Thursday, June 30, 2016

ABC Reads: June 2016

Hellooo friends and welcome back to the ABC Reads link up! We're linking up to share the books we've read in June 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 you covered: 

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 last month and winning the gift card! Go visit her and say congrats! :) 

Pretty easy, right? And 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 (June 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. 
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. 
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. 
W: Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Completed February 2016. 
Z:  Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. Completed May 2016. 

This book was super intense. It's about Joanna Connors, a reporter who was held at knifepoint at a local college and raped. Her rapist was arrested and sentenced shortly after the crime and Joanna swore not to talk about it again. But as her children got older and were going off to college themselves, she felt the need to share what she experienced and to find out what happened to her rapist. She interviews his family members and reviews the case notes in depth to try and find some closure. 

The subject matter is heavy, but her courage in the face of something so horrible and traumatic really moved me. She survived. I gave this 5 out of 5 stars. 

Favorite quote from the book: "These ancient laws also reflected a widespread suspicion that women accusing men of rape were lying--a belief system that is still operative today. Almost every time a star athlete or celebrity is accused of rape, for example, there's an inference that the charge is false, brought by a scorned, or vindictive, or drunk, or willing woman against an innocent man." 

This book creeped me out! To the point where I had to go to sleep with the light on, haha. Which means I absolutely loved it. It's a fictional story about an investigative reporter who is obsessed with finding out more about a reclusive film maker. The film maker's daughter commits suicide and the reporter vows to find out what happened. And along the way, he gets caught up in some freaky, paranormal shit. Like black magic and devil worship and craziness. If you like horror/suspense novels, this book is totally for you. I could not put it down! I gave it 5 out of 5 stars. 

Favorite quote from the book: "That was what dreams were for, the waking, the floods of relief, shock that the mind could be so easily deceived, tangled sheets, sunlight streaming through a window." 

This book was a strange one for me. I liked it, but I think there were holes in the story that could have been handled better. A man gets a frantic call from his parents on Christmas Day and tells him he needs to come over immediately. When he gets there, he sees his sister. The only problem is that his sister vanished 20 years earlier. They all assumed she was dead. And the sister hasn't aged a day, she still looks like she's 16. She keeps quiet at first about what happened to her, but finally shares her story and it's a whopper. They don't believe her, they think she's crazy and send her off for tests and to counseling. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars because I think the back story could have been developed a little more as to where she was. 

Favorite quote from the book: "Some people feed you with love." 

Well, there you have it, folks. 3 more letters checked off my list. I feel like I'm making pretty good progress! Link up below and share which letters you've completed as well. Happy reading! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Blog Tour: The Couple Who Fell to Earth by Michelle Bitting

I love poetry. It's one of my favorite ways to express myself. You can convey so many emotions and memories in a succinct way. I've been writing a lot of poetry lately myself, and so when I received the opportunity to review The Couple Who Fell to Earth by Michelle Bitting, I jumped at the chance. 

Here's a brief synopsis of the book: 

These meditations, cosmic-toned, yet utterly visceral, demonstrate Michelle Bitting’s continuing growth and power as a poet of love, loss, the daily and deeply human experience, together with a maturing eye to understanding greater mythological tropes. Woven throughout her contemplation of the terrible beauty and struggle of family dynamics, corporeal desire, the injustices and revelations of life in the 21st century, thrums a vital connectivity to the mystic and mythological strains of the past, newfangled to the present in a way that ultimately sheds light on what it is to be alive and conscious of who we’re called to be. 
To read Michelle’s poetry is to take a wild, passionate ride through the rubble of the quotidian, to be shocked by sensual discovery and awakened to a relentless curiosity for both the surreal and historical. These poems travel–an expansion in service of communion with the world, confrontation and acceptance of self.

I really enjoyed reading this book. As a wife and mother, I could relate so much to the sentiments shared by the author. The day to day ups and downs of marriage and parenting - it's hard to describe sometimes, but Bitting captures it beautifully. The imagery alone is phenomenal. 

