Poetry Month

April is poetry month and it was a happy accident that I was able to get a copy of Rupi Kaur’s “milk and honey” from the library.  I thought I would share some of her brilliance below and I highly suggest you pick up a copy of your own, her words and illustrations are amazing.

Below are some favorite poems from her book:

 

a daughter should

not have to

beg her father

for a relationship


every revolution

starts and ends

with his lips


i do not want to have you

to fill the empty parts of me

i want to be full on my own

i want to be so complete

i could light a whole city

and then

i want to have you

cause the two of us combined

could set it on fire


you might not have been my first love

but you were the love that made

all the other loves

irrelevant


i didn’t leave because

i stopped loving you

i left because the longer

i stayed the less

i loved myself


love is not cruel

we are cruel

love is not a game

we have made a game

out of love


there is a different between

someone telling you

they love you and

them actually

loving you


to be

soft

is

to be

powerful


i want to apologize to all the women

i have called pretty

before i’ve called them intelligent or brave

i am sorry i made it sound as though

something as simple as what you’re born with

is the most you have to be proud of when your

spirit has crushed mountains

from now on i will say things like

you are resilient or you are extraordinary

not because i don’t think you’re pretty

but because you are so much more than that


most importantly love

like it’s the only thing you know how

at the end of the day all this

means nothing

this page

where you’re sitting

your degree

your job

the money

nothing even matters

except love and human connection

who you loved

and how deeply you loved them

how you touched the people around you

and how much you gave them


all above poems from milk and honey by Rupi Kaur, 2014.

My Lady Jane (The Lady Janies #1) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

I needed a fun book to kind of fly through after “Idaho” (which is a really great book and you can read Gia’s review of it here: Idaho by Emily Ruskovich).  So I picked up a not so historical fiction retelling of the story of Lady Jean Grey.  For those who are not familiar, she held the title of Queen of England for nine days prior to being beheaded in spectacular fashion.

This book is like historical fiction meets magic meets fantasy all in one and it diverges significantly from the real story.  We work our way through some true events in history leading up to Elizabeth I becoming Queen but with different players and circumstances.  So Bloody Mary (Mary Tudor) is prejudiced against the group of humans who can turn into animal versions of themselves.  She wants to rid the world of these people much like she did in the Catholic vs Protestant history of truth where she executed anyone who wasn’t Catholic.

The book flips between first person narratives of Jane, her husband Gifford, and Edward VI (who is the current king at the outset of the book).  I went through a rabid Henry VIII stage so I have a pretty strong cursory knowledge of the time, the people involved and what went on so I thought this book was especially amusing and they did a nice job weaving in truth with fiction.  This book is also the first of what will be three books and it appears the second will be released next year and is a fictionalized look at Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte and the third is regarding Calamity Jane.

There’s nothing groundbreaking in here but it’s really fun and funny, especially regarding the role of women and also old school romantic notions.  I laughed out loud several times and was sad to see it end.  I will be checking out the next two books in the series for sure!

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

This was definitely a pretty fun book. The first quarter of the book felt really relatable – the twenty-something small town girl trying to make it in the big city. Katie/Cat lands a paying job as an admin at a great branding company where she works hard to prove herself and dreams of climbing the ladder. She spins a wonderful tale on her Instagram feed showing how wonderful her new life in, but in reality she faces what most twenty-somethings face – a crappy job (even if it’s at a good company), a crappy apartment with crappy roommates, a crazy boss, and scraping together just enough cash to get by.

Katie eventually gets laid off from her job, which takes her (as well as the reader) by complete surprise. The timing is good, though, because her dad and stepmom are starting up a glamping business on their family farm and they desperately need Katie’s help. This is where we truly see how innovative and smart Katie is. She essentially starts up the business by herself and it becomes a huge success.

The story becomes pretty silly when Katie’s old boss, Demeter, shows up with her family for a glamping trip. (Did I mention Katie told her dad and stepmom she was on a sabbatical from work?) There is a lot that happens in the second half of the book and it’s fairly silly and unrealistic, so I’m not going to even summarize. Overall, the book is pretty good and held my interest. It’s a little mindless and would make a great vacation read.

In the Woods by Tana French

My Tana French love has moved from crush to full on love affair.  I just wrapped up “In the Woods”, which is the first novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series and I cannot gush enough about the brilliant craftsmanship of this book.  French has this amazing ability to let things unfold in a natural way, it’s never too slow or too quick, and the prose she uses just lands perfectly each time.

