Friday, September 30, 2016

ABC Reads: September 2016

Hi everyone! Welcome back to the ABC Reads link up! We're linking up to share the books we've read in September and the letters we can check off our lists. 

Need a refresher on what the ABC Reads challenge is all about? Never fear, we've got your back: 

What does the challenge entail? Well, I'm glad you asked. There are 26 letters of the alphabet and we challenge you, during the course of 2016, to read a book that starts with each letter. For example, Atonement (A), The Bell Jar (B), Catching Fire (C), and so on. Makes sense, right? You don't need to go in order - if you want to start with S, go for it. We're easy to please around these parts. On the last day of each month, we'll host a link-up for you to share your ABC Reads.  We will award one point for each letter you review AND a bonus point for linking up with us!  At the end of the year (or when the first participant reviews a book beginning with each of the 26 letters), the winner will be awarded a $30 Amazon gift card.  Congratulations to Jessica at Frikken Duckie for completing the challenge and winning the gift card! Go visit her and say congrats! :) 

If you didn't get a chance to link up last month - no worries at all. Feel free to jump in with Andrea and me any time!

OK, so let's get to it. What did you guys read this month? How many letters did you check off? Here's my progress (September books in blue): 

A: (The) Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Completed March 2016. 
B: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin. Completed February 2016. 
C: (The) City of Mirrors, by Justin Cronin. Completed May 2016. 
D:  Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts. Completed April 2016. 
E:  Europe on 5 Wrong Turns A Day, by Doug Mack. Completed April 2016. 
F:  Finders Keepers, by Stephen King. Completed January 2016. 
G: (The) Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown. Completed January 2016. 
H: (The) Hereafter, by Jessica Bucher. Completed April 2016. 
I:  I Will Find You, by Joanna Connors. Completed June 2016. 
J:  Julia, by Peter Straub. Completed July 2016. 
K: Keeping Faith. Completed July 2016. 
L:  (The) Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks. Completed January 2016. 
M: (The) Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom. Completed February 2016.
N:  Night Film, by Marisha Pessl. Completed June 2016. 
O: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Completed January 2016. 
P:  (The) People of Sparks, by Jeanne DuPrau. Completed August 2016. 
R: (The) Revenant, by Michael Punke. Completed March 2016. 
S:  Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce. Completed June 2016. 
T:  Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. Completed April 2016. 
U: (The) Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist. Completed September 2016. 
W: Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Completed February 2016. 
Z:  Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. Completed May 2016. 

This book was a little strange. Here's a synopsis from Goodreads: 

"One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty-single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries--are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders.

In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful.

But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and...well, then what?"

I think this book had a really great premise, if the main character, Dorrit, was different. She seems to face every challenge with the most infuriating calm. When some really unfair things happen to her, you see her kind of be like - "Hmm. Well, I don't like it, but OK." Like, what the heck, woman? You're basically being harvested for your organs. What do you have to lose? Fight! But I guess she is just resigned to her fate. The ending was really unsatisfying to me. It was just more of Dorrit being completely accepting of a bunch of really shitty things. And I want to shake her! 

Again, I think the premise is good, but the execution of the story sucks. 2 out of 5 stars. 

Come link up with us and share what you've read! 

Guest Post: George HS Singer, Poet and Author of Ergon

Hello everyone! You may remember from a few weeks ago that I shared a review of "Ergon" by George HS Singer (if you missed it, you can read it here). And I'm excited to share with you all a guest post written by the author himself in which he shares what poetry means to him. Take it away, Mr. Singer!


Probably anyone who is reading this remembers a first experience as a child of reading a poem or a passage that really spoke to them. For me this happened in 6th grade after the death of my best friend. It seemed to me that everyone around acted as if death was not real or should not be talked about. Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with the phrase “foot prints in the sands of time” struck me like lightening one day in class. I realized that I was not the only one who had thought about mortality. This seems almost risible now but for a boy feeling very cut off from meaningful engagement with others who could understand his recent raw encounter with death, it was profound. 

I started finding that literature was a balm for isolation and that it offered a way to touch upon, if not enter into, other people’s minds and that there were extraordinary writers who offered this communion. So, I hold onto the ambition that one of my poems might serve this purpose of dispelling loneliness for someone else who might be in need of communion with another mind concerned about some of the basics. I also find that when a reader or listener “gets” one of my poems, I feel briefly part of a community of the heart. 

If I have a credo in my poetry, it is the notion that nothing is unmixed — that life is inexpressibly wondrous and terribly painful and both arise together at the same time. I also know that the experience, which is most fundamental to me, is wordless and so there is an inevitable limitation in trying to write about what is most important. To me the toolkit available through the art of poetry allows the possibility of at least hovering over that which I wish could be said, if not to enter into it. I am forgetting who said that language does violence to experience but that poetry is the language that does the least of such violence.


Thank you so much, Mr. Singer for sharing your beautiful words and thoughts with us. 

