MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur | Review

In the style of Rupi Kaur herself, I’ll do my best to make my review of Milk and Honey simple, short, and direct. Here are five reasons why this poetry collection is remarkable:

  • PERSONAL, YET RELATABLE. It’s clear that many of these poems contain specific details from past relationships and personal experiences; however, she discusses topics and feelings that nearly everyone can connect to on some level. I was taken aback by how much I could relate with some poems because she discusses feelings and thoughts that we don’t often share with others, let alone put down on paper to be read by unfamiliar eyes.
  • RELEVANCE. The themes explored in this collection are incredibly important for everyone to be learning more about and discussing in their everyday lives. From self-worth and identity to race and feminism, these topics are ones that deserve ample time in the limelight.
  • SIMPLICITY. Many of the poems in this collection are only a handful of lines long, yet the language used is so carefully chosen that it carries a strikingly powerful weight. I made note of numerous poems that resonated with me as I read this collection for the first time, but the one poem I keep going back to contains only two lines:

    “i am a museum full of art
    but you had your eyes shut”

  • RAW EMOTION. You can feel the emotion seeping off of the pages into your hands as you read Rupi’s words. There is no question that this poetry is transcribed directly from the heart.
  • DESIGN. I’d be amiss if I didn’t at least briefly mention the gorgeous design of this book. I love everything about it: the black and white coloring, sketches sprinkled throughout the pages, and the way it seems to embrace empty space around text.

I bought a copy of Milk and Honey on a whim because I had heard a lot of great things about it. What I didn’t realize was that Rupi’s words would resonate so deeply with me and linger on in my mind long after I had read them. These poems are for anyone and everyone, regardless of whether or not you’ve read or enjoyed poetry in the past. Rupi Kaur has written poetry for human nature.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely!!

Have you read Milk and Honey? What are your thoughts on it? Have any poetry recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors of Short Stories

Happy Tuesday!! Since this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is one that I’ve already done recently, I decided to go with a bit of different twist. Today I’ll be sharing ten of my favorite authors who have written excellent short stories. I don’t read short stories very often– mostly just when I’m assigned to read them for courses– but some short stories and collections in particular have really stuck out to me over time. In no particular order, here are ten authors whose short stories are definitely worth reading:

What authors are your favorite short story writers? What are some of your favorite short stories? What do you think of the authors on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Do we prioritize “shareable” reading? | Discussion

As you can probably tell from some of my previous discussion posts, I get a lot of my inspiration from Rosianna Halse Rojas, one of my favorite Youtubers. Early in March she posted a video called “The Currency of Sharing” in which she discusses our frequent desire to share everything we do online. Even more interestingly, she talks about how sometimes we may or may not do things based on whether or not they can be shared. The example she uses is going for a walk. Normally she would use it as an excuse to take a selfie outside, showcasing that she was doing something more adventurous than her average day job; however, on this particular day she decides to take a walk simply for the sake of being outside and getting some exercise.

Her video made me think about our desire to share what we read. This desire is incredibly evident when looking at things like Goodreads and #bookstagram (and even blogs like the one you’re reading right now). Us bibliophiles are constantly sharing what we read with others through quick Twitter updates, Goodreads statuses, longer reviews, etc. I’ve been blogging and using these sites for so long that it’s hard to remember what it was like to not keep others in the loop with what I’m reading.

Sharing what we read certainly has many benefits: it helps build book-loving communities, spreads awareness of great books, and can connect people with new friends, ideas, and perspectives. However, one can’t help but wonder if it also influences and sets limitations on what we read. For example, I’ve found that it’s surprisingly difficult to share the fact that I’ve read certain short stories and poems. There’s no Goodreads entry for individual Shakespeare sonnets or short stories by Kate Chopin.

Does this stop me from reading works that aren’t novels? Do I prioritize “shareable” reading? The unfortunate answer is: yes, occasionally.

Sometimes I feel trapped by the need to write weekly book reviews for my blog, convinced that I can only write reviews of full length novels instead of particular poems and stories. Of course, there’s nothing actually stopping me from reviewing or discussing these shorter works, but something about it just feels strange. Nontraditional. Different. It’s a mindset I hope to change in the near future, starting with a greater variety of reviews and bookish discussions.

What are your thoughts on the way we share what we read? Do you prioritize “shareable” reading? Do you review shorter works like poems and stories? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please let me know what you think in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

St. Patrick’s Day {the bookish way}

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! I’m not Irish in the slightest, but I’m a firm believer that holidays are meant to be celebrated by anyone and everyone. When I was younger I always looked forward to going to school dressed in green from head to toe and seeing what the “leprechaun” would leave me in my shoes during the night.

