WHITE TEETH by Zadie Smith | Review

“Zadie Smith’s dazzling first novel plays out its bounding, vibrant course in a Jamaican hair salon in North London, an Indian restaurant in Leicester Square, an Irish poolroom turned immigrant café, a liberal public school, a sleek science institute. A winning debut in every respect, White Teeth marks the arrival of a wondrously talented writer who takes on the big themes —faith, race, gender, history, and culture— and triumphs.” {Goodreads}

Zadie Smith is one of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read for ages but just never got around to doing so…. until White Teeth popped up on this term’s required reading list. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. How often is it that a personal and academic TBR line up?! (I mean, mine tend to line up pretty frequently, but this was a special scenario.) I purposely decided to put this novel towards the end of my reading list as motivation to get through the rest as quickly as possible. (Do I motivate myself to read certain books by rewarding myself with the chance to read other books? Indeed.)

I was honestly shocked when I read Smith’s short bio in the back of the book and learned that White Teeth was her debut novel. I once read a review that described this novel as “Dickensian” in scope and grandeur, and to be honest that is probably the most accurate description I could offer. There is a sprawling cast of characters from a diverse array of countries, backgrounds, socioeconomic classes, religions, and generations. Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on all of the characters, Smith introduces entirely new families and groups of people into the mix. These characters are not introduced simply as a way to further the plot; rather, they bring out different sides of pre-existing characters as well as more depth in the story itself.

White Teeth explores countless fascinating topics that are relevant in our society today as well as in their earlier context of the novel. Fate or free will, the end of the world, experiments on animals, the role of women in society, dualities, how we view the past in the present, the concept of multiple truths– the list goes on and on and on. It’s incredible how much Smith was able to pack into these 448 pages and still have it be a coherent, cohesive novel in which all the pieces come together at the very end. It helps that Smith’s writing and storytelling abilities are remarkable, as shown in her ability to reveal that seemingly simple and obvious ideas are actually fascinatingly multifaceted:

“If religion is the opiate of the people, tradition is an even more sinister analgesic, simply because it rarely appears sinister. If religion is a tight band, a throbbing vein, and a needle, tradition is a far homelier concoction: poppy seeds ground into tea; a sweet cocoa drink laced with cocaine; the kind of thing your grandmother might have made.”

Unfortunately, the ending was the weakest point of the novel in my eyes. I was expecting an epic convergence of all of the characters culminating in some sort of jaw-dropping reveal; instead, there was a confusing jumble of events that I still don’t really understand fully. Part of me wonders if that is precisely the point: life is messy and doesn’t really make sense or live up to one’s expectations all of the time. But does that really make a lackluster conclusion to an otherwise fantastic novel worth it? Not really.

Overall, White Teeth has made me an avid Zadie Smith fan who is incredibly eager to read more of her work. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel (despite its rather disappointing ending) and I look forward to reading much more of her writing in the future. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who hasn’t read Zadie Smith before!

What are your thoughts on White Teeth? Which Zadie Smith novel should I read next? Do you have a favorite? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Feminist Fridays: GIRL UP by Laura Bates

Last week’s Feminist Friday featured five nonfiction feminist reads that I’d like to read in 2018. Fortunately, I’ve already been able to check one off the list: Girl Up by Laura Bates. I hadn’t intended for this to be the first nonfiction read of the new year, but I saw a copy of it in a bookstore a few weeks ago and couldn’t help being drawn in by the colorful, fun, creative design. Time to share my thoughts!

+ Covers countless topics. Social media. Body image. Self-esteem. Protesting. Harassment and abuse. Sex. Education. Careers. Confidence. Gender stereotypes. Sexism. History of feminism movement and inspirational women. Feminism today. The list goes on and on and on, yet somehow Girl Up never feels as though it is rushing through one topic to get to another; rather, every subject is given plenty of time in the spotlight. Bates also does an excellent job of connecting all of these concepts by referring to them in multiple chapters and in different contexts.

+ Educational, but not preachy. One of my biggest pet peeves is when books turn from fun and informational to preachy and almost condescending in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, Girl Up has a balanced blend of direct facts, Bates’ personal anecdotes, and experiences from other women that she includes as supportive evidence for her arguments. Reading this book feels like having a conversation with a friend who genuinely cares about your well-being– what more can you ask from a book?

