Book Review: “Damage” by Poornima Manco

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Damage” by Poornima Manco

Damage is a collection of 16 fiction short stories that take place in Indian Societies, both in India and elsewhere. The overarching theme of this book is how those who cause harm to others have grown up damaged. Dark tones progress along the book, from extramarital affairs and gun violence to rape.

The book delivers what it promises. The reader is shown realistic and believable sections of Indian society as Manco writes parts of dialogues in native language[s] to make the characters as authentic as possible. While doing so, the author also embellishes the prose with rich vocabulary and fascinating images. However, stringing pretty words is not sufficient in storytelling.

I enjoyed most plots, yet they felt artificially construed. The characters did not go through sufficient development within the stores, and I felt that these characters were created to show us a story that Manco wants us to see. It was only until the last few stories that I truly enjoyed reading. My favourite was the 11th, “Palindrome”, which started, continued and ended poetically. I’d have loved the whole book to contain a similar structure in which the main premise doesn’t drown the flow of the story — especially in the cases when the story’s rushed with time jumps at every other paragraph.

Along with the previous point, the characters lacked depth. The author provides us with a description of physical appearances but fails to create personalities that would stick with the readers. Moreover, the physical descriptions of each character were freakishly objectified and sexualised. Arguably, most stories involved love affairs and sexual intimacy; but this objectification at times is described by those characters who would be children when they ‘observe’ such things.

One of my other issues with this book is its strong suit: the eloquent writing. Undoubtedly, Poornima Manco is skilful, using a varied repertoire of vocabulary. This is an unfortunate choice when this voice doesn’t suit the narrative. I found it off-putting, distancing me from the main character. Moreover, adverbs and adjectives weakened various paragraphs. In addition, I noticed a few breaks in point-of-view, but an average reader might turn a blind-eye to these.

Overall, Damage is a collection of okay stories and a few hidden gems. Although the themes are gruesome, the realism in each story comes across easily. If you can get past these few pet peeves of mine, I’m confident you’d enjoy the writing. I also think this collection would be particularly interesting to the Indian community as the subtle social criticism may be quite striking.


I received a free Review Copy from Reedsy in exchange for an honest review.


Sources and Links:

Book: Damage
Book Cover: Goodreads
You could give your support by donating to my Ko-Fi or PayPal.me

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Poetry Book Review: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One

Amanda Lovelace’s third book in the “Woman Are Some Kind of Magic” was published just last week. The main themes include sexual assault, survivor identity and past relationships, and thus is at times powerful and emotional.

Compared to other mainstream books of the same publisher, this collection included a wider variety of imagery and metaphors, which I did enjoy. Yet, upon reading a long collection, the voice gets lost. The tone doesn’t vary, and it gets repetitive, even though the vocabulary progresses.

One of my issues with the book is the formatting, mainly the line breaks. Having a line break after every one or two words is frustrating. It breaks rhythm. It makes it impossible (for me) to read and it distracts me a lot. In some ways, the good poems are drowned
by other
poems
that
make
you
want to
stab
your eyes.

In addition to Lovelace’s poems, the book features a number of guest poets. Their work was placed between Lovelace’s poems, so that we alternated from an author poem to a guest poem. For me, the guest poems were a breath of fresh air — I found myself looking forward to the next guest poem but not to Lovelace’s one. This led me to realise that I was liking the author’s poems less than I thought, and evidently led to my rating drop down to a simple “it was okay.”

All in all, the collection has potential. It has solid metaphors and emotion behind the poetry. I’m not sure that the author managed to deliver what she intended. Would I recommend this book? No. I mean, if you like mainstream poetry or her previous collections, go ahead. But I don’t see this book as being something anyone must have on their bookshelf.


I received an Advanced Review Copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review


Sources and Links:

Book: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One
Book Cover: Goodreads
Help me read more books by donating on Ko-Fi or PayPal.me

Poetry Book Review: “Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken”

I received an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.


I rarely accept requests and do not finish reading, but this was an exception. Unsurprisingly, several other reviewers failed to finish it, and within good reason.

With an incredible cover, the book promises a dark, gothic collection of poetry. The imagery lives up to this expectation. However, the descriptions were quite repetitive. The lines were quite verbose, and I doubt they were given a proper round of edits. I hate to be this person, but although they have poetic potential, these only seem to be drafts of poems — they require more attention to the craft.

This adds to the problem of a poetry eBook that is entirely centred — big cringe! Now, it’s not always a negative thing and sometimes the helps portraying the message, but it’s not the case with this book. Especially with digital reading, where font sizes can be adjusted, the presentation will vary, and any intended shape will be lost. This also ruins any rhythm that would have been present within the poems, if there was one to begin with.

