Mari’s Book Review – The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

mari's book review

I picked this book from my dad’s library in one of my visits to Panama. Actually, I picked book number 3 without knowing it is a 4-book series and started reading it. Soon enough I realized that I needed to stop and get books 1 and 2 immediately. I remember I was on a weekend getaway in Austin with my family and insisted I needed to go to the bookstore to get the books right away, I could not wait until we got back to Houston the next day.  I got the book number 1 at the bookstore and bought 2 and 4 online. I was one happy girl.

I must disclose that I read them in Spanish which is my native language.  I do read both in English and Spanish, but for this particular series, since I started in Spanish I decided to continue in Spanish. 

The book was mesmerizing. I submerged myself in the Barcelona of 1945  following the end of the Civil War, and at the beginning of the first chapter, I was captivated. As I imagined myself inside the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books”, a secret library hosting millions of forgotten books and where you have to choose one book out of all the books to take with you, I was hooked in the storytelling and drawn to the main character Daniel after he chooses the book “ The Shadow of the Wind” by Julian Carax.

The book is a fictional gothic drama, beautifully written, filled with mystery, intrigue, and characters that you simply can’t put down.  The characters are so well defined, and bring the story alive as each of their past is revealed. The city of Barcelona is described with great detail, and with a tangible love for the city, its restaurants, its streets, its avenues, and its people.

The author’s storytelling draws you inside the narrative, as a witness of the unraveling storyline, making you complicit of every discovery, every new clue, and every new plan.  Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a unique writer with a capacity to make you witness the emotional rollercoaster that each character goes through the story.

100% recommended.  

 

Additional Information as found in Goodreads

Paperback, 487 pages

Published: January 25th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)

Original Title: La sombra del viento

ISBN0143034901 (ISBN13: 9780143034902)

Edition: LanguageEnglish

Series: El cementerio de los libros olvidados #1

Literary Awards :Barry Award for Best First Novel (2005), Gumshoe Award Nominee for Best European Crime Novel (2005), Borders Original Voices Award for Fiction (2004), Dilys Award Nominee (2005), Humo’s Gouden Bladwijzer (2006) Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger for Roman (2004), Prix des libraires du Québec for Lauréats hors Québec (2005), One Book One San Diego (2015), Premi Llibreter de narrativa Nominee (2002)

 

Question of the week…

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I have been thinking about ways to engage with you, the reader, and have decided to do, every Thursday, a “Question of the Week” segment, in which I will ask a fun, insightful, interesting and hopefully smart question that will challenge you to answer it.  You can answer it out loud on the spot, use it for your journal entry, or just reflect on it for the next couple of hours or days.

The intention is to invite you to reflect and make you aware of your thoughts and feelings while you answer the question… creating a mini mindful moment.

The question of this week is:  If you had an extra hour every day, how would you spend it?

When we ask ourselves this question, we tend to gravitate towards those actions or activities that we “keep putting off” mostly because of the “lack of time”.  Some of the most common answers are:

  • I would exercise
  • I would cook a healthy dinner 
  • I would take time to converse with my husband and children (or parents or friends)
  • I would study to further my education (go back to school or a work-related course)
  • I would practice meditation or work towards mindfulness
  • I would start my own business
  • I would start a hobby (or go back to it)

This question, when we answer it honestly, can reveal things that are sincerely important to us since we are no longer blaming the “lack of time” as the culprit for not doing them.

Think about that extra time and what you would do with it. Maybe you will realize what is truly important to you, and rearranging your schedule to make it happen can be something worth looking into.  All is possible within our reach and our time schedule. Yes, we do need to rearrange and prioritize, but we can do it.

 

 

Mari Park

7 Tips for making a bedtime routine that works for you…

CREATING AN UNIQUE BEDTIME ROUTINE

With years of trying to perfect multitasking (and never really accomplishing), I have come to the conclusion that following a routine makes it easier for me to accomplish all that is needed to be done. I have a morning routine, a working routine, an afternoon routine, and a bedtime routine.  I have already shared with you morning routine tips and now want to share tips for making a bedtime routine that can work for you as it works for me.