In honor of this special occasion, I thought it would be fun to share some pretty pictures of books with green covers. Finding a decent number of green books on my bookshelves was actually more difficult than I initially expected it to be (apparently I own many more blue books than green!) but in the end I managed to round up a fair amount.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling is probably my favorite book of the entire series. I love how dark and mysterious it is as well as how much information we learn about Tom Riddle, Dumbledore, and the inner workings of Voldemort lore in general. For me, it was when the driving plot behind the series really clicked into place.

To be honest, I don’t even know why I’ve kept my copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne for this long because I really wasn’t impressed by the story in the slightest. I read it years ago but distinctly remember thinking that the story was ridiculously illogical at times. I hated the awkward, shifting pacing of the plot and the ending was disappointingly lackluster. But just look at the gorgeous green cover!

Nothing screams “SUMMER!” to me quite like The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg, which I excitedly bought at a Scholastic Book Fair when I was in third grade. I’ve reread it countless times since then, taking something new away from the story with each revisit. Back when I was ten years old it was simply a summer camp story to me; now that I’m twice that age, I tend to notice the way the narrative arcs through time in subtle patterns. And there’s no denying that Konigsburg’s witty sense of humor gets better and better with each reread.

Growth and Structure of the English Language by Otto Jespersen was the textbook I used for the Evolution of English class I took last semester. It was a tad drier than I would have liked, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more informative, concise volume. (Besides, it has such a strikingly simple design.)

I read the English translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez over the summer and unexpectedly fell in love with it. The colorful green design of this edition perfectly suits the narrative’s basis on nature, passion, and the cyclical aspect of life.

Last but not least, O Pioneers! is the second novel I’ve read by Willa Cather. I decided to read it after I felt the void of having finished Cather’s brilliant book My Ántonia. Another one of her novels is currently eyeing me from my bookshelf as I write this and I can’t wait to finally get around to reading it soon.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into my meager collection of green books. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

What are your favorite books that are green? Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

THE GIRLS by Emma Cline | Review

26893819According to my own diagnosis, The Girls by Emma Cline has suffered from a serious hype monster attack.

Coupled with an eye-catching cover that immediately draws you in, the plethora of reviews praising this novel led me to believe that it would not disappoint. The lauding BLANKS on the back cover from BLANK, BLANK, and BLANK assured me that the story within these pages would both entertain and astonish. Eager for a great reading experience, I excitedly buckled myself in for a page-turning ride.

My thoughts about The Girls can basically be summed up in three words: Slow. Anticlimactic. Underwhelming.

The first disappointment I encountered while reading this book was the slow pace of the plot. It took about one hundred pages for Evie, the fourteen-year-old protagonist, to even begin to associate with Suzanne, Russell, and the ranch. Sometimes this lengthy world-building is beneficial to the story because it can add depth to the characters; however, in this case I felt as though I still hardly knew Evie by the time a hundred pages had gone by. Sure, I knew about her mom’s dating life and her father’s girlfriend and Evie’s infatuation with her best friend Connie’s older brother. Yet it was difficult to really discern anything about Evie herself after wading through a sea of complaints, ridiculous beauty tips, and her efforts to try to appear older and more mature in front of everyone she came across. Perhaps the mind-boggling shallowness of Evie’s character was deliberate, a way to show her naivety as a young teenager. If that is the case, then I think she should have undergone more character development throughout the novel instead of remaining disappointingly the same. By the end of the novel it appeared as though Evie had hardly changed after the events at the ranch, apart from the obvious physical and sexual abuse she experiences.

One of the most frustrating parts of the novel was the ending due to the fact that Evie wasn’t even involved with any of the climactic events. The ending felt incredibly unattached and distant from the rest of the story, almost as though it was the topic of an entirely separate novel. This is where the second part of my three-word description comes into play: the ending was simply anticlimactic, failing to make me gasp in surprise or stare at the page in shocked bewilderment. The final events could mostly be predicted early on in the novel, leaving me feeling like I was missing an additional layer to the story. I couldn’t help thinking that there should have been more, that there had to have been more because this wasn’t the exciting and page-turning book that I had been promised.

This leads me to the third word I would use to describe this novel: underwhelming. The combination of an anticlimactic ending, an underdeveloped protagonist, and a painfully slow pace is undoubtedly a recipe for a disappointing story. Though I likely would have still felt disappointed had I not possessed such high expectations beforehand, the immense amount of hype surrounding The Girls certainly did not do the novel any favors.

