June 2020 Roundup

Here we are again, another monthly roundup! I have literally just written the May 2020 Roundup, so it feels a little strange to be writing June’s directly after. However, I’m on a blog post writing roll and have a scheduled post for the first time in a couple of months so I’m just going for it. I didn’t have many choices for favourites in June, mainly because I haven’t read much. I’ve only read 9 books, although in my defence I did a lot of writing so I could get my current project finished before the July camp NaNoWriMo began.

Book 1: Islander by Patrick Barkham

Genre: nonfiction, travel writing

What I liked: the islands chosen, the unique mixture of personal experience on the islands and history/ culture of the islands, the nature and setting descriptions

What I didn’t like: I would have loved a sequel, or more islands included because I absolutely loved the style of writing

Who I would recommend it to: Anyone interested in learning more about the islands of Britain, or anyone who just likes hearing about cool, isolated places

Book 2: May Day by Josie Jaffrey

Genre: vampires, fantasy, contemporary

What I liked: the humour, all the characters especially the bisexual, badass main character, the setting of Oxford

What I didn’t like: that there’s no sequel yet. I devoured this book in one sitting and I was 100% primed for another one.

Who I would recommend it to: fans of urban fantasy, vampires and awesome, humorous writing

Book 3: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Genre: sci-fi

What I liked: Really cool, fresh concept and the world-building was good. I liked the main character and the plot twists. Also: amazing ending.

What I didn’t like: I would have enjoyed more emotional depth to the story. I felt like I was missing a connection.

Who I would recommend it to: science fiction fans, people looking to try something new

Book 4: The Peace of Wild Things and Other Poems by Wendell Berry

Genre: poetry

What I liked: there are not enough words to describe how much I adored this poetry collection. Its writing is so evocative and peaceful, I just want to move to the countryside and live in a cottage and tend to my orchard

What I didn’t like: Nothing.

Who I would recommend it to: poetry-lovers, people who don’t like poetry, anyone who asks me for a poetry recommendation, people who love nature and want to reconnect with it

Book 5: The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones

Genre: middle grade, fantasy

What I liked: the magic, the seemingly unconnected plot strands which pulled together, the richly developed characters

What I didn’t like: I don’t really have any complaints. This is not a book written for adults but I really enjoyed it.

Who I would recommend it to: People who want a good book which is a bit easier to read, kids, people who want a book to read with their family

I might not have read many books this month, but I am happy to say I have definitely read quality books. I loved every single book on this list, and I took the time to really engage with each book so maybe reading 9 books in a month isn’t so bad. There’s also the fact I keep starting books and not finishing them, which means despite reading my total books doesn’t actually go up because I don’t finish them before starting something new! Do you stick to one book at a time or have bookmarks here, there and everywhere? I’d love to hear, so comment down below or click on one of the links to check out my social media!

A Booktiful Love Review

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A Booktiful Love is a collection of poems by Tolu’ A. Akinyemi. It is described as ‘a collection of poems that deal with the entirety of human experience in its various forms.’ I received an ebook in return for an honest review, so rest assured that all the opinions expressed here are my own.

What really struck me about this book was the writer’s biography at the end- he is VERY qualified! He is: a business analyst, financial crime consultant, a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist, a personal development and career coach, a writer with 10 years experience, a mentor at several schools, a trained economist, has a Masters’ Degree, and has featured in several poetry festivals. Like… wow!

A Booktiful Love is split into several different sections with a wide variety of topics, quite random at times. For example, it starts with a poem about loo-roll scarcity, which made it very clear that this poem had been written since the start of lockdown! The poems are definitely accessible with simple and direct language.

I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about this collection of poems. The poem has some nice ideas, quite typical at times, some more interesting poems towards the end of the collection. The language can be vivid, the simplicity and directness effective for some topics. I found the more personal poems more engaging, for example when the author talked about his mother and his view on politics. Occasionally there was some rhyming, and I do love some rhyming.

The title poem, in my opinion, was not anything extraordinary although I do like the title. I do prefer more figurative and elaborate language in poetry, but that’s just personal preference and I do like that the poems say what they mean and are direct. The only poems I actively dislike where a few consecutive ones in the middle with were all named ‘Beauty and …”. They were clearly about a woman he loves, but they made me uncomfortable, particularly lines like ‘she is my prize’.

