Review: Sea of Doubt by Jeremy D. Holden

seaofdoubtSea of Doubt: The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Jeremy D. Holden

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Mal Thomas Mystery Series

Date Published: October 2nd, 2016

Publisher: Clean Publishing

Pages: 252 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: After leaving behind a brilliant, but emotionally exhausting career in advertising, Mal Thomas wants nothing more than to enjoy the peace and serenity of the home he and his wife share in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. That serenity is interrupted when, seemingly out of nowhere, Mal gets a call that pulls him back into his old world, and on a path to undertaking an extraordinary assignment: Alfredo Baptiste, the world’s most powerful and mysterious industrialist wants Mal to promote the alleged second coming of the Messiah.  

As Mal and his team of cynical “Mad” men and women confront their own doubts about the validity of Baptiste’s seemingly ridiculous claim that his adopted son Sebastian is this new Messiah, they can’t resist the challenge, and find themselves thrust into a world of greed and revenge.

In a fast moving and often sardonic narrative that crisscrosses New York, North Carolina, Miami, and Buenos Aires, Sea of Doubt has its roots in our endless obsession with fame and pop-culture. As Mal’s team develops an unstoppable global campaign, a worldwide media feeding frenzy ensues, causing people to set aside all logic and reason, leading to tragic consequences.

Baptiste’s motivation is ultimately revealed in a twisted and unexpected ending as parallel worlds and a seismic conspiracy explode in an ending that will make you wonder how you didn’t see it coming earlier.

Sea of Doubt provides a window into human nature and media driven mass persuasion, forcing us to look at consequences of the choices we make. You will laugh out loud at the absurdity of the challenges that Mal and his team find themselves confronted with, while at the same time being forced to examine the role we all play in enabling the media to shape our thinking, and dictate our lives.

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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 had some hesitations going into this novel, as I was not sure it was quite the type of story that would really interest me. The idea of looking at advertising from a psychological perspective very much piqued my curiosity—I find it fascinating to see how certain media tactics are designed to affect us all both individually and as a society. On the other side of things, I am not typically a huge fan of novels that delve too deeply into the topic of religion, and I didn’t know what to expect in that area. It’s not that I am disinterested and much more that I feel religion is a very private subject, so I hoped it would not put me off.

However, I absolutely could not have predicted how much I would end up truly enjoying this novel. The synopsis does not even begin to cover all the unique aspects of this engrossing and fast-paced narrative. And with an incredibly unexpected twist in the final chapters, even though it felt a bit rushed into the plot, I was kept on the edge of my seat all the way through.

In this novel, we follow Mal Thomas—a retired advertising agent who gets roped back in to work on his craziest assignment yet. He is called in to collaborate with his former advertising company, CREATIF, by one of the world’s most powerful men, Alfredo Baptiste. Baptiste claims that his adopted son, Sebastian, is the Messiah, and requests Mal and his former CREATIF team’s help in introducing this topic to the world. Despite his personal doubts, Mal is taken by Baptiste’s sincerity and agrees to assist him, but not all is as it seems. Some people’s true motives are not clear, and this entire process leads to shocking and devastating consequences that no one saw coming.

Following a short initial hook, the novel starts out at a bit of a slow pace as Holden introduces us to the main characters and their backstories. This could have easily made it a bit harder to get into, but I felt he did a good job of not only carefully constructing and acquainting us with the characters, but also of immediately bringing them to life. And very briefly, after the introduction of the main plot line, the speed ramps up exponentially.

We are quickly swept up into the life of Mal Thomas and his colleagues as they tackle this controversial and seemingly impossible task of convincing the world that the second coming of the Messiah is indeed happening. Figuring out the psychology of marketing something as stunning as this is going to be the biggest challenge they have ever faced. Not only do they have to contend with the resistance and backlash that is sure to come from the public, they have to wrestle with their own personal doubts and skepticism.

I really enjoyed this peek at the behind-the-scenes workings of mass media and advertising, and the planning that goes into campaigns that are effective on the public. We get to see the sort of power these images have over all of us—whether we realize it or not—as well as the underlying purposes that these promotions and movements can have. As shown here in this story, there are both good and bad intentions floating around in this aspect of society. Sometimes, these movements can spark wonderful things, bringing people together as a community. At other times however, there are darker schemes at work, many times revolving around greed.

The best part of this novel, by far, are the characters—Holden does an absolutely brilliant job of creating interesting, three-dimensional characters that carry the story to new levels. As I mentioned before, he takes a good amount of time crafting the personalities and backstories of every single person, not allowing any of them to come across as insignificant or not fully fleshed out. And Mal is the most fantastic narrator—one of my new favorites. He is humorous, intelligent, and kind-hearted, such an easy character to fall in love with. Reading from his perspective is a joy.

