The Literature Café

Great books and yummy food!

My top five… Books that I want to read


The great thing about literature is that there is always something new to look forward to and read.  Regardless of the publication date, there is always some book that will be new to you.  As an avid reader, I have a list of these that I want to read, have bought and have not read yet because this is an ever expanding list.  I am sure that a lot of you have the same problem.  However, I have already decided which of these books are next.  These are:

  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
    • Although I also want to read The Sound and the Fury, the plot of this book attracts me more.
  • The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
    • Having seen a film adaptation of this novel when I was young, I was a little turned off this one.  However, as an adult and fellow Latina I am intrigued.
  • Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
    • I recently discovered this book and thought it would be interesting to use on my graduate studies’ research.
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
    • This novel is the story about Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley, during their stay in Paris while he wrote his novel, The Sun Also Rises.  An important American author, romance, and Paris, what’s not to like?
  • The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
    • Saw this book and it looks interesting.  The title caught my attention in a store, since I have bought cookbooks that I have not used and I wondered if it’s about this.  Also, the author is compared to Jane Austen so I’m curious.


What books are you planning to read next?  Or has anybody read these?

Book Review Tuesday

The Bird Sisters Review

Twiss and Milly live in Spring Green, Wisconsin in the same house that they grew up in and have become the “old ladies that tend to injured birds”.  However, they are so much more than that.  Rasmussen brings us these elderly sisters story of love, sacrifice, loss and commitment using memories.  It is very authentic in depicting how fast life changes because of one moment or accident. birdsisters

This novel was pretty good and entertaining.  There were many things that I liked about it.  Rasmussen has a gift for description of setting and details that at times feel as if you are reading poetry.  “So with each snarl of thunder and each flash of lightning, each realization that her father wasn’t coming back for her, she stuck to the safety of hating her mother…” (Rasmussen).

The character development is excellent, since you reminisce on your childhood and how funny and fun things seemed at that time.  Told almost entirely using flashbacks, the use of elder characters is fresh since it deviates from the current and I believe it deals with an often forgotten community.    It has been a long time since I have read a novel where the main characters are elderly women filled with wisdom and naiveté at the same time.  Filled with drama, sentiment and relatable themes, I believe that many will enjoy this novel.

From the very beginning of The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen, I started craving biscuits with jam and, later on, cakes that are mentioned in the novel.  This novel is the perfect example for what I want The Literature Café to be: if you read this novel, why not do it while eating biscuits with jam?

Exactly, you can! So, here is my recipe for biscuits that I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

Cinnamon Biscuits

CinnamonBiscuits2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 ½ tablespoons of granulated sugar

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of salt

3 tablespoons of chilled butter (or margarine), cut into small pieces

¾ cup of low-fat milk (or whole)

½ cup of sifted powdered sugar

2 teaspoons of low-fat milk

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

  • Combine flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 knives) until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add ¾ cup of milk, stirring until moist.
  • Turn dough into a floured surface and knead 4 to 5 times.  Roll dough to ½ inch thickness and cut with 2 ½ inch biscuit cutter.  Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
  • While biscuits bake, combine powdered sugar with rest of milk; stir well with whisk.  Remove biscuits from oven and drizzle glaze over hot biscuits.
  • Enjoy alone or slice them in half and spread the jam of your choice!  I like Smuckers Strawberry jam!


Let me know how these turned out for you!

P.S. Besides the biscuits recipe given here, there is another recipe for this book to come.

Have you read anything where the main character is a senior citizen? Did you enjoy the biscuits? Let me know.

A Problem in my Island

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about the belief of some women in our culture about men. She is a single mom and has been for a few years. She relates that her female friends always told her that she should have a man in her life to which she responded that she did not need one to be happy. Coming from a single mom home, I could relate to what she was telling me since my mother went through this.
We started discussing why some women believe that they cannot be happy without a man and came to the conclusion that in our Latino culture we are taught by what we see on the television, in this case soap operas. The common soap operas here show women treating themselves and each other badly because of a man. If a man treats them badly it’s okay because at least they have one by their side. Also, if you like a guy you have to get him to want you by playing games, manipulating, kissing, and flirting to the extent of driving him crazy and then stopping everything. As a consequence, he will fall in “love” with you and its okay if he uses a little force to kiss you because this means he is passionate about you.
The problem with all of this is that this has become the entertainment of our growing children because they watch this with their parents. Girls as young as 8 years old are under the belief that this is how you get a guy and that you should always forgive them because “love” and have him. That they cannot make decisions or deal with problems without the help of a man. Boys grow up believing that to be a man they have to own the girl. With this as their entertainment, children have lost the appreciation for reading.
I am not saying that by reading everything will be okay, but I truly believe that even reading fiction opens children’s eyes to reality. That there are ways of dealing with problems and that by believing in yourself does not mean that you will be unhappy and alone. To give an example, Hermione of the Harry Potter Series believes in herself, is respected and she was never alone. There are countless of other examples like this in literature.
I know that this problem of misconceptions in gender roles and children not reading are not new. However, in my island these are growing problems and I am worried. Reading does help us and, even if you are already grown up, it is never too late to start appreciating it. It is never too late to give a child a book. As I described last week any book can be influential, it just depends on your taste.

