Double review: Poetry edition

Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson

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Published on 27 November 2018

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

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Published on 4 November 2014

For some unknown reason, I never really read poetry, even though I’ve been a fan of Andrea Gibson’s work for years. One day it dawned on me that I did not actually own any of their books so I went onto Amazon and fixed that problem immediately. As I was ordering Lord of the Butterflies, Milk and Honey popped up as a suggested read and since I am easily influenced and needed to get my basket to £20 to qualify for free delivery, I thought go on then.

This was definitely money well spent because both of these books are incredible. If you are feeling a bit iffy about poetry, rest assured: this is modern poetry and it does not conform to the rigidness and vagueness of the kind of poetry that you may have been asked to read for school. This reads very easily, so easily that it takes the reader in instantly.

Andrea’s poetry covers topics such as depression and anxiety, politics, gender issues and so on. They question the state of affairs in America, all the while celebrating LGBTQ+ people.

Rupi’s poetry is similar in that it also covers serious topics: mainly abuse and trauma, but also love and healing. Rupi’s words cut deep, they are crude and will shake you to your core. You will feel the hurt and horror as if you were there. However the end of the book is more light-hearted as it focuses on forgiveness, healing and allowing oneself to be happy. Milk and Honey is truly inspiring in that it shows that no matter how much other people hurt and abuse you, there is always a silver lining. Humans are strong beings that can be reborn from the ashes, and if you just give yourself a little love and forgiveness, you can rebuild yourself and experience joy.

Andrea’s book also has this same message of hope, though it comes in the form of altruism. There is a certain poem in which Andrea relates one of their suicide attempts and tells how on their way to end their life they stumbled upon someone else about to take their own life and immediately felt that they had to stop them. In a powerful quote, they say:

Never in my life did I want more

to keep my blood blue, did I want more to live

than when I looked up and saw myself in someone else

trying to become the sky. I didn’t even know him

but I know it would have killed me to watch him die.

Both of these books promote self-love and forgiveness. They incite us to give ourselves some slack because yes, life is hard, so we need compassion towards ourselves and towards others. If we could all love a little more, the world would be an easier place to live in.

I am extremely lucky to have gotten tickets to Andrea Gibson’s show in Cardiff in May and I cannot wait for it! After years of following their work, I cannot believe I will finally get to see them perform live!

Review #33: Talking with Serial Killers

Talking with Serial Killers: A chilling study of the world’s most evil people by Christopher Berry-Dee

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Published on 20 September 2018 (First published in 2003)

I bought this book myself for my own personal leisure.

Christopher Berry-Dee is the man who talks to serial killers. A world-renowned investigative criminologist, he has gained the trust of murderers across the world, entered their high security prisons, and discussed in detail their shocking crimes.

The killers’ pursuit of horror and violence is described through the unique audiotape and videotape interviews which Berry-Dee conducted, deep inside the bowels of some of the world’s toughest prisons.

Christopher Berry-Dee has collated these interviews into this astounding, disturbing book, which, since its first publication, has gone on to become a True Crime classic. Not only does he describe his meetings with some of the world’s most evil men and women, he also reproduces, verbatim, their very words as they describe their crimes, allowing the reader a glimpse into the inner workings of the people who have committed the worst crime possible- to mercilessly take the life of another human being.

In these nine chapters, each focusing on a different serial killer, Christopher Berry-Dee comes back on years of correspondence and research into some of America’s most prolific murderers. This book is certainly not for the faint-hearted as it goes into very gruesome details pretty much from the onset.

I have actually never read a book about serial killers before though I have always had an interest in the subject and I do watch a lot of true crime documentaries, so when I stumbled upon this book I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to join my passion for reading with my interest in true crime.

However, I would say that I was slightly disappointed by this book, mainly because I assumed from the title that the serial killers would be the ones telling their stories and that we would get insight into their minds. But instead, Christopher Berry-Dee is exposing his own research and knowledge of the different cases. No matter how extensive his knowledge is, it did feel like the focus was on the author and his research work rather than on the killers, as the title suggests, so that was misleading. I was expecting extracts from letters or transcriptions of taped interviews but the book contains very little of that.

Another negative point was the number of typos and spelling mistakes. For a professionally published book, the level of proofreading and editing was simply shocking and it did hinder my reading quite a bit.

On a positive note however, I did learn a lot about cases that I had previously never heard of, as well as the real story behind the Amityville murders. I knew that the movie was based on a true story but I never actually looked into it before so it was really interesting to learn about the true events that inspired the film.