As for the writing itself, I found Holden’s work to be very easy to fall into, and it flowed nicely from beginning to end. His talent in every aspect of storytelling is abundantly clear, as well as his background knowledge of advertising and the persuasiveness of media. He manages to produce an entertaining and at many times hilarious narrative, while also inserting information and serious circumstances that are very relevant in today’s world.

It is a quick and extremely fun read, while also having quite a surprising amount of depth to it. The only real complaint that I had was that there was far more telling than showing, which was not a huge detriment, but definitely slowed down the pace just a bit.

Overall, I am so glad that I took the chance and decided to give this book a try—it ended up being even better than I had hoped. Though it wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was certainly a page-turner, and one of the most unique plotlines I’ve come across recently. Skillfully plotted and unraveled at a fitting pace, Mal Thomas and his quirky personality will captivate readers from page one. I enjoyed experiencing all the twists and turns this story took, as well as spending time with some of my new favorite literary characters. I’ve already gone on and read the sequel, and I am looking forward to talking about that one soon as well.

4.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Vertigo: Of Love & Letting Go by Analog De Leon

vertigoVertigo: Of Love & Letting Go by Analog De Leon

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 21st, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 176 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In this modern epic poem, poet Analog de Leon (Chris Purifoy) offers an empowering message to anyone who has loved, lost, or yearned for freedom. 

Inspired by the life of Syrian Saint Simeon Stylites, a 4th-century Monk who lived for many years on a small platform atop a pillar, Vertigo encourages introspection, contemplation, and self-love.

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

I was intrigued by the description of this work when I first discovered it, but I also was not quite sure what to expect from it going in. The whole concept of a modern epic poem sounded very unique, and I was eager to see what a present day take on this classic form of literature would be like. I assumed I might end up being sort of skeptical and critical given not only my general pickiness when it comes to poetry, but also because of the unconventional nature of this particular work. However, I ended up enjoying every aspect of this far more than I could have anticipated—it definitely exceeded my expectations.

As this is an epic poem, it is all one connected story rather than a collection of individual poems. Because of this style, it is broken up into small, simple sections of text, punctuated by beautiful and surreal illustrations that work to enhance the overall atmosphere the poem gives off. Everything comes together to radiate the enormity of the world of human emotion, as well as the vast expanse of universe itself compared to us as humans. Each little piece is quite straightforward, and they slowly build on each other to create the journey of the narrator as he acknowledges the pain of loss and the great power of love. As a whole, there is so much depth and positivity to be found within the full message that this work conveys. Personally, the strength in the text and the accompanying imagery really made quite an impact on me.

One other extremely interesting and unique aspect of this poem is the online media that can be viewed in connection with it. The book provides links to a website that takes you on a virtual tour through the same emotions and message that the actual text does. With animations in the style of the illustrations in the poem and atmospheric music to listen to as you read, this becomes a very distinctive reading experience. Overall, this is the type of modern poetry that I have come to love—poetry that uses fairly simple and easily accessible language to express much deeper emotions and cause significant personal introspection. Everyone will have a truly personal journey with this poem.

4.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Cheer Up, Jay Ritchie by Jay Ritchie

cheerupjayritchieCheer Up, Jay Ritchie by Jay Ritchie

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 10th, 2017

Publisher: Coach House Books

Pages: 96 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: “Charming, funny, and often elegant. This is a formidable collection.” —Ben Fama 

With an alternating sense of wonder and detachment, Jay Ritchie’s first full-length collection of poetry grapples with death, disappointment, love, alienation, and emails—the large and small subjects of daily life. His unflagging sense of humor and aphoristic delivery create a work that is personable yet elevated, witty, and honest.

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

I’ve been reviewing a lot of poetry recently, so I will start off with my usual disclaimer—poetry is an incredibly personal experience that is unique to each reader, and it is extremely hard to review. What works for someone might not for another, and unfortunately, I happen to fall in the latter category for this particular collection. And from what I’ve been seeing, I have the less common feelings about this work, though I do believe that this is one of those very hit or miss type situations. Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely see the poetic talent of Ritchie, however, his choppy and random writing style did not flow very well with me.

To be honest—and this is a little embarrassing to admit—I had a hard and sometimes impossible time actually understanding just what Ritchie was writing about. His poems were somehow simultaneously humorous and fun to read, but also unintelligible. They were well written and interesting for what they were, but I failed to find much meaning in any of them, therefore making it very hard for me to connect with this collection. Again, this is just my personal experience with Ritchie’s poetry—it will not be the same as everyone’s, and my view on it may have been affected by many factors, including my mindset while reading it. It was a very quick read and, as always, I recommend giving it a go and experiencing his work for yourself.