Ergon is available on Amazon

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bridge the Gap

The days get longer
And our patience wears thin
There's never enough hours in a day
I think to myself again

Life is complex
It's gone so far beyond busy
My memories bolster me
Keep me from feeling dizzy

Why do so many other things 
Grab our attention
And pull it in so many other directions
I guess you just got forgot to mention

That there's a lull in every story
A period when the distance grows
Sometimes I wonder 
If we'll ever truly know

What to call this place
I just want to be near you
And smell your sweet smell
Hear you say you love me, too

They say it's not the destination
But the journey that matters
So grab my hand and let's go
Bridge the gap before it shatters

The wings have fallen off
And the wind has died down
But we'll keep holding on
In the heartbeat of this ghost town

*This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt from The Figment Forum, a writing community for those with words in their heart. Click here to join.*

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blog Tour: Ergon by George HS Singer

Hello, it's me again, back with a new poetry book to review. Do I need to mention again how much I love poetry? No? OK, let's move on. I received the opportunity to review "Ergon" by George HS Singer and I loved it! 

First, here's a little synopsis of the book: 

George Singer’s Ergon is precise, delicate and fierce in its engagement with the world.
George HS Singer, a former Buddhist monk, has written a debut collection of poems about his life as a monk and in the monastery and about his life when he left to marry and have a family. As he tries to balance his spiritual principles with every day life as a husband and father, these poems utilize nature as a backdrop for his quest.

Singer is an absolute genius at incorporating nature and natural imagery into his poems. The phrasing and the tone and the pace of his words were just perfect to me. I also enjoyed his sense of humor, especially in some of the poems about his wife and married life.

One of my favorite poems from the book is "Reprieve" where Singer writes:

mercy resides in the way things vanish,
and grace in not being visited.

In the poem he is referencing his father, but the sentiment speaks to me on a more generalized level about life. Sometimes it's good to forget things (or just not remember them, yes, there's a difference).

So, if you like poems about life, marriage, love, death, childhood, and just about everything else in between, I think this would be a perfect book for you! Go check it out.

About the Author:

George HS Singer, a former Zen Buddhist monk and student of Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett, lives with his wife of forty-two years in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he works as a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. He was educated at Yale, Southern Oregon University, and the University of Oregon. He wrote poetry in college but took a twenty-year break before taking it up as a regular discipline. He has been a long term student of Molly Peacock and has had the opportunity to work with other marvelous poets through the Frost Place in Franconia, N.H.  He writes about life in and out of a Zen monastery, trying to live mindfully in a busy and troubled world, his love of nature and of his wife. The arts have become more central to his life.  Singer’s poems were published in the Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Paperback: 85 pages
Publisher: WordTech Editions (2016)
Available on: Amazon

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

This review was coordinated by Poetic Book Tours.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

VCRs and Faded Memories

Do you remember those little old TVs that had a VCR built in? I had one of those in my room growing up. And every summer, I'd watch VHS movies every single day. I'd give my mom a list of movies that I wanted to watch and she'd get a few from Blockbuster and bring them back home for me after she got home from work. And I'd spend the next few days glued to the TV. And the cycle would repeat. 

I undoubtedly watched a lot of things that I shouldn't have at the age of 11 or 12. But hey. It was an interesting education, to say the least. Lots of serious dramas, gory horror movies, and inappropriate comedies. It was the BEST time ever. I'd make popcorn and just sit and bask in the movie glory. 

I watched so many movies all the time that we bought one of those special VHS rewinders. You remember those? Be kind, rewind. Ha! I was such a nerd, even back then. 

I read an article that the last VCR manufacturer ceased production in July. So there will be no more VCRs made in the world ever. It's kind of sad in a way. I know that everybody is all about DVDs and Blu-Rays and On-Demand. It's quicker, it's shinier, it's easier. But I kind of miss my VCR and my VHS tapes. That satisfying "thunk" when you push the tape in and press play. The whirring sound as the movie starts up. 

Those devices are obsolete now. Just like those summers I spent watching movies as a kid. Time marches on, folks. Technology evolves. Memories fade. I read that an estimated 50% of VHS movies were never transferred to DVD. That's crazy. If anybody still has a VCR and some VHS tapes, you should totally make a time capsule. Or save it and one day it will be worth a ton of money. All old things become new and in fashion again if you wait long enough, right? :) 

Anyway. That was my trip down memory lane this week. Ciao. 

*This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt from The Figment Forum, a writing community for the word-lovers out there. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Blackberries On My Mind

I remember the warmth of the sun shining down on us. I remember the sound of the bees buzzing. I remember the taste of the cool, crisp water from the water fountain. Mostly, I remember the sweet, wild blackberries growing on their vines and the joy I felt picking them with my dad. We'd savor our juice-stained fingers with pride. 

I can't think about summer without thinking about blackberries and the memories we made each summer when I was growing up. But it's not really about the berries themselves, as delicious as they were. But more about how safe and comfortable I felt spending time with my favorite person in the whole world. Carefree. 

The way we'd laugh together all day long, making jokes and creating new words for our "language" that nobody understood but us. The way we'd water the blackberry plants each year to make sure they'd come back again. The long, bumpy ride over the gravel road to leave the park. Listening to music in the car and singing along, doing our silly shoulder-shrug dance. The silent thanks we gave to the inventor of air conditioning and whomever it was that thought to put it in automobiles. 

I was in the grocery store a few days ago and noticed that there weren't any blackberries for sale anymore. It made me sad, not only because that means summer is just about over, but also because it reminded me of those summers. 

I miss them. I miss not having a care in the world. I miss the promise of a hot summer day and looking forward to the joy it brought me. 

Blackberries. Little morsels of sweetness, big buckets of memories.