This particular installment revolved around Detective Ryan who was the sole survivor of a terribly tragedy when he was twelve.  He was in the woods (right?!) with his two best friends and they both go missing, presumed dead.  Ryan is found clinging to a tree with bloody shoes and zero recollection of what occurred.  Flash forward twenty years and he’s on the murder squad.  He and his partner Cassie have been tasked with investigating a murder of a 12 year old girl who was found right next to the woods where Detective Ryan was discovered decades before.  This book could have taken MANY predictable paths and it would have been a good book… It could be about Ryan discovering what happened to him, or about redemption or even some kind of story where he learns to love himself and others.  This book could have even delved into the idea that there is a serial killer at large.  All would be okay but have been done before.  French takes the road less traveled and she builds this taut and unflinching look at human character, warts and all, and she doesn’t blink at the idea that survivors are not these unsung heroes.  They are flawed and troubled and very nearly eaten alive each day with the simple task of living.  Had this been real life, Ryan would be the subject of a profile in courage for his making it through such a tragedy but French shows us the true humanity that goes with such a major event.

Every single time I thought I knew where this book was going, I was flat wrong.  French has such a grasp on the psychology of being human and dealing with trauma and stress it’s truly astounding.  She is a true master of the craft of storytelling.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Alright so it’s been a minute since anyone wrote on here so I figured I needed to get my sh&$ together and put up a review… so here it is!

I did not see the movie for this book (namely because I am the worst movie watcher in history– zero ability to keep focused), but this book…. this book makes me want to sit through a movie.  I was reading some other background and reviews and this book came out around the time of The Fault in Our Stars so I would categorize this as the anti-Fault in Our Stars.  Basic premise goes something like this:  Greg, our title character, is a senior in high school.  He’s run of the mill at best and seeking mediocrity and anonymity to basically just get out of high school unscathed.  He has a friend, Earl, who we see intermittently throughout the book.  Greg learns that a girl he was in a class years with some years ago was diagnosed with leukemia and his mom wants him to go spend time with her and cheer her up.  The end of the book grounds us in the reason of why Greg has written this but up until then, it is fiercely first person.  We are in Greg’s mind for the duration, for better or worse.

I kept thinking that maybe I was a 17 year old boy in my past life because I laughed HARD multiple times throughout this book which is fairly radical for a YA book about illness.  The thing is, the cancer story line is really background.  The book is truly about Greg being unapologetically himself and speaking the truth of the situation as he understood it.  I really appreciated the hardline stance on Greg being a typical teenage boy.  It was refreshing because let’s be honest, teenagers do not speak in poetic love language and have these epic stories.  That is fiction.  This book is fiction that aggressively mirrors real life and the ambivalence about life that comes with being young.

So consider this my comeback since I’ve been MIA for awhile and man, this book was a great one.  It’s nice and short as well, clocking in at 259 pages and can easily be read in an afternoon or over a period of a couple of days.

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

This one was a major departure for me and I feel like I am pretty happy about that.  I had seen several articles lauding this book for its originality and interest as Arnold wrote a bestseller entitled “Mosquitoland” (which I have not read) and this was a highly anticipated follow up.  Our story centers on Vic who is coming to terms with the loss of his father to cancer.  Vic also has a very rare neurological disorder that causes him to have significant facial paralysis (cannot smile, close his eyes, cry, etc).  This detail is really not all that crucial to the story, it is however alluded to frequently.  Vic falls in with a gang of misfits really and from there the story pays homage to “The Outsiders” quite a bit.

The writing is very quirky which I did see that many people had an issue with.  I saw at least one very prominent book blogger who did not finish the book because of the style.  It did take a minute for me to get into it but once I was in, the book moved very fast… to the point where I felt like it ended and I has just scratched the surface.  I rated this book a three based on several factors.  One is that I felt like the storyline went too fast for all of the characters and I did not get to “know” them as much as I wish I had.  The relationships were really beautiful and interesting and I wish I would have had more time with each character.  I also did struggle to keep focused on the point of view and who was speaking at the time.  I had times where I thought it was Vic and then had to go back and saw it was someone else.

The genius of the book is that all the typical tropes of YA are represented (young love, kids who are just so misunderstood, kids who talk like they are 40 and philosophers) but it didn’t feel contrived or forced.  Many of these tropes were background to the larger story about loss and moving on in the face of great pain and grief and also just learning how to be a good human in a world that can be a soul sucking nightmare.  I absolutely recommend this book, it’s definitely worth a read!

A Word for Love by Emily Robbins

“The madam of the house where I lived always said that if you can write, it means you have a clear conscience.”

Classic case of judging a book by its cover… I saw this one on the shelf at the library and I thought it was so pretty that I figured I would risk it and just read the book with no knowledge of what it was about.  I normally would never do this but I may start- this one worked out great!

The story is set in Syria which was already out of my typical reading and we are looking from the perspective of Bea who is an American.  She is studying abroad in the hopes of learning Arabic and reading “The Astonishing Text”, which is a very old and beautiful text about Qais and Leila (sort of like Romeo and Juliet).  Bea wants to read the text and have it move her to tears so she can grow her heart and learn all she can about love.

The novel is written in very poetic and melodic form and so it feels a little disjointed at times but that drew me in more and more.  I wanted to keep going to find out what was going to happen and how it would pan out.  Bea’s time in Syria begins to resemble the astonishing text as she befriends Nisrine, an Indonesian maid, who falls in love with Adel, a policeman.  Their love is forbidden as Nisrine is married and her husband is home in Indonesia with their son and Adel is “the enemy” as he is locking up members of the resistance.  So many dynamics play out far beyond the love story and the description and wording is just beautiful the whole way through.  The ending is absolutely heart breaking as one would expect from a book that champions tragic love stories but it was such an amazing experience the whole way through.  I felt like I had a further education on love and it was so worth it.