In conclusion this is an accessible collection of poems with a with a wide range of subjects and a simple, direct style, so if that is how you like your poetry or you are just getting into poetry I suggest you give it a go!

I can’t believe it’s July already! Half the year is gone which is absolutely crazy, and I’m coming to the end of my penultimate year at school. It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed because of all the time we’ve spent under lockdown, like we’re living in an alternate universe or something. Going back to school in September is definitely going to be very strange. What does the end of June mean to you? Let me know in the comments or on one of my social platforms linked below!

Sunshine and Whiskey by Lauren White Review

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Sunshine and Whiskey is a collection of poems by Lauren White. I was very kindly gifted an ebook of this book in return for an honest review, so all opinions expressed here are my own. As you might already know from previous posts, I have been reading a lot of poetry recently so I have lots of poetry books to review!

A bit about the author: Lauren White grew up in Maryland, and she is an engineer. She earned her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Maryland, College Park and her M.S. in Systems Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School. In her free time she likes trying new whiskies, writing poetry and Star Trek.

I have mixed opinions about Sunshine and Whiskey, which is split into several sections such as Summer, Lauren and Broken. That is not to say any of the poetry is bad; in fact most of the poems were simple and well-written. I really enjoyed the rhyming White used in her poems and the mood she evoked in some of the poems was wonderful, with little details that really immersed me in the scene. There were some cliche lines, but these were accompanied by some cool original imagery.

The poems were predominantly long and free form, made up of short lines. They often had really obscure words as titles which I loved, because I am obsessed with finding out new words so I really enjoyed looking up what these meant. I was less a fan of the random pop culture references such as X-men, as I tend to prefer timeless poetry, but the self confidence shown in some of the poems was very inspiring.

As for the subjects of the poems, there was a variety. My favourites were the ones White wrote about herself, so it was rather disappointing that the majority of the collection were about relationships. The poems about heartbreak just seemed to go on forever and became a bit repetitive, definitely for more mature readers because lots of them focused on someone leaving her and her lying in bed remembering them having sex and touching. None of the poems were graphic in that sense, but it just got boring when every poem was slightly different ways of describing the same thing.

In conclusion I would recommend this collection if you are interested in reading lots of poems about love, heartbreak and missing someone. The ones White writes about herself and any other topic are more engaging, however they are sadly dwarfed by the sheer volume of poems focused on unnamed partner(s).

I hope you’re all well and staying safe! I know my reviewing has been patchy recently, but I am trying to get back into the rhythm of posting regularly and I have recently got back into fiction books again which is adds a bit of variety to my reading schedule. I say schedule, I mean randomly picking up books when I walk past them and reading a few pages. Does you have a set time you read in, or do you just read randomly like me? Let me know down below using one of my platforms or comment down below 🙂

Emily Dickinson Poetry Review

Looking for poetry to read, I was surfing my library’s elibrary when Emily Dickinson’s name caught my eye. I was looking for more modern poetry, but I thought I’d give it a try and I’m so glad I did, because I have since bought a copy of ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’, the complete poems of Emily Dickinson.

This review is going to be less poetry analysis and more just me gushing about Emily Dickinson’s poetry, because I love it. She is now one of my favourite poets, and I read pretty much the entire collection over two days. I’ll start with some quick info on Emily Dickinson herself, then we’ll get into her poetry.

Emily Dickinson was an American poet born in Massachusetts in 1830. She enjoyed school, particularly botany and her love of nature is evident in her poetry. After leaving school her letters in the early 1950s show she didn’t like domestic work, and she disliked having lots of visitors. She wrote many letters over the course of her life, sending friends poetry and trying out different narrative voices. She died in 1886, and her firs poetry collection was released in 1890. If you want a VERY in-depth life story, check out this link.

The book itself is split into 3 series, and within each series are four sections: life, love, nature, time & eternity. Some of the poems are titled, some are not, and they vary in length. Her stanzas within a poem remain the same length and all her poems have a wonderful rhythm to them which makes them a joy to read. I loved the all the rhyming she used and the antiquated language which expresses truths relatable to the modern reader. Emily Dickinson did not write with an audience in mine, her poems were personal, and I think there’s a gorgeous vulnerability about them.  Emily makes frequent use of metaphors and similes and personification in order to create vivid and evocative imagery within her poems, with a mixture of light-hearted and deep topics covered. I think her writing is so beautiful and imaginative and I could read it over and over again. And I will be.