The author’s research into these crimes also sheds doubt on the culpability of some of these killers. For example, in the case of Douglas Clark and Carol Bundy: in common knowledge, Clark was the mastermind behind the killings and Bundy a mere accessory; but the story that Christopher Berry-Dee recounts would have us think that it was rather the other way around with Bundy being the main perpetrator and Clark possibly being innocent of most of the murders he was charged with.

While slightly disappointing in some regards, I still found that this book contained a lot of interesting information and, if anything, it’s opened a whole new genre of literature for me and I will be sure to buy more books on this horrifying, yet fascinating, subject.

Review #32: Dawn

Dawn by Morgan Sylvia

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Published on 21 September 2018

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Legacy of Violence

When Stiva and her twin brother, Chandris, inherit the troubled throne of Aris, the populace grows uneasy, and with good reason. The twins, estranged for years after a bitter feud, are very different. Stiva takes after their mother, a Reonih bard from the primal mushroom forests of distant Shadri, while Chandris favors their father, a hardened warlord, commander of the mighty Selin army.

A King’s Thirst For Power

Faced with enemies on all sides and the rising threat of war, the twins vow to put their discord behind them and unite to protect Aris. But Chandris wants more than survival; he dreams of empire, and is determined to lift Aris out of its post-technological dark age. He will stop at nothing to achieve that goal, and has no qualms about reawakening an ancient, deadly technology to do it.

A Land Divided

By delving into forbidden science and forgotten dark arts, Chandris breaks a longstanding treaty with the Reonih and incites civil war. He also unleashes an ancient, unearthly threat; the bloodthirsty, elemental Zhur. As alliances fracture and warfare threatens to engulf the land, Stiva must fight not only to save the Reonih from her brother’s lust for power, but protect herself from the Zhurlord that is haunting her.

This book has all the elements of fantasy that I enjoy, and more: a historical and fantastical kingdom with mysterious creatures and powers. It reminded me of Game of Thrones except that it also included witchcraft elements. Having recently developed an interest in all things Wicca and witchcraft related, this was a delightful surprise. I have rarely stumbled upon books that contain divination tools etc as an important part of the story so it hooked me in straight away.

The author has created a completely new fantasy world unlike any other and I felt very drawn to it. I have to say that her writing and imagination stumped me. However, there were a few things that I thought could improve the reader’s experience:

  • Firstly, there are a lot of characters all belonging to different “races” and it can get difficult to figure out who’s on who’s side. Maybe a list of characters and their affiliations could be useful so as to not get lost.
  • Similarly, the author introduces the reader to a range of magickal creatures and plants etc, but doesn’t give any explanation as to what they are other than the names, which made it hard for me to picture them in my head since I had no idea what these inventions were supposed to be like. I would consider either including a glossary explaining what they are or offering a small description in the novel as they are being introduced into the story.
  • Finally, the narrative is for the most part Stiva’s, the new queen of Aris. However it randomly jumps to different characters in some chapters. While I appreciate the use of multiple point of views to add to the intrigue, it felt a bit odd that the narration would follow Stiva until the middle of the book, then quickly jump to a different character then back to Stiva etc. In my opinion, if you’re going to be playing around with different point of views and narratives, you should do so in a consistent manner rather than randomly and sporadically.

Overall, I did really enjoy this book as it contains all the elements that, for me, make up a great fantasy novel. I’ve loved immersing myself into this whole new world. I did find that the book ended on a random scene, but seeing as it is the first of a trilogy, it should all make more sense when the second book comes out, which I cannot wait to get my teeth into!

Review #31: The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood

The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliot Wright

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Publication date: 21 February 2019

I obtained a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cornelia Blackwood is about to do something very wrong, for a reason she believes to be right.
She has a loving marriage but she has no friends.
Everyone knows Cornelia’s name but no one will speak to her now.
Cornelia has unravelled once before. What could possibly happen to her next?
An urgent and important novel of love, loss, tragedy and daring to hope again.

I picked up this book from Netgalley back in May last year because it intrigued me and the synopsis doesn’t reveal much at all so it’s fair to say I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this novel.

Cornelia Blackwood is a woman approaching her fourties, whose life hasn’t been kind. When her husband dies unexpectedly in a car crash, she is left childless and with no real family of her own apart from her in-laws. To make matters worse she soon finds out that her late husband had a child with another woman. Led by grief and conflicting emotions, Cornelia decides to befriend said woman in a desperate attempt to meet her husband’s son.

Cornelia’s character is deeply unlucky and when we meet her, she is overwhelmed by grief at the loss of her husband. The story alternates between the present time and Cornelia’s (better known as Leah) memories which help paint a picture of her life before her husband’s death and the deep connection that they had.

