Reviews: The Heart is Improvisational by Various and Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

theheartisimprovisationalThe Heart is Improvisational by Various

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: September 1st, 2017

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Pages: 130 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Poets attribute an array of roles and capacities to the involuntary muscle. The heart becomes a repository of erotic and familial love, and a sanctuary for memory. The poets explore the flux of the heart’s responses and instigations: the heart’s tender overtures, its joyous pulse, its mating call for the other, its changeable temperament, its final tick in freeze-frame. Among the poets featured: Kenneth Sherman, Lorna Crozier, Marilyn Bowering, Roo Borson, Patrick Lane, Charles Bukowski, Eugénio de Andrade, John Barton, Robyn Sarah, and Mary di Michele.

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

This is a poetry collection featuring works from a wide variety of authors, all giving their unique perspectives on the most important part of human life—the heart. It was an extremely hit or miss collection for me, and I found it very hard to get into. In general, I tended to prefer the poems that focused on the less tangible, more emotional views of the heart, rather than the technical and clinical depictions. To me, the poems that spoke from essentially a medical perspective felt like reading a biology textbook—albeit a lyrical one—rather than a poetry collection.

All of the writers who contributed are extremely talented; all of the writing was strong and skilled. In my opinion, however, the flow of the writing—both individually and as a whole—was definitely broken up by the ones that focused more on fact than feeling. Of course, not all poetry needs to be abstract and romantic. The freedom to be whatever the writer wants it to be is one of the reasons why this is such a wonderful vehicle for creativity and expression. But for me, I think I just prefer poems that creatively expand on the emotional rather than the physical.

3.0 TARDISes

depressionandothermagictricksDepression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 22nd, 2017

Publisher: Button Poetry

Pages: 80 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Depression & Other Magic Tricks is the debut book by Sabrina Benaim, one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, whose poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has become a cultural phenomenon with over 5,000,000 views.

Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. It is a documentation of struggle and triumph, a celebration of daily life and of living. Benaim’s wit, empathy, and gift for language produce a work of endless wonder.

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

This collection was all right, but I found it to be just a bit disappointing. I had heard a little bit about Sabrina Benaim prior to picking this up, so I was quite eager to experience her work. However, though I did enjoy it to some extent, this collection wasn’t quite as good I was expecting it to be. The poems themselves were quality—Benaim has quite a talent for expressing herself in a vivid way, and speaks intelligently on many subjects that can be difficult to fully comprehend. However, while I did enjoy this collection, it did not click with me in the way I would have liked. Her writing style did not flow overly well for me so I never quite got fully into it.

I thought Benaim’s way of tapping into and clearly conveying her feelings was very good, and it was easy to connect to her and feel her emotions on a deep level. Despite my feelings on the collection overall, I could definitely see how raw and poignant her words were. These poems deal with many of Benaim’s personal experiences in her life so far, and sheds some light on her experience with depression—a great way to help open minds on the subject of mental illness. I wish I had enjoyed it a bit more, but overall, I think this is a beautiful collection that many readers will love and relate to.

3.0 TARDISes

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Guest Post: Author Courtney Peppernell

Today’s post is a guest post by the very lovely and talented author Courtney Peppernell. I am incredibly honored and excited to have this chance get to know her and to work with her to promote her wonderful poetry collections and novels! Please make sure to check out Courtney on her website, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. There are also links to the Goodreads pages of her work scattered throughout, so definitely make sure to check those out as well!

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I’ve never done a guest post before but when Ariana who writes The Quirky Book Nerd asked me to do a guest post, I was excited to jump in.

My name is Courtney Peppernell, I’m a 26 year old LGBTQ author and I live in Sydney, Australia. A lot of people write to me and ask about how I write. I really believe it’s important to develop your own writing process, as not everyone is the same, but I’m always happy to talk a little about my own writing process. A good book to read is called “5000 words per hour” by Chris Fox. It really helped to develop my ability to sit down each day and write as much as I can in a short space of time.