Here are a couple of poems I enjoyed, to possibly tempt you into reading Emily Dickinson’s work, and the book I have is here if you want to buy it too!

Sunset
A sloop of amber slips away
      Upon an ether sea,
And wrecks in peace a purple tar,
      The son of ecstasy.
Power
You cannot put a fire out;
       A thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a fan
      Upon the slowest night.

You cannot fold a flood
      And put it in a drawer, -
Because the winds would find it out,
      And tell your cedar floor.
Disenchantment
It dropped so low in my regard
      I heard it hit the ground,
And go to pieces on the stones
      At bottom of my mind;

Yet blamed the fate that fractured, less
      Than I reviled myself
For entertaining plated wares
      Upon my silver shelf.
A Book
There is no frigate like a book
      To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
      Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
      Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
      That bears a human soul!
A Syllable
Could mortal lip divine
      The undeveloped freight
Of a delivered syllable,
      'T would crumble with the weight

Others I loved include ‘The forgotten grave’, ‘The snow’, ‘A thunder-storm’, ‘The sea’ and many more! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and maybe found some new poetry to read. Before you go please remember to keep signing petitions and educating yourself on racism, we need to keep going even when it’s not on the news! Stay safe and I hope you’re all well.

At the Last Minute Review

At the Last Minute by Estha Weiner

Hello everyone!

I know it’s shocking, but I have finally started writing reviews again. I’m as surprised as you are, yet here we are. I have been reading A LOT of poetry recently. I don’t know why, but I was hit by a sudden craving for poetry and in the last month it’s pretty much all I’ve read. I’ve also decided to do a school project on poetry, because not only have I been reading a lot of poetry, but I also write a lot of it. All in all, there has been quite a bit of poetry.

I was very kindly sent an ebook of At the Last Minute by Estha Weiner in exchange for an honest review, so you can be assured all opinions expressed here are my own (as usual). I was sent the book in April, but due to circumstances I have only just got back into writing reviews so I thought better late than never and jumped right in!

At the Last Minute is a collection of poems published by Salmon Poetry. It is Estha Weiner’s fourth collection of poetry, and was first published in 2019. There’s about 50 poems, and they tend to be about 10-20 lines long, although there are some longer and some shorter. This combined with the uncomplicated language used makes the collection of poetry accessible to anyone who may be interested in reading some poetry. The topics covered seem quite random (am I missing something?), including love/relationships, plays and several based off or inspired by quotes.

I enjoyed the shortness of the poems, which meant that the meaning or story being told did not get lost between endless metaphors and similes. While the enjambment used throughout Weiner’s poetry is effective, I sometimes found it harder to focus on the sentiment she was trying to put across because of it. The poems were more narrative than emotional, so I didn’t particularly connect with them and I preferred the poems that were more vulnerable, for I found them more engaging. My favourite poem was ‘At 5:45 pm in The Conservatory Garden’. It was short and sweet, and the simple imagery evocative.

Overall, At the Last Minute is a nicely written collection of poetry with a couple of lovely poems, but not one of my favourites. Upon reading it a second time I didn’t find myself any more interested, but it might be more attractive to an American audience (Weiner mentions American locations several times) or perhaps someone older than myself with more life experience. I hope you’re all as well as possible, and keep signing petitions and educating yourself about racism because while the news cycles will inevitably move on, the fight is far from over. Stay safe and feel free to contact me because I love hearing from you!

April 2020 Round-Up

Hello and welcome to my April 2020 round-up! I honestly cannot believe it’s the end of April already and we are all stuck inside watching the weather through our windows. This is not how I thought 2020 was going to go, but I’m trying to make the best of the situation. I’ve been writing daily for Camp NaNoWriMo and making pom-poms like there’s no tomorrow. There is something incredibly therapeutic about winding wool round and round and round, especially while watching one of my favourite movies like Burlesque. Back to the books, I’m struggling to read as much as I did before, but I try to read a little each day, even if it is only a couple of pages. I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed, so thanks for bearing with me while my blog posts are very sporadic. I will try to get some book reviews up soon!

Top 3 novels I read in April

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What I liked about it: the unique format, the drama, the way she writes about music

What I did not like about it: Nothing that I can think of.

My favourite character: Camila. What an amazing woman.