For me, perhaps the only redeeming aspect of The Girls is Emma Cline’s ability to get into the heads of both the perpetrator and the victims of the abuse. Leaving one’s normal life behind to follow a dangerous, toxic man like Russell around is not a logical decision; however, Cline effectively shows the reader how Russell deliberately manipulates these girls into staying with him on the ranch. He takes advantage of their insecurities and doubts and reassures them that his way of life is the solution to their problems. He makes them feel wanted in a way that Evie certainly doesn’t feel with her mom or dad, making living at the ranch look like an improvement from regular life back home. This twisted way of thinking helps the reader understand why Evie returns to the ranch time and time again as though drawn to it by a sort of emotional magnetic force.

Despite my rather scathing remarks about The Girls, I really do believe that it had the potential to be a great novel if only it had been executed better. The remedy seems twofold: adding more depth and a faster pace, thereby creating a story that is both exciting and thought-provoking at the same time. Unfortunately, Emma Cline has missed the mark with this novel.

My Rating: :0) :0) 2 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Probably not, unless they were looking for a book about this specific topic.

Have you ever read this book before? What are your thoughts on it? Did you find it disappointing or did you agree with the positive buzz surrounding it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring 2017 TBR

Happy Tuesday!! The Broke and the Bookish are back with their weekly Top Ten Tuesday themes, and this week’s topic is a particularly timely one: the Top Ten Books on Your Spring TBR! The snow has just about melted completely where I live, allowing the grass beneath to soak in some much-needed sunshine and warmer air. As winter gradually gives way to spring, it’s time to start thinking about the exciting books we’d like to read this season. Though I likely won’t have an abundance of free time to read until after this semester is over in May, I’m still looking forward to getting a lot of reading done over spring break (AKA this week!). In no particular order, here are ten books that I would love to read soon:

 

 

What books are you hoping to read this spring? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

How Do You Prevent Blogging Burnout? | Discussion

wilberry-15A few months ago Rosianna Halse Rojas created a video called Knowing When To Stop in which she discusses the feeling of not knowing when to stop working and striving to be as productive as possible. As someone who has been thought of as an “overachiever” throughout her entire life, she explains how challenging it can be to hold yourself back from constantly being in overdrive. This inner source of motivation is certainly valuable in terms of work ethic and accomplishing goals; however, there is danger in not knowing when to stop and give yourself a break.

I relate to this video on a personal level in my everyday life so much that it almost feels as though Rosianna has peered through a tiny window into my mind. As a perfectionist, I’m constantly in competition with myself to do more and be better, but eventually this becomes too big a burden to bear. The pressure I place on myself to be as productive as possible and meet my impossibly high standards can be overwhelming at times. There’s this feeling of needing to always live up to incredibly high expectations lest someone expose one’s true identity: that of a normal, average, flawed human being. It’s a vicious cycle that can never be won, for no matter how hard we try it’s obvious that we can never escape the reality that no one is flawless. Still, that truth clearly doesn’t keep us from trying.

It’s no surprise that this mindset has trickled into my blogging life as well. For a while I endeavored to post every single day, which ultimately made blogging feel more like a chore than simply a fun hobby. However, like Rosianna I had a hard time admitting and acknowledging to myself that it was time to scale back and reassess my goals to make them more realistic.

Finding a schedule that works for me (around three posts a week) has been incredibly helpful in reeling in my do-it-all tendencies. Not only does limiting my posts each week ensure that what I’m posting is actually quality content (or at least better than it would be if I was rushing to create seven posts each week), but it also prevents me from developing the dreaded blogger burnout. In high school when I had more time to blog I would frequently feel as though I needed to take breaks or a hiatus and return when blogging no longer felt like a chore. Fortunately, the way my life is now structured in college forces me to step away from blogging each semester due to a lack of free time. As a result, I enter each vacation period feeling refreshed and ready to blog because I haven’t been able to dedicate any significant time to it in months.

Rosianna’s video really resonated with me as it likely does with many other people as well. It’s an important discussion to have, not only with others but also with ourselves. Recognizing and accepting when we need to step back and take some time to relax is a valuable step towards feeling less stressed, more creative, and happier overall.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you also struggle with knowing when to take a break? What are your tips for setting goals that are both challenging and realistic? Have any recommendations of other videos or books about this topic? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh | Review

13581132The brilliance of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s novel The Language of Flowers lies in its countless conflicting qualities: it is both heart-warming and heart-breaking, uplifting and sorrowful, fast-paced and meticulously developed, based on harsh reality and idealized fiction. Though clearly a best-case-scenario for a child raised in the foster care system, this novel nevertheless contains the unfortunate and horrible truth of what children like Victoria, the protagonist, experience every day. Such a thoughtful balance of grit and glamour permeates The Language of Flowers, creating a remarkable book that I couldn’t help but fly through in just over a single day.

