I read a book: Musical Tables, by Billy Collins

I picked up this book because of the cow on the chair and the color scheme of the cover art. The muted green adds to the serenity of the cow seated with its legs tucked beneath its body, looking comfortable like a cat in loaf mode. Billy Collins is a familiar name to me, but I hate to admit that it is only the barest familiarity.

“Whenever I pick up a new book of poems, I flip through the pages looking for small ones. Just as I might have trust in an abstract painter more if I knew he or she could draw a credible chicken, I have faith in poets who can go short.”

Billy Collins

I admit I do the same when I pick up a book of poetry at a bookstore. I flip and read a couple of the shorter poems, and if they make me feel things, the book comes home with me. This method rarely fails me and I have loved nearly every book chosen in this way.

Unfortunately I don’t think the short form works so well as a complete collection. Most of these poems are a couple lines long, mere quips rather than fully formed thoughts. Some are amusing and made me crack a grin. Others are more heavy hitting. Some of my favorites are Headstones, The Code of the West, Teenager, A Small Hotel, Jazz Man, Divorce, and Carpe Diem.

No more heavy ball,
just the sound
of the dragged chain
with every other step.

Divorce

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This wasn’t my favorite, but there are some real standouts that make it a worthwhile read. Billy Collins is a former United States Poet Laureate and prolific writer and I don’t believe this is representative of his work, so I will be reading more to get a better feel for him. If you like short form poetry that isn’t haiku nor limerick, you’ll enjoy this.

Big thanks to Billy Collins, Random House Publishing Group, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Musical Tables on Amazon and begin reading it on November 15, 2022.

Monthly roundup – October 2022

Spooktober was filled with mostly great reads. I read horror year round, so this month wasn’t really different except that I hosted two Book Lovers Cafe group reads because my first choice didn’t win. My insistence on exposing the masses to extreme horror (and doing 31 days of horror movies) did get in the way of my usual schedule, so I didn’t get to everything I had planned. However, I did get to a bunch that have been on my tbr for a while (and they were amazing!) so I consider it a win.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
A Soul to Keep, by Opal Reyne
Full Brutal, by Kristopher Triana
The Troop, by Nick Cutter
Gyo, by Junji Ito
The Girl on the Glider, by Brian Keene

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Tooth Fairy, by Davide Tarsitano
The Haunting of Ashburn House, by Darcy Coates
Lil’ Bastard, by Matt Shaw
The People Look Like Flowers at Last, by Charles Bukowski
Morning Glory Milking Farm, by C.M. Nascosta

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Against the Lockers, by Aiden E. Messner
Jokes to Offend Men, by Allison Kelley, etc
When the Dark Spoke to Me, by Christabelle Marbun
Heartstopper Vol 4, by Alice Oseman

The rest kinda sucked. Two were Halloween themed monster romances that are actually pretty well liked on Goodreads. They just didn’t do it for me. One was straight up bad. Honestly don’t even remember how I came across the Hucow stuff. I don’t think I’ll do that again. And the last one was Little Women, but with vampire references woven in. I was not impressed.

Pictured but not rated: Island of the Dead, by Brian Keene. This is not actually a book, it is a Kindle Vella series. The story was interesting, but I kinda hate the serial format.

All of my four and five star reads have been on my tbr for a while and all were amazing. Several of those authors were already on my insta-buy list and now the rest are as well. Beyond that, the only one I’m interested in reading again is Messner. I feel like they’re gonna be one of those writers who just gets better. Time will tell.

On the agenda for November? One book club read (thriller), two Cool Ghouls books, the backlog of loaners from my enabler, the next Duskwalker Bride book, and hopefully several from my NetGalley shelf. I have a few Thanksgiving themed horror books and movies to share. Holiday baking. Dragonflight! Lots of fun stuff coming up.

I read a book: The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On, by Franny Choi

If the title sounds familiar, that’s because the titular poem of those collection was published in Poetry Magazine December 2019 issue. That said, I was not familiar with Franny Choi’s poetry before picking up this book. I chose it based on the title alone because I think that the idea of constantly feeling like the world is ending but then carrying on is something we can all relate to. It felt like words I’d spoken myself. My kiddo likes to ask me how it feels to live through big life changing events every time something happens (another school shooting, pandemic, war, racial injustice and protests, political attacks on basic human rights for marginalized people) and I always tell her that the world has been ending my entire life. I was her age when the shooting in Columbine happened, a little older for 9/11, and there’s a different outbreak every other year. Certain lawmakers and special interest groups have been working hard at erasing social progress for years. How do you know so much about such and such, she’ll ask. And I’ll respond, because it’s not a new fight.