One of my favorite poems from the book is "The Moment of Possible Futures" where Bitting writes: 

Fitting in doesn't suit me
but I've learned to exist
on ambrosia made of stories

Yes. So much this. Those lines resonated with me so hard. I know that I will be re-reading this book often. When I feel alone, when I feel like no one will understand what I'm going through, I can turn to Michelle Bitting's words and say, "Hey, old friend. You understand." 

About the Poet:
Photo credit: Alexis Rhone Francer

Michelle Bitting’s first collection, Good Friday Kiss (C & R, 2008) won the DeNovo First Book Award. Her second collection, Notes To The Beloved (SPC, 2011) won the Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award and received a starred review from Kirkus. Poems have been published in the American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Narrative, The L.A. Weekly, diode, Linebreak, and The Paris-American, and have been nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University and is currently a Ph.D candidate in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She grew up in Los Angeles near the ocean.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Paperback: 110 pages
Publisher: C&R Press (May 1, 2016)
Available on: Amazon 

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

Black Snow

When I was a kid - this had to be back in the early 90's, but I don't remember exactly what year or exactly how old I was - a house on the street behind my childhood neighborhood burned down. I remember hearing a lot of commotion and going outside with my mom to see what was going on. 

As soon as we walked outside, we could smell the smoke. I could see the flames off in the distance, but we were far enough away that we didn't feel any blazing heat. I remember standing there, mesmerized by the fire, filled with a sense of disbelief and awe. 

Homes can't burn down, right? They are our safe havens. Home is where we go when we want to get away from the bad things. It was like my mind couldn't quite believe it was real. It was like a scene from a movie and not someone's home, with all of their prized possessions and memories inside. 

One thing that I remember very vividly is when the wind shifted and blew smoke and ash in our direction. The falling ash fell in our front yard and it was beautiful to me. It looked like black snow. We all stood there silently, watching it fall. 

Thankfully no one was hurt and the house was rebuilt. I don't live far from my old neighborhood and pass that house occasionally. I don't remember what it used to look like before it caught fire, but when I see it with the happy yellow siding, there's a wrongness to it. I can't describe it. It's like... the house is wearing a costume. It's not quite right. It doesn't "match" the other houses on that street. 

I don't even remember the cause of the fire, it was so long ago. Maybe a candle left unattended. Or a cigarette. I don't know. But I'll always remember that black snow. Beauty amidst the destruction. 

*This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt from The Figment forum

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Find Your Feet

We're perpetually tired. Worn out and worn down. Sometimes, we let familiarity and routine take over. Because it's easy, and effort and energy are in short supply. Adults. Parents. Provider. Nurturer. I look at you often and what I see now isn't what I used to see. It's not bad, just different. 

I take comfort in your presence, even when no words are spoken. Because I know you. Your every expression, every gesture, every laugh, every sigh. I know you, body and soul. 

Life flies by, faster and faster every day. The blur of monotony and repetition. Some days, I wonder if you'll pass me by, too. Spun out of control in this orbit of chaos. But then my feet find your feet under the covers. And they stay pressed against each other, saying everything that needs to be said. My constant, my compass, my safe harbor in the world. 

My feet find your feet and I can breathe again. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

One Lucky Strike

I feel like a pile of soggy matches
That won't light no matter what you do
The tools are there
And yet

The shining spark
The sweet stinging smoke
I have it all
But not right now

Sometimes I wait for the wind to pass
And other times I get caught in the inferno
They say all it takes is one lucky strike
What the hell do "they" know anyway? 

The promise of flames
The kiss of warmth
All drowned out
Like toothpicks in a pond

Monday, June 13, 2016

I Don't Belong Here

I Don't Belong Here

I don't belong here
With your hatred
With your negativity
With your exclusion

I don't belong here
With your violence
With your violation
With your vitriol

I don't belong here
With your weapons
With your harassment
With your damage

I don't belong here
With your hypocrisy
With your judgment
With your ridicule

I don't belong here
With your racism
With your sexism
With your skepticism

I belong
To love
To light
To life

I belong
To you
To me
To everyone

I belong
To peace
To camaraderie
To empathy

I belong
To common decency
To equality
To freedom

*This post was inspired by the weekly writing prompt from The Figment forum. I also dedicate it to the victims and their families of the Orlando shooting... and to any person who has ever been a victim of harassment/discrimination/senseless violence.