February and March Mini Book Reviews

I’m a few books behind to reach my overall goal of 60 books for 2022. I blame getting slowed down by books that felt like a chore to read. I’m hoping to get out of a rut in spring.

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams book cover

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

Wow! Leonor recommended this in her newsletter and she didn’t let me down. Eva and Shane are at the center of this teen lovers reunited romance. As teens they were both misfits, but as adults they are successful literary fiction and fantasy/romance writers. While there are really heavy themes and topics (self-harm, addiction, generational trauma to name a few), Williams handles these with sensitivity, wit and humor. I also liked how she also poked fun at literary genres and divisions in publishing.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley book cover

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

I was hooked on this thriller/mystery from the beginning. I was reminded a bit of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. Both books start with a dramatic murder at an event, but the victim isn’t clear. The timeline shifts to a few days before and multiple narrators share their perspectives. I liked the kinda supernatural elements (real or imagined) on the remote island, pacing and satisfying ending. I read some of the book, but mostly read via audiobook.

Midnight in Mexico by Alfredo Corchado book cover

Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent Into Darkness by Alfredo Corchado

This book reminded me why I gravitate toward narrative non-fiction. Midnight in Mexico is part memoir, part history of the drug war in Mexico. Although he is a reporter, he becomes a character in his own story when a US investigator tells him there’s a contract on a US journalist and Corchado is on the short list of possible journalists. That wasn’t even the first time his life was threatened. Recommend this if you want to learn more about recent Mexican history and enjoy memoirs mixed with narrative non-fiction.

Book cover for L.A. Weather by Maria Amparo Escandon

L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón

I saw a description of this book as “fun and fast-paced.” Um, no. I was stressed from the very beginning when Escandón matter-of-factly describes how two three-year-olds fall into a backyard pool while under the care of their grandmother. Throughout the book, which is set over a year, we get to know the rest of the wealthy Alvarado family, Oscar, Keila, and their three daughters who are professionally successful and in seemingly stable relationships. The pacing is a bit slow and overall the book left me feeling stressed and uneasy. That said, reading this made me want to go back to and re-read Escandón’s previous novels which I liked at the time: Esperanza’s Box of Saints and Gonzalez & Daughter Trucking Co.

Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chavez book cover

Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chávez

It took me a while to read this and found myself getting bored and forgetting plot points. Ultimately, I found it okay. Tere is a single woman who lives with her mom in a town near El Paso. Her social life revolves around a Pedro Infante fan club, her best friend, and an ill-advised relationship with a married man. She’s messy and she knows it. I may have liked this more if I knew Mexican Cine de Oro better or was a Pedro Infante fan myself. Tere frequently recounts major plot points and analysis from Infante’s films and those sections were distracting without really advancing the story.

Song of the Shang by Jeffery Renard Allen book cover

Song of the Shank by Jeffery Renard Allen

When I first heard about this novel several years ago, I was intrigued. Allen tells the story of Thomas Green Wiggins, an enslaved man born in the nineteenth-century with prodigious musical skills. Once I started the nearly 600-page novel, I found it difficult to follow and the pace frustratingly slow. Allen writes from multiple perspectives from Tom’s parents to guardians and those profiting off his skills in a fictionalized US (which was weird, because Tom actually lived). If I had not listened to the audiobook, I probably would have abandoned the book. 


Reflecting On Reflections

A few weeks ago I rushed out on the way to work. I was running late and didn’t have time for makeup. At the time my workplace still required masks around others unless I was in my office. No one would see my face, I figured. The KN94 mask would cover the dark circles under my eyes from staying up too late to watch TV. I didn’t factor in Zoom meetings where I’d have my camera on. It was like sitting in front of a mirror for an hour.

I also didn’t account for Facebook memories which highlighted a photo from December 2011. In the photo I sat beside Sean at a friend’s birthday party. The golden hour light lit up our smiles. I wasn’t wearing any makeup, but I liked the way I looked.

It was such a stark contrast to how I looked and felt on that Monday.


I didn’t wear makeup on a daily basis until a few years after moving to Ithaca, an area that has as many cloudy days as Seattle. I don’t know if it was lack of sun, lack of sleep as a mother of two small children, or just age, but I started to feel like just moisturizer with SPF wasn’t enough. I began using the products my sister hooked me up with a few months after we moved. Since I couldn’t rely on her to do my makeup for special events, she gave me what I needed and added in a lesson. I got into the habit of a simple makeup routine and I liked the way I looked after applying some bronzer, blush and mascara.

A conversation came back to me later that day. In my twenties, I flippantly said I didn’t wear makeup because I didn’t need it. My tía Luisa heard me and kindly pointed out that my comment was rude and could be hurtful. Did I think she needed makeup, she asked? Of course not.

I’m not even sure I need makeup now, but I like it. And that’s enough.


If You’re Bored, You Can Clean

As the kids get older, I find myself sounding more and more like my parents. Thing I have said or wanted to say:

If you’re bored, you can clean.
I learned quickly as a kid that if I said I was bored, one of my parents would respond with “hay está la escoba, ponte a barrer”. It used to frustrate me, but now I get it. I didn’t have nearly the same amount of toys, books and other entertainment options as my kids — so many streaming options! But still, it must’ve been frustrating for my tired parents to hear that after they’d been working all day int he home and outside the home.

