Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Poetry

Space Struck by Paige Lewis

Consider this glowing debut from Paige Lewis a menagerie of near-extinction. Space Struck explores the wonders and cruelties occurring within the realms of nature, science, and religion, with the acuity of a sage, the deftness of a hunter, and a hilarious sensibility for the absurd. The universe is seen as an endless arrow “. . . and it asks only one question: How dare you?”

The poems are physically and psychologically tied to the animal world, replete with ivory-billed woodpeckers, pelicans, and constellations-as-organisms. They are also devastatingly human, well anchored in emotion and self-awareness, like art framed in a glass that also holds one’s reflection. Silky and gruesome, the poems of Space Struck pulse like starlight.

Space Struck by Paige Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this one. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club. I’d recommend this book to anyone, whether a newby to poetry or a seasoned reader of poetry, anyone in between.

It was a very accessible book of poetry, it was a little generational, but overall encompassed a lot of shared sentiments through recognition.

This one engaged those parts of my brain, like the moments of slight panic or chaos followed by relief and serenity. Like reading Sunday comics after heavy news pages, finally finding the mate to the last pair of socks while doing laundry, sitting on the tarmac in a plane you thought you were going to miss. It’s this satisfying feeling of gratitude and calmness, things are ok, a type of feeling of accomplishment, entertainment, and relaxation for your soul.

I suppose I don’t read poetry enough.

Poetry to me takes a certain amount of discipline. Discipline I don’t always have. A certain amount of concentration. Concentration I don’t always have. It’s never my first pick when choosing a book, but when I do find something I enjoy, I ask myself why don’t I read more?

I think it’s because the audience for whom the book is intended is not always well-defined. And sharing one’s feelings, pondering, and outlook on life is so super subjective and often boring without context, plot, leading trajectory, as a lot of poetry goes from my experiences, that its appeal is somewhat limiting. My exposure altogether is limited so I can’t speak for all. Poetry typically has relational/social concepts, presented as overly complex, yet dubious, often incredibly specific to culture, upbringing, and life experiences that aren’t always commonly shared, ones I don’t understand or find far-reaching or weird, and then to put it into writing in a riddle-like stanza is like double dissatisfaction for me.

Anyway, about the book.

I loved the lines referencing nature the best. The observations and inquiring when to intervene, whether the subject matter stirs up anger, then confusion, let it be, it’s nature. It was an interesting concept for me.

I liked that much was intertwined with bits of history.

I liked that the format of poems where changed up.

Some more vague and personal than others, parts I felt a little naive, then though “Oh, ok.” Others I truly didn’t “get” still very intriguing to read. Some with bits of pop culture, childhood relatability, some depicting more intimate aspects of a relationship, some religious interest, some contemplative, some speculative. I liked the variety.

And I also liked that it was short and that single-subject concepts weren’t exhaustive/belabored/overly descriptive or too-trying. It expressed a feeling/concept and moved on.

But I think what makes this collection unique and interesting to me was how it balanced abstract thought and tangible, concrete circumstances, much relative to my own generation, which made all the difference.


On Distance

Diorama of Ghosts


“It’s nothing. The sun, with its plasma plumes and arching heat, is five million miles closer to Earth than it was in July, and we are still alive.”

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

What if the history of the transatlantic slave trade had been reversed and Africans had enslaved Europeans? How would that have changed the ways that people justified their inhuman behavior? How would it inform our cultural attitudes and the insidious racism that still lingers today?

We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, an Englishwoman enslaved and taken to the New World, movingly recounting experiences of tremendous hardship and the dreams of the people she has left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.

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Blonde RootsBlonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really liked the concept of this book. Unfortunately that’s where it ended for me. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

The story.

I love satire. Satire that takes a contrasting view and turns it into a narrative that pushes it so far that it becomes believable, relatable, immersed in an idea that can cause you to question reality, cause you question yourself, your own ethos at times.

However I didn’t see the point in this book. It took aspects of African culture and experiences of slaves during the trade and imposed them onto “whytes” as a juxtaposition, which to me, lost the very cause and effect it tried to steer its way through. Its whole foundation, all of its substance, disorientating. Whether satire or not, there was this attempt to draw parallels that just weren’t there.

I would rather have liked the portrayal of satire as an extreme to evoke an empathetic sense. It banked on stereotypes upon stereotypes, trite propositions that did not give rise to irony, sarcasm, or human connectivity. It played it safe. Sardonic but not in a clever or meaningful way.