Every once in a while I read a book that makes me want to go back and read every word the author has ever written. This is one such book. I don’t usually read collections of poetry in order, or even in full, but this one is something else. Choi covers a lot of hard hitting themes in ways that don’t make you feel like you’ve read these poems before. Lots of people write about things like war and race and social justice, but not everyone gets it right. There’s also the idea of where one fits in and togetherness strung throughout. Who are we? Who am I?

Lord, I confess I want the clarity of catastrophe but
not the catastrophe.
Like everyone else, I want a storm I can dance in.
I want an excuse to change my life

Catastrophe is Next to Godliness

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. Poetry can be difficult to rate because it doesn’t follow the same structural and grammatical rules as novels. There is no plot to follow, no twists to surprise you. So I rate poetry based on how I feel when I’m finished and how often I find myself thinking about it during and going forward. Topics are both relatable and timely. I truly enjoyed this collection.

Big thanks to Franny Choi, Ecco, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Book The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On directly from the publisher, or on Amazon in multiple formats and begin reading it on November 1, 2022.

I read a book: When the Dark Spoke to Me, by Christabelle Marbun

I went into this book completely unaware of the background of this author. She’s young. In fact, she is a well established child actor in Indonesia. And at 18 years old, this isn’t even her first published collection of poetry. Here I am pushing 40 struggling to keep up with my review schedule and this person has a couple books and over 100 movies under her belt. So says the blurb on her newest book’s Amazon page, though a quick google search does not confirm that claim. Still, even one movie and a pile of poetry is an accomplishment for anyone. Good for her!

When the Dark Spoke to Me begins with a trigger warning. This book contains themes of Death and suicidal ideation, reader discretion advised. As a person who often thinks about death and suicide, this was appreciated. Sometimes you just don’t want to deal with those themes and that’s okay.

Sometimes though, I’m feeling numb and want to feel something, so I read stuff that may break my heart. Sometimes I want that.

Unfortunately this is not what I was hoping. I read reviews that said it reads like it was written by someone wise behind their years, but I’m not seeing it. It reads very much like it was written by a teenager, because it was. Reading this reminded me of reading my old Livejournal posts. Cringe city. There’s a whole section addressed to Death, referring to Death as her first love that reminds me of being a teenager and exploring darker themes while learning to cope with depression.

There are also glimmers of…something. She is asking questions and writing her way to the answers she seeks. There’s one called The Gifted Kid Burnout that sets the stage for the rest of the collection. You can tell she is trying so hard not to burn out while processing her trauma at the same time.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. It’s not bad. I think younger readers in the same stage of their lives as the author would find this collection more relatable.

Big thanks to Christabelle Marbun, Andrews McMeel Publishing, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can buy When the Dark Spoke to Me, by Christabelle Marbun on Amazon in multiple formats beginning October 11.

Monthly roundup – September 2022

September reads. So many good ones, it’s hard to pick favorites…but I will anyway! Uzumaki, Future Skinny, The Obituaries, and Motherthing were soooooo good. Highly recommend them to lovers of all things weird and creepy. Also super excited that the author of one of my September favorites, Peter Rosch, shared my post to his insta story. I write my reviews mostly because it helps me remember the books better, and I like to share the ones I loved. I know most of the time I’m the only one reading my full posts. But I get a little thrill when an author I like takes notice, even if it’s something as minor as a like on my post. Shout out to Peter Rosch, both for his fan interaction and his mad storytelling skills. Anyway, here’s a breakdown of my September reads.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Uzumaki, by Junji Ito
The Obituaries Issue #1, by Aron Beauregard, Kristopher Triana, and Daniel J. Volpe

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Future Skinny, by Peter Rosch
Motherthing, by Ainslie Hogarth
Flor’s Fiasco, by Ruby Dixon
The Alien’s Mail-Order Bride, by Ruby Dixon
Heartstopper Vol. 2, by Alice Oseman
Like Me, by Hayley Phelan
Thinking About it Only Makes it Worse, by David Mitchell
The Way Back Home, by Courtney Peppernell
The Magpie Coffin, by Wile E. Young
The Creeper, by A.M. Shine
The Librarian and the Orc, by Finley Fenn
Heartstopper Vol. 3, by Alice Oseman
Unknowing, I Sink, by Timothy G. Huguenin

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Everything else. Well, most of them.

A couple of those ratings are spoilers for reviews I haven’t finished yet. I got distracted for a couple days, then sick for a couple more, and I fell way behind my self imposed review schedule. I may not meet the deadlines I laid out, but I’ll make an effort to catch up before the end of the month. This is the busiest month for my NetGalley queue.

