Friday, July 14, 2017

The Last Cut by Josh Armstrong

35173391The Last Cut by Josh Armstrong is a short story filled with layers of emotion in which Armstrong managed to remind me the importance of human connection, the importance of reaching out, and the importance of communication. As Carmen cuts Jude's hair, he talks about his plans to commit suicide. Carmen becomes involved in the conversation and as their connection grows, she begins to feel a shift within herself. All throughout the story, I kept wondering whose last cut it really was... The Last Cut left me feeling connected to both Jude and Cameron as their stories unfolded in a way that reminded me just how interconnected we all are and much we can influence one another, whether for the better or the worse is up to each of us to decide.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Write the Town 2016: Poems from Sites in Salem, Oregon by Poets of the Mid-Valley Poetry Society

Write the Town 2016: Poem from Sites in Salem, Oregon by Poets of the Mid-Valley Poetry Society is a short collection filled with poems that offer a taste of Salem, Oregon through the eyes of several poets who participated in Write the Town. The chapbook is divided into sections based on the sites the poets visited to find inspiration over the Summer of 2016. Reading Write the Town reads like a tour of Salem through the eyes of several quite talented poets. Some poems spoke to me on a deeper level than others but all the poems offered unique perspectives. I enjoyed reading Write the Town 2016 and look forward to Write the Town 2017.

Limited number of copies available at CC Willow Art Etsy Store.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir by Paul Monette

I bought Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir by Monette because it was recommended by a class on AIDS I was taking as research for a book I'm writing. I thought the book might help me better understand the AIDS patient and even AIDS itself. Monette tells a story that is a heartbreaking mix of love, family, and loss. Not just the loss of his life partner but loss of a way of being in the world. He demonstrates eloquently the devastation fear wreaks when knowledge is minimal while showing the immense power of love to hold people together. At times, Monette's self-deprecation felt a bit too much, but it showed a glimpse into how insecurities can push us to both our best and our worst. He talked with graphic detail about the physical havoc AIDS brought not only to the bodies of those who suffer with it but to the lives and the communities where AIDS became such an accepted part of life that people talked about when instead of if. Monette talks about his and the gay community's resentment of people's ignorance and particularly their determination to remain ignorant. His love for his life partner, Roger Horwitz, is palpable throughout the book. I felt almost like an interloper in their lives in some of the more intimate portions of the book. Monette writes in a way that had me wishing for Roger to be saved even though I knew before I even began the book that was impossible. Near the end, I also found myself longing for Roger's suffering to end even though the end of that suffering meant death. Monette's description of full-blown AIDS and the suffering of not only Roger but their friends broke my heart and made me determined to support death with dignity laws. Monette downplays his own diagnosis of AIDS throughout the book. Roger is his focus because Roger is the one who is in crisis. I felt Monette's grief throughout the pages. I felt the secrecy in place to try to protect those who could offer support. I felt the love these two men shared. I felt the openness of love and compassion coupled with the anger and despair at a system not moving quickly enough to make a difference in lives. Borrowed Time is a reminder that no matter who we are, how we live our lives, or who we love, the time we have is only borrowed and it will be taken away at some point...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Death Makes No Deals by David L. Hoof

Death Makes No Deals by David L. Hoof offers the reader a nonnegotiable deal filled with intrigue, suspicion, and complicated relationships. Hoof’s characters feel like someone you could meet at your favorite coffee shop or strike up a conversation with in a bar and never guess the depths of the secrets they hold, the struggles they face, or the world they live in all while assuming far too much in common or far too many differences. Death Makes No Deals coaxes the reader to accept that humans have a tendency to create a reality we can accept even when everything around us screams our reality is little more than fantasy. Hoof aptly demonstrates that the past will haunt the present and both will inform the future based on our interpretations and decisions. Death Makes No Deals is filled with deadly deals that demonstrate the power of death over the living.

