This Day is Ready For You (Book Reviews)

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I recently read The Day Is Ready for You by Alison Malee. This delightful collection of poetry is fresh, sharp and fiery. Emotion sings from every page. Sometimes they are angry, at others singing a tender love song. Sometimes full of everyday life and then they soar into possibility. Sometimes all in the same poem.

Most of the poems’ subjects focus on relationships: all the highs and lows and newness and mundane. Others have to do with being a woman or how life seems from her perspective. She has a definite rhythm and voice that distills life in a perspicacious manner all her own.

Get this book, poetry people! Get it if you don’t think you’re a poetry person. I highly recommend it.

*I received an e-copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest and fair review.

Engineering A Life (Book Reviews)

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As you head off to work or to your home office this Monday morning, you may feel the need of some motivation. The following is a short book review of a highly inspirational true story. 

Krishan Bedi is someone I admire. He came, as a young man, to the Southern U.S. during the early 1960s with the purpose of obtaining a degree in engineering. He had little money, didn’t speak English very well, and had no experience with American culture or the American educational system.

In short, he took a huge risk to leave everything and everyone familiar behind and live an adventure. Because that’s what it was. He had a very courageous, impulsive and fun-loving spirit, which, I’m sure, helped him to face and overcome the numerous challenges that presented themselves. Sudden disaster, foolish decisions, and working menial jobs to earn enough to survive kept his life quite interesting in the early years.

But even finding a measure of success doesn’t mean that circumstances stay at an even keel the rest of one’s life. He faced hardship and unanticipated difficulties, but he kept going, kept trying, kept looking for the next step, for a better path. You will laugh at some of the hilarious situations he finds himself in, you will gasp at some of the unwise decisions he makes, you will share in his grief as he goes through loss and disaster, and you will cheer when he comes through it.

The book is called Engineering a Life: A Memoir by Krishan K. Bedi. I highly recommend this one. First, as a book to motivate and inspire you. Second, to see life through the eyes of another.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Mystery and Poetry, Two Constant Companions

Since my seventh birthday, I have pretty much been addicted to mysteries. My mom’s friends, Pat and Judy, gave me a couple of Nancy Drew mysteries that year and my mind was opened to the scary, thrilling, who-done-it genre and I’ve never looked back. Sure, I’ve read some disappointing ones full of boring characters or convoluted plots that made me yawn, but, overall, I’ve found mysteries to be soothing and reassuring that no matter what is wrong in the world, by the end of the book, the odd little detective will have solved it and I can go to sleep confident that right triumphs.

I received Louise Penny’s latest book, Glass Houses, as a birthday gift this past year and I just finished it on Sunday. Her series is a little bit cozy, but only on the edges. It has all the depth of a novel, because she goes deep with her characters and most of them carry on from book to book. If you haven’t read her books yet, this is the year to give them a try. Three Pines is an imaginary village outside of Montreal, full of lovable, quirky people that you will want to read more about. No matter what evil they come up against, the townspeople live their unique lives and pull together when they’re needed. This story has to do with a hooded figure showing up in Three Pines, the drug trade in Montreal, and, of course, a murder. That’s all I’m saying. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think.

The other genre I’ve always kept close to me is poetry. I’ve got a poetry book or two going at all times…and so should you. Poetry is for everyone. If you don’t think so, maybe you need to keep looking. Mary Oliver, anyone? I just finished reading (again) Everything Is Waiting for You by David Whyte. Do you ever get days where life seems too much? Where emotions are overwhelming and tears break out for the smallest reason? Maybe it’s my Italian blood, or because I’m an HSP/ INFJ, or because I’ve been through lots of change in my life the past few years, but this happens often. On those days, I read poetry. Something elegant, simple and deep that speaks to the heart of sadness, the edge of elation, down to the bottom and all the way to the top of the emotional gamut. Thank you, David Whyte for breaking open your soul and writing down what spills out. I suggest you, dear reader, get one of his poetry collections and let it sink in. You need it, I’m telling you.

So, what are some of your favorite genres? What are you reading right now?

Educated, (Book Review)

When I started reading Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover, I was expecting a story about a homeschooler–an unschooled, perhaps. Within a few pages I realized my error; this was no homeschooling family she belonged to.

Tara was born into and raised in a very dysfunctional and dangerous environment within a large family ruled by fear of their mentally ill father. As she described her experiences out in the wilderness of Utah, her and other family members’ scrapes with death, how her father treated them, and how she perceived these experiences, I just shook my head. This was her normal.