+ Bates’ hilarious personality shines through. All I thought after finishing this book was: Where can I get my hands on more of Laura Bates’ writing? Her voice here comes across as authentic, genuine, honest, and incredibly passionate about everything she discusses in this book. I may have even started laughing out loud to myself as I read this in bed…

+ SO FUN. From colorful graphics and snarky comebacks to ideas of what to send someone when they text you an unwanted photo, Girl Up is definitely a book that will make you smile.

The only drawback of this book for me is its intended audience. Although it may advertise itself as a book geared towards teens and college students alike, much of the information and context of the book suggests a younger audience (maybe 15-16 years old?). Despite this disparity, I believe that readers of all ages can still take away something valuable and empowering from this book. 

I would absolutely recommend Laura Bates’ Girl Up to anyone and everyone, especially those who identify as women or who would like to know more about feminism in general. It’s important to have as many people as possible in our conversations about gender inequality, so the more the merrier!

What are your thoughts on Girl Up? Have any recommendations for other feminist reads? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

 

 

THE SUN AND HER FLOWERS by Rupi Kaur | Review

Recently I read this Guardian article by Priya Khaira-Hanks that speaks about the controversy surrounding Rupi Kaur as an “instapoet” who has supposedly lowered the bar when it comes to the quality of publishable poetry. Kaur’s poetic style is often parodied with the intended implication being that anyone could write such simple, mundane lines. Despite this criticism, Khaira-Hanks asserts that Kaur presents an important and underrepresented voice in our modern world of poetry, saying at the end of the article:

As a young woman of colour in a world where white, male delectations are treated as the definitive barometer of taste, Kaur speaks a truth that the literary establishment is unlikely to understand. Even the most sincere critique of her work can slide from healthy debate into vicious attack at the turn of a page. But to read Kaur’s success as an omen of the death of poetry would be to unfairly dismiss writing that contains bravery, beauty and wisdom. Frankly, the literary world is saturated with white male voices of dubious quality. Kaur’s poetry should be given the same freedom to be flawed.

After reading Kaur’s second published poetry collection titled The Sun and Her Flowers, I’m inclined to agree with the Guardian article. Kaur’s poems are not perfect, yet I believe that is precisely the point: they are not perfect and neither are those who read them. I admire Kaur’s poetry not because it demonstrates a mastery of poetic form or follows conventional poetic traditional; rather, I keep returning to her words because they’re true. Genuine. Raw. Honest. Real.

Kaur once gave a TEDtalk called “I’m Taking My Body Back” in which she discussed how she began writing poetry as a means of survival in the tumultuous aftermath of abuse. Listening to her speak about her trauma adds another layer of depth and emotion to her work. Suddenly those short, seemingly simple snippets of verse (“what is stronger / than the human heart / which shatters over and over / and still lives”) take on greater meaning and significance in the context of someone’s actual experiences. I know that I find solace and comfort in her words because they are so undeniably human in their capacity to feel. Those moments of clarity when you finally feel as though someone else understands what you’re going through are abundant in Kaur’s work– perhaps this is why readers continue to support this (to use her flower analogy) blossoming young poet.

At times The Sun and Her Flowers so closely resembles her first collection Milk and Honey that I probably would only be able to recognize a handful of poems by sight from each. I would have liked to see a little bit more experimentation with form (more than the long paragraph poems); however, I did appreciate the vivid flower analogy that ties the entire collection together quite nicely. This collection felt repetitive to me, especially following Milk and Honey. Personally, I hope that she branches out a bit more if she publishes a third collection in the future.

Overall, Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers is an emotional, beautiful, thought-provoking collection of poetry. Although Milk and Honey remains my favorite of her collections, I nevertheless look forward to reading whatever poetry she continues to share with us readers in the future. I would highly recommend this collection even if you haven’t read anything by Kaur before!

