Review: Nejma by Nayyirah Waheed

“all
of the
unsleeping. gold sweeping. poems.
i have in my hands.”

Nayyirah Waheed’s sweeping poetry debut, before Salt.

Personal Take: I follow Nayyirah on social media. I’ve read her book Salt, and she blew me away with her gentle, yet piercing words. So I wanted to read hear earlier work in Nejma. While you can feel the same sentiment and emotional drive. Nejma didn’t quite pull me in. The book cover is beautiful, and some of the poems were beautiful as well. But there were a few poems that I felt took up space when it didn’t need to, and a few more I couldn’t relate. But I still appreciated that this is some of her early work before Salt, and to see that transition and growth is inspiring.

Audience: Older readers who love poetry.

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Other recommendations: In case you didn’t catch it from my review above – Salt by Nayyirah is a MUST read.

Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Socially, awkward Lincoln works at an IT department of a newspaper office, whose job is to scan through emails of the journalists; not an easy feat in 1999, at the cusp of the dreaded Y2K. Because his job starts at night, he barely interacts with the employees working at the paper. But in his loneliness, he entertains himself by reading through the emails of two colleagues. Without intending to, what began as an innocent monitoring turns into avid interest into the lives of Jennifer and Beth, and unwittingly, Lincoln falls in love with one of them. After a series of close encounters, Lincoln must decide if there can be love before sight.

Personal Take: After reading Landline, I’ma  huge fan of Rainbow Rowell’s writing. At first glance, Attachments seemed to be like most romances tangled up in the digital age of emails; light-hearted and funny. I thoroughly LOVED the email interactions between Beth and Jennifer. They are hilarious, witty, and just so much fun. Also, Rowell does a good job adding a bit of seriousness in their lives, and somehow subtly be told through their exchanges. In contrast, Lincoln’s point of view are in chapters. His is more morose and lost, but he’s still a loveable character. The people around him; his family and friends, are the real showstoppers in the book, after Jennifer and Beth. There were some hilarious punchlines throughout the book, most of them made by Jennifer and Beth. I have to say though, halfway through the book, I expected the pacing or tension to ramp up. But instead, I felt that it stayed steady until the end.

I still enjoyed reading it though, and I do recommend it as a fun and light read.

Audience: Older readers, for some language.

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Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed Landline. Rainbow Rowell is also the author of Fangirl and Eleanor and Park. Check out her other works!

Review: The Diviners (Diviners #1) by Libba Bray

the-diviners

After an upsetting incident, Evie O’ Neill is sent to her uncle in Manhattan. For Evie, this means a second chance to reinvent herself in the big city. And maybe, just maybe, control her episodic visions. But  cult serial killer is in the loose, and Evie finds herself helping her uncle solve the crime. With each bizarre clue, Evie is convinced that what they’re facing is something supernatural. Evie must use her supernatural powers to track him, and stop him, before anyone gets hurt. But the events stir a deeper darkness, drawing together a band of unlikely allies and enemies.

Personal Take: I was enthralled by this story. There’s just something about the Roaring Twenties that was so glamorous, and Bray captured it perfectly, from the parties and entertainment, to Evie’s new modern slang and fashion. The mystery itself was so well done, I was sucked in completely. It was chill-inducing and creepy in all the good ways. The characters themselves are well written, and for worried a little that there were too many characters, but their point of views were well done, and the intersection was done perfectly.

The only disappointment I felt was the romance. It was so forced, and unexpected. I felt the characters were so out of character because of it, and it was just so unnecessary, I felt. I’m still interested to see what happens next, and I’m a huge Libba Bray fan, so I’ll keep reading the series.

Audience: Older teens and readers, for gross scenes.

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Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series, as well as Going Bovine.

Review: Our Dark Duet (The Monsters of Verity #2) by Victoria Schwab

our-dark-duet

It’s been six months, and both August and Kate made their choices. August is now a soldier in the fight against the monsters in Verity, and accepting his fate to cleanse the sinners among the humans. But no matter how hard he fights, the other side seems to get stronger. And for Kate, it seems no matter how much distance she puts between herself and Verity, the monsters keep following. In one of her missions to dispatch a monster in Prosperity, she comes across a new type, one that feeds on anger and violence. And as luck would have it, it’s new target is Verity City.