Apart from the so-called satyrical take, I didn’t feel a stronger connection to it in any sense of the idea that I think the author was trying to convey. I suppose the story is what really felt forced to me. Contrived in such a way that it was running away with itself, losing power, perspective, and what I had high hopes for in achieving the main idea. And the idea was there, but the details to get there were less developed for me. Some parts read like an outline.

The heavy topics seemed to only be there for shock value and it was the explanatory tidbits that followed that really threw me off, especially because the tension seemed to be drawn off of this shock value which didn’t make a strong story of fiction for me in and of itself and were less supported even more so by the over-explanations of them.

Then there was a red-hot poker searing, sending warm bloody tears streaming down your body. Peeling “hairy” skins of a guava. I’ve eaten a lot of guava in my lifetime. I’ve had a guava tree. Had a really good harvest this past year. First, they’re not hairy and second, it’s actually quite common to eat them whole, skins and all. Perhaps the author was thinking of kiwi? There’s also a notable difference between coconut milk and coconut water.

I won’t comment on other discrepancies or even what I thought were less accurate portrayals of rationales behind certain historical events because they’d be tediously beside the point to mention in a story like this, which I felt began to ignore the strengths of context, community, and redemption which would have helped to guide readers and answer the questions proposed in the description in the first place.

The writing.

The writing as a whole wasn’t much of anything new. Read a bit mundane and unoriginal. Fire cackling, wind slapping, cloudy gray skies, heavy wooden door, tan leather boots. The prose toward the end depicted the movement of the story in a more unique way, but then focused more on actual events and became tethered to the dialogue rather than expressing emotional energy, reflection, or perception, which I think was lacking in majority of the book.

There was a lot of explaining away in the narrative. I didn’t feel at ease with the writing style. I wanted imagery and creative language. I had a hard time getting through this book and it wasn’t just the heavy subject matter, but the style in which it was written.

Sentence structure and effect. In recognizing race in a language, the phonic sounds were too formal, too complete and long-winded, too gibberish at the same time, the effect was nonsense to me.

Time. I had the hardest time understanding what time frame it was written in and who it was for. Then realizing it was a mix of time periods and time frames, including a blend of old and modern day vernacular, letting me know early on that this book wasn’t for me. Terms like freaking out, getting mojo back, Inheritance Tax for Dummies along with a twist on geography for role reversal effect wasn’t my cup of tea and was less effective at conveying a message of what I thought of as a more serious and important issue. Time and setting can really solidify a story, this had neither to enhance or support the story in the way I wanted to connect with it more.

POV and tense. The back and forth tenses sort of took me out of the story rather than add to or strengthen the premise. From past to present. There wasn’t a lot going on to drive me forward in the story.

The tone. Monologic tone didn’t fit with the structure of the story. The more graphic parts read just the same as light-hearted ones. Not in a cohesive way, but disjointed actually.

Characters. The growth and development wasn’t there for me. They read the same, not much personality to them. I knew about them but didn’t really know them. As I read on, I even questioned if they were meant to have any emotional capacity, undermining the whole premise.

The voices. The voices were less distinguished. Both main characters read the same people to me.

I will say on my most positive note of the book, “The Middle Passage” was my favorite part of the story and had the most complete concept, thought, and meaningful writing.

Overall this book fell incredibly short for me. I didn’t want to nitpick over this one, but it was just not a good book to me for multiple reasons. I’d be curious to read another book by this author though.

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Art Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

Mastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for Photographers by Richard Garvey-Williams

What makes a great photo? Flicking through the pages of most popular photography magazines you might get the impression that there’s only one rule of importance – ‘the rule of thirds’. Indeed it appears that some will judge the merit of a photograph based almost solely on this. Rarely do you hear discussion about ‘visual weight’, ‘balance’, ‘negative space’, ‘depth’ and so on.

Author and professional photographer Richard Garvey-Williams argues that success lies in a combination of four elements: an impactful subject; dynamic composition; effective use of lighting; and, perhaps the most crucial, ability to invoke an emotional response in the viewer.

Citing examples gleaned from a study of history – the Ancient Greeks’ Golden Rule; Fibonacci’s mathematical ratio; and the principles known as the Gestalt theory – the author analyses the concepts, rules and guidelines that define successful composition in photography and offers practical guidance to achieving great results.

Mastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for PhotographersMastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for Photographers by Richard Garvey-Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent book on photography. I read this one for The Bite Shot Bookclub and really gleaned a lot from it.

It was super comprehensive which I devoured every morsel of, especially since it included vocabulary such as emergence, reification, multistability, amongst others, which I had no idea how to construct certain elements to make them come together to tell such a meaningful story.

I like how it showed side-by-side examples of cropped and uncropped images. The theoretical concepts were well explained. I really liked how it pointed out that in some instances, neither style was wrong but may be dependent on whether the photographer wanted to convey sense of space or sense of depth.

I enjoyed the bits about image manipulation and how to relate them to the interesting concepts of right and left, balance, and overall shape.

I think I would like to try photographing more shadows. The ideas explored about them in this book was great.

There is a lot packed into this book and I’d say this would be a foundational read for every photographer.

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Adventure Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages #3) by Jules Verne

The intrepid Professor Liedenbrock embarks upon the strangest expedition of the nineteenth century: a journey down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the Earth’s very core. In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the geologist–together with his quaking nephew Axel and their devoted guide, Hans–discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric proportions. Verne’s imaginative tale is at once the ultimate science fiction adventure and a reflection on the perfectibility of human understanding and the psychology of the questor.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages, #3)Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was great. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club. I enjoyed it as an audiobook, narrated by Simon Prebble.

I loved the original movie from 1959. In this book, as a new post movie read for me, I also loved how the story unfolded, though I must say it was difficult to put aside the ideas I already knew from the movie and not miss on all the nonstop action that drove the storyline home.

The story was a little slow to start though. I couldn’t wait to get to the actual journey part. The build up was important but slow from this aspect, but when it took off, the story became a little more alive to me.

I don’t think I ever remembered it taking place in Iceland, so I really appreciated all the insight into Icelandic scenery and culture.

The thought put into the science fiction aspects were my favorite part. Thoughts about lighting to view the center of the earth, taking note of how one could possibly do this in the presence of gasses. Discussion about the actual physical space, liquid or solidarity. The discussions that took place among the characters to evaluate this. I just loved all the ideas that were studied and explored.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Science Fiction

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining, simple, linear plot, perfect for what I was wanting to read right now. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

This was a quick read which I quite reveled in. It was an instant plunge into the story which I quite liked and I enjoyed the trajectory. The bulk of it centered around technical aspects of the journey mission and a bit of internal conflict that was humanly relatable from a robot telling sort of point of view. I loved the little mentionable bits of pop culture.

From that standpoint I would have liked to have seen more character development integrated into the telling of the technical bits, maybe a side line story over a period of time, or in response to a certain incident, or perhaps in thought. Just an extra kick of something specific I could bond to other than the more generic human-like qualities. I also wasn’t really sure what the whole sex and gender bit was about and how it was set out to enrich the story. I had hoped to come to understand a bit of the backstory or resolution in that to explain the importance or whether it was for entertainment purposes or for what, but maybe there is more to come in the love interest sector with the subsequent book.

Overall a good book!

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) by Octavia E. Butler

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.

Parable of the Sower (Earthseed, #1)Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An interesting story. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

This is a heavy read, not in volume but in sadness and much tragedy. It lingered there, a little too long for my taste.

It started out strong, but I quickly realized that maybe it’s one I would have better appreciated in the 90s or early 2000s. I wouldn’t say this book stands the test of time like other futuristic, dystopian concepts I’ve read. Which would be fine, but it lingered too much in the head of the narrator, that being presented in first person, with too much stagnation in personal reflection and not enough character growth or support for character consistency.

By the time I got half way through, realizing this was more of reminiscing and dwelling, and dwelling around a very specific concept of personal loss and societal woes, I just wanted to get it over with and didn’t look forward to finding out what was next because the interpersonal and personal victories kept getting postponed and never really came into full fruition by the end of the story in my opinion. It just became a bit exhausting to pick up and read, and I lost interest pretty early on unfortunately.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other’s fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges – one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs and unpredictable seas.

Full of brusque humour and wisdom, The Summer Book is a profoundly life-affirming story. Tove Jansson captured much of her own experience and spirit in the book, which was her favourite of the novels she wrote for adults. This new edition sees the return of a European literary gem – fresh, authentic and deeply humane.

The Summer BookThe Summer Book by Tove Jansson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute and sentimental stories about growing up with grandma, which I enjoyed reading about. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

Some of the stories were so enduring and fun to read about.