So you may notice that some of my favorites were not top rated. I have to say that most of my 4 star ratings are actually pretty close to 5 stars, but I am sometimes a bit judicious with my stars. Sometimes less so. I mean, splatterpunk and orc porn aren’t exactly highbrow literature, but they make me happy. I guess what I’m saying is take my star ratings with a grain of salt. A 4 today might be a 3 or 5 tomorrow, but I’m not going to go changing my posted ratings every time I think about it. What you get is my initial reaction. Pretty much all of the books on my collage were pretty great. You should read them.

On the agenda for October? Six horror ARCs, one poetry ARC, two book club reads, two more Cool Ghouls books. A deeper dive into the monster romance genre. It’s about to get weirder ’round these parts.

I read a book: What Flies Want, by Emily Perez

There are certain things I look for when browsing NetGalley. First and foremost, I look for books I want to read. I mostly request horror and poetry because those are two genres that I am always in the mood to read. And I do judge books by their covers. Authors should not underestimate the value of great cover art. Something that I don’t necessarily look for but always catches my attention is Latino authors, particularly if they write about border life and bicultural life experience because that is something to which I can relate. And she grew up in my neck of the woods. Naturally I requested Emily Perez’s Iowa Poetry Prize winning book, What Flies Want.

Perez tackles a lot of familiar issues in her way, but it’s not hitting the mark. Perhaps I am desensitized to some of those shared experiences. The formatting made it somewhat difficult to read. Every poem is stylistically different. Some read like rants, others like run-on sentences that leave me breathless. The whole collection seems disjointed.

But there are some that stand out, like How I Learned to Be a Girl. It’s not even really the poem that stands out, it’s the feelings that it evokes. I think of the time I told an ex that he frightened me. He laughed at me, declaring that it couldn’t possibly be true, but he backed off. We learn to tiptoe around the landmines.

If the beast is unpredictable you must traverse
in postures of submission. Easier to crawl
with your face down toward the earth, nape
exposed, expecting to be struck, which may draw
cold contempt, at best compassion. Fragility may
inspire a desire to protect. I learned young to dance
those careful steps around the unexploded mines
where ground was not yet gutted.

How I Learned to Be a Girl

Then there are poems like Yes, All Women which expresses sentiments of which most women are familiar. The reader knows what it’s about despite the vagueness of the words. Maybe that’s intentional. It’s that thing we all understand but haven’t really talked openly about until recently. #MeToo, anyone?

My favorite is probably Correccion/Correction. I found I could relate to this one more than any others in the book. My mother is German and my father is Mexican American. They also chose names for us that sound good in multiple languages, though fortunately they did not decide to call us by middle names. I can’t imagine my life as Irene! I feel like I have probably spent more of my life in the RGV though, so while my experience does not match the author’s, I do understand what she was saying.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars for me. It’s certainly not bad, but I’m not seeing the groundbreaking revelations that other reviews claim are there. This is the type of poetry that makes me feel like maybe my reading comprehension skills aren’t quite as sharp as I think they are.

Big thanks to Emily Perez, University Of Iowa Press, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book wasn’t for me, but it might be for you! Check it out. You can buy What Flies Want, by Emily Perez on Amazon and other major booksellers.

I read a book: Little Astronaut, by J. Hope Stein

I have had this ARC for longer than I care to admit. I’d read a couple disappointing books of poetry and decided to put this one aside a while. Now that I’m reading it, I wish I had dug in sooner.

This is a collection of poetry about the experience of being a new mother. Generally I don’t like to read motherhood themed books because of my own complicated feelings and experiences. In a lot of ways, this is a collection of more of the same old thing. New mom doesn’t get enough sleep. Motherhood becomes identity. Partner has different expectations of parenthood. Strangers bombard you with unsolicited advice. Breastfeeding.

The space theme gives it a fresh feel. There are space metaphors sprinkled throughout that sort of tie the whole thing together. Yes, it’s a new mom venting about the usual new mom experiences. Some of the poems blend together, a result of their sameness. There is some repetition, but it flows from one space metaphor to another on the inertia from the strong prologue and titular poem.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. A more sentimental person would probably rate it higher, but like I said, I have complicated feelings on the subject matter. This was a good read though.

Big thanks to J. Hope Stein, Andrews McMeel Publishing, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Little Astronaut on Amazon and read it beginning on September 20, 2022. And according to the author’s website, there’s a little something extra in it for you if you pre-order! I love when authors do things like that.

I read a book: Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe, by Wayne David Hubbard

I spent some time browsing the poetry section of NetGalley on my break this morning. I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I admit I am more likely to click a title with interesting titles and cover art. Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe, by Wayne David Hubbard has both of these elements.