Personal Take: It’s been months since I’ve read Our Dark Duet, and I’m struggling to articulate how amazing and heart-wrenching this book was. It’s the characters, it’s the tension, it’s the world itself. The inner-conflict for both August and Kate is so raw and real. The stakes are high, it almost seems impossible to resolve. And yet, Schwab does, in the most unimaginable way possible. The villains are so evil it’s palatable. I love that she takes risks that makes sense. She surprises me with each chapter. On thing I’ll appreciate is that the romance is not the center of this book. It’s nicely woven in, and really, just a glimpse of it made me swoon. It is enough to believe and cheer them on, and it does not twist characterization in any way. Her books reminds me of how the old YA books used to be. It’s about the story.

While this puts an end to Kate and August’s story, I do hope we get a spin-off of this monstrous world.

Audience: Older readers, be they teens or adults.

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Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed This Savage Song, which is the first book of The Monsters of Verity series. I’ve already read her fantasy series, A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, and A Conjuring of Light.

Review: The Hidden Pleasures of Life by Theodore Zeldin

hidden-pleasures-of-life

The story of a search for a new art of living. How can one escape from work colleagues who are bores and from organisations that thrive on stress? What new priorities can people give to their private lives? When the romantic ideal is disappointing, how else can affections be cultivated? If only a few can become rich, what substitute is there for dropping out? If religions and nations disagree, what other outcomes are possible beyond strife or doubt? Where there is too little freedom, what is the alternative to rebellion? When so much is unpredictable, what can replace ambition?

Theodore Zeldin explores these questions and more, excavating an inner peace that can be cultivated in the future. (from Goodreads).

Personal Take: Zeldin’s tone in The Hidden Pleasures is very soothing. There is a certain meticulousness in the questions he asks and explores. He weaves in stories and statistics that are both relevant and enjoyable. It is deeply philosophical that I agreed with what he said, and disagreed with others. The one thing I found lacking while reading the book though, is a definitive stance from Zeldin on these questions. He kind of left it for the readers to decide, and while that’s not bad, I was curious to know how he, the writer, would answer these very questions that he posed to us.

This is only a minor frustration though. I enjoyed reading the book, and dwelling on what he put forth.

Audience: Older readers as it can be dense.

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Other recommendations: Zeldin has written a few books about the human experience, among them Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives and An Intimate History of Humanity.

Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

milk-and-honey

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look. (From Goodreads).

Personal Take: I wasn’t sure what to expect of Kaur’s poetry. I’ve seen a few on the internet, and it was only after multiple people recommended I read did I finally pick it up. At times, the writing was beautiful. The imagery evoked and the emotions etched on paper is simple but profound. The themes are nicely organized and easy to follow. At times, I felt she pushed it too much with some of the sexual themes, but some worked well. I definitely enjoyed her poetry, and might eventually check out her new book.

Audience: Older readers who enjoy poetry.

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Other recommendations: Kaur recently published her second poetry collection called The Sun and her Flowers.

Review: The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The-Emperors-Soul

Shai is a unique type of forger– one that can forge souls–which is seen as an abomination and is punishable by death. When she is caught by one of her simple forgeries, Shai is convinced that it will be her last. To her surprise, her captures, the Emperor’s closest advisors, offer a chance of freedom, at an impossible price; forging the soul of the Emperor, who barely survived an assassination, and to help uphold the current political balance of the ruling faction. If she fails, she is will face the death she deserves. Given 100 days to create the perfect imitation of a soul she barely knows, Shai must navigate political intrigue and games among the emperor’s advisors, his guards, while secretly planning her own escape.

Personal Take: I’ve been dying to start something by Brandon Sanderson, and a novella seemed to be a good place to do that. The Emperor’s Soul is short but oh so quick and riveting read. The world was introduced in a nicely layered exposition, I almost couldn’t sense it. I loved the world itself, and the special ability of it. The culture was also familiar, but also stood out at the same time. I could not put this book down at all, and I’m glad for it, as I’ve met the author, and was in awe of his world-building knowledge. I can’t wait to read more of Sanderson’s work and learn from his writing.