What are your thoughts on The Sun and Her Flowers or any of Rupi Kaur’s other poetry? Have any recommendations for other poets I should check out? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

NORTH AND SOUTH by Elizabeth Gaskell | Review

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South is the second novel I had to read for the Victorian Literature tutorial I’m taking at Oxford during my first term. It’s fitting that this follows Dickens’ Hard Times on our summer reading list because Dickens was actually the editor of the magazine that Gaskell’s novel was initially serially published from September 1854 to January 1855. Interestingly enough, Dickens is also credited with creating the title for this novel (in opposition to Gaskell, who wanted to title her work “Margaret Hale” after the protagonist). Set in the fictional manufacturing town of Milton, this novel follows Margaret as she transitions from living in rural southern England to urban northern England.

+ The social problem. I’d be amiss if I didn’t start by highlighting how well Gaskell addresses what is often known as the “social problem” in England during the nineteenth century. The novel’s focus on the plight of factory workers during this time period is fascinating, especially in regard to the strike and its effect on the Higgins family. Little Mary Higgins humanizes the “Hands” that factory owners often disregarded as incompetent and lazy.

+ Community vs. class. One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the overall message it delivers: personal relationships can be more important than one’s social class. The immense amount of character development in this novel is particularly apparent when you look at how many characters learn the lesson of community over class. This lesson is one of the many ways in which North and South is as relevant today as it was back in Gaskell’s lifetime.

+ Margaret Hale. Margaret reminds me of one of my favorite characters in literature: Jane from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Both characters are strong, independent young women who experience many changes in their lives. They are resilient and clever, intelligent and courageous, yet never lose their immense capacities for compassion and empathy. I think it’s telling that Gaskell initially wanted to name this novel after Margaret herself because it suggests that she viewed the protagonist as the real heart of the story.

One of my only complaints is that this novel ends very abruptly compared to its prior steady pace. Not only does the ending feel sudden, but it also leaves many questions unanswered. What happens to the Higgins family, Fred, and Mrs. Thornton? What was the point of the marriage proposal at the very beginning of the novel?  How does Mr. Henry Lennox feel about the concluding events of the novel? Does Margaret receive a lot of backlash for her decision or is there a positive response? It almost feels as though this novel was missing an epilogue to tie all of these loose ends together.

Nevertheless, North and South was an engaging and enjoyable introduction to Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future!

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes! I think anyone who has read and enjoyed Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre should definitely consider picking up North and South.

What are your thoughts on this novel? Have you read anything else by Elizabeth Gaskell? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

EMMA by Jane Austen | Review

Last year I saw the movie Clueless, a comedy based on Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, for the first time. My immediate reaction was: I need to read this book.

Set in Austen’s Victorian England, this novel follows Emma as she attempts to set her new friend Harriet up with a suitable man to marry. Caught up in the strict social conventions of the time, Emma goes through all the hoops necessary in order to make the perfect match… or so she believes. As each potential match flickers out before her eyes, she comes to realize that perhaps she’s been looking the wrong place all along.

It’s clear that Emma has the potential to possess all of the qualities that Austenites admire Jane’s books for having: humor, wit, charm, and a swoon-worthy romance. Unfortunately, I feel as though this novel misses the mark on these characteristics. Had the story been written with a slightly more agreeable protagonist, romantic interest, or ending, it would have made for a much more pleasurable read.

I guess my main problem with this novel is that I just couldn’t get past Emma’s annoying, oblivious, uppity personality. I’m sure this is the point of her character—we’re probably not supposed to like her—but where’s the enjoyment in that? Annoying protagonists are one of my biggest pet peeves, especially when there isn’t much going on besides their inner thoughts. Emma does undergo some character development towards the end of the story and begins to acknowledge that perhaps social classes aren’t as important in marriages as she once believed; however, this slight change was not enough to justify putting the reader through hundreds of pages to get to that point. I know this is a personal preference and is therefore really subjective, but my inability to relate with Emma ended up being a huge reason why this novel didn’t really click with me.

Harriet, on the other hand, was a character I connected with quickly and easily; it’s a shame that she doesn’t play a greater role overall. I’ve also been the girl who looks to others for relationship advice, the girl who feels heartbroken and a bit manipulated by others as they play their own twisted games. I think we can all relate with Harriet in some sense or at the very least feel sympathy for her as she is lead astray by Emma time and time and time again. Poor Harriet!