If anyone is like me, I am generally a very busy person (currently raising a puppy) and don’t have time to write for 8-10 hours a day (plus that would be exhausting, so many feelings!!). Instead I try to pump out as many words as possible within an hour or two. My favourite author Jodi Picoult once said something along the lines of, a page of writing can always be edited, but a blank page can’t. I really agree with this and I highly recommend Fox’s book to help you get started on following a similar process (or internal screaming also helps.)

dakotaBefore I start writing any project, I make sure I have an idea I’m passionate about. I believe in creating top quality products for people who choose to purchase my books, and I don’t think I can deliver the highest quality unless I am very passionate about the book I’m writing. I feel if you write the book that you want to read, then you will find an audience who wants to read it too. Once I have my idea ready to go, I start to do an outline of the characters. I begin to imagine who they are, what their interests, dreams, hopes, aspirations are, and how they are going to develop and fit the narrative I am writing. I try to imagine my characters like real people, and when I’m writing them, I feel like the words I’m putting on the page are truly how they would react if the situation was real. This is also a really fun part of the writing process and for me, the characters are really what I love most about my novels/stories.

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My two current novels Chasing Paper Cranes and Keeping Long Island had characters that I very much loved, and I am sure I will feel the same for other characters in future books as well. After that, I start to try and piece together a rough timeline of the story I am going to tell, names, places, dates, even irrelevant information that might not actually be in the story. It’s all still important to me, as I feel it helps shape the characters and pull everything together. Once I have all these in place, I have my story guide in my head, and I’m ready to start writing.

pillowthoughtsWriting poetry books isn’t as an intense writing process for me. My poetry books Pillow Thoughts and The Road Between are based off personal experiences but also experiences I have witnessed of other people. In fact, I tend to “get into character” when I am writing poetry books sometimes, as it helps me imagine what someone who is “heartbroken” may feel like. I’ve experienced heartbreak (naturally) myself, but where I am in my life currently, is very in love so it’s often hard for me to write about pain when I am happy. However, I think this is really good for developing my writing skills, so poetry is important to me as well.

I started as a self-published author, and over the last year I have had some amazing opportunities that were a combination of mine, and my business partner’s efforts, as well as some great exposure. We have worked hard on (slowly) building my brand of books (still striving to build this every day, but it’s exciting and half the fun and drive to keep going) and I have been blessed with some attention to my writing via readers and also The Chainsmokers which lead to my eventual publishing deal with Andrews McMeel Publishing.

FullSizeRender (2)I am really looking forward to continuing my career and working as hard as I can to give readers books that mean something to them and make them feel as though either they can achieve their own writing dreams, or just that there are others in the world who relate to the feelings they have every day. In my spare time, I am very family orientated, and very close with my family. Plus, I am always with my dogs Hero (German Shepherd) and Dakota (Pomeranian / probable tiny gremlin) or looking up new places to grab coffee with my partner Rhian. She’s actually a huge source of inspiration for me. Most readers find me/my books after reading a poem called Looking for Ice Cream which is for and based on Rhian. I really enjoyed seeing how different people from all walks of life related to that poem, as it drove home something I am trying to achieve in my writing which is that LGBTQ couples can live happy, healthy and normal lives like everyone else. We experience love, pain, loss and gain all the same.

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So that’s me, I’m generally a pretty quiet sort of person but I do like a good chat about feelings ha! I also will probably cross an ocean to meet someone’s dog, so if I am to have signings one day, you should definitely ask if you can bring your four-legged friend. I hope to interact with my readers more over time, either via Twitter, Instagram or email. I love hearing from people because I always find it interesting which stories/poems/books of mine people relate to most. Special thanks to Ariana for letting me post on her blog, she wrote such a lovely review for both my poetry books, that I even showed my Mum.

Thanks again and love to all,

Courtney

Mini Review: The Road Between by Courtney Peppernell

theroadbetweenThe Road Between by Courtney Peppernell

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 29th, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 288 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The Road Between is poetry well-lived.

Poetry for the soul that walks the fine line between losing yourself in the world and finding yourself again, often in the smallest of moments. Courtney Peppernell is the bestselling author of Pillow Thoughts, a collection of poetry and prose about heartbreak, love, and emotion.

Make a cup of tea, find your place, and lose yourself in the pages.

