Mini Review: Helium by Rudy Francisco

heliumHelium by Rudy Francisco

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 28th, 2017

Publisher: Button Poetry

Pages: 98 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Helium is the debut poetry collection by internet phenom Rudy Francisco, whose work has defined poetry for a generation of new readers. Rudy’s poems and quotes have been viewed and shared millions of times as he has traveled the country and the world performing for sell-out crowds. Helium is filled with work that is simultaneously personal and political, blending love poems, self-reflection, and biting cultural critique on class, race and gender into an unforgettable whole. Ultimately, Rudy’s work rises above the chaos to offer a fresh and positive perspective of shared humanity and beauty.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I absolutely loved this collection of poetry. Short but sweet, Francisco’s words are beautiful and evoke a myriad of emotions. His writing flows beautifully and depicts each poem’s deepest meanings in vivid detail. It is impossible not to become wrapped up by each phrase and carried through each and every page. He uses his great talent for words—for memorably phrasing his thoughts—to raise awareness about elements of conflict and trouble we currently deal with in society. It is wonderful to see writers attacking these issues and trying to reach a wider audience in such a creative way.

This is one of those collections that truly stands out to me because, while it fits very well with the work we see in the poetry genre these days, it has a little something extra to it. It does focus on common topics such as love and heartbreak, but it defines itself as even more unique and different than that. Francisco does not shy away from discussing social issues and these are the poems where we as readers will feel the most. His words are raw and fearless, upfront and honest, meaningful and utterly powerful. They spoke to me greatly, as I am sure they will to many other readers.

Every poem contains a strong and important message that truly packs a punch and is sure to stick with the reader long after completing the collection. Francisco speaks on topical and significant subjects, such as racism, sexism, and mental health—subjects for which constant discussion is crucial. He brings attention to these things through lyrical and absorbing prose that activates the mind and envelopes the soul. I found these poems to be incredibly impactful, thought-provoking, and a fantastic use of this literary platform. I very highly recommend giving this collection a read and I am personally beyond eager to read more of Francisco’s work in the future.

5.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: The Longest Night by Ranata Suzuki

thelongestnightThe Longest Night by Ranata Suzuki

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 24th, 2018

Publisher: Ranata Suzuki

Pages: 184 pages

Source: Author

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Heartbreak and grief touch every soul at least once in a lifetime and Ranata Suzuki translates those raw emotions into words. The Longest Night combines strikingly poignant quotations, powerfully emotive poetry and captivating silhouette imagery to form a mournful lover’s journal that explores a side of love that is deep, dark and hauntingly beautiful.

Each of the book’s elements are skilfully woven together to reveal fragments of thoughts and feelings that seem almost to belong to the reader as years of painful longing are condensed into the context of a single night. 

The journal begins with ‘Sunset’, in which poems convey the initial feelings of shock and loss first felt when a relationship with a loved one ends. As the poetry descends into an emotional downward spiral, the book progresses into its next chapter, ‘Darkness’, in which emptiness, jealousy, sorrow and despair are passionately portrayed.

The concluding chapter, ‘First Light’, sees the gradual dawning of a new outlook. The final poems express a gratitude for what once was, an acceptance of what now is, and come to the uplifting conclusion that even though a relationship can be fated to end tragically, the memories gained and lessons learned from it are, in their own way, treasured gifts that will last a lifetime.

A book for anyone who has found themselves separated from someone they love no matter the circumstance, The Longest Night is a companion for the broken heart on the painful emotional journey that is losing someone you love from your life. Its words serve as a comforting reminder, whether you are travelling this road or have recently completed this journey yourself, that despite the loneliness you may sometimes feel along the way none of us walk this path alone.

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*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

I read so many poetry collections these days and have found that my tastes have become a lot pickier. It takes quite a lot for poems, as well as an author’s view and writing style, to truly stand out to me. The Longest Night definitely emerges from the mix, with Suzuki’s writing being very strong and attention-grabbing, showing that she is very skilled in her craft. Her work touches on relatable topics and emotions in her own unique and eloquent way. This was a beautiful and very poignant collection that really resonated with me and exceeded my already high expectations.

The poems in this collection focus on the heartbreak that comes when we are forced to be separated from those we love. They are not only meant to reach readers who have specifically suffered the crumbling of a romantic relationship, as I find so many poetry collections concentrate very heavily on. Suzuki’s writing covers the emotional journey that comes with any type of loss, producing a message that will bridge any gap that one might find within during these painful circumstances. Through her words, we are taken on a universally understandable trip through the complexities of both human grief and healing.