She was indoctrinated to think anything else was “of the devil” or “worldly”, due to her father’s mix of Mormonism and mental illness. I kept wanting her mother to stand up to him, but she rarely did. I cheered when Tara finally escaped in her late teens to attend college, and couldn’t believe it each time she returned to her family home over and over again. Her education outside of her home life, over time, had enough of an effect that she came to view life, religion and the meaning of family differently, but I don’t know if any education could ever erase the effect of those deep roots of shame, guilt, neglect, abuse that she suffered.

I am thankful Tara was able to share her story with the world, that she could find enough courage within herself to walk away from everything she knew and start again. If you haven’t already, you will hear a lot about Educated this year. I suggest you pick up a copy and read it for yourself.

* I was given a free e-copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are completely my own.

Song of a Captive Bird (Book Review)

When I requested this book, Song of a Captive Bird, by Jasmin Darznik, from NetGalley, I knew I’d be in for a reading adventure. I know nothing about Iranian poets, past or present, and not much about Iranian history or culture. Because this was about a poet from Iran, Forugh Farrokhzad, who was also a woman drew me to it–that and the title. The book read a bit like a movie, opening with a mysterious and violent scene that became clear as the story continued and the cultural traditions and expectations were explained.

As it takes place in the fifties and sixties, in a land very far away and different from my own, there was much to be discovered about the way people lived and thought about life in general, and about women, in particular. Forugh suffered at the hands of men–her father, her husband, her lovers, and a male-dominated publishing industry. Her suffering marked her, but her resilience and independent spirit shaped her into who she became. Again and again she defies cultural expectations and pioneers a path for herself and women after her with the words she writes, her work in film, and the way she lives. The poetry that is woven into the chapters is exquisite; I savored the lines and felt closer to the woman whose story was being told.

In addition to learning a bit about Iranian women struggling to become respected and independent during that time period, I learned something of the struggle for Iranians to own their oil and of the violent political turmoil of those days. To me, Forugh is a symbol of progress, of the artistic voice that speaks in every culture and time period, and of every woman working toward being respected and heard with equality.

Reading this book stirred up a desire to read Iranian poetry, of which I am unfamiliar. If you’re like me and know little to nothing about Iranian history and culture, and particularly, Iranian poetry, then I recommend you read this story and start your own journey of discovery.

*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

Everything Happens For A Reason (Book Review)

I just finished reading Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, a memoir of her life before and with incurable Stage IV colon cancer. If you’re like me and tend to shy away from books about terminal illness, you might think it will be a dark, depressing, hopeless tale that will leave you in tears and in a blue mood for a week.

This book isn’t like that. Kate is smart, funny, and endearingly honest with how she faces this illness day by day. She has a young son and a husband whom she loves and doesn’t want to leave. There is no way to ignore her sense of grief as she lives with the fact she is dying, but she is no Debbie Downer. Her narrative goes along with her emotions and thoughts in a way that is tender and raw and completely relatable. She feels sadness, anger, and despair, but also joy, gratitude and hope.

Throughout, she expresses her thoughts on Christianity, particularly the prosperity message and how it does not serve people who face terminal illness or catastrophic events of any kind. By relating not only her experience, but those of many others who have gone through the loss of loved ones or who are ill themselves, she shows how this message does a lot more harm than good. Although she remains a believer, how she thinks about God and Divine interaction does go through an evolution as she attempts to make sense of her circumstances.

What stands out to me, aside from the fact that the book is interlaced with references to the Christian prosperity gospel, which I am very familiar with, is how well she brings the reader so close to herself and her story. You will feel like a trusted friend who is allowed to hear her unedited version of what it’s really like to be her as she makes this journey. Kate Bowler has given the world a gift with this book. I walked away thankful for even the tough things in my life and with a determination to not waste a moment of it. I highly recommend that you read this book for yourself.

* I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Shortie Book Review

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I went out on a limb and read a book outside my comfort zone: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. The reason it’s not the type of fiction I would usually pick up is that the story starts with a child’s death. Although I haven’t yet taken Anne Bogel’s reader personality quiz, I have a feeling I read fiction to escape. And hopefully to escape into a world that differs from my own–adventure, danger, foreign countries, suspense, bravery, etc.

This book began with the worst thing any parent could imagine: experiencing the death of a child, so I expected if it started from an extremely low point, it had to get better. To her credit, Ng writes in a graceful, fluid style that is easy to read and soothing to a lover of words. The story is basically about one family’s dysfunction and the heart-heavy path each one takes as they find a way to keep on living after their daughter and sister’s death. I didn’t really relish being the observer of their grief process. I never enjoy sad books, especially if they’re fiction, because I become too emotionally involved in their fictional lives. It takes a toll on me and I feel like everyday life does that already.

Anyway, if you like sad stories with a glimmer of hope at the end, this one might be for you. If you aren’t great at handling dark and oppressive family dramas, then skip this one.