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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Mini Review: Pillow Thoughts II by Courtney Peppernell

pillowthoughtsIIPillow Thoughts II by Courtney Peppernell

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Pillow Thoughts II

Date Published: August 7th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 224 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Following the smash success of her best-selling book, Pillow Thoughts, Courtney Peppernell now returns with the follow-up sequel Pillow Thoughts II: Healing the Heart

Peppernell understands that healing is a process, and Pillow Thoughts II eloquently captures the time and experience that one goes through on their journey to peace through restoration. 

A collection of inspirational and comforting poems for anyone who is mending from a broken heart.

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

I read this a few months ago, as soon as I could get my hands on a copy, and I am still at a loss for words when it comes to describing this work. I’ll start by saying that the message of “healing the heart” rang so true all throughout these pages. It entered my life at the best possible moment—as I have been going through the mending of my own heart—and touched me incredibly deeply. She has a talent for crafting poems that are seemingly unassuming and straightforward, but that are, in actuality, extremely complex, vivid, and multi-dimensional. And the beauty of her writing lights up every line.

Each section of this collection focuses on a different type of healing, and makes for the perfect book to pick up either when in need of overall healing and positivity, or when going through a specific healing process. The range of emotion shown in these poems hits its mark time and time again, and makes this a widely accessible piece. Peppernell’s words seamlessly fill one’s soul with the comfort it is craving, as well as the healing you didn’t even know you were in need of. There is such safety and peace within these pages, a reader’s sanctuary where one can comfortably grieve and find release.

On a brief, more personal note, I discovered Courtney Peppernell’s work about a year ago and she immediately flew to the top of my favorite poets list. The messages, values, and general positivity that she puts out to the world through her words has been exceedingly impactful for me, and I truly admire her—she is an absolutely beautiful person. I want to have the strength to fully acknowledge and express who I am one day, and it is people like Courtney that, without knowing it, give me more courage. She has a way of always inspiring me both in my writing and in accepting and striving to be my true self—and this is a gift that is meaningful beyond words.

And since I honestly cannot rave enough about her work, I very highly encourage you to check out this collection, as well as Courtney’s previous poetry collections. I have reviews on both, if you’re interested! (Pillow Thoughts and The Road Between)

5.0 TARDISes

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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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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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