While the description is a bit vague, the poetry itself is not. Hubbard employs elements of modern poetry that I enjoy; poems are short and straight to the point without a ton of flowery language. While it does not tell you directly how you’re supposed to feel, it is written in accessible language without obscure references.

Proof of Life had me laughing unexpectedly. I found myself rereading it and smiling to myself. It reminded me of the conversational poetry of Justin Grimbol in a way. I really like Justin Grimbol. This poem was the only one reminiscent of Grimbol though.

Despite its wordy title and having been completed over the course of 10 years, this book clocks in at a slight 68 pages. Don’t confuse brevity with value though. There are some real gems in this small volume. This verse from In a Time Lapse 2 is one of my favorites.

A solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. Big thanks to Wayne David Hubbard, Atmosphere Press, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Death Throes of the Broken Clockwork Universe on Amazon and read it beginning on October 8, 2022.

Monthly roundup – August 2022

August reads. So many good ones this past month, I can’t pick a favorite. I am pretty partial to the Murderbot Diaries series though. 22 total, my least favorite two not pictured because only 20 fit in the grid template.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Dad Jokes, by Justin Hunter
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
The First Day of Spring, by Nancy Tucker
Artificial Conditions (The Murderbot Diaries #2), by Martha Wells
Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3), by Martha Wells
Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4), by Martha Wells
These Alien Skies (Black Stars #4), by C.T. Rwizi
Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries #5), by Martha Wells

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Left to You, by Daniel J. Volpe
The Lady and the Orc (Orc Sworn #1), by Finley Fenn
Or Else, by Joe Hart
We Travel the Spaceways (Black Stars #6), by Victor LaValle
Heartstopper: Volume 1, by Alice Oseman
Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries #6), by Martha Wells
The Heiress and the Orc (Orc Sworn #2), by Finley Fenn
Hidden Pictures, by Jason Rekulak

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Everything else in the collage.

Let me start by saying that some of my favorite reads this month won’t have wide appeal. Dad Jokes was short and not particularly well written, but it was a wild ride that had me laughing and WTFing, typical of the bizarro genre that I love so much. Full review incoming. Left to You was dark, combining the real world horror of the holocaust with fictional extreme horror elements. I’ll think of Josef every time I shit my guts out. Thanks for that, Daniel J. Volpe. Read my full review here. And the Orc Sworn series, well, orc smut. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me. ‘Nuff said.

I can’t say enough about The Murderbot Diaries, so I won’t say much. I loved the whole series. I have a little crush on Murderbot. Not sure what that says about me.

Two titles not pictured were ⭐️⭐️ reads for me. I didn’t call them out on the ‘gram or Book Lovers Cafe, but I did rate them on Goodreads and I will list them here. The first ⭐️⭐️ was The Vital Function of Constant Narrative, by Marlys West. This was an ARC provided by NetGalley. You can read my complete review here. The second was 2043…a Merman I Should Turn to Be (Black Stars #3), by Nisi Shawl. I am only now learning that this was based on a Jimi Hendrix song. Most of the stories in the Black Stars series left me wanting more of the story and more from the author. This one just left me wanting.

On the agenda for September? More orcs. One Book Lovers Cafe book club read. Two Cool Ghouls Book Club reads. The Obituaries. Heartstopper 2. Hunger Games 2. Maybe I’ll make a dent in the ever growing TBR. Maybe I’ll even complete some more of my review drafts. I’ve got lots of them in the works.

I read a book: The Vital Function of Constant Narrative, by Marlys West

The Vital Function of Constant Narrative, by Marlys West is marketed as both memoir and poetry. I love poetry and I love memoirs, and a crossover of the two genres is something I haven’t seen before.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel like this was executed particularly well. I was bored a quarter of the way through. I know it’s a bit harsh to say that the story of someone’s life is boring, but it didn’t feel like a memoir.

And it barely felt like poetry. This is coming from a person who reads and enjoys a lot of bad poetry. Here’s the thing. Poetry is emotion. I don’t care about the technical aspects of poetry if it doesn’t make me feel things.

This collection isn’t bad, but it is largely forgettable. It’s the type of book an academic library adds to the collection because the author is faculty.

I usually try to share some passages that touched me, but nothing really stood out. Every page is like the title of this book, unnecessarily verbose without leading to a point. It’s the kind of poetry that makes me feel like I’m missing something. Or like maybe I’m not smart enough to get it. That puts me off reading more of this author’s work.

⭐️⭐️ for me. I’m sure there’s an audience for this, but it’s not me. Big thanks to NetGalley & V Press LC, Independent Book Publishers for the ARC.

I didn’t love it, but you might! You can buy The Vital Function of Constant Narrative on Amazon, BN, or Indie Bookstore.