Note: This review is based on an unedited ARC provided by the author.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver parallels flights taken for preservation by juxtaposing a housewife's need to spread her wings with the migration of Monarch butterflies. Kingsolver demonstrates the feeling of not belonging in one's own life through Dellarobia's interactions and internal thoughts and the exploration of what would cause the Monarch butterfly to overwinter in an area that could cause its extinction rather than its usual habitat. My heart ached for Dellarobia as the lack of real communication combined with financial hardship complicates every part of her life. Kingsolver brings the consequences of changing environments to the forefront in this exploration of migration patterns, climate change, self-discovery, and life changes. Interspersed throughout Flight Behavior is the conflict between religious beliefs and science in both Dellarobia's life and community. Flight Behavior creates a microcosm of the world in which we live demonstrating how interconnected we all are regardless of the beliefs we embrace or the facts we refuse to embrace.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lift Off: From the Classroom to the Stars by Donovan Livingston

Lift Off: From the Classroom to the Stars by Donovan Livingston is a small book with quite an impact. The words of Livingston take us on a journey through the history and the importance of education. Lift Off reminds us that the way we change the world is through education that teaches us where we came from, so we know where we're going. As I read I couldn't help but think about how important it is that we get education right, that we stop playing politics with education, and that we give all children an equal chance at an education that prepares them for the future. Lift Off inspires in its honesty and its hope.

Note: Lift Off was a spoken word poem given by Donovan Livingston as the convocation at Harvard Graduate School of Education in May 2016. Below is the video if you'd like to watch it.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes edited by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes edited by Arnold Rampersad, Editor, and David Roessel, Associate Editor covers the poetry Langston Hughes wrote during his life. Hughes tackled myriad issues throughout his lifetime without apology. His language, though lyrical, is also often blunt and leaves little to interpretation though it invokes intense imagery at times. I felt a wide range of emotions as I read The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. The poems depicted a life I'll never life while offering insight into the reality of others in a way that forced me to think about my own existence in the world and how I interact with those around me. Authenticity rings through Hughes's work even when he paints moments that feel a bit fantastical. I took my time reading these poems because many are intense and require thought while others are lighthearted observations on life. I was, at times, surprised at how much punch some of Hughes's shorter works contained. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes reminded me how important poetry is to the narrative of our lives and history being made around us even in the moments that seem the most ordinary to us.

Friday, May 5, 2017

High Point of Persistence: The Miriam Richards Story by Damara Paris, Miriam Richards, and Hilary White

High Point of Persistence: The Miriam Richards Story by Damara Paris, Miriam Richards, and Hilary White illustrates how determination, perseverance, and persistence work together to push people to overcome challenges and obstacles. Miriam Richards didn't let anything, including her deafness or Multiple Sclerosis, get in the way of her goals. When she faced a challenge that appeared to have no solution, she found a way around it. She pursued her goal of visiting the high points in each state pushing herself beyond limits that seem impossible. Her story is at times heart-wrenching, at times ordinary, at times joyous, but it is always inspiring and encouraging to those who wish to accomplish more in their lives. Richards determination to push herself even when she was in pain made me feel determined to stop letting minor inconveniences get in the way of my progress. High Point of Persistence: The Miriam Richards Story inspired me to step outside my comfort zone and think about the things I would like to accomplish even if it makes me uncomfortable to get there...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho was one of those books I put on my reading list a long time ago and finally got around to reading recently. I really wasn't sure what to expect, but I'd heard from many people The Alchemist was worth reading. I'm glad I finally did even though at times I found it a bit too symbolic. The weaving of the supernatural, religion, and culture seemed to be a bit on the cliche side in spite of the message of the story. The Alchemist works as an allegory for having faith in the "signs" life presents as one travels through it. Coelho's writing immersed me in the story and made the characters seem all too real and surreal at the same time. The Alchemist is filled with a sense of wonder and mystery in the simplicity of the story that seems to transcend itself but really always comes back to the message that one must seek in order to find.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson

The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson is the kind of book you want to finish but don't want to end. I read it slowly forcing myself to stop reading after a few pages each day, so I could stay immersed in the story just a little longer and yet the story pulled me back. In fact, it stayed with me as I went about my day waiting to read some more. The characters grabbed me and held on tight. Everything Wilkinson writes has a way of transporting me back to my childhood growing up in a holler where family was everything and everyone knew everyone's business. The town of Opulence feels like a place I've been, longed to leave, and yearned for despite my best efforts to leave it behind. Secrets, lies, and truths combat each other through characters that seem trapped in tradition and freed by imagination in the pages of The Birds of Opulence.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spirit Horses by Alan S. Evans

4861018Spirit Horses by Alan S. Evans is a story of hope and resilience. Evans drops us into the world of horses and indigenous peoples in this story of love, loss, and living. He examines the connection we all share as inhabitants of this planet and the role greed plays to divide and destroy in the name of amassing wealth. Interwoven with characters who are easy to relate to, Spirit Horses reminds us of the importance of embracing those we love and the world we cherish. Evans spotlights the important of communication in understanding one another while never forgetting that every action and reaction communicates something even if it's not what we intend. I was drawn into Spirit Horses, and I loved the scenes where the characters watched the wild horses in their natural habitat. In a story that on the surface appears to pit tradition against modernity, Spirit Horses digs deeper to encourage us all to see one another more clearly, respect those we don't quite understand, and seek to better understand that which we don't in order to find a way for tradition and modernity to survive side-by-side.


Friday, March 17, 2017

The ROMANCE of CUNNILINGUS: Tips from Both Sides of the Tongue by J. R. Luxor

22755562The ROMANCE of CUNNILINGUS by J.R. Luxor, John Reimann (Editor), and Mislav Marahnic' (Photographer) takes a look at demystifying cunnilingus. Luxor approaches the subject with a dash of romance, a pinch of humor, and a sprinkle of seriousness. Encouragement for better communication between partners and a better understanding of anatomy fill this small book. The ROMANCE of CUNNILINGUS is a quick and easy to understand read that offers those interested an opening to have the conversation with a trusted sexual partner.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert grabbed my attention from the first page. Kolbert illustrates the future of extinction by illuminating the history of extinction. She tells a story of the Earth we inhabit in both scientific and historical terms related to the myriad species of animals that have and do inhabit the Earth. She travels to myriad places on the Earth to talk to scientists and historians. I felt like she took me along on her journey to places I would never go on my own. She discussed the effects of natural processes as well as unnatural processes affecting the extinction of species and how those extinctions lead to other extinctions. Her references to previous mass extinctions were always linked to the story of our Earth and present-day extinctions. She talked about frogs, bats, auks, coral, and trees among other things. The Sixth Extinction doesn't shy away from pointing out how each species is a part of an ecosystem and how all our ecosystems are both independent and interconnected. The Sixth Extinction makes the research of extinction including its causes and effects accessible through great storytelling and relateable moments.

This book was part of Cory Booker's Book Club, and he interviewed the author during a Facebook live video for those who might be interested in the conversation.


Friday, February 10, 2017

How Dun It Forensics: A Guide for Writers by D. P. Lyle, M.D.

I confess Howdunit Forensics: A Guide for Writers by D. P. Lyle, M.D. was in my to-be-read stack for quite a long time before I started reading it. I initially bought it to do research for a couple of mysteries I was writing. When one of those books turned into more of a mainstream novel removing emphasis from the mystery element, I put Howdundt Forensics to the side. Then as I was editing the book I realized there were some factual issues I needed to address, so I found Lyle's book and started reading. Initially just to fill in those gaps, but I soon realized the book itself offers a great foundation for writing multiple elements of a book that includes a criminal aspect. Lyle explains forensics in layman's terms while always honoring the science. I appreciated his attention to process and detail as well as his honest depictions even when it meant pointing out the errors we often let pass by us when reading, watching, or writing crime fiction. Howdunit Forensics is an informative and helpful book for the crime fiction writer or even the writer who just has a story with a criminal investigation sprinkled between the main plot line. I think even crime fiction readers who don't write would find this book interesting. Lyle makes forensics accessible, so that it's easy to incorporate into the writing process. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?: A Westerner's Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice by Lama Tsomo