Position in series: 1/1

Genre: Historical fiction, music

Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

What I liked about it: sassy misfit crew, aliens, lots of sarcasm, the action and excitement

What I did not like about it: my heart exploding

My favourite character: Tyler or Zila. I didn’t realise how awesome I think Tyler is until I actually considered it.

Position in series: 1/3

Genre: young adult, science fiction, fantasy

Dust by Hugh Howey

What I liked about it: an incredible conclusion to the Wool trilogy, the worldbuilding, the unravelling of the plot

What I did not like about it: DEATHS.

My favourite character: Jules. I would die for that woman. Amazing.

Position in series: 3/3

Genre: science fiction, post-apocalyptic

Poetry of the month: Wild Embers by Nikita Gill

What I liked about it: emotional and empowering

What I did not like about it: that it wasn’t longer!

My favourite poem: For Her

Genre: poetry, feminism

Special mention: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Why: this book means more to me than I can put into words. It has saved lives and reminds you that at no point are you alone. You can get through than this. There is more to life than your mental illness.

Genre: nonfiction, mental health

And that, folks, is my April in books. For a full list of everything I read in April, check out my goodreads which I try my best to keep up to date! I hope you’re all well, even if you’re feeling unmotivated like I am. Wishing you and your families all the best, and if you ever want to talk you can reach me through my contact page here, Instagram here or twitter here.

My writing: an introduction

Hello everyone!

Like a lot of readers, I am also a big fan of writing my own stuff, and I definitely want to talk about both writing and reading on my blog so I thought I’d start with an introduction before I throw you in the deep end with my ramblings.

I have two main types of writing I do: fiction and poetry.

I have always wanted to write a book, and it is one of my dreams to have a novel published. I always have loads of random ideas swirling around my head, as well as my phone notes which are full of random words and sentences which popped into my head, and when I found out about National Novel Writing Month 2019 (NaNoWriMo) I impulsively decided to start writing the YA fantasy novel that had been hanging around my head for a couple of months. I unadvisedly decided to do this the day before NaNoWriMo started, with literally just a couple of plot points, one character and a vague sense of the world. I did the young writers challenge and set my goal as 30,000 words in November, which sounds like a lot and honestly, I’m still shocked that I completed it!

NaNoWriMo is great, and I would highly recommend it if you just want to take the plunge and start writing, but you feel like something has been holding you back. For me, I basically built the world, characters and plot as I went along. This was good in some ways, since I wasn’t worrying over whether I was sticking to a non-existent plan, but definitely had some downsides since I kept (and keep) forgetting details and what I had named my characters. I set myself the goal of writing about 1000 words a day. Some days I wrote more, and some days I wrote less but it averaged out and I completed my goal. One of my main motivations was the goal count bar chart on the homepage of the NaNoWriMo website, which allowed me to track my progress in a very satisfying way. It had lots of other features as well, but I mainly focused on inputting my word count each day.

After NaNoWriMo ended I kept writing, albeit a lot less. It’s very hard to find time every day to write, especially around Christmas! In the new year I returned to sixth form college and since I have the habit of spending lots of time in the library, I started writing a bit more again. I had no idea where my first novel was going to end, but I came to realise my ideas were certainly not going to fit in one book. On Friday (January 31st) I finished my first draft, realising that my story had come to a natural conclusion in its first part. I now have a first draft of 73,000 words, so the next step will be editing. I’m going to leave it for a week to give myself a modicum of objectivity, then print it out and begin the edits. Scary. That pretty much sums up my novel’s journey so far, apart from that short interlude a few weeks ago when I had a great idea for a different novel and spent a couple of days noting it down, before forcing myself to return to the first story because I was so close to the end it would be ridiculous to stop now.

So, what about poetry? I am a big fan of poetry, especially as I’ve gotten older. My favourite type of poetry is probably haikus, mixed with spoken word poetry. My favourite poetry is either on nature, or social issues such as being LGBTQ+, feminism and diet culture. I used to write poetry whenever inspiration struck, but I wanted to get into a more regular poetry writing habit, so I now write a haiku every evening, just to keep myself going. This does mean that some of them are completely terrible and will never see the light of day. My poetry tends to be very personal, written with lots of emotions especially when I’m sad or angry.

To conclude, I like writing. Thank you for reading about my writing, and I hope it was interesting. If you have any questions or queries about writing or reading or anything feel free to email me or get in touch over social media, and I would love to hear what kind of writing other people do!