All in all, I don’t think this is a worthy buy for anyone. There are hundreds of books out there and our money is limited, so we must spend it on books that will be of value to us. As much as I hate shutting down someone else’s work and even if the poet has some good ideas, the overall product isn’t totally there.


Sources and Links:

Book: Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken
Book Cover: Goodreads
Support by donating on Ko-Fi or PayPal.me

Book Review: The Silver Linings Playbook

I am a huge fan of the film, and having watched it numerous times, I felt it was time I read the novel that it is based upon. To my surprise, there were quite a number of differences throughout, and not just the ending. The characters not only have much more depth, but they’re presented differently and more authentic to the experience they’re put in.

The premise of the story is that Pat, who is put into a mental facility for an indeterminate amount, is taken out to live with his parents. He’s doing his best to win back his estranged wife, Nikki, who he hasn’t seen since the incident that he doesn’t remember. He works out most of the day to get back into shape and spends a lot of time reading English literature — specifically the books Nikki teaches to her students. At the same time, he does his best to win back his father’s approval and gain back a relationship with his brother Jake.

I love this book because Pat’s point-of-view is written well; we are able to understand his reasoning as much as he does, and much better than those around him. The main difference between the film and the book, without giving much spoilers, is that the film is much more based on romance, as to what I remember, where this is more personal and about Pat’s recovery. It always has been — but the book shows is much more.

Society may have a generalised view on mental health, and I think this book portrays it so realistically. A lot of the suffering may come from not from mental illness itself, but rather how others, especially close family and friends, treat others differently. One of my favourite aspects is not that Pat is mentally ill and everyone else is stable; but really, everyone has their flaws and issues. It becomes evident in Pat’s friendship with Tiffany, in which they bond in unusual activities (running all day without talking) and how they’re both treated similarly by their family. Pat’s household doesn’t come short on this aspect ­— his father avoids speaking with him and has had experience of angry outburst; his mother is constantly crying and upset. These elements are what makes living with mental health so real; they don’t necessarily need labels or stereotypical symptoms, but they interweave themselves in the intricacies of daily life and social relationships.

The story follows a similar outline to the film and is quite pleasant to follow. Reading the book, I was expecting to know the story, and I was still enjoying it on a new level. However, I discovered so many differences, especially with how the last quarter of the book progresses, that it’s almost a novel experience; I had no idea what would happen. This elevated my experience and I recommend this book to be read. There’s not much lost if you’ve previously watched the film. I’m sure I’ll keep on remembering this novel as one of my favourite stories that I’ve ever read or watched.


Sources and Links:

Book: The Silver Linings Playbook
Book Cover: Goodreads
You could give your support by donating to my Ko-Fi or PayPal.me

Book Review: The Rosie Result


Review

I’m a huge fan of the Don Tillman series, having read and loved the previous books (The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect). Unsurprisingly, this book lived up to my high expectations. The story continues around eleven years later, with Don and Rosie’s child, Hudson, no longer a newborn.

The Rosie Result brings a fresh angle to the series, with Don Tillman now being a father facing career trouble due to public outrage. Don is seen through a lens of autism due to the particular way he does things and he’s pressured by others to identify himself as autistic. Moreover, his son is facing issues at school, with the threat of being rejecting from high school due to the frequent meltdowns.

What’s great about this book is that it provides an authentic, autistic perspective. In this case, the narrator (i.e. Don, the father) can identify with the son and understand the issues that he encounters at school. They both experience the pressure from the neurotypical majority to fit in and change their behaviour. This shifts the focus from the neurotypical perspective that autistic people are abnormal to the genuine experience of how autistic minds work, and how the neurotypical majority create a hostile environment, requiring others to fit in.

In the book, Don says something that struck me:

“Neurotypicals criticised autistic people for lacking empathy — towards them — but seldom made any effort to improve their empathy towards autistic people.”

This book celebrates neurodiversity and is a great learning tool for parents, educators, psychologists and the likes. It brings awareness that what neurotypicals is best might be counterproductive. As an autistic person, it gave me a lot to think about, to process about how frequently I feel like I don’t belong, and that after all, I am not the problem — society’s lack of flexibility is.

Apart from the autistic aspect, the story is extremely engaging, and has Don’s charm written all over it. I enjoyed it even more than the previous two books — which I had rated as five-stars each. The writing is well-researched and there are multitudes of personalities and characters that grow and change so well across time. They are quite representational and include am impeccable variety of characters, such as Gary the homeopath who refuses to immunise his children. There’s a warm sensation in how Don looks at the world and how he assumes honesty from others and adds to the narrational charm he possesses.

There are several reasons why I’d recommend this book. It’s a great fictional and literary work. The representation is genuine. Characters are well-developed. And, I believe, one doesn’t need to have read the previous two books to follow this story, although I would obviously suggest reading at least The Rosie Project as it helps us fall deeper in love with Don’s charisma.