Suzuki tells a story in small snapshots. Starting with “Sunset” and resolving at “First Light”, we are carried through the night we are suddenly and often unexpectedly plunged into—a seemingly endless one that stretches out for miles before us. It is here that we can feel the most intense loneliness we have ever felt, but Suzuki strives to remind us how this is not actually the case. It is true that no one person will ever understand every part of another’s personal grief but, as humans, we all love, lose, and grieve. It is the general scope of emotion that unites all of us. These poems serve as a light to move toward, as a hand to hold along the way, and as a glance back at how far we have come and how strong we are.

In regard to my own personal experience reading this collection, I happened to be drawn to pick this up at a time when I desperately needed these words and this message. I read this entire collection mere days after the greatest period of loss that I have ever suffered in my life thus far. There is no way to fully express what these poems did for me or how they touched my life—it was a very powerful and private journey. However, I learned firsthand the comfort that emanates from each one. I was able to have a wholly intimate relationship with it, which is quite rare to go through to this degree when reading poetry at any given time. Whether you are in the midst of this long night or you have emerged into the day, I very highly recommend reading this collection.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

35924698The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Women Are Some Kind of Magic #2

Date Published: March 6th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 208 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: 2016 Goodreads Choice Award-winning poet Amanda Lovelace returns in the witch doesn’t burn in this onethe bold second book in her “women are some kind of magic” series.

The witch: supernaturally powerful, inscrutably independent, and now—indestructible. These moving, relatable poems encourage resilience and embolden women to take control of their own stories. Enemies try to judge, oppress, and marginalize her, but the witch doesn’t burn in this one.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Unfortunately, this collection of poetry ended up really disappointing me. After the fantastic first collection, The Princess Saves Herself in This One, I felt rather let down by this one. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it quite a bit, but I didn’t think it was on par with Lovelace’s previous work. Her first collection tells a story of her life—a personal journey of discovery with messages that evoke intense and relatable emotions. Alongside these poems, there is a loose fairytale-type narrative going on at the end of each section, and they reflect every part of her journey.

That same format of the background story is true for this collection, but the poems deal with broader topics, so they don’t have that same intimate quality as her previous poetry. Lovelace deals with some incredibly tough matters here, and she does so in a very eye-opening way. However, though I of course applaud the fact that she is speaking out on these subjects, I just personally did not feel as emotionally invested in the poems, and I found them a bit repetitive at times.

One of the things that still rings true in this collection is Lovelace’s incredible talent for writing beautiful and impactful poetry. Though these particular poems did not resonate with me quite as much as her others, her words are still extremely powerful and relatable. Everything she has to say is thought-provoking and empowering, but the messages she is trying to convey come across as somewhat one-sided at times.

She has a very strong feminist voice, though I felt that she approached the topic in more of an all-or-nothing style rather than speaking in an equal and balanced way. Feminism, and any type of empowerment movement in general, should not focus on being dominant over others, but should instead focus on creating equality among all. I still do very much enjoy Lovelace’s poetry, so I definitely plan on continuing to read her work in the future.

3.0 TARDISes

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Reviews: It’s Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye by Kurt Luchs and The Last Time I’ll Write About You by Dawn Lanuza

itsfunnyuntilsomeonelosesaneyeIt’s Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It’s Really Funny) by Kurt Luchs

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 1st, 2017

Publisher: Sagging Meniscus Press

Pages: 210 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Fiction. This collection of stories by Kurt Luchs pursues its comedic quarry with the ruthlessness of a pussycat trying to get out of a cardboard box. Luchs, who has written for august literary organs such as The Onion, The New Yorker, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and even been published by some of them, is an inspired comic writer in the tradition of P.J. Wodehouse, S.J. Perelman, and Woody Allen, for whom not only the world but language itself is a source of constant delight. Even the hilarity he generates is not an end in itself; the convulsing diaphragms of his laughing readers are in his hands a remotely operated musical instrument bridging the woodwind and percussion sections.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This book is a collection of standalone outrageous and comical essays and stories. I love reading, watching, and listening to anything humorous. Comedy is important these days—we all need to be able to laugh with all the insanity going on around us! And I have an extremely random, sarcastic, and silly sense of humor. However, this collection actually ended up being a bit too random and bizarre even for me, which was a huge surprise. Don’t get me wrong, there were a number of funny stories in this compilation, but there were also plenty that I just didn’t find much humor in. Even the stories that did crack me up were not “laugh-out-loud” funny—they were just okay.

Unfortunately, I ended up feeling rather unsatisfied overall with this collection. I was eager to read it, and maybe I went in with higher expectations than I should have—this was my first experience with Luchs’ writing. Though it did get some laughs out of me, none of the stories really stood out to me, and even now, I can’t remember much of them. There were some parts that did connect with me and my cynical and silly style of humor, but I wish it had been a little bit more consistent all the way through. In the end, it was a bit slow to get through and not as memorable as I had hoped, but it still provided me with a bit of comedy.