What do you think?

My Top Five… influential books


I stumbled upon two lists of Influential books that I liked because they did not focus entirely on one genre.  Unlike most, I believe that these do not have to necessarily be fiction or self help books.  So I thought this would be a good way to continue with the top five sections.  I chose for today books that have been influential, inspirational and motivational in my life.    So, this is a little list of the books that have just helped at one or various points in my life.

Here they are:

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    • I won’t go into too much detail, since this book has been discussed other posts.  I will only say that this was the novel that started it all! It ignited my love flame for literature.
  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
    • Before I read this book I used to worry more and my stress levels were affecting me physically, but when I read it I began to use its strategies.   I got to say it is a work in progress, but my stress levels are down.  Even though the book seems at times to be discriminative towards women, this can be overcome.
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
    • When I read this book I was at a crossroads in my life and this book greatly helped me make, what I believe to have been, the right decision.  It has helped me through out, especially in keeping focused on what matters most.
  • The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
    • I loved the representation of sisterhood and community so much in this novel that it has influenced my research.
  • Puerto Rico True Flavors by Wilo Benet
    • My mother was not very keen on cooking the traditional dishes of our Puerto Rican culture. Hence, this book came to the rescue.  I highly recommend it since it is easy to follow, is in English, but he mentions most of the dishes names in Spanish, and the recipes are yummy.


Which are your influential books?

Book Review Tuesday

To Kill a Mockingbird Reviewto-kill-a-mocking-bird-first-edition

A few weeks ago I promised myself that I would finish and post this review.  I was a bit nervous (how to do it justice?) and some time constraints. It is such a splendid book, though!  So, here it is now my official review of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Told in the female voice of a child, To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of two children coming of age, forcefully at times, in a Depression stricken southern town of Maycomb, Alabama.  Scout and her brother Jem are force to come to terms and deal with very adult situations like racism, rape, revenge, poverty and social status.  Scout also as a young girl has to deal with the meaning of being a girl and the behavior of a proper lady. The conflict is simple a black man is accused of raping white woman and Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem’s father, has taken on the case to defend the accused man called Tom Robinson. 

However, it is also what happens in between this trial that is really the magnificence of this story.  Scout and Jem really come to their own conclusion on these events and try to have a “normal” childhood.  The reader can almost feel like he or she is there playing along with Scout and Jem. We can reminisce too on our childhood memories and how easy the world and its problems seemed.  Harper takes us on good and bad adventures through the eyes of this child and I believe that it is a good technique to tell this particular story.  If the story were told through Atticus’ eyes or Tom’s the magic and strength would probably be missed.

This is truly an American classic, not just because of the subject manner, but because Harper Lee is really what I consider a great author.  If you have not read it, I highly recommend it.

Also, in the novel one of the yummy foods that are mentioned is Poundcake!  You can enjoy reading this novel with a slice of the poundcake from the recipe below and a cup of coffee.

Cream Cheese Poundcake (Yields 1-10 inch bundt pan)creamcheesepoundcake

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

1 1/2 cups butter

3 cups white sugar

5 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 10 inch tube pan.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy.
  • Add eggs two at a time, beating well with each addition. Add the flour all at once and mix in. Add vanilla.
  • Pour into a 10 inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Check for doneness at 1 hour. A toothpick inserted into center of cake will come out clean.


St. Patrick’s Day: Book Review Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, today’s featured book review is by award-winning Irish author Cecelia Ahern.  Although my favorite is P.S., I love You, I chose to review her second novel Love, Rosie (also known as Rosie Dunne or Where Rainbows End).