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

Courtney Peppernell has quickly become one of my new favorite authors. This was yet another beautiful collection that truly spoke to me. Peppernell has a great talent for creating short and deceptively simple poetry that has a much deeper underlying meaning. Her striking prose flows perfectly, and each line packs a strong emotional punch. This particular collection is about the journeys that life presents all of us. Specifically, these poems deal with the process of finding yourself again after becoming separated from it along the way—how we have to carefully piece ourselves back together until we feel whole.

The theme of finding oneself is something that, at this time in my life, really speaks to me. I’ve definitely been taking this exact journey over the last few years, feeling like I had lost touch with myself and trying to figure out who I am and what I need in my life. I’ve been feeling a deep need to settle into and truly come to terms with every aspect of myself. It’s this sort of work that I can connect to very easily—that makes me feel more confident in who I’ve discovered that I am and what love means to me. Peppernell’s words are wonderfully profound and they deeply touched me.

I always think it’s fantastic to see more LGBT+ work coming into the the literary world. Even though many of the poems that focus on love deal with a romance between two women, I believe these poems will speak to anyone, no matter their orientation and how they love. Love is love—it is a universal subject that can touch the hearts and souls of all of us. I’ve already gone ahead and purchased her two novels and I absolutely can’t wait to read more of her work.

5.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: A Candle From The Far East by Y.T. Kim

acandlefromthefareastA Candle From The Far East by Y.T. Kim

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 3rd, 2017

Publisher: Mill City Press

Pages: 114 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads

Synopsis: In his first collection of English poems, Korean writer Young-Tae Kim (Y.T. Kim) presents a remarkable anthology of work with themes ranging from political musings on an international scale to living well in an increasingly global world. Kim offers a unique blend of the modern and traditional, as overtones of the poet’s Eastern cultural roots permeate each page.

In addition to musings on present-day society, A Candle from the Far East (Poems) offers reflections on more emotional themes—such as the growth of deep and profound love, alienation of once close friendships over time, and finding purpose through spiritual growth—culminating in a beautifully rich collection of works that have universal applicability. The end result is a collection that readers will turn to time and time again and one that successfully shares wisdom and contributes to the well-being of all.

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

While I can appreciate the themes and meanings Kim tried to convey through his poetry, I personally did not get caught up in his writing. There were only a small number of poems that really resonated for me. This collection ranges from reflections on Kim’s personal life to commentary on history, modern technology, and the current state of our society and the world as a whole. Even though these are all interesting topics, there were many poems that felt less like poetry and more like reading a textbook or list of facts—this took away from the fluidity of the writing.

The poems that focused on history or his more intimate thoughts on his own experiences spoke to me the most. The history aspect, as well as the wonderful photographs that accompanied it, really caught my attention. In just small snippets of text, I felt that I learned a lot of new information I hadn’t come across before. His short reflections on his own life were the most poetic of the collection. Kim created beautiful snapshots of his view of the world around him as well as his relationships with family and friends. Again, the placement of pictures coinciding with these poems really brought his meaning to life.

As for the actual writing itself, apart from a few select instances, I found the overall flow of these poems to be quite rough and choppy. There were some attempts at rhyming that really did not come across well and ended up being a detriment to the piece. There were many occasions where I felt as if I were reading a list of facts rather than poetry, so many of the poems were quite stilted. The moments where he focused on subjects like A.I. just did not come across like poetry in my opinion, and I found myself skimming through these.

Of course, poetry is always subjective, and my personal experience is going to be unique to me. Therefore, I still encourage you to check out this collection if it appeals to you. Kim’s talent is obvious, and I’m sure his poetry will touch the lives of readers for whom the depth of the work is more easily accessible than it was for me.

2.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

milkandhoneyMilk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 4th, 2014

Publisher: Createspace

Pages: 204 pages

Source: Library

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

Milk and Honey is a collection that has me finding difficulty in pinpointing my feelings about it. I think part of this is due to the hype surrounding this collection—it didn’t quite live up to my expectations based on reviews I had seen floating about. However, it was far from disappointing at the same time, leaving me feeling a bit lukewarm about it as a whole. These poems started out very strong and immediately captivated me. Kaur’s writing style was beautiful and poignant, and she displayed quite a bit of candor throughout. I definitely felt the most connection to and impact from the opening sections.