3.0 TARDISes

thelasttimeillwriteaboutyouThe Last Time I’ll Write About You by Dawn Lanuza

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: January 30th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 176 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: The Last Time I’ll Write About You is popular Filipino YA and romance writer Dawn Lanuza’s debut collection of poetry. Featuring beautiful, relatable poems about first love, this book is the perfect companion for anyone who has loved, lost, and emerged anew.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The main focus of this particular collection is love, relationships ending, and the power every human has to process the grief and recover from it. Lanuza’s words truly show the strength and skill we all have inside that allows us to build ourselves back up again after we break apart. She writes short and simple poems that she injects with more depth despite their size—and she has quite a beautiful style of writing.

However, there were only a handful of poems that really stood out among the rest for me. Other than that—while well written—many seemed too reminiscent of the typical poems written in this newly popular style of very short but powerful poetry. That style didn’t always work out in her favor.

I also feel as though I might not have gotten everything out of these poems that I should have. While I could recognize the emotion and power in Lanuza’s words, I couldn’t quite connect properly to many of the topics and themes that spoke on romantic love. I have very limited personal experience in that area, so it was hard to relate on that front.

However, the message of strength through grief is something that I can apply to other parts of my life—such as a loved one passing away—and with that in mind, I felt the impact of her words slightly more. Though this particular collection did not blow me away, it still made for a fairly interesting read. I would recommend giving it a try and seeing if and how these poems speak to you.

3.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: She Felt Like Feeling Nothing by r.h. Sin

shefeltlikefeelingnothingShe Felt Like Feeling Nothing by r.h. Sin

My Rating: 1.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: April 10th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 144 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: From the bestselling author of the Whiskey, Words, and a Shovel series comes this poetic reminder of women’s strength.

There are moments when the heart no longer wishes to feel because everything it’s felt up until then has brought it nothing but anguish. In She Felt Like Feeling Nothing, r.h. Sin pursues themes of self-discovery and retrospection. With this book, the poet intends to create a safe space where women can rest their weary hearts and focus on themselves.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is r.h. Sin’s newest collection, and though it was slightly better than Planting Gardens in Graves, it still felt incredibly underwhelming. Once again, my biggest complaint is the repetitiveness of the subject matter. I feel like the more collections I read, the less engaged with the text I become. And I absolutely hate to feel that way because I truly believe Sin could be a good writer and feminist voice.

Rehashing the same topic does not do justice to what skill he might have as a writer, and it overshadows the way he is trying to capture complex emotions in such a short space. I am feeling like less and less heart and substance is being put into these words. His use of the short, simple poems or phrases is feeling even more forced and random—it is not contributing to whatever sincerity or impact he is attempting to convey.

This time around, Sin put in some connection between some of his poems, making a bit of a story out of them. While I absolutely love that idea, the only problem with it was the fact that every poem is essentially the same, just worded differently. In fact, that was the case for the entire collection. The more I read his work, the worse my opinion becomes—mainly because of the predictability subject-wise—but also because it comes across as patronizing and self-absorbed.

While reading his work, I always come to some point where I feel like he’s treating us more like objects or—dare I say it—”mansplaining” our emotions, and even what it’s like to be a woman, to us. These poems feel less like speaking up to empower women and more like Sin bragging about the fact that he thinks he is the best man/partner in the world because he is supposedly the only one who understands absolutely everything about women.

I realize that my reviews of his collections are getting extremely repetitive, but they are reflecting the exact same feeling I’m getting from his work. It is the same condescending, somewhat contradicting, and occasionally crude musings on the same topics in every single collection. He needs to be more unique. We need more of the originality that I believe he could be capable of giving. I am interested in reading his Whisky, Words, and a Shovel trilogy of poetry collections, but going forward, I am not sure that the chance of me picking up any of his future works will be particularly high.

1.5 TARDISes

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Reviews: Through the Eyes of a Lost Boy by Edward Bonner and Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

throughtheeyesofalostboyThrough the Eyes of a Lost Boy by Ed Bonner

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 29th, 2017

Publisher: eTreasures Publishing LLC

Pages: 165 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: Dedicated to all who believe and imagine.

Collection of poetry about:

Love

Loss

Trauma and Pain

Healing

A journey through the eyes of a young boy to adulthood

The book introduces a new look of being exposed

Someone willing not to hide behind a tree

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This was a decent collection of poetry. Edward Bonner has compiled poems that encompass every aspect of his life so far, from childhood up until his current age. Recently, I’ve been extremely interested in more personal poetry that chronicles various events in the writer’s life, and this was a fairly enjoyable one. It was intriguing to see Bonner reflect on all the aspects of his life that shaped him into who he is today. As the collection progresses, he picks apart and comes to term with many of his most intense emotions and the pain of a rough childhood.