As the book goes on, we realise how harsh life has been to Leah. Even though she has a loving relationship with her husband, they are struggling to start a family. After a miscarriage and a stillborn, Leah is left deeply scarred. But when daughter Harriet finally comes along, Leah is so determined to protect her precious baby that she slowly develops a condition known as post-partum psychosis and she starts to behave abnormally and obsessively.

In the present timeline however, we know that Leah was left childless after her husband’s death so there is this constant question at the back of the reader’s head of what happened to Harriet? We can also see Leah start to develop obsessive patterns and behaviours around her husband’s child, that she feels needs to be a part of her life.

This is a novel that is very deeply emotionally charged and it made me feel all kinds of emotions. At the beginning and through most of the book, my heart deeply ached for Cornelia as I struggled to imagine what it would be like to want a family so much only for life to take it away from you every time. But when Harriet came along, the feelings of intrigue took over, only to be replaced by concern once Leah starts behaving oddly. I will admit that towards the end of the novel there were times where I hated Leah as much as I hurt for her, and I just wanted to scream at her to stop.

This is a very moving novel that sheds light on a condition that is not often talked about. While we’ve all heard of post-partum depression, post-partum psychosis isn’t often discussed and it is alarming because if undiagnosed it could have harmful consequences. Even though the author makes a point of stating that Leah’s case was taken to the extreme for the purposes of entertainment, I still believe it is a subject that needs to be addressed and that people need to be aware of. For this, I am really glad that this novel was written, not only was it extremely entertaining but it also conveys an important message that the world needs to know about.

Review #30: Norse Mythology

Happy New Year everyone!!!

I took a little break from reviewing for the holidays so I hope you didn’t mind and thank you for sticking around 🙂

What to expect for 2019: I am actually going back to uni next week so I will be busier than I have been, so reviews will probably be up every two or three weeks rather than weekly. I have also stopped taking on review requests for the moment and I have a long list of personal reading I want to get through this year, so it will be less Netgalley/author requests content and more personal finds.

Now to kick off 2019 we have a review of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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Published on 6th March 2018

I bought this book for my one leisure reading.

The great Norse myths, which have inspired so much of modern fiction, are dazzlingly retold by Neil Gaiman. Tales of dwarfs and frost giants, of treasure and magic, and of Asgard, home to the gods: Odin the all-father, highest and oldest of the Aesir; his mighty son Thor, whose hammer Mjollnir makes the mountain giants tremble; Loki, wily and handsome, reliably unreliable in his lusts; and Freya, more beautiful than the sun or the moon, who spurns those who seek to control her. 

From the dawn of the world to the twilight of the gods, this is a thrilling, vivid retelling of the Norse myths from the award-winning, bestselling Neil Gaiman.

I have always loved mythology and folklore tales and even though I am familiar with the Greek and Egyptian mythologies, and the Celtic myths and legends, I hardly knew anything about Norse Mythology before reading this book (bar the names of some of the characters made famous by the Marvel movies, which I have not even seen).

There is something truly fascinating to me about plunging into a different culture and with these tales, it really felt like I was diving head first into Norse culture. Neil Gaiman tells tales as old as time and yet still manages to modernise them in a way that renders them timeless.

The book is divided into short stories which makes it easy to read and also to put down and pick up again. It follows a chronological order beginning with the creation of the gods and the different worlds and ending with Ragnarok: the final destiny of the gods, a sort of Norse version of the Apocalypse.

Neil’s writing is fluid and a total delight. I loved learning about all of these characters, who are very human-like with their qualities and flaws. These stories also reminded me of other worlds that I love such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. They have this fantastic quality to them as they feature characters such as giants and dwarves.

Overall it was a wonderful and informative read and I am quite surprised that I haven’t read anything by Neil Gaiman before! I will definitely make sure to check out some of his other works, and if you guys have any recommendations on which books of his to start with, let me know in the comments!

Review #29: Happiness for Humans

Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin

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Publication date: 10 January 2019

I obtained a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Do you believe in soulmates?

Aiden does. So when his colleague, Jen, is dumped unceremoniously by her dreadful boyfriend, Aiden decides to take matters – and Jen’s life – into his own hands. 

Scouring the internet for a suitable partner for Jen, Aiden finds Tom. He’d be perfect for Jen apart from one minor detail: Tom lives in New York. 

Luckily for Jen and Tom, Aiden’s not just an interfering colleague. In fact, Aiden isn’t exactly human – he’s a very complicated artificial intelligence. 