1.0 TARDIS

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Top 10 Tuesday – December 12th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is your top ten favorite books of 2017. Though I’ve definitely been struggling quite a bit with many things (mainly health-wise) through the course of this year and I haven’t been posting as much as I would like to, I’m fairly pleased with how much I actually ended up reading (64 books, hopefully 70 or so by the end of the month!). I have also had the opportunity to meet and work with some absolutely amazing authors this year, which has been a complete joy!

I’ve had quite a wide range of ratings—however, there are a few books that really stood out and stuck with me. These books, as well as their authors, have certainly become new favorites of mine!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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For the most part, this list is in no particular order. However, I have to admit that this was definitely my absolute favorite read of the entire year! I can’t believe it has taken me so long to get around to reading this book. Victoria Schwab is already one of my favorite authors, and after only one book of this series, I am already completely obsessed. It’s filled with amazingly vivid worlds, expertly portrayed characters, an incredibly interesting magic system, and such a fun and captivating storyline. I can’t wait to read the rest of these books!

Click here to check out my full review!

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

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Sarah Jean Horwitz definitely makes it onto my list of new favorite authors! This is Sarah’s debut novel—the first in a series—and it was one of the most lovely and enchanting books I’ve ever read. It had this wonderful nostalgic feel to it, as it reminded me of the types of stories I grew up reading. This is the story of a young boy and a one-winged fairy who team up to save the fae realm and the city of Skemantis from a mad scientist. Mixing together magic, mystery, and steampunk-type technology means that this books was meant for me! I would recommend this modern fairytale to readers of absolutely any age—there is so much enjoyment to be found in it!

Click here to check out my full review!

Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell

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Courtney Peppernell is another new favorite author of mine, and someone who I was lucky enough to have the chance to work with a few months back! She is a beautiful writer and an equally beautiful person. I read both of her poetry collections (Pillow Thoughts and The Road Between) and absolutely adored them. Her work is stunning and her poetry touched me in so many ways—it brought me some light during a very dark time. She has such talent not only in writing, but in packing so much depth and meaning into her words. I’m just about to start one of her full novels and I am really looking forward to it!

Click here to check out my full review! Click here to read Courtney’s guest post!

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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The second I saw this novel for the first time, I purchased a copy immediately. This book was so beautifully written and crafted. I love anything that feels like a modern fairytale, and this definitely fits that category. It is an extremely unique take on fantasy and alternate worlds, dealing with how visitors to these worlds acclimate to reality once they return. It is a unique and haunting tale that I fell in love with right from the start.

Click here to check out my full review!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

downamongthesticksandbones

This is the sequel (or technically the prequel) to Every Heart a Doorway, and I loved this novel even more! It addresses the lives of two characters from the first novel and their experiences in the other world they ended up in. The world was so dark and intriguing, vividly created, and I was completely wrapped up in this story from start to finish. I also loved getting to know these characters a bit better, and learning about where they came from. Another incredible read!

Click here to check out my full review!

Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles by J.M. Sullivan

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Retellings are some of my favorite types of novels to read, and Alice in Wonderland retellings have a particularly fond place in my heart. So of course, when I discovered this novel earlier in the year, I knew I had to give it a read. I was then presented with the opportunity to meet and work with the wonderful J.M. Sullivan, which made the whole experience even more amazing! I’ve loved getting to know her, and it was so interesting to learn about her writing process and the conception of this novel. Another new favorite book and new favorite author added to the list!

Click here to check out my full review! Click here to read J.M.’s guest post!

Paper Wishes by Spencer Hoshino

paperwishes

Paper Wishes is a novel that I am so incredibly glad I took a chance on! Those of you who have been around here for a while know that my reading tastes lean more toward sci-fi and fantasy rather than contemporary/contemporary romance. But when Spencer contacted me over the summer, she really hooked me, and I knew I had to check this story out—and I ended up loving it! It was such a fun, light, and enjoyable read, absolutely perfect for the summer. It is one of those novels that just fills you with so much positive energy and puts a smile on your face. That’s another incredibly talented writer added to my favorites list, as well as a wonderful new (Whovian) friend in my life!

Click here to check out my full review! Click here to read Spencer’s guest post!