You get the sense that Bonner is conveying an understanding that he has gathered through the years—he is finally able to properly comprehend and express the feelings he could not as a child. The collection as a whole truly makes you feel the incredible mental and emotional journey Bonner has gone through since he was a young boy, and that makes his words very poignant. Each poem flows into the next, giving it a very story-like quality. With a kind and intelligent voice, Bonner takes his readers on a ride that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

3.5 TARDISes

quietgirlinanoisyworldQuiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story by Debbie Tung

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 7th, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 177 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Sweet, funny, and quietly poignant, Debbie Tung’s comics reveal the ups and downs of coming of age as an introvert.

This illustrated gift book of short comics illuminates author Debbie Tung’s experience as an introvert in an extrovert’s world. Presented in a loose narrative style that can be read front to back or dipped into at one’s leisure, the book spans three years of Debbie’s life, from the end of college to the present day. In these early years of adulthood, Debbie slowly but finally discovers there is a name for her lifelong need to be alone: she’s an introvert. 

The first half of the book traces Debbie’s final year in college: socializing with peers, dating, falling in love (with an extrovert!), moving in, getting married, meeting new people, and simply trying to fit in. The second half looks at her life after graduation: finding a job, learning to live with her new husband, trying to understand social obligations when it comes to the in-laws, and navigating office life. Ultimately, Quiet Girl sends a positive, pro-introvert message: our heroine learns to embrace her introversion and finds ways to thrive in the world while fulfilling her need for quiet.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This was a very humorous, adorably drawn, and highly relatable collections of vignettes on the struggles of growing up as an introvert in an extroverted world. The overall concepts and feelings are not anything new to comics and graphic novels, and in this way, it might come off as a little repetitive. At the same time, however, everything in this collection is made much more unique due to the focus on Tung’s own personal experiences as well as by her wonderful art style. Through each individual comic, we follow Tung in the years after college as she learns to navigate being an adult while also accommodating her introverted nature.

As a majorly introverted young adult myself, I had absolutely no trouble identifying with many of these situations and emotions. Tung portrays everything perfectly to the point where you feel like this book is written for and about you. The art is magnificent and enhances the reading experience and the message Tung is conveying. Overall, this is a very warm and touching book that sends a great message—it’s all right to be an introvert! This is a very heartwarming and funny read that I believe will be extremely easy for a lot of readers to connect with.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: Planting Gardens in Graves by r.h. Sin

plantinggardensingravesPlanting Gardens in Graves by r.h. Sin

My Rating: 1.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: February 6th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 272 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: From the beloved author of Whiskey, Words, and a Shovel comes the first volume in an all new series.

r.h. Sin returns with a force in Planting Gardens in Gravesa powerful collection of poetry that hones in on the themes dearest to his readers. This original volume celebrates connection, mourns heartbreak, and above all, empowers its readers to seek the love they deserve.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

My r.h. Sin saga continues. After reading A Beautiful Composition of Broken, things went even more downhill when it came to this particular collection. It started off well enough, with short but sweet, impactful poetry. Each poem had the nice flow and depth that he has always showed, and the way he words everything is beautiful. There were even a few poems that touched on very different topics than the rest—some of the most powerful ones being about his own experiences with other types of love than romantic. However, every other poem was exactly the same as what he usually writes, thus making it feel like all of his collections are identical.

This time around, the style of short but powerful lines did not work in his favor. Many of the poems felt incredibly choppy and forced, like he had cut off each line at random rather than with a specific purpose. There was a sizable loss of depth due to the way that was carried out. Another strike against the collection for me that ties into this was how much subtlety he lacked when it came to conveying the messages in certain parts of his work. This stripped away anything poetic about those poems and, therefore, they lost their emotional impact. This is entirely personal, but some even felt rather crude to me.

Once again, he remains stuck on pretty much the same topic for the entire collection, each poem feeling like a differently worded version of the others. And while his focus on the strength of women is nice to see in literature, he simultaneously portrays men as being horrible and himself as being the only one worthy of being with a woman. I appreciate the feminism he is trying for and, of course, love the fact that it is becoming more prevalent in the literary world. But what I in general will never appreciate is anything that lifts any group of people higher than another—that is not what feminism is about or how equality is achieved.

Overall, the majority of this collection unfortunately failed to accomplish what I believe he was trying to. Speaking as a woman, sometimes his poems are affirming, but after awhile, I began to feel like he was treating us like we are possessions rather than humans. I believe Sin has a talent for writing beautiful poetry, but that does not come across as well when he refuses to diversify his subject matter. The few poems that touched on love that isn’t romantic were wonderful and refreshing. In the future, it would be great to see him focus more on that, even aspects of his life and more personal experiences.

1.5 TARDISes

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