I have received an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published in the UK on 4th April 2019, and can be preordered here: The Rosie Result


Sources and Links:

Book: The Rosie Result
Book Cover: Goodreads
You could give your support by donating to my Ko-Fi or PayPal.me

Poetry Book Review: The Year of the Femme

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Year of the Femme
Cassie Donish

The Year of the Femme is exactly what I like about contemporary poetry. It’s just so damn pleasant to read. It starts out with a 20-page poem, “Portrait of a Woman, Mid-Fall”, which I absolutely loved. Donish’s language is skilful in these two stanzas:

“At the edge of a field a feeling of arrival awaits
Arrival is not a rival of departure
The two have to work together to make anything happen

All the clocks move together through time
In a flock of birds, some birds are a little behind
All the birds are held together by a principle of form” (p. 15)

In the above excerpt, the lack of punctuation adds to the poetic marvel; the garden pathing and gentle echoes are genius.

Throughout the collection, Donish takes us from one vivid image to another. I compare it to being in a maze of floral shrubs, that, even when you are not led directly to your destination, the journey is aromatic and enjoyable, and all I wanted to do is be lost in her poems forever. Read the beginning of “The Leaf Mask”

            “she saw real birds
as wind-up birds with intricate
machinery, their whistles, the metal

architecture of their wings—she saw
them perched atop the hospital,
where exhausted women brought

catatonic lovers. She thought,
all buildings are wild, inviting people into
their mouths. One day she’ll chew


the crowd to dust, spit out bones, watches,
doves
.” (p. 59)

Refreshing—the best word to describe this collection. The shorter poems were consistently engaging and vivid, and I was torn between wanting to read it all in one sitting and wanting to savour it, piece by piece, slowly melting on my tongue. The book ends in the titular poem, “The Year of the Femme”, which is lyrical in its dualistic interplay of form and text. In the first stanza, Donish writes:

“I grew up swimming in a slow-moving river, in words like sister and girls. I knew a waist was supposed to be soft, knew when it should be covered, when revealed.”

The final poem is rich with eroticism, with sensuality, with the perfect combination of tight prose-poetry and loose verse. I find it hard to objectively describe the poetry, because, it is so much more than vocabulary choice or skilful editing. No, we’re taken on a journey, a boat ride with your hands running across the river’s cool surface. Even in the structural dichotomy, Donish’s voice remains effortless and ever-present.  “The Year of the Femme” is filled with queerness and the nostalgia of past experience which might be clearer now, but she goes through them as if it’s her first time, living them as they should have been lived to begin with. And that’s the most touching aspect of the whole collection. Donish embeds her voice in crystal clear images, which in their fragmentation become so complete.

And as the words take a life of their own, as the ink separates from the paper, we’re given a clearer identity while strengthening our connection with our surroundings; each breath becomes a lyrical exchange, to and fro. The essence of being elevates itself to an aesthetic way of being.

I received an Advanced Review Copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review


Sources and Links:

Book: The Year of the Femme
Book Cover: Goodreads
Support Me on Ko-Fi

Poetry Book Review: poems for the sound of the sky before thunder

Note. Direct quotes may appear differently than intended due to editing issues on this blog.

Review

Winters’ collection is both the storm and the silver lining. It starts out well and keeps getting stronger with each poem. Immediately, we’re thrown into a sea of darkness with the poem “Undrowned”, struggling to find ways to stay afloat. It sets out the tone of intensity that is to be expected throughout the collection. In Duologies, Winters writes:

“                                  healing
is the part in the nightmare when you wake up
just before you hit the ground”

(Duologies, p. 22)

I loved these lines because they portray a perfect juxtaposition, the danger of falling is intertwined with the hope of healing. This is what delineates the collection; the interplay of fighting to survive.

It’s a perfect balance of resilience and strength in the midst of darkness. These following lines show that so well:

 “No one ever taught me how to tie a noose,
but no one ever taught me how to heal, either.
This is learning curve beginning with exit wound.”

(Battlefield, p. 30)

There’s a sense of hopelessness but also of hope, in a way that the person is stuck between two possibilities without any help or direction. I also felt a few waves of loneliness, but at the same time, there are strong vibes of independence. We’re all alone to face decisions, the difficulties, the attempts to heal and get better. It centres to the person and the being rather than the surrounding environment. In these poems, I kept finding the reasons to standing back up and fighting, amidst all the pain.

I had to include one of my favourite poems in this review. There’s something about these lines from “Here / Where You Are” that I found to be just perfect:

“          she said                       i don’t think i’ll ever understand you
           just text me when you get home safe okay

i wanted to say                        what do you mean
i wanted to say                        i’m already here”

(Here / Where You Are, p. 38)

I’m already here. Winters found a beautiful way to write about, to what I assume, an unrequited love. It’s romantic yet painful.