As Jen and Tom’s romance grows, Aiden begins to take more and more risks to make sure that they can be together. But what will happen if they realise how they met…and that somebody else is pulling the strings?

Humans use machines everyday and for nearly everything: making coffee in the morning, checking emails, paying for your groceries… but what if humans and machines could have a deeper connection? That’s the subject that Happiness for Humans explore. Jen works for a company that develops Artificial Intelligence, and her job is to talk to one of these AIs all day long, in an effort to see how human-like they can become. And before long, it becomes apparent that these non-human intelligences can become sentient. Unbeknownst to Jen however, who still thinks that Aiden, her AI colleague, is still safely confined to the four walls of the laboratory. But Aiden has in fact escaped onto the internet and is able to observe humans (and particularly Jen) through all kinds of electronic devices (CCTV cameras, phones, laptops…) and as Aiden develops as an AI, he starts getting attached to Jen and when her boyfriend of two years breaks up with her, Aiden takes it upon himself to find Jen a more worthy match and get revenge on the ex-boyfriend.

One of the striking things about this book is how alike the humans and AIs are. Even though AIs have a lot more scientific abilities, they also develop their own personality quirks and enjoy doing different things (watching movies for Aiden, painting for Aisling) and their feelings and reactions to events are really close to those of humans.

The book shifts narratives between the human characters and the AIs and it all flows smoothly. It’s funny, witty and ever so realistic. All of the characters are very lovable, and Aiden’s obsession with wanting to try cheese made me crave cheese a few times myself. Even the villain AI, Sinai, is lovable in his own way, especially once he realises that he is only evil and causing chaos because he’s lonely, and that’s very relatable.

Of course, the book also presents the dangers of AI and the fact that humans are unable to predict what would happen if AI could become sentient, and possibly take over the world. It is a worrying thought but in this novel, mainly a passing one as it’s treated with fairly lightheartedly.

Overall, I liked this novel. The witty and funny writing seduced me from the get go. I did find it a bit long though, with some scenes not particularly useful for the story, but apart from that it was an enjoyable lighthearted read that I would recommend to any romantic comedy lovers.

Review #28: Apparent Power

Apparent Power by Dacia M Arnold

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Published on 11 December 2018

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

True electrical power is Apparent Power.
An apocalyptic event awakens a dormant gene in a quarter of the world’s population. With an even rarer gene, the life Valerie Russell has turned into a shocking race against time.
Stranded in southern Colorado, a hundred miles from home—and from her two-year-old son— Valerie must find it within herself to trek the distance with the help of a questionable assembly of ex-military friends of the family. As she desperately seeks to avoid capture from a government rising from the ashes of The Event, Valerie is also faced with a moral choice: risk failure by trying to save the masses from the regime’s evil plot or run, and preserve only the lives of her family. A mother would do anything for the safety of her children.

Dacia Arnold takes us into a dystopian world where a quarter of the world’s population has awaken with the ability to conduct and control electricity through their bodies. For most of the population, including Valerie Russell, this is unexpected news. However, the government seems to have known for a long time that this could happen and have been preparing their own facility to accommodate and take control of the new world.

The main character, Valerie Russell, is a DiaZem which means that she is not only a conductor of electricity but she can also control it to extreme extents. Separated from her husband and son when the event occurs, she will have to trek a hundred miles with a group of strangers in order to be reunited with her family, all the while trying to stay away from the government’s grasp.

I really enjoyed this novel. The whole dormant gene storyline reminded me of X-men, especially in the fact that the main villain, also a DiaZem, plans to eradicate “regular” people and create a new world order where only conductors reign. In this way, he could be compared to Magneto. Valerie on the other hand, whose husband and friends are regular people doesn’t want anyone to die and wants to find a way for everyone to live in harmony, and therefore she is much closer to Charles Xavier’s views.

I’m not usually a big fan of sci-fi but I do love a good dystopian book, and this was it. The story is original, the characters are well developed (even though there are a lot of them to start with and it can be confusing) and I loved the ending. It was really intense and climactic and as I got closer and closer to the end, I kept asking myself “how is this going to be resolved?!”

Valerie and Hyka were my favourite characters, but while I do appreciate them being two strong female characters, they do overshadow the rest of the primarily male group.

The writing was effortless and easy to read, and even without having much scientific knowledge I could make sense of what was going on. With this book being the first of a trilogy, I am looking forward to the next one as I would very much like to know what happens next in this new world.

Quick note though, there were once again quite a few typos and missing words in the text, not enough to hinder reading but enough to seek out further editing.