Overall, I have very mixed feelings about Emma. While I understand the point Austen is trying to make (social classes shouldn’t matter in marriages, the social conventions of the time period were ridiculous, etc.), I couldn’t get past Emma’s irritating, know-it-all personality. There were certainly moments when I laughed and admired Austen’s wit and charm, but it’s safe to say that this definitely isn’t my favorite Austen novel.

What are your thoughts on Emma? Which Jane Austen novel is your favorite? Which one should I read next? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBLING by Bill Bryson | Review

One of my goals this summer is to learn as much as possible about British culture as well as specific locations I should make a point to visit while I’m studying abroad in England. My wonderful boss must know how to read minds because on my first day of work she gave me a copy of Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling. In this sequel to his 1995 book Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson travels across England and recounts his adventures and observations in each delightfully British location. As a citizen of both the United States and England, Bryson offers an interesting perspective on the similarities and differences between these two nations.

I admire Bryson’s important overall message that we should strive to preserve and appreciate the little things that make Britain so great (according to Bryson, these details include independent shops, beautiful countryside, updated and educational museums, lively seaside communities, etc.). However, the message could have been delivered in a much more positive way. Instead of complaining about all of the disappointing things he came across, he could have celebrated and highlighted the wonderful aspects of the locations he visited. The majority of the book is written with a negative tone (though thankfully this is not true for the chapter on Oxford!) and after a while I wanted to sit Bryson down and ask: “Don’t you have anything positive to say?” I find it hard to believe that someone could be so cynical about being able to travel to all of those interesting places. Perhaps I’m misinterpreting Bryson’s sense of humor here– or maybe I just don’t find him funny.

Not only did I not love Bryson’s sense of humor, but I found a lot of his observations to be rather redundant. It only takes a few chapters to notice a definite pattern in their structure: each chapter begins with a short anecdote followed by a transition into talking about the location at hand. He then talks about the lack of independent shops there, the expensive prices of food and admission to tourist attractions, and how he always had “one pint of beer too many” before heading off to bed at night, only to repeat the entire process in the next location. Eventually I began to wonder what the point of writing a nearly 400-page long book was if he was simply going to restate the same ideas in different words ad nauseam until the reader started to agree with what he was saying. I feel as though this book probably could have been condensed to half its current size.

Overall, I enjoyed this book for practical purposes but not necessarily for its entertainment value. Not only did I learn a lot about British culture from an American’s perspective, but I also now have a very general understanding of the geography of England. It has helped me create an exciting list of museums, towns, shops, and beautiful countryside that I would love to visit while studying abroad. Unfortunately, Bryson’s sense of humor and writing style did not click with me at all. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I read The Road to Little Dribbling because the background information it provides will undoubtedly be helpful as I learn more about England in the future.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, if they were planning to visit England or were very interested in learning more about the nation in general.

What are your thoughts on this book? Are there any books you would recommend for someone studying abroad in England soon? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare | Review

If you’ve stuck around this blog for a while then you may be familiar with the love-hate relationship I share with William Shakespeare. The Bard and I have never really clicked, mostly because a) I’m easily frustrated by his use of tricky English puns and b) I’m easily annoyed by the melodramatic nature of many of his works. (Although I suppose that the melodrama is sort of the point, to a certain extent, but that’s a discussion for another day.) Despite our rocky past, I’ve felt myself sort of coming around to Shakespeare lately.

Case in point: I actually enjoyed Julius Caesar.

*gasp* What?! Did I just admit to actually liking a Shakespeare play?

Yes. And here’s why:

+ The plot is cut and dry. Unlike some of Shakespeare’s other plays (I’m looking at you Othello, Macbeth, and Hamlet), I was able to grasp the main gist of Julius Caesar pretty quickly and easily. There’s plenty of political intrigue and the events unfold quickly, clearly, and– dare I say– logically?! Usually I find Shakespeare’s plots to be lacking any semblance of logic or reason, but this play was almost realistic in this way. (It’s certainly not hard to imagine in today’s tumultuous, frenzied political climate.)The ending does possess the usual drama that his conclusions tend to exude, though I guess that’s to be expected from a tragedy.