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

“You think you know how it ends?  You have no idea.”

That premise alone is what sold me on this one as my Book of the Month Club pick for February.  While I am not sorry I chose it, this book is one of those where you either love it or love to hate on it.

The plot centers on married couple Adele and David as their marriage crumbles around them.  David has taken up with a new woman Louise and she becomes both David’s mistress as well as Adele’s best (and only friend).  Neither of them knows this though.  Per the reviews you’ll find online, the book pulls the trump card early and you find out rather quickly that nothing is what it seems.

Now as for that ending… I vacillated between “what?” and “what the hell?” The thing is, I rarely read thrillers so I was still fairly content with the book overall because it was such a change of pace for me.  The ending requires you to suspend quite a bit of disbelief and buy into a premise that is faulty at best.  I will say that this is more in the vein of the kind of ending I thought “The Girl on a Train” was going to have and I am glad that I was wrong there.  This kind of ending would have felt supremely cheap if it had occurred in that novel.

If you’re a diehard thriller reader, this may not be the one for you as you may feel that the narrative choices pulled the rug out too early.  If you’re someone like me who just dabbles in thrillers, I say check this one out and enjoy the ride!

Favorite Female Authors

In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we want to talk about the ladies that we love to read!

Gia:

Tana French- This author pops up on a lot of my “favorite” lists. She has strong characters, strong storylines and beautiful writing. Some of the best crime books I’ve read.

JK Rowling- I credit JK Rowling with making reading trendy among many young readers (and adults) who might not have picked up a book otherwise. I’ll forever be a Potterhead and I don’t feel even a little bad about that!

Harper Lee- “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of my favorite classics. Harper Lee captured what racial inequality and injustice looked like in the South, something that the North may not have seen firsthand and something that today’s America never truly saw firsthand and I think it’s really important to be reminded of what that time was like. I always loved Scout, but I loved her even more in “Go Set a Watchman.” (If you haven’t read GSAW because of the controversy surrounding Atticus, just let that go and read it already!)

Lisa Genova- This is a fairly new author who writes about neurological diseases and injuries. Genova has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard and you can tell when reading her books. She does a fantastic job of balancing the explanations of various neurological diseases/injuries to the reader and developing the storyline and relationships. I love reading her books because I get to enjoy fiction while still learning the truths about things like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s Disease.

Lauren:

Sylvia Plath- If I could only read one book for the rest of my life it would be “The Bell Jar”.  Favorite poem of all time is “The Night Dances” (check it out, so worth it.)

Patti Smith- I was late to the Smith party so I feel like I’m catching up a little bit.  Patti is a singer/songwriter/author/artist/journalist/goddess and her writing is just amazing.  Haunting and beautiful but also straightforward and unflinching.

Joan Didion- “The Year of Magical Thinking” has become required reading at this point but “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” which is her collection of short stories is just brilliant.  Didion is a female icon for a reason.

Roxane Gay- I know, I know, I harp on how much I love her frequently but I am so not sorry.  Read any of her short stories and you will immediately be hooked on her honest and open portrayal of people.

Honorable Mention:

Liane Moriarty-  I’m new to Moriarty as well but I checked out “Big Little Lies” last year and was not sorry.  I have read one of her others and I will certainly check out more.  Great storytelling and she has such an amazing style.

Rainbow Rowell- So I dabble in the YA from time to time and Rowell is a current staple but the thing is: it’s so good.  She can tell a great story in almost no space.  Her short stories are incredible and developed and her adult fiction is fun and insightful.

 

The Trespasser by Tana French

Holy murder mystery!  This book was a huge change of pace for me and I would describe this book as dense.  You are thrown deep into the setting and characters from the get go and while the book moves at a good pace, it is certainly happy to let things unfold.

Our story centers on Antoinette Conway, a newer member of the Dublin Murder Squad.  She is by far one of the greatest female characters I have ever been acquainted with.  She’s smart and cunning and she does not give a crap who likes her or pleasing others.  In a world full of female characters who dream of love and marriage, it is fantastic to read a story about a woman who is good at her job, proud of her life, and doesn’t need people telling her what she should value.   Along with her partner, Stephen Moran, they are called to investigate the murder of Aislinn Murray.

This book is old fashioned class A story telling.  No crazy tricks or twists to throw you off or to try and follow.  You spend the book inside Antoinette’s head as she works this case.  It felt so amazing to look at a murder through the perspective of the detective and all the angles that exist.  Which ones are to be trusted and which ones are figments of fairy tales?  Just because something plays out, doesn’t make it possible or even plausible.

This was my first foray into Tana French’s writing and I’m totally hooked.  Ready to go back for more!