My bedtime routine starts right after the kids go to bed and my “mom role” is turned off, here are my tips:

  1. Finish cleaning the kitchen / tidy up the living room:  I take the time to clean the kitchen, do the dishes, clean the stove, wipe and tidy up the kitchen island, swipe the floors and tidy up and declutter the living room.  Since I do this every day, it really takes no more than 15 – 20 minutes to complete this task and there is no better feeling than waking up to a clean and fresh kitchen.
  2. Check the calendars and to-do list: I take 10 – 15 min to answer any pending emails, check my family calendar and update my to-do list for the next day. Also, any bills or home expenses are done or updated at this time. 
  3. Take a shower: There is no better way to put an end to a day than by taking a shower. It’s the best way to wash off a hectic, crazy, and non-stop day.
  4. Beauty routine:  I am turning 40 in June so the closer I get to this date the more I pay attention to my beauty routine.  I keep it simple, by cleansing my face well and using face oil or serum and finishing with a face and eye cream. Twice a week a do a facial, usually a sheet mask.
  5. Read a book: From a self-help book to a mystery thriller to a romantic novel or a magazine.  Reading is a way that I calm down and take the time to relax and let my mind enjoy the wonderful world of books. I personally keep about 5 books in my nightstand and go one after the other.  If you are not a fan of reading, you can take this time to write in your journal or listen to a book, rather than reading it.
  6. Practice Gratitude:  You can use an app or say it out loud or write it in your journal.  Acknowledging what you are grateful for will give you inner peace, love for the people in your life and faith for a better tomorrow.
  7. Meditate:  Take 5 – 10 minutes to meditate right before you go to bed, it can be a breathing exercise or a guided meditation and you can use an app or even a YouTube video as a guide.  Meditation is key in helping you be present in the moment.
  8. Turn off the light… is nighttime!

No matter what your bedtime routine consists of, having one will create a sense of accomplishment at the end of your day.  It will also allow you to make sure that the last part of your day are dedicated, in part, to your self-care.  These tips are meant to inspire you to create your own, from adding a time to watch TV to going for a run or doing yoga, create a routine that works for your interests and passions.  And if for any reason, we have to deviate from our routine, it’s fine… there is always tomorrow’s bedtime.

 

 

6 Tips on how to support your kids in school…

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It is usual for us parents to have high expectations for our kids at school. I have always said to my kids over and over that their main responsibility is to study and do their best at school. I, as a parent, expect my kids to help around the house and clean their rooms, and for the most part, they do, but schoolwork is important and is prioritized when planning my family schedule.

A few days ago my oldest son received the news that he could take an exam, provided by his school district, that if he passes this exam he will be eligible to get credits that will allow him to learn 9th Grade Math next year when he goes to 7th Grade.  He is already in Advanced Math and thriving in his class. So when I brought this opportunity to him, and I left it to him to take it or not, he immediately accepted the challenge.

After reviewing all the information, he said he wanted to take the test, and my only two conditions were that he needs to prepare himself for it, and whatever he does with the exam he does it with 100%. He would need to practice and read and practice some more, of course, I will help him and support him. I said that if he doesn’t pass the test, it’ll be ok as long as he gave 100% and gave all his effort. He, of course, agreed enthusiastically. 

So, that made me think… how can us parents support our kids with their studies?  Here are my tips for you. It is what we do as a family and has worked for us so far.

  1. Create a reading habit. Give your kids time to read every day.  The time gets adjusted as they get older. For example, my 9-year-old gets 20 to 25 minutes, my 12-year-old gets 25 – 30 minutes.  This habit will help them build the foundation to discipline themselves towards their school work.
  2. Provide them with a place to study.  It can be their room, your room, the dining table or the kitchen island. It doesn’t matter where it is, as long as it is a constant place they feel comfortable and familiar with. 
  3. Learn with them.  Yes, we want and need time to sit down, relax, and do our thing, but taking the time to learn with your kids is pivotal to their learning process.  We, for example, read the Children’s Encyclopedia with our kids. They pick the subject and we take turns with reading the paragraphs and before we know it their little brain just learned new information.
  4. Support them in what they like.  My sons have gone through all kinds of interests, from the Titanic to airplanes, to all kinds of sports, etc., so we take them to the Library and they can find books on the subjects, from dinosaurs to precious rocks, and from Catholicism to Buddhism. Whenever a subject catches their attention, we motivate them to learn more about it.
  5. Reward success and understand the failures. When your kids do great, be happy for them, make them feel their effort is valued, and when your kids have what’s considered to you failures, be compassionate and understanding. Ask the right questions such as “Do you understand your mistake?” and “Do you want to go over it to understand it better?” “How can I help you bring the grade up?” Asking questions like “Why did you fail?” and “Why you did not try your best?” Are counterproductive and will not bring their grades up. We all make mistakes, and getting back on track is what matters. You want your kids to be open and honest with their struggles so when a bad grade or conduct comes home, it is a window to connect with your child in a compassionate and loving way.
  6. Provide them a healthy breakfast and a healthy snack. A nutritious, low sugar and a “good” fat content snack or meal are important for your kids.  When they eat healthily and nutritious, it is scientifically proven that their brains become more attentive and their body/mind becomes significantly more energetic and alert and that makes a big difference on their day at school.  We have our own “breakfast ritual” with our power shakes every morning (Monday to Saturday), but breakfasts like avocado toast, toast with hummus, a plain yogurt with low sugar granola and all sorts of fruits and veggies are great options.  A healthy snack when your kids come back from school includes, hummus and celery/carrots sticks, or hummus toast, almonds, cashews or pistachios, low sugar energy bars, etc.  Providing a healthy snack and meal will provide a surge of energy to tackle any homework or sports activities.