Cecelia Ahern’s second novel tells the story of Rosie and Alex through letters, notes, e-mails and instant messages.  It’s a story about friendship, love and fate.  Rosie and Alex are best friends growing up together in Dublin. Unfortunately, Alex and his family move to America leaving Rosie behind.  She is sad about this and plans to study in the United States, but fate always keeps them separated with just the letters and e-mails to keep them going.  Will these be enough to make the friendship last?

Ahern writes in a fresh, funny and touching manner that always feels like a guilty pleasure, especially in this novel since you are given permission to read the characters e-mails, letters, notes and so on.  However, I have to agree with other reviewers that at times you wish the story were told in more substantial dialogue.  The plot of fate getting in the way of your plans works, since a lot of people can relate.  As we say sometimes life throws you a curve ball.  The characters are well develop and relatable.  Even if you get tired in the back and forth of the letters, notes, etc. the reader will find that they still want to know the end and that you are engaged in the story.

In the chocolate mood…

“Take away a woman’s chocolate, and some say you take away her soul.” Kelly Lamm, Chocolate Café and Coffee House

“They say she needs to go to Chocoholic Anonymous! But why?… she has no intentions of quitting!”*

I will admit that I am a chocoholic!  I am not ashamed of this, but accept that for this week the recipe I am posting does not have anything to do with the books that I have discussed. I just agree with the quotes and feel that chocolate is and will continue being a big part of The Literature Café.  One of my favorite things to eat is brownies and here is my recipe:

Serves about 9 pieces

½ cup of butter or margarine

1 cup of white sugar

½ cup of all-purpose Flour

2 ounce of semisweet chocolate chips


1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder



1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

2 eggs

¼ teaspoon of baking powder

3 tablespoons of milk

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. grease an 8 inch square pan.
  • In a large bowl, melt 1 ounce of semisweet chocolate chips and soften margarine.
  • Stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa powder.  Beat in flour and baking powder. Then add milk and 1 ounce of chips.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Do not overcook.

Hope you like them! Let me know what you think!


P.S.  You could also add walnuts to the brownies. I just can’t since I’m allergic.

Also, I found out that in Hermann, Missouri there is a Chocolate Wine Trail and each winery serves chocolate desserts such as Double Chocolate Cherry Muffins with their wine. YUMM! Another must have experience.

*Quote featured in the bookmark on the photo.

My Top Five … Favorite books


Continuing with the Top five series, today I will be discussing my favorite books.  Some of these are by my favorite authors, but not all of them.  Others, I have read at various points in my life and I absolutely adore them.  Each time I read them, I find something new and the feelings that they bring are always memorable.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Have you read any of these? Which books are your top five?

Book Review Tuesday

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

This novel explores the lives of seven women in Brewster Place, a ghetto that is shut off from the rest of the city by a brick wall.   The women’s names are: Mattie, Etta Mae, Lucielia, Kiswana, Cora Lee, Lorraine, and Theresa.  The novel is divided into seven stories.  These women do not start off living in Brewster Place; different circumstances in the human condition brought them there.    The main character is Mattie Michael, since she is present in most of the stories.  After the story of Mattie’s arrival, the novel continues with the rest of the women and their narratives.the_women_of_brewster_place


When I first read The Women of Brewster Place, I was very surprised since Gloria Naylor published this novel before graduating from her Bachelors degree.  The themes and plot of this novel are very intriguing and, as many African American novels, no matter what happens the characters always have hope and a fire to keep on fighting.  The themes of community, love, sisterhood, oppression and liberation are by no means new, but Naylor manages to intricately introduce these and connect them with the history of the African American culture following the Civil Rights Movement.

Also, Naylor’s descriptions of both the characters and of Brewster Place are very detailed and relatable.  By the end of the book you feel as if you know these women and have shared things with them that will stay with you for the rest of your life.  You laugh and you cry with these women and with Brewster Place, since it’s as if Brewster Place were alive and a character on its own.

One of the most important things to take away from this novel is that it does not matter where you live you should always have love, community and the responsibility to improve.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Let me know if you have read it!

My Top Five Favorite Authors


Today’s post is the first of a new series titled “Top Five” and it consists of my favorite authors.  Now, being a literature major this is somewhat difficult to narrow down since I read lots of texts by various authors; especially when I am taking courses on different themes.  My criteria for choosing these is pretty easy, since I just evaluated the authors that keep me coming back and reading more than one book by them because I enjoy their writing style.

  • Gloria Naylor
  • Toni Morrison
  • Zora Neale Hurston
  • Jane Austen
  • Charles Dickens

Do you have any favorite authors?