+ Questions about honor, loyalty, and duty. I loved the major themes in this play because I think they’re so relevant to the current state of our world (as shown by this New York Times article about a recent controversial production of Julius Caesar). Should we be loyal to our government or personal relationships with others first and foremost? At what point does duty overrule loyalty or vice versa? Should honor or duty preside over common sense or morality? These are the kinds of questions that fascinate me and that really made this play stand out in particular to me.

+ Historical basis. One can probably guess from the title that this play centers around Julius Caesar, who was an actual Roman emperor. The fact that this play is based on actual historical events (with extra melodrama thrown in for good measure) makes me wonder what people thought about this at the time. Did they appreciate this play for its commentary on history or value it for its ability to entertain and captivate an audience?

+ I finally understand where the title of John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars comes from. At one point I knew that this was the Shakespeare play Green was referencing, but I had since forgotten that tidbit of info until I stumbled across the famous line:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

I love exploring intertextuality and I’m actually sort of tempted to reread The Fault in Our Stars at some point to see if there are any underlying connections between the novel and the play.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Julius Caesar. Of course, I must admit that this measure of enjoyment is relative– that is, I enjoyed it considerably more than other Shakespeare plays I’ve read in the past but considerably less than other texts that are not Shakespeare plays. (I just have this unintentional apathy towards the Bard, okay?)

You win this round, Shakespeare.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: If someone asks me for a Shakespeare recommendation I would probably tell them to read this play; however, if someone asks me for a drama recommendation in general than I would definitely go with something like Thornton Wilder’s Our Town or Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

What are your thoughts on Julius Caesar? What Shakespeare play should I read next? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster | Review

“My father says that there is only one perfect view — the view of the sky straight over our heads, and that all these views on earth are but bungled copies of it.”

I decided to read E.M. Forster’s novel A Room with a View with no knowledge whatsoever of the story’s plot or context besides the brief description provided by the back cover. Of course, I had heard this title mentioned amidst the names of other “great” or classic British novels before, and the fact that it has been published as part of the Penguin English Library collection was enough to persuade me to give it a try. (Do I just love these gorgeous cover designs or do I put that much trust in Penguin as a publisher? Answer: it’s a little of both, to be honest.)

Numerous aspects of this novel ensured that I was captivated by this story from the first page: the beautiful writing, the picturesque Italian setting, the charming tone of the narration, and even Lucy herself. As someone planning on studying abroad in the near future, the emphasis on travel also caught my attention early on. The differences between the English and the Italians that the characters continuously harped on made me wonder how I’ll be perceived in my travels. I found myself feeling more and more connected with Lucy as she was exposed to new ideas, cultures, and beliefs.

A Room with a View is basically an English major’s dream novel. As I was reading I couldn’t help but think how many interesting papers could be written about it. You could discuss the entire concept of a “room with a view” and what that means, the contrast between the liminal space of the woods as opposed to the confines of the domestic sphere, the hierarchy of social classes, the portrayal of women and their role in society, the differences between Italy and England– the list goes on and on! What fascinated me the most was definitely the idea of “rooms” in general, which the title obviously indicates is a significant aspect of the story. This concept jumps out at the reader in the very first chapter as Mr. Emerson says:

“I have a view, I have a view…This is my son…his name’s George. He has a view too.” 

It quickly becomes apparent that a “view” is something to be admired, desired, and cherished by Lucy. While Mr. Emerson is literally referring to the view of Italy from outside a hotel window, it can also be said that his “view” could signify his open and refreshing perspective on life. He and his son are not as close minded as many of the other characters in the story, suggesting that perhaps a “room with a view” is not as highly sought after by everyone as it first appears to be in the initial hotel scene. Then there is the question of what one chooses to see and acknowledge in the “view” itself; in other words, does one choose to hone in on art, money, social distinctions, etc.? What someone sees when looking out from their “room with a view” can suggest a lot about their priorities, values, and beliefs. This play on words is incredibly clever and adds an intriguing undercurrent to an already brilliant story.