Church is only about an hour a week.
Before the pandemic, we went to Mass most weeks. That stopped two years ago with the pandemic when everything moved online. With Lent beginning a few weeks ago, I wanted to incorporate that into our family routine once again. The kids have a lot of complaints. I find myself using the same approach my mom did when I was a kid by rationalizing that we spent about an hour in church out of a whole week.

No one is in here, why is the light on?
This bugs me and I’m constantly turning off lights around our home. I can hear my dad’s voice. I’m also the one who opens all the blinds and curtains to allow the most natural light. I’m like my mom in that way.

Either comb your hair or you’ll have to cut it.
This is the phrase that inspired this post. I overheard Archie whining as Sean detangled his hair and added leave-in conditioner. He’s never had a haircut and also prefers for it to be loose, which means lots of tangles and occasional surprises (see: coming home with a nasty bur trapped in his hair). That would be okay if he didn’t complain about washing, detangling, etc. When I was 6 or 7 my mom made me get a haircut because I no longer wanted her to put it into braids or pigtails.

Felt like my mom once again right now when I just told one of the kids, “if I go and look and find your Batman, then I’m keeping it!”

— cindy mosqueda (@cindylu) December 23, 2021

If I go in there and find ___________, then I’m keeping it.
I’ve heard from friends with teens that the constantly losing things and not being able to find them phase continues well after early childhood years.

I guess we have a ghost.
There are times when I notice something like a scribble on the wall. I’ll ask both kids but neither one will ‘fess up to it. They stay silent and shake their heads just like my own parents used to do when something similar happened. Many years later, I still don’t think any one ever admitted to breaking a glass figurine on my mom’s dresser.

You think I like spending Saturday morning cleaning?
Sometimes the kids grumble when it’s to clean up.

Sana, sana, colita de rana, si no sana hoy, sanará mañana.
I still use this gem with the kids and offer arnica for bruises and bumps. I also use my mom’s “cure” for hiccups.

Te calmas o te calmo.
I have wanted to say this so many times, but usually stop myself. For me, it implies using some kind of corporal punishment and we decided to use other methods of discipline. Plus, neither kid is bilingual so it wouldn’t mean anything to them.

Hay comida en la casa.
Okay, I say this more to myself or Sean than the kids.


Can’t Let Go

I listen to several daily news podcasts in an effort to keep up with everything going on. One of those is the NPR Politics podcast. The hosts sign off with something they can’t let go of, which is usually a pop culture or human interest story from that week.

So, what can’t I let go of? Well, my Wordle streak.

I started playing in early January and quickly got hooked. After a couple of days I switched from playing on my work laptop to my phone. Like many others, I played religiously. Sometimes I’d share my score on Twitter or instagram. Almost daily I’d share it with Sean in a friendly competition.

I also started playing more games inspired by the original Wordle. So that a daily habit of a few minutes got much longer. This is my current list:

  • Nerdle – you have to figure out the math equation
  • Worldle – guess a country by its shape
  • Quordle – guess 4 words in 9 tries
  • Octordle – guess 8 words in 13 tries
  • Antiwordle – avoid guessing the word
  • Absurdle – adversarial version
  • Wordle en español (I’m new to this one)

As I played longer, I started getting really invested in keeping my win streak going. Then the NYT bought the game and people on social media swore it got harder. I mean, suddenly words like ultra and ulcer came up back to back.

But I had a problem. My almost 5 year old iPhone was starting to have problems and the battery was dying quickly. Sean kept telling me I should go to the Verizon store for my upgrade.

But I didn’t want to give up my Wordle streak by playing on a new device. I even thought I’d upgrade but not trade in the old phone so I could keep playing Wordle on the old phone. When I went to the store I mentioned this to the salesperson helping me and he doubled the trade-in value.

It turns out I can let go of the official streak for the right amount. At least I have my screenshot.

Do you play Wordle? Are you into the spin-off games?


Something Good

One of the things I like most about sign-offs from weekly podcasts is when hosts share something they can’t let go, recommend, share a tip, etc. It’s Been A Minute with Sam Sanders has listeners call in to share something good that happened to them. It’s a nice reminder that even with everything going on in the world, good stuff still happens and joy and hope continue.

And it always makes me think of my good thing for that week. So, here’s my good thing, albeit a couple of weeks late.

I won the Super Bowl squares pool!

For several years now, my parents have been part of a fundraiser to support an orphanage in Tijuana, HOCATI. The organization and the children they serve holds a special place for my extended family. In the late 2000s Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni made the decision to donate their home in Tijuana to HOCATI. When I interviewed Papá Chepe in a StoryCorps booth in 2009, he told me it was his life’s proudest achievement.

This year was the first I bought a few squares for myself. Usually, my parents just buy them in the name of the grandkids. My dad is one of the coordinators and I gave him three lucky and favorite numbers. I thought I’d get one, but got all three. Once the numbers were picked, I forgot to check them.

During the game, my mom texted me that I was close to winning during the second half.

I had a 3 for the Rams and a 0 for the Bengals. Those numbers won me $250 at the half and $500 at the end. Bonus, my dad was happy to see his beloved Rams win the Super Bowl.

I’ve won some pretty cool things over the years. This one ranks up there with winning plane tickets to LA and a hotel stay through an Instagram contest.

Have you won anything cool? Have any good things to share?