Audience: Fantasy lovers, or anyone who wants a little taste of Brandon Sanderson’s work.

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Other recommendations: Sanderson has written plenty of fantasy books, among them the Mistborn series and The Stormlight Archive. To aspiring writers, I also recommend listening to his podcast Writing Excuses, as it is fantastic.

Review: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

The-Prophet

First published in the 1920’s, The Prophet, an inspirational, allegorical guide to living, is perhaps the most famous work of religious fiction of the Twentieth Century and has sold millions of copies in more than twenty languages. Gibran’s protagonist, called simply ‘the Prophet’, delivers spiritual, yet practical, homilies on a wide variety of topics central to daily life: love, marriage and children; work and play; possessions, beauty, truth, joy and sorrow, death and many many more. (From Goodreads)

Personal Take: Kahlil Gibran is one of the most prominent writers in both Middle Eastern and Western literature, so it’s a rite of passage to read his work. The Prophet is beautifully written prose, almost poetically written. It’s philosophical and spiritual, and more, and timeless in the messages that it conveys. This is one book that I’ll keep rereading for the rest of my life in the hopes that the wisdom it carries sinks into my soul. If you’re looking for a classic to read, this is it.

Audience: Older readers, as a few passages requires some re-reading to fully understand.

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Other recommendations: Unsurprisingly, Gibran has published a number of well-known books, among them The Broken Wings, Sand and Foam and others.

Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big_Magic_Creative_Living

In this book, Elizabeth Gilbert digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy. (From Goodreads)

Personal Take: I wasn’t keen on reading Eat. Pray. Love by Gilbert, but I felt her latest book was more up my alley, as I’m always curious about the process of creativity. There is something attractive in Gilbert’s tone; optimism, ease of conversation in the book, and entertaining anecdotes. I thought she would get into the gritty facts about creatives and creativity, but most of the book was anecdotal, which some worked and others missed the mark I felt. There were also areas where it felt too fluffy and airy; too pretentious in its optimism and approach. I disagreed with a few of her points, but halfway through, I felt her real voice as a creative shine, and appreciated her insight and advice. Even though it starts off too frivolous for for me, I do recommend this book for people who want to improve their creative lives, as there are gems of wisdom.

Audience: Older teens and readers interested in creativity.

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Other recommendations: Gilbert has written several books, but she’s well known for Eat. Pray. Love. 

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

My_Lady_Jane

The young King of England is dying. Edward VI, only at sixteen, must now decide who inherits the crown. This is not easy as the kingdom is grappling with hostility and uneasiness towards Edians; humans with the ability to shape-shift. Between his two elder sisters whose loyalties he’s still not sure of, Edward decides to place his kingdom in unexpected hands — his cousin Jane. To ensure the line of succession, Jane is arranged to marry the son of one of the king’s advisors, who’s absence from court sparks quite the rumors about his lifestyle, such as his whereabouts when the sun is out. Unbeknownst to the king and his cousin, forces are on the move to disrupt the power in England, starting with the hunt against Edians…

Personal Take: I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this, but from the first page, it was clear that it was going to be a fun read– and oh, how fun it was. The book covers the three point of views; King Edward, his cousin Jane and her betrothed Gifford, each with their own dilemma. It seemed to balance well until halfway through, when three people were just too much for one book (I know George R.R. Martin does more, but I can’t explain it!). The tone was hilarious- I have not laughed this much while reading in so long! As the authors warned at the beginning of the book, it’s really loosely based on historical events, but it didn’t feel too scandalous as the book was meant to be comical all the way.

The book was predictable towards the end, but I enjoyed the lightheartedness. I wouldn’t mind reading the next book for more laughs.

Audience: Mostly older teens and readers.

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Other recommendations: All three authors have independently published books of their own, so be sure to check out Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows and Brodi Ashton!