Double review: Poetry edition

Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson

Paperback

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Published on 27 November 2018

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Paperback

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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

Paperback

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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 #15: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Ebook

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Published on 30 August 2018

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

For those of you wondering why I am posting on a Monday rather than my usual Tuesdays, I just happen to be travelling for the next couple of weeks and Mondays will be a bit easier for me to post, but from mid-september I will be back to my old schedule!

So, here I am back again with another non-fiction book! (and if it’s not your style I promise you it is the last one for a good while so make sure to come back next week!)

Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian and tenured professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is also everything that I aspire to be but am too weak-willed to achieve: an incredibly researched individual who practises meditation for two hours every day, is vegan and stays away from social media (I mean, he doesn’t even own a smartphone anymore).

21 Lessons for the 21st Century takes a deep look at the current world and where it’s headed. Whereas in his previous works (namely Sapiens and Homo Deus) Harari mainly focused on the past and future of humankind, this new book is rather geared towards the present. It explores various domains: the advance of technology, the pros and cons of different political regimes, the rises of terrorism and immigration, and even topics such as religions and science-fiction. The extent of his knowledge on all these various topics is mind-blowing and it all makes so much sense when someone takes the time to explain! He is obviously very knowledgeable in matters of history, science and politics, but also social sciences: how humans work both inwardly and with each other.

This book made me feel very clever at times (when I could relate to a topic) or very stupid (when reading about things I don’t know much about) and just generally woke. It’s also made me feel a balance of emotions: from despair (questioning the point of carrying on when the world is headed towards some dark places) to hope and feeling inspired that humans can find their peace and adapt to the changes to come and just try and have an enjoyable ride while they’re here.

It is an essential read for everyone but mainly for the younger generations, the ones facing an uncertain future, at least to act as a forewarning that maybe we should start thinking about the world differently and be ready to adapt to whatever comes. However I will admit that the book is a lot to take in so it might be worth taking your time reading it (and not cramming it into your brain in under a week, like I tend to do) in order to better absorb all of the information. Or just read it a few times.

It is an unconventional read and very far from my comfort zone, even in terms of non-fiction, but as someone who takes interest in the direction of the world and how to make it a better place, I really enjoyed it.

Review #9: The Kindness Method

The Kindness Method: Changing Habits for Good by Shahroo Izadi

Ebook

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Published on: 14th June 2018

I obtained a complementary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ok guys, I know I’ve said I’m more of a fiction type of gal when it comes to reading, but NetGalley has so many amazing non-fiction/self-help books to offer that I have succumbed to getting a few!

Shahroo Izadi is a behavioural change specialist based in London. She has experience of working with substance users to help them overcome their addiction. This book is the fruit of what she’s learned through years of working as a psychologist and her first hand experience of eating disorders and food binging habits. It is clear that Shahroo has learned a lot from her clients and herself and this enabled her to draw patterns in terms of what behaviours help people make sustainable changes and what behaviours do not help. Her approach is based on one thing: being kind to oneself through the process of change.

This is a truly amazing book because it can be applied to anything, whether you are trying to control an addiction like drinking, smoking, drug use, gambling etc; or just general bad habits such as talking yourself down. It can be used to overcome anxiety and depression aswell. Shahroo’s insight into why people don’t make the changes that they know they need to make is incredible; and that’s because she’s been there too, battling her own demons.

Shahroo’s approach is based on filling out maps that represent different areas of your life, and as you go through the books you complete more and more maps which highlight what you want to change about yourself, and why it is important that you do so and stick to it. You will then spend a few days or weeks creating the basis for your plan to change, all while remaining positive and kind to yourself. She also professes moderation rather than abstinence. For instance, she uses the example of alcohol abuse a lot, and explains how it isn’t always helpful to go cold turkey as it is more likely to drag you into a relapse. Instead, she encourages people to moderate their alcohol consumption to a point where they can actually enjoy it rather than let it rule their life.

Whether you feel like you need to make changes in your life at this point in time or not, this is an amazing read, especially if you’ve got the habit of talking yourself down constantly, which I know I do. It does force you to pause and look at your thoughts and ask yourself “why do I speak to myself in this mean and counterproductive way?”

The only negative point I have about this book is that I was given an advance copy, which do not contain the example maps for guidance, and that was a bit of a shame as I would have liked to be able to compare my own maps to the ones provided in the book.

I’ll admit that in order to stay on track with my reading, I’ve had to skim through the second half of this book (for some reason it always takes me much longer to read non-fiction than fiction books) but I do intend to go back to it and complete the rest of the maps in my own time. This is a truly inspiring book and I would highly recommend it to everyone.

Summer 2018 Reading List

Summer is finally here, and you know what that means… it’s time for a Summer Reading List!

I have been offered complementary copies of these books either through NetGalley or directly via the author, in exchange for an honest review.

I do admit that my eyes might have been bigger than my belly here, and it is going to be a very busy summer for me as I try and get through all of these!

Without further ado, here is my Summer 2018 Reading List (in no particular order):

  • The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer
  • I Never Lie by Jody Sabral
  • Captive Rebel by Erin McDermott
  • The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  • The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi
  • The Lady and the Thief by Megan Derr
  • Severance by Ling Ma
  • Pyre at the Eyreholme Trust by Lin Darrow

(not all titles are included in the picture above)

Let me know what your own Summer Reading List is, and if you have read or intend to read any of these, I would love to know your thoughts!

Review #4: Quiet Power

Quiet Power: Growing up as an introvert in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain

254 pages

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Your quiet nature is a hidden superpower

People with the quietest voice have achieved incredible things in the world, because of their quiet nature, not in spite of it. If you feel that you are naturally thoughtful and creative, then accept and treasure yourself – just as you are.

As you grow up in this loud, crazy world there are so many ways to harness your secret strengths and make your mark.

Let’s start a quiet revolution!

I am normally a fiction girl when it comes to reading, I like my books to take me away from reality and transport me into different worlds and stories, but once in a while I enjoy reading a good non-fiction/self-help book.

This book is all about what it means to be an introvert and how it can be a strength in a world largely dominated by extroverts.

Unfortunately, I did not realise that this was a book aimed at children until I started reading it. A lot of the chapters focus on how to behave in school according to your introverted nature etc, and I feel like this kind of content is lost on me now that I have reached adulthood.

There are interesting and informative parts to this book and I just wish it had been around when I was in school because it could have helped me make sense of who I was, why I felt different to the other kids, why I acted the way that I did and it probably could have saved me a lot of anxiety.

One thing that resonated most with me is when Susan explains how teachers tend to focus a lot on class participation, which is a bit of a nightmare for introverts, and just because they don’t participate in class doesn’t mean that they are any less clever or attentive than the other kids. And indeed, I used to get really anxious about having to speak up in class and it got so bad over the years that when I started university I had to be medicated for my anxiety.

All in all, it was an interesting read and it made me reflect on my childhood and my teenage years. I just wish it also had pointers for adult life.