I did feel quite of the majority were that type of story that you had to have been there for or part of the family to truly immerse yourself in the more meaningful aspect of it all.

And then there are certain types of people who are entertaining as heck when they tell a story even when the story itself is not that great.

And some stories do not necessarily make an amazing book to read about.

I don’t know which is the case with this book of how I perceived it, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Romance

Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle #1) by Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Loved, loved, loved! I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club. I converted my read to the audiobook version which was excellent.

This book was just all-around well-paced, adorable, fun, and adventurous. Side note- I think I may make a scarecrow for my garden just like the character.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang’s first published story, “Tower of Babylon,” won the Nebula Award in 1990. Subsequent stories have won the Asimov’s SF Magazine reader poll, a second Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Sidewise Award for alternate history. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1992. Story for story, he is the most honored young writer in modern SF.

Now, collected here for the first time are all seven of this extraordinary writer’s stories so far-plus an eighth story written especially for this volume.

What if men built a tower from Earth to Heaven-and broke through to Heaven’s other side? What if we discovered that the fundamentals of mathematics were arbitrary and inconsistent? What if there were a science of naming things that calls life into being from inanimate matter? What if exposure to an alien language forever changed our perception of time? What if all the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity were literally true, and the sight of sinners being swallowed into fiery pits were a routine event on city streets? These are the kinds of outrageous questions posed by the stories of Ted Chiang. Stories of your life . . . and others.

Stories of Your Life and OthersStories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sort of an eclectic collection of short stories. I read this for Life’s Library Book Club and it was one already on my TBR. I’d say more of them are within the fantasy realm. I converted to audiobook, narrated by Todd McLaren & Abby Craden, which was ok as it added a bit of personality to some of the more boorish reads for me. Abby’s reads have a wide range of character, though at her lower register became fatigued and I was getting sleepy listening to it, so I ended up going back to the physical copy of the book to finish up some parts.

My favorite was the first story, the one about the Tower of Babylon. Although theologically it doesn’t really represent the Biblical point of the building of the tower, this story one was the most intriguing one to read. The descriptions of the atmosphere, emotional turmoil, and characterization of brick layering while working under the hot sun to accomplish a common goal was well thought out.

I wasn’t as fond of most of the other stories though. Between scientific jargon sort of thrown about, kind of forced and like a word salad at times, some of which were less precise in definition and illogical, not in the fantasy story sense, but in the actual physiological characteristics and function of normal/pathological anatomy. And reading the thought pattern of a teen trying to solve a math problem in her head was just not for me.

Overall, though I liked the riddle-like sense captured each story.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery Science Fiction

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, an homage to 1940s noir, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

The Yiddish Policemen's UnionThe Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this one for Life’s Library book club. I feel a bit indifferent about the story. It’s certainly not a bad book, as I did enjoy where it was initially taking me, but it just was not my most favorite as far as how invested I was in it.

Many parts were very interesting and I loved the directness it offered at the beginning, but then that became lost and certain parts overemphasized as far as detail in what was taking place. As a result, the remainder of the story meandered around which made me lose my full attention.

It begins as a very plot driven story, but some of it is revealed before much of the character development begins. So perhaps that is where I began to feel disconnected because I did not feel immersed into the story right away and that sort of set the whole tone for me to not feel well invested about the rest of the book. It almost started to feel like the plot trajectory and some holes along with it were being filled in a retrospective manner.

I did like the alternate concept though and I would like to check out more from this author.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon © 2019 | All rights reserved.

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Biography Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Nonfiction

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

This powerful and inspiring book shows how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the WorldMountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this for Life’s Library Book Club and really enjoyed it. It features an incredibly detailed biographical account of Dr. Paul Farmer, both his professional and personal life as a physician serving in the global health arena. It also included a mix of interesting tidbits of day to day life including the many rewards and challenges he faced and also bits of dialogue with an intriguing approach to include some Hatian history for context.

I’d highly recommend it to anyone!

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Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Classics Fantasy Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies.

Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.

The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.

The House of the SpiritsThe House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This one just wasn’t for me. It was too fanciful, wordy, and just plain weird for my taste. I read this for Life’s Library Book Club. It was not likely one I would pick up on my own though, but I did give it a good try and I know other people will love it.

I converted my reading experience to audiobook about half way through to see if it would help bring me into the more positively popular perspective about this book, but I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading it though as other people would probably relate to it more than me and might find themselves better immersed in the story.

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