Lost Boy by Christina Henry

lostboys

I discovered Christina Henry’s novels through my wonderful friend Heather from The Sassy Book Geek, and I’ve been completely obsessed with her work ever since! As we already know, I’m a huge fan of retellings in general, but I particularly love dark retellings—and oh boy, are her novels dark. This one focuses on the story of Peter Pan, except from Captain Hook’s (Jamie’s) perspective, taking place much earlier than the tale we all know. I read this as a buddy read with Heather, and I would highly, highly recommend this one!

Full review to come! Click here to check out Heather’s review!

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

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This was such an enjoyable, action-packed, and fast-paced read that was a perfect start to my reading year. I also read the second book in this trilogy as well and absolutely loved it. This novel follows an incredibly strong and intelligent young woman as she goes on the run from corrupt law enforcement agents, all while trying to prove her innocence in a crime she didn’t commit. It is such an easy story to get sucked into, and each chapter will leave you wanting more.

Click here to check out my full review!

Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid

pretendwearelovely

When I started out on this novel, I had absolutely no idea I would end up loving it as much as I did. This is one of those books that pulls you in quite slowly, but by the end, you find yourself heavily invested and interested in the lives of all the characters. It was also a story that grew on me the more I thought about it after I had finished. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking tale of a family of four’s mutual and individual journeys to find themselves, where they belong in the world, and how they fit together.

Click here to check out my full review!

What were some of the best books you read in 2017? Did you find any new favorite authors? Let me know in the comments!

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Currently Reading Tag

currentlyreadingtag

Wow! It has been ages since I last did a book tag and I’ve been missing them so much! I love getting this more personal experience of chatting with all of you wonderful bookish people! 😀 ❤

I’ve been pushing out a lot of reviews lately, but I promise I’ll be mixing it up with these more casual, chatty posts from now on! And boy, do I have a lot of tags to catch up on! Like this one, which I found through the lovely Zezee from Zezee with Books! So let’s jump right in!

How many books do you usually read at once?

I used to be a stickler about not picking up another book until I was completely finished with the one I was currently reading, but that’s gone completely out the window at this point! Typically, I try not to read more than two or three books at once, but now that I’ve discovered the joy of audiobooks, that can sometimes raise the count to four or more! My younger self is cringing… 😛

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If you’re reading more than one book at a time, how do you decide when to switch to reading the other book? (Do you read a certain amount of pages in each?)

Usually I either set a chapter goal for the day in each book or spend a day on one then the next day on another, etc. In some (thankfully) rare situations, if I’m struggling through a book that I’m not really liking, I’ll take breaks when I need to and pick up something else just so I don’t fall into a slump.

Do you ever switch bookmarks while you’re part way through a book?

No, I don’t think I’ve actually ever done that before. It’s possible that I have if I happened to lose the bookmark I was using, but I can’t remember it if I did! Though I do have the world’s worst memory (ahem…another reason I shouldn’t be reading more than one book at a time)!

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Where do you keep the book you’re currently reading?

I keep it next to me on top of the stack of TBR books that are currently functioning as a nightstand…Yeah, I may or may not be having a little bit of a space problem…

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What time of day do you spend the most time reading?

I primarily read in the afternoon or early evening depending on the day. Sometimes I’ll read in bed right before I go to sleep, but that tends to end up being a very unproductive reading session! 😛

How long do you typically read for in one go?

That’s a tough one to answer because it varies so much depending on the day, the book, my mood, etc. I’d say on average I try to read in at least two hour chunks, but back in my younger years, I have been known to go on for 8+ hours! I’d love to have that kind of laser focus now—would definitely help to cut down my massive TBR pile!

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Do you read hard covers with the dust jacket on or off?

Definitely with the dust jacket off. First of all, it’s more comfortable to hold the book without it. And second, that dust jacket must not be ruined! It must stay safely out of harm’s way until that book is finished!

Which position do you mainly use to read?

I like to move around my position and, if possible, my location, if I’m spending a lot of time reading. My most typical positions would be sitting on my floor, in bed either leaning back or lying on my stomach, and—at times—lying strangely on my back…

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Do you take the book you’re currently reading with you everywhere you go?

Absolutely! I never leave home without a book or my kindle. You never know when you’re going to get a chance to read!

How often do you update your progress in the book you’re currently reading on Goodreads?

I typically try to update it after every reading session. However, I can occasionally forget to do that for days.

I Tag:

Heather @ The Sassy Book Geek

Anna @ My Bookish Dream

The Orang-utan Librarian

Richard @ The Humpo Show

Emma @ The Terror of Knowing

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And I’m going to tag a few of my most recent followers! Welcome to the blog, you guys, and thank you so much for following! ❤

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Cassie @ Rants and Raves of a Bibliophile

Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Joie @ Rainy Days and Lattes

Marina @ A Makeshift Library

My Library and Other Mischief

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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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