However, the strong start did not last until the end of the work. For me, I began to like each part less and less, and this caused me to become quite detached from the poems by the end of the collection. I think this is where I began to feel a decrease in the fluidity of the writing as well—some parts came across as a bit jumbled and choppy. Though her intended message retained its power, the disjointedness was a bit off-putting. Nevertheless, I can see why Kaur’s writing has touched so many people’s lives.

These poems display a lot of bravery and boldness—they unflinchingly tackle tough yet important topics. Journeying deep into the core of humanity, Kaur delves into dark topics in a very heartfelt way. Though it fell a little bit flat for me in the end, I truly do appreciate the beauty in her words and the impact of the messages she is conveying to the reader. Overall, I would definitely recommend giving this collection a try, and see if and how it speaks to you.

3.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: The Chaos of Longing by K.Y. Robinson

thechaosoflongingThe Chaos of Longing by K.Y. Robinson

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 31st, 2016

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 118 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The Chaos of Longing is a prose and poetry collection draped in raw honesty, ache, and eroticism. The collection explores trauma, love, heartbreak, and the realizations from it all.

The book is divided into four sections. “Inception” briefly examines formative years and its effects on how one loves. “Longing” reflects on love and sexuality. “Chaos” explores toxic relationships, unrequited love, and heartache. After chaos, there is order with self-love and healing poems in “epiphany”.

Some content may be triggering.

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

I always say, poetry is extremely subjective and hard to review, as it will touch each and every reader in a completely unique way. Not every collection or poet will strike the right note with every reader, and this ended up being the case for me with these poems. This was one of those situations where I could appreciate the talent of the author, but the topics and their presentation were just not for me. However, despite my personal experience with these poems, I can easily see how they could deeply impact a reader.

These poems are brave, raw, and powerful. They are incredibly intimate and portray both human weakness and the strength that can come out in one’s most vulnerable moments. The collection as a whole is a journey from naivety, through the torment and battering that life and love can inflict on one’s heart and soul, and ending where healing begins.

Robinson paints a vivid and candid retrospective on self-image and self-discovery—she exposes the full depth of the painful, open wounds that slowly close over time. Not only does she display the torment that one may go through when they let down their defenses in favor of passion, but also the triumph of courage gained from accepting who we are and the decisions we make. Ultimately, this collection is not only her story, but also a stark and uninhibited portrait of what it is like to be human.

Even though I didn’t quite connect with this particular work and the subject matter, I still found the beauty in Robinson’s writing and delicate crafting of each poem. She clearly poured so much heart and meaning into every word, and truly bared herself and her personal emotional journey through this collection. I admire her candor and her nerve, opening herself up in this manner—and I very much believe that her writing can and will reach and impact plenty of readers.

2.5 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell

pillowthoughtsPillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 29th, 2017

Publisher: Andrew McMeel Publishing

Pages: 272 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Make a cup of tea and let yourself feel.

Pillow Thoughts is a collection of poetry and prose about heartbreak, love, and raw emotions. It is divided into sections to read when you feel you need them most.

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

Simply put, I found this collection to be absolutely beautiful. Each poem was thoughtful and moving and an absolute joy to read. It touched my life at a time when I needed it most, so I could not help falling in love with Pillow Thoughts. Peppernell’s writing flows perfectly, and her poetry paints a stunning picture of life’s ups and downs. She eloquently coveys every poem—breathes life into them—and gives them a great amount of depth. These poems are the sort that readers can truly connect with, and each person’s interpretation will be different. They reach into every corner of our hearts and remind us that it is okay for us to feel—gives us a raw and vivid portrayal of what it is to be human.

This is a collection that I believe most people will be able to connect with and find meaning in. Every piece is straightforward yet incredibly profound—very accessible for anyone, no matter who they are or where they are in life. I found comfort in these words as they told me that I am not alone, even when I’m feeling lonely in the midst of my troubles. These poems transcend their own simplicity to create a meaningful depiction of the most basic and universal experiences we face in our lives. The reader will find their own unique meaning depending on their personal lives, and take away what their soul is craving at that moment. I look forward to reading more of Peppernell’s work in the future.

5.0 TARDISes

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