Throughout the collection, Winters plays with spacing and format, and she commands the language to serve her poems. It’s one of those things in which I enjoy in poetry. All in all, it was a pleasure to read and would definitely recommend others to check out this collection

I received a free eBook copy in exchange for an honest review


Sources and Links:

Book: poems for the sound of the sky before thunder 
Book Cover: Goodreads
Support Me on Ko-Fi

Poetry Book Review: Hourglass Museum

Hourglass Museum
Kelli Russell Agodon

Review

The title is well-fitting for this collection. Kelli uses artistic imagery and references throughout the book. I specifically liked the titles of the poems, especially when they included “A portrait” or “An Abstract”; fusing art with poetry. Right off the bat, Frida Kahlo is mentioned, which I’m pretty pleased with. I don’t have much experience with art, but the references weren’t lost on me. The imagery of brushstrokes and other techniques worked well, and although used multiple times, it did not end up being repetitive. It was sufficiently varied and kept the collection consistent.

When I write reviews, I tend to include verses or poem titles that really struck me. With this collection, I didn’t have any personal connection—nothing stood out for me. I still enjoyed reading everything and wasn’t displeased by one bit, but, it also failed to make me fall in love with the writing. It’s one of those where I know it’s well-written, but I don’t feel it’s magic, which might quite be personal. It’d definitely be a book I’ll look into again in the future.


Sources and Links:

Book: Hourglass Museum
Book Cover: Goodreads
Reviewer: Jeremy Mifsud

Poetry Book Review: Hearing the Underwater

Hearing the Underwater
by Savannah Slone

Hearing the Underwater is a chapbook you want to have on your shelf—you’ll be reading the poems over and over. Several themes are approached within this collection, including motherhood, mental health and social issues such as poverty. Slone does not shy away from any thought that consume her mind.

In the poem “Cynicism and Other Synonyms”, she starts with the following stanza:

“When I have greasy hair,
I am incapable of being happy,
yet I put it off just long enough
because feeling agitated feels good
sometimes.”


Cynicism and Other Synonyms (p. 3)

And that’s only the beginning (it ends even better, trust me). In a simple way, she shows us how ‘illogical’ mental illness can be, and I could strongly relate right off the bat. Slone bares herself with the rawness of language, without hiding, and that’s why as a reader I found it so easy to connect with her poetry. And if anyone knows me well enough, they’d know how difficult it is for me to channel myself into another person’s world—Slone’s feat is by no means easy.

Her words transferred her anger and passion to me. I couldn’t stop nodding in agreement (with pouty lips and furrowed eyebrows) to some of her poems. Take a look at these lines:

“we pray on as the mounds of orphaned
pleas and rising statistics
pause it has happened
again”

Within Your White Picket Fence (p. 12)

What makes Slone’s work exceptional is that she has something to say, in a way that compels you to not miss a word. Her voice is one that we need more of, so I strongly recommend you to buy this chapbook.


I was provided with a free eBook copy in exchange for an honest review.

Quotes may differ slightly from original due to formatting difficulties on blog posts.


Sources and Links:

Book: Hearing the Underwater
Book Cover: Goodreads
Reviewer: Jeremy Mifsud

Poetry Book Review: Chameleon Aura

Chameleon Aura
Billy Chapata

Review

I’m going to approach this review from the perspective of the book’s value. I liked it. It’s uplifting and promotes self-love and awareness in a creative way. I wouldn’t necessarily call it poetry, but it doesn’t take away from the writing.

One thing I appreciate in Chapata’s book is that it is honest. It reflects his personal experiences and his growth throughout a multitude of relationships. The book is inundated with clichés about when you should let people go, but I found it [somewhat] fitting, nonetheless. There’s a sense of separating oneself from surroundings, and acknowledging self-worth, with the recurring concept of loving from a distance.

‘Recurring’ is a key-word in this review. With a book barely shy of 300 pages, all these relatable quotes become repetitive. The vocabulary does not change. In fact, towards the end, each piece of writing feels like I’ve had already read it previously. Because many things are repeated so many times, it drags the value down, it transforms revelation into preach, and Chapata becomes just another guy telling us how to feel, how to love, how to be. And what makes him qualified to do so?

It’s a nice attempt. Obviously, it could be expressed better, more vividly, more creatively (the words “darling” and “healing” were beyond over-used, amongst other words). In essence, if you read a fourth of the book, you might get more of its worth than reading it in its completion. If you’re into the quote-sy, relatable ‘poetry’, this is definitely a good book for you. Otherwise, it can still be enjoyable, but it might get boring and ‘too much’ too soon.

Chameleon Aura is expected to be published on 22nd January 2019.


Sources and Links

Book: Chameleon Aura
Book Cover: Goodreads
Reviewer: Jeremy Mifsud

I received the book for free as an Advanced Review Copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review