I fully believed that this novel was going to receive a perfect five-out-of-five rating until I finally read the ending and felt my enthusiasm suddenly wane. I was greatly disappointed by the way that Lucy essentially goes from being brainwashed by pompous, conceited Cecil to following the perspective of George. Even though the latter is clearly more preferred than the former, I was still hoping that Lucy would have elected to take the more independent route. Given the context in which this novel is set– the more restricting and constraining culture of Edwardian England– perhaps it makes sense for Lucy to choose the lesser of two evils rather than venture off on her own into what could potentially be an unknown darkness. It hardly would have been socially acceptable for a young unmarried woman to choose such a path for her life– yet would taking a risk have been that detrimental to Forster as a writer? Would allowing Lucy to make that choice have really hurt his reputation or badly damaged the overall reception of the novel? These are questions to which I don’t have answers, though I suppose Forster had his reasons for making the plot decisions that he did.

Overall, I feel as though Forster’s A Room with a View is a novel that I will most definitely be returning to in the future.

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

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely!

What are your thoughts on this novel? Any recommendations for related books you think I would like? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

HOW TO RUIN EVERYTHING by George Watsky | Review

My brother has been a fan of Watsky’s music for years, but it wasn’t until recently when I met him at NerdCon that I really started listening to his music. It only took a few rhymes and rhythms to have me completely hooked on his words, listening to his music any chance I could get: while walking to class, doing laundry, getting ready in the morning, and even while (attempting) to do homework. Then one day, my brother said: “He wrote a book, you know.”

He wrote a book. Those four words led me to snag borrow my brother’s beloved copy of George Watsky’s How to Ruin Everything as soon as I got home for spring break. Devouring this collection of essays in just over twenty-four hours filled me with an even greater appreciation for this artist– not only of his work but of his determination, hard work, and positive outlook on life.

Of course, the English major in me was thrilled to discover that Watsky’s spoken word skills carry over into his ability to write prose that is casual, conversational, witty, and thought-provoking. His writing does everything that good writing should: it makes you feel as though you’re right there beside him, reliving his experiences through a kaleidoscope of his and your perspectives. The narration is engaging, funny, and has a strong sense of personality that comes off as undoubtedly genuine. One of my favorite lines of this book appears in his essay titled “What Year Is It?” in which he talks about his experiences with epilepsy. The last line of the essay reads:

“I catch my reflection in the water, pieces of me plagiarized from the past—Dad’s nose, Mom’s chin, her dad’s hair, his sister’s brain—and look up to admire the scenery, while I can.”

Plagiarized from the past. That’s brilliant.

This essay in particular is just one example of the personal stories that Watsky includes in this collection. There’s a juxtaposition between his touching childhood memories and hilarious awkward experiences that somehow just works. From stories of travel and relationships to discussions of being a vegetarian, performing slam poetry at college campuses, and even an entire essay about his old tour vehicle, Watsky incorporates more topics and tales than I thought possible in such a slim volume. All of the personal information he shares contributes to an overwhelming feeling of authenticity in this text, the sense that he is confiding in the reader as though he or she were an old friend. It’s honest and endearing and makes for a book that is impossible to put down. 

Though all of the essays are remarkably different, they’re nevertheless tied together through a common thread: failure. Yes, Watsky has succeeded in writing a hilarious, entertaining, and surprisingly optimistic book about… well, not succeeding. (Ironic, no?) Time and time again he recounts experiences that didn’t go quite as planned or that took a sudden turn for the worse, yet there’s an underlying tone of optimism that runs like a current beneath the surface of his writing. It’s difficult to choose a favorite essay out of the entire collection, but the one that sticks out the most in my mind is the very first one, titled “Tusk.” In this essay, Watsky tells the story of when he and some friends smuggled a narwhal tusk over the Canadian border into the United States as a gift for a one hundred year old woman. If that’s not a conversation starter, then I don’t know what is!

Overall, reading this book felt like having the a random, hilarious, and well-spoken conversation with Watsky. How to Ruin Everything is definitely something I’ll be returning to in the future– for a laugh, for inspiration, and to be reminded that there’s nothing quite like the power of a good story.

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

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely! I would recommend to any of my friends, regardless of whether or not they have listened to Watsky’s music.

Are you a fan of Watsky’s music or writing? What are your thoughts on this book? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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