I agreed to read Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?: A Westerner's Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice by Lama Tsomo and give a fair and impartial review in exchange for a free book because Buddhism is a spiritual practice that I haven't spent much time exploring. I was intrigued. Lama Tsomo writes in an accessible and enjoyable voice. She blends humor with the serious while describing her journey to Buddhism. Alas, Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? didn't convert me to Buddhism or even tempt me to give it a try, but I enjoyed reading her descriptions of the meditation practices and the benefits she sees in them. The book is packed with beautiful and inspiring photos. It comes with cards to help those who want to try the practices described within the book. I did, however, find the numerous references to their website and classes distracting. Overall, Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? is an interesting introduction to Tibetan Buddhist Practice through the journey of an American becoming a Buddhist.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration by Moorea Seal

I first ordered The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration by Moorea Seal last January after I read about it in an article I have long since forgotten. I liked the idea so much I sent copies to a few friends and my nieces. As stated it's a journal. The prompts are often thought-provoking without seeming overwhelming. They push journalers to look deeper inside and to examine the lives they live, the world around them, and the lives they wish they lived. Seal is on to something with this book. While I started it late and didn't really dedicate myself to it at first, when I finally did, I really enjoyed the vast majority of the prompts. There was the occasional prompt that just didn't apply to me personally, but even those gave me a reason to think about why they didn't apply to me. I did manage to finish it by the end of the year. I found the prompts intriguing and the exercise fulfilling. I imagine The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration might just become a gift I'll give again and again. I enjoyed it so much I also bought her new journaling book to work through this year.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses by Daniel Lacerda

2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses by Daniel Lacerda offers a way to better understand myriad yoga poses and the variations thereof. The photos of each pose are accompanied with information about each pose. The information sometimes feels a bit underdeveloped, but the photos are fantastic. I discovered ways to modify a couple of poses I'd been struggling to do correctly in ways that moved me closer to the pose I wanted to do. The variations and the illustrations are helpful. He even offers a pronunciation guide for the poses Sanskrit names. I enjoyed this book. In spite of it's length, it's a fairly quick read as much of the book is made up of photos. I think this is a book anyone who practices yoga would find value in. It's the kind of book I'll keep on my shelves as a reference book for whenever I'm struggling with a pose.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Sometimes a book comes along that makes you re-think your very existence, your history, everything you think you know about your place in the world. An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz raised all those questions in my heart, mind, and soul. An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States made me look at every history class I've ever taken through a different lens. Dunbar-Ortiz writes an engaging history that reminds us that whenever we declare people "enemy" we often strip them of their humanity in order to justify our own horrendous actions, from internment camps to genocide, while writing ourselves simultaneously as the victims and the heroes. I wish I had the power to make An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States required reading, but I'll have to settle for recommending it to everyone I know and even people I don't know.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Leaves of Grass (1855 Edition) by Walt Whitman

I'm not sure what I expected when I started reading Leaves of Grass (1855 Edition) by Walt Whitman, but I found myself surprised as I read. His language was reflective of his time but felt a bit unrefined in places, which at times was refreshing and at others uncomfortable. His prejudices, in line with the times in which he lived, shined forth in some passages. His use of imagery and language to express the nature of life and living offers a sense of connection and contradiction that pushed me to think and to feel connected to the world he described even when I resisted. Whitman observed and recorded the world around him in a way that gives the reader a glimpse into that world as he saw it and moved through it in Leaves of Grass.