did.

Mean is a memoir and a quick read. In fact, you can read this book so quickly that I had to force myself to read it slowly and contemplatively. In it, Gurba tells us of growing up in California. She recounts stories of her family and youth. She shares the story of her sexual assault. She explains the connections created between her and the other victims of the serial rapist that attacked her. She opens up about the fact that she refused to testify against him. She helps the reader understand her apprehension. She makes you feel.

While this book review makes it sound as though you are going to read a sad book, that would be wrong. This book has a strong, funny core despite addressing heavy topics. This book even inspired some writing for me. It is a well-written book that actually tells a real immigrant story. I highly recommend it and its’ author. She will blow you away.