From the first page I was immediately struck with how beauty and fluidity of Diffenbaugh’s writing style. Not only is she an excellent writer, but it soon became clear that she is also a skillful storyteller in the way that she weaves numerous threads together into one cohesive narrative. I loved the alternating perspectives of Victoria as a child and as an adult. Though this duality can seem unnecessary in some novels, it is an integral and essential element of this multilayered story. Not only does it add depth to the plot, but it also helps the reader understand why Victoria behaves the way she does as an adult. Without the knowledge of her childhood, I probably would have disliked Victoria because I wouldn’t have been able to understand where she was coming from and how her mind worked.

In this way, Victoria herself is another contrasting duality: she is endless frustrating to both the reader and the rest of the characters in the novel, yet I couldn’t help but hope that everything would work out for her. Though her intentions were good and she did the best she could given her circumstances, the trauma of growing up in foster care and group homes made it difficult for her to fully open up to and trust other people. More than anything Victoria is a remarkably human character: she is flawed and fickle and fascinating in ways that we can all relate to at some level.

Though the narrative’s focus is primarily on Victoria, many of the other characters also experience significant growth and development as well. We come to understand the meaning behind the solitude of Elizabeth, Grant, and Renata, all of whom have separated themselves from other in some capacity for various reasons. It is through the stories of these characters’ pasts that Victoria realizes that she is not the only one who as so-called inner demons that she hides from everyone around her. I particularly enjoyed learning more about Grant’s past growing up with Elizabeth’s sister, Catherine. His alternative perspective to Victoria’s childhood was very valuable in deciphering what was true and what may have been exaggerated through her nostalgic lens of memory.

What I find remarkable about The Language of Flower is that the plot is as richly developed and nuanced as the characters. The back-and-forth nature of Victoria’s two perspectives prevents the pacing of the book from dragging, as does the plethora of unexpected plot twists that occur in both time frames. Though some reveals were ultimately predictable, the road that Victoria took to get there was always a surprise. It’s rare to find a book whose characters and plot line are equally engrossing, yet Diffenbaugh has somehow managed to execute this seamlessly.

However, compared with the tumultuous plot of the rest of the novel the ending felt too put together and perfectly wrapped up, almost as though the author forced all of the loose ends into a perfectly shaped bow. The ending lacked the nuanced, bittersweet depth that had characterized the story up until that point, leaving me with an anticlimactic taste in my mouth.

Of course, I couldn’t write a review of this book without mentioning the significance of the title. The language of flowers itself is like an added bonus to this already excellent novel. The Victorian meanings associated with various flowers are woven into the story in clever and unexpected ways, contributing not only to the plot but to the expression of the characters’ personalities and feelings as well. The incorporation of these meanings never feels forced; Victoria’s intense passion for the language of flowers feels like enough to justify the mention of any and all plants. There is also a glossary in the back of the book that contains these meanings, which was fun to peruse afterwards. (I learned that the meaning of “holly” is “foresight,” which is strangely applicable to my personality in general because I tend to focus on making plans and being prepared.)

Overall, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers is a unique novel of unlikely pairs of opposites, human nature, and lots of flowers. Whether you’re interested in reading more about foster children, florists, family dynamics, or friendship, this is an absolute must read.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Definitely! The reason read this book in the first place was because someone I work with recommended it to me, and I cannot wait to pass along the glowing recommendation to someone else!

Have you ever read this novel before? What are your thoughts on it? Would you recommend any of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s other books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read in a Weekend

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Happy Tuesday!! This week is another Top Ten Tuesday freebie, so I’ve decided to share a list of books that I’ve been looking forward to making for quite some time: Ten Books I’ve Read in a Weekend. Some of these books I read over the course of a single weekend because they were very short; however, some of them were just too good to put down for long!

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What great books have you flown through in a single weekend? What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

The Dreaded Bookish Mind Blank | Discussion

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I have a bookish dilemma, my friends.

I think about books a lot. In any given moment, chances are that I’ve either thought about reading or will be thinking about reading within five or ten minutes. I’m a bookworm through and through.

However, I’ve noticed that I often experience what I’m going to call “bookish mind blanks.” Whenever I walk into a bookstore, it’s as if I’ve forgotten every book on my TBR that I would have liked to purchased. Similarly, the titles of all of the books I’ve ever loved and enjoyed suddenly vacate my brain whenever someone asks me for a recommendation. It’s kind of like writer’s block or blanking out when taking an exam. For some reason, my mind just cannot get hold of any of my bibliophile knowledge.

In short: when called upon, my bookishness often fails me.

Does anyone else experience these weird blanks? Do you struggle to give recommendations on the spot because you can’t think of certain book titles or authors? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY