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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Mini Review: A Beautiful Composition of Broken by r.h. Sin

abeautifulcompositionofbrokenA Beautiful Composition of Broken by r.h. Sin

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: July 25th, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 480 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: r.h. Sin, bestselling author of the Whiskey, Words & a Shovel series, returns with a collection of poetry and prose meant to remind the wounded that they are, in fact, beautiful in a way society may never comprehend.

A Beautiful Composition of Broken is inspired by some of the events expressed artistically by Samantha King in the bestseller Born to Love, Cursed to Feel. It serves as a poetic documentary of the lives of people who have been mistreated, misunderstood, and wrongfully labeled in a way that limits them in this world. The author’s most personal volume yet, A Beautiful Composition of Broken builds a conceptual bridge between r.h. Sin’s earliest work and his forthcoming series, Planting Gardens in Graves.

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

I am so conflicted over this collection of poetry. Having enjoyed the previous two collections of r.h. Sin’s work that I’ve read, I really wanted to love this one. And at first, I was once again pulled in by his words. Unfortunately, my expectations were a bit too high, and I ended up feeling very disappointed by this collection as a whole. The quality writing that I have come to expect from Sin is definitely there, but the power and impact of his words is severely lacking.

The biggest issue that I have with this compilation is how incredibly repetitive it is. At the very beginning, the poems are deceptively unique. They are extremely reminiscent of his previous works, but not so much that they are completely uninteresting to read. However, it quickly goes downhill, as each poem begins to feel like the last—variations of the same exact story. Nothing is inherently bad about the poems themselves—they are still well-written—but the ideas and themes in them repeat to the point of monotony.

This collection feels very much like it is made up of cookie cutter poetry instead of many distinct pieces that come together to form a unified work. Everything ties together, but this is due to the fact that each piece comes across like it is the same exact poem articulated in a different way. It sucks out all of the emotion in the message he is trying to convey through his words, and things begin to feel forced. The poems start feeling cheesy rather than meaningful, and they take on an unappealing hollowness.

There are still plenty of redeemable qualities about r.h. Sin’s poetry, particularly the general beauty of his words. With his talent, I feel as though he could easily do so much better than this. If he varied his topics, even staying within the theme of love, betrayal, and eventual empowerment, this would have been a much more interesting and impactful reading experience. This has caused me to lose some enthusiasm about reading Sin’s work, but I will still be giving some of his other collections a try.

3.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Rest in the Mourning by r.h. Sin

33275462Rest in the Mourning by r.h. Sin

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: December 6th, 2016

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 128 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The calm before and after the storm. Rest in the Mourning is a steady and profound stream of conscious thoughts and emotion. Documenting unhealthy relationships and why the heart ends up in the hands of those deemed unworthy. It speaks to the heart’s ability to hold on to relationships that no longer deserve our energy as well as what happens when we are ready to let go. Rest in the Mourning is about self-care and self-love.

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This is the second collection of Sin’s poetry that I’ve read and, like Algedonic, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It is formatted in the ever more prevalent style of writing very short poems or simple phrases rather than longer, multiple stanza poetry that most people are used to. It is a particularly tricky style to write well, as that type of poetry can come across as disjointed or shallow more easily than longer poems. However, when it is done well, it can be surprisingly powerful and touching. Though it did not captivate me in the way that Algedonic did, I still had a rather positive experience with Rest in the Mourning.

I have spoken in my other review about r.h. Sin’s talent for writing, and that shines through once again in this collection. His main focus is on the strength of women, but this still makes for a universally relatable read due to his beautiful writing and depiction of the common highs and lows of life. Sin knows how to simplify what can be very complex emotions, and the message he conveys is that of affirmation and strength. Just like the first experience I had with his work, I felt that he did a nice job of focusing on every human’s power to heal themselves in the midst or aftermath of hardship.

However, this collection, compared to his last, was not very unique. Every poem focuses either on women—or, less frequently, on himself—finding their true worth, and removing themselves from toxic relationships. There is nothing inherently wrong with the topic, but I feel that there needs to be some sort of variation, however small. You can still connect your topics together in some way to give the collection as a whole one theme, but I found none of that here. So while the way he worded things was beautiful, overall, every poem felt a little repetitive. I am still interested in reading more of his work, so I definitely will continue to do so.

3.5 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Smoke & Mirrors by Michael Faudet

smokeandmirrorsSmoke & Mirrors by Michael Faudet

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 14th, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 240 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Smoke & Mirrors is the third book from internationally bestselling poet Michael Faudet, author of Bitter Sweet Love and Dirty Pretty Things—both finalists in the 2016 and 2015 Goodreads Readers Choice Awards.

Michael Faudet’s latest book takes the reader on an emotionally charged journey, exploring the joys of falling madly in love and the melancholy world of the brokenhearted. Beautifully captured in poetry, prose, and short stories, Faudet’s whimsical and sometimes erotic writing has captured the hearts and minds of thousands of readers from around the world.

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

Smoke & Mirrors was just one of those collections that did not click with me. The quality of writing and the messages being conveyed were not completely lost on me. The poems were generally comprehendible, and I was able to immerse myself in the work enough to get through to the end—but that was about it. At times, Faudet’s style was quite off-putting, and that caused a massive disconnect for me and blocked out any important ideas and themes. I found nothing really stood out, nothing touched me or had the impact that the author clearly intended his writing to have.

This collection as a whole does not seem like it would be easily accessible to a wide variety of readers. To me, these poems were not very poetic. The poems that had more of that proclaimed “whimsy” to them were the ones that I enjoyed the most. There were displays of love, heartbreak, happiness, and loss. These poems spoke to me—they were subjects I could connect to—and he phrased these topics in a beautiful way. Through the very beginning of this collected work, I felt much more engaged.

But then, many of the other poems in the next two thirds or so seemed very rough and graphic, taking away any lyrical aspects of the writing. Part way through the collection, the subject matter shifts abruptly into much more mature topics, which in itself is not an issue at all—poetry deals with all sorts of topics, from basic emotions to the more intimate aspects of life. The trouble I had was with the way he worded these things. I just found myself feeling uncomfortable, sometimes verging on disgusted. Again though, this is my personal opinion—definitely not a reflection of how everything comes across to every reader.

I read many positive reviews of Faudet’s work prior to picking this collection up, and I can see how his subject matter and use of language would appeal to some people. His subject matter and voice are, like most poets, very singular and attract different types of readers. This particularly came across as a very niche style—the way he portrays his thoughts and feelings is very unique and very direct. However, his writing was just not for me, and I don’t think I will be picking up any of his other collections in the future.

2.5 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Songs With Our Eyes Closed by Tyler Kent White

songswithoureyesclosedSongs With Our Eyes Closed by Tyler Kent White

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: January 30th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 192 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A collection of Tyler Kent White’s powerful poems about love, loss, depression, and resilience. “Never apologize for burning too brightly, or for collapsing into yourself every night. That is how galaxies are made.” – Tyler Kent White

Many of the poems included here are short and uplifting, with messages such as “be yourself,” “you are beautiful,” and “this too shall pass.” They combine the appeal of short, shareable poems with inspiration and encouragement. Also included are some of White’s lengthier, prose-poetic pieces, which address his childhood, his relationship with his father, and past romantic relationships, among other things. Whatever the form, White takes inspiration from the everyday, writing about abstract topics like love, loss, depression, and resilience using concrete, relatable details and scenes.

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

I found this poetry collection to be beautiful and extremely well written. Songs With Our Eyes Closed is another example of a recently very popular style of writing—short but impactful poetry and prose. This is a format where a positive outcome is hard to accomplish, and it is definitely not a format that suites the tastes of all readers nor the abilities and voices of all poets. And it’s very true that this type of writing can easily come across as shallow, random, and repetitive. However, I find that this can also be an incredibly powerful and meaningful way to convey many emotions—that was definitely the case for this particular collection.

White’s writing is full of both beauty and sincerity. Even the shortest poems always feel that they were given an equal amount of time. effort, and detail, and did not lack the emotional depth and maturity of longer poems. He shows a great deal of candor as well as creativity, mixing human emotions with vivid and artistic imagery taken from our world and the universe we live in.

White packs this collection with plenty of affirmations, calling us to look at ourselves in a different and more loving way. The language and topics themselves are easily accessible for anyone, whether they are poetry lovers or not—it could also serve as a fantastic introduction into the world of poetry for a first time reader.

As always, poetry is hard to review as it is such a personal experience, and what I took away from this collection is not what everyone is going to take away. However, this is a very well-written work that skillfully captures truly human emotions that each and every one of us has felt or will feel at some point in our lives, ranging from the joy of love to the pain of loss. His words really spoke to me and related so well to where I am in my life and what I have been feeling, whether those words were reflecting my emotions or pushing me into a more positive mindset.

It is very touching and brimming with honesty and earnestness—never feeling rushed or lacking complexity, even in the most straightforward phrases. White has a very lyrical style that flows effortlessly from line to line and is very pleasant to read. I would highly recommend giving this collection a try.

5.0 TARDISes

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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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