These are my top 6 tips for helping your kids with their studies.  We do all 6 of those tips with our sons, and so far it has helped them tremendously. They are thriving at their academics and after school activities (soccer and running).  It also provides an avenue to make you feel like you are a part of their journey. Remember, their success is your success.

 

 

The joy of running wild…

Orange Family Photo Greeting Thanksgiving Card

(Above are my two sons, at this time 11 and 8, last summer, and right behind is my Dad)

I was born in Panama, and my kids have been able to go back every vacation for a few weeks.  They stay with my parents, in the countryside, where my parents live. The little town is called El Barrero and my parents have lived there for over 10 years now.  There is a much bigger town right next to it, its call Penonome and many family members live, and it is also about 25 minutes from about three different beaches. My kids love going back every summer and feel the freedom that only small towns in the countryside can give you.

I know times change and their time in El Barrero and Penonome, will not be as it was for me when I was a child and would go there every vacation I had, but in regards to the feeling that nature, freedom, fresh air, and relaxation can give you is pretty close.  They always come back to us more humbled, less demanding, more appreciative, less connected to the electronics that they left behind and more connected to just be present and relax. They come back having discovered new foods that they like, remembering moments they spent with my family, telling stories of hiking trips, horse riding in the mountains, beach walks in the sunset and eating dinners outside with my parents.

I fear sometimes that there will be a moment in which they will choose to stay here and not to go back to Panama, maybe because of friends or girlfriends,  summer school, or sports activities, but at least I know that they will always treasure their time surrounded by the memories I made while growing up.  They had the chance of running wild…

First Book Review of 2020!

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“The Bookshop of Yesterdays” was an incredible read. It was funny, dramatic, sad, insightful, hopeful, romantic, and for the avid reader, an adventure through books and their meaning in our lives.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to have an adventure of self-discovery, forgiveness, resolve, courage and love.

♥♥♥♥ Four hearts out of five!

Additional info as found in Goodreads

Book: The Bookshop of Yesterdays
Author: Amy Meyerson
Published: June 12, 2018
Publisher: Park Row
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased in Barnes and Noble

Synopsis

A woman inherits a beloved bookstore and sets forth on a journey of self-discovery in this poignant debut about family, forgiveness and a love of reading. Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric uncle Billy’s bookstore, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But on Miranda’s twelfth birthday, Billy has a mysterious falling-out with her mother and suddenly disappears from Miranda’s life. She doesn’t hear about him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy, and one final scavenger hunt. When Miranda returns home to Los Angeles and to Prospero Books–now as its owner–she finds clues that Billy has hidden for her inside novels on the store’s shelves, in locked drawers of his apartment upstairs, in the name of the store itself. Miranda becomes determined to save Prospero Books and to solve Billy’s last scavenger hunt. She soon finds herself drawn into a journey where she meets people from Billy’s past, people whose stories reveal a history that Miranda’s mother has kept hidden–and the terrible secret that tore her family apart. Bighearted and trenchantly observant, The Bookshop of Yesterdays is a love letter to reading and bookstores, and a testament to the healing power of community and how our histories shape who we become.  (Goodreads)

Afternoon… Family… Great Food

Our kids are growing up fast and so are we… Creating memories is as important as being thankful for the ability to keep things together (or from not letting them fall apart)

Tonight we did BBQ Korean-style.  Plenty food, good laughs, strong smell of citronella candles and off, and an extra bag of smile… And we got it done… New memories!

Best part was Andrew thanking us at the end for “throwing a great party”

Short Story

There is no darkness when we want to see

There is no tiredness when our will wants to get there

I have come to the conclusion that years are days

And that a life time can be summarized on a short story

I would like to believe you were the love that took

Away my breath for years

But you are just a short story…

You are just a day

Mari Feb 2012

Anniversary Poem

Yesterday I talked about you,
On how we met, on what circumstances,
It was in that bar, I was with a broken heart,
We talked, we held hands, and we kissed,
We can blame the drinks or my broken heart,
I like to think it was destiny.

So here we are, 12 years later,
A ring in our ring fingers,
2 kids that look more like you than me,
Living the magic of a day to day life

And…

We still talk, we still hold hands, and we still kiss
Perhaps we can still blame the drinks or our unbreakable hearts,
But I still like to think